Change and Everything Else

It is the time of year in the United Methodist tradition that churches and pastors look forward to a new path, a new adventure.  I am no exception to preparing for a big move.  In June, my family and I will pack a 26′ U-Haul and move from Rio Rancho, NM to Farwell, Tx.  After serving six years in one place, we will meet our new church family in another area.

It takes a while to become adjusted to a new environment.  I think back to the many funerals over which I presided, weddings which I officiated, and the parties and banquets which we celebrated life’s milestones.  These are the things that tie us all together.  Attempting to unravel the knot and leave is not an easy task.  Sadness and a bit of melancholy surround me as I count down to my final pastoral duties with the congregation in Rio Rancho.

Here is the beauty of the United Methodist Church; sadness gives way to excitement as new possibilities are allowed to make themselves known.  The church in Farwell and I will have the opportunity to work together.  Each pastor shares with each church unique ministerial gifts and graces that lay the foundation to develop ways to grow in faith.  Our communities of worship are stronger because clergy members rotate every few years to different churches.

So, it is with sadness that I say goodbye to the many faces that treated my family well.  You will be remembered and forever respected.  One of the most significant joys of ministry is getting to know you and appreciating your gifts.  You are a blessing.

And to the people that will call me pastor in the future, I look forward to what we will share together in the name of Christ.  Whatever happens, we will be fearless and share the Good News with our community.  We will equip each other with the love of Christ in such a way that we will be transformed.  We are ready; let’s serve our Creator.

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No One Likes to Walk Through the Darkness

No one likes to walk in the dead of night, unsure where they are going, or what animal they may encounter along the way.  It is a frightening journey, and many times the terror of having to face our biggest fears overwhelm us.  Hope at times seems lost, and there appears to be no way that we will rediscover happiness.  Joy is a fleeting memory.

We sit in the darkness and cry out to God.  “Where is the healing that you promised me, oh God?  Where is my strength that appears to be dimming from view?”  “I feel alone God, and your protection feels light years away from me.  Pity me in my greatest heartache.”

In these, the blackest of times, through the grace of God, we find the strength to turn our feet towards the glimmer of light that appears in the distance.  Our journey will eventually become our healing, for this small speck of brilliance will overwhelm the darkness to declare the miracle of Easter.  The resurrection of a new day; a new hope.

We know that we must walk forward, but our journey is not an easy task.  In the most desperate of times, we must remember that we must move through the darkness to get to the light.  There is not walking around the bitterness to get to the promise of milk and honey.  Faith brought us to this point, and hope will move us through the pain and into the light.

On this Holy Monday, I am grateful for the promise of the coming of Easter.  My feet are set to the horizon, and I begin my journey, trusting that I will be brought to the fullness of grace.  But I must take the first step.  Praise be to the God who delivers us and guide us to the eternal promise of hope.

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Making a Way for All Things New

Your house needs a little spring cleaning.  In addition to jobs around the house that are manageable and easy to do, you have to hire painters to give it a professional flare.  All appears set to go, and the house will look pristine.  Excitement builds as the vision of new possibilities bring joy and hope.

The painters arrive, and immediately the house becomes a place of chaos.  There are no places to sit, no places to land, and no places from which to work.  All that we know is that the promise of beauty is on the horizon.  We only must be patient.  The old will become new and faith will deliver us to greatness; even in the worst of circumstances.

This season of the year extends an invitation to repaint our souls with the brush of God.  The handiwork of Divine action creates a new way of relating to our world.  Faith is made fresh, organized in a way that never existed before.  As new creatures, we live in the passion of Christ.

And as for the painters that did an amazing job on the house, they are indeed gifted.  How would I have ever known the beauty of a newly painted home if I had not been open to a good spring cleaning?  The only way to see the joy of a new day is to endure the darkest of nights.  Promise gives way to reality, and hope shines the light on endless possibilities.

Today, I am grateful for a wonderfully painted house that reminds me of a fresh new way forwards.  In this time of Lent, we know that the darkness will not outshine the light.  The Son will triumph, and we will understand a rich and powerful faith that guides our way.  Praise be to God for our journey that creates new ways of being in the presence of the Creator.

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Finding Joy, Even in the Midst of Struggle

Both of my sons packed and all three of us MacDonald guys were ready for what my youngest calls a “Daddy and Son Madcapped Adventure.”  My wife had an out of town speaking engagement, so that meant the youngest had to travel with my oldest and I.  We were on our way to audition for a college.  Hopefully, this one will do the trick and “MacDonald the Older” will finish his degree.  Whatever the reason, we knew that the trip would be fun.

After traveling about eight hours, we found a hotel and bunkered down for the night.  I began to unpack and set up for the next morning.  Our drive was quite far, and we would travel another ten hours until we reached our destination.  As I unpacked, I took out the medicine, the infusion supplies and the one-inch needle that I use to access my younger son’s port.  Packing is not the same for my family as it is for most.  My sons have a bleeding disorder and to treat the problem, we must access a vein with particular medication to redirect the clotting process.  We have to remember to pack all of the medical supplies that are needed, or we run the risk of having a severe bleeding episode.  I made sure that everything was set out and ready for the next morning.  After checking, I turned my attention back to the guys and had an incredible pillow fight that must go down into the record books.

My sons are living examples that things are not always what they seem and that sometimes things occur far beyond our own control.  The incredible men that I call sons remind me every day that there is joy in the midst of something chronic like a bleeding disorder.  We can still live in happiness, even in the middle of a struggle.  All we know are needles, and our home looks like a small pharmaceutical company.

Despite the medical issues, life moves on, and goals must be set so that we have something to conquer.  My oldest son is finding his place in the world, and I am very proud of the tenacity with which he seeks his life’s goals.  My younger son seems to take life in stride and never meets a stranger.  He makes me look like the biggest introvert on the planet.  Throughout both of their journeys, they remind me to keep moving forward and to never let an obstacle stand my way.  Thank God for these amazing men!

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My Passion and Me

We all have something about which we are passionate.  I love the fine arts.  There is something remarkable about being on a stage or expressing one’s self through movement.  The worries and concerns of the world go away, and troubles suspend themselves for a few minutes.  Joy intercedes the mundane.  Nothing can compare to the feeling of freedom.

Passion is the fuel that drives us forward.  We celebrate the joy of being human, and just for a little while, we give thanks to the Creator in our own unique way.  Our innate abilities motivate us to soar above the misgivings of the world.  Excitement reminds us that life is worth every breath that we take.  At the very center of that which fuels us is the driving urge that continues to lead us onward.

Passion is a gift from God.  Through our joy and expression, we worship with all that we have and are.  We are reborn through the promise and hope that life may be filled with energy and excitement.  Through our awareness of life and the things that connect us to the world, we learn ultimately how to experience the Giver of Life.

Today I am grateful for remembering the passions that drive me onward.  The reminder of that which brings me joy is important in this time of Lent.  This is not a season where we simply sit around and mope. Instead, let us remember God’s presence in our lives. Joy can overwhelm the wilderness.  Hope can be an integral part of all things.  So, let us rejoice and give thanks to the One, who created us.

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The Life-Giving Force Called Community

Whether we like to admit it or not, our spirit’s require a connection to people.  Some of us are blessed to find sacred relationships in our families, while others seek friends to fill the void of the necessary bonds which hold us together.  Whichever way we satisfy our need for community, we invest our hearts and minds into each other, and in so doing, we are made whole.  Life has meaning as we testify on each other’s behalves that we matter.  We are essential to this planet.  Our purpose is made known, and we are better because our hearts are shared with others.

Jesus knew the importance of community.  He lived in a communal setting as his disciples followed on his journey.  They laughed with one another, loved one another, and learned from the very one they followed.  And at the center of many of the best discussions, there was a meal.  Sacred traditions were born out of these observances of holy food.  All the while, sharing the bread and wine with all who gather around the table.  At this feast of Christ, we come to realize that our most precious gifts are discovered in communion with both the divine and one another.

Today I give thanks for the people who walk with me on my journey.  I am reminded that I am not alone.  My path is easier to travel in the presence of those who care for me.  And as I continue down my road, I pray that I may be a light that illuminates the dark path on which someone else my walk.  Together may we all find hope in the darkest of circumstances.  May we know that the God who gives us strength also blesses us with people in our lives to remind us that life may get rough, but you always have a hand to hold.

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Finishing the Hat

Last year I traveled to Chicago and saw the masterpiece “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette.” The artist, Georges Seurat, captured a beautiful scene utilizing a technique known as pointillism. Each dot contributes to the complete work of art. To leave anything out is to change the original intention of the painter. Everything must be included; each dot, each stroke, every speck of color, adding to the rich contextual landscape that makes the picture amazing. The whole work depends on every unique aspect of its parts.

We are like Seurat’s painting. The canvases of our lives weave together rich colors that can only be understood when seen as a full painting. Every dot removed hides a special part of the details that define our truest selves. To take away from the masterpiece of our lives, is to hide the rich gifts with which God blesses us.

Hear the good news, God calls us out of the shadows and into the light. The world needs to see the real you, the one who continuously overcomes the trials of the darkness. Step into the hope of the risen Christ, and allow God to shine in His greatest work, for you are the Creator’s masterpiece. Each color, each dot, each stroke of the Master’s hand brings an assurance of hope and promise.

Unlike the Seurat painting, we are never a finished work of art. God continues to shape us and mold us. “What we are has not yet fully been revealed” (1 Jn 3:2). Our existence is forged within the great mystery of the Holy Spirit.

Praise be to our Creator, who fashions us in holy likeness. We give thanks to the One, who creates every little dot, every color, every stroke of the heavenly brush to design each of us in our unique displays of hues and passions. May we continue to grow in strength and understanding that we are loved beyond anything we can ever understand. May we remember that we are the Father’s greatest works of art.

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When Darkness Comes

We all have those times when life takes a detour, and we find ourselves down a lonely dark road.  There is no light to guide our path, and fear and heartache seem to be the only thing we know.  No matter which way we turn, there is still emptiness.  How do we find our way out of here?  There is no light to guide us.  And so we stay still, waiting for a sign of hope.

I keep thinking, “I did not intend to get to this place.  Where did the road turn to where I am now?” The reality is that life can be unfair at times.  That is the truth.  Life changes on a dime.  One road surrenders itself to another and pretty soon the path is no longer clear and straightforward.

And so, we sit alone in the darkness when all of the sudden, a glimmer of light emerges.  It is small at first; barely visible.  This little sign of hope moves forward to us, and as it does, darkness gives way to the dawn.  The light reminds us of the One, who makes our path clear.  The gift of illumination becomes our way back home.  We had to sit still in the dark with the confidence that light would return to guide us.

Today I am grateful for the reassurance that the dark night of the soul is only for a season.  Life will move forward, and hope will be restored.   This is the root of our faith.  We must embrace it and know that the promise of God will renew our hearts.

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I’m Going Home!

There is nothing like a wonderful trip to a great place.  My time in Chicago proved no exception.  I saw old friends, the musical Hamilton, the Chicago Institute and Art Museum, and had dinner on the Pier several evenings.  I love being in Chicago Land, but I love being with my family more.  So, there is a sense of excitement today as I wait to board the plane.  I’m going home!

This visit to the Windy City reminds me that while there are amazing things to see and do in the world, I’d rather have my family with me.  They are the great loves of my life.  For that, I am truly grateful.  My sons and wife remind me that my life has meaning and purpose.  While I saw some magnificent paintings (Sunday in the Park just to name one), the most beautiful works of art are the smiles on the faces of my family.  They are my greatest masterpieces.

So, today as I wait to board my plane, I give thanks for my stinky sons and my wonderful wife.  I consider myself a very blessed man because they love me and give me a sense of belonging.  This is what we all long for, to know that our lives matter.  My hope is that we all experience this kind of love and acceptance.

Praise to be God that we learn of the Father’s love through the love that others share with us.  This is the gift of life, to have people who love us unconditionally.  This is what teaches us how to be a better people.  May all of us have a glimpse of the Father’s unfailing love.  May we experience this joy through the gift of rerlationships with others.

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Two Roads and a Coloring Book

Recently, I was walking with my son through a store and a coloring book caught my eye. The book was an elaborate adult coloring book and under most situations, I would have not have given it a second thought.  What made this one so special was the subject.  The title on the cover read “The Road Not Taken.”  I couldn’t help but open the book.  Inside I found my favorite poem written by Robert Frost.

The text transported me back to high school and my amazing choir director, Gary Patterson.  How blessed I was to have this amazing man guide me and teach me how to love choral music and the art of music making.  My journey started with this poem. This incredible writing, now asking for color.

I bought the book and procrastinated in beginning to work on the first picture.  What was the proper way to start?  I’m afraid I will mess this up.  It took me some time to realize that the right way to color is the way my spirit guides me.  This is my path, my way.  Under God’s guidance, everyone must choose their own road.

And so, we start with whatever color works for each of us.  Some may utilize rich dark colors, while others paint in lighter hues.  Careful decisions must be left to the discretion of the artist.  We respect each person’s choices.

Today, I give thanks for the journey that calls me to notice colors that make my life richer and more vital.  As school begins, I also remember and give thanks for teachers who changed the trajectory of my life.  I can never express my appreciation for their willingness to show me how to color with a passion that infused my soul.  I am grateful for my music teachers who enriched my life by sharing the joy that singing continues to bring to me.

Who are the teachers who taught you how to color?  Give thanks for those people who made a difference in your life and ignited the divine spark in your heart and soul.  These are the people who matter, for they taught you that you are created in the image of the Holy God.  Their legacy taught you that you matter.  Your journey was, and is, something to behold.  Lift a prayer for them right now.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence.  Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by.  And that has made all the difference.”  (The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost).

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