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 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 color.  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.  Everyone else 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 move vital.  I also give thanks for teachers who changed the trajectory of my life.  I can never express my appreciation for teaching me how to color with a passion that infused my soul.  I am grateful for the joy that music continues to bring to me.

“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.”  (Two Roads, Frost).

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Hey Padre

“Hey, Padre!”  I hear those words and all is right with the world.  This is what my oldest son calls me.  I can’t remember when he started.  All I know is that when I hear that small phrase my pulse slows down and I remember that I am loved and everything else just doesn’t seem to be that important.  It is amazing that such a tiny group of letters has such a profound effect on my soul.

We all have certain words or sentences that remind us who we are and that we are loved beyond our own understanding.  We feel a sense of belonging and security when certain people utter names or phrases.  Whatever these words are, we are never quite the same. We smile and wrap ourselves in a warm blanket of hope and trust.

Today I am grateful for the small group of words that collectively give me hope. I realize that the journey is full of twists and turns, but the one constant is the rich meaning behind words and phrases of love that carry us onward.  Sometimes they are the only things that push us higher and faster as we move on.  And to be honest, many times all we need is the assurance that someone is right there with us, walking with us to utter the words that we need to hear.

And so, I say, “Thanks be to God!” for every word, every blessing that is uttered to give me hope.  May the words of my mouth do the same for others who need to hear holy words of hope and joy.  May the words uttered ring like bells in your ears.  When all is said and done, may it all lead to the One, who gave us life.

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Sharing My Story

Last week I presided at my uncle’s funeral in Houston.  I prepared what one should say at a graveside memorial.  I had the right litany, the right prayers, even the right words.  As I stood up and witnessed a score of aunts, uncles, cousins and longtime family friends, I realized that what I prepared was not what was needed.  I did not open my book but instead began to share how much this wonderful man meant to all of us.  His absolute joy for life and compassion were second to none.  I found myself offering a hymn of thanksgiving more than the prepared and careful words that I prepared.

One of the other blessings that came as a result of my trip was that I saw and met members of my family.  Caeleb was with me and I introduced him to people that he did not know.  I explained each person’s relationship to me and how they were related to him.  I am sure that he forgot most of the names.  The most important thing is that he discovered part of his own legacy.

My favorite part of the trip was taking my youngest son to some important places in his mom’s life and mine.  Caeleb was only six months old when we moved to New Mexico, and he did not have the history in Houston that we shared.  I wanted him to know what we meant when we referred to different places.  I took him to the church where Caz and I were married a lifetime ago.  I took him to see where his mom lived before we were married followed by several other important places.  His favorite part was seeing the Gulf of Mexico.  We just don’t have that much water in New Mexico.

There are moments when the world stops and you realize that your life is comprised of different places and events that help shape who you are.  There are people that help shape us and shared the wisdom that enlightened our paths.  To us, these amazing men and women helped direct us to sacred spaces, filled with the richness of your life.  This trip was a reminder of my journey and how grateful I was that I got to share them with my son.

And as for my Uncle George, he was a man of integrity and was compassionate beyond belief.  He was bawdy and could make you laugh at some of the most off colored statements known to man.   With him, all were welcomed, no matter who they were.  I consider myself blessed because I called him my uncle.  May we all have an Uncle George to stand beside us and remind us that who we are is enough.  Praise be to God for the amazing life of this man.

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Down by the Riverside

This summer I am preaching a series called “Down by the Riverside.”  I am moving away from the comfort of the lectionary and sharing Biblical stories that center around water. Sacred events are shared around lakes, rivers, streams, and wells.  Every experience demonstrates the power of God, and how the Spirit is revealed to humanity.  Through these holy stories, we capture brief images of the wonder of our Creator, as we are transformed and claimed in the name of our Most-High God.

Water quenches not only our physical thirst but our spiritual needs as well.  Our journey takes us to places to be refreshed and filled with the goodness of God.  We are made whole by drinking from the living fountain of Divine redemption.  All we have to do is allow ourselves to stop and drink this healing water.

I must admit, that continuing to stop at the right watering whole is not an easy thing to do sometimes.  I sometimes get carried away and forget about the one place that offers me restoration.  My hope is to surrender my worries and concerns and allow the One, who brings me peace, to also sustain me.  Some days are easier than others.

So, the challenge that I have as I travel “Down by the Riverside” is to surrender my soul to God and be assured that all of the rest will be taken care of.  And when I come to the living waters, I remember whose I am.  This comforts me and gives me rest beyond my imagination.  Praise be to God, who leads us beside quiet waters and restores our soul.

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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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