Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Don't Blame God

Whenever something bad happens, many times God gets the blame. I cringe to hear people attribute sickness, financial ruin, natural disaster, and even death, as God's will for them. One scripture that is used in this vein a lot is Romans 8:28.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
But this verse only reiterates one truth continually presented throughout the Bible - God is good. Jesus stated this very fact in the Gospels.
And Jesus said...none is good, save one, that is, God. (Luke 18:19)
"Good" is a word every English teacher tells their students to avoid. Trite and overused, it's meaning has become a bit lost to us. Dictionary.com defines it as "morally excellent, satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree, right, proper, kind, beneficient, friendly, financially sound or safe, genuine (not counterfeit), reliable, dependable, responsible, healthful, not spoiled, favorable, agreeable, advantageous, available..." I think you can begin to see the picture!

First John 1:11 states it this way.
He that doeth good is of God...
Good comes from God, and God does good. Here's another verse which substantiates this statement.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)
What type of gifts come from the Father? Good ones! But also notice the second half of the verse - NO variableness and NO shadow. I like the Good News Bible translation, "God...who does not change or cause darkness." Yet another verse states "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)

Didn't God move us OUT of the kingdom of darkness? (Colossian 1:13) It stands to reason then if God has no darkness and He moved us out of darkness, if God is light and life, if God is good, then God doesn't deserve the blame.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I [Jesus] am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
The entire eighth chapter of the book of Romans, including verse 28, is in agreement with what the rest of these verses say about God's character. Verse 1 informs us that we who are in Christ have no condemnation, or reproach. Verse 2 says we are then free from the power of sin and death. Verse 3 tells us this is because Jesus condemned sin that, verse 4, God's righteousness might be fulfilled in our lives. Verses 5-13 instruct us to walk after the Spirit of God and not obey everything our flesh, or body, tells us to do. Verses 14-17 state as children of God He is our "Abba, Father" and we are His "joint-heirs." Think of that! God's heirs!

This chapter continues on to say God's Spirit prays for us (v26) and nothing can separate us from His love. (v35) But through hope and patience and by taking control over our flesh, through God we will overcome! (v25, v37) Given all of this, verse 28 is another in a long list of God's marvelous promises.
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 8:32)
If in verse 32, we define "all things" as "good" things, then in verse 28, we must do the same.

God gave us Jesus, His Son, to die on a cruel cross. If He did that, then how could He not freely desire to give us all the GOOD [insert the definition] things we will ever need?

More Reading: Matthew 7:9; Luke 12:28,31; Luke 21:18; Acts 10:38; 3 John 1:2

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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, February 17, 2010

Seeing The Extraordinary

*This article is a re-print from an earlier Pix-N-Pens blog post.

I have been in a bit of a dry spell with my photography. All of us have been there – with too much to do at work, too many places to go, a spell of bad weather, or the pull of children and family. Suddenly you find yourself up against a bit of a wall and very dry. Reigniting your passion for photography can be difficult. I cannot tell you the number of times I have gone outdoors, thinking I would break the dry spell, only to come back indoors with nothing to show for it.

There is a quote that asks the question, "When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing…?" I have read a lot of photography advice that suggests taking your camera with you everywhere you go. After all, you might find something worth photographing. I do not mean to suggest this is bad advice by any means. But I’d like to suggest you do the opposite. Find a place and a time somewhere to just sit and soak in the surroundings.

A Spectacular Hibiscus Flower
A Spectacular Hibiscus Flower

Inspiration comes in many forms. Sound, for me, can be inspiring. I have “found” photographs by sitting with my eyes closed and “seeing” just how many sounds I can pick out. Was that a robin? I hear a boat-tail grackle, and in the distance the bark of a dog. Then I allow my mind to wander. Whose dog is that? Is it a large dog or a small one? I picture what might be happening with that dog in that location. “Okay,” you ask, “But what does that have to do with photography?” It is simply one exercise I use to refocus my “eyes”, to “re-see” the ordinary things around me.

Spiral, Bird of Paradise Leaf
Spiral, Bird of Paradise Leaf

I can remember when I first got into photography what excitement I felt every day, always feeling like I never knew what might appear before my lens. The times when I did not have my camera along, I’d frame imaginary images in my mind as if I did. Over time this became habitual, but it wasn’t until years later than I realized its benefits. It has for me become another way to “see” the world in photographs and most of all to appreciate it.

The purpose of photography is to take people visually where they are not physically. I can sail the world, cross blue-ice glaciers, climb towering, rocky mountains, and admire glorious tropical sunsets through the photographs of others. In reverse, my images should carry people to my location. Perhaps they’d like to walk a swampy cypress trail or sink their toes in warm, white beach sands along the Gulf’s shore. Perhaps my photographs can bring them here. What is ordinary to me could be extraordinary to someone else.

Goldenrod
Goldenrod

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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, February 14, 2010

Faith and Photography

Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter. ~ Ansel Adams
I heard a song the other day whose words begin, "I stand in wonder. I stand amazed." * So many times I have expressed a similar sentiment when I realize God has placed me in the "right place" at the "right time" to capture something incredible. For me, photography is much more than a hobby. It is inherently tied to my faith in God. From the smallest of creatures to the grandest of vistas, I see God there. He is truly omnipresent, all around me.

I have used the photograph below as an example in a previous article. However, it continues to be the first image that comes into my mind when thinking along these lines. That particular day, I was just in my yard photographing what I could find. I had taken many other pictures, none of which were memorable. Yet, what I thought would be just another photograph of a lady bug turned out to be a glimpse into a whole other world. Had God not placed me there at that moment in time, I would have missed it entirely.

The World of Bugs
The World of Bugs

On another day, I came across a pair of crab spiders. I have seen this species many times before and the flower they are perched on is considered a common weed here, yet never before (and not since) have I come across a pair of them together in this manner.

Male and Female Crab Spiders
Male and Female Crab Spiders

God directed me there in both of these instances. I only took the picture. His leading me, His placing me there, these times, and so many others, continues to astound me. If my family had not visited the park, we would have missed the full beauty of an autumn maple. If I had not gone out, despite the weather, I would have missed the glory of the sunset highlighting the clouds. I have so many similar stories.

But it is more than that. It is His putting everything else into place just for me. How marvelous that thought is! I am not anyone special. In fact, my life is rather ordinary. Yet God organized that event just for me.
Autumn Bench, Cherokee Lake
Autumn Bench, Part 2, Cherokee Lake, Murphy, North Carolina

Storm Clouds at Sunset
Storm Clouds at Sunset, Saddle Creek Park, Lakeland, Florida
Everyone of us has a calling, a gift. Mine are photography and writing. Your gift might be music or drawing or preaching or any number of other things. God can use your gift, just like He has used mine. But know first, it is only with His input in my life that causes anything I do to make sense. I am but a tool in His hand, a tool to capture my world in pictures and to share the love of God through words.


*"In Wonder" The Waiting Kind

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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, February 10, 2010

Wait and Worship


I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. (Psalm 130:5)
Most Christians have had someone tell them to "wait on the Lord" without their really knowing what that means or what it requires them to do. Part of the problem is our human thinking on what "waiting" is. Waiting seems to be a long, dull period of inactivity with no definite end point. In other words, we don't know how long we will be waiting or when, or if, God's answer will come.

But the word "wait" in the Hebrew has a marvelous definition. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance uses words like "collect", "gather together", and "expect". I'd like to focus on its initial meaning, however - "to bind together". *

I admit when I first read that I thought it was a curious rendering. "What," I asked myself, "does binding (or twisting, which is also included in the definition) have to do with waiting for something?" And then the Lord gave me a marvelous answer!

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)
When two objects are bound together, they become inseparable. A twisted rope, for instance, contains thousands of strands. These strands standing on their own are weak. They can't suspend anything, retain anything, or support anything. But when you take many strands and wind them around each other, their strength is ten-thousand-fold what each was alone.

God's Word very plainly says waiting on the Lord brings strength. We see this again in an oft quoted verse in Isaiah.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Using our definition, we could therefore paraphrase this verse as saying, "'Bind yourself' to God and He will renew your strength." But what it mean to "bind" oneself to God?

Well, realize that waiting is an action. It is a verb. An action, or a verb, calls for us to do something. This goes against what we have thought waiting was - "a long, dull period of inactivity". Instead, when we wait on God, we are to be actively doing.

Okay, I see that, but what are we to be doing? First, we are standing in faith, expecting God to answer. "Expect", you will recall, is part of the definition of the word "wait". Someone who expects an answer knows there will be a definite end point to their wait. Look back at Psalm 27:14 - "Wait...and he shall..." The word "shall" is definite; it is fixed.

Second, we are "binding ourselves" to God. We do this through the act of worship. Worship brings us into the presence of God. (James 4:8) Worship brings refreshment to our spirit and our soul, and it brings strength. There is a scripture in 1 Corinthians which really speaks to my heart.

Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? (1 Corinthians 9:13)
Now, the apostle Paul was specifically talking about those in his day who worked in the church. However, God has told us all to come boldly to the altar. (Hebrews 10:19) He said we should "draw near with full assurance." (verse 22) When we partake of the altar, through worship God's presence comes and we bind ourselves to Him. (Psalm 91:1) As the hymn says, "Where He leads me I will follow / I'll go with Him, with Him, all the way." **

Bound together with the Lord in worship, expecting the answer, waiting becomes the most precious time in my life. No longer is it dull or am I impatient for it to end. Instead, it is refreshing and strengthening. Waiting is a marvelous, marvelous thing! And notice what God has said comes from it.
For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. (Psalm 37:9)

Wait
on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it. (Psalm 37:34)
"To inherit" in the Hebrew means we "occupy by driving out previous tenants, and possessing in their place." *** Wow! That makes waiting even more powerful.

Waiting is time spent with God in worship strengthening our heart until bound together with Christ the wicked in our life is driven out. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to wait!



* H6960; Dictionaries of Hebrew and Greek Words taken from Strong's Exhaustive Concordance by James Strong, S.T.D., LL.D., 1890. ** "Where He Leads Me I Will Follow"; Words: Er­nest W. Blan­dy, 1890. Music: John S. Nor­ris, 1890 *** H3423; Dictionaries of Hebrew and Greek Words taken from Strong's Exhaustive Concordance by James Strong, S.T.D., LL.D., 1890.

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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, February 7, 2010

On Black and White Images

There are three types of black and white photographs: those taken directly in black and white, those converted from color to black and white, and infrared photographs. Each method has its place in photography and each provides amazing visual appeal.

Plantation House
Plantation House

Contrasts

Deliberately taking a photographic trip strictly to make black and white images opens up a new world in photography because black and white photos are all about contrasts - contrasts in shape, texture, and especially contrasting light.

I have found that one of the best ways to learn more about black and white photography is by watching old black and white films. In the black and white films of yesteryear, items like clothing, hair styles, and the general surroundings of a scene have a much different emphasis. Form, outline, and symmetry are used to leave the impression colors are used for today. If you don't believe me, imagine watching your local weather forecast on a black and white television (I have done this before). It is amazing to realize just how much we rely on color.

Bird of Paradise Leaves
Bird of Paradise Leaves

Visualization

Similarly, learning to visualize an image as it would appear in black and white is, I believe, a great way to better your color photography. It causes you to concentrate more on composition than color photography does. This is especially true in the use of infrared filters. Infrared greatly alters elements in a scene. The underlying structural components (tree trunks and limbs, rocks, buildings, even water and skies) become foremost in the scene instead.

Here's another project for visualization. Take a color photo and using Photoshop's Channel Mixer select "Monochrome" and change the picture into a black and white. Save this image, reopen the original again, and repeat the procedure only this time alter the amount of red, green, or blue of each channel.

P2035213-1600P2035213-BW2
P2035213-BW1P2035213-BW3

Implied Color

I once saw a black and white photograph of a beautiful rainbow with the backdrop of a large waterfall. It was amazing to me that I could both recognize it was in fact a rainbow and identify each of the colors. This is because, just as in the example above, black and white still relies on color. Each of the channels, red, green, and blue, are represented.

Knowing this brings up a whole new line of thinking where photography is concerned. And being able to represent color in strictly grayscale tones becomes a really fascinating and challenging subject, especially in infrared images where waters and skies turn black.

Docks, Lake Kissimmee, Florida
Docks, Lake Kissimmee, Florida

With every photograph taken, a photographer should always strive to learn something new. I have found that black and white photography is another great tool I can use to enhance my ability to visualize a scene and to better capture light, whether I am usually a color photographer or not. It allows me to be a bit more creative and yet achieve some fascinating results.

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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, February 3, 2010

Growing Up

Paul in speaking to the Corinthian church mourned their inability to feed on the deeper things of God. In 1 Corinthians 3:3, he lists a number of behaviors that were preventing their spiritual growth: envy, strife, and division, and then he very plainly states, "You are yet carnal...and walk as men."
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. (1 Corinthians 3:2)
The world carnal implies someone who is more concerned with worldly, temporal things in their life than with spiritual.

We see this thought again in 1 Peter 2:2.
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
Very plainly, this scripture says, "Feed on God's Word and grow up!"

I am drawn now to a passage in the book of Ephesians. In verse 11 there is a list of callings in the church.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Now, this verse has been used a lot to describe the different offices God has ordained, but I want you to notice that it does not say, "He [God] gave some apostles, and some apostles, and some apostles, and some apostles," nor is any other office strictly highlighted. Instead, this list covers a number of different callings. We can see this again in 1 Corinthians 12.

Now there are diversities of gifts (verse 4)
And there are differences of administrations
(verse 5)
And there are diversities of operations
(verse 6)
There are diversities and differences, but...But how does each of these scriptures end?

...same Spirit
...same Lord

...same God
In both 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, the same point is being made. The book of Ephesians uses the word "unity" and in 1 Corinthians it says "the selfsame Spirit". (Ephesians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 12:11) God works, not just through one man, one preacher, or one group of Christians, but through all of us, to bring unity to the church.

God speaks to each man in the body of Christ (in the church) in whatever "language" they need to best hear and promote growth in that person. In other words, how He speaks to one person might not be how He speaks to another. It is not the language we, as believers, should be concerned about, and by that, I mean the particular church or building, denomination or faith.

Doesn't it say in verse 12 of this same passage in 1 Corinthians, "the body is one, and hath many members"? And in two other passages, the Bible also specifically says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11)

Now look back at verse 14 of Ephesians 4.

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine...
Our "job" as Christians is to hear God's voice so that we may grow and become strong in Christ. Then, as we grow, we will grow together, we will grow unified, building up the church. How each of us hears, what church we attend, or what preacher most speaks to our heart, is not what's important. What's important is that we determine to "come...unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13) In other words, we grow up! I know that is my goal.

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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.

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