Author Archives: Brook Fonceca

Exhale

A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to go to a contemplative prayer retreat. It was only six hours on a Saturday, but it was more refreshing than I could have anticipated.

 

Throughout the day, we would listen to passages of Scripture, excerpts from books, or pieces of music and then reflect on them and write down and/or share our thoughts. It was a wonderful exercise in which we were able to interact with a presentation within community and find correlations and applications. It was a rewarding experience.

 

Late in the morning, my friend, Josh Pinkston, shared a song he wrote, which was very personal and quite moving. The last word of the song captured me, “exhale.” After the song we shared a moment of silent reflection. In that moment I realized that I had been, both literally and figuratively, holding my breath.

 

In my anxiety and stress, in my desire for control and consistency, in the busy-ness of my station in life, I was holding my breath. We all know what that’s like. There are times when we feel like we just can’t let go or let down for fear that all come to a crashing end.

 

I was there. Then I felt God’s whisper, “Exhale.” I did.

 

I cannot fully express the subsequent experience. It was like a deep sigh of relief, a resignation to what is, and the sensation of hope that comes rushing in on the inhale. It was also all I could do to hold back sobs as I was sitting silently in a circle of people, most of whom I just met. But, though my exhale, God was able to bring resuscitation and relief.

 

Following this experience, we were encouraged to take a short walk to reflect on the morning’s readings and songs. As we did, God showed me a picture, and through it, how close God is to us.

 

God’s whisper is his life-giving Spirit. We inhale and then exhale God to God. He inhales and is affected. In God’s care for us he exhales his life-giving, life-saving Spirit back to us. Even though God is transcendent (over and above all), he is also immanent (up close and personal). God is not static. God’s affections for us are such that he is deeply invested in us. God is the one in whom “live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) God even cares about our very breath. Jesus is testimony to that.

 

I share all that to encourage you this, find a moment in which you can sit quite before God and exhale. Let go of what ever it is you need to let go of, and let God’s Spirit bring you the life and grace you need to take the next breath and move on. God is all that for us, and more.

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

The Gospel as Sunset: Embracing a New Perspective

Today, I would like to share a perspective of the gospel I read about recently. It is from the book Neighbors and Wise Men (p. 171-173). The author, Tony Kriz, tells of his experience of sharing the gospel. Having grown up in the church, he learned to share the good news of Jesus like one would share a piece of chocolate cake with a friend. We possess the piece of cake and are responsible for getting the cake into their hands. Tony later experienced sharing the gospel as one would share a sunset with a friend. Like the sunset, we don’t own the gospel, just like we don’t own God. The good news of Jesus is openly accessible and can be experienced in a variety of ways. Most importantly, it is a shoulder-to-shoulder experience, instead of a face-to-face transaction. It is something we get to experience with our family and friends, and each time is brand new, unique, and vitally alive. 

For me, this perspective reminds me that the gospel is not something we take with us and must ensure its preservation. These gospel moments change us, and that is what we carry with us. As we share these “sunsets” with others, we continue to be changed and invite others to do the same.
The most important aspect of this for me is that it dismantles the “us and them” perspective, “I have something you don’t have.” Rather, it opens up the opportunity to share in an experience that is greater than ourselves. Just as God’s love is unfathomable, so it is with the gospel. It just can’t be contained.
I pray that during the Easter weekend, we get to share a few sunsets with family and friends.
Grace and peace,
Brook

 

Embracing Mission: It May Not Be What We Originally Thought It Was

I nearly gave up on mission. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I was crazy for missions. I would evangelize on the street corners of my home town. I would jump at any chance to take a trip somewhere in the world to share the gospel. I thought I had found my life’s calling. That was until at 24 years old, God told me, “I want you to stay home for a while,” meaning serve in the local church rather than out “on the field” somewhere. That was 18 years ago. I was happy to obey and continued to have a deep passion for missions. But, somewhere along the line, my passion faded, my vision narrowed, and dare I say, my heart hardened.

 

Over the last few years I have realized that my view of mission was too small. I had believed that mission was something that God had assigned for the church to do along with other things like teaching, worship, prayer, etc. My main view of mission was “getting people into church.” I didn’t realize until lately that mission is something that God is up to and is bigger than the church. The church gets to participate in the mission of God, which is reconciling the world to God through Christ.

 

When mission is viewed as something the church does, then the church dictates the strategy, the outcome, and the goal, which generally means filling seats on Sunday morning. If mission is viewed as something God does, then it is something beyond the church. God is then given the freedom to accomplish it on God’s terms, with the strategy, outcome, and goal finding its fulfillment in the reconciliation of the world.

 

What this means to me on a practical note is that mission can happen anywhere, any time, with anyone who loves God by loving others. This takes mission to a whole new level with ever expanding horizons. I am excited about mission again!

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

Embracing Trust, Part 2: On Recognizing the Presence of God

I just finished reading an excellent book by Josh Pinkston titled, A Gentle Whisper. It’s a meditation on 1 Kings 19:11-12 in which Elijah the Prophet is called to climb a mountain and wait for God’s presence to pass by. While waiting, he experiences a powerful wind, an earthquake, and a raging fire. Of all these things, Elijah said, “The Lord was not in them.” Lastly, after all these experiences, came a gentle whisper.

Through Josh’s book I was reminded that God is not the source of these calamities, nor is God represented by them. Rather, God is with us as we experience them and with us as we await his revelation. It is in these times, especially, that we must trust God. We must recognize that God’s presence is relational, not destructive, that God’s gentle whisper is both toward us and within us and is the source of life, life abundant.

 

It is not to say that these experiences won’t or shouldn’t affect you, because they will. They affected Elijah. But, even as these experiences are painful, they afford you the opportunity to plumb the depths of your trust in God, discovering that God’s presence is ever with you, holding you, healing you, and leading you on.

 

I know, “easier said than done.” As I read this book, I was deeply challenged to trust God in the events that I experience as wind, earthquake, and fire. Sometimes it is really hard. But I find that in the moments when I confess that I have nothing left to trust God with, God is already there as a gentle whisper. I am not alone.

 

I pray that wherever you are in your walk with God, that you too would know God’s presence as a gentle whisper.

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

Embracing Trust: On Making Our Faith Relational

I read a blog post this morning titled, Why I Don’t Believe In God Anymore. The title is potentially inflammatory, but it piqued my interest, nonetheless. The main thing I took from it is that beliefs are not relational, trust is. Do we believe in God or do we trust him?

 

I chatted with a friend over breakfast about this. His response was that the Pharisees had all the right beliefs in place, yet they didn’t trust God. They trusted in what they believed about God. Through Jesus, God was in their midst, yet they couldn’t see it, because Jesus didn’t line up neatly with their belief system.

 

Please know that I am “looking in the mirror” as I write this. The author of the blog laid down this challenge, “Try it. Which is harder to say? I believe in God or I trust God?” The religionist in me is grasping to believe in the right things. But, there is a part in me that longs to trust God. Trust God by actually following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Trust God by actually loving my neighbor. Trust God by actually being Jesus in my world. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

 

May our love for Jesus lead us beyond simply believing the right things to a place of truly trusting God.

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

Embracing Trust: On Making Our Faith Relational

I read a blog post this morning titled, Why I Don’t Believe In God Anymore. The title is potentially inflammatory, but it piqued my interest, nonetheless. The main thing I took from it is that beliefs are not relational, trust is. Do we believe in God or do we trust him?

 

I chatted with a friend over breakfast about this. His response was that the Pharisees had all the right beliefs in place, yet they didn’t trust God. They trusted in what they believed about God. Through Jesus, God was in their midst, yet they couldn’t see it, because Jesus didn’t line up neatly with their belief system.

 

Please know that I am “looking in the mirror” as I write this. The author of the blog laid down this challenge, “Try it. Which is harder to say? I believe in God or I trust God?” The religionist in me is grasping to believe in the right things. But, there is a part in me that longs to trust God. Trust God by actually following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Trust God by actually loving my neighbor. Trust God by actually being Jesus in my world. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

 

May our love for Jesus lead us beyond simply believing the right things to a place of truly trusting God.

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

Embracing Diversity: On Becoming Us

There is a great paradox in this life. We are all the same, and we are not all the same. This realization came out in the conversation following the talk I gave last Sunday at VLC. We were exploring the “us and them” perspective and came to the understanding that when I see someone as a them it’s generally because there is some junk in my life I need to deal with. This junk makes me want to build a wall between me and the other person. If I allow God to help me work through this junk so that I can see the other person for who they are then then this person can become an us to me.


Diversity and difference are two sides of the same coin. Diversity includes. Difference excludes. Diversity allows for a multiplicity of voices and perspectives. Difference only allows the voices and perspectives that align with the dominant view of the greater whole.


In his letters the Apostle Paul spends a significant amount of energy helping the churches to work through this paradox, (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Colossians 3:12-17Ephesians 2:11-22; this is not exhaustive) especially as grew and spread across the known world. What I take from this is that we are to develop diversity, by working through our junk, within the household of faith so that we can offer more points of access into the family of faith.


Grace and peace,
Brook

Embracing Us, Because There Is No Them: Audio Version

This is a talk I gave at Valley Life Center Foursquare Church on Sunday, February 17, 2013. I address what I call the “us and them” perspective and the implications past and present of holding such a perspective. There is a lively dialogue that follows the talk. Enjoy!

Embracing Community: Ubuntu

A friend emailed me this message below, which, as it turns out, was a Facebook post. Even though I cannot qualify the validity of the story, the concept is, nonetheless, of value for those wanting to follow Jesus.

 

An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that as one could have had all the fruits for himself they said: ”UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”

‘UBUNTU’ in the Xhosa culture means: “I am because we are.”

 

Ubuntu

The example of love from Scripture is that of Jesus laying down his life for the salvation of humanity. I recently heard a definition of love as an action. “I’ll act for your highest good, regardless of myself.” In our altruistic, binary, either/or culture, this definition makes sense. But, I think we can learn a thing or two from our African brothers.

 

Ubuntu. I am because we are.

 

Jesus told us to love our neighbor as our selves. Maybe we should act for the highest good of my neighbor as I would want to be loved. Instead trying to divorce ourselves from the equation of love (which is impossible), let’s make it an integrated action, elevating our neighbor to the level in which we want to be loved. In a sense, both Jesus and the concept of ubuntu combat extreme selfishness and selflessness. Loving our neighbor as ourself can only take place in a community whose basis is mutuality, respect, and love. I am because we are, and we are because Christ is. May our love continue to grow as we follow in the ways of Jesus.

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

Embracing Weakness: A Pathway to Realizing Strength

Here’s a simple principle. Not easy, but simple. If we understand our areas of weakness, then we can partner with those who have complimentary strengths. Since we can’t do it all, much more could be accomplished if we share the load.

 

This reminds me of what Jesus said,

“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. Im gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

 

This is the beauty of the body of Christ. We often find that when we seek to put on Jesus’ yoke, we find ourselves partnered with someone who is our compliment. We can’t do it all on our own, but embracing our weakness creates space for collaborating with others.

 

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their hard work. If either should fall, one can pick up the other. But how miserable are those who fall and don’t have a companion to help them up! Also, if two lie down together, they can stay warm. But how can anyone stay warm alone? Also, one can be overpowered, but two together can put up resistance. A three-ply cord doesn’t easily snap.

(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

 

Like I said, in principle it is simple, in reality not so easy, but totally worth the effort.

 

Grace and peace,

Brook