My New Friend, Padre Diego

Diego Chavarria | Photo by asher castillo

Diego Chavarria | Photo by asher castillo

10 For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.        
        — Eph. 2.10, The Voice


I recently spent some time in Nicaragua, with several of our mission partners in the country, a coffee plantation, an art center and our friends at Living Water. The first portion of my trip was spent with an incredible man and his family—God’s poetry etched on his life for sure. Deigo Chavarria, a seventh generation coffee farmer who has been operating his family farm since taking it over from his father. His family shares a beautiful story of suffering and resilience navigating the very difficult business of coffee farming. 

For those aren’t aware, coffee farming is one of the largest commodities, and many times bought and sold below the cost of actually growing the coffee. Our partnership with the plantation is a direct trade agreement, cutting out the middle and paying a price beneficial for both parties. It’s a beautiful story to be a part of, however, direct trade isn’t what impacted me during my time with Diego. 

I like to call him Padre Diego for two reasons, one is because when anyone is hosted by the plantation, you are now considered family, and treated as such. I assure you, it’s a great family to be adopted into. The second part is because of his humble resilience. Amidst the hardships of running the farm Diego takes every day on, toiling and working to care for the 100+ people living on the plantation. To Padre Diego, it’s not just operating a coffee plantation, its caring for the people God has entrusted to him. It’s supporting  the pastors of sixteen churches in the area. It’s providing crops of beans and corn for the families to eat and sell what they don’t need. 

In the four days spent with Diego, I learned more of how to walk with God amidst suffering.With every obstacle, every moment they didn’t have enough—even when they lost the plantation to the bank; Diego trusted God. He trusted God in his tears, and in his laughter. 

Gracias por compartir el tiempo padre Dieg.

Dios bendiga

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Author  asher castillo

Liberia 2014 | Reflections and Time Shared

photo credit: asher castillo

photo credit: asher castillo

In addition to time in Ghana, Africa, our group also spent some time in Basso village, located in the Mount Barclay region of Liberia. I’ve posted photos over on the photo page.

In Liberia we where able to spend a longer amount of time out in the field, it was a time I cherished greatly.  It was also special for our church as it was a return to the village that launched us into supporting Living Water International and clean water projects. 

Liberia a beautiful, lush country filled with beautiful people. In 2003 Liberia experienced civil war and has been rebuilding ever since. Being present with the people there, you could sense restorative work happening with in the country and people. It was beautiful. The joy and hospitality the people would offer amidst, at moments, a somber atmosphere, was humbling and enriching.

It reminded me we are all works in progress. We are all being made new, and amidst being made new, we can all experience joy and share this joy with others. 

I am grateful for the time shared in Liberia. It was beautiful. 

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Ghana | Reflections on Time Shared

Kumasi, Ghana | asher castillo 2014

Kumasi, Ghana | asher castillo 2014

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, Monday night 2 March I embarked on first—hopefully not last journey Africa. It was a long day of travel, more time spent in the Lagos International Airport then desired, but alas we made it. The following days where spent capturing stories from Living Water International country directors, visiting Kumasi—north from Accra where we landed. The afternoon was spent visiting a school of 500+ children, and an area village. It was a tiring but beautiful day. 

Having been to developing nations before, I realized on this trip how easy it is to make the trip about you. Even when you’re thinking some healthy thoughts, such as how much you have, how little others have, differences in conditions, if we are not careful these reflections can still be about us. Reflecting on physical differences between contexts isn’t a bad thing, but it is best tempered with the understanding our value is not established by the tangible, but the Divine.   

The day we traveled to Kumasi, I was grateful to have been more present with those around me, and less focused on the differences between my self and those we met. During our tour of the villages I connected with a group of children while an interview was being shot—the original intent was to help keep the interview moving, however the time quickly escalated in fun play and all the kids learning how to give a high-five. The curiosity and joy the children manifested was profound, my hope is to unpack it further in a future posting.

I learned a great deal from being here, I realized, once you can get into a place, and be present you notice the subtleties. One, I noticed was when traveling to the field, our rockstar of a host / guide, Rose, showed up in a dress and high heels! At first I was wondering what she was thinking, then I realized, she mentioned that we’ll be meeting her father today. The honor she displayed was beautiful, and a part of many things you notice when you’re open to what’s going on around you. I’ve been grateful for the time here, will share more soon.

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Moses & Dealing with Anxiety

Every now and again you see something familiar, a story, character or idea in a new light that shifts your perspective and be either a catalyst of change or even unlock areas of struggle. I had one of these moments recently, the realization was subtle but created a shift in how I see myself, anxiety, and conflict; but first, a little back story.

For some time, I always thought I related (or aspired) to Aaron from the Exodus story. The right hand man to someone else’s vision, mission or purpose. Making it happen for others; finding joy in being behind the scenes, which is not a bad thing. What I realized is if I’m really honest, and really understand the characters of Moses and Aaron a bit better, I may be relate more to Moses than I realize.

See like Moses, I messed up along the way. Several years ago I tried to live my life my way, made some poor choices and eventually found myself wandering around in a desert, running from mistakes wondering if they will catch up with me. It’s in a similar place that Moses encountered God in a profound way that I’ve missed in reading that story for some time.

In Exodus 3.10-11 God calls Moses into a redemptive liberation mission of the oppressed Israelites. Moses, in turn responds in a way I can relate to greatly. He’s anxious. He lacks confidence. He messed up, doesn’t measure up, and is limited.

But the story doesn’t end with Moses’ anxiety. And it doesn’t continue with a self-help course on how to get the confidence-you-need-to-liberate-the-oppressed. He gets something profoundly more than that.

14 Eternal One: I AM WHO I AM. This is what you should tell the people of Israel: “I AM has sent me to rescue you.

Exodus 3.14, The Voice

God’s response to Moses’ anxiety was not affirmation, nor was it an action plan for success or steps to overcoming is weakness. Gods response was his name, the most epic profound name for God listed in scripture. When you read the Hebrew of what is being said here God is essentially telling Moses my name is “I Will Be What I Will Be”.

Unpacking this meaning we find the essence of what he his saying is:

[that the God that] exists by himself for himself, and is the uncreated Creator who is independent of any concept, force, or entity; therefore “I am who I am” (ongoing).

[Source]

This was an unlock for me. It was subtle but it was huge.

After some weeks working through struggles with anxiousness, I realized a driver to this struggle was connected to how I viewed God—not ideological or philosophical perceptions, but what I believe about God, what I believe God is and how I believe God is active in my life. (I’ll be writing more on this later.)

What I’m doing with this now is when I seem anxious I think about God. The goodness of I AM. I think about how the uncreated Creator, independent of concept, force, entity, God of gave us the gift of the cross. Try it. When things get hard or stressful or you are tired of feeling anxious. Slow down and ask yourself, “Who is God?”

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I Sucked This Week.

This week, I sucked. I’m going to own it, I may even make a t-shirt.

But first, let me say this. I love my job and work with some pretty amazing people. We get to do some pretty amazing things, many of them people aren’t aware of.

That being said, I still sucked this week. Sure, it’s been an intense couple of weeks, and I’ve fumbled a few times. I’ve learned fumbles and failures are learning opportunities and places to experience grace, so these fumbles and failures are not why I’m claiming ‘I sucked’. It wasn’t a realization during the constant movement of my week, amidst challenges, or during failures.

This realization happened at our regular staff meeting—this week, led by our children’s team. It was an awesome time and it’s worth contemplating on the connection to something Jesus said once about kids. That aside, let me share with you what happened and how it landed with me.

We gathered for our meeting in one of our kids spaces, and were informed our meeting that day would consist of us walking through one of the activities our kids experience. We covered some minor business issues and then put our devices away. One of the kids team members shared this poem; a beautiful convicting poem: 

Slow Me Down, Lord

Slow me down, Lord

Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.

Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.

Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.

Teach me the art of taking minute vacations, of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.

Slow me down, Lord and inspire me to send my roots into the soil of life’s enduring values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.

— Author Unknown

We then went into a story telling area and participated in a story; then shared what we loved about the story and what we loved about the person sitting next to us. It was so great. It really made me want to be a kid again. 

Afterwards walking back to the office area, I realized where I really had missed the mark recently, and to be honest, probably not just this week.

I realized that I’m running so fast, I’m not connecting. 

I’m not connecting with others, with the Divine, or the world around me. I’m just moving. In all of my hurried efforts to ‘work the garden’, I’m missing the beauty around me. Ouch. 

I am grateful for the reminder. A beautiful blend of death to my ego and a love filled grace.

I have been amazed that as I’ve tried to find a rhythm that allows me to connect more with the world around me stress and frustrations seem to fall off. Difficult situations are easier to walk through, and I’m smiling more. I’m not to where I want to be yet, but it’s a journey and I’m grateful for the road I’m on.

 I don’t want to go on about it, but I will say, it’s a beautiful world. Consider this an invitation to join me in enjoying it.

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Seeds

Plant-the-seed.jpg

There is an unchangeable truth to gardening, something has to die. You can’t grow anything until another thing goes into the ground, dies and transforms into a plant that yields a crop. As I continue exploring my theme for the year, and work to show up well for those around me, I find that to love others well, something as scripture outlines, has to die.   

John 12.24-26, The Voice
24 I tell you the truth: unless a grain of wheat is planted in the ground and dies, it remains a solitary seed. But when it is planted, it produces in death a great harvest. 25 The one who loves this life will lose it, and the one who despises it in this world will have life forevermore. 26 Anyone who serves Me must follow My path; anyone who serves Me will want to be where I am, and he will be honored by the Father. 

Phil 2.5-8, The Voice
5 In other words, adopt the mind-set of Jesus the Anointed. Live with His attitude in your hearts. Remember:
6 Though He was in the form of God,
He chose not to cling to equality with God;
7 But He poured Himself out to fill a vessel brand new;
a servant in form
and a man indeed.
The very likeness of humanity,”
“8 He humbled Himself,
obedient to death—
a merciless death on the cross!

 These are not unfamiliar passages of scripture. I’ve read both numerous times, each time a unique but familiar look at the theme of self-sacrifice. Upon first reflection of either passage a general reaction may be, “What has to die?” Or at least that was the question I asked myself. Is it ambition? Pride? Objects? Personal idols? As I continued to think on it and ask questions, the answer became clearer and was much deeper than I initially thought. 

 The seed is not any single object, person, ambition, idol or matter. It’s more and all of these at the same time. It’s my identity. I love how the author Madeleine L’Engle articulates this idea:

We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we think we are, to be who He - not we - made.

—Madeleine L'Engle

That ‘me’ that I made, the false me; the me that is not centered as God’s beloved but the ‘me’ I created is what is called to die. For many years this identity was one of inflated importance and confidence; ego boosted by talent, ability and success. Eventually, that identity fell apart and instead of being open to letting the identity die, I tried to cobble together a new identity cloaked in a false vulnerability and probable over-sharing of brokenness.

It’s worth stating I believe in the importance in sharing our brokenness and struggles with one another, it’s huge. But we should do this in healthy contexts and know that our brokenness and struggles do not define us, nor is it our ego and self-made identities, but it is our finding a new life through the death of the false self, and a life as our true selves, God’s beloved.

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Show Up Well: The Gardener

Last week I started blogging regarding a life theme I’ll be exploring in the upcoming year. For easy review I’ve included the section for further discussion in this post:

Part of who I am, in my core is to bring beautiful things into this world. Not specifically as an artist or creator but likened to a gardener.  Cultivating. Tending. Protecting. Loving. Toiling away until something I did not create blooms and I get to share in the awe of it all. 

 In times past, I’ve approached the start of a new year with goals, ideas, growth, and the like; mostly adding up to a list of behavior modifications attempting to control and change my life, not bad things, just not always effective. As I have continued to reflect on the imagery of the garden and gardener, it has been helpful not only to reach goals, etc. but to have an understanding of moments, events and seasons that I am walking through. 

Lately, I liken my life to the breaking of ground, the excavation of fertile soil.  And as these times should, they push me to a place of solitude and prayer. A recent Sunday, amidst a time of prayer I began to wonder, “Are moments of anxiety, stress or frustrations because my efforts are being misdirected?” Could my concerns be more about accomplishment and results then a life lived keeping God in the center? Should my life ‘as a gardener’ include more trusting and patience as I waiting for bloom?

Interesting enough, this was a quote shared at church later that day:

“Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees That half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees” 

— Rudyard Kipling

And that’s it. A shift in understanding, a transformation of how I prioritize and how I view laboring. Sure I can get results, I get things done. That’s what I do. I work with teams to make ideas become reality, and I love it. But at the end of the day, results and check marks are all it will ever deliver.

Results aren’t evil, but they don’t guarantee peace. They don’t always bring joy, or love; the things that we really long to have in life. Results can’t deliver on a false promise, what we hope to receive, the Fruit of the Spirit [Gal 5.22-23], only comes from living in the Spirit. And this is how I hope to reorient each day, life in the Spirit, and intentionality to include spiritual disciplines in my daily life. 

To be honest, I’m still working on consistency in spiritual disciplines each day, but what I have noticed, is that as I make time for them, my attitude and emotional health have become independent of the events of a day. Sure I have my moments, and some days the results take effort, but my days end more with gratitude and joy then exhaustion and a sense of defeat.

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Show Up Well

sr-sunshots-bw-p1.jpg

I recently had coffee with a good friend and the time was a gift. Filled with catching up, expressing ideas, encouragement, challenging each other and sharing of our New Year themes (or resolutions) for the upcoming year. The conversation inspired me to express my theme(s) for the year, and a commitment to unpacking my thoughts and sharing my experiences living out my theme this year. 

The theme: Show Up Well.

What does it mean to Show Up Well? I believe it’s two fold; first, it is a strong understanding and discovering of who we are, and then living out as that person — a sharing of that self.  

I rediscovered a quote recently  I felt expressed this idea well for me:

“Find the real world inside yourself, give it endlessly away, grow rich flinging gold and truth to all who ask. Live at the empty heart of paradox. I'll dance there with you - cheek to cheek.”
        — Rumi

This is beautiful and challenging; it’s beautiful because I believe it is a calling into freedom to be who we truly are. It’s challenging because it’s a call to express our most vulnerable identity, our true self. 

I understand that to live out who we truly are is not always easy, and quite frankly can be scary. But it’s not how I believe we are created to live. I believe that we’re made to shine. We are light (Matt 5.14-16) and we are called to shine. Light shows up.

So what exactly does it mean for me to show up? In the concluding days of 2013, amidst a weekend full of work and beauty; I ended the day writing an expression of my true self. I later added six guiding principles that I have committed to live by, both are listed below (my hope is to write on each principle through out the year).

Part of who I am, in my core is to bring beautiful things into this world. Not specifically as an artist or creator but likened to a gardener.  Cultivating. Tending. Protecting. Loving. Toiling away until something I did not create blooms and I get to share in the awe of it all. 

I strive to live by:

Simplicity
Gratitude
Sharing
Honesty
Stewardship
Vulnerability

Take some time to reflect and listen. Then try to express in words who you are, capture it, and then Show Up in life as that person in community. Additionally, connect five or six principles to help guide you along the way.

Grateful to share the journey with you all. 

peace + love
- asher

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idols

Idolatry is a topic that seems to be seldom discussed; and to be honest, I have no definitive answer on why. My speculative guess is because we think that it's an archaic subject or that only self-righteous fundamentalists talk about idolatry and idols have little room in post-modern world view. Or could it be our idols are harder to identify, because we simply just don't understand what idolatry is?

Amidst identifying what some of my idols are (more on that later), I realized that my understanding of idolatry was lacking gratefully, I happened upon a practicable definition of idolatry, from Tim Keller:

"...there is something besides Jesus Christ that we feel we must have to be happy, something that is more important to our heart than God, something that is enslaving our heart through inordinate desires. The key to change (and even to self-understanding) is therefore to identify the idols of the heart.”
— Tim Keller, The Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything, Study Guide

In one of Tim Keller's talks, he refers to idols as something that holds a promise, that it can not keep. C.S. Lewis articulates this well in his book Mere Christianity:

Most people, if they have really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we have grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality.“

            — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Idols. Things in my life that I have allowed to make a promise that it can not keep.

As mentioned earlier, this was amidst realizing that relationships, specifically closer, more intimate friendships, and validation through marriage or at least a romantic relationship have been idols in my life for quite some time.

For my friendships, this has always manifested itself in times of anxiousness; I become clingy, sometimes needy. Needing my friends to save me in ways they can not, nor fair to expect them to. It should be noted that I’m not encouraging isolation. The reality is we need each other, we are made to live in community, however this is community with in the context of Jesus as the center.

As for marriage or the “need to be married” as an idol I realized that amidst a variety of factors, ranging from church background to popular culture to my own brokenness, marriage was to provide validation and fulfill a longing to ‘be enough’. Marriage is a beautiful wonderful thing, and I believe in marriage, however it can not fulfill the desire I was craving.

The revelation of these idols was liberating and as I have continued this journey, I have never felt freedom like I have.

Being open and exploring areas of our lives that may have become idols is not easy, but it is important, as I have come to understand the our idols reveal our longings. As we deconstruct the idols in our lives a pertinent question may be, What am I truly longing for?

And with in the answer is good news. I believe we long for a Liberating King, and His kingdom. For the world to be made right. For heaven to come to Earth. Wholeness.

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good byes and new adventures

After nearly two and a half years with Apple retail, I worked my last day with the company and said many good byes to so many good people. During my career with the company I have had many beautiful opportunities, grown in so many ways and now look forward to a new part of my journey.

To say it was easy to say good by would be a lie. It was a mixture of both mourning the time, but also grateful to see the lives I was able to connect and impact my time there. Many, I've trained from their first day and participated in their growth to champions in the store.

The new chapter in my life will be stepping back into a role in ministry. I'm looking forward to the new opportunities, the new challenges, the new growth, and by Gods grace, making a difference in others lives.

I left this quote with the team, and an invitation to always chose to step into the arena.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

— Theodore Roosevelt

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