Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bat-Mitzvah-esque Celebration for Kynzi's 13th

I have a teenager! Kynzi turned 13 on August 9th. For the last year my friend Brian and I have been talking about what we are going to do when our kids turn 13. It's not exactly a Bat-Mitzvah, but we did take a few principles from it. In Jewish tradition the girl is celebrated at 12, but we wanted the teenage year to be our marker. Bat-mitzvah literally means daughter of the commandment. She is a daughter of God. All that to say we decided to try and make a day for her that would be super memorable and let her know how much she is loved.

We started on Thursday night and had a bunch of our West Coast family over for dessert and games. With a delicious ice cream cake we started it off and then we played some Quelf. 

Team Halloween Masks did well at Quelf
During the party we told Kynzi this was the beginning of her 24 hour 13th birthday celebration. When she woke up and got ready on Friday morning she headed out to spend time with some of the significant women in her life. Each of them took her to a different place and shared life insights with her and loved on her like crazy.
Michelle took her to Starbucks
Chele took her to Create A Memory
Kara took her to the Wild Pear for lunch
Jill took her to Froyo
Cassie took her horseback riding
Kynzi's loving her time on a horse!

She ended her girly dates with a skype call with Bex, who I think both were sad that they weren't physically together. Brenda (one of her small group leaders) got sick that morning and couldn't take her out. She also got time to talk to both her Granny and Bestemor. There are also a few other friends who are taking her out at a later date.

Jeanne-Ann and I took her out to dinner at Kyotos Japanese restaurant (her request). She was super excited about this place because they prepare the food in a fun way in front of you.
They sang Happy Birthday to her too.
We enjoyed a great meal and heard all about her day. We asked what the different girls talked about. Loving yourself; body image; importance of God being number one; etc. She was elated. Then we talked to her about our dreams for her and our desire that she remain pure and how she can find the love that she needs from us, for the time being. We gave her a purity ring (she has been wanting one) and talked about God's design for us to remain pure and how He has a greater design for life than what the world is trying to sell her. She does not need to give anything to a boy that she intends to save for her husband.

One of the things that is typical in a Bat-mitzvah is that the girl raises money for a charity. Our West Coast family has typically shared in many family plannings and celebrations. Our kids raised money for a well to be built in Burkina Faso, West Africa several years ago, then they joined in on the fundraising to bring our babies home. We want to continue to "give them a better story" by helping them look beyond themselves. It's so easy to think about ourselves and get wrapped up in google, video games, netflix, our stuff, etc. We want our kids to know there is more to life than those things. Not that those things are sinful in themselves, but that we need to continue to focus outward toward others.

So, we are going to be working with heartwork.tv and Kynzi is choosing a project that will ultimately help orphans. It's a pretty cool concept. I got to meet Jeremiah Parks, founder of Heartwork, 2 years ago and was really impressed with his heart and vision. They work with several different organizations, including Envision Culture, which was started by our good friends Matt Peace and Jason Ostrander!!

You pick a type of project, you pick a part of the world and you pick a monetary goal. Kynzi has chosen to raise money for food in Burkina Faso, West Africa. They are being hit hard with a famine right now and she hopes to raise $550 that will feed 24 orphans for 6 weeks! This is huge! Imagine helping 24 kids get through a famine where food is so difficult to come by. It could literally save lives. Want to join in on her project? You can give by clicking here.

After this conversation we pulled out a large scrapbook that was filled with letters written to her. We had asked people (adults) to write things they see in her, things that they could encourage her with and prophetic words they wanted to speak into her life. (not prophecy like you might think when you hear that word, but words of truth that they see potential in her) We decided I would read my letter to her first. I got four words in and out of no where I couldn't read anymore. We payed the bill and headed out to the van for round two. I got five words in and was completely unable to speak anymore.

Jeanne-Ann took over and proceeded to bawl through the entire two-page hand-written letter. The same would be said of Kynzi and me. Part of me wants to share the letter with you, part of me wants it to be hers alone. I guess that can be her choice. The part of me that wants to share it with you is the part that wishes I found something like this before we did it. We talked a lot about what this day would look like, but we didn't have real guidelines. After Jeanne-Ann finished the letter we drove her to a friends house and read a few of the other letters on the way. There are still a few pages if you want to add yours to it. ;)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Olympic Fever

Olympic fever has hit the Williams household hard. On Friday night we had our every-other-year Olympic-opening-ceremony-party at the Unwins. This is always a fun night with lots of craziness. This year we decided we should all bring food that represents the countries we are from. Steve made perogies (Polish), Jenga made German chocolate cupcakes, Brenda brought sushi (I had no idea she was Japanese, although I suspected it), The Condellos brought stuffed shells (Italian), Sean brought pizza (Italian?) and we made Norwegian waffles and mashed potatoes with hot dog pieces mixed in.

This was a seriously major display of food!

We loved the opening ceremonies. I particularly loved Mr. Bean. Man did I laugh. The combination with classic and digital age was great. Although it was very interesting that any videos people posted from inside the stadium was taken down off of youtube. Almost like, "Hey, we are celebrating social media and technology, but please don't use any social media/technology to let anyone else know." Kinda backwards thinking when you think about it.

That being said, our family is completely engrossed in the Olympics. I tweeted that I had lost my wife for the next couple of weeks. That is true, but I really am enjoying these Olympics! Misty & Kerrie. The redream team. Women's soccer! Runners (Go Ethiopia). Norway winning random events. Ryan Seacrest's fun side interviews (Phelp's sisters and mom). The stories behind the stories. The tears. The gut-wrenching awful moments when someone misses a parallel bar. Gabby. The tweets and USAToday app breaking news updates that come to my phone before an event is aired on TV (ugh).

I love it all!

The closing ceremonies will be a sad end to this exciting time. I'm proud to be a German born Norwegian-American with Ethiopian kids! It certainly is a fun time to share as a family too. We have been playing a lot of cards together with the Games on in the background, with pauses for the important moments.
Thanx world. Game on. Compete hard. Enjoy the victories. Pick yourself up in the defeats. Live fully in all you do!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Learning From Serpents (contest at the bottom)

A Guest Post About Shrewd: Daring to Obey the Startling Command of Jesus
-By Rick Lawrence

Five-or-so years ago I was locked in what felt like an all-out war over a dream that was in danger of dying, because a man who was much shrewder than me was bent on stopping it. One day, in my grief and fear and anger over what was about to happen, I felt God sort of “sit me down” and challenge me—it was clear that my “frontal” way of dealing with this situation was not going to work, and He was asking me if I was going to have the courage to move more shrewdly. In the nicey-nice Christian culture that is promoted and perpetuated in most churches, shrewdness is anathema—worse, it’s entirely off the radar as a spiritual practice.
So, in an uncharacteristic spirit of desperation, I asked God to teach me what I needed to know about shrewdness—and He (of course) brought me to Jesus, the source of all good things. The point of Jesus’ “Parable of the Shrewd Manager” (Luke 16:1-8) is specifically to highlight the behavior of a lazy, lying, good-for-nothing servant who has no qualities we’d want to emulate except for one: his shrewd way of saving himself from the consequences of his terrible behavior. Jesus highlights this anti-role-model for one purpose: “The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Later, in preparation for sending out His disciples on their first ministry journey without Him, He tells them to take nothing with them (no clothing, money, or “insurance” of any kind)—instead, He tells them they need just two things:
1. Be as shrewd as a serpent, and
2. Be as innocent as a dove.
The word He uses here for “serpent” is the same one He uses for Satan. And the word He uses here for “dove” is the same the Bible uses to describe the Holy Spirit. Jesus is telling His disciples to be as shrewd as Satan is, but as innocent as the Holy Spirit is. Shrewdness, then, is a way of living and relating that Jesus first modeled for us, then commanded us to do likewise.
In Shrewd: Daring to Obey the Startling Command of Jesus, I describe “shrewd” as a way of thinking and acting that Jesus long ago urged His followers to use in their uprising against the powers and ‘spiritual forces of wickedness’ of this world. Shrewd people—and Jesus is the Exemplar—first study how things work, and then leverage that knowledge to tip the balance in a favored direction. Shrewdness is the expert application of leverage—“the right force at the right time in the right place”—as The Way Things Work author David Macaulay observes. Jesus is perpetually taking what His enemies intend for evil and morphing it into good—He uses their destructive momentum against them, like a martial artist. Most Christians have a negative reaction to the word “shrewd,” but Jesus not only exemplified this way of relating to others in His redemptive mission on earth, He gave us a mandate to grow much, much more adept in our practice of it.
Because I’ve had scores of conversations with people, both young and old, about the mechanics of “innocent shrewdness,” I know people of all ages have experienced repeated failure in their frontal, conventional approaches to problems and challenges in their life. They’re frustrated and lost. And when I simply walk them through a Jesus-centered process of thinking and acting more shrewdly, it’s like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz moving from her flat, black-and-white world into the 3-D colors of Oz. The process, simply, looks like this:
• Answer the question: “What do I really want?” Jesus habitually asked an irritating question of people with obvious needs who approached Him for help: “What do you want?” (e.g., Matt. 20:32; Mark 6:22; Mark 10:36; Mark 10:51; Luke 18:41). We must know what we really want before we can truly ask in faith.
• Answer the question: “Is my ‘want’ born out of innocence? Would I feel just fine asking Jesus for this ‘want’ if I was face-to-face with Him?”
• Answer the question: “How does this (person, organization, or process) work?” Shrewd living always starts with understanding how things work—so spend five minutes brainstorming (either alone or with someone you trust) an answer to this question.
• Based on your understanding of how things work, spend five minutes brainstorming a point of leverage to go after with a “sideways” approach. Sideways means the leverage comes from an unexpected direction—you find “sideways” by experimenting with approaches that carry the force to move the situation.
• Now, try one of your options and debrief the results with someone you trust. Decide whether to continue with that option or whether to try a new approach.
• Repeat steps #3, #4, and #5 in a continuous loop—until you’ve landed on “the right force at the right time in the right place.”

Rick Lawrence is the author of dozens of books, including Shrewd: Daring to Obey the Startling Command of Jesus and Sifted: God’s Scandalous Response to Satan’s Outrageous Demand (shrewdbook.com and siftedbook.com). He’s has been editor of Group Magazine for 25 years and is the co-leader of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Rick is a church leader, consultant to national research organizations and a frequent conference and workshop speaker. He and his family live in Colorado.

Many of you (youth pastors) will remember Rick from our Calibrate retreat last year. Stud of a guy!
Do you have an iPad, iPhone? Want to win a copy of Rick's book Shrewd? Comment on here and like it below the post and you will be entered into a drawing for an eBook copy!
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