Advent is upon us.

Advent will soon be here. It’s the waiting and the anticipation of more to come. It’s a season of hopefulness and joy. We look for the prize of Jesus coming in the form of a baby. We know the real ‘reason for the season’ and want everyone else to understand that too. If only they did! If only. Let us pray that our country, our world, all people will understand and appreciate what Advent is all about. God bless!

Patience?! What patience?!

Back in the day, I worked at a company with a gift shop on the bottom floor. I saw a poster that, at times, pretty much summed up my feelings about patience. It showed a gorilla with a stern look on its face with the caption: “Patience my (expletive). I’m going to kill something!” I had to chuckle. It was kind of embarrassing that I felt that way some days, but I was honest in acknowledging that impatience is an issue I’ve had for some time.

St. Paul talks about a thorn in the flesh. Impatience is my thorn. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, he states: ‘A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.’ For Lent, I have tried to work on my impatience, specifically with my fellow motorists. I am reminded of another word that describes the suffering that comes with impatience: Longsuffering is defined as ‘having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.’ And don’t some people cause us to suffer? They can be a downright pain in the, well, you know.

We all have our thorn in the flesh, whether it’s impatience with things or other people, having to always be right about everything, judging others unjustly or (place your thorn here). Jesus was a pretty patient person. He only got angry a few times in the Bible, when it was justified (like driving out the moneychangers from the temple or calling the Pharisees on their attitudes).

As far as my Lenten practice (patience with my fellow motorists), I have my successful days and not so successful days. Sometimes, I even let the people in who think they always have to be first. You know, the ones who are in such a hurry all the time. They speed to the front of the line, even on the shoulder of the road, and then expect to be let in because they think they shouldn’t have to wait. “Hey buster! I was here first! Who do you think you are trying to speed ahead of everyone else?! Wait your stinking turn!” Now, I have a confession to make. During this time of Lenten ‘longsuffering,’ I think I understand why some of them go to the front of the line: Maybe because no one pays attention that they are trying to get in or simply won’t let them in. ”Hey buster, I want to get there just like you do! Let me in!” (Wow. It’s pretty interesting seeing both sides of that situation!) That said, it’s hard (sometimes) to know who is trying to just take advantage and who really is just frustrated about not being able to get in line like everyone else. Something to think about next time we are on the road. Have a safe day!

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

A Christmas Reflection

We’ve all heard lots of stories of the Nativity, the birth of Jesus, their journey to Bethlehem, and their sudden flight into Egypt. It all seems so familiar—maybe too familiar–to us.

As I was reflecting on this attitude in my own life, I paused to carefully consider what some of these things must have been like for the Holy Family.  So, I closed my eyes and took a ‘journey’ with them. I invite you to imagine yourself with them also as they go to Bethlehem, as Mary births Jesus, the coming of the shepherds, and the visit of the Magi.

It is daybreak on the last day of Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem to register for the census. Breakfast is over, the donkey is ready, and Mary climbs on the donkey’s back. Joseph walks on ahead, gently leading the donkey. The way is rocky and rough. Joseph’s feet are sore and maybe a little bloody from the journey. He doesn’t say anything to Mary because he doesn’t want her to worry. She has enough on her mind!  She is heavy with child and weary. She perhaps even wishes they were already in Bethlehem so she can rest before she begins labor. The Christ Child would soon arrive! However, Mary doesn’t complain; she doesn’t want to worry Joseph.

They journey as purposefully as they can, both of them knowing Mary’s ‘time’ is growing close. The donkey too must feel tired and thirsty. Joseph finds some water for the donkey near a stream and the animal drinks his fill of the fresh, cool water. He also gives Mary and himself a drink.

They travel for hours towards Bethlehem. As evening draws near, they enter the city, hoping for a restful place to stay. However, they find no place to lodge. All the lodging places are already filled with other travelers, and the innkeeper is only able to offer a stable for their bed. Joseph and Mary reluctantly but gratefully accept. They enter the stable quickly for Mary is beginning her labor pains. Joseph quickly and tenderly lifts Mary from the donkey and gently lays her down to prepare for the birth. He prepares a trough for the baby Jesus—this manger where animals feed will soon be where the newborn Savior will lay His sweet head. His mattress will consist of hay. This just doesn’t seem befitting a divine king, but nothing else is available.

Mary cries aloud in pain as she gives birth. Joseph waits, ever caring, ever concerned, and his big strong hands prepare to catch Jesus when he appears from Mary’s virgin womb. What an intimate and emotional moment for both of them! The baby Jesus cries briefly, and Joseph gently cleans Him and lays Him on His mother’s lap. This son, the angel announced to Mary, was here.

I wonder what Joseph and Mary said to each other concerning this holy child? What questions did they speak of or hold in their hearts? They could not have known that some 33 years later He would again be covered with blood and water. This son would heal, console, preach, bless, teach and challenge others and perhaps even them. But how could they possibly know all this? They knew He would be mighty, but what did that look like?  How would it all take place?

Meanwhile, out in the fields, as the shepherds watched their flocks, they were startled by a great noise in the sky. There appeared angels with trumpets announcing a birth. The shepherds were no doubt quaking with fright at the sight and the noise. The angels, aware of their fear, calmed them and shared the Good News of their Savior’s birth. The shepherds must have wondered how they got invited to this glorious event. Curiously but joyfully they went along with their flocks to see the newborn baby.

Mary and Joseph were enjoying the Christ Child as He cooed and gurgled. They played and talked with Him and each other. Soon, the shepherds came with their flocks to see the baby. Joseph and Mary looked up when they heard the noise. Funny, they weren’t expecting visitors. How did the shepherds know?

The shepherds came, unshaven, uncleansed, with their smelly flocks, their animals making their hot, steamy smells along the way. Mary and Joseph welcomed them while baby Jesus looked at the visitors with soft brown eyes. Perhaps He laughed as the animals said hello in their God-given way. Did a part of Him know these shepherds and animals were all a part of His divine creation? A part of His plan for a welcoming party? One has to wonder. They all knelt in wonder and worship.

Meanwhile, visitors from the East were arriving by camel with treasure for our little savior. They got off their camels and knelt in worship. What? More visitors? Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh? Wow!They were gifts befitting a king. But why these gifts in particular? Surely it meant something very profound. How did all these people know about His birth? There were no written announcements–only shepherds and Magi prompted by angels and the stars. Our savior wanted a humble crowd, and that’s what He got. What wonderful gifts Jesus got on His birthday—shepherds, magi, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. No cake. No candles, but the best light of all—the star announcing His birth. And we are gifted by the best light of all—for Jesus is the light of the world.

Copyright © 2007 Theresa M. Williams

Living in the present

What does living in the present mean? It means learning from the past, but not worrying about it. It means not being overly anxious or concerned about the future. It means trusting in the One who made us. It means to pay attention and be mindful of what is happening right now, taking life as it comes. What is mindfulness? It is a state of active, open attention to the present. Think of the current moment as a gift, a present.

I must admit that I have a tendency to be anxious and worried, whether it’s about something in the past–Did I say something to upset someone? What will they think of me? Will they be angry or upset? While we should develop good social relationships and be conscientious about them, worrying does not help–or the future: What is going to happen when my mother dies? How will I be able to get the amount of time off work that I need to take care of her affairs? (She lives in the Southern Plains while I live along the East Coast.) How long will that take? While these are concerns, I must not worry about them. If there is anything I can look into, fine. If not, I must trust that God will provide what I need when the time comes, but not worrying is easier said than done. Our choir director usually adds the following when he leads us in prayer: “Lord, help us not to worry or be afraid. Help us to trust in You.” Amen!

Here’s what the Bible says about worrying: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? (Matthew 6:25-34 NRSV)

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

The gates of hell shall not prevail

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 NRSV)

When I am tempted to feel discouraged about the persecution against the church, against Christianity, against all that is good, decent, right and true, I remember the words of Jesus. He tells us that He will prevail, that Satan has limited time, and that He (Jesus) is in charge! I would reword/summarize this Bible verse and state that evil shall not prevail.

It seems like we hear about abortion, adultery, alcoholism, corruption, drug dealing, serious illness, shootings, terrorism–to name but a few bad things–on a daily basis. Remember that Jesus and good will prevail. The last foe that He will conquer is death itself. 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

During this Advent season, let us turn to the Price of Peace, Jesus Christ, for our comfort and hope. He is the Light of the World, the way out of darkness. Take courage, and do not be discouraged, for our King will prevail!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Entombment of Negative Thinking

I once heard someone refer to negative thinking as “stinkin’ thinkin’.” I think that’s a great way to put it.

Mahatma Gandhi put things this way: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”

I would further describe negativity as Chicken Little (‘the sky is falling; the sky is falling’) syndrome. Everything’s a disaster, a nightmare. The world’s coming to an end. Everything is exaggerated. A dark cloud follows you around like a storm waiting to happen. I know people who fit this description, and they are not pleasant to be around. Their negativity is like an illness, it’s contagious. You can’t stay around them very long or you get exposed and your thinking becomes ‘sick.’

If we keep repeating negative things, those things tend to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Let me give you some examples:

I feel terrible. Here you talk yourself into being sick. (Try telling yourself that you feel great, and try to believe it! I tried that at least once, and I started to feel better.)

I can’t do this; it’s just too hard. It sounds like you’re doomed to failure before you even try. (Think of The Little Engine That Could. He said ‘I think I can; I think I can.’)

No one loves me! (Of course they don’t like you; you’re so negative!) Who would want to be around you?

This entombment of negative thinking holds us prisoner of our thoughts. Like Gandhi’s quote above, there’s a link between your thoughts and your destiny. Another way to combat negative thoughts is self-talk:

·        First, make a list of the negative things you think and say about yourself and your circumstances.

·        Next, quit speaking those negatives out loud. The spoken word is very powerful.

·        Once you get your list, beside each negative write a corresponding positive.

·        Put this list of positive thoughts somewhere where you are reminded daily. Say those positive things out loud!

This effort is going to take time and persistent effort on your part. If you hang out with negative people, rethink those relationships. Friendships should be positive and encouraging, not bring you down. The good news is that you can do this, but only if you ‘think’ you can!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

God’s Perspective

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV.

This reminds me of my husband’s and my calling. In the world’s eyes, we don’t possess some of the characteristics the world considers important. We’re not popular or rich. We don’t possess the latest electronic technology (i.e. smartphone, laptop). We aren’t politically correct. We don’t hold the same views or values as a lot of people in today’s society. To some, we are considered ‘old fashioned’ and ‘out of touch.’

I want to ask you: Does this sound familiar? Does this maybe describe you? Does it describe Jesus in His time on earth? Think about it. What would Jesus say about your heart?

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

On Patience

There are so many definitions for the word patience. One synonym, longsuffering, comes to mind and describes it very well. We suffer in silence without retaliating, showing our feelings, getting riled up or angry. If you ask God for patience, He’ll give you the opportunity to practice it, so be careful what you ask! You just might get more than you bargained for. I’m not saying not to pray for patience; just be prepared to practice it.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Unemployment Entombment Resource

A friend of mine gave me a copy of a pamphlet from Our Sunday Visitor called Employment Rosary. Please click to view. https://www.osvparish.com/Shop/PDFs%5CP1144_web.pdf.The first two paragraphs is how the pamphlet begins. Below that and the ‘closing prayer,’ there is a brief description of the mystery, then a prayer followed by a meditation. To find this helpful, you don’t have to know how to pray the rosary or be Catholic. I encourage you to check it out!

“Prayer has power. Whether we pray for ourselves or intercede on behalf of another, prayer helps hold together what seems in danger of breaking down in our society, our families, our spirits, and ourselves.

These are frightening times; any one of us can suddenly find ourselves out of work, or unable to meet bills and obligations because a family member’s paycheck has vanished. When we are overwhelmed by loss, displacement, anxiety, and very real fear, prayer brings us back in balance.

CLOSING PRAYER:

Lord Jesus, help us to remember that a thousand ages in your sight are as an evening past – no more than a “watch in the night” (Ps 90:4). Days begin and days end, and no situation goes on forever. Help us to endure hardships in the trust that these difficult days, too, will pass. In you we find infinite understanding, infinite consolation, infinite hope. Your angels say, “Be not afraid.” Help us to remember that your time of trial ended with the tearing of the Temple veil and the rolling back of the stone; our time of trial, too, will end in hope.

Through you, with you, in you, there is nothing to be afraid of. Amen.”

Excerpt(s) from Employment Rosary © Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. 1-800-348-2440. http://www.osv.com. Used by permission. No other use of this material is authorized. To order, please contact Our Sunday Visitor.

Note: You may copy and paste this post into another document and print it for personal use only. (Please see Site Rules for any other purpose.)

Blog copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Entombment of Unemployment

At one time or another, most of us have suffered the entombment of unemployment. Our reactions can vary from anxiety, betrayal, embarrassment, fear, grief, feeling overwhelmed, poor self-esteem, self-consciousness, vulnerability, and even anger. We long to feel valued, loved, and relevant.

In Romans 5:7-8 (NRSV), Christ assures us that we ARE relevant, valued and loved by Him:

Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

It’s very tempting to lose heart during our search for employment.  But we are assured concerning God’s presence and His plans for us:

Isaiah 41:10 (NRSV)

do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Jeremiah 29:11

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

 

Be of good courage. Just as Jesus rose from the dead, He will raise us up out of the tomb of our unemployment!

Note: You may copy and paste this post into another document and print it for personal use only. (Please see Site Rules for any other purpose.)

Blog copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Worry vs. Belief

“Worry is not believing God will get it right, and bitterness is believing God got it wrong.” (Tim Keller).

When I saw this quote, it made so much sense. What a great definition! I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it difficult to trust God 100% of the time. In the process of writing my first book From Agnostic to Deacon, A Story of Hope and Conversion, I had the opportunity to look back over our life together as husband and wife and marvel at God’s (perfect) timing. In spite of this, however, I am human and therefore have that imperfect trust and anxiety, which will probably be there until I die. I have to remind myself again and again that God sees the entire picture, and because of His love He wants only what is best for me. In my limited view, I do not see things in their entirety. Something I want or think I need may turn out to be bad for me.

I find the following scripture very comforting when I am anxious. I hope you do as well:

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13 (NRSV)

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Psalm 139:16 NRSV

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.

Imagine God thinking of us as part of His plan before we were born. Amazing, isn’t it? He could have created whoever He wanted, but He created us! He knew all our flaws and weaknesses, and He created us anyway. Wow.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

A Holy Calling

who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 2 Timothy 1:9 NRSV.  This passage reminds me of Psalm 139:16: In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

From these passages do you get the idea that God has plans for our lives and that He will give us the grace to do what He asks of us? Have you ever thought about what your ‘holy calling’ is? I believe also that–while there may be some dominant holy calling, holy mission that God asks of us–there are many smaller holy callings. This week I believe my holy calling is to write two different articles for an e-newsletter for a local charity. I have to put some ‘warm fuzzies’ in there and sound persuasive, not something I usually do in my writing. But, I also believe that if God calls me to it, He will lead me through it. I’m sure I will learn a lot this week about this process, and only God knows where all this will eventually lead.

I invite you to share something about one of your holy callings.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Turn away from mortals (NRSV)

Isaiah 2:22 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Turn away from mortals,
    who have only breath in their nostrils,
    for of what account are they?

Whenever we trust in human beings, we are bound to be disappointed. I heard a really good comment lately: “They stopped making perfect people a long time ago.” I had to chuckle; it reminded me of what happened in the Garden of Eden. I had no problem agreeing with that statement.

People will come into and go out of our lives, but God is always there for us–even Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. That’s worth reflecting on!

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me (Psalm 23:6 NRSV)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

This passage is an encouragement to think positive thoughts rather than negative ones. Do you ever notice that if you start talking negatively, it spreads? If you start honking your horn in traffic, others will start to do the same? If you are patient and positive, it quite often helps calm things down, and that, too, can spread. What have you got to lose by thinking positive and doing positive things? If you think the day is going to be a bad one, most likely it will be. But, if you think it will be fantastic, then you stand a greater chance of rejoicing in the day the Lord has made. If you’re a negative person, try some positive! A lot of times life turns out just as you think it will.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

You prepare a table before me (Psalm 23:5 NRSV)

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Our enemies can take many different forms: from someone intending to harm us, mislead us, something unsafe like bad roads, unwholesome friends or bad habits. When we encounter an enemy, we need to look to our Lord to protect us, guide us, and provide for us. God knows the plans He has for us (thus He prepares the table before us). He wants only our good. Our cup might not be overflowing right now, but God will answer our prayers in His own time. In the meantime, we must keep the faith, be diligent in prayer, and not give up hope.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Even though I walk through the darkest valley (Psalm 23:4 NRSV)

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

All of us, sooner or later, face something that’s not pleasant, a loved one’s or our own bad health, an accident, addiction, or whatever life throws at us. It’s a dark time, and we need to slow down and feel His presence. Whether we sense Him there or not, He will be there to comfort us, console us, and help us through whatever it is that darkens our life. So, let us turn to our “light of the world” Jesus Christ and let Him show us the way out of the darkness.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

“He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:3 NRSV)

    he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

As the sheep start the day, each takes a particular place in line and stays in the same position all day. However, sometime during the day, each sheep leaves its position and goes over to the shepherd. The shepherd gently touches the sheep, scratches its ears, and whispers in the ear of the sheep. The sheep, reassured and encouraged, resumes its place in line. They are restored.

Our spirits can run down. We can lose our motivation, our zest for life. We can feel unenthusiastic, even cold and hopeless. But the Good Shepherd can also renew us if we go to Him. He can heal us and breathe new life in us and restore our soul.

Sheep have poor eyesight. They cannot see very far in front of them and have no sense of direction. There are narrow paths, but there are also green pastures and still waters. If the sheep follow the shepherd, they will take the right path and be safe. We, too, must follow the (Good) Shepherd. He will give us strength and walk with us on our journey if we but allow Him to.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

He makes me lie down (Psalm 23:2 NRSV)

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;” (NRSV)

Now, I could explain in detail about sheep and why the shepherd makes them lie down, but it has to do with digestion.  The shepherd leads the sheep beside still waters because the sheep will not drink from swiftly moving water. It is afraid of it. The sheep are poor swimmers, and the sheep’s wool would cause it to drown.

This passage is a reminder that we must take time to rest and get away from the hurriedness of our lives. The idea is similar to the phrase “Be still, and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10 (NRSV). Just like the shepherd knows the sheep’s limitations, Jesus the Good Shepherd knows our limitations and our weaknesses. He doesn’t condemn us for that. God never demands of us more than our strength and abilities can handle. Jesus understands the loads on our shoulders and where the places of nourishment and refreshment are for us. Let’s trust Him to lead us to those, especially in this time of Lent.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1 NRSV)

“The Lord is my shepherd.”

The idea of Christ as shepherd is nothing new to us. In our choir room is a beautiful pencil sketch of Christ the Good Shepherd with a lamb in His arms. I swear I think the lamb is smiling! It’s neat to imagine myself in His arms, resting, letting Him hold me safely. It’s a comforting thought in the midst of our chaotic world.


“I shall not want.”

The Lord answers all our needs. There are so many things we think of as “needs.” I think we confuse ‘wants’ with ‘needs’ sometimes. I’m quite sure that I do. Food, clothing, and shelter are physical needs. Love is a spiritual need, especially Christ’s love. Lent is a good time to sort out our wants versus our needs.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams