I was just remembering the day my daughter came home from church and said that her teacher would not answer her questions. They were too silly or too awkward or too off base — or something. That was a long time ago. I told her no questions were off limits to God and she could bring them home and I would treat them with respect and journey into an answer to them with her. This is what God does for me. He invites all of us to ask our questions — to bring them to him; and then the journey begins. The title given to the journey identifies the category of wisdom we are to acquire.

I knew then and still know that we do not outgrow the need to ask questions nor does Jesus ever tire of the questions we bring (James 1:5). His answers work into our minds like food works into the body — more slowly than we realize; and the nourishment often goes unnoticed because our need disappears in secret. And with each new need the process starts over again. So we keep eating. We keep asking. And we go about dissolving our energy only to find that there is what seems to be — an infinite supply (Job chapters 1-42; John 6:53-58).

I am writing this in the early afternoon of a fine day bathed in sunshine and glimmering with the prospect that February is eventually followed by Spring.  

“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God — who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly — and it will be given to him” James 1:5

© Wm. Stephen Williams, 2/9/2022

Watermelon and Donuts

There were two neighborhood stores near my house when I was a child. Both lined US-70 just as it slipped out of Brownsville on its stretch to becoming Summer Avenue in Memphis sixty miles away. Occasionally a truck full of watermelon from Missouri would drive up and for the picking of its best, several of us kids would climb up on the back of that ten-wheeler and toss them down to be stacked inside. When we were rid of the last melon gently caught and placed for sale, we cracked open and parceled out the most delectable of all to moisten our palates on a blistering summer day.

Just up the block from there was The Kream Castle. The Sallari’s freshly cooked donuts were lined across a long row of windows. Sometimes I’d leave Anderson Grammar School by way of the front door so I could walk home by those windows which curved around the front. I would stroll by dragging my hand across the glass while gazing on the donut glaze which was glistening in the western sun and glaring back through glass with a compelling summons. Dad’s service station was right next door and I’d go begging if I were short on change.

A wise man once said, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). “Pleasant” means kind. Kind words are as sweet as warm glaze on donuts just out of the oven. Take the time to form them in your mind. Smooth the sentences out of your memories like rolling dough in a baker’s pan. Concentrate carefully as you shape your kind thoughts of pleasant truth into consolations. Let the words be sweetened with sincere inflection. Award the soul you know with healing that pernitrates to the bones. Become a source of shalom like a juicy wet honeycomb so your friend can retreat into delightful cheer.  

Stephen Williams 


Dust at Dusk

It was brought to my attention recently that the form of dirt we call dust is responsible for the beautiful sunsets I admire so much at dusk. The setting sun shines through the dust in the air – dirt, the soiled floor on the very top of the earth’s crust – the stuff that paints a writing tablet on delivery truck beds where handwritten bumper signs can be scribbled by children who pass by. The despised dull coat that collects on tabletops between dustings that we hastily brush away when an unexpected guest knocks on the door. But the sunset reminds us that God collects the dirt and creates a masterpiece. He created the first human from dirt. And in John 9, Jesus takes his hands and pulls the mud together with his fingers and puts it on the eye of a man born blind. This blind man had woken up every morning of his life smothered with continuing darkness until mud in his eye with the fingerprint of Jesus on it replaced the darkness with years of glowing daylight passing into pink and red sunsets. When the mud gets deep, the material for a masterpiece is abundant indeed. This reminds me that when Job sinks in the mud of disaster, God reviews creation with him (Job chapters 38-41) and then raises him up as one who could only say that he had just been hearing of God (Job 42:5); but now he is seeing! 

Stephen Williams

Asking Questions

The mathematician Georg Cantor wrote in his 1867 doctoral thesis, “In mathematics the art of asking questions is more valuable than solving problems.” Not just in mathematics!  Asking questions about God is essential for our spiritual growth.  Of course we must decide about the foundational ideas of sound doctrine along the way; but as far as our steadily growing in faith is concerned, it is healthy to keep restocking our mind’s shelf with new sets of unanswered questions.  After all, “Faith is the substance …of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1).  So to be growing in it is to have unanswered questions.  

I expect that the hunt will continue in heaven.  Just because we will be there does not mean we will have shrunk the incomprehensible complexity of God to fit into our new minds, thus diminishing God to something other than he is — the incomprehensible God — by definition.  Galileo wrote, “There are such profound secrets and such lofty conceptions that the night labors and the researches of hundreds and yet hundreds of the keenest minds, in investigations extending over thousands of years would not penetrate them, and the delight of the searching and finding endures forever.”  

I discovered these wonderful quotes by Canton and Galileo in an article about infinity on by Matthew Connally, Professor in the Department of History at Columbia University in New York (

Stephen Williams


Bozo was blind.  Our Peekapoo lost sight in one eye as a result of a close encounter with a car and the other eye a year or two later in an altercation with another.  We continued to let Bozo out for the obvious reasons and he always returned to our door as he did before the blindness.  I do not remember him ever bumping into things.  He seemed to sniff his way along with apparent perfection.  He needed no white red tipped cane.  He did what he needed to do following his nose.  We did have to hunt him down on one snowy day and I found him stuck in a small drift at the long end of the block beyond his normal range.  The snow covered all his invisible marks on ridged tree trunks, rain gutter spouts, and red fire hydrants.  He was way off course!  

I too find myself needing invisible markers to keep from getting mired down by the obstacles that interfere with my being contented with myself.  I need markers to help me confront the lies that come disguised as right and fluffy white but do not represent reality.  These markers are in the Bible and are a fountain of truth about how God treasures me and is ruthless in his pursuit to counter all my weaknesses with his love and cover my faults with charity (see Brennen Manning’s, Ruthless Trust, HarperCollins, © 2000 for a wonderful elaboration).  Jesus is packed for the long and hard journey and leads an ardent search until he finds me — no matter how far into thickets, deep pits, and gullies where I have traveled off course (Luke 15:4; Psalm 23:4,6; John 10:11).    

I used to be dependent on underlinings and notes on narrow margins of thin pages of india paper with fraying edges; but now it is not required that the long traveled paths are forged by fingers under good light and reading glasses slid onto the end of my nose, but I run over the invisible paths by remembering where the markers are.  This has been out of common need and repetitive experience with weaknesses rather than spiritual finesse.  These markers remind me that I can be as kind to myself as God is.  I can be as forgiving of my faults as God is.  I can be as accepting of me in spite of my weaknesses as God is.  I can give myself the needed break that God does.

My faltering steps and stammering tongue does not hamper or hinder God’s extravagant love (Exodus 4:10; Isaiah 32:4).  He continues to stretch out his open arms and reaches beyond any reasonable human effort (Hosea 11:9; 1 Corinthians 2:5).  God chooses to be forgetfully blind in His forgiving and lovingly kind in His rescue because I am his child (Jeremiah 31:34).  He raises me up and covers my head with a crown instead of crushing me (Psalm 103:3-5).  His extreme measure was to endure the crushing punishment for my reckless meanderings (Isaiah 53:5).

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust” (Psalm 103:11-14).

© Stephen Williams

When the Sun Does Rise

The dawn wakes me with the sounds of a cooing dove calling out a gospel of love and the bobwhite responds by sounding its name as if to place it first on the list of the ones needing to hear.  A choir of sopranos from a winged ensemble sing a chorus with the words, “I am next in that line.  I need to hear it!”.  The sky is painted translucent heavenly crystal white through which I observe the newly plowed field with small planted crop in long straight lines forecasting the bountiful harvest.  It will come soon enough.  Framed by a moist green lawn specked with little clover blooms, a yellowed back black bee is hovering over lavender in the flower bed.  It’s path is crossed by the blur of a hummingbird suckling with delight.  A spectacular canvas of beauty encircles me.  The blanket of fog with a lite mist of new spring water kisses my face bringing comfort on a chilled morning.  A pleasant breeze threatens the prospect of seeing the sun; but no sun is needed in the presence of the Lord (Revelation 21:23).  Against elegant creation’s sketch, His glory rises to overshadow so that when the sun does rise, it doesn’t matter. 

Stephen Williams

Fishing Bird

Just as I looked up, she flew in from the South with her back to me and landed a good twenty-five feet from the sunny side of the pond.  With her wings open and wide spread she gracefully set down in such a way as to show off her plume of sky blue colors offering only the slightest contrast to the early summer cerulean ceiling which fashioned a heavenly roof dotted with modest fluffy white clouds here and there.  The great blue heron paced herself for fishing.  She was earnest but carefully composed in her approach.  

With long strides, she marched over to the nearest beach which is covered in brush and weeping willows and stood there in a full stand as if to survey the possibilities.  Then she marched back out toward the spot where she landed as if to bid me a premature farewell.  But she returned.  And moved around the far side where a year or two ago, I observed one of her friends — perhaps it was her and now she has returned.  I watched her then stand in that very spot, catch her dinner, and raise her neck tall.  I watched the form of a fish descend her gullet.  That was a good day.

The water appeared to be still, but there was a rippling around the naked limb of a small tree I cut down just before leaves browned and the air began to chill last year.  She reversed course again, back up the bank.  She took more time than I would have, but she has more to fear lest she herself become prey to some other creature lurking in the brush.  Perhaps she was watching me and contemplating the level of threat I might pose.  If so, she was badly mistaken and much too cautious, for I offered only curios observation.  Eventually she made her way through the tall spring grass down the bank and she swam over behind the rippling water where she quietly waited until after the bullfrog became fearless with slow croaking base vibrating tones.  She continued on her path around to the cypress knees where she was out of sight to carry out her trade.  

I returned to my reading until she rose up and flew to the dense coverage where she first hesitated.  Momentarily she lifted off again and flew back across to a perch hight on a cypress limb.  She did not delay there for a minute.  Off she went to the North leaving for better prospects.  The entire event lasted a full hour and a quarter.  A most satisfying movie-length entertainment but more fulfilling than a happy ending.  

I am reminded of Peter and his crew after a long night of watching empty nets.  Even expert fisherman come away empty sometimes.  In sunlight the white glittering linen cords scattered the cod; but Jesus told them to cast again.  Against all odds and after defeat had been sounded (Luke 5:2), the fish were willing and the harvest was miraculous (John 4:35-36).  Most impressive!  Jesus prophesying like Jeremiah or Ezekiel with a sign-act meant to reveal God’s inspiration.  Even more than prophets of old, Jesus knows where to find his treasure (Luke 5:7; Luke 19:10).  In record time and with persuasive power, He commands the disciple (Luke 5:5) to extract those who have been drawn to the holy and designated meeting space where He has already directed them to congregate.  That was a great day!

“For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken…. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jesus told Simon (because it was obviously miraculous to catch fish in white linen nets in the daytime).  ‘From now on you will be catching people.’ Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him” (Luke 59:11).

Stephen Williams


I was in a Christian band briefly.  On rare occasions I listen to the eight-inch reel-to-reel recordings of our practice sessions — usually alone because the grandkids quickly scatter after the novel fascination with the reel-to-reel recorder fades away.  Music no longer resides on a roll of thin tape.  It is even more like a ghost.  It comes on a chip imprinted on a board inside a small plastic box often transferred through the air instead of a wire.  

Of course, there is a rhythm in life and every aspect of it — work, church, friendships, spirituality.  Dad often said that accidents usually come in threes.  “Watch out!” he’d imply just after number two had inconvenienced him.  “Brace yourself!”  

The seasons reflect this rhythm and we codify our ups and downs as Spring or Winter.  I am living in the Fall-time season of my life.  But these cycles we go through, even with their indefinable borders and unpredictable durations, seem to have the ring of truth when we reflect upon the past.  

I taught myself a sequence of play in those days when we performed our music for youth groups and at Christian school assemblies.  It was awkward to do.  My arms did not want to move in the needed way.  They would get caught up with each other or the sticks would hit each other instead of the drum heads.  It involved playing sixteenth notes with one stroke per drum in sequence from snare drum to tom-tom to second tom-tom to floor tom-tom and back again to the snare — over and over through several musical measures.  I choreographed each movement of my hands and arms to keep them moving over and under each other.  Rhythm is natural, but some of the movements that create it require training and repetition through lots of practice.  In other words — work!  

The rhythms of life usually have more to do with discipline and work than coincidence.  If we brace for the next season, we may be unconsciously courting the next disaster and in our awkwardness setting ourselves up to trip over the next obstacle.  Better to keep practicing what we have come to have confidence in over the long term.  Accidents happen and skinned knees are going to occur; but that does not stop us from running and playing and working.  The rhythm is not about what happens to us as much as it is about the good habits we beat out in disciplined strokes like the kind that get a locomotive started moving and them constantly pulling and pushing forward down the track and up the mountain, over the valleys and into the horizon.  

For the Christian, these strokes are the same drum beats we have performed for so so long.  And they have proven themselves time and time again.  Read the Bible regularly.  Pray to God in conversations that cover praise, gratitude, and petition.  Talk among Christians in fellowship.  Let friendships flourish from testimony about the work of God in your life.  Show you care by taking action.  Invite people to Jesus and the church.  Serve in ways that help people want to come to church.  Encourage one another.  

“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you” (2 Peter 1:10–12 NASB).

Stephen Williams

Here at Home

Sometimes an indefinable longing enters the house my mind calls home.  The sense of void enters like an intruder opening the door we hardly ever use and have forgotten to lock after the grandchildren have left it unfastened.  The impulse sneaks in unwanted like a random thought or an unfounded panic.  The desire does not seem to have an origin.  The uncomfortable need flies in like the stray geese that flirt with landing on the small pond out back and on the rare occasion actually choose to thump down with a splash.  I hear them often, but I’m never quite prepared for them to grace me with their company.  

Drawn and haggard with want, I pursue this longing.  I thirst like the deer crave for water brooks. It is a kind of unsettling in my gut leaving behind a restless famine.  I let it take hold of me.  I leave out to go hunting down this desire.  Like a stranded islander desperate for the meal that will transform his last day into a new day, I stalk the illusive prey.  I strive for the sound of the sizzling meat over the campfire.  My nostrils flare.  I long for the nourishment it translates into wellbeing.  I thirst for the peace it provides – the kind that the Hebrews visualized and tried to capture with the word shalom – that flawless wholeness that includes body, mind, and spirit congealed into a kind of integrity that keeps the soul running forever like a well-oiled machine.  I strive for that emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual flourishing that eradicates every particle of dust that adulterates my soul.  I want the sense of emptiness to dissipate like smoke dissolving into a soft breeze.   

But then, and again, I find that God has been trying to get me to seize the treasure I’ve been seeking since the search began.  It is already in my heart.  It is His healing voice.  Like the prodigal returning to his home, Jesus has been waiting for me (Luke 15).  At the end of my journey, I find I am in possession of what I have to have.  God has been right where I began.  The hunt is over.  All along, His wise Word was right here at home.  

“It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.”  (Deuteronomy 30:12-14)

Stephen Williams

Spiritual Orientation

My attention was drawn to a hairy little spider about the size of a black bean.  It effortlessly moved into my field of vision as it slipped out from under the deck rail onto the inside edge of the two by four.  Then it crossed over onto the top and back to the side where it clung on like it was a rock climber on the side of a cliff.  It crossed back underneath where it rested on the surface of the underside of the rail.  It was under it but on it.  It was weightless.  It experienced no inhibition.  It moved freely from one orientation to the other.  

The Bible refers to a spider in Solomon’s palace (Proverbs 30:28 KJV).  It would have eluded the guards and easily entered without detection.  Except for this day.  When Solomon was still and focused enough to notice (Psalm 46:10).  Then the spider entered his meditation.  Uninvited but welcome.  The palace became his study and his meditation became Scripture.  Solomon moved as effortlessly as the spider on my deck from a worldly orientation to a heavenly perspective.  He left gravity behind and everything else that would pull him away and he crossed over into the spirit.  He transitioned from the underside and shed his camouflage.  He slid out of any blind spot that hid God from his vision.  He came into the rays of light.  God could see him on either surface, but Solomon moved into God’s presence so he could see the heavens that declare the mystery of dwelling in the Spirit.  

“Those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5b).

Stephen Williams