Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Homage To The Printed Page

Bare Trees
Bare Trees

Joyce Kilmer wrote his most famous poem to pay homage to the tree. Extolling its virtues, he took what is to most people and ordinary object and placed it on the pedestal he thought it deserved.
I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
Well, if I were to follow his example, I'd write a poem about the lowly book.

Just recently I heard a news report that stated that ebooks were now selling over and above the printed page. This I just cannot believe! Perhaps I am behind the curve ball here, but why would anyone choose to stare at an electronic device instead? Okay, I know; I know. The irony of that statement now smacks me in the face.

I stare at electronic devices every day - my laptop, my telephone. I go out of my way to find people to text (though I will never outdo my daughter for number of contacts). I even set up my Facebook account to update me via SMS. That is a bit desperate, isn't it? But when it comes to a good book, to sitting down and allowing my imagination to travel, there is no substitute.

There's something so romantic about a book. I love to feel the weight of it in my hands, to caress the texture of the paper. I want to hear the rasp of the pages as they are turned. I like that I can know how long the story is just by looking at the thickness of the spine. I feel accomplishment when I reach the bottom of a page and thrill to start anew at the top of the next one.

Books become like old friends. They take up more space, but it is an honored space. Each one, with its own shape and size, sits nestled lovingly on the shelf. Esteemed scrolls, they rest there almost smiling, permanent remembrances of days and events and times. The creases in the paper display the enthusiasm of many private, happy moments. Ebooks just cannot substitute for any of that!

I am all for the electronic library. I have been able to read portions of classic novels, autobiographical stories, and even the personal diaries of figures from history, because of the efforts of a noble few who digitally saved the writings. The internet library is truly an amazing resource.

However, at least for me, printed books will never be replaced. I will participate in the electronic age. I will strive to keep up with the latest technology. But when I choose to immerse myself in a story, whether its a fictional or literal one, I will always seek out a printed copy. I will surround myself with letters and words and paragraphs written in ink.

John 18:5
John 18:5

-------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

M&M Cookies

These cookies are a family favorite. The recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies. A light, crispy cookie, they keep well at room temperature in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Recipe makes about 5 dozen cookies.


1 cup shortening
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups regular-size plain M&M candies

Mix shortening and sugar until smooth.
Stir in vanilla and eggs.
Stir in flour, soda, and salt.
Stir in M&M candies.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet about 2" apart.
Bake at 375F for 9-10 minutes.

-------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

God Is With Us


Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:23)
I was recently captured by the true magnitude of this promise. Eighteenth century preacher, John Wesley once said about this verse...

"They shall call his name Emmanuel -To be called, only means, according to the Hebrew manner of speaking, that the person spoken of shall really and effectually be what he is called, and actually fulfil that title. Thus, Unto us a child is born - and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace - That is, he shall be all these...really, and in effect." (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)
Isn't that marvelous? Just think about that! When Christ came to earth, He came to fulfill what the name "Emmanuel" means. He came to be "God with us."

Jesus Himself said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20) Ask yourself, what does that mean? What does the promise "God with us" really contain?

There is yet another commentator whose words will clarify this thought.

"Jesus is called Immanuel, or God with us, in his incarnation. - God united to our nature - God with man - God in man. - God with us, by his continual protection. - God with us, by the influences of his Holy Spirit - in the holy sacrament - in the preaching of his word - in private prayer. And God with us, through every action of our life, that we begin, continue, and end in his name. He is God with us, to comfort, enlighten, protect, and defend us in every time of temptation and trial, in the hour of death, in the day of judgment; and God with us, and in us, and we with and in him, to all eternity." (Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible)
Wow! To think that God came to be "with" me in every circumstance!

It says in the book of Romans, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32)

Jesus did not come to simply observe our lives. He came to accompany us through our lives. (Psalm 23:4) He came to be "with us" as a participant, and to provide us with the answer, the solution, to every problem we will ever face.

He is truly "with" us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

...for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Corinthians 6:16)
Amen!

-------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Season of Giving

For men shall be lovers of their own selves... 2 Timothy 3:2
Christmas is traditionally the season of giving. We give gifts to our family and friends. We give toys to organizations who collect them for unfortunate children. We give money to feed the poor. Everywhere we turn there are opportunities for giving.

But the biggest gift we can give, and one that should be done on a daily basis all year long, involves not our finances but our attitudes. Selfishness is the antithesis of giving, and selfishness creeps into our lives without our realizing it. Selfishness wants "my plate" to have the bigger piece of pie. It causes us to criticize others for the most trivial of mannerisms.

"You can't do it like that!"
"My way is better!"
"But in OUR family..."
"Well, we don't eat that!"
"I always turn left there, not right!"

I think you get the idea. At the heart of all of our actions is usually our own selfishness. We are willing to give, but only so far as we don't have to become uncomfortable, or only as long as we can have our usual portion. We give what is left over after we have taken our fill.

In Ephesians 4:17-19, the Apostle Paul tells the church to not walk like everyone else "in the vanity of their mind." He goes on in verse 18 to describe these same people with words like "darkened", "alienated", "ignorance", and "blindness". Then in verse 19 he says, "Who being past feeling..." Wow! I don't think you can get any more selfish than that!

But look at verse 20. This verse really strikes at the heart of the matter for me - "You did not so learn Christ." (Ephesians 4:20)

The old saying goes "Keep Christ in Christmas." I would alter it to read, "Keep Christ" all year long. After all, Christ came to earth specifically to give, and in the end, He gave the ultimate sacrifice. His was the maximum gift of unselfishness. He gave His life for those who didn't deserve it, didn't earn it, and didn't even care.

The very least I can do is guard my heart against everyday selfishness, asking God to forgive me when I have messed up.

What if I gave away all that I owned and let myself be burned alive? I would gain nothing, unless I loved others....Love isn't selfish... (2 Corinthians 13:3,5)
--------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything who happens to love photography.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Date Balls

This is one of the best cookies you will ever eat, by far. This is because, as you will notice, the main ingredient is butter. I always use real butter, never margarine. You cook them on the stove in a saucepan. It is important to cook the mixture just long enough, but not too long, as what you are actually doing will eventually make a candy-like substance if overcooked. Then the balls must be rolled quickly. This means a few burnt fingertips, but they are definitely worth it!


2 cups butter
1 8-ounce package chopped dates
1 cup white sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups Rice Krispy cereal
powdered sugar

Cook butter, sugar and dates until misture is thickened. This will take about 5 minutes and the mixture will totally incorporate until it looks like peanut butter. Remove from heat. Fold in pecans, vanilla, and cereal. Using a small spoon, roll the mixture into 1" balls. Caution, mixture will be HOT! As they cool, the cookies will harden somewhat. Roll into powdered sugar immediately while still warm.

----------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography and Graphic Design
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Florida, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Judgment

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
In Jesus' life, one day the Pharisees and scribes brought before him a women accused of adultery. Now, notice first of all that this was people from the church, the leaders and workers in the temple! And then notice Jesus' response.

The scripture says He "wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not." (John 8:6) He didn't respond at all. I can imagine they were more than a little nonplussed. Jesus remained crouched, with his finger writing in the sand, and didn't say a word.

Frustrated, the accusers, the Pharisees and scribes, wouldn't let Him alone. Verse 7 says "they continued to ask." Finally, Jesus utters one simple phrase.
He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. (John 8:7)
He then stoops back down and continues to write in the sand.

Let's read a scripture in the book of Luke.
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: (Luke 6:36-37)
In the following verse in Luke 6, we read the familiar words, "Give, and it shall be given unto you..." We have over the years used this verse in the positive, and it should be used that way, to show God's overflowing financial goodness in our lives. But it follows on the thoughts in verses 36 and 37. If you "give" judgment, you will reap judgment. If you "give" mercy, you will reap mercy.

The verses from Matthew 7 give a similar refrain. There we are told to first know what "mote" is in our own eye. What right have we to give judgment against another when we have not judged our own behavior? What does how we are acting look like to others?

Every parent at some point cautions their child against doing things that make him or her "look bad." The Bible calls this the "appearance of evil" and we are told to "abstain" from it. (1 Thess. 5:22) And James 5:6 tells us with our words we can defile, or pollute, or entire body. As Jesus stooped there, seemingly innocuous to what was going on around Him, it's not that He didn't hear the accusations against the woman. No, it was that He refused to participate in the judgment of the scribes and Pharisees. He would not "defile" Himself by speaking words.

Ask yourself this, Had He stood up and begun to accuse her, as all the others were doing, what would we think of Him today? I think all His words on forgiveness would fall flat in our ears. Jesus response was first, to not condemn the woman and second, to offer her mercy. He set for us an example. He refused to cast judgment.

If you read through the Gospels, you would see He consistently acted this way. He did not judge Zacchaeus, but ate at his house. He did not pass judgment on the woman who poured perfume on His feet. (Luke 19:5 ; Luke 7:44) When brought before Pilate, He didn't speak to defend himself. (Matthew 27:14) And as He hung on the cross, He forgave all those who accused him. (Luke 23:24)
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
This thought is a much greater thing than just asking forgiveness after the fact - in other words, using forgiveness as an excuse for bad behavior. True forgiveness offers mercy instead of judgment. And in offering mercy, we will reap mercy. What we give we will receive. I like that!

------------------------------------
Suzanne Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Taking Holiday Photographs

With Christmas on the horizon, here are a few tips to making your holiday photographs a bit more interesting.

1. Bokeh

What is bokeh? Bokeh involves making something deliberately out of focus and having it work well in an image. You can do this using any number of objects, but the most popular would be background lighting. Bokeh will give an image a very abstract feel. Don't be afraid to try something more creative in a holiday image.

Christmas colors
Christmas Colors in Abstract

2. Lights

Perhaps you want to photograph the lights and have them actually be in focus. My first tip would be to use a tripod and a shutter release. If you don't have a tripod, look for a solid surface - a table, fence post, or railing - instead. And if you don't have a remote shutter release, most cameras come with a 2 or 10 second timer which will work just as well.

For images involving lights, I like to adjust my shutter speed manually and I always spot focus. Photographing lights will not require as long of a shutter speed as you think it will. Generally speaking, the longer the shutter is open the less definition you'll see in the lights (which takes you back to bokeh in point one). If you are in doubt as to what speed to use, then don't be afraid to take several photos with different shutter speeds. After all, it's better to be "safe, than sorry" later.

Christmas Lights All In A Row
Christmas Lights All In A Row

3. Unusual

Look for unusual subjects and zoom in close. Food, decorations, even seasonal flowers make great holiday images. Decorate your pets or even your children and capture them in action, wrapping presents, baking cookies, or jumping in the leaves.

Sparkles
Sparkles

4. Location

As they say, location, location, location. In this case, I mean go to a holiday themed location, pose the family and capture the moment. It is great for everyone's spirits and fun to remember. Photographs are, after all, about saving one's memories.

Christmas Tree, Grand Floridian Hotel, Orlando, Florida
Christmas Tree, Grand Floridian Hotel, Orlando, Florida

5. Black & White

Try eliminating the color in your images and go for black & white photographs. I prefer photographing in color and then converting the images into grayscale later using Photoshop. But there are many, many other ways which will give you excellent results. Try giving the image a creative frame or overlaying a softening filter. Sometimes a subtle effect will enhance the photo nicely.

White Christmas
White Christmas

Most of all, remember why we are thankful this season. Give time and love to your family and friends, and spend at least one moment with the Father, saying, "Thanks, God, for all you have done for me this year."

------------------------------------
Suzanne Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blindness


And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. (Matthew 15:14)
I was reading the words of a well-known preacher the other day when he posed a question that really stuck in my heart. "Do you feel like you are walking around in circles?" he asked. Since then, the more I have thought on it the more I have to say "yes". In recent days I have felt a bit like I was spinning around and getting nowhere.

But, you know. the revelation of this is as great to me as finding the solution to the problem. Half the battles we face come because we can't see ourselves, our own behaviors, and the harm they are doing.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. (Mark 10:51)
I think back to the story of Elisha's servant. The king of Syria had been told that the reason he couldn't seem to win any battles was because of Elisha. So in response, he had sent soldiers to surround the city where Elisha was and capture him.

And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

(16) And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. (2 Kings 6:15-16)
Can't you just picture the scene? There stands Elisha cool as a cucumber while his servant runs around in a panic shouting, "Oh my goodness! What are we gonna do???"

Elisha's servant was at that moment going in circles. His dilemma was not that he couldn't recognize the problem. Plainly, he could see that there were a whole lot of people out there to get them. He obviously felt underpowered and out of control. No, his issue was he couldn't see the solution.
And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. (verse 17)
I like the verse above from the book of Mark. I'm sure Jesus realized as He stood there that the man was blind. Yet still He asked him, "What do you want?" You know, it is the blind man's response that brought the solution. In this case that was his healing. The blind man said, "I want to see."

Here's what we should really notice from both of these stories. When Elisha asked the Lord to "open the eyes" of his servant it was granted. When the blind man asked Jesus for sight, it was granted! In both cases, they received their sight and then Lord delivered them.

I ask today for the Lord to open my eyes. Whatever it is, Lord, that I need to see to stop walking around in circles, I want to see it. For it is only when I can see, that I will be able to ask for forgiveness, change my direction, and begin to move forward.
---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Grandmother's Cornbread Dressing

This is an old family recipe which originated with my great-grandmother (mother's side). Simply put, we think its the best ever. The cornbread itself is a very moist buttermilk cornbread. The dressing is lightly flavored as my grandmother never liked a lot of spices. Just be sure to follow the directions when it says DO NOT STIR as that is key to the texture being firm and not mushy.



CORNBREAD:

1 cup white ground cornmeal (not self-rising)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup shortening, melted

Mix meal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
Add buttermilk, egg, and melted shortening.
Pour into greased 9” pie plate.
Bake at 375° F for 12 minutes.
Makes 1 cornbread.

DRESSING:

2 recipes cornbread, crumbled
1 cup Pepperidge Farm cornbread stuffing crumbs
3/4 tube saltines
1 cup each steamed celery and onion, minced
poultry seasoning, to taste
3 eggs, beaten
4-5 cans chicken broth, heated
Chicken or Turkey drippings (optional)

Prepare 2 recipes of cornbread.
Crumble cornbread into a large bowl.
Steam celery and onion with 1/4 cup water in small saucepan. Do not brown!
Place saltines, stuffing crumbs, and the steamed celery and onion mixture on top of cornbread.
Add poultry seasoning (to taste).
Very lightly toss together.
Pour beaten eggs over mixture.
Slowly add heated broth.
Do not stir!
Gently prod the mixture with a fork to allow the liquid to seep through.
Pour into a rectangular baking dish.
Casserole contents should be slightly floating in liquid.
Bake at 350° F for 30-40 minutes. Do not allow to dry out!

NOTE:

Recipe is large and will perhaps take more than one baking dish. However, it can be halved. Dressing should be slightly floating in broth before being baked. Granny always boiled a chicken and used some of the natural broth instead of canned. She also used this broth for the gravy. At other times, she has used the drippings from the baked turkey as well. The amount of canned broth will need to be adjusted based on the amount of turkey drippings or boiled chicken broth you use. If not using drippings, you might need more than 4 cans of broth.

GRAVY:

1 can Campbell’s cream of chicken soup
1/2 - 1 can chicken broth
Giblets, diced small

Pour chicken soup into small saucepan.
Add chicken broth until desired gravy thickness.
Add giblets.
Heat.

---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gratitude

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Corinthians 9:15)
This has been a good year for me and I have much to be thankful for. In 2008, God drew me up out of a very dark place and set me upon a rock above my enemy. (Psalm 27:5-7; 40:2) And my enemy was fear. I had allowed fear to consume my life and prevent me from moving forward. I am so grateful today to be free from fear. (You can read my complete testimony.)

But being free from fear does not mean the devil has stopped trying to assail me. Rather being free means no matter what he does, I am not moved by it. I am stronger in Christ than any darts he throws my way. (Ephesians 6:16) God is greater, and I am up higher, sitting protected under His wings, upon the rock where He has placed me to only "behold and see the reward of the wicked." (Psalms 91)

My gratitude every day is still so very great for this "unspeakable gift" God has given me.

Someone said to me, it is those who have been through an episode in their life that was very traumatic that most understand the meaning of worship. When I close my eyes and sing the words "unto You be all the glory" I mean them with all my heart. It is my extreme thankfulness that drives me into His presence. Thank you God! Thank you. Thank you.

I would not be where I am, however, without the support of my friends and family. (You know who you are.) Those who have corresponded with me via email. Those who have prayed for me when I was struggling. Those who have pushed me to move beyond my mental limitations. Those who have shared of their lives and listened to my own. For you I am so grateful. I have more friends this year than I ever have, and you have no idea what that means to me.

But most of all, I have to thank my spouse. There are not enough words to express what he has done for me. When I was at my lowest point, he held my hand. Thank you for all those hours talking, for "kicking me" (figuratively speaking) when I was making no sense. You have been my greatest support and I love you.

However, it was not enough for God to just lift me up out of the darkness, He then blessed my husband and I with a gift we had wanted with all our heart. I wake up each day reminded of how much God loves us. He is truly the God of "more than enough." And this entire year, even in what looks like the toughest times by the world's standards, we have always had enough. I am so grateful because I know it was nothing we did, nothing we deserved or earned, but God's free gift. God officially "one upped" us big time.

The Bible says in Ephesians 5:4, "Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks." Rather - instead of. Instead of telling coarse jokes, instead of serving your flesh, instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind, things that are "not convenient" or we'd say not proper or suitable, give thanks.

Don't waste your words this holiday season, take some time to stop and give thanks.

---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Greater Things


Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. (Jeremiah 33:3)
In John, chapter 1, we see Jesus calling his disciples when, on one particular day, He speaks to a man named Phillip. (verse 43) And Phillip, all enthusiastic, then runs off and finds his friend, Nathanael.

I can picture it in my head. There is Nathanael minding his own business, on a seemingly average day, when Phillip runs up babbling about prophecies being fulfilled and how they've found the long awaited Messiah. "Come and see who we have found!" (verse 45)

Nathanael, a bit perplexed, gives him "one of those looks" and replies, "Seriously? Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (Not the only time that was said either.)

Nathanael's doubts linger, but he agrees to follow Phillip, who must have been a valuable friend, to find "this man". Well, when he and Phillip finally cross paths with Jesus, Jesus then proceeds tells Nathanael where he (Nathanael) was standing when Phillip had first found him.
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! (48) Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. (49) Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. (John 1:47-49)
Jesus' words made an instant believer out of Nathanael. But the story doesn't end there! Jesus then says something to Nathanael, within the hearing of all surrounding them, that I can imagine really blew Nathanael's mind.
Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these... (John 1:50)
In our everyday lives, all to often, we let God's promises fade. In our hearts we still believe in them and agree with what is said, but because of circumstances and events and people, they become softer and less effective.

In 1 Timothy 1:6, the Apostle Paul tells Timothy to "stir up the gift of God." Apparently, Timothy had allowed fear and doubt to creep into his life and affect his ministry. Paul uses phrases like "hold fast" and "be not ashamed." (verses 8, 13)

However, I want you to notice that it was Timothy's job to stir himself up, not Paul's. Paul was sent by God into Timothy's life as a "reminder". I know, God constantly uses those around me in a similar manner, but the "stirring up" doesn't ever happen until I take the action myself. I have to read the Word. I have to pray. I have to worship. These things cannot be done by others for me.

This brings me back to my initial scripture. God has made us a promise that should really "stir us up!"

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. (Jeremiah 33:3)
Wow! Just when we've become complacent, just when we've allowed doubt to creep in, God wants us to know He will do "great and mighty things which [we know] not." Things we aren't thinking of, things we have forgotten about, or things we simply can't imagine!

But stop here for a second and ask yourself this question. What is the condition He requires of us so we can see these "great and mighty things"? What do we have to do to receive this promise? It's found in the beginning of the verse - "Call unto me. Stir yourself up! Just ask! Just ask!"

Doesn't the scripture say, "Ask, and it shall be given you"? (Matthew 7:7) Ask and it SHALL. It shall. It shall! "Call and I will." I will. I will! What "shall"? What "will"? "Great and mighty things" shall! "Great and mighty things" will! I tell you, this really stirs me up!

Jesus makes this promise even greater in John 14.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. (John 14:12)
God will show us "great and mighty things", things we "know not", and then we'll go out and do "greater works". I like the thought that no matter where I'm at in life, God has something greater prepared for me. No matter how high up I am, or how low down I am, God has greater things, mightier things ready for my life. I don't have to know about them in advance or know what they are, but just believe they are coming!

I choose today to stir myself up. I choose to ask. "God, show me greater things! God, give me greater works!"

---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Look At Autumn

Sometimes words fail me, and so I send my message in pictures. I hope you enjoy these.


In My Golden Years, Crepe Myrtle
In My Golden Years, Crepe Myrtle

Fall Maple
Fall Maple

An Autumn Mountainside, Murphy, North Carolina
An Autumn Mountainside, Murphy, North Carolina

Leaf Litter
Leaf Litter

Sunlit, Red Maple
Sunlit, Red Maple

Amicalola Falls, Georgia
Amicalola Falls, Georgia

Bald Cypress, Lake Hancock
Bald Cypress, Lake Hancock

---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography

Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.




Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Love God. Love People.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Jesus summed up the entire list of ten commandments and all the rules and regulations of the law into just one. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." (Luke 10:27)

Love God. Love people.

That is so simple, and I could end this entire post here because that effectively answers the question I placed in the title, "What would Jesus do?" If we love God, we won't worship idols. If we love people, we won't covet, or steal, or murder.

What would Jesus do? Jesus would love. That's what He would do.

In our everyday lives, there will always be situations and people thrust upon us that seem to be unlovable: passing acquaintances, co-workers, even family members. Jesus Himself stated, "A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." (Mark 6:4-6) Sometimes family can be the hardest to love.

Again, I turn to the Word for the answer. What does it say in 1 Corinthians 13?
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. (3) If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. (verses 1-3, NLT)
You can have the right actions, you can give money to feed the poor, you can help your neighbor move, you can spend time with the elderly, but if your motives are wrong, you have gained NOTHING. We should not do things solely out of obligation or because it is expected of us. We should do them because we love that person and in the end that person should know that they are loved.

Ask yourself this, when you completed the task what did the other person think of you? Did they leave knowing Christ loves them and you love them?

Love is not a feeling. We do not have to "feel" loving towards someone beforehand. Instead, love is an action. We give love through what we do. And when we act out of godly love, we will "shine our light before men" and we will "glorify God". (Matthew 5:16, above)

But often demonstrating God's love requires a step of faith on our part. Faith is not limited only to our needs and wants: a new job, better lodging, or physical healing. Faith is used when we step out to do things we can't do under our own power - like loving someone we have a really hard time loving.

What does the Bible say is the end result of true faith?
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:12)
I like the previous verse as well. I especially like these verses in the New Living Translation.

Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. (12) Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance. (verses 11-12, NLT)
Wow. Loving others by faith and seeing the result!

Faith is compared in the Bible to a seed. (Matthew 13:31) And seeds planted in fertile soil, tended and watered, will grow and produce great fruit. (John 15:1-2) Fruit we can see. We may not have known what was happening underneath the soil while our faith was growing, but when its all over we will see the fruit of our efforts. God always answers faith. (Hebrews 11:6)

Read verses 4-7 in 1 Corinthians 13 and as you read, ask yourself, "Where am I falling short in loving like Christ? Am I kind? Am I rude? Am I irritable?" And if you are, ask for forgiveness and then step out by faith to love someone in your life who is particularly unloveable.

Ye shall know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:16)

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
(Matthew 7:20)
---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Squirrels

Squirrels are my favorite backyard animals. They have such fun personalities. Following the hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004, I raised an orphaned pair of male gray squirrels. I can say it was one of the best things I have done and I have such fond memories of "my boys". After they were released later that same year, they would often return and knock on the door, begging for nuts.

My Squirrels
My Squirrels

My Boy
My Boy, Gray Squirrel


Here are few more of my favorite squirrel photographs.

Mama
Mama, Gray Squirrel

Looking Back At Me
Looking Back At Me, Gray Squirrel

Peek-A-Boo
Peek-A-Boo, Gray Squirrel

Gone Nutty
Gone Nutty, Gray Squirrel

---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

God in our children

But the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses were angry when they saw his miracles and heard the children shouting praises to the Son of David. (16) The men said to Jesus, "Don't you hear what those children are saying?" "Yes, I do!" Jesus answered. "Don't you know that the Scriptures say, 'Children and infants will sing praises'?" (Matthew 21:15-16 CEV)

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: (Acts 2:17)
God has promised to speak, not just to our children, but through our children. I think, however, that we, as adults, do not expect it. Instead, we have adopted the old adage, "Children should be seen and not heard." We need to raise our standards.

The Bible is full of examples. In the Gospels, we see Jesus using the bread of a young boy to feed thousands of people. (John 16:9) In the Old Testament, there is David, who was chosen above his older brothers, Samson, who was blessed with amazing strength, and Samuel, who God called out to instead of the priest Eli. (1 Samuel 16:11-13; Judges 13:24; 1 Samuel 3:4)

One of my favorite examples is found in the life of Daniel and his three friends. In Daniel, chapter 1, we find the people of Judah taken captive by the king of Babylon. The temple's goods are removed and the inhabitants have been uprooted and taken into bondage. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, then sends out a proclamation for certain of Judah's children.

Let's read the description.

Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. (verse 4)
That's quite an expectation for a child! Think of it. These children, which I'm sure were far more in number than just Daniel and his three friends, must become the smartest and the best for a king who was not their own and didn't believe as they did. And remember, he was a king. He was not someone you could argue with and he'd change his mind. This is made plain in verse 10 where the prince of eunuchs feared for his life.

But God...God had big plans for the lives of these four children.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. (9) Now God had brought Daniel into favour... (verse 8-9)
God provided for Daniel and his friends physically, mentally, and spiritually. But it began when Daniel decided he would not defile himself. He took a stand for what he believed, in absence of any adult there to tell him to do so. God then gave him favor with the prince of eunuchs so that he and his friends could eat pulse instead of the king's meat. He gave them better health than all of the other children (verse 15) and great wisdom when they spoke to the king, so much so that the king himself said they were better than all his own magicians and astrologers! (verses 19-20)

But the story doesn't stop there. Notice what happens in chapter 2.
And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. (2) Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. (Daniel 2:1-2)
Here is the king disturbed by a terrible dream to which he calls all the men of the land to interpret, and he follows this call with a threat. (verse 5) There is now a lot at stake! To make matters a lot worse (verse 10) the Chaldeans open their mouths and let the king know his request is impossible and no man can possibly follow through. Furiously the king commands all involved, including Daniel and his friends, to be slain.

At this point, you'd think it is over and all had come to nought. Except for Daniel - Daniel asks the king to stay his hand and requests time to pray. This is Daniel, the youth, the same child whom God had given favor with man, health and great wisdom. The lives of all the magicians and astrologers now sit on the shoulders of a young man.

Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; (28) But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these... (Daniel 2:27-28)
Wow! We need to expect our children to hear from heaven the way Daniel did. That they will stand for Christ, and pray, and speak His word is as much a promise of God as is salvation or healing or prosperity.

But this thought becomes even greater when we remember what Jesus said in Matthew 18:4. "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Instead of waiting for the child to grow up to be an adult before God moves, we, the adult, are to become like the child and then God will move!

Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. (14) But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. (15) And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence. (Matthew 19:13-15)

---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Voices From The Past

I came across a recording this week quite unexpectedly which plunged me immediately into the past. It was one of those instances in your life that you cannot foresee and are so grateful for afterward. But before you listen, I must give you a bit of background on how I came across it in the first place.

Back in the early 1980s while attending a local bible study, my mother and father made a number of cassette recordings of a well-known preacher. Needless to say, thirty years later these cassettes are rapidly decaying. So for a number of weeks now, I have been transferring these recordings onto compact discs. We have this amazing machine to do the job which only requires me to press a few buttons.

Having already done a dozen of these old cassettes, I placed in another labeled with the preacher's name and the number eight, it being the eighth in this particular series (but not the eighth one I've done). I was all prepared to hear the usual opening sequence, check my recording EQs and move on to another task while the machine does its magic.

But what I heard in the first seven minutes of that tape was not what I expected at all. Instead out came these voices from my past, my great-grandmother and great-grandfather, her daughter, my grandmother, my dad, and in the background my brother and I. I cannot fathom how this recording, dated June 2, 1979, remained on my mother's shelves for thirty years, unharmed. And when I think of how all this time has passed, yet those voices - my great-grandmother, great-grandfather and grandmother - all gone, still remain as fresh as they did all those years ago.

The recording also contains me, at age eight, singing a song we had learned in the children's choir at church, and then my brother and I playing the piano for our assembled relatives. (I have only included the first portion of the piano portion of the recording, as it is quite lengthy.)

I know I am fortunate to have found this recording as so many others would wish they could do the same. I have placed it into a video I created (below) along with a few photos of the participants around about that date. However, I would tell you that this video is not meant so much to be visual as it is to give you a chance to experience what I did, even in a small part. I hope you enjoy it.

It is available in two formats, for the best view visit the Photodex link below.
http://www.photodex.com/sharing/viewshow?fl=3139783&alb=142177

It is also up at Webshots.


Recording-June-1979.wmv



---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Cares of Life

And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. (Luke 8:14)

And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. (Mark 4:19)

And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34)
What are the "cares" of life? In Strong's Exhaustive Concordance the Greek word translated "cares" in these verses specifically refers to distractions. A distraction is something which turns your attention from one area to another. Both the books of Luke and Mark list a few of these distractions: riches, pleasures, and lusts. However, I think we, as church people, have read this parable so much that these words have become too generic in our thinking, and subsequently we fall prey to the very thing Jesus was trying to protect us against.

The verse in Mark 4 uses the phrase "entering in". Things that "enter in" to our lives will in some measure alter our future, whether we deliberately put it there for that reason, or, what is most likely, by coming in through our lackadaisical actions. Notice in Luke 21 it says "so that day come upon you unawares." If we will be unaware of it, then simply put we were not paying attention to it as we should have been. We were distracted.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (14) Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; (15) And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (16) Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (18) Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:13-18)
Ephesians six describes the armor God has given us for our daily protection. Notice first of all, in verse thirteen that we have to take it up! God is not going to stand us up and dress us! That is something we have to do. We see this thought repeated in verse fourteen where the understood subject of the sentence is the word "you". "[YOU] stand therefore..."

Okay then, we are standing by our own action. Why are we standing? In faith for something? Yes, and this verse does apply to using faith to believe for an answer. Jesus said, "Ask and I will give it to you." (John 15:16) But notice both verses sixteen and eighteen. Verse sixteen tells us faith will quench, or destroy, the devil's "fiery darts", and verse eighteen tells us to keep "watch". We are standing to watch for the "fiery darts" in order to prevent them from affecting our lives!

Here again, I need to stop and ask a question. What are the "fiery darts" that we are watching for? They are the "cares of this world", the "cares...of life"! They are those things in your life that "enter in" unsuspecting.

"I didn't think saying that would hurt her. It just slipped out!"
"What goes on behind closed doors doesn't harm anyone, right? After all, if no one knows..."
"But I needed a new cell phone!"
"I was just too tired to go to church."

Well, what does it say in both Luke 8 and Mark 4? First of all, it says these things "choke" the word in our lives, and as a result, we "become unfruitful". We "bring no fruit to perfection." It all comes down to saying "no". Sometimes we just have to refuse to do the things that everyone else is doing. I'd hate to think I was working so hard toward some goal and yet will never achieve it because I am not protecting myself from those things that will "choke" my faith.

It also means more than living our lives to not hurt others. It's living our lives to not hurt ourselves. That is what the "cares" will do. Speaking one dirty word will lead to speaking many more dirty words. Skipping church becomes easier and easier to do, spending money almost effortless. Then when we hit a brick wall in our prayer life or have some great need, we can't figure out why we can't find the answer. It's because we've put too much stuff in between ourselves and God. We "can't see the forest for the trees."

I don't want anything to stand between me and God. When He speaks, I want to hear it. I want to live in the joy He has promised me. But this only comes when I am watching over myself. After all, what does the Word say?
But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15)

That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:12)
That is where I want to be! Sitting in amongst the promised inheritance of God! But to get there, I have to refuse to "be slothful". I have to "take heed". And I have to do it daily. Then when I exercise my faith, God will answer!

---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Medal of Honor: Audie L. Murphy

The following was originally posted to the factfortoday Yahoo group. The excerpt below was taken from a now-defunct website, medalofhonor.com. We are always ready to welcome new members!

----------------------------------------

Audie L. Murphy is the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of WWII. He was also an actor appearing in western movies and a songwriter. He is best known for his acting in a biographical movie, To Hell and Back, and in the movies "The Red Badge of Courage" and "Unforgiven.
Audie's string of decorations began on March 2, 1944 with the Bronze Star Medal with "V" device for valorous conduct in action against the enemy on the Anzio Beachhead, Italy. This was followed with the First Oak Leaf Cluster on the Bronze Star Medal for his exemplary conduct in ground combat on or about 8 May, 1944. Also at this time, Audie was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge.

After landing near Ramatuelle in Southern France, Audie earned the Distinguished Service Cross on 15 August, 1944. Audie Murphy advanced inland with his squad but was halted by intense machine gun and small arms fire from a boulder covered hill to his front. Acting alone, he obtained a light machine gun and in the ensuring duel, he was able to silence the enemy weapon. Killing two of it's crew and wounding the third. As he proceeded further up the draw, two Germans advanced toward him. they were quickly killed. Still alone, Audie then dashed further up the draw toward the enemy strong point disregarding the hail of bullets directed at him. Closing in, he wounded two more Germans with Carbine fire, killed two others in a fire fight, and forced the remaining five to surrender. But it was during this action that took the life of his dear friend, Lattie Tipton. So devastated by this loss, that Audie co-dedicated his autobiographical book "To Hell and Back" to PVT Lattie Tipton and to PVT Joe Sieja who was killed in action on the Anzio Beachhead in January, 1944.

On the morning of 2 October 1944, near the Cleurie Quarry, France, Audie inched his way over rugged terrain toward an enemy machine gun which had fired upon a group of American Officers on reconnaissance. Getting to within fifteen yards of the German gun, Audie stood up, and disregarding a burst of enemy fire, flung two hand grenades into the position, killing four Germans and wounding three more thus destroying the position. For this action, Audie was awarded the Silver Star Just three days later, on October 5, 1944, on a hill in the Vosges Mountains near Le Tholy, France, he earned an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Silver Star. Carrying an SCR536 radio, and alone, Audie crawled fifty yards under severe enemy machine gun and rifle fire, to a point 200 yards from a strongly entrenched enemy. For an hour Audie Murphy directed artillery fire upon the enemy, killing fifteen Germans and inflicting approximately thirty-five casualties. World War II Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Audie L. Murphy

Audie Murphy's three Purple Hearts recognize wounds he received on 15 September 15, 1944, in his action near Genevreuville, France; October 26, 1944 in action near Les Rouges, Eaux, France; January 25, 1945, in action in the Colmar Pocket.

Audie Murphy received a severe hip wound from a German mortar on October 26, 1944. Tired of the monotony of hospital life, he took it upon himself to rejoin Company B. He was still in a state of convalescence on January 26, 1945 when Audie earned the Nation's highest tribute for action in the Riedwihr Woods near Holtzwihr, France. The Third Division was engaged in fierce fighting in the Colmar Pocket which consisted of a heavily fortified bulge stretching from the Rhine into France. At midnight on January 25, Company B moved through the Riedwihr Woods, but fierce fighting reduced the company to two officers and about 28 men. Despite five replacements, the company remained critically under strength. As the senior ranking officer, Audie was placed in charge of the company and was ordered to advance to the edge of the forest and hold the line until relieved. Company B was supported by two tank destroyers from the 601st Tank battalion which were attached to the 15th Infantry, but they would soon be out of action.

The frozen ground was covered with 10-12 inches of snow; it was impossible for the men to dig in. Audie's company was strung along a three hundred yard front at the edge of the woods. Company B was in a defensive position when at 1400 hours, on January 26, 1945, the Germans began a fierce attack from Holtzwihr. This assault consisted of six heavy Jagdpanther tanks supported by approximately 250 German infantry attired in white snow capes. The first tank destroyer slid into a drainage ditch and could not extricate itself. The second TD received a direct hit from a German 88 , killing the commander and gunner. Seeing that the situation was desperate, Audie ordered his men to fall back to an alternate position. At this time, Audie began calling in artillery supported by a field telephone through Battalion Headquarters. With his ammunition depleted, Audie decided to mount the burning TD and employ it's .50 caliber machine gun. After removing the dead TD commander, Audie sprayed deadly fire upon the German infantry. With the TD in danger of blowing up at any moment, the Germans gave it a wide berth. The black smoke streaming from the TD made it difficult for the Germans to see Audie, but it also reduced his view of the advancing infantry. At this point, Audie called in more artillery support even though it was dangerously close to his own position. For an hour, Audie managed to kill or wound approximately 50 to 100 Germans and confused the rest as to the source of the deadly fire. The German tanks, lacking infantry support, were forced to withdraw. Audie jumped from the burning TD only to hear it explode seconds later. Thus ended one of the most famous Medal of Honor actions of World War II. World War II Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Audie L. Murphy

Following the presentation of the Medal of Honor on June 2, 1945, at an airfield near Werfen, Austria, Audie was also awarded the Legion of Merit. In addition to the US awards, Audie received the French Legion of Honor (Grade of Chevalier); the French Croix du Guerre with Silver Star; the French Croix du Guerre with Palm and the Belgium Croix du Guerre 1940 with Palm. Despite the weight and burden of his medals, Audie always stated that the "the real heroes were the ones with the wooden crosses."
Audie Murphy died in an airplane crash in the Appalachian Mountains of Virigina in 1971. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

For more information -
http://www.audiemurphy.com/welcome.htm
http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9418662
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audie_L._Murphy

---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Thinking Process


When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. (Psalms 63:6)
God speaks to me a lot early in the morning before I rise up from bed. Often, I "hear" a scripture verse in my heart and will lay there just thinking about it. I'll repeat it over and over, reflecting on its meaning. I will spend time meditating on it.

...thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
This morning I was thinking about this scripture in Matthew. Again and again, I said to myself, "for He shall save his people, for He shall save his people, for He shall save his people from their sins."

Then I reworded it. "Jesus' name saves His people. Jesus' name saves His people." After a while, I heard another scripture.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: (Philippians 2:9)
I then combined these two thoughts. "His name is greater than every other. His name saves His people. His name is greater and it saves His people." Then the following verse in Matthew rose up inside me.

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; (Matthew 16:17)
Again, I combined these thoughts. "Jesus' name is above every other. It saves His people from sin AND is followed with signs. It not only saves. It is followed with signs. Jesus' name provides salvation and signs."

This process is what the Bible means when it refers to meditation. The word "meditate" itself means "to mumur" or "mutter"*, and it is a biblical instruction. (Joshua 1:8; Psalms 1:2) When the scripture says, "Thy word have I hid in my heart," I must ask, "How did it "get hid" there?" (Psalms 119:11)

Repetition is part of learning any subject. If you are taking a math class, the teacher would have you do the same type of problems over and over again, until you know how to do them with ease. In a relationship between a man and a woman, each party studies the other to learn all they can. After twenty years of marriage, I know my husband well enough to tell you what he'd say in any given situation. I, in effect, meditated on him.

That sounds like a funny way of putting it, but meditation goes in both positive and negative directions. We can meditate on good things and on bad things. Take worry, for example. Worry is meditating on fear. Isaiah 33:18 uses the phrase, "Thine heart shall meditate terror." That sounds a lot like worry to me! And meditating on fear will produce more fear and still more fear.

Here's the bottom line. Both positive and negative meditation will have an effect on you. If thinking about worry produces fear, then meditation on God's promises, Jesus' name, or His love for us, etc. will produce faith. The more I thought about those three scriptures regarding the name of Jesus, the more I believed them, the more assured I am now of their truths.

But meditation is more than simply positive thinking. This is because God's Word is alive! (Hebrews 4:12) The truths in it save and heal and prosper. They change lives. But only if we take the time to put them into our heart. Then when we are having troubles in any one area - if we lack peace or wisdom or need healing or have a great financial need - they will rise up from inside us and we'll find the answers we need.

There is an old saying, "You are what you eat." Well, I "am" only what I put inside me. I cannot speak healing, if I haven't any knowledge about healing. I will not walk in peace if I don't know I can have peace. So I will take my time in advance to put God's words in my heart, to make myself strong in the Lord. (Ephesians 6:10)
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. (1 Timothy 4:15)

Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don't be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.
(verses 15-16, The Message)


* Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, H1897
---------------------------------------------
Suzanne

Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Photography: Blue

"Blue is a colour, the perception of which is evoked by light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 440–490 nm. It is considered one of the additive primary colours. On the HSV Colour Wheel, the complement of blue is yellow; that is, a colour corresponding to an equal mixture of red and green light. On a colour wheel based on traditional colour theory (RYB), the complementary colour to blue is considered to be orange...The English language commonly uses "blue" to refer to any colour from navy blue to cyan. The word itself is derived from the Old French word bleu." (Wikipedia)

Blue Night, Murphy, North Carolina
Blue Night, Murphy, North Carolina

Baby Blue
Baby Blue

Twilight Reflections
Twilight Reflections, Saddle Creek Park, Lakeland, Florida

Blue Sky Moon
Blue Sky Moon

Blue Over You, Hydrangea
Blue Over You, Hydrangea

Plumbago
Plumbago

Forever
Forever


---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hot for Christ


I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16 NLT
These are such powerful words, but there is a truth in them that Christians need to heed. First, that God said, "I know about everything you do." We cannot hide from God. The Psalmist stated this so clearly.

O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. 2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. 3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Psalm 139:1-4
But it doesn't stop there. Not only does He know everything we do, but He knows how fervent we are as well. (Romans 12:11; James 5:16)

We are selfish human beings, forever fighting against our carnal nature. We will do for others mostly if we'll receive something in return. However, we did not "so learn Christ." (Ephesians 4:20) Didn't He die for us despite everything we have done?

The Apostle Paul describes this battle.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (Romans 7:18-19)
I can truthfully say, "I know the feeling." My intentions were to do good, but in the end I served only myself.

So, how do we overcome? How can we pull ourselves out of this endless cycle? Psalms 119:1 gives us the key.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
By meditating on the Word of God, planting its truths in our heart, making God's directions first place in our daily decision making, we will not walk in sin, and we will become more dedicated, more fervent, and "hotter" for Christ. This means walking in God's love even when it is difficult, honoring our commitments, guarding our speech (not saying everything that comes to mind), and protecting our thought life by watching what we put into our mind, to name just a few.

The Apostle Paul warned the Roman church not to waver.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:5-7 NLT
Wow! By wavering, or being lukewarm, we place ourselves in a position to receive nothing. Even further, it says we become unstable. This reminds me of Jesus' story about a house built on shifting sands. Without a firm foundation laid underneath, it fell. And notice it had a "great fall", not a little fall, but a disastrous one! (Matthew 7:26-27) What did Jesus say was the reason it fell?
...every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not...
God has promised us success and prosperity, peace and joy. But it is all on the condition we remain hot in our commitment, in our love, for Him. And we show that commitment by placing His words in our heart, by "doing" His sayings.

---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seek Peace


Let him seek peace... 1 Peter 3:11
Everyone finds peace in their own unique setting. I find mine through the lens of my camera. And though these images were taken time and space apart, they still speak to my heart of the silence I found in that particular moment.

But the previous verse tells us why we should "seek peace" when it states, "For he that will love life, and see good days..." Isn't that the goal of everyone? I know it is mine.

I will "love life" and "see good days"!

One Foggy Morning
One Foggy Morning

One Cold Morning
One Cold Morning

Early fog on the Maple Tree
Early Morning Fog on the Maple Tree

Into The Mist
Into The Mist, Saddle Creek Park, Lakeland, Florida

Lost In The Fog
Lost In The Fog, Saddle Creek, Lakeland, Florida

---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Setting Your Priorities


But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him... Philippians 3:7-9 NKJV
The Apostle Paul in this passage of scripture had just given them his pedigree. "Look," he had said, "at who I am, at what my accomplishments are." But he wasn't bragging, as can be seen by his following statements. Rather, he was telling the church to get their priorities in line. What was gain, or advantage, for him - his birthright, his education, even his "zeal" - he now considered useless to instead follow Christ.

Paul had forsaken all to follow the call of God on his life.
This seems to us like an incredible sacrifice. When pressed against the wall, we don't want to give up all the "stuff" we've worked so hard to gain. Why would he be so willing to make such a huge commitment? And what did he know, what revelation had he had, that had caused him to choose this?

Forget for a moment, his heavenly visitation on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:3) Though that definitely changed him, he could still have used his connections to further his new "career". He had, after all, been a man of influence in religious and political circles. Yet, Paul plainly states, "What I once thought valuable is worthless." (CEV)

Part of the answer lies in the fact that those things we do outside of Christ, through our body or our mind, are not profitable.
(John 6:63) Paul himself in verse 3 said he had "no confidence in the flesh." The truth is, what we can achieve under our own power will never come up to the level of what Christ can do in us through our faith. (Colossians 1:27)

In the book of Matthew, Jesus compels us to:

...seek ye first the kingdom of God... Matthew 6:33
Seeking Christ isn't something we do because we have been told to do it. Neither do we choose to do it after we've completed everything else on our list for the day. Seeking God is more than attending church on Sunday. It is more than reading one scripture before we fall asleep. No, we seek Christ out of our great desire for His presence. We long to be near Him, to hear what He has to say, and to please Him in our words and actions.

What someone desires, they will spend their time on. A professional sports athlete only becomes the best by constant practice. A husband and wife are only married for twenty, thirty, or fifty years because of their love and desire for each other. In either case, they don't mind the sacrifice because it moves them closer to what they love.

Paul knew this. In verse 10 he states:
...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings...
And in verse 12:
I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
His desire, his longing, was now for Christ. But it is greater than just having a desire because desire unfulfilled "can make you sick." (Proverbs 13:12 CEV)

Let's read the remainder of the verse in Matthew, chapter 6.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
What "things"? Why, the "things" of verse 31, clothing, food, drink, and by extension, money, promotions, and success.

It is not only that Paul had longing and desire for Christ. He also knew that Christ would provide all the other things he, Paul, would have had to work so hard to obtain on his own. His priorities were set according to his desire for God and his knowledge, his faith in, what God said He would provide.
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. 5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. 6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord. Psalms 27:4-6

---------------------------------------------
Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.


Dear Reader

This piece was written for the Grace & Faith 4U Blog. It received such a nice reception that I wanted to also post it here. It is not di...