Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Worry or Concern?

How am I really feeling? Lighthearted? Heavy-hearted?
I may be very much at peace, happy.
Equally, I may be frustrated, worried or angry.
I acknowledge how I really am.
It is the real me that the Lord loves. (from

How AM I really feeling? A few situations near and dear to my heart immediately pop into my mind. As I examine these feelings I wonder, Am I concerned or am I worried?

Is there a difference? To me, concern is a healthy interest in an actual matter of importance. On the other hand, worry is an unhealthy anxiety over a matter that is merely a potential.

When I am concerned about a situation, I am able to see the facts involved and admit there is a problem that needs remedied. Though the situation may cause me hurt, fear, or anger, I am able to pray about it, do what I sense God calling me to do, and then I can let go of what I am powerless to change. There is nothing wrong with having concerns—we all have them. There is no sin in admitting that problems weigh on our minds and hearts.

However, when I am worried, my assessment of the situation is distorted. I make a mountain out of a mole hill. I feel desperate and frustrated, and though I try to pray, my mind just keeps repeating the what ifs, like a scratch in a phonographrecord above, causing the needle to skip back to the same groove and play it over and over. I feel paralyzed by fear and can’t seem to release the situation into God’s hands.

Can anybody here relate? So how do we move from worry to concern? What does God’s Word advise? offers 15 Bible Verses About Worry and Anxiety where we can find comfort and peace by meditating on God’s Word and casting our cares upon Jesus! Here are just a few of my favorites:

  • “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
  • “Cast all your anxieties on Him for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
  • “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid for You are with me. Psalm 23:4

An eye-opener for me was realizing that most worry is a failure to genuinely trust in God’s love for me. David Peach in his article, “How to Stop Worrying: 7 Tips for Christians”, says, “Worrying sends a message to ourselves and those around us that we are helpless and have nowhere to turn.”

That, quite simply, is not true!

We are not without help; As Christians we have Someone to turn to!

The Bible clearly teaches that Christians are not to worry. We can move from worry to concern by taking Philippians 4:6 to heart, “Do not be anxious [do not worry] about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Ready to move from worry to concern?

Be encouraged!

©2016 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Don't Be Afraid of Pruning

photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens

“Don’t be afraid to prune these back to where you see new growth. They’ll come back better than ever,” Diane, the greenhouse supervisor told me. Although I know next to nothing about plants, I volunteered to help out in the greenhouse at The Lands at Hillside Farm, (where I regularly work in the Mercantile). Hence, my recent posts connected to gardening. J

I figured maybe I would learn something by volunteering—and I was right. I am learning plenty—though not all of it is about plants.

For the last few weeks I have been taking each of the perennials we sell at Hillside and pruning off dead leaves, stems, twigs, and drooping blossoms. Some only required a snip here and a pinch there to bring them back to optimum growing conditions. Others needed pruned back almost level with the soil before I found evidence of healthy growth. Several had over-extended themselves, necessitating a cut back so the plant could build stronger roots and stems for support. A few were dried up and wilted, spent for the season.

As I worked I realized that spiritually, I am like those plants. Sometimes I try to juggle too many things, over-extending myself, and nothing that I do receives my best. And other times, avenues that I have previously found helpful have become dead ends and now leave my spirit dry and thirsty.

These circumstances require pruning—like backing off from busyness, for even those things that appear to be spiritual in nature can become draining when I am doing, doing, doing; or curtailing activities that take me nowhere spiritually, such as over-used devotional routines or prayer practices that no longer provide a meaningful connection to Jesus.

How do we go about this kind of spiritual pruning? We let God do it during quiet times with Him. Joe Paprocki in 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness says, “Practice an extended period of private prayer, reflection, meditation, pondering, percolating—whatever you want to call it. But do something on a regular basis to engage in a conscious dialogue with your inner self and with God. If every waking moment is crowded with input and stimulation, your soul’s voice is being drowned out. You’ll eventually begin to experience spiritual numbness . . . a blasé feeling. Without prayer, you run the risk of avoiding issues that may lead you to self-destructive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Like dead-heading flowers or trimming spent branches, let’s cut back to where spiritual growth happens. Don’t be afraid! With the Master Gardener doing the pruning we’ll come back better than ever!

Jesus said, “[God] cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”—John 15:2

Be encouraged!

©2016 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tending the Garden

photo by Pam Williams

As I spun the tall rack holding packet after packet of flower seeds, I suddenly spotted the one I wanted—Four O’clocks. The picture on the front of the package showed blooms in a variety of pastel colors covering tall willowy stalks. I couldn’t wait to plant them.

I carefully weeded and sifted the rocks from the area where I wanted the flowers to grow. When the soil was prepared I dug a little trench and put in the seeds. I watered them faithfully, and after about two weeks the seeds germinated and tiny plants appeared. Around mid-summer colorful trumpet-shaped blooms popped open around 4:00, just like their name indicates, although for some reason, mine bloomed at 4:00 AM and closed up by 4:00 PM).

After a few weeks of blooms, I noticed small green pods holding plump, bomb-shaped black seeds eager to roll out of their little nests. I didn’t know that Four O’clocks yielded such an abundant harvest of seeds for planting next year. Every day I go out and gather them up. You can see how many I have collected so far. I sowed just a handful of seeds at the beginning of the season, but have reaped many times that over the past weeks.

Recently I was reading the parable Jesus told about the sower in Mark 4. Verse eight says, “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times."

What constitutes “good soil”? What elements are necessary for plants to flower or bear fruit? According to, seeds need proper placement (meaning the light, nutrition, and drainage are optimum), pollination, pruning and patience. Naturally, I thought of the Four O’clock seeds. They definitely love the light and the soil content where they are planted. I have watered them thoroughly when rain was scarce. thinned out the plants when they first came up, kept their space weeded, and plucked off the spent blooms. I am so pleased with the return for my efforts—the profusion of beautiful flowers and the copious amount of seeds I am collecting.

As the story and my experience with the Four O’clocks intertwined in my thoughts, I began to see the
correlation. My spiritual harvest is dependent on conditions that are very similar to those of my Four O’clocks.  My spiritual growth requires the light and nutrition of God’s Word daily. Prayer will help me to examine my soul and weed out those influences that choke Jesus out and prune those habits and thought patterns that are inconsistent with His teachings. For my spiritual life to blossom and bloom, I must tend the garden of my soul in much the same way that I tend my flower garden. When I do, others will be attracted to Jesus, like the bees and butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to my Four O’clocks. And the harvest will be more followers of Jesus!

Hmmm. I think my spiritual garden could use a little more attention. How about yours?

Be encouraged!

©2016 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

As the Seasons Change

Photo by Pam Williams

Acts 17:26b-27 “God has given us the seasons of the year and the boundaries within which to live. God has done this so that we would look for him, somehow reach for him, and find him. In fact, he is never far from any one of us.”

The days are getting shorter. The seasons are changing. Summer is coming to an end. In less than two weeks it will officially be Autumn. Each season offers its own beauty, revealing the awesome imagination of God.

Why did God bother to make the world so interesting and thought-provoking? Acts 17 offers us the answer: “God has done this so that we would look for him, somehow reach for him, and find him.”

God wants us to seek him and to find him. He makes his presence known in obvious ways as the seasons change so that we have don’t have to look very far in order to see his workmanship and to recognize whose creation we are observing.

For me, Autumn shows many signs of God’s presence:
  • Who, other than God, tells the birds to gather into flocks for a long journey? Who beckons them south, where food is more plentiful and temperatures more moderate?
  • Who, other than God, bids the plants to drop their seeds before the ground freezes so that they can be buried in the soil over the winter, ready to sprout in the spring?
  • Who, other than God, causes the birds and animals to shed their bright, summer coats for warmer, subtler shades that offer protection not only from cold, but from predators?
  • Who, other than God, offers all of creation the time to wind down, to slow production, in preparation for a few months of much-needed dormancy and recovery?
  • Who, other than God, could create such beautiful colors and fragrances and sounds—the myriad of changing leaves, the delicious smell of ripe grapes and crisp apples, the crunch of pine needles and dried leaves underfoot?

 God is here. Let’s not miss the evidence of his presence.

How do you see God in the changes from Summer to Autumn?

Be encouraged!

©2016 Pamela D. Williams