Hope Finds a Word

Many of my friends are choosing their words for the year. Although I don’t usually follow suit, one word has surfaced. This word and its meaning once stymied me because I could not find a practical way to utilize it.

But as I have searched for a workable definition, the practice and discipline of using this word has moved front and center.ballet-dancers

I believe this word is important to me – especially in 2017 – because of what happened in 2016. As a Christian, I was appalled at the vitriol I read on social media and how followers of Christ used their freedom of speech as a weapon.

Certainly, we should stand up for what we believe, but to attack other human beings – creations of God – just because they believe differently? Sheesh!

They will know we are Christians by our love.

So my word for the year addresses my traumatized soul and also gives me a higher bar to attain. The word is GRACE.

I know the Sunday School definition for grace: God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. But I have searched for the practical version, a way to actually BE a Christian rather than just writing and/or posting my beliefs – hoping to stay away from the ugliness and cruelty witnessed last year.

The definition I have settled on is, “Grace is the disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy or clemency.”

To live with a focus on kindness, to show grace to the checker at Target who has been on her feet for eight hours and the guy in front of me is yelling at her because his coupon expired.

To see the tears threatening to spill over and when it is my turn, to briefly touch her hand and say, “I’m sorry about what just happened. I think you’re doing a great job.”

To park in the lot at Wal-Mart and instead of rushing inside to get my stuff, to show grace-filled courtesy to the elderly woman, lift her trunk and help her empty the cart – then offer to take her cart inside so she doesn’t have to walk all that way on a gimpy leg.

To realize none of us act as we should every single day and give grace when someone barks an insult or uses only one finger to wave at me in traffic.

To be grateful for my freedoms yet allow with grace for the differences among us as we exercise those freedoms.

And how does grace look if I turn it inward? What are the practical ways I can give myself grace in this new year?

To realize I am an achiever, yet my projects are not more important than my health. To rest even if I’m not sleepy.

To allow myself breaks to take a long walk, to sit on the deck and marvel at the colors of the blue jay at my feeder.

To realize I gain five pounds every winter as I hibernate from the cold and give myself grace because I always lose those same pounds in the spring.

To admit the truth about the aging process – it DOES happen so I need to give myself grace and not hate the changes morphing me into a visual of my ancestors. After all, each year brings me closer to heaven where age will not matter.

To realize my garden cannot look like the magazine covers, no matter how hard I work. To give myself grace and let some of the plots grow over with natural grasses and even weeds. This graceful strategy will give me more time to write, reflect and pray.

To believe that grace also leads to gracefulness – a beautiful visual of a ballerina floating across the stage. Can I float through 2017 with a new version of gracefulness, slowing down and just being myself?

In her book, “Walking on Water,” Madeleine L’Engle writes exactly what I want to embrace. “…To take time away from busyness, time to BE. To take BEING time – something we all need for our spiritual health. Slow me down, Lord. When I am constantly running, there is no time for being. When there is no time for being, there is no time for listening.”

So as I float through 2017, my goal is to show kindness, to offer courtesy and to fight for clemency – to allow for the differences among us and love in spite of them.

Hope calls me to be more grace-filled and graceful in the next twelve months. Will you join me?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

11 Insights from Sabbatical

Many of you who follow my blog have expressed that you were praying for me this week. Thank you.

20150320_111209To honor your kindness, I’d like to share with you the 11 insights God gave me during Sabbatical. Some of them are, of course, repeats – those marching-around-Mount-Sinai-truths we all know. But when God repeats something, it’s important to listen.

Some are from my own readings and journalings – truths my soul needed to savor, a salve to cover spiritual wounds.

Here then are the insights from my Sabbatical week:

1.Even when I am feeling discouraged and wonder where I belong, God never abandons me. I belong to Him. Some of you may be thinking, Well, duh! But again – a truth worth repeating and a treasure for soul memory.

2.When I take a break, my clients and the rest of the world will not fall apart. In fact, I am quite certain the world needed a break from me.

3.Sabbath rest is absolutely necessary to restore the soul. Although I rest every Sunday, my soul needs some extended times with God. Having the freedom to spend hours in his presence was – well – heavenly.

4.God is bigger than the ordinary. We really do focus most of life on ourselves, don’t we? The bills, the paycheck, the job, the weather, the car problems. God’s agenda is so much bigger.

5.To honor my passions is one of the most vital things I must do. Passion is at the heart of who we are, and so often we hide from our passions because they remind us of dreams unfulfilled. Even a little time with our passions helps to restore the soul. This is why King David composed music and Jesus held children on his lap.

6.In helping others, I must also find a way to help myself. As a coach, I ask the powerful questions that point my clients toward their passions. I must also learn to ask myself the same challenging questions, then find a way to push me forward.

7.Asking grace for myself requires that I be willing to give it to others – often and liberally. Grace is the first step toward forgiveness and reconciliation. God requires that we share it.

8.God is eager to spend time with us. The loneliness of the soul is often a clue that the Spirit within seeks time without distractions. We owe the Divine One our undivided attention.

9.It’s a good thing I’m not a bettin’ woman. My brackets are completely destroyed.

10.Quote for the week from Anne Lamott, I trust that when I wake up tomorrow morning, God will still like me.”

11.Tulips are always a happy idea.

So there you have them. Nothing earth-shattering, but insights that filled up half my journal while restoring my soul.

I wish for you a Sabbatical as well – a time to breathe in, to let your body truly rest and to rekindle love for your passions.

Peace be with you.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Rejuvenate with the Holy Nap

People either laugh at me or stare when I tell them about my holy naps.

I guard my Sabbath. Because I work about 60 hours/week and much of that involves ministry, I need to observe the 4th Commandment. I desperately need rest on Sundays.

Yes, I go to church and then usually, I spend some quality time with my son. The rest of the day is for rest and about an hour of that includes the holy nap.sleeping puppy

Naps are under-rated. We demand them of our young children, because we know that rest helps them grow and thrive.

But why not also for adults? A restorative nap of even 10 minutes can help refresh our minds and hearts.

So what happens during a holy nap? How is it different from a regular siesta in the middle of the day?

For me, it’s more than physical rest. My holy nap also involves handing over to God the burdens that have been placed on me during the week: crises in people’s lives, the uncertainties of our times, Mom’s Alzheimer’s.

We sometimes forget that ministers need encouragement, too. Reverend G reminds us that “Life is a puzzle. As we age, life adds layers to our personalities and our experiences. We learn more about trusting God, then we begin to see the great cycle of history play out in our genes. But Alzheimer’s, dementia and other crises exfoliate us. They takes away the layers of life until we’re back to childhood, no longer wise.”   http://amzn.to/11QATC1

So during my holy nap, I lay down the burdens of the week. I rest in the arms of God, usually starting with a prayer where I ask Jesus to intercede for all the people I know who need prayers.

When I fall asleep, the Holy Spirit takes over and I often wake up with new ideas for writing or a Bible verse to share with someone or a new and creative plan for a coaching client.

Always, I wake up refreshed – ready for another week and more of the ministries God has called me to.

So I recommend it – this small respite on a Sunday afternoon. Say “No” to extra activities on that day and put a guard around your busy heart.

Take a holy nap and be grateful.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1

The Secret of Yoder, KS

In the stillness of the morning, I meet with God – here at the Sunflower Inn in Yoder, Kansas.Sunflower Inn

Two friends join me for this weekend away, this girlfriend time that also counts as my sabbatical from ministry.

No flipping on the TV, no computer screen bleeping messages from cyberspace. Just my friends, God and me.

Birds sing morning allelujahs and I wait for something – that cacophony of sound that usually assaults me when I open my eyes.

But here in this quiet place, I do not hear it and feel blessed by its absence.

Traffic. The roar of engines and the hurry-to-work-revving is not present in this place.

I discover the secret solace of Yoder, Kansas. Amish buggies move silently except for the clopping of horses’ hooves on the pavement – a subtle sound that speaks of contented life without the scurry of automation.

Sunflower bedroomSunflowers decorate my room, a reminder of Kansas and of vibrant life that promises to burst forth as soon as winter gives way to spring.

And I am reminded of my own personal mantra that I share in speaking venues – when life unravels, take a break.

My soul, so grieved with the hurts I hear and see each day – needs this respite. My family is thick into the caregiving of our mother who struggles through Alzheimer’s. I need this time away.

Although brief, it is like a gulp of air to a woman who is drowning in the cares of life. The reminder that life is to be lived, and I have a purpose. Yet I do not need in this quiet place to even think on that purpose or to meet the needs of anyone besides myself.

And that is okay. It is not selfish to take time for self-care.

So I listen blissfully to the stereo of Yoder sounds: the trill of the birds and the mew of a kitten, the bellow of a cow begging to be milked and in the distance – the putt-putt of a tractor on its way to the fields.

Sounds of contented life in Amish country. Sounds I miss in the city life I lead. Sounds I need to hear on this sabbatical weekend.

Should God allow my timeline to continue, He will enable and equip me to meet others’ needs again. He will pour through me the abundance of His Spirit.

But for now, he bids me rest.

He whispers to me in this early morning hour from Psalm 54:4, “God is my helper, the Lord is the upholder of my life.”

Uphold me even today, Lord. Cup your hands around my face and pour into me your healing spirit. Bless me too, my Father, with your love in this quiet place.