Where Do We Go from Here?

     I cannot help but think of the Jewish refugees reentering the land flowing with milk and honey after the exile. Jerusalem lay in ruins, and the first temple no longer existed. The word trauma seems to be an appropriate word as the life remembered in dreams no longer existed. Many probably asked, “Where do we go from here?”

     Many of us can relate to the feeling of our ancient brothers and sisters. We know what it is like to have our world taken from us. A sense of despair overwhelms soul after soul as we stand in shock, unsure of what to do next. Hopelessness permeates the air as we try to discover a way to make it through the next minute. Finally, our struggles become overwhelming, leaving us in absolute brokenness.

     In the blackest moments, God begins holy work in the smallest ways. As we turn toward an almost imperceptible glimmer of light, we discover that hope finds us in all our stuff. Our journey toward the little source of illumination gives way to a greater light. Suddenly, we stand and discover the source of our light fills us with a new way of being. We find hope in the Divine. We realize that, much like the ancients, we must find our way out of the darkness by looking for a small ray of light.

     I pray that all who suffer this day may find God when all seems lost. Friends may offer comfort and thereby shine the light of Christ into lives who lost their way. May we be the hands and feet of Christ just as we are, to show agape to a world that needs the good news. We step forward in faith with the assurance that we, the people who once walked in darkness, now see a great light.

A Fresh Start

     It is no secret that I took a little time off from my blog to rest and renew my spirit. But unfortunately, I found that I began to put pressure on myself to write something, anything, consistently. As a result, I grew resentful and did not want to be accountable, so I took a long pause to rekindle the spark that moved me. In short, I needed a break from the self-induced stress that I unknowingly placed on myself.

     I think about all the pastors that serve in local churches who do not listen to the signals that warn us of burnout. I learned to listen to the tell-tale signs of stress and anxiety. As a result, I experience anger and resentment against anything that tries to take my time. It is not a pretty sight, but I learned to hear that inner voice saying, “find rest for your soul.”

     It is easy to keep the Spirit silenced as a clergyperson. No one waits to have an emergency when it is convenient for my schedule. But, life happens, and my calling moves me to be a presence in my parishioners’ lives. The trick is finding ways to experience rest and renewal during challenging times. What can I do to maintain my edge so that I may continue to serve God with my entire being?

     I realize that as a pastor, it is crucial to encourage everyone to maintain a daily prayer life and connect with the Spirit each day. I wish I had followed my advice, but my connection with God fell by the wayside. Nevertheless, the same Spirit that speaks to you is available to speak to me. The trick is letting the Holy One refill my soul too.

     As I return to the land of the living, I hope to discover a new commitment to sharing my thoughts and feelings regarding faith. May all of us take time to let the Spirit work in us and find moments to rekindle our faith throughout our day.

     Thanks be to God, who shares with us love beyond our wildest imagination.

Our Invitation into the Darkness

     Today we begin the season of Lent. As Christians, we discover an invitation to explore the darkest parts of ourselves – the part of our souls cut off from the joy we celebrate in Christ. Our journey reminds us of the many ways we need to discover God’s great love, even in places we could never imagine God inhabiting. With hope, the reexamination of our hearts compels us to respond to Christ’s invitation to feast with him in a way that leads us closer to our redeemer.

     Although I did not worship in a tradition that observed Lent, I later learned the season’s significance. This period of forty days before the celebration of Easter calls me to look into the darkness and bring the light to those places that call out for help. My participation must require a fearless examination of my life to be a better disciple. Only by practicing my faith can I overwhelm the dark places in my soul with holy light. Through my spiritual disciplines, Christ may speak into those spaces that feel lost and rejected.

     In the middle of our distress, I pray that the light of Christ illuminates our paths, piercing through the darkness. I ask God’s presence to captivate us and set free our hearts so that we may follow in fullness. All these things I ask for those who need to hear a bit of Good News during this time. Come, Lord Jesus, and fill our hearts with sacred peace. Amen.

Giving Thanks for My Current House of Worship

     There are moments in ministry, especially itinerant service when moving occurs. Sometimes the possibilities of moving forward appear to be the next right steps. This experience is not the case for me at this moment. This week I had a conversation with my District Superintendent to discuss the ministries of my current church, along with my wishes regarding moving. I told him that I felt like possibilities for growth and renewal continued gathering speed in our church and that I was not interested in leaving. I also understand that I serve in a system that can move me to any church where my gifts and graces may further the cause of Christ.

     As a pastor in an itinerant system, I feel joy as the church supports my leadership. I give thanks to the congregation members at the First United Methodist Church of Belen, who serve God with all their hearts. Our house of worship is a fantastic place to be, and I cannot wait to see the amazing possibilities that lie before us. The seeds of growth found rest in the bed of faith and hope. Let us continue to nurture and water the soil so that ministry may grow and bloom.

     This day, I give thanks to the men and women professing the love of Christ and serving in their churches. May the love of God make the holy presence known through your love and care. May we all give thanks for the houses of worship that we call home, remembering our first encounters with the Holy One began in those places. Remember your Baptism, be grateful, and reach out to a world in need to hear the Good News of Christ.

Have a Merry Christmas Filled with Joy

     When I speak of joy, I do not mean a superficial show of emotions that appeals to the senses. Instead, I refer to a stirring of the soul moving me to realize that God fills every part of my body. My spirit connects with the author of love as I come to appreciate that love (God within me) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things. True joy finds its way into the headwaters of faith and fills the heart with light.

     As we go about the business of Christmas, let us not forget the depth of joy and how it manifests itself in us to a world that needs to discover the riches of God’s love. May true contentment fill our souls and pour out in the form of hope for a bright, better world. To understand the nature of holy joy is to claim the greatest gift that permeates the season. Faith and hope collide, and our hearts are never the same.

     I hope we connect with those around us and offer a season of good cheer, laughter, and complete joy. We reflect on the gift of new birth, not only seen in the manger but also our lives. Faith makes itself known to us as an infant. Let us continue to encourage hope to grow and manifest itself in joy for life, friends, family, and the perpetual light of God. May the reality of the Divine presence be a constant source of strength, not only through the Christmas season but also for the entire year.

Peace and Blessings this Christmas Season,

Joe

A Time to Live in a Spirit of Thanks

     I must say that my heart is full this week of Thankgsliving. My oldest son arrived in town last night, and the first thing we did was sing together. In my world, there is nothing quite like singing with my very talented son. I know that I am prejudiced, but I can’t help enjoying the sound of our voices blending. There is nothing like the beautiful colors of sound that we share as we make a joyful noise.

     I think of my relationship with Christ and hope that the traits that I share with my son are as close. For example, when I pray, do I pray with the same passion as Jesus? Do I treat others in a way that glorifies the Father? I hope that my faith is so interconnected to the Divine that my actions reflect the Creator.

     Many people tell me that my son’s voice blends so well with mine that they have trouble telling our sounds apart. May that be the same for my God, who guides me on my journey, and me. May this time of Thanksliving be a constant reminder that our gratitude should mirror the source of all good things. I hope that everyone celebrates and lives in a spirit of praise and hope, for the light is in the world and among us.

Oh, That We Might Know Him

Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know Him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring” (Hos. 6:3 NLT).

“Let us press on to know Him.” It sounds like something out of a Gnostic treatise. I like the idea of an all-out search for truth. Many denominations teach a literal understanding of scripture, but we are called to something much more profound than words.

The printed page is wonderful but serves as a conduit through which we journey to the truth. We are called to an immeasurable depth, the heart. I am referring to where faith begins, its head-waters.

And once we earnestly search, we will be made aware of a sacred presence holding us close – Peace at the core of belief. I want to remain in baths of freedom, to be the most valid form of myself.

Holding On to the Past Brings Nothing But Heartache

     I have a confession to make. I hold on to the past to the point that I become paralyzed in the present. I think of events and hurts and play them out in my head as if I might create an alternative ending. I know that I can never change events that already occurred, but something compels me to relive the hurts and struggles that cause me grief. The cycle continues, and I spend unnecessary energy trapped within a wall of shame and regret.

     To move forward, I must put events in the past behind me to embrace new opportunities. Maintaining hold of what occurred yesterday does not allow me the freedom to explore other possibilities. Letting go, while frightening, is the only way to focus on the present. I cannot sing the “Lord’s Song” when trapped in the strange land of regret. Hope propels me forward and into the promise that each day brings.

     My prayer for this day is that we may hold fast to hope, giving thanks for each day. Hopefully, we may let go of the things that keep us bound to yesterday and embrace the opportunities of today. There is no telling what gifts we may uncover as we journey through the day. May we live in the knowledge that the author of hope promises us a future full of blessings. We must remain in the present, free from the chains of the past, to embrace the beauty of today.

Finding Pockets of Rest

     Every day I find the busy-ness of life calls for rapid decisions and constant movement. If I am not careful, I can move from busy to overwhelmed at a lightning-fast pace. I run at 100 miles per hour and then wonder why I have nothing left in the tank. Decisions I make throughout the day control spaces in my brain that need to remain free to finish projects or listen to hearts that need to speak.

     To combat all the noise that reverberates through my mind, I must find pockets of rest, moments to stop and reflect on God’s goodness. While observing the Sabbath over a day or two is excellent, I find that I must stop and observe pockets of mini-Sabbaths to keep me focused and give me mental toughness throughout my day. The more I practice mindfulness and spiritual reflection, the better pastor, friend, spouse, father I become.

     Taking time to rest is not a luxury but a necessity. I need time to fill my spiritual tank as much as I need air. Unfortunately, my busy-ness can get in the way of my relationship with God. That might sound like a contradiction in terms I am a pastor and do the work of God on earth. My work, however, should not be my primary focus. The center of our lives is faith. How can works flow from the gift of grace when the free present offered never receives care?

     Today, I commit fifteen minutes to stop and receive the quiet reminder that I am God’s child. May freedom allow me to experience the presence of the Holy One, who so generously gives love beyond anything I can fathom. I take in the breath of God to exhale goodness, kindness, and understanding. May I remember to stop, even for one minute, and reflect on the mercy of the Holy One of Israel and experience transformation.

Growing Into Another Chapter of Faith

     The term “pistus Christu” (faith in/of Christ) continues to be a source of encouragement and strength on my faith journey. I look at what it means to emulate the faith of Christ and set as a very lofty goal to imitate in my own life the examples of how Christ treated his neighbor and how he loved God with his whole heart. I hope to reach out to those who feel that religion failed them or feel so ashamed of themselves that they could not return to church. I’m talking about those with a constant tape that runs through their heads that says, “What you have done is so bad that God cannot forgive me.”

     I know what it is like to feel trapped by stories that are anything but Biblical teaching. We receive, from Christ, freedom from oppression, only to reject the teaching of hope and fall back to a jacked-up message of condemnation and loathing. I find myself in times of prayer, longing to discover the negative tapes in my head so that I can take them out and replace them with hope and truth. Jesus treated me with compassion, just like he did the woman caught in the very act of adultery. He called me to participate in a meal with him, just as he did Zacchaeus.

     May we go through our days and reflect on the truth of our conversion from darkness to light. Let us celebrate that while we were yet sinners, Christ came to us and delivered us from our circumstances. May our gratitude shine with the brightness of the sun as we give thanks for Him, our Redeemer. In all things, let us remember to reflect on the love of God through our actions. We emulate the best that humanity has to offer. Let us respond in a way that is pleasing to the Holy One.

bloodwinewally

Supernatural Sites

Sacred Flow

Yoga. Community. Collaboration.

christopherjoiner

Some Thoughts Along the Way

Cazandra Campos-MacDonald

We take our journey with love and hope.

Perseverance Runner

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

strugglewell

That marriages in crisis will find Biblical solutions and reconciliation

jefflust

Reflections on leadership and what it means to be the church God intends for the 21st century.