Friday, December 17, 2010

Four Christmas Journeys - Part 3

Contrary to what you may have been led to believe from my previous posts, my fondest memories of Christmas have not involved gifts (although they sometimes played a secondary role). Memories of Christmas that have stayed with me have always involved people.

One of my more memorable Christmases was in December of 2001. I had just finished my seminary classes (although I still had a few papers to finish and turn in before they’d give me my diploma) and was preparing to move on from Fort Worth, Texas to my next stop (wherever that would be). As I awaited news from Culpeper Baptist Church about the possibility of being called to serve there in the capacity of Minister to Youth, I got the opportunity to spend time with friends and family in the days leading up to Christmas.

I was able to not only hang out with some of my buddies and former youth, I also had dessert with a special friend from my college years. Kathy Correa and I had defined our relationship as “just friends” numerous times (but I don’t think either of us completely believed it). We had spent many Saturday mornings on the phone as I mopped floors at Wedgwood Baptist Church. I am grateful for the wired headset that allowed me to make all those calls while at work. On Sunday, December 23, 2001, while I was in Miami, Kathy confessed to me (finally!) that she was in love with me. This relationship, seven years in the making, was cemented together over vows just eight months later on August 17, 2002.

Christmas came early for me that year with the greatest gift a person could ever receive.

The gift of love.

True love is not something that can be bartered, sold, or exchanged. It is freely given and is best appreciated when freely received.

This is what makes Christmas such a special time of the year.

We are reminded of God’s gift of love.

God’s love for humanity wrapped in swaddling clothes.

One hymn that has always spoken to me about the depth of this love was penned in the 1700s by Charles Wesley. Here is the 3rd stanza of “And Can it Be?”

He left His Father’s throne above, So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love, And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me!

May you also be found out this season. Found out by Peace, by Hope and by Joy.

And found out by Love.

A love that never wavers. A love that inspires and strengthens us to love others as well.


Related Verses
Isaiah 9:1-7

Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder.

For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian. The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.

The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

1 Corinthians 13
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Four Christmas Journeys - Part 2

There was one place in Miami to be during the holiday rush as a child in the 80’s: Lionel Playworld.

It was indistinguishable (at least I thought) from Toys-R-Us, but all of their ads promised to “Turn that frown upside down.”

Yes, I hungered for MANY toys from that store. As I charged up and down the aisles, my senses were assaulted by two categories of playthings: those I could reasonably hope to acquire, and those that I knew deep inside would never darken my doorway.

I did get over the years, among other things, a rocketry set, several GI Joe’s, a few Transformers, and Sea Monkeys.

The items that I could only dream about included: a Star Wars Return of the Jedi Swing Set (mere words cannot adequately describe this, see the link), a GI Joe Aircraft Carrier (my disappointment at not getting one diminished significantly when I realized that they couldn’t really float), and various remote control aircraft (that I was planning to fly off the aforementioned GI Joe Aircraft Carrier … sigh).

Despite being teased every holiday season, I still somehow managed to find joy despite the fact that I knew I wouldn’t get all these toys.

Or rather, joy would find ME.

Joy would find me as I sang carols with my brother and sister in the back seat of our station wagon as we checked out our neighbors’ holiday lights.

Joy would find me as I shivered whenever a cool breeze brushed my face.

Joy would find me as I ate roast pork and all the fixings during Noche Buena with family.

And Joy would find me as I watched holiday specials.

As has become our custom, Kathy and I watched “a Charlie Brown Christmas” a few nights ago after decorating our Christmas tree. This is one Christmas special that I look forward to every year. I always seem to catch something new even though I’ve watched it dozens of times.

Charlie Brown is fed up with the commercialization of Christmas and seeks to find out what it really is about. Everywhere he turns, he only becomes more and more disillusioned, culminating with being barraged by insults over his choice of a Christmas tree.

We all feel like Charlie Brown some days, don’t we?

Enter Linus Van Pelt, who calls for a spotlight and shares what the true meaning of Christmas is:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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.”

With the arrival of the Savior comes joy. Even though we are bombarded with messages about what we don’t have, we can have joy because of what we DO have. Christmas is a yearly reminder that a Saviour has been born to us. One who traded the glory of heaven for a dirty manger. One who willingly suffered the human condition. One who knows firsthand what our pain feels like. One who died and was raised again so we might not have to suffer the consequences of our sins.

One who knows our wants, and graciously supplies all our needs.

What is on your Christmas list this year? Where has God’s joy found you lately?

May God’s Hope and Peace fill you, and may His JOY find you this season.

Joy is a gift that can be shared!

Related Verses
Luke 2:8-20

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

1 Peter 1:3-12
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.

They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Four Christmas Journeys - Part 1

This is the time of year when expectations abound.

Whether it be for the “Perfect Family Christmas”, finding the “Perfect Gift” for someone, or hosting the “Perfect Holiday Party” (whatever ANY of those means is beyond me), we sometimes put impossible demands on ourselves (as well as others) and end up tired and deflated by the time the 26th of December comes around.

Feeling like the torn wrapping paper on our living room floors, we vow never to do it again.

We then faithfully keep that vow until Black Friday next year.

Is THIS what God was thinking about when He planned the birth of the Savior of the World?

For the four weeks of Advent (which is Latin for “coming towards”) I want to share four journeys.

The first week of Advent is about HOPE.

Throughout my growing years, I was optimistic for many things during the Christmas season.

One constant wish (in secret) was to get a remote control airplane. I loved military airplanes; this passion was a flame that was fanned by many trips to air shows with my family. To this day, every time I hear a plane overhead, I instinctively look up to identify it. I wanted to be a pilot, but knew my glasses would forever keep me grounded. However, that didn’t stop me from wishing and hoping to get something that I could fly.

I even remember one Christmas Eve as we were driving to the house of one of my relatives for the BIG PARTY thinking about how great it would be to find that Santa had arrived early to their house and left a large box for me containing a remote control airplane. That vision is so clear to me, that I can remember exactly where we were on the journey when I was struck by it. We had just passed Tropical Park on Miller Road and were getting onto the 826 Expressway. I looked out of the car window at the grove of trees quickly flitting by the darkness and dreamed that it would come true. I could even see myself taking it out of the box.

Santa didn’t come early that year, but I was delighted to receive the next best thing one of those Christmases long ago; a Flying Devils play set which had wire guided planes that went around a control tower.

There are times in all of our journeys where we can look back and honestly say, “I can clearly remember this”. Some are momentous occasions; others seem to revolve around things that are more trivial.

However big or little, they all serve as points along our journey.

This Christmas season, as we journey towards the celebration of hope coming into the world in the form of a defenseless infant; let us take some time to look back on our journey to see how far we’ve come.

For you see, we are closer to our destination.

May God fill you with HOPE this week and may you feel a thrill of delight in the knowledge that He loved us enough to send His Son to save us from ourselves.

Related Verses
Isaiah 60:1-9
“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the LORD rises to shine on you. Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the LORD rises and appears over you.

All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance. “Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home.

Your eyes will shine, and your heart will thrill with joy, for merchants from around the world will come to you. They will bring you the wealth of many lands.

Vast caravans of camels will converge on you, the camels of Midian and Ephah. The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense and will come worshiping the LORD.

The flocks of Kedar will be given to you, and the rams of Nebaioth will be brought for my altars. I will accept their offerings, and I will make my Temple glorious.

“And what do I see flying like clouds to Israel, like doves to their nests? They are ships from the ends of the earth, from lands that trust in me, led by the great ships of Tarshish. They are bringing the people of Israel home from far away, carrying their silver and gold.

They will honor the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has filled you with splendor.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


As I was out walking around my neighborhood the other day, I came to the realization that the brilliant fall foliage is beginning to ... well …"fall". We ARE in November I mused, then came to the sudden realization that Thanksgiving was just around the corner. Ironically enough, I had just finished my Turkey day shopping but it STILL hadn't hit me untill I saw the growing number of bare tree limbs that winter was breathing down our necks. The telltale piles of leaves signal the journey towards yet another season.

Thanksgiving to me is the only holiday that always seems to herald the next. Every year, the Christmas decorations go up earlier and earlier (pretty soon you’ll be hearing caroling at Fourth of July picnics). Not that I'm complaining; I love the holiday season. It's just that as soon as Christmas and New Years pass in a blaze of glory, we're left with several dreary months of winter before the world reawakens with spring. For many, this winter is more than just a season. Some of us have lost loved ones, many of us still struggle through this "recovering" economy, and we ALL deal with the brokenness around us.

Despite the coming of winter, we still find time once a year to come together with family and friends to celebrate the giving of thanks.

Which makes me think. What am I really thankful for?

I am thankful for every morning that I awake beside my amazing wife.

I am thankful for my health.

I am thankful for the roof over my head and food in my pantry.

I am thankful for life in all its splendid diversity. I am thankful for my family and friends (the visible reminders of God’s grace and love for us) as well as for the knowledge that God indeed does care for us. I am thankful for the Cross. Not only for what it represents, but what it made possible:

The reunion of God and Humanity. The gift of life that is to be lived to the fullest.

Although the mercury is beginning to fall, I find that there is much to be thankful for. What is it that you are thankful for? How have you been blessed this past year? What are blessings yet to be realized, that you look forward to? How can we demonstrate our gratitude?


Related Verses
Colossians 3:1-17

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.

Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Songs in the Night

When I suffered through a period of depression during my final year of high school, I would sometimes have trouble sleeping.

Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night and stared out into the gloom? You look at your alarm clock, HOPING to see that it’s about to ring anyways and are dismayed to see its still in the early watches of the night? Then you try to get back to sleep, but it’s all in vain because the cares and struggles of the previous day come trickling in until all you hear is a fearful roaring in your mind?

And all the while, nobody else seems to care.

You are not alone.

One cure for my insomnia at the time was a radio program titled “Night Sounds”. The program host, Bill Pierce, would start each program with a masterfully played trombone rendition of Debussy’s Beau Soir.

You can hear it at Night Sounds Radio.

Following the intro, Bill would share the topic for the evening and quietly mull over his points, with musical interludes in between.

It was so relaxing, that I usually fell asleep by the end of the program.

The following is taken from Charles Spurgeon’s devotional that was written over a hundred years ago, but still rings fresh and true today…

Morning and Evening, October 20th, Evening Reading
“Any man can sing in the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it. When wealth rolls in abundance around him, any man can praise the God who gives a plenteous harvest or sends home a loaded argosy. It is easy enough for an Aeolian harp to whisper music when the winds blow—the difficulty is for music to swell forth when no wind is stirring.

It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but he is skilful who sings when there is not a ray of light to read by—who sings from his heart. No man can make a song in the night of himself; he may attempt it, but he will find that a song in the night must be divinely inspired.

Let all things go well, I can weave songs, fashioning them wherever I go out of the flowers that grow upon my path; but put me in a desert, where no green thing grows, and wherewith shall I frame a hymn of praise to God? How shall a mortal man make a crown for the Lord where no jewels are? Let but this voice be clear, and this body full of health, and I can sing God's praise: silence my tongue, lay me upon the bed of languishing, and how shall I then chant God's high praises, unless He Himself give me the song?

No, it is not in man's power to sing when all is adverse, unless an altar-coal shall touch his lip. It was a divine song, which Habakkuk sang, when in the night he said,

"Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."

Then, since our Maker gives songs in the night, let us wait upon Him for the music. O Thou chief musician, let us not remain songless because affliction is upon us, but tune Thou our lips to the melody of thanksgiving.”

-Charles Spurgeon

As this week of Thanksgiving approaches, let us remember what God has accomplished in our lives; the past, present, and future.

Let us remember that He cares for us.

And let us ask Him to provide Songs in the Night.

Job 35:9-16
“People cry out when they are oppressed. They groan beneath the power of the mighty. Yet they don’t ask, ‘Where is God my Creator, the one who gives songs in the night? Where is the one who makes us smarter than the animals and wiser than the birds of the sky?’ And when they cry out, God does not answer because of their pride.

But it is wrong to say God doesn’t listen, to say the Almighty isn’t concerned. You say you can’t see him, but he will bring justice if you will only wait. You say he does not respond to sinners with anger and is not greatly concerned about wickedness. But you are talking nonsense, Job. You have spoken like a fool.”

Psalm 77:1-15
I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help.

You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray! I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?

And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.” But then I recall all you have done, O LORD; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Snapshot of Time

In my childhood home, we have a hallway that’s packed with framed photographs. Pictures of my siblings and I at various stages of maturity.

My father, you see, was a voracious taker of photos.

While some parents take many pictures of their first-born, then continue to take less and less photos of their subsequent offspring, my dad was the opposite. We had albums filled to the brim with photos of every event, every party, every holiday, every outing, and every trip to the zoo.

I don’t know why my dad just didn’t have his camera surgically implanted so he wouldn’t have to fuss around with a camera bag.

I have yet to ask him why he took so many pictures. It certainly felt at times that he had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when it came to taking multiple shots. He’d line us up and take a photo, and then he’d take another, and another, and another. You can tell the chronology of an event because our eyes stop smiling after the third or fourth take.

Yes, we have big grins, but our eyes have started to glaze over.

We’d finally bolt when he paused long enough to try to get out another lens (or load more film).

I actually started to take an interest in photography when I was finishing my fourth grade year. I wanted to take some memories of my classmates and school, so I used up an entire disc of film that day.

Yes, I said “disc”. Kodak put out a Disc Camera that could take 15 pictures on a circular piece of celluloid as opposed to a roll of film (It didn’t pan out in the long run).

I can remember taking the various pictures, treasured memories all, and then forgetting to get the film processed. Where those images are, I’ll never know.

I thought if I could capture those pictures, I would somehow capture a moment in time.

Maybe that’s why Papi took so many pictures. To capture little snapshots of time and space.

To remember.

What is so important to you that you try to keep it fresh in your memory?

In the New Living Translation of the Bible, the word “remember” is found over 220 times! And it’s not all, “Remember to follows these laws and regulations” (though that does take up a good chunk). Over and over, we are admonished to remember how good God has been to us.

If He has been good to us, will He change His mind and His ways?

What has God done in your past? What does that mean for your future?


Related Verses
Deuteronomy 4:32-40

“Now search all of history, from the time God created people on the earth until now, and search from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything as great as this ever been seen or heard before? Has any nation ever heard the voice of God speaking from fire—as you did—and survived? Has any other god dared to take a nation for himself out of another nation by means of trials, miraculous signs, wonders, war, a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts? Yet that is what the LORD your God did for you in Egypt, right before your eyes.

“He showed you these things so you would know that the LORD is God and there is no other. He let you hear his voice from heaven so he could instruct you. He let you see his great fire here on earth so he could speak to you from it. Because he loved your ancestors, he chose to bless their descendants, and he personally brought you out of Egypt with a great display of power. He drove out nations far greater than you, so he could bring you in and give you their land as your special possession, as it is today.

“So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The LORD is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other. If you obey all the decrees and commands I am giving you today, all will be well with you and your children. I am giving you these instructions so you will enjoy a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”

Jeremiah 29:10-14
This is what the LORD says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

2 Timothy 2:8
Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach.


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The River Community Church. A Community of Connections!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Kingdom Like No Other

My parents, through differing means, left their homeland Cuba after Fidel Castro tightened an iron fist around the island nation.

I remember as a child asking how they were able to leave, and the reply I received was simply, “He let us go.”

That left a deep impression on my tender intellect. You see, I thought that meant they’d actually met the reviled dictator to gain permission to leave.

In my mind’s eye, I could see an impossibly large throne room with a line of people; some huddled in small groups, others alone or with a spouse, all waiting their turn at the great throne at the end of the hall.

I could picture Castro, a cigar butt sticking out of his craggy beard, waiting impatiently as my parents presented their case to him. After glaring at each in turn, he muttered under his breath to an aide-de-camp who jotted down their names on a list and motioned for them to proceed.

A procession that moved towards freedom.

Freedom from Castro’s Kingdom.

Freedom to voice their conscience, freedom to follow their dreams and freedom from oppression.

Freedom, unfortunately, found only in exile.

The reality of their departure was actually a little bit more interesting. They had not yet married when my father was able (through the help of a priest) to enlist in the United States Army and subsequently leave the country. My mother, on the other hand, secured her freedom in a manner more befitting a Cold-War spy thriller; she scaled the fence to the Uruguay Embassy in Havana where she secured her status as a political refugee. The following months were filled with boredom for her (punctuated by five marriage proposals) as she waited with over three hundred other refugees for their exit.

When my parents were reunited, it was in a new country.

What would it be like to live in exile? Away from your family, your culture and your shared history?

What does this mean for those who follow Jesus now, who often feel out of sorts with our society?

The Bible often refers to followers of Christ as “temporary residents and foreigners”.

Are we to sit idly by and wait for heaven, The Kingdom of God to one day appear, or is there more for us to do?

A very interesting piece of Scripture is found in Luke 17:20-21: “One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you. ” NLTse

What does it mean for the Kingdom of Heaven to be among us (or “within you” as some translations read)?

The seventh and final part of our Vision Statement wrestles with this idea:

A kingdom where the poor are rich and the lonely find family. Where justice and mercy slow dance. Where hearts, souls, and minds are opened and wisdom expands. Where we pour love on Jesus’ tired, dirty, beautiful, aching feet whenever we serve another person. A kingdom where we receive our name and engage our calling. Where shattered lives and fragmented dreams find the hope that leads to restoration. We have caught a glimpse of this kingdom and we have found it captivating. We as the church have been called to get this kingdom started on earth as it is in heaven. The keys to this kingdom are in our hands. When are we going to unlock these gates? Who will help push the boundaries of this kingdom until it swallows up all that causes disconnection and suffering? As this River bursts forth we will flood our community with the tangible presence of Jesus Christ.

How can we help grow God’s Kingdom this week?


Related Verses
1 Peter 2 9:12

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

“Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

Mark 12:32-34
The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Luke 13:18-30
Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.”

He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”

He replied, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.’

“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you will be thrown out. And people will come from all over the world—from east and west, north and south—to take their places in the Kingdom of God. And note this: Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then.”


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Coffee Houses and Folk Art

The River would like to invite you to join us for a Community Coffeehouse this Friday (October 29th) from 6-9pm at 317 South West Street (The white house across from Culpeper Baptist Church).

It’s an opportunity for people to relax and enjoy an evening of art, music, and poetry.

There will be free coffee (including espresso and Cuban Coffee!) and pastries served. We'll also have a canvas and paint available for people who wish to express themselves through art. There will also be music and poetry readings for those who wish to participate through the open mic.

We invite the Culpeper community to grab a cup of coffee while they enjoy an evening of live music and new friends.


Visiones Del Pueblo (Visions of the Community)
The work study portion of my financial aid package had me working at the University Art Museum several hours each week during my freshman year. I learned several skills during my time there including how to plug nail holes, paint walls white, use a computer (starting with a Mac Classic, then graduating to the Museum’s PowerBook) and the secret formula for F.I.U. Art Museum punch used solely for exhibition openings.

This was in the early Nineties, well before the Art Museum moved to its new digs on the perimeter of the University Park Campus. The Art Museum back then was simply located on a corner of the ground floor of Primera Casa, the first building on campus.

Part of my duties included sitting at the front desk and welcoming visitors. I spent so much time in the museum itself that I really got to know the space well. The museum was always filled with amazing pieces of art; modern, abstract, photography, sculpture, metalwork, etc.

However, my favorite exhibit by far was “Visiones del Pueblo: The Folk Art of Latin America”, which ran from January 21 through March 19, 1994.

Latin America Folk Art serves many different purposes, but shares a common trait.

A breathtaking variety of bright and bold colors.

So, instead of repainting the walls the usual off-white, we were instructed to paint large portions of the walls with very bright colors. Many cases (which matched the pigmented walls) were brought in to hold the more than 250 objects. And what a variety of objects. Big pieces, tiny pieces, simple ones as well as unthinkably elaborate. The museum was bursting from top to bottom with creativity and color.

Much love had gone into the creation of all of these objects.

At night when we’d turn off the lights and lock the doors, the museum seemed to let out a deep breath and settle down for the night.

Those moments were always special to me. Time seemed to slow down as I looked at the (by now) very familiar pieces of art partially cloaked in darkness.

It was kind of like experiencing twilight.

The bright colors would fade to shades of gray but I knew they’d be back tomorrow with the sun and a new day.

And such it is with life.

As the seasons change, we sometimes lament missed opportunities or mistakes we’ve made. We sit in the gloom and consider ourselves nothing more than gray vapors.

We forget how colorful we have been made.

Just as folk art is lovingly created and is best enjoyed in the full light of day, we too must remember that the night will end and a new day will dawn.
A day filled with new life and new possibilities.

Jesus told us that He came to give us true life. Life that is richer than we can imagine. A life that is energized through His Spirit. A life that boldly loves those who are difficult. A life filled with joy and a life that overflows with the peace that He promises He’ll give us.

Jesus said “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLTse)

Jesus wants us to remember how special we are to Him. Special enough that He gave up His life to take away the sin that stains us all.

Look at the people God has placed around you and marvel at His amazing creativity.

If you feel faded today, where have your colors gone? What would it take for you to shine once more?


Related Verses
John 10:1-21

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”

When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him. Some said, “He’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?” Others said, “This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Lamentations 3:18-26
I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!” The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.


Friday, October 22, 2010

My Alter Egos

I’m a packrat. I like to hold on to stuff that remind me of the various seasons of my life. Movie ticket stubs, old credit cards, matchbooks from restaurants, and even spent ammunition from a variety of firearms that I’ve used at shooting ranges (as well as not-so-legal places to shoot).

The statute of limitations has expired for (most of) these transgressions, but I digress…

I was searching for my Miami-Dade Library Card in a plastic yellow Erector Set case (which serves as a sort of personal time capsule) when I came across a medium-sized object wrapped in cheap black fabric.

I didn’t need to unveil it to know what lay inside.

Three golden letters.


One summer in the mid-nineties, I was a middle-school counselor at a youth camp in central Florida. At this camp, each grade level was assigned a color for the week.

The 8th graders were the brown team.

There’s not much flashy about the color brown…

We raised points through a variety of means, but needless to say, the brown team was left behind in the mud. These were middle school kids competing against high schoolers.

At the end of the week, we had to do a skit. As we sat down to discuss a strategy to get more points, we rolled different ideas around. What do you do with brown?

It was then that I was blinded by a flashback from the past.

I had always been fascinated by superheroes.

My cousin Orlando fed this obsession with stacks of comic books for my brother and me. Orlando even helped me with training to be a superhero.

I was running through his apartment one day, a towel fluttering across my shoulders, when he asked me if I wanted to learn to fly.

I don’t remember agreeing.

Actually, truth be told, I don’t remember ANY of this. It has been handed down as Boronat folklore over the years.

The story goes that he “got hold” of me and shared that he was going to teach me to fly to the couch (which was across the living room) a few feet away.

“One … two … three!”

I didn’t quite make it to the couch.

My older sister Patti remembers seeing my head smack the floor, which prompted her to yell,


My super-powers (a hard head is a Boronat trademark) protected me that day, but I had to begin to come to terms with the fact that I was not meant for the superhero lifestyle.

And yet, the fire still burned to be super at something…

What if for the skit, I became a brown superhero? Brown Man? NO! BIBLEMAN!

We hastily drew up the skit (which had me using Bible verses to help various people with their problems) and I made the Bibleman costume out of some old brown t-shirts, a web belt, and a brown towel. I even cut out the initials to be emblazoned on my chest.

Needless to say, the skit was a hit, and everyone wanted us to do an encore when we got back to the church for our Sunday Evening camp reflections service.

I donned the suit again, and waited outside the doors of the sanctuary for my cue in the skit (the Super theme song). I entered in all my chocolate splendor and we proceeded to bring down the house.

It was later on that evening that one of the ministers came up to me with a big grin.

He pointed to the initials “B.M.” on my chest.

“Hey Joe, I know it stands for Bibleman, but when I was a kid, BM was short for “Bowel Movement.”

I can still hear the resounding laughter around me as I was brought into the joke.

And that’s why future Bibleman outfits had a golden chest plate that read “NIV”…

Who are we trying to be? As we grow from season to season, we get ideas regarding what life should be like. What type of car do I drive? How big a house do I get? What career will give me the most money, prestige, satisfaction or joy? Some of us find contentment only in dreaming about “when my ship comes in”.

What if THIS is your ship?

If you are reading this on a computer, congratulations! You’re among the 3-5% of the world’s population that has access to the internet. You’re rich!

Being wealthy gives you opportunities that many in our world lack.

What do we do with our talents?

What do we do with our gifts?


Sometimes we look so far forward or so far back that we miss the life we were meant to live today. Is there any wonder why Jesus commanded us not to worry about tomorrow?

Next week we’ll discuss ways we can live out the life that God has for us.

You have been given a talent. What are you doing with it?

What kind of superhero are you anyways?


Related Verses
Matthew 25:14-28

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Matthew 6:24-34
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.


The River Community Church. A Community of Connections!

Friday, October 15, 2010

As the Seasons Change

A few weekends ago, Kathy and I visited a little known inn situated in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Friends of ours raved about their inexpensive patio menu as well as the soothing pastoral setting, so we decided to try it.

We arrived a little before sunset. To tell the truth, I was in a bit of a hurry; I didn’t want to show up late and find the place was full. My concerns, however, were quickly laid to rest as we walked through the graceful courtyard and made our way around the back.

Words cannot describe the locale adequately.

The sun was just peeping over the mountains, giving a final wave farewell as it settled down in the west. A herd of horses appeared across a small pond and just as quickly vanished in the waning heat of the day.

Summer had officially ended the previous week, but a deliciously mild breeze refreshed us as we sat down at our table to order.

Oh, what to order.

I ordered a cheeseburger, and Kathy picked out a BLT.

My eyes were drawn to the buzz of activity beside us. There was a small bush in full flower and large bees made quick work of gathering pollen. I normally am skittish around flying stingers, but I actually found their droning to be soothing; heightening the experience of eating out in the open.

At first, I hesitated talking about how beautiful everything was (as if doing so would somehow break the spell), but eventually we couldn’t help but share all the delights that met our senses as the sky began to darken and we entered twilight.

By the time our food arrived, the bees had clocked out for the evening. In their place, tiny moths ushered in the night shift.

I had never witnessed such a marvel firsthand.

Our food in hand, we relished the explosions of flavor that danced across our palates. This was just about the freshest food we had ever eaten. We even exchanged bites of food to show what the other was missing. The hamburger, perfectly cooked and sitting on a slab of aged cheddar (which somehow matched perfectly with the beef) was one of the very best I’ve EVER eaten.


Kathy, happily munching away at her BLT with apple wood smoked bacon, concurred.

Dessert was a hard decision, but we decided on an Apple and Pear Crisp with Spiced Moroccan Ice Cream.

It’s even better than it sounds like.

One by one, the lights on the patio winked on and by the time we left, stars had begun to fill the indigo skies.

A cool breeze greeted us as we took our leave and walked to our car.

We were amazed we could enjoy such a meal for what we typically spend at a chain restaurant.

Change was in the air.

Now, I’m a creature of habit, and I enjoy my routines, but one thing I love about living in Virginia is watching the seasons turn.

Seasons come and go for all of us. Childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, marriage, parenthood, on and on until we pass on through the waters to the next life.

Change happens in our neighborhoods and workplaces.

Change even happens in churches as well. New groups form as some others fade. People move in and out of our lives. New challenges also sometimes crop up to try to make us forget hard-fought victories.

Through it all, we try to keep our eyes wide open.

“What is God changing right now?”

“What lives is He touching as we move on this journey?”

As I was writing this piece, I pulled up the website for the amazing inn to reacquaint myself with the menu. I was stricken with grief to see that their new fall menu doesn’t have burgers.

But you know what? That fresh tomato and mozzarella sandwich looks pretty good!

Change is in the air!

Stay tuned…

P.S. If you want to know the name of the inn, just drop me an email at

Related Verses
Psalm 104

Let all that I am praise the LORD. O LORD my God, how great you are! You are robed with honor and majesty. You are dressed in a robe of light. You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens; you lay out the rafters of your home in the rain clouds. You make the clouds your chariot; you ride upon the wings of the wind. The winds are your messengers; flames of fire are your servants.

You placed the world on its foundation so it would never be moved. You clothed the earth with floods of water, water that covered even the mountains. At your command, the water fled; at the sound of your thunder, it hurried away. Mountains rose and valleys sank to the levels you decreed. Then you set a firm boundary for the seas, so they would never again cover the earth. You make springs pour water into the ravines, so streams gush down from the mountains.

They provide water for all the animals, and the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds nest beside the streams and sing among the branches of the trees. You send rain on the mountains from your heavenly home, and you fill the earth with the fruit of your labor.
You cause grass to grow for the livestock and plants for people to use. You allow them to produce food from the earth— wine to make them glad, olive oil to soothe their skin, and bread to give them strength. The trees of the LORD are well cared for— the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests, and the storks make their homes in the cypresses. High in the mountains live the wild goats, and the rocks form a refuge for the hyraxes.

You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set. You send the darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals prowl about. Then the young lions roar for their prey, stalking the food provided by God. At dawn they slink back into their dens to rest. Then people go off to their work, where they labor until evening.

O LORD, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures. Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both large and small. See the ships sailing along, and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea.

They all depend on you to give them food as they need it. When you supply it, they gather it. You open your hand to feed them, and they are richly satisfied. But if you turn away from them, they panic. When you take away their breath, they die and turn again to dust.

When you give them your breath, life is created, and you renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the LORD continue forever! The LORD takes pleasure in all he has made! The earth trembles at his glance; the mountains smoke at his touch. I will sing to the LORD as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath!

May all my thoughts be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD. Let all sinners vanish from the face of the earth; let the wicked disappear forever. Let all that I am praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!


Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Wart on My Sole

Sometime during one of my three Junior years in college (hey, I was on the six-year plan!), I got a plantar wart. I probably got it at the university gym’s locker room because I always showered barefoot. To this day, a twinge of apprehension greets me every time my bare feet hit the tile floor at my current gym.

But I digress…

I tried EVERYTHING to get rid of the wart. Home remedies, pumice stones and over the counter stuff. Eventually, I had the campus health clinic attempt to freeze it off.

All to no avail.

I limped along with a cushioned donut bandage stuck to my sole for months until my mother suggested that I go see my old doctor, Dr. M. He had a practice in Westchester, a suburb a little northeast from our home. He was a pediatrician who has served multiple generations of Boronats with great skill.

So, I swallowed my pride and went in to see a doctor who specializes in childhood ailments.

Entering the waiting room was like stepping back in time. I sat on a chair and marveled at all the memories that place held for me.

The chief memory being that I HATE SHOTS.

It’s a pity that more doctors don’t see their patients when they (the patients that it) are feeling fine. I hear that dentists have higher rates of depression than other professions. Think about it, who WANTS to go to the dentist? For many of us, it’s like pulling teeth just to get us in for our yearly checkups.

It turns out that I was to be seen by another Dr. M. His son had joined the family practice.

We went through my recent trials with the wart, and he decided that the best course of action was to perform a curettage and desiccation.

The procedure is simple enough, they inject a local anesthetic, they destroy the wart by burning it, and then they cut it out.

We set an appointment for the surgery, and I returned a few days later for the procedure.

I was led back to my old examination room (where I received all those dreaded shots in years past). The nurse brought out a tray of sterile instruments, and I was “made comfortable”. After two injections, my sole became numb and he got to work.

It turns out my sole wasn’t numb enough.

To my great surprise, I had no qualms ASKING for ANOTHER injection.

The last one did the trick, and I comfortably waited as he finished barbecuing the bottom of my foot.

Being a youth intern at the time, and wanting something to gross out my teens, I requested to keep the filet of sole in a bottle of solution.

Dr. M graciously complied.

Before I limped out of the office, I was given a painkiller to take when I got home.

It’s totally numb, no problem, I thought.

Half way home (my mother driving at her normal rapid clip) the local anesthetic began to wear off. Problem. It felt as if someone was holding a lighter to the bottom of my foot.

We didn’t have water in the car, so I had to endure the rest of the trip home in serious pain.

As soon as we got home, I stumbled out of the car and quickly hobbled over to the sink. Downing the bitter pill, limped to my bed, and was OUT COLD in moments.

The wart never came back.

I am grateful for modern medicine and the ways it can heal the body. Surgery nowadays is much safer and effective than in the past for one simple, yet vital procedure.

Sterilization of instruments.

A clean scalpel can do wonderful things in the hands of a skilled surgeon. Give a dirty scalpel to that same doctor and he’ll become a minister of death.

Even the smallest traces of bacteria can result in a life-threatening infection.

The apostle Paul, writing to his protégé Timothy, warned him using a household analogy. He said that there were two different types of instruments in a house; the common and the special. The common were just that; common. The special were different because they were pure. The special would be used by God for “every good work”.

Paul impressed on Timothy the importance of keeping himself pure before God. It wasn’t about trying to be better than other people, it was about holding himself, his motives and his actions to God’s standard.

Being pure has NOTHING to do with comparing ourselves to others. NOTHING.

Being pure is asking God to remove anything in our lives that prevents us from being the people He has created us to be.

To cut out our warts.

If you want to be common, keep judging others and ranking yourself depending on what they do or don’t do. Keeping count of other people’s warts only make ours grow worse.

However, if you want to be of special use, look to God and He will guide you towards purity. And the Master Physician will not only remove your warts, He’ll use you for every good work.


Related Verses
Mark 2:13-17

Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

2 Timothy 2:15-26
Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus. They have left the path of truth, claiming that the resurrection of the dead has already occurred; in this way, they have turned some people away from the faith.

But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The LORD knows those who are his,” and “All who belong to the LORD must turn away from evil.”

In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Beef Stew at Church?

“What is a church supposed to look like?”

This question was posed by Duane Eatmon, a friend of mine who’s the pastor of Mosaic Church here in Culpeper. Kathy and I were in attendance that Saturday evening.

Everybody kinda looked around. Most of us were sitting around the tables, but a few got to stretch out on some couches.

Very comfy.

We had just finished eating a potluck dinner at Kay and Anthony’s and the tantalizing aroma of beef stew, pizza, and baked ziti (not to mention Kay’s homemade bread – WOW!) continued to play with our noses. We had all eaten our fill and were letting things settle before we tackled dessert.

Duane led us through a few questions regarding our thoughts on church. Why do churches look different? What similar things do churches do? What do churches focus on? What are things that we get caught up in that really aren’t all that important?

As we shared throughout that evening, we got a glimpse into each other’s lives: the joys, the struggles, the successes and the pain. There was plenty of encouragement and support to go around.

God’s name was praised often. Not in songs or hymns, but in truth. The stories of what God was doing in and around us. God was there.

You see, this is what churches do.

Church is not about buildings, style of worship, or a premeditated format on how God’s going to show up.

God’s already in the house.

Church is about the people of God getting together (whether 2 or 3 in a home, or ten thousand at a stadium) to praise who God is, and to share what we’ve seen Him doing around us. It’s a time of refreshment and encouragement. Refreshment for those who are weary of the journey, and encouragement for all to continue serving those around us with the bold love of Jesus.

This is described in part six of The River’s Vision:

Gathering to Honor
Once a week, all these groups gather together. Why? So we can honor God as a community of faith. We have had gatherings of the church in warehouses, garages, train stations, and houses. During these gatherings we take time to worship God through music, art, scripture, reflection and questions. We believe in a life that wrestles with questions. It’s how we grow as individuals as well as a community. These gatherings are not about numbers. It’s not about getting a crowd to sit in our seats; it’s about helping people find out how they fit in God’s story. A story about a kingdom unlike any other in human history. A kingdom not based on political might or brute force but rather the power of reconnection and restoration that can only be found in the love of God.

How can we all live like this in our wonderfully varied communities of faith?


Related Verses
Acts 2:42-47

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

John 4:19-24
“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Spanish Blessings

As I ordered a cortadito of Cuban Coffee (one part espresso, two parts steamed milk and twenty-five parts sugar) in Miami a few weeks ago, the corner cafeteria informed me that they did not have any pastelitos de carne.

I was shocked and dismayed. You see, fresh pastelitos de carne are comfort food to me. Imagine a flaky round croissant that has a little pocket of ground beef, garlic, onions and Caribbean spices. Now picture that pastry brushed with sticky and sugary syrup. As you bite down into it, the flaky sticky sweetness melts into the savory goodness. As each morsel goes down, you feel warmth radiate through your whole being.

It’s a little taste of heaven on earth.

I was in Miami for my Mom’s 70th birthday party. Now, my mother is very hard to shop for, but I needn’t have worried; my eldest sister had concocted a “gift” for my mother that she couldn’t refuse.

“Seventy Desserts for Seventy Years”

We had a VERY light dinner followed by a free-for-all at the dessert table. Everything there was a sweet of one kind or another.

Except for one item...

My sister included a few pastelitos de carne for her youngest brother. She really does love me!

Back to my shocking morning.

I had just discovered that there were no meat pastries for me at the cafeteria. With a heavy (yet rapidly-beating thanks to the cortadito) heart, I walked back home. Defeated in my quest for pastelitos, I settled for cereal that morning for breakfast.

Later on at Publix (the best grocery store chain in existence), I got a few odds and ends that I can’t find in Culpeper. A Miami Dolphins reusable shopping bag (much to the chagrin of my Buffalo Bills buddy, Justin), O-rings for my Cuban Coffee maker, tiny Styrofoam espresso cups, Cuban bread, and YES a pastelito de carne.

As the cashier and bagger (of indeterminable Hispanic origins) rang me up and placed the goodies in my new shopping bag, I paused as they were finishing and thanked them.

“Gracias. Que Dios te Bendiga.”

They stopped, looked up at me in surprise, smiled and replied in unison.


I had literally said, “Thank you. May God bless you.” Those simple words made an impact that I couldn’t have predicted. It reminded me of the power of blessing.

You see, you don’t hear too many blessings on the streets of South Florida.

You know the expression, “If you don’t like my driving, stay off the sidewalk!” Well, I had to jump out of the way one morning when a car turned left ONTO THE SIDEWALK, possibly heading towards the cafeteria I just came from.

I guess they needed their Cuban Coffee too…

Life is so hectic down there. Everybody seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere; then they’re in a hurry to get back. It took me about half a day to get back into “Miami Driver Mode.” In MDM, you realize that traffic signals and stop signs exist only to be obeyed by OTHER drivers. Maybe it’s the heat and humidity, maybe it’s the congestion, maybe it’s the fact that nobody obeys uses his or her own turn signals, but people tend to say and do nasty things on the road. I saw one driver stomp out of his car and verbally accost the person in front of him because their car just died.

“If your car isn’t running, you shouldn’t be in the middle of the $^$% road!”

I just wasn’t feeling the love.

What is it about the power of words to elevate or knock down people?

Proverbs 18:21 says “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (NIV)

We have been given the marvelous gift of language, but it can wring curses on others as well. How do we go about learning to bless others rather than curse them? What is to be gained by a life of blessing? Who needs to hear a genuine and heartfelt blessing from you this week?



Related Verses
Luke 6:27-36 (NLTse)

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

Proverbs 18:7-8 (NIV)
A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 27:14 (NIV)
If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.

James 3:9-12 (NLTse)
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nerd Fight

Seventh grade seemed like a cruel joke played on young teens by school officials who had either blocked out their own memories of these tumultuous years, or perhaps relished the opportunity to get some kicks by watching a new generation squirm their way through puberty.

After many years of denial, I can now freely admit it.

I … I was a nerd.

Many of you who are reading this are now laughing to yourselves, “What does Joe mean he “WAS” a nerd.”

That’s beside the point.

I was a prototypical nerd. Thick framed glasses, an inability to play any sport, all honors classes, listening to oldies, and a wardrobe consisting of slacks and t-shirts. Sears had three size categories for boys: slim, regular, and husky. I was a husky boy.

Spending my off time reading encyclopedias didn’t help much either.

I did my best to look cool to no avail. I started listening to Def Leppard, I asked for a different haircut from our family barber and carried my papers in a Trapper Keeper binder. No one noticed. Wearing a t-shirt that kinda looked like a football jersey over my navy blue slacks (the closest thing to jeans that I owned at the time) only got me branded a “slacker” in the locker room before gym class.

Ah, gym class…

Gym class was where the real disparity between those who were cool and those who were not became apparent. Yes, yes, we all wore the same hideous gym uniforms, but confidence is something that transcends clothing.

It was at gym where I first got to know “Donald”, or should I say, tried NOT TO get to know Donald. Donald was a fellow nerd; cut from the same nerd fabric as myself. The only real difference between the two of us was that he wore braces and clunky orthopedic boots.

Deep down inside, I knew he reminded myself of … me. And I despised him for it.
So naturally, I took every opportunity to join in piling on the insults. I took guilty pleasure in being part of the crowd; finding safety in being counted among the aggressors.

One day he finally had enough and called me out on it. Since we were in no shape at all to deal physical blows with each other, we decided on a war of insults the next day. Each of us would have a coach and an impartial judge would decide the winner.

The next twenty-four hours, word spread about the “nerd fight”.

We met again the next day at gym class and walked across the Phys-Ed field to a secluded dugout by a softball diamond.

There were no winners that day. The person who penned, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” never experienced seventh grade gym class.

All we learned was to verbally kick and claw each other to the point where our already low self-esteem sank to new depths.

Why do we delight in attacking those who remind us of what we don’t like about ourselves? Why do we repay evil for evil, blow for blow and insult for insult?

This is not how we were created to live.

Who needs to hear encouragement from us? When do we need to hold our tongues and stay silent? How can this week be different for us and (consequentially) those around us?


Related Verses
Proverbs 18:7-8 (NIV)

A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.

James 3
Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

How to Milk a Bear

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX had a faculty full of characters when I was a student there. There was one professor whose archeological digs in Palestine, as well as his penchant for riding a Harley, earned him the affectionate nickname “Indiana Jones”. Another professor, while absolutely brilliant, had a penchant for pronouncing some words in a decidedly offbeat manner (eg: ad-VER-tiz-ment instead of adverTISEment). We loved him anyways. Then there was a professor who didn’t give us a final exam one semester; he took us down to the snack bar and bought us ice cream instead (we REALLY loved him).

Then there was Dr. William Tolar. Dr. Tolar had been a fixture in the Southwestern Theology Department for the past few decades. His super-sharp intelligence would occasionally draw out a heckler among us who would try to match wits with him. Whenever someone would foolishly try to cross swords with the elder professor, the rest of us would gleefully await his quick comeback.

Derek Gentle shares the following tale involving him.

Dr. William Tolar tells the story how when he was teaching a college religion course, one young man raised his hand to ridicule the passage where Jesus told us that if our hand causes us to sin that we are to cut it off. Dr. Tolar replied, "Young man, do you believe that Jesus could have used figures of speech when He taught?" "Sure," came the reply. "Then could you give the definition of a simile?" "Yes, a simile is when you say one thing is like another thing." "Fine, now can you give me the definition of a metaphor?" "A metaphor is when you compare one thing to another without using the word like." "Thank you, now can you define for me the term hyperbole?" "Sure, hyperbole is when you exaggerate to make... a... point..."

My favorite story told by Tolar, however, was about a young man who had felt God’s call to preach one Sunday morning resulting in him being selected to teach the church that SAME evening in their Sunday Night Bible Study. Hey, if God tells you to preach, you might as well start now, right? So he goes to teach that evening and asks the gathering if there is anything that someone has a question about regarding the scriptures.

A little old lady raises her hand and confesses, “There’s one thing that has never made any sense to me.”

“Let me at it,” the young man responds confidently.

“Well, in the book of Genesis it says ‘These eight did milk a bear.’ I never got that.”

The young man thinks it over for a moment, then launches into a three-part sermon.

A. To milk a bear takes courage.
B. To milk a bear takes strength.
C. To milk a bear takes teamwork.

And that’s where the story ends, with the following epilogue: NOWHERE in scripture can you find one man (let alone EIGHT) milking a bear.

Genesis 22:23 states plainly (in the American Standard Version of the Bible), “And Bethuel begat Rebekah. These eight did Milcah bear to Nahor, Abraham's brother.”

It’s a little clearer in the New International Version, “Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milcah bore these eight sons to Abraham's brother Nahor.”

This lady was apparently familiar with the Bible; but may have never studied it to find the answers she sought.

Twisted interpretations of the Bible have wreaked havoc throughout the years. It has been misquoted to propagate hate, it has been misapplied to justify oppression, and misused to justify personal and national agendas.

But God is above all that.

In Bob Dylan’s song “When He returns,” he sings:
“Of every earthly plan that be known to man, He is unconcerned
He’s got plans of His own to set up His throne
When He returns”

Those who choose to follow in the footsteps of Jesus are not expected to be perfect. They are, however, expected to be seekers. To seek out God, to seek out His path for us and to seek out truth.

Are there aspects about God revealed in the Bible that make us uncomfortable? Are there questions we have about Him (or us!) that we’ve never really explored? Are we afraid of where these answers might lead us?

May we boldly seek what God would tell us through His Word.


Related Scriptures
Joshua 1:1-9

After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you— from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

2 Timothy 2:15-26
Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus. They have left the path of truth, claiming that the resurrection of the dead has already occurred; in this way, they have turned some people away from the faith.

But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The LORD knows those who are his,” and “All who belong to the LORD must turn away from evil.”

In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.


Friday, September 3, 2010

What's Your Name?

I flew down to Miami, Florida this week to help celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday. So, as is my routine when I’m at my mom’s house, I walked down Miller Road to get my daily dose of Cuban coffee in the early morning hours. As the traffic built up, I kept an unhurried pace. The store wasn’t going anywhere, so why run? I also was still breaking in my orthotics (or should I say, they were breaking ME in), so running was out of the question.

As I reached the halfway point, I felt a few drops of rain.


I looked further ahead toward my destination and saw a curtain of water heading straight for me.

I found it ironic that the reason I left THAT morning for my walk was that we were supposed to have good weather. If it had started raining 10 minutes earlier, I wouldn’t have gone out.

I couldn’t run, and I was going to get wet if I turned back anyways, so I shrugged my shoulders and resignedly kept plodding forward as the warm mist enveloped me. It was a surprisingly soft rain. The drops quickly darkened my shirt and shorts. I occasionally walked from tree to tree, but that did not serve to do much more than wet my shoes on the lush grass by the roadside.

I have never deliberately walked in the rain without something to “protect” me from getting wet. I imagined the motorists in their safe little air-conditioned habitats were looking at this moron walking in a driving rain and thought, “That guy’s too dumb to come in out of the rain.” That thought made me smile. I smiled because I knew something that they didn’t; that this was a soft rain. That I actually felt comfortable walking as warm drops splattered all over me.

And I thought, “I should write about this.”

We all have a calling in life. A “name”, if you will. This calling has little (if anything) to do with what we do for a living, but it helps define who we are.

On October 10th, 2007, I was hiking the White Oak Canyon Trail in Shenandoah National Park with a good friend. Mike Keith and I had spent the morning on the trail when I came to the realization that God wanted me to write more. That I was a “Writer”.

You see, for a long time I had seen myself as a “Tour Guide”. Someone who tries to notice and share the little details about this journey of life with God and others. Writing it turns out would become my main medium for this. I guess you could say I’m a “Travel Writer”.

Seeking and finding your name is important because it helps you to focus on what you were put on this earth to do. And we have ALL been gifted in some way.

I had dinner with my old friend Glenn a few nights ago. As soon as we made the plans, he informed me that there was someone we had to see; a college buddy named Raul who I hadn’t seen in over a dozen years. I last heard that he was out of the country, but to my delight it turned out he was back in South Florida. He was tending bar at a billiards club near Ft. Lauderdale.

As we sat and reminisced about the crazy things we did in our early twenties together, he occasionally would help a patron. My friend Raul has always been an “old soul”, wise well beyond his years. Throughout our conversation, he’d introduce us to various patrons and they’d gush about Raul and his amazing advice.

One patron beamed at him, “I told Raul that I was going to end it all and slit my wrists!”

Raul, always ready was a dry rejoinder, interrupted, “I told him he needed to use that razor for shaving instead.”

“He saved my life!”

Raul shook his head and smiled.

Raul, you see, is not a bartender, he’s a “Caretaker.”

What do you do that truly makes you feel alive and complete? What do people compliment about you that makes you glow? What have you dreamed of doing, but have put aside because it’s not “practical”?

What’s your name?


Our Vision Part 5
What’s your name? We believe there is so much more to our identity than a jumble of letters assigned to us at birth. That’s why we are focused on discovering God’s name for us. Who are we really? What drives us? What are our passions? How are we gifted? How do we go from feeling like just another member of the human race to finding out who we were created to be? This isn't about what you do to get a paycheck; it's about your calling in life. As we discover our calling, we find ourselves walking alongside other people who share our passion and talents. Artists and Poets, Storytellers and Musicians, Dancers and Singers, etcetera, all find communities where they can connect with others. This quest for identity is a journey we cherish and celebrate.

Related Verses
Genesis 17:1-6

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”

At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!

Revelations 2:17
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.