Sunday, November 18, 2018

Aw, God, Do I Have To?

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (22) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Mt 18:21-22)

I had a bad day. You know, one of those where even the dog doesn’t cooperate? Well, ‘round about 10 a.m., I exploded. I screamed at everyone within a two-mile vicinity. And regretted it afterward.

You know the drill. “I should never have … and now they will always think of me like …”

Regret is a good thing, though, because it got me thinking about forgiveness and repentance. “Lord,” I said, in a sort of prayer, “Seventy times seven is REALLY hard to do.”

It looks good on paper. As Christians, we should be all “turn the other cheek,” “love the unlovely,” etcetera. Except I’ve seen anger and offense creep into the church. Someone lit into me the other day over something trivial, and I was taken aback. But struck harder by the thought I was supposed to pray for them and move on.

And I don’t mean pray they’ll trip.

The Bible says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Rm 12:19) We love to quote that, picturing lightning bolts striking someone and God up there beating his chest, “Bwahaha!” Truth is, He’s more apt to show them mercy if they’ll receive it.

Fixing the other person is not our job.

I heard speaker, Joyce Meyer, say she spent years trying to fix her husband, Dave, only to realize it didn’t work and she was the only one who was miserable. This helped me with my own relationships. I am apt to blow up first then swim in my regret for several days. But if I let God handle the one who’s antagonizing me, if my prayer is, “Give me a clean heart, O God,” and not, “Let Sister So-and-so stump her toe,” I can place myself in the Holy Spirit’s control and overcome those awful moments.

Overcome them and defeat them. Because God’s instructions to us are tougher than simply not fighting back. God said to forgive “seventy times seven,” then He said to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mt 5:44)

“Aw, God, do I have to?”

Yep. And notice, all of those things require ACTION on our part. To DO GOOD we must actually DO something. To BLESS someone, to PRAY for them, we must speak peaceful words. To show God’s love we must be the antithesis of everything our flesh and mind asks us to do. I heard a preacher say, “The nose doesn’t have to associate with the armpit,” referring to the body of Christ. So, take comfort that your prayer doesn’t mean you have to spend a day with Mr. Grumpy, it does mean we must seek to react differently. To actually crucify our flesh. (Gal 5:24)

And become like Jesus, who loved the least of men, but faced the devil in faith and power and won. We grow strong in Christ. Strong enough to love when, at that moment, it’s the last … the hardest thing we will ever do.

Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

All Things

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Php 4:13)

We expect everything in our lives of faith to be dramatic. We’re on a constant uphill struggle, an endless battle, slashing at the enemy on every side. We must cross rivers and climb mountains, our lives in constant peril.

There’s some truth to that imagery, of course. But our days are full of much smaller moments, everyday decisions that require wisdom and understanding to perform. Look back at Philippians 4:13 again – I can do ALL THINGS. That includes seemingly silly tasks as well.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.  (John 14:26)

We’re afraid to pray for those. But I can do all things because the Holy Spirit shall teach me all things. That’s profound . . . and comforting. When some new responsibility falls on my desk, even if I feel like I’m not smart enough, I know the One who is. This could be as simple as doing your taxes. Or maybe your teenage son or daughter needs help finding “x” on their algebra assignment. Maybe you promised to take a friend somewhere you aren’t sure you can find, GPS or not. Those are also “all things”.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work (2Co 9:8)

God cares about every part of our lives, no matter how trivial they may seem. He wants us to “abound” when we bake a cake for our mom’s birthday, when we call the cable company to straighten out our bill, when we take our car to be serviced and need to choose the right auto repair shop.

Sometimes it’s the small things that cripple us the most. We don our armor to fight giants, but take it off when it’s Uncle John asking for help to clear trees. Or to locate a baby gift for our cousin’s wife, who we don’t particularly get along with. Or the refrigerator needs replacing, but we have no idea what to buy.

I want to be sufficient in those tasks, too.

I’ve found, in my life, personally, that my need to shift responsibility onto others – a “you do it for me” attitude – never works out. Any time I think I can get him or her to take care of it, it’ll fall even harder on my shoulders, and those moments are when I pray, “I can do this through Christ.” I need supernatural strength to walk the dog some days, especially when it’s cold and windy and she’s decided to play.

I can do all things and have patience. I can do all things and understand how to fill out this form. I can do all things and find a perfect vacation rental within my budget. I can do all things and select the right doctor, hair salon, or lawn company.

All things includes all things.

And the Lord give thee understanding in all things. (2Ti 1:7)

Does a God who knows our soul, who saw us when we were made in secret, a God of such infinite detail to create the smallest part of us, abandon us when we need to change a flat tire? He’s only here for me when I’m slugging it out in some spiritual battle, but not when I’ve had an argument with my spouse? (Ps 139:14-16)

No, that’s when I need understanding the most. I know God is for me; therefore, who can be against me? Always. For everything. Even if today it’s as small as calling the electric company. God is with me for that, too.

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? (Rm 8:31-32)


Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA


“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” (John 3:19-21 MSG)

Around 7 a.m. most days, the rising sun shines through my living room window. The shadow it casts at that moment is always riddled with dust. I can see every grain on each table and chair. The floor is filthy. The TV, the cabinets and bookshelves, are coated in it.

Sometimes, I’ll get up and dust or sweep the floor, but my most earnest actions merely move the dust from whatever I’m polishing and into the air. It swirls around me, just waiting for things to calm so it can land again. There really isn’t any good way to get rid of it permanently, and in the end, I usually wait for the light to fade and hide the truth.

Photo by Sigrid Abalos from Pexels

I do this in my personal life as well, keeping my bad habits or sinful actions tucked away while God’s light is on. In the dark, I can pretend they don’t exist. Or even if a sudden ray of spiritual light hits me, shined from one of my friends, a sermon I’ve heard, or the words of a worship tune, I simply turn my good side outward and shield the rest.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:10)

I’ve prayed this Scripture for years, asking God for right motives in what I do. But be careful what you wish for, because I’ve found in my life, which is far from perfect, that the person most guilt-ridden when things go wrong is me. I watch as others sweep the moment under the rug, while I struggle to put that argument . . . bad habit . . . incorrect behavior in its proper place. Whether it was mine personally or someone else’s that’s affecting me.

I’m not always successful and, along the way, have become a cynic. I watch the secular world sprint toward hell without a clue it exists, and I feel powerless to stop its downfall. Worse, I’m carried along on the wind of it. My good motives to overcome the thing I’m fighting seem fruitless amongst the criticisms of a displeased, offended age.

Or are they? What did Jesus say, recorded in the book of John?  

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.” (Jn 16:33)

Victory over sin and the sway of a godless, secular society . . . even stronger, having peace and cheer in its midst . . . comes with constantly bathing in the God-light. I seek out a word from heaven and faithfully apply it to me. Rather than duck into the shadows until it passes by, I face it and commit to change. Change comes slowly. That’s what Christians don’t understand. It’s walking every step, every day, in the light of Christ and allowing Him to alter our motives.

God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. (Php 2:13 CEV)

I look back and see how far I’ve come. This gives me hope for the future. And strength for today. God is with me, guiding me, even when I close my eyes, and I take courage in His presence. Because even when things are bad, whether in private or some public tragedy . . . at that minute, I know God’s been there already.

For my sake, He faced death and won.

For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light. (Eph 5:8)


Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

I Planted A Seed

And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?  (31)  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:  (32)  But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it. (Mark 4:30-32) 

I plant seeds in my garden, expecting them to become so much more than they appear to be. Rolling them around in my palm, they don’t look like much, and, in fact, are easy to lose hold of. The wind or a sudden movement sometimes tosses one onto the ground amongst other tiny particles where it’s gone forever. But if I can just hang on long enough to place it where I want it to grow, I will, one day, reap abundant things.

My grandfather on his tractor.

There’s a process to planting. My grandfather was a farmer, and long before he dropped the seed in the ground, he prepared the soil to receive it. He had to take into account the land’s ability to retain moisture. In low spots, he’d make great hills and plant the seeds on top. He also had to consider the type of seed. Was he planting tomatoes or green beans or corn? Different seeds will have different requirements. You can plant beans close together, but corn needs space. Knowledge was involved.

He had to know how deep to plant the seed. Most of my flower seeds only need to be barely covered. I’ll dust them with soil and think to myself how flimsy it seems. Birds, rain, any number of things can disturb the seed before it has a chance to do anything. My front flowerbeds are partially beneath the eaves of my house and when it rains, water will pour off the roof and create ruts. I know not to plant seeds there because they will be washed away.

In the spring, when the sun starts to warm the earth in my part of Florida, we’ll find flowers sprouting in the lawn from last year’s plants. Black-eyed Susans pop up between Bahia grass and lawn weeds, oblivious to the fact they shouldn’t be there and might get mowed. Go out further and there are tiny orchids, a natural plant that sits hidden all year, only to appear in full force in April. Our footsteps, the scurry of other creatures, did nothing to keep them from sprouting.

My gladiolus garden

That’s the thing about seeds; they can’t NOT come up. Unless they are dead. I’ve purchased seed packets online and had none of them sprout before, despite the soil being right, the location being what that plant will need to grow and flourish. The seed itself was too old. That’s discouraging at first, but I never let it stop me from trying again. I plant again. I water. And I wait.

The biggest portion of growing things is in the waiting. On the surface, nothing looks different. I know I put the seed there. I know I’ve watered it, and the sun has done its job. But most of the “becoming” is up to the seed itself. Different plants take different amounts of time to sprout. Zinnias are pretty quick, but Black-eyed Susans will stay beneath the soil for a year sometimes, seeds cast from last year’s plants hiding during the colder months.

Faith says, “I planted the seed. I believe it will sprout.” Faith protects the seeds, fencing the area from foot traffic or pets. Sprouts, when they finally emerge are fragile, their tiny roots holding them upright in the barest amount of soil. They have potential to become something great, but to get there, I must keep tending the garden. Different plants need different types of fertilizer. A citrus tree has different requirements from cabbage plants. Different plants need more or less amounts of water and sunlight.

All of them need patience. Faith alone, my ability to plant the seed, to know what will make it grow to its best, isn’t enough. There’s that waiting again.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to be like those who believe and are patient, and so receive what God has promised. (Hebrews 6:12 GNT) 

I learned patience from my dog. I have two dogs, actually, but the young one tests my patience frequently. When I bought her, I thought I knew all there was to know about dogs, yet within a week’s time, I knew I was wrong. She’s difficult. She challenges me to slow down and wait. What has always worked for other puppies I’ve raised doesn’t work for her.


Seasons are like that. Some years, one thing grows better than another. I like the change. And the challenge of seeing what will do best this year. I like the success the most, late summer looking back and feeling accomplishment that my efforts at weeding, at caring for my small flower garden, brought me happiness. After all, that is the goal of whatever we face in life, that whatever the alternating challenges are, God brings it to success – if we’ll believe and stand in faith over the seeds in our hearts. If we’ll cultivate the garden, we’ll have a harvest when the time is right.

For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.  (29)  But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. (Mark 4:28-29) 

There’s no instant growth. I can buy potted plants, already at a certain height. They still need time to put down roots and establish themselves. They will still require the right amount of water and fertilizer. Weeds will still sprout around them if I don’t take the time to pull them out. But if I do, if I simply obey God’s Word, then that flower I long to see will, one day, be in full bloom.

That’s the way it works. God is faithful to keep His promise, every time. As long as I choose to believe and act and take one more walk around the yard with the dog, patiently waiting, what I’ve planted will become great things, and someone will see the photos and say, “How did you do that?”

Well, let me tell you … I planted a seed.


Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Virtuous Man

Rejoice with the wife of thy youth. (Proverbs 5:18)

When did you go astray, her husband? When did your job, your car, your hobbies become more important? That fishing trip, that game night, your “working vacation.” When did your life together become, her life and your life on parallel paths and not your steps together?

This is the woman you pledged your life to. This is for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health. This is the hand that wears the never-ending promise of your commitment. The arms you embraced because you had to get closer, had to feel her there, smell her perfume, and touch her hair.

This is the lame joke you told that made her laugh, age sixteen. Your longing to capture the sound in your ears, with your eyes, with your mouth. To drink it in and savor it, to linger, because it’s hers. Because she made your heart beat faster, your arms stronger, your goals make sense.

She pushed you forward in college. She encouraged you to go for it, to try harder, to try again. She lived in that tiny apartment with you, bumping elbows between the stove and the fridge.

She’s an adornment, a jewel to your otherwise boring existence, the beauty in the room that takes your breath away. A friend, a confidante, a lover. She’s the best of the earth and the sky and the stars, in all seasons.

Rejoice in the wife of your youth. The woman who picks up your clothes, scrubs your dishes, sweeps your floors. Avoids your misplaced, dirty shoes.

Rejoice in her endurance. To give your children life. To stay awake in the wee hours, rocking Jenny and James. Rejoice in what she forfeited to feed, to nourish, and to play.

Rejoice in her efforts. To pay the bills, walk the dog, navigate the grocery store. Find time for the gym, and Jenny’s dance classes, and James’s football games. Your family’s parade of awkward holiday meals.

Rejoice in her failings. That she falls but gets up again, stumbles but walks straight afterward. Rejoice that she chose you to support her, build her up, and carry her through.

Rejoice in her tears, her aches and her scars. Rejoice when she’s hurting. When she cuts her hand or stubs her toe. When her hair thins, her waistline thickens, her back curves. Rejoice when she’s PMSing. When she’s grumpy and ill-tempered. When she’s going through menopause.

Rejoice, remembering she’s tried her hardest to look her greatest. She’s given her all to make your life better. She put her best foot forward. For you.

Husbands, you in turn must treat your wives with tenderness, viewing them as feminine partners who deserve to be honored, for they are co-heirs with you of the “divine grace of life,” so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1Pe 3:7 TPT)

Much is said of the virtuous woman and rightly so. But be the virtuous man. The man who thinks of her first. Puts himself last. Sets himself aside for her joy, denying what he wants. To eat, to watch on TV. To do at 7 a.m.

Rejoice and give her a reason to wake up and be herself again tomorrow. Because you’re in this together. Your future is hers. Your knee sprain, car accident, hearing loss is hers to bear. The job you quit affects her. The bonus you got, that’s hers, too. It’s not fifty-fifty, but all-or-nothing, 100%. For everything she does, you do the same in return.

Buy her the shoes.

Compliment her dress.

Let her have dessert without counting her calories.

Admire the curves that came with time and age. The gray hair. The wrinkles.

And when she’s not at her best, admire that, too. She’s perfect exactly how she is, and if she isn’t today, then pray for her. Lift her up. Raise her spirits. Build her ego. Give and give and when you think you can’t do it any longer, give some more.

Life is short, and time is precious, and finding someone who will endure your foibles is rare and beautiful. Holding her hands, when you can’t walk anymore because your legs aren’t strong, when you need help in and out of the shower, when you can’t remember what happened, long ago in your youth, those are God-given gifts.

Rejoice while you can and look back at the ups and downs that she traveled with you. Then, when she’s gone, rejoice in how lucky you were for fifty-odd years, or thirty, or twenty, or ten.

Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Christians and Books

The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ. (2Co 5:14 PHILLIPS)

There are Christian books and also Christian authors. These two can function together – a Christian author can write a Christian book. Or separately – a book is written by a Christian author. Neither one is right or wrong. A Christian writer can market their book AS Christian. Or choose to NOT place their book under the Christian genre, without guilt, if it doesn’t go there.

Following this same thought, some Christians, who read books, prefer books targeted for Christians, whereas others have an interest in a wider scope of literature, not all specifically Christian. There are also non-Christian readers, who will read a Christian book if it’s presented in the right way. In any of these cases, as in the two groups of writers, no one is wrong.

Christians have a tendency to put people in a box. We create a set of rules and try to cram everyone inside. But God has made us all unique. As in normal, everyday items, what one person likes, someone else dislikes. Nothing is wrong with our differences as long as they do not fall outside of godly principles. (Certain principles of God’s Word are unalterable, and by “rules,” I don’t speak of those.)

Applying this to Christians and books (two separate things), there are stories my friends have written that I didn’t care for. And NOT because I felt they fell outside of the Christian faith. Sometimes it’s subgenre or style of writing that doesn’t work for me. Whatever the cause, IT ISN’T MY JOB TO CORRECT THEM. I must walk in the love of Christ and leave the reasoning behind it to the writer’s heart.

Yet, some readers, who profess to be Christian, rail against anything they don’t care for. What makes them uncomfortable becomes “wrong” and, therefore, anyone who writes or reads it has “fallen into sin.” Don’t get me wrong; sin can creep into writing. A Christian who writes can take things too far. BUT it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to bring conviction. Not mine. Not yours.

Ask yourself this:  who will reach people for Christ if everyone writes only books for those inside of our faith? How will my light shine on anyone if I keep the candle hidden? (Mk 4:21) Being practical, to reach someone who isn’t of like faith, I can’t write the same way I’d write for Christians. Breaking that down further, I can’t write the same for all Christians either because what one person enjoys, someone else won’t.

Some books are NOT written for Christians. They are written BY Christians. And that is perfectly okay. I can choose to pick their books up and read them or set them aside. Whatever I do, though, however I respond to them, I do it with meekness, humility, and patience. I pray for them to use their talent to reach those in their circle of influence. (And by “reach,” I mean something as small as improving their day. They were entertained and forgot their troubles for a while. Not every storyline has to end with fiery salvation.)

Maybe someone who wouldn’t read a book by a Christian writer changes their opinion of Christian books or Christian people, in general, because of something that person published. Something I COULDN’T WRITE, whether because of topic, genre, interest, or culture.

Bottom line:  the principles of love in the Bible work well as a guide to both writers and readers (and especially when writing reviews). (1Co 13:4-8) Sometimes, “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all,” is your best bet. Set the book down and move on with your day. Find something you like better and leave the results of that author’s work up to God. To answer negatively affects both you, the reader, and the writer, as well. Yes, there are times a writer needs to own up and admit their faults, but again, that circles back around to letting God work in them.

Because ultimately, God knows more about that author than we do and all the readers their words will reach. It could be we can learn from them the most by examining our attitude and becoming better, kinder, more loving people.

Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA