The Process of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is essential to our spiritual well-being. Unforgiveness poisons our soul and does nothing to hurt the one we don’t want to forgive. In fact, some people who hurt us may not be aware they have done so.

Forgiveness can be a difficult and painful process. The process I will outline for you below will take time. I assure you, if you are open to it and the power of the Holy Spirit, it can be life giving and life changing. But, that’s up to you and the Holy Spirit.

  • Get a notebook or a journal and a pen or pencil.
  • Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Breathe deeply and relax.
  • Ask God to help you with this process.
  • When you are ready, go all the way back to your earliest memory of being hurt.
  • Write down the person’s name and the offense. Don’t be superficial or try to judge if your hurt was that serious.
  • Repeat the process up until the present time.
  • If it’s helpful, split the list by:
  • Phase of life or age range
  • Place of work
  • Do this in whatever way is most meaningful for you. Expect this to take some time. It’s a process.
  • When you think your list is complete, walk away for a bit. Then go back over the list. Ask God if you’ve forgotten anyone.
  • Go back to the first name you wrote down.
  • Talk to the Lord about your hurt.
  • If you are ready to forgive them, then tell Jesus you forgive that person.
  • If you are not yet ready, ask Jesus to help you. You may have some barrier.
  • Pray the Our Father. Pay attention to the words ‘as we.’ (Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us). Note that we are only forgiven inasmuch as we forgive others.
  • Go to the next name on the list. Repeat the process above, making any notes you feel are important about how the forgiveness process went, highlighting the ones you are having difficulty forgiving.
  • Note that forgiveness sometimes comes in layers. The hurt may need to be ‘peeled away’ layer by layer until the memory of the person or the hurt no longer gets a negative internal reaction.

Copyright © 2018 by Theresa M. Williams

That’s What Love Looks Like

A woman patiently helps her husband guide his walker down the aisle… That’s what love looks like.

 A caregiver is attentively feeding someone with a severe disability… That’s what love looks like.

 A receptionist waves good morning to a lonely old man going to work next door… That’s what love looks like.

 A friend patiently listens to some distress at work and offers to pray… That’s what love looks like.

 A husband with other plans stays home with a sick wife to help and support her… That’s what love looks like.

 A clergyman cries with a parishioner in their emotional pain… That’s what love looks like.

 A male classmate closes a window when someone feels a draft (even though he doesn’t understand why)… That’s what love looks like.

 Someone challenges her friend when she puts herself down… That’s what love looks like.

 Friends support one another when one of them is having a bad day, helping them talk through their difficulty and offering emotional support… That’s what love looks like.

Parents laugh and play with their firstborn child, a daughter with Down Syndrome… That’s what love looks like.

 A fellow immigrant offers to attend a series of classes she doesn’t have to attend to translate for her community… That’s what love looks like.

Co-workers find out one of their own walks a long distance to/from work. They and their managers get that worker his own transportation… That’s what love looks like.

These may not be the most dramatic examples of what love looks like, but there IS one:

 An innocent man is crucified between two thieves. He is Jesus Christ on the cross, and He died in our place for our sins… That’s what love looks like!

 Blog copyright © 2017 by Theresa M. Williams

 

Questions for Jesus

My reflection that follows comes after singing “Mary Did You Know?” from our Christmas program. In this song, the songwriter asks Mary how much she knew about what Jesus would do in His life. I recently heard someone pose the question: “If you sat next to Jesus on a bus, what would you ask Him? What would you talk about?” These are some of the questions I’d ask:

How much and when did Mary tell you about the circumstances of your birth? The shepherds? The magi? Did she mention the gifts they brought and what those gifts represent? I know the story of the little drummer boy might be a legend, but what would you think about him playing for you at your birth?

Did you think it odd living in Egypt? Or were you too little to remember that time in your life? Did Mary and Joseph tell you why you lived there? How did you feel about that? What was it like to move back to the land of your birth? How did people react to you coming back? Were you treated differently from other boys? If so, how? When did you realize you were different from other children?

What was it like to learn carpentry from Joseph? Did you ever accidentally hit your thumb with a hammer? As a carpenter, what was the most difficult or challenging item you ever made? When and how did Joseph die? How did this affect you and Mary?

Besides your baptism, did you have much contact with John the Baptist?

Oh, the many questions we could ask Jesus. If you were on a bus with Jesus, what would you want to ask Him? Would it be about some practical aspect of His hidden life as mentioned above, or would it be something different? What are you curious about?

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Only A Shadow of Your Joy

I’m not really a major-league baseball fan. I like baseball; I just don’t watch it, not even the World Series. Last night, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series! (For those of you not aware, the World Series is to major league baseball what the Super Bowl is to professional football.) So what, you say. The Cubs haven’t won the championship since 1908, more than 100 years ago! Perhaps because I don’t have a favorite pro baseball team, along with the fact that I like to root for the underdog (at least sometimes), I can share a small portion of the Chicago Cubs’ joy at finally winning the World Series. To be a Cubs fan must be very special, right now especially. To be a fan through the ‘drought’ of those many years, now to rejoice in their victory, must be a high joy indeed. One fan, a woman, said she cried after it happened, no doubt tears of joy. You’ve heard of people being on ‘cloud 9’ or in ‘7th heaven,’ this must be ‘off the charts’ for the team and their loyal fans.

Imagine for a moment you’re God. The Cleveland Indians are ahead three games to one. You know the Cubs are going to come back and win it. What a special surprise is in store for Cubs fans. It reminds me of the words to a song: “The joy I have today my Lord is only a shadow of Your joy for me…’ Wow! I don’t know what else to say except I can be a real emotional softie at times. My heart rejoices with them. Congratulations Cubs team and fans. It’s been a long-time coming. Your faithfulness and patience have been rewarded. By the way, the words after the … are ‘if I but follow You.’ If we follow you Lord, our faithfulness (to you) will be rewarded too.

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Mischievous Chris

Several years ago, a gentleman named Chris came to work at our company as an intern over the summer. He was so disabled from cerebral palsy that a caregiver came in daily. Chris was in a motorized wheelchair and wore a leather strap around his head called a ‘halo’ so he could type on the keyboard. It was pretty sad. I was uncomfortable around Chris for quite a while. I simply had no experience with someone with cerebral palsy, their slurred speech, involuntary movements, etc. I discovered that Chris had a cheerful spirit and a good outlook on life in spite of his disability. I never heard him complain.

I simply must tell you about an incident where Chris was very mischievous. Another co-worker, Mike, was a serious individual who had a bad car accident a few months prior that left his back compromised. One day when Mike stepped away from his desk, Chris noticed, turned to me with a huge grin on his face, and laughed mischievously. Oh, man. What was he going to do? I was afraid if Chris pulled a prank on Mike, that Mike would get mad, because he could be pretty intense. Chris went up to the back of Mike’s chair and pulled it towards his desk with his feet, motioning for me to be quiet. I played along with Chris’ prank, and when Mike returned to his desk, I pretended nothing was wrong. Finally, Mike found out what Chris had done. Now what? How would Mike react? Mike seemed surprised and even amused at Chris’ prank. He wasn’t upset or anything. He got his chair back, and all was well.

I was relieved Mike took the prank so well, and the incident seemed to strengthen the friendship Chris and I had started to develop. In the short time he was with us, Chris won me over with his cheerful, upbeat nature. He was a delight to be around, and it challenged me to not take myself, or life, so seriously. With Chris’ help, I was finally able to look past his disabilities and my discomfort. I still think of Chris from time to time, and I hope he’s doing well. I wish I could say I have been cured of being too serious, for that is not the case. But, I am learning slowly, and I guess that’s really what matters.

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Transfigure us, oh Lord

The word transfiguration is defined three ways: 1) A complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. 2) Christ’s appearance in radiant glory to three of His disciples (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2-3, Luke 9:28-36). 3) The church festival commemorating this.

A few weeks ago, our choir sang a special song for the Feast of Christ’s transfiguration. It’s a pretty song that I can’t get out of my head. It talks about breaking the chains that bind us and following where Christ leads us. This song is appropriate for other days in Lent as well, not just for that feast. Isn’t being transfigured or transformed really what Lent’s all about anyway? I will concentrate this article regarding the first definition above with an emphasis on “a more beautiful or spiritual state.”

Lent gives us a focused opportunity to be transfigured into an improved spiritual state by more prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I like to refer to spiritual improvement as “polishing our halos!” A halo is a disk or circle of light surrounding or above the head of a saint or holy person to represent their holiness. Our light from our halos gets dimmed by our sins, so we have to ‘polish’ ourselves spiritually to let our light of holiness shine. Matthew 5:14-16 states: You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

There are lots of other manners in which we can be transfigured. We can make use of the sacrament of reconciliation. We can break ourselves of some bad spiritual habits. We can read the Bible and listen to what our Lord is trying to say to us through it. We can offer to help someone carry their cross by becoming a prayer partner with them for their intentions, needs, and struggles/difficulties. Maybe you can think of some other ways to be transfigured.

Some questions to ponder: How has my halo gotten dimmed by sin? How am I being transfigured this Lent? How can I let my light shine brighter for others? Have a fruitful Lent!

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

PRAYER FOR DAILY LIFE

Jesus be my friend and

Help me to be a friend.

Guide me when I’m unsure;

Strengthen me against temptation.

Give me courage to shine

Your light within me for all to see.

When I’m afraid and anxious,

Please send Your Spirit to

Calm and comfort me.

I know you would never leave me,

But I am Your child who needs

Loving reassurance at times.

Father, teach me Your ways.

Please be patient.

Sometimes the lessons are not easy.

Help me to be the gift to this world

That You intend me to be.

When my mission is complete,

May this world be better for my having been here. Amen.

Theresa Marie Williams © Copyright1994

Some Modern-Day Beatitudes

Blessed are they who don’t take themselves too seriously, for they shall be free to laugh at their foibles.

Blessed are the compassionate, for the compassion shown will return to them.

Blessed are the politically incorrect, for they shall be free to tell it like it is.

Blessed are the organized, for they shall make better use of their time.

Blessed are they who are not anxious about the future, for they shall be free to enjoy the present moment.

Blessed are they who don’t worry, for they trust God to help them with their challenges.

Copyright © 2016 by 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

A case of survivor guilt

I’m not sure why this subject is on my mind, but it is. Several years ago, I worked at an insurance help desk. There was a fellow employee in New York whom we will call Diane. She had called me requesting a change to one of the business software programs. When I checked with programming, they told me that since it was going to be replaced with a new web-based application, making the change wouldn’t be cost-effective. That made sense; however, I was convinced Diane wouldn’t be happy. I called her back and gave her the bad news. She wasn’t real pleased, but for some strange reason, we left the incident ticket open. Then there was the tragedy of 9/11. Our company would tell us when the New York office was re-opened so we could contact our colleagues. When that day came, I called Diane. The first thing I asked her was “How are you doing?” I told her I was following up on that ticket, but of course the answer was the same, and I was going to have to close the ticket. She said that was fine. The issue simply wasn’t important anymore. (I suspect 9/11 had changed her perspective; it sure sounded that way.) Then, Diane told me that she was in the gift shop on the first floor when the plane struck the towers on 9/11. She told me something I’ll never forget: “I should have been upstairs.” She said it more than once. I gently inquired “You feel guilty, don’t you?” She admitted she did. I assured her that it was okay to have survived (such a horrible tragedy), and there must be a reason she was still here. I told her God still had a purpose for her life. She quietly acknowledged, I wished her the best, and we hung up. I never had occasion to call her again, but I still think of Diane from time to time and wonder how she’s doing. I later learned that her reaction was called survivor guilt.

I stumbled across a website that discusses survivor guilt as well as other traumatic occurrences such as sexual assault, PTSD, auto accidents, grief, and many more. Even if you haven’t suffered one of these, it’s an excellent educational resource. I have listed the website Gift From Within under the Resources heading at the top of this blog. God bless!

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

Intro to Prayer Pilgrim blog

I have often been asked for names of blog sites which provide inspiration and an opportunity to participate in a community. I am now beginning that process. I will first introduce the site via a regular blog post, and then a link will be provided both in the post and under ‘Other Blogs’ for your convenience.

Based on the Oregon Coast, Prayer Pilgrim is a ministry with a mission to train, equip, send and support people throughout in the world in prayer and service to others.

(Please note that this gentleman has walked the Oregon Coast and has a tremendous vision of prayer and how our world can be transformed. His calling and mission is to be a prayer pilgrim.) Check out his blog at https://prayerandcontemplation.wordpress.com/. For your convenience, I have also included this link under ‘Other Blogs’ in the menu bar above. Enjoy!

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

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

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