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

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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