Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Gifts Gifts, and More Gifts

Gifts, gifts, and more gifts. TV commercials, ads on the Internet, posters in stores, and radio announcements inundate us with advice for gift-giving.

In his Christmas Eve message, my husband Dick challenged us to become like children and focus more on receiving than giving this Christmas. Dick then told about my Uncle Allen. Uncle Allen fought in World War II and his experiences haunted him for the rest of his life. Although always very generous with others, we never liked receiving gifts. Presents we brought him remained unopened—some till after he died. He never really received gifts.

While that seems strange to us, have we done the same thing with the greatest gift anyone could offer us—God’s gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus? God only asks that we receive it! Have we accepted the gift of forgiveness for our sins? Or is it a gift we, like Uncle Allen, have left unopened?

In the “Something to think and pray about this week” section of recently, William A. Barry, SJ, urged us, with God’s help, to recall all the gifts God has given us throughout our lives. "Think of this review as a way to retrieve some of our history with God. The Israelites often did this sort of thing, [recalling] the great deeds of God."

Will you join me in this sacred walk down Memory Lane as a way to more fully appreciate God’s gift to us? I was encouraged to try this by a quote Barry included from Frederick Buechner: “It is mainly for some clue to where I am going that I search through where I have been. [It is] for some hint as to who I am becoming or failing to become that I delve into what used to be. I listen back to a time when nothing was much farther from my thoughts than God, for I believe that, even then, God was addressing me out of my life as he addresses us all.”

As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, may we take the time away from all the wrapping paper and gift bags to accept, open, and fully appreciate the perfect, precious, priceless and personal gift God has given each of us.

Merry Christmas!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Christmas Closet

The 7’ by 7’ closet off my mother’s living room was really just the L of the front porch that had been closed in. We called it the “cold room” because it had no insulation or heat, and in winter made great storage when the refrigerator got too full.

At Christmas, Mom stockpiled various tins and plastic containers of Nut Horns, Potato Candy, Date and Nut Pinwheels, and other baked goods in the “cold room” closet. She also kept an ever-present supply of soda pop—Orange Crush, 7-Up, and a couple cans of Diet Pepsi for my husband.

Several metal folding chairs were stacked up against the one wall under a clothing bar crammed full of seasonal clothing. We dragged them out each time there was an extended-family gathering.

On a shelf above the bar were boxes of Christmas decorations, old photos, etc. Huge nails pounded into the walls at useful locations held outdoor Christmas wreaths draped in old sheets, 50’ extension cords, a tangle of twinkle lights, and a couple of holiday wall hangings. The floor along the walls was lined with boots, window AC units, and more boxes of “stuff” she kept “just in case”.

When Mom down-sized last year, her apartment had no such closet. Many of the things that were brought out just at the holidays were re-distributed among family members.

At Christmas, we seem to bring out much that, for most of the year, we keep stored away. Along with putting up cheery decorations and giving gifts, we smile more, donate more generously, tolerate inconveniences more politely, make more visits to friends and family, distribute our wealth more freely, and in a myriad of other ways share love—unselfish, unconditional love like God bestowed on us when He sent Jesus to be our Savior.

This year, let’s share the treasure God gave us—a treasure that moths can’t eat, rust can’t destroy, and thieves can’t break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19) Let’s share the Good News of John 3:16, God loves us so much that He gave His only Son Jesus to save us from our sins.

And, when the Christmas season comes to a close, let’s not pack up our generosity, tolerance, selflessness, and smiles along with the nativity scene and decorations from the tree. Instead let’s live every day as Jesus calls us to—righteously, lovingly, and sacrificially.

Be encouraged!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams

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!

©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 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!


©2018 Pamela D. Williams