Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Following the Recipe


Dick and I are hosting a Christmas Open House for our congregation. We are looking forward to chatting with people in an informal setting and offering them the opportunity to get to know each other better. It is our gift to those who have loved and supported us throughout the year.

For refreshments, Dick wants to serve cookies, so we he has been baking a batch every day. He enjoys baking; I do not. But I felt guilty letting him do all the work, so, I decided to bake chocolate chip cookies while he was making a run to Walmart for more ingredients. However, my cookies did not turn out quite the way I hoped, as you can see in the photo.

I got to looking online at why cookies run together. Improperly measuring ingredients (as in using liquid versus dry measuring cups—who knew???), melting rather than softening the butter, using eggs before they have reached room temperature, out-of-date baking powder or baking soda, or skipping the “chill-dough” step can all affect how our cookies will turn out. Success requires following the proven methods for baking each kind of cookie.

Did you know there is a recipe for Becoming More Christlike in 2 Peter 1?
INGREDIENTS: “5 For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge; 6 to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add endurance; to your endurance add godliness; 7 to your godliness add Christian affection; and to your Christian affection add love.”
DIRECTIONS: “8 These are the qualities you need, and if you have them in abundance, they will make you active and effective in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if you do not have them, you are so shortsighted that you cannot see and have forgotten that you have been purified from your past sins.”
 Are we following the recipe God has given us as we build on our faith in Jesus as our Savior? Are we continuing to strive to know God better, to exercise greater self-control, to keep on working to be godly followers of Jesus, to be more genuinely loving, etc.? If we want to be more Christ-like we need each of these qualities—in proper balance. Like adding too much sugar or not enough flour negatively affects our cookies, knowledge without self-control will make us pompous, and godliness without love is hypocritical. Each attribute builds on to and balances another, and when appropriately mixed, enables us to be active and effective Christians.

My cookie-baking skills could use some practice but, more importantly, my adherence to God’s recipe for Christ-likeness needs perfecting—something much harder to do. However, God doesn’t expect this of us in our own strength. 2 Peter 1:3 says, “God’s divine power has given us all we need to live a truly religious life . . . so that we may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature.” (v. 4)

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

God is Near


Immanuel or Emmanuel— is Hebrew עִמָּנוּאֵל meaning, "God with us.” Immanuel is the word Isaiah used (7:14) when he prophesied about the coming of the Savior, and Matthew (1:23) refers to it in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. During the Christmas season we hear “God is with us” quite often—sung in songs, preached in sermons, and read on greeting cards.

Believers are encouraged to share this Good News with others. The message, “God is with you” is for everyone, but it is also a private message—it is God saying to me and to you, “I am with you, (Name).

A spiritual exercise recommended on SacredSpace.ie urges readers to take some time to imagine hearing these words, spoken directly to each one of our hearts. Who is speaking the words?

When I listen closely, I hear “God is with you” from a variety of sources. The pages of my Bible come immediately to mind, with those particular words in bold print, underlined, highlighted, and with a spotlight shining on them. I hear my husband saying them from the front of over a dozen churches. I hear a plethora of Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, and Christian friends reminding me that God is with me. Most especially, I hear God whispering them to my heart during my private time of prayer and devotions.

Who do you hear saying, “God is with you”?

The second half of the exercise suggests taking some time to imagine speaking these words. To whom do I speak them?

For me, I try to speak them through this blog, through cards that I make and send to those who are sick, shut-in, or discouraged, and through 1-on-1 conversations with family members, friends, or complete strangers with whom I feel God nudging me to encourage. However, I admit, I hear the words more often than I speak them.

Lord, who do you want me to remind today that You are with them? Show me when and how.

Be encouraged!

Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Handbell Practice


“Grant, O Lord, that I may be
conscious and grateful
for all the good things
you have given to me.”
~from SacredSpace.ie

Sometimes it takes three years to fully recognize a blessing.

In the midst of handbell practice this week, it suddenly hit me what a blessing it was to be able to play the bells again. It is a music ministry that I love and have joined in several of our churches. But in 2015, I was forced to give it up.

Our church at the time had a fledgling handbell choir. We debuted earlier that year and then had taken the summer off. In the meantime, my doctors discovered I had breast cancer and I underwent surgery and followed up with chemotherapy.

When September rolled around, although still undergoing treatment, I eagerly attended our first handbell practice of the season. To my dismay, I quickly learned that I needed to take a hiatus from my involvement in the bell choir. When you are playing the bells, and your notes end, you bring the bells up and dampen them on both sides of the upper part of your chest.

My chemotherapy required a port implanted in the upper part of my chest on the right side, like a cap from a water bottle just under the skin. My upper left side was still a strange mix of tender/numb from the surgery. So, when I dampened my bells, I felt immediate discomfort on both sides. I tried to adjust my playing technique around the port and the surgery scars, but couldn’t find a way to do that and still concentrate on the notes I was to play. I reluctantly took an extended leave of absence from playing the bells. In the meantime, our handbell choir dissolved.

I missed the comradery and the joy of being part of an instrument of praise. So, when we learned we were moving, I was thrilled to hear that our new church had a bell choir—and needed a few ringers!

This week, as I stood at the table with my fellow bell ringers, God gently but powerfully reminded me of how far He has brought me in the last three years. My heart flooded with thanksgiving for the blessing of playing the bells again, pain-free.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

The joy of Grandkids!


Our annual family photo after a great week spent together!

Pre-Thanksgiving Get-Together with extended family!

So many blessings! No words needed!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hit the Switch


I have a colorful bruise along the side of my knee. Very early the other morning, while it was still dark, I was making my way through the living room without turning on any lights. Suddenly I tripped over the edge of our area rug and rammed smack into the coffee table. It would have been much wiser to turn on a lamp.

Banging my knee while traipsing through the house in the dark turned out to be painful physically, but many of us are traversing a much more dangerous path with far greater disastrous consequences—walking around in the dark spiritually when we don’t have to be!

Psalm 119:105 says God’s Word is a lamp to guide us and a light for our path. God has given us a spiritual nightlight, yet, even those of us who are Christians continue to try to navigate life in the dark! We strain our eyes to see where we should be going, what we should be saying, how we should be acting, when God has handed us His flashlight! We just need to turn it on!

The Bible is full of insights, wisdom, warning signals, and directional arrows for right living. (2 Timothy 3:16) No, we may not find “Buy that new, red Jeep Cherokee” spelled out, but we will find wisdom to help us make good, thought-out decisions. Although there is no verse that says, “Take your curmudgeon neighbor a pumpkin pie next week,” the Bible is full of guidelines for right behavior.

As we read God’s Word, His Holy Spirit will highlight passages, shine a spotlight on certain verses, and give us those “lightbulb” moments of understanding and application that we need. (john 14:26) But it won’t happen unless we “hit the switch” by opening the book and reading the words.


Believe me, my bruised knee has taught me to turn on a light or plug in a nightlight before wandering through the house at night. Likewise, let us open God’s Word and let His light guide and direct us each and every day, rather than stumbling through life tripping over our own limited understanding and stumbling up against the consequences of unwise decisions.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Above the Fray


“Why are some people so mean?” the young woman tearfully asked. Two co-workers at a new job were going out of their way to make things difficult. At the same time, she was going through a painful divorce. To top it off, the fallout from the broken marriage was affecting friendships she had thought could be counted on.

“I made such a fool of myself,” she lamented, referring to a specific episode when, out of hurt and anger she said and did things she immediately regretted.

“You also did the right thing afterward,” I encouraged her. “You swiftly apologized, both to the ones you lashed out at and to those who witnessed the incident.”

“I just don’t get it,” she said. “Ever since I have committed my life to Christ, people who I thought were my friends have turned on me.”

Many Christians have been confronted by challenges like this person is facing, I think we are fighting a battle on two fronts—personal and spiritual. When others attack us, whether in words or actions, they not only want to hurt us emotionally, they also want to prove that Christianity is a bunch of hooey that doesn’t make a lick of difference in a person’s life.

People tried to hurt and discredit Jesus, and they want to do the same to us as Christians today. If they can do that, then they don’t have to accept Jesus’ teachings or change their behavior. They will do anything they can to goad us into breaking down and behaving just like them.

On our own, we do not have the strength to hold up under pressure like that. But, as Philippians 4:13 promises, we can do ALL things through Christ, including control our reactions.

As arrogant as it sounds, in volatile situations like this young woman’s, I try to take a step back and remind myself, I am the better person; I do not have to respond in the same hurtful way. Why? Not because I am by any means superior, but because, as a Christian, I have the Holy Spirit inside me, Christ beside me, and the Father watching over me. That is where my power to rise above the fray comes from.

“How very great is [God’s] power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world.” (Ephesians 1:19-20) Now that’s power to overcome!

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Tongue and Heart


“That will never work!”
“I shouldn’t say this, but . . .”
“Oh, why don’t you grow up!”

Have you ever heard yourself say similar things? That’s when I wish I could reach out, grab my words, and slap them back in my mouth. As soon as they become audible, I know I shouldn’t have said them. And sometimes I know BEFORE I speak that I should just keep my mouth shut. But do I? Unfortunately, not always. And what follows is not helpful, necessary, or kind.

Lots of Scriptures warn us about the power of the tongue and our need to keep control of it:
  • Ephesians 4:29, 31 No unwholesome talk.
  • Ephesians 5:3-5 No course joking or obscenities.
  • James 3:2-12 Keep the tongue in check.
  • 1 Timothy 4:12 Be an example in your speech . . .
  • Colossians 3:8 Rid yourselves of filthy language. Don’t lie.
  • Philippians 2:14 Do everything without grumbling or complaining.
  • Proverbs 21:23 To stay out of trouble, be careful what you say.

 All of these verses are wise, but how do we gain that kind of control over something that seems to have a mind of its own? How do we get our tongues to submit to God’s expectations? According to God’s Word, it all starts in the heart: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

In Matthew 6:35 Jesus says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Again, in Matthew 12:34-35, He explains: “Whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”

How do we maintain a “good” heart, a heart full of selflessness, love, mercy, gratitude, and pure motives? Here are a few verses I have found helpful:

  • “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves.” (Galatians 4:16) Ask the Holy Spirit to guide in all our dealings with others.
  • “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:7-8) Getting to know God better makes me better.
  • “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) When the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts are NOT acceptable in God’s sight, we can confess it to God.
  • “Dwell on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.” (Philippians 4:8) The old adage, “What goes in is what comes out,” has a lot of truth to it. Turn away from programs, books, and other media that dishonor and displease God. Instead, meditate on God’s Word, listen to praise music, and read accounts of God at work. 
  • “Pray at all times.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Ask God to help us use the gift of speech with kindness—and tame that out-of-control tongue!

 Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Arm Yourself

“Build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of His mighty power. Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil's evil tricks. . .  Put on God's armor now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy's attacks; and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

The armor of God is necessary every day, not just when we recognize a spiritual battle is imminent. We need to build up strength; it doesn’t happen overnight or without effort. Just like physical strength is gained gradually and requires work, so does spiritual strength.

We are instructed to arm ourselves today for the battle that may not come for weeks or even years from now—but it WILL come.  We are to be preparing TODAY—improving, learning, pushing ourselves a bit farther than the day before—so that we are ready for future challenges.

How do we prepare? How do we arm ourselves? Ephesians 6 goes on to explain:

“So, stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One. And accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you. Do all this in prayer, asking for God's help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason, keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God's people.” (vs. 14-18)

  • Are we speaking truth at all times? Or do we give in to Satan’s whispers that it’s okay to tell “little white lies”?
  • Do we do those things we know are right in God’s eyes? Or do we allow pressure from the world to convince us we need to compromise?
  • Are we sharing God’s good news with friends and family? Or have we bought into the half-truth propagated by the Devil that people need only see a sermon, not hear one?
  • Is faith in God our shield against evil and despair? Or have we given in to hopelessness?
  • Have we accepted God’s gift of salvation or are we putting it off till “someday”?
  • Are we daily reading God’s Word or have we set aside that essential piece of armor, filling our minds instead with the world’s words via every other form of media?
  • Do we pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads or do we worry and whine instead?

In all honesty, I have been guilty of walking out of the house without my spiritual armor, naked and unprotected from the onslaught of Satan and the world. Will you join me in putting on every piece of armor God provides, ready to face whatever lies ahead?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Woolly Bears

“Look, Kenzie! A Woolly Bear!” I pointed to the fuzzy orange and black caterpillar climbing on the tire of the four-wheeler.

“Can I touch it?” my brave four-year-old great-niece asked, stretching out her pointer finger to pet the creature.

“Sure! Some caterpillars can irritate your skin, but this one won’t.

I picked up the caterpillar and held it out to her. “Look how it rolls up into a ball!”

I have always been fascinated with the beautiful Banded Woolly Bear caterpillar. This black bristly creature with its distinctive rusty orange bands is plentiful in our area.

Woolly Bears hatch in late summer to early autumn and hibernate over winter when they freeze solid. In the spring they spin their cocoons and about two weeks later, the Isabella Tiger Moths flutter forth with their muted apricot and tan wings, differing strikingly from the vivid black and orange of the Woolly Bear caterpillar.

As I researched the moth’s life cycle, I was reminded of the Sunday in 1977 when I trusted Jesus as my Savior. At that time God led me to 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.” (GOD’S WORD Translation)

According to Galatians 5, when we ask Jesus to forgive us, our sinful human nature, with its pride, anger, envy, etc. is nailed to the cross. God’s Holy Spirit fills us instead, producing in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control.

Ephesians 1:19-20 shares the awesome news that the mighty strength which God used to raise Jesus from death is the same force that is at work in all who believe! What incredible power God releases to shape us according to His will. The change God brings about in us is even more remarkable than the make-over a Woolly Bear caterpillar undergoes, emerging from its cocoon as an Isabella Tiger moth!

Could your life use a radical transformation? God forgives us for our sins and failures when we believe that Jesus paid the penalty for them by dying on the cross. Along with that forgiveness is the offer of a new life, a clean slate, a complete makeover! Ask Him today. It’s a request He always answers.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Speaking for Those Who Have No Voice


“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth; judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9

I surreptitiously eavesdropped on a conversation in the airport. Though I couldn’t catch enough to grasp the gist of the conversation, fond memories from over 40 years ago flooded my mind as I watched the two friends signing companionably to one another.

Thanks to my friend Steve, those who are deaf hold a special place in my heart. Born with profound hearing loss, Steve was sent away to a school for the deaf at the age of two, coming home only occasionally for holidays. At 19, he returned to the tiny town where his parents lived.

Neither Steve’s father nor his mother learned sign language. Though Steve couldn’t hear a car horn blowing beside him, his parents were convinced that if they shouted loud enough, he would hear. Understandably, moving back home was trying for Steve.

Steve attended our church regularly, depending heavily on lip reading. Steve always carried a pad and pencil, writing down what he wanted to say and asking others to do the same.

Many people in the town feared Steve. He was a big man, with many frustrations. Though I never witnessed it, several people warned, “Steve’s got a bad temper.”

God filled me with a desire to help Steve. I learned that the local university offered Sign Language, so I registered for the class. As I gained confidence in my signing ability, I forged a friendship with Steve. Delighted, he began stopping by the house. He often brought our son candy, always requiring Seth to sign “Thank you!” or “More candy, please.”

I invited Steve for supper. I left him and my husband to “chat” while I cleaned up the dishes. Afterward, Dick said, “Guess I should learn some basic sign language, too. How about teaching a class at church?” I felt grossly unqualified but agreed anyhow.

To my great surprise, forty people wanted to learn! Steve was later offered a job by one of the men who took the class and felt confident enough to communicate with Steve.

Steve also gained acceptance in the church and community because people better understood the challenges he faced and made the effort to interact with him. I was so thankful and surprised that those basic sign language classes opened so many doors for Steve.

God asks us to open our mouths for those who have no “voice”—unborn babies, children, those genuinely poor, the handicapped, the aged, refugees, and animals. (God even gave a donkey a voice!) If God is calling you to “speak”, please, don’t ignore His nudges. You never know what life-changing effects God can bring about when you say, “Yes, I will help.”

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Coffee Shop Observations


This past week I spent some time with a new friend at Brisco's, a local coffee shop. We enjoyed learning about each other's past while slurping lattes and savoring pastries.

I love coffee shops—the Big Oak in Chambersburg, The Main Bean in Luzerne. In fact, this week, while I am visiting my daughter in Minnesota, she and I will stop by Jitters Java Cafe in Sauk Centre for some great coffee and conversation.

What I love about coffee shops isn’t necessarily the coffee. It’s the atmosphere. The aromas and tastes and ambiance encourage me to sit back and relax, listen with an open heart, and speak with honesty. It reminds me of James 1:19 "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen . . .", and Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens . . .”

These are my “Coffee Shop Observations”:

Folks two to ninety will come gather here,
Couples and singles, and students with gear,
Men, women, children, both oldsters, and teens,
Regulars, newbies whom I’ve never seen.

Some come in leisure and some on the go,
Anticipating a hot cup of joe.
Sticky bun? Muffin? Or Cranberry scone?
Lemon tart? Carrot cake? Coffee alone?

Coffee with sugar and coffee with cream,
Coffee with flavors in seasonal themes.
Peppermint mocha or rich pumpkin spice
Cinnamon, hazelnut, hot or with ice.

Long conversations and short meet-and-greets,
Serious, funny, exciting, discreet.
Outbursts of laughter and sometimes a tear,
Tête-à-têtes relished with loved ones held dear.

Come to the coffee shop; Don’t rush to go!
Savor espresso or cappuccino.
Sit with a friend to sip coffee and talk
Read a great book, but don’t look at the clock.

Where do you meet those with whom you want to share a little conversation?

Be encouraged!

Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

In the Shadow


As I sat on the back porch very early one morning, I caught a glimpse of something moving in the shadows near our fence. Fearful that a skunk might be wandering nearby, I froze and prayed it would go the other way. To my dismay, the creature crept closer and closer. Once it entered the dim glow of light from inside our house I realized that it was just a stray cat who regularly frequented the neighborhood.

Shadows can be creepy. On a windy night, shadows seem to reach long, frightening fingers across the bedroom wall. When tramping through a wooded area, rustlings in the shadows make us move quickly to a brighter area. Walking down a street lined with shadows cast by gas lamps and dim porch lights, makes us check behind us frequently and hurry along.

In unfamiliar surroundings, things seem to lurk in the shadows. Those with sinister motives can wait in the shadows for unsuspecting victims. Even in our own house, if I get up at night to get a drink or go to the bathroom, I always find it a bit disconcerting when our cat silently appears out of the shadows.

We often view shadows as threatening, but God’s Word puts shadows in a different light: “People take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings.” (Psalm 36:7) Because you are my help, Lord, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 63:7)In the shadow of your wings, I find protection . . .” (Psalm 57:1) “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1) “Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.” (Isaiah 32:2) “In the shadow of his hand God hid me . . .” (Isaiah 49:2)

Illness, failed relationships, financial ruin, wayward children, loss of a loved one, and any one of myriads of other ominous situations can make us feel as though we are walking through menacing shadows. When we place ourselves, not in the scary, threatening shadows of the world, but in the comforting and loving shadows of our heavenly Father’s wings, we find refuge, joy, love, protection, rest, and shelter.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Worrywarts


What is a “worrywart”? There has long been an erroneous belief that warts are caused by worry and stress. A worrywart is someone who worries needlessly, often without justifiable reasons. Been there; done that.

Worry plagues many of us—overwhelming us one moment and manageable the next. Some years ago, I decided to look at what the Bible has to say about worry. Worry is not a new problem. In Psalm 55 David admits, “I am worn out by my worries.” Isn’t that so true? Worry is exhausting!

Luke 10:38-42 tells of a time Jesus visited Mary and Martha. Wrapped up in housework and cooking, Martha wants everything to be just right for Jesus. I can relate to that! Don’t we do the very same things when company comes to our house?

I remember when our church invited a gospel group to sing at both the morning and evening Sunday services. Members were asked to host the various singers during the hours between the services. My husband Dick and I volunteered and the day before their arrival I vacuumed, dusted, organized and scrubbed. I nagged my husband and children to keep it tidied up.

That Sunday during church, I mentally went over my “to do” list for the noon meal. I rushed home after the benediction and frantically added last minute touches to the meal.

However, between laughing and talking, we were barely aware of what we were eating. Afterwards, Dick took the guys for a walk in the woods. Hours later they tracked through the living room with mud on their shoes, oblivious to my nice clean carpet.

I worried and nagged for nothing! I lost out on a good message at church, ran myself ragged, and no one even peeked into my nice clean bathroom or cared what we ate for lunch! I certainly didn’t get revived, I exhausted myself! Like Martha, my priorities were misplaced.

Martha got all worked up cooking and cleaning, when all Jesus really wanted was her devotion to Him. He pointed out that her priorities were wrong: “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

How do we overcome worry? Mary and Martha reveal the first step: 1) Look to Jesus to find out what is really important.

Steps two and three are found in Philippians 4:6-7. 2) Pray: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need.

And 3) Give thanks to God for all he has done. Instead of going over and over a problem, list what we are thankful for. Then God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand, will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ Jesus.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hot Tempers


“If we’re going to ‘discuss’ this issue when Erin gets home, we better put the windows down,” my husband said, only half teasing. When our daughter’s quick temper ramped up, her volume often raised accordingly.

It doesn’t take long for a disagreement with someone who has a short fuse to spiral into an argument. Hot-tempered people tend to jump to conclusions, rush to have their say, and don’t consider the consequences of their words or actions.

Do you have a hot-tempered person in your life? Could you use a little help in dealing with them? Here are three tips I have found to help me keep my cool:

LISTEN RATHER THAN REACT. Proverbs 15:8 says, “Hot tempers cause arguments, but patience brings peace.” Sometimes I am so caught up in trying to get a word in edgewise, I don’t really hear the person. Intentionally and tolerantly giving my attention can prevent arguments from escalating.

ZIP THE LIP. It is very tempting to counter thoughtless, hostile behavior with an equally hasty and negative response. So, when an encounter heats up, I try to swallow my words and remain silent. (Though I am not always successful.) “After all, even fools may be thought wise and intelligent if they stay quiet and keep their mouths shut." (Proverbs 17:28).

CALL FOR A TIME OUT. Very often a short-tempered person will go from aggravation over minor irritants to bigger issues that somehow end up being the other person’s fault. At such times, it is easy to get into an argument. However, I have discovered it is best to call for a time out, explaining that, although we need to try to understand each other’s concerns, we both need to be in a calmer frame of mind to be able to do that. “The start of an argument is like the first break in a dam; stop it before it goes any further.” (Proverbs 17:14)

Though not easy to implement, these simple suggestions, along with the intervention of the Holy Spirit, have helped me to deal with hot-tempered people in a more Christ-like way. Thank God for the power of prayer!

Be encouraged!

Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Family


“That little girl looks so much like my great-niece, Kenzie,” I thought to myself as a little blonde cutie sidled into the row in front of me at church. When she climbed up on the pew and turned around to face me, I realized it actually was her and blurted out, “Why, Kenzie! What are you doing here? How did you get here?” 

 She reached out her little four-year-old arms for me to pick her up and then pointed across the church to her mom, dad, and Nanny. What a delightful surprise! During the time of greeting, she and I joined the rest of her family. I felt like doing a little happy dance!

Most of you are aware that Dick and I moved in June. For the first time in over 40 years we are within 25 miles of where we both grew up. My mom, my siblings, my aunt, and a myriad of my cousins (my dad had 10 siblings), as well as quite a few of Dick’s cousins still live near our hometown. The last three Sunday mornings we have found relatives sitting in the pews. We have had various family members over for meals and have enjoyed three family picnics in the last six weeks! I am very happy to be able to get together with all these loved ones after so many years.

But physical family isn’t the only blessing God showered on us by bringing us to Lewistown. Our church family, Grace UMC, has welcomed us with open arms. Though we have been here only a short time, we have found many kindred spirits. Each gathering, whether large or small, is filled with laughter, love, and a sense of belonging. People are open, down-to-earth, and filled with love for God and one another. Just as we can follow our physical family connections back to a common ancestor, it is evident that we share a common ancestry with our Christian brothers and sisters at Grace UMC—a bloodline that leads back to the blood of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Lord of us all.

Dick and I feel like we have come “home” in so many ways.

God knew what Dick and I needed—and He knows your needs, too. (Matthew 6:8) We are so thankful for His plans that far exceeded our own. (Proverbs 16:9) We can always trust Him to bring about what is best. (Jeremiah 29:13).

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Apple of God's Eye


“I have trouble getting my eyes to focus to read, sew, or make my bead bracelets, even with my progressive lenses. I often think my glasses are smudged, and I feel like I need brighter light,” I complained to the eye doctor.

“That’s because you have the beginnings of cataracts in both eyes. Cataracts cloud the normally clear lens of your eye and distorts the light that comes through the pupil—the opening in the direct center of the eye,” explained the ophthalmologist.

The pupil is one of the most important parts of the eye, allowing light to enter the eye, beginning the process of sight. The pupils of our eyes are vital to our ability to see. We instinctively protect them by closing our eyelids when anything foreign tries to enter the eye.

Zechariah 2:8 and Psalm 17:8 both describe God’s children as the “apple”—the pupil—of God’s eye. Just as the pupils of our eyes are vital to us, God places great importance on us—we are vital to Him. He protects us, cares for us, guards us, and treasures us.

It’s too bad we see ourselves that way and don’t believe God does either. In The Tempest of God, Iain Matthew writes that, while we may never say it in so many words, when we think poorly of ourselves, whom God considers the apple of His eye, we devalue ourselves and cease to believe that we are a necessary component to God.

Feeling insignificant and unworthy limits us by keeping us from stepping out in faith. It quenches those nudges from the Spirit that want to direct us into new areas of service and ministry. Several scriptures reveal the real truth—each of us matters to God and He considers every person of vital importance.
  • I am precious to God and He loves me. (Isaiah 43:4)
  • I am valuable to God. (Matthew 6:26)
  • I am God’s handiwork, created to carry out His purposes. (Ephesians 2:10)
  • It was God’s will to create me and give me life. (Revelation 4:11)

 Next time we think what we do or who we are is inconsequential, let’s ask God to purge those wrong and deceitful thoughts from our hearts and minds so we can step out in faith.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Skate Key


Have you ever worn metal roller skates that you strapped onto your shoes? As a kid in the early 1960’s, I spent many happy hours winging my way along the walk at the side of our house. I didn’t visit an official rollerskating rink till I was in 10th or 11th grade.

Our metal skates were nothing fancy, just a bare-bones framework. A metal clamp gripped the toes of our shoes, two metal plates formed the platform for the soles, and a metal “heel”, with a leather strap laced through it, buckled the back to your ankle.

Whole families of kids with different shoe sizes could take turns using the same pair of skates—they were completely adjustable! The toe clamps expanded and contracted, the sole platform shortened or lengthened, and the heel strap could be loosened or tightened.

However, accomplishing all these wonderful adjustments required a “skate key”. A hexagonal loop at the top of the metal key was used to turn the nut that adjusted the length of the skate. The other end fit on the pin that tightened the toe grips.

After rolling over cement sidewalks, with the rhythmic ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk of the wheels hitting the cracks, the fittings would loosen with the repetitive jarring. If not taken care of, the parts of the skates would slip and slid or even fall off. I had my fair share of twisted ankles, skinned knees and scraped palms. Having my skate key handy for periodic adjustments assured a long and safe time skating.

As we go through life, there are times when we are like a skate that needs adjusting. Difficult circumstances, challenging situations, and our own poor choices tend to rattle us to the point that we wonder if we can keep going. Every day jars and shakes us till we feel like we are teetering precariously on ill-fitting skates.

The good news is there is a Key that can help us. Jesus has promised to be with us through every moment. (Matthew 28:20) He is the key to wisdom, strength, endurance, direction and forgiveness—and He makes it all available to us when we chose to walk (or skate) with Him through life’s ups and downs.

Adjusting a loose skate requires one to stop and apply the key. Likewise, recognizing and implementing needed changes in our lives can only happen when we cease struggling and take the time to connect with Jesus, allowing Him to guide, chasten, encourage, and comfort us.

I have found that in just ten to fifteen minutes of quiet time before I launch into my day, Jesus can alter my perspective, tighten my resolve, and adjust my priorities. Then I can skate through life, knowing He is with me always.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Why Go To Church?


“Why are these people in church?” the pastor wondered.

From the distracted, unsmiling faces of those sitting in the pews, it appeared they would rather be in bed, sleeping; at the river, fishing; at the outlets, shopping; at a restaurant, eating; at home, watching TV, or on the golf course.

So, why are we in church? What is our motivation?

Is it guilt? We’re supposed to be in church, right? Fear? Won’t God get mad if I don’t attend? Habit? I’ve been going to church since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Why change now? Expectations? What would people think of me if I didn’t show up? Obligations? Who will take up the offering, work the nursery, or run the sound system if I skip out?

Hmmmm. . . not the best motivations for attending church.

God’s Word offers great reasons to gather with other Christians. Obedience: “Don’t give up meeting together.” (Hebrews 10:25a) Joy: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’" (Psalm 122:1) Thankfulness: “Open to me the gates of the Temple; I will go in and give thanks to the Lord!” (Psalm 118:19; Encouragement: “Come and listen, all who honor God, and I will tell you what he has done for me.” (Psalm 66:16) Knowledge: “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom [Christ] gives.” (Colossians 3:16)

From time to time my husband, who is a pastor, reminds our congregation that what we bring to church determines what take away from it. This coming Sunday, will you join me in exchanging guilt for obedience, joy for fear, thankfulness for habit, encouragement for expectations, and knowledge for obligations? Let us echo David in Psalm 122:1 saying, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the Lord's house.’”

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Balance


“I pray that your love will keep on growing more and more, together with true knowledge and perfect judgment, so that you will be able to choose what is best. Then you will be free from all impurity and blame on the Day of Christ.” Philippians 1:9-10

Recently separated from her husband, our daughter moved with her two sons to an apartment last weekend. The move was necessary but not something any of them really wanted. Emotional tension stressed all of them.

While Erin hoped to get all the physical stuff done quickly so she and the boys could begin to establish their new “normal”, it just wasn’t happening. Weather, work schedules, and a myriad of other unexpected happenings caused frustrating delays. Along with a mixture of anxiety, determination and defeat, Erin could feel her impatience rising.

So, rather than continue pushing, and risk losing her temper (or the boys losing theirs), she went to Walmart and bought a badminton set. For the next hour, she and the boys occupied one of the nearby tennis courts, swatting a plastic birdie back and forth. None of them were very good at it—which made it all the more fun as they laughed and joked over their lack of skills. It was the best thing she could have done. It brought balance back to their lives, giving them hope that, amidst this painful season, there could still be good times.

Isn’t balance what we all need in our lives—to somehow equalize opposing tendencies? Like a seesaw in a playground, with a child of the same weight on each side, we must balance work with leisure, personal freedom with obedience, indulgence with temperance, solitude with community, faith with works, tradition with relevance, etc. However, reaching that goal can be a challenge. At times we all feel off-kilter. How do we attain that illusive balance?

We can start with God’s Word. Scriptures offer guidance on every topic. Luke 10:38-42 gives us God’s perspective on priorities. James 1:5 is God’s prescription for gaining wisdom. Mark 12:29-31 offers guidance in how best to love. Luke 12 provides us with God’s view of earthly possessions. And those are just a few of the thousands of helpful verses in the Bible.

Looking for some practical applications of Biblical principles? Marina McCoy, in her article, Five Tips for Discerning Balance in a Busy Life, shares down-to-earth recommendations for finding healthy equilibrium.

Be encouraged! We can obtain balance!
 Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Hang in There


“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“If God is so loving, how can He allow bad things to happen to His people?”

We’ve all heard these questions. Perhaps we have asked them ourselves. In the book of Job, two remarks made by the central figure, Job, in the midst of his struggles, have helped me gain answers to these tough queries: "God knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold." (Job 23:10). "Even if God kills me, I will hope in him." (Job 13:15).

I have found Job’s observations to be true in my own life. God has used conflict and challenges to teach me, to strengthen me, to mold me, to discipline me—to make me a better person. I have learned I can trust Him—no matter what.
  • Seven years of foster-parenting our daughter--not knowing from one day to the next if we would get to adopt her or she would be taken from us--helped me learn not to trust circumstances but God.
  • Seven days of our son going from bad to worse in ICU while the doctors tried to figure out what was really wrong taught me to lean on God, not humanity.
  • A diagnosis of cancer and the consequent surgery and chemo showed me that God can bring us through even our worst nightmare.
  • The heartache of watching my children make choices that I knew would end up biting them in the butt gave me a better understanding of the heart of God.

Some days I felt like the squirrel in the picture. Few people knew the fear, the anguish, the frustration, or the anger I felt while going through those trials. I wore a faith mask, put on a faith persona, until that appearance of faith became genuine faith. And in every circumstance, that faith became reality—I knew that I knew that I knew God was lovingly present, acutely aware, and actively working.

Why do bad things happen to good people? If God is so loving, how can He allow bad things to happen to His people? 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “These temporary troubles we suffer are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing.”

Years later, I can see how God used “bad things” to improve and temper me. The greatest benefit has been a greater dependency on God.

Christian author, Glynnis Whitwer writes, “There’s no conflict so difficult, no moment so dark, no situation so hopeless that [God] can’t bring good out of it. Today we can choose to trust Him rather than rely on only what we can see.”

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Rose's Tea Cup


“I haven’t been feeling well lately.” Rose sighed and sank back into her chair. Picking up a nearly empty teacup with the teabag tag hanging over the edge, she took a sip of tepid liquid.

“Would you like me to brew you a fresh cup of tea?” I asked.

“Oh, you can just pour more hot water in this cup,” Rose said, handing it to me. “Would you put in a little milk, please?”

In the kitchen, I found a hint as to why Rose might not be feeling well. Strewn across the counter were dishes crusted with partially-eaten food. The sink held badly stained teacups with sugar crystalized in the bottom. When I tried to rinse the one Rose had given me, the build-up of tea deposits looked like the rings of a cut tree. How long had it been since anyone thoroughly scrubbed Rose’s dishes?

I had recently read that the grimy tea residue left in a cup, especially if you’ve added milk, can end up being a haven for bacteria. It’s important to empty the cup and wash it thoroughly. From the looks of things, Rose hadn’t been doing that. No wonder her health was suffering.

Similarly, our spiritual health can suffer when we allow sin to build up. A “little white lie” creates the need for another and another until our word is untrustworthy. Repeatedly criticizing someone can lead to resentment and bitterness that will rear up in the heat of an argument. Neglecting to read our Bibles or pray starves us of the spiritual nourishment we need to maintain a healthy relationship with Jesus.

Like the germy inside of Rose’s tea cup, that needed washed and bleached, we need to be pardoned and cleansed from all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:9 says if we confess our sins to God, he will do exactly that—forgive us our sins and purify us from all our transgressions.

What can we do to help maintain spiritual health?
  • James 4:7 teaches, “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will run away from you.”
  •  2 Tim. 2:19 says, “Whoever says that he belongs to the Lord must turn away from wrongdoing.”
  • Philippians 4:8 admonishes, “Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.”

 While only God can save and forgive us, these verses give us steps we can take to lessen temptation and prevent the build-up of sin and its consequences in our spiritual vessels.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Keepsakes


Bronzed baby shoes! Does anyone do that anymore? Though hard to read, my name and birthdate are painted in gold along the toes of the stiff, preserved baby shoes in the picture. Way back in 1954, I wore those shoes as I learned to walk. At the time, they were supple, white leather.

After I outgrew the shoes, my grandmother followed the custom of the time and sent them away to be preserved. Though the company that bronzed my shoes are probably no longer in operation, The Bronzery continues that tradition today.

Why have a baby’s shoes bronzed? According to familytree.com, part of the reason is because the little shoes evoke nostalgia. Looking at the shoes reminds parents of when their child was small. The bronzed shoes freeze a special moment in time, and make parents think about when their baby took his or her very first steps—an obviously memorable milestone! A pair of bronzed baby shoes instantly becomes a keepsake and family heirloom.

Any keepsake—a ring, a flag, a photograph, a seashell, a pair of bronzed shoes, etc.—can help us recall noteworthy moments we might otherwise rarely take the time to think about. Life is busy for all of us. Current responsibilities tend to crowd out everything else in our minds, so a physical reminder of an important, past event is a good thing.

God often used keepsakes to help His people remember what He had done for them—tassels on garments (Numbers 15:39-41), 12 stones from the middle of the Jordon River (Joshua 4:1-9), the rainbow (Genesis 9:1-17), the Passover Festival (Exodus 12:1-13), and the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29) are just a few examples.

For many Christians today, a cross serves as a memento of the most significant event in all of time and history. Wall hangings, carvings, jewelry, and other cross décor have been crafted to remind us of the price Jesus paid for the forgiveness of our sins.

Pictured is one of my favorite crosses, a gift from a parishioner when we moved from one pastorate to another. The same man had fashioned a huge version of this cross for the gymnasium of our church where, for generations to come, it will draw their focus to Jesus, whether while playing basketball, enjoying a meal, or participating in worship.

Just as bronzed baby shoes are the catalyst for a story of first steps, keepsakes of faith present an opportunity for us to share with others what God has done in our lives. What is one of your favorite keepsakes of your faith? What is the story behind it?

Be encouraged!
Pam


 ©2018 Pamela D. Williams