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

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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.

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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!

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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)
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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.

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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!

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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."

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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.

Story Saturdays

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