Wednesday, January 31, 2007

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."


Snow, Snow, after two days of snow flurries and the weatherman predicting rain, the Lord sent Drew and I a special gift wrapped in white. This afternoon the fog overtook the sunshine and a blanket of snow poured down on us. It was beautiful, magical, like something out of a fairytale. The streets were empty, people still hard at work, I awoke Drew from his slumber with the promise of a great adventure. The flakes embraced the sky, a small Texas blizzard -- Drew screamed and wiggled out of my arms towards the window. A confused look crossed his face, then I told him we were going to play in the snow! He smiled, "No, mommy no?" "Yes little one," I replied, "It is snow. Your very first snow!"
The flakes were thick and clean -- a sharper white than any of my fresh linens. A mantle of white covered the streets in rare silence. The birds retreated in unison, only silence and thick flakes remained, the cats ran too and fro, the dog ran down the vacant street leaving white prints behind, Drew quietly pushed his broken shopping cart down the street. " This is the day that the Lord has made..." I thought as Drew and I threw snowballs towards one another. The Lord sent snow to leave smiles on our faces and gladness in our hearts. I reverted back to childhood, eager to make snow angels and drink hot cocoa. Drew, content to push around trains in a broken shopping cart thought I was insane laying in the grass flapping my arms. We laughed! He screamed "no..no mommy, its no.." and "cold, Mommy it cold!" I smiled, Drew smiled a childish grin. We sat together, smiling, I took pictures of our extraordinary day, we sang "Let It Snow" and waited for our hands to go numb; then retreated inside for hot cocoa - A Williams tradition starting today.
What joy can you find in today? I find that joy is found in the simple, mundane events of life, they are everywhere, just waiting for you to take notice. If you wait on joy you may never discover it, but if you look for her she will reveal herself everywhere! If you get stuck, start by counting your blessings, you will instantly feel joy embrace your soul.
Lord, your gift wrapped in white was such a pleasant distraction from our otherwise ordinary day. As I sat watching the snow fall, magical and peaceful, I can't pass by the similarities between our snow day and Your Son Jesus Christ.
YAHWEH came to bring peace, he is pure, undefiled, spotless, and came willing to die in order to clean out our hearts, leaving them --white as snow.
Thank you for that gift, thank you for not leaving us to die in our sins, but made a way for us to have eternal life. A choice, I know, A choice for each person on this earth to make - - A choice to accept love's perfect gift. Thank you Lord for sending your Son so I could make that choice, so my son can someday make a choice, so all of mankind can choose to accept that gift. All we must do is confess our sins, admit we can not live this life without You, and accept His perfect sacrifice - Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord.
Lord I am so unworthy of your love, your purity, your protection of the Holy Spirit over my life. Thank you for nail scarred hands, thank you for washing and redeeming the horrible choices I?ve made. I can?t believe the God of this world deeply desires to have a personal relationship with me. Your mercies show up new every morning - just as pledged.
Thank you for an eternal promise, an eternal plan for my life, etched in blood, covered in snow, raised In power, protected with a promise.

We Aren't About Weekends: An interview with Bob Roberts

In kingdom work, we make a mistake when we start with ecclesiology. We should start with Christology. Our first approach should be "How can we live out the love of Jesus in this society?" It's not "How can we start a church?"
One Sunday Pastor Bob Roberts asked everyone in the congregation at NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, to invert the collar of the person in front of them, find the label, and call out the nation where the shirt was made. China, India, Vietnam, Mexico, Chile, Kenya, Dominican Republic, and Spain were all mentioned before someone finally said "USA."The shirts on their backs came from all over the world. It was Bob's way of reinforcing his recurring theme of glocalization, synonymous with Thomas Friedman's "the earth is flat." It describes today's seamless integration between the local and global, a comprehensive connectedness produced by travel, business, and communications.
"Glocal is as important a term to the 21st century as postmodern and seeker were to the 20th century," says Roberts, who has written two books, Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World (Zondervan, 2006) and Glocalization: How Followers of Jesus Engage a Flat World (Zondervan, 2007).He has applied the concept in quiet but effective ways at NorthWood, a church of 2,000 in suburban Fort Worth that has helped plant some 89 other churches in the last 15 years. The focus of NorthWood and all the daughter churches is not gathering people inside the sanctuary; it's clearly missional."We aren't about weekends," Bob says. "We aren't just trying to get people into church. It's 'kingdom in, kingdom out.'"This means each church emphasizes weekday ministry in local neighborhoods as well as ongoing ministry with a particular nation overseas. NorthWood, for instance, has continuing ministries in Puebla, Mexico, and sends people several times a year to both Vietnam and Afghanistan to help with orphans, education, clinics, small businesses, water purification, and more.Over three days, including both a weekend and a weekday, Leadership interviewed Bob about life in a glocal church.What is the mission of NorthWood Church?Glocal transformation.You mean transformation of individuals or of communities or what?All of it. It starts with individuals. But it can't stop there.Societies are built on several domains:• The family, from which we get our values.• The tribe, from which we get our culture.• The city, from which we get our livelihood.• The nation, from which we get our security and our trade.Finally, the world. And all of that is within the realm of the kingdom of God. We use the word glocal, meaning the kingdom encompasses all of this, local and global. The number one result of God's kingdom is transformation of all the sectors.Wow. That's some purpose …No, that's our mission. Our purpose is to glorify God. I'm still Augustinian in my theology.Okay. So what's your church's role in this transformation?We're a connection center between believers and all of society's domains. Jesus told his disciples to be his witnesses, to live out and proclaim the gospel, in "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.""Jerusalem" is where we live and work. We train our people to view their vocation as their "Jerusalem" ministry. From there, we teach them to use their vocation and skills to intersect a domain locally ("Judea") and to other nearby cultures—for us, Mexico is our "Samaria"—and globally to the "ends of the earth" (we define that as a hard place in the world, and for us, that's Vietnam and Afghanistan).When you go to Afghanistan or Vietnam, what do you hope to do there?To honor God and to see God's kingdom engaging society. Our aim is to engage the society with hope, to go there and serve them with whatever they need that we can provide.The church connects to society through the natural infrastructures, equipping and sending church people, primarily through their jobs, to affect a particular domain. For example, our people who serve in the agricultural profession have found dozens of ways to connect with societies overseas through water treatment programs, crops, and livestock. The same is true for those in the fields of health care, education, or economics—medical workers, teachers, or small business owners have a wealth of experience to share with countries that desperately need their expertise.You make it a point to go into nations "through the front door," meaning with the consent of their governments. When you introduce yourself to government officials there, what do you say about why you are there?I tell them up front, "My name is Bob Roberts and I pastor NorthWood Church. It's an honor to meet you and to get to experience your culture and your society. I believe one of the greatest challenges we face in the world today is that we're isolated from one another. I would like to see us experience face-to-face, people-to-people diplomacy. And the best way we can do that is to teach one another, to serve one another, and to get to know one another. We are Christians, and we won't pretend to be anything else, but we also will respect your laws. We're not here to convert; we're here because we've been converted by Jesus Christ. And we would like a mutual relationship where we can benefit you but where we can also learn from you."What kinds of things do they ask for?All sorts of things. If they need help with education or computer equipment or special needs children or dental care, then I don't make specific promises then, but I come back and I look in my church or other churches in the area for educators or computer people or social workers or dentists or whatever. I make lots of phone calls.Then I connect these resource people with the people in those countries.So it's not one mission trip, but a series of trips working with the same people.It's not on the first trip that you see any results. It's on the return trips, when you've come back with help for the needs they identified, that trust and friendship are established. And that's where kingdom impact is made.This is a different kind of mission from church planting.In kingdom work, we make a mistake when we start with ecclesiology. We should start with Christology. Our first approach should be "How can we live out the love of Jesus in this society?" It's not "How can we start a church?"People living like Jesus: that's what changes a society. Too often, we start with a preacher who tries to gather a church first, thinking that, in time they'll get around to engaging the world. That's backwards. It teaches people to think engaging the world is something we pay people to do after the church is built, or that it's an occasional trip we make.No, we want people to understand the Great Commission is not the church's project, but it's something we all own personally. "You mean me go and use my job? What in the world can a plumber do over there?" Yes, we want everyone to think mission first. Mission doesn't mean multiplying churches, but finding ways to show God's love and greatness to the world.If you focus on mission, churches will follow, but if you focus on churches, mission often gets lost.Is this true of individuals, too? Does focusing on my "standing" in Christ divert the focus from my "calling" in Christ?It can. Our definition of disciple must move from the celebration of a moment of "conversion" to a focus on transformation over time, seeing that person and their community transformed. We have to move from an evangelism perspective that says, "Here's the prayer you need to pray. If you don't accept my gospel presentation, it's over. I've done my duty" to a radically different expression of faith, which is unabashedly proclaiming the gospel, and serving, and loving.How does evangelism fit into your understanding of mission?I see evangelism as introducing a person to Jesus and getting that person to convert. Our mission is engaging the whole of society as agents of God's kingdom. For God's kingdom to be seen on earth, evangelism is a must.But if we focus on evangelism only, then when we've done evangelism, congratulations, somebody got converted. End of story. But evangelism isn't the endgame. It's just a core competency. If we're trying to see a community transformed, evangelism is just part of it.Your church is helping internationally with clinics and schools in Afghanistan and Vietnam. You're working locally by tutoring in under-resourced schools and in correctional facilities. Your church specifically offers help to families of special needs children. Doesn't it take a large church to be missional in this way?No. We started when we were a church of 300; a church of any size can do this. The key is to focus on one spot. Don't bebop everywhere. Find a place to serve and stay with it long term.When I began to read the Bible and understand how societies were put together and what God's kingdom was all about, I thought, My goodness, everything a society needs is sitting in my pews. We just started applying the resources we had to the societal needs we became aware of.If you have a hundred people, you can engage two or three domains of society all by yourself. Nothing will transform your church like building a $15,000 school in east Asia and sending four of your schoolteachers, who raise their own money, to go and help put it together. It will change the whole makeup of your church.We've gained resources as we've grown, but mission is what Christians do in whatever size group they're in.Most churches that try to "find a need and fill it" fall exhausted just trying to meet the needs within the congregation. "We need more youth workers. We need more children's workers. We need more small group leaders." The "needs" within a congregation are never satisfied, and that can draw a church's focus inward. How do you break out of that to focus on touching the world outside?You have to ask yourself, What kind of a church do we want to be? What is my definition of church? And what kind of disciples am I producing?If my church is primarily about the Sunday event, then doing kingdom work is secondary and actually unnecessary. If the Sunday event and church programming is primary, then I'll spend all my time, money, and energy what happens inside the church.For so many pastors, church is about what happens on Sunday. Well, I really disagree with that. Church is not supposed to be a Sunday event. It's supposed to be salt and light in the family, in the community, and around the world.Our church is not about the weekend. I didn't understand this when we started. Many churches, like ours, start out with mass mailers, advertising, "show up on Sunday," we're starting "our thing."But the best people to reach are those you connect with in your community involvement when you're engaging the culture. They're seeing the church in action, not just in its advertising.Doesn't every church believe in missions?Lots of churches tack it on here and there. But it's an add-on. Missions isn't the core of what they do.That's why I don't use the word missions. We talk about the kingdom. At our church we say, "Kingdom in, kingdom out." When the kingdom gets inside of you, then missions is not an occasional project you do; you live out your faith constantly for God's kingdom.You also ask, "What kind of disciples are we producing?"That's huge. For years pastors have implied, "Come to church; come to small group; you'll be a disciple." It hasn't worked. That system's broke. We all know that. Even if we get people into small groups, how many groups are really turning people into disciples that engage the world for God's kingdom?Discipleship is more than urging conversions, signing people up for Bible study, and recruiting workers for church programs. The greatest tool for making disciples is getting people to engage the world.What did this change of focus mean for you as a preacher?Humility. Not trying to get people to come back to hear me. But to get them into the world.Think about it. Why do people come to hear most preachers? Because they're great preachers. But some kinds of great preaching just anesthetize the church. People will tell their friends, "Oh, you've got to hear this." But that's the extent of their action. Listening to that kind of preaching leads only to more listening.Part of the problem is the preacher's natural interpretation of certain passages. We preachers naturally tend to organize the church around our role. Take Ephesians 4. We'll preach about the leadership roles: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. But we concentrate on the roles of leading the church—we're focused on our gifts. We've neglected everyone else.What are all those leadership functions for? "For works of service." We are to preach in such a way that leaders are in the background and we make the heroes the people doing the works of service.Are "missional" churches the answer?Some "missional" churches use that term but basically are all about relevant communication.It's still church as an event versus church as a force engaging the world. They'll say, "We're all about living incarnationally," which means having real conversations with people that are similar in a postmodern, secular society. That's relevance. It's not bad; it's good.But it's not taking the kingdom of God across cultural boundaries and taking people beyond where they are already. Or going to people who are nearby but who are two or three steps removed from your thinking and your life.What direction do you see things going in the future?The things I'm learning most about faith today are from Christians in the East. That's who I'm learning from.As I look at history, every major shift took place when the center of geography of Christianity shifted. We saw that in transitions from Jerusalem to Antioch to Constantinople to Rome to Wittenburg to England to the U.S.It's time now for another major shift, maybe to Seoul or Nairobi. When that happens, there may be a schism in the church; history proves that. But here's what's going to be cool. We're going to get a whole new set of Calvins and Luthers. They're probably going to be Phuc or Nghi or Akmed. Can you imagine what we're going to learn about God from an Asian Reformer's perspective, or African, or Arab?We're past due for some brilliant new ways of seeing God, and they're going to bring that to us. That really excites me.
Bob Roberts on church and mission:9 Things I'm Learning and UnlearningI'm learning … that mission begins with Christology not ecclesiology. Following Jesus leads us to mission, which leads to churches gathering.I'm unlearning … my assumption that starting churches naturally leads to mission. It doesn't. Churches default to self-focus unless a commitment to be like Jesus in the world comes first.I'm learning … that being glocal means decentralizing power, decision making, information, all of it. The kingdom of God means ministry opportunities are available to almost everyone.I'm unlearning … the American church's traditional focus on a super-star speaker, worship leader, educator, and shepherd, which serves mainly to attract spectators rather than igniting the power of everyone else.I'm learning … that we serve not to convert but because we have been converted. We serve because Christ has changed us and made us servants to people who are hurting and lost.I'm unlearning … the assumption that "Christian" is defined primarily as acknowledging a moment of conversion. Becoming a follower of Jesus depends on what happens after that.I'm learning … to love people, which means to see them healed, educated, and given the same opportunities that we have.I'm unlearning … that the Christian faith is all about heaven. I believe the church has denied the future by just waiting for the Second Coming. We need a story that includes the future. I'm learning … the kingdom will be established not by human power or entertainment, but by realizing God's concern for humanity and the whole of society.
Posted on January 31, 2007 TrackBack

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Williams Family News

First, Drew turned 2! I can't believe my little boy is so big! Drew had a great Birthday! He wanted cheese pizza with pineapple for dinner, which he ate on the "special family plate." He got to stay up late, until 8:30pm, and play with his trains and cars. He was so cute; he would line all the cars up on the floor by the chair, then pick them all up and move them to the fireplace, then once lined up, move them again to the couch. This went on for 45 minutes as we all watched and giggled through the process. We started asking him "Drew, how old are you" to which he now responds TWOoooooooo! We are having a family party with balloons, presents, and a train cake on Sunday. I can't wait for Drew to see the Thomas trains we bought him, he will be so excited to play with them!

Drew is quite the busy little man weighing in at 24.5 pounds at 2 years of age! We are having a hard time keeping him still so he can gain some weight! That and his favorite foods consist of chicken, fruits and vegetables. The other night I made Spaghetti, but he filled up on the green beans and didn't have room for the main dish. Oh well, it could be much worse, he could crave sugar! On his birthday I gave him a small sized snickers bar as desert - you should have seen his little face light up! He stuffed the whole thing in his mouth and chewed on it for about 5 minutes. Too cute! Drew loves to talk and talk, but we discovered that he doesn't say the last letter of any word that ends in a consonant. Train comes out "trai" and "bob" comes out "ba". He loves to say words that end in a "Y" because he can pronounce them, like "Happy" and "Kitty" and "Baby." I am not sure how to get him to pronounce the words properly.
Trains and trucks are his favorite things to play with, it so fun to watch him now because he actually plays with things. Today it was 60 degrees and sunny outside; we went to the park and then played in the front yard with chalk. Drew wrote all over the cement with the chalk and then played with his cars on the sidewalk. He even dug in the dirt and didn't fuss because Mommy wasn't playing too. Drew loved spending the sunny day outside with Mommy and Daddy. John filled his time with cleaning up the very messy garage while I cleaned my new car and helped John with the garage. I am trying to convince him to let me park in the garage at night!

Oh, that reminds me... Friday we found a perfect new car for our family. We wanted something practically new, but without the "new price tag" and found ourselves looking at a 2003 Jetta with only 27,000 miles. The car was still under warranty and looked brand new! We looked at a lot of Honda Accords on the Internet and at the dealer, but they all had too many miles on them for the price range we were looking at. We bought it on Saturday and John has spent the past few days taking it in to the Volkswagen dealer and having it checked out ... it came back in perfect health, new brakes, new tires, excellent condition, just like new! There were a few minor issues like the remote control keys not working, and a broken middle console, but it was all covered by Carmax (the place where we bought the car). It is weird to look out in the driveway and see a silver car instead of a green one! I love having a CD player and seat warmers for these cold days in Texas! John and I were commenting that our old car's horrible suspension wasn't very noticeable until we bought this new car. We didn't realize how bad the green Jetta had become. We were very blessed this year with a vacation and a new car! All that saving paid off, now on to John's student loan!

John is busy working for Home Depot and working for a few clients as a "handyman." I am getting a little jealous though, I have some projects at home that I would love completed! I guess I just don't pay him enough! John has been working the past week, updating his resume, finalizing everything with Ottawa, and applying for jobs. He has a plan and is very dedicated at achieving his goal! I am very proud of him!

Kitty, our new lab, is doing very well, enjoying her kosher life in America! I have to exercise her twice a day, once involves lots of running and chasing her ball, the other is normally a walk in the neighborhood before dinner. John and I took her to the park today with Drew. John had her running all over the place for about 30 minutes. I had to remind John that she will die of a heart attack if he kept throwing the ball. She doesn't know when she has had enough.. She is obsessed with getting her toy. We had to buy her some new balls this week, the red Kong balls kept getting lost in our house. There are at at least 3 of them that we know are around somewhere but not even Kitty can find them. At 7 dollars a peace, the Accountant in me suggested that we find another type of ball that was easier to locate in our house or out in a field. Specifically one that won't go down the rain drains along the side of the road. Her new balls are much bigger so they can't hind under furniture! Drew loves them because they have a rope through the middle, perfect for throwing!

Kitty now loves to treat Drew like her puppy, we have to keep an eye on her when Drew gets out of the bath because Kitty loves to lick him clean. Kitty also loves to tackle Drew and try and keep him pinned to the ground between her feet, using her head to "heard" Drew around. Drew loves the game but can't figure out how to tell Kitty when he doesn?t want to play anymore. They are growing very close which is very fun to see.

Our vacation was Amazing! The best vacation I have ever had, I think John agrees with me too! We both enjoyed 7 days of relaxation! There wasn't one think to worry or argue about. There was even a coffee shop onboard for my daily caffeine fix! We enjoyed shopping, snorkeling, climbing the falls, snorkeling some more, power snorkeling, rock climbing, and playing with Parrots! It was a perfect vacation celebrating many accomplishments we had in our lives, from John graduating from college, to becoming more financially free, we celebrated the fact that John's back & foot no longer give him great pain, and of course we celebrated our 4th Wedding Anniversary. John prepared a precious speech, which he gave in front of our friends at dinner. He reminisced over good and bad memories, and talked all about of future. It was so wonderful, just like something out of a book. Thank you Lord, for a very memorable trip filled with joy and relaxation. John and I also worked on setting our goals for 2007, a year with many changes, and fun memories to be made.

Love,
Melissa

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

We made it back from our Anniversary cruise! It was wonderful, relaxing, and way too much fun! There is a lot to share and about 800 pictures to rifle through. I will be slowely adding pictures to the slideshow on the front page if anyone wants to look. John and I had an amazing week together, enjoying taking naps, swimming with the tropical fish, snorkeling, climbing the ships giant rock wall, relaxing in the sun, reading, being entertained, eating, eating, and more eating! It was so nice not to worry about anything for a whole week. We both had a hard time thinking how our vacation could have been better.
Our real lives have come back to us, we are both busy with work, Drew, laundry, and life. Kitty missed us more than Drew; she moped around for the whole week were were gone. You should have seen the excitement in her eyes when she saw us for the first time. She yelped, jumped, and ran around in circles. Drew also gave us big smiles and tons of kisses. I can't get out of Drew's sight without him running after me.
I will have to write more later, my eyelids are fading fast.
Melissa

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

1/3/2007
2007 has already started the changing process; yesterday we sold our 1996 Jetta, it was my last tangible memento of life before marriage and child. I will say I miss the car, but not the life it represented - freedom, independence, stability, isolation, selfishness. Family is such a wonderful blessing from the Lord and I am so blessed to have a fantastic one! My husband is so wonderful, the week before Christmas he spent all his time off remodeling the pantry so his Christmas present (a new freezer) would fit and not look too out of place. What a guy! (Thank you David too - a wonderful brother in law!)Then, a few days ago we finally went to Petsmart to get the dog a new ball because the last two had fallen down the drainage ditches outside the house. Would you believe that within 10 minutes of playing outside with the dog I managed to get it lost down the drainage ditch! I was really mad at myself for loosing a $7.00 ball. Ugh! Sweet John, got a flashlight and crawled into the ditch with all those spiders and garbage, followed the hole under the street and retrieved the ball. Now that is a servant! He is also in the process of building a wire grate to go into the hole for the next time I throw the ball the wrong direction down the street!

It is funny how we get attached to our cars, as the Jetta drove away to a new home I felt like part of my memories were driving away with it. I really wonder why God made women, specifically myself, to place human emotion onto inanimate objects like cars, homes, etc. I will have to think on that one! Audios car, I will miss you. Please pray we can find a newer car that isn't too expensive and doesn't have too many miles!
Love,
Melissa