Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Instruments of Peace

Stephen Ministries

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus shares some ways we can love our neighbor, including visiting the sick and imprisoned. John Wesley considered these good deeds “works of mercy.”

When offered as expressions of love for God and for our neighbor, our visits can be a means of receiving God’s unmerited favor as well as sharing it. Alternately, when we fail to selflessly share God’s love with others, we deprive not only the world, but ourselves of God’s grace.

Opportunities to put Jesus’ teachings into practice abound. Just a visit or call can bring a gentle reminder of Christ’s presence to those suffering physically or emotionally.

Simply listening can reflect God’s love for them. Offering spiritual and emotional support will give them a deeper understanding of God’s loving kindness.

Is Christ calling you to bring hope into the life of someone who may be hurting or discouraged this week?

Will you join me in praying the prayer of Saint Francis?

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

VBS: No matter what, TRUST GOD!

Silence has reigned at 2 Encourage this week, but for a very good reason—Vacation Bible School! Based on Mark 10:27, “Everything is possible with God,” Group’s SKY VBS, encourages everyone to trust God—no matter what.

Over 125 different kids attended—not counting all the adults and the seven to nine toddlers and babies in the nursery. I haven’t changed that many diapers in 30 years—thank God! (LOL!)

Much of the credit goes to our Children’s Minister, Angie, who coordinated this whole project. She spent countless hours making phone calls, running for supplies, readying crafts, inputting data on the computer, running copies, and soothing jittery leaders and quieting over-stimulated kids. Angie livedthe theme of this VBS, setting a shining example of trusting God in the big and small things.

Many times, instead of trusting God, we lament over our hurts, pity ourselves for our losses, and grumble about challenges. Have we forgotten Romans 8:28? “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Let’s look at a biblical example. The later portion of Genesis relates events from the life of Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. If anyone had reason to be angry and vindictive, depressed and forlorn, it is Joseph!

We read of a series of terrible trials that Joseph endured—sold as a slave by his own brothers, falsely accused and imprisoned by one he had served loyally, forgotten by someone he had done a favor for! Yet, after all these devastating events, he graciously says, "You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good." (Genesis 50:20).

How did Joseph keep a positive attitude? Looking back over his life we note that he chose to continue to love God and live for him, even in the midst of seeming abandonment and disaster, and despite temptation and corruption around him. He trusted completely in God, and allowed that trust to impact his day to day living.

Do we, like Joseph, trust that God can and will bring good out of those things that bruise and grieve and appear unfair? Are we living a life that says, “With God, all things are possible”?

©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Flowery Truths

The multitude of flowers always blooming is just one of the many reasons I love Hawaii. Their striking beauty, variety and colors amaze me!

Perhaps I am especially blessed by them because I lack the botanical know-how and patience to choose and coax flowers to grow in my own yard here in Pennsylvania. 

Although some people have wonderful green thumbs, Dick tells everyone that we, on the other hand, have black thumbs. We can kill any plant in just a matter of weeks! 

God’s Word mentions flowers often, directing our attention to these fleeting beauties in order to teach us eternal truths:

 We grow and flourish like a wild flower; (Psalm 103:15)

A day is coming when the Lord Almighty will be like a glorious crown of flowers for his people who survive. (Isaiah 28:5)

The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands. (Isaiah 35:1)

Yes, grass withers and flowers fade, but the word of our God endures forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

I will be to the people of Israel like rain in a dry land. They will blossom like flowers; they will be firmly rooted like the trees of Lebanon. (Hosea 14:5)

Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it? And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. (Matthew 6:27-29)

What truths has God taught you through the prolific voice of the trumpet vine or the tinkling of coral bells in the breeze? Which life lessons have you learned in the faces of pansies and from the mouths of snap dragons?

1st Writes, my writing group, has been posting some of our stories of feeling God’s nudge through the petals of flowers. Check them out at these links:
Rose of Sharon by Dawn Hamsher
Flourishing Like a Wild Flower by Brianna Renshaw
The Desert Will Rejoice by Pam Williams

I would so enjoy reading a few words in the comment section about how God has used flowers to touch your heart.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

“Communion of Hearts”

United Methodist General Conference 2012
Does your church offer Communion every first Sunday? Can even this Christ-ordained sacrament become commonplace with repetition? My thoughts travel back to a particular Communion Sunday a few summers ago when God turned routine into extraordinary.

My husband, a pastor, likes to involve the laity in serving Communion. That Sunday, he asked me to help distribute the bread. Having participated in Communion all my life, I confidently agreed.

Sadly, familiarity tempered these sacred moments into little more than a tradition-steeped ritual during which my thoughts strayed to upcoming afternoon events or mulled over work that needed completed.

However, that morning, since I would be serving, I listened to the consecration of the elements more carefully. At the appropriate time Dick shared 1 Corinthians 11:23-25:

“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in memory of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup and said, ‘This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.’” (TEV)

God’s Spirit permeated the words and penetrated my soul. My heart swelled with overwhelming gratitude for Christ’s selfless act of love.

Still a bit lost in contemplation I approached the altar area and was given the basket with the bread. As people came to receive the elements, I dutifully repeated, “The body of Christ, given for you.”

At first I merely spoke in rote. But looking into the eyes of the communicants, I saw great expectancy, reverence, and unshed tears glistening there. I began adding each individual’s name to the phrase. “The body of Christ, given for you, Cindy.”

I felt God prompting me to pray silently for each one. Thank You, Father, for the awesome way you are stirring Joe’s faith.

Suddenly God’s presence sanctified the moment and tears choked my throat. The phrase came out as a whisper, “The body of Christ, given for you.”

Communion will never be the same for me. May I never again mindlessly repeat the words and take the elements unaware of the price Christ paid.

What has made Communion meaningful for you? I would love to hear about it. Won’t you please share a bit of your story in the comments?


©2012 Pamela D. Williams