Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Nativity Box


Stepping out of my usual genre, I am sharing a fictional Christmas short story I wrote.

Enjoy!
Pam

It wasn’t the right time to be cleaning out the attic, but what else did Pat have to do on Christmas? With his daughters spread half way around the world, no one would be stopping by. This time last year he would have been visiting with his mother Louise for a few hours, but her recent passing had changed everything.

Pat was now left with a drafty attic, full of what was most likely junk, and a heart full of regrets—regret for ignoring the fleeting grimace of pain he saw crossing his mother’s face when he visited in September; regret for not returning her calls; regret for letting work and too many hours at Casey’s bar consume his family relationships. And now, he was alone on Christmas—and every other day of the year.

“Guess I’ll start with these old boxes of Christmas decorations,” he mumbled to Darcy, his mother’s long-haired feline. She lifted her head from her paws and thunked her fluffy tail on the wooden floor slats in acknowledgment.

Most of the featherweight boxes were crammed with ancient glass ornaments whose once shiny surfaces were now discolored and crackled. He stacked them atop one another, in readiness to take an armload down the precarious attic steps and out to the dumpster parked along the side of the house.

One box, however, seemed heavier than the rest—heavy enough to pique Pat’s curiosity.
Opening the box, he began unwrapping the crumbled layers of yellowed newspaper. Pat sneezed as dust particles assaulted his nostrils. He’d need an allergy pill when he finished. “Whatever is in here is sure packed well,” he said aloud.

Darcy ambled over to check out the newspaper, sniffing and sneezing along with Pat. She clawed and bunched the paper till it was arranged to her satisfaction, then hunkered down to watch Pat work.

As he withdrew the last of the newsprint, he saw a wooden box wrapped in tissue. Removing several layers of thin paper he turned the box over. He traced his fingers gently over the intricately carved nativity on the lid. “Wow! This is beautiful!” he whispered in awe. “I don’t remember seeing this box before.”

Though he was merely speaking his thoughts aloud, Darcy mewed in reply. Pat smiled and rubbed her head. “Shall we see what’s inside, old girl?”
Loosening the clasp, he opened the box. Letters neatly stacked and in order by postdate filled the box. Bearing old Air Mail insignias, every letter was addressed to his mother Louise and postmarked England. “Must have been when Dad was in the Air Force,” Pat mumbled to the cat.

A gust of wintry wind whistled through the louvered vent. Pat shivered. Tucking the box of letters under his arm, he gently gathered up Darcy and retreated downstairs where he could read in the warmth and comfort of the kitchen over a steaming cup of coffee.

Pat was startled to learn that the letters were not from his father, but from a man named Joseph Dooley who was a pilot during WWII and who had apparently been engaged to Pat’s mother, Louise. His letters shared humorous happenings with his fellow airmen, descriptions of acts both courageous and generous, and of course, expressions of ardor for his fiancΓ©.

Woven throughout every letter was the man’s deep trust in Jesus Christ—a poignant reminder to Pat of the many conversations in which his mother had tried to share her faith. However, Pat’s vitriol skepticism and turned head effectively stopped her mid-sentence—another of his actions he now regretted.

In his letters to Pat’s mother, Dooley gave God the credit for sparing him from day to day. He shared with Louise passages from the Bible that he depended on, encouraging her to also trust in God and His Word:

“God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So, we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken and mountains fall into the ocean depths; even if the seas roar and rage, and the hills are shaken by the violence . . . The Lord Almighty is with us . . .” (Psalm 46:1-3, 7)

“[Lord, you are always with me.] You hold on to my right hand. With your advice you guide me, and in the end, you will take me to glory. . . My body and mind may waste away, but God remains the foundation of my life and my inheritance forever. . . Being united with God is my highest good. I have made the Almighty Lord my refuge.” (Psalm 73:23-28)

Dooley often quoted John 15:13, “The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends.”

The last letter, dated October 1943, must have accompanied the box. Dooley told Louise how he found it in a small antique shop on Portobello Road. He shared that the carved picture reminded him that Jesus willingly gave up His life in Heaven to come and live among us. “Jesus lived John 15:13. He showed us the greatest love, by giving His life to save us from our sins,” Dooley wrote.

At the bottom of the box Pat found a brittle, yellowed obituary for Joseph Dooley. It stated he had been killed in action on October 14, 1943 while flying a B-17 bomber in a raid on Schweinfurt, Germany. In the margin at the bottom of the paper, in the small, precise handwriting Pat recognized as his mother’s, was written, John 15:13.


Fishishing his coffee, Pat contemplated the truths he had found in the box. Dooley obviously lived out the faith he spoke of in his letters. And, despite his resistance, Pat couldn’t deny that his mother Louise had also trusted in the One who showed His love by giving His life.


As he set down his mug his eyes fell on the worn and cracked leather cover of the Bible his mother always kept on the corner of the kitchen table, within easy reach as she ate her breakfast or sipped a cup of tea in the evening. Perhaps the old book held something worth looking into. . .

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tanner


“Well, hi there, kitty cat!” I spoke softly to the beautiful tan swirled tabby cat at the edge of our yard.

“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty. . .” Imagine my surprise when he actually came running over to me! For lack of a better name, I called him Tanner and went to get him some food.

Tanner waited patiently on the porch and, in less than a minute, gobbled down the kibble I brought him. He appeared to be in good condition and obviously wasn’t feral. I patted his head and went inside. When I looked out later he was gone.

A few hours later, Tanner returned for more food. It has become a regular habit over the last month—come to Pam’s to eat at 6 AM and 5 PM. Sadly, after canvasing the neighborhood and posting his picture on Facebook, I have been unable to find Tanner’s owners. So, I have been searching for a new home for him. (I would adopt him but I am allergic to cats and already have my dear Watson.)

As the weather has grown colder, I lure Tanner inside to eat and warm up. For a while, he stood in the doorway—half in, half out. He now comes inside but is still nervous when the door closes and his means of escape is cut off.

While Tanner wants the good food that awaits, he is still leery of the unknown inside the house. He has trouble truly relaxing when he is with me inside the house. He trusts me to feed him, he doesn’t trust me to protect him.

Aren’t we often like that with Jesus? We hear all the stories about how good He is and how much He loves us, so we give life with Him a try. However, like Tanner’s hesitation, we are wary of committing fully to this radically different way of living. We think to ourselves: What might Jesus ask of me? Will Jesus really stick by me in the tough times?

When we finally submit to Jesus as Lord of our lives, we realize all the abundant blessings He has in store for us that have been there waiting for us all along.

Thankfully, tonight Tanner is being adopted by a loving, caring couple whose kitty passed away in the Spring. I know he will not enjoy the next few days—days full of new smells, unpleasant vet visits, and totally unfamiliar surroundings. However, you and I know that life for Tanner is going to be infinitely better than he could ever imagine.

And isn’t that true of life with Jesus?

“Now to Him who is able to do infinitely more
than all we ask or imagine,
according to His power that is at work within us,
to Him be the glory . . . “
Ephesians 3:20-21a

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Savoring the Season


Hillside Get-Together 12/10 . . . Nursing Home Gathering 12/13 . . . Nursery School Party 12/14 . . . Dinner Get-Together 12/15 . . . Family Party 12/17 . . . Dinner Gathering 12/22.

‘Tis the season to be merry! Right? I love all the parties and gatherings and get-togethers at this time of year.

I truly enjoy driving around neighborhoods, looking at the lights in yards and along streets and on houses. So many bright and beautiful displays to cheer the heart and put smiles on our faces. I wish I could capture the magical atmosphere with my camera.

I also like to shop, especially for kids and women. (Shopping for men tends to tax my creative energies.) Having a list of things is helpful, but sometimes I just like to wander around the stores and see what strikes me . . . Hmmm, Erin would love that long sweater; River would be thrilled with this new Lego set; Mom could really use a new pocketbook like this one.

Then there is all the wrapping and baking and decorating that goes along with this season of “merry and bright”. Such delicious flavors and smells and delightful sights and experiences to savor.

Savor: to give oneself to the enjoyment of; to have delight in; to relish, to revel (in), to thoroughly enjoy.

Savoring takes time—time to not just experience, but to mull over, to reflect on. Savoring cannot be rushed through.

Even church Christmas plays, mission projects, cantatas, candlelight masses and other special services can feel rushed and empty if we don’t slow down and truly savor them.

This Christmas season let’s lean in, listen more closely, close our eyes and feel, open our eyes and feast, sit back and bask in all the wonderful blessings God is placing along our journey to Bethlehem, and the birth of our Savior and King, Jesus.



Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Smooth or Rough?


Why is this floor so rough? I asked myself as I swept the concrete in one of the sheds of vintage furniture where I worked. The surface looked like Havarti cheese!

The ones who poured the concrete were not professionals by any stretch of the imagination, but surely, they could have smoothed out the bumps and crevices a little better, I fumed inwardly! Dirt and dust had settled into all the shallow little holes, making it impossible to sweep clean!

And then it dawned on me why the floor was left so course. The irregular surface never got slippery! People could walk through that shed with wet feet and not be worried about slipping or falling. A perfectly smoothed and even floor would leave nothing for their shoes to grip!

That rough concrete floor taught me a lesson about effectiveness as a Christian. As followers of Jesus, we may feel we must present a serene, unruffled façade to the world, no matter what we are going through. But who could identify with that? No one!

We may think if others know that we struggle, we will be less successful witnesses. I beg to differ. When strong Christians own up to faults and shortcomings or admit that they are going through a rough time, I can relate. When they allow me to see that they are real, down-to-earth beings facing the same problems and challenges I face, I am attracted to them—like the traction rough concrete affords. I learn from how they handle what life throws at them.

God calls us, not to present a slick persona to the world, but to show the world what it looks like to face those same difficulties and trials with Jesus at our side. No, as Christians, we aren’t exempt from problems and challenges—our lives are just as bumpy and uneven as the next person’s. We just don’t tackle them alone. Our most effective witness comes when we are honest and say, with Jesus, 

“. . . In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! . . .”
John 16:33

Be encouraged,
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thanksgiving Follow-Up


Thanksgiving week brought sooooooo many blessings. Our daughter and her sons visited from Minnesota for a week. Our son and his family, who live in Virginia, stayed for three of those seven days. It had been two years since we were all together.

We had so much to thank God for: safety traveling, lots and lots of laughter, great food, quiet times talking, nerf battles in our education building, only minor bumps and blisters from ice skating, swimming and soaking in the hot tub, games like PIG and Poker played at the dining room table . . . the list goes on and on.

In my last post I shared my plan to hide 50 pennies very early on Thanksgiving morning and whenever someone found one, they had to share what they were thankful for and put the penny in a jar I had labeled “Pennies from Heaven”. I put pennies in the frig, in shoes, in jacket pockets, in bookbags, on each napkin at the Thanksgiving feast—anywhere and everywhere. Finders shared their thanks for family, friends, fun, food, and faith. Everyone entered into the spirit of thankfulness as well as the joy of the discovery! It was like a treasure hunt—and the real gem was realizing how very blessed we are.

We found 46 of the 50 pennies before everyone headed for their own homes. I know for a fact that they will come across the other four pennies among their belongings. I hope they dig out an old jar and start their own “Pennies from Heaven” collection.

I think I have started a new tradition for our family—one that we can continue throughout the year. Just yesterday I found a penny while walking across the Lowe’s parking lot. I immediately smiled and paused to reflect on what I was thankful for at that moment. I wonder how many pennies will be in our jar when we get together next year?

Encourage each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord.
Always give thanks to God the Father
for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5: 19-20

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Pennies from Heaven


I have always been tickled when I find a penny in a parking lot or on the floor of the grocery store! Just that small thing can bring a smile to my face.

This week I read a post by Alicia Bruxvoort on giving thanks. In it, Alicia tells about a time in her life when grumbles outweighed gratitude. To change her whiney, negative attitude, she hid 1000 pennies in her home and each time someone found one, they had to say something for which they were thankful. Her post has inspired me to give thanks whenever and wherever I find a penny, whether it is shining in the sunlight or buried in the snow.

More than that, however, is the reminder that God is present with us at all times and in all places and in all circumstances—we just need to keep our eyes peeled so that we don’t miss the signs—whether it is finding a penny in the washing machine or a $50 bill blowing down the street (this has actually happened to me—twice!!!). After all, the penny itself proclaims, “In God We Trust”.

Dick and I have a whole roll of things to be thankful for this week. Our daughter and our two grandsons are visiting for a week and our son and his wife and our granddaughter arrived today for a four-day visit. It’s been two years since we were all together. I am overcome with excitement!

Very early this morning, I took a roll of pennies—50 copper catalysts for thanks—and hid them around the house. I will explain that when anyone finds a penny they are to share something for which they would like to thank God. I have a jar ready to collect them that I labeled “Pennies from Heaven”. I can’t wait to hear about the blessings God is pouring out in the lives of my loved ones.

God’s Word says giving thanks is the sacrifice that honors God. (Psalm 50:23). Though some days and some circumstances make finding a reason to give thanks as daunting as looking for a needle in a haystack, thanks and praise not only pleases God but gives the giver a whole new perspective.
   
Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I Am Free


“’I am free.’
When I look at these words in writing, they seem to create in me a feeling of awe.
Yes, a wonderful feeling of freedom.
Thank you, God.”
~SacredSpace.ie

We recently celebrated Veteran’s Day, expressing gratitude and appreciation for each one who has served their country in the military, given of themselves—some even to death—that ALL of us might be free. We are truly thankful for their willingness to put their own dreams and desires on hold in order to keep our country safe and assure each individual’s freedom.

When thanking these courageous men and women, many deflect the praise to God, thanking Him for His protection and mercy. They have realized there is One who is the Hero of heroes—Jesus—Who bought us even greater freedom by sacrificing Himself in our place.

Paul explains in Colossians 1:12-14: “[God, the Father] has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.”

 Jesus’ selflessness—even to death—allows each of us to say, “I am free.”
--free from the penalty of sin
--free from slavery to the Law
--free from the fear of death
--free from the power of Satan
--free from condemnation
--free to draw close to God
--free to walk in God’s light
--free to follow where Jesus leads
--free to share the Good News with EVERYONE
--free to enter Heaven

What freedoms has Jesus bought you?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Healthy Helping


I need to be needed. I am my happiest, most fulfilled, and most empowered when someone needs me. When my children were at home they filled that need. Now that they are grown I look for others to “mother”— others who need me.

However, I have found that there is a line that I must draw. I cannot let my need to be needed spiral into dependency—and that takes tough love. It means nudging the person out of their comfort zone. It also means backing off when my need to be needed holds them back, when it becomes a hindrance to their development and maturity.

It’s like teaching our children to walk. “Come to Mommy! You can do it!” we coach them, as they put one shaky leg in front of the other. We keep our arms outstretched to catch them if they fall, but we let them totter toward us. Though they often plunk down on their well-padded bottoms, we encourage them to get back up and keep trying. We would love to jump in and scoop them up in our arms, but we know that, in the long run, they need to develop this skill.

I think God must walk this same tightrope. He loves it when we realize we need Him. He wants with all His heart to parent us, to help us become all that He has designed us to be. However, He also knows that to do that, He must sometimes nudge us forward into places and situations where we don’t want to go. God realizes that in order for us to “be all that we can be” for Him, we need strong faith muscles that the “easy life” just won’t develop.

So, when we go through challenges that seem like they will overwhelm us, let us remember that God will use these trials to make us stronger, more faith-filled believers. He is right there with us, coaching and encouraging us, needing to be needed, but knowing when to step in and when to step back.

God wants us to “mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:12-14

Be encouraged!
Pam

P.S. Some setting I goofed up won’t let me “reply” to comments. Please know I read and appreciate every one. Thanks for your input.

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Strong Men


“Be strong, and let your heart be courageous, all you who put your hope in the LORD.” Psalm 31:24 (CSB)

Brian Shaw is an American professional strongman competitor and winner of the 2011, 2013, 2015 and the 2016 World's Strongest Man competitions. But Brian Shaw can’t hold a candle to two men I know very personally.

My husband and my son are the strongest men I have ever known. Neither of them could join the Giants Live tour. They probably will never grace the cover of the Muscle Men calendar. However, in the day to day battles of life, there is no one else I would want fighting by my side.

No matter what challenge or disaster the day might bring—be it health issues, emotional turmoil, computer malfunctions, or any or a myriad of emergencies or ongoing frustrations, I know I can count on Dick and Seth to offer wisdom, knowledge, support, and encouragement. Neither will sit idly by and let me (or anyone else) fend for ourselves. They will step in and step up.

Both of these men are loving, caring, tender-hearted, and nurturing. They are self-less and giving, bending over backwards to ease the burdens of others, often denying or inconveniencing themselves to do so—and always with patience and humility.

I see the very nature of Jesus in Dick and Seth.

Neither of these strong men would take credit for who they are. Both would tell you that it is God who has made them strong. It is God who has molded them and chiseled them, not into brawny physical specimens of strength, but into powerful giants of the soul, with broad shoulders to carry not only their own loads, but the loads of others.

Dick and Seth make a difference—in their immediate and extended family relationships, work environment, their neighborhood, their churches—everywhere that their lives touch others. I am blessed beyond words and measure to have such a husband and son in my life.

Who are the strong men God has placed in your life?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Offering Hope


“I feel God wants us to offer a service of hope for those with cancer,” Madelyn, my husband’s administrative assistant told him. A survivor of cancer herself, she knew firsthand the roller coaster of emotions such a diagnosis evokes.

Madelyn contacted several of us who have journeyed that bumpy path asking us simply to share what brought us hope along the way. The evening of the service, everyone present felt the mood lighten as witness after witness gave testimony of God’s sustaining power in their lives.

Pat shared her thanks for the many people who reached out to her and her husband during her time of treatment, bringing meals, sending cards, praying, and offering a listening ear. Jill told of her experience during an MRI where she felt God’s physical presence warm and reassure her that He was walking with her. Joey explained how a human “error” led to discovering his cancer. He and his wife then sang a song of determination God gave Joey immediately after his diagnosis. Jim gave us a glimpse into the caregiver’s side of cancer and the encouragement he and Madelyn found by reading the Bible and praying together.

I was asked to tell my story, also. In May of 2015, Dr. Blaum told me a biopsy had revealed cancer. I was totally caught off guard. Then, I was angry—not at the doctor, not at myself, not even at God. I was angry at the cancer for invading my body. And I was determined to do whatever it took to get rid of it—including radical surgery and chemotherapy.

I can’t say I was afraid. God had brought Dick and me through too many things in the past not to trust Him with this challenge. I understood Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 1:12, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” I knew God would see us through. Our hope for the future remained in Jesus—throughout my surgery, chemotherapy, and recovery.

Many people, including my followers here at 2 Encourage, prayed with me during those exhausting six months. I couldn’t have put one foot in front of the other without those prayers, for many days I was just too tired, physically and mentally, to even pray.

In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Although I was caught off guard by my diagnosis, God was not. He knew. So, my future—my hope—rested in Him.

The “Service of Hope” Madelyn felt nudged to organize affirmed what David wrote in Psalm 34;

I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord; Let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me; Let us exalt his name together.


When we praise and thank God, we magnify Him—make Him easier to see—offering others hope. My prayer is that if you are currently traversing cancer’s steep, rocky path, that you will find hope by trusting in God’s loving kindness. If you know someone in the midst of such a journey—someone in need of hope—call, visit, send a card, share a scripture, bring a meal, and most of all, offer a prayer.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dusting for Fingerprints


I couldn’t believe it. There was a flesh-and-blood policeman with an actual fingerprint kit dusting the handle on the door of the carwash bay behind my house. Someone must have broken in and stolen the quarters from the coin-operated machines.

I love crime shows and had watched lots of actors “dust for prints”, but had never seen it happen in real life. I admit, I was excited to be witnessing it firsthand. More importantly, the results would help the police pinpoint who was involved in the crime.

Consisting of friction ridge skin on the tips of the fingers, fingerprints are detailed, unique, difficult to alter, and durable over the life of an individual, making them suitable as long-term identity markers. Fingerprints are often not visible without some type of development that makes the latent fingerprint stand out against the background so the print can be collected and/or photographed. They can then be presented as irrefutable evidence in court.

Christian writer and speaker Sharon Jaynes challenges us to “Dust for God’s fingerprints on the pages of your everyday life.” Have you ever searched for God’s fingerprints? His Word says God is always with us (Hebrews 13:5), but sometimes, like latent fingerprints, I find it difficult to see Him. What can I “dust” my life with to make His touch visible?

Sharon suggests we follow 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks.” Gratitude can change the lens through which we see our circumstances. Giving thanks changes our perspective by accumulating evidence of God’s presence in plain old everyday life.

Looking back over our lives is another way for us to dust for God’s fingerprints. It is by seeing God’s fingerprints in His past work in our lives that we gain courage to place our present and future in His hands. Remember the poem, “Footprints in the Sand”? It tells how God revealed His presence to the author as he/she reminisced about life.

Sometimes talking with others can serve as the brush that sprinkles and swirls the fingerprint powder around in our lives. Blinded by circumstances or emotions, we need other Christians to bring to light the evidence of God’s fingerprints.

Whether obvious or obscure, God’s hand IS on our lives. What techniques have you found that help you see God’s fingerprints more clearly?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Turning the World Upside Down


“Mom isn’t doing well. I know it’s late, but could you come?”

It’s been a long time since my husband has had a phone call like that in the middle of the night. When we first started out in ministry, it wasn’t uncommon to be called by a parishioner to come to the house, the hospital, or the nursing home—no matter what time of day or night it happened to be. People wanted the connection to God that a pastor represented. The spiritual health of their loved one mattered—whether they were in church last week, hadn’t been there in forty years, or had never attended at all. Deep down, people believed in the here-after and that God held everyone’s eternity in His hands.

It is rare now for Dick to receive such a call. Why? What has changed?

Is it that we don’t want to inconvenience pastors by asking them to give up their sleep, interrupt their meal, impose on their time? Probably. But, doesn’t that indicate that we think a person’s spiritual wellbeing isn’t important enough to inconvenience someone else for? Could it hint that we aren’t completely convinced that eternity exists? Digging deeper, does it reveal that we lack belief in God at all?

If so, it gives us a glimpse into why the world is in such a state of utter selfishness and hatred—why, every day, we hear anew of mass shootings, human and animal cruelty, provoked and unprovoked attacks. If we believe this life is all there is, that there is no afterlife beyond what we know today, and ultimately that there is no One to whom we must answer, then it isn’t any wonder that our only care and concern is for ourselves.

Living as though our earthly life is the beginning and end of all existence, is not a new problem. Job spoke of it. (Job 19:25) Paul dealt with it. (1 Corinthians 15) Peter addressed it. (1 Peter 4:7-11) Overall, the Bible shares nearly 300 verses that use the word eternal or refer to eternity directly or indirectly. That’s a lot of references for a subject that some consider hooey.

However, the bedrock of belief in eternity is belief in God. Scripture clearly reveals the existence of God—His name is mentioned in over 4000 verses! Paul explained God’s existence in Romans 1:19-21. David declared it in Psalm 19:1-4. John confirmed it in John 14:17.

Many of us have heard of Lee Strobel, the former atheist and investigative journalist who turned Christian. His numerous books share the evidence that supports the truth and claims of Christianity, including the reality that God exists and is still at work. Likewise, Marilyn Adamson, a former atheist, gives solid evidence of God’s existence in her article “Is there a God?” at EveryStudent.com.

What can we do about the dreadful state of the world today? We can live as God-believers—reacting to life’s challenges in ways that reflect our trust in God, speaking our faith aloud, helping seekers understand our beliefs, and treating others as Jesus taught us to—in the hopes that one person may find out for themselves that God is real. And that can turn the world upside down.

“They dragged Jason and certain other believers before the rulers of the city, crying, "These people have turned the world upside down! (Acts 17:6)

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Cracks and Crevices



I recently bought a used car from a fellow who had it listed on Facebook Marketplace. It really was a great buy and the seller was an honest, forthright person asking a very fair price. There was just one little problem.

While we were sitting in the notary’s office, he excused himself saying, “I need to step outside for a moment to take my medication.”

I thought it was a little odd but figured maybe he was diabetic and didn’t want an audience when he gave himself a shot. Then I heard my husband and the notary chuckling. When I turned to Dick he said, “He went out to smoke a cigarette.”

Uh-oh. When we test drove the vehicle, I hadn’t picked up on the smell of smoke. The only odor I had noticed was that of Armor All. Oh well, I thought to myself, a good cleaning will take care of any lingering smoke residue.

Little did I know how many cracks and crevices there are in a car—hard-to-get-to places where ash and its accompanying odor can hide! Three times I went over the car, inside and out, before I felt like I had wiped, scrubbed, and vacuumed all the tiny particles. And then that evening I accidentally dropped a slip of paper between the seat and the door. I grabbed my trusty iPhone, tapped on the flashlight, and shined it down in the crevice. Under the lever to adjust the seat, a layer of ash mocked me: You thought you had rid this car of me, but there are still areas where I can hide!

As I thought about the smoke’s pervasiveness, I realized how similar it is to sin. When I trusted in Jesus’ death on the cross for forgiveness from my sins, I wanted to leave all those old sinful ways behind. But nearly 40 years later, I am still discovering hidden pockets of the old me that need the light of Jesus to roust them out.

Grumbling, criticizing, gossiping, doubting, and wanting MY WAY crop up more often than I care to admit. Just when I think I have my act together, God shines His Word on my soul and reveals veiled areas that continue to need His cleansing power.

And I am thankful.

*Thankful that God doesn’t allow us to go on thinking sin is okay. Instead, God corrects those He loves. (Proverbs 3:12)
*Thankful for God’s promise that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
*Thankful that God gives us victory over sin through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
*Thankful that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Sure, my new-to-me car needed a thorough detailing, but I’m thinking a spiritual detailing is in order for me, too.

Thank You, Lord, for making sure that sin doesn’t go unnoticed in the cracks and crevices of my soul but instead You shine Your light and put Your power to work cleansing and forgiving my sin. Amen.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Making Lemonade


‘We’ve decided to sell the house you are renting.”

Those were not the words my son and his wife wanted to hear from their landlord with just two months to go on the probationary period of my daughter-in-law’s new job. They were hoping to remain where they were until job security allowed them to buy a house, but instead, were scrambling to find a home.

Having moved in the middle of the school year last year, they didn’t want to put their daughter through that kind of upheaval again so soon. The area covered by their elementary school narrowed their possibilities considerably.

Unexpectedly, after contacting a realtor, they found that a house, meeting all their requirements, was for sale just one block away! The negative news from the landlord ended up benefiting my son’s family.

Joseph, son of Jacob, could relate: "You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good."

His words recorded in Genesis 50:20 dovetail with the words of Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them.”

Many times, I have heard myself and others lament over trials, hurts, losses, and injustices. If anyone had reason to be angry and vindictive, depressed and forlorn, it is Joseph!

Genesis tells us of a series of terrible hardships that Joseph endured—sold as a slave by his own brothers, imprisoned by one he had served loyally, forgotten by someone he had done a favor for! After all these devastating events, he graciously says, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.”

How? How has he kept a positive attitude? How is he willing to forgive the very ones who earlier had not only sold him into slavery but had originally plotted to kill him?

Looking back over Joseph’s life we note that he chose to continue to love God and live for him, even in the midst of betrayal, incredible temptation, false accusations, and abandonment. He did his best, whether it was working as a slave, offering advice, caring for another’s property, or administering his assigned duties. Joseph’s theology impacted his daily living. He trusted completely in the eternal, allowing him to more easily forgive when robbed of family, homeland, possessions, and position.

If God can take things that were done purposely for evil against Joseph, why do we doubt that he can use those “bad” things that happen to us? God doesn't just make lemonade out of lemons--he makes lemon meringue pie, lemon sorbet, lemon drop candies, and lemon cookies! Just ask our son!

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

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! πŸ˜‚”

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