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

The Art of Listening

Listening. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Most of us have decent physical hearing while those of us who don’t, wear a hearing aid. Yet, do we really listen? Do we quiet our inner thoughts, or do we think of what we’re going to say next? Are we able to truly listen with our hearts without prejudice? Do we respect another enough to not interrupt (unless there’s a fire or something), or do we finish others’ thoughts or correct them before they finish speaking? We say ‘I hear you,’ but do we really?

I think these questions surface in me as one of our youth needed to truly be listened to last weekend. Also, I understand firsthand what it’s like to not feel listened to, to not feel understood, and to not feel respected for my point of view. Webster’s defines ‘dialogue’ as ‘interchange and discussion of ideas, especially when open and frank, as in seeking mutual understanding or harmony.’ I daresay a lot of us don’t listen well. We have barriers to listening: our own agenda, mental or physical or emotional distractions, our own preconceived thoughts or ideas; the list goes on. Do I listen well? Likely not. I find myself wanting to interject my story, my viewpoint, and my thoughts, even if those are not wanted or needed. How are you doing with respect to your listening?

Lord Jesus, please help us to listen to those with whom we speak, in the manner we need to at the time, and in a way that is pleasing to You. Help us to understand not only the words but the intent behind them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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

America the Beautiful?

As I was singing “America The Beautiful” in church last night, I was struck by what words didn’t move me to emotion, that usually do, and what lyrics I most concentrated on. When I sang the song, I didn’t feel the pride in our country that I would like to feel, that from a person who served in the military. When I sang “a thoroughfare for freedom beat,” I thought ‘freedom for who and for how much longer?’ Our country advocates freedom for those who would break God’s laws, but for those of us who want to keep God’s moral laws, we are treated like outcasts and accused of hate. Oh yes, we are still free to go to church, but heaven forbid if we speak out against sodomy and abortion, if we as Christians advocate for prayer and the Bible, and if we are not politically correct!

The words that struck me most in this song were “God mend thine every flaw.” Our country has lots of flaws. We live in a society whose moral compass is broken and in need of repair. How long will God shed His grace on us as a country if we ignore His commandments?

I’d much rather think of beautiful, spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and fruited plains than our country’s flaws. But, for mending of those flaws, we must pray fervently so we will continue to be a free country, that our country be pleasing to God once again, and that He may shed His grace on us. Please pray for our country and have a safe Fourth of July, and may He shed His grace on you.

Copyright © 2016 Theresa M. Williams

How did it happen so fast?

I can’t believe it’s June already. It seems like it was just January. Time has been getting away from me lately. Would you believe Kevin’s 10th ordination anniversary is this month or that we’ll be celebrating 38 years of marriage later this month? Wow! I’m reminded of the words to a song ‘Longer’ by Dan Fogelberg:  Longer than ther’ve been fishes in the ocean, higher than any bird ever flew, longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens, I’ve been in love with you. Stronger than any mountain cathedral, truer than any tree ever grew, deeper than any forest primeval, I am in love with you.

I’ll bring fire in the winters.’ You’ll send showers in the springs. We’ll fly through the falls and summers with love on our wings. Through the years as the fire starts to mellow, burning lines in the book of our lives. Though the binding cracks and the pages start to yellow, I’ll be in love with you. I’ll be in love with you. Longer than ther’ve been fishes in the ocean, higher than any bird ever flew, longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens, I’ve been in love with you. I am in love with you. Songwriters: DAN FOGELBERG © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC For non-commercial use only.

The part that really gets me though is where Dan talks about comparing our life to a book, about the binding cracking and the pages yellowing (must be referring to wrinkles). I must say though I don’t believe Kevin’s and my fire has started to ‘mellow.’ Kevin and I think it’s so neat to be married to our best friend. With another couple we know, the wife has told me her husband is her best friend. That’s heartwarming.

Another song we sing at Mass talks about weeping, laughing, sharing joys and sorrows ‘until we see this journey through.’ Certainly we do that daily. Our marriages are sanctuaries (or should be), a place where we can go even if the world crumbles around us. It should be a place where we feel safe and loved. I’m grateful for every day with Kevin. I realize the older we get that someday we’ll leave earth and join the kingdom of God.

It amazes me when I hear older folks state they wish they could go back to their younger years—not me! I really don’t care to repeat my previous years. I figure I’ve earned the right to be right where I’m at. I don’t want to try to have a family, attend college, find a career, you name it. I hope to retire someday, and I look forward to what lies ahead, but I’m not in a great hurry to get there; it’ll come soon enough with all its challenges, effects of growing older, friends or parents dying, and other things. (Some of this has already happened.)

I look forward to growing older with my best friend, my spouse, and I want to take life as it comes and enjoy as much of it as I can, while I can. I’m sure it probably won’t be easy sometimes, but I’m sure going to try anyway! How about you?

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Entombment of Stress; What’d those pork chops ever do to you?

Did you know that stress comes in two forms? It does: eustress and distress. Eustress is the good stress, the kind we need to get and keep motivated. It provides incentive to get the job done. It spurs us on to action, to accomplish things. Everyone needs a little bit of stress in their life in order to continue to be happy, motivated, challenged and productive. It is when this stress is no longer tolerable and/or manageable that distress comes in. Distress is the bad stress we have. It’s when the good stress becomes too much to bear or cope with. Tension builds. There’s no fun in the challenge. There seems to be no relief, no end in sight. This is the kind of stress most of us are familiar with, and this is the kind of stress that leads to poor decision making. Stress can be really sneaky. It’s not always obvious to us, or others. It can build up slowly, like magma in a volcano. It can even explode on us and onto others when we least expect it—again, like a volcano. Stress is dangerous and entombs us. We are ‘bound’ like Lazarus with the ‘ribbons’ of distress. Lazarus couldn’t move because of the burial wrappings/ribbons. Likewise, stress can incapacitate us and hamper us in our ability to function. Distress affects our health, our emotional state, our relationships, our jobs, ministry, and other areas of our lives.  Physiological symptoms of distress include an increase in blood pressure, rapid breathing, and generalized tension. Behavioral symptoms include irritability, overeating, loss of appetite, drinking, smoking, and negative coping mechanisms. To read more, https://brocku.ca/health-services/health-education/stress/eustress-distress.

A dear friend of ours, whom I shall call Percy, recently exhibited distress with a co-worker by ‘going off on them.’ It surprised Kevin and I to hear about this because Percy is a very calm person. He smiles an awful lot, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen a scowl on his face or heard him raise his voice. My husband is a lot like this. He rarely gets upset, but when he does, look out! It takes people like Kevin and Percy a while to build up to outbursts and anger, but when they do, it’s very distressing. You know it took a lot to get them that upset, and you hate to see them in that state. I had a co-worker who was like this. Her name was Mary Alice. She was so upset about something one day that, when tenderizing pork chops for dinner that night, she tenderized them so much you could almost see through them! I heard about this the next morning as I checked with Mary Alice to see how she was doing. She was able to laugh about the pork chops then, but I guess you could say she took her distress out on those poor pork chops. A few days later, I jokingly asked her if she had any more pork chops for dinner, to which she laughed and said no. It was such a joy to see her laugh again. I hope Percy can relieve his distress so he can go back to work and be happy. God bless you Percy!

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Serving the Needy

Just what does it mean to serve the needy? Let’s explore the definition of needy: A) not having enough money, food, etc., to live properly. B) needing a lot of attention, affection, or emotional support. When we think of the word needy, a lot of times we think of the first definition, of the poor, not having enough. But, there is a lot to be said about the other definition (B) as well. Recently, I have found myself frustrated by a co-worker who is very needy. In Randy’s* (not his real name) case, he needs a lot of things done for him. He has no dedicated administrative support, so my boss and I do that for him. (I work as an administrative assistant at the front desk and am an hourly employee.) Randy has come to my desk first thing in the morning before I even get my things put away or go to the restroom or right before I am due out the door for lunch. (I have to take my lunch at a certain time to provide proper front desk coverage.) He acts as though a lot of things are an emergency and demands I do things for him right away. He doesn’t seem to understand that I work for the rest of the office too (more or less). I have had to set boundaries with him and others in the office that I will be happy to discuss what they need after my lunch hour or when I start work. (I haven’t implemented the second part yet, but it’s coming soon!) I am reminded of an article I wrote some time back regarding a previous job where I either couldn’t or didn’t set boundaries. My female co-workers were even asking me for things after I went into the restroom! (Really?) At my current job, I have a very supportive boss, and she has basically told me it’s okay to set proper boundaries, although that’s not quite how she phrased it.

While it’s important to be gracious, it doesn’t mean we let others take unfair advantage of us. Knowing our physical, emotional and spiritual limits is helpful too. Setting boundaries is important. It can even help us retain our sanity! While on earth, even Jesus intended to set limits on his availability. He often went away by himself to pray. That’s a form of boundary setting.

How do you set boundaries for others? Is it by implementing ‘house rules’? For example, if you make a mess, clean it up. If it’s hungry, feed it, and so on. If you want to share how you set limits for others, please tell us about a boundary you have set—maybe even what prompted you to set it—and how it turned out. As always, please share respectfully.

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams