Thoughts on Returning

I am back home.

At least, that is the way most of us describe coming back to the place we grew up, the area we explored during our younger, more exploratory days. I point out different things to my wife, telling her what happened here, who I met there, or why that thing is new and therefore inherently interesting. She politely smiles, nods, and says "that's cool" a few times. I wax eloquent on the comparisons between my old "home" and my new "home". I laugh with my wife at the way everything here, especially at Grandma's house, is made for those 5'7" and under. We are both much taller.

But home isn't as much about the place, as it is about the people. It is about visiting and playing an impromptu house show for mom and sister and aunts and uncles, playing everything from Christmas songs to praise songs, even throwing in songs I wrote and a Pink Floyd song I enjoy covering (for Uncle Bobby, and you can hear it below from a few months ago on YouTube). All of these on my grandpa's old Jasmine guitar.

It is about visiting old friends, who all seem to be married with new, cute babies. Thank you, Daniel and Monica (Her blog is pretty legit), for standing strong with us (probably the only cousins we'd choose to be friends with even if not related)! It is about being frustrated with my baby sister and her first choices as an adult seeming kinda... well... childish (I never, ever was like that... ever... stop laughing). It is about my mom always plugging away, never having an ideal situation, and yet always thriving more than you could ever imagine. I am crazy proud of her.

It is about my friend Steve and his South Texas Christianity, and his complete aversion to dancing and "secular" music. Nuance is sometimes lost on him, but what he lacks in nuance he makes up for with an unmatched zeal for seeing lives changed and souls saved by Christ. That man is bringing a whole lot of people to the party with him when the saints go marching in.

It is a time when there is so much tumult in my own personal life and my professional life, when only my church and my wife seem to be steadfast (and I am thankful for them both). It is a time where every turn brings a new reflection; a new consideration of where I was, where I am, and where I will be. With each turn, I remember where God was faithful, and where he brought me closer to who I was meant to be, out of the mess of who I was. With each day here, I realize that God will be God wherever I am, whatever I am doing.

I am a natural worrier. God is making it really hard to worry. Bobby McFerrin would be proud. This return home is just what I needed. Thanks, Corpus Christi (and Mathis, and Kingsville, and Beeville), for being who you are and reminding me to...

The Longing

We were created with a longing for our Creator.

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. The best gift a perfect God could give us would be himself (followed closely by a MacBook Pro). Creation begins with us willingly choosing to fulfill that longing with God and His command, and we are perfectly fulfilled.

It has always been the Devil's job to entice us with lesser attempts at filling that longing, and to make us mistake rebellion for independence. His success in deception, and our short-sighted attempts at self-actualization, have led to this moment you stand in.

This longing you have will only be fully satisfied by your fully sufficient Savior; the God that you do not get to define, and yet the God who is everything you need.

That woman or man, that job or degree, that award or notoriety... it will only be temporary, and it will invariably fall short of what we long for. All of it is useless in our hands, unless we are in God's hands.

Do you feel the longing?


Sometimes I look at everything I have set out to do, and I doubt. I doubt the calling, and I suppose that means I doubt the God who calls. I don't mean to, but it just feels like quite a bit that I am taking on. I work full-time, lead worship and youth, do grad school online, try to be a good husband and friend, and I'm trying to find some time to be able to get healthier. I don't know why tonight is one of those nights...

When the great men of God had any sort of doubt, it seems God himself would come and remind them of who He is, and who He created them to be. I am not saying I am a great man by any means... but I could sure use a visit right about now.

Then again, it could happen, and I could totally bug out like Isaiah. That would probably be me.

Do you ever doubt yourself and your calling?

My music room (so far)

This is without the keyboard, and with the drums in the closet. I've always wanted to have a music room!

Blessings and Curses

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
-James 3:10

Words are powerful. With simple words, I have been taken to the brink of destruction, and I have seen the edge of my sanity. With a few precious words, I've been brought back from the brink and picked up from the ground. I have seen and known the power of words.

I can't trust myself. My own words are often so reckless. I find myself controlled by forces within me that mean nothing but harm, forces that see pain as a means to an end. It is a constant bubbling spring within me. I want it gone.

There is no point to causing pain with our words. There is no benefit from the pain of others. My spirit wants to do good. Christ in me wants to be love, and wants love to be my defining characteristic. This cannot happen with the internal treachery brought about by my lack of self-control.

All of this to say, I need to have better control of my words.

It's Not About Me

I have been struggling to get my mind around this concept. I find myself unsatisfied with life events and areas of struggle. My selfish theology wants to question God, to ask why this or that couldn't just be a little different, a little (or a lot) better.

But as it turns out, He is already making all things work together for our good. Our good is not necessarily a painless existence. Sometimes there is growth or empathy, or merely experience, that we will require in order to live out our purpose.

The fact is, we do not live for our enjoyment, but rather for His glory. Only when we realize this truth, will we experience true fulfillment and joy.

This all seems basic, but for some reason it just gets more and more profound. And harder to just "do".

Harmony and Worship

What if there was no jealousy? What if our humility allowed us to look out for others before ourselves? What if our love for our families were strong enough to make even the very thought of impropriety abhorrent? What if we spoke in love and acted in grace and worshiped in unity?

God tells us that this is not only possible, but necessary to truly worship God as a community. Invariably, every church falls short in this matter. What if we weren't satisfied with that?

What if our passion for God were greater than our desire for acceptance, or attention, or status? What if our spirits were satisfied with nothing less than God's vision for the church?

My spirit is discontent. I know I've fallen short in this. I feel like we are missing out. I feel like there can be so much more to our worship, and so much more beauty in our fellowship. If you feel like me, let's be radically peaceful this Sunday, and resolve to act in love and reconciliation.

It would make Mama proud :-). At least, I know my mom would be proud.

Freedom is Foolishness

In freedom, you don't know what you need to do to feel good. You don't know who to impress in order to get what you want. Freedom is foolishness.

In freedom, you aren't kept in one place. You are liable to be in different places each day, experiencing new and dangerous things. They call it adventure, but you know better. Freedom is foolishness.

In freedom, you trade what you've always known for the promise of something better. When is the last time you ate or slept in a promise? Freedom is foolishness.

Our hearts know this isn't true. Our spirits long for freedom. It is merely our survival instinct that makes us afraid of the unknowns of freedom. This is no small thing.

This is the reason the Bible tells us to die to ourselves. We need to give ourselves up to the unknowns of freedom, trusting the one thing we do know... a God who uses the foolish to confound the wise.

Difficulty and Distance

The hardest part of love is selflessness. It is in our nature to expect reciprocation and response. That is not love. That is a transaction.

It doesn’t mean that this reality doesn’t tear at our hearts. When we love someone, and they do not act toward us in a loving way (especially when we ourselves have expended effort of mind, body, and/or spirit), we are hurt. We do not have the capacity to be impervious to each other… even the callous are simply in a perpetual deadened state, trading in the sharp pains of imperfect love for the dull ache of ignored longings.

So why do we hurt so much when we attempt to love? Why is love, by nature, a selfless act… when selflessness is so very difficult?

Real love is impossible without trust in God. Perfect love casts away fear, because the beloved does not worry that their actions will cause the lover to stop loving. Perfect love is based on the Eternal, trusting God to be all-sufficient, and needing nothing from the beloved. This allows every moment of love to be perceived as a beautiful gift, rather than a rightful obligation.

This is the love we should strive to have for each other. However, it is easy to say and incredibly hard to accomplish, because our hearts are not yet fully alive. The closer we are to the Savior, the more in step we are with the Spirit, and the closer we will be to this beautiful love. Our difficulty lies in our distance from God.

Two Voices

Verse 1:

Wandering through the darkness

My eyes are still used to the light

Disoriented and discontent

I wish I had an escape somewhere in sight


I hear two voices, they’re ringing out

They’re saying two different things

One says I’m dead, one I’m justified

But both still say “follow me”



They’re ringing

Through the night, through the sky

O they’re ringing

And it’s all I hear


I need a transformation

A renewing of my mind

So I can know

which voice is Yours


Verse 2:

One says I should have known otherwise

There’s no escape from darkness or pain

So come and live for the short release

It carries you till you hurt again


The other tells me there’s something more

And speaks of a light that I cannot see

But even if a brighter place could be found

What would I do with all the darkness in me?



They’re ringing

Through the night, through the sky

O they’re ringing

And it’s all I hear


I need a transformation

A renewing of my mind

So I can know

which voice is Yours



My heart it aches to believe the light

And leave this heavy darkness behind

With a love louder than my enemies

And a grace that I’ve been longing to find


Ending Chorus:

I need a transformation

A renewing of my mind

So I can follow

Your sweet voice


- Richard Benavides