Gripe, Gripe, Gripe!

God delivered the people of Israel and what do they manage to do? Gripe about their circumstances. Never mind that Moses, with God’s help, led the people out of bondage. Everyone safely crossed the sea and witnessed one of, if not the most remarkable miracles ever known. They wanted steak, and they wanted it now. Many complained that it would have been better to stay in Egypt than die in the wilderness. In short, gratitude was not the leading practice of the day.

The undercurrent that I hear in the Exodus chapters is fear. How will I survive? Where can I eat? What if?…… While the natural propulsion is to read with complete shock, I don’t believe we are that different than the ancient Hebrews. We witness God’s incredible presence over and over again, only to return to a place of skepticism.

God calls us to come out from under the rocks that leave us hidden from the world, captured by fear. Let the Holy One feed you and give you living water to quench your thirst. We may be in the wilderness sometimes, but the God who delivered us from slavery still leads us to green pastures and quiet waters.

Today, may I continue to walk in the light and celebrate the joy of the Lord, who is my strength. No griping allowed, only shouts of hope. Let us remember to search for the Lord with our whole heart and soul and as we seek out God, may our heart remain set on the riches in which we give thanks. Praise be to our amazing God.

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God, the Creator of All

“God answered him (Moses), ‘Who gives a person a mouth?  Who makes a person dumb or deaf,  keen-sighted or blind?  Isn’t it I, Adonai?'”  (Ex. 4:11 CJB).

Those of us who either have or are caregivers for those with chronic illness know what it is like to feel as if we are the cause of our loved one’s affliction. We said or did something wrong, and because of our sins, our punishment is relegated to those closest to us. Guilt overwhelms us and leaves us spiritually paralyzed. We ask ourselves, “What have I done God, that my dear one must face every day with his/her affliction?” This question reverberates over and over in our brains until we cannot hear the truth that everyone is created in the image of God.

I’ve moderated many groups of those with bleeding disorders. Because the genetic marker is on the X-chromosome, hemophilia is passed through the mothers DNA. Newly diagnosed families handle the shock in different ways. It is my experience that a mother feels a tremendous amount of guilt while a father is frustrated because he cannot fix the problem. It is out of his control.

Enter the fantastic verse from Exodus. While Moses attempts to make every excuse known to man why he should not be the one who returns to Egypt to free the Hebrew people from slavery, God says, “Hold up Moses! What is going on with you? I made everybody, including those who have every kind of disability. I even created those with every type of chronic illness known and unknown (I insert the word hemophilia).

Hear this, let us be very careful in who we call whole and healthy. To God, there is no difference between any of us. The Creator did not make a mistake when we were fashioned together in the womb of our mothers. Everyone one of us is made in the imageo Dei (image of God). As such, we are all perfectly designed. Each of us created with a spirit longing to sing praises unto our God.

This day, let us live with purpose knowing whose we are. Seek out the God of our understanding and sit in silence, giving thanks to the Creator. Chronic illness may change how we live our lives and relate to the world, but they can never keep us from living out our purpose in a society that cannot fathom how we can live in a state of joy always and everywhere, giving thanks to our amazing God. Amen.

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It’s Joseph? Uh Oh!

Although the Biblical text never mentions the reaction of the brothers when Joseph revealed to them his true identity, I can only imagine that fear had to overwhelm the dastardly siblings. I picture Jacob’s sons having a shepherd in the fields “Fear Not!” experience. Undoubtedly they expressed a hint of uncertainty. They had no idea what would happen next. Was this the time that Joseph would exact his revenge?

We know what it feels like to be at the end of the road, running from mistakes we made in the past. To move forward, we must “Fear Not!” and confront our pain head-on. Sometimes there is uncertainty about who or what will not hear us or they will fight even harder to keep us in bondage. Whatever it may be, we will never know the truth until we move past the pain that continues to hunt us down.

Hear the good news, Joseph embraced his brothers and welcomed them with open, loving arms. What began as a tense meeting gave way to joy and happiness. For Joseph, it meant that he could share his success with those closest to him. For the brothers, they learned how to love and cast pettiness aside, for the most important thing, even in the first book of the Bible, is love.

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From Injury to Forgiveness

Yesterday we read the incredible story of Jacob and Esau. In the story, Jacob the trickster robbed Esau out of his birth rite. He lied and with shrewd calculation convinced his father to bless him. It wasn’t right. Esau was the firstborn child and being the oldest deserved respect.

I can’t imagine the anger that Esau felt. The betrayal of his friend, his brother, must have put him over the edge. His fury must have consumed him as he struggled to find his way in the world. Why would the person closest to him hurt him so deeply? Was he mad or angry? Perhaps he felt a little of both emotions.

Jacob didn’t help resolve the issue. There is never an accounting in Scripture where he attempted to figure out a way to make it right with Esau. His greed got him what he wanted, and now it appears that his actions placed in a prison of fear. The only way that he could find freedom would be to talk with Esau and attempt to find common ground.

We know what it is like to be either brother in this story. Sometimes we get selfish and in so doing, hurt the ones we love. We also know what it is like to be betrayed. Someone closest to us speaks an unkind word or does something that is devastating. We, like Esau, feel anger, hurt, and struggle to make sense of how our loved one(s) could hurt us so profoundly.

The end of the story is the most remarkable part. Jacob knew that he had to face Esau. Jacob feels complete fear that he will die. Esau, in Jacob’s mind, is still furious and wants to set the record straight. So, the trickster divides his families and prepares for the dreaded confrontation.

When the brothers meet, there is no battle, there is not an unkind word. Esau’s motivation is to see his brother and embrace him as his family. He missed him. The man that had every right to be angry forgave his brother. The relationship proved far too important than the feelings of betrayal.

And now we get to the meat of the story, the act of forgiveness. I am not sure that I could forgive someone who stole so much, nor would I want a relationship with those that were so cruel. Perhaps Esau may help give a little perspective on how to rise up and let go of the past. Maybe his ability was so precious that the anger could not overcome the love for his brother. His choice overcame a culture that insisted on an eye for an eye. He dismissed what he knew to embrace love.

As someone who knows what it is like to have complicated relationships, this is where I push the pause button. I’m not sure I can get to where Esau is standing. Some people wounded me so gravely that I am not sure I can forgive the pain. How can I get to Esau’s level of forgiveness? Maybe the answer is found in baby steps. Perhaps we must start by praying to God to make us be able to pray for forgiveness. It may take years. Whatever the process, the goal is to find some way to release ourselves of the anger and hurt we feel. Notice the negative feelings are about us and not the one(s) who hurt us.

I love the way this story ends. Isaac, their father dies, and both Jacob and Esau bury him. The brothers come together to demonstrate their new found friendship. Hope was restored, and new ways of being in a relationship with one another changed. A new life started with forgiveness, and nothing is the same.

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In the Midst of Sorrow

The reading today, Genesis 20-22, provided many resources for more profound thought and reflection. We see Sarah and Abraham’s trick on Abimelech that nearly cost the king his life, the birth of Isaac, and the ultimate sacrifice pitting father against son. Where do we start? Each story provides opportunities to share pertinent ideas about the relationship between God and His people.

The story that caught my eye almost always goes unnoticed. It is the accounting of Hagar (Gen. 21:8-21). We might look and think, “How petty is Sarah that she should harbor ill will against her husband’s son?” She is the one who insisted that Abraham have a child with her servant. Situations may change, but promises do not.

So Abraham does Sarah’s dirty work and casts Hagar and Ishmael out of the area. Things are okay for a while, but then Hagar runs out of water given to her. She leaves Ishmael and sits with her back to him for fear she would catch a glimpse of panic and starvation in his eyes. At this moment, in the middle of her deepest grief when nothing seems to help, God calls to her.

Did you hear that? God called to Hagar. He comforts her and assures her this is not the end. There is much more to do and see. “My promise I made to you will not go unanswered.”

We certainly know what it feels like to feel hopeless and at the end of our rope. We cry out, sobbing to God. “Why did this happen to me?” Our soul feels like it will break with pain.

In the moments of our greatest struggles, God calls out to us. The message may be soft or loud, but it comes from the same place. The voice that encourages us to get up and rise. The One, who reminds us over and over again that His promises will be fulfilled.

On this day, let us be grateful for Hagar’s example and get up and be restored to wholeness. Let us praise our God who continues to redeem us and bring us to new life. The author of unending love assured us that there will never be a time that we will walk the path by ourselves. Praise be to God for divine guidance.

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What’s in a Name?

Today we read Genesis 10-13. We have a look at our very first genealogy tree. I kept thinking to myself, “Why are all these names here?” I tried to follow along and keep everything straight, but I started to loose track. So and so was so and so’s grandfather, followed by an uncle, fathered by a second son after the death of a father.

So, why did the author go to such lengths to name the descendants of Noah? One thought may be to understand how the world repopulated itself after the flood. All humanity came from Noah and not from any other person. Noah’s family members were the only people to survive after the great rains covered the earth. The flood story discounts any other theories.

Another thought might charge us to look at the beginning and the ending. We want to know where we started and where we finished. For the purposes of this accounting, we begin with the sons of Noah. We follow all three sons, but take a keen interest in the genealogy of Shem. The last person name is Abram.

**Spoiler Alert** Abram becomes the man Abraham, the founder of the Jewish race. God announces to Abraham that he will make his name great and his descendants will number as great as the stars. This man is the beginning, the first of the great men of Genesis. These men (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) become known as the patriarchs of the faith.

And it all started with one person and an amazing family line. We all know what it is like to come from a long list of family. We bestow our traditions and customs to the ones who follow us, never dreaming what life will look like years from now when we are no longer here. Hopefully, when all is said and done, our teachings will remain with our great great grandchildren and their families.

Today, I am grateful for a lineage that I leave for the descendants that follow me. May they be blessed and be fearless worshipers of the God who sustains me now. Praise be to our incredible Creator, who just like he did for Abraham, continues to lead us to the land of milk and honey.

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What Do We Hide From God?

They were both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25 CJSB).

This year I committed to reading the Bible through in one year. I will blog through my journey and invite you to read along with me. What ideas stand out to you when reading scripture? What new insights will you gain from the old traditional stories and what new faith accounts will you discover? If you read along with me I hope the time set aside for delving into the Bible brings you joy and a new awareness about the workings of our amazing God.

Today’s reading covered Genesis 1-3. The accounting of both creation stories and the expulsion out of the Garden of Eden. In the middle of the story, there is a brief moment where the man and woman were naked. Now, while the could have literally had no clothing on their bodies, I think the text invites us to go deeper into the intimate relationship God had with Adam and Eve. Perhaps the lack of clothing meant that they hid nothing from the Creator of the World. Their relationship was communal and delighted in the joy of worship in the presence of Elohim.

But things changed when trust was broken. Now they covered themselves with clothing, because they hid in shame. The relationship Adam and Eve shared with the Divine could no longer exist. After eating the fruit, they did understand the difference between good and evil, but what the snake failed to say is that their actions marked a drastic difference with their relationship with God. Within the heart, with the bite of the fruit, sin entered the very fabric of the human DNA. No longer could humanity stand in the full presence of God.

I sometimes find myself in the same situation. I want to hide part of my heart and keep it locked away afraid that God will not like me when I am discovered as a phony. I hide myself in all kinds of clothing like a big coat of denial, or a sweater of fear. We all know what it means to struggle often keeping our greatest hurts and pains locked away from other people and ultimately even God.

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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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