Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Welcoming 2016

crosscards.com
As the start of 2016 approaches, many of us will reflect on the past year and swear to do this and that to better ourselves in the coming 12 months. While that practice sometimes gets a bad rap as being short-lived, it is actually quite Biblical, and when we choose to follow where God leads us through it, the process can be life-changing and lasting.

The other day at the devotional website, SacredSpace.ie, I read these timely words, “Where do I sense hope, encouragement, and growth areas in my life? By looking back over the last few months, I may be able to see which activities and occasions have produced rich fruit.  If I do notice such areas, I will determine to give those areas both time and space in the future.”

God often encourages us to do just that, to test ourselves to see if we are in the faith; to examine ourselves! (2 Corinthians 13:5). We are urged to consider what He has brought us through (Deuteronomy 2:7), to remember all that He has done for us (Psalm 143:5), and to share those stories with others in order pass along faith. (Psalm 78:4)

In John 14:26 Jesus reminds us that the Holy Spirit will help us to remember AND will teach us how to live more faithfully for Jesus. Paul encourages us to get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. (Hebrews 12: 1-3)

As challenging and frightening as it was, my cancer diagnosis and treatment definitely strengthened my faith. While I don’t recommend it physically, on a spiritual level it solidified my belief that God answers prayer and renewed my trust in Him care. His followers held me up to the light of His healing love. As a result of my own experience, I have asked God to show me how to reach out to others who are going through similar trials.

I have also found soul-sustaining time with God led by daily meditations from the websites of various ministries like SacredSpace, Proverbs31, and Quiet Walk, plus the regular posts of several bloggers that I follow—Gail Purth, Ceil Ryan, and Bill Grandi, to name just a few. God never fails to speak to me through these resources. I know God will continue to use these dedicated Christians to further my walk with Him. My prayer for 2016 is for opportunities to do the same for others through my writing.

Where have you found encouragement for your walk with Jesus this year? What circumstances or devotionals have nurtured and stretched your faith? How will you cultivate those opportunities in 2016?

Blessings!
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Skipping the Hoopla


“Did you spend your Christmas money yet?” I asked my 14-year-old grandson.

“No, Nana,” Kodey answered. “I don’t really need anything. It would really be okay with me if I didn’t get anything for Christmas. It’s just nice to have time off and to spend it with the family.”

Wow! I haven’t heard that kind of insight from too many adults, let alone a teenager. It’s a wonderful sentiment—one I wish we could all adopt, without feeling “guilt-ed” into buying, buying, buying.

It seems God wanted to drive the point home with me. A couple days later, a customer came into the store where I work and bought a few little decorations. I asked, “Finishing up your holiday shopping?”

“No, I don’t buy Christmas gifts. As children our father taught us that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, not ours, so we didn’t receive gifts. Our family just focused on celebrating Christ’s birth.”

Though I doubt it is a very popular one, her father’s outlook on the holiday certainly gave me food for thought, especially following on the heels of Kodey’s comment. What would Christmas be like without all the hoopla surrounding gift giving?

Store owners would shudder. Most children, and many adults, would certainly whine and squawk. And yet, perhaps less emphasis on “gifting” would free us to truly recognize and receive the greatest gift all of us have been given—God’s gift of salvation through the birth, life, and death of Jesus.

photo from crosscards.com
Dick and I always limited our gifts to three, (in remembrance of the three gifts Jesus received at His birth) but never tried a gift-less Christmas. I don’t think I could really go through with it. Have you ever tried a Christmas without gifts? How did it go? Do you know a family who doesn’t exchange gifts? How do they celebrate Christ’s birth?

Christmas Blessings!
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas in the Barn

Photo by Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
It wasn’t a typical venue for a worship service. There were no pews, no altar, and no piano or organ. There was no carpet, no heat, and no incense.

But there were ducks quietly quacking to one another, goats jumping onto stumps, donkeys munching on oats, and a pig chomping down on a pumpkin. There were hay bales stacked in the corner, straw strewn over the floor, and lots of dust and dirt. The smells of manure and stored feed and animals mingled in a not entirely unappealing odor. Kind of like the first Christmas must have been.

Photo by Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
We were gathered inside the coach barn at The Lands at Hillside Farms. Bundled against the chilly evening air, kids and adults meandered around to get a glimpse of a variety of farm animals in their stalls, as we waited for the guitarists to tune up and the pastors to signal the start of the service. Such a unique location had been chosen for a reason — to bring home the realities surrounding Jesus’ birth, and to help people stop and consider the true meaning of Christmas.

While most of us stood, some sat against hay bales. Others had brought lawn chairs and some improvised seating on overturned buckets. Expectations and anticipations ran high—and we weren’t disappointed.

Photo by Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
The short messages, carefully chosen special music, animal story for the children, and the familiar carols all blended with the rustic surroundings to speak to our hearts. It wasn’t just into a messy, dark, and dirty stall that Jesus was born. It was into our messy, dark and sin-stained lives that He came to offer us forgiveness and salvation. He came not to reach to our lowest level, but beneath it, to lift us up, to purify our hearts, and ready us to come to Him.

Communion concluded the service, reminding us that the gift God gave us that first Christmas came with a price—a price that He was willing to pay because He loves us.

Photo by Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
Unusual? Yes, and yet, such a natural place to worship the One born to save! What’s the most unique setting in which you’ve experienced the true meaning of Christmas?

Blessings!
Pam

 ©2015 Pamela D. Williams

P.S. If you are ever in the Wilkes Barre, PA area be sure to stop at The Lands at Hillside Farms and see for yourself what a great mission this is! Look for me in The Mercantile!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Wish List


“What would you like for Christmas?”

It’s a question we hear often at this time of year—and I had my answer ready—a kitty cat.

After losing Baxter, our 13 year-old Maine Coon, in October, the house, and our laps, seemed so empty. I prayed for us to find the cat that would be right for us. We entered the local humane society building with the intentions of adopting a playful little kitten, one we could train and play with from little up. However, we didn’t figure on a divine encounter—or love at first sight.

The moment this huge kitty filling the arms of the shelter volunteer locked eyes with me, we formed an instantaneous connection of kindred spirits. Two days later, my husband and I adopted the eight-year-old bundle of unending love. His name is Watson—but to me he is Pure Joy disguised as a 12.5 pound Norwegian Forest Cat.

Watson is the most loving cat we have ever been privileged to own. He loves to touch you with his mammoth paws, transferring grace and acceptance with a gentle squeeze of his eyes. He stretches out over two couch cushions to be near you or just climbs up in your lap and makes himself comfortable in your arms. His warm, luxuriant tabby fur is a delight to caress. At night he scrooches in close and presses his cheek to your cheek. Watson is simply purr-fect for us!

Isn’t that just like God? Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

We have our wants, but God meets our needs—and we are blessed beyond measure and happier than we could imagine. As Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, when we trust God’s loving kindness and infinite wisdom, He will care for us, and minister to us, in ways our limited insight and perceptions cannot even fathom. Though it may not be the road we would have chosen, He will direct our paths, and it will lead to what is best.

Watson is Dick’s and my gift to each other this Christmas. There is nothing I could have wanted more—and God knew that.

What’s on your Christmas list this year? May this season be filled with God’s greatest blessings.

Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Finding Jesus This Christmas


“I didn’t recognize you!” my niece remarked, after doing a double take.

That’s okay. I didn’t recognize her either, until I took a minute to really look at the young woman holding my great-nephew. I was wearing a short wig, and she, a blonde from birth, had died her hair brown. No wonder we didn’t recognize each other at first.

This Christmas season I’ve heard a lot of Christians grumbling about not hearing or seeing “Merry Christmas”, as though how others greet us, or what is or isn’t written on a paper coffee cup, determines whether Christ is recognized this Christmas.

The truth is that Christ is the whole reason for the celebration of the day. His name is the foundation of the word Christmas. But, do we recognize Him in the season? Are we slowing down and taking the time to really look for Him amidst all the busyness? Or do we give a cursory glance, like my niece and I exchanged recently, and end up missing Him? Are we depending on store clerks and coffee shops to point out Christ at Christmas?

My prayer is that we are seeking Him ourselves, like the magi that first Christmas who asked, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him." (Matthew 2:2)

Where can we find Jesus this Christmas?
            In sharing church services with friends and family
            In spending time alone with God and His Word
            In serving others as cooks, maids, waitresses, gift wrappers, babysitters, etc
            In entertaining ourselves with books and movies centered on Him
            In joining family devotions centered around an Advent wreath
            In choosing Christmas cards that reflect our beliefs about Christ
            In selecting gifts that speak of His love as well as ours
            In playing Christ-inspired music as we decorate, feast, and celebrate
           
On her blog, Kristen Welch offers 30 Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas, but I think Kristen's ideas will also help us recognize Christ this Christmas. Check them out!

Enjoy the season!

Blessings!
Pam
           
©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving in Chicago 2015
photo by Corey Wallin

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! We are spending the week in Chicago as a family! So thankful for each one of these precious loved ones and many more across the miles. God has been especially good to us this year, bringing us through some major challenges. His love, their love, your love, our love--make life rich and full. Many blessings to you all!

Love,
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cornucopias of Life


With the approach of Thanksgiving, it’s good to pause and reflect on our blessings. For me, “Thank you!” often seems so inadequate when it comes to expressing my overwhelming feelings of gratitude towards someone who has lovingly cared for me in a way that required effort on their part—

--Sent a well-chosen card of encouragement
--Brought a meal
--Patiently taught me a skill
--Took over a task I didn’t have time to do
--Connected me with needed professionals
--Drove me places
--Sat with me at the hospital

The list could go on and on and on.

The problem is, while saying “Thank you” seems like the least I could do sometimes I don’t even do that. I put it off and then forget, I don’t know how to put it into words or show my appreciation so it never gets said, and sometimes I am just so self-focused it completely slips my mind.

My lapse in showing appreciation is especially true when it comes to giving God thanks for what He has done, and continues to do, for me. So, I am taking a few moments to give God thanks for just a few of His blessings:

First and foremost for Jesus, who gave His all for me. You are my Savior, Companion, and Friend. I don’t know why you love me, but I am so grateful that you do! J

For a loving, devoted, husband, who is perfect for me—we are the truest of friends, lovers, and laborers together in God’s field. Thank you, Lord, for Dick Williams, my heaven-made soul mate.

For the gifts of family—immediate and extended—who stand by one another and show love, kindness, thoughtfulness, and commitment. Thank you, Father, for knitting my heart to theirs with the tightest stitches possible.

Again, I could go on and on—my dear friends, my perfect job at Hillside Farms, my writing that lets me pour out my soul through my fingertips, and so many more of God’s abundant blessings!

Our cornucopias of life overflow with the fruits of God’s blessings! Let’s take a moment to let Him and others know just how much we appreciate them!

With love,
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Life is Short

Slept eluded me early this morning, so I crept quietly down the stairs for a cup of tea. As I waited for the water to boil, I stood at the kitchen window, looking out at the quiet night.

Until a few weeks ago, a furry head would often bump against my shins and a fluffy tail would curl around my legs as Baxter padded softly into the kitchen to see what I was up to. I would pick him up and he would rest his head on my shoulder pulling me close with his front paws. We would share a few moments of quiet awe, peering out at a yard transformed by moonlight and shadows.

I miss him. I didn’t realize how much companionship he provided until he was gone. I thought we had at least several more years with Baxter.

Last week Dick’s cousin Garney lost her 50-year-old sister to cancer. This week her husband suffered a fatal heart attack. I can’t even begin to imagine the depth of grief she is experiencing, the vast loss she feels. How many times will Garney reach for the phone to call Jill and then remember she is gone? How often will she listen expectantly for Tom to come walking in the door and then realize he isn’t going to? Like all of us, Garney never dreamed her time with these loved ones would be cut so short.

Don’t we all think that way—like we have lots of time to enjoy our loved ones and show them that we care? But we never know, do we? So how do we show love every day—not just on special occasions or holidays? How do we let those dear to us know just how special they are? Here’s a dozen scriptural ways that we can practice love on a daily basis:

Photo by Pam Williams

 Don’t miss out on an opportunity to show love today.

Blessings!
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tennessee Tuxedo

Tennessee Tuxedo
photo by Pam Williams

Amid the sounds of the crickets and peepers, plaintive meows wafted in the windows on the warm summer breeze. Looking out, I watched a large, black cat serenade his way through our yard. With distinguished white markings on his chest and face, he looked like he was wearing elegant evening wear. I named him "Tennessee Tuxedo”, after an old, similarly “dressed”, cartoon character.

Arrogant and brawny, Tennessee patrolled the woods and farmland that bordered our home, challenging any other cats that happened across his territory. He slept wherever he grew tired and hunted when necessary.

Tennessee claimed no owner and none claimed him. Aloof and independent, he kept his distance, disappearing into the woods in a flash if he saw or heard people coming.

I began putting out tempting morsels in the hopes of befriending him. Eventually, he condescended to come up on our porch to eat—but only if we were inside the house with the door shut.

Tennessee would have preferred that we leave scraps at the edge of the yard. However raccoon, opossum and red fox inhabited the abandoned apple orchard bordering our property, and whoever got there first fiercely defended their right to the meal. After a while Tennessee began arriving early and would disappear into the trees just long enough for me to put out the food.

Over the years, I noticed telltale signs of combat—an ear with a ragged tear, a scratch across Tennessee’s nose, or a missing patch of fur. Though I wanted to take him for treatment, regretfully, he was too wary to even approach a trap.

As Tennessee aged, the old cat could be seen hunched up in the leaves about ten feet into the woods, paws tucked under and eyes closed. In winter, he spent time in an old shed on our property, so I put food and water there.

I enjoyed watching this eccentric character. Though he still kept his distance, I sensed he now knew someone cared for him. His casual, aloof attitude only thinly veiled a lonely, fearful old cat that had never trusted anyone.

One spring evening, Tennessee didn't show up at supper time. I wasn’t too concerned at first—he occasionally roamed away to parts unknown for a couple of days. He usually came back from these crusades with a few new scrapes and bruises. After a week, however, I asked around if anyone had seen him, but true to his illusive character, my lonely, stand-offish friend simply vanished.

A few weeks later a stray mother cat chose our shed to birth her kittens. In Tennessee’s former digs, nestled among a marmalade, a tortoise, and a calico, lay a miniature likeness of the black and white feline. The old fellow may have disappeared, but he had left a gift—a tiny tuxedo-ed legacy.

Blessings!
Pam

Excepted from Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Cat's Life, "King of the Wild", ©2012 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Baxter

Baxter
photo by Pam Williams

Baxter, our part Maine Coon cat, thought he was a dog. He played fetch, ran to the door when the doorbell rang, greeted everyone who came to visit, and knew when we were sick and hurting.

We were aware that he had a heart problem but we were still caught off guard early Saturday morning when Baxter passed away. He had blessed our lives for 11+ years.

Yet, even in the midst of our grief, we see God’s hand. This past summer, while I was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer and feeling really crappy, Baxter often lay down by my side to keep me company all night. I knew he was having health issues himself and I actually prayed God wouldn’t take him while I was so sick. I just couldn’t have faced that loss on top of everything else. My last treatment was eleven days before we lost Baxter.

With the increasing frequency of his “episodes”, we certainly would never allow Baxter to suffer, but neither did we want to have to make an end of life decision. We had to do that with two previous cats and with our dog. It is a horrible, guilt-ridden, agonizing, but often necessary step that no pet owner wants to take. I prayed that when it was time, Baxter would just go to sleep, and that is exactly what happened.

People wonder if God cares. I know that He does. God loves us, hears our prayers, and knows our limit—even when it comes to our much-loved pets.

We miss you already, Baxter.

With love,
Pam


 ©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Be An Encourager

photo by Pam Williams

It is a week to celebrate for Dick and me. I received my last chemotherapy treatment on October 13th! As usual, the week following treatment was mind-numbingly exhausting. BUT, I have turned the corner and am feeling on the upswing now! Dick and I are thanking God that the worst is over. Yes, I will still have several weeks of uncomfortable symptoms, but from here on out, every improvement is permanent—not just a temporary reprieve till the next treatment! What a sense of relief and deep-seated joy!

There have been times during the past 21 weeks I have felt utterly discouraged knowing that no matter how good I might be on a particular day, the next treatment would knock me back down. Several times I wondered if I had the strength to enter the ring and go another round. Inevitably, on those days I would receive an especially heart-felt card reassuring me that someone was praying and God was in control, not the cancer or the treatment.
                                        
A card seems a little thing—a few ounces of paper with a smattering of words—but they have been a mountain of encouragement for both Dick and me on this unwanted journey. We have gotten hand-crafted cards, beautiful photographs, loving notes, touching children’s drawings, moving verses, and carefully-chosen sentiments.

Ultimately, the cards we received have ministered in four ways: They showered us with love and encouragement; they prompted us to pray for the ones who sent the cards; they helped us realize how uplifting it is to see the words, we are praying for you, in print; and, they inspired us to send far more cards assuring others of our prayers.

It reminds me of the story in Exodus 17:8-15 of Moses and the battle with the Amalekites. During the conflict, Moses held the staff of God in his hands. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, Aaron and Hur took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset and the Amalekite army was defeated.

We all face that type of overwhelming battle from time to time. As one who has been there, I can tell you that KNOWING others are holding you up, standing in the gap for you, makes all the difference in how the battle is fought and won.

I urge you to take the time to jot a few words on a note card, slap on a stamp, and send someone who is hurting a little concrete reassurance that they don’t walk alone. No matter how devoted a Christian a person may be, everyone stands in need of a reminder that they are being upheld in the strong arms of faith.

Be an encourager!

Blessings!

Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Satisfied?


“Lord, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” (Psalm 90:14)

How many of us can say we are satisfied—that we are contented, well-pleased, our desires, expectations, needs, and demands fulfilled? Perhaps our lack of satisfaction comes from seeking fulfillment in places that it cannot be found—jobs, relationships, money, power, positions, achievements, material possessions and the like.

Psalm 90:14 asks God to satisfy us with His mercy. What does that mean? For me it is resting in His ability to love me even when I am most unlovable, believing in His forgiveness when I repeatedly fail, relying on His compassion when it is within His power to punish, trusting in His benevolence when I deserve His anger—unearned blessings from His hand.

I see myself as God’s child—albeit a wayward, ornery, disobedient one. Yet, in His mercy, He gathers me close, hugs away my resistance, wipes my tears, smoothes my worried brow, and whispers words of love and endearment in my ear. How can I do anything but burrow in closer to His chest and rest there in His arms, sighing in total contentment, and smiling with delight, despite what disarray, challenges, and terrors may be going on around the two of us?

As I re-read this verse the words “early” and “all our days” emphasized that the sooner I am satisfied in God’s mercy, the better. For that satisfaction will bring lifelong, deep-seated joy and gladness—gifts that all of us covert for ourselves and our loved ones.

Are you satisfied? There is fulfillment in God’s mercy. Why wait another minute?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Skate Key

Have you ever worn old-fashioned metal roller skates that strapped onto your shoes? I spent many happy hours winging my way along the sidewalks around our house and neighborhood.

These skates required a skate “key”. I remember stringing a piece of yarn through the long slit in the middle of the key so I could wear it around my neck while skating. The hexagonal loop on top was used to turn the bolt that adjusted the length of the skate and the other end fit on the pin that tightened the toe grips. This made it possible for siblings with different shoe sizes to share the same pair of skates.

 After rolling over cement sidewalks, with the rhythmic ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk of the wheels hitting the cracks, I often discovered the fittings had loosened with the repetitive jarring. If not taken care of, the parts of the skates would slip and slid or even fall off, causing twisted ankles, skinned knees and bruised palms. Having my key handy for adjustments assured a good, long and safe skate time.

As we skate along in life we often encounter bumps in the road. At times, it can feel like we are being as regularly bombarded as those unending cracks in the sidewalk that I skated over as a kid. Our life can feel like a series of ka-thunks that eventually rattle us to our core.

What serves as our “skate key” when that happens? Where do we turn to regain our strength, to help us adjust and hold us together? For me, it is God and His Word.
2 Timothy 3:16 informs us that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

When I think I can’t go on anymore without falling apart, God reminds me, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2). He urges me onward with the words of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”

When my faith is wobbling under pressure, I hear God’s still, small voice encouraging me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. (Hebrews 12:2).

When I am out of alignment, Isaiah 30:21 promises: “Your own ears will hear the Lord. Right behind you a voice will say, "This is the way you should go," whether to the right or to the left.”

I trusted my old skate key to keep my skates in good working order; and I can depend on God’s Word as I traverse the cracks and bumps of life.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cheerleaders

Photo by Pam Williams
“You can do it!”

“One. More. Time!”

“You got this!”

“You’re doing great!”

“Lookin’ good!”

With autumn come the sounds of cheering as football, soccer, cross country, field hockey, and other sports gear up. Yet, the comments I opened with weren’t heard at any sporting event—they have been said to me over the course of my chemotherapy treatments.

At some time or other we all need a cheerleader or two to encourage us as we face challenges in our lives. God has made sure I am surrounded by an extensive squad of enthusiastic individuals who are cheering me on. With five treatments down and one to go, He knows I have needed them—desperately.

There have been days—days of aches, odd pains, insomnia, nausea, startling glimpses in the mirror, weird tastes, itches, and mind-numbing fatigue—when I have said, “The heck with this.” “I can’t go another round.” “I want to quit.” But my Fearless Leader always sends a member of the squad to give me a pep talk—a friend, family member, Facebook acquaintance, co-worker, or fellow Christian,

I do have a favorite cheerleader—he’s the best and he is by my side as much as possible. Dick never makes me face an appointment alone. He listens patiently when I whine and grumble. He lets me cry on his shoulder. He puts his arms around me and tells me I am beautiful.

How could I possibly remain discouraged?

God’s Word says we are to encourage one another and build up one another. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Encouragement is the theme of my blog. Why? We live in a fallen, self-centered world where we face a myriad of challenges. We need an encouraging word, an uplifting prayer, a reassuring hug, an act of kindness—just so we can take the next step, and the next, and the next. One seemingly small and insignificant comment or action can make someone’s day and ultimately help them keep on keeping on. I know it works for me.

Who’s your favorite "cheerleader" in life?

Be encouraged!
Pam

 ©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Blessed Beyond Measure


It all started with the white of his eye. A few months ago I starting noticing I could see the white above my husband, Dick’s left iris. How odd, I thought. I mentioned it to him and he admitted that eye had been feeling especially dry. So we made an appointment with the eye doctor.

With Dick’s history of Grave’s disease, the thyroid seemed the logical culprit, so he was referred to both our family physician and to an eye specialist. After multiple referrals, Dick ended up at the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, who, upon looking at the results of a CAT scan, uttered, “Hmmm. . . Whoa! What IS that?”

Not the words a patient wants to hear as a specialist reviews test results.

Long story short, Dick had surgery this week for an unknown type of mass in his sinus that was pressing on his eye, causing it to bulge forward and not close properly. Thankfully, it turned out to be a somewhat large mucocele, a benign type of cyst, that was easily removed and the healing process begun.

Following on the heels of my cancer diagnosis and subsequent chemotherapy treatments, we are especially thankful for a wonderful prognosis and no anticipation of any further treatment needed. As before, our family and friends have covered us with an outpouring of love, prayer, and support. It is humbling and inspiring to be the recipients of such generosity and genuine caring, shown in tangible and intangible ways.

My freezer has never been so crammed with food, nor our card basket stuffed so full! But most of all, our hearts overflow with thankfulness to God for His mercy and healing, and for each and every person He has nudged our way with their warm hugs, their  encouraging words, their thoughtful gifts, and their fervent prayers. We are truly blessed beyond measure.

Blessings to you and yours!
Pam

 ©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Motivated by Love

Photo by Pam Williams

What comes to mind when you hear the word “evangelism”? Pushy people accosting you on the street? Guilt for not saying enough about Jesus? People swarming down the aisles at a huge rally? Or, loving friends sharing spiritual good news?

For the Apostle Paul, evangelism was exciting and invigorating. He loved passing along the Good News. Paul could have made lots of excuses for not preaching or sharing his faith. He had been mistreated, insulted, and opposed in numerous places. In Acts 16 it says Paul had been beaten, whipped and imprisoned.

Most of us have not dealt with physical resistance. However, we face other forms of resistance. I remember trying to talk with a family member who responded by arguing with me. Another demanded explanations for seeming inconsistencies in the Bible, while another simply waved my words away and walked off.

What enabled Paul to continue evangelizing despite opposition? I think it was his motivation—Paul loved the people he shared with. Paul compares himself to both a mother and a father caring for their children. How did he demonstrate that? He fed them spiritually by preaching; he was excited about their spiritual growth; he willingly shared his life with them; he lived an exemplary life before them; he encouraged them; he comforted them; and he urged them to walk with God.

Over the years God has brought many spiritual mothers and fathers into my life. Lucy Armel invited me into her home and encouraged me as a new mother to lean on God and the church. Bill and Peggy Williams accepted me just as I was and lived out their faith even in how they cooked a meal or carried on a conversation. Most of all, it has been Christians pouring out their selfless love on me—through cards, conversations, companionship—that has encouraged and comforted and called me to live for Jesus.

The key to evangelism is motive—we must love the person with whom we are sharing our faith. Whether our efforts are embraced or rejected, we will continue to share because we truly care.

Blessings!
Pam
©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Beach Button


Photo by Pam Williams
Buttons cover the tabletop in mounds. Searching for a replacement for one that was lost I hurriedly sweep my hand through the piles. A splash of aqua catches my eye. A typical round, flat button with two holes in the center, the small disc measures only a half inch across—ordinary in every way but one—its color.

With a feeling akin to homesickness, I reach over and pick up the button, holding it reverently in my hand. Almost translucent, the blue-green and eggshell pigment swirls across the surface. I notice a few grains of ecru. As I stare at the wave-like pattern, I am gradually transported back to my favorite vacation spot at the beach.

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

The soft, white sand massages my feet and the warm fingers of sunlight knead any tenseness from my shoulders. A gentle breeze cools my face and plays with the fine tendrils of my hair, tickling my neck. Tranquility floods my soul.

White puffy clouds in the distance hold no threat. Even rain showers are pleasant—warm droplets caress the skin one moment and are gone the next, lasting only long enough to water the myriad of beautiful flowers growing everywhere.

I lick my lips. Their salty, ocean-sprayed flavor simply adds to my thirst to take in as much as possible of the ambiance of this beautiful place. I inhale serenity with each breath of sea-scented air.

Gradually the memory fades. I clasp the button to my heart. Tilting my face upward, I whisper my heartfelt thanks to God for treasured moments re-lived by the glimpse of a mere button, memories especially sweet since chemotherapy is keeping me out of the sun this summer.

Do you have a button or some other object that unclasps a precious memory for you?


Blessings!
Pam

PS.:Four treatments down and two to go! I can see the finish line! Thank you for your prayers, and thank You, Jesus, for Your mercy!

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Growing Faith like Honeysuckle

photo by Pam Williams
I am so proud of myself! I transplanted a honeysuckle plant from my childhood neighbor’s yard and it has taken root and grown! Me, the one with no plant skills at all! Honeysuckle holds a special place in my heart because it reminds me so much of my Grandma Flasher. You can read all about hers in my post Honeysuckle: A Childhood Memory.

As I thought over what I had done to help my little honeysuckle plant to take root and grow, I realized that I faithfully cared for it in four ways:
  • I watered the plant so its roots would take hold.
  • I pulled out the weeds and grasses that encroached on the young plant.
  • I protected the honeysuckle from my husband’s overzealous weed whacking.
  • To lend it support, I gently entwined the tendrils around the decorative posts holding up our porch roof.

 Hmmm—I get the picture, Lord, This process sounds a lot like what I need in order for my faith to grow:
  • I must water my faith by immersing myself in God’s Word, digging down deep to grasp a better understanding and knowledge of God and what He expects of me.
  • I need to weed out those things in my life that hinder my faith by keeping me from spending time with God—checking Facebook or email too often, saying yes to unnecessary commitments, becoming a house-workaholic.
  • It is important for me to protect my faith from being cut down by those who disparage my beliefs or negatively influence my spiritual convictions. Though difficult, sometimes it requires severing the relationship.
  • I have to realize that other believers can help my faith grow. Weaving my life together with fellow members of my faith community in Sunday school classes, Bible studies, service projects, and fellowship groups provides me with a strong support system for my faith to grow.

 What spiritual lessons has God taught you through your plants?

The Lord will always lead you and satisfy your needs in dry lands.
He will give strength to your bones.
You will be like a garden that has plenty of water,
like a spring that never goes dry.
Isaiah 58:11

Blessings!
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Right to Life

Photo by Pam Williams

I hate bugs. They can ruin a good picnic, disturb my quiet time on the porch, creep me out when they scurry under the chair I am sitting on, and elicit high-pitched squeals when they drop onto me out of nowhere.

Why did God have to create them anyhow? I pondered this theological question while waving away gnats as I sat with a cup of tea on the back porch, trying to connect with God.

I had just read a meditation on the right to life. Do even pesky insects have a right to life? As I sat in contemplation I noticed a sparrow fluttering around following a moth. I love the subtle and stark variations in color of a bird’s feathers. Watching the antics of chickadees and nuthatches spreads a smile across my face. Listening to their chorus of praise in the early morning lifts my spirit. Birds bring me joy.

Suddenly the sparrow snatched up the moth and darted onto a tree branch to enjoy his fresh-caught meal--and I realized why there are bugs. Without bugs, there would be no birds. A world without birds would be less colorful, less musical, less fascinating—lessened in so many ways.

So maybe bugs do have a right to life.

It’s all a matter of balance. The bugs nourish the birds and the birds keep the bug population at an acceptable level. Everything living thing God creates has a purpose—even those whose purpose, like annoying bugs, can sometimes be a challenge to decipher.

Blessings!

Pam

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Attitude Adjustment


“I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!” Matthew 25:40

How many times have I heard or read those words--in sermons, in infomercials, in pamphlets? However, over the course of our 40 years of ministry, I admit my attitude has become a bit jaded and my heart quite hard because of those who, although they have no love for Christ, have taken blatant advantage of the tenderheartedness of Christians. I have heard a lot of “hard luck” stories—some genuine, but many a rouse. After working in a ministry where folks in need refused to allow even a listing of our service times to be inserted into their free bag of groceries, a bit of anger and a measure of frustration mixed with a huge quantity of guilt in my heart.

Recently, as our church hosted a group of homeless men, these confused feelings resurfaced. While praying for direction, God led me to Matthew 5:44-45: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

In Matthew 5, Jesus describes perfectly what my attitude and actions should be toward everyone. I definitely needed an adjustment and God led me right to His Word to initiate that change.

To further instill what He expected of me, God highlighted Proverbs 25: 21-22: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; If he is thirsty, give him water to drink. For in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head . . .”

But what does “heap coals of fire on his head” mean, Lord? I wondered. According to New Testament Greek scholar, Kenneth Samuel Wuest, heaping coals of fire on someone’s head was a great kindness, especially if the person had ill-treated you:

“In Bible times one needed to keep his hearth fire going all the time in order to insure fire for cooking and warmth. If it went out, he had to go to a neighbor for some live coals of fire. These he would carry on his head in a container back to his home. The person who would give him some live coals would be meeting his desperate need and showing him an outstanding kindness. If he would heap the container with coals, the man would be sure of getting some home still burning.”

God asks us to shower everyone with kindness, just as He does. This journey through Scripture cleared up my confused feelings and pointed me to the right path in dealing with those who come to us in need. Thanks for the attitude adjustment, Lord!

Blessings!
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ranting


I would much rather read a rave than a rant. I love the posts and re-posts on social media about people doing good deeds for others or for animals. I thoroughly enjoy reading all the great things happening to my friends and family and vicariously sharing in the blessings God has brought into their lives.

It’s the rants, and re-posts of rants containing profanity that I find offensive—especially when posted by friends and family who consider themselves Christians! I understand the need to let off steam, but there are enough expressive words to cover our thoughts and feelings WITHOUT using language which is obscene, profane, or vulgar. Ephesians 5:4 says such talk is not fitting for God’s people.

Sometimes the person who re-posts hasn’t read the post entirely or noticed the source of the original post. I know this for a fact because I have asked close friends, church youth members, and family if they noticed there were offensive words in what they posted—and they hadn’t.

I realize people hear this kind of language all day every day. Even kids on school buses hear it from their fellow passengers. But that doesn’t make it acceptable for those of us who identify ourselves as followers of Jesus. We are called to a higher standard!

But what does it really hurt?” you might ask. Dr. Roger Barrier, pastor and columnist on Crosswalk.com summed it up well, “The Bible makes it very clear that we should clean up our speech. Why? Because Jesus teaches that unclean words come from a dirty heart. Our light to the world is extinguished and no one sees Jesus in us (Matthew 15:10-12).”

Yes, I know. I am ranting. But social media can be such a great platform for sharing our faith, why do we want to sully our witness with offensive language? There are so many programs like PicMonkey.com, Paint, and MS Picture Manager that we can use to manipulate, crop, adjust lighting, and erase what we don’t want to include. With a little editing we can borrow (with permission, of course) what others post to express ourselves in a tasteful and godly way.

Let's allow our light to shine on the avenue of social media untarnished.

Blessings!
Pam

P.S. I had my third chemotherapy treatment on August 11th. I survived! Should I be wearing "MR YUK" stickers? LOL! Halfway through now! Thanks for your continued prayers--I am leaning on them!
©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

SHOUT!!!

Photobucket.com

Shout triumphantly to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy! Know that the LORD is God— he made us; we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his own pasture. Enter his gates with thanks; enter his courtyards with praise! Thank him! Bless his name! Because the LORD is good, his loyal love lasts forever; his faithfulness lasts generation after generation. ~ Psalm 100

Have you tried shouting to the LORD? Shouting is not something I do very often, no matter what the circumstance. I’m just naturally not a “shouter”. But the first two verses of Psalm 100 say, “Shout!”

In one translation of the Bible, I found 25 verses that tell us to “shout” to the LORD. Yet, I have rarely complied.

Occasionally in a church service a song leader will encourage us to shout a phrase from a hymn or song. When Dick and I attended the Jesus festivals there were times when we shouted praise. It felt natural! I mean, how could I NOT shout with praise in the midst of so many believers joining as with one voice?

Oh, yes, there are many other avenues of offering praise to the LORD--music, dance, art, testimony, prayer, writing, etc. But, not wanting to be disobedient, I decided to try shouting to the LORD. Admittedly, it felt weird—and yet good, obedient, and freeing! After all, I have many reasons to shout praise to the LORD!
  • For a loving, caring, kind, unselfish husband who constantly keeps my well-being at the forefront of his thoughts, words, and actions
  • For only minor side effects from the potent drugs being pumped into my body at three week intervals
  • For the encouraging words penned on dozens of cards, notes, Facebook posts, and blog comments from friends and family
  • For the powerful, loving prayers of hundreds of people around the world
  • For family both near and far who have assured me over and over of their love, concern, prayers, and support
For these, and so many more blessings God has poured into my life, I can shout, “THANK YOU, FATHER!!! YOU ARE SO GOOD TO ME, LORD!!! YOU ARE AWESOME, GOD!!!”

What praises are you shouting to the LORD today?

Blessings!
Pam

©2015 Pamela D. Williams