Thursday, August 18, 2011

What can we spare? What will it take?

Mark 10:17-22

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" 20And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth." 21And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

This little nugget of scripture has tormented me for years now. Trying to unwrap it, trying to find out what Jesus was really saying. When he asked the rich young man to “…sell all that you have and give to the poor…,” was he being literal? I know it really shouldn’t be hard to figure out. A short fifteen minute look into my study bible and a review of some commentaries reveals the two fold message Jesus was relaying to the rich young ruler in this dialogue. One, there is only one thing that is truly good and that is God. This is shown when, instead of answering the man’s question, Jesus corrects the rich young ruler for addressing him as “Good Teacher.” Two, following on that theme Jesus dispels the myth that the rich young ruler could somehow earn his way to heaven. To understand this fully we must look at the description of the guy Jesus was talking to; he was rich, he was young, he was a ruler, most likely a religious leader in the synagogue at the time. This is why Jesus immediately brought up the commandments, knowing that they would be high on this guy’s list and as follows the rich young ruler affirms, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Jesus then turned his world upside down when he asks the question that reveals to the man that he has not even kept the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3)

What I love about this passage is when it says, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” While the message was hard to bear for the guy, it was not Jesus’ intent to hurt him, embarrass him or prove him wrong for his own selfish purposes. He said it because he loved him and he knew the paradigm shift that was taking place in the history of salvation. He was simply pointing out that possessions were this dude’s god and as long as that was the case then he would not even begin to see the doorstep of heaven. Jesus was revealing faults to a man who until this point pretty much felt faultless, even though deep down he knew there was a disconnect between he and God, which is why he asked the question in the first place.

So why does this torment me so? I mean I get it. I understand the concept that I am nothing and He is everything. I comprehend that it is only through God that I can obtain salvation and I have accepted that. However, I still deal with the problem that I know in my heart there is some bit of me that hangs on to the same god worshiped by the rich you ruler. Granted, the story unfolding Jesus death, resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit in the pages following Mark 10 radically changed the dynamics of my situation and that of the rich young ruler when it comes to salvation, but that is a different conversation. However, the Spirit still stirs in me the same disheartening feeling that I know the rich young ruler felt when faced with the task of giving all he had to the poor.

So here in lies the torment that troubles me so. What do I do with that disheartening feeling and why do I have that when truthfully my demographic does not exactly fit that of the rich young ruler, i.e. not rich (or so I thought), apparently no longer young (see gray hair and comments from some younger people I know) and not a ruler (at least not in the sense of the rich young ruler)?

As much as I would like answer this and many other ponderings in my mind it is getting late and I unfortunately have the inability to process my thoughts and the passions that God lays upon my heart without laying the ground work for a novel comparable in size to War and Peace. Alas, a great book I am reading Radical, by David Platt is shedding some light on this dilemma and this is something I must still figure out and will continue to work through in the days to come.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shutterfly Christmas Cards

Okay folks, so it is crazy that we are only two weeks away from Christmas and like every year the Berry’s are getting a late start on our Christmas cards. I used to think Christmas cards were a bit of a beating hence the reason I think we still have a box from 2005 that was addressed and never sent. However, over the past few years I have had a change of heart. As all these new fangled personalized cards have started pouring into our mailbox I have got to admit I kinda dig seeing all your family pictures. Granted, some of you I get to see all the time, but there are a few of you that I don’t and I need a way to keep up with what’s going on in your life and a way to make sure I am aging better than all of you.

Anyways, the reason for all this Christmas card talk is because a friend of ours let us in on a pretty good deal that Shutterfly is offering this year. Basically, you just write about them on your blog and you get 50 FREE Christmas cards. If you haven’t ever used Shutterfly before this is a great opportunity to check them out. What is even better is that if you are a bit of a Christmas card procrastinator you can create your card and have them printed at Target, Walgreen’s or CVS. No wait at all. Last year we had ours created and printed in about 3 hours. In case you haven’t ever seen the awesomeness that is the Shutterfly card, here are a few of our favorite examples.

Granted some of you may not like our cards, but there is bound to be one on their site that you will like. Check out their selection at We plan on getting ours done this weekend, so if you haven’t received anything from us, don’t worry they should be arriving in your mailbox sometime in January.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ciudad Victoria continued...finally...

Thursday morning rolled around and we meet again at Juventud por Cristo. After loading up our supplies, new friends of ours, Daniele and Karen, took us out for community outreach in a nearby area named La Moderna. As we traveled out, they explained to us that La Moderna is community located in the southwest corner of Victoria on other side of a water runoff that separates them from the main part of the city. Normally, this run off is a blessing to the city, preventing flooding from occuring when water comes down from the Sierra Madre mountains, which surrounds Victoria. Unfortunately, the roughly 50 yard wide ravine which runs alongside the edge of the main city was no match for Hurricane Alex when it swept through a little over 2 months ago. As a result La Moderna was left isolated without help and with no way in or out for roughly a week following the hurricane. As we entered La Moderna, my heart became very heavy. It was very difficult to distinguish between damage caused by the hurricane and what appeared to be normal living conditions. I had no idea what poverty actually looked like until we entered the area.

We made our way through the streets, which is a relative term for the hard rocky surface we drive on, to a small stucco building named Mission de La Moderna. Our goal at the mission was to go out into the community delivering food and clothes. We soon found that there was no need to go out, as word had traveled fast and the community came to us. We quickly found ourselves surrounded by a large group of people waiting patiently for the little assistance we could offer. One man stood out as he was searching somewhat desperately for a particular item. He had already collected quite a few items so we tried to see if we could help. It turns out that he had a family of about 12 people total, including parents, brothers and sisters and five of his own children. He had quite a load to carry so a few of us traveled down to his home with him to help him out. Along the way he kept pointing to my shoes trying to ask a question. It turns out he was asking if we brought any shoes in size, the item he had been searching for. I then noticed the worn down undersized pair of Croc type shoes he was wearing. Unfortunately we mostly only had childrens shoes. Come to find out, most of the men in the area try to find work when it is available, but most are unable to. So many of the men in the area seek work at the local landfill, which pays next to nothing. Such was the story for this man. All he was seeking was a good pair of shoe to work in.

Upon our return to the mission our group split up to travel to the homes of two families who were unable to come to the mission. The team I was on walked up to a lady's home on the side of a small mountain. She too, like the man described above, lived in a shelter that was little more than scrap wood covered by anything that could be found to keep water out. After spending some time with the woman and her family we asked if we could pray for her. Through Daniele we learned that about the same time as Hurricane Alex struck, she lost her husband to a heart attack. The exact details were a little lost in translation, but she asked us to pray for her due to financial struggles. Her husband appeared to have been the main support of income and now with him gone she was having some trouble affording even food to live on. On top of that she still owed for his funeral expenses and had no way of paying them. After praying with the woman she hugged us all and told us that although her husband is gone, she continues to live in hope, knowing that through God she is never alone.

After meeting up with the rest of the group, we traveled to a home that our build team was working on. Given the work that was left to do on the home I stuck with them while the rest of the community outreach group went back to the Juventud por Cristo building to assist with preparations for the next day. I traveled around the back of the house where the work was being done to find out that we weren't just repairing a home, we were essentially building one. The woman's home had been completely demolished by Hurricane Alex. All that remained was an open three walled room measuring roughly 10 feet long by 3 feet wide. She had been living outdoors essentially since the storm. While we were happy to be putting a roof over her head, my heart continued to sink. Given the time we had and the limited materials we were given little more could be done than to build what amounted to a car port, an open space with a tin roof and a dirt floor. We did not even have enough to put up exterior walls.

That night I was tremendously burdened as I began to process the day. I thought about how selfishly I live. Kristi and I could make very small sacrifices in our lives that would mean a tremendously better living situation for a good part of the families we came in contact with that day. But even at that we would only make a small dent in that one community, not to mention the insignificant impact we would make on the world. The physical needs were too big and our resources were too small. I then thought about what the woman living on the side of the small mountain had said. "I continue to live in hope, knowing that through God I am never alone." The concept of the body and power of God became more real to me in that moment than ever before. We serve a God who has unlimited resources and who has blessed his family in order that they bless others. Sadly few, including myself, ever make even small concessions in life to drop our own self consuming nature and live a self sacrificing life. Passages like Matthew 9:35 - 38 and James 2:14-17 poured into my mind that night. It became very real to me at that time my burdened heart was my calling to act.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ciudad Victoria - Dia Uno

While I had hoped to write daily during our stay in Victoria, our schedule and the limited availability of the hotel computers prevented me from doing so. Nevertheless, I journaled our experiences in a notebook I had in the event they left my memory, although I doubt they ever will. We had such an incredible, life-changing experience while in the city and I could not wait to get home to share some of our adventure.


Well it only took two flights, a bus, and roughly 12 hours but we finally made it to Ciudad Victoria Wednesday evening. Traveling into the city, my thoughts ran wild. As a local friend here told us, ¨This is not the Mexico you are used to, "He was right, no beach, no resorts, no crystal blue water." However, I couldn't help but be drawn in by a beauty of a different kind. I commented to Kristi as we drove in, that despite appearing unkept and somewhat out of date, the city had a certain comfort to it. Old stucco and brick buildings, some painted in vibrant colors, street vendors out selling fruit, ice cream, tacos, etc. and families sitting outside in 100 degree heat, seemingly just enjoying each others company. The charm of the old city was great, but I had little idea of what was to come.

Wednesday evening we were taken by our friend, Alex, to Juventud por Cristo's building to prep for the next day. Several of the student leaders worked with us as we split up in our teams of construction, Wheels of Hope, and community outreach. The night was a blast. Given the obvious language barrier, we tried to communicate as best as we could in an almost caveman-like fashion, pointing or grunting to objects repeating over and over, "Como se dice_____?" One of our new friends, Elena, had an especially fun time with this by repeating every botched attempt we made to pronounce words correctly followed by what I can only describe as an uncontrollable belly laugh. Upon completion we returned to our hotel for what was supposed to be a great night's sleep. Unfortunately excitement and nervousness filled that night more than slumber.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How He Loves Us...

Sorry for not writing in awhile. Good things have been happening here but I just haven't felt like anything was note worthy, until tonight. I tend to make fun of the people on facebook who just post up random lyrics to songs daily, but today I am one of those people. Tonight at church we sang a song by David Crowder called "How He Loves Us." I have heard it a few times and liked the song but tonight the words hit me like a ton of bricks. Below you will find the verses.

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

He Loves Us

"If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking," struck me the most. No greater insight here. I think it speaks for itself. He loves us, oh how he loves us.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


There is a point in every male's life when he must take steps which eventually lead him away from being a boy and lead him towards being a man. Now some of you who know my son, Grayson, already know that in some ways he is already more of a man than most, forget the fact that he is holding a butterfly wand. However tonight he will take just one more step into manhood. Tonight my beloved son will move from the crib to THE MAN BED.

As I said above, Grayson has proven thus far in life to be what most parents would term "all boy." He likes sports, cars, red meat and destroying things. Apparently this past week he also
felt the need to show off his ripped bod by repeatedly taking his shirt off for his teacher at school and throwing it at her in an effort to get her to notice his washboard abs. So, being a proud father I could not let my son just move into any bed. It had to be masculine, it had to be extreme, it had to be legendary. So with the help of the little man himself we began
building "The MAN bed."

With 10" rigid pneumatic tires, a few 2x4's, and some heavy duty power tools in hand we did what all men were made to do, build. Unfortunately, due to "the man" keeping us down with work, it took two weekends to complete our endeavour. but nevertheless, we prevailed and tonight my little stud will reap the benefits.

Now my dreams were that this wonderful wooden masterpiece would only inspire dreams of Grayson's future Heisman and the conquering of The Big Texan 72oz steak. However, with the help of his big sister, my little man also found that a bed on wheels can also make for great transportation. Nevertheless,
dream well my son, for tonight you are the man.

Friday, January 29, 2010

On 30...

Okay, so, sorry for ignoring you blog. I guess my little angel going off to school choked me up a little more that I had anticipated. That and football has been on. But, alas, my pondering mind has brought me back to you to share in the most recent milestone of my life.

About two weeks ago the whole world came crashing down as I was thrung into the wretched stage of life known as 30. Dun, dun, dun!!! I mean come on, now I'm part of the age group who has to eat their Luann platter at 4 o'clock so that they can make it home in time for "The Wheel" and bedtime at 7:30. Just go ahead and put me in Depends and a Rascal!!! Life is just downhill from here, or so I thought. It turns out that 30 is not so bad. In fact, it may just be the climax of life. Let me explain.

For my birthday the love of my life, once again, gave me a gift that all husbands should get for their birthday. No, not that, this is a family blog. Get your minds out of the gutter. (BTW YES THAT TOO!!!) I am talking about BIRTHDAY WEEKEND!!! Okay, here's the premise. From Friday afternoon through Sunday night the husband, as the recipient of "birthday weekend," has no responsibilities. No cooking, no cleaning, no giving kids baths, no putting kids to bed and no changing of diapers. In addition to that, I was blessed with a visit by the holy trinity of tex-mex: Chiloso for breakfast, Taco Cabana for lunch and El Paseo for dinner. In the name of tacos, enchiladas, and salsa, Amen. (If you never see me again, I was struck by lightning for that comment.)

Aside from getting to be lazy and eating the food touched by God, I had a great opportunity to practice the three R's: Rest, Relaxation, Reflection. As I went out for a morning run, I began to ruminate about the past thirty years. Thoughts began to flow through my head about goals and dreams that I once had and whether or not I had accomplished any of them. As I remembered defining moments in my life, I began to realize that life just hadn't quite turned out like I had planned. At 8 I was going to be Dallas Cowboy, at 15 I planned on becoming a youth minister, at 22 Kristi and I were going to get married and move off to San Francisco to prepare for a life overseas, at 24 we were going to be the "cool parents" who never uttered the words "because I said so." Between then and now I have aspired to do everything from being an attorney to owning a cupcake business. (The cupcake thing is still not a bad idea.) We all go through these times, times when we aspire to be something greater than we are, times when our dreams and our realities just don't match up, times when we wonder "Have I given up on _______?"

Now, you may be thinking that this realization was depressing, but your wrong. You see, thirty is a unique place in life. I may joke about "The Wheel" and Depends, but in all honesty, thirty is great. At 30 you are just young enough to still follow the passions of your heart, yet just old enough to allow failures and life lessons prepare you for the future. I've never been one to let failures get me down. Stuff happens in life, and just because it is not exactly how I pictured things doesn't mean that I am not being divinely lead to the exact place I need to be. By the way, his thinking is explained alot better in a message I heard this last weekend. Check it out if you get a chance Hostage: Breaking Free.

All that being said, towards the end of my run I figured out that, regardless of age, the next 30 years is something I am really looking forward to. As God continues to show me a little more about how the desires of my heart can match the desires of his great things are going to happen. In fact I am hoping to tell you guys about some specific things God has placed on my heart over the next month or two. Stay tuned my friends, same bat channel, same bat place, but next time is won't be the same bat six months.