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!

©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!

©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!


©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Is It Okay to Repeat Yourself?

“Mom, where is the Scripture that says we are only to pray about something once? The one that says we don’t need to keep praying about the same thing over and over,” Erin texted.

“I don’t remember any Scriptures that say that,” I typed back to her. It turns out that Erin got this idea about prayer from a minister we heard 20 years ago at a revival. I remember the instance. I also remember wondering what Biblical evidence he found to support his thinking.

My daughter’s question served as a catalyst to dig into what the Bible does say about praying for the same need over and over. As I researched, I actually found just the opposite to be true.

While Jesus said in Matthew 6:7 not to use a lot of meaningless, repetitious, words when we pray, (thinking that God will hear because of how long our prayers are), I always thought He was referring to either chanting the same thing over and over or praying long, wordy prayers just to sound impressive. Have you ever been witness to this type of praying?

Being honest, there have been times when I have fought to stay focused when the person praying seemed to be convinced they had to say the same thing 15 different ways to make sure God understood. I think this is the hollow, tedious prayer Jesus was warning against.

Jesus Himself prayed about a need more than once. Matthew 26:44 tells us that Jesus prayed the same prayer three times in the Garden of Gethsemane. This instance is one of the examples mentioned in Psalm 85:13, John 13:15, and 1 Peter 2:21 that Jesus left us to follow.

2 Corinthians 12:8 shares how Paul prayed three times for God to take away his “thorn in the flesh”. Paul obviously felt some requests are worth praying about repeatedly.

In Luke 18, Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow who repeatedly approached a judge to grant her rights, which he finally did. Then Jesus says, " Now, will God not judge in favor of his own people who cry to him day and night for help?" (vs. 7) Sounds to me like God doesn’t mind when we pray about a need more than once.

My husband Dick, also a pastor, believes God encourages us to pray over and over about something as a way for us to hear ourselves and refine what we are really asking. Sometimes what we pray the first time isn't in line with His will. He can use our time spent praying about the same thing to help us get a better understanding of what He wants in a situation. If He keeps saying no, I take that to mean there is something about what I am asking that needs adjusting, the time isn't right, or there is something God is teaching me through His "No."

Be encouraged!


©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


As I watched my new friend Peggy whipping together the dressing for potato salad, I heard her mumble, “I’m forgetting something in this recipe.”

She closed her eyes and looked heavenward. “Jesus, what’s the next ingredient?” she asked. “Thank you, Lord!” Smiling, she reached into the cupboard for an additional condiment.

I watched in amazement. Jesus was so real to her—present with her in EVERYTHING she did! As the afternoon progressed, I saw, through Peggy and her husband, more and more evidence that Jesus was right there in the room with us! He was so close when we prayed, I could feel His presence, too! That experience was the beginning of my walk with Jesus as a true believer.

Hebrews 11 tells us that God requires each of us to have faith in Him. The good news is that He will provide plenty of evidence for us to believe!

In a recent Quiet Walk devotional, I read these words of encouragement based on John 20:
“Thomas needed to be shown that the miracle of Jesus' resurrection was really true. God provided Thomas with the proof he needed. Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands. Do not be unbelieving but believing." (20:27) Jesus saw what Thomas needed and gave him sufficient evidence to believe. You don't have to be afraid of sincere doubt. That doubt can be changed. Just examine the evidence of Christ's work in the New Testament.”

As I read John 20, I realized that God will do whatever is needed to prove we can believe in Him! Look at the examples from this single chapter!
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalen at the empty tomb and reassures her He has been raised, just as He said.
Jesus appears to His disciples in a locked room to prove He is alive.
Jesus appears to Thomas and allows him to touch His wounds to prove He is who He claimed to be.
God had the Bible written so that anyone who read it could believe.

To this body of evidence, we can add the encounter several followers had on the road to Emmaus, the Ethiopian eunuch’s salvation experience in his carriage, and Paul’s conversion on his way to Damascus. God meets us where we are!

My witness of Peggy’s faith in Jesus was only the beginning of many ways God has helped me to believe in Him—my father’s salvation, an alcoholic friend’s changed life, our daughter’s adoption, and the peace we experienced in the face of our son’s kidney loss, my cancer diagnosis, and Dick’s unemployment—to name just a few.

How has God proven Himself to you? Still looking for that proof? Ask God to help you to believe according to the evidence. Like the father in Mark 9:24, your prayer can be: "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

Be encouraged!

 ©2018 Pamela D. Williams