Stage 2 of Alzheimer’s – Questions

As told by Reverend G … Stage 2 - Alz

Such a subtle change, but scary nonetheless. I wonder what is happening to me but don’t feel the need to check with Doc Sanders.

Tiny signs. A forgotten phrase during the Lord’s Prayer. A trip to the grocery store, then realize I forgot my list and can’t remember anything I need.

Surely it’s only stress or maybe a weird virus where neurons stop firing together. Maybe a simultaneous mix of allergies that somehow have attacked my memory bank.

Why God? Why don’t you tell me what’s going on? I can’t stand it.

Again, you send me to the book of Isaiah – this brave prophet who carried your message so faithfully.

Today I read from Isaiah 48:1-2, “Hear me, my people, you swear allegiance to the Lord…and brag about depending on the God of Israel.”

So if I believe in God’s power to keep me safe and if I depend on him for everything, then I need to live it out.

When I forget my own birthday, rely on God to help me.

When I miss a line in the Lord’s Prayer or the Doxology in front of my entire congregation and I am so embarrassed, trust that God will cover me with grace. He is never too embarrassed to love me.

When I don’t understand what’s happening to me, depend on God’s wisdom.

If, as his follower, I believe I belong to him…if I boast that he is faithful…then I must continue to walk down this road, believing he will walk with me.

I am afraid. I do not understand and yet – I am held in the palm of his mighty hand.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books –

Hope Answers Why

why imageWhen life unravels and we struggle through it, our first response is often, “Why? Why God, did this have to happen?”

“Why did my precious tender-hearted Dad have to disappear into the shadows of dementia?”

“Why does my mother have to continue through this Alzheimer’s journey when she spent half her life taking care of Dad and praying against this disease? I don’t understand, God. Why?”

King David, asked “Why?” And even the son of God, Jesus himself, pleaded for an answer, “Why God have you forsaken me? Why?”

Usually, heaven is silent and we don’t receive an answer to this question. I suppose God wants us to exercise faith and learn how to dig deep within, to trust him when the “Why” question isn’t answered.

And maybe our finite minds can’t understand even if God does tell us what’s going on.

But in one version of the story of Job sits a verse that might help us understand. I’ve only found it in the New American Standard version, but I’ve hung on to it during those times when life unravels.

It is amazing to me that the answer appears in the book of Job – wrapped within the story of this patriarch who suffered so long and so intensely – this good man who lost everything, including his health. Not even his best friends could help him understand.

Yet this verse shouts the answer to our “Why” questions: “Whether for correction or for His world or for lovingkindness, he causes it to happen” (Job 37:13 NASB).

Correction: Sometimes things happen to us so that we will learn important lessons – spiritual or practical lessons.

Our blood pressure spikes. Perhaps the lesson is to balance out life, learn to say, “No” and get the rest our bodies need.

When life unravels, instead of asking “Why?” maybe we should look upward and ask, “God, what are you trying to teach me here?”

His world: Sometimes the things that happen to us are a direct result of the world we live in.

A drive-by shooting takes away a precious child because some irresponsible person fired his gun out the window or reacted to some inner anger and didn’t care about anyone else. We live in a scary world.

Last week, the news was filled with the tragedy of a train derailment. One of the rules of physics is that if you take a curve at 100 miles per hour in a metal car attached to metal rails, some of those train cars may detach and go flying. As a result, people will be hurt and some of them killed because that’s how physics works. It’s incredibly tragic, but our world is filled with tragedies.

Lovingkindness: This is the really hard one. How can it be loving or kind when terrible things happen? Why does a good God allow terrible things to occur?

Maybe it’s because he looks at the situation through timeless eyes and a heart that is bigger than this world.

A teenager is arrested for drunk driving and sentenced to several years of imprisonment and/or probation. His parents are devastated. He misses his graduation. He loses his college scholarship. But isn’t that kinder than if he continues to drink, becomes an alcoholic and ends up killing someone with his car?

Death is not always the worst scenario. A surprise heart attack is tragic, but easier to deal with than a lifetime of slow death with Alzheimer’s.

Is it better to perish in a tornado or to slowly starve to death in a prison camp? Which would you choose? Which death is kinder?

Ultimately, even with this verse in Job, we don’t have control over the unravelings of life. We never know what the next twenty-four hours will hold.

That’s why it’s so important to enjoy each day, to love God and each other with full hearts. That’s why hope is so vital.

Because even when we can’t figure it out, when the “Why’s” of life don’t make sense and heaven is silent – hope keeps us moving toward the next sunrise.

Hope is that eternal optimism that at some point, all our unravelings will make sense and pain will disappear.

And as one pundit has written, “When we get to heaven, we’ll take one look at the replay of our lives and understand what God was doing. Then we’ll understand and we’ll say, ‘Of course.’”

What do you think about Job 37:13?

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books

Finding Hope When Faith Changes

These days, I find myself with more questions than answers. Although still based in the original foundations of scripture and relationship, my faith is changing.Faith-still-believes

No longer do I think in terms of black and white. In fact, I spend more time thinking and meditating than I do reciting the rules I grew up with.

I am more aware than ever of grace and its powerful side effects of humility laced with joy.

Now I know how damaging legalism has been in my life and in the lives of others who are asking for another chance, for another splash of grace on their hardened souls.

I am more careful of how I answer the questions of others who ask me about faith, about God, about what happens after death. I respect their need to discover these answers for themselves, and I know that my faith does not look like theirs nor theirs like mine.

I spend more time in silence before God, just beholding who he is with awe. As I am more aware of my inner self and my desire for intimacy with God, I also feel him pulling me closer – wanting to spend more time with me as well.

I am more disgusted with the stuff of this world and the lies we are fed. It pleases me to turn off the television and unplug from the electronics that threaten to overtake all imagination and leave us truly fried.

I am more determined than ever to make sure that young women do not have to struggle with these same lies. To let them know that they are enough within themselves, that they are incredibly beautiful and they do not have to starve themselves or pay someone to cut them to try to look more acceptable. God gazes longingly at them and sees his son. What could be more fulfilling?

I am more in awe of what his holiness means and how we fall short yet somehow, he reaches toward us and loves us into his kingdom.

Psalm 33:22 challenges me. “Let your mercy and lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for you.”

Our waiting and hoping for him: experiencing more of his presence and that awful dichotomy of yearning for a closer place near him yet dreading that when that happens, I won’t be able to stand it.

Then as I wait and hope, as my faith changes, grows and explodes, I experience even more of his mercy and lovingkindness. His patience allows me to draw ever closer to the mystery of his presence where there are more questions than answers.

So real it is frightening. So beautiful it is dreadful.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” –

What Alzheimer’s Teaches – Part 1

oneAs a Christian, I try to focus on the positives in life – those creative surprises that God brings out of any situation.

He promises that he can bring something good out of our struggles. We look for the good. We trust that He knows a better way.

Truthfully, a belief in the positives has not been easy as I’ve watched my mother disappear into the shadows of Alzheimer’s Disease. This trial seems to bear with it only the negatives, the sorrow and the unending disappearance of memory and identity.

But on days when I feel stronger, I consider what Alzheimer’s has taught me. What has been one of the emotional or spiritual benefits? What have I learned by observing this disease that gradually takes my mother away?


Answering the same questions over and over taxes my patience, but then I think about the question from my mother’s point of view. For her, it isn’t the same question. It’s a new question every few minutes.

If I stop, breathe and wait for some inspiration from God, I sometimes create a new way to answer Mom’s questions. Or I change the subject and lead her into a different conversation where we start all over.

It helps me to search for patience when I realize there will come a day when Mom’s questioning will stop. She will no longer be able to formulate sentences. She will stop speaking entirely, and I will miss the sound of her voice.

That helps me find motivation for patience while we’re both still existing in the present tense.

When she forgets how to put in her hearing aid, I observe the patience of my sister instructing Mom once again.

When she can’t find the slippers we just bought her, patience helps us look for them.

When she no longer knows what day it is, even though we’ve circled it on the calendar – patience whispers, “Tuesday, Mom. It’s still Tuesday.”

Reverend G might counsel us from her own viewpoint, “Please be patient with me. I don’t mean to be forgetful. 3D Rev G coverIn fact, I once knew everything about each of you. But this disease has changed me, so please wait patiently with me while I go through another stage.

“Honor me for the mother I once was, for the many ways that I helped you remember to do your homework and take out the trash – for the many times I reminded you of meetings and how I made sure you made it to church on time.

“Be patient with me as I wait for the sunset of another day and hope this will be that special date on the heavenly calendar when I join my Jesus in heaven.

“Hold me close and answer my questions, because then I’ll know you’re trying to communicate with me.

“Remember how patient I was with you as you learned to tie your shoes, brushed your teeth and practiced on that squeaky violin. My heart needs you to be patient now in return.

“Strive for patience because that is what Jesus asks you to do, and when I hear the frustration in your voice – it hurts my feelings and it hurts him, too.

“Have faith that someday the need for patience will end. I will no longer respond at all, but somewhere in the pockets of my soul – I will remember you and smile.”

Tip #2 for Caregivers

Here’s one of the tips Reverend G might tell her loved ones: Don’t Argue with Me.

You might wonder…who would argue with Reverend G? But for caregivers who deal with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, arguments sometimes happen. I’ve seen this in my own family.

With her paranoia, Mom often makes up the most elaborate stories. “Someone came into my house and stole my checkbook. Then she took it to the bank, forged my signature and stole all my money.”

This story was of course, ludicrous, but it did not help to say, “No, Mom. That didn’t happen.” She was convinced the story was real and so we argued back and forth about the phantom forger, “Yes, she did,” and “No, she didn’t.”

I’ve learned that instead of arguing, I should ask questions. “Now, Mom, how do you think this person broke into the house? No doorknobs have been broken. No windows are shattered. And how did this person possibly forge your signature when hers is so drastically different?”

By asking questions, Mom is then forced to consider answers rather than arguments. Mom no longer has the ability to reason, so after a few questions she forgets all about the story – until she brings it up again. Then we start all over with more questions.

It takes a bit of practice and perseverance to ask questions instead of arguing. But arguments do nothing to solve the problem and only bring more frustration to both parties. Instead, open-ended questions help everyone settle down and realize that this particular story is not true.

And who of us wants to debate when there’s so little time to just love? It’s so much better to acknowledge that our loved ones have a legitimate concern, treat them with respect and just ask questions.

The Golden Rule of Alzheimer’s is: Treat your loved ones the way you want to be treated in fifty years.