I am at my first General Conference of the United Methodist Church. I can only say that within 10 minutes of the first general assembly, I was frustrated and very disappointed. I left the room wondering, “What in the world is in store for the future of my church?” Not only can we not get along, but one side is bullying the other side and attempting to stifle any conversation regarding our differences. “God,” I reasoned, “please speak through your people, in spite of your people.”
I am reminded that we all have different versions or sides to a story. Each of us interprets each act of love and hate in our own way. Our language is not the same. To make the assumption that we all speak of God, in the same way, is to grossly misjudge our sense of individuality and personal sacred worth. We should never assume that we have a monopoly on the truth. We are not God, nor are we appointed to serve as judge and jury regarding other people’s perceptions. Our task is to love God and love others.
Perhaps this conference reminds me that I serve an incredible congregation of believers. My prayer is that we will continue to grow in our tiny part of the world, and not allow those who are governed by politics and hatred to spread their doctrines into the doors of our church. May they take their “stuff” elsewhere. As for us, we will hold fast to the truth that we are all loved by our amazing Creator.
The reality is that we are a loving congregation. We rejoice in the miraculous events that happen in the life of our community, and we mourn with one another when unimaginable events knock us to our knees. Though we are different, we are united in our love and passion for God and God’s people. Praise be to the One, who fashions us in His image and creates in us a new heart and a new spirit.
Last week was an adventure in survival. I had a paper due for a class I had taken, my wife had back surgery, I flew out of town and back for a meeting, and preached on Sunday morning. By Sunday afternoon, I was passed out on the couch. I had nothing left in the gas tank.
Life is like that. There are times that we just coast through, but more often than not schedules are rarely predictable. Such is the life of a pastor. The only thing that we can do is be present in the moment. Anxiety can sometimes take over, and I can easily forget to simply breathe and enjoy where I am at the moment I’m there. Now is what counts.
As I rattled off my busy schedule, I didn’t talk about the blessings that came my way as a result of my crazy time. I celebrated another academic course completed. I gave thanks that my wife had a very successful surgery. I met new friends, and spent a few moments with some great friends. My flights, while adventurous, got me safely to and from my destinations. Sunday morning was filled with celebration and joy. These are the wonders that come with a busy and fulfilled life.
I give thanks to God this day for the gift of servanthood, that I was asked to take part in a consumer panel in the bleeding disorders community. I am grateful that I can connect with a community who longs to hear my story, and the story of my family. I was honored to hear other’s journeys, and the strength and hope that they find on their paths. Their stories are an amazing tapestry of an incredible society of men and women who struggle to make their lives rich and meaningful despite the presence of a bleeding disorder.
I think it is safe to say, that we are a part of many different cultures and societies. It was great to be reminded that I am a part of the hemophilia community. I struggle, just as those around me, to find normal in a world that involves daily infusions, hospital visits, and a medicine closet packed full of medical equipment necessary to give my children a chance at their best lives.
My hope is that through all of the chaos we may remember to find the beauty in the moment. Let us never throw away a single second. Let us give thanks for what we are given. Praise be to God, who never ceases to amaze his children.
I constantly wonder about the journey that I have taken concerning my life. Should I have stayed in the music business a little longer? How far would I have gone if I tried harder? Am I on the right path for me? These are the questions that whirl in my head on a consistent basis.
Of course, the answers are muddled. I mean, do we really know that one road would have brought more joy, or one choice would have brought a deeper sense of being? Who knows? The joys, hopes, and dreams that are present are a result of the choices that we did make, the road that we choose to travel each and every day.
As I search for the answers to the questions that I bring to the table, I am confident that my journey was led and directed by the amazing God of All. I am here in this moment as a result of following the One, who guides me and shows me the path on which I am called to walk and serve. Other dreams are reserved for another life, but not my life. The hopes and joys that are available to me now are a result of the gentle guidance of the Divine, loving me through the difficult way and into the waters of comfort.
And as for the joy meter in my life today, this day as a result of the choices that I did make. I am happy to say that I have a loving wife, who continues to walk this path with me. Two amazing men who call me their father. A congregation that every week, teaches me about the greatness of God, and who holy love transforms us all. All of these blessings are as a result of listening to the presence of the Most-High God, eagerly being transformed into the person that the Holy One created.
Today, I am grateful for my path, and grateful for the many people that surround me, encouraging me to become better, become holier, become more passionate. Praise be to the One, who gives us the victory in Christ, His son. My hope is that we take the journey to which we are called. I hope that we walk boldly, holy, and passionately. I hope that as we journey, we are surrounded by the light of Christ.
I am grateful for my time in Austin. While attending Austin Presbyterian Seminary, I was able to walk the campus of the University of Texas. Ah yes, that beautiful campus with the tower. As I walked down the stairs of the main building, I was taken back to my eighteen-year-old self who was enrolled as a freshman. I thought of the many mistakes that I made that would drastically alter the course of my life. Some of my choices left long lasting marks of shame and regret. I kept asking myself the age old question, “What happened to that kid? Why those choices?”
What a frustrating place in which I found myself. No matter what resolution I could find, it would not replace the opportunities that no longer existed. And then that horrid feeling of being stuck in my inability to fully resolve the issue kicked in. What a mess. I knew that in order to move forward I would have to let go of my insane thinking. You know, the kind of thinking that allows you, in all of your folly to think that you are capable of changing the past.
All of these thoughts seemed to illuminate from my soul as I looked at the past with eyes in the present. I began to talk to that 18-year-old boy. I gave him permission to be himself, that he was more than the scars of his childhood. I assured him that he would move past the effects of the battle wounds that he inherited, and that he would thrive past his wildest dreams. He was, and his more than the sum of his failures.
So, after dipping my foot into the healing waters of forgiveness, I turned and headed back to the seminary. It was time to leave the past behind, and continue forward. I gave thanks for being able to shine a light on the realization that, while I falter, there is always the promise of a new day. If my heart learned anything, it was a sense of forgiveness of myself, along with the need to keep moving in a direction that guides me to the eternal light of God.
Praise be to our wonderful Creator, who never allows us to remain in the past. And blessed are we, as we remember that we are all created in the image of God. That includes who we were, what we are, and what we will be. May we carry that promise into a future filled with the riches of our amazing Savior.
This last Sunday I stood before my congregation and made the announcement that I am moving and will be the pastor of another church in the New Mexico Annual Conference. Words seemed to fail me as I stood before this incredible body of believers who have loved me through wonderful times as well as very trying times. No matter how I attempt to convey my deep love for this unique group of people, I am still speechless. Anyone who knows me will testify that I am not one to be without words. As a matter of fact, I tend to use too many words.
Perhaps this difficulty with expressing the bond that is shared with my faith community stems from the reason the church exists in the first place. Jesus called us in to a deep and everlasting covenant with not only God, but with one another. This pledge that we take to become a part of the body is interwoven with the fabric of the Holy Spirit. It binds us to each other as we who are many, and with different talents, lift up one voice to our Creator. When one member leaves the body, the fabric must redirect itself, but until then there is a feeling of loss and grief. We stand in hope that God will restore the tapestry of the body and create something better, kinder, more loving than that which was before.
To all of the members of the body of First United Methodist Church of Truth or Consequences, I am reminded of Paul’s words, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Phil. 1:3 NRSV). You are a living testament to the power of God when the Holy Spirit is set loose in the church of God. When I was excited about ministry, you walked beside me and shared the many blessings that we all were given. When I struggled, you took my hand and walked through the darkness with me.
We saw our church become a vital force in our community offering a place to those of all walks of life. We became the true place to express our mission of being a people who are “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors.” Thank you for teaching me how to be a better pastor. But most of all, thank you for teaching me how to be a better human being.
I am craving for the school year to begin. My family will be in a routine. This summer the word “routine” is a standing joke. Our summer seem to be inundated by hospital stays. The word rest was not in our vocabulary.
My summer was a lesson in how to claim those sacred times that I so desperately need to be a good husband, father, friend, and pastor. I found my holiest of times not in long stretches but in brief interludes. I had to remember that sacred time does not necessarily mean lengthy retreats or hours of time. I could not sacrifice large chunks of time because I needed to fulfill the roles I play in my life.
One sacred moment that I enjoyed this summer was meeting up with a very talented and wonderful friend. She reminded me of days when life was a little more carefree and my passion for the arts was real and vital. She reminded me that I made choices in my life. Without the choices I made, my family would probably not exist. I left her presence by giving thanks for her friendship as well as making my choices.
So often, I feel like I became a victim to life. I feel that my life spun in a direction that I really didn’t want it to go. Now let me clarify something right now. I am grateful for my wife and my children. They are by far the greatest blessings in my life. I am talking about those choices that I made regarding my career.
I am sure many of you can identify with what I am talking about. I am referring to the time in your life when the world was your oyster. I am talking about the time where that inner voice motivated you and compelled you into this fearless search to be true to yourself. Little by little the demands of the world set in and fearlessness gave way to practicality.
Seminary was a tremendous blessing in my life because it woke me up from the feeling of entrapment. I began to look back at my choices and realized that they were options that I had chosen to help further my life in one direction or another. I am grateful that teaching provided my family with security. Although I am very glad that I have sense moved past that experience and entered what I perceive as my true calling, I realize that I had more power than I realized.