Did I Meet An Angel in Disguise?

My boss and I were recently discussing employees, how people are so different from each other, and how we can misjudge them. I described to her one lady who worked for me as a temp. (For purposes of this article, I will call her Trudy.) When she came in, I was shocked. Trudy’s clothes resembled those of a homeless person. While they were clean, they were quite worn. I must tell you my first, not-so-favorable impression was not my final impression of Trudy. Thank goodness! Let me explain. I trained Trudy, and she asked good questions. She learned well and did very good work. I learned that Trudy took public transportation every day. Since our location in Rock Hill was off Dave Lyle Boulevard, she had to walk a considerable distance from her drop-off point (near the freeway) to our office. Trudy could have very easily given up, saying it was too hard, yet she never complained about it. She was pleasant, and I enjoyed having Trudy work for me. At some point during her stay, Trudy had some family/personal issues that prevented her from continuing to work with us. She was sad to leave and really wanted to stay. We loved Trudy, and she loved us. She hugged us and told us she would miss us. We hated to see her go and would miss Trudy’s spirit. 

When I finished relating this story to my boss, she said ‘You know, sometimes we are tested. She could have been an angel in disguise.’ I was stunned that this had never even occurred to me. Indeed Trudy could have been an angel in disguise. If she was, I wonder if I passed the test. 

This incident should teach us all something. We never know where or how we will meet Christ, or an angel, incognito, in disguise. Are our hearts prepared? 

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Can I vent?

Recently, a co-worker named LeAnn asked me this question. I was puzzled, but I said yes. A little background: This woman is a polite, soft-spoken individual who had already mentioned some troubles she was having the week prior. A client had been very demanding and insisted on something being delivered to their office that day. This threated to jeopardize a software training class LeAnn was required to attend. In light of this, I suspected she had something similar happen and needed to talk. As I listened, LeAnn told me that the client had since changed their mind and wasn’t even in a hurry for it. She was understandably frustrated about the series of events, and I nodded understanding.

Sometimes all we need is a listening ear. We aren’t necessarily looking for someone to fix our problem, just someone to empathize. I shared with LeAnn what I heard animals do when they encounter trauma. They go into the woods and do a good ‘shake.’ This relieves the stress hormones in their bodies and helps them recover. We humans can do something similar. I urged LeAnn to consider giving it a try. I don’t know if she did or not, but she was very grateful for the chance to vent and the perspective offered. If nothing else, the story got LeAnn’s mind off her troubles, which is what she wanted to accomplish in the first place.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

But deliver us from evil (OF10)

Every Christian who earnestly seeks to follow God can expect Satan to attack and tempt them. Desire and opportunity are closely tied to one another when it comes to giving in to temptation. We may experience Satan as either strongly tempting us or using more subtle methods. We must stand firm and tell Satan to go away. It may appear he has power, but we have the obligation to rebuke him ‘in Jesus’ name.’ The name of Jesus is very powerful. 

A person may have a built-in tendency or desire towards a particular sin, but they may not have the opportunity. When the desire is there along with the opportunity, that’s what can lead to sin. When Jesus was in the desert being tempted, the opportunity was there, but not the desire. Where are your desires and opportunities toward sin?

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

And lead us not into temptation (OF9)

This phrase can be confusing. We are praying to our Lord, and He never leads us into temptation. So, what’s this phrase all about? Our Lord may, at times, permit Satan to tempt us. I think this part of the Our Father is asking for God’s help and common sense when we are tempted. If we know we are weak in a certain area, then we must do our part in avoiding those situations. For example, in the Bible where King David saw Bathsheba bathing, it should have gone no further. But by continuing to look at her, a beautiful woman, he fell into sin and committed adultery.

In modern times, a man who knows he struggles with pornography knows he needs to avoid strip clubs and adult video stores. He must avoid going anywhere near those types of places, because if he does go there, he is setting himself up for a fall (into sin). This is just one example.

Identify your own weak spot(s). How can you avoid these occasions of sin? The first step is asking God for the grace to avoid them in the first place. Let Him guide you so you can draw closer to Him.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

All I Can Do is Pray?

Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the expression “All I can do is pray.” This makes prayer sound like a last resort and an ineffective tool, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Praying for others is a sacred privilege we should take seriously. Our prayers are part of the support system that people need in their times of struggle. Looking back at my own prayer life, the fruit of those prayers, in some cases, has been nothing short of miraculous. At times, God made me wait for His answer, and sometimes my request wasn’t granted. When that happened, it took faith and trust in God’s wisdom to accept His response to my prayer. Prayer doesn’t always give us what we want, but we have to trust that God will always give us what we need. When I find it difficult to trust, I make it a point to remember what God has already done in my life and how faithful He has been in my darkest hours. Then, I have the courage to ask in prayer and trust the wisdom of His answer. I have learned that God’s answers to my prayers can be very surprising. Also, I need to be careful what I pray for because He may give me something I didn’t bargain for! When we pray, the results can be quite dramatic, and it has the power to change lives.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

 

As we forgive those who trespass against us (OF8)

On January 29, 2015, I wrote about the Our Father’s ‘as we.’ I stated that if we don’t forgive others, we will not be forgiven; we will be forgiven only as we forgive. Here’s the link:

https://fromagnostictodeacon.com/2015/01/29/the-our-father-as-we/.

Forgiveness of others doesn’t mean that what they did doesn’t matter; it doesn’t minimize their wrong. Forgiving removes us from the emotional entanglement. We let God handle it and allow ourselves to heal from the hurt. Forgiving can be a very difficult thing to do. Even when we ask for God’s help, it can still be difficult, but if we ask Him sincerely, He will help us through those painful steps. Even if all you can do is to say ‘God I need to forgive this person, but I don’t know how,’ that can be an important first step.

Some time ago, my spiritual director had me write down a list of the people who hurt me that I needed to forgive. It turned out to be a pretty long list! She asked me to talk to God about those people and situations. I was to forgive them and explore any emotions that arose as a result. This process took quite some time. In fact, it would be good for me to see when that list was dated and make a list of people since then that I need to forgive.

Forgiveness is an ongoing activity until the day we die. We are fallible human beings who hurt others and who get hurt. We can feel ‘broken’ and bruised by what life, and other people, throw our way. To begin healing our brokenness, we need to pray and forgive. See my blog entry on April 18, 2015, entitled “woundedness, resentment, forgiveness, and healing”: https://fromagnostictodeacon.com/2015/04/18/woundedness-resentment-unforgiveness-and-healing/. With God’s help, forgiveness becomes possible.
Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

And Forgive Us Our Trespasses (OF7)

This phrase’s meaning seems pretty obvious. “Hey Lord, I messed up. I’m sorry, and I promise to do better with Your help. Please forgive me.” I am reminded of a scripture passage that sums up our human spiritual struggle pretty well (Romans 7:15 NRSV): “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

The Lord is merciful and forgiving. Once we repent, do we forgive ourselves and then strive to do better? Or do we beat ourselves up about what we’ve done wrong? Do we believe the Lord won’t or didn’t really forgive us? Do we ask the Lord for His help and accept that help for us to do better? Do we believe He will help us? Do we strive to do better or are we lazy about it?

You may wonder why I’m asking all these questions. We met someone a few months ago who was struggling with these very issues. She felt guilty about how she had lived her life. In fact, she thought she messed it up so bad, how could the Lord possibly forgive her? She couldn’t/wouldn’t ask for forgiveness much less forgive herself for how she lived her life and the mistakes she had made. It was to the point where our words of encouragement and scripture suggestions didn’t penetrate her heart. She was caught in the web of Satan’s lies. He was keeping her in bondage by the lies on forgiveness, but Satan was also feeding her the lie that she and her actions weren’t even worthy of forgiveness. She lost her job, her husband through divorce, and she was very miserable. She had tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide. It was very sad. She had no hope.

I leave you with this scripture: 1 Peter 5:8 (NRSV): Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. The devil would love to use your unforgiveness of yourself and turn it into that roaring lion. Don’t let the devil get that foothold in your life.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Give us this day our daily bread (OF6)

This phrase is about trusting God to provide for our needs, ALL our needs, including our daily bread. There have been times in my own life where I’ve had to trust God to provide money to pay bills, help the car start, get me safely to my destination, and yes, even provide for our meals. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. God never tells us our lives are going to be easy, but we can ask Him for what we need with no ‘busy signals,’ no long-distance charges, no phone menu hell or being placed on hold. He’s available 24/7, and we get ‘unlimited minutes.’ He loves to hear from us. He asks us to trust in His timing and listen for His response.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

On earth as it is in heaven (OF5)

This phrase ties in very closely to the two prior phrases I talked about above: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Wouldn’t it be nice if it was heaven on earth, if people treated each other with respect, if people were honest? Even if people just took the 10 commandments seriously and didn’t do anything more than that, what a different world we would live in!

Recently, I had a car tire that was losing air, so I had to take it and have it checked. From the initial phone call, the in-person service, the attendants were kind and respectful. Some even wore a smile and acted like they enjoyed their jobs. I about didn’t know how to act (just kidding, of course). It was such a nice change. I felt so much less stressed. It was great customer service that felt like a tiny piece of heaven.

Where have you experienced a touch of heaven?

  • Did someone let you cut in front of them rather than blow a horn or be rude?
  • Did someone hold a door open for you rather than slam it in your face?
  • Did someone offer a smile, a thank you, or a word of encouragement?

Please share with us a short example of your touch of heaven (in 5 sentences or less). Please remember this is a Christian blog, and so please share accordingly.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Thy will be done (OF4)

Are we really serious about doing God’s will? Or do we perceive something as God’s will, start acting on it, and hope God blesses it? Is it ‘thy will be done’ or ‘my will be done?’ God is not a genie in a lamp or a fairy godmother, granting our wishes on a whim. He is a loving father who knows what’s best for us. He sees the entire picture, that which we cannot see. He is interested in our salvation, and sometimes what we want is not good for us at this time or maybe ever. God knows our hearts and what will draw us to Him. He knows what is needed for our salvation. He knows our weaknesses and our temptations. It could be that maybe the thing(s) we seek will push us farther away from Him or lead to self-sufficiency, relying on ourselves instead of God. What this phrase of the Our Father is really all about is trusting God in everything. The opposite of trust is worry or suspicion. Do we trust that God will get our lives ‘right?’ Are we willing to do what God asks of us? If something has happened to you that you do not understand, talk to Jesus as you would a friend. Tell him your troubles, and He will listen. If you listen back, you may hear His whisperings in your heart. Be still and know that He is God.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Thy kingdom come (OF3)

God’s kingdom coming, what does that mean? I think we’re better able to tell when it’s not coming than when it is, at least lately. There’s so much violence and un-godlike behavior. We do things as a society that don’t bring His kingdom to earth, like taking the 10 commandments out of schools, the workplace, and the courtrooms. Some segments of society think of them as the 10 suggestions, and they are not. We preach ‘tolerance’ for sinful lifestyles in the name of political correctness. We don’t dare call something a sin! If we do these things, how can His kingdom come?

We might ask ourselves what we are doing to bring about His kingdom here on earth. Do we have a good attitude? Are we kind or are we inconsiderate? Are we polite or rude? Are we respectful or not? What behavior of ours do we need to change in order for people to see God in us? Change begins with us, and God is there to help us every step of the way. May His kingdom come.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

 

Hallowed be Thy name (OF2)

Hallowed means consecrated, sanctified, sacred, or holy. Do we treat God’s name as holy? If not, we should! That means not taking His name in vain by putting words like dammit after it. I once heard someone respond to that expression by stating “God’s last name isn’t dammit.” It was a respectful response while still making the point that we should respect God’s holy name. If we as humans don’t like our own names profaned, why would we profane God’s name, the God who made us? Doesn’t He deserve better?

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

 

Our Father who art in Heaven (OF1)

While this first line of the “Our Father” can state the obvious—where else would our heavenly father be?—let’s look at it a bit more closely.

Jesus was a Jewish boy, and so it was natural for Him to call His father Abba. I am told this word would be translated as Daddy. That’s a pretty intimate word. You may have seen or heard the statement “Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be my daddy.” I daresay this sentence casts a different light on the words we use. Whether you have a close relationship to your biological father or not, know that your heavenly father wants a closer relationship with you. He wants you to think of Him as Daddy. If that’s a challenge for you, know that you are not alone; you have lots of company! Ask your heavenly father to heal you of any woundedness you feel, any resentment, any hurt you feel towards your earthly father. God wants to take you onto His lap, love you, and make things better. If you already have a good relationship with your heavenly father, thank Him for that gift.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Intro to the Our Father

The Our Father Prayer

Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

I am going to unpack the Our Father (OF) prayer piece by piece in the following posts. The Our Father is such a familiar prayer, I think at times we don’t always stop to think about what we’re saying. I know my mind sometimes wanders, and maybe yours does too. I hope these posts bring more meaning (for you) to this beautiful prayer.

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

Holy Listening – part 2

The ‘know it all:’ You think the person speaking to you can’t possibly tell you something you don’t already know, so why listen? After all, you know everything, right?

Action: Just listen. You may discover something new, a different perspective, maybe even something useful and important.

The interrupter: Getting ahead of others, finishing their thoughts, acting as though what you have to say is more important than what they have to say. You’re presuming/assuming what they will say.

Action: If there’s a long pause, be patient and let them figure out their thought before they resume speaking.

The ‘one upper:’ Saying ‘oh, that’s nothing,’ and then comparing your experience to theirs such that yours ends up being bolder, better, and more dramatic. This minimizes what the other is saying and makes you look arrogant and them look/feel stupid—a definite ‘no no.’

Action: If you want to know more about their experience, ask gentle, polite questions or say ‘tell me more.’

General rule: If you’re unable to listen at the moment:

If possible, politely tell the person that now is not a good time to talk because you realize you can’t listen properly.

Ask to postpone the conversation until you can focus.

These behaviors and bad listening habits can definitely turn people off and make a negative impression. Do you really want to do that? Sometimes you don’t get another chance to make a good impression.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

How We Think Matters

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. –Henry Ford

Have you ever thought of how negative–instead of positive–thinking by some now-famous people would have affected our world? What if Thomas Edison had given up on his experiments, specifically the light bulb and phonograph, or Louis Pasteur was not persistent regarding development of a rabies vaccine? Where would we be?

We’ve heard astounding stories of people who never gave up, whether it was a fight for survival, conducting an experiment, pursuing a dream of theirs or something else. The positive thinking, determination and persistence of others can change our world! If, however, they had given up due to negativity, laziness, lack of effort, etc., things would be much different.

Sometimes it’s hard to know when it’s futile to keep going with a project, when it’s best to regroup and try again, or how to know if our contribution will even make a difference.

All we can do is what we can do. However, if we don’t try, we’ll never know will we? If we do try, even if we ‘fail,’ we will hopefully learn something. Who knows, depending on what it is, we can make a difference, whether it’s for a few people or many. Happy persistence!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Holy Listening

When we are listening to someone, we need to remember that we are listening to a child of God. That person is God’s creation. It is important that we honor that. One way we can grow in holiness is to learn to listen with the heart and not just with the mind.

I want to relate to you some things I’ve learned and observed about how we listen (or don’t listen) that may be of benefit to you.

How well do you listen to others? Here are some (bad) habits you (or others you know) may have:

Motor Running: You physically hear what the person is saying, but you’re busy formulating your response rather than really listening.

Action: If your motor is always running, try to tune out what is distracting you from listening.

The Fixer: Similar to motor running. You are thinking of ways to fix an issue when you haven’t listened to the entire dialogue. It could be your response would be different if you listen to the entire story first. After all, how can you give a proper response to something when you haven’t let the person finish speaking?

Action: Realize that you may not have to fix something. It may be the person just needs someone to listen. Taking that pressure off to find a solution frees you to be present to them and just listen.

Tuning out/mind wandering: In this case, you’re really being inattentive. Unless you focus on what is actually being said as well as the spirit in which it’s said, you won’t receive or perceive the real message. You take a chance on misunderstanding, and that can be a dangerous thing. They could be telling you something important, either for them or yourself.

Remember that listening–hearing the words being spoken–is only 7% of communication. That means that 93% is nonverbal! Breaking that 93% down, 55% is body language and 38% is tone of voice. Is the individual sad, agitated, excited or sarcastic?

Action: To listen in a holy way, you must listen to the message behind the words. You must listen with your heart. Then, real communication becomes possible.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Children of Alcoholics

To a man and a woman, God has given a wondrous gift; only a man and a woman can bring a soul into existence, a soul that was meant to know God and His divine love. Children of alcoholics find it very difficult, if not impossible, to know God. A prison of denial and cyclic dysfunction entombs them. Instead of love, they experience abuse, both physical and emotional, and neglect.

An alcoholic family has three simple rules: Don’t see, don’t talk, and don’t feel.

  • Don’t see when daddy beats mommy when dinner is spoiled because daddy has come home late after spending most of the night in the bar drinking and having run out of money.
  • Don’t see when mommy falls trying to climb the steps after a drinking binge.

Don’t talk:

  • Invent lies about daddy being unable to work because “he has a bad back.”
  • Invent euphemisms about mommy “needing her medicine.”

Don’t feel:

  • Don’t feel fear when in the dark of night the front door slams open and daddy drags mommy off the couch, “smacks her around” and demands to be fed, and then hits her some more when the sandwiches and beer aren’t ready soon enough.
  • Don’t feel disappointment when promised vacations and Christmas presents, like other families have, fail to happen. Enwrap yourself in a cocoon and don’t feel anything.

In this tragic bleakness, there is hope and help. If you know the family, look for the signs and trust your instincts. Look for the signs of physical violence, bruises, especially repeated marks on arms, face and backs of legs. Children don’t get bruises and welts on the back of their legs from “falling.” Look for the emotional signs: lethargy, withdrawal, clinging to a person or object, easily startled at a sudden noise.

The best strategy is to spread a “safety net” beneath the child, to catch him or her when they “fall,” and fall they almost certainly will. Be consistent. Children of alcoholics long for a caring adult (caring, not indulgent) who is consistent in their interaction.

Knowledge is power. Before a crisis, find out about help. Contact the Department of Social Services and ask about referrals and intervention. If you have any contact with a school, ask to talk to a school counselor, and ask how to contact a certified addiction counselor. If you have a personal physician, particularly one who is part of a group or network, consult them.

Speak out. Silence buys into the “don’t talk” rules. Even if someone threatens never to speak to you again because you have insulted his or her family, speak out and save the children.

There is always hope. Pray and ask God to protect innocent children.

Contributed by Jim Farley

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

God of the Ordinary

I wrote a piece for a newsletter back in 2002 entitled “God of the Ordinary” wherein I stated that I believe our God is a God of the ordinary. A modified version is below.

God sent his son Jesus to earth to redeem us, and Jesus lived a rather ordinary life for 30 years before he began his public ministry. He was born into an ordinary family. Jesus was surrounded by ordinary shepherds at his birth and, up until the time when he began his public ministry, led a rather ordinary life as a carpenter himself. He knew what it was to be an apprentice, to be self-employed.

If you’re tempted to think that Jesus doesn’t understand our human condition, think again. He worked, slept, ate and drank, worshipped, and obeyed his earthly parents, Joseph and Mary. Jesus knew what it was like to be taken advantage of by those who only sought him for what he could do for them rather than for who he was as a person. How often have we felt that way about others? He was a teacher, a preacher, a friend. People questioned his motives. Jesus was misunderstood. He experienced sorrow, rejection, humiliation, was imprisoned, falsely accused, and his friends abandoned him. Jesus suffered, died, and was buried. He was like us in all things but sin.

Truly, our God is a God of the ordinary, but that’s not to diminish his extraordinary qualities. He was extraordinary in his ordinary life, and he’s part of our ordinary lives. We shouldn’t think we can’t bother him with our ‘ordinary’ requests, that somehow those things are too mundane for us to ask Jesus to help us with. That would be treating God like a busy corporate executive who has no time to deal with the daily challenges of our lives. We must not do that. Any good father wants to give his children good things, but we have to ask! God wants to be part of these moments. Remember the practical matter of feeding thousands of people? He got it handled in an extraordinary way. He provided water for the thirsty Israelites in the desert, parted the seas when they couldn’t get across, fed them with manna and quail. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast. All, on the surface, are very ordinary things, but he used extraordinary means to accomplish those ordinary needs.

As children of God, we can boldly go to the heavenly throne and ask Jesus for what we want and need.  We can ask him to help us with problems, even those things like getting a stubborn lawn mower started, help with writing a homily, getting a spider to stop hanging off the mirror and crawling towards us as we are driving a car, you name it. No, I’m not kidding about the spider. Need a job? Ask for wisdom in your job search. Frustrated? Ask for patience. We shouldn’t love Jesus just for what he does for us rather than who he is of course. It’s not so much about the gift as it is about the thoughtfulness of the giver. We can and should invite Jesus into the ordinary aspects of our lives that he so much wants to be part of. I wonder how much we struggle unnecessarily because we simply didn’t ask our Lord to help us. Nothing is too small for him, and we should thank him for all the little things in our life that he provides daily, not just the bigger more obvious things. If we don’t ask, we won’t receive! Thank him when your stubborn lawn mower starts, your car is repaired for less than you thought it would be, you write an inspiring homily, or when the spider stops crawling towards you in the car. He is a mighty God, but a God who very much wants to be involved in our ordinary lives. Oh, and thank you Lord for handling the spider on the way home!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Bound and Entombed by Addiction

Addiction is many things, and it takes many forms. Some of them are subtle; others are obvious. Some people are addicted to well-known chemicals: marijuana, heroin, cocaine, as well as those chemically manufactured: “speed,” methamphetamine, and oxycodone. Some people are even addicted to their own body chemicals.

But, perhaps, the most destructive is alcoholism. It is widespread across age, race, gender and economic status. It is culturally encouraged. Watch any televised professional sporting event and count the number of commercials for alcohol. It destroys relationships, especially families. Each alcoholic has a spreading circle of fifty people affected by the disease.

Some of the signs of addiction are easily recognizable; physical impairment and slurred speech. Some are personal, making promises to children and failing to keep them. Children learn to expect disappointment. Another sign is economic impoverishment. Dad cashes his pay check in a bar, spends the money on drinks for himself and his friends. (Alcoholics are always popular, at least for a while.) His family experiences hunger and perhaps homelessness.

There is hope. Thankfully, there are resources available:

NA – Narcotics Anonymous

AA – Alcoholics Anonymous, and

COA – Children of Alcoholics.

We pray: Lord, help me to recognize what I have become.

Contributed by Jim Farley

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Dysfunction Junction – Finding Fault and Overstepping Your Bounds

Finding fault – Simply try to mentally walk in the other person’s situation. This may be very tough to do, but try.

Overstepping your bounds:

I’ll give you some examples that may or may not be obvious to you:

  • Reorganizing or tidying others’ possessions. Unless you’re asked to or have permission to help, don’t do it! They are not your things, and others have their own ideas. What works great for you may not be helpful for someone else. Be respectful.
  • Giving unwanted or unasked for advice. This is a huge “no no!” Don’t tell others what they ‘should’ do (I call that ‘shoulding’ on others). MYOB (mind your own business) unless you’re a parent and your children are not yet adults or you’re telling someone about a scam or something else that may harm them.

You can probably think of your own examples.

Bottom line is when all else fails and the relationship is too toxic, it’s time to rethink things, even if these people are your family!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Dysfunction Junction – Incorrect/Negative Perceptions or Assumptions

I realize some of these things may not apply to you. If so, fantastic! You may, however, know someone who this does apply to and can consider sending them a link to this.

We all have negative or incorrect perceptions whether we think we do or not. Some things to consider are:

  • How the other person grew up.
  • What their parents or their life was like.
  • Did they have siblings or are they an only child?
  • What difficulties or obstacles have they had to overcome?

Some potential misconceptions: (We’ll use the names Drew and Jane for narrative’s sake.)

Drew is an only child, so he must be spoiled.

  • Not necessarily. He could have been overprotected by his parents. Sometimes parents will do that because they fear losing their one (and only) child. Always remember that the only child is the ‘baby’ (youngest), the oldest, and the one in the middle! They had no siblings to learn from.

Drew has siblings; he’s lucky.

  • Maybe he’s lucky, maybe not. Drew may not have siblings he’s fond of, that are fond of him, or who treat him well. Some siblings may not even speak to each other. There’s a lot to think about.

Jane has dyslexia (a learning disability) or stutters, has autism, ADHD, ADD (insert condition here), therefore she’s (insert assumption here).

Recommendation: Learn about the condition or situation. Try to understand and be compassionate. If circumstances were different, that could have been you!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Would you describe your family as “dysfunction junction?”

I’m talking about the ‘entombment’ of family issues. For twenty something years, I went through rejection by my husband’s family. (For more information on my experience, read “From Agnostic to Deacon, A Story of Hope and Conversion” available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. If you live in Charlotte, NC, you can go to Park Road Books to buy a copy.)

Kevin’s family decided I was too ‘backwards.’ I didn’t fit their perception of what they expected me to be. My mother-in-law’s mental illness didn’t help. Only after my parents-in-law died did our immediate family realize that my low self-esteem at the time had only made matters worse. Now that my self-esteem is much stronger, my relationship to my sister-in-law, in particular, is much improved.

The number of things that can hinder family relationships are too numerous to mention, so I’ll focus on just a few in the next blog post. I’ve already mentioned self-esteem (see my blog post entitled Entombment of Rejection just a few posts ago).

  1. Incorrect/negative perceptions, assuming.
  2. Finding fault, judging others or criticizing. This one, I hope, is self-explanatory.
  3. Overstepping your bounds.

I think that’s enough to go over for now.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Boosting our self-image

Okay, so let’s say we have identified this issue of inferiority, poor self-esteem or insecurity. How do we go about boosting or repairing our self-image?
– One way is positive self-talk. We tell ourselves positive things, such as:
– I am a good person.
– I am worthy of God’s love.
– As long as I repent of (be sorry for) my sins/misdeeds, God will take me back despite my many sins. After all, if I had been the only human on earth, He still would have died for me, He loves me that much! He will help me with my struggles.
– God has not abandoned me.

Of course, one pitfall is that we want to avoid reinforcing qualities or things about ourselves that may NOT be true unless we are working towards bettering ourselves in that area. For example, we can’t spell well or every time we try to sing we are off key (out of tune). However, if we are working on an area we may not excel in or be good at (just yet), like being patient or being able to spell well, we can encourage ourselves by stating what we want to be, i.e. “I will be a patient person.” By reiterating positive things, we may actually come to believe it and therefore make it come true for us, but we also have to work at that thing we have trouble with in order for this technique to be effective. Without belief and action, the change we want won’t take place.

Disclaimer: These techniques may not work for everyone who reads this or whoever puts these things into practice. Remember that change takes time. You may need specialized help, but this is one possible way to start.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

The Entombment of Rejection

This type of entombment can take many forms, some of which are:

Rejection by others:
Abuse, bullying, deliberate ignoring, unacceptance, and unkind teasing.

Rejection of yourself:
Self-destructive behavior (such as alcohol or drug addiction and self-mutilation), self-loathing, and poor self-esteem.

For now, I will talk about self-esteem.

Poor self-esteem makes so many things in life difficult, particularly our relationships with others. It makes sense that if we have a poor opinion of ourselves and don’t love ourselves (appropriately), it doesn’t help our opinion of others or our ability to love them as they are. We have to start by working on ourselves. After all, we can’t give to others what we don’t have (for) ourselves, i.e. love, respect, and kindness.

How do we know we have an inferiority complex, poor self-esteem or are insecure?
– By listening to our words to others about ourselves:
– Do we put ourselves down, i.e. say we’re stupid or an idiot… a lot?
– Do we unduly criticize ourselves over and above what is normal?
– Have we forgiven ourselves for mistakes committed in the past OR do we ‘should’ on ourselves? In other words, do we say ‘I should have done this’ or ‘I should have done that,’ but didn’t?
– Do we allow others to get away with things they shouldn’t, i.e. hurt us physically without doing anything about it? (We can discuss ‘enabling’ behavior later.)
– Do we feel the need to brag or boast about something in order to ‘prove’ to others we are a great lover, a good worker, a good parent, etc.?
– Do we do this because we need to convince ourselves of this, because deep down we doubt we are what we are boasting about? Because—think about it—if we are convinced, why do we need to convince others?
– We think whenever people are talking it’s about us.
– We are supersensitive and take things (said to us) personally, i.e. we respond (defensively). i.e. ‘What did you mean by that?’

In my next post, I will spend a little time talking about what to do if poor self-image is holding you back.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

What is Entombment?

I wrote a blog post back in April 2015 entitled “What is Entombing Me?” about Jesus and Lazarus and their being in a tomb. It talked about how the Father called Jesus forth from His tomb. I also described how I underwent a meditation about pretending I was Lazarus in a tomb where it was cold and damp. As Jesus called to Lazarus ‘come out,’ so we can ask His help to come out of our tombs. When we meditate on these scriptures about Jesus and Lazarus, I hope we can start to see how all of the wounds and baggage that we carry can entomb us and hold us back from living as Jesus wants us to, to be free of what entombs us.

Entombment means being bound up, confined by, enslaved by, under duress, or emotionally imprisoned by something. It is being overwhelmed by it to the point that it seriously limits us in our ability to feel joy, interact with others, and even go about our daily routine. Depression is one kind of entombment, but so is unresolved anger (whether at God or others).

What do we do about it? Once we recognize this state of entombment in ourselves:
First of all, we pray. We ask for wisdom and enlightenment to see the situation for what it truly is. Then we pray for guidance on how to handle it. One of the options is to seek out a reputable source of help, whether it is a Christian counselor, a spiritual director or mentor, or—last but not least—the Bible. Of utmost importance, particularly when we feel afflicted, is to talk to God even more often than we already do. If you don’t talk to God (or pray), then it’s a good time to start. God is available 24/7 (all the time), you won’t get a busy signal, and He has a toll-free number!

The Bible has many passages that are useful for meditation. One of my favorites is Psalm 23: “The Lord is My Shepherd. I shall not want.” Please see my meditations on this Psalm from February 2015. You can find it fairly quickly if you go to the right sidebar and scroll down until you see “Older Posts” and select the month. NOTE: You may find more entombment posts under April 2015.

Another good one is Psalm 139 taken from the New Revised Standard Version. It has a very intimate account of God’s nearness:

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

I may do a separate post in the future with a list of Bible verses for help with entombment.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Setting the Standard

A woman I know–I’ll call her ‘T’–was part of a group playing an early morning ‘gig’ with a military band. Her first sergeant in charge, whom I shall call Elvis, was telling dirty jokes. T didn’t think it was appropriate. When they got back to the band room, T asked to speak with Elvis. You have to understand T was very shy, so she rarely spoke up to others. But this morning was different. She was teed off (very upset)! She told the sergeant, in no uncertain terms, that his behavior was inappropriate, especially with females present. Since he was the leader, he should have set the example for the group, and he failed. When finished with her brief tongue lashing, there was absolute silence. Oh man, she had just chewed out a superior in the military. How would he react? Would he get upset and write her up for insubordination? She held her breath. Elvis thought over her challenge to his leadership briefly, looked up and said “You’re right. It won’t happen again.” T was relieved. Not only wouldn’t she get in trouble for questioning him, but he took her criticism to heart. She felt respected and listened to.

Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t easy. Sometimes you have to set the standard and ‘raise the bar’ of expectation. What if she had said nothing? Then both T and Elvis would have set a bad example, him by committing the act and her by omitting the challenge. It’s something to think about.

Personal Entombment

Forms of personal entombment:

Anxiety

Inferiority complex/poor self-esteem

– Are you addicted to others’ approval?

– God doesn’t make junk; you are not ‘junk.’

Have you ever been abused in any way (spiritually/emotionally/psychologically, physically or sexually)?

Had a traumatic experience, i.e. accident or another event?

Is there depression or addiction in your history?

These are just a few. The list is extensive.

I would suggest getting yourself a notebook/journal and keep a record of your thoughts, feelings, and related events. For those of you not familiar, this process is called journaling.  (You don’t have to be a good writer. This would be just for your eyes.)

In your journal, start to record the situations and feelings where you feel entombed or trapped.

Next, reflect on the circumstances that are involved.  What memories do you have where you felt that way? (Memories can be powerful, whether they are positive or negative.) Do you remember something from childhood when you first felt that way?

Journaling is a valuable tool to help you see if there is a particular ‘theme’ or pattern. Doing this should help clarify what may be going on and bring things into better focus. Sometimes just being aware how you react or feel when certain things happen can be beneficial. For example, I have a friend who hates raised voices. It makes him cringe. When he reflected upon it, he realized that this stems from his parents arguing and his mother throwing light bulbs when he was a child. He wanted to stay out of the way, to feel ‘safe.’ Knowing the source of this reaction has helped him be more aware of why he reacts that way. I encourage you to give journaling a try.

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Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

What is Entombing You (continued)

What is entombing you? Is it worry, facing a tough decision or issue, employment issues, family troubles, sickness, burnout, fatigue, doubt, sadness, depression? I could go on and on.

What does this ‘tomb’ feel like in light of the difficulty you are facing? Is it narrow and constricting (by choking your zest for life)? Is it scary? Is it aggravating as you try to get out of the tomb (the situation)?

Now that you have identified your ‘tomb,’ imagine Jesus calling you forth from that tomb:

“(insert name), come forth from your tomb! Don’t be afraid. Trust in Me. Behold, I will make all things new.”

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams