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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A Sacred Space


Have you ever found your prayer time stale and boring? During one of these dry, spiritual times, God lead me to SacredSpace.ie, a ministry of Irish Jesuits. The writers invite us to make a 'Sacred Space' in each day, with the help of scripture and on-screen guidance.

During my holy sojourns at this website, God lovingly kneads and shapes my soul, giving me new, spiritual perspectives on what previously seemed common and mundane. He challenges and disciplines my innermost being, urging me to be honest with myself and with Him.

Dear Jesus, I come to you today longing for your presence. I desire to love you as You love me. May nothing ever separate me from You.

Cleanse me, Jesus, from the sin of discontent—discontent in my abilities, relationships, possessions—always thinking I need more, better, greater.

Forgive me for selfishly keeping Your great love and tender care to myself—for not sharing the Good News of forgiveness, freedom, deliverance, peace.

I am sorry, Father, for treating those who love me most with the least respect—not valuing their opinion, considering their feelings, or putting their needs ahead of my own.

One of our churches started a 6:00 AM prayer group using SacredSpace.ie as the catalyst each Wednesday. Despite the early hour, no one wanted to miss it. We shared our innermost thoughts, prayed for our and others needs, and encouraged each other in our walks with Jesus.

More than anything, the ministry of SacredSpace.ie has heightened my awareness of the blessings God bestows each and every day, flooding my soul with gratitude and thanksgiving.  

Thank you, God, for allowing me to feel the arms of my loved ones wrapped around me in a long, tender hug.

Praise you, Father, for enabling me to hear the chorus of birds warbling in the morning, and the wonder of discovery in the voice of a seven-year-old.

Bless you, Lord, for showing me Your hand in the tiny chickadees feasting on sunflower seeds as well as the aqua ebb and flow of powerful ocean waves.

Lord, thank you for all the culinary delights you give us—a piping hot tea with honey, a York Peppermint Patty, crispy celery with peanut butter.

How have you enlivened your prayer life? For inspiration, check out SacredSpace.ie.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Spittin' Image

©2018 Bethany Shoemaker

“You’re the spitting image of your mother,” my mom’s friend stated.
“You all are related, aren’t you,’ the waiter at the restaurant noted. “You look alike.”
“Is this Pam or Lisa?” my aunt asked when I called her. “You sound the same on the phone.”
“Wow! I can tell you and Lisa are sisters,” a lady at the Senior Center remarked.

For years I have been told I look like my mother. And it is obvious that my youngest sister and I share similarities in our facial features, our body build, our voices, our mannerisms.

Recently at SacredSpace.ie I read, “I am created in the image and likeness of God.” The basis for those words is found in Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, ‘Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness. . . So, God created humans in his image. In the image of God, he created them.’”

Biblical scholar D. J. A. Clines, in his article "The Image of God in Man", says that we are created to be a "copy" or a "graphic image" of the Creator, a visible and understandable representation of who God is and what He is really like.

That is kind of a scary thought—full of hidden meanings and evoking great responsibility. I know what it means to be the image, likeness, or copy of my sister and mom, but what does it mean for me to be the likeness and image of God that others see?

Scripture gives us a long list of characteristics of God:
Exodus 34:6 God is compassionate and faithful.
Psalm 46:1 God is always ready to help.
Psalm 116:5 God is merciful and good.
Psalm 193:8 God is not easily angered.
Joel 2:13 God is patient and forgiving.
John 3:33 God is truthful.
Romans 2:4 God is kind.
Romans 11:33 God is wise and knowledgeable.
1 Corinthians 1:9 God is trustworthy.
1 Peter 1:15 God is holy.
1 Peter 5:7 God is caring.
1 John 4:8 God is love.

These are just a few of the many Scriptures that give us a glimpse of God—and, according to Genesis 1:27, of who God created us to be. Through His transforming power, we can become the “spittin' image” of Jesus

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Holding Hands


Ever since we started dating 49 years ago, Dick and I have held hands wherever we walk. Surprisingly, we have discovered that holding hands is a unique habit—a fact brought to our attention recently when we attended our denomination’s regional three-day conference.

Walking around the gathering areas and grounds, Dick and I held hands, leaning our heads together to talk, and sharing laughter over little things that amused us. Towards the end of the first day, a volunteer from the Welcome center approached us. She just wanted to say how wonderful she thought it was that we walked everywhere holding hands. Dick jokingly told her, “Well, I stumble a lot,” and the three of us laughed at his witticism.

“Seriously, though, it’s nice to see a couple enjoying each other’s company so much,” she said.

It’s not the first time this physical display of our close connection has attracted attention.
  • “You’re the couple we see walking around town holding hands!” exclaimed a lady we met at an ecumenical church event.
  • “How’s your husband doing?” a fellow shopper asked me following Dick’s heart surgery. “I love seeing the two of you walk down the street holding hands.”
  • “Where’s your other half?” a store clerk asked when I paid for my purchases. “You two are always together, holding hands. We don’t see many people doing that anymore.”

Truthfully, Dick and I enjoy each other’s company! We want to be together as much as possible. It never grows old—even after five years of dating and 44 years of marriage! We are one, just as God said in Mark 10:8—and holding hands is just a physical manifestation of that oneness.

What is the key to our total oneness? Our shared faith. In March of 1977, we both trusted Jesus as our Savior, and dedicated our lives to Him. That commitment to Christ set us on the same path spiritually and set the foundation for us to continue to be one in every other aspect of our lives. Holding hands simply exemplifies it.

Thomas Gumbleton, in the National Catholic Reporter, writes, “The most important vocation in the church is the vocation of married people. If you go back to the marriage ceremony . . . we ask God's blessing on the bride and the groom because they are called to be witnesses to the love of Jesus. In other words, by loving one another in their married life, sharing that love with their children, spreading that love in their neighborhood, in their community, they are witnessing [for] Jesus.” (John 13:35)

Maybe all it takes to witness of Jesus’ love is a little hand holding. :D

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Love is a Witness


At one of our churches, Jane tagged along with her mom, Wanda to our home on Sunday evenings. Labeled as a “Young Adult Fellowship”, our group consisted of a ragtag lot of believers ranging in age from 14 to about 45. We didn’t exactly fit the confines of the usual “young adult” designation, but we got along remarkably well.

Rather than join in, Jane brought her homework and studied in the adjacent room. However, as the weeks went by, she pulled her chair closer to the archway between the two rooms, gradually spending more time listening to our conversations than studying.

Within two months she didn’t bother to bring her homework; she now sat on the floor beside her mom’s chair. Though she merely listened at first, it didn’t take long for her to feel comfortable expressing her opinions on the topics we discussed.

One evening after Jane felt completely at home in the group, Dick turned to her and asked, “Jane, what made you move from doing your homework in the other room to joining in our discussions?”

“You all care so much about each other! It’s so different from other groups I am involved with,” Jane answered. Then turning the tables on Dick, she asked, “Why is that?”

With little hesitation Dick replied, “It’s because each person in this room has realized he or she is a sinner—no one more or less than the others. And no matter how hard we try to be good, we can’t. We need Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to be forgiven and His Spirit to lead and guide us. We are all just trying to help each other understand how to live more faithfully for Jesus every day.”

“I want that, too!” Jane said, excitement tingeing every word. “How do I do that?”

Dick then explained that all it takes is to admit you have sinned, believe that, on the cross, Jesus took the penalty for your sins, and confess your faith to God and others.

That evening our group rejoiced with the angels in Heaven (Luke 15:10) as Jane committed her life to Jesus. Just as John 13:34-35 teaches, the love shown one for another in our group drew Jane in. Never underestimate the truth and the power of God’s Word!

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Burning and Shining


At Christmas, I love to sing “The Light Song” (wish I could remember who wrote it ☹ ) Here are the words:

God held the light in the palm of His hand
Then He knelt on earth and He made the light a man
And Jesus is that light, shining all alone
Like a beacon in the distance showing the way home.

The world has been dark, but tiny lights are burning.
We were lost and wondering, now to the light we’re turning.
And Jesus is that light, changing night to day
Shining in the distance; showing us the way.
Keep it burning, burning brighter,
Till the darkness slowly fades away.

When we hold the light and share it with a friend
We start a candle burning whose flame will never end.
Oh, care for the light, don’t let it grieve away.
For we have been instructed to help one another . . . to
          Keep it burning, burning brighter,
Till the darkness slowly fades away.
.
The song reminds me of John 5:35 where Jesus says of John the Baptist: “He was a burning and shining lamp . . .”

Would Jesus say that of me? If I am honest, I must admit that I often feel like I am hiding His light ‘under a bushel’. (Matthew 5:15)

Sin darkens everyone’s soul. As Christians, we hold the lantern that will dispel that darkness—Jesus, the Light. So, why do we hide this Great Light? What are the reasons why we are not “burning and shining”?

Some of us would say it is because we think shining God’s light on others relies on us, and we don’t feel equipped for the task. But the truth is, it is the Holy Spirit, not our meager efforts, who burns away the barriers between others and Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit dwelling within us who shines the Light of Truth into the darkness of another’s soul. Our witness is not dependent upon our proficiency, our efforts, our strength, our persuasive skills, or our wisdom! We are just the candleholder, not the candle! Luke 12:12 encourages us: “The Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say."

Another reason we keep our fire for Jesus tightly contained might be our failure to contemplate the eternal consequences to those who do not find salvation in Jesus. Do we truly fathom the unlimited pain and horror that will be suffered in Hell? The Bible describes Hell quite vividly:

A place where there is gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30), outer darkness (Matthew 22:13), torments (Luke 16:23), unending sorrows (2 Samuel 22:6), eternal separation from God (II Thessalonians 1:9), burning sulfur (Revelation 21:8), no rest (Revelation 14:11), and unquenchable thirst (Luke 16:24).

We wouldn’t want our enemy to endure such torture, let alone those we love.

Perhaps another reason we hide our light is because we need to be more grounded in God’s love: “May you have power, together with all of the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18)

If we take the time to better understand what is at stake, experience the depth of God’s love, and depend on the Holy Spirit for the words, the sparks of our faith with catch fire and God’s light will shine on all with whom we come in contact. Our hearts will be full to overflowing. Others will notice and ask us about the difference in our attitudes, our reactions, and our priorities—the perfect opening for sharing our faith!

When we share the Light of the Gospel with someone else we not only shine that Light into his/her life, but we start a chain reaction of burning for Jesus that grows ever brighter with each passing. His Light spreads throughout families and churches and work environments and friendships.

How do you burn and shine for Jesus? What excuses have you given for keeping the Light to yourself?

Be encouraged!
Pam


©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Gift of Hospitality


“Pami, come drink tea with me,” my friend Samir texted me. It is an invitation I have received on a regular basis since last July when I first met the Abdo family.

From Damascus, Syria, the Abdos immigrated to America in January 2017. They brought with them a rich tradition of hospitality. Everyone who enters their home is welcomed like family.

Samir and Nesrin have four children ranging in age from 8-18. When you enter their home, you are kissed on both cheeks and ushered in with open arms and wide smiles. And you will never leave hungry—never!

At a recent picnic with the Abdos, another friend of the family and I were enjoying cold drinks while watching the children play ball. My husband and Samir were manning the grill and Nesrin had gone to the kitchen to bring out the hummus Samir and I had made earlier in the day.

“The Abdo’s are the most hospitable people I have ever met,” Shawn said.

“I know what you mean,” I said. “No matter when you stop by, they make you feel like it’s a wonderful gift for them to have you in their home. They are never too busy or too tired to visit with you. They live out Olive Garden’s old slogan, ‘When you’re here, you’re family.’”

And it’s true. This family makes you feel like you belong. No matter what they are doing—cooking, homework, studying for the PA driver’s license, learning ESL, decorating for Christmas, primping for a special occasion, etc.—you are invited to join in.

The Abdo’s hospitality is a gift from God to those who receive it. Many scriptures encourage us to open our homes and welcome others graciously—Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2, 1 Peter 4:9. 1 Timothy 3:2 lists hospitality as a requirement for being a leader in the church.

Shawn and I agree—the Abdo’s have shown us great examples of hospitality. We would love to be more like them in this area—to genuinely enjoy welcoming others to our homes and lavishing them with the gift of our full attention, as well as a cup of hot tea and a plate of snacks, be it baklava, cookies, nuts, fruit, tabbouleh, or pita with hummus or baba ganoush.

I think hospitality could be a very effective evangelism tool—everyone wants to feel they belong. Opening our homes and hearts to others can build a bridge to the open arms of Christ.

Thank you, Abdo’s for your generous gift of hospitality.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Pondering Our Purpose


In his book, Make Today Matter, Chris Lowney shares that psychologists have learned our “capacity to persevere” is strengthened by showing gratitude, selfless compassion, and a strong sense of life purpose.

While I nod in agreement and understanding of gratitude and compassion, my mind has snagged on that last phrase, “exhibiting a strong sense of life purpose”. Before I can live out a strong sense of life purpose, it seems to me that I need to determine what that life purpose is.

The last few days I have pondered those words—"life purpose”. What is my life purpose? Who determines my life purpose? Is it something I choose? Am I taught my purpose by my parents? my teachers?  the church? the world?

As I let those questions swirl through my thoughts, God whispered passages of Scripture:
  • “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.” (Ephesian 2:10)
  • “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)
  • “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

According to Scripture, it is God who gives us our life purpose—or rather, His purpose for our lives. He is the one who determines what that purpose is. But how do we figure out our specific life purpose—the purpose that goes beyond the general purposes He has given all of us, (obey Him, love Him and others, give witness of Him)?

To find the purpose God has called me to, I must be in tune with God. To be in tune with God, requires knowing Him better by reading His Word, listening to more mature Christians share about Him, by talking directly with Him, and by looking for His hand at work around us.

Perhaps the purpose God has given you is working alongside others in mission, leading a congregation, mothering children—your own and others, welcoming people to your home, teaching, organizing functions, or any of a myriad of purposes God has in mind that go beyond what we can even imagine.

Along with expressing gratitude and selfless compassion, sensing and confirming the purposes God has called us to will enable us to persevere in the face of opposition, set-backs, and self-doubt. We will truly be able to “do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Open Arms


I stood at the stove, stirring a panful of hamburger, barely able to see through the tears filling my eyes. “I just want my Erin back,” I lamented aloud to God.

During our daughter’s senior year of high school, she pushed all of Dick’s and my buttons, testing every limit we ever set. She deliberately walked a path she knew was fraught with pitfalls. Dick and I prayed and disciplined and protected to the best of our ability. I grew bone-weary of the arguments—and I cried more times than I can count. I missed the relationship she and I used to have. I longed with all my heart for her to simply run back into my arms.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, that day did arrive. Our relationship now is better than ever, due to the living faith in Jesus that we share. Our only regrets are the miles separating us; we both look forward to those times when we can physically hold on to one another. In the meantime, we hold each other in prayer.

With our history in mind, when I read Isaiah 65:2, I understood, at least on a small scale, how God must have been feeling when he said, “All day long I have reached out to stubborn and sinful people going their own way.”  (Isaiah 65:2)

God had done everything possible to help the nation of Israel, the people He had chosen to carry His message to the world. He had rescued them from slavery, led them through the wilderness, provided them with judges and kings, gave them victory over their enemies, and blessed them with growing families, fields, and flocks. And yet they weren’t faithful to Him. They didn’t obey His commandments, they worshiped statues and foreign gods—and then grumbled and complained that God had abandoned them!

And yet … He still loved them, still hoped they would return to Him … still held out His arms to welcome them back.

God’s open arms are also available for us—despite our lack of thanks for what He has done, our disloyalty, our faithlessness, and the myriad of other sins we have committed. Whether we have never trusted in Him, or we have wandered away from His embrace, God is waiting for us. He holds out welcoming, guiding, loving, forgiving arms to us, yearning with all His heart, “I just want my child back.”

“I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
(Isaiah 44:22)

Be encouraged!

Pam

©2018 Pamela D. Williams