Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Tethered


Our cat, Watson loves to be outside. I swear he is saying the word “Out!” over and over as he gazes up at me and then looks back at the sliding glass doors. I would love to let him roam free, but there is too much risk of being run over by cars, being shot or poisoned by those who aren’t fans of cats, or getting hopelessly lost in pursuit of a stray cat.

So, I bought a collar and a thin, lightweight plastic rope that gives him a 12-foot radius to roam, including a grassy patch so he can get his daily greens. Does Watson enjoy it? No! You would think I had a slipped a noose around his neck!

First, he throws himself down and rolls around on the concrete in a fit that resembles my kids’ temper tantrums. When that doesn’t work, he stretches the rope as taut as it will go and then yanks and tugs, trying to get the collar over his head. Even when he begrudgingly wears it, he continually tries to go beyond the boundaries of the rope.

If Watson would stop fighting the tether, he would realize he is free to watch bunnies and birds, smell the flowers, eat some grass, soak up the sunshine, and rest in the shade. But he sees the limitations as a cruel taskmaster spoiling all his fun. Temptations repeatedly pull at him.

Aren’t we the same when it comes to the boundaries God sets for us? Until we surrender our lives to Jesus and realize God’s will is the very best for us, His guidelines for life can seem awfully strict and confining. Even afterward, we face temptations to disobey:

Give in to greed: Why shouldn’t I keep the $50 bill I saw the guy in front of me drop?
Spread gossip: Did you hear that Barb saw Linda and her husband arguing in their car last evening? It looked pretty heated to Barb. I’m only telling you so you can pray for them.
Harbor a grudge: He never even offered to mow my grass when I had surgery five years ago! Why should I plow his driveway because he had a heart attack?

Like Watson and his tether, if we are willing to stop struggling against God and the boundaries set by His Word, we can find freedom. Proverbs 3:7 says, “Simply obey the Lord and refuse to do wrong.”

While our salvation is based completely on Christ's obedience and sacrifice, not our deeds or works, how much we struggle in life depends on whether or not we choose to rely on and obey God. “But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” James 1:25

Being tethered by God is to be tethered by love. His way really is the best way to live.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

House or Home?



Forty-three years ago, this month, Dick and I moved into our first parsonage. It was a memorable occasion . . .

“Oh no!” I groaned as yet another window pane popped out and fell two stories to the ground, splintering into a million pieces of ancient glass. I sat down on the floor and cradled my head in my hands. Tears spilled down my cheeks. I just can’t do this.

Brand new to pastoral ministry, we were unprepared for replacing 27 broken window panes, catching 14 mice in a week, and pulling only tattered shreds of the curtains from the washer. I never dreamed floor registers could be so hot they waffled the soles of your shoes! And who, besides Moses and Pharaoh, would have envisioned flies so numerous they had to be vacuumed from the bedroom windows each day?

Like the glass plummeting from the second floor, my visions of a cozy home with crisp white curtains fluttering at the sparkling windows shattered right before my eyes. “Can we please just call the moving company and tell them not to unpack our stuff?” I pleaded with Dick.

“Pam, you know we can’t do that,” Dick answered. “The house goes with the job. We just have to make the best of it.”

And we did! Over the years that followed, Dick and I learned firsthand that the words of Helen Rowland ring true: “Home is any four walls that enclose the right person.”

This week Dick and I celebrate 45 years of marriage. In each of the 13 moves we have made during that time, what morphs glass, brick, mortar and wood into a “home” is the presence of each other and the life we share with family and friends within those walls.

At our first parsonage, where I had despondently prepared for the movers to arrive with our belongings, our son took his first steps, sprouted his first tooth, and learned to sign “More candy, please,” from the hands of a young man who was deaf. Best of all, we forged the foundations of our faith during weekly discussions of spiritual beliefs with other believers who gathered in our home to study scriptures.

Over the years we have created a home for 19 foster children, hosted umpteen annual family Christmas parties, tended to one another following surgeries and illnesses, worsted the teen years, and celebrated milestones. It is this caring, sharing, loving, learning, rejoicing and weeping with family and friends that carves “Our Home” on the lintel of a house.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams

Comments welcome via Facebook
or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Speak Up!


As I walked down the alley beside our church, I noticed that all four tires on a car parked behind someone’s house had been sliced. Recently, there have also been a rash of thefts in our little town—kids’ bikes, porch ornaments, lawn equipment—anything outside that’s not nailed down. On a local alert page on Facebook, I read a “heads up” about cars being broken into and stuff taken. And, as in many other places, vandalism is keeping our police too busy.

Why does anyone think it is okay to commit mean, hurtful, and often no-gain-to-the-perpetrators, deeds against others?

Although I am a firm believer in taking responsibility for your actions and suffering the not-so-pleasant consequences, I think those of us who have not lived for and spoken about God bear some of the blame.

Say, what?

It’s true! By keeping silent, so as not to offend anyone, we have not passed on our belief in God or the truth about eternity. We have not witnessed to the wisdom that comes with fear (all-encompassing respect and reverence) of Him (Proverbs 1:7). If we don’t fear God or believe in eternity, we see no long-lasting consequences for our actions and therefore, do whatever we want, despite the harm it may cause others or even ourselves. We have left people with the impression that this life is all there is so do whatever you please. We have given them no hope for change or forgiveness.

Perhaps we heard the old adage too many times that says, "Never discuss politics or religion in polite company."

That’s not what the Bible says, at least in regards to religion.

In Luke 8:39, Jesus encouraged a man delivered from evil to, “Tell how much God has done for you.” So, the man proclaimed all over the town how much Jesus had done for him.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 advocates: “Never forget [God’s] commands. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working.”

Jesus commissioned all believers to tell others the Good News of salvation through Him. (Matthew 28:19) We hold the key to forgiveness and hope!

If we want the world to change, we need to let others know that God is active in our lives, we are accountable for what we do and say, and Jesus offers full and free forgiveness for all sins! (Ephesians 1:7) Let’s speak up!

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook
or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Facing Uncertainty with Certainty


Several people I know are facing tests and biopsies in the next week or so, myself included. As I talk with them, I sense their fear and anxiety. While none of us wants to hear we need surgery or some kind of harsh treatment regimen, most of us would rather know something definite than deal with uncertainty.

Uncertainty robs us of peace. The fear of the unknown can paralyze us. The whirlpool of anxiety over what might be can distract us from all the good that is and will be in our lives.

As Christians, we can take heart that, although there may be uncertainty about our health, our finances, our relationships, our jobs, etc, with Jesus there is certainty. Our future and our ultimate good are certain to God. Jeremiah 29:11 says the LORD declares, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

If we look back on times in the past when we have faced these same types of uncertainties, we will see that God is not sitting idly by, twiddling His thumbs. He carried us through then, and He will carry us through now. Isaiah 64:4 tells us God acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Romans 8:28 reminds us we can rest assured that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Jon Bloom, author of Desiring God, says, “Uncertain seasons are usually the most powerful God-moments we experience. They often demonstrate that God has all the foreknowledge, power, resources, and desire to turn everything for our good.”

If you are in one of these seasons of uncertainly, remember David’s confident words in Psalm 27:13: “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Be encouraged!
Pam

UPDATE: ALL MY TESTS CAME BACK NORMAL! THANKING GOD FOR HIS MERCY!

©2019 Pamela D. Williams

Comments welcome via Facebook
or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

If Only


When we visited the SPCA in 2002, a friendly tabby cat pranced over to us on feathered feet and wrapped her puffy tail right around us. We had no choice but to bring her home! We named her Isabelle and we were blessed with her company for 18 months.

Unbeknownst to us Isabelle harbored a deadly virus that cut her life short. But up until the week she died, Isabelle courageously lived each day to the fullest. As though she understood Psalm 118:24 “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,” Isabelle found joy in each new day. She played intensely, loved unashamedly, and faced the unknown fearlessly. Isabelle truly lived life.

As I reflect on Isabelle’s approach to life, I wonder if I am truly appreciating each moment of my life, or am I always thinking “if only…”: If only we lived closer to our kids and grandkids…If only my mom would come live with us…If only my friend wasn't moving…If only I had a job…

Have I spent so much time wishing circumstances were different that I have lost hours of blessings unique to my current situation? Has looking back at what was caused me to miss out on what is?

Lord, I want to really live my life, not just pass through it. Let me see your hand and glory in this season of life, in the marvel of these surroundings, and in the fellowship of these kindred spirits. Lord, help me to take note of all you lovingly give me—the most incredibly loving husband anyone could ever want, the bond with my grandkids despite the distance separating us, gardens full of gorgeous flowers and symphonies of beautiful birdsong. So many blessings, Lord.

Each day is a gift from You. Every wonder, both obvious and hidden, comes from you. Not only reveal these blessings to me, Lord; but show me opportunities to share them with all whom I come in contact today. Amen.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook
or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

A Resurrected Life


Easter is a time of celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. It is also when barren branches take on new life. Spring flowers are resurrected from dry bulbs. Baby birds hatch and all of nature experiences rebirth.

In Ezekiel 37:1-14, the prophet tells of a vision he had in which the graves of the exiled Israelites are reopened, and their dry bones resurrected when God’s Spirit breathes on them. His vision expresses hope in the rebirth of Israel, a people defeated and humiliated.

We, too, can experience resurrection. Yes, at the end of the ages the final resurrection will occur when Jesus comes back to take believers to Heaven. But resurrection is not only the fact of rising after death. It is also the promise of new life today.

Like the dry bones Ezekiel saw resurrected to new life, we can receive a fresh start when we trust Jesus to forgive our sins and invite His Holy Spirit to take control of our lives. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that anyone who trusts in Christ is a new creation. The old life is gone; the new life has come—a desire that all of us want at some point in our lives.

I remember the Sunday morning my neighbor knocked at my door and asked if we could talk. He was struggling with alcohol addiction, anger issues, and a recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder. He had refused to even try AA, attend anger management classes, or consistently take his medication. His family constantly walked on eggshells, their lives full of fear and chaos. An episode the night before had initiated a chain reaction that threatened not only to split him off from his family but land him in jail.

As he sat there in my living room with his head in his hands, he groaned, “I just wish I could get a fresh start.”

Perhaps our circumstances have never been as dire as my neighbor’s, but we all realize at some point that we have messed up and we wish we could wipe the slate clean and begin again. On our own there is no fresh start, no resurrection of a whole and holy life from the ashes of our own destructive behaviors and erroneous beliefs. But with faith in Jesus, we open ourselves to the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit, who can breathe new life into us—just as easily as He resurrected the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision.

Jesus can forgive all our wrongdoing and failures. He already paid the price for that forgiveness when He died on the cross. And just as He rose from the grave, we can rise above our misdirected and sin-filled past to walk beside Him in a new life as a new creation.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams 
Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Temptations


Seemingly good and positive goals can sometimes be temptations in disguise. Success, control, ease, freedom, acceptance, recognition—are all good things to strive for—until we become so focused on achieving them that they morph into temptations. And yet, God expects us to resist them, to put aside those earthly desires and instead seek to please Him.

God knows that is easier said than done.

Perhaps that is why the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted; God wanted us to be assured that He really can relate to our struggles. The three temptations Jesus faced that are recorded in Matthew 4 are familiar to all of us.

Hunger: We are tempted to hunger after many more things than food—possessions, power, praise, etc. However, what most of us don’t realize, but that Jesus did, is that the only way to fill that emptiness is with a relationship with God. Jesus knows that God’s Word will lead us to the One who satisfies our hungry hearts.

Disobedience: We are all tempted to disobey what has already been spelled out for us when it means denying ourselves. When we want something that we know goes against God’s best for us, we do exactly what Jesus says we shouldn’t—we test Him, thinking, “If God doesn’t want me to do it, He’ll stop me.”

Pride: We are tempted to think more highly of ourselves than we should—and we want others to recognize our “superiority”. At times, in our efforts to appease our pride, we will compromise our convictions. We will foster and encourage co-dependent relationships. Jesus knew only God is Lord; only He is worthy of worship and praise.

It is a comfort to know that Jesus understands the temptations we face during our time on this earth. He showed us the perfect armament to resist temptation—the Word of God—an offensive and defensive weapon available to everyone. We just need to pick it up.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.
And God is faithful.
He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.
When you are tempted,
he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
1 Corinthians 10:13

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Doubting Thomas


The Apostle Thomas gets bad publicity, especially around Easter time. He’s the one who wanted proof that the person everyone reported seeing after Jesus’ crucifixion was really Him. I love that Jesus took the extra effort to appear to Thomas and dispel his doubts. Jesus assured him that He really and truly was the Christ. He told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

James 1:6 compares doubting to a wind-whipped wave, tossed about on the sea—it needs to be dispelled. Like those times a little voice in my head says, “You can’t to do that! You don’t have the skills, the passion, or the time! There is someone else who will do a better job.” 

Or when doubt whispers the “what ifs”. What if I shouldn’t have said that? What if the other job was the right one? What if this isn’t what God wants? What if . . . ?

So, how do we dispel doubts? Thomas’ experience offers us three ways to fend off these vague, discouraging suspicions:

Talk: Discussing our misgivings with other believers can help resolve doubts. Thomas obviously shared his qualms with the other disciples.
Truth: Getting the facts can dispel doubts. Jesus showed Thomas the proof.
Trust: When we have prayed, Scripture after Scripture says that we can trust God to answer our prayer because God is trustworthy. Jesus tells Thomas that, even when we can’t see Him, we can trust Him.

We all harbor uncertainties from time to time, but we don’t have to allow them to haunt us. Jesus invites us to bring our doubts to Him, where we can talk them over, where He can reveal the truth, and where we will be assured He is trustworthy.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!


Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook
or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Fine Tuning


When I was a kid a flimsy, metal antenna on the house roof picked up television signals and relayed them to our set. Inevitably, the elements would turn or twist the gangly apparatus or disconnect the wires.

My dad would climb onto the roof and adjust its angle or direction to get better reception. I remember relaying messages from my mom in the living room studying the TV picture, to my dad as he tilted the temperamental antenna this way and that.

Often my spiritual antenna connecting me to Jesus, needs some fine tuning. I have written many psots about the very real need for personal time with God, praying and studying His Word just me and Jesus.

This week being Holy Week, opportunities abound to strengthen that signal corporately—alongside other Christians—through worship services on Palm Sunday, Great Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. If we fully engage in these reflections on Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, God can re-focus how we see His great love and awesome power.

I admit I have often attended Holy Week services merely going through the motions, totally disconnected. This year I want to enter the church with more than just my body. Sharefaith.com offers a few simple steps we can take to fine-tune our spiritual antennae to focus on Jesus, allowing Him to speak His truth into our hearts and lives.

  • Prepare before you go to church; read a passage of Scripture and pray.
  • As you sing, reflect on the message of the song, on what it teaches.
  • Personalize the prayers—My Father, who art in Heaven…forgive me.

 Will you join me in tuning in, not just this Holy week but every week?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Naturally vs Spiritually


“Naturally, I . . .”
“I initially reacted by . . .”
“My first thought was . . . “

Since early on in my Christian walk, I have prayed that my natural, first responses would be ones that come directly from God, holy and selfless. However, in reality, I find my initial reactions are often not.

For instance, in place of quick and humble admission of guilt when I have done something wrong, I claim, “It wasn’t my fault!”
Or, instead of considering that there may be truth in someone’s’ criticism of me, I immediately want to spout retaliatory accusations.

In Romans 7, Paul talks about the ongoing spiritual battle between our human nature and God’s Spirit. Even Paul admitted, “I do not understand what I do; for I don't do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate.”

And yet, just one chapter later, Paul reminds us, “God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins…The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you…Therefore, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do…For the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses.”

How do we tap into that power? By reading God's Word, talking with Jesus, and by relying on God’s Holy Spirit who dwells within us as our comforter, helper, teacher and guide. Quality fellowship with Jesus is powerful.  We need to slow down and spend time with Him if we want His reactions to be our first response also.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Hope Still Blooms


Life is short--even shorter for some. My sister-in-law, Cathy, passed away on March 17th, just days after being diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. She was only two years older than I am.

On March 26th, as Dick and I were traveling to El Paso to be with his brother for Cathy's memorial service, I learned my best friend from high school, Margie, lost her battle with MS and cancer. She would have been 66 on April 8th.

When we suddenly lose someone we love--whether a spouse, a family member, or a friend--it can be hard to wrap our head around the fact that someone we love is gone. We will never be completely prepared for this moment, but how do we manage our grief? CBN in their article "Living Through Grief" offers three steps to recovery:

Grieve – Though grief is bitter, we must let sorrow run its natural course. Isaiah 53:3b describes Jesus as “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Denying or repressing pain can lead to emotional problems.

Believe – We need to put our faith in God’s promises, trusting that our Heavenly Father knows best and that His understanding is perfect. Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Receive – God desires to give us comfort, but we must reach out and accept it. Philippians 4:6-13 encourages us to pray and not worry. Through prayer and meditation on His Word, we can find a place in God’s presence where He will wrap His arms around us as a loving father would console a hurting child.

In our sorrow and brokenness, God longs not only to strengthen and reassure us, but to simply hug us close and whisper His powerful Word into our ears.

For those who have lost a spouse, my friend Virginia has written an outstanding book, drawn from her own experiences with loss and grief. Where Hope Blooms is an honest portrayal of the journey from brokenness to wholeness. 

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

What's Your Utopia?


Jesus and I sit along the bank of a river on a couple of big, smooth rocks, talking, enjoying the sunshine on our backs, and gazing at the water rippling by. A mild breeze cools our faces, feathers our hair. Laughter punctuates the conversation. At times, tears trail down our cheeks.

These are intimate moments with no awareness or urgency at the passage of time. Even silence is welcome with Jesus—each of us lost in contemplation for a bit.

We talk of vitally important, pressing circumstances, and of things incidental and inconsequential. We have no agenda, except to be together, yet every word He speaks helps me get to know Him better.

In the rush of day to day responsibilities and activities, I long for such utopia. However, if I set aside the time, and give Him my full attention, Jesus and I can connect even on ordinary mornings—through Scripture, calm meditation music, and the resonating peace that comes with talking with Him. Joy percolates through our conversation. Honesty and truth frame this slice of the day together. It’s both renewing and cleansing. I always come away more centered, less anxious, and wrapped in love.


What’s your Utopia with Jesus look like?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Word or the World?


Ongoing turmoil over ordaining self-avowed, practicing homosexuals and performing gay marriages prompted the United Methodist Church to hold a Special Session of the General Conference in February 2019. The delegates were to decide whether to uphold or revise our previous stance on this issue, found in the 2016 Book of Discipline:

“The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

Numerous Scripture passages back this position, including but not limited to Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1. These verses state that homosexuality is a sin. Many in today’s world disagree.

I am profoundly thankful the session voted to reaffirm our traditional stance, thereby upholding the Word of God. You see, for me, the vote was not ultimately on the homosexual issue, but on whether our UMC would align with Scripture or society.

Some have also misconstrued the Session’s ruling to mean homosexuals are excluded from our churches. On the contrary, our Discipline clearly states, “All people may attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, and become members in any local church in the connection.”

Only God knows the future of the UMC. I pray we continue to revere His Word and invite all to know His love and find forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Smudges


Recently, a couple of sunny days revealed that cat sneeze spatters the lower part of our sliding glass doors, fingerprints near the handle blur my vision, and nose smudges blot the glass at eye level. The view of outdoors is limited and distorted by these marks and some of them are hard to get off.

Like stubborn smears on glass doors, sin mars our lives, even as Christians. And those sins affect more than just ourselves. Pride drives an unyielding wedge. Neglect fractures friendships. Greed causes others to suffer loss. Water-cooler gossip ruins self-worth. And the worst consequence of all is that our sin skews how others see God.

While splotches on our glass doors wipe away with cleanser and elbow grease, cleaning up the effects of our sin on others is more difficult. Words can’t be taken back. Actions can’t be undone.

What can we do? Where do we begin? Getting things cleared up between us and God is the first step. 1 John 1:7-9 show us the way: “The blood of Jesus, God’s son, purifies us from every sin…If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we've done wrong.”

Scripture also offers us guidelines for restoring relationships tainted by our sin-prints:
Hold your tongue. (Jam. 1:19)    Pray. (Matt. 5:44)
Don’t retaliate. (Rom. 12:18-20)  Forgive. (Eph. 4:32)
Apologize. (Matt. 5:23-24)           Give. (Prov. 21:14)
Reflect and learn. (Prov. 24:32)

Has the Son highlighted sin smudges you need wiped clean? Is there a relationship in your life that requires restoration due to sin on your part? Don’t hesitate another minute—ask Jesus to clear the windows of your soul so His light can shine through.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Peeled and Pared


An apple tree stood in the backyard of our last home. Its gnarled branches yielded a few poorly developed apples every year, mostly enjoyed by squirrels, groundhogs, and deer. The fruit was misshapen and wormy, but, during better years, we were able to gather enough to make a batch or two of apple dumplings.

I remember peeling and coring those apples. There were many bad spots that needed gouged out before they could be sliced. But the sweet, yummy dessert created from those apples was worth the effort.

As I think about preparing those bumpy, blemished apples, I am reminded of the work God must do in me to ready me to be used by Him. I am more imperfect than any of the apples from that tree. How does God strip off my flawed pretenses and dig out my hidden sins?

Challenges peel back the “righteous” façade covering my weaknesses so God can refine me for His purposes. Trials carve away the sinful nature lurking in my soul, making me more like Jesus. Philippians 1:6 says that God, who began the good work within us, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Paul tells us that trials develop godly character: "We can rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. “(Romans 5:3-4)

What has God used to refine the core of your being? Maybe it has been difficulties in a relationship, a tough decision that needs to be made, problems at work, a health challenge, or a financial crisis. What frailties or wrongdoings has God sliced away by allowing these trials? Could it be dependence on others instead of Him, the need to be in control, or putting self-serving desires ahead of His will?

What good work might He be preparing you to do?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Life in Community


No matter how independent we think we are, there are times in everyone’s life when they need others. On Monday we lost power due to high winds toppling several pine trees in the neighborhood, taking out the electric lines. We didn’t mention it to anyone, thinking the electric company would be on it pretty quick. We could tough it out—kind of like camping.

By Tuesday afternoon, the temperature in our house had dropped to below 50 degrees. Thankfully, we have two fireplaces. Unfortunately, the heat from the gas one simply went up the chimney, and we didn’t have wood to burn in the traditional fireplace. So, I called a friend from church to ask if they had any wood to spare. Within 20 minutes they were at our home with a load of firewood and brought a second load latter that day. Then they took us to supper!

God’s Word reveals that He knows we need one another. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

That truth applies to faith also. Lysa TerKeurst said it well: “God created us to do life in a community of believers where we can go stand on someone else’s faith when our own gets shaky.”

I have seen it proven in my own life. I remember distinctly feeling too tired to pull my thoughts together even to pray. The chemotherapy that destroys cancer cells also sapped the energy right out of me. But I closed my eyes in peaceful sleep knowing that there were others who had promised to pray and were “standing in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30) in my devotional life. Just as Lysa said, I needed my community of believers.

God’s Word tells us to be “concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good.” God knows the importance of kinship. “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Whether it is for prayer, for a listening ear, for a better understanding of Scripture, or for a load of wood on a winter day, we all need a helping hand from time to time. I am so thankful to Jesus for those He has placed in my life who take God’s Word literally and have been my community of faith.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up …” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Take the Time


“Are you busy tomorrow?” my aunt inquired when she called.
“Not at all. What’s up?” I asked.
“I have an appointment with the heart doctor at 10 in the morning. . .” she hesitantly started.
“I can take you.” I interjected. “We’ll go there and then do lunch. Does that sound good?”

I was thrilled to be able to help my Aunt Jan. For over forty years Dick and I lived away and missed many of family relationship-building moments. Since we recently moved back to the area where much of my family lives, I am absolutely LOVING that I can attend most of the family get-togethers, baby-sit for my niece at the last-minute, help my mom with every-day chores, take my aunt for a doctor’s appointment, or meet my cousin for coffee.

We all go through challenges in which we need the love and support of family and friends. But unless we keep connected, we cannot offer or receive strength and caring. In this world of too many commitments and endless to-do lists, it is easy to lose touch. Being present, attentive, and responsive takes energy, concentration, and the hardest task-master of all—time. Squeezing in that not-so-short phone call to an elderly relative, spending the afternoon at a 4-year-old’s chaotic birthday party, or answering a friend’s lengthy, question-filled text can seem to require more hours and energy than we can manage. But can we really afford not to?

Are we really that short of time? If I can play a game on my phone, watch my favorite TV shows, and browse Facebook Marketplace—none of which strengthens any relationship in my life—how can I say I am too busy to run an errand, attend a celebration, share a meal, or simply sit and sip tea with a friend or family member?

Today, let’s take the time. Connection moments are priceless and fleeting. And the rewards far outweigh solving a Sudoku, keeping up with Gibbs, or finding the best deal on a new coffeepot.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Every Man For Himself



“It’s every man for himself!”

Many, many years later, I still can’t believe I yelled those words when the ice on the creek we were skating on began cracking under our feet and a bunch of us kids had to make a dash for the shore. I am ashamed just remembering that incident, and the incredulous and disappointed look on my dad’s face when he saw and heard my selfish reply to his directive, “Pam! Help your cousin!”

Thank God, everyone got off the ice with nothing more serious than a wet skate. But the memory of my selfish attitude and uncaring behavior still stings.

God’s Word tells us that If we see others in need, yet close our hearts against them, how can we claim that we love God? (1 John 3:17) As followers of Jesus, who gave His all, His very life, to save us, we are to live unselfishly. Verse after verse reminds us of this Christian trait:
  • 1 Corinthians 10:24 “People should be concerned about others and not just about themselves.”
  • Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:5 “Love does not act improperly, is not selfish. . .”
Although I have come a long way since that winter day, I still struggle to be selfless. Unfortunately, it’s easy to be this way. From the time we are toddlers, we display a “Me first!” mentality. Still, there is nothing like seeing others’ self-centered behavior to remind me why I aspire to live my life differently. A few simple tips from Scripture can help us to be less selfish:
  • Listen. We can’t be thinking of our next words or that our own thoughts are better or more worthwhile. (“Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak.” James 1:19)
  • Empathize. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. (“Whatever you wish that others would do for you, do for them.” Matthew 7:12)
  • Be humble. None of us is more important than anyone else, nor are our wants or needs. (“In humility, count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3)
1 Peter 3:8 sums it up quite nicely: “To conclude, you must all have the same attitude and the same feelings; love one another, and be kind and humble with one another.”

After all, when we are skating on thin ice (whether literally or figuratively), we certainly don’t want to hear, “It’s every man for himself!”

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams

Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

There, But Not There


Sometimes, I am there, but not there.

The person beside me is telling me about their experience. I nod but, in reality, I am wondering how traffic will be on the way home or what I might cook for dinner. I am there, but not there.

On the phone, I “oh” and “uh-huh” at hopefully appropriate places, but, at the same time I am watching TV, playing a computer game, or surfing Facebook. Again, I am there, but not there.

I am embarrassed to admit I am OFTEN there, but not there, even in prayer; I think I am praying and suddenly realize I have drifted off. I am no longer conversing with God. I may be stressing over worrisome circumstances or have merely been distracted by dust on the coffee table. I am there, but not there.

Or, I am praying words I have said over and over (the LORD’s prayer, a table grace, a prayer list) and realize my mind is totally somewhere else. The familiar words might be running through my head or coming out of my mouth, but I might as well be reciting the alphabet or times tables.

To be present is to be intentionally engaged with those and that which surround us, not just bodily residing in the same area. God is ALWAYS there, waiting for me . . . desiring to connect with me. But, am I there?

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen.” These words from Matthew 6:6 give us some helpful hints to being fully present in prayer:

Get alone with God. Sometimes I need to get physically alone with God. Other times I can be in a public setting (church, the beach, a concert) and God draws me into our “own little world”, where it is just Him and me, giving one another our full attention.

Close the door on distractions. At times I need to literally close the door in order to get away from the distractions that act as a magnet for my attention. But for me, it’s not so much where, but when—early, early morning has less interferences for me, no matter where I am.

Talk with God. Wikipedia defines prayer as seeking to activate a rapport with a deity through deliberate communication. These moments alone with God are not for me to recite a litany of wants, but are for God and me to enhance our relationship. When I intentionally seek this time with Him, not just speaking, but listening, too, then I am truly present.

With these small steps, we can reap the huge rewards of being fully present.

Be encouraged!
Pam
©2019 Pamela D. Williams Comments welcome via Facebook or email (writepam71@gmail.com).

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Rough Start


2019 has had a rough start for our family. My mom spent five days in the hospital with heart problems. Then my Aunt Jan suffered a heart attack and needed stents. This past weekend Dick spent 23 hours in the hospital with intense pain from a pinched nerve in his neck—pain that hasn’t really let up while he undergoes further assessments.

On top of all of these health challenges, add frigid weather with snow squalls. Although our temps only dropped slightly below zero, it created many closings and cancelations. However, at my daughter’s, the high for Thursday was -35 with windchills of -52!!! In the words of my grandson, “This is just insane!”

February couldn’t come soon enough. Waiting in hospital rooms and doctor’s offices for test results or some sort of treatment gets old quickly. Even with jigsaw puzzles, computer games, and movie channels, waiting for the snow to stop or the temperature to rise in order to get out of the house wears thin.

Most of us don’t do waiting very well—not in any realm. We get impatient at the seemingly snails’ pace of progress in many things in life. We pray for God to act, NOW. However, Scripture encourages us to above all, trust in the slow work of God.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14)

The Bible is full of people who had to wait. An article at biblemesh.com gives us some insight into waiting on God: “At times, God’s delays produced more glory for Him and a greater miracle for us to witness, as when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead rather than healing his sickness (John 11:1-44). Sometimes God’s delays were merciful, giving people an opportunity to repent before judgment (2 Peter 3:3-13). Sometimes God’s delays strengthened the faith of His people while they waited. Other times the delays increased or tested their perseverance in following Him. (Exodus) Still other times the reason for the delays remained a mystery. But God’s slowness to act never meant He wasn’t going to.”

So, here’s hoping February brings warmer temps, improved health, and a better perspective on waiting! Thankfully, my mom and aunt are doing well now. Prayers for Dick are appreciated.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook or writepam71@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Unwanted Gifts


Hunger . . . thirst . . . Would you believe they are gifts?

Few of us would consider hunger and thirst welcome benefits. Yet, without hunger, we wouldn’t eat. And when we don’t eat, we get weaker and weaker. Just ask the cancer patient who is going through chemotherapy and is struggling to get by that metallic taste that most foods seem to have. It can be a real challenge for them to eat enough to nourish their good cells while the chemo destroys the bad.

What about thirst? How can a dry, parched throat be a gift? The truth is, if we don’t keep hydrated, our bodies lose fluids very quickly, threatening our lives. Doctors and nutritionists constantly emphasize our need to drink plenty of water, not only to keep hydrated but to flush out impurities in our systems.

As I thought about these physical “gifts” that are usually considered negative, I realized there are similar spiritual “gifts”. Jesus considered hunger and thirst for God's approval a blessing. (Matthew 5:6) Feelings like emptiness and guilt can “gift” us with the recognition of our spiritual needs—allowing us to bring about change necessary to our spiritual health.

Emptiness, for example, can lead us to a relationship with Jesus. In 1670, Blaise Pascal published his book, Pensées, which was a defense of the Christian religion. In that book, he has a quote: “What else does this craving . . . proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? . . . This infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself.”

We’ve all felt the benefits of guilt. Sometimes it is instantaneous. As soon as the nasty words are out of our mouths, we realize what or how we spoke, and can apologize on the spot. Other times guilt nags at us, causing us to pause and reflect. In doing so, we give God the opportunity to heighten our awareness of sin and bring about repentance.

Of course, both physical and spiritual “gifts’ like these, when over-abundantly present, can become (or indicate) deeper, underlying problems. But in our everyday lives, God can use what seem to us to be unwanted “gifts”, in just the right amount, as truly helpful favors.

What unwelcome “gifts” is God using in your life right now?

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook
or writepam71@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

This, Too, Shall Pass


“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!” ~ Abraham Lincoln

A phrase from 2 Corinthians 4:18 offers the same sentiment: “What can be seen lasts only for a time. . .”

In other words, this, too, shall pass.

No earthly situation or circumstance is forever. While in the midst of trials and suffering, we can be assured that one day, sooner or later, things will change. Likewise, we cannot depend on wealth, prestige, or good health—for these things also are temporary.

But what if we looked at ourselves and our situation in this moment, whether it is challenging or uplifting, and realized God has allowed us to be exactly where we are for a purpose? In Esther chapter 4, Mordecai asks Esther, “Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

What if we are where we are, “for such a time as this”? Is there an assignment from God in our trying situation? Is there something we can accomplish for Him only by going through the fires we are facing?

Has God given us a favored position so that we can better serve Him and reach people with the gospel of Jesus? How can we put our influence, our resources, our gifts and talents to work for God?

We are where we are “for such a time as this.” Let us grasp this moment for Jesus, see our situation as a divine assignment “for such a time as this”, and search for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity God is offering, for, “this, too, shall pass.”

P.S. There IS one thing that never passes away, one thing that is for today and always—God’s loving presence with us. When we accept the forgiveness He offers us through Jesus, we can be assured that God will work all things for our good.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook
or writepam71@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

I Don't Have A Problem!


Mom: “What did that nurse say about me going home?”
Me: “You mean you didn’t hear her??? You acted like you did.”
Mom: “Well, these dumb hearing aids keep chiming; the batteries need changed again!”
Me: “Mom, you need to tell the doctors and nurses you are having trouble hearing. Otherwise, they assume you hear just fine.”
Mom (with chin up and arms crossed): “I do hear just fine!”

Conversations similar to this one, are very common with my 86-year-old mother. The last few years she has experienced drastic hearing loss. Hearing aids help, but only to a certain degree—and only if the batteries are fresh. Otherwise, they act more like stuffing cotton in her ears, muffling the little hearing she does have left.

Mom gets very perturbed at us when we even hint that she isn’t hearing well. I don’t think she realizes just how bad her hearing is, or that it is out of concern for her that we keep asking about it. She consistently denies the problem.

Sadly, when it comes to matters of the Spirit, I can be just like my mom. I sometimes don’t realize how bad the problem is. And even when it is gently pointed out to me, I deny it.

Like the time I looked over the shoulder of a lady with whom I was “discussing” a situation and found Dick grimacing while giving me the “Cut-throat” sign to stop. After the lady left, Dick told me I bordered on rude with her. I denied it—until later when God showed me Dick was absolutely right and I needed to admit my sinful attitude.

Until we acknowledge a problem, it can’t be remedied. Proverbs 15: 31-32 says, “If you pay attention when you are corrected, you are wise. If you refuse to learn, you are hurting yourself.”

Until we confess a sin, it will fester. Proverbs 28:13 tells us “He who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.”

David voices wisdom we need to learn: “Then I confessed my sins to you; I did not conceal my wrongdoings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins.” (Psalm 32:5)


When we have a spiritual problem moldering, 1 John 1:9 reminds us that, if we confess our sins, God will forgive them and cleanse us from all wrongdoing. Let's start addressing the sins we struggle with instead of turning a deaf ear to the warning bells God rings along the way.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook
or writepam71@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Getting Out the Stain


I thought the travel cup was empty. I found out differently when I tried to open the car door with it in my hand. The cup tilted over and coffee ran down my hand into my sleeve, staining my white shirt.

I was on my way to a party at my sister’s house and had stopped to pick up my mom. I quickly ran into mom’s and tried blotting out the coffee with some dish soap, water, and a tea towel. I finally gave up, thinking I could just wash it when I got home.

Later that evening, when I took the shirt out of the washing machine and examined the sleeve, the stain was still noticeable. Thankfully, because it was white, I could soak it in some bleach and it was good as new.

Verses one and two of Psalm 51 speak of removing another kind of stain—the stain of sin in our lives.
“Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.”

Sin is a stain we can’t remove on our own. Just like my efforts to remove the coffee stains from my shirt required something stronger—bleach, sin requires more than our own feeble attempts to “make things right”, to “wipe the slate clean”. God must intervene. And He has. When His Son, Jesus died on the cross, it was in payment for our forgiveness; it is the solution that removes our sin. 1 John 1:7 and 9 tell us that the blood of Jesus washes us clean and purifies us from all unrighteousness.

As we begin a new year, many of us are wishing we could wipe away past wrongs and failures, and promising to improve situations and circumstances in our lives. If we want a fresh start, God offers us the best resolution—put our faith in Jesus as our Savior and Deliverer from sin. It’s a great way to start this new year—with a new life lead by God.

Be encouraged!
Pam

©2019 Pamela D. Williams
Comments welcome via Facebook
or writepam71@gmail.com.