Paralyzed By the Past

There is someone that I know that just celebrated a tremendous milestone.  There is a reason to be happy and give thanks for the many hurdles that had to be crossed in order to reach this amazing goal.  There were tremendous odds to face and mountains to climb, but when all is said and done, he continues to focus on his failures that he encountered along the way.  Never mind that he achieved his prize.  He can’t seem to get past the many times that he made a wrong turn on the road.

The way that this person handles his success leaves me frustrated.  Why can’t he simply see that he made it regardless of how poor his choices were along the way?  The truth is, there are very few things in life in which you can have do overs.  You either achieve a goal, or you fail.

There is no guarantee that we will always make the best choices as we reach for a dream or an objective in life.  We are not perfect.  To assume that we must rise to the standard of perfection is absurd at its best.  We are human, and as such, we sometimes get things wrong.  It is within our nature to veer off the path.  Praise be to God that there is one who can help us return back to the main road when we are far off course.

Today, I give thanks for a God that loves me enough to seek me out and lead me back to the correct path way.  I am grateful that, while I am not perfect, the one who is flawless lives within me.  I pray that we may continue to live as well as we can; to love as deep and rich as we possibly can.  May the God of your understanding bring you peace and happiness as you surrender your imperfections to the One, who makes us whole.

When Souls Collide

This weekend I had the opportunity to sing with my big stinky son.  I love to make music with him, because I know that he gets me.  We sound alike and our phrasing is similar.  Several of the members of the congregation told me that they couldn’t hear the difference between our sounds.  We blend that well.  It is amazing and something that I can’t share with anyone else on the planet.

Okay, now on to what made my day.  I got home from church and started to make myself a plate for lunch.  My son came out of his room and said, “Dad, I really like singing with you.”  At that moment, I was left speechless.  I don’t think that he had any idea how much that one little phrase meant to me.

There is something about sharing a part of who you are with someone else.  For me, on this day, it was my son and the gift of making music.  It is overwhelming and quite inspiring to know that there is a sacred space that he and I share together.  I cherish it and call it a holy space, because it is wonderful and set apart.

And after hearing him acknowledge his joy, we immediately set our sights on the next selection that we will sing.  It is an honor to share my first love with him.  The art of making music.  This is the gift that I share with my family.  Creating beauty out of nothingness.  Breathing melodies and harmonies into existence as souls share in the incredible acclamations of life and love.  Praise be to God, who gives us the victory in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

Today’s Reminder

Most days I go about my business and get caught up in the routine of my schedule.  Now don’t get me wrong.  My activities throughout the day are anything but routine.  Most days I have to roll with the flow.  I am talking about routine being how long I am away from home, when things are due for bulletins and newsletters, the time for visitations.  These are the things that happen every week.

Then there days like this one, when I am hit over the head with a sudden awareness of how much someone means to me.  I am talking about my big stinky boy.  The one who will be 19 in June.  As a parent, I want nothing more than his happiness.  I will move heaven and earth to help him find the thing that brings him joy.

When he came into the world I remember holding him in my arms.  He was screaming like crazy.  I started singing a song that I sang to Cazandra’s belly just about every day she was pregnant.  Immediately, when he heard my voice he stopped crying and started looking around the room.  I will never forget that moment.  It still takes my breath away.  I felt a connection to another person like I had never had before that second.  Looking around the room at Cazandra and then Julian I knew that I was blessed beyond all measure.  Praise be to God that even someone like me could know absolute joy!

Whatever it was that took me back to that moment in the hospital today, I am grateful to remember my son’s presence in my life.  I pray that he becomes the person that he was created to be and live into the passions that were planted deep within his soul.  I hope that he will always know that there is a divine presence in his life that will always be his source of strength and hope.  I thank him for the many lessons that he taught me about what it truly means to become a man.

Today, I thank God for the ability to stamp a moment in time in my spirit; to remind me of my most incredible moments of awareness when the Holy Spirit speaks brilliantly into my life.  I am grateful that I still want to add a little phrase to Psalm 139:14, “I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart” (CEB).  The phrase I want to add is this, “But look at my boy!”

I ask you, today for whom are you the most grateful?  Share with them right now.  Let them know how important they are.  Let them know that they matter.

Staying One Step Ahead

I looked back over a few of the posts that I have recently written and laugh when I realized that I have fallen into the trap. It is a necessary trap, but still a trap. As a church leader, I must plan ahead when preparing for each of the seasons observed by the church. Actually, we are usually talking about this Easter immediately after last year’s Easter celebration. We must stay well ahead of the game to prepare the best celebrations and observances possible. Sometimes, the excitement of the current season is usurped by focusing on events that are way ahead of us.

I hope to remember the excitement and joy of this season and not simply be caught up in projecting into the future. While it is crucial to plan what will happen, I must remember to not forget the present. It is here, right now. My task is to celebrate the joys that each season brings. The only way to experience it, is to be aware of the moment.

Today I hope to not let the plans for the future rob me of the present. May the journey through this last week of Lent be special and not something that was simply planned months ago. I want to be connected to the journey to the cross and finally to the joy of the Easter season. This can only be achieved be remaining focused on the now.

This Holy Monday, we make our way through the week by remembering the love of God and the road that Jesus took for us all.   May this time be a season of renewal in our souls as we move through the week. I hope that each day will bring us closer to the amazing one that we call the Messiah. Praise be to God who gives us the victory.

Grateful for an Amazing Church

Today I am filled with gratitude for being able to serve as the pastor of an amazing congregation. What a wonderful day we had celebrating Palm Sunday. I am grateful to the many people who helped prepare a service that was very unique and incredibly powerful. The service included palms, communion, and an incredible group of actors who brought the Last Supper to life. I was blessed to play the John, the Beloved Disciple. The people, especially Sallye, worked incredibly hard to prepare for the service today.

I am also grateful for Ms. Kim, who is the best youth director in the world. Her tireless efforts to bring the light of Christ to every member of the church is remarkable. After our amazing service in the morning, the church was transformed into the Stations of the Cross. Each station was set in a separate room in the church. Those who took part in this ancient tradition were allowed a time for introspection and contemplative worship. I left feeling as if I was prepared to take the amazing journey to the cross, to death, and to Easter.

How blessed am I? I am thrilled to be serving a church that is hungry to share the love of God with a community that is desperate to hear a word of hope. What joy there is in walking life’s journey with people who call you family! I write as a pastor filled with tremendous gratitude and love for a mighty congregation called Rio Rancho United Methodist Church. Praise be to God, who gives us the victory!

It’s All About Practice

As a pastor, I learn lessons about life from just about everyone that I meet. Each person teaches me a little jewel about how to live with God and each other. Some lessons are extremely uplifting and positive, while others are more about what not to do. While sometimes being very uncomfortable, I am grateful for these nuggets of life’s lessons.

One of the greatest lessons that I have learned is the importance of studying scripture. I need to spend time studying holy writings as much as I need air. Knowing the teachings and sayings that illuminated men and women have spoken over the years equips me to call upon divine help in moments of struggle. In order to summon God’s help, I must know what to say. Scripture gives us the words by which we can live and struggle in this world.

I have seen people call upon the name of God without opening a Bible, nor anything else that directs them to the Holy One. To put it bluntly, we must study the Word to be equipped with the Word. It is through study that holy love is revealed to us. How can we identify if God is there, if we don’t know what we are looking for? We must search the sacred text to explore the possibilities of divine intervention. It is like starting on a journey without a map. Sometimes you might get lucky and discover something completely by mistake, but more often than not, you will surely miss the mark. You must have something that gets you from point “A” to point “B”.

Today I hope to discover how God leads me as I continue to study and search for God’s purpose in my life. I hope to not simply “go through the motions,” but continue to live with the presence of the Holy One. Sometimes the map is easy to follow, while at other times it seems like the map has blown away. It is through all times that we set our sights on God. The Divine will show us the way if we let Him. Praise be to God, who gives us the victory!

Facing the Darkness

I know that my last few posts have been a little darker than normal, but t’is the season. In the Christian tradition we are entering the most sacred time in our faith. Sunday will begin the week known as Holy Week. We will end the week with the time known as the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday). Our eyes move beyond our own spiritual commitment and on to the sacrifice of God. We remember the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

I have celebrated many a Holy Week, but I continue to struggle in fully comprehending the nature of love as God shared with humanity. And the answer to the big why question (Why do we remember the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus?) is pretty simple: We remember the Triduum out of divine love for the highest order of creation. Holy love came to us to reclaim the core of our identity.

The thought of all of this is overwhelming. I know that my words fail me every time I try to answer the “big why” question. Perhaps it is best by not seeking out a definitive answer. Maybe it is best to simply live every day in gratitude for the One who gave us life. It could be that our words will always fall short in answering such a large question, but maybe our works are our response to the giver of the wonderful gift that was given unselfishly to us.

Today I am grateful for the Passion of Christ. The one who taught me to face the darkness, because on the other side there is light. My journey may take me through the darkest of places, but I know the perpetual light of God will see me through those times until I am on the other side of my struggle; embracing the holy light of the One who leads me. This is the core and basis of my faith. This indeed is my strength. Praise be to God, who gives us the final victory!

The Art of Changing

I once heard a favorite pastor of mine ask a congregation, “Is it truly possible to change, or do we simply rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic?”  I initially laughed at my friend’s question, but started thinking about what was being asked.  To keep it in a Wesleyan perspective, do we truly change when our heart is “strangely warmed?”

There are people that I know that swear to a radical shift in ideas and focus.  I know that there are people who truly experience an amazing transformation. Many come to a place in their lives where they profess that change has occurred, yet spend a rather large amount of time attempting to convince themselves that something really occurred.  They boldly proclaim that Jesus is the one who has changed their hearts, yet live in doubt and fear when faced with life’s many issues.

What is the change that occurs?  We can give the religious hard line answer that, “Jesus changed my life,” but how are we living like he really made an impact on our thoughts and actions?  I believe that when true change occurs there is a shift in our way of thinking.  I do not believe that we get a little “Jesus Juice” and start living our lives as if we are completely different people.  Little by little we exchange our old world view and our reactions to it, for an approach that is life affirming and life giving.

Change is not achieved in one single moment.  It takes a lifetime.  I think this is what it means to move forward towards perfection (Again another Wesleyan statement).  And as we continue through our journey, there is one thing that we know to be true, the God of grace will forgive us.  This leads to the stumbling block to true change; accepting the gift of grace.  I mean at the heart level.  If we don’t accept the idea that God will love us into perfection, then are we truly changed?

I don’t want to live as if I am simply rearranging the chairs, I want to share a message of hope and love.  I want to let people know that this incredible God of all things changed my heart and life; from the inside out.  I want to live as one who has accepted and holds dear the notion of divine love and amazing grace.  Praise be to God, who gives us the victory!

When We See the Bottom

There are times when I feel like I am sinking into a well.  No matter what I do I can’t seem to stop the free fall.  The truth is, life can sometimes be overwhelming.  We all know what it’s like to struggle and face obstacles.  I think this is part of being human.

I believe that what saves me from absolutely hitting the bottom is the elasticity of the love of God.  I am talking about the amazing power of the Holy One; who will save us from a feeling of hopelessness.  The one who offers us shelter when the winds and waves of life seem too strong and too deep.  This is the good news of our faith.  The same Jesus who walked on water opens his arms to rescue us from drowning.  The storm will eventually subside, but we will be comforted through the roughest parts.

This is where the rubber meets the road in my faith.  I believe that the amazing presence of the Holy Spirit claims me in the middle of all my stuff and offers me security.  This is the basis of my hope, and one of the most intimate parts of my understanding of God. I will not be alone in my journey.  That is the best of news.

Today I am thankful for a God who promises to catch me when I fall.  I am grateful for the strength of relationships that breathe life into my soul.  May we continue to draw strength from each other.  Let us share the hope of God with a world that is desperate to hear the Good News of salvation.  Praise be to God, who gives us the final victory!

Hope

I think “hope” is one of the most powerful words in our vocabulary. It moves us forward with the possibilities of what can be. Through this little four letter word “hope” we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a promise that relief will come and we will move forward into a place that is free of some of our current struggles and/or situations. We will have options and choices not known to us in the current moment.

In my faith tradition hope is everything. God’s divine care and providence are as much a part of my life as the air that I breathe. Tomorrow I am preaching on the Hebrew Bible text found in the Book of Jeremiah (31:31-34). I am talking about the new covenant made to the people of God as they attempt to find a new normal in a world that has changed drastically.

In the middle of it all, God comes to the prophet Jeremiah and speaks words of hope and promise. The Holy One will establish a new way of living and being with His people. This will be a covenant like none other. “No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins” (Jer. 31:33-34 CEB).

As I write this I remember the journey with my younger son over the last couple of years. I remember those days in the hospital that turned into weeks at a time. I remember staying up with him as he screamed in pain. “When will this stop?” Many of those days and nights the only thing my family could do was hope. I am happy to say that we are living in the middle of that hope. We have made it past a year since his last joint bleed. Praise be to God!

Today I am grateful for the hope found in my faith. This is God’s promise to me found in the very depths of my soul. Praise be to the God who knows us inside and out. The God who loves us beyond our own understanding will illumine our paths so that we can move forward in the promises that were given to us.

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.