Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Spiritual Self-editing

Photo by Girlfierce Photography
Do you dread self-editing? Does progress on your WIP grind to a halt at this phase of writing? In the online course I am currently enrolled in, we spent some time Wednesday discussing and practicing this essential skill. Since undertaking the task of self-editing can be overwhelming, our instructor, Eva Shaw recommended we break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. With each run through we look for specific problems. Check for repetitious words or phrases. Next, make sure we chose our words carefully. On the third run through ask, “Do my sentences spur interaction or would a question be more effective?” Then listen for a consistent tone throughout the piece. And lastly, run grammar and spell checks after final edits.

As I thought this lesson over, I realized that we can apply the same principle to our spiritual lives. Often it seems to us that doing what God requires is beyond us. Things like loving others, denying self, walking humbly with Him daily, choosing to do the right thing rather than the easy thing, showing mercy—are all tough tasks.

Eva’s advice to break down an overwhelming job into smaller more manageable parts could help us with these spiritual tasks also. Can I whisper a sentence prayer for the one who has unjustly criticized my husband? Could I turn off the re-runs on TV and open my Bible instead? Surely, reading 10 verses a day is possible, isn’t it? Can my husband and I find two minutes in the morning to share devotions together—perhaps taking turns reading from a devotional booklet while the other person finishes readying themselves for work? Would our children mind clasping hands for a moment of prayer before heading off to school?

Even tiny steps eventually make progress. What is ONE step can you take today?

Direct my footsteps according to your Word; let no sin rule over me.

Psalm 119:133

©2013 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Reflections on Psalm 51

Photo by Daniel Y Go
Psalm 51 never fails to reflect the longing of my heart. Perhaps, in part, it is because this psalm was proclaimed in the liturgy we repeated every Sunday in the Lutheran church where I grew up. Its words were forever etched in my memory and now, as a believer, they are written on my heart.

As I read the words this morning two verses especially stood out:

You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Psalm 51:6

How often am I truly honest with myself? I convince myself that what I am doing, saying, or thinking is okay; it’s justified, and understandable. Yet, deep down, I know that I act from wrong motives, my words are a false cover up, and my thinking is entirely selfish. Why do I try to deceive myself and God? God knows the truth! It’s time I admitted those truths to myself.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

I have prayed this verse over and over and over, and yet it never gets antiquated, irrelevant, or unnecessary. Every day I start out with the best of intentions; and every day sinful, selfish human nature shows itself.

Thankfully, our loving God provided a way for our hearts to be made clean:

For by the blood of Christ we are set free,
that is, our sins are forgiven.
How great is the grace of God!
Ephesians 1:6
For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith.
It is not the result of your own efforts,
but God's gift, so that no one can boast about it.
Ephesians 2:8-9

How has Psalm 51 spoken to you? Won’t you please leave a comment? I would love to hear your thoughts.

©2013 Pamela D. Williams
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

God's Handiwork

Hapuna Beach Photo by Pam Williams

The turquoise water swells and spills its way to the shore in crystal clear waves edged with lacy white foam. Such tremendous power ebbs and flows, and yet, bathes me in peace.

I love the soft, white sand beneath my feet and the comforting warmth of the sun on my shoulders. A gentle breeze cools my face and plays with the fine tendrils of hair that have escaped my pony tail, tickling my neck.

White puffy clouds in the distance hold no threat. Even rain showers are pleasant—warm drops that are here one moment and gone the next, lasting only long enough to water thirsty flowers.

In the midst of the busyness of life it is good to find a few moments to let God’s beautiful creation minister to our stressed out souls.  I breathe in serenity with the sea-scented air. Tilting my face upward, I whisper my heartfelt thanks to Jesus for this awesome reflection of His power over all circumstances.

How has God's handiwork ministered to you this Summer?

“The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity. The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea-- the LORD on high is mighty.” Psalm 93:1-4

©2013 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our Spiritual Toolbox

Photo By Erik Strandberg via Wikimedia Commons
My husband always says if a person has the right tools, they can do any project well. As Christians, we have several tools in our spiritual toolbox:

 The Bible—Basic to all projects are the instructions. The Bible is our manual for living the Christian life. All that we need to know as Christians is found in this one book.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 Prayer—Power tools must connect to a power source. Prayer is our connection to our spiritual power source—the Holy Spirit of God.

Do all this in prayer, asking for God's help.
Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads.

Ephesians 6:18

 Fellow Christians—Each tool in a toolbox wields a special purpose. In the same manner, each of us has God-given skills and purposes. We need one another’s spiritual gifts in order to fulfill God’s purposes for the church and for our lives.

In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body. So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us.

Romans 12:5-6

What’s in your spiritual toolbox?

NOTE: Due to problems with footer comments, I have switched to an email comment form.
©2013 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Be Yourself

What’s your niche? You know, the spot that, like a piece fits in a puzzle, just seems made for you? Where you can be yourself? That distinct place where your gifts and graces meet a need? Where you come together with kindred spirits and feel at home?

Over the years I have discovered that my niche changes with the seasons of my life, as well as with my situation. My niche when my children were toddlers differed from my niche once Dick and I were empty-nesters. My niche in larger, urban churches varied greatly from my niche in our smaller, rural churches.

Right now I am in process—trying to find my new niche. I’m turning my puzzle piece around and trying it in different places.

Part of the reason I am searching for my new niche is because we moved about a year ago. My husband has been a United Methodist pastor since 1976, and moving is part of our itinerant system. Each time, for me, that means discovering my new niche, figuring out, What is God calling me to do here? How does He want me to use my skill set in this place?

The opportunities always vary, so, when I hear we are moving, I look forward to seeing where God will lead me. However, the process seems to take longer as I get older. My priorities, abilities, and patience have changed, (along with my slowly fading eye sight, hearing, and flexibility.) Things I used to love doing (like teaching teens) just don’t spark the same enthusiasm.

I also find that I can’t do some things as well or as quickly—which catches me off guard. It’s kind of like watching a kid turn a cartwheel and thinking “I can do that”. However, if I try it, I land on my butt and my body protests for days afterward.

Things have changed; I have changed. So where IS my niche now? How do I find it?

As I prayed about this, God led me to three Scriptures and three questions:

“Wherever your treasure is,
there the desires  of your heart will also be.”
(Matthew 6:21)
What do I treasure these days?

““Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
(Isaiah 43:18-19)
Where do I see God at work right here, right now?

“There are different abilities to perform service,
but the same God gives ability to all
for their particular service.”
(1 Corinthians 12:6)
What do I do well, that God wants me to use in this place, at this time?

As I prayerfully answer these questions in light of Scripture, I believe God will meld them together to reveal my niche, to show me where I fit in His big puzzle. After all, Philippians 2:13 promises, “It is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.”

Your prayers are always appreciated!

How do you find your niche when things change? Do you find it hard to be yourself?

God has made us what we are . . . Ephesians 2:10
Before you were born, [God] chose you for a special work.  Jeremiah 1:5

©2013 Pamela D. Williams