The One Who Defined Me

One fall day in 1995, I received a phone call from my wife.  She told me that “Julian had something to tell me.  He was coming soon.”  I stared at the phone as if she had lost her mind.  I asked her to clarify what she meant.  Her next sentence literally changed my life forever.  She said, “Julian is coming.  I’m pregnant!”

I stood there absolutely speechless.  Was she kidding?  Dear Lord, me a father?   God help the child.  She interrupted my feelings of anxiety as we laughed together and decided that we would celebrate by going to a special restaurant.  We raised a toast, non-alcoholic of course, to the journey that was to come.

That day marked the first day that I knew my boy was coming into the world.  We talked about naming our son Julian Lance (names of both of our grandfathers), but I never thought much about the name until that day.  Since that time, there has not been one day that I don’t speak his name and give thanks to God for my mighty son’s life.  He is an amazing man.

On Friday, he will celebrate his 21st birthday.  In dad years, I have been called a father for well over 21 years.  Julian changed me.  No one ever called me a parent before he came into being, and no one will ever not call me a parent ever again.  For that, I am truly grateful.

We all have events that occur in life that shape us and define the course that we will take.  For me, becoming a father was that life changing event.  I learned how to feel deeper, grow stronger, and love more passionately than I ever imagined.  Children bring us that gift.

Today I praise God for my son, Julian Lance MacDonald, who continues to amaze me every day.  I hope to continue singing with him for the rest of my life.  And while I am at it, I give thanks for my incredible wife, Cazandra Cecelia Campos-MacDonald, who took a risk and agreed to be my wife.  Together we have formed a family that is capable of amazing things.  Thanks be to God for all of His generous gifts.

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A Curve Ball

My youngest son left for camp on Monday.  We felt victorious this year.  He actually got on the bus to go!  Last year he couldn’t attend because of a freak ice skating accident.  While he was with me on the ice, he fell and broke his arm.  That ended his foray into the exciting world of hemophilia camp; at least for 2016.

This year promised to be different.  We didn’t dare get on the ice for a solid month before camp.  Nothing would stop him from finally going and being part of a fantastic community.  He was pumped up and ready to get on the bus with friends that he plays with every time there is a function for the bleeding disorder community.  For a week these amazing folks planned to play and learn how to manage their care.  No parents were allowed, but we all knew that they were safe and carefully guarded by a wonderful treatment team.

And then we got the call, the one you really don’t want to receive when your kid is away at camp.  My boy climbed up a ladder to take a ride on a “zip” line.  He looked down and immediately had second thoughts.  He turned to go back down the stairs, this adventure could wait for another day.  While he was climbing down in search of another road to travel, he lost his balance and fell down ten steps leading up to the “zip” line.  Praise God, and I truly mean praise God, that our treatment team attends the camp.  They were with him and constantly monitored his progress.

Meanwhile, back in Rio Rancho, my schedule was full.  I had several hospital visits planned, followed by some much needed time in my office to write my sermon for Sunday.  I looked forward to sitting down and getting some tasks accomplished.  Then the phone rings.  It is our wonderful hematologist, calling from camp to let us know about the accident.  Dr. Abraham reviewed the medical plan with us and we informed her that we would be there as soon as possible.  The medical facility nearest the camp was about a 3 1/2 hour drive from our home.

The day dramatically changed as planning and visits gave way to turning my attention to the needs of my family.  My wife and I were anxious to see for ourselves the extent of my son’s injuries.  We learned that he broke two bones in his left arm as a result of the fall and there were a few bruises on his face.  We talked with the doctors at the regional clinic along with Dr. Abraham and took my son home.  Camp could wait for another year.  For now, our mission was to love on our son and help him heal both physically and emotionally.

This entire event served as a reminder to me that life can change on a dime, and when push comes to shove priorities must take over the best-laid plans.  My focus changed from accomplishing tasks to helping heal hearts.  My son needed to know that accidents happen and that the earth still rotates around the sun.  He is loved beyond anything that he could ever imagine and that the one thing upon which he can always depend is the undying love of his mom and dad.

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Can You See the Window?

How many of us keep our eyes on the door?  We wait for it to open so that we can step into the next part of our journey.  The open door calls us into a new adventure; a hope for rejuvenation.  If only that door would open, we would gladly respond, but it stays locked.  It will not budge.  In its place is left frustration and disappointment.

We remain so fixated on the door that we fail to see the open window on the other side of the room.  It is the gateway to what we can be, but we are not aware the window is even there.  We are missing incredible opportunities because the door gets in our way.  There must be a way that we can look past what we expect and embrace what can be.

Today I am grateful that we are not limited to a door, but endless possibilities in which we can step into the light of hope and love.  God’s path does not always lead us into what is expected, but encourages us to journey through unexpected possibilities.  We are called to journey, no matter where the path may lead.  Wherever we are led, Holy Light will be there to guide us through the darkest of places.

Praise be to our God, who guides us on the journey.  May we remember that windows can sometimes lead us to great adventures that may never be found through a door.  We must be willing to look around the room to discover the possibilities.  Let us take the leap in faith to discover the sacred riches.  Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory in Christ, our Lord.

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The Legacy of Love

I took this picture with my mother right after I finished seminary in June of 2010.  I like this picture because of her reaction and not mine.  Her eyes seemed to say, “Son, I am proud of you and happy for all of your accomplishments.”  In truth, her happiness was one of the greatest blessings of the evening.  

Years have passed since this picture was taken almost seven years ago, but I cherish that evening.  Both of us stood together to say, “See, I told you we could beat the odds.”  We are living testimonies that were one begins in life does not have the final say as to what one can achieve.  That picture speaks of joy and overwhelming light.

I miss my mother and think of her every day.  She instilled in me a determination to succeed in spite of any obstacles that stand in the way.  Although I miss her presence, her voice still speaks loudly in my head.  When I feel low and unable to reach for the next level, I hear Ruby Jane’s voice saying, “What is wrong with you?  Get up, reach out, and move forward.  You are more than what you think you are!”  And I get up, armed with the knowledge that I am her son, and failure is not an option.

Today, I am grateful for my mother, who reminded me everyday that I am loved unconditionally.  This mighty woman, who taught me how to fight for what is right.  Her undying faith in family and the importance of being a constant presence in the lives of all of those she called friends was the driving catalyst of her life.  Blessings to you, as you sit at the banquet of God in the fullness and presence of God.  May you feast well!

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An Unexpected Turn of Events

There are times that you are strolling along, minding your own business, when all of the sudden you discover something that hits you at your very core.  You are left speechless, without any way of expressing how you feel, or what this new found information may bring.  It leaves you paralyzed and unable to move.  What is left is a feeling of numbness and uncertainty.  Did I really want to know that?

I received some information that helped put to rest a long time question for me.  I discovered something that proved unsettling and definitely not what I wanted to hear. Truth is truth, and no matter what I wanted, I must eventually settle with what I received.  Life will continue, and my family and friends will always remind me of their devotion and appreciation.

Life is very unpredictable, and often reveals things to us that sinks us to our knees.  It is in the harshest of moments that we are reminded that Christ’s presence does not change. It does not blow in with the wind at its own leisure, but stands by us and commits to a holy presence that will never leave us.  Life is often unstable, but God is not.  It is important that I remember this lesson of absolute stability on days like this.

Today I am grateful for my wife, who calls me through the day to make sure that I am still standing vertically.  I give thanks for the support of my buddy Charlotte.  My goodness, how blessed I was to meet you all of those years ago.  Your friendship continues to be an amazing blessing in my life.

And as I continue to journey through this day of incredible revelations, may I recall in times of weakness this passage from Romans:  “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!”  The victory is ours.  God remains our support.  May I never forget that promise.  Praise be to our amazing God, who gives us the victory through His Son.

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When the Answer is No

The ticket is in your hand as you make your way through the airport.  You have been looking forward to beginning the next leg of your journey.  Woo!  Hoo!  This is going to be the best adventure ever.  The closer you get to the gate, the faster your heart races.  And so you hurry, anxious to reach your destination.

And then the strangest thing happens.  You present your ticket at the gate, only to realize that your purchase is for another day, another place.  You must stay where you are.  The adventure of a lifetime must be delayed, at least for now.

Anger and frustration greet you as you stand there in disbelief.  “I was supposed to get on that plane and travel to that destination,” you cry out.  Life appears unfair, and you stand there feeling completely defeated and helpless.  “I am not meant to remain here,” is the only thing that runs through your mind.

There are times in life where the road neither turns right or left.  We come face to face with a stop sign and road blocks.  The journey requires us to stay put and don’t move. There is more to be done where we are.  Sometimes, the new adventure is the one that we are meant to experience standing right where we are.

Joy can come, even when the answer is no.  The problem is that we must find a way to be still and allow the Spirit to use us where we are.  Sometimes, waiting patiently is not a bad answer.  It is in trying times that we remember that wherever our journey takes us, God will use us.  That is the promise that we are given.  Hope can come out of the ground that is trampled and unkept.  Faith is the assurance that life can still mean something, even when the answer is no.

Today, I pray that joy may abound in the middle of Divine answers of yes and no.  We may be content with all things, even the things that we don’t like.  In the rough seasons, we learn lessons that shape our hearts.  We still respond to the love and care of God and how life is revealed to us.  Praise be to the God of creation, who continues to lead us on the path.

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It’s a Season!

So many times I catch myself preparing for Easter and then treating the season as if it is just one day.  The truth is that the day we celebrate as Easter Sunday is actually the beginning of a period of time; a season in the life of the church.  Matter of fact, the resurrection is not to be observed only one day, but for the entire year.  All of our liturgies are centered around the miraculous event that altered our lives.  We must carry the good news with us at all times.

As I journey through the excitement of the season of spring, I am caught up in all of the excitement that surrounds me.  My youngest son is going into sixth grade, my oldest son finishes one of his best years in school, and I finished all of my coursework for my Doctorate and turn my focus to the Final Project.  There is a newfound energy in all of our lives as we celebrate hard work and determination.

But what about the resurrection?  My prayer is that we did not leave the event behind and vow to come back and celebrate next year.  We call ourselves an Easter people, filled with the joy of our faith.  We must hold on to the fact that a commitment to God is not reserved for one day, but a lifetime of service.

Today, let us remember that our praise must continue as we journey.  Easter is about what God did and continues to do in our lives.  We celebrate the resurrection, but we live into the full power of redemption.  Because of God’s gift, we are made whole.  Let us demonstrate that we are people alive and renewed in the reality that God’s love transcends time and space and that we press on in the fact that we are children of the Most-High God.  Praise be to God, who gives us the final victory in His Son.

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The Time is Coming

The evening is nearing its end, and soon it will be morning.  Tomorrow we will give thanks to our Creator, who redefined God’s relationship with humanity.  The tomb opened, and there was no one there, and the heavens sang a loud Alleluia!  Nothing fills the space but light.

Here, in the last stages of the holiest of seasons, we remember the sadness will give way in the morning.  We simply need to hold on until the dawn.  At times it is hard to focus because we ride that fine line between despair and hope.  Keep the faith that tomorrow will bring a new way of living, a new way of being.

We sit in the darkness anxiously awaiting Easter morning.  Hope in all of its glory reveals itself to the world, and we rejoice with God and the angels.  This day is a day of rebirth, of resurrection.  Life conquers death, and we experience it first-hand.

This final night in Jerusalem I am sitting in silence with full confidence that I shall see the beauty of the morning.  The darkness that overwhelmed me releases itself to the day. Freedom rings true, hearts are made whole, and Christ comes to us in full victory.  Our loud Hosannahs fill the sky.

With this entry, I fulfilled my Lenten discipline.  With the exception of one day, I posted all forty days of the season.  I thank God for the words that somehow found their way to the computer.  Some days proved harder than others, but maintaining faithfulness somehow got me through the hardest of days.  All I can say is, Praise God, who gives us the final victory in His Son!

Happy Easter to You All,

Joe

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It is Finished

The earthly ministry came to an end.  He did what He came to the world to do; show the love and grace of God to humanity.  Through Him, God revealed God’s very self to the world.  And in response, the world crucified Him.  Yes, the world and not just a few people.

We know the rest of the story, but for now, we are left with the words, “It is finished.” We are left with the death of Jesus and wonder what he meant by the small little phrase that he uttered on the cross.  What does it mean?  Perhaps it means that His purpose on earth was complete and in His death, the world would know that the Son of God finished what He came to earth to do.  Maybe the utterance of the Savior indicated that He had no more left to give.  This was it.  He had done all that He could do.  “It is finished.”

We know what it is like to complete something.  For some of us, our end of term projects are done, and we can regain the human race.  For others, it could mean the ending of a long struggle with medical issues that completely overwhelm us.  To say, “It is finished,” indicates that the treatment is done.  No more hospital visits in the foreseeable future. We move on to another part of our journey.

This, the darkest night of the soul, when our faith leaves us with more questions than answers, we come to remember the sacred moment of the death of Jesus.  Hope was gone and everything we knew now seemed upside down.  The air filled with a heaviness that seemed to hold everyone captive.  The Messiah died, and there was no expectation that he would come back.  All was lost.

Today in the city of Jerusalem, we take that long day’s journey into the night of our faith. We take on the very nature of loss and loneliness, remembering that the One, who delivered us now is dead.  And we must live with this reality.  Our souls are filled with sorrow as we try to make sense of all of this.  Praise be to our God, who till holds us, even while Divine tears are shed for His loss.  And for now, let us reflect on what it means to hear the words, “It is finished!”

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The Darkness and Me

Here we are in the darkest days of the year.  Jesus is betrayed and everything that we know to be true seems to unravel right before our eyes.  He is the Messiah, so why doesn’t he do something?  He could call down a legion of angels and destroy the enemy. All it would take is one look, one gesture to indicate the time is now.  Frustration speaks loud and clear.

We know what it is like to feel hopeless when there is nothing left but the darkness. The roar of our hearts beats faster and faster.  There is no escaping it.  We can’t walk around it.  We must walk through the middle of blackness to get to the light.  It is our only way, and so we walk forward.  Our steps are unsure and very calculated.

We find our way in the dark because the light is hidden deep within us.  It illumines our path, and it is bright enough to pierce the night.  And through the journey, we smile with the confidence of God’s children. We remember the scripture that reads, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5 NKJV).

My journey in Jerusalem today takes me into uncharted territory.  I cannot see clearly in the dark.  The only thing I know is that the light within me is my guide.  My job is not to stop and be overwhelmed with the things that can bring me harm in the night.  I must commit fully to the path and trust the Creator to guide me.  Praise be to God the Father, who is with us through the most difficult part of the journey.

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