Hope Finds Gratitude

gratefulDuring this season, it is expected that we give thanks. Most of the time, I do the required thank you’s:

  • Food – especially the whole berry cranberry sauce
  • A roof over my head – even if it feels weird from all the decluttering I’ve done. 
  • My son and my family – of course, always

Yet this year, I want to dig deeper and find my place of gratitude within the corners of my soul – those places I hide from others.

This year, I want to be more vulnerable with my blog followers and maybe in turn – remind all of us that gratitude is more than words.

Perhaps we should consider gratitude a heart condition and thus worthy of even more reflection.

This year, I am thankful because the fragility of life on this earth became graphically personal. One night, a bullet screamed through my bedroom. One inch closer and I would be writing this from heaven instead of Kansas.

Throughout the decluttering exercise and the staging of the house, I have grown more grateful for baring the walls and clearing the floors. Some of my stuff was comfort junk, bought to fill the hole left over from a damaging relationship.

Now I am more determined to surround myself with the essentials, yet achieve balance. My writing office still needs some creative, funky stuff and I am still determined to keep my piano.

As a believer of many years, sometimes I fail to thank God for redemption. All those years ago, my childhood heart opened to the Savior of Nazareth as I ran – yes, ran – down the aisle toward salvation.

May I never forget the wonder of that moment and expressly thank God for the healing of my soul.

Even as I wait for the agent’s response, I am grateful for the opportunity to fly to Denver, stay in a beautiful hotel and pitch the book I hope will be published soon. Thank you, God, for the creativity you have gifted me with and the words that morph from heart to fingers to computer screen to the printed page.

A brief foray into my journals finds entries where I asked God questions and sometimes railed against the answers. I am grateful God lets me be honest with him and I love it when he gives me verses of scripture which may not provide the answer I want but confirms I am forever and gracefully loved.

More than ever before, I am grateful for how God has brought me through the struggles:

  • The loss of two babies
  • Abuse and assault
  • Divorce and all its protracted consequences
  • Watching my son suffer from cancer
  • Dad’s dementia and Mom’s Alzheimer’s journey

While I am not grateful FOR these particular obstacles, I am so thankful that during the struggles and in the aftermath, God has been present. Because he helped me survive, my faith has grown and perseverance has deepened.

And with these experiences in my mental backpack, I have written about realistic topics and helped coach women past the crises.

May we never take for granted how God continues to save us every day.

Because I am a life-long learner, I am still trying to grasp more of the lessons which life and God are teaching me. Thank you, blog followers, for giving me this forum to work out the kinks in my spiritual armor and find the sacred place God longs to purify.

So as we sit around the tables this Thanksgiving and dip into that whole berry cranberry sauce, let’s go deep into the reasons for gratitude.

Forever and always, let us listen hard for the divine One who longs to hear us say, “Thank you, dear Father.”

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

Hope Streams Through the Promises

In our crazy world of broken promises, it soothes me to know I can depend on one source.

i-promiseThe divine One, God Himself, has never broken any of his covenant promises to me.

Some of his words of hope are recorded within the general principles of the Bible:

  • I will never leave you or forsake you
  • I will be your Comforter
  • I will show you the path to take
  • I will be your Guide
  • I will be your eternal Husband

Although timing for these promises varies, and sometimes the seasons of life interrupt, when God says something and underscores it in print – I am certain it will eventually happen.

But the promises that mean the most to me – those certainties that create the a-ha moments of spiritual awakening – those promises are not recorded in the holy scriptures.

These are the divine whispers during my discouraging nights and my driest spiritual deserts. These are the words that keep me living in hope even when tentacles of fear and uncertainty tighten.

When I walked through the pain of divorce, God spoke his personal promise for my son and me, “There will be hard times ahead, but I will meet every need.”

Even through extended months of unemployment, scary moves away from comfort zones, the horror of watching my son suffer with cancer – through it all – the reminder of God’s statement kept me breathing.

“I will meet every need.”

Indeed – in miraculously beautiful moments recorded in my journals and kept sacred – like the Virgin Mary – ensconced in my heart.

Every. Single. Need. Was. Met.

  • Jobs that suddenly appeared from unusual sources
  • Cars given through the generosity of a good man
  • The healing of my son and my own healings – emotional, spiritual and physical
  • Money that somehow appeared. I constantly affirm God’s math is different from ours. He can make money poof into existence from a negative balance.
  • Friendships spawned in the cusp of brokenness
  • Housing – one of my constant prayers, “Please God, don’t let us be homeless.” A beautiful townhome where we healed for four years then later a mortgage refinanced, gardens where God and I created beautiful color and bountiful food
  • Christmas gifts we received and those we gave – even when the budget no longer stretched far enough
  • A research trip to Santa Fe, featured in the last Reverend G book
  • And much, much more….

Every. Single. Need. Always and Forever. Met. The solo I often sang became reality.

But as sweet and as necessary as the confirmed promise streamed the credibility of the One who made the promise.

The words foreshadowed holiness because they originated from the source of love – the covenant made stronger because of the credibility of the Speaker.

So during this current desert, as I await the resolution for another promise, I continue to look for and listen to the One who has seared my heart with his grace.

“I will meet every need,” he said so clearly. No quantity of time assigned to his statement. Just an eternal assurance that the One who spoke the words will never violate his covenant.

He will meet the needs now as he has done in the past, because he cannot and will not change. His promise forever sealed within the identity of Who he is.

And in that assurance, hope streams.

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

Hope Embraces Holy Indifference

During a conference last spring, I won the opportunity to pick a book from the freebie table. But the conference administrator decided to run the contest again – something about the numbers not being equal and fair to everyone.

I didn’t really care but when they repeated the contest – once again – I won. It seemed like a divine coincidence I shouldn’t ignore.

So I approached the book table and prayed I would make the right decision. Only one book seemed interesting, so I grabbed it and put it in my bag to take home.

Then I forgot about it. Months later, I pulled it out of my bag and started thumbing through it – then reading more closely – then highlighting text and writing in the margins.

This book has become a necessary piece of my limbo land puzzle. “Living into the Answers – a Workbook for Personal Spiritual Discernment” is now my traveling companion with journal prompts and prayers for spiritual direction.

Authors Valerie Isenhower and Judith Todd devised an individualized plan for discerning God’s will. With questions such as:

  • What is God’s longing for you?
  • When do you most sense God’s presence?
  • How does God fit into your life story?

I was soon hooked into the value of this little workbook. After I finished, I put it aside for a while and last week – picked it up again.

One of the chapters held a keynote for me which became a prayer, a journal entry and now – this blog post. That keynote is the principle of Holy Indifference.

Ignatius of Loyola actually penned the term back in the sixteenth century – pretty smart for a dead saint. He described Holy Indifference as a state of inner freedom, openness and balance.

But Isenhower and Todd take the principle a bit deeper. Their idea involves a willingness to follow the longings of God for our lives so no matter what he designs for us, we are indifferent to our own versions.

To live within the balance of holy indifference, we determine that we don’t really care about the outcome of a decision. However it turns out – whenever and whatever God designs – is okay. We’ll take it – no matter what.

The point is not to worry about the results and not to lean on our own understanding or even our reasoning capabilities.

This practice of spiritual discernment shifts away from self and centers on God. When we come to a crossroads, we’re not afraid to follow him because we know he has the best in mind for us.

He has considered all our objections and all our feeble plans. He asks us to trust him with everything we are and all that we desire – to walk boldly into the future with him.

Every spiritual question seems to circle back to trust – at least in my life.

Can I trust God enough to move me to a place I will love – even if I can’t see it right now?

Will I trust that God has the best outcome already planned for me – even if it might include doing something I don’t like or giving up something I have treasured?

Am I willing to trust that God’s longing for me will eventually result in something good and beautiful?

Hmm. Holy Indifference replies, “I have considered all the options and God knows best. I will put myself and this decision into his capable hands and trust his heart.”

Sort of makes limbo land less threatening and the outcome more exciting.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy

 

Hope Asks Why

“Why, God, why?”why-god-allows

We ask the why question, because we need to find some type of order in life. When situations don’t make sense and we can’t logically figure them out, we ask why.

“Why did both my parents have to struggle through dementia and Alzheimer’s – especially when they were both so healthy? I don’t understand, God. Why?”

“Why did my friend have to lose her husband after the loss of both parents in the same year? Doesn’t that seems a bit unfair? Why?”

“Why do single moms and their children have to suffer the consequences when the dad makes unhealthy choices? Injustice screams, ‘Why?’”

Years ago, when I attended a legalistic church, a young man in our community was killed in a train accident. It was brutal and a terrible shock to all of us. Our youth group met to discuss it. Those were the days before counselors were available.

One of the church leaders gathered us together and said, “This young man died because he must have sinned. So be careful how you live. God is watching.”

Even as a teenager, something about that theory seemed wrong to me so I started my own search. I looked through my dad’s Bible, because it was the King James version and we had been taught it was the only version that espoused truth. However, good old King Jimmy provided no answers for my teenaged heart.

Years later I found more of the answer in a different version of the Bible. Poor old Job who suffered so terribly provided a plausible variation to the Why question: “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness – He causes it to happen” (Job 37:13 NASB).

For Correction

Sometimes God allows terrible things to happen because we need to be shocked into reality and reminded he is sovereign. Perhaps in those moments of horrific happenings, we will reset our course and start over.

How has this played out in history? How have other historical figures looked at correction? Did Adam and Eve raise Seth differently because of what they learned through their parenting of Cain and Abel? Probably, although I don’t think we can blame parents for the choices their children make.

God reminded the Israelites to stay away from foreign altars by allowing snake bites to kill

caduceus medical symbol chrome

and maim. A drastic resolution, to be sure, but it does explain some of God’s dealings with the Israelites. And today, we have the medical symbol to remind us of this historic event.

Hasn’t history taught us to be careful of the Hitlers of this world because of the Holocaust?

When terrible things happen to us, I think one response should be “What can I learn from this situation?” Rather than the “Why” question, perhaps we should rephrase it with “What?”

As gracious and loving as God is, he sometimes allows terrible things to happen. Why? So we can learn from our experiences and grow up.

But I do not believe we should live in the fear of making a mistake because God might cause a train to run over us. Sheesh!

For His World

We live in a world defined by depravity. Just try to find a television show you wouldn’t mind watching with Jesus plopped beside you on the sofa.

We are deceived into thinking we can fill our minds with pornography and not face any consequences.

We believe we can speed and drive drunk and nothing will happen because we are somehow immortal.

We eat what is not good for us, buy guns and forget to hide the bullets from children, look at someone’s skin color and judge him.

Our world is not a safe place to live, so obviously – bad things are going to happen. Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes – all of these factor into the orb we inhabit. None of us can avoid some sort of tragedy during our lifetimes. It is part of the definition of living.

Why does God allow the world to sometimes turn against us?

To remind us we are human and a better place does exist. Tornadoes will not touch heaven, nor will the sin of someone else force thorny consequences on families.

Heaven and an eternal existence with God is something we long for, live for and hope for. This world will someday disappear.

God wants to remind us he has planned for something better.

For Lovingkindness

This seems the most difficult of the Job answers. Sometimes God allows certain tragedies to happen because he is a loving God.

That seems backward, an opposite world treatise. I do not believe we can ever second guess Almighty God.

But I do wonder… did God allow the groom to be killed the night before his wedding because he would someday betray his bride and destroy his family?

Does God invite little children into his heavenly arms instead of allowing them to live full lives because he knows their homes and their families will be bombed into oblivion and it is kinder to take them out of the horror?

Will God prevent disaster by allowing a change in course?

I do not pretend to know what God determines about anyone else’s life, but I do know he has sometimes worked backward lovingkindness into my destiny.

Hindsight is always wiser than the present experience. God allowed me to be downsized out of a good job. Then he pointed me toward something better.

Unemployment was hard, but the next job was so much better for me and fit my giftings. My “Why?” question became God’s answer, “Just wait and see what I have for you.”

During that year of unemployment, I began writing a book that resulted in a trilogy and taught me how much fun fiction-writing could be.

How does Job 37:13 fit in with the journey of Alzheimer’s? Part of the answer has to include the world we live in.

The stresses, the electromagnetic fields around us that affect our brains, the ways we have destroyed our food chains and how we have polluted our water source, the chemicals we pour into our bodies that taste good  but end up affecting the brain.

All these worldly systems we have invented may contain a clue.

I hope God isn’t correcting me or any of my family members by allowing us to watch Mom suffer.

But I am willing to ask God to teach me through the process, to grow patience in me and hopefully – by sharing these words with you – to transfer hope within this blog.

As Reverend G so aptly says, “The question is ‘Why?’ but the answer is ‘Who.’”

God is in control of everything, and when we cannot understand why – the best thing we can do – is run into his loving arms.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy

 

Hope Finds Its Color

cyclamenMy cyclamen is blooming, a lovely pink color – sort of fuchsia. But I bought it with the understanding that it would bloom into the dark purple I love.

What a surprise as the blossoms opened and produced a deep pink instead of the color I expected.

But then, as I waited a few days, the blooms started changing. With time, the cyclamen blooms sported the purple I wanted. I just had to wait for the desired result while the plant morphed through its photosynthetic process.

The correct color was there all along, hidden behind the curtains of time. Only the passage of days would bring out the true richness and verdure I longed to see.

Isn’t that so like life?

We start a project, write a story or journal about a dream. Then the project becomes a tree house. The story evolves into a novel. The dream wraps around a destiny.

We share coffee with a friend which eventually grows a relationship that adds color and joy to our lives.

We say, “Yes” to Jesus and end up living a life abundant with more grace giftings than we ever thought possible.

One circumstance morphs into another, delighting us with the spontaneity of change and surprising us with the richness of the final result.

Living within the surprises of life adds more fun than carefully structured days that grow old and boring in their regularity.

Perhaps we could also give permission for change to others – the opportunity to morph into a richer version of themselves.

Wouldn’t that attitude change how we relate to our children who may seem stuck in the teen years? We want to scream, “Grow up!” But that is exactly what they are doing.

What if we give permission for change to those in authority over us – to the systems of our society that seem stuck in historical and traditional morays.

It takes time for people and systems to change and as we morph into the America we hope to be, we will need to give daily grace.

What if we live in the joy of the surprise and truly learn that expectations do not always bring the best results.

We learn how to apply patience as we gradually grow into our faith, move into the next season of life and accept the things we cannot change.

If we could practice patience and apply grace for ourselves and for others, with our world and our destinies intact – perhaps we could live better lives and embrace the hidden hope of each day.

I am hoping for this type of grace as we approach the November elections. The blatant ugliness recorded on social media proves nothing except that we all need to grow up.

Our freedom to express opinions is a gift. Why use that freedom to destroy another soul?

How can we become our true color and exhibit the creative beauty God gave us if we don’t give each other the necessary time to morph into our best selves?

My hope is that no matter how much unraveling we experience, we will possess the integrity and the wisdom to grow internally and change into who we should really be.

©2016 RJ Thesman, Author of the Reverend G Trilogy

Hope Dodges a Bullet

We know life can be fragile, but most of us just continue living through one day after the other. We believe we have plenty of time left … until something happens to change our perspective.target - bullet

A few weeks ago, as I was getting ready to hop into bed – I heard a gunshot. The cat jumped straight up, turned horizontal in midair and ran into the next room.

I stood there a moment, thinking … no glass shattered so nothing came through the window. Was it a drive-by shooting? What should I do?

Then the doorbell rang. I hurried downstairs and peeked outside before I opened the door to my neighbors – the folks who live on the other side of my duplex wall.

He was standing on my steps with a towel wrapped around his bleeding hand. She seemed worried as she asked over and over, “Are you all right? Are you all right?”

“Yes. What happened?”

“He was reaching into his strong box to check his weapon and it went off. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” I said, “but you have young children. Are they okay? And what about your hand?”

“The bullet went through my hand,” he said. “We’re on our way to the ER, but then we saw the bullet went through our adjoining wall. That’s why we wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“Well,” I said, “my son and I just prayed for protection tonight. I guess God was with us.”

They drove to the hospital while I waited for the police. I knew whenever a weapon is discharged, officers will come to check it out. Within the hour, the doorbell rang again and this time, as I peeked through the window, I saw the shiny badge.

Throughout our investigation that night, the officer and I figured out what had happened.

The bullet came through the wall at an angle, then through my headboard, grazing my pillows. It continued through the opposite wall and outside the house. So I had two bullet holes in my interior walls, one in the outside of the house, one through my headboard, two adjacent holes through my pillow cases and none through me.

However, if I had been in the bed or even bending over to fluff my pillows, the bullet would have struck me.

The officer shook his head and said, “Ma’am, the good Lord was with you tonight.”

“Yes, as he is always. I guess it wasn’t my time.”

Throughout the next days, my neighbors apologized frequently. They fixed all the damage and even brought me some beautiful flowers.

The experience gave me the opportunity to speak of my faith to my neighbors and to remind my son once again that I love him.

Because life is short. Because none of us knows how much time we have. Because we live in a scary world.

The experience also reminded me to make every day count, to love and laugh and live abundantly.

Then to hang on to the hope that assures me … someday the end will come and I will graduate to heaven.

Hope hangs on to the smallest threads of life and still believes every day has a purpose. Even if we can’t find our purpose through a particular season of life, God knows how everything fits together.

He knows how to make even a stray bullet count for something good.

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

 

 

 

Hope Falters

She was a lovely woman and an expert in her field – the stager sent by the realtor to prepare my house for sale. At the outset, she warned me, “I’m not here to offend anyone. I just want you to get the most money for your house.”

I was prepared for her to move things around and give me some decorating ideas, but I was emotionally blindsided by the number of my treasures she declared, “This has to go.” Basically, she dismantled my house and my personal stuff.Debris of move

She left piles of things in every room to get rid of in order to most effectively sell the house. She was very good at her job, and I learned so many things about spacing, color, lighting, even the size of pictures as they become a statement beside a bed or on a wall.

Buyers will be looking for the feeling of space and for a neutral territory where they can set up their home. Anything personal of mine will interrupt that neutral feeling, so it cannot be in sight.

The stager showed me how to hide certain things, such as the litter box, so buyers are unaware the house once was ruled by a cat. Betsey, aka Gabriel, would disagree, but she will find her box and discreetly do her business – a bit perturbed that her abode has been disturbed.

I learned how important my stuff is to me. Most of my things are the early attic variety, garage sale finds or something I have restored that another person threw away. Nothing has great intrinsic value – except in my soul.

While I know we are not defined by our stuff, in a way – yes, we are.

Quilts, a cradle, an antique telephone – all carry sentimental value for me. The quilt my grandmother and her sisters made for my wedding – a creamy yellow, with butterflies made from the scraps of their lives, babies’ bonnets, a favorite shirt.

The cradle, fashioned by my dad, held my newborn son as we rocked him to sleep that first Christmas. The fire blazed and kept my baby warm. Dad woke up every thirty minutes to check on the heat emanating off the logs. A sweet memory, a grief rekindled.

The old telephone my parents pieced together by visiting scores of flea markets and antique shops, then proudly gave to me one Christmas – long before Alzheimers invaded our lives and stole that precious memory.

Yet none of these treasures made the cut. “Get rid of them or find a place to store them – out of the way,” the stager instructed.

How can I shove my lifetime out of the way?

As she finished her work, the stager and I learned a bit more about each other. Both of us write. Both of us have journeyed through divorce and experienced pre-judgement by the established church. Both of us love cats.

When she left, we hugged and I was glad for a new friend, for her many suggestions which I know on some level are right and will help me sell the house.

But somehow, I also felt violated and discouraged, certain my life was going to change, wondering how I could decide what to let go.

The piles of my life’s debris reminded me how mortal we are and how fleeting is life – a mere breath – a candle that should be given away to bring another person joy, a sofa table so out of date no one would want it even if it was free.

My son was shocked and upset by the suggestions made for how we needed to purge more and more and more. As we talked through our emotions, he finally said, “Change is hard for me, Mom. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s bad.” 

A wise young man. I admire his honesty.

Although the purging pains my soul, my journal entries speak the truth. This duplex has never been home for me; it was only a place to settle while I worked in this town.

Now that all my pictures have been stripped off the walls, my mantel decoration has been condemned and the detritus of my life lies in piles on the floor – it feels even less like the place where I can freely write, create stories and be my authentic self.

So my son and I are trusting God to provide something wonderful for us again, just as he has done through every step of the post-divorce journey. If we have to stay in this duplex, then we’ll be grateful for a roof over our heads. And it will be cleaner, sans the stuff we no longer need.

In “Jesus Calling” Sarah Young writes, “Anticipate coming face-to-face with impossibilities: situations totally beyond your ability to handle…When you see armies of problems marching toward you, cry out to God! Allow him to fight for you. Watch him working on your behalf.”

So that’s where I am this day – purging, mourning the loss of stuff, and waiting for next steps – clinging to God and trying to find hope.

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