Turning 40

Two thousand seventeen saw me wave goodbye to my thirties and tentatively step on to the descending side of ‘the hill’.

Sometimes I don’t realize that I just turned 40 a couple of days ago. As I started reflecting on the previous decades of life, my thoughts turned first to my accomplishments – what I have done over the past 4 decades. But I soon began to reflect on the fact that, although I am proud of what I have achieved and where God has brought me, the most important element of this season of my life is thankfulness for all that I’ve experienced and all God has done.

 

Hence, I would like to share my thoughts on 40 reasons I am extremely thankful:

 

  1. God’s love for me
  2. Wonderful parents who taught me about God and Jesus
  3. My country, Brazil, and all the good things it has (despite all the bad ones)
  4. A childhood that I could enjoy a good urban-rural life
  5. Growing up near the beach
  6. My only sister (we used to fight a lot but we’re great friends now)
  7. Wonderful in-laws
  8. My only nephew Pedro
  9. The beautiful state of Colorado where I live now
  10. The beautiful mountains that I look at every day
  11. My wonderful wife
  12. The gift of fatherhood
  13. The gift of being able to take care of my daughter Ava twice a week and experience the joy and challenges of parenting her + teaching her my native language
  14. The gift of having one more daughter on the way (due March 3)
  15. Wonderful extended family (both Brazilian and American family members)
  16. Still having contact with childhood friends
  17. Being part of a men’s vocal group in my 20’s (don’t ask me how that was possible).
  18. The opportunity my parents gave me to have a good education
  19. Studying abroad twice.
  20. Learning different languages and one of them the language of my family background, Italian
  21. Being granted an American citizenship
  22. Working with sustainable agriculture with family farmers in my home country
  23. Visiting different countries and cultures
  24. Visiting where my paternal grandfather was born in rural Portugal
  25. Founding an environmental conservation non-profit organization in my home country
  26. Writing and co-organizing two published award-winning books
  27. Running three 5K races
  28. Serving in various community organizations in Brazil and US
  29. Leading a community garden in my church that also produces its own composting
  30. My home church in Brazil
  31. The church family I belong to in the US
  32. Great mentors in my life
  33. The opportunity to be a mentor for several people in my path
  34. Being part of the School of Kingdom Ministry team
  35. My house
  36. My academic and teaching career
  37. Great co-workers
  38. Working with diversity and inclusiveness at work
  39. Being nominated for the Master Teacher Award for the 2015/16 academic year
  40. The hope and faith I have that my future ahead is full of good surprises

 

 

“I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1

The Future of Our Water Depends on Us

in celebration of world water week!

Paulo R.B. de Brito

Water droplet with the earth in it.

I watched the movie Life of Pi a few weeks ago. The storyline revolves around a 16-year old Indian boy named Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, who survives a shipwreck in which his family dies, and he finds himself stranded in the Pacific ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. I really enjoyed the movie and watching it made me realize how dependent we are on fresh water.

Water is life for us and for our planet. The human body is made up of 60%  water and the human brain of 75%1. Fresh water is one of the most precious resources on Earth. It is essential for basic human needs, health, food production, energy, and maintenance of ecossystems worlwide.2 I wanted to pay homage to this incredible God-given resource as today, March 22, is World Water Day, an internationally recognized day sanctioned by the…

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World Wetlands Day – Hope for a better future

Beasts-of-the-Southern-Wild-33538_3The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece…the whole universe will get busted”.
(Hushpuppy – Beasts of the Southern Wild)
The movie Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) portraits a story of a six-year-old Hushpuppy and her unhealthy, hot-tempered father, Wink, who are optimistic about their life and their future as a storm approaches a southern Louisiana bayou community called the “Bathtub” (a community cut off from the rest of the world by a levee).
It’s interesting that the movie points out that despite the circumstances of the characters, there is still hope. Hope that one day their life and future will be better.
The movie reminded me of the hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hurricane Katrina’s disastrous flooding of the Gulf Coast confirmed three decades of warnings by scientists. Most of New Orleans is below sea level, and South Louisiana’s coastal wetlands (where the movie takes place), which once helped buffer the city from giant storms, have been disappearing at a spectacularly fast pace.
One of the causes of Katrina’s catastrophe was wetland loss. An average of 34 square miles of South Louisiana land, mostly marsh, has disappeared each year for the past five decades, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). As much as 80% of the nation’s coastal wetland loss in this time occurred in Louisiana. From 1932 to 2000, the state lost 1,900 square miles of land to the Gulf of Mexico. By 2050, if nothing is done to stop this process, the state could lose another 700 square miles, and one-third of 1930s coastal Louisiana will have vanished. Importantly, New Orleans and surrounding areas will become ever more vulnerable to future storms. Craig E. Colten, a geographer at Louisiana State University (LSU) (1), on a report about Louisiana’s wetlands once said:
New Orleans can’t be restored unless we also address coastal and wetland restoration too.”
Another cause was building and maintaining levees and dams along the Mississippi River also leading to wetland loss. Another geographically widespread cause was voracious grazing by nutria, a nonnative species, which destroyed wetland vegetation (1).
Lastly, but not least important, activities by the oil and gas industry is another cause. Peaking during the 1960s through the 1980s, oil and gas companies dredged canals for exploration. There are currently 10 major navigation canals and 9,300 miles of pipelines in coastal Louisiana serving about 50,000 oil and gas production facilities. These canals, which are perpendicular to the coast, have created new open water areas, drowning wetlands and allowing salt-water intrusion into freshwater ecosystems. The result—land loss hot spots.
Further land loss would also endanger oil and gas facilities, the huge port complex, and the gulf’s valuable fishing industry. South Louisiana’s wetlands are critical nursery areas for commercially important marine species, including shrimp, blue crabs, oysters, redfish, and menhaden.
In the last few years some researchers have been calling for restoration of wetlands and barrier islands to help protect New Orleans the next time a hurricane strikes.
So why are wetlands important?
Wetlands are essential for humans to live and prosper. They provide freshwater and ensure our food supply. They help sustain the wide variety of life on our planet, protect our coastlines, provide natural sponges against river flooding, and store carbon dioxide to regulate climate change.
If the wetlands in the state of Louisiana were protected, Katrina would have had a different impact. It has taken a major hurricane to show the nation that it’s necessary to rebuild the wetlands and barrier islands of Louisiana.
The goods news is that 10 years later after Katrina (last August of 2015), efforts have been taken to address those issues. Wetlands restoration projects have been in the agenda (2).
I hope that one day all wetlands around the world can be restored with the same hope the six-year-old Hushpuppy had in the movie about her life and future even in the face of storm. The hope that the Bible in Romans 8:19-22 that “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but  because of him who subjected it, in hope that  the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
If you want to find out more about wetlands and how to help, see further information at http://www.worldwetlandsday.org

Notes:

(1) Tibbetts, J. (2006). Louisiana’s wetlands: A lesson in nature appreciation. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(1), A40.(2)http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/10-years-after-katrina-louisiana-is-becoming-a-model-for-climate-resilience_55d53afee4b07addcb4586aa

It’s time for Jesus to “steal” Christmas back!

grinch

It’s that time of year again. December has come and with it all the joys of Christmas. The gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, special dinners with family and friends, snow in the yard, stockings hanging in the living room, and shouts of “Merry Christmas” to those who pass us in the streets! I love all of this, but, is this really Christmas?

We live in cultural settings. Every culture has a worldview. Worldview is a set of presuppositions (or assumptions) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic makeup of our world(2). It is passed on from generation to generation with minimal change, the assumptions rarely being reviewed or revised.

The American culture is influenced by several worldviews. One of them is the Western worldview, a view characterized of materialism, rationalism, scientific naturalism, and postmodernism (1)(3). It seems that all those worldviews have stolen the real meaning of what Christmas is.. which reminds me of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss. In the story, the Grinch is a grouchy, solitary creature who attempts to put an end to Christmas by stealing Christmas-themed items from the homes of the nearby town Whoville on Christmas Eve. The same occurs in America, all those cultural influences tries to steal the actual meaning of this special day make it a day that is all about going shopping, presents, and Santa Claus.

However, what is Christmas all about?

The true meaning is that it’s the day we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born. His birth brought great joy to the world. Shepherds, wise men, and angels all shared in the excitement of knowing about this great event. They knew this was no ordinary baby. The prophets had told of His coming hundreds of years before. The star stopped over Bethlehem just to mark the way for those who were looking for this special child (Luke 2:4-19).

This special child (Jesus) was sent by God to us so that one day, He would grow up to become a very important part of history. His story (history) is one of truth, love, and hope. It brought salvation to all of us. Without Jesus, we would all die in our sins.

Jesus was born so one day the price could be paid for the things we have done that are wrong. The Bible says that all have sinned. We are all born with a sin nature. We need to have that removed. The only way is through Jesus. Jesus came so He could die on the cross for ALL of our sins. If we believe that Jesus died for our sins, we can ask Him to come into our hearts and forgive us. Then, we are clean and made whole.

Jesus Is The Reason For This Season! So I hope that during this time we “steal” Christmas back to where it belongs. As in Dr. Seuss’ book, despite Grinch’s efforts, Whoville’s inhabitants still celebrate the holiday, so the Grinch returns everything that he stole and is the guest of honor at the Whos’ Christmas dinner. In the same way, our society tries to “steal” the place of Jesus on Christmas, but He’s still celebrated by millions of people around the world. Let’s put Jesus back to where He belongs on Christmas Day!

Merry Christmas!

 

References:

1. Putman, Putty (2014). School of Kingdom Ministry First year manual. Coaching Saints Publications.
2. Sire, James (1977). The universe next door. Leicester:IVP.
3. Wimber, John (1985). Power evangelism: signs and wonders today

A God’s story written in the sky

Paulo R.B. de Brito

Untitled

I recently read a book written by a friend of mine called “Stars of Light: the Hidden Message of Redemption”.  The book explains how the twelve constellations of the zodiac actually tell the story of God’s redemption. The author explains that the story is divided into three sets of four constellations; which tell the biblical story of Jesus’ birth and life prophesy, His dealings with His elect people, and His coming in triumph over Satan respectively.

The author, Chris Siegel, writes that the constellation Libra depicts the Easter story; its stars telling us of God’s redemptive plan for us. The word “libra” means scales in Latin and similar meanings are found in many languages and cultures: weighing, or purchase, redemption of some sort, scales of justice, balance.

Within the constellation Libra, there are three main stars that reveal the message of God: The first star, Zuben al Genubi,

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How I Unwrapped the Gift of Fatherhood

“These are the days of miracle and wonder. “

Paul Simon 

 She was in a hurry.

Exactly a year ago today on March 15th, 2014, my wife and I were trying to have a nap on a lazy Saturday afternoon. As we tried to sleep, she started felling some contractions and discomfort. We didn’t make it a big deal because the week before she had gone through some “false labor”. The baby was three days overdue by now, though.

232323232-fp83232-uqcshlukaxroqdfv34667-nu=465---6;-;34-WSNRCG=35;3528;-3344nu0mrj (1)As the minutes turned into over an hour, she started having more intense and painful contractions. After an hour, we started thinking that this could be the day…it was go time.

We had hired a doula for the birth, who had actually been to our house to visit twice that day already. She had instructed us that if the contractions started coming in shorter periods and if my wife got to the point where she could not talk to me anymore when I asked her something, then was the time to call her.

Well, my wife was progressing the contractions were getting faster and stronger for about two hours so I asked her if that was time to call the doula. She wasn’t sure, as it was our first child. As we approached the third hour, I asked one more time if I should call the doula. She said she was not sure but if I were more comfortable calling, I would go ahead and do it. Not knowing how to comfort and help my wife in her pain, I decided to call the doula.

The doula came. After about 10 minutes working with my wife to relieve the contractions’ pain, she started crowning. The doula told me to call 911 because she would probably be unable to make it to the hospital. My wife and I looked at each other like deer in headlights…this was NOT the plan.

As I frantically called 911, I could barely process what was happening. Within about 10 minutes, seven paramedics were in our bedroom, where my wife was now in active labor. The paramedics wanted to put her in the ambulance, but the risk of my daughter be born in the ambulance was high. She was going to be born here at home whether we like it or not! While the doula was helping her prepare for our unplanned home delivery, I was following the paramedics’ instructions to get towels, heat blankets, all while trying not to pass out.

Just as I came upstairs with the warm blankets, I was able to hold my wife’s hand, just minutes before my daughter entered the world. Ava Isabel finally came after just 4 hours of intense labor. Ava was ready to enter the world and could not even wait to get to the hospital! The funny part was calling my mother-in-law from the ambulance to tell her that the three of us were on our way to the hospital. She was with my sister-in-law in the highway.  She almost drove off the road.

Ava came so fast that I even didn’t have time to process everything. I couldn’t even notice I was a father!  Yes, fatherhood was a gift given to me that I didn’t even have time to unwrap!

Ava is truly a gift from God to us. Her name is a variation of Eve. According to the dictionary, it may be from the Latin “avis,” meaning, “bird.” It could also be a short form of the name Chava (“life” or “living one”), the Hebrew form of Eve. Isabel means,”pledged to God” or “consecrated to God”.

We wanted to give our daughter this name because that means a life that is consecrated to God.  That’s what I want to see for her life. I want to see her life set apart for Him. I want her to see and follow God’s specific purposes and unique plans for her life. God knows His purposes and plans for her and I ‘m very excited to see those plans manifest themselves in the upcoming years.

I think part of a father’s job is to let our kids be in God’s hands because we know it’s the best place to be. It’s the act of exercising it every day that is probably the most difficult but also the most rewarding gift we can give our kids.

As my final thoughts for Ava, I pray the words in Matthew 7:11:

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to you children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” 

I love you.

Your father