Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Peace

Photo by Pam Williams
“Come now, let's settle this," says the LORD.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow. . .”
Isaiah 1:18

As you can see, we aren’t just “dreaming of a white Christmas” here in Central Pennsylvania. God’s gentle beauty covers every brown, empty branch and drapes the evergreens with a sparkling blanket.

Driving home from our early Christmas Eve service, I listened to carols on the radio, enjoyed the muffled crunch of snow beneath my tires, and smiled the whole way. Peace enveloped my heart, despite the slippery roads and obscured view.

That kind of peace comes from God. It is not dependent on having the whole family home, getting perfect presents, or packing the cupboards and refrigerator with Christmas goodies. It has nothing to do with health or wealth or even good weather.

Christmas peace began with the birth of Jesus Christ, the first step in God’s plan to bring us into a right relationship with Him. When we realize that Jesus is our Savior and allow Him to be Lord, we will be filled with peace—the kind of peace that transcends circumstances.

Are you enjoying that peace this Christmas? If not, accept God’s gift of Love this Christmas—believe in Jesus as the One who can wash away your past and give you a new start in life. I guarantee, God’s peace, like tonight’s lovely snowfall, will rest gently on your life, enveloping even your ugliest failures and most difficult challenges.

“Then you will experience God's peace,
which exceeds anything we can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds
as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Glimpse of His Artwork

Photo by Spacepleb
So God created great sea creatures and
every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water,
and every sort of bird
each producing offspring of the same kind.
And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:21

The window over my sink frames a leafy cosmos. Though their fuchsia blooms are long gone, the giant rhododendrons snuggled up against the house bustle with color and movement. Birds vie for a feast at the birdfeeder I hung there. Sparrows and finches flit from branch to branch. Blue jays and cardinals sail from tree to bush to tree with sunflower seeds in their bills. Doves gather on the ground beneath in search of cracked corn.

As I watch the activity this morning, the countless subtle shades of blue, red, and brown in the birds’ plumage capture my attention. I find it quite interesting that God chose to feather my little friends in many colors. After all, He didn’t have to. He could have made them all solid black or white or gray; but he decided not to. Why?

Do the variations in color benefit the birds? I guess the brown tones probably make it easier for sparrows to hide in bushes from predators. However, the brilliant hues of some of the other species certainly do not provide camouflage.

I gaze in wonder. Could God have given the birds their myriad of colors simply for His pleasure as an artist and our delight as viewers of His outdoor gallery? I must conclude, yes!

Our God is the Master Creator with an imagination that we cannot begin to fathom. As the barren landscape of winter encroaches, put up a birdfeeder and catch a glimpse of our Father’s magnificent artwork firsthand.

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Who Knows You Best?

Morguefile.com
God really knows me; He knows me better than I know myself.
God understands even my thoughts.
God always is where I am—all around me, on every side.
I am never in un-chartered waters.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fun Family Festivities for Christmas

Fun Family Parties
Fun Family Festivities for Christmas: Party Preparations

Christmas is the one time of the year when everyone seems to make it a priority to get together. However, while adults find food and conversation a simple and comforting agenda, active tots and bored teens often end up restless at family affairs.
           
So how do we add a little sparkle and generate some fun for every member of the family? Our family has found that just a little extra hospitality and a few inter-generational games can make Christmas parties irresistible!

Invitations: We send snail or e-mail invitations about six weeks out that include the event details, encourage singles to bring a friend, and inform guests if they will need to dress in layers for outside activities. A quick phone call or e-mail about a week before the gathering serves as a much-appreciated reminder.

A gift exchange is sometimes part of our entertainment so we specify in the invitation what guests are to bring—perhaps an edible item, an ornament, a “white elephant” (a humorous or previously owned gift, generally considered useless), or any gift that weighs five pounds.

Atmosphere: “At its very essence, Christmas is a holiday that excites our senses. How things sound, look, feel, smell, and taste evoke memories of holidays past, flooding us with emotions,” says Heidi Tyline King of HowStuffWorks.com.

Whether we hold our parties at a social hall, church basement, or in our home, a decorated Christmas tree, strands of twinkling lights, fragrant sprigs of pine, glowing candles, and a medley of favorite Christmas songs playing softly in the background produces a welcoming and nostalgic ambiance for a Christmas party. As an added measure of hospitality, we keep things touch-friendly by replacing Grandma Williams’ 50-year-old nativity with an inviting Playmobil one and making sure the holiday arrangement on the coffee table can withstand a child’s inquisitive fingers.

Refreshments: When it comes to food, we like to shake things up each year. We’ve munched on finger foods and sat down to a feast of roast turkey with all the trimmings. Pizza parties, including not only the traditional tomato sauce and cheese type, but also fruit, veggie, and dessert pizzas, are a favorite with our family. However, everyone loved the year we held a Christmas tea complete with dainty sandwiches, mini sweets, and a wide selection of flavored teas.

Often we encourage guests to wander around with appetizers and a cup of warm apple cider. Some years we serve cake and ice cream as part of a Jesus’ birthday celebration. For parties that include caroling, trays of Christmas cookies and hot chocolate best compliment our plans.

We always use sturdy paper product s and provide a low table where the kids can kneel on the floor to eat. Why risk tears over a plateful of food flipped upside down?

With a few simple preparations we can ensure our parties are festivities and not fiascos.

Blessings of the season today and always!
Pam

©2011 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thankful for Blogging


I am always amazed at how the Holy Spirit speaks to so many of us on the same topic on the same day. My bloggy friend, Denise (over at Shortybears Place) and I are both thankful today for blogging.

God has used blogging in my life to challenge and stretch me both as a follower of Jesus and as a writer. I have met incredibly faithful Christians in the blogosphere who (whom?) God has used to inspire me to take longer strides of faith and deepen my trust in Him. I have also learned that with God's vast imagination and ability to stretch time, I am capable of much more as a writer than I ever thought possible. I am daily thankful that the Lord has brought me to this place. Just a year ago, although I had heard of a blog, I had no idea what the whole concept of blogging was about.

I am also thankful for Brianna Renshaw, who was the first person I ever met who had a blog. She introduced the idea of starting our own blogs to my friend, Dawn, and I.

I praise God for Dawn and her three E's--encouragement, enthusiasm, and energy. Without her, I would never have started a blog or accepted the 2011 A to Z Challenge.

Which leads me to Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out, who is the founder of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Haven't heard of it? Bloggers are challenged to commit to writing a post a day every day in April (except Sundays)--with the added stipulation that April 1st's post has a theme beginning with A; April 2nd's has a theme beginning with B; etc, to April 30th, which has a theme beginning with Z.

Last year I was one of over 1200 people who took the challenge. Who would have thought that writing everyday would be so popular? Want to know more about the it? Click on  A to Z Blogging Challenge. You will meet sooooo many great Christian bloggers through it.

That's how I connected with so many of you kindred spirits who are now following 2 Encourage. Your loyalty and positive comments warm my heart and carry me through dry spells (both writing and spiritual). Thank you, all!

So THANK YOU, LORD, for BLOGGING! We LOVE it!

God's greatest blessings!
Pam

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Little Twist To Our “Thanks For” List

Photo by Snapshots of Joy

This means that anyone who belongs
to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
2 Corinthians 5:17

Our pastor (who happens to be my gifted husband) suggested that this Thanksgiving we try a little twist to our “Thanks for” list: Rather than thanking God for what he has given us, Dick suggested we thank him for what he has taken from us. I thought that sounded a bit odd until I heard his examples: Former smokers can be thankful God delivered them from nicotine, an abused girlfriend can be thankful God helped her end the relationship, a cancer patient can be thankful God guided the surgeon’s hands in removing the cancerous tumor, etc.

As an exercise in praise, I decided to write my list of things I was thankful God removed from my life:

  • the penalty for my sins through the sacrifice of Jesus
  • our seven-year wait to adopt
  • the prison of worry
  • my ulcerative colitis flares
  • my mother's cancer.
  • sole responsibility for 1stWrites
  • the overgrown shrubs in our yard for a tenth of the estimated cost
  • our children's dependence (Proud to be the parent of two independent, responsible adults!)
  • legalistic religion

What's on your list of things you are thankful that God removed from your life?


©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hurtling Through Life

East Broad Top Railroad
Orbisonia, PA
As children, my brother, sisters and I could hear the whistle of a train several times throughout every day. The tracks dissected our little town. Depending on the weather, the whistle was sometimes loud and clear; at other times it seemed muffled by the humid air of summer or the dampening of a million snowflakes in winter.


As the train approached the center of town, the whistle would crescendo to the point of piercing, and then decrescendo to a whisper in the distance. Even from five blocks away, we could hear the train wheels go clacked-y-clack, clacked-y-clack on the tracks when the train crossed the overpass.

Though hard to believe, the sound of the whistle sometimes blew unnoticed, even in summer with all the windows open. Repetition can dull our ears to even the most obvious and persistent sounds. On sleepless nights the sound punctuated the darkness and underlined the obvious—you are still awake . . . you are not getting the sleep you need.

Despite the station still situated near the underpass, the railroad companies no longer service our area. Once busy, the town is now devoid of those industries that required rail service. The train just hurries through, its clacking and roaring and whistling seeming to say, “I have more important places to be, more important people to transport, and precious cargo to deliver.

In those wee hours of a sleepless night one might consider the whistle of a train a lonely reminder that life is moving on. However, I wonder if it might be an opportunity God gives to take stock of where our life is going and to re-examine who and what is precious and important to us.

With Thanksgiving upon us and the "countdown" to Christmas just ahead,  are we like the train, hurtling our way through life? Are we so intent on getting everything done that we bypass devotions with God and miss fleeting moments with loved ones who deserve our time and attention in more than a cursory way? Is God trying to blow the whistle on us? Are we listening or have we grown accustomed to his persistent voice and don’t really hear it anymore? Let us heed God's warning whistle so that Jesus will never say of us, 

"These people have become close-minded and hard of hearing.
They have shut their eyes so that their eyes never see.
Their ears never hear. Their minds never understand."
Matthew 13:15


©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New Things

Photo by Bart Heird

I found out this week that Chicago is a humongous city! Dick and I spent a couple of days there visiting family. Driving in the big city proved dauntingly slow and difficult. And while we have managed to get around Washington, DC on the Metro for years, the intricacies of the unfamiliar Chicago EL deterred us from trying it. New things seem to affect most of us that way.

What about new ideas in the church? Do innovative suggestions overwhelm and intimidate us? Are we resistant to newfangled notions? Have we argued, “We’ve never done it that way”?

Listen to Isaiah 43:

18 But the Lord says,

“Do not cling to events of the past

or dwell on what happened long ago.

19 Watch for the new thing I am going to do.

It is happening already—you can see it now!

I will make a road through the wilderness

and give you streams of water there.

20 Even the wild animals will honor me;

jackals and ostriches will praise me

when I make rivers flow in the desert

to give water to my chosen people.

21 They are the people I made for myself,

and they will sing my praises!”

Our God is the Lord of original thinking! He uses all that creativity to reach us, whether it is in the spiritual desert of our souls or in the wilderness of sin that tempts us. Shouldn’t we be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit even when it might make us a bit uncomfortable or force us to tread formerly untraveled paths?

Let’s follow God’s instructions through the prophet Isaiah and let go of events of the past and refuse to dwell on what happened long ago. Let us watch for the new thing that God is doing, and join Him in it

What “new thing” is God doing in your church? In your life? How exciting it would be to read in the comments section about these new movements of God!


©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Cud of God’s Word

“Look! That cow is chewing and chewing. Do cows chew bubble gum, Grandma?” a young boy questioned his grandmother.

“No, cows chew the cud,” she answered.

“Cud? What is cud?” he asked.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Regrets?

photo by Gillian Hamsher

Daddy and I were cut from different bolts of cloth. I don’t remember ever sitting down and just talking. Our conversation always drifted too quickly to subjects that one of us found uncomfortable. So, to avoid upsets, Daddy and I simply kept our thoughts to ourselves, and stayed to safe, short-lived topics like the weather, kids, sports, TV shows, and pets.

What would I have enjoyed talking with him about?


  • What was it like being the youngest of eleven children?
  • Were you doted on by older siblings?
  • Were you closer to your mom or your dad?
  • You often wished you had used your GI Bill to go to college and become a teacher. What changed your dream?
  • You always went to church when I was little. Who took you to church as a kid? What happened that you stopped going as an adult?
  • When I was a kid you took us ice skating, swimming, and to Licking Creek to picnic and play ball. We vacationed somewhere many summers. So, what made you become such a "homebody” the last 30 years of your life?

Guess I’ll never know. But that’s okay. Daddy and I loved each other. And when it’s all said and done, that’s what matters.

Above all, love each other deeply,
because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Autumn Treasures

Apple Dumplings by Johnny
Through the rich colors and flavors of Autumn, God offers us a beautiful closure to Summer. Just saying the word “Autumn” evokes the yummy taste of hot chocolate at a chilly Friday night football game, hot apple dumplings for supper, and the pleasant whiff of smoke from a neighbor’s toasty wood-burning stove.

At this time of year I frequent the local produce farms. I love the many-hued flowers and the diversity of both edible and decorative produce. Seasonal fruits, especially apples, tumble from overly-filled baskets. Clever crafters show off innovative house and yard décor. Tasting tables scattered throughout the stores tempt the pallet with samples of new varieties of fruits and vegetables, salsas and dips, and sweets that can be made from produce sold at the farms.

One of my favorite places is Benders Potato and Produce Barn and petting farm here in Chambersburg. Last week I took each of my toddler charges to see the pumpkins. The reactions of the kids were as diverse as the produce.

Michelle couldn’t wait to pick out a pumpkin—she insisted on holding it while we meandered over the grounds. Although I purchased a cup of chopped veggies to feed the goats, the overly enthusiastic buck frightened her; she preferred to hug her pumpkin instead. Later, her mom thanked me for the pumpkin, sharing how much the family enjoyed the stew she prepared from it. I wondered how she wrestled the pumpkin away from her daughter. J

Micah, on the other hand, wanted the stroller as close to the goat pen as possible so he could feed the animals himself. He giggled when they sucked or nibbled on his fingers. Showing the goats his empty hands and shaking his head with regret, he said, “All gone,” after they had eaten all the veggies. However, when we went over to choose a pumpkin, he flat out refused to take one! No matter what size or color or shape I showed him, he wanted nothing to do with pumpkins.


Pumpkins by Libraryman
Just like God fashions snowflakes, He makes no two pumpkins exactly alike. No two falling maple leaves are either. And we all have discovered that no two people, whether kids or adults, are utterly and completely the same.

And that's what makes each of us special. Only God is that creative. He made us what we are and loves us with unconditional love. Even more than we delight in picking up unusually beautiful Autumn leaves or choosing a distinctive pumpkin, God cherishes each of us as His unique treasure.

I thank Him for you, my friend. You are loved by the God who made this brilliant season of the year. As you gaze at the beauty around you, may you see the evidence of His presence. As you look in the mirror, may you be assured of His love.

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Glorious Morning


Picture by Don Ardery


The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
Psalm 19:1


What a thrilling sight met my eyes this morning, Lord, as I walked out onto the porch. The awesome sunrise streaking the cirrus clouds instantly reminded me of swirls of pink and blue cotton candy. In a twinkling, I am once again watching the vendor twirl the paper cone through the wispy confection. As I gaze up at Your fleeting creation, I can almost taste the delicious sweetness of that carnival delicacy melting in my mouth.

One day, Lord, I want to see your color palette and watch as you brush the brilliant and subtle hues across the canvas of the sky. The beautiful beginning to this Saturday fills me with praise for who You are and for all You have made. Thank you, Jesus!

When morning gilds the skies,
My heart, awakening, cries,
“May Jesus Christ be praised!"
(Katholisches Gesangbuch, 1828)




©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Desert Will Rejoice

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
by Ron Niebrugge
The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands.
(Isaiah 35:1)

"The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, east of San Diego, is a vast stretch of wasteland, devoid of life and beauty," says a visitor from Arcadia, CA. "But, in the spring, the park flourishes with wild flowers that carpet the desert floor with brilliant shades of purple, white, crimson and yellow." (outsidelosangeles.blogspot.com)

Like the Anza-Borrego, we go through times, even as Christians, when we feel as though our life is an emotional or spiritual desert. Challenging circumstances, stressful situations or rocky relationships can wear down our determination and dry up our energy. Our hearts cry out for God’s mercy, but our call seems to evaporate into thin air as soon as it leaves our lips, like dew in an arid, barren land.

Isaiah 35:1 offers us hope. If God can revive desert wastelands, like the Anza-Borrego, and produce a plethora of colorful flowers, then He can rejuvenate us. Using our difficulties and hardships to train, prune and strengthen us, God transforms you and me into the persons He wants us to be.

God will resurrect bouquets of roses from ashes; give us joy instead of mourning, a praising heart in place of a languid spirit. For the Lord has planted us, like strong and mighty oaks of righteousness, for His own glory. (Isaiah 61:3)

Blessings!
Pam

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

God is in the Little Things

Creative Commons

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.
1 Peter 5:7

God cares about the big AND the little things in our lives. This week His showed me His grace in one of the little things.

A computer glitch of unknown origin precipitated the crash of my MSWord . . . over and over and over. At one point it crashed five times within one hour! Though a minor malfunction for many, for a writer and blogger in the midst of three rather big projects, it is major.

My husband tried several suggestions he found online to correct the problem but nothing helped. I could only type about two paragraphs before a box popped up that read, “MSWord has stopped working.” Duh! Talk about stating the obvious! Then the thing locked up and I had to log off and log back on to even get the program to close. Grrrrrrrr!

My frustration level escalated. I really needed to prepare my writers’ Bible study lesson. What if the program degraded completely? How would I get ready to teach on Wednesday? In addition, my momentum for editing my writers’ devotions book ground to a halt. It was too difficult to concentrate when every two minutes I had to hit the Save button so that the next crash wouldn't lose the changes I had just made.

Though it might seem silly to some, I decided to ask God to heal my MS Word software. I literally held my hands out over the computer and prayed.

That evening Dick came home from a meeting with an idea to fix the problem. And by God’s grace, it worked! MSWord is now working fine.

I am convinced that the Lord knows what matters to us and cares for the little things as well as the big things. God uses even minor glitches in life as opportunities to reveal His love and grant us His grace.

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Honeysuckle: A Childhood Memory


Honeysuckle by Theophilos
 Summer evenings fragrant with the perfume of honeysuckle remind me of my Grandma Flasher. The climbing vines, with their pretty yellow and white bell-shaped blooms, covered my Grandma’s front porch railings and posts. The twining tendrils formed a flowery, aromatic curtain that provided much-appreciated shade.

My dad visited his mom, dad, and brother, Allen nearly every day. Often one or two of us kids would go along. After supper we usually would find Grandma, still wearing her apron over her housedress, sitting out on the front porch, enjoying the early evening. We would plop down beside her on the old wooden swing. A well-worn blanket thrown over it kept our bare legs from sticking to the high-gloss paint in the heat.

Time seemed to stand still during those moments on Grandma Flasher’s porch. I never remember getting bored or antsy, which, when I think about it, is a bit of a miracle. We just pumped our legs back and forth in rhythm with the swing and listened to the adults chatting about seemingly nothing in particular, but connecting in a way that spoke volumes.

Eventually the honeysuckle lured us over for a taste of its ambrosia.  I’m not sure who taught us how to pull the stamen slowly out of the flower to suck the droplet of delicate nectar on it, but the plant’s name, honey plus suckle, soon made perfect sense to me. It's a flavor and fragrance that will always be reminiscent of Grandma Flasher.

I would love to hear your childhood memory. Won't you share it?

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Rewarding Job (Part Two): Foster Parenting

Photo Credit
“Whoever welcomes a child like this
in my name welcomes me.”
Matthew 18:5

While many women enjoy good health and experience great content during pregnancy, nausea and throwing up every single day for months on end drained me. Before our son was born, my husband and I had decided we wanted two children, but afterwards I knew I never wanted to journey through pregnancy again.  So we began investigating the possibility of adoption.

Even in the 70’s the chances of adopting a baby were slim. After contacting agency after agency and getting no encouragement, someone suggested we look into becoming foster parents. In reality, we now recognize that it was a nudge from God.

Over a ten year period we fostered 19 children through various county agencies. Some kids merely needed a bed for eight hours; others sojourned with us for six months. Each one brought unique gifts and challenges; all shared the wrenching heartache and trauma of separation.

Though similar in many ways to being a biological parent, foster parenting reaps somewhat different rewards due to the constraints of time and opportunity with the child.

One of the greatest rewards was seeing a foster child overcome monumental obstacles and begin to reach their potential. Jessica’s mother had wandered in and out of rehab for years, dragging Jess from place to place. Truancy precipitated her placement with us at age 15. My heart swelled with pride when Jess stopped by to tell us she had gotten a job, rented an apartment, and purchased a car—and she was only 18! She wanted us to know she was providing a stable home for her mother.

Watching a child take charge of his/her own well-being warms the heart. Barbie came to us directly from the police station. Someone had slipped a drug into her drink at a party and the police found her wandering down the middle of a busy highway. With a less than desirable home life, she was placed with us. In just a few weeks she gained the confidence to appear before a judge and prove she was capable of making good decisions despite no real guidance from parents.

Arlene basically answered to no one from the time she was 12 till she turned 15. Then suddenly her mother put restrictions on her and Arlene ran away. Over the course of six months Arlene showed she could be responsible and willing to obey reasonable rules of the house. How wonderful to be able to help a child and parent work through their issues and develop a mutually respectful relationship.

Few jobs offer the soul-satisfying pleasures of parenting. While also posing the toughest challenge, it still reaps the greatest rewards, hands down. Is God calling you to become a foster parent? Have you ever been a foster parent? I would love to hear about your most rewarding experience as a foster parent.

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Rewarding Job

“What is the most rewarding job you have ever had?” the interviewer asked.

The answer popped into my head immediately: “In all honesty, my most rewarding job has been being a mother.”

I consider it a blessing and a privilege to have been able to stay at home with my children. No, my husband’s job didn’t pay a huge salary; we were just very frugal.

And it has definitely been worth the penny-pinching. Just consider some of the many, many rewards I received as a mother:

  • I felt the squeeze of little arms around my neck, the gentle touch of tender lips on my cheek, and the rhythmic breathing of a child asleep in my arms 
  • I watched young minds grow in knowledge and wisdom.
  • I listened as little voices sang songs I sang, repeated words I spoke and imitated actions I took—flattery in its highest form.
  • I experienced the comfort of a child’s pat on the back and reassuring words that “It’ll be okay, Mommy,” when a bat flew through the house and I took the kids and hide in the bedroom.
  • I witnessed self-absorbed teens blossom into responsible, self-sacrificing adults.
  • I heard, “I love you,” each night before bed for over 20 years. To this day I hear it at the end of every phone conversation or text.
No wonder I answered the interview question the way I did! Motherhood not only matters; it carries its own rewards.


Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
Psalm 127:3

What is the greatest reward you have experienced as a parent? I would love to hear about it in the comments section.

Stay tuned for part two, “The Rewards of Foster Parenting”, coming soon.
©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

God's Blessings from 1 Peter 1



God painted a picture in my mind as I read 1 Peter 1 during my devotions. Being no graphic artist, this is a close as I can come to what I saw as I meditated on this chapter. Through the precious lifeblood of Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, we are given all these amazing gifts: Boundless Mercy, Special Favor, Wonderful Peace, Wonderful Expectation, Priceless Inheritance, Glorious Joy, Gracious Salvation, Special Blessings, Sincere Love, and New Life. What a incredibly loving God we serve!


©2011 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

God, the Sculpture

FOR WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP. . . Ephesians 2:10
“God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 1:6 (GNV)

In the surreal light of early morning my husband and I gazed open-mouthed at the powerful, breathtaking beauty of the red rock formations of Sedona, Arizona—Bell Rock, The Coffeepot, and Cathedral Rock.  Too awestruck to be satisfied with merely a glimpse from our car window, we stopped at a conveniently placed lookout.

Leaning against the hood of the car, I soaked in the splendor illuminated by the rising sun.  Sedona’s striking, giant monoliths declared to the entire world their Creator’s unequaled handiwork.

As the sun highlighted the massive burnished boulders surrounding me, I considered the power that it must have taken to shape this stunning sandstone. In Ephesians 1:18-20 God reveals that that same transforming power is right now at work in all who believe!  God is in the process of sculpting us by His great might and He will complete the good work that He has begun.  Like the glorious red rocks of Sedona, we, too, declare our Creator’s handiwork!

Blessings!
Pam
©2011 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Youth Mission Trip 2012

For ever since the world was created,
people have seen the earth and sky.
Through everything God made,
they can clearly see his invisible qualities—
His eternal power and divine nature.
So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
Romans 1:20

I took a hiatus from blogging this past week to serve as a cook/cabin chaperone/babysitter for our church’s youth mission trip. We lodged at Central Oak Heights, a beautiful former UMC Conference camp nestled in the Susquehanna River Valley.

During our week there I enjoyed the privilege of babysitting for our youth pastor and his wife who brought their two-year-old son along. Micah and I spent a good bit of time traversing the trails and walkways of the campground. His favorite spot was the Tabernacle, a lovely, open-air sanctuary that allowed us to drink in the beauty of God's handiwork --a beauty that far surpassed any man-made cathedral! Micah dubbed it "Big Church". After he chose seats for us, we would sing a few Sunday school choruses and then mosey back to our camp site.

Like a couple of naturalists, Micah and I constantly kept our eyes peeled for a glimpse of wildlife. In a secluded part of the campground we discovered Sylvan Chapel. As we sat on the benches listening to the Red-Tail Hawks answering one another and watching the squirrels gather acorns, I took a deep breath and allowed the peace of God that passes all understanding to permeate my soul.

photo by Bridget Riordan
We also captured quite a few toads of varying sizes in the girls’ bathhouse. We examined their bumps and tiny webbed feet from every angle--such an intricate and useful design God created. Though Micah was reluctant to touch their super soft bellies, he took note of their eyes and mouth. Then we returned them to a wooded area so they wouldn’t accidentally get trampled.

One morning Micah stopped short on the trail and pointed to a brilliant yellow caterpillar slowly creeping its way across the stones and sticks. We crouched down and took a long look at the creature. I later learned it was a Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar. We were both fascinated by its unusual markings and bright color. God certainly has a vivid imagination.

At Camp

Though not a typical mission trip experience, I found my week to be quite an inspirational way to reconnect with God—through the eyes of a two-year-old.


©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Inspiration of Youth

Recently a friend and I helped a tenth grader set up a blog for a business. Yes! You read that right—a BUSINESS—which this young person started TWO YEARS AGO!!!  And, under whose ingenuity and reliability, it is flourishing!

I found myself inspired. This young adult (I can hardly call a businessperson a child!) not only has ambition, but admits when help is needed and expresses thanks when it is received. My young friend treats people of all ages with respect, listens attentively, speaks with kindness, and, to top it off, acts on faith and serves others.
Let no one make little of you...

In short, he/she exemplifies I Timothy 4:12: “Let no one make little of you because you are young, but be an example to the church in word, in behavior, in love, in faith, in holy living.”

My youthful fellow blogger displays a truly Christ-like attitude in a world where rudeness and immaturity is often commonplace—among all ages. And there are always excuses--excuses for not getting involved at church, for not getting a job, for being grumpy, tired and impatient. We would think that a sophomore in high school, who swims on a team, is an active member of the youth group, maintains good grades, and is involved in a myriad of other commitments, would have a ready list of reasons NOT to have their own business.

How motivating to spend a few hours with one who lives Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need."

Blessings!
Pam

©2011 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Friends of God

“Some friends are closer than brothers.”
Proverbs 18:24 
In the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Frodo sets out on a quest. Despite Frodo’s order to his best friend Sam not to go along with him, Sam follows Frodo from a distance and when he is needed, Sam guards, guides, provides for and encourages Frodo. Ultimately, as Frodo’s strength to continue the quest wanes, Sam carries him.

The story of Sam and Frodo’s friendship is one that Solomon might have used as an example of Proverbs 18:24, “Some friends are closer than brothers.” A true friend can be more loyal, more helpful, more in tune with us than a member of our own family—kind of like the little bird protecting the mouse in the picture I chose for Foto Friday.

When we see a friend heading for trouble, what should we do? Proverbs 12: 26 tells us that a righteous man guides his friend. When a friend messes up, Proverbs 17:17 advises us to show love and share trouble.

 Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reminds us that when the road is hard, two are better than one. Tasks get accomplished quicker with two people working on them. Challenges can be faced when a friend stands by us.

Interestingly, Proverbs 27:6 says that a friend means well even when he hurts us. Have you ever been in a situation where, in order to do what’s best for a friend, you had to risk hurting them? Being honest, breaking a promise of silence, or telling a friend “No”, can hurt them initially, but it just might keep them from making further mistakes and save them in the long run.

 In John 15:13 Jesus tells us that the greatest love a friend can show is to lay down his life for his friend. Although we are rarely called to physically give up our lives, sometimes true friendship requires us to lay aside our own wants and feelings. We may have to put up with hurtful comments from others because of a friendship. We might need to give up what we have planned in order to help a friend. At times we may have to stand with our friend even when others are making disparaging remarks about them.

In John 15:15, Jesus calls us friends. But, how is it possible to be friends with God? It’s possible because Jesus doesn’t just talk the talk—He walks the walk! In Romans 5:10 we learn that when Jesus gave his life on the cross, he tore down the barriers of sin separating us from him. When we believe that truth and trust in him, we gain the awesome privilege of becoming friends with Jesus! Woo Hoo!

One of my absolute favorite songs is “Friend of God”. I first heard this at a Women of Faith event with some of my very best girl friends. Give it a listen and let me know what you think. Doesn’t it just put your feet to dancin’?

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Unconditional Love

"May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love.
And may you have the power to understand,
as all God's people should, how wide,
how long, how high, and how deep his love really is."
Ephesians 3:17-18

Sweat trickled down my neck and beaded on my forehead. As I rounded the last turn on my usual morning walking route, my house came into view—a beckoning oasis on this humid morning.

I kicked off my shoes just inside the door and peeled my outer shirt up over my head. Ahh . . . Thank You, Lord, for air conditioning.

In the few moments that I stood there, our cat Baxter meandered over and rubbed against my legs. “You don’t want to get too close to me, buddy. I need a shower,” I told him, bending down to stroke his sleek, silky head.

But Baxter didn’t care. He continued to wind around my legs, looking up at me with pleading eyes and his characteristic soundless meow. Finally, I gave in and picked him up.

Heedless of my damp skin and sweat-laden tank top, Baxter nestled against my shoulder, gripping my upper arm with his front paws. He breathed a sigh and closed his eyes, purring in contentment.

I, on the other hand, felt disgusting. I probably would have scared even my husband away with my red face and wild, Phyllis Diller hairdo. I am sure glad I am the only person home. No one would want to be close to me right now.

In answer to my thoughts, Baxter gripped my shoulder a bit tighter. Nuzzling him close I realized, Baxter doesn’t mind. He accepts me just the way I am.

Suddenly I heard God speaking directly to my heart. That’s how I accept you, Pam. I want to be close to you. I don’t even take note of your outward appearance; I look at your heart. I take you as you are.

A deep sense of comfort and love welled up in my heart and overflowed down my cheeks. I thanked God for revealing His truth to me through the simple actions of my feline friend, Baxter.

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waiting


I admit, waiting challenges me. Waiting with patience? Well. . . though I try to appear patient, the wide-eyed anticipation on the face of the keyed-up kitty in the above photo expresses my feelings far more accurately. I still remember an incident from my childhood when I was forced to “wait with patience”.

Standing in my parent’s bedroom, I could hear my mom in the kitchen helping my little brother Jon count outloud. My siblings and I were playing hide and seek; I was looking for the perfect place to hide.

I spotted the freestanding cedar closet! No one would think to check there on a hot summer afternoon. I carefully opened the screechy, protesting door and peered inside.

The usual assortment of winter coats, along with Dad’s old army uniform, hung neatly on the metal bar at the top. Heavy blankets covered the floor of the fragrant closet.

Climbing inside, I was scrooching around trying to get comfortable, when I felt a lump in the blankets. Reaching underneath, I pulled out a book. Before I could get a good look at it, I heard my brother shout, “Ready or not, here I come!”

I quickly pulled the door shut and settled in behind the clothing.

Waiting in the total darkness, I felt the book all over—spiral-bound, glossy cover and pages, not too thick. I squinted my eyes to read the title but couldn’t. I wondered why someone would hide a book in the cedar closet.

Just as I considered moving closer to the light seeping in around the door, I heard my brother enter the room. I kept completely still, holding my breath when he opened the closet door and peered inside. My mother’s long winter dress coat secreted me from view. Jon only took a quick glimpse before slamming the door and running out of the room to search elsewhere.

The door now stood ajar. With my brother busy for the moment, I took the opportunity to read the title: Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls.

Why was a kids’ cookbook hidden in my mother’s cedar closet in August? My sister’s June birthday had just passed and mine wasn’t till March. Jon’s birthday was fast approaching, but he couldn’t even read, let alone cook! And Christmas was months away!

Unable to wait any longer I climbed out of the closet, clutching the book to my chest. Completely forgetting the game, I ran downstairs to question my Mom about my discovery.

“Look at the book I found in the cedar closet. Whose is it? Why was it in there?”

Hands on her hips, Mom rolled her eyes and asked irritably, “Do I have to stick everything up my butt to keep you kids from finding it?”

Immediately on the defensive, I retorted, “I wasn’t looking for it on purpose! We were playing hide and seek! When I hid in the cedar closet, I found it under the blankets. Whose is it anyway?”

“Yours!” she stated, blowing out her breath in frustration. “It was supposed to be for Christmas!”

I stared at her in wonder. Mine? For Christmas?

“Cool! Can we make something out of it for lunch?” I asked, flipping through the pages and loving the new-book smell that wafted up.

Finally noticing that Mom wasn’t answering, I glanced up. Uh oh. Mom was not happy. I asked, “Or . . . should I . . . put it back?” thinking how nice it would be if she told me I could just keep it.

“Yes!” she said, stirring the pan of spaghetti sauce a bit too vigorously. Wiping the dishcloth over the top of the stove, she added, “You’ve ruined the surprise, but you’re still going to have to wait till Christmas to read it.”

With the corners of my mouth drooping and my eyes on the floor, I turned to head back upstairs. Maybe it’s possible to wait patiently for what we haven’t seen, but I have to admit, it sure was hard to put away that cookbook for five whole months!

©2012 Pamela D. Williams