Girl At The End of the World- Review

“I’m so thankful God allows us the freedom to leave places that scare us and find safe places where we can rest. God is big enough to meet us anywhere.” -Elizabeth Esther


I was raised Roman Catholic, it was the faith of my family, but it was not something that was central to my life. Once I was out of High School I stopped going to church or considering myself affiliated to any type of faith system. In 2002 I had an encounter with Jesus that I believe transformed my life, and I started to attend a reformed protestant church. In all of this though, the idea of “cults” and fundamentalism seemed like the things you watch on documentaries, you know, “people that drink the kool aid” type groups.


Those ideas started to change when I started to follow Elizabeth Esther on Twitter. Her voice into the dangers of cults that may not look from the outside like the cults you see on “20/20” really started to get me to think about my definition and the dangers of fundamentalism in my life and thought. (She was also the reason Lauren and I started to watch American Idol, so thanks for that EE!)


Elizabeth is a great storyteller, she is able to grip you and pull you into her world and experiences. In her book “Girl At The End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future” she gives her autobiography of growing up in “The Assembly”. In her story we are brought into a legalistic group that controls and manipulates its’ members while using good Christian language. Elizabeth’s story is one of growing up in fear and confusion.


Elizabeth takes the reader on a journey of what it was like to grow up, to become a woman in this type of group. She tells of the control her grandparents held over this Assembly even down to who they date, how they date and what they grow up to do, all in the name of “God’s Glory”. And that may be what was most unsettling for me. What do we do for “God’s Glory” that has blinded us from the actual people in front of us? It can be tempting to read Elizabeth’s story and dismiss it as just a “fundy group” that was interesting but has no bearing on our life. However what I started to wonder was in our Christian culture of “modesty”, “courting” and even submission to authority can we at times fall into the same sin and danger that characterized The Assembly she was part of?


Modesty for example is something Lauren and I have discussed in raising 2 girls, one being a 9-year-old with her own fashion sense already. How do we encourage our daughters to see their bodies, as something to not be ashamed of but also something not flaunt for attention. We honestly do not have the answer to this, but Elizabeth’s book really challenged us to think deeply and to not just assume modesty language is the answer for our daughters and sons for that matter.


I think in the end, the beauty of Elizabeth’s story is the power of God’s grace and love to give her strength to break free from such a place. The grace of God, as well, to speak through her to help others in similar circumstances. And also conviction from God to challenge us in how we can use our faith, at times, as tools of power and control, not of love and grace.


I would strongly recommend this book on multiple levels. Just as a story it is well written and captivating, it was hard for me to put it down. On another level though it is convicting as well as inspiring in how we are live as Christians this side of Heaven and the dangers of legalism and authority.


This book left me with more questions, like “now what?” or “where do we go from here?”. I wish Elizabeth would’ve given a helpful guide to avoiding fundamentalism in our own lives, but maybe her book was to simply be about her story that also gives a mirror into our own.

“The more I choose to believe God loves me, the more loving I believe God is. I am no longer a victim being acted upon. I am now actively participating in loving God, loving myself, and loving others.” –Elizabeth Esther


You can purchase her book here on Amazon.

You can also follow Elizabeth’s blog here.

Story Matters

I have been thinking a lot about the power of story. The power of getting caught up in a bigger story than ourselves, but also listening to our own personal stories and journeys and how transforming that is.

Below are some really great quotes from Shauna Niequist, they are found in her introduction to “Speak: How Your Story Can Change The World” by Nish Weiseth.

And this is why story matters. Because when you listen to a story, you have to give up your stereotypes and your labels. Because stories crawl out of the boxes every chance they get. Because stories zig when we think they’ll zag. Stories surprise us around every corner. Stories reach out and grab our labels and shred them to confetti.

A wise friend of mine is teaching me to ask this question every time I disagree with someone, and especially when I disagree in a visceral way: “How did that person come to feel this way?” Essentially, he’s teaching me to ask, “What part of this person’s story do I need to know to understand what he or she is telling me right now?”

Story draws us together, hands and voices and memories. It bridges the distances we’ve created, because we thought the distance would keep us safe. It doesn’t. It only keeps us lonely.


You can get “Speak” on Amazon here.

Summer 2015 Reading List

My first post in a year, and what am I going to talk about? Reading.

I love to read. Reading for me is an adventure into ideas, thoughts and passions that the author has and wants to share. One of the things I like to do is to see what other people are reading. So in that spirit I am going to share what I am planning on reading this coming summer.

You will notice how what I chose to read has a wide range of topics, and in regards to “chrisitan” books you will see how diverse the authors are. I do not like to just read from a certain viewpoint but really believe there is something to learn from all angles.

None of these are recommendations (How can I recommend them, I have not read them yet) but for the ones I really do enjoy I will post a short review when I finish each one.

So here is my reading list for this summer:





More may be added, some of these I am already reading and want to finish soon, so stay tuned for reviews, thoughts and insight to what these authors teach me.




Time to ReEngage

On May 3rd I posted about my need to disengage from social networks for the month (you can read that post here). For the past month I have not been on Facebook or Twitter and it has been very revealing. Tomorrow I plan to reengage with social networking but in a very different way than before. Below are a few of the things I have learned during my time away.

Time Waster


I have read the blogs, seen the studies about how social networks can suck you in and take up most of your time and attention. It was not until I stepped away however did I actually realize the truth to that. I was able to spend more time, more focused time on sermon prep, reading and engaging people. This was time I was losing because of my own willingness to be distracted by social networks.  I actually got stuff done, felt more engaged with what I was doing when I stepped away. The problem was not social networks, it was the amount of time I devoted to them, even a few minutes here and there every hour adds up.


What this means: I plan to set aside times to be one social networks, but those will be set times and not during the hours that I have dedicated to study and sermon prep. This is something I need and my church needs of me.


 Controversy to Controversy


Social networks are a great place to get caught up in the waves of controversy of the day. Just when one controversy ends another wave comes by. This is dangerous, unprofitable for me as a pastor to engage in or get caught up in. I like to talk sports and New Mexico on Twitter and share quotes or family moments, which is where I plan to leave it. For me it seems unfruitful to engage in debates and serious discussion on a platform that is so limited in tone, detail and intimacy. Some can do it, I can’t.


 Social Networks are Good but Not Great


Social Networks are good to engage in, and I believe an important medium today. However they are not great for actual socializing and truly getting to know people. I want to spend more time engaging people I know, people I share common passions with and people I can help, and social networks limits how much of that you can do. I think it is possible to do all of that but it is not the best platform for that.



All this to say, I am excited to reengage social networks, but in a different way than before. I have learned a lot from this fast and plan to do this on a regular basis. I encourage you to do the same .


Time to Disengage



We are by far the most connected and social engaged generation in history. Social networking has allowed us to live open before others in ways unlike any other time in history. I dove into social networking headfirst, I have shared thoughts, pictures, quotes I have read and other trivial bits of information readily and steadily.  In many ways this has been a good thing, but in many ways I have found that it has also become a bad thing. I have found that my sin, my idolatry, with wanting to always be “in the loop” or even wanting to see who liked this or that in which I posted has become idolatry and a serious distraction from my care for my soul, my family and my church. This has happened in a few ways that I think the Bible actually speaks out against:


“Look at me!!”  “Look at my kids!!!”


But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:3–4 (ESV)



I wonder if a way we can see this today is “don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing because your left hand will tweet, Instagram, Facebook about it”. I know this is true for me. I have become so consumed at times with wanting to share something about my kids, my studying or my life in general. Not only share but because I am prideful and I want people to validate me through “likes” and retweets my emotions can be affected by the amount of “likes” and interaction I get with each post. I am always looking for something to share that I am in danger of not fully enjoying my kids or the sunset but thinking of what filter, how many #’s to attach or what funny status I will add to what is going on.


Jesus calls us to live a life on mission but that is also marked with time before God, where we share with Him more than we share with the world. I have seen the opposite in my life. Instead of meditating on God’s beauty in His creation and silently contemplating, I am quickly going to Instagram instead.



Face-to-Face Is Crucial to Community


24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24–25 (ESV)


I am by nature more of an introvert. So the fact that I can interact with people without actually having to be physically with them is awesome. Awesome and seriously lacking in the real, in person interaction we actually need. God designed us to want community, to know and be known. This cannot truly happen online. In fact the danger is that I can present such a side of myself that is a far cry from reality that I’m not truly known. True community happens over a meal and a good conversation, not over a status or retweets. It happens over time as people watch my life and I watch others and as we speak into each other’s stories.


This is especially crucial with the well-being of my family. As I lead my family I must seek out the hearts of my wife and my kids, I simply cannot do that while updating a status or “liking” someone else’s status, picture, or tweet.


Not Sin But Not Best


23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 1 Corinthians 10:23 (ESV)


Social Networking is a distraction. It is a distraction from times of prayer, times of good conversation with my family, and talking to actual people. It is a distraction from reading for the growth of my soul and good of the church. It is a distraction from the important things in my life right now.


I am blessed to be pastor of a young church in Rio Rancho, and behind my walk with the Lord,  leading my wife and kids, my priority and focus must be on the good of the church. I must devote more time to studying to preach, studying to guide as well as meeting and encouraging others through prayer and fellowship. I also must spend time on mission to see lives change and honestly lives don’t change by me sharing a picture of my lunch, but it happens through my full engagement with others offline.


What now?

I am going to take a break for the rest of May from regular engagement in social networks. I want to spend more time engaged with people in real life, engaged in God’s word and engaged in the building up of Redemption Church. After that I am not sure but know it will look different than it has.


I want to share less and live more, truly live for God’s glory and I know that means stepping away from Social Networks. I want to learn about people’s lives by actually talking and being with them not just through pics and small updates.


I hope to write more on this blog and on Redemption’s blog, I hope to provide the people of Redemption with more of my attention, and I hope to be the husband and dad that God has called me to be, regular Social Networking doesn’t fit into this.


I do not in any way, by sharing this, mean to tell others that they should share my convictions about how they do Social Networking, but rather I do hope it challenges you to look at your heart, look at your time online and pray for guidance in this.


For the rest of May the only updates you will see from me on Facebook or Twitter will be in regards to posts I write here or at, I will interact with comments made about these posts too.

To learn more about what is happening at Redemption Church you should also go like the Redemption Church Facebook page here.


I will not be checking my FB, twitter or Instagram, in fact I am deleting them from my phone.


Does this freak me out? Is it going to be hard? Yes, even typing this has been hard. I have a fear of missing out on something, or not being part of some interaction. It is because I feel so nervous and stressed about disengaging from social networks that I know it is needed.


If you do want to DM me on Twitter or send me a private message on Facebook I will respond, but for a quicker response you can reach me through email at carlos (at) redemptionchurch (dot) cc


Otherwise, see ya, hopefully in person, around!


One more thing, I hesitated to press publish on this post today, I saved it and then looked at Facebook, it was there I saw the video below. After watching it I decided, nerves and all, to hit publish.





That Time Your Daughter Declares She Has A Boyfriend


“Your daughter was telling her class that she has a boyfriend” were the words that I heard from my daughter’s teacher. With those words I realized I have entered into another level of parenthood. Oh, and did I mention this was in Sunday school class and I am a pastor, yeah.  I had known for a while that there was a boy in her class who liked her, who would come over to our house to ask if she could play. I knew that sooner or later this would come up, although I figured she would be 14 not 8 when it did. So what is a father to do? Here are a few things that I have, as her dad, thought about and learned from this.

I am sure there will be plenty more and some of these may be wrong, but I figured I am wanting to be more honest and vulnerable so here ya go.

Jokes are fun, and parenting is hard.

I was one who did the who “dad with a shotgun” type of jokes when she was younger. That was before there was a chance of her having a boyfriend, now that’s all changed. My first thought was not “I need a gun”, but was “How do I talk about this with her”. I could just slam down the law of “no boys”, for some reason that just seemed simplistic and would in the long run do more damage.

 Words have meaning.

I realized that my little girl had feelings that she was trying to attach words to. Words like “boyfriend”, “crush” and “love”. In her declaring a boyfriend she was expressing new feelings. As I talked with her and worked through what she meant I understood that my little girl is entering a new part of growing up and working through what it all means.

 Slow to dismiss.

Knowing that she was trying to describe all this new dynamics of boy/girl relationships I also knew that dismissing her feelings was unwise and unloving. My daughter had real feelings and talking to mom and dad about these feelings and letting us in is something that I need to encourage.

 Make it safe to share.

The biggest concern I had was not that she had a boyfriend, or who this boy was but why she told her friends and not us, her parents. What was she worried about, what did she fear? She also knew that we had told her that she was not yet allowed to have a boyfriend so it could have been just disobedience, but I believe there is more under the surface. I strive to make our home a safe place for honest discussion and open-mindedness. In other words I never want my kids to fear coming to me with questions and doubts about life, faith or anything else. I am still working through this one and have been praying for wisdom in this too.

In the end we did have her tell this boy that we feel she is not ready to have a boyfriend yet, as in the actual title boyfriend. We did not ban him from the house or say she cannot hang with him, because again I want her to work through all this, not hide or be afraid of it. Other parents who are wiser would probably do something different but this is what we have decided to do and this is who we are, messy parents trying to figure this whole parenthood thing out.

“everPresent” Book Review

3 years ago I attended a seminary-like program that took me to Seattle once a month where I would be in a cohort of several students. These students came from all over the world, places like, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada and various states in the USA. While the school was good, I can honestly say that it was the relationships that came from that that I carry with me today. It is what I have learned from those in my cohort that helped me as I planted Redemption Church here in Rio Rancho, NM. 


One of these students is Jeremy Writebol. Jeremy currently serves in a church in Wichita, KS. He is also a author who has just released a book called “everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present ”. Jeremy asked me to read it and review it, I was happy to do it and was blessed by this book. My review is below.


One of the things I have had to deal with as a pastor is how to help people see their place as a Christian here in world. Many see what I do, working as a full time pastor, as the sacred job, while their jobs are mundane, boring and not exactly “kingdom work”. Many see worship and honoring God as something to be done on a Sunday in church. They see the gospel as something to be shared through a tract or an awkward presentation separated from “real life”. In “everPresent” by Jeremy Writebol a different picture is given, a fuller, more life-giving picture for a disciple in the everyday. Jeremy reminds us that place (location whether physical or spiritual) matters. Jeremy does this by first showing us how God is the only “ever present” one who is everywhere at once.  He then shows how this omnipresent God came down, lived, died and was resurrected for our sins. Because we have sinned and we are by nature messed up, we also are dislocated on our own from God with no way to get back. Jesus redeemed us and gives us the purpose that our hearts have longed for, a purpose of being present with God, and for God where we are. Understanding this helps our view of worship and living for his glory in the everyday where God is there with us, not just on Sundays in “God’s house”.  Jeremy gives a clear vision of how this “ever present” God sends us to specific locations, has us where we are for specific purposes, and that our spiritual and our physical both are sent and matter in our daily work as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.


In the 2nd part of this book Jeremy hits the practical side of this “ever present” Gospel. This is where I believe the book truly shines. Jeremy helps the reader see how the mundane, the everyday are not to be thought of as “secular” but rather as sacred, that all of life is sacred because we are always before God. Jeremy does this by giving a very handy way of looking at life as being about places. Whether it is the first place of the home and family, second place as work, third as social environments, or the fourth place of being in the city.  They way this part is broken down into these places helps the reader have a clear vision of how the gospel is present in all of life. Jeremy also does this by sharing how he sees, lives and works to have the gospel present in his own life in each of these places.


I am very excited for the book to be released today because I want my people at Redemption Church to read and soak in these truths. I want them to see the gospel as “ever present” in their daily lives. I want them to see that God is there with them, that there is no special “sacred” jobs and then the rest, but that as Christians all is sacred because all is done for the glory of the “ever present” God.

You can order “everPresent” paperback on Amazon here.

You can also get the e-book version from GCD here.

Below are a few choice quotes from the book.


“Our perspective concerning our homes, workplaces, gyms, restaurants, parks, office buildings, theaters, and everywhere in between should be that this is God’s place and God is here.”


“The only way for God to undo the injury of our soul dislocation was to undo what had been done. The place of God had to be remade.”


“As long as we have life and breath and are awake to live out another day, the gospel still bears impact on our homes, whatever their state. The relocating, renovating work of Jesus is still active, forming the household of God.”


“The office, classroom, retail store, restaurant, factory, and laboratory are all places in which created humanity exercises dominion to cultivate and develop God’s initial creation. Work is essential to who we are. Work is right.”


“Like the false dichotomy of the material and spiritual, bad religion created another dichotomy with regard to our work; sacred and secular.”


“Even the most reclusive introvert still needs relationship with others. We were created for community.”


PRAYER- Christ Surrounds

I have been recently collecting various books from different Christian faith traditions. I believe that there is a beauty in looking at how various Christians around the world pray to God, there is something beautiful in the diversity and tapestry of prayers that ascend to the throne room of our Lord.

One of those books is on Celtic Prayer and yesterday’s prayer was beautiful and has stuck with me. It is an amazing reminder that Christ is present in our lives and surrounds us. I pray that it benefits, affects and comforts you as much as it has me.


Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort me and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.