Wednesday, March 31, 2010

To Be With Him


Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)
When Jesus prayed the prayer recorded in John 17, He had just spoken to His disciples of His upcoming death and resurrection. * After His initial statements, they were incredibly confused and unsure of what He meant. Jesus then clarified His words, promising them joy following their great sorrow.

Putting myself in the disciples shoes and then again in Jesus' place, gives a new perspective to these oft-quoted verses. Jesus' human heart was obviously struggling against what He knew He must do, while His compassion for those for whom He would soon die overwhelmed Him.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. 21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. 22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:20-22)
For me, no other passage of Scripture really captures the consuming love Jesus had than these two chapters in the book of John. How could He, so consumed, not offer hope to these whom He cared so much for?

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
In my mind, it's as if I hear Christ pleading, "You don't know what I know, or understand what I must now do, but believe me when I promise you joy, peace, and victory because of it."

The Bible speaks in Luke 22:44 of the anguish Jesus was under as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, anguish so great He sweat "great drops of blood". I know we have all read that passage before, but stop for a moment and think about it. Here He was facing an event that no one else could "get Him out of," an event He knew He must face alone. He must have imagined how these, His friends, would feel as they watched Him die.

Chapter seventeen continues with Jesus' struggle as He prays to His Father.

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come... (John 17:1)
I encourage you today, to stop and take the time to read this entire passage of Scripture because it is life changing. But return with me to my initial verse, John 17:24, for I want you to notice a very important phrase.
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am...
"Let them be with me right here, Father," He asked, "Right here where I am."

Ask yourself this question, Where was He? What did Jesus mean when He prayed those words? He was still facing a horrible cruel death. He certainly didn't want them to face that, or He would not have offered up His life in their place. He didn't want them to feel His anguish because He'd already told them they need only ask, and they'd receive with full joy. ** So what DID He mean?

He explains in the very next phrase.

...that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
What does the Scripture say in the book of Hebrews?
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame... (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus endured the cross for the joy. The Message Bible says, "He never lost sight of where he was headed..." In His greatest moment of weakness, facing death, Jesus looked at the joy afterward. He looked at the glory that would be revealed through His sacrifice. He remember how much the Father loved Him.

When He prayed "let them be with me" He was asking for these disciples, these brothers of His, and in return "for them also which shall believe...through their word" *** (that's you and me!) to know the love of the Father, the glory of the sacrifice, and the joy of the reward.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." ****
“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.” (John 17:25-26)

*John 16:16 ** John 16:24 *** John 17:20 **** John 15:13)

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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, March 28, 2010

In My Grandmother's Words

My grandmother wrote this song, and she painted these pictures. I am going to let her speak today.

Jesus is Everything
by Thelma

Jesus loves you today.
Please don't turn him away.
Jesus is Everything
Follow His call, you will never fall.
Accept Him today.
Without Him how lost I would be.

SCAN0001

Song of Victory
by Thelma

When upon the seashore of sand,
God with His mighty hand,
Fought the battle with His rod.
As the mighty enemy moved toward Israel
And sought to crush them from victory.

But with God with his man reached out over the sea
With a rod to part the waters so His people could be free.
God in His mighty power led His people to the shore
So all the enemies could see the victory.

Oh, how the enemy cried
When they saw God's wrath applied
Moving in to drown them in the sea of destruction.
Oh, Praise His name for evermore
For His great power to conquer evil and give us victory.

Praise God for the Song of Victory.
Can't you hear the 600,000 voices sing
Praises to the King of Kings,
As they marched on across the sea to victory.

Like a mighty army, God leads to victory
When He says, "I will fight the battle so you can go free."
Praise God for His power to free us throughout eternity.
All who trust in His care shall go free and have victory

Praise Him! Praise him! On to victory! with His mighty power
That conquers evil and sets men free.
They can shout the victory to all men throughout the ages.
Oh, Praise God for the Victory, Amen! Amen!
In Jesus Name, that is above every name!

SCAN0002

Missing you, Granny.

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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, March 24, 2010

Follow Peace


Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. (Romans 14:19)
The Greek word translated "follow" in this scripture implies pursuit. In Thayer's Greek Definitions it actually says "to run swiftly (and eagerly) in order to catch a person or thing." * It is, in fact, a much stronger word than we are used to in our everyday English. We are to run after peace. We run after it to obtain it. It is not recreational. We are not just casually strolling in that general direction. Sometimes we might have it, and other times we might not.

We see this thought again in 2 Timothy.

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace... (2 Timothy 2:22)
Flee! Follow! "Flee" is as strong a word as "follow". It means to "run away to escape". **** Run away, escape, youthful lusts. Run after peace. The succeeding verses give further revelation on this instruction.

But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient... (2 Timothy 2:23-24)
Strife is the opposite of peace. Gentleness and patience on the other hand go hand-in-hand with it. Psalms 34:14 speaks along this same line of thought. It says, "Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it." Depart, do good, pursue peace!

The prophet Jonah, having finally delivered the word of the Lord to the people of Nineveh, afterwards went into the desert, sat down, and indulged in a bit of a fit. Here's a man who had learned the hard way not to run from God, who had personally seen the expansiveness of God's forgiveness and mercy. Yet, the Bible says Jonah was displeased. Jonah even went so far as to blame God for being so merciful! In effect, he said, "I knew you'd forgive them. You always forgive everyone, and I just want to die." (Jonah 4:2) The Lord's response really strikes me in the heart.

Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry? (Jonah 4:4)
"Jonah," the Lord says, "Is it right for you to be angry about this?" *****

When the Scripture says, "Be...angry, but sin not," it is asking us to not allow the anger and the strife, which WILL come, to dominate our heart. ** If I am to pursue peace, then I must refuse anger. There is no "re-channeling" of it, as if it can be used profitably.

Remember what Jesus said? "In the world, you will have tribulation..." *** Opportunities arise on a daily basis in which we can lose our pursuit of peace and give in to the consuming pressures of strife and anger. During these instances we must stop our backward slide towards the conflict. For we cannot run towards peace when we are indulging in anger. Anger, and consequently strife, stop our forward walk in the things of God. We must in those moments remember the question God asked Jonah. "Is it right for you to be angry?"
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently... (Hebrews 12:14-15)
The pursuit of peace implies persistence. It means never giving up. No matter what is thrown our way, we walk in peace. We walk in peace with ALL men, no one person being excepted. We walk eagerly, hungry for God, avid. Why? Because, as this verse says, without peace "no man shall see the Lord." Without peace, without holiness, gentleness, and patience, I will not experience God's presence.

I don't know about you, but I need the Lord every hour of every day. If anger and strife can cause me to stop moving forward, if they will keep me from His presence, then those are reasons enough for me to eagerly pursue peace. Nothing is worth that! Nothing.

* G1377 ** Ephesians 4:26 *** John 16:33 **** http://thesaurus.com/browse/flee ***** NLT

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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, March 21, 2010

Amazing Cornbread

*I adapted this recipe from one Food Network TVs "The Neeleys" used. I like my version better. :) It is so easy to throw together and the results are very moist.


2 (8.5 oz) boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix
1/2 cup milk
1 (8 oz) container sour cream
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup melted butter
1 (14.5 oz) can corn
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies

Mix all ingredients and pour into 13" x 9" greased baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 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, March 17, 2010

What I Learned From My Grandparents

My Grandmother, Thelma Sapp Combee, standing in the garden.
Granny in the pole beans

The passing of my grandmother this past week set me to thinking. She is the third grandparent in my life to pass on in the last decade, yet I don't feel her loss any less than the other two. Instead, I find myself yet again reevaluating myself and my memories.

Individually each grandparent has placed in me a piece of themselves. After all, I am a composite of my experiences and the people I have met. But from these who loved me, whom I spent time with, I have the greatest impression. From them I found humor, simplicity, spirituality, and acceptance.

Thelma

My dad's mother showed me that joy is eternal and infectious. She was the happiest person I've ever known. Even in her final years, she'd clap and smile and never ceased saying how much she loved you. My personal goal is to be exactly the same.

She taught me that knowing your family history is fascinating and worthwhile. Granny remembered everyone, knew who they were related to, and could trace their ancestors back several generations. No branch of the family escaped her notice. With photos and newspaper articles, she traced the paths of her history, never forgetting. She accepted the future, even in her last days wanting to learn to use a computer, without ever forgetting the past.

Granny's faith in God was simple and heartfelt. Whereas my life sometimes seems complicated and unsure, I can look at her and know that God is in control. She was forever faithful and dedicated to her church. Watching the changes in it over the years, and creating a few of her own.

Cecil

My grandfather, Pop-Pop, set an example of hard work and an honest living. Always out in his fields, day and night, he'd plant, and hoe, and weed because he knew that was how to get results. His didn't have much financially, but what he did have he put to good use.

Pop-Pop taught me that the church and the Bible must be the core of everything you do. He walked in great integrity and had a stalwart faith that all of his grandchildren admire and aspire to.

From him I developed a love for growing things, for he could grow anything and grow it well. Even in his latter years, when he couldn't get around very well, he still planted and watered and grew. Through this, He demonstrated patience and persistence. He showed that working the soil would reap bountiful results. To this day, when I plant something I ask myself what he would do.

Juanita

My grandmother, Juanita, taught me that granddaughters are a treasure. With a smile and a laugh, she'd pull out her brown box of toys. I think I miss her laugh the most. On sunny afternoons, we'd walk down to the "duck lake" and scatter breadcrumbs. From her I have my love for birds and flowers. Sometimes she'd create picture books, tied together with construction paper and string. She made me feel special and loved.

Granny taught me how to cook. I learned the value of leftovers. More than once I told her, "Granny, I'll eat your leftovers any day." Somehow, her food was always good warmed up. She taught me the proper method for making cheese sauce without lumps. Because of her I know if it's a vegetable, you peel it; you never to stir cornbread dressing; and making pear relish is rewarding.

Most of all, she taught me the value of memories. Granny remembered everything. She could tell you when and where she purchased every Christmas tree ornament. She attended all her high school class reunions and kept in contact with her friends. For years she wrote letters, enclosing photos and news articles pertinent to each person. She even wrote to her grandchildren, no matter how close or far away they were. If you sent her a card, she saved it, and if it was your birthday, an anniversary, or a holiday, she sent you one in return. A gift from her placed in a plain white box with a simple red bow on it was just as special as if it had been wrapped in the finest paper.

Bud

My grandfather, Bud, taught me the beauty of the hymns. Ever a fount of song lyrics, there isn't many hymns he doesn't know and can't sing.

He showed me thrift and generosity. Granny always said he'd give you the shirt off his back if you asked it. You never left his house without a jar of pickles or a bag of cookies, and borrowed money couldn't be repaid. Granddaddy showed me that the Sunday ads were there to help find the best bargains. He always knew when things were on sale.

With Granddaddy ice cream was elevated from a special treat to the end of every meal (Everyone knew you could get a bowl at his table) and He made Coke an everyday drink. From him I learned that orange juice goes in iced tea and there's nothing so grand as cleaning your plate.

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As I sat and listened during my grandmother's funeral this week to all the words spoken about her, I was struck most of all by the love so many expressed. Every grandchild and great grandchild, every friend, only had good things to say. I came away knowing that none of these will ever forget who she was. she was for so many, the best of memories and a true example of love.

That is really what its all about, I think. The greatest lesson I have learned from my grandparents is the power of love. They loved me, and I in turn loved them. They gave me a love for God, for family, and for friends. I like to think, one day when I'm old and gray, my daughter and my grandchildren will look back at my life and remember me the same. For what I have become and what I have yet to be is a direct result of what my grandparents have given me. I love them all, and I am so grateful.


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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.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Announcement

I have an exciting announcement to share with you. I was recently approached about writing guest articles for the popular camera review website, Steve's Digicams. My first article entitled "What is photography?" is now up and can be read at the link below. I am happy to be given this opportunity and thank everyone at that website for allowing me to write about a subject I dearly love.

I am unable to reprint the articles on this blog, but will send along the links as they are produced, most likely every couple of weeks. My regular column for Pix-N-Pens will continue as normal each Thursday.


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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.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Christmas Story

*I wrote this story in December of 2009 for Pix-N-Pens. I post it here to honor my grandmother, Thelma Sapp Combee (1920-2010). If you haven't read my account of the day I read the story to her, you can do so at this link. It is now one of my most precious memories.

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As we piled in the car, I turned my head and gazed upward into the night sky. The air was cool and unconsciously I pulled my favorite blue sweater tighter around me. I felt my mother's hand pat me on the shoulder, encouraging me to stop my star gazing and pay attention to the task at hand. Daddy had his head in the trunk where I could hear the Christmas packages landing with a thump and a brief rustle of paper.

Half the fun of Christmas, I was thinking, is that it goes on and on. Tonight was Christmas Eve and like so many other Christmas Eve's we were headed just down the drive to visit my father's parents, my grandparents. Tonight the festivities began. Tomorrow morning my brother and I would open the gifts my parents had bought us, and tomorrow night there'd be fun with my other grandparents and the rest of my mother's family.

Now seated, I turned my head again and pressed my face to the window glass, allowing my gaze to cross the overgrown farm fields. The glass felt cold on my forehead. With my active seven-year-old mind, for a moment I pictured the field as it was in the summertime. I saw the field covered in long rows of healthy fruits and vegetables, and I pictured my grandfather there, plowing the soil on his rusty red tractor, or walking about watering and fertilizing. I smiled as I thought of the familiar scene.

My reverie was interrupted when I heard the car engine roar and felt the wheels begin to turn. They crunched across the packed dirt of the driveway as we made the trek to Pop-Pop and Granny's house.

Our house sat on one end of a winding dirt road. To one side was the field and on the other stood a thick stand of live oaks, which we called "the woods". Pop-Pop and Granny lived at the other end of the driveway in a small wood-frame house set in the midst of a grove of citrus trees.

Their house was already crowded with relatives when we arrived. The youngest of a crowd of cousins, my brother and I slipped in the door, letting it slam behind us. Compared to the darkness of the night, the house was bright and cheerful. I smiled as the familiar faces began the wave of expected greetings. "My how you've grown!" "What grade are you in?" and "How's school?"

Gazing around the room I could see that every square inch of space was filled. The dining room table and chairs dominated the space, and the walls were covered with shelves, placards, and family photographs. I heard my mother enter. In her hands she carried a casserole she had prepared earlier that day. My dad came in behind her with his arms full of colorfully wrapped gifts. The wave of greetings began again and the room filled with happy chatter.

Christmas Eves were always like this and I thought it was the best thing. In my young thinking, every family everywhere did something similar. They gathered together during the holidays, swapped stories, gave gifts, and ate too much food.

Speaking of food, I was hungry. The table was already laden with dishes. Along with baked ham, I saw chicken and dumplings and macaroni and cheese. There were bowls of Pop-Pop's homegrown vegetables: green beans, collard greens, and black-eyed peas. There was the ever present tray of sliced tomatoes. Another table held a multitide of desserts: cookies, brownies, and coconut cake. I was especially fond of Granny's pound cake all slathered in sliced sugared strawberries and whipped cream.

As if on cue, my grandfather entered from the living room just beyond. In his booming voice, he declared it time to eat and lumbered over to his favorite chair. The room fell quiet as he prayed, thanking God for family, for togetherness, and for the health of all in the past year. Afterward, everyone rushed over, filled their plates, and drifted off to other rooms to find a seat.

When the meal ended, everyone seemed content to just smile and digest the feast. Looking straight ahead, I thought Granny with her fluffy white hair and flowery printed dress looked so pretty and Pop-Pop so distinguished in his plaid flannel shirt and black trousers. I could hear a few last minute bits of conversation and laughter from the other portion of the house.

The atmosphere changed when Pop-Pop rose from the table. Suddenly, everyone knew it was time for the presents. The floor of the house shook as many feet traveled in the same direction. The already small living room became even smaller as people searched for a spot to stand or sit.


Being young, it was easy for me to slip in and find a square to sit in the floor. While everyone settled in around me, I gazed at the Christmas tree with its shiny lights and wondered which package beneath was my own. I didn't really expect anything grand. After all, Granny and Pop-Pop had so many people to buy for. But every child looks forward to whatever is beneath all those ribbons and bows.

My anticipation would have to wait a little longer, however, because I could see Pop-Pop was reaching for his Bible. Resting deep in his brown leather chair, he cleared his throat and said it was time for the Christmas story. A deep silence descended in the room, and elbow-to-elbow we all listened to those familiar words from the book of Luke.

"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed ..."

If I stop here and fast forward, from the age of seven, to twelve, fifteen, and then twenty-three, this Christmas Eve scene repeated itself many times. Oh, the people in it grew older; my cousins married and had children, and their children married. I myself married and had a child, but always the little house and the hearts of the family managed to fit everyone in. Each person was sure to receive a gift, no matter how small it was, and everyone came glad to see everyone else.

For me, Pop-Pop's telling of the Christmas story was pivotal to the entire evening. I enjoyed opening the presents, and I loved the food. But everyone who attended knew none of it mattered until the story had been told.

The scene changed forever when my grandfather died. He was the first grandparent in my life to pass away. We cried for him and yet rejoiced, knowing his place was in heaven, knowing he was happy, and healthy and free. That Christmas, the family gathered again at the little house. There was time to eat and share, to laugh at the antics of the children, to catch up on all the family news. But when the moment came, and everyone gathered in the living room, I stood there with tears in my eyes.

The room was still the same. The old piano still sat in the corner covered in photos and Christmas cards. The huge wooden casement TV still took up the center. Even the couch and coffee table remained the same. And it was still crowded. The kids, as they always had, sat in the floor, and I, now an adult, instead stood in the doorway. But this year Pop-Pop's brown leather chair was empty. I couldn't help but think that now none of the children would know the story.

Then someone, just who I can't recall, reached over and picked up his old Bible, and one of the children opened it and began to read. There before me were new faces and old ones, familiar people and a story I had heard all my life. But that year, though the voice was that of a child, what I heard instead was Pop-Pop reading, just like he always had.

"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem...to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger... "

I miss my grandfather still. In my head I can see him working the fields. When I see any antique tractors, like his 1952 Allis Chalmers, I think of him. No vegetables anywhere are ever as good as his were. Yet at Christmas time, when I miss him the most, I can always hear his voice reading the Christmas story. And it never fails to transport me to a place where I know what it all means, where there is love and joy, and where things make sense. The Christmas story for me is the greatest story ever told.

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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, March 10, 2010

The Places Photographs Take Me

* This article was previously published at Pix-N-Pens.

As I scanned through a selection of photographs tonight, they transported me to some wonderful places. I traveled to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, with covered bridges and old-fashioned horse carts. I flew in a patriotic-themed hot air balloon as it sailed over a farmer's fields. I walked amongst waving golden grains, a silo in the distance. I meandered through a lush tropical garden and admired the awesome power of a Hawaiian waterfall. The golden leaves of autumn fell onto a mountain stream and sailed silently down river. These photographs have inspired my imagination.

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

I find myself imbued to take up photography yet again by these works of other people. I may never travel as far and wide as some, but it's through their efforts that I can see a glimpse of all these places. That's how nature photography all began really. You had a man who was willing to hike to distant places and preserve their essence for all those who'd never go there. And he took it seriously, taking the time to combine all the elements that would make his viewers' experience just that more magical.

Just think...what if I take a photograph of something so seemingly ordinary around me, but it gives someone else the lift that these images just gave me? Then it is all worth while, all my efforts. What if I take a photograph of some rare species that's never been photographed before? You never know! It's been done.

Toad Flax
Toad Flax

Our world is ever changing. Our lives move and shift, and the things around us move and shift as well. It is my goal to preserve this little piece of what is around me for someone else in the future. You just never know who might see it, and what that photograph might motivate them to do.

Tree Shapes, Circle B Reserve
Tree Shapes

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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, March 7, 2010

Milestones

I passed a milestone yesterday. There was no fanfare, no parade, no congratulations. Other peoples' lives continued to move and change. They did their weekend chores, had lunch with their friends, or sat alone soaking up the glorious Florida sunshine. In short, the day was completely "normal".

Bok Tower, Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower, Lake Wales, Florida


I rejoice today in the "normalcy" of it all. I rejoice that as I was there having what was an important moment of my life, that moment quietly slipped by me without any notice, just as it should have.

In 2007, I suffered with panic attacks which left me physically and mentally crippled. I was unable to leave home and do what are for others the most natural things. Trips to the grocery store, to church, even to work, seemed impossible. Consumed by fear, I stopped trying to go anywhere. When I did go, I was, to be frank, a complete mess.

Female Mute Swan
Female Mute Swan


So when yesterday I stood at a place which I had once feared, when I stood there full of the most amazing peace, I passed another milestone. That moment needed no acknowledgment. And actually, the fact that it was not recognized is what makes it so marvelous to begin with. I didn't have to think about it. There was no worry, nothing to decide, or contemplate.

No, my day was normal. Just like everybody else, I walked; I smiled; I laughed; I breathed. *

Spring, Plum Blossoms
Spring Plum Blossoms


*If you'd like to read my complete testimony, you can do so
at this link. I give all the glory to God, whose love brought me out of that very dark place. I have nothing to hide now, so feel free to ask many any questions you wish. You see, the freedom I have in Christ is available to all. He loves you, just as much as He does me.

I suspect there are many more milestones in my future. I pray they will all float past me just as silently as this one did.


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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, March 3, 2010

Treat Yourself Like A Temple

Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? (Matthew 23:17)
Jesus in the surrounding verses of Matthew 23 was upset (more than upset really) with the Pharisees over their lack of service in the church. He refers to them as "blind guides", "hypocrites", "sepulchers", and "vipers". Those are pretty strong words, which should not be dampened. However, the general sense of the passage can be found in verse 3.
All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Matthew 23:3)
Each of the accusations that Jesus uses against the Pharisees come right back to His point in verse 3. Plainly put, He states, "They are not good examples. They don't do what they preach."

The Apostle Paul in his letters to the Corinthian church numerous times uses the temple building as an example of the body, or flesh, of man. (1 Cor. 3:9) And He explains that we, as Christians, should give the same veneration to our fleshly bodies, as examples of Christ, that we give to the temple, or church, building itself.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) *
I like the phrase "for the temple of God is holy." Something that is holy is undeniably pure. There is not one part of it that contains anything other than cleanliness. It is untainted and uncontaminated in any way.

Albert Barne's Notes on the Bible (esword) makes excellent remarks on the importance of this statement.
A temple was an edifice erected to the service of God. The temple at Jerusalem was not only most magnificent, but was regarded as most sacred:

(1) From the fact that it was devoted to his service; and,
(2) From the fact that it was the special residence of Yahweh.

Among the pagan also, temples were regarded as sacred. They were supposed to be inhabited by the divinity to whom they were dedicated. They were regarded, as inviolable. Those who took refuge there were safe. It was a crime of the highest degree to violate a temple, or to tear a fugitive who had sought protection there from the altar. So the apostle says of the Christian community. They were regarded as his temple - God dwelt among them - and they should regard themselves as holy, and as consecrated to his service. And so it is regarded as a species of sacrilege to violate the temple, and to devote it to other uses..
He sums it up previously by saying "God dwelt by a visible symbol." Wow! We in our flesh are a visible, sacred symbol of God. We are a place of protection and refuge to a hurting world. We are holy, and we should therefore treat ourselves as holy.

The allusion here is, of course, to purity from sexual sins, and this is a priority, and one specifically mentioned by the Apostle Paul. But there is much more to treating ourselves like God's temple than just that. Look back at Matthew 23. Jesus accusations against the Pharisees here were for their pretenses. They walked around acting holy, yet their actions, the words they spoke, the gifts they gave, and especially their motives, did not back this up.

Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Matthew 23:28)
Within, in the holiest place of the temple, the place where God is supposed to dwell, they were instead full of sin.

Being the temple of God involves also how we treat others. It is walking in God's love, showing all those facets of His love laid out for us in 1 Corinthians 13. It is an absence of pride and haughtiness. It is not being greedy. Someone may be sexually pure, but filled with anger, unkindness, or covetousness. All of these things defile the temple. You don't have to be practicing illicit sex and on drugs to have an unclean temple!

Listen again to Jesus' words in Matthew 23.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. (Matthew 23:29-32)
One version of verse 32 says, "You are doing what your fathers did." ***

Christians are supposed to be the light for Christ, showing His grace and beauty, His love, in a very dark world. As the Scripture says, the light in us should not be darkness. ** No, the light shed from our temple should draw others in to find out about the refuge we have here in the peace and joy of salvation.


* (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16) ** (Matthew 6:23; Luke 11:35; Luke 12:3; 2 Corinthians 6:14) *** CEV


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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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