Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Look Up

Worlds End State Park and Loyalsock Creek
Sullivan County, Pennsylvania

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

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

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

“I will look up.”

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

Psalm 121 reminds us upon Whom we are to focus:

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

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

Be encouraged!

©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!

©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!

©2017 Pamela D. Williams