A Faith Rocked But Not Destroyed

There have been two times in my life where I feel my faith has been the most vulnerable. Twice where I felt that my faith had endured an atomic attack.

The first time happened when I was in my 20s. A beloved pastor and mentor whom I had respected and loved, fell to infidelity. This may not sound like much to some, but to a relatively new Christian, a pastor was someone almost above reproach. You certainly did not expect infidelity to be a struggle for them. At least it wasn’t in my mind. But there it was.

The day my pastor announced the news and asked the church for forgiveness was one of the most emotionally confusing days of my life. I loved my pastor. And of course, I forgave him. But, if he (who was such a godly man) struggled and fell, what hope did I have?

Shortly thereafter I came out as a gay man and the church that I had grown to love kicked me out of the congregation. It truly was a dark and rebellious time for me.

Years later, I came back to the Lord and renewed my walk with Him. Eventually, I  accepted who He made me be.

Christians were not happy.

But then it happened again.

This time, it wasn’t a pastor but rather the Christian community that delivered the groundbreaking blow.

As I witnessed a man who lacked any sense of morality take a stand to run for the presidency of a “Christian nation”, I laughed.

Surely this is a joke. This man just wanted publicity.

But then I saw people rallying behind him.

And those people were “Christians”.

And then this man became the president.

I struggled like I had not struggled ever since that day in that Baptist church. My emotions were laid bare as I witnessed people who had condemned immorality in any form, cast their lots on a man who had no resemblance to anything described as a good leader. Rather this man was prideful, arrogant, sexually immoral, a liar, and the list just went on.

As a person who has been the victim of an untold amount of accusations and doubts concerning my salvation because of my sexual orientation, it blows my mind that these same people can so easily support a man that has blatantly and unequivocally done what the Lord says is wrong.

So, I struggled.

For a while, I was angry because I felt betrayed.

I was angry because I felt so lost…again.

It’s been a year now and I’m not angry, though I have not stepped inside a church.

I don’t think I ever will.

But that does not mean that I have lost my faith. The irony is that in some ways my faith is stronger.

In the midst of everything that has happened, the Lord, I feel, has shown me that people are people. It doesn’t matter what label they brand themselves with or what they look like. At the end of it all, people are people. We are people. And God loves us the same.

I’ve had to learn to separate who Christ is with the label of “Christianity” and take Christ at his own merits. And in Christ, I have placed my trust.

My faith was rocked but not destroyed because my eyes have always looked to the Lord. The whole world could go against Him but my eyes will be on the Lord.

I don’t say that to sound haughty. My eyes are fixed on Him because he’s made that possible. It has nothing to do with me.

Nevertheless, what I have learned is that now more than ever, it’s important to grab hold of Christ. To seek Him and to love Him. Not the religion, but the person.

There is so much rhetoric, dogma, and religious talk that sounds holy. But the gospel is simple, faith in Christ. And that faith draws you to that which is good.

“It doesn’t matter what label they brand themselves with or what they look like. At the end of it all, people are people. We are people. And God loves us the same.”

There are some Christians who see Trump for who he is.

There are some that don’t.

This no longer shocks me.

I feel the Lord is calling us out. These are dark times. Now, more than ever, light must shine.

This light is not ours but the Lord’s. Therefore, if we are not connected to Him, we will always lack the ability to shine it.

Brothers and sisters, let us hold fast unto the Lord so that His light can shine. It needs to shine.

The world has seen the hypocrisy of the churches and has lumped anyone and everyone who dare claim the label “Christian” in the same boat.

The world does not respect Christianity anymore. But why would they when Christianity keeps standing for and doing that which is supposed to stand against:

Pastors of mega-churches are wealthy and greedy.

Pastors are constantly caught in sexual sins

Churches fail to stand up to racial injustice, economic abuse, and migratory hatred

Churches have become angry and political with no hint of love or caring.

And churches have elected a man that is nothing even remotely close to a person that is a moral example.

The world has taken note.

And when one of the few commandments Jesus actually gave us, which was to go out into the world and make disciples, is hindered by these failures, there’s a problem.

Jesus wants people to come to Him, but the church has made that difficult. People can’t see Jesus in church people anymore.


Donald Trump, You Will Not Have My Vote

Politics is scary and it’s rare for me to be in this position. I tend to not be too vocal about my political views. However, this election is different.

At first I thought it was a joke. Donald Trump running for president? What kind of popularity/media antic was this? Surely no one would ever think of taking this guy seriously? After all, his off color tweets, crazy media rants, financial woes, etc more than show his inability to lead a country. Anybody can see that…but boy was I wrong.

As I sit here and write, Trump has won the South Carolina Primary by an overwhelming 32.5%. He’s also won New Hampshire and Nevada. What I previously thought was laughable, has now become a source of concern. This is a candidate that wants people like me out of this country.  This is a candidate that hesitates to denounce a confirmed white supremist activist. This is a candidate that belittles women and minorities. And that’s not even the worst part…not by a long shot.

What saddens me even more is to see the evangelical group seemingly in full support of this man. What I once hoped was a cynical view of religious people has now be proven to be a correct view after all. The church does not care about the world, people, caring for the sick, the poor, the needy.  They don’t care about preaching the gospel, following Christ…none of that.  The church has become a lip service, a figure head of something that is nice and that every good person should try to do. But when it comes to standing up against injustice and those who practice it, nah, that’s too fanatical.

Donald Trump (among many things) has advocated against the poor, the needy, the hard working. He also dares to claim to be a Christian, a follower of Christ, who according to his own words is not in need of forgiveness.  Wait…what? Isn’t that the whole point? That we are sinners and need forgiveness?

I’ve been told by some of my friends that they rather vote for him than “a socialist” or God forbid, someone like Hilary Clinton.  But is Fascism better than Socialism? In order to not vote for a socialist, you rather vote for a fascist?

I cannot be silent anymore. This man, Donald Trump, is not someone a Christian should be voting for. He reflects everything Christ has denounced! His actions are prideful, arrogant, rapacious, reckless, and so much more.  Scripture tells us that a wise man rules over his tongue and is slow to anger but Donald Trump has shown otherwise. How can a person rule a nation and yet fail to rule himself?

As I sit in and pray, I can’t in good faith say that I am voting for someone who is godly, honorable, and righteous. Of course, you could argue that no politician is like this. I might even agree with you.  However, if there was ever a display of a lack of decency, morality, conviction, wisdom, compassion, mercy, truth, and anything that is Godly, is here and now in Donald Trump.

I may not know exactly who will have my vote…but I do know exactly who won’t. And that person is emphatically, without question, and certain with every single fiber of my being, Donald Trump.


Qualitative review of a pedestrian experience

As I reach my office; I look down to see soaked black boots and almost as equally soaked army green cargo pants.  Not an appealing

CSX Parked on tracks

sight (both in clothes selection and clothes condition, however, this is what happens when you wake up at Five in the morning to get ready to catch a 6:20 AM bus whose inconsistent service means the bus could arrive at 6:10 AM instead).  I muse at the fact that I just walked .5 miles from the last bus stop on route eight to my office (approximately a 15 minute walk).  Normally, I don’t mind the walk.  In fact, I look forward to it since it gives me a reason to be active and to enjoy the outdoors (and also because sometimes, there is a CSX train parked on the tracks that I have to cross to get to work….I love trains).  However, on mornings like today, I am reminded why at times I would not mind owning a car.


I hop off the bus and quickly open my red umbrella.  The sight must have been comical to some motorists as they fly by a decently sized guy wearing a black and grey sweater, army green cargo pants, black boots, and a brown book bag all the while holding a bright red umbrella.  I have to admit, its comical just even thinking about it.  I start my journey by crossing my first street, which is the same street that the bus has just dropped me off at.  In front of me now resides a discreet building which officially belongs to the fire department yet somehow seems too small for its function.  I continue down the shoulder of the streets walking more on grass than on paved ground (purposefully.  I do live in Florida after all.  Even though Florida is notorious for dependable rains; something that has not been the case this year; the fact that Floridians don’t know how to drive in the rain is a fact I take very seriously).


English: Highway 401's widest point: 18 lanes ...

Cars fly by at speeds that seem too fast to be safe on a wet oily road.  I make my way to cross the right turn lane with the aim to reach the little concrete island about 10 -15 feet away.  I succeed, only to wait until all lights are red for oncoming traffic (I have to depend on the street lights since there are no pedestrian signals to inform me of an opportune time to cross this 6 lane major highway).


Finally the lights are red, and I cross the street, walking at a quick pace.  I hesitate to run since the highway has deep groves on the asphalt; a clear sign of high and constant use of fast traveling, heavy vehicles.  It’s possible that In the process of running I could trip over one of these groves, fall, and get ran over by a speeding turning vehicle.  I cross the first set of three lanes to land in the grass median.  Thank God it’s wide enough to provide a clear area of rest from this busy and obviously dangerous highway.


I check to make sure that the incoming traffic is far enough to provide me time to walk (not run) across the second set of three lanes. I make my move, noting the amount of oil on the road.  This is a very real (and obvious) danger to speeding vehicles that don’t have the ability to see the rainbow flow of chemically enhanced run off on the street; a tall (very tall) sign of the presence of oil.


English: Tall grass growing wild at Lyme Park....

I make it across the second set of three lanes only to land in the shoulders of the highway, greeted by knee high grass (my red umbrella can’t help me here).  From my torso up I have remained dry due to the protection of my umbrella.  From my torso down; well, that’s a different story.  As the grass part ways in utter complaint of my uncaring stomping, they release heavy sacks of water filled ammunition directed to make my crossing as wet and miserable as possible.  I accept the challenge, moving forward through the forest of weed and wild flowers, coming to a brief clearing where I am greeted with a pleasant sight; rail road tracks; and an even more pleasant surprise on it; a train engine.  I take in the beautiful sight as I cautiously cross the track, making sure that the engine is indeed parked, and not in the process of moving.


Four obstacles down, and now it seems I’m home free.  On this side of the rail road tracks, the grass is not nearly as tall, and there is somewhat of a makeshift path along the street.  That is where the grass is not as tall as its surroundings to the point where a clear delineation of a path is seen.  Even though the path is there, the grass still protests my clear stomping assault upon it by counter attacking with stickers and bombs of water.  My boots and pants are bearing the evidence of a very heavy and brutal battle. Sidewalks would be advantageous to me right now but I remind myself that I live in Florida….they don’t believe in sidewalks here in Florida.  I continue my walk.  The rain has now ceased, allowing me to fold my red umbrella and make my sight a little less comical.  As I bring my umbrella down to finalize the closing procedure, my eyes meet a very solemn reminder of the predicament I’m in.  The body of a very large…very large….very large, snake.  The clear marking on its skin tells me that this probably was a rattle snake (the rattler was gone thanks to the body’s ghastly dismemberment).  The reminder comes as a bit of shock; but a stern warning that yes, there are wild animals living in these high grassy planes and yes, they can harm me and yes, they are very…very…very real, oh and yes, they are big.  I have no option but to keep walking.

Rattle snake penticton

These grasses are tall enough that a snake like the one I just finished observing could easily hide in, and I would not even realize of their presence until I was right over them.  A slightly frightful thought, all I could do was pray and move forward.  Sidewalks definitely would be a welcome addition to this road.


I turn into the street that my office is on.  A sigh of relief escapes my mouth due to the fact that the lawns here are mowed, not wild and overgrown as the one I just finished trudging through.  My journey is not over yet.  I still have a bout a three minute walk in which I battle huge 18 wheelers speeding across this street as they come to their industrial destination.  I stay clear of the puddles of water on the street noting the sheer splash factor from these huge vehicles.


Finally, my trip ends at my office where I now stand; musing over how wet I am, but thankful for arriving safely.  I have been on a mini adventure.  Kind of like a Lord of the Rings type of adventure, where I had to face dangerous swamps, mystical creatures (dead snake) and behemoth dragons (18 wheelers).  Ok maybe not as exciting as Lord of the Rings, but definitely and adventure.  All this to say, FLORIDA, WE THE PEOPLE NEED SIDEWALKS!!!

Juan Castillo Jr.

Wal-Mart arrival

This is a selfmade image from the english wiki...

So there’s a new Wal-Mart in the neighborhood. Well at least in the neighborhood near my office.  Say whatever you want to say about Wal-Mart, but I see their arrival as a good thing.  For starters, this neighborhood is the epitome of a food desert.  There’s not a decent place to do groceries shopping for miles!  Let alone a place to buy lunch during your lunch time. Now you could argue that a Publix or a local food store like Ward’s would have been a better tenant and you may be right.  But guess what? This neighborhood has been a food desert for quite some time (and when I say “quite some time, I mean years…lots of them!).  None of the businesses mentioned above have ventured toward this uncharted territory. So for all their controversy, I personally welcome a Wal-Mart near this poor and forsaken neighborhood.  Moreover, this Wal-Mart is putting in sidewalks (politics at work I’m sure) which the area desperately needs…desperately! (Do you hear me Gainesville politicians! DESPERATELY! … Ahem.)  And yes, I know about the dealings and impact studies and all the strife between the city of Gainesville and Wal-Mart.  But In all and all, the facts remain: there is now a good source for shopping for food nearby (as compared to none), there’s development (as compared to none) and there’s sidewalks (as compared to… Oh I don’t know, none?).  So welcome Wal-Mart! I look forward to walking to your establishment during my lunch break :).

Coastal change and the inland folk

Cedar Key, Florida Sunset

Cedar Key, Florida Sunset (Photo credit: santafeegret)

Reports are in. There is empirical and substantial evidence that our coasts are changing. Sea level rise aggravates the impact of relatively minor storms such as tropical storms and category 1 hurricanes. As exemplified recently in the North East coasts, the devastation for coastal communities can be and is catastrophic.  People lose their homes, lands, friends, family and even their own lives.  This is said not to be morbid but rather to present an ever present reality.  If planners and coastal communities remain with the present development mentality, this kind of senseless catastrophic loss will only continue. But wait, what does this have to do with inland communities? Everything.

One of the best advices for coastal communities is to focus their development farther from the coasts.  In other words, go inland.  And with over 50% of US populations living near the coasts, this shift presents several problems. For starters, how will our current transportation


infrastructure handle the added impact of this increase in volume?  It is no secret that our transportation plexus is being out passed by population growth and the pervasive reliance on the automobile is negating planning efforts to diversify transportation options in order to alleviate this problem. There is a limit to how much our roads can handle, and the automobile, for all its glory, consumes too much space.  This will only be exacerbated when coastal communities finally start moving inland. But our road network is not the only problem; housing also becomes a very real and lacking resource. Presently, there is a dearth of affordable housing in the United States.  As more people are impacted by the effects of sea level rise and coastal change, people are going to need homes inland, and these homes will need to be affordable.  Current credit restrictions have the potential to further complicate obtaining homes for people who are displaced.

The solution is not a simple one.  The complexity of the situation demands a fairly complex solution. But it starts with public education of the current trend of coastal change.  Because the fact that this catastrophic impact is felt most on the coast, does not mean that it won’t affect the rest of us who live inland, and to be blindsided by politics, can be just as catastrophic, not just for the few, but for all of us.

Christians vs presidential elect

The elections are over, and our president is sitting in the place of authority as commander and chief. Some are celebrating, and others are mournful. Some have lost faith in this country (according to Facebook anyways) some have had their faith renewed. But no matter what camp you’re in, one thought may be dangerously close to your belief. The thought that says “the elections are over, I voted, I’m done”. But this couldn’t be any more wrong. The elections are but the first hurdle In a series of accountability checks. Whether you voted for Obama or not, the fact is he is now our president. As such he represents our country, this country, the country that you and I live in. This has many implications and all of them have to do with the fact that as citizens of the United States of America we are responsible. Yes, we are responsible to keep our leader accountable by voicing our concerns. But we are also responsible to help this country be united. This means laying aside our political prejudices and realizing that at the end of the day we are all human. All of us. Including our president. In order to lead us, he needs to know us. And he won’t be able to do that if we focus on division for the sake of being difficult as opposed to unity for the sake of our country. This does not mean to agree on everything the president proposes, but what this means is that our goal should be to build our country back up, not tear it down by petty quarrels and unwarranted rebellious attitudes. This goes particularly to my Christian brothers and sisters. If there is a time when we need to call on the name of The Lord, repent from our sins, and ask Him to heal our land, it is now. Make no mistake, it is our fault that our country is so divided and so cold towards God. Why? Because we keep pointing fingers as opposed to kneeling. We keep displaying our hatred (yes I said hatred) for a leader as opposed to loving him. We need to pray for our leader as we are commanded in scripture, but even more importantly we need to love our leader. Love does not mean automatic agreement. It doesn’t even mean automatic support. What it does Mean is that we are constantly thinking of the well being of our leader. This includes prayer, loudly proclaiming what is being done right and respectfully voicing what we see as being done wrong. I mean we all like that right? Have you ever worked for a boss that all he does is see the bad things you do? I have, and let me tell you, it’s not fun. Why is it ok then for us to get positive feedback and yet not ok for us to give it? Love looks at the whole picture. Love is patient, love is kind, we all know these verses. Yet how often do we live them out. Behold, our God (as scripture clearly states) has established His appointed. The question now remains, what will you do? Will you love Him, or will You give in to your carnal self and bemoan the fact that your choice is not sitting in the Oval Office. Rise up Christians, that’s something that people who don’t know God does. But we know that our God is sovereign and in complete (let me say that again…complete) control. So guess who you are grumbling against? We are the salt of the earth. As such we are responsible to be above reproach. The time has come to repent, and to intercede for God’s anointed. The time has come for God’s children to ask for God’s will to be done. Is God’s hand so short that he cannot direct the leader’s heart and mind like He directs the waters?
Are there any more disciples who are willing to take God at His word? No wonder the unbelievers mock, jeer, and sneer at God’s name. And we only fuel their fire! Let’s wisen up, let’s move on, lets rise up and proclaim our God as sovereign. Let’s trust, let’s repent, let’s draw near to God and love Him. Let’s let Him lead us. Lets find our joy and contentment in the one who is able and willing to give it. And above all, lets love, as our God of love, loves.

Juan Castillo jr.

When tomorrow comes, and the vote is cast

I know im not the only one anxious for this election to be over.  But even now, I must remember a few things.

1.  God is in control

2. I have a responsibility to vote

3. God is in control

The redundancy is not a typo.  As a Christian, it boils down to my walk with Christ, tons of prayer, and a determination to be responsible and vote.  Its not about voting for the candidate that gives me what I want.  News flash, candidates will tell you what you want to hear and they probably wont deliver.  Why?  Not because they are evil, but because they are human.  And as humans, they will fail.  I say that to say, that instead of searching for who says what, or does not say what, we should be seeking the mind of the Lord.  For those of us who can hear His still small voice, and for those us who are lead by the spirit, THAT needs to be our guide.  Reason?  Sure, but I say again, the reason cannot lie in what the candidates say or don’t say.  And to some degree and cant even lie in what the candidates do.  For our society has breed a generation of politicians that are people pleasers.  I don’t blame them, I blame our society because I know, that if a candidate where to step up to the podium and tell us the truth, we would not vote for him or her.  Therefore, its not about them, its about God.  Its about prayer.  Its about trusting in the one that steers the leader’s heart as He steers the rivers.  It’s about us being a holy nation, that can start interceding unselfishly, as opposed to seeking our comfort or our rights. Therefore, Rise up and kneel before His Majesty.  Seek His mind, and let Him lead you.

Juan Castillo Jr.