An Unexpected Mark of Greatness!

On Monday of this week, I had the honor of presiding at the memorial service of one of my great aunts.  It was amazing to stand and look out at the members of the congregation that were made up of cousins that I had not seen in many years, along with family members whom I had never met.  All of us were there to honor an amazing woman, and one who lived through hurt and tragedy.  She did not let her very humble beginnings define her.  Instead, she rose up and had an amazing life.  Blessings to you Great Aunt Jessie.  May you feast to your heart’s desire with family who have gone on before you.  May you smile in their presence, and may God’s light perpetually shine on you, providing you warmth for eternity.

After the service, I visited with people with whom I share a DNA connection.  I looked for patterns of behavior, likes, dislikes, even ways to speak.  I searched for anything to affirm my connection with this group of people.  I shared stories, they shared stories.  We laughed, sometimes shocked, but always grateful to be in one another’s presence.  The power of my great aunt’s life was alive in this very room.  A family can rise above anything and find a connection that is unique and compelling.  The discovery of kindred spirits gave way to a lifetime of possibilities, hopes for new friends and new connections.

Today I am grateful for my extended family.  Thank you for giving me a little clearer definition of my own self.  These amazing people, complete with their own life stories, affirm my own journey.  There is nothing quite like being accepted for who you are by people who share the same blood.  There is a sense of home, of complete and total affirmation.  Praise be to God, when we can catch of glimpse of ourselves in a new and unique space.

Today, I sit in my office, absolutely tired.  I notice I sit with a little more pride, a little more strength.  I give thanks for the path on which I travel.  There are a few more people who eagerly great me with a smile and help me move forward.  I am honored to walk my path with new names and faces alongside me.  My hope is that we all find companions for the journey.

The Road that We Did Take

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.

Walking Around the Fire is Not an Option!

I have to admit that I do not like walking through the fire.  I like to tiptoe around it.  Try to avoid it, and wrap it up in a pretty bow.  Maybe if I ignore the fire, I won’t be burned by the flames.  Of course, while I tiptoe around and ignore what is in front of me, the flame continues to grow larger and larger, until there is nothing left, but ash and smoke.  More often than not, where once there was a possibility of creation, now exists only a clump of mess incapable of sustaining any sort of life.

The hardest part in life is walking through the fire.  Only when confronted with the hottest heat can we breathe onto it refreshing water.  Gushing from the spirit at the wellspring of who we are is a chance, an opportunity to find redemption.  We save the earth, our hearts, our souls, from the ravishes of generations of chaos that burns with fury into the very recesses of who we are.  No, we must move through the hardest part to get to the other side.

And the promise of our faith is this, even though we must walk through the fire and deepest darkness, we are not alone.  That is the promise to which we are divinely appointed.  God is with us.  We need only look at the darkest part of our faith, Holy Week, to see the magnificent claim of divine love that redeems us, that calls us by name.  We are children of the Most-High God.  We are made new, having come through the ravages of the past.  With our amazing creator, we have the power to put out the fire.  But we have to walk through it first, always trusting that the one in whom we trust will deliver us and make us whole.

A Change of Perspective

As a pastor, I am faced with deadlines all of the time.  I have to submit my bulletin information on Monday, prepare the rough draft of my sermon by Wednesday (if I want to practice for Sunday), prepare newsletter articles, and the list continues.  I even find a little stress when writing my blog post each week.  All of the sudden, I find that I robbed myself of the joy of some of the most fulfilling parts of my work.  I am left with a sense of being a casualty to the demands of day to day living.  Where can I find satisfaction in looking at everything as a chore?

When I find myself overwhelmed, I take a moment, and simply stop what I am doing.  I remind myself that there is joy to be found in even the most ordinary and routine of duties.  Preparing the bulletin for the next Sunday, allows me to begin the process of focusing on our next day of celebrating the resurrected Christ.  I set my sights on the next project, the next time that I will stand before my congregation and lead my fellow believers in the liturgy of a Sunday morning.  And this preparation includes writing, insights into the Biblical text, and how our narratives merge together with the sacred writings of an ancient people.  Contentment is found in the process, the journey to another feast day.

What seems overwhelming is the reminder that there is a lot of work to be done before we celebrate another Sunday morning.  Preparation becomes my companion, my guide, and not my enemy.  It becomes my sacred time throughout the week.  It just takes a change of perspective; a new way of looking at the journey.  Praise be to God, who gives us the task of creating a weekly work of art for the human soul each and every week.

My hope for all of us this week is that we transcend our thought patterns, and serve with a spirit of hope.  Let us leave the drudgery of completing tasks to another day.  For this moment in time, let us remember that our preparation gives way to the presence of our amazing creator.  I hope that we grasp on to the reality that God gives us ways to remain connected to the joy that sustains us, cares for us, and constantly recreates us each and every day.

When Souls Collide

This week I had the amazing privilege and honor to be one of ten people in a discussion group with theologian Glaucia Vasconcelos Wilkey.  I walked away from this wonderful experience feeling honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to hear her teach and share her journey.  She is an incredibly powerful woman filled with God’s presence and light.

As our incredible scholar left the seminary, she turned to me and offered me an amazing blessing acknowledging and reaffirming the full authority that God has given me to preach and teach.  She spoke straight into my soul, and I left feeling blessed and renewed.  Here was this scholar sharing a special blessing with me.  Grateful could not begin to describe how I felt when leaving her presence.

There are people that we encounter that leave us feeling better about who and whose we are, simply by being present.  There are no magic words, just a keen awareness of the Holy Spirit.  We are left knowing that the Truth is within us, eager to be free.  Our joy is renewed and invited to be released into a world that needs to know the source of our happiness.

As I reflect on my encounter with the blessed theologian, I hope that I may be like her with everyone that I encounter.  People may be renewed in the presence of divine hope as the Spirit of Truth dances between us all, encouraging us to be the light of Christ for the world.  Praise be to God, who constantly reminds us that we are chosen to share the message of the Gospel. 

A New Start: A New Beginning

Here we are in a new year.  Many of us set new goals, with new expectations in both our personal and professional lives.  Yes, we are given a chance to start over.  We are encouraged to change our way of thinking, our way of managing our lives, our way of approaching problems that have appeared to have no answer.  These are all the hopes and wishes in which we invest as we move forward into 2016.

The problem, however, is that we still bring our baggage along with us.  Many of us, I am pointing the finger back at myself, truly don’t live as if we have a new beginning.  A new start will include some failures, but will never give up until we achieve our goals.  What holds us back are the ways that we cling to the past.  We give up on our resolutions, only to fall back into the very familiar patterns of behavior that we promised to leave behind.  We fail to hold on to the assumption that our fresh start is indeed that, a fresh start.

I could really move from preaching to meddling with the following question: “How does this mirror your faith journey?”  I mean, we start off with incredible energy.  We proclaim to the world that we were not the people that we were before.  We keep this enthusiasm of new life, only to see it fade as we surrender to the pressures and demands of our places in the world.  We continue to drift away, until we wonder where and who we are.

Hear the Good News!  We are a people who have a chance to begin anew every waking day of our lives.  We do not need to wait for something like a new year to initiate change.  Each day for us is a gift, given by the one who encourages you to embrace your life with the passion with which you started the journey.  This is the promise that we are given with each passing moment.  Praise be to God, who gives us the strength to overcome our weaknesses.  May your “New Year” begin today, and may you know the blessings of God, beyond your wildest imaginations.

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.

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.

The Journey Continues On….

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.

My Mother’s Legacy – The Definition of Love (1 Corinthians 13)

On a personal note, I offer my gratitude for all who are here today.

On behalf of my family words cannot express the incredible display of love that we have encountered.
My mom’s life lives on through the generous display of Christ’s unending grace that fills this place.
Her legacy is one that stretches far past the walls here.
I once heard a story about a boy who walked by a pet store.
In the window he saw a sign that read “Puppies for Sale $25.”
He anxiously went into the store and asked the owner “Is it true that there are puppies for sale?”
The owner responded, “Yes there are puppies for sale.”
The owner whistled, and out came a dog named Lady followed by seven puppies attempting to keep up with their mother.
Coming from far back in the distance was a little dog who had a physical deformity and could not keep up with the other dogs.
The boy’s attention was immediately drawn to the puppy.
In excitement, the boy proclaimed, “I would like to buy that puppy that had trouble keeping up.”
The owner responded, “That puppy is not for sale.”
“But I want that puppy,” replied the boy.
“Look that one is not for sale.  You are more than welcome to purchase one of the other puppies.”
The boy would not take no for an answer.
The owner finally gave in and said, “I will give you that puppy free of charge.”
The boy was outraged.  “Look mister, I have 25 cents in my pocket.  I will gladly bring you 25 cents each week until you receive the full amount for the puppy.”
Finally the owner said in absolute frustration, “Look son, you don’t understand.  That puppy is very different.  It will not be able to run and jump like the other puppies.  It will always limp.  It will always fall behind!”
Just then the boy raised his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted ankle.
“That’s okay,” said the boy, “I think he will need someone who understands.”
This is a story, much like the love my mother shared with all who came into her path.
Her consistent fight for the underdog along with her passion for life brought a real life portrait to the definition of love as seen in our reading from the book of First Corinthians.
Her life was a testimony to the fact that she believed, as the Apostle Paul wrote, that, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.
I saw this at home, in her family, her union, and her church.
In her work, your cause was her cause.
She would tirelessly fight for those who had little to no voice.
Never did I hear her say to me that someone was not worth the fight.
All the person had to do was express a need, and she was there.
If you were a politician, and she believed in your cause, she was a strong ally and formidable opponent.
She personally took on the successes and losses in a campaign.
She took the journey with those she supported.
In our family, she would insist that arguments could last no longer than two weeks.
She refused to support anything that separated us.
Anyone who knew Ruby Jane knew that family meant everything to her.
Many times I meet people who know my mom and my first reaction is to apologize for having to hear endless stories about my children.
Secretly I loved the fact that my mother adored my children above everything else.
Her unwavering belief in the goodness of others was a life- long lesson about which I still learn.
She taught me, and many others in this room, that there is that divine spark of goodness that calls us to act better and treat each other with kindness.
She hoped at times when all hope was lost.
I can tell you from personal experience that this woman maintained faith in the goodness of all people.
She was a living testament to the Good News of hope.
Ruby Jane Jensen was a true witness to the message of Christ.
She lived the definition of love as set forth in the reading from 1 Corinthians.
Because we knew her, we understood love in a different way.
Our lives would never be the same.
I once read the definition of an angel.
An angel was someone who came into your life for a measure of time and, once leaving your life, you are never the same because they had been there.
Angels can come into our world for a season, an hour, a minute, a second, a moment.
This description sounds like my mom.
While not being perfect, her commitment to life and those she loved created that rare spark of holy love that transcends all obstacles.
I believe that my mom opened her eyes on the other side and the first words she heard were from God as the Divine said, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
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.