i felt the struggle more than ever this year to keep Jesus at the center of Christmas. the holiday can be filled with so many other things; busyness, travel, family, parties, presents, without ever stopping to consider the unbelievable fact that Our Savior was born!
thankfully, this year anna and i had the opportunity to press "pause" on our latvian life and celebrate Christmas together with my family in the states. it was such a restful and memorable time for us!
another highlight was getting to meet my brother's wife, lauren! this was the first time anna and i had the chance to meet her in person, and it was wonderful to get to know her outside of skype. they came out to arizona for two days and we can say now with confidence that tim is a lucky guy! we are so grateful for this time with my family. i freaking love them!
as i grow older, i can see more and more clearly that Jesus is THE ONLY reason why there is anything good in my life. His birth is a celebration of God's goodness and provision for His people. thank you Jesus for coming in complete humility! i still cant fully comprehend it.
all the brooks women finally together!


youtube of the month: december

i posted this video last year, but its too good not to revisit it.

Immanuel... certainly worth celebrating!


is work your lord?

really appreciate tim keller's thoughtfulness and articulation of Biblical truth. good thoughts to test the motivation behind our "work," no matter what it is we do!

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happy birthday, latvija!

latvia officially turned 94 today.

its nice to see google getting into the holiday spirit too!


lāčplēša diena

november 11th is an important day in latvian history. "lāčplēša diena" is celebrated in remembrance of the battle when latvians fought against and defeated german and russian forces. this link gives a clear explanation of the events leading up to and following november 11th, 1919.

anna and i walked down to the presidents castle to see the thousands of candles that are lit in remembrance of soldiers who fought for latvias freedom on the banks of the daugava river. it was an incredible sight and one that makes me so proud of this country!


my current jam(s)

a friend recently turned me on to the group PageCXVI. their goal is to bring new awareness to the depth and beauty of hymns. you can support them by buying an album or download a sampler album of their music for free here.

for now, enjoy listening to their version of one of my all-time favorite songs "come thou fount."


happy halloween?


happy birthday? yes!

some friends of ours celebrated their son's first birthday this past weekend. his name is noa (noah), so naturally guests came dressed up as animals! this was enough of an excuse for me to dress up as winnie the pooh. anna came dressed up as my best friend, piglet.



youtube of the month: november

im proud to rep latvian street art and my friend who shot and edited this film. im also proud of where this took place aka my "hood." overall, a pretty creative idea for an art exhibition. check it!


God? is that You??

ever felt that way? unsure if God who was speaking to you, or if the thoughts or ideas were coming from somewhere else? yeah, me too.

my dad sent me an article that has helped me to discern what is Gods voice and what isnt. hope its a blessing to you as well...

(This was taken from Listening to the Voice of God, Copyright © 1998, Roger Barrier.)

Over the years I have developed a checklist of what I think God’s voice sounds like. The following list paints in broad strokes and is certainly not complete or foolproof. No one point is sufficient to prove the voice of God.
1. God speaks in my innermost spirit. Satan and I speak in my soul or human mind. As I mature spiritually, my increasing spiritual experience and discernment allow me to distinguish better between my soul and my spirit. My understanding is that God himself takes up residence deep in my inner spirit during conversion. There he lives and speaks. Self and Satan have access to my mind, but God alone has access to my innermost human spirit. Following the guidelines of Hebrews 4:12, I quiet my mind and allow the Word of God to divide between soul and spirit. As I listen for God to speak deep within, I try to discern whether what I hear emanates from my soul (my mind) or from my inner human spirit.
What originates from my mind, I take to be from either self or Satan. What comes from deep in my inner spirit can only be from God. I do not take this first guideline lightly or flippantly. Discerning between soul and spirit requires patience, practice, and careful cultivation.
2. God tends to speak with gentle leadings. Remember how God spoke to Elijah? He was not in the swirling wind, the violent earthquake, or the raging fire. When all was still, God spoke with a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11–13).
I remember being pressured by a pushy used-car salesman to buy a car I really wanted. He told me, “I have another couple who want this car, too. They are trying to arrange financing right now. They could return at any minute. If you want this car, you need to make an offer quickly.”
Not liking that kind of pressure, I turned my back and calmly walked away.
My experience is that God seldom pushes and drives and demands like an aggressive, assertive used-car salesman. The Word of God is open to reason. God seldom urges sudden action without giving us time to think through the issues. I try to differentiate between the promptings of God and my drive to fulfill my hurried agenda.
3. God’s voice produces freedom. In Matthew 11:30, Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I was sitting high up on Skyline Drive overlooking the city of Tucson one evening, when I felt an overwhelming burden to reach the city for Christ. I used to pray for big burdens like that—but not anymore. Our city needs to be reached for Christ, but God has called many pastors to share in the work. If I am not careful, I can feel frustrated by biting off more ministry than God intends for me to chew.
I have known pastors whose burdened attitudes for some community or group are more hindrance than help. They live so full of guilt that no one wants to be around them. Satan loves to put people into bondage; God loves to set them free.
4. God tends to speak when I am seeking him. Jeremiah reported God as saying: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:12–13).
After the first three months, the church I was newly pastoring filled to capacity. We had space problems and no clear options. I was getting ready to preach one Sunday when the answer came. I walked to the pulpit, and on the spur of the moment I announced that God had just told me the answer to our overcrowded worship problems. He wanted us to remodel our fellowship hall into worship space. At the close of the service, the deacon who oversaw construction of both our worship chapel and fellowship hall handed me a tape measure from the back of his truck.
“Here, I’ll loan you this for a week,” he said. “Why don’t you measure and see if God is really the one behind your proposal.” He winked as he left.
So I measured the fellowship hall and discovered that it was only two feet wider and four feet longer than the chapel—hardly enough room to make remodeling worthwhile. The next Sunday I walked to the pulpit and informed the people that God had changed his mind. Everybody had a good laugh, and I learned a lesson. Both self and Satan may inject thoughts and impressions into my mind when I’m not consciously seeking God. Both tend to speak with sudden intrusions of thoughts into the mind. But God’s voice is heard when I diligently listen for it.
5. When God is speaking, there is a sense that everything is under control. God wants us in control of our faculties and decisions. God related that “the spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32). Paul warns that Satan wants to ensnare and control people when he speaks in 2 Timothy 2:24–26 of the hope that “they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” When self and Satan speak, there is an inner sense that something is out of control.
6. God gives specific directions. In my pastoral role, people often approach me for help in discerning God’s will. Many times I sense God has already told them his intentions. I do not hesitate to ask, “God’s already told you exactly what to do, hasn’t he?”. Many times they smile and nod sheepishly. I clarify some of the specifics and do my best to ascertain that there are no hidden issues or agendas. Then I encourage them to proceed with what they have heard.
On other occasions, people feel confused when they share what they think God said. “Then don’t do anything at all,” I say. “If you are not certain, either God has not spoken or you have not heard clearly. God is not the author of confusion.” Satan and self, however, often communicate in confused, uncertain wonderings. But when God speaks, there is no doubt about what to do.
7. God convicts of specific sins. John 16:8 teaches that the Holy Spirit “will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” My experience is that when God convicts of sin, his voice is quite specific: Yesterday at two p.m. you did this. I know exactly what I did and when I did it.
Satan and self, on the other hand, often accuse in broad generalities, leaving me with an unfocused sense of haunting guilt centered around poor choices, questioned priorities, unfinished responsibilities, or unmet expectations. It took years in the ministry before I figured this out. Now when I feel accused or have a nagging sense of unspecified guilt, I pause and consider why I feel so guilty. If there is not a definite sense of conviction about a specific sin, I know the feelings are not from God’s Spirit. They emanate from the “accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10)—or from other internal, personal issues that need attention.
8. God speaks with 100 percent truth that can be tested by the Word of God. Once a young woman related to me how God had led her to plan marriage with a man who was not a Christian. When I pointed out in the Bible that God said Christians were not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers, she responded, “But I know God spoke to me and told me to marry him.” She was unimpressed when I reasoned with her that God would not say one thing in the Bible and another to her. The voice we hear inside is always open for testing and comparison with the truths of the Bible. Satan and self often traffic in lies, deceit, and half-truths.
Filtering my thoughts for truth and error is a constant exercise for me. I find it easy to lie to myself. I can preach what I consider to be a poor sermon and berate myself with thoughts like I am the worst preacher who ever preached.
Is that true? No. The truth is, maybe last Sunday was not my best, but, thankfully, I have another chance next week.
I can come home after a demoralizing elders meeting and feel isolated and alone. Nobody loves me, I think. Is this true? No. This is not God speaking. I am speaking lies to myself. Julie loves me. My mother loves me. God loves me. There are a lot of people who love me. I can forget an important surgery and know I lost points with an influential family. Soon I am telling myself, I can’t do anything right. Is this true? No. I do lots of things right.
I want no lies or half-truths in my mind. Life is hard enough to handle with the truth; it is impossible to navigate successfully when the mind is filled with lies and deceit.
9. God’s voice always leads to a deep, abiding sense of peace. I believe that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). When God speaks I have a deep sense of peace.
When I played basketball, the referee’s whistle stopped everything. I consider the peace of God to be like a referee with his whistle. When I am not hearing God clearly, the Holy Spirit blows his whistle to stop the game with a lack of peace and stirring unrest in my inner being. On the other hand, when I am playing well, the game proceeds smoothly and I have a deep sense of peace.


date in sigulda

anna and i needed a day "off," so we made the short drive up to the beautiful city of sigulda. we took pictures, ate, hiked, and enjoyed our time together. God gave us great weather and that made it a perfect day to be out in nature. here are some of the highlights...


an interesting read

just finished reading a two-part article by mike breen on discipleship and the "missional" movement. it rightly says that the missional movement will fail without proper disciple-making. it calls discipleship "the engine of the church" and defines it as becoming "who Jesus would be if He were you." sounds simple enough, right? not really.

discipleship is easy to talk about, but often hard to realize in everyday life. yet it is the most crucial issue facing the church today. i would even argue that it is the mission of Jesus' church. as the article says "if you make disciples, you will always get the church. but if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples." churches are growing exponentially where people "get" disciple-making, and they are slowly dying off where it is not being practiced. if we claim to follow Jesus, we must also obey His command to make disciples who make disciples.

so, the obvious question to myself and to you is... are you making disciples?

you can read part 1 and 2 of the article by clicking on those links.


youtube of the month: october


conference x2

two conferences in two weeks... usually not recommended. but this time it was a huge blessing! gonna try and articulate what i gained from each...

josiah venture fall conference 2012
"search and rescue"
this years fall conference focused on evangelism and God as The Divine Seeker. we can find many examples of this from Scripture. God sought out Adam and Eve at the fruit in the garden (Genesis 3:9). He is the Good Shepherd  (John 10:1-18) who goes after His lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). He is a Father who runs out to His lost son (Luke 15:11-32). He is the Father that sent His Son (John 3:16-17) to "seek and save" those who are lost (Luke 19:10). the list goes on... He seeks us. Not the other way around (Psalm 14:2-3, 53:2-3; Romans 3:10-12). if we seek after God, it is only because He first sought after us! He is always the Initiator (1 John 4:19). What a beautiful picture of who God is!
this foundational truth of God has gradually shifted my perspective in evangelism. i used to think that i am making something happen when i evangelize; but in reality, i am only stepping into a bigger story of God drawing men to Himself. i can play a small (and very important) role in that story. but in order to play that role i must first acknowledge that i am not the seeker. God is. this basic truth sets me free and also challenges me to share the Gospel wherever i am. this may mean talking with strangers on the streets, or it may mean sharing the Best News with people that God has already put in my life. at conference i was challenged to notice the people that God brings across my path and some practical ways to share the Gospel with them. i cannot save them, i can only point to what Jesus has done to save them. when i fill my role, i can stand by and watch how God draws men to Himself. what a beautiful privilege!

discipling a whole europe

before i left for jv conference, one of the leaders in our church asked me to come with him to m4. this is a church planting network out of norway that focuses on facilitating learning communities for new churches and church plant teams. they meet quarterly for prayer, teaching, sharing of ideas and to check-in on goals that have been set in previous meetings. over the two days, i saw God working in ways that i had never experienced before. i saw God answering prayers instantly. i was most encouraged by seeing my norwegian brothers passion for Jesus and His Church. their faith was contagious! our team left the conference with clear "next steps" and direction for our church. it was an awesome two days! you can read more about m4 here.

God-honoring hip hop?

is it possible? does it exist? yes and YES.

enter, propaganda. i remember watching him kill it at spoken word night almost a decade ago and ive been a fan ever since. the great news is hes gotten even better with time and he stepped it up BIG-TIME on his new album "excellent."

propaganda does not make "background" music. his voice demands your full attention. at times his content is tough to listen to because its brutally honest. thought provoking. challenging. uplifting. and God-honoring! he makes beautiful art and im proud to call this dude my brother! download "excellent" for free here on humble beast or support him and buy it on iTunes or a hard copy here.

for a glimpse @prophiphop check out his spoken word below...


richard dawkins on creationists

dawkins makes some grand sweeping claims in this video that i obviously disagree with, but i find it interesting to listen to the opinions of a highly intellectual individual who believes that religion is pointless and that creationists "know nothing." he is the outspoken voice of "anti-creationists" who share his worldview. dawkins response to the question "whats gonna happen after [you] die?" is both enlightening and saddening. might be worth your time to watch...



memories of bella

its one thing to hear about a tragic story on the news, but when one happens to someone you know its a sobering reminder of the fragility of life. this particular tragedy unfolded right in front of us. on sunday night pēteris sproģis (bishop of the latvian baptist union) and his wife marta lost their four-year-old daughter izabella. the details about how everything happened are still a bit unclear, but the overarching story is not. its crystal clear. death brings new clarity to life. izabella lived a short and beautiful life and now she is together with Jesus. what a horrible and beautiful thing all at the same time. the truth that i can hold on to in times like this is that God is still good... even in death. and even when it doesnt make sense.

anna got a call sunday afternoon that izabella was in intensive care at the hospital and we began to pray. a few hours passed without any news, until we saw that p
ēteris had posted on facebook that bella was now in Jesus' arms. we sat in disbelief and cried. and prayed. then cried. then prayed again. i honestly struggled to know how to pray at a time like this.

i sat at my desk sobbing this morning as i reread the note p
ēteris had written to bella. my Bible reading happened to be from psalm 90 where moses asked God to teach him "to number his days" (vs. 12). this is one of many lessons that i will take away from izabella's life. we are never guaranteed tomorrow. every day and every breath is gracious gift from God. i have also witnessed what a powerful impact a four-year-old can have on an entire country. what a testimony to her life!

here is the note p
ēteris wrote his daughter the day after she died. its one of the most poweful stories that i have ever read. a true man of faith and a beautiful young life! thank you Jesus! please keep their family in your prayers over the coming weeks and months.

Memories about Bella
by Pēteris Sproģis

Little Bella, You know that we love You!

Just yesterday we attended the anniversary service at Valmiera Church. You went to the Sunday school. Afterwards You came, sat next to mummy and drew little hearts in your new notebook. Mummy whispered to You, „I love You. You are beautiful. You will be a singer…” The service went on, and You moved to the front row to sit next to me. You drew little flowers. I whispered into Your ear, „I love You. You are very beautiful.” We told You these words often. We told You often that Jesus loves You! So often You would come up to me or mummy, snuggle up to us and say in the way only You could, „I love you!” Thank You.

Quite often You would sing to Yourself the song with this refrain, „I come, I come to you, Jesus! You are my Joy, when I don’t have it, You are my Strength when I am weak, You are my Friend when I am alone, You are MY GOD!” Once I was tired and harsh, and You started singing this song quietly to Yourself… I felt ashamed.

After the service You ran around with Your sisters and other children in the backyard, full of sunlight. We all were there. Mum took a nice picture of You. Of Your light, lovely face, of Your blue eyes. You are so beautiful!

Often I would ask You, „Why are You so beautiful?” You would say, „God made me so.”
(Bella with her smile just a few minutes before going to Heaven to be with Jesus)

We said goodbye to people, started walking towards the car, You ran a couple steps ahead of us and… You were fighting for Your next breath. We tried to bring You back, apply artificial breathing, move You… Many people around us prayed to God and called on Jesus’ Name!

A moment later You were in reanimation room... In the hallway, behind a glass wall, I collapsed on my knees and prayed to Jesus to whom we have prayed to together so often. Mummy and Your sisters prayed in the car. I prayed, prayed – but then I put You into the arms of the Heavenly Father. This thought startled me, I did not understand from where these words came to me. But even though people in reanimation were fighting for Your life, it seemed that at that moment Your soul went to Heaven.

A moment later we were standing by Your bed. Artificial breathing had been applied to You, but Your little heart had stopped beating. I kissed Your forehead and, as every night before going to bed, drew a little sign of the cross on Your forehead. You always wanted it big and, if I made it small, You corrected me…

Now You are a singer in Heaven. You sing for the glory of God! Hallelujah! We have so many memories! We drove home, it was raining and we cried. So much we did not want to part from You!

You made us so rich, and Your going Home has given us many gifts. So many incomprehensible, beautiful memories… How You danced, sang, how You could put together a puzzle by Yourself for a long time…

Oh, dear, You are with Jesus, and You are very well now. You were with us for a little more than 4 years. But Your little life, with Your little feet has left deep, lasting and big footsteps. We will never be the same again. God will use You and Your going Home for His Glory.

There are many things we do not understand and cannot comprehend but I believe that many will be in Heaven because of You! You in Your four years have done more than I in my almost 40. Already in this life we will see how God has used You. Many things we will see only in Heaven. It seems to me that already today You saved a crumbling family and two boys will again have a dad who lives for God’s Glory…

Oh, dear Bella!

We will bid farewell to You on Thursday, August 30 at 15:00 in Uzava, Your and our summer home “Nikaži”. There You ran, swung, danced, sang, fed little sheep, trained the big dog, helped in all country work, helped grandma and grandpa, walked around clinging to me…

Then we will go the cemetery by the seaside. But, as Gabite and I discussed when I was holding her on my lap, You are sitting in Jesus’ lap now, and Jesus tells You, „I LOVE YOU! YOU ARE VERY BEAUTIFUL!”

You often met me when I came home from work, ran to meet me in the backyard yelling, „Daddy!” As long as God will grant me, I will still work here and then I will come home from work and You will run to meet us! Mummy and I love You very much! You will always be in our hearts until we meet again!

Thank You!

The Lord has given, The Lord has taken away.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

amen. thank you bella!



martiņš & sabīne

had my first (and potentially last) chance to be a wedding photographer this past friday! i was glad to do it for my brother-in-law and his wife, but i dont think i could ever do it professionally. it was a full day (taking pictures from noon-3:00 am), but a cool way to celebrate with martiņš and sabīne on their wedding day! here are a few of the pictures...