What Does the Lord Require of You?

“He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 CEB).

     Nowadays, we lack kindness in our world. Whatever happened to caring for our neighbors? Sometimes, the noise is so loud that it overpowers the voices that cry out for a return to sanity. I often remember the psalmist asking, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Ps. 137:4 KJV). Kindness seems like a foreign word as leaders attempt to solve the world’s problems.

     At this moment, I turn to the verse in Micah. The Lord does more than ask us. He requires us to follow the laws given by God, radical care for those around us, and to continue living in your faith by following the Creator. These three things sum up our faith in a nutshell: We encounter God, we experience transformation to be a light in a word of darkness, and we practice our faith by continuing to journey with our Lord. We find hope in our commitment to live a life that is pleasing to God. Each day we remember our transformation and hold it deep within our hearts.

     How can we grow in our faith right now, right here? We can examine our lives to find the things that prevent us from living justly, loving wholeheartedly, and continue walking in the light of Christ. There are no instructions to judge others, but we do justice. The practice of our faith is what calls others to follow the Son. We must be bold in our love of God and each other, allowing our hearts and minds to renew our commitment to the Divine.

     May you find a new spark of hope in your faith this week. May you be made aware that you are a beloved child of the Most-High God. In being a new creation, people may see the light in all that you do. May your witness be bold and secure as you walk in holy illumination. A more vibrant and more authentic commitment is that for which we hope. Embrace the hope found in Christ and be changed.

This Looks Strangely Familiar

We are back in the area that we call home, thirty miles from Albuquerque and mountains right outside our windows. The size of the church is similar to past places that I served. As a pastor, I think many of us experience the highs and lows of ministry. I am no different from my fellow clergy persons. There are experiences in my past that I learned how to do things and what not to do. It is all part of the human process.


In my circumstance, it is easy to look at the new and compare it to the old. This view is not a negative judgment; it is merely a reality. My problem is that some of the negative stuff caught in my head still lingers in my mind’s crevices. One person acts like someone else, and wham, my body tenses as it waits for the scene of the past to mandate how the present will speak. Again, this is my reaction to what I experienced in the past. I need to redeem the part of me that holds on to negative messages. I must let go, but it is tough to do so.

As a child of God, I find that resentment is the hardest part of our walk. Ridding myself of sorrow is a constant struggle and must be handled, for failure to do so robs the current situation of my whole self. I am sure those who caused harm do not think about the damage done, so why should I? God ordains our calling, and so we minister right now, leaving our past behind.

What we do take forward are the truths that are revealed to us. Our calling compels us to share the Gospel by God and not by people. Sometimes there is conflict, and other times there is joy. We take all of these experiences and learn from everything, the good and the bad. Every situation informs us to move forward as we sometimes learn tough lessons on the journey.


And as far as the new surroundings, while it is great to learn from the past, I cannot let it dictate the present. Take what I learned, not how I reacted. This enlightened approach means allowing myself to objectively look at the summation of all experiences and say, “Thank you, God, for guiding me to this moment, confident that the lessons of the past may illuminate my ministry in the present.”

New Pastoritis

     Today is my first Sunday as the pastor of a new church, and I am excited about the possibilities for worship and growth in the Word. But I am up at 5:00 a.m., this morning, wide awake. I complete my sermon on Thursday and feel good about the message. What weighs on me this morning does not concern the semantics of how things proceed. I am in my twelfth year of ministry, so I am accustomed to the butterflies I feel on Saturday evening. I talked to many pastors who wrestle with the dreaded pre-Sunday question, “Is my sermon good enough?”

     There is something about the beginning of a ministry in a new place. For me, I feel the awesome responsibility on my shoulders of sacred leadership. And so, this morning, I offer a prayer before I start. I hope that when all is said and done that Holy Hands direct the ministry at Belen First United Methodist Church, and my ears may listen to the spiritual needs of the people who worship with us. I offer what I have to a people who entrust me to be their pastor.

     When one weighs the responsibilities for the care of God’s people, the task proves, at times, overwhelming. Thank God, I do not share this burden alone, but a continued dependence on the Holy Spirit to guide the journey. I come today equipped with a sacred message and aware of the responsibility placed on my shoulders. 

     May what I say and do during my tenure at this church be pleasing to the Father and let us move forward together as a people who follow the calling ordained by a loving God. May Divine love pour over us, so that the light of Christ may shine and illuminate the road before us.

     Peace to all this day. And now, let all who serve this day truly offer this old prayer, “Let the words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.” (The United Methodist Book of Worship, pg. 22).

The Gift

Certain events happen in life that will forever remain in our minds. I will never forget the day of June 23, 1996. At about 9:56 p.m., something happened that changed the trajectory of my life. My first son came into the world, crying at the top of his lungs. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I remember thinking that this little creature that the medical staff placed in my arms would change me. Everything I did, from this moment forward, was for his welfare. My reason for living took an abrupt turn, as now someone else needed me for many reasons.

I could not believe that I inherited a name that sounds much better to my ears than the one I knew. My son (Doesn’t that sound great?) began calling me “Padre” early on and never stopped. The world seems brighter when I hear him call me the endearing name that is synonymous with joy. Let everyone else call me Joe, but there are only two people in the world who call me “Dad.”

Today marks the twenty-fourth year to the day that my first child made his presence known. Since that day in 1996, I never stopped giving thanks for him, my greatest gift. May he enjoy his special day as much as I do. I hope that he lives a life filled with passion and purpose. All of these things I hold up to God and say, “Thank you for the miracle of life, as found in my amazing son.”

When a Friend Reaches Out

Amid the Coronavirus, isolation proves difficult. We must remain separated from close friends and family at a time when reaching out seems like a natural response to this horrible pandemic. Life is anything but typical, and I find myself feeling like we are in the middle of the movie Groundhog’s Day. Like the character Bill Murray portrays, I get up and basically run through the same agenda every day.  While the feeling of the mundane is problematic, I know it is necessary to fight the new virus that invaded our communities.

In the middle of all of the routine, I received a not from a friend simply saying, “I hope that all is well with you. I have been thinking of you and wanted to reach out.” I smiled when I read the note. My friend thought of me! This small sign of thoughtfulness raised my spirits and offered me a place of sanctuary. This act of kindness overcame any feelings of being stuck in a rut, simply because this beautiful note reminded me that I matter to someone else in this world. I am not alone.

I challenge you to do the same for another person. Reach out by writing, calling, or even visiting through apps such as Zoom or FaceBook live. There is no telling what kind of hope we can offer to one another with just one simple act of kindness. We need to be the hands and feet of Christ now more than ever. May God remind you of His love for you, and may you respond in acts of generosity to those closest to you. Blessings to you and God’s generous love overwhelm your spirit this one and only 22nd of April, 2020.

Easter is Here!

There is one sure thing, Easter is here! No pandemic can stop it, and no safe distancing can prevent its occurrence. For Christians, every day is Easter. The Son of the Most-High God offered himself as a living sacrifice for each one of us. In so doing, we are now joint heirs and the children of the Holy One. Praise be to God for His amazing gift of grace!

Yes, indeed, we are not in our building on one of the holiest days of the year. We had to adjust to protect our loved ones. That does not change the fact of what the Lord did in reclaiming humanity for Himself. Just like we experience in the moments of our beliefs, we are new creations. The light enters our souls, and we offer are Father the best seat in the house, in the very core of our souls. He feasts and celebrates our new spirit, our new hope.

Friends, this Easter Sunday is still a day of absolute love and remembrance. We do not need a building to tell us that, for hope is born inside of us. That is the most important thing about the day. I know that things are off-kilter right now, and we long for normalcy. Today should be a day that we get together with the church filled as we celebrate Communion in the physical presence of one another.

But the reality of the world prevents us from following our time-honored traditions. We hear of death every day, and if you are like me, I grow weary of hearing dramatic death announcements on just about every channel. I need some good news, and I need it fast. I don’t care ever to listen to the term “social distancing” ever again in my lifetime.

In the darkest of times, we must remember the light that broke all the barriers down. I must remember this message, “Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. That proves God’s love towards us. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. Glory to God. Amen.”

My First Red Hymnal

My First Hymnal

I hold my first hymnal with my name on it. An older couple gave this wonderful gift to me a lifetime ago. I was the music director of Holy Trinity UMC, a magnificent church in the Northshore are on the east side of Houston, Tx. One Christmas, I received this hymnal as a gift. It was all new and shiny and had never been used. I did not have the words to express my appreciation for what lay behind the careful thought of giving me a present that I continue to use for many years. Every time I open the pages of my gift, I smile as I remember the kindness offered to me with such a simple gesture of appreciation.

I think this hymnal is a lot like me now. It doesn’t look as pretty or as shiny as it once did, but it still has all of the beautiful hymns, creeds, worship services, and confessions and pardons of the faith. My red book and I traveled many roads together, and through the years, our lives changed. The one thing that remains the same is that both of us still carry the word of God within us, inviting anyone to look beyond the damage covers to explore the beauty of sacred texts longing to be read and heard.

I think of both the hymnal and myself remembering that through any storms that may occur, there is one thing that never changes; the incredible word of the Most-High God. Take your hymnals and sing to God with every ounce of breath that you have. Sing as if no one hears you, and make a joyful noise. It sets the spirit free to come alive once more and share the Gospel to all the world. Sing, no matter what your cover may look like. You are a child of God. Remember that nugget of truth.

Singing God’s Song in a Strange Land

“How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Ps. 137:4 NAKJ).

Sometimes I feel like I am lost and alone. I am one who can be lost in a crowd of people and experience feelings of isolation. Thoughts like, “If these people really knew me, they would head for the hills.” I stand there, trapped, and unable to get out of the room. I must stay and continue to be pleasant.

My guess is that many of us know what it is like to feel displaced. We go through the motions to simply fulfill our obligations so that we can return back to a place of refuge. Our spirits long to find places where we can be our real selves. This search for full acceptance is difficult to do in a world that is more concerned with maintaining the status quo than being authentic.

The people in exile felt the same way. How could they wholeheartedly worship without a place to call home? Their temple, the center of their worship, was in ruins, and now they find themselves in an area that offers no support to connect with the Most-High God. They reach a spiritual crisis at a time when they need the surety of God’s presence.

Perhaps in this moment of trial, God guides his chosen ones to find the answer to their question. Maybe the secret to worship is not looking for an outside place to fill gaps, but within our very souls, we carry the temple within us. The secret chambers of our hearts are where the Holy One dwells among us. This very sacred space is where we begin our journey.

I hope to remember when I am in places of uncertainty, that the temple of God resides in me. That means I am not alone. I can still sing God’s songs in what I consider a “strange land.” My faith requires authenticity, and so a room appearing unfamiliar and distant is a good starting point to share the Good News of Christ. By sharing, I mean letting the light shine from deep within our souls. And if needed, use words.

When the Cabinet Calls

As a pastor in the United Methodist Church, this time of year brings a sense of jittery feelings in the pit of my stomach. We go through our daily routine, wondering every time the phone rings if it is not our District Superintendent calling with an opportunity to provide leadership in a new church for the next appointive year. For some of us, it is the call that we hope to receive (I know what that feels like). But for some of us, the call represents a time of change that is not always welcomed. We sit in a place of blackness, unsure how to tell the people that you love and care for that our time together is coming to an end.

I received one of those calls last week. I did not expect to get as emotional as I did, but part of me wanted to say, “No, I’m not finished here. We are only beginning to get to know one another. Ministry is presenting itself in different ways, the people are happy, and I am happy. Please keep me right where I am.”

As soon as I pour out my heart to God, I hear the most reassuring of voices telling me, “I am so glad that you continue to love the people of my church. It is time to share your gifts in another place. Don’t worry, the people here will continue to thrive because their faith is firmly centered in Christ. Let another pastor share their hope, you have another mission.”

This is what I know, I came to you broken, and you healed my spirit. There is love in places you never dreamed you would go, and God continues to lead us all on this journey. While I look forward to the many opportunities to share the Word in another place, I will always stand and give thanks to you for all of the love you poured out on my family. Peace and blessings to my amazing church. Amen.

Finding Our Way, With Community

Originally published at Hemophilia News Today on April 19, 2018.

I held my son, my firstborn, in my arms. From outward appearances, no one could guess that he had a bleeding disorder. Some moments, I forgot about his diagnosis. Life seemed to be moving at a healthy pace, and my wife and I invited the newest member of the MacDonald clan into our house. We were utterly captivated by him. All seemed right with the world.

The first several months of life with my son, we later learned, were considered a honeymoon period. Since he did not move around an awful lot, he had very few chances of incurring any trauma that could lead to complications (even though he could have a spontaneous bleed). One evening, my amazing young man fell asleep after drinking a bottle. I carried him to the nursery and laid him down on his bed.

As he lay there fast asleep, a wave of panic overwhelmed me. I had no idea what the future would hold. What might happen to him? I wanted to protect him from whatever hemophilia meant. With nothing else left to do, I placed my hand on his little back and tried to send all the good energy that could flow from my hands to his sleeping body. Nothing could happen to us that we couldn’t handle.

When my son turned 6 months old, we began to experience moments when the vocabulary of hemophilia began to introduce itself into our lives. Our first visit to the doctors, nurses, and social workers who made up our treatment facility forged a link in managing “MacDonald the Older’s” medical needs. The entire time graciously welcomed us to the community. Each person provided crucial information that guaranteed us the best possible care available.

We met key members of the bleeding disorder population and received support from many of the mighty men and women who experience and care for those managing hemophilia and other related issues. Our new family proved crucial to our understanding of what my son needed. All we had to do was pick up a phone, and we instantly felt connected to something greater than ourselves. Almost 22 years have passed, and we still consider these incredible men and women our dearest friends.

Early in my son’s life, we learned lessons that continue to carry us forward. We know that family is not defined by those physically related to you, but by people who surround you with joy and hope in all circumstances. My wife and I discovered that we had a strength that we never knew was part of our DNA. We also realized that we are an outstanding team, and together, provide our boys with a force that we didn’t know we possessed.

And so we started our journey through the world of bleeding disorders. Sometimes we found solace in friendships; other times, we relied on one another. No matter what happened or occurred, we were grateful that this beautiful life came into our world. He was born, and nothing else would ever be the same. For that, I look up at the stars and say, “Thank you!”

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