Who I am

I must be a good wife, I must be a good mom and I must be me. Who I am is about my father’s business. Who I am takes care of me because I am the fathers business. Who I am feels music burst through her and must let it free. Who I am has words that explode in my mind and must be written down. Who I am cares deeply for others who are hurting, lost and alone because caring, loving, saving others is my father’s business. Who I am has a mission and my mission is CJ’s.

CJ’s…. ?
CJ’s is more than a place. It is more than a coffee shop. It is more than an oasis in a dessert, a pit stop before your next destination. CJ’s is that place we all long for. CJ’s is that place we all need. It is the place that we remember who we are. It is the place people remind us that we matter. It is the place that is secret, still and quiet where we can finally hear clearly what we need to hear, what we are yearning to hear. “I love you! You matter!” says your Father. CJ’s is waiting in the line at Dutch Bos. When the guy taking your order leans out the window and asks you how your day is going and he then takes the time to listen while someone else makes your coffee, he has a real give and take conversation that matters with you. CJ’s is a park bench in the early morning, fog dissipating, sitting on a wakeful morning, birds chirping and the breeze surrounding you and the beauty of nature hugs you till you release all your tension and you begin to breathe easy again. CJ’s is the moment when the house is quiet and the kids are at school or your room mates are out and even though there is a thousand and one things to do you sit, lean your head back and rest, really rest knowing it’s okay cause even God rested on the seventh day. It is a coffee shop with a cozy lounge chair where you treat yourself to your favorite drink and acknowledge it’s okay to just sit and simply be for a brief moment of your day. CJ’s stands for Christ Jesus’s Place. It is the place where you find Him with you, feeling His presence surround you, and hear Him speak to you clearly. CJ’s is more than one place. That is Why CJ’s Ministries is so important. It is a mission to give others what they need, long for, a moment to hear they have a father who loves them, that they matter, and that where ever they are they have a purpose and it is not too late to be who they are meant to be. Everyone deserves to be given the chance to know they are Wholly Loved, Wholly cared for, Wholly His, and to be about their father’s business.

LifeTree Cafe Spokane

LifeTree Cafe is now up and running in Spokane! We meet at Chairs Coffee, a wonderful place that is letting us use the space for free. It has been such a blessing getting to know those who are Chairs staff. The coffee is great and so is the company. We have been having this conversation cafe for a month and a half now. We have had some great conversations and have many more great topics coming up this month,and November!

Our first conversation was on the Art of Loss. It helped us be okay with feelings associated with loss. It also, had a few stories from girls who used their artistic abilities to help them work through the different feelings they were experiencing with loss.  We explored the possibility of having God in the Center of our life, someone  who could never be taken away from us. The conversations with people who came were great and many were drawn closer to God. On the comment cards many stated that they had definitely felt the presence of God.

In fact every week the comment cards have had people who say they have totally felt the presence of God during LifeTree Cafe. At Lifetree Cafe we believe that faith in Jesus is a relationship. As people talk and listen to each other, sharing their stories and learn from each other, they are also learning about a specific topic of how faith has played a part in someone’s life.  As relationships are built with people, so is that relationship of faith in Jesus.

Our latest topic was the tough topic of “Is there only one way to God?” The verse “I am the way the truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the father accept through me.” was read. We discussed why, since the beginning of time people have tried to draw close to God. Not just christian, but people of every culture have done this. We talked about our own spiritual journey and the  twists and turns we have taken. We listened to an intriguing story of one gals journey to finding God, that brought her from universalism, to knowing Christ as her Savior and best friend. She was raised Catholic, in America, and actually found God in China in an underground church. We all did an experiment during our Lifetree experience, and invited God that night, to talk to us by being silent for a full 90 seconds.  It was a great night.

I love the comfort that people have in sharing their stories, no matter what they are, or what they believe. Everyone is welcome at Lifetree Cafe no matter what belief or lifestyle they have.  We have met many new people at Chairs coffee shop. They tells us how they like the non-judgmental atmosphere and even though they do not even consider themselves to be religious, that they really enjoy being at Lifetree Cafe. These people have come back, stuck around, and chatted at the end. They always tell us thank you before leaving.  During the last episode we met a gal who just wanted to be there and listen to the conversations. She thanked us for letting her be a part in her own way.

It does not matter whether we have a small group of people or large that come for Lifetree Cafe. Every time God moves and lives are changed. Being in a public place is a perfect way to not only, help people be comfortable, but also, to meet new  people who don’t go to church. Many who are already at Chairs stay, and either participate, or listen in the back. Some times people do leave when they need a place to just sit and study, but not before we introduce who we are, and invite them to be a part. Many who need to study stay, and just listen while they do their work. These people have told us that they also liked the idea of Lifetree and wished they did not have to study and could participate in the conversation. Lifetree Cafe is making a difference in peoples lives in Spokane. It is bringing people together in relationships with each other and their God who truly does love them.

The Party House

by Nora Williams 2007

I heard about a party house that grows as people arrive.

I heard about a party house that people go to survive.

I heard people go to this party house, People who are sad and people who grieve.

I heard they go into this party house and find comfort, never wanting to leave.

I heard this house is not your ordinary party house. The invitation to the party is meant for all of who desire entry.

I heard there is always a party at the party house. People go in dressed in rags, chained like slaves and they leave set free.

I heard my friend tell me of his experience at the party house, how he was desperate, lonely, lost, feeling trapped and bound.

I heard his life was changed, made bran new, at the party house. He found hope, purpose, freedom and a life long friend better than his hound.

I wonder how difficult it would be to find the party house. Is it far away? Do you have to be invited? What is the Cost?

I keep hearing great things, from so many, about the party house. I feel left out, like I’m standing in the dark alone…lost.

People always ask me “When are you going to the party house?” They say for me to tell them when I’m ready and they’ll show me the way.

What is keeping me from going to the party house? My desperate inward state needs to take a step of faith.

I am ready to go to the party house. I am ready to go in no matter the price.

My friend is with me in front of the party house. He explains that some just can’t handle the sacrifice.

I am ready to go into the party house. I need to go into the party house. I can’t believe it’s always been right across my street.

I ‘m standing at the door of the party house. I’m in awe that it is humble, yet somehow elite.

I’m knocking on the door of the party house. The door opens beckoning me to come in. I walk slow, with my eyes closed, hoping I’ll be accepted.

Opening my eyes, I see a man sitting alone in a one room party house. Can this be right? I look back and see the open door. I am tempted.

I clear my throat hearing it echo, bouncing against the walls of the party house. The man looks up, he smiles, and he says my name. He knows me. He says he’s been waiting.

I finally speak up. “I came to be a part of the party at the party house.” I hear my voice quiver, sounding unlike my own. I look at my hands trembling, almost shaking.

“I know” is all he says. I am astonished as I see his hands are busy sewing a coat more beautiful than I have ever seen.

“Who are you” I try not to shout. “Does this house belong to you? Is this the party house?” He looks up at me. His eyes are so serene.

He stands holding out the new coat. He says “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father accept through me. This house is my father’s house. Christ is the party to whom you speak.”

I only just then notice the thread of scarlet hanging from his wrist, dangling yet some how attached to the coat he is holding out for me in his hand.

Stepping back I look down. I notice my own coat of rags. There is black writing covering it. I hadn’t noticed the words before through the muck and sand.

Suddenly I feel ashamed, humiliated, as I read my sins written there for everyone to see.

I jump, startled as I feel Christ so close. He is wrapping his arms around me.

I feel so unclean. I begin to sob, tears fall flooding the floor.

I collapse to my knees still weeping. I know I have rejection in store.

“Who am I to enter here? Who am I but a failure?

I am filthy! To be clean is impossible I am sure!”

Jesus began to speak in response to my thoughts he heard.

I listened, though the idea of him talking to the likes of me, seemed absurd.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son and who ever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. Do you believe in Me?”

“I do! I do!” I declared. As I replied the room melted into a desolate hill top. Christ was on a cross bleeding to death dying for me… for my sins, dying for me!

Who are you that you could love me so much? Who am I? I am broken, worthless? “I am not worth dying for!” Into the blood stained dawn I cried.

Then I was back inside the one room party house. He was kneeling beside me and with the thumbs of his scared hands, my tears he dried.

Softly he said in reply to my question “I am the resurrection and the life. He who lives and believes in me will never die.”

I took a deep breath and looked up into his eyes. I, at that moment, knew the answer to the question “Who am I?”

“You are a child of God!” It was written in his eyes. There was truth, life, a grace beyond understanding, a peace I knew I needed.

I suddenly knew what I had to do. I closed my red swollen eye lids, gathering confidence to say the words that in my heart were planted.

“Oh God according to your unfailing love; according to your sweet mercy and grace; according to your great compassion,

Blot out my filth, wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Create in me a pure heart, oh God, erase my sin.”

I opened my eyes and Christ was gone.

I was alone in the room. A voice boomed “IT IS DONE!”

I saw before me the coat he was sewing. On the tag inside was sewn my name.

I took off my old coat and shrugged on my new one. My life would never be the same.

I felt at peace and a burden of a thousand elephants lifted. I heard a whisper vibrating up from deep in my heart.

“I love you” it said “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you. Your new life is ready for you to start.”

It was His voice, the party to whom I spoke. It was Christ my Savior. He took my brokenness and in exchange made me whole.

I have never felt so beautiful, so refreshed, so free. There are giggles bouncing around in the belly of my soul.

It was time for me to leave the building of the party house. The party of the house now dwelt with in me.

I stood and went to the door of the party house. Friends were waiting right outside to greet me!

I laughed and began hugging everyone as I walked out.

“Free…I am Free!” I wanted to sing and shout.

I looked down at my coat, made of material that would never wear thin.

It was sewn from threads of blood shed for me. It replaced my sin.

I knew it would never be too heavy or hot, or leave me in the cold.

I would never take it off or replace it. In it I would be content to grow old.

Written in the threads of my savior’s blood, were words of beauty. The words spoke of my new life that had now begun; words I would soon learn to fully comprehend.

The words were: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, forgiveness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, boldness and forgiven. I could go on and on, there are more. But now is the time to say “The End”

Jesus said “He who has ears let him hear!”

Have you heard about the Party at the party house?

Defibulation of the Vision

I had the opportunity to attend the 2010 Global Leadership Summit.  Pastor Bill Hybel’s presentation inspired me greatly, as he spoke on leadership being the ability to move people from Here to There.  He also talked about how God still speaks to us today. He challenged us to listen to the whispers of God and have the courage to respond.  Christine Caine reminded me that the hope of the world is in the gospel of Christ Jesus and unless we share this Good News, the world will remain with out hope. Her story of rescuing young girls having been abducted and sold in other countries as sex slaves, was very impacting.  She was living as Jesus hands and feet everyday. There were many who spoke and grew me up that weekend. There was a business man who spoke of how to maintain a successful business. He spoke of inspiring his employees to be all they were meant to be, instead of containing them to a box to get done only what he need them to. He talked of how he encouraged them to think for themselves and come up with ways to better the company and their surroundings. He talked about how not to trap people in a job position they were not meant to be in in the first place.  Then there was the guy who aspired to change the world one shoe at a time. Blake Mycoskie told of the birth and success of TOMS shoes and challenged his audience with his view of how a for-profit business can be leveraged for compassionate ministry.

 

Talk about sparks flying. If I could have seen with spiritual eyes what God was doing inside of me that weekend, I am sure it would have put any grand firework show to shame.  The Coffee House Vision was given the defib paddles. It was brought back to life and ready to exist.

 

Not even a month after the conference was over, an old friend, we had not spent time with for years, dropped by our house. I had seen him for the first time, in many years, attending the same conference with me. He had to share with us a vision he received at the conference. I was blown away. It was the coffee house vision, my coffee house vision, God’s Coffee house vision.

 

I know God confirms his words to us over and over, and he does give us many signs pointing the directions we are meant to go. I am not sure if this friend of ours is meant to be one of the Unify Pastors at CJ’s Coffee house .  I hope he is still praying about it. But I do know this Coffee house is meant to happen, and I will continue to take every God directed step toward the grand opening of His House, called CJ’s Coffee.

A farm girl gone City

There once was a young farm girl who disliked people and disliked herself even more. People were flawed and hurtful and what was worse she was one of those aweful people. The world was full of ugliness and she was stuck in it.

She did however find beauty in nature and joy in animals of all kinds, especially cats, and then horses. Animals were her best friends and she was pretty okay with that. Then God rocked her world and asked her to be his friend.

Of course she said yes! Who would not want to be friends with the King, the maker of everything. The best part of this friendship was that His love for her was unconditional. She felt loved through every flaw she had. When she messed up she just chatted with him and told him she was sorry and he forgave her and that was the end of it.  The worst part of this friendship was that it always seemed like a one sided relationship. He was always there for her. Always comforting her with joy, strength and even the ability to forgive others and herself.  He answered her questions. Sure sometimes he took his time to do so but, she came to know his still small voice in her head and she began to trust in Him like no one else she ever had.

It was  not long before she began to ask God how she could start being a good friend to him and not let their relationship feel so one sided. She tried being good…failed, tried just helping others as much as she could. Nothing felt right.

Slowly but surely the walls around her heart began to crumble. She began to see others as God saw them precious, everyone having potential as his kids. Her love for her family grew, her love for kids grew. God gave her a man to love and children of her own. God grew her heart toward women, moms, grandmas, single women, young women. Then one day she found herself talking to a brother in Jesus, encouraging him to pursue his God given potential to teach the word. Her heart grew to encompass a love for all of God’s people. She discovered in herself that she was indeed able to love God in return by loving his people.  Her relationship with her best friend Jesus was no longer one sided.

You would have thought that her heart had done quite enough growing for one loner of a farm girl, with  pig tails. But God was not done with her yet. She began to get quite uncomfortable with being comfortable. She began to see people she had not noticed before and her heart started crying inside for people who were rejecting their father God as their Big Daddy. She began to hear the cries of those much less fortunate than her, the lost, confused, hurting, and down right abused.

The best thing about this new growth was that God was also growing up in her a dream that would make a way for her to do something about the ache in her heart. God was growing in her a place to reach people where they were gathering. God was taking her love for nature and showing her a new love for architecture and the culture of her city.  Where once she was afraid and hated walking, having only thoughts of being murdered and left for dead, she now feels at peace knowing God is all around her and wants to reach every person she meets.

If you would have asked this gal years ago what she would want others to think of her when they meet her, she would have told you she wished people could see her as God sees her. She would have said “I wish someone could just believe in me and accept me for the person I know I am meant to be, to make a difference.” Now if you ask this 34 year old mother of two and today happily blessed wife of 15 years…I will answer you differently. I would want people to know that I believe in them, that I care about them and their journey they are on.

The best I desire to be is to be able to help others be all they can be, with the help of the one that loves them the most their big daddy JC.

Luke 10:27 NIV  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

God knocks down the walls of Can’t

Five years ago God began to brake through the walls of resident can’ts, which had built with in me. My lack of self-confidence was keeping me from stepping out in faith and stepping up to the plate of fulfilling the dreams he planted in me.

My brother in-law, in his 40s, suddenly died of a heart attack. At the same time God was moving us from our home church of 6 years, to a place we were not comfortable, church homeless. Our heart was not going in the direction our current church was taking us, and it was clear it was time to step away, but where to? We landed with my sis for a while at First Church of the Open Bible. It was good to come along side her and mourn with her. However, it was clear it was not our home God wanted us to take root in and grow to be a part of. When it was time we took on the new adventure of church shopping. For the first time God was not being specific as to where and what exactly we were meant to be doing for him. We were given a period of time to rest and just trust and know we were His and grow in the knowledge of His love for us personally. There is much to this story of how we came to find our new home at Life Center North. Perhaps God will have me write about that another time. The point of this paragraph is God landed the pilgrimage of our heart at Life Center North and this is where our church home has remained for five or so years now.

People at Life Center North were different toward me than at any other place I had served. They had respect for my passion for God and extreme desire to make a difference. Instead of my passion for Christ met with sarcasm and eye-rolling, I was taken seriously. I was able to jump into children’s ministry and teach. Instead of being met with words of discouragement saying “ Nora, anyone can do what you do.” I was encouraged with words like “ Nora, You have a gift God has given you!”

From Children’s Ministry God watered my heart and grew in me a huge compassion and love for all women. I was accepted, mentored and trained up in leadership through the women’s ministry. Each God step of faith I took I expected the worst, as I had encountered before from people. Instead of doubt, I was believed in. I am not sure if this is because I had finally decided that what people thought of me did not matter or if Life Center North leadership was just a different breed of people that knew how to build others up and not tare them down. It is probably some of both.

People who believe in themselves are seen as confident and able. People who don’t are seen as incompetent and unable. It is a sad reality. It is sad because there are those with God given dreams that will never be full filled due to the lack of someone believing in them. You see, sometimes, belief in ones self comes from someone first believing in you. Someone who dares to show you your God given potential and takes the time to love you where you are at and nourish you with positive words. This person for me has always been my mom and then my dearly beloved Husband. At Life Center North I met others such as Glendie, Elaine, Shannon and more. These people have helped me to find my identity in Christ and help me believe in who God says I am and can accomplish with Him.

Thoughts to ponder:
Who is it that believes in you? Who is it that needs you to believe in them? There are always people we need to thank God for in our lives. We are also meant to be that someone people are thanking God for, who take the time to believe in others the way we want to be believed in.

Can We Lose Our God Given Visions

Does God take away your vision and give it to someone else willing to act on it? I’ve heard both ways. At one point I thought God had indeed done just that. When The Service Station opened up in Spokane I thought “Well there goes that plan, I failed.” The Service Station was a christian owned and ran, non-profit coffee shop with a concert area, meeting rooms an amazing sized coffee shop to boot. It was also the launch of a church that meets there and many bible studies that take place there still on a daily basis. No children’s center however, or library.

Then another coffee shop opened up that had a children’s play area called The Little Garden Cafe. A beautiful place for moms to just hang and have coffee and not feel frustrated having their kids with them. Not a children’s center or big enough to have a church meeting in, but many small bible studies happen there.

I believe now that it is us that give away our visions having never sought to complete them or having given up too soon. But I don’t believe that God ever gives up on us full filling the potential he has planted in us. He is just waiting for us to take that first, second, third and so on step of faith.

You have to understand a bit about me to get why I had no confidence in going forth with the God dream planted in me. Point one : already stated, I had no self confidence. I had confidence in others and would help them pursue their dreams. However, when God would give me my own I would tell others to see if I should pursue them and there would be doubt, skepticism even. I had this huge light bouncing around inside me that wanted out, but with out the belief in myself or others to believe in me, it remained trapped inside for years. My quiet voice that tried to speak was laughed at, criticized and even scoffed at over and over.

Until one day, I figured out the dreams God gave me to pursue were not dependent on others to believe in me. In fact, they have nothing to do with what other people think I can or cannot handle. Who I am and who I am meant to be is for me to believe from the mouth of God, period. The only one I should be believing in, when it comes to what I can and need to accomplish in life, is God. God was saying “Nora, You can do anything with me. You are meant to make a difference in this world, with me, all things are possible.” I had to learn to live my life for the applause of one. Living life for my Daddy God to clap and no one else is difficult. There will always be voices in my life telling me I am not good enough or that I should not even try, or not to be surprised if I fail. But I will give God all I am and let Him fill in the gaps of skills I am lacking. I will pursue dreams with all of who I am and if I am crushed when things fail then so be it. At least it won’t because I had never tried or because I had not given God my everything to work with.

God has shown me that The Service Station, nor The Little Garden Cafe were the places he had set my heart to build in Spokane. He had not given my dream, he cast in my heart, to someone else. I know that now, after many years of learning and growing in Him, that he is faithful to complete what he began in me, even a dream of a coffee house church with all the trimming of the first vision from 12 years ago.

I leave you with this thought, every person has dreams God has cast in their heart. Every person has God given potential locked up inside of them waiting to be believed in and burst out to make a difference. Whether that be to be an amazing mom who dares to teach her kids to go against the grain of society and love God and place him first in their life, or someone who dreams of being a missionary, or a pastor. Anything and every dream is possible to come true with God. Believe in yourself! God Believes in you!!!