These past two weeks Joel and I have put together and sent around 25 packages to different families in Puerto Rico that need access to food. The first of them started arriving safely into the hands of their recipients yesterday. We have a few yet to send off due to the people we want to send them to have had any access to the internet yet at this point to even know we need their address! All that to say thank you for your donations, support and help as we extend a helping hand to Puerto Rico.
I think the hardest part in getting involved is hearing details about their lives and what’s really happened. Beyond homes being ruined, ways of living and livelihoods on the island have been destroyed. How can a wedding photographer take pictures when all the weddings for the rest of the year have beencanceled and all the beautiful places they took pictures are gone? How can a pastor continue to be a pastor when the building they met in is gone and families don’t have enough to get by themselves?
Our Upcoming Trip
After considering it the first week after the hurricane happened, a trip to Puerto Rico wasn’t in the right timing for us. But Joel and I have the heart, energy, and time to give freely. Both of us have a history of being of service in times of need and crises and are trustworthy to steward relief.
Joel has family we just made contact with as of yesterday for the first time. There are places for us to possibly stay and LOTS OF WORK TO BE DONE. Whether Joel and I find ourselves cooking meals, waiting in lines for others, clearing homes, rubbish, debris, helping the elderly and infirm, filtering water, or giving humor and hope, we are willing to go. The people of Puerto Rico are worthy of love and help. Now is the time to go.
What’s The Plan?
Joel and I are flying out Thursday in hopes of teaming up with a long time friend of Joel’s that leads a ministry and is heading down at the same time. They are planning to work primarily in a town called Quebradillas. This is a town located next to the town Joel’s family from and where he lived for 15 years.
Our game plan is flexible according to the needs we meet along the way. That’s the best description I can give you. I know our hearts will be broken and the need will be limitless.
What do we need?
We need you in prayer, compassion, and support. Thank you so much already to the handful of people that have already helped get food into the hands of those who are hungry. With political banter surrounding this tragedy concerning Puerto Rico, I don’t feel the need to explain or justify how these people got into this situation or why it will be so hard for so long, but Jesus never asked us to ask why or put conditions on our service or giving.
If you want to come to Puerto Rico with us in Spirit and tangibility you can through prayer and partnership. I will put a link below for any donations you want to add to this trip. We may be bringing supplies or food down with us as well before we go. Thank you in advance for believing in us, caring about the people of Puerto Rico and taking the time to read this in a busy internet world. Love you and God Bless.
I wanted to write about this subject three weeks ago but am just getting around to it now. This subject is “unbiblical” to the conventional Christian. There is no life beyond church they would say. I have even heard people within the church call people who have left their church “bastards.” Yet here is where so many people find themselves. And so… I write.
I am not going to spend time here defending this topic, I am going to go right into writing about it. I remember asking God about his body, the church years ago which began a 15-year journey of seeing the ins and outs of church creation, growth, development, leadership, failure, hypocrisy, glory, strength, and blessing. If the church were a closet full of clothing, I have worn almost every outfit in different seasons where I felt God leading me through relationship with people.
And yet I find myself, and other people I both respect and would call people of great faith, outside of regular church participation at the moment. I will not group these people into people who are rebellious, hurt, bitter, or prideful. These are beautiful, servant-hearted, prayerful, joyful, faithful, creative children of God.
So why do we find ourselves here in this field of spirituality beyond where the paved road ends? Could there even be purpose in this? God of course lives within the walls of his church but I think he is also moving his body, his people beyond not only church walls, but Christian culture. There are so many people who carry the love of God and the ways of his kingdom into so many places; the home, business, arts, media, entertainment, education, etc.
Can I be a Christ follower without walking in American church culture and vocabulary? Of course I can. I hope we are sharing God’s culture, how he loves us and sees us, with people and nations. I’d like to make the argument that this can happen 100% outside of meetings and buildings set aside for this purpose. People can experience hearts and homes of heaven.
I don’t think there is necessarily a wrong reason that people have quit participating in a church regularly. I do think there is a fullness of God’s people operating as a kingdom of priests as he originally intended. His children have full union with the father.
Church family commitment is like marriage, you get involved because of what you have to give, what you have to offer, not what you have to get from it, or how they can serve you. Community is beautiful and I think this can be found outside of a church governing structure and weekly scheduled meetings. But…
What I’m seeing even more of is people who are very much on relative islands of preparation and intimacy right now. Little pockets of service and relationship more based solely out of energy spent on building/maintaining healthy family relationships. I do think it’s beautiful when the role of a mother and father are one and the same as the pastor and priest. That discipleship and family are one and the same with no definitive line between the love of God and the love of family.
Not being understood and being judged is a regular occurrence of life and I’m being reminded over and over again to not care what other people think. Especially people who care more about what my life looks like rather than wanting to hear my personal experience.
Being outside of a church structure doesn’t mean we quit learning about God as we live life with him.
I just wanted to write a bit of encouragement to those who find themselves in no man’s land. Or not operating in the fullness of their giftings at whatever church they find themselves in. You are not broken, you are not failing, and you have not been ‘taken out of ministry.’
God is so much bigger than our little religious mindsets of what freedom and spirituality look like. He grows things inside of us we don’t even know need growing and often times they have nothing to do with external appearances. Although God is in religious meetings every week, he is just as much at the dinner table, in the nursery of your house, at the grocery store, and in your office.
I love that the presence of the awareness of God is naturally felt at all hours in all places. Our existence is one with his. You are the church my friend, you couldn’t leave who you are. You are his temple and the only building he cares about. He’s never left the meeting of your life and God is not finished being in love with us wherever we are, whatever season we find ourselves in. Joy is in his house, in his bride, and in his family. Blessings to you, all the beautiful sons and daughters of God who find themselves in No Man’s Land.
I have been thinking about writing this one for a week or so but haven’t been getting around to it. It’s not a topic I feel qualified to write about but I want to share my journey in relation to the topic.
At one time in my life when I was steeped very much within an extremely religious culture there were a lot of very good things and a lot of bad things that were unnecessary. Judgement was one of these topics. ‘God is your judge.’ ‘You will be judged.’ ‘He will judge the thoughts and intents of your heart well beyond your outward physical actions.’ ‘Your place in heaven for all eternity will be based off your ability to obey (successful religious performance, absence from things that appear ‘worldly’). ‘You (and most people) will experience the weeping and gnashing of your teeth because of all you have wasted in this life by not living 100% obeying holy spirit all the time.’ ‘If you relax, you are being lazy spiritually and will be pruned like a dead branch only good for burning.’ ‘Why aren’t you healing people miraculously. Jesus died to give us that. You should be. You’re not living up to your calling. You will regret that in eternity. God would show how much your close to him by signs and wonders. If you aren’t seeing that, you’re failing.’
I got a little off topic toward the end of this list, veering into believers of God walking in the ability to perform miracles but for me, it all stems back down to the point where you will stand face to face with God and what we believe this interaction and accountability will be like for our lives. There was a point where I carried great fear of this pending day. It was a real fear and it stifled joy. There are some who believe this is wisdom and good for living. That it is appropriate and should be taught. For them, they believe that the cause for fear is real.
I still had images of passing through fire, where everything that isn’t eternal gets burned up, and there unfortunately, because I know me, very little, if anything, remains. And of course, because I know me, I would get stuck on some distant dark shore of heaven only being able to see the light of Jesus on the horizon. Finally taking the place I deserve, I made it in, but barely. For eternity.
It’s so sad. I think many religious people carry thoughts like this around in the back of their heads but wouldn’t necessarily articulate them or even recognize them as they pass through their mind. I think this one sole issue of our imagination of God’s judgement of us sometimes is the single motivator towards religious works. Fear keeps the hamster wheel spinning.
What Can Save Us from God?
Wheeeww. It’s getting pretty heavy in here, even as I write this! I really do believe the news of heaven is good news, not bad news that should be good news if we get this life right. I really do think that the things that make our heart leap and dance and get excited are whispers of the heaven that is home inside us. God really is nicer than the nicest person you’ve ever met, and kinder than the kindest. He is gentler than the gentlest, and more understanding than the person that’s understood you most. Humans across the board only stand on one ground, the ground of forgiveness, there are no religious superstars that skipped that step on the way to their ‘best-buds’ seat in heaven. God sees us all as his children. He dreamed of each one of us. He created us. He knew us before we were even born. Maybe we knew each other then too, 😉
Fortunately God intervened and delivered me from lies about himself that I had interpreted from either scriptures or teachers, whether the intent to cause this reaction within me was there or not.
God brought me back to relationship. I had a relationship with him at the time. I interacted with him in my heart and he with me as I lived my life. He brought up the scenario in my head. “Am I kind to you today and you think that one day many days from now, after you pass from this world, my character is going to change in my relationship to you and I’m going to point out all your flaws, weakness, mistakes, and failures. And not only that, but you imagine that on that future day I will finally release this anger I have been holding towards you, because I finally am completely honest with you? What kind of friendship is that? Don’t the humans around you love you better than that? Do they love you better than I do? Then I will?
Now I believe God is so good I can’t wrap my brain around it. Do you understand that goodness is most displayed in God’s seat of judgement?!? When God is justified in punishment–there’s the word–punishment. God The Punisher, the devil’s favorite lie. Yes, God the father in heaven is waiting to… punish you? Was Jesus waiting on the cross just hoping for the day he could punish the very people who were unjustly murdering him in torment? What was his judgement of them? Forgiveness. Where can we escape God’s presence? Not even in the depths of hades. Love will be there. In God’s role as judge he cannot turn off being the essence of love. And I don’t mean a perverted form of love where he delights in seeing someone being tortured. Even on earth no one would say that type of person is full of anything but the devil.
In some ways I see Jesus bearing ALL our sin, receiving ALL our punishment, taking ALL of the curse upon himself, undoing ALL that Adam did in the garden, as God’s introduction handshake with humanity. Hello, this is who I am, this is what I possess within me to redeem your choices, this is how I feel about you, this is my character, this is my nature. Hello, it’s okay, I made you and I’m here. I’m not leaving, I’m not going anywhere. Nothing separates us, you don’t have to hide here. I love you.
God Saved Us From Everything But His Judgement
Some people get really touching when you threaten their beliefs about judgement. As if in the absence of the threat of future suffering, our new hearts and minds in Christ will grow depraved and corrupt. This is not true my friends. Welcome to the taste of true freedom outside fences of fear that have kept some from feeling the full effects of salvation. Fear is sad when you see people hold onto it, as if it originated within love.
I could go on and on I feel but I will start to close here because who reads blogs that are even this long anyway?? I will leave you with this. Love expressed itself in forgiveness. Forgiveness really means forgiveness! In true forgiveness, your old stuff isn’t brought up anymore. ever. It’s not held against you. You don’t have a tallying punch card. It’s not shoved in your face. It’s not used as a tool for power or shaming you. It’s forgotten. Like it never happened. Like you can really let it go. Like you can learn from your experiences without holding on to ANY of the negative effects of sin on your relationship with God or your relationship with yourself. Have faith in your forgiven-ness. Experience the miracle of no longer punishing yourself or fearing future punishment from God. God’s goodness is not bound by time or space, or the confines of your poor choices. Your troubles are not to hard for him to love you through. Poor choices ARE NOT FUN TO LIVE THROUGH.
The preaching of threats and fear may have intended to produce sinless living, in attempt to help out God in the advancement of his kingdom, but one thing it never produced was a greater love for his character, his person, his nature. Is obedience based on threats true relationship? He is altogether trustworthy with all of you. All of your emotions, your thoughts, your relationships, in all of your past, all of your present, and especially–ALL of your future, including any day called “judgement day”. I don’t think God was joking when he said ‘nothing can separate you from My love’–as if the only exception here is his own judgement of you?!
Experiencing Our Choices
Leaving you with my concluding topic, one thing I do expect to experience in heaven is the full comprehension of how my life affected those around me. This includes my lack of care and consideration for others. I don’t carry this as a weight or fear but just as a reality I will understand in the future. I will understand how my judgment of others felt, how my negative words affected them, how my choice of myself over them felt, etc. You get the idea.
This reality is judgement enough. Other people’s experiences are real and are valuable. I will understand how my life affected the people I love around me and even the people I love less for some reason. This truth motivates me to live with an awareness to let God live through me; he cares, he gives, he understands, he is patient. It reminds me what’s important about being alive. My choices matter. Sometimes if there is something being said about someone else in a negative way, I can feel that person’s presence when they will hear what’s been said about them in future. Like everything we say about others will one day be heard by them.
I can trust that even this future process of understanding and knowing more, is for my good! I actually think living in community where communication is regular and intentional helps us grow in a similar way here on earth because we are forced to confront and experience the consequences of our own words and actions on a daily basis which naturally fosters the growth of our ability to love others and ourselves when done in an open, honest, and safe environment.
I esteem the life of God in others and to the best of my ability at the time, seek to enjoy their company and share in our freedom together. When freedom is celebrated, it displays the love that lives inside of us. When lies of our own false judgements of others takes root within us, love remains unexpressed, hidden in darkness. Getting to love others is a delight and an opportunity, and is neither a burden nor a scorecard. God is not burdened by his relationship with you. There is Grace like an unending ocean in this classroom of life as we learn to grow in love. (Which is not growing in my ability to hold grudges and punishing people for not obeying me and tormenting them. Which is what we imagine God does in his relationship with them or us–one day.)
We will get to see God apart from the lies about him we hold in our hearts, and we will get to see one another apart from the lies we believe about each other. AWESOME!
One more thought. Some people think that the God I’m painting with words here is weak. What about the God of Anger, Wrath, Power, and Full Control? A man who talks with his child instead of just using his fists is stronger. A man who doesn’t lose his temper with his wife is stronger. A man who forgives over holding grudges is stronger. The greatest strength is displayed in Mercy.
A God that teaches us to love our enemies, really love them, is not pushing us to do something beyond his own capacity to love as he sits there and judges and wants to punish his enemies. It’s not just a ministry strategy. It really is what he’s like. Those who do the same are like his family because he really does love his enemies! He loves them.
Now I really am stopping there! I haven’t solicited invitations for comments before but am tempted to do so now. Share with me what your thoughts are below!
Often there is a sense of wasted time or the looming fear of obscurity. We find ourselves with all these desires and dreams that God Himself has placed in us and we feel a million miles away from them. Was thinking of Jesus and him being a simple carpenter before his Ministry was made public. Here is the Saviour of the world and he is working on wood. Here is the creator of all covered in saw dust and splinters in his hands. I wonder if it was a setup from the beginning? The Christ who would be put to death on the Cross working with wood. The Divine has such a good sense of humor. So Jesus spent his years as a carpenter and the funny thing he wasn’t even known for being the best carpenter. When he came on the scene healing and teaching the people weren’t like,”Jesus the best carpenter of the land healed that cripple.” Do you think that Jesus ever thought those years as being wasted? Do you think that just being a son to Mary and Joseph was just filler? Or do you think he valued everything that Joseph taught him and that he cherished every meal that was prepared for him by Mary? That every day he rose and thought what will I learn today, who can I make smile today, who can I be a friend to? I absolutely love that in the moment when Jesus was baptized the Heavens opened up and God the Father declared,”This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” If you think about it from the Ministry perspective Jesus hadn’t done anything yet. He hadn’t healed anyone or performed any miracles and here we see God declaring His affection, acceptance and that He is pleased with His Son not because of what he had done but because of who he was. Jesus’ identity didn’t depend on performance but it rested on whose He was.
Your identity is not wrapped up in your calling, or what you do. It is wrapped up in and solely relies on who your Daddy is! You are His! Whether you feel like it or not! Your value does not come from what you do. My wife loves to paint and she is amazing at it but for me to say she is just a painter would be to negate all these other amazing qualities and gifts that she has. Even farther still she is much more than her gifts! You are much more than what you can do or can’t do. You have value. I believe that each one of us is a unique expression of God on the earth, that it is not only we experiencing Christ on the earth but also that Christ is experiencing the earth again through us! I remember one day I was thinking of the Mystics of Old and God whispered in my ear,” If people met them today they would be marveled not by how supernatural they were but by how normal they were.” There is a lot of glory in everyday life but we fail to see it. There is something so powerful in sharing a smile or a hug but we have been so captivated by the smoke and mirrors that we have failed to see the glory in the mundane. Let us be marveled with love, friendships and family. Let us be caught up in awe with thankfulness because we got out of bed in the morning. I am supremely thankful for my wife who is my biggest blessing and everything else is sprinkles on the cake. Love you guys!