nancy williams

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Archive for July, 2007

Encouragement Makes a Difference

Life is hard – sometimes. Regardless of our age, background, or life experiences, we all face challenges at times in our life. Losses. Disappointments. Setbacks. Rejection from others. Illness. Financial concerns. Lack of focus or direction. Sometimes we know what we want to accomplish but don’t know how to bring it to a successful completion. At other times, we may want to bring about change but lack the confidence to step out and make it happen.

Recently, I met a group of adults who have been part of a new program called “Family to Family Mentoring” sponsored by H.A.A.M. (Humble Area Assistance Ministries). Families who have reached out for community assistance meet volunteer families from local churches who have offered to serve as mentors. The program includes classes on topics such as budgeting, parenting, employment, nutrition and self-care, in addition to one-on-one time for the families paired together.

I was delighted to join the group’s final session for a celebration. My heart smiled as they shared their discoveries and experiences. Breaking free from negative relationships. Letting go of painful pasts and learning how to move forward. Strengthening healthy family relationships. Learning to live life more productively, efficiently and safely. Beginning to believe in themselves. Discovering a light of hope to guide them toward a brighter future. Finding positive, supportive people to cheer them on. Stepping out, in faith, to build a better tomorrow.

It was encouraging to see these adults chose to believe that positive changes are possible. Willing to take steps to make it happen. Not everyone makes this choice when facing life challenges. Some are too quick to settle for “as is” and don’t consider what “can be.” Others know they are not happy with the status quo but don’t know what to do and won’t reach out for assistance. Then there are some who long for improvements but don’t believe in themselves and lack the confidence to step out toward positive changes or to keep pressing on, when obstacles come along the path toward success.

Not this group. These people looked around for opportunity to make change happen and then looked deep within themselves for courage to reach out for help. But, they are not merely relying on someone else to carry them. They are applying what they are learning and walking through the doors that others have helped to open. They shared their dreams and goals and we celebrated their first steps on the road toward a brighter tomorrow. Their voices rang out with hope and their eyes sparkled with joy as they spoke about experiencing a fresh start.

Yet, the benefits experienced and lessons learned didn’t stop with those who were on the receiving end of the assistance. The mentors came to the program, offering encouragement, expertise from their own life experiences, accountability, assistance with tasks that may have seemed otherwise overwhelming, comfort for the setbacks that came along and excitement for each successful step. In return, they received powerful lessons from the lives of those with whom they worked about courage and perseverance. About the joy and healing that comes in counting blessings and seeing God’s hand of provision and restoration at work. They spoke about the privilege that was theirs to walk along side someone as an encourager.

As I reflect on this group’s experiences, I’m reminded of Barnabas, a man we read about in the Bible’s New Testament, who was known as an Encourager. The accounts we read about him tell how he came along side others who needed a helping hand. He shared his time, finances, wisdom and counsel to support others who were trying to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of those around them. His life was a reflection of God’s love and grace at work.

Our families, our communities and our world could use more encouragers like Barnabas and those mentors and program staff. Not to mention the benefits we would experience if we had the kind of desire, courage and determination I saw in those adults who believed they could make a difference in their lives and are now on their way to a brighter tomorrow. May each of us find that light within…and let it shine.

Forefathers Leave Legacy of Freedom and Faith

This week, we join people across the country to celebrate that momentous day when a group of leaders gathered to sign a document that would change the course of history in our land and around the world. The Continental Congress in Philadelphia adopted the Declaration of Independence, unanimously declared by the 13 United States of America, on July 4, 1776. As signed copies of the document reached various towns throughout the colonies, eager citizens gathered at courthouses and town squares to hear the public announcement of the birth of a nation. It began with this statement of observation:

*When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

It continued with a list of the colonies’ concerns and the failed attempts to resolve them with the British monarchy; and it closed with this declaration:

*We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. ― And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Annual trips to historic Independence Hall in Philadelphia were part of my childhood experience. Each year, as I gazed at the Liberty Bell and heard The Declaration of Independence read again, my young mind imagined those representatives who came together from different backgrounds but with a common purpose: to forge a new nation. These early leaders left a powerful legacy for us to draw from as we face the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. These touchstones can influence us individually and collectively as a nation of people bound together in a spirit of freedom and democracy.

* We must know what beliefs we hold dear – the principles we want to base our life upon – and why they are of value to us.

* It’s important to stand strong for those beliefs – to speak out, not just about what we are against, but also for what we favor.

* We need a solid foundation to uphold us when the challenging winds of adversity blow, a source of strength to guide and sustain us.

* It is important for us to cherish our freedoms and not take them for granted.

In October of 1774, Congressional representatives wrote a letter to the colonies while the question of independence was being considered. It included the following statement which is as applicable to us today as it was then: “Above all things, we earnestly entreat you, with devotion of spirit, penitence of heart, and amendment of life, to humble yourselves, and implore the favor of Almighty God: and we fervently beseech his divine goodness to take you into his gracious protection.”

As we celebrate this special day in the life of our country, let us pause to remember the principles set in place by those founding fathers, beginning with the encouragement to humble ourselves, pray and seek God’s guidance, protection and healing for our land. May God bless America.