God Opposes the Proud

And all of you, clothe yourself in humility in your dealings with one another, for: God opposes the proud but bestows favor upon the humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5: 5-7

Communicating today can be a challenge. 24 hour media, social media, a phone always resting in my hand, yelling, violence, killing, riots, canceling… I have become really good at processing my own thoughts and opinions, yet average at understanding my neighbor’s perspective. This should change.

I find I am having to remind myself constantly to slow down and listen to others. Speak later and speak less. I am reminding myself that I don’t have all the answers and that none of us do. I still need to be seeking the face of Jesus, probably more so now than yesterday. I sense our world is divided (that’s not groundbreaking) and our communication with one another seems to be exposing that division.

While living in Central America we served, fed, clothed, and comforted many people. It was easy to view ourselves as helpful, resourceful, and even needed. Oftentimes people would stop by our home and bang on our front gate, asking for something: beans, rice, money, shorts, and shoes. One time a lady asked me for a watch and to give her my guitar…

We tried to stay stocked up on basic items, so most of the time we were able to help them in some way. In their shame many people would lead with small talk and slowly build up to their ask. A long period of small talk in Spanish and then they would ask, “Do you have any more beans and rice?” or “My baby needs formula, could you buy me some, please?” For them it was a challenge, it took humility.

There were times when their build up lasted close to an hour or longer. At times I even thought to myself, Oh wow they aren’t here to ask for anything, they just want to visit. This always made me feel better, sort of like these people were becoming friends and viewed me as a friend. But, oftentimes, they would then drop their ask upon me, “Beans? Rice?” I became a bit jaded and my ego puffed up a bit. How dare these people waste an entire hour of my precious time only to ask me for some beans afterwards…I have other stuff to do.

Lada and Jesus were perhaps some of the poorest people I encountered out there. They lived just about a mile away from us- down the large muddy hill and back up again, then down at the bottom of another muddy hill by a little drainage laguna. Their little dwelling brought me to humble tears the first time I saw it. They lived in a barn basically. They had sectioned off a small portion next to the chickens on Jesus’ sisters property and created a small dwelling for themselves and their new born baby. Dirt floor, no electricity, no water, and half walls made of third-hand planks of wood. It smelled bad- like a barn. Home.

One day Lada came over and banged on our front gate. I was busy and cringed a bit as I didn’t want to be interrupted. I noticed it was her and her husband Jesus which generally meant they needed something. Sometimes she came to visit my wife when she was alone, but when Jesus was there it usually mean they were going to ask us for something. I sat and listened to them as we made small talk. An hour in or so, I grew impatient, prideful, cold and abruptly broke the conversation asking her, “Lada, is there something you guys need today?” I was ready to get on with my day.

“No, Felipe. We don’t need anything today. We are so thankful for the formula you guys gave us last week. We just wanted to come and visit. We love to visit with you all and we get so lonely sometimes in our small home.”

My heart broke, my pride and stubbornness had taken over me, yet in an instant they were shattered in a moment of truth from this sweet and humble couple. All they wanted and needed was friendship on that day. They were longing for companionship yet I was caught up in my plans for the day. I thought I knew their hearts and I didn’t, my pride was exposed.

In his letter, St. Peter reminds us to “clothe ourselves with humility” as we deal with one another. I reflect on this encounter with Jesus and Lada as far too often I think I know more than I actually do. Far too often I enter a conversation or situation with someone without clothing myself with humility. It’s hard to wear humility, it takes time to put on and is often paired with sacrifice and patience.

St. Peter then goes on to say that “God opposes the proud but bestows favor upon the humble.” Man talk about kick me in the teethe. God opposes my pride! I have a long list of things God opposes in this world and guess what, my pride often isn’t on that list. How embarrassing.

But, the great news is that through His grace and mercy I can receive his humility and in turn receive more of His favor which leads me to see the goodness in others. Pride or humility? Which do I want?

“Do nothing out of selfishness or vainglory; rather humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests , but also everyone for those of others.” – Philippians 2: 3-4

Abundant Life, Living John 10:10

“I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10

This was the Bible passage that changed my life when I was a young adult and truly began pursuing Jesus. Of all the things I saw in Jesus it was the opportunity of obtaining life- abundant, joy-filled, adventurous, everlasting, loving, and even sacrificial life. I can so clearly remember other Christians I looked up to who embodied this passage so well. They were overflowing with abundant life; it was contagious. To this day, when I am in doubt or struggling I open up my Bible to this worn out page and sit in reflection.

As a race of human beings we have had ample time and reason to reflect these days. Among many things, I have recently reflected upon a global pandemic here in America, those experiencing a global pandemic in other countries with no running water or food supply, racial and ethnic injustices in my own heart and in the hearts of others, and the fuel of anger, greed, and hard heartedness. It has been so easy for me to point a finger outside of myself and onto someone else, placing the blame elsewhere. It is also easy to view my own efforts to promote life, love, justice, and equality as pointless.

I think it’s time for me to return to this simple passage and reflect once again. I think it’s time for me to ask myself a few simple questions:

1. Am I receiving the life of Jesus in my own heart, mind, and soul daily?

2. Am I giving that life of Jesus away to others I encounter each day?

3. Do people see an abundance of life from Jesus overflowing in me or do they see something else?

“I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10

Forty Great Days

Lent… My not so favorite, favorite season of the Church Year. Not so favorite because Lent always seems to hold up a giant microscopic mirror directly into my face, revealing all my weaknesses, insecurities, and my lack of discipline. Sort of like the microscopic mirror in the bathroom of my mother in laws house, it reveals all my grays… I have failed miserably at Lent so many times. On the other hand, it is my favorite because it is a period of forty days to go deeper, forty days to walk with Jesus, forty days to focus on loving him and loving others around me and when I do that, I tend to discover great freedom, grace and strength, even amongst all of my weakness.

I recently came across a video of a man by the name of Vance Hinds. He was greatly inspired to lose weight and he put his mind to it like nothing else he had ever done in his entire life. On day one he weighed in at 475 pounds. His health was a mere afterthought to say the least, but he had made up his mind; Vance now had a singular focus- to lose weight. He started walking during his first week only to gain three pounds, but he kept at it. His commitment and humility were amazing. He posted his goal and challenge on social media and instantly people started to follow him, people even started to join him walking. Vance absolutely lit it up in the weeks and months to follow. He stayed focused, gave up much around him, he narrowed his sights on his goal, his focus was singular. Finally, after a year of his commitment, Vance weighed in to discover he had lost 177 pounds. He and his coach hugged in jubilation. His singular focus had produced great fruit; he had truly become a new person.

Quit fooling around

                So often we make our Lenten commitment to follow Jesus more closely, but instead of spending forty days in the desert being refined by Jesus, we spend forty days fooling around…trying to avoid chocolate or perhaps trying to pray more. While I’m certain these two commitments would be great in the eyes of God, lent is a time to declare to Christ that he alone is enough for us. In a world of conveniences, amenities, and excess, we are given a grand opportunity to declare to Jesus “You are worth so much more than all this stuff, Lord!” Could this be the lent whereby we recommit ourselves to Jesus Christ with a singular focus and find fruitful joy in our lives?

                In his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis declares and invites us into this deep relationship with Jesus Christ as he says:

“I invite all Christians everywhere at this very moment to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not for him or her, since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord. The Lord does not disappoint those who take risks; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived, in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us, we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.” (Joy of the Gospel, 3)

Lent is our chance to narrow things down and pray for a singular focus in our lives: Jesus Christ. Like Vance Hinds we have to give things up and narrow things down in our lives. Instead of asking: “What will I give up this lent, ask the question : How will I grow closer to Jesus Christ this lent?” If we sincerely and with singular focus seek an answer from God to that question he will certainly not remain silent with us. He will reveal to us the areas in our lives that need to be weeded out, he will show to us how to focus on him alone amid a changing and empty world. The Church gives us a beautiful model in aligning our focus on Jesus during lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We use these three opportunities to find Him who is waiting for us. Seek Jesus. With a singular focus.

Becoming obsessed

                Do you know any people who have lost 200 pounds? I don’t think I do. What type of person loses 200 pounds? Someone who is obsessed is able to lose 200 pounds. We should pray that we become obsessed with Jesus Christ and his will in our lives during this Lenten season. We should pray that all our other passions will be exposed for what they are: merely other secondary unimportant passions. Considering Christ and his goodness and his mercy, my other passions and goals are nothing.

                Think about the people you know in your life who have accomplished anything grand. Generally, there is a subtle (or not so subtle) lining of obsession in their veins. The saints were obsessed with Christ, they were not mediocre in their pursuit of him. You and I can’t grow in holiness without becoming fixated and even obsessed with Jesus Christ. He must compel our actions and our days. But, this is hard. It’s so hard because often I want to compel my own actions or plans, I want to be in charge of my life. But, the blessing of lent is that we are granted 40 days in the desert to sort these things out with Jesus. Don’t be afraid to go there with him. Becoming obsessed with Christ this lent means my life and your life should look different. Different from last week and perhaps different from our neighbor, and that’s OK. If we want to become a changed person, if we want to grow in holiness and become more like Christ, we must do something different and we must go all in. No one loses 200 pounds by coasting along each day.

Take a risk this lent

                Once, at a conference, I heard a man speak who went on a forty day fast. And he lived to tell about it… I thought to myself “Who in the world goes on a forty-day fast?” He explained to us the process of his fast and the fruits that it bore in his life: he drew closer to God obviously, and equally as important God revealed to him that he wanted to serve in a particular way during a particular time. During that time, he actually met his wife and saw so many fruits come to life form his service. He explained to us how he felt that had he not have fasted and went to the desert with Jesus he probably wouldn’t have heard the voice of God calling him into action. God honored and blessed his fast tremendously.  Think about that for a moment: he took a risk and God was right there waiting for him, right there with more joy and  life to give him. 

As I listened to all this I thought “a forty day fast is quite a risk…you could become really sick and malnourished…” But, my takeaway was the often-quoted phrase “No risk no reward”. I certainly am not calling a forty day fast in anyone’s life who is reading this, but I am proclaiming that too often I am short sighted in what God wants to accomplish in my life because of my fears.  Are you the same?  God wants us to go all in. Take a risk this lent with your time, with your money, with your talents. Serve or give in ways you never have. Pray in ways and times that you never have done before. If you normally “can’t find time to pray” then wake up at 4:00 AM and pray then. If you have never really fasted then go for it. All in.  Now is the time. Risk taking for Jesus and his kingdom is the best opportunity we may ever be presented with. Our lives and those around us can be transformed by grace. Cling to the cross these great forty days.

Perhaps my favorite parable in all of scripture is found in Matthew 13:44. It’s the shortest of all parables for sure, but lacks for nothing. Jesus declares:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and buys that field.”

Lord, Jesus give us a singular focus and passion for you during these upcoming forty days. You are the treasure, Jesus. You are our treasure. Narrow our focus onto you and fix our eyes on you alone so that we can love you and love others as you do, and so that we can more humbly and more boldly take you to the world. Amen.

Passion for Christ in 2019

When I was in high school I played basketball for one of the most passionate men I have ever met. His name is Danny Broussard and he is an incredible basketball coach. While he certainly is a fantastic strategist of the game of basketball, what truly sets him apart is his passion for what he does. He loves to coach young men the game of basketball. He is deeply and oftentimes seemingly insanely passionate about what he does. He is a short man, but his presence is felt as of a giant. I have seen him command many of his undermanned teams to victory over teams containing twice his talent. Sometimes watching him coach a game can feel like you are riding a roller coaster, as he rarely sits, running all up and down the sidelines.  This is passion. In the midst of fear, adversity, and apathy, passion enters the room and blows the doors down.

When was the last time you met someone with great passion? I was blessed to have a spiritual director named Fr. Philip Merdinger while I was in the seminary. He is the founder of a thriving religious community named The Brotherhood of Hope. When you encountered him in the hallways you could almost grab a hold of his passion as if it were obtainable. He walks around with a mission; to mold young men into disciples of Jesus Christ. He was always on the lookout for his men; always looking to make eye contact with us and see how we were doing. I recall one afternoon in the seminary when the season of Lent was approaching. This is usually a season people would rather sort of ease into as it generally will bring about some sacrifice and personal pruning. But here Fr. Philip was roaming the halls clapping his hands like a basketball coach in the last minute of a tied championship game, calling out to each of us, “Lent is coming! Yes! Lent is almost here! Who is ready for Lent?” An enormous enthusiasm overflowed from within him in his pursuit to draw closer to Jesus. This is passion. His passion was unavoidable; it was contagious.

In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangellii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) Pope Francis calls us to a renewed passion in our evangelical witness. He states “How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction. Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts” (EG261). Where is our enthusiasm, fervor, joy, and attraction? When is the last time someone entered our presence, and thought “Wow, I want what he has!”? But now is the time and our individual hearts are the place for this new evangelization to take place. The world looks at our apathetic brand of Christianity and wants little to do with it, because it lacks a sincere authenticity, and it lacks passion.

An all-consuming passion for Christ
Once while in India I visited the shrine and tomb of St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) who is credited with evangelizing the country of India extensively. He was a companion of St. Ignatius of Loyola and one of the founders of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). I was amazed and blown away by the passion he had for Jesus Christ and for spreading the gospel. He is known to have baptized roughly 700,000 people over the span of his life. He baptized so many people that it is often said that sometimes he could hardly move his hand. In fact, his hand sits in Rome today as a relic and a reminder to all of us that God wants to exhaust our bodies while on earth for the sake of his name and kingdom across the world. 

Perhaps God will not call you to go out and baptize close to one million people like Francis Xavier did, but indeed, without a single doubt, he does want to exhaust your body and time making His name great among the nations. He also wants to claim every square inch in our souls as his own. St. Francis Xavier had great passion for Jesus Christ and his Church; he died many personal deaths while on earth to sustain and grow this passion.  Like St. Francis Xavier if our all-consuming passion is to become Jesus Christ and his name being known in the world, we must have the humility and ability to see many other pursuits in our lives as “small ambitions”. What in your life is consuming your days and nights that is a “small ambition”? Abandon it and move deeper into the heart of Jesus Christ and receive a deeper passion to make his name known in all the world.

For some reason, we believe that there is some imaginary line drawn in the sand and if we cross it then we are viewed as having too much passion for Christ. It is real. We are afraid to have too much of Jesus. If we are honest and we take the time to read the gospels we will see men and women who encountered him and left with great passion; they were forever changed. Few people in the gospels encounter Jesus and walk away apathetic. But, we seem encounter Jesus every single week in the Eucharist and somehow walk away apathetic, and I just can’t imagine that is OK in the eyes of God.

Reset my heart this year, Lord
What if this year we determined to set things right with God and give him your passion? I’m not just talking about committing to church attendance and prayers before bed. Consider the following challenges:

1. Read the entire bible this year (it can be done in about 70 hours)- passionately. Let its wars, parables, proverbs, and promises calm the storms in your heart, and turn your fears into faith. Sit in his presence and allow the words of life to change your heart. Break it down onto small weekly goals.

2. Commit to a weekly holy hour in front of the blessed sacrament. Carry with you the weight of every struggle you have and lay it down in front of Jesus Christ, the only one who can take these burdens away from us. Ask the Holy Spirit to set your heart on fire for him and begin living in this spirit. Even if you struggle with or don’t believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, give Him a chance. If you think you don’t have time for this, then do it in the middle of the night or early in the morning.

3. Commit to serving the poor and those in most need around you. Literally seek them out and serve them, regardless of what those around you say of them. Do it relentlessly and with passion, as if they are the person of Christ. Do it as if no one else will serve these people. Bring your family with you. Your entire world will change. But, you have to take the risk.

4. Commit to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others around you every week/every day. You don’t have to be a priest or minister to do this. The quickest and most practical way I know of is to ask people if you can pray with them when you sense a need. There is no greater way to share the gospel with someone. Eventually the doors will open and that person will be focusing on the love of Christ instead of their problems.

5. Stir up and place your passion for God in some ministry at your Church. But, don’t be a spectator. Take action, be passionate and lead.

6. Try to root our small ambitions from your life. What is robbing you of your passion? Identify them and root them out. More of Jesus and less of the world. Do I need  that much Netflix, Instagram, and work? Every time you go to pick up your phone try to pick up your bible instead…Its hard at first but eventually fruit will appear in our lives.

I’ve never met a priest like Fr. Philip. So humble, yet so passionate. One night, I couldn’t sleep so I ventured into the chapel at the seminary late night. It must have been 3 AM. And there he was before the blessed sacrament praying passionately. I could sense in his voice that he was struggling with something. Yet, there he was, instead of indulging in himself or what the world had to offer, he was dying to himself and gaining the passion of Christ right before the blessed sacrament. Passion is an amazing thing. When you see it, you know it and it tends to stick with you. Where is your passion?

Show Me Your Treasure

“But I would take a little cash over your very flesh and blood” – Derek Webb
            I remember the first big real estate deal I ever did. I was in way over my skis. I had stumbled upon this amazing investment opportunity. It was a homerun, an easy deal and the man who owned it really wanted to sell it to me. I clearly couldn’t afford it on my own , but I already knew who my partner would be. He was a trusted friend and a man of great integrity who was always in my ear asking me to bring him a great deal. I made one call and it was done. He had four other buddies who would all partner up with us and I would run the day to day management of it while they put up the bulk of the cash. 

            All of these partners were so well put together financially. Most of them were tried and true successful in oil and gas. I , on the other hand, was younger and trying to make my way in real estate.  I’ll never forget presenting my personal financial statement to the bank in effort to obtain financing. It must have been like a great game of “ one of these does not look like the others”. For those of you who may not be familiar with a personal financial statement, it is simply two lists of everything you own and everything you owe with a given monetary amount for each item. The idea is to own more than you owe, and the difference between the two is your “personal net worth”. Banks use it to analyze who they are lending money to and business men and women often pride their existence upon it. These guys were all worth multi-millions and I was basically a break even at best financially on paper. I must admit from that point on in my career in real estate I became very obsessed in my personal financial statement. I updated it often and I kept it on my desk to look at for inspiration. Grow rich, become financially secure, make something of yourself. I am embarrassed to say that a large bit of my treasure here on earth during my real estate career became what was on that personal financial statement. How sickening.


Go find that field!
One of my favorite places in all of scripture is Matthew 13:44. In it contains the shortest, yet most pound for pound effective reflections of all time. Jesus seems to strip away everything and present the gospel to us in its most basic form. He says so clearly “ the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all he has and buys that field.” 

I love this passage for so many reasons, but perhaps the main reason is the mention of this man’s joy. Did you catch the emphasis Jesus places on joy in this summon? The man isn’t guilted into selling what he has. He is not shamed into what he has. Jesus doesn’t even tell him he needs to sell all he has. The man simply, and apparently pretty quickly, and with great joy realizes that Jesus is far better than everything else he has in his life. Jesus is better! Jesus is better than his plans. Jesus is better than his 401-K. Jesus is better than his security, his retirement, his money, and his possessions. Jesus is better. So often we find ourselves running around pursuing things other than Jesus. Some of us will spend a lifetime pursuing these things and we convince ourselves that they are not keeping us from Jesus and from building his kingdom. That is a sad reality for me to write. Do you think the apostles in the early church or any of the great saints spent their lives accumulating things on earth? This man gladly trades it all with joy and he is not even asked to do so. How I long to emulate this man. How I long to have so much joy in my heart for Jesus and his kingdom that I could follow in this man’s steps. For this man Jesus is the treasure and he wants nothing else at all.

That first real estate deal set me on a course. It was a course of accumulation and a pursuit of financial security and treasure. I kept updating my personal financial statement, kept looking at it, and kept focusing on it. Many people will tell you that this type of life is no big deal at all. In fact we have essentially labeled it “The American Dream”. Accumulate the home and items that make you happy while preparing to secure treasure for your retirement that way you can sleep easy at night and hand something on to your children and grandchildren when you die. Many of us buy into this like it is the treasure in the field. Our lives reflect this type of belief. We work and live for financial treasure and security, but isn’t it intriguing that these things are not really of interest to Jesus in the gospels? Read them thru again with the American Dream in mind. Is Jesus calling us to the American Dream or is he calling us to something far greater?
        Most days I am up early in hopes to pray and read. I am so easily distracted and so prone to wander off that I have to do this in order to stay connected to God. The world is enormous, some seven billion plus huge, and the spiritual and physical needs of people are even greater. I live in one small corner of this world, but it is an important corner of the world.  How will I spend my days and nights? Our lives are extremely short. In just a couple of hours children’s stomachs will be growling once again in Asia while their parents are living lives apart from knowing the greatness of Jesus Christ. As I type these words early this morning Jesus is inviting many of us to abandon all and build his kingdom so that those who hunger and thirst for him but do not know him would be able to receive him. But we are so tied up in our own little dreams and we are so caught up polishing our own little treasures.

            In just a few moments my children will arise and the day will start. There will be knocking at the door with people in need. No food, no mattress to sleep on, no job, drank too much cerveza last night, had no water to drink last night, need money for the bus, no home, no shoes, and on and on it goes. If I don’t rise early to pray and read scripture, then I have absolutely nothing to give. I must rise early and be reminded who and where my treasure is. If I don’t speak with God early and often then I lose sight of my treasure.

Apostolic Witness and treasure
            Each one of us, by virtue of our baptism is called to bear apostolic witness. That is, we are called to bear witness or example to the truth and goodness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a world that is passing and fading. In short, we are called to make it known to the world that Jesus Christ is our treasure. That Jesus is better… than everything else. The prophet Isaiah states it this way “Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts” (Isaiah 26:8). Do we desire for the name of Jesus to be great among those we live with? Do we desire his name to be great and renowned among the nations? 

Saint Pope John Paul II gifted the Church with an undeniable evangelical witness as he managed to log more miles traveling and preaching the gospel than any other pope in our church’s history. It was he who so wholeheartedly began his letter Redemptoris Missio (Mission of the Redeemer) with the following words “the mission of Christ the Redeemer , which is entrusted to the church, is still very far from completion. As the second millennium after Christ’s coming draws to an end , an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning.” (Redemptoris Missio 1). Imagine that, more than 2,000 years removed from the life and death of Christ and we are only just beginning as a Church. This is great news and terrible news at the same time. It is great news because it declares to us once again that now is the time to bear witness to the world and you and I are still alive to be a part of it. A world that is hurting, longing, and lost. Now is the time to show the world our true treasure, Jesus. It is terrible news because it also sheds light on the truth that personally as a church we have turned inward and failed in many ways.

Often times we have failed to point people to this treasure that is Jesus Christ. Somehow, in a world of constant broadcasting and streaming, we have failed with our lives to fruitfully broadcast Jesus Christ to the nations who do not know him. We have failed in so many ways to identify Jesus in the lost, poor, and hungry. It’s baffling. For St. John Paul II the evidence of his life’s treasure was made immensely visible throughout his twenty-six-year papacy. The selfless shepherd traveled to 129 different countries and logged more than a million miles making his treasure known to the world. For him the name and renown of the Lord was a sole priority. 

                What and where is your treasure? In Matthew 6:20 Jesus declares, “for where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” What consumes your heart each and every day? What consumes your time and your money? 

            One day, about a year before I got out of business, I was shown a feature on my smart phone whereby I could track every single mile I logged each day so long as I had my phone on me. I was shocked and my treasure came into perspective. I could see many familiar places on my daily route: my home, do I really eat at that restaurant that much, my children’s school parking lot. But there was an undeniable pattern I could trace in my daily routine. The routine was to my office in the early morning, to several properties that we owned and managed, to the bank to make deposits and payments, back to my office, and back home. These were my days. Of course, I did other things and there were other location pings each day, but these locations formed a giant square. These four locations showed me where my treasure was and no amount of rationalizing could change that fact. I was a little embarrassed honestly. There weren’t many locations on there that did not involve some sort of exchange of money  (hopefully) in my favor. Money had slowly become my treasure. I wouldn’t have considered myself greedy per se, but my smart phone revealed evidence otherwise. 

            So what consumes your days and nights? Is your smart phone record going to look more like Saint John Paul II’s or like mine used to look? I am not saying there is anything inherently bad with going to work, making money, and supporting a family. These are good, necessary, and noble pursuits. But the question we must constantly (as in every single day) ask ourselves is: Is Jesus Christ my sole treasure? Am I anything like the man who out of joy sold all he owned to find Jesus and his kingdom in that field? The world will continue to see right through our American Prosperity version of Christianity until we are willing and able to joyfully trade all we have for Jesus Christ.

I no longer care

I no longer care – by Lacy

I no longer care what color my curtains are

Or even what they’re made out of

My friend Sara has old tshirts in her windows

our curtains

I no longer care if my couch matches the décor of my living room

There are only a handful of couches in this town

Lots of tree stumps though

                                                                                  our couch

I no longer care if my kitchen sink is brushed nickel finish to hide the water spots

I don’t need to ask my neighbor for a bucket of water each morning like my friend Mia
our sink

I no longer care if my light fixtures are classic or modern or shabby chic or bright white or soft white light

I have electricity – no need to burn candles at night like Paula – and keep the toddler from burning himself
I no longer care if my shower head has options for high pressure or pulsating massage or gentle mist

Or even if I have one at all

I get to shower from a pipe above my head – at the quick turn of a knob – no hauling buckets of water like my friend Sophia

our shower

I no longer care what color my walls are

To even afford a wall in its normal wooden color is blessing enough for Daniella. (Her plastic tarp wall separates her eleven-month-old from the chicken coop.)

our green walls
I no longer care… But I used to care a lot. And I am sorry. I am so very sorry. 
But I’m also grateful – grateful for a new freedom. It’s a freedom – to have eyes to see what matters. Who matters.

Jesus, forever help me to choose the simple option – and to give the difference to others who have nowhere near the luxury in which I live…in which I still live….even now. These walls are luxury, this couch, this running water….luxury…

A New Mission Post

Today the Church celebrates World Missions Sunday. This is a loud cry and summon from Jesus Christ himself to all of us that the mission of the Church is to evangelize. 
A little over two years ago God called us into a radical type of service. We left our lives in America and headed to rural Costa Rica to preach the gospel and serve the poor with Family Missions Company. It has been an unbelievable time for us and I couldn’t possibly list all the blessings and trials that have shaped our family to date. We are forever grateful, and know that the beautiful people of Coopevega, Costa Rica have changed us forever. We have encountered a genuine love among the people here. 

The unreached
About three years ago I began to wrestle inside with a wild and almost unfathomable statistic: there are roughly 3 billion human beings in the world who do not know Jesus Christ. They have yet to encounter his loving grace and have yet to be pierced with the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This wild statistic has turned into more of a reality for me as I spent some time in Asia this year discerning if indeed God was calling our family to serve there amongst the unreached. Amongst those who are not yet reached with the gospel. I still cannot fathom not knowing Jesus Christ, and moreover, not living in proximity or in relationship with other people that do know him. 
After much prayer and discernment, Lacy and I have decided to move to Asia in hopes of preaching the gospel and serving the poor, and setting up a new Family Missions Company Mission Post. We are beyond excited to receive this type of calling, and we know we are barely prepared and not hardly qualified. So many shortcomings in our lives stand in our way, from our own personal sinfulness to our lack of knowledge and understanding of who God is. And that is OK, because God has called us and He is the one who is sending us. But, we do know two things and these two things have encouraged us along into this decision: Jesus himself has commanded us to go to ALL nations , and he has told us that his grace is sufficient for us. We are relying on these two truths as we prepare to move our family to Asia on November 13. 
Would you please keep us in prayer and would you please consider becoming a mission partner of ours ? We are 100% dependent upon financial donations to serve in this capacity. Details to donate are below

Because of the delicate nature of misisons and the Church in Asia, we have chosen not to state exacrtly where we are moving online, but it is indeed no secret. You can reach out to us privately and we will let you know. You can continue to follow this blog for details on our new journey. 

For those of you have have supported us and continue to support us so faithfully we simply express an enormous THANK YOU! We could not be out here serving as full time missionaries without you. Because of your support, numerous people here in Costa Rica have encountered the love of Jesus Christ in such a profound way. 

In Jesus,
Phil, Lacy, William, Annie, Miriam, Norah, Lily, Andrew

The Talented Luis

Luis is a dear friend of mine; he has been married for years to his beautiful wife.  He is also a very dedicated laborer who, like most men out here is always hunting for meaningful work. When it is harvest time, labor is easier to find, but outside of the harvest it can be tough. I met Luis at Church, where he plays guitar at mass faithfully every Saturday evening. The first time we ever built a house out here, I needed to locate a trusted and handy type man who could do just about any type of work.

“You need to speak with Luis!” was everyone’s response.

So, we hired Luis to build a home and he completely knocked it out of the park. Great craftsmanship, attention to detail, and very timely. We have hired him again and again to build homes for families out here, and each time, he always over delivers. In fact, because we are missionaries and we give these homes away for free to families in need, Luis demands I pay him a lower rate. He could normally make the going rate $1800-$2000 Costa Ricans Colones per hour (roughly $3.50-$4/hour), but he only allows me to pay him $1500 Colones per hour (roughly $2.80/hour) which is on the lower end of the spectrum for a man’s hourly wage out here. But, he insists and smiles and says that it is simply him giving his part and partaking in our mission. It’s truly inspiring.

But, during the last home we were building, I noticed that he started to bring along a friend with him to help. These homes are very easy to build; only about 300-400 SF and made of wood, tin roof, and sometimes a concrete floor. I thought to myself that it was no big deal, I would just plan to pay both the same rate. But, when I went to pay them, Luis stopped me and said “Oh no, I will pay him out of the money you give me, Felipe! It’s my way to partake in the mission, and plus my friend has no other way to make money for his family.” Again, I was blown away by his desire to serve and partake in the kingdom of God, even when he wasn’t expected to.

His willingness reminds of the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25: 14-30. You remember the passage I’m sure, it’s the one where Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like “a man who goes on a journey, calls in his servants and entrusts his possessions to them.” Notice those words, “entrusts his possessions to them” He gives the three men five, two and one talent each according to their own ability, then he goes away. The parable goes on to state that the man given five talents goes off and makes another five; the man with two talents goes off and makes another two, but the man given one talent goes and buries it in a hole out of fear. To the first two men Jesus responds, “Well done good and faithful servant. Come, share your masters joy.” However, Jesus deals with the final man in a far different manner. Jesus says, “You wicked and useless servant!” and orders that this useless servant is thrown into the darkness outside where there will be wailing and grinding of teethe. Yikes.

These are harsh and demanding words from the mouth of Jesus. I know Jesus has given me much of his belongings (money, time, actual gifts and talents, faith and formation) and I know that one day, like this master, my master will return and he will be asking me to make an account of what I have done with the things of himself that he has so freely given me. Sometimes, I like to imagine Jesus not being so demanding. I like to think of him as the teacher who never grades assignments, or the boss who always looks the other way when I am not performing at my best. Sometimes I live my life like Jesus will be grading on an enormous curve. Sometimes I live my life like all I must do is passively believe in him and then when Jesus returns he will simply say “Well done good and faithful servant!” But, why and how could Jesus tell me well done if I haven’t done anything? And how could he call me faithful if my faith hasn’t produced any fruit?

In the case of my friend Luis, I gave him a task to complete for a given price. Upon my return, his task is always far better than my expectation and he has given away his personal profits to help someone else in need. Essentially everything he did in the time given to him is always diligent, productive, and absolutely selfless.

Can we say this about our lives? I know I struggle to.  Is essentially everything we are doing today diligent, productive, and selfless in terms of the kingdom of God?  None of us can be perfect in our pursuits, but I believe my buddy Luis paints a great picture of this passage. Can you imagine, giving away a third of what you earned today to assist someone else who couldn’t find work? Can you imagine giving a third of your time away today to advance the spread of the gospel and the name of Jesus somehow? Again, these are challenging questions, but I believe they reside at the heart of our master, Jesus.

Remember, the heart of the parable is that the master gave these men his possessions in hopes that they would multiply them and give them back to the master upon his return. Jesus has given us his life within us. My money, home, success, time, and even energy is all his. For me to turn these things inwardly would be tragic. It would be as tragic as these men in the parable simply running off with the master’s talents and spending them on themselves. Jesus addresses this sin in other parables, but essentially when we receive anything from God, perhaps the goal should be should only allow it to briefly pass through our hands so it can reach the hands of those who need it most.

 We live in a world which tells us to make something great of ourselves and accumulate things so that our lives can be comfortable and easy. Jesus calls us to take what he has given to us and multiply it making something great of HIM. Do you see the difference? The world screams at us to make something great of ourselves, while all along Jesus demands us to make his name great. “Your name and renown and the desire of our hearts.” (Isaiah 26:8).

Every time we finish a home out here I smile and tell Luis what a great job he has done and thank him tremendously. To which, of course, my buddy humbly responds, “All thanks to Jesus, Felipe, it’s his work!”

What to do after a short-term mission trip

So you did it and now you are finally back home. You left your comfort zone and ventured out to preach the gospel and serve the poor in a foreign land. The worn and withered hands and blistered feet of the poor have left a permanent mark on your heart and mind. The adrenaline rush of journeying from small town to small town preaching the gospel has reignited a spiritual corner of your soul that you thought was dead long ago. And now you find yourself back into the day-to-day mundane of reality in America. What in the world did I just experience and how does this relate to my life as a whole? what do I do now?

My family and I have been blessed to lead several short-term mission trips in the last couple of years and Lacy and I would like to offer a few simple steps on returning back home and making the most of your short-term mission experience.

 First things first

What you experienced was real and was indeed part of the life of the Church. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. In fact what you experienced is the very lifeblood of the church- the very mission of the Church. The church exists to evangelize, and you just spent an uninterrupted period of time doing so. Jesus himself commands us to Go into the WHOLE world and preach the gospel and you did just that (emphasis mine). Too often we settle and buy into the lie that Jesus only wants us to preach the gospel and make disciples in our own backyard. The sad reality is that lines like these are never found in the gospel. Indeed, we need to make disciples in our homes and neighborhoods, but we also need to open our ears anew to Jesus’ words in the great commission: Go into the whole world!

If we all just stayed in our own backyards making disciples then the close to three billion people in this world who do not know Jesus will not receive the gospel of Christ. How devastating. If we all just stayed in our own backyards making disciples then underserved countries with little resources in their churches will dry up and falter. Most churches in the world do not have an excess of resources for various ministries. Where we live in rural Central America there are two priests in charge of over 50 churches. This is not a rare reality across the world. We have so many resources in our American Churches while so many churches across the world have so little. When you Go you will always bless those you serve as long as you preach the gospel wholeheartedly in season and out of season.

Can my presence there really make a difference?

Once while in Mexico my wife and I learned that she had miscarried. It was a tear-filled and exhausting day. We were scheduled to go out into one of the small surrounding villages that night to share testimonies and preach the gospel; namely, my wife was set to share a teaching that night. She spent most of the day resting and mourning and trying to decide whether or not she would stay back that evening or go to the village. Something deep within her told her she needed to go and preach the gospel as she had planned, and so we went. As Lacy finished sharing, a lady in the back of the old, dark church in the middle of the Mexican desert stood up and joyfully exclaimed  “because of your testimony I now believe in Jesus!”
Sometimes the things we take for granted, a simple testimony or a song in church are the very things people in the developing world are thirsting for. Testimonies are rarely shared in forgotten villages of the developing world, so never doubt the power of your witness among these people. YES, your presence can and will make a great difference.

Should I stay or should I go?

“I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the churches energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer of Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” – Pope Saint  John Paul the Great (RM 3)

A question I often field is “well surely God doesn’t want all of us to become foreign missionaries does he?” To which I often reply, “Well why not?”
Three years ago in my hometown of Lafayette , LA we experienced a horrendous flood, whereby thousands of people lost their homes and possessions. Quickly everyone sprung into action helping their neighbor out  and bringing hope into an otherwise abysmal situation. It was a thing of beauty. Our goal was to reach every single person who was in need of help. But, imagine for a second if we wandered upon a flooded neighborhood with 100 flooded homes and we only helped the first 10 we could reach; completely ignoring the remaining 90 families in need…No one in their right mind would allow this to happen.

So, how and why can we be content with this happening in our world when it comes to spreading the gospel? We have literally billions of people who have never heard the gospel, yet often we take no personal consideration in bringing the good news to them. So, should we all be foreign missionaries? Probably not. Are more of us called to be foreign missionaries? Absolutely!  We are also all called to prayerfully consider and listen to the voice of God in regards to obeying the great commission to go and make disciples of the whole world. This is after all a command for all Christians directly from the mouth of Jesus himself. Remember that by virtue of our baptism we are all called to be missionary disciples.

Moving Forward

I would like to offer a few practical steps moving forward in the weeks just after a short-term mission trip:
– Spend at least 30 minutes in prayer with the gospels. Quiet, uninterrupted time in scripture is irreplaceable. this is where and when God will speak and we have the opportunity to listen and obey.

-In prayer don’t be afraid to ask questions and make statements like “Holy spirit, command me to do your holy will” and “Lord, what do you want to make of this experience in my life?” and “Lord, are you calling me to take the gospel to other nations?”

-Frequent the sacraments as often as possible (namely reconciliation and the Eucharist).

-Find sincere opportunities to pray in the holy spirit with other people.

-Find ways to preach the gospel and serve the poor in your hometown.

-Consider reading the following books: Mission of the Redeemer by Pope John Paul II, Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis, Happy Are You Poor by Fr. Thomas Dubay, Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, Radical by David Platt, Go You Are Sent by Genie Summers

Finally, if you sense God is calling you into full time missions, count your blessings, find a solid spiritual director who is in tune with the church’s mission to evangelize, and GO!!! Life is short and is passing us by each day. Now is the time to make disciples of all nations.

If you are interested in attending a short-term mission trip, please visit the following http://www.familymissionscompany.com/mission-trips or email me for discussion or questions.