Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Protestant Passover

The sun had just set on the 15th day of Nisan and the reading of the Haggadah at the Seder table had begun... If you are like me, you either already stopped reading this or mumbled through that entire first sentence.  My hope is that this is not your first post to read on the topic of the Passover Seder given that Matt andSankie both shared their Holiday Faith Talks earlier this week.  Our family also sat down to share in this over 2,500 year old tradition and would love to share some of our thoughts from our experience.

Each Monday night is Berg Family Fun Night in our home and when thinking about this particular night several weeks back we were so excited to learn that Monday, April 14th at Sunset was the first day of the traditional passover celebration.  Though for most of my life I have been a conservative protestant, I have always enjoyed learning about other denominations like Catholicism (Read my post on Ash Wednesday) and was very excited to grow in my knowledge of another world religion (Judaism) this week.  The meal begins with washing of hands but the preparation began far earlier this time.  A couple days before, I had gone to Walmart to pick-up some essentials to our evening only to learn that you not only cannot purchase lamb at Walmart but might not want to either.  So off to Sprouts to find a "traditional" looking rack of lamb I had seen in all the cool pictures.  Upon arrival, we found that there was already a "Passover" table set-up for all the folks looking to get in and get out this season.  Having been around church for many years and personally never hearing of ANYONE celebrating the Passover Seder, I was shocked that there was enough demand for these items that the store created a special display at the front.  It was also at this time I realized how close I was cutting it, "You know you have to have this all prepared before sunset today" I was informed by an elder lady passing by in her cart.  As I continued to google product names and looking for more specific lists to find all my items I was slammed with the volume of detail for each "necessity" yet the amount of substitutes that were acceptable.  I have to admit, when I left I was feeling pretty excited about our purchases but semi-scared the kosher police were going to jump out of the bushes and mock us... I assume that is what they do!?

I'd like to say the meal preparation was the easy part but finding the materials was just the start.  Who knew lamb was so meticulous... Probably a lot of you!  I also found out that horseradish not only looks terrible, much like a cow heart, but when it is raw, tastes even worse than it looks.  Please enjoy the series of pictures in regards to horseradish below:

Time came, and as we prepared a place in our living room to sit and recline, the sun began to set.  We invited the kids to the room and began with the ceremonial hand washing.  I'd like to say the next hour was full of reverence, focus and growth and though some of that happened it was the kids excitement that was the most surprising.  Each time we celebrated with another glass of wine (FOUR GLASSES of sparkling grape juice) the kids could not have been more pumped, which was a beautiful picture of exactly the attitudes we are to have in hearing the gospel message of God (which is the ultimate purpose of the Passover celebration today).  

I'm not sure what my favorite piece of the evening was but I know it's wednesday and our kids still remember the reason for the sweet and bitter taste of the parsley and fruit-nut mix and the literal blood on the tray that came from the lamb.  Here are all of the typical pieces to a Passover Seder:
  • Charoset: a mixture of apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon that represents the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves to make bricks.
  • Zeroah (Lamb): often a shank-bone and commemorates the paschal sacrifice made the night the Hebrews fled Egypt, also symbolizing the outstretched arm of God. 
  • Karpas: usually parsley, and represents the freshness of spring and growth for the Hebrews.
  • Chazeret: is another bitter herb, most often the root of romaine lettuce.  
  • Maror: is often a horseradish root that has been grated or blended and can literally bring tears to your eyes which is the bitterness of slavery the Hebrews endured for hundreds of years.
  • Baytsah (Roasted Egg): signifying springtime and renewal but also stands in the place of one of the sacrificial offerings since the Jewish temple has been torn down to this day. 
  • Matzah: stack of three pieces of unleavened bread.  The bread is a real example of the lack of time the Hebrews had when God told them to "go" out of Egypt (Sometimes you hide a smaller fourth piece to represent the struggles the Jews continue to face).
  • Salt Water: to symbolize the tears and sweat of the Hebrew slaves (Often also paradoxically is a symbol of purity and the sea that brought salvation from the Egyptian army.
  • Wine: Four glasses representing the four biblical promises of redemption from God.  And today the spilled blood of Christ which we observe with the Lord's Supper.
  • Hand Washing: to clean yourself before embarking on a holy meal.  Christ later takes it a step further in washing His disciples feet at their Passover Seder.
As Protestants we often move past tradition and ceremonies, willing to simply settle for symbolism once a quarter.  But we can learn so much from these times.  Only 30% of us are auditory learners, meaning most folks are visual and tactile-kinesthetic learners.  What can you do this week for not only your kids to learn something new but even you!?  I know how difficult it is to find time to spend with your family and to find more to prepare something like this is pretty much impossible.  However, I personally will never forget this Berg Family Fun Night and I have a feeling it will be something we do again next year.  We would love to hear your stories of this Holiday season. 

May we take the time to remember... May we remember God's provision for each step of our lives... May we remember the cross this weekend... May we remember why we first fell in love with Jesus... May we remember to teach our kids the values we have and where they came from... May we remember to include the Spirit in our homes, lives and future... May we remember the importance of the Church... May we remember!!

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Family Devotions or Bust

For over three years the Berg's have set aside one night a week just to be together.  In the past year we started being more intentional with a devotional and counting down our days together (what's been dubbed "Berg Family Fun Night" by our kids).  When I look over my calendar and through the pics on my phone, of the countless activities we've took part in, I'm filled with joy.  However, I also remember a few hard nights, like this week.  Though I'll spare you the dialogue know that the context was anger.  In fact, as I type this my head is filled with emotions from frustration that we don't have it together to fear that my kids will remember those nights over the good ones.  This monday we were coming home from a birthday party of one of Jackson's classmates.  Upon arrival to the garage I asked for teeth to be brushed, jammies on and reconvened in the living room.  After twenty minutes we still didn't have it together and really I should have known it was going to be downhill from the party.  Through the tears, raised voices and being sent to their rooms without a bedtime snack, it hit me... I definitely overacted and didn't show them Jesus, BUT WHY WAS I SO MAD?!

In the article '10 Surefire Ways to Make Your Kids Hate Family Devotionals' the author Jessica Thompson says: "Family devotions are a good thing. They can be a means of grace to your entire family, but often we turn them into an idol. We get some idea in our head about how devotions are supposed to look, and we won’t budge an inch from getting that picture exactly right. Have you ever been so rigid in your family devotional time that you made it drudgery instead of a joy?"

Did she hit it on the head?  As I thought about our evening I thought of several reasons it went south but the biggest one was probably the tight hold I have had on my expectations for our Monday nights.  I want so badly for each Monday to be the best night yet, for me and the family.  The reality, however, is that some days are stressful at work and don't allow enough time for me (or the family) to detox before jumping right into another "activity."  Often, things come up and though we want our one day a week to be sacred (not intentionally scheduling things there) sometimes things come up.  But most of all, our hearts need to be ready and in a position to overflow with love to others if we want to be the hands and feet of Christ.  In short, I had in fact made an idol out of our family nights!  What!?  No... Family time cannot be an idol!! 

Our pastor at New Beginnings (Dr. Phil) started a sermon series this week, impeccable timing I know, called "Mine" (read more about it here).  One of the most thought provoking statements I heard this week was: "even good things [God created things] can become idols in our lives when it's more important than God."  If you were here, move on but if you weren't, let that sink in... Good things (nature, food, sports, money, the Bible, kids... family) can be bad when we allow them to take over and rule our lives.  When our ultimate happiness is found in ANYTHING over Christ's love and will in our lives, we will not only be let down at some point but be led astray on our purpose in life.  I know what you're thinking: "But Jeff, God wants you to spend time with your family and teach them about Him."  Absolutely True!!  However, when our evenings end in yelling and anger I should probably stop and assess the evening.  I was more concerned with checking the box ("Family Devotional") than I was with the hearts of my family. 

As I look back over the list from the article by Thompson, though some are just funny ("Make sure that Carman’s “The Champion” is always playing in the background") some hit me really hard:

  • "Don’t allow your kids to act like kids. Make sure they sit completely still and listen to every word you say"
  • "Expect immediate, visible results. If they are not...asking for forgiveness by the end of the devotional time, you have done something wrong"
  • "Don’t let them see your weakness. Make sure that if there is a question about confessing sin, you point out all of their sin. Don’t ever bring up the ways you fail"

Reading that last one especially speaks heavily that I had not prepared myself (in prayer, devotions, etc.) to overflow His love and grace, which ultimately translates to: "I not only can do this on my own but I can do it better than God."  Idols are scary... They come from everywhere and can even be blessings from God, Himself, that we twisted just a little.  Though I can't take back Monday, I can prepare for future Mondays, as well as, my day-to-day life putting God absolutely first. 

May You give us protection from ourselves... May His Spirit led us to conviction in our own hearts... May His Son show us the grace necessary to live as His hands and feet... May we worship You Father as the only true God... May I serve You well in my family and life!!

The Berg's
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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Stories from Haiti...

With the promise of a full post about our time in Haiti but also knowing I have posted many times about this passion of mine… I decided to let some of those who went tell their stories.  

Before our trip my mom asked my sister and I what we hoped to get out of this mission trip to Haiti- my answer was that I hoped to find out what I wanted to do with my life. Find out I did, missions seems to be weighing on my heart and after experiencing Haiti for a week I feel like missions truly is my calling. After going on this sweet-short trip I found what I want to be when I grow up; a missionary. Haiti taught me how to love people and all I can think about is going back and learning more. – Aubrey Andrews

One thing this trip taught me is that we don’t have to speak the same language to speak love to one another.  Love can be shown and seen through our actions.  A high-five, a hug, a touch, a smile or just by sitting by someone and looking at them.  I went to Haiti thinking I was going to reach out and help someone, but the overwhelming love I felt has changed me. I didn’t have to try to fit in. I could just be me. I felt welcomed, accepted and loved. – Michelle Andrews

Last week in Haiti was a rejuvenating experience for me. My intention for going on the trip was to be a part of something that my friends and family love and of course to experience it for myself. My expectations were more than met last week. Every single person on the team humbled themselves enormously. It was amazing to see everyone's willingness to serve no matter if the task at hand was picking up trash in the banana orchard or holding a cute little baby. Observing everyone over the past week not only made me want to be a better person, but it made me proud to call that team, those people, my friends. I could go on and on about my experiences, but I believe that is the best way to sum it up. It was an incredible experience. The village of Neply will forever hold a special place in my heart. – Derek Auffenorde

As someone who has been to Haiti on many trips, my experience this time was, as they each are, unique.  We decided we wanted to bring our two oldest children, Jackson and Creighton, along with us to experience their first mission trip.  Being on mission and a mom proved to be difficult and glorious all at the same time.  There were highs and lows, good and bad, beautiful and ugly times.  I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I had relatively high expectations going in and was forced to let go of them by day 1. What I realized, however, in the process, is that when I did let go and let them each experience it all, take it all in, and “be” themselves, I was able to really see their hearts and personalities rise and shine.   They really did phenomenal and my hope is that they will remember this trip and the things the Lord showed them, for a very long time.  Even though it was hard at times, I hope that more and more families will branch out and take the steps of faith required to take children of all ages on mission, whether it be downtown Tulsa or to the ends of the earth in Haiti or Africa.  There is no greater message of servitude than serving alongside your children. – Courtney Berg
Haiti for me was such an eye opening experience. It humbled me. It is okay that my home has only concrete floors, and a bath but no shower. That there are people in Haiti that live in way worse conditions but they welcome each day with happiness and love. They showed me the true meaning of love, hard work, discipline and a rich and true faith. If we were in those conditions would we have that kind of faith or would we turn our backs on God and blame him for the way it is? – Stacy Burright

A trip to the myLIFEspeaks campus in Haiti is: Moto rides and coral reefs; Mountain tops and sugar cane; Sunny days and humidity; It's banan trees, mangos, pineapple and feeding programs; Sweet, contagious smiles and Redemption 72:14; A helping hand, a soccer game, a warm hug and a lifetime of memories; It's stark white church clothes washed by hand and a "hallelujah" in praise of The Lord; It's relationships and community and welcoming of strangers; It's thinking you are blessing others and ending up being blessed; It's speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves.  A trip to the myLIFEspeaks campus in Haiti is love. – Dana Colley

Being that this was my first trip to Haiti, and overseas in general, going in, I had certain preconceived ideas about how my experiences would impact my life and my journey of faith. Now having had a few days back in the states to process the trip a little bit, the impact of my experience is starting to set in. The trip was incredible. As much as our team poured themselves out throughout the week, the children of Haiti poured the same energy and love directly back into us. Before the trip I thought a lot about how I could be a blessing to them but I didn't think a lot on how they would bless me. Looking back, I am so inspired by the kids and how much joy and love they demonstrated to us in spite of their consistently living in a much harsher environment than what we’re used to. It puts things into perspective and I am so grateful to have a genuinely changed worldview on life. It has been an incredible reminder that people desire to love and to be loved and that we should completely embrace the best of both worlds. I am so thankful to have been a part of this trip and to have witnessed so much of Christ’s grace and love. I’m excited to continue processing everything that I took away from the trip. It was a life-changing experience. I would love to go back! – Nathan Hollis

Often times going into mission work I think that I'm going in to change someone else's life but this experience revealed that changing lives shouldn't be the goal, rather just being the smiling face present everyday to show the love of Jesus.  I think more than anything, my heart was moved by the joy and happiness I saw in the Haitians. I've never seen poverty like I saw out there but their circumstances did not define the attitude that they chose to have each day.  I loved watching the kids dance and play soccer because for that moment, I could see what true love was. Seeing them come from whatever was going on at home and have the chance to smile and be free and enjoy the opportunity to just be a kid was completely worth every moment! – Maranda Jones

Haiti was a pretty weird trip for me. I thought that I was going to have some profound change. I did, but it was not what I thought it would be. I was pretty overwhelmed by everything and it was hard for me to process what was going on in my head and my heart. We were surrounded by poverty. But, what was more apparent than the poverty was the joy and smiles that resided in the Haitians. I think that is what really got to me. Even in poverty they had more than I do. I thought I was going to go to Haiti and bless them, but what ended up happening was them blessing me. Yes the trip was weird for me, but it was good and life-changing. – Emma Steele

My experience in Haiti was incredible. It really showed me what community is all about. Everyone in the village of Neply was so kind and welcoming that it just made me feel like I was at home there. Everywhere you went kids would run up hug people and everyone always said hello and asked how we were doing. Even though we don't speak the same language just taking the time to talk to us and always having a smile on their face meant a lot. I am so blessed to have been able to go and experience their love and their lives and I can't wait to go back. – Brandon Turney

Ivy Baker Priest once wrote,“the world is round- and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.” There are many who would consider the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere to be the last, the least, the littlest. To some, the village of Neply might be the end of the world, hardly worth a passing thought, and certainly not a place where one would expect to feel the presence of the Lord. I came to Neply with the anticipation that I would be there to sacrifice my time and serve the needs of the village. As is often the case, those that have the least are capable of giving the most, and the people of Neply showed the love of Christ and had a far greater impact on me than I could ever have on them.   When I first arrived I was immediately blown away by God’s beautiful creation; a landscape distinguished by endless sugar cane fields, banana and mango trees, nestled along the blue Caribbean coast complete with a backdrop of mountains. As enchanting as the scenery may have been, it wasn't long before I was exposed to the surpassing beauty of the villagers themselves. They live day to day suffering from unimaginable hardship and circumstance and yet, the very idea of playing soccer or chasing bubbles sends smiles radiating through the group of children.  I was encouraged by the contagious joy of the people, with hearts so full of passion and love, reminding me of the simple things that truly matter in life.  I learned a multitude of things during my time in Haiti, too many to write, but the children taught me that the love of the Lord is universal; dancing, smiles, hugs, high-fives and a love for the game of soccer translate in any language! I am eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to serve alongside a wonderful team and will always carry Neply close to my heart, and I hope God leads me down that gravel road again someday, back to the beginning. – Shea Yates

*As promised, if you'd like to see a complete set of pictures from this years trip click here (you will need to have a Facebook account to access the pictures)!! 

May God continue to break our hearts for those in need… May His Son continue to be the ultimate example of love and humility… May His Spirit lead us to be His hands and feet each day… May we lead our families in a way that not only honors but upholds the Shema… May we find the courage to live by example and the faithfulness to take others with us!!

The Berg's (minus Charleigh, adding Jacob)
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Wednesday, June 04, 2014


Live from a small village in Haiti for the second year in a row!!  Internet is still terrible here and I have literally lost two posts... so I am going to just upload a couple pics and call it good today (be sure to check back for a full blog and an entire photo album of pics later).

So far this week, we have:
Visited the My Life Speaks sponsored School!!

Toured the village (Neply, Leogane Haiti)!!

Put on a FREE Soccer camp for the kids in the village!!

Prepared activities & crafts for the FIRST EVER carnival in Neply!!

Served bowls of food at the My Life Speaks Meal Program!!

Made New Friends!!
Thank you New Beginnings and so many others who made this trip possible for so many.  It was the first overseas stamp for several people and the first mission trip for many more.  Please continue to pray for heart change by members of our team as well as incredibleFaith Walk moments with our new friends!!