A Time to Remember the Incredible!

Last week I attended a retreat at Sacramento Methodist Assembly.  The camp is located north of Cloudcroft, NM on top of a mountain.  It is truly in the middle of nowhere.  At night the stars seem to be so close that you could reach up into the air and grab a handful.  I have yet to go up the “Holy Hill” and not be mesmerized by the beauty of the land.

On the last night of the retreat, several of my friends and I did something that I had been longing to do since the first time I attended the camp ten years ago.  At about 10 p.m., we hiked away from the lights and sounds of the camp to a place called Serenity Peak.  We took with us luminarias hoping to capture some incredible pictures while we were in our sacred space.  Our journey was not very far, but long enough to transport us into the darkness of the mountain.

As we journeyed on, I started to fear the possibilities of encountering animals, losing my way, or not being able to see my path clearly.  My anxiety started kicking in, and I thought of possibly turning back.  Camp was secure.  I knew where I was going and could go back to my room, safe and secure.  This was too much of an adventure for me.

Gradually, my worries subsided as we arrived at Serenity Peak.  The stars, while brilliant at camp, held a beauty that I could never adequately describe.  While standing in the darkness and gazing upon the majesty of God’s beauty, I could not help but think of the writing of the Psalmist’s declaration, “When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made – the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place – what are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them?” (Ps. 8:3-4 CEB).

I realized that there is beauty in the night.  Something that is set apart from the day, which has its own majesty.  God’s wonder is both for the day and the night, neither being better, just different.  I remember that I must take the time to be aware of the sacredness of the evening, and not only rely on all that is in the light of day.  The holiness of the night allows us to remember to stop and look and enjoy a new way of thinking of things, a new way of being in our world.

And as for the retreat, I took an extra few moments to etch into my mind the incredible picture that will help me through times during the day when life gets very busy.  I can reflect on my journey through the night and all of the lessons that I learned, and be grateful.  Praise be to God for the greater light to rule the day, but also the lesser light to rule the night.  Each one, offering a different response to those we love and to our God.

Today, I am very grateful for getting to spend time with my clergy friends, who are amazing people who strive to make a difference in this world.  I thank God for laughter, for intentional retreat, and for opportunities to share sacred spaces.  We have all been called to embrace our world, filled with the light that guides us.  May we remember our stars, our moments of a holy embrace, and as we give thanks may we continue to be made whole.

Ah! The Joy of Being Human!

I must admit that I have a fear of being found out.  I try everything I can to hide my weaknesses, and many times I am very successful.  I can do this as along as I do not have to get close to anyone.  I can preserve an appearance of being completely the person that everyone wants me to be.  I can smile, acknowledge that I am great, and keep moving forward.

The reality is that I do struggle and wish I had a better skill set in some areas than I do.  For me, this is a major source of anxiety, the notion of being discovered.  So to combat my feelings, I have learned to wear a mask.  It always has a smiley face on it and gives the generic answer that everyone wants to hear from me.  The thing is, the longer I wear the mask, the further I run from getting close to people.

I have just begun my fifth year as pastor of Rio Rancho  United Methodist Church.  Anyone that has been in one place for a while knows that there comes a time when the mask must fall away, and you must reveal you’re real self.  That includes the strengths and the weaknesses.  It is not an easy thing to do.  It takes guts and absolute faith in God’s mercy.

We are all faced with the issue of sharing ourselves with each other.  Taking a step in building trust is the only way that relationships can develop into something much greater than we ever could imagine.  It is also the diving off point for intimacy.  The reliance on faith is the uncomfortable part of being in a place for a long time.  We grow together, relying on God’s incredible strength to mold us into the people for which the church can become.

True wholeness must include vulnerability, acknowledging that there are parts of us that need developing.  If we can do the work together, we can become stronger.  We can live bolder, and we can be richer in wisdom.  Praise be to God, who calls us to live not just as surface level neighbors, but to join in the richness of relationship.

Beaten and Broken (Sometimes)

There are times that I feel a little beaten up.  My struggles may come in the form of unkind words, or actions meant to harm me.  There are moments that I want to rise up and defend myself.  I want to shout, “How inconsiderate of you to say that to me!”  There are other times that I want to say, “Stop what you are doing.  It is painful and completely unnecessary.”

The truth is, we all feel a little broken at times.  None of us are exempt from the reality that sometimes people are unkind.  They wage war against us with words that cut like knives, or actions that shake us to our very core.  We leave the scene with emotional cuts and bruises.  We may be Christians, but our hearts can still break.

In times of pain and suffering, God honors my sadness, but also wants me to move past my woundedness.  We are not meant to live in a constant state of bitterness, but we are to live in the promise of new found life. Christ is where our hope lies.  God’s power revealed to us in ways that only holy love can speak.

Today I am grateful for friends that lead me back to the source of my faith.  Praise be to God that people are in our lives who share the gift of the Father’s unfailing love.  Through the kindness of others, we are transformed to bring the presence of love itself into a world that needs to know that holy grace flows back to us, even in times of trial.

 

A Memory That Makes My Soul Smile

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Recently I was sharing a story about the time that Cazandra told me that we were going to have our first child.  I related the story to a fellow staff member at my church.  As I shared with her the story of how I told my mom about this new journey that we would begin together, I felt overwhelmed by a flood of emotions. 

I was taken aback by how I was feeling in retelling that story.  What caused me to connect so profoundly to the announcement of my son’s impending birth?  Was there something that I had not recognized about the dramatic changes that my life was about to experience?  Why now?  Why so emotional after all these years?  He wasn’t born yesterday.  His eighteenth birthday is still a few months away.  Maybe the realization that he will be an adult is leading to a heighten feeling of nostalgia regarding his life.

Perhaps it could have been a quick moment to remember my mother.  I know that she loved my children well and was a fantastic grandmother to boot.  Maybe my emotional response came from a place of sadness as life goes on without my mother’s physical presence.  Her silence speaks loudly into my life.  One of the most important places in which she speaks is her absence in my children’s lives as they will not be able to build new memories with their “Granny.”  I know my mom still lives on in spirit, and I know that the joy and love that I share for my son are interwoven with the love that I have for my mother.

And as for me, I went back to my office and gave a prayer of thanksgiving for that big stinky boy that I have been honored to raise.  I gave thanks for his presence in my life and will continue to thank my God for this particular person that I call my son.  His talents are great and his heart is even greater.

There are people, places or things that connect us to the most intimate part of ourselves.  The part that reflects upon the greatness of God.  My son is the reminder of the Divine love that I have in my heart and the overwhelming gratitude to God for being trusted to raise him.  I try to make sense of how I was qualified to raise a child and I must say that I agree with the Psalmist when he says, “That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it” (Psalm 139:6 CBE).  Whatever the reason may be, I am eternally grateful.

And as far as the picture, this is him in his element:  His love of the theater shines through his eyes despite the green makeup.  He played the title role in Shrek at his high school.  His voice is so much better than mine.  He has a nice beautiful tone that just flows naturally from his mouth.

To watch him on stage is pure joy.  I am so glad that he is able to follow his passion.  Onstage Mr. MacDonald is fearless.  There is no doubt where he should be.  How blessed am I to watch my child delight in his calling.

Today I am filled with gratitude for the love that is now and for the love that I have had.  I eagerly look forward to the future and the amazing things that await my son as he continues to astound me along this journey.

A Psalm of Hope

I just purchased a new computer and started looking through some of my files to determine whether or not I should put some of the documents on my hard drive.  As I was reviewing past assignments I stumbled across a Psalm that I wrote for one of my favorite classes that I took in seminary.  I’m posting it in the hopes that it will be a blessing in your life at it as it has been in mine.

A Psalm of Hope

            I will praise the Lord with all of my heart, and all of my soul.

            I will stand amazed at the wonder of His works.

            I will bless the Lord for the gift of music.

            The gift of song encompasses and surrounds me.

            It lifts my spirits up to the very presence of the creator.

 

            In my times of distress, it is the Lord’s song that reverberates through my being.

            That song, that allows me to sing its melodies. Even in a strange land.

            How wonderful are you my Creator, that You would fill me with hope.

            I prayed for refuge and found the promise of new life.

            My hope is built within Your river of overflowing love.

 

            My songs spring from my spirit.

            They exalt You from the inner workings of my being.

            You have set me apart with hope.

            I praise You for the greatness of joy.

            Praise to the Lord, the giver of life!
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.