Living Out Hope

Hope in winter pictureBecause the tagline for my blog is “Finding hope when life unravels,” lately I’ve pondered a bit about how to find hope.

Perhaps it is a response to the death of Robin Williams and how fragile life can be. Why couldn’t Robin find hope? How do any of us define and pursue hope?

Besides writing and coaching, I also work at a nonprofit for women, GateWay of Hope, where we help to transform the lives of hurting women. We counsel them and provide support groups. We coach them forward in life and pray with them. In the process, they find hope.

It has been said that we cannot live without hope. I have seen hopelessness in the eyes of Alzheimer’s patients as they stare forward into some invisible memory, lost within the befuddled plaque of their diseased state. They are still breathing, but they are not alive.

None of us wants to get to that point and none of us wants our ending legacy to be a dangling rope, alone, in a closet.

So how do we stay in hope? How do we find hope when it hides behind the darkness? Is there a formula for finding hope?

Because I struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), the winter months are difficult for me. I’m okay during November and December because I’m looking forward to the holidays, family time and lots of chocolate.

But January and February wear me out. The temperature is cold and the sky is ugly gray. I’m tired of shoveling snow and dodging ice and wish I could be one of those snow birds that rides out the winter in Arizona.

It is vital then, to find my hope, so every year I focus on three activities:

Exercise. I absolutely must find a way to walk during the winter months. Whether it’s inside a mall or a trip to Wal-Mart where I walk the perimeter of the store and tell myself over and over, “You cannot buy anything to try to make yourself feel better. Keep walking.” Exercise releases the endorphins and helps me rediscover hope

Read. Finding hope, for me, means escaping into other worlds through the pages of books. I keep a stack of books in my bedroom, another one in my office and a stack on my desk at work. I am constantly reading two or three books each week – nonfiction, self-help, fiction, memoir, the Psalms – anything to keep the cells of my brain alive and thinking about something other than the gray sky outside.

Pray. When I wake up in the morning, as I drive to work, in between appointments at work, before meals, at night, for extended periods on the Sabbath – prayer is my connection to the Author of Hope, the only answer I have to the desperate plea of my soul for Light and Love.

During the darker days of despair, the enemy of our souls comes, splattering his drivel that neither God nor anyone else cares.

I believe this must be the final cry of those who end their own lives. They believe no one cares.

It is the exercise and discipline of fervent prayer that keeps me centered on the truth so that I can scream back, “OH. YES. GOD. DOES. CARE.”

Although this tiny formula, Exercise + Reading + Prayer = Hope provides the morsel I need – ultimately, hope is one of those nebulous qualities that ends up as a gracious gift from the Giver.

For those who live in the deep hell of depression, for those who struggle with SAD and for those who just feel desperate at the end of a long day – we can only cry out and ask God to gift us with a nugget of hope.

Then sometimes, we just need to find another human being and ask for a hug. “Please remind me that I matter. Please touch me and help me feel alive.”

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo

 

Life on Fragile

What a sad week!

First came the news reports about Christians in Iraq suffering intense persecution. Then followed the national gasp as we learned of the tragic deaths of Robin Williams and Michael Brown. By the end of the week, I vacillated between hating to watch the news yet knowing I should find out the most current of events.

In my gratitude journal, I struggled to find something positive to record and finally settled on “Freedom.”Amer flag

I watched the internet video of Iraqi parents throwing their children into the arms of special forces inside a helicopter. What a crushing sorrow yet a final desperate act to ensure freedom for your child! What a fragile distance between dying on the mountain or flying off toward freedom!

As I watched clips of Robin Williams and his brilliant career, I shuddered at the loss of this incredible talent. But I also understood his last desperate act. In the darkest moments of my own depression, I also faced that moment when I attempted to escape via suicide. It was a divine scream that distracted me and gave me the opportunity to breathe another day.

Depression becomes a prison that steals our freedom to live abundantly.

The events regarding Michael Brown occurred not far from where I live, a mere four hours away on the turnpike. Yet this week, I felt a kinship to that mother who lost her son. My skin is the palest of white, and I felt ashamed whenever I saw African American citizens in my town, wishing I could change the past and the present for them, hating that once again – we were forced to dialogue about the same dreaded subject.

Once again, freedom was at risk as racist remarks and protests made me wonder – do we still not get it? Have we not learned that the soul is transparent no matter what color of skin covers it?

In each of these cases, freedom was the topic, hidden in that fragile place between desire and acceptance. In each case, my own freedoms seemed underscored.

  • I cherish my freedom to worship God when and where I choose.
  • I respect my freedom to live and honor my soul’s cry for mental and physical health.
  • I vote for and fight for the freedoms of all Americans to be their authentic selves, no matter what race or gender.

Every day last week, I wrote “freedom” in my gratitude journal. Throughout each day, I prayed for the Christians in Iraq and for the families of Robin Williams and Michael Brown.

And every morning, as consciousness invaded my dreams, I whispered, “God – thank you for my life of freedom. But please, oh please – help us to respect the fragility of life. And oh God, please – keep us free.”

©2014 RJ Thesman – Intermission for Reverend G – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo