A Week of Thanksgiving

It is hard to believe that this Thursday is Thanksgiving.  I am looking forward to some time with family, including great food.  This time of year is extremely sacred to me, because it will mark four years since my mother died.  This season is not sad for me, but it is one that is set apart as holy and special.  I give thanks for not only my mom’s life, but also for the many people who have made my life better because of their incredible legacy.

I remember holidays gone by and am caught up in a sea of emotions.  I think of Thanksgiving in the house in which I was raised, and am immediately swept away with visions of my big family laughing and sharing crazy stories.  I remember that I was a part of the wonderful custom of maintaining the importance of family and friends.  The lessons I learned from past holidays are traditions that I continue to share with my family today.  I hug those closest to me and remind them that they are loved more than they could ever imagine.

Today, I am grateful for a life filled with people who love me and continue to care for me.  I wish only the most incredible blessings to everyone as we all take time out of our chaotic schedules to remember to give thanks to friends, family, and our Creator.  May the joy of this season wash over you and leave you with a hope that you never dreamed possible.  May you lay aside your disagreements and share in the fact that we are all God’s children.

And I can’t let a Thanksgiving season go without saying, “I miss you mom, and I know that your spirit is with me every day.  I continue to raise my children in the light of the love that you gave me.  I know that when I share the feast with the family on Thursday, you will be in the room with all of us, smiling that we all are together sharing a moment of joy.  I love you and thank you for the gift of life.”

On the Road Again

Yesterday my youngest son, my wife, and I packed the car and headed to Dallas. We will be there attending the National Hemophilia Foundation’s annual conference. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and learning information that could prove useful to the daily maintenance of both of my son’s bleeding disorders. I am excited that my youngest will get to meet and spend time with children his age that live around the country. Each participant is affected in some way with chronic bleeding and the many complications that can occur.

Already, I have been blessed with several opportunities to visit with good friends who have had a profound influence in my life. Conversations moved from the outrageous (no one laugh at that idea) to the profound. All things came back to the fact that I am a blessed man for having known these incredible people. When I speak with them, I see the movement of God in their lives that challenge and encourage me to love bolder, live wiser. They are amazing people.

While I have enjoyed the first few days of our journey, I really miss my “big stinky boy” being with us. We see a word, or hear a song and think of him. His absence speaks loudly without a word spoken. Life happens, and while he is not with us, I think of him and offer a prayer up for his safety and his peace of mind.

I miss “MacDonald the older” the most, simply because he gets my quirky personality. He is my son after all. He understands (or should I say tolerates) my strange approach to life. I never dreamed that anyone would be able to handle that kind of craziness, but he does. It is an amazing thing.

Today, I am most thankful for the opportunities to visit with friends who make the world a better place, because they are a part of my world, and my vocabulary. May God be with us all as we journey forward through life’s ups and downs. May we surge onward with the confidence of the children of God. Praise be to God.

Imagination is a Good Thing

We are blessed with the gift of imagination.  It allows us to fill in dots in innovative and creative ways.  We explore, we learn, we grow.  All this from the brain that is hard wired to express our own unique view of the world and the Creator that fashioned us in the image of the Divine.  

We are blessed to be given the ability to live with a passion that moves us and motivates us to have a sense of meaning and purpose in the world.  When we connect spirit to spirit with the Prime Mover, there is nothing quite like it.  We are energized and equipped to have an awareness beyond our own comprehension.  This reality cannot be explained, it can only be experienced.

Beware of those who try to steal your joy.  Run from those who seek to overpower you and attempt to cast judgement on your own unique approach to understanding the world.  These people are wolves in sheeps clothing.  They cast doubt and despair on your joy.  To say that they are dangerous is an understatement.  Be on guard against them, for they will disguise themselves as well intentioned people filled with the spirit of God, only to leave you dazed, confused, and hurt.  You must avoid them at all cost.

Direct your energies to the God of your understanding.  Allow the joy of your unique vision of the Creator to be your primary focus.  This is what will sustain you and bring you joy.  This is the well spring of hope; this author and creator of all that we are.

Today, I am grateful for the people who strengthen me, and encourage me to look beyond the limitations of those who try to steal my joy.  I am grateful for a God who continues to work through me and empowers me beyond my own imagination.  Praise be to God who gives us a renewal of spirit each and every day.  I pray that you may live in the power of God, in your own language, in your own way.  Thanks be to God.

God Restores Our Joy!

I am a pastor and a parent with two sons with bleeding disorders.  My youngest son has a high titer inhibitor which makes our lives a little more complicated.  To give you some indication as to how rare our situation is hemophilia effects 1 in 5,000 male births.  Of the 1 in 5,000 male births, 5% of those with hemophilia have the special type of inhibitor with which my son struggles.  We are hospitalized quite frequently often for multiple days and sometimes multiple weeks on end.

As a pastor, there are times when the medical needs of my children must be balanced by the spiritual needs of my congregation.  Life at times can be a fine balancing act as I fill the roles of pastor, caregiver, friend, father and husband (just to name a few).  I am moved to fulfill all of my roles to the best of my abilities.  There are times when my life is turned upside down.  I must hold down the fort and manage through the storms of my life and those entrusted into my care.

I deal with all of these various positions while continuing to ponder my own understanding of how in the world God’s beauty can be manifested through the most horrible of life’s moments.  My youngest son recently reached a milestone in his treatment that would take us to the next level.  Unfortunately, he had an allergic reaction to the medication that we were so desperately hoping he would start taking.  The bad news is that we would not be able to take a step forward in his treatment.  The good news is that we didn’t take a step backward.

While I was grieving the fact that we would not begin a new part of our journey, people spoke words of comfort to me.  I appreciated all of those who thought enough of me and my family to remind me that God is found in community.  This is where the beauty of God was found in my situation.  When I thought all was lost and sought refuge, I found it in the words of hope expressed through the many men and women of faith who encouraged me to continue on in my journey.  I was given the strength to continue to cling to hope.

I do not believe that it was ever in God’s plan to test my family, but I do believe that God can be found in any situation.  Hope can be expressed even when there seems to be no hope at all.  There is Divine light that can be as small as a glimmer that radiates into places of darkness.  With this spark of illumination we are carried to the brilliance of absolute light.  I believe that in the middle of the deepest parts of our souls, God heals us from the inside out.

My sons will most likely never experience the physical healing from their bleeding disorders, but they will experience the miracle of the presence of God that transforms the world.  We hold fast to these acts of God that restore us and make us whole.  We journey forward hoping and praying that regardless of the physical issues that occur, we claim victory through the One who gives us strength and hope.

And a Daddy’s Heart Leapt for Joy!

Last night my sixteen year old son sang in his school choir’s holiday concert.  I will just say that the program was a very ambitious collection of time honored works as well as new music.  One could get carried away with over analyzing the program.  I know I have to shut down my musical snobbery button and simply listen to the wonderful students excited about their own acts of music making.  I just thought to myself, “Thank God this is good literature and I wasn’t trapped listening to a concert of Christmas music from the 50’s.”

What moved me so much was the absolute joy I saw in my son’s eyes as he had a place on the stage.  His very being oozes music.  I was watching him at the end of a number and he turned to a few other boys in the choir and they just looked at one another and laughed.  My son could not have been in a moment that was more perfect for him than in that moment.  I was thrilled for my “big ole stinky boy.”

I was reminded that, as a pastor, father, husband, etc., I can get so caught up in the business of the season that I forget to see the small expressions of joy around me.  I could miss my youngest son sitting next to me rocking out to some of his favorite music.  I could have missed my oldest son expressing his passion for being a part of a wonderful young group of musicians.

I hope that I never get so complacent and busy that I can’t experience and see the love which surrounds me as a pastor, husband, father, and friend.  I hope that I never lose sight of the joy that is an integral part of the church as those of us who are in the choir prepare for the big Christmas Cantata.  May we always find a brief moment of love as it surrounds us when we open a Christmas card.  It lets me know that I am connected to something much bigger than which I am on my own.

Let us keep the joy of the season by finding the love in everything that we do.  We will discover the basis of our hope and absolute dependence on God and how the Sacred is expressed in the care of others.  May you find the joy in everything that you do in this Christmas season.  God’s choicest blessings work through you and around you.

And as for that dad whose heart leapt for joy?  There is no Christmas present greater than seeing your family happy.  There is no store that can purchase it.  There is no place that can manufacture it.  I am fortunate to have been in a place to look and simply catch a glimpse of it.  May my son have many more concerts that cause him to rear back and laugh for joy.

Gratitude for the Love of My Life

I am afraid to put something out into the universe because of the fear that something may happen to prevent us from going. My wife and I are actually going on a retreat tomorrow without our children in tow. While it may sound like I am an ungrateful parent, I assure you that I love my family dearly. My aunt who I call my “Precious Princess” is visiting from Houston and will help man the house while we are away in the mountains.

I was talking to my wife yesterday and both of us were stumped when we tried to remember the last time that we traveled together sans the boys. We can’t remember. All we know is that we are excited to have a little time away for rest and relaxation. This retreat couldn’t have come at a better time for us as we celebrate today twenty-four years since our first date. Wow!

Those who know us are probably in shock that we have been together for such a long time. I look at the person I was and can’t believe that the young man who first looked at that young woman would be sitting here twenty-four years later and feel so incredibly blessed. It is this woman who has been patient with me and gave me the gift of family in a way that I could never have imagined. She reminds me that God is indeed good!

As we prepare for our retreat (thank you Bishop Max) I give thanks that I am able to take a few moments out of my week to spend quality time with the absolute love of my life. May we take a few moments to laugh together, to reflect on the past, to plan for the future, but mostly to enjoy the present. I pray that we have many more years together as God continues to surround us with blessings that we could never have predicted when we were those very young people. May we see our children’s children live out their dreams with the hope and knowledge that their family is one based on love.

Our Journey Takes Us North

I love to help people build things.  When performing in shows I loved being a part of the whole process that resulted in a big production.  When I worked in the public school system and in music ministry, I enjoyed working together with people to create the highest caliber of music possible in  each group I directed.  In my life as a pastor, I find that the greatest reward is watching life changing ministry occur in the hearts and minds of the people in my community.  Building souls is awe inspiring to say the very least.

While I have been actively involved in church work for most of my adult life, I can honestly say that the congregation at First United Methodist Church of Truth or Consequences will always hold a special place in my heart.  T or C was the first place I was called a pastor.  It was the place that I learned to spread my wings and truly live into the calling that God placed on my life many years ago.  I entered into a special bond with the T or C congregation that continues to empower our church and community.  Our connectional thread continues to be the Holy Spirit.  Together, we step out in faith knowing that it is through Divine leadership that we are all made new.

Sunday, June 17th, will be my last day with the people of this wonderful congregation.  I will be moving from Southern New Mexico to lead worship in Rio Rancho, NM.  My ministry will continue in a different place, with different people, and different concerns.  I will always be grateful to the people in T or C who filled my spirit full of joy each week as we celebrated the risen Christ.  To say my cup is full of love for you is an understatement.  I appreciate the tools that you gave me to build a place where all are welcome.

It is with the spirit of joy and trust that I turn to my new church in Rio Rancho.  Please know that I am a person who feels truly blessed to have worshiped with some amazing people.  As I acknowledge the presence of God in the lives of those who went before me, I look forward to you and am excited about embracing this new part of the journey.  We push forward knowing that God will lead us as we transform our world with the incredible message that God loves all of us. 

Which Came First the Bunny or the Egg?

Growing up in a church that did not follow a liturgical calendar left me in a state of awe as I grew into the United Methodist Heritage. I was quite taken back when my new church continued to celebrate the “Easter Season.” What was that? I thought Easter occurred on one particular day. After we celebrated Easter I thought we would move on to something else. Little did I know that Easter Sunday was actually the beginning of the “season” of Easter in our church.

In many ways, every Sunday of the year is considered a mini-Easter. We celebrate the risen Christ all year round. Our joy is made complete as we share the good news with each other and then share that joy with our community. There is rebirth every week. We have the chance to be made new not just one day or one season of the year, but every day of our lives. It is never too late to celebrate the joy of the resurrection.

Through this Easter season, share with each other your faith. Share with one another how you share the pistus christu (faith of Christ). Talk about how the wonderful love of God has changed you. Tell family members how you share your faith with others.

christopherjoiner

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