What the heck is Lent?

In Christianity, Lent is a time of fasting and repentance in the spring, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending several weeks later on Easter. Note: To “give something up for Lent” is to abandon a pleasurable habit as an act of devotion and self-discipline.

Okay, now that we have the technical definition out of the way, let’s get down to business! It’s not too unusual for people to compare notes on what they’re ‘doing for Lent.’ One of my friends related she was giving up sweets because she really enjoys them. When she asked what I am doing, I told her I’m working on more tolerance and less anger with my fellow motorists. I certainly didn’t say this to sound like I was working on something more important than she was. But, at this stage of my life, I realize that it’s more important to work on spiritual things and matters of the heart versus giving up some external food or drink that I like. I figure working on a bad habit is something I should be doing anyway, and when better than during Lent? After I die, I’m pretty certain I’m going to spend a lot of time in Purgatory before I get to the ‘pearly gates’ of heaven! Working on some of my spiritual shortcomings may decrease my time in Purgatory—hey, I can dream can’t I?

Now, what’s Purgatory, you ask. Purgatory, according to Catholic Church doctrine, is an intermediate state after physical death in which those destined for heaven “undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” Now is it clearer why I am working on spiritual things and how I hope it shortens my time in Purgatory? I once heard Purgatory referred to as ‘heaven’s waiting room.’ Sounds promising, but I know I hate to wait; what about you?

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

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Entombment of Negative Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams