Hope Rests

It takes a while to stop spinning.

Like a tire with loosened lug nuts, the wheel spinning around its axis, the transition from full-time ministry into semi-retirement spins. The slowing down requires intentional rest.sleeping woman

To be intentionally still – listening for God or just sitting in the sunshine causes a need for reboot.

How can the transition be handled in a way that is healthy – for the body, soul and spirit? How does one move from excessive productivity to recovery?

I have been in this position before, but never at this level of intensity. I find myself sinking into the unknown while grasping for the best Source of wisdom I know. My usual methods of resting – a meager force. Giant question marks shadow my new direction.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62:1).

Restoring sleep helps and then daily naps. Nutrition that builds up the tissues, although my body screams only for chocolate. The temptation to load my freezer with scrumptious blackberry chocolate chip gelato from Target. No, no – I cannot yield.

Restorative care involves clearing the mind as well – to refuse the rewind of what led to the final decision – mistakes admitted, grace given.

To find a way to pour that same grace over and around myself feels almost selfish and I feel alone in the attempt.

I pull out my colors and find comfort in the texture of markings on paper. Turn on the TV to watch basketball and yell at the refs. Read empty-minded fiction books as I pump on the exercise bike. These words require no emotional deposits.

Sit and stare at the blooming redbud tree, dotted with black and white chickadees hopping in the April breeze. Glory in the fractional moment as a red-headed woodpecker perches beside the male cardinal on my deck. Red and black on the background of the greening elm. God’s creation in living color. To spend more time outside is my goal … if Kansas ever warms up this year.

I spend more time on my knees, bringing my fatigue and questions to the Wise One – begging for the balm of divine healing.

The incredible voice of the Shepherd King and his Psalms wash over me with their curative rhythms: fret not, be still and know, God alone is surely my refuge.

Several years ago I dreamed of a heavenly bedroom. I had been carried there by my guardian angel and was surrounded in the brightest whites – a soft coverlet, giant pillows and the clearest air.

Around me, more angels – tucking me in, stroking my brow, murmuring love. Being cared for. Receiving compassion straight from Abba’s heart.

That I so vividly remember the dream underscores how deeply I need my Beloved Divine to show up.

Ultimately, restorative care and the rest required to eliminate stress just takes time – a day, a week, another day. No guidelines here.

A friend told me she slept for months after retirement. A client has pursued rest and direction for three years.

And I – in my self-sufficient planning mode – thought I would be rested after just one week. That would be a “No.”

I listen hard for the gentle voice that assures me I am not alone. I will eventually find soul energy again. The words will pour forth and the direction will be made clear.

Isaiah speaks from his prophetic viewpoint, “God will comfort all my waste places. He will make my wilderness like Eden, my desert like a garden. Joy and gladness will be found in me and thanksgiving – the voice of praise.” (Isaiah 51:3).

So I wait and rest, trusting in the One who reminds me where hope originates. He places his words in my mouth and covers me with his gentle hand.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy

 

Finding Hope When You’re Stuck

So many people I know, including myself, are stuck – waiting for an answer to prayer – the answer that will help us move forward.

We have prayed, fasted, cried out to God and yet – nothing.waiting

What is the block? What is holding back the answers? Is it just a matter of timing or something much deeper and more important?

The requests of these folks are not for wealth or a better car. They ask for direction and wisdom, for a simple interview that might lead to a job, for a roof over their heads or a definitive place to worship.

But silence echoes in eerie response. Almost as if the back story of the 400 years of silence between the Old Testament and the coming of the Messiah is being replayed.

The dark night of the soul when God seems to be in hiding and we are left to wallow in our frailties.

But hope determines God has not disappeared. He may be silent yet is still at work – behind the scenes, moving puzzle pieces together, then declaring the perfect time for a reveal.

So what do we do when the answers don’t come, when we feel stuck in an eternal calendar where nothing seems to flip us to the next section?

  • Keep believing God WILL answer – in his time
  • Keep praying because God honors persevering prayer
  • Know God has a plan and he promises it will be a good one
  • Understand that every season – even seasons of waiting – will eventually end
  • Remember we cannot see every detail that relates to our prayer requests. We cannot know the eternal value or the sacred reasoning behind life’s waiting rooms.
  • Post this verse where we can see it every day: “There is a happy end for the man of peace” (Psalm 37:37 Amplified).

Hope continues to believe – especially when we cannot see how our faith works. We believe in what we cannot see, still knowing a facet of eternal value exists though none of the waiting makes sense.

In the meantime, hope continues – one whispered prayer at a time – believing in that happy end and in the One who will someday make it happen.

©2017 RJ Thesman – Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/2kG29Ur

Hope Ages

In a few weeks, the calendar will flip over and I will celebrate another birthday. How quickly those calendar pages become obsolete.birthday-cake

In the proverbial quote, if I had known I would reach this age, I would have taken better care of myself. But then – maybe I wouldn’t.

We make choices day by day without thinking of the long-term consequences. We grow busy with life, do the best we can with the passing of time and hope everything will work out.

Occasionally we get lucky. Our arteries don’t grow plaque. Our blood runs clear. Our brains continue to remember.

Or not.

Even with the most preventive measures and the best intentions, life sometimes knocks us down. Alzheimer’s, cancer, the tragedies we never expected.

How do we stay in hope even while our bodies unravel? How can we stay focused on today when each twenty-four hour period passes so quickly?

For Christians, our focus is on living with joy and following the example of Jesus.

But Jesus did not age. We do not have a role model for the Medicare years.

We are left to figure out how much gray we will allow to color our roots. We play the game of connect the dots with the brown spots on our arms. We wonder how to remain in joy when joints ache and we can no longer run the bases like our younger selves.

We have to plan for days of fun, because they don’t spontaneously happen anymore. This is why we stare at little children and listen to them giggle. We’re trying to figure out how we once did that and why it disappeared.

Too much analysis leaves us cynical and afraid.

My bucket list is longer now than it was in my twenties, because the time clock is ticking. I want to do more of the things on my list – immediately – or sooner.

So I have decided to stick with the principles that have governed my life thus far:

  • Love others as much as possible
  • Practice the presence of God and breathe in his vitality
  • Love myself as well
  • Do at least one productive thing every day
  • Stay away from negative people
  • Don’t worry about the next twenty-four hours
  • Look forward to eternity

And I plead with the Psalmist, “Oh, God, now that I am old and gray, don’t forsake me. Give me time to tell this new generation and their children about all your mighty miracles” (Psalm 71:18 TLB).

Ultimately, even as age chases me, I know the end of each day brings me closer to the beginning of my eternity.

So I live with the lyrics of Les Miserables, one more day, one day more – one birthday passing and another on the way. One more opportunity to love and live well.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy

Hope Nudges Forward

When we wait on God for answers, it sometimes feels as if he is testing our patience. How long will she wait until she breaks – until she steps out and tries to make something happen on her own?Southwest Puzzle

Throughout my life, I have learned the hard way to wait on God. When I step forward too soon and try to force something to happen – it ends either in tragedy, lost revenue or additional stress.

Then later, I am filled with regret and play the “I should have” game.

So during this limbo period, I have tried to wait patiently and seek God’s direction every step of the way. When I feel anxious, I deal with it by posting on my blog.

You’ve probably noticed.

After approximately two years of limbo land where I sensed major changes on the horizon, I have learned more about patience – about waiting on God – about living in joy even during the uncertainty.

My journals are full of the lessons God has taught me, and this blog has been populated with posts I shared with you.

Beginning to Move Forward

Within the last two weeks, God has nudged me forward. He is asking me to make some major decisions and to step out in faith, then watch him fill in the gaps.

Simultaneously, I finished my Southwest puzzle, framed it and hung it on the wall. It has been a reminder that something in the eternal puzzle is completed and now comes the next step.

When faced with major decisions, I often ask five questions:

  • What do I sense God is telling me about this decision?
  • What does scripture remind me or instruct me about this decision?
  • What do other godly people say and how do they advise me?
  • What do the circumstances tell me?
  • Do I have peace?

When the majority of these questions point in the same direction, then I know I am probably on the right track. I say “probably” because life is still an adventure and we can be deceived or influenced by our own desires rather than by eternal destinies.

But lately, I feel more at peace – knowing God is on my side, He has a good plan for me and ultimately whatever happens – he will bring it about for good.

Embracing the Promise

On a quiet Friday morning as warm August rain pittered down, I rejoiced that God once again watered my gardens. Then he called me to spend some intimate time with him. He had something important to share with me.

Throughout the next moments, he reminded me of several promises:

  • He will guide me and lead me in the best possible direction (Isaiah 49:10)
  • He will enlarge the place and the way I minister while strengthening me for the journey (Isaiah 54:2)
  • He has anointed and qualified me for this work (Isaiah 61:1)
  • He will plant me where I need to be (Isaiah 61:3)
  • He knows the acceptable and opportune time (Psalm 69:13)

Then he capped it off when an incredible promise, “Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your rightness, your justice and your right relationship with God shall go before you conducting you to peace and prosperity and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8 Amplified).


I sat on my bed, journal and Bible spread open before me, and wept at the beauty of this promise. God will heal and restore my weary soul. He will provide power for whatever new life I am walking into, but I won’t travel the journey alone. He will go before me and behind me. The result will be peace as he takes care of me.


So the first step of my obedience with him is that I am listing my duplex. I believe God wants me to sell it and get out of debt. Then he will show me where to go. I also believe he has indicated in which area I need to look for a rental house. He will provide that place for me.

God has always kept a roof over my head. He has provided beautiful and safe places for my son and me, homes where we could rest from work and just be ourselves.

God will not fail us now.

Are there still some unknowns? Of course. The faith journey always occurs in steps – never in one giant leap.

But for now, the puzzle is finished and hanging on the wall. God, too, has completed this section of puzzle pieces for me. Where he places me and what my role will be is his design. He will tell me what each step entails.Southwest Puzzle

I’m excited to be nudging forward.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

 

Hope Reveals Timing

Since God is timeless, it is always a sweet surprise when I discover him working – right on time.

A year ago, I bought a lovely journal to add to my stash. Never enough journals for a writer, you know

This particular journal caught my eye because the cover was a quiet country scene with wildflowers and the verse from Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”

In one version, the imperative is to “Cease striving.” Still another version underscores the words, “Let be and be still.”

But my favorite is the Amplified version of a parallel verse in Psalm 37:7, “Be still and quietly rest in the Lord, wait for him and patiently lean yourself upon him.

Just before my vacation in the mountains of New Mexico, God pointed me toward this verse. So I started meditating on its meaning.

Be still.

As I sat beside the clear mountain stream and listened to its melodious splashing over smooth rocks, I practiced being still.Red River stream

I allowed the sounds and textures of New Mexico to speak to me and bring solace to my over-stressed soul. I didn’t even pray. I just sat there and enjoyed God’s presence highlighted by his creation.

Rest quietly.

We have lost the ability to rest quietly in our electronically-designed world. During my time in the mountains, I forced myself to rest quietly. This year, I did not take my tablet and since my phone does not carry a data roaming plan – no Facebook posts, tweets or emails reached me.

Not only did I survive, but I also thrived within the solitude and absence of our usual bustling world.

The monastics called it “The Grand Silence.” Every evening they disciplined themselves to cease speaking and curtail activity so they might clearly discern the Divine Whisper.

Saint Benedict, the father of the monastic way wrote, “Therefore, because of the importance of silence, let permission to speak be seldom given to perfect disciples even for good and holy and edifying discourse.”

Wait for him.

As I rested quietly and waited for God to share whatever secrets he wanted, the discipline of patience asserted itself.

God’s timing is, of course, perfect and when we step out of his boundaries – we often find ourselves stressed, burdened and puzzled as our peace is disturbed.

But as we wait, our souls anticipate the time when God WILL speak, WILL instruct us and WILL show us the way that is best for us.

As the Alpha and the Omega, he determines the end from the beginning, then fills in everything in between.

After a week of being still, resting quietly and waiting patiently, God DID show up.

On the last evening of my vacation, I walked past the river and around the man-made lake where other vacationers fished and fed the ducks.

In the movement of walking, I thanked God for the week of quiet time and opened my soul’s heart to hear his response.

The result was several paragraphs of his instructions for me, things I needed to plan for when I returned to civilization, the job and the bills.

I received his words, then hurried back to the cabin to record them. I knew I would need to obey the final phrase of Psalm 37:37 – to patiently lean on God for future plans and next steps.

As I pulled out my journal to write and process God’s promises to me, I glanced once again at the cover.

The country scene with wildflowers in the foreground. A quiet setting, serenely focused on the surrounding land, far from the noise of the city and its fast-paced intensity.

And the verse, engraved boldly on a grey background, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Yes indeed – God showed up – right on time.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope in the Queue

printersWhile typing and printing off documents, my printer suddenly decided to morph into la-la land. Electronic devices are so wonderful – until they don’t work. Then we’re stuck.

Frustrated, I tried and tried to print the last document, not realizing what was happening on the other end of electronic cyberspace. After rebooting, unplugging and still not printing, I turned everything off and quit for the day.

The next morning, when I turned on the computer, the printer decided to resuscitate itself. It spewed out page after page of documents that had been hiding in the queue.

Eventually, it stopped – but not before I added several inches to my pile of recyclable scrap paper.

The electronic world sometimes imitates life.

How often do we pray and pray for something, wait and wait longer while heaven seems to exist in an introverted silence?

Nothing happens for weeks, months, even years. Our prayers seem stuck in the queue of God’s waiting room. Then suddenly – an avalanche of answered prayers, all bunched up at the same time.

We gasp at the range of unexpected blessings and rejoice again in the assurance that God loves us.

As a writer, sometimes my words get stuck in a creative queue. I’ve never experienced a complete writer’s block, but I do know how to procrastinate and avoid sitting in the chair, hoping by osmosis to produce something memorable.

What I’ve discovered, though, is that the discipline produces its own fruit. Even though I may slug through a paragraph or two, if I keep going, keep making the words happen – then suddenly – the creative muse kicks in and I’m in another world for hours. That’s when writing is most fun.

So what can we learn from our moments stuck in the queue?

Persistence is still a worthwhile virtue.

The best writing, the purest answers to prayer, the most productive days evolve as a result of self-discipline. When we give it our best and keep at it – over and over – day after day – that’s when we eventually produce good fruit.

We may not see it for a while, but it WILL happen. Persistence which produces results is one of the key principles of life.

Nothing worthwhile happens easily. When we have to work for it, we appreciate the results and feel energized to persist with even more fervor.

Effective Results Require Patience

Patience and persistence are twin brothers. They sometimes look alike and often require some of the same disciplines to feed them.

But the persistence twin is a process while the patience twin reveals a quality of life.

Patience reminds us to wait, then wait some more. And when we can no longer stand the wait, we dig deep and learn how much strength authentic waiting requires.

Patience is the months-or-years-long battle, waiting for poisonous chemo to take effect and save a life.

Patience allows the preschooler to tie his own shoes even while the school bus honks.

Patience sits beside the Alzheimer’s resident and hears the same questions again and again, then responds with gentleness because it is what it is – a plaque-infestation of the brain and we know Mom cannot help herself.

Patience understands and gives grace when the addiction festers but the victim still tries to recover.

Patience learns through the passage of time because it cannot be hurried and if we want the best results – we must not deny the waiting.

Patience turns off the printer, instead of continuing the process of trying to print – adding more documents to the queue which then wastes paper. Lesson learned.

Sometimes the Best Action is No Action.

For planners and doers like me, it feels better to do something – to hit that print button over and over – to unplug and try again and again.

But sometimes, the cyberspace universe has to get its pixels in order and find its missing megabites. I don’t even understand its language. How then, can I make it do something?

When we’ve prayed and prayed, waited and persisted – yet nothing happens – we can use the prayer of relinquishment.

“Oh God, I can’t stand this, but I absolutely have no clue what to do. Please take over and do whatever you need to do to mend this problem. Please help me to rest in you and trust that you know exactly what’s wrong and what to do about it. I give up.”

That prayer seems so counterintuitive to what we’ve been taught about productivity, but even the Psalmist portrays the same advice, “Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon him; fret not…” (Psalm 37:7 AMP).

Be still. Unplug. Stop trying to figure it out. Don’t worry. Let go and let God salve your weary soul.

If we don’t learn how to be still, then we end up with a heap of nothing – wasted words, frustrated prayers and sometimes – piles of worthless paper.

But if we just let go and let God figure it out, then we return to the task rebooted and refreshed, ready for whatever he has to give us and grateful for the lessons we have learned.

As we wait in the queue for God to redeem this wicked world, we can be certain he does indeed know what he’s doing.

Maybe he’s just waiting for us to trust him so he can finish the task.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Sings

Woman-celebratingMy deck umbrella waves in the slight August wind as I sit in its shade. God has granted a beautiful summer morning and time for reflection.

So beautiful outside yet not so lovely within.

Still struggling with an illness and wondering why healing waits. Disgusted with myself that I cannot find joy when I face uncomfortable circumstances.

Count it all joy,” James demands.

I am not in a joyful place. My faith is too weak.

Let endurance, steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work.” Waiting is so hard for me.

Come to me,” Jesus said, “all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.

Rest. Not the rest that revives during a vacation to the mountains of New Mexico, but the emotional and lovely rest of a contented soul.

I think of the brave women I know who live with chronic pain. Somehow, they find their joy even in the midst of the struggle. They live with gratitude and accomplish what they can while setting healthy boundaries. My she-roes, every one of them.

But I cannot reproduce what they own.


My joy button needs to be re-set, and I cannot find the mechanism.


Although I DO know joy resides within me, somehow I cannot feel it on this beauteous August morning. I attempt joyful activities, because I know I should and must. I journal through the struggle, work on my Southwest puzzle, bang on the piano.

But the feeling of joy – that inner light sparkling in the eyes of my friend who has multiple sclerosis, laughter bubblings from infants, the glow shining from weathered saints’ faces – somehow that brand of joy eludes me.

Can I only be joyful when every circumstance feels perfect and in sync? How shallow is my faith!

Yet hope peeks from behind the curtain of Psalm 68 as the divine calls me to find the page. “God is beginning to rise….”

Somehow just knowing there will indeed be a beginning brings hope and the knowing that God is present. A sudden blip of peace.

The Psalm urges me onward to nuggets of hope:

  • Let the uncompromisingly righteous be glad. Have I somehow compromised my joy?
  • Let them be in high spirits. I cannot remember the last time I was in high spirits.
  • Let them glory before God, to rejoice in him.

How can this “letting” happen? How can I manufacture this feeling of joy once again?

The solution whispers in Psalm 68:4:

  • Sing to God.
  • Sing praises to his name.
  • His name is the Lord. Jehovah, my eternal Husband and Maker, Friend, Lover of my soul.
  • Be in high spirits and glory before him.

So I obey, moving to my back yard to dance near the strawberry patch. I lift my hands upward. The song comes timidly at first, a familiar melody yet different words.

No soul response yet, so I dig deeper and sing louder – uncaring if the neighbors look out and see me cavorting with God in my back yard.

The hallelujahs of melody begin to ring true. I sing the words of Psalm 68:4 and forget the rules of musical theory. The important focus is on the spirit of the words.

I ignore the enemy’s taunts, the memories of the past week, the frailties of my humanity. Instead, I lift my praises to the only one who truly knows the condition of my soul.

And glory – there it comes – a bubble of joy resurfacing and lighting my inner self with its purity.

God sends a dragonfly to cheer me, to flap his lacey wings in response to the beat of creative worship. He flicks his beady eyes in my direction and dares me to imagine a creator who fashioned his spindly body one day and a sturdy oak the next.

God is beginning to rise. I praise him for the beginnings and glorify him for the rising of his presence once again.

Hope sings and joy responds.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh