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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I Nailed Jesus to the Cross


I nailed Jesus to the Cross. No, I wasn’t there that awful day; no, I didn’t hold the nail in place with one hand while bringing the mallet down as hard as I could with the other. But my sin did.

Although I have never physically murdered anyone, I have mercilessly slashed people with harsh, critical words. I may not have stolen money or goods, but I have stolen other’s reputations by sharing gossip or my own skewed opinions of them. With every sin I commit, I drive another spike into Jesus’ hands and feet:

My critical spirit
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My grumbling
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My lack of compassion
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My harsh words
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My unwarranted fears
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My niggling worries
              nailed Jesus to the cross.
My unfaithful actions
nailed Jesus to the cross.
My unwillingness to serve
              nailed Jesus to the cross.

Can you hear the echo of the hammer as it hits the spikes?

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned, every one, to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:6)

But wait! There is Good News! Every strike of the hammer echoes not with condemnation, but with love from God! “For He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14)

Yes, my sin nailed Jesus to the cross, but His love set me free from that sin!

If we confess our sins to God, He will
keep his promise and do what is right:
He will forgive us our sins and purify us
from all our wrongdoing.
1 John 1:9

Be encouraged!
Pam
©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Spring has Sprung

Spring has sprung! Praise God!

Dick and I traveled to the southern part of our state this week for church business. While there, we slipped in a short walk around the neighborhood where we used to live. The spring flowers dotting the yards and the blossom-covered trees lining the streets were bursting with color and fragrance. The birds singing their joyous melodies, the fresh scent of rain-washed air, and the chance to walk hand in hand through quiet streets, awed our senses and renewed our spirits. 

Winter begins to feel unending about this time of year for me. I can get very “blah” and uninspired by the barren, colorless trees and flattened, faded grasses, so it was great to be reminded of the beauty that will be coming to our northern area soon. I thank God for the infusion of new life into my worn, insipid soul.

God has been renewing my spiritual life lately, too. My blogging friend Bill recently wrote that he had been lulled into a spiritual stupor from which he needed to awaken. I could totally relate to Bill’s feelings. Like my winter “blahs”, I was spiritually “blah”, my relationship with Jesus having become routine and overly familiar. I had lost my “awe”—then Jesus drew our daughter into a close walk with Him, a totally sold-out commitment.

A few months ago, Erin started attending a different church, one with more youth involvement for her sons. What she heard and witnessed there profoundly impacted her spiritually. Though she had asked Jesus to be her Savior at an early age, she had never really allowed Him to be Lord of her life. When she opened her heart to Him, He moved right in! As she began living for Jesus, He opened her eyes to His work around her. He showed her how His Word is alive and active and oh so relevant. It has been a wonder-filled experience that God has inspired her to share with me.

And my own life and faith are renewed by Erin’s accounts of the positively awesome ways God is moving in her life. Her wonder and awe are inspiring. Her faith and trust are contagious. Her enthusiasm and determination are motivating. My heart overflows with gratitude not only for what God is doing for Erin, but for infusing my own spiritual life with a renewed awe and appreciation for Jesus. My eyes of faith have refocused so I am beginning to once-again see the movement of God to which I had become oblivious.

It’s like the awakening of Spring—in my soul!

I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light,
so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you,
how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people,
and how very great is his power at work in us who believe.
Ephesians 1:18-19

Be encouraged!
Pam                                                            

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Off Track



As I dusted the other day, I straightened a stack of old story books. On top was one of our son’s favorites as a toddler—Tootle by Gertrude Crampton. It is the tale of Tootle, a baby locomotive, who is attending train school. His schoolwork includes tasks such as stopping at red flags and pulling a dining car without spilling the soup. His most important lesson is that he must stay on the rails.

One day when Tootle is chugging along, he hops off the tracks to play in the meadow with a horse he sees there. He likes it so much he makes a habit of it. His instructor, Bill finds out about Tootle’s escapades and comes up with a plan to get the little engine back on the tracks. Bill places red flags throughout the grasses. Red flags signal that a train must stop—something engines never like to do. Tootle learns his lesson and at the end of the book we see an older and wiser Tootle teaching some new locomotives about staying on the rails.

Often during my prayer personal prayer time, I find myself acting a lot like Tootle—getting off track. The slightest distraction can lure me away from my time with Jesus. A stray thought can become my focus. The need to plan for an upcoming event can wheedle its way into my prayers. A worry can become a mantra instead of a prayer. At times getting reconnected with Jesus feels like I am trying to wrestle the weight of a locomotive back on the tracks.

As I researched ideas for staying on task during prayer, I realized that most if not all Christians struggle with this problem. Sifting through the many articles on the subject, I found several common suggestions to help us keep our spiritual wheels on the prayer tracks:

Shut the door. Find a quiet place and a quiet time—out of the hustle and bustle of the household. Maybe it is while walking; perhaps it is in the bathtub. For you it might be early morning while for someone else it may be after the rest of the household has gone to bed.

Use ready-made prayers as a guide. When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, He gave them the Lord's Prayer. There is no harm in praying a pre-written prayer, whether it's from the Bible or your favorite devotional. I personally like the guided prayer times in SacredSpace.ie and Walk Thru the Bible’s “Quiet Walk”.

Read Scripture beforehand. Reading scripture before your prayers, especially scripture about prayer, like Philippians 4:6, Romans 8:26 or Ephesians 6:18, will remind you why you're praying in the first place and motivate you to get the most out of your prayer time.

Play music. For me, quiet instrumental music helps me stay focused while at the same time opening my mind to what God is saying and doing.

Speak. Praying aloud reinforces that prayer is a conversation. Thinking and hearing prayers can keep us in dialogue with God. I especially like to sing the praise portion of my prayers. For some reason singing connects my heart to Jesus.

Journal. You can either write as you're praying or wait until you're finished, then write a summary of your experience as a reference for next time. Write without restrictions—don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or structure.  For some journaling takes the form of art, sketching a little doodle that expresses what you are saying and hearing in prayer.

How about you? Do you struggle to stay focused during prayer? When your mind wanders, how do you get back on track? What are the “red flags” that stop these errant thoughts and turn your heart back to the Lord?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Nitty Gritty of the Church



Have you heard the old adage, “Church is a hospital for sinners not a hotel for saints,”? A discussion at a recent Bible study I attended got me thinking about it once again. What IS the baseline, nitty-gritty purpose of the Church?

Acts 2 talks about the formation of what has since become known as the church. “All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed. 46 Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, praising God, and enjoying the good will of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47)

It seems to me that the early church formed to minister to those who had come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior. These believers then went out and witnessed to those who did not yet know Christ as Savior. Those people then became believers, joined in the church fellowship, and, in turn, witnessed to other unbelievers. “And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.”

In our Bible study, one of my fellow attendees, Paul, summed it up: “The church ‘within the building’ is here to equip believers to live for Jesus so that we can be the church ‘outside the building’, enabling us to reach out to others and bring them to Christ.”

Jill, another Bible study member, shared, “I see the church like a fire where I bring my poker to get it red hot so I can go out and light other fires. I need to regularly be coming back to the church—to the fire—to renew my fervor—to get my poker hot again.”

What is the mission statement of your church? What are YOUR ideas on the purpose of the Church?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

P.S. My blogging friend, Floyd, reminded me how easy it is to get diverted from God’s purpose for the Church. Sometimes even our good intentions can get us sidetracked--feeding the hungry without sharing our spiritual Bread of Life, providing shelter for the homeless without showing them the way to our eternal Home, visiting the sick without offering hope from the Healer, etc. All of these ways of ministering are good and needful, but unless we are also clearly and consistently sharing the Good News of Salvation with the people we serve, we are failing to fulfill our purpose as the Church.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Blizzard of '17

Photo by Pam Williams

Over 20 inches of snow in less than 24 hours! Life in our area ground to a halt overnight. That much snow in so short a time is overwhelming, and yet—beautiful beyond measure.

For me, the weather event offers a rare opportunity to slow down, breath deep, and enjoy the quiet. Sipping a cup of steaming tea while gazing out the sliding glass doors at the pristine landscape developing before our eyes; watching the birds flock to our porch for sunflower seeds, imprinting the surface of the snow with their tiny little tracks; and working together with my husband on a jigsaw puzzle that creates a lovely picture from a handful of misshapen pieces—all gifts from God that would go unappreciated except for the down-time brought on by the blizzard of ‘17.

For others, the thick blanket of white transforms an ordinary hill or a common backyard into a chance for amusement that rivals Disney with all its wonder. I love what my sister wrote on Facebook, “Had a great day today. It's the simple things in life that mean the most. Our [family] enjoyed sledding and riding Pappy's four-wheeler. We had alot of fun and the kids giggled and played together. So very thankful for our family. Joe and I both agreed tonight that it's not the expensive things in life that matter. It's who you spend even the simple, down-to-earth times with that means the most. We are so glad our families are close and so glad we have each other! Thank you, Jesus, for each one of them!”

Not everyone appreciated Winter Storm Stella. My friend loves all things sunshiny and said of Stella, “Stupid snow.”

I shared with him my philosophy on things that happen that I wish hadn’t—This too, shall pass. “Don't be discouraged. Just think, next week the snow will all be gone. And next month you will be able to get your jeep out!”

For some, like my friend, the godsends of a snowstorm don’t start till it ends.

We’ve all lived through weather events that impacted our lives in out-of-the-ordinary ways. How did you spend your time? What blessings did God blanket you with because of it?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Paradiddles


“Watch me, Drummers! Look up!”

I can still hear Mr. Spayd, our band director, drilling the percussionists in our band, while the rest of us waited. At the time, I didn’t realize how important drummers were. I just found them exasperating. After all, how hard could it be to feel the beat and tap the drumhead with a stick? (At times, I think Mr. Spayd was tempted to take the stick and “tap” a few “heads” himself.) 😊

I later realized that the entire tempo of a piece in marching band is set by the drummers. Drummers give the instrumentalists our cues and provide the steady beat that keeps us all together. If the drum section gets lost, rushes, lags, or otherwise flubs up, the entire band follows suit.

From Mr. Spayd’s little aside lessons to the drummers, I learned a few drum terms—tap, rolls produce a sustained, continuous sound, paradiddle. I loved that word! To me, it sounded a lot like what it meant—two single strokes followed by a double stroke, i.e., Right-Left-Right.-Right—paradiddle! Many of our songs in marching band were introduced by “Tap, Tap, Tap. Tap, Tap, Tap. Paradiddle, Paradiddle. Tap, Tap, Tap”.

Along with all the other rudimentary drum skills, paradiddles help build muscle memory. Paradiddles enable drummers to emphasize or articulate different words and syllables and accents.

In developing as a Christian, just as in becoming a better percussionist, there are some fundamentals for me to learn that set the “rhythm” for my walk with Jesus. There is the basic Tap, Tap, Tap, of praying consistently. There is the continuous Roll of new insights He will unveil as I study His Word. And there are the blessed Paradiddles of faith-sharing, when God, through fellowship and witnessing, emphasizes the importance and blessings of walking with Him.

Above all is following our Director—keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is the One who knows the pace He wants us to take and who can help us get back on track when we get lost.

Are you practicing your Christian rudimentary skills?

“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—
practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:9

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

U-Turn


Do you observe Ash Wednesday? While many of us may attend worship services on that day and receive ashes on our foreheads or hands, how many of us realize that Ash Wednesday is really all about repentance—not about giving up chocolate, abstaining from electronics, or promising to pray more?

At its root, Ash Wednesday signals the beginning of a season of intentional awareness of our need for repentance. Repentance is absolutely necessary when meeting God. To repent means to change our minds. Repentance involves a turning from sin, with contrition—mourning and regret for those wrongs, to God.

At Patheos.com, Jack Wellman explains repentance as “kind of like heading out for a drive down the freeway but realizing we went down the wrong way and traffic is coming straight at us. We need to turn around and go the other way. That is what it basically means to repent. We are headed down the wrong way—the way to hell—and we need to change our minds and turn around and go the other way.”

Most of us have tried living our life without God. In a recent devotion from Quiet Walk, (a free resource of walkthru.org), the author wrote, “to repent, we must change our minds about [God]. We must stop thinking of Him as something less than the Sovereign Lord of the universe. We must acknowledge God’s right to define what is right and wrong for us.”

We must trust God to reconcile us to Himself, to make peace with our Heavenly Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for all the wrongs we have committed. But it is up to us whether or not we will turn from our sins and accept what Jesus did in our place.

As we journey over these next 40 days leading up to Easter, may this be the year we truly make a U-turn. May we realize, with great sorrow and remorse, that we have been living a sin-filled, self-serving life and may we make a turnaround and speed toward God and His merciful forgiveness through Jesus.


 “Turn your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: [Jesus], the main character in this drama, will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God.”
Matthew 3:11-12 (MSG)


Be encouraged!
Pam

©2017 Pamela D. Williams