Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Here and Now

photo from Shutterstock

In the next six months, Dick and I will both celebrate a major milestone in life—turning 65! Lately, our conversations center around both the future and the past. Words like retirement and remember, Medicare and Minister’s Life (an insurance company we once were under that covered medical costs 100%!!!), prepare and previously, until and used-to-be, intertwine.

On SacredSpace.ie I recently read an excerpt from Jesuits Telling Jokes by Nikolaas Sintobin, SJ that seems divinely apropos to Dick’s and my current lines of thinking. Here are my excerpts from their excerpt. :D

“Toward the end of his life, St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote that the thought of his own death, when he would be reunited with his Creator and Lord, brought him such intense joy it made him ‘melt into tears.’ At the same time, Ignatius was in love with life. He could find God in all things and serve him in every activity and event. There was no need to wait until after death to taste the joy of God’s presence.

St. Ignatius of Loyola warned against two possible pitfalls in one’s spiritual life: nostalgia for the past and needless dreaming about the future.

Reflecting back on specific moments of God’s presence—moments when we experienced peace and joy, vitality and trust, gives us the opportunity to adapt our lives now so that they’re more closely linked to the ways God has previously drawn us. But we can also get stuck in our own past and end up watching the same “film” over and over, effectively withdrawing from the only time that really exists — the present.

Likewise, Ignatius warned that we must not to let the future distract us from the great challenge that every person faces of living fully in the present moment, in the now. [While it is good to plan for and envision upcoming years,] we can be tempted to spend needless time day-dreaming [perhaps worrying] about a not-yet-existing future at the expense of real life.” We can miss the presence of God abundant today.

By seeking and finding God in all things, in each moment, we can consider our lives here and now as the precise place where we can already experience the fullness of God’s love—no need to cling to the past or wait for the future.  After all, “This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Psalm 118:24

Lord, thank you for your sustaining presence in the past and for the promise of your constant companionship in the future. May I concentrate on fully recognizing you in today, and draw in all the goodness and love you offer in the present. Through Jesus our Lord, Amen.

May you, like me, be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Basking in Love

Watson
photo by Pam Williams

The Lord will take delight in you,
and in His love He will give you new life.
He will sing and be joyful over you.
Zephaniah 3:17b

As I sat with my tea and Bible, our cat Watson climbed up on my lap. He laid his paws on my arm, and butted his head under my chin. Hugging him close, I rubbed his furry forehead, murmuring my love. He purred his contentment. Snuggling in closer, he maneuvered himself so I could love on him more. It was a mutually delightful time.

As I pondered these precious moments, God whispered a thunderbolt of truth: That’s just a tiny measure of how much I love you, how much I want to be with you, how much I want to hold and treasure you.

What an awesome experience is ours for the taking! When we set aside the time to snuggle into God’s presence and lean into His love, we nurture a close relationship with the God of the Universe. Sacrificing a few moments of sleep, postponing a must-do task, and putting aside pesky distractions, we can close our eyes, take a few centering breaths, and allow our souls to connect with our Heavenly Father. We can open the Bible and bask in God’s whispers of love. And to think, God enjoys these moments even more than we do!

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for wanting to be close to me. Help me to take the time today to draw near to You. Amen.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Downsizing

photo courtesy of BostonGlobe.com

Downsizing sixty years of accumulated “stuff” is challenging. This past week my siblings and I helped our mom move from seven + rooms in the home where she has lived since 1959 to a three-room apartment. It was the right decision, but it wasn’t easy.

While pictures, knick-knacks, kitchenware, and fabric appear on the surface to just be “stuff”, the memories associated with these material items evoke strong emotions just by handling them. Needless to say, sorting through it all is exhausting on more than just a physical level.

How do you leave behind the old glass bottles you and your sister had so much fun digging up from abandoned dumps forty years ago? Which of four water pitchers, each one with an interesting story, do you choose to keep? Where do you put all those holiday decorations, most of which were fashioned by children and grandchildren, when storage space is at a premium?

Through it all, my mom has been a trooper. She has made the tough decisions, sometimes with her hands on her hips in opposition to a roomful of family with other ideas. She has moved what she considers essential and maximized the limited space available in her new digs. I am very proud of her. She has juggled her options and done it all without alienating anyone—and without a trip to the ER. 😊

I hope when I am her age and faced with radical changes I will show the same courage, wisdom, fortitude, and grace. Your prayers for my mom as she continues to adjust, are greatly appreciated.

photo by Pam Williams


Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Welcome!

Image from Shutterstock.com

Imagine if the Queen of England knocked at your front door. . . Or, Gibbs, I mean, Mark Harmon, rang your doorbell. . . Or, James Dobson rapped on your sliding glass doors. How would you feel if someone you long-admired—a famous, influential, and time-honored person—came to see YOU? How would you act? What would you say?

I think I would be speechless initially, then blubbery, falling all over myself in my efforts to invite the person in. I would do my very best to make them feel welcome—assuring that they had a comfy seat, some refreshments, and my full attention. I would hang on every word and feel incredibly honored to just sit and chat with them. I would want to pinch myself to make sure I was awake and that these moments were real. Most certainly, you would find me texting or calling others to let them know who was sitting in my family room!!!

So far, that hasn’t happened to me—no one like that has knocked on my door. How about you?

But, wait a minute. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”

The God of the Universe, the Lord of all, has done that very thing—He has “Knock, Knock-ed” on the door of my heart; He has rung the doorbell of my life; Jesus has rapped on the window of my soul! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, wants me to get to know Him personally, to enjoy time with Him, to laugh and cry and be honest.

But do I greet Jesus with the same honor and respect that I would Queen Elizabeth? Am I as excited and thrilled to have Him in my home as I would be to welcome Mark Harmon? Am I hanging on His every word, like I would if I could ask James Dobson a few questions in the privacy of my home?

I don’t think I have fully realized what a wonderful privilege it is that the Lord of all creation waits at the door, asking to spend time with me. Yes, I have invited Him in, but sometimes, while my body may be in a position of prayer, my mind is 1000 miles away. Other times I don’t let Jesus get a word in edgewise—I talk to Him like I am leaving a message on voice mail! I wouldn’t dream of treating one of my special guests that way! And Jesus is far more special a guest!

It’s time I offer Him the deference, the reverence, the attentiveness that is due Him. My prayer is that I will not only call out, “Come on in!” but will treasure my time with Him, fully aware of Whose presence I am in.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

An Even Place


“My foot stands in an even place . . .” Psalm 26:12

“Watch those roots,” Dick cautioned.

“Be careful! These rocks are slippery,” I yelped, flailing my arms to regain my balance.

“Look out for the loose shale,” Dick warned, grabbing onto a tree to stop his too-rapid descent.

Dick and I had seen the sign at the trailhead but never dreamed the ENTIRE path would be so difficult! After all, the sign said, “Sections of this trail are steep and rugged.” I would call that an understatement.

Every little bit we stopped to catch our breath, looked for the next trail marker, and wondered if the ground would EVER level off and smooth out. We finally reached the top, only to discover the pathway immediately began a descent that was as every bit as “steep and rugged” as the climb! Looking back I could really relate to David’s joy at finding he was standing in and “even place”! (Psalm 26:12)

We all face times in our lives that seem to be “uphill both ways”, as my Dad jokingly used to put it. We overcome one challenge and another obstacle crops up in our path—a health problem is resolved only to be replaced by conflict at work; the car goes on the fritz just as the final payment is made; a rebellious child comes to her senses (Praise God!) and an elderly parent becomes unwisely stubborn about accepting help. (Lord, have mercy!) We wonder if life will ever level off or smooth out.

I am not sure what trials David was currently facing when he wrote Psalm 26, but he resolutely declares that his “foot” stands firm, on level ground. When we walk through life’s “gnarled roots”, “slippery rocks”, and “loose stones” without Jesus, we will undoubtedly stumble and fall.

Thankfully, Jesus leads the way and offers us a helping hand to hang on to. David’s words reveal the state of mind that should characterize each of us who claims to be a follower of Jesus—the humble, yet confident assurance that our feet WILL stand in an even place.

Be encouraged!
Pam

 ©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Homecoming


Sometimes, you CAN go home again!

Dick was invited to speak at the annual Homecoming services at Ohio United Methodist Church in Morgan Run, PA. He served as pastor there from 1985-1990—five of the very best years we have spent in ministry. It touched our hearts when we walked through those double glass doors and were greeted by old friends with huge smiles and open arms. What a wonderful blessing and privilege to share in the celebration of what God has been doing in the lives of the faithful at Ohio UMC!

How home-like it felt to sit in the same pew I sat in nearly every Sunday; how much like family it seemed as we chatted with friends at a picnic lunch that followed. It was as though the 27 years since we moved away never existed!

The church building itself is well-kept but evidence is all around that it is “lived in”, not for display. Pictures of this year’s VBS, containers for donations to the Soap Pantry, sign-up sheets for upcoming events speak of continuing ministry. More importantly, the people testify to their ongoing faith and hope in Jesus.

At 89 the song-leader, Jack Woods is as vibrant, energetic, and Spirit-filled today as he was back in the late 80’s! I kid you not!!! Jack shares the gospel every bit as much as the preacher, offering spiritual challenges throughout the service and giving testimony of what God has and is doing—as well as what He will do for anyone who turns their life over to Him. His enthusiasm is contagious and reviving. I count it a privilege to worship with him—he truly ushers us into the presence of Jesus, dancing along the way.

After the morning service, we trooped down to Fosters. Joy Foster is the quintessential hostess, opening her arms and her home to anyone and everyone. We have so many fond memories of hours spent in their two-car garage (where I have never seen a car parked), eating big, golden-brown homemade rolls, hot from the oven or one of Joy’s many artfully-decorated cakes, while sharing funny stories about one another. The tables were always loaded with delicious dishes like fresh corn cut from the cob and tender baked ham. The conversations were good-natured and sprinkled liberally with laughter as we reminisced about old times and swapped opinions on current happenings.

We gathered back at the church for evening services where good friends of ours, Grace and JoAnn, formerly known as The Baughman sisters, livened things up. Grace and JoAnn have played and sang in venues all over the state—Joann plays the piano and the two of them blend their voices in harmonies that bring tears to your eyes. Remarkably, neither of them read music! Even more remarkable, JoAnn has been totally blind since the age of eight! Dick and I were so excited when we learned they would be singing at Homecoming! It was every bit the blessing we expected—and Dick got to bang out some duets with JoAnn following the benediction. (By the way, he doesn’t read music either!) 😊

Dick and I thank God for the happiness and warmth we felt at Homecoming—a time of coming Home in the spiritual sense of the word, renewing not just friendships, but also our faith. Homecoming assured us that God is still at work, still using His faithful servants, still spreading His love, still sharing His offer of salvation.

Life just doesn’t get any better than a Homecoming like this—except for that Great Homecoming with Jesus that we are all invited to!

Jesus said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19

Be encouraged!

Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Transfigure-Transform


Our grandson, Kodey, spent last week in a place of both transfiguration and transformation.

“Camp was soooo much fun and really opened my eyes to God even more! I watched people be healed all throughout the week and people be changed and their hearts be changed. It was an experience that was unlike any other. 😁 God is so very good! I prayed for this one guy who was kneeling and crying at the pews. The next day my friends and I saw this man and he not only was changed himself but was helping others change, too! 😧 It was a mind-blowing experience. Very cool! God can change lives in a heartbeat! 😁 I watched so many people grow even more in Christ, including myself, all throughout the week!” ~ Kodey

Kodey’s experience reminded me of Matthew 17:1-9, which tells us about a time when Peter and John and James went with Jesus up a mountain. During their time there, God shared several truths about Jesus. He let these three, and now us, know that Jesus is His Son and we are to listen to Him—powerful truths, to say the least. That place is often referred to as the Mount of Transfiguration.

According to Entangledstates.org, “Transfiguration does not mean the same thing as the word Transformation. Transformation implies a remaking of the nature of a person. Transfiguration implies a revelation of the true nature of a person.”

The transfiguration of Jesus, the revelation of more of his true nature, transformed those three disciples. For my grandson, Kodey, church camp was a “mount of transfiguration” that brought about transformation. Jesus revealed more of His true nature to the youth who attended; and those who were listening were transformed. Kodey’s excitement and enthusiasm about Jesus were evident even in his texts! His closing words say it all:

“I'm so very thankful and glad I got the opportunity to go to camp! 😁 And I want to go every year till I can't anymore! 😂”

Doesn’t his witness make you hunger to know Jesus better? To be ever changing into the person He desires you to be? When was the last time you experienced a transfiguration of Jesus that transformed your life? I would love to hear about it!

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
Romans 12:2

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sauntering

Innisfree Gardens, Millbrook, NY

“The word saunter evokes a sense of holy ground, where a pilgrim might linger and reflect on the wonder of life. [Sauntering allows us] to read the map of this world’s holy ground, taking off our shoes as we tread its sacred pathways through the ordinariness of every day. All ground reveals its holiness, if we walk upon it with gentleness and mindfulness. God is in every particle.” ~ Excerpted from Compass Points by Margaret Silf

Innisfree Garden, Millbrook, NY

This summer Dick and I have been taking a day a week to do some “sauntering”. Like everyone else, we get caught up in the day to day hustle and bustle of life. We hurry to and from the duties of our jobs, grab the quickest meals possible, and rush off to other obligations.

Cape May, NJ

It’s easy to miss God’s handiwork when we are scurrying here and there. We overlook the awesomeness of what, at first, appears commonplace. When we take the time to breathe deeply, to stare in wonder, and to quietly contemplate, we find rest, peace, and a renewed hope—in short, we find God.
 
Cape May, NJ

Included are just a few pics from our “sauntering”. I urge you to take the time to meander through life, at least once in a while. It will revive your soul.

St. Cyril and Methodius Basilica, Danville, PA

Be encouraged!
Pam

St. Cyril and Methodius Basilica, Danville, PA

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Little Child Shall Lead Them


Dylan: Daddy, you don't have to worry about getting sick anymore.
Jason (who recently had a kidney transplant): Why's that?
Dylan: Because I prayed to God in the prayer box at Vacation Bible School that you wouldn't get sick anymore.
Jason: 😢

Pastor (during praise time): What have you seen God doing this week?
Jalen: My mom and my Mark got married! (hugs “his” Mark)

Vacation Bible School—a phrase that sends shivers down the spines of children’s ministry directors and causes church school janitors to stock up on cleaning supplies—has been an awesome blessing at our church this week. For dad’s like Jason and Mark, and those of us privileged to be helping out this week, the words of Matthew 21:15-16 come to mind:

So [the chief priests and teachers of the Law] asked Jesus, “Do you hear what [the children] are saying?”

“Indeed! I do,” answered Jesus. “Haven't you ever read this scripture? ‘You have trained children and babies to offer perfect praise.’?”

Our theme for VBS is God’s Heroes. For me, children like Dylan and Jalen are heroes of the faith. Such complete trust in God, that reaches the depth of their souls, empowering and strengthening them, is enviable and inspiring. Shall we join the children in giving praise to God for all that He is doing?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Look Up

Worlds End State Park and Loyalsock Creek
Sullivan County, Pennsylvania

“I guess God put me on my back so I would look up,” Mabel Fleck told my husband when he visited her in the hospital, way back in the early 90’s.

The direction we are looking says a lot about how we are feeling. When we are ashamed, we look guiltily down at our feet. When we are frightened, we open our eyes wide and glance quickly around us. When we are discouraged, we find ourselves staring unfocused at nothing in particular. When sadness overwhelms us, we squeeze our eyes shut in an effort to block out the pain and our grief leaks out as tears. When we are angry, our eyes narrow to slits and shoot fire.

God’s Word says that there is a place and a person where, and upon whom, our eyes should be focused: “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning, I will direct it to You, and I will look up.” (Psalm 5:3).

“I will look up.”

When faced with a scary procedure, a disheartening situation, a scenario that breaks our hearts, or an ire-filled confrontation, it’s easy to look everywhere but up. We seek something, anything, to focus upon that will re-direct our attention from negative circumstances, forgetting our One Source of true hope—Jesus.

Psalm 121 reminds us upon Whom we are to focus:

I look to the mountains;
    where will my help come from?
My help will come from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
He will not let you fall;
    your protector is always awake.
The protector of Israel
    never dozes or sleeps.
The Lord will guard you;
    he is by your side to protect you.
The sun will not hurt you during the day,
    nor the moon during the night.
The Lord will protect you from all danger;
    he will keep you safe.
He will protect you as you come and go
    now and forever.

Lord, whether we, like Mabel, are flat on our backs in the hospital or are climbing another kind of “Mt. Everest” in our lives, help us to “look up”, keeping our focus on You, our comforter, guide, and redeemer. Amen.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Patches and Wineskins



Recently my husband Dick, who is a pastor, comforted a grieving family and performed a joyous wedding ceremony, all within less than three hours. The pendulum of emotions swung a wide arc that evening.

For all of us, life is constantly changing. One madly-in-love couple marries while two estranged individuals divorce. An anxiously awaited child is born and a beloved husband passes into the arms of Jesus. Retirement looms in the near future for one who has served faithfully in the same profession his whole life; at the same time, a well-educated man finds himself job-hunting once again due to company down-sizing. A widow moves to a smaller, income-based apartment, while a young family purchases a house large enough to accommodate their dreams. Children and grandchildren grow from infancy to adulthood and our role as parents change right along with the changes occurring within them.

Several of these changes are occurring right now for Dick and I, and for those we hold most dear. At times, I have tried to dig my heels in and resist the inevitable changes. All I have accomplished is further fraying of already taunt emotions and situations. God reminded me of what Jesus taught in Matthew 9:16-17:

“No one patches an old coat with a new piece of cloth that will shrink. When the patch shrinks, it will rip away from the coat, and the tear will become worse. Nor do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, people pour new wine into fresh skins, and both are saved.”

In the face of changes, we must be wise and discerning—knowing when to adhere to the old ways and when it is best to embrace the fresh, new opportunities God is allowing in our lives.

Will exercising wisdom and discernment make these kinds of life changes painless and effortless? Not likely. However, stubborn insistence on our way and resistance to what God has planned only causes damage and ruin.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven . . .”

What “old patches” or “new wineskins” has God brought to your life recently?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Need Supplied



Since March 15, 2011, the outbreak of their country’s civil war, Syrian children and families have borne the brunt of the conflict’s disastrous consequences. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and more than half of the population — 11 million people — have been displaced from their homes.

Five million Syrians have fled to other countries as refugees and more than 6 million have been displaced within the country. Amazingly, six of the 5,000,000 found their way to our little mountain town and now live in a home recently purchased by our church.

While the children are quickly picking up English through their interactions with classmates at school and in sports, Mom and Dad find communication in English very challenging. We smile and nod a lot to each other and depend on the children to act as interpreters.

What is even more amazing is that my husband spent eight hours a day for an entire year learning Arabic—47 years ago. In 1970, he entered the United States Air Force with the intention of becoming a chaplain’s assistant. However, a clerical “error” prevented that from happening, and, instead, he studied to become an Arabic Linguist.

He hasn’t spoken or heard Arabic in a conversation for 45 years and yet, words are coming back to him as he interacts with this family. His pronunciation of some of the words causes quite a few chuckles, but his efforts are greatly appreciated. Who would have known Dick would need that knowledge so many years later? God knew.

Some might say, “Wow! What a coincidence.” No, coincidence has nothing to do with it. God, in His infinite wisdom, used that “clerical error” to set the whole thing in motion nearly 50 years ago! Don’t you agree, that deserves an awe-filled “Wow!”?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Our Plans vs God's Plans



Our plans aren’t always God’s plans. As I shared last week, our plans were to visit our son and his family who live near the beach. We wanted to enjoy the sunshine and sand. However, we found out those weren’t God’s plans.

We packed lots of snacks and drinks and started our six-and-a-half-hour journey immediately following Sunday services. After eight and a half hours, that included 90 minutes of creeping along at a snail’s pace, we finally arrived, too late to have supper together, but not too late for long hugs, lots of smiles, and a little catching up.

Overnight, unbeknownst to us, a bit of strong wind blew in and a large branch fell in the Seth's yard. Since the weather was iffy anyhow, rather than go to the beach after lunch, Dick and Seth planned to cut up the debris from the tree and stack it for disposal.

Late that morning, Seth had an uneasy stomach so his dad headed out to get started on the yard by himself. As Seth stood near the stairway rails, I turned to ask him a question and saw him slowly slide down the wall. He had passed out! Thankfully he was at the bottom of the stairs, not the top, and by God’s loving plans, we were right there when it happened. Otherwise, he would have been home alone. God knew—and God provided.

Seth realized afterward that he had taken his blood pressure medicine without eating breakfast and may even have taken it twice, since he had been awakened very early that morning by a message from work that needed his immediate attention.

Along with many other locales, Virginia Beach has been pelted with rain, rain, and more rain. Unfortunately, our time there was no exception, so we came home a day early—which turned out to be another blessing of good timing! Dick was able to make two hospital visits that just happened to be on the way from VB to Trucksville!

Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” While our vacation wasn’t what we planned, it was exactly what God planned—and THAT is always better!

Blessings!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Souvenirs


Ah, vacation . . . (contented sigh) . . . that’s where we are this week. Our son recently moved within half an hour of Virginia Beach, VA, so we are blessed to be visiting family AND hopefully will get to wiggle our toes in the Atlantic ocean!

Like every other ocean-side town, Virginia Beach has its share of souvenir shops. Racks overflow with tees, sweatshirts, and hats boasting the locale. Bracelets and necklaces dangling tiny beach-themed trinkets, pretty rocks and pearly shells, and a myriad of mugs, water bottles, and other items for customers to buy on impulse (and then donate to thrift stores and next year’s church flea markets), fill the shelves.

I rarely buy any souvenirs, but there are keepsakes I want to be sure to take home with me to treasure later—the memories of moments spent laughing over a board game with my granddaughter, savoring a delicious bite of seafood, strolling hand-in-hand with my sweetheart, a long hug with my first-born, chit chatting with my daughter-in-law over a cup of tea.

All of these mementos cost nothing but are invaluable to me. Even if I fail to capture them in a snapshot, I can relish the snippets of time spent with loved ones over and over. I consider them precious gifts from God whose worth far exceeds any relic I might drag home in my suitcase.

Praying you all find a few of these priceless souvenirs this week, my friends!



Blessings!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Average and Ordinary


I kept telling Him I wasn’t ready, wasn’t qualified, wasn’t sure there was a need . . . and He kept pressing me.

I reminded Him that I often worked on Saturday mornings, that I wasn’t really an in-charge, up-front person, that I had learned the hard way that what works in one church doesn’t always work in another . . . and God invaded my prayer time over and over with His idea, an idea He wouldn’t let me ignore—host a women’s breakfast.

He finally worn me down. OK, God, I will give it a try. I admit, it’s something that I would enjoy attending, something that would fill the need in my own life for encouraging and challenging fellowship with other Christian women.

So, I set a date, printed up a poster, and put an announcement in the bulletin. I invited a young friend for tea, shared the idea with her and asked if she would help me. We worked together planning the event and prayed together for God’s leading. We wanted the emphasis to be on encouraging one another through Scripture and shared stories, not on the food. We figured we would get about seven or eight women.

Twenty-four women signed up, and 24 showed up! I was shocked—and panicked, all at the same time. While I didn’t want to focus on food, would we have enough? Would anyone be willing to share in a group that large? Would it be what they were expecting?

I needn’t have wasted an anxious moment. Everything went smoothly with the blessing of God’s Holy Spirit leading from beginning to end. There was plenty for everyone to eat, lots of honest conversation, and an enthusiastic response to gathering as women on a regular basis to encourage one another in our Christian walks.

What was the topic? God loves to use ordinary, average people—a truth He has proven over and over in His Word and that He continues to give evidence of today. Here are some of the Scriptures we delved into:

Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Ephesians 2:10 "God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do."

Ephesians 3:20 “By means of His power working in us, God is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of.”

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things by the strength that Christ gives me.”

We closed our time together by listening to the song “Ordinary People” by Danniebelle Hall, prayerfully considering what God might be saying to us through it.

Not only did the lesson itself speak to me, but the experience of stepping out and doing what God asked, even when I felt inadequate for the task, drove the point home—God DOES use ordinary people—even me!

Don’t you love how God gives us a new lens through which to view ourselves? In His eyes, none of us are ordinary or average. We are His unique creation with a purpose designed by Him.

Be encouraged!
Pam

 ©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

More Today Than Yesterday


Forty-three years ago this week, two young lovers joined hands and hearts, pledging their commitment to each other forever. I never imagined I could love Dick more than I loved him that day, but I do.

Every day since that beautiful June morning, our love for each other increases. What we had on our wedding day was merely the bud of love; each successive day has allowed that love to open a little further, like a rose blooming, petal by petal. The love we shared then, while exquisite and beautiful, can’t compare to the deep-rooted, unfurled love God has blessed us with today.

It’s a love that has carried us through all that the wedding ceremony speaks of—better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, and health. Each blessing and every challenge reveals another layer of love. With every passing year our love grows exponentially.

For me, the 1969 song, “More Today Than Yesterday” by Spiral Staircase, says it all:

I don't remember what day it was;
I didn't notice what time it was.
All I know is that I fell in love with you,
And if all my dreams come true,
I'll be spending time with you.

Every day's a new day in love with you;
With each day comes a new way of loving you.
Every time I kiss your lips my mind starts to wander.
If all my dreams come true,
I'll be spending time with you.

Oh, I love you more today than yesterday,
But not as much as tomorrow.
I love you more today than yesterday,
But, darling, not as much as tomorrow.

Tomorrow's date means springtime's just a day away.
Cupid, we don't need ya now, be on your way.
I thank the Lord for love like ours that grows ever stronger,
And I always will be true.
I know you feel the same way, too.

Oh, I love you more today than yesterday,
But not as much as tomorrow.
I love you more today than yesterday,
But only half as much as tomorrow.

Every day's a new day, every time I love ya.
Every way's a new way, every time I love ya.
Every day's a new day, every time I love ya.

Like finding the perfect Hallmark card, this song sums up my feelings pretty well. I love you, Dicky Williams! And I will love you even more tomorrow!

Blessings!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Trinity


“God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”

Did Reginal Heber truly understand the concept that he wrote about in his hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy”? For most of us it is a precept of Christianity that is difficult to grasp in its entirety. However, the other day, as I followed the guided prayer time on Sacred Space.ie, the writer offered the following insights into the Trinity:

“The inner life of God is mutual giving and receiving. Each Person of the Blessed Trinity is fulfilled by fully giving themselves lovingly to the other two Persons, and fully receiving the love of the other two Persons. It is an everlasting circle of love between three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (SacredSpace.ie)

The author also wrote that there is another trinity, in which we are a part—the trinity of God, others, and ourselves:

“We, who are made in the image and likeness of God, are only fulfilled by wholly giving ourselves out of love to others and fully receiving God’s love for us. God will always be with us in this work, for it is His work.” (SacredSpace.ie)

As we share God’s love and plan for humanity’s salvation with others we not only establish a connection between them and ourselves, we also offer the opportunity to connect with God, just as we have connected with Him. A trinity of God, us, and others is formed when we act in obedience to Jesus’ commands:

“Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: ‘God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.’" (Matthew 28:17-20)

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

May we join with God and others in a three-sided unity that draws us ever closer to the Holy Trinity--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.



Blessings!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Is Resistance Futile?


I really shouldn’t,” I thought to myself.

I stared at the second brownie on my dessert plate.

A line from Star Trek flitted through my mind, “Resistance is futile.”

I could take it home for tomorrow,” I mused. “But some of the ice cream melted onto the brownie; it’s too messy to transport. I better just eat it now,” I rationalized in my head.

“Resistance is futile. . . futile. . . futile. . .”

Ugh! Too full—again! No wonder I get “the burps” and my jeans don’t fit like they used to! If only I wouldn’t give in to the temptation to eat more than is healthy for me,” I lamented with an audible groan.

Sound familiar? While to some people occasional overeating may not seem too serious on the enticement scale, as Christians we face a myriad of potentially derailing spiritual temptations that can be very hard to resist--joining in on the boss-bashing at work, whispering a bit of juicy gossip, having “the last word” in an argument, passing the blame for shortcomings onto someone else, . . . eating that second brownie—the list is endless and very personalized.

What can we do about temptation? How can we resist? God’s Word is full of advice!

  • Prepare by learning Scriptures (Psalm 119:11) so we can fight like Jesus did. (Matthew 4:1-11)
  • Pray. (Matthew 26:41)
  • Look for the way out that God promises to provide. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
  • Consider the consequences. (Proverbs 6: 27-28)
  • Think about something else—something pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:8)
  • Remember where temptation originates. (James 1:13-15)
  • Be on guard. (1 Peter 5:8-10)
  • Don’t be over-confident. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

 Resistance is NOT futile! With God’s merciful help, we can resist temptation and savor the victory. (Look out, brownies!)

What have you found that helps you resist temptation? What scriptures bolster your faith to overcome temptation?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Uncle Junie

Uncle Junie and me at Easter 1956 (?)

Our world lost a very special man Sunday. My Uncle Junie slipped quietly away to Heaven.

Uncle Junie fit everyone’s idea of the perfect uncle—loving, giving, selfless, protective, and fun. He loved children and pets and always made a joyful fuss over each one of them. I can still hear him saying to our dog, “Awww. Seety old boy!”

As a kid, I spent a lot of time with him and Aunt Jan. We only lived a block apart, so running up the hill to Jan and Junie’s was a daily occurrence, especially during my elementary school years.

Since Jan and my mom are sisters and Junie and my dad were brothers, we even went on vacation together. I remember the time Uncle Junie agreed to transport my cat in his car so I could take him out to Pogue with us--and Junie didn’t even get angry when the kitty threw up all over the back seat.

As an adult, Uncle Junie still made me feel like a precious little girl. He went out of his way to be thoughtful and kind. He and Aunt Jan hosted both my wedding and my 25th anniversary in their backyard.

When my cat unexpectedly passed away, Uncle Junie drove over an hour by himself to visit me and offer me comfort on my loss. That type of lovingkindness was a huge part of who he was.

When faith questions arose, Uncle Junie always humbly attested to God’s faithfulness and care. Despite the challenges he and Jan faced throughout life, Uncle Junie often commented on how blessed he felt.

My husband Dick said Uncle Junie embodied the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud;
Love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable;
Love does not keep a record of wrongs;
Love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.
Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.
Love is eternal.

I am not the only one Uncle Junie showered his love upon. He made everyone feel welcome. Although he never had grandchildren, he was known as “Pap” by a passel of little kids. Everyone who got close to Uncle Junie loved him and will miss him. Although he cannot come back to us, we can one day go to be with him, if we believe, like he did, in Jesus as our Savior.

Blessings!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lessons from Legos

Bazillions of Legos!
Pam Williams
A bazillion shiny plastic bricks litter the floor of our empty spare bedroom, now monikered “The Lego Room”. I love the chatter and clink of the bricks bumping up against each other as I search for one particularly elusive piece to the set I am building.

Our family has been hooked on Legos since 1978, when our son received his first set. Recently, a friend gave us a huge tub of Legos that her children had “outgrown” and no longer wanted. (People outgrow Legos? Who would have thunk it?) We were so excited to dump them out and see the treasures the tub held.

There were space pieces and castle parts, minifigs and sea creatures. The tub contained a rainbow of sturdy plastic bricks in blue, purple, green, red, black, gray, white, yellow and every shade in between! Thousands of Legos, just waiting to be built into something really cool.

However, I discovered one problem—there were no instructions. And I didn’t even know which sets we had in order to look for the instructions online.

I decided to start with the obvious. The gift tub included one large three-dimensional base plate that just had to belong with the castle pieces. Thanks to bricklink.com I was able to identify the set and locate the instructions.

And so, I undertook a construction process that is taking weeks to complete, but that God is using as a spiritual teaching tool. What have I learned?

1.      Follow the instruction manual. God gave us the Bible as our guide. (2 Timothy 3:16)
2.      Weed out unrelated items. God instructs us to throw off everything that hinders us on our journey with Him. (Hebrews 12:1)
3.      Although a handful of pieces stuck together may not look like much, keep going till you see the finished product! God is at work, even when we don’t recognize it along the way. (Jeremiah 29:11)
4.      Enjoy the process. God wants us to be joyful! (John 15:11)

Don’t you love how God can use the simplest things to teach us? What lessons can you find in Legos?

Be encouraged!
Pam
Two-thirds complete!
Pam Williams

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Upholding God's Word

photo from acrookedpath.com

I apologize that this post is late. I needed time to prayerfully digest my feelings before putting my thoughts into words.

Our denomination’s Annual Conference met this week. I went as a visitor Friday and literally cried when I got home. Many discussions, both in session and out, revolved around a pivotal decision that will be made in 2019. My heart is heavy and my prayers fervent as we wait in trepidation for a pronouncement that will forever impact our 12 million members.

My hope and prayer is that those holding seats in the deciding council will vote to uphold Scripture, re-affirming that we believe God’s Word to be the clear, guiding influence, both for individuals and for the Church. And that’s not a very popular stand today.

Intense pressure to “conform to the standards of this world” (Romans 12:2) permeates even the Christian church. Society wants us to abdicate God’s directives on what is sin, so as not to offend or cause anyone to feel unwelcome. Those of us who expect the Church to stand on God’s Word are seen as unloving and judgmental.

The truth is, we aren’t the judges on what is or isn’t sin—God’s Word is. Isn’t it more loving to help a person find forgiveness of sin and new life in Christ than to allow that person to be deceived into thinking “I’m okay; You’re okay”, no matter what God’s Word says?

The decision our Church faces really has nothing to do with accepting diversity. This decision boils down to whether or not we will uphold the Word of God. Prayers appreciated!

For the Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword.
It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12)
 
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for
teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
 
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
(Psalm 119:105)

Blessings!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bargains Galore!

Don’t you love a bargain? I know I do! So, this week is one of my favorites at our church. It is the week for bargains galore on literally thousands of items. Friday and Saturday, we are holding our yearly Flea Market for Missions!

Every day leading up to the event we are working to collect, price, and display items on tables and racks throughout our education wing. Each room represents a different mission that will benefit from the proceeds—purchasing gently-used purses raises funds for a local homeless ministry; buying still-serviceable household items or a few cute tchotchkes contributes to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee On Relief).

You should see the deals we have! That barely used game of Junior Scrabble for a $1 is a bargain for the buyer and helps provide a bargain price for a kid to experience the opportunities only a week at camp could offer.

But our church doesn’t offer bargains this week only. EVERY week, ALL week, we present the greatest bargain of all—the opportunity for anyone and everyone to meet Jesus and exchange sin and shortcomings for complete forgiveness. When Jesus died on the cross, he paid the price required to free us from the penalty of our disobedience to God. He offers that forgiveness to all who put their trust in him—ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!

How’s THAT for a real bargain?

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
Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Make This The Best Easter Season Yet!

Happy Easter

Easter is so much more than just a holiday. It is the celebration of an event that changed the world and is still changing lives today—the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Why not make this the best Easter season ever? Open your heart to God by praying this prayer, and then allow God to speak to you through this excerpt from Proverbs31 Ministries.

Dear God, help me recognize Your voice calling to me this Easter. Empower me to experience Your love, though it is too great to understand fully, so I can know with confidence when You speak to me personally. Make me complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Do you know Jesus Christ? Many have heard of Jesus and know a little about Him. Many sing songs about Him at Christmas and Easter. Some think of Him as a teacher or perhaps the founder of a major world religion. But, do you know Him personally? Do you know that Jesus died and rose again, not to start a spiritual movement but because He loves you and wanted to provide a way for you to know Him?

The Bible tells the story of God’s love for people. In the beginning, God created us to reflect His image and to have a relationship with Him (Genesis 1:27). We were created good—and then sin entered the world. We essentially chose to try life on our own without God, instead of living our lives for God as we were designed.

God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to pay the price for our sins and bring us into a relationship with Him. Through Him, we can know the promise of eternal life and experience the joy of knowing God here on earth!

If you would like to have a relationship with God, the Bible tells us that the first step is acknowledging that we have sinned and that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s love (Romans 3:23-26). Next, we believe and confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9) and allow Him to guide our lives. Where we once wanted to control our own futures, we now invite Jesus into our hearts to be Lord over our lives.

Knowing God’s peace, perspective, and purpose for our lives begins with a personal relationship with Jesus. Follow these steps to the new life with Jesus God desires for you. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b): 
  • Recognize the problem of sin and separation: We were created to know, love and glorify God. When we choose to go our own way, living life in willful disobedience to God, we are choosing to be separated from God both now and for all eternity. The Bible says we are sinners (Romans 3:23) and the wages of those sins is death. (Romans 3:23, 6:23) But “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • Admit we cannot save ourselves: Because God is Holy, He cannot allow sin to enter into Heaven. Most people attempt to save themselves by their own efforts, good works or church attendance. The Bible says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) How then can a sinful person enter Heaven where God allows no sin?
  • Believe we are saved by grace: The good news is, in spite of our sin, Christ died for us. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not of works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
  • Respond to God’s gift by faith: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5) 

If you believe these truths and would like Jesus to be Lord of your life, you can pray this prayer:

Lord, I confess that I have sinned against You and ask You to forgive me. I’m sorry that my sin has hurt You and other people in my life. I acknowledge that I could never earn salvation by my good works, but I come to You and trust in what Jesus did for me on the cross.

I believe that You love me and that Jesus died and rose again so that I can be forgiven and come to know You. I ask You to come into my heart and be Lord of my life. I trust You with everything, and I thank You for loving me so much that I can know You here on earth and spend the rest of eternity with You in heaven. In Jesus name, Amen.

What do I do now?

Just like a new baby needs to be cared for and nurtured in order to grow physically, a child of God needs to be nurtured in order to grow spiritually.  Here’s how you can begin growing in Christ:
  • Tell someone: Tell a pastor or Christian friend who will help you grow and find your gifts of service. “Jesus appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11, 12
  • Join the church: The church is where God’s family encourages and supports one another. ”It is good and pleasant when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1
  • Pray and read your Bible daily: God communicates His will for your life through His Word and prayer. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • Seek a godly mentor: A mentor teaches you the ways of God and how to live a holy life. “People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron.” Proverbs 27:17 

Ready to begin a new life with Jesus? Want to renew a commitment you made to Him? I encourage you to step out in faith and make this your best Easter season yet!

Easter blessings to you and yours!
Pam