Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Welcoming 2016
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,, 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?


©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
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!

©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?


 ©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.


©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!

©2015 Pamela D. Williams