2018 Williams Family Newsletter

christmas tree 2018This year I put up a real Christmas tree. It’s the first real tree we’ve had since Christmas 1993. It’s not perfectly shaped like the artificial trees. It’s a little messier and we have to water it. It takes just a little more effort. But it’s real and we’re reminded of that by its sweet, pine fragrance every time we walk in the door.

Hanging on that tree is a new ornament for our first grandchild.  Emma Rose is due to arrive on Christmas Day! Alisha is healthy and doing well.  Aaron couldn’t be more excited. We’re so happy for them and know they will be wonderful parents. They moved to Bentonville earlier this year, so we are thankful to have them just a little closer. Abigail has kept herself busy working several jobs in addition to her business. She saved up and paid cash for a new car this year. She is a wonderful young lady with a heart that seeks after God. Andrew turned 16 this year. He has a driver license in his pocket and a new to him (but very old and thanks to his sister passing it down) car. He’s a natural leader, in the middle of his 10th grade year, and exploring options for the future.

Dana and I launched our first book together in February of this year. It was a labor of love and 25 years in the making. We encourage you to check it out at www.theedenconcept.com.  He is doing what he loves most —pastor of our sweet church— and working hard in his new job in project management while balancing it all with the strength of God. After 22 years of working from home, I went back into the workforce this year. It has come with a lot of adjustments, but also blessings.

As we wrap up this year, I can’t help but think about my “real” Christmas tree. We live in an age of filters and flawless Instagram photos and where it is normal to fake perfect. The truth is that it’s easier and more convenient to be artificial. But God calls us to be genuine, transparent, and real. He already knows our hearts. When we are finally real with ourselves, admit that we’re broken, and cry out to God to save us, then and only then can we be real with others. Our love can be without hypocrisy as it states in Romans 12:9 and God can shine His light through us in this dark, dark world.  The artificial message of Christmas surrounds us, but the real message is that when this world was at its darkest, unto us a child was born. Keep sharing that message! He is the Prince of Peace. If you are looking for real peace in your life, look to Jesus!

From our family to yours, we send our love and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

December 2018 family

5 Gifts to Give our Children

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! So, tis the season for malls, shopping, wrapping paper, gifts, bows, and ribbons! Maybe you prefer online shopping in your bathrobe with the internet, eBay and UPS. Or perhaps you prefer handmade gifts, baked goodies and homemade cards. But no matter how you look at it, this is the season for gift giving. Why? Most people probably give out of tradition. You are supposed to buy gifts at Christmas. Right? It is what has always been done. However, our family likes to look at gift giving a little differently. While it is a tradition at our home, it is one with a purpose. We give gifts as a reminder of the greatest gift ever given to mankind. I must admit that I love giving gifts to my children. But guess what? So does our heavenly Father!

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Matthew 7:11.

But toys and trinkets get broken, clothes get worn out and outgrown, electronics lose batteries and stop working, and the latest fad becomes next year’s obsolete. So I ask myself what can I give my children that will last? What type of gifts can I give that have true value? Listed below are 5 gifts that we can give our children that will never become broken or outdated.

TIME

In a world of busyness one of the most wonderful gifts we can give our children is time with them. December is probably the busiest month of the year for us. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas we go nonstop. There are people to visit, parties and programs to attend, Christmas cantata’s to practice for, gifts to make, shopping to do, etc. But life is short.

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” James 4:14.

This truth is especially evident when it comes to children. They do not stay young forever. They grow up fast. As parents we only have a short time to invest in our children. We need to slow down and give our children something that will matter – time. Time with us, time to play games, time to talk, time to come apart from the world, time to meditate upon God, time to read together, and time to be a family. I have heard it said that the quantity of time does not matter as long as you give your children quality time. This is not true! Research has said that parents spend on average 3.5 minutes a day in meaningful conversation with their children. How sad! However, the average child watches 1,500 hours a year of TV. I guess if we want Hollywood to raise our children then this statistic would not bother us. But it bothers me. Turn off the TV and spend time with your children. Read to them at night, pray with them, and sing songs. When they grow up and look back at their life these are the things they will remember.

A PEACEFUL HOME

Another gift we can give our children is a home filled with peace. The world is hectic and noisy, but our homes should be a gentle haven of rest for our children. Our children should not have homes filled with screaming and shouting but with soft answers and love. The fruits of the Spirit should be manifested in our homes – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. A home filled with peace not only blesses our children but consider what a true witness it is to the world around us. Voddie Bauchman in Family Driven Faith states,

Our homes must be rife with the aroma of love. Those who visit us should notice immediately that they have left the world of self-serving egocentric narcissism and have entered a safe harbor where people value and esteem others above themselves. Outsiders should enter our homes and never want to leave. Our neighbors should find excuses to visit us just to get another whiff of the fragrant aroma of love. The brokenhearted should long to be near us. The down trodden and abused should seek us out. Families on the brink of disaster should point to us and say, ‘Why can’t our home be like that?’

This describes a home filled with peace. What a superb gift to give our children.

PARENTS WHO LOVE EACH OTHER

Another gift that is so overlooked in our modern culture is love in the home. It is given that we should love our children, but one of the best ways to love our children is to love God first and our spouse second. This speaks volumes to our children. Theodore Hesburgh is credited for saying, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” The focus of the family should be on the marriage. When parents are united the children are blessed. In addition, a strong marriage will strengthen our children’s faith as it is a testimony to the world for God’s glory.

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth,” 1 John 3:18.

CHARACTER TRAITS

While giving gifts let’s not forget the gift of hard work & diligence. Society will tell a child that you should do as little as possible to get as much as possible. It is this fallacy of thinking that has leads to a lazy and entitlement mentality. But, give your children the gift of learning how to work hard and they will always be able to thrive. In addition, it is pleasing to the Lord.

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” Colossians 3:23.

Another character trait this is desperately needed in today’s society is inner beauty, especially when it comes to our daughters. Godly women are not born, but raised. Many mothers concern themselves over whether their daughters have fashionable clothes and the latest styles. Many would be alarmed if their daughters wore dirty clothes. But how many mothers care if their daughter has a filthy heart? To teach and train our daughters about inner beauty that is acceptable to God is a divine gift we can give.

“Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised,” Proverbs 31:30.

(There are many character traits that we can help to instill in our children. So by no means is this list inclusive. But hard work, diligence and inner beauty are a great place to start.)

BIBLICAL STANDARDS TO LIVE BY

There are many gifts we can give our children. But one that is of utmost importance is to give your children biblical standards to live by. As Christian parents we should not want for our children what every other parent wants. We shouldn’t hold them to the world’s standards but to God’s standards. Do you want your children to make the team? What about them making it into the Lambs book of life? Do you want them to get a good education? What about them being educated in the Word of God? Do you want them to be true and loyal to their friends? What about your children being faithful to the Lord and His Church? Do you want your children to be popular? What about them being peculiar? God’s ways are always higher.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed,” Romans 12:2a.

Christian parent, there are many worthwhile pursuits in this world, but few rise to the level of training our children to follow the Lord, to love Him with all we are, to treasure His Word, and to keep His commandments. When we do this we have given our children gifts that never tear up, get worn, or get taken away.

So, this holiday season I’ll be looking for presents for my children and wrapping packages like many others. But the most precious gifts I’ll strive to give them will not be the ones that come in a box. Instead, the gifts I will strive to give will be of eternal value.

Merry Christmas!

Why Our Church Doesn’t Celebrate Easter

easterWith the Easter holiday just a few days away there is a lot of talk about the subject. But this Sunday we will not be celebrating “Easter” but rather the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Below are a few reasons as to why:

  •  Ignorance is NOT bliss. Read I Peter 1:14-21. As a Christian every word, action, and deed should be done for the glory of God. To celebrate is to observe, show happiness, or mark an occasion. At the least, do a study on the origins of “Easter” before deciding to observe it.
  • Words mean things. After a careful study, why would you even want to use the word “Easter”? What purpose does it serve to call your celebration by that word? Isn’t Resurrection Sunday a better, more accurate description of what we are celebrating? Which one points more people to God?
  • The Easter symbols of bunnies and eggs are distracting at best. Really, what does it have to do with Christ’s resurrection? I haven’t figured that out yet. However, these symbols have plenty to do with fertility and pagan ideas.
  • “It’s just for fun” is counterproductive. The world and Satan will always win when it comes to providing fun. The church is to be the “pillar and ground of the truth” not entertainment centers. An attempt to compete with the world in this area cheapens the Bride of Christ.
  • It is confusing to children. When we play around with the world’s ideas our children become unstable and unsure of what to believe in. The same thing happens when we tell children that Christmas is about the birth of Christ while playing the Santa game. Or when they get older we allow them to be indoctrinated with evolutionary teaching and then give them an hour a week in Sunday school to learn about the Genesis account of creation. Our children are confused and no wonder. We allow these things to affect them and then question why 80% leave the church by the end of high school.
  • What you draw people with is what you draw them to. A church can use an egg hunt to draw people in (or any worldly event for that matter), but when we draw them in with activities, promotions, and such we are drawing them to those things. When we use the pure, unadulterated Word of God to draw people in, it is Christ alone that they are drawn to. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth,” Colossians 3:2.
  • We are called to be holy. We are to be set apart and peculiar. I’m afraid many have forgotten this. It is hard to be set apart while being the same. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” 1 Peter 2:9-11.

We do as a church celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. The resurrection is, in fact, the hinge-pin of all of Christianity. Without it there is no hope. Without it our faith is in vain. Without it our loved ones would be gone for good. Without it we would still be in our sins. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,” 1 Corinthians 15:19. But thank God we are not most miserable. Because of the resurrection of our Lord there is hope! The grave has been conquered! Sin not longer reigns! And death has no sting! This Sunday we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday with the living Christ being glorified, and his death and resurrection being preached!

 

*note:   My 16 year old son’s comment to this article was, “Mom, That was great. I agree with everything you said, but I think you will make people mad with your words.” So in reply to “making people mad” let me just say that is certainly not my intent. I hold no judgment over anyone. How you choose to celebrate is between your conscience and God alone.

I write because there are so many misconceptions and fallacies regarding the church. Dear Christian, never forget that the world is watching us. They want to know if what we say we believe is real enough to make a difference in the way we live.

Too many have a form of godliness, but deny the power (2 Timothy 3:5). They are denying the power of the Word of God to work in their life (1 Thessalonians 2:13). They are denying the power of Christ to crucify the old man (Romans 6:6). They are denying the power of God to keep them from practicing a lifestyle of sin (1 John 3:9). They are denying the power of the Holy Ghost to teach them spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:10-13).

We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  It evokes images such as the pilgrim’s first feast, children playing games, churches singing praises, and families gathered up together to pray.  While the first Thanksgiving feast was held in 1621 by the Plymouth colonists, it was over 200 years later in 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.   Since that time, the premise behind the holiday has been pure – acknowledge God for all He has done and give Him great thanks.  One of the reasons I love this holiday so much is because traditionally it has not been cheapened by commercialism like the Christmas and Easter seasons.

However, the black cloud known as Black Friday has descended and it hovers over Thanksgiving Day.  I remember a few years ago setting the alarm for 3 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving so that I could get the best deals of the year.  Then stores opted to open at midnight.  You could stay up late and shop til you drop and I was among the thousands last year that did just that.  But this year stores are announcing that they will begin their Black Friday sales even earlier.  Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Sears, and Kmart will open their doors at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.  Why?  So people can go from gobbling up their turkey to gobbling up savings.

We’ve come a long way.  Thanksgiving was once a spiritual time of thanking God for His bountiful blessings, but the focus has shifted to the physical and commercial aspects.  The thanksgiving attitude of contentment has seemingly been replaced with a discontented attitude of wanting more and more stuff.  Instead of spending time with our family, we spend money they don’t have for things we don’t need. 

An even sadder annotation is the people who don’t choose to spend their Thanksgiving holiday in the stores.  Rather they are the ones who want to be at home with their family, but are forced to work the stores in order to keep a job.

Is it really all about the money, retail sales, and commercialism?  Or perhaps there is an unseen force that has always attempted to stomp out gratefulness in the hearts of people who would give the Almighty the thanks He deserves.  My prayer this year is that in the midst of all that activities, parades, cooking, football games, traveling, family gatherings, and Black Friday deals that God’s children will stop, slow down, and acknowledge Him with a thankful heart.   And my prayer is that it will start with me.

“Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms,” Psalm 95:2.

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him,” Colossians 3:17.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,” I Thessalonians 5:18.

The Christ in Christmas

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas is approaching. It is the time Christian people have set aside to celebrate God’s greatest gift to mankind – His Son. It is a season of joy, peace, and love. It is a season of music, laughter, and festivity. It is a season to think of others, to give gifts, to send cards, and visit loved ones. But above all, it is a season of focusing upon Christ, The Incarnate God, dwelling among men.

I realize for some this may not be true. There are those who view this season as just another holiday filled with hustle and bustle, crowded shopping, credit card debt, parties, alcohol, over eating, stress, and more stress. Often the focus is on Santa Clause, elves, reindeer, and over-indulged children getting more stuff. I have never wanted this time of the year to build selfishness into my children. When they were little and others would make a “wish list” of gifts they wanted, I would encourage my children to make a list of things they would like to do or buy for others. It is not about self. To truly celebrate Christmas is to bring out the Christ in Christmas, lifting up His name, and pointing others to Him.

How does one go about doing that practically? How do we bring out Christ in Christmas when all of society has their eyes elsewhere? First of all, we must remember that regardless of what others may say Christmas is a Christian holiday. Christmas is about Christ. Society confirms this by their relentless effort to remove the true meaning of Christmas. If Christmas were a meaningless pagan holiday there would be no attack upon it by the enemy. But it is not. In the hearts of millions of believers all over the world, this is a special time of worship, a time of reflecting, a time of gratitude, a time of joy, a time of honor, and a time of praise.

These are the thing I want to instill in the hearts of my children. Every year after the Thanksgiving holiday our family pulls out Christmas music, the trees, lights, and decorations. This tradition is not merely habit. For our family there is meaning and purpose behind it. This week as we were putting up our Christmas tree, my eight-year-old said, “Mom, tell me again what the tree represents.” You see, every year their father and I explain to the children how in our hearts the tree symbolizes the tree that Christ was crucified upon. It is a reminder to us that the babe in a manger grew up, lived a perfect life, and died upon a tree for the sins of the world. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed,” 1Peter 2:24.

As we hang the ornaments upon the tree each one represents something. The angels are a reminder of the messengers of glad tidings. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” Luke 2:13-14.

The doves remind us of the Spirit of God. The bells remind us to ring out the Good News. Even the candy canes have significance. They, in the shape of a shepherd’s staff, remind us of the Great Shepherd. When turned upside down the “J” reminds us of Jesus. The white in the candy tells us Christ’s purity. The red stripes represent our Saviour’s stripes. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed,” Isaiah 53:5.

And the star that my husband places upon the top of the tree is a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem. “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him,” Matthew 2:2.

After we put up the tree, Abigail arranged the Nativity scene on top of our piano. As we gather around and sing songs this season it will be a constant visual of who we worship and sing praises to.

Even the Christmas balls remind us of the world and how, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…”

When we placed the candles on our table as a center piece we were able to remind the children that Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,” John 8:12.

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As Dana hung the lights on the outside of the house we explain to the children that as children of God we are to let our light shine for all to see. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” Matthew 5:16.

Each night between now and Christmas day Dana will read an Advent story to the children before bed. Advent – Adventus. Ecce advenit Dominator Dominus. Behold, the Lord, the Ruler is come. The tradition of advent is a threefold celebration of the birth of Jesus, His eventual second coming to earth, and His continued presence in our lives here and now. God in our past, God in our future, and God in our present.

Nothing is done without meaning. Everything is done with purpose.

What does this season mean to you and your family? Is Christ the center of all you do? Is there purpose behind your traditions? Are you building in your children a life of selfless giving to others? Is Christ in your Christmas?

May our Lord richly bless you this season but more importantly may you be a blessing to Him!