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.

A Moment to Remember

Yesterday afternoon I attended synagogue at Congregation Albert, in Albuquerque.  The service was dedicated to the remembrance of those who were victims of the Holocaust.  I was moved by the gathering of people from many faith traditions as I saw people wearing cleric collars and yamakas.  We were all there to stand united against any act of evil that diminishes voices.

The service itself was an ecumenical response to tragedy and hope that can rise out of devastation.  We were at a synagogue, the Cantata was written by a Christian, the poems and melodies were taken from non-Jewish prisoners, and we said a prayer led by a rabbi.  You can’t get more ecumenical than that.  It was breath taking.  Perhaps my favorite memory of the day was a special moment when six Holocaust survivors came forward and, as the synagogue’s children’s choir sang a wonderful melody, the survivors lit candles in memory of the six million victims who lost their lives as a result of Nazi domination.

There was something extremely profound as we gathered together to acknowledge our loss.  Suddenly, the notion of what it means to be a child of God was larger than the confines that we place around religious divisions.  There are situations and conditions that bring humanity together to struggle with what it means to live with one another and give thanks for all that gifts that are given to us.

My hope for today is that we will no longer be bound by our own theological constructs, but open the doors to learn from each other.  Love is born out of the notion that we are all God’s children and as such, every one of us brings special gifts and insights to the table.  The banquet feast is available for all of us.  Let us stop speaking language that does not confirm the reality that we all find truths that strengthen us and bring us hope.  May the holy presence of God move within us to understand and embrace the spirit of ecumenicalism.

The Last Day Before My First Day!

As Holy Saturday draws to a close I feel as if I am walking through a door to begin another adventure. My Lenten obligation is fulfilled with the writing of this blog entry. Forty days of writing have been lessons in commitment and overcoming fear. While sometimes I felt overwhelmed by continuing to put my thoughts into written words each day, I leave the season of Lent with a sense of purpose and gratitude.

Before the season started it would take me literally hours to post a blog. I would check my writing over and over again for errors, expressions, or anything else that caught my eye. It got to the point that it became too exhausting to write an entry. I didn’t have enough hours in my day to proof my work and get other tasks accomplished. Writing each day gave me the freedom to express myself without having to be so incredibly critical of what I put on paper.

I am not saying that my work was not well thought out. I made sure that I had a purpose for creating an entry each day. Through this journey I was open to where the Spirit led me. There was a surrender to the presence of the Holy Mystery, as it revealed something within my spirit each and every day. There were only a couple of times that I struggled to put something down. Most days were filled with a divine guidance and a joy for living.

Now this daily journey is coming to a close, but the lessons that I learned throughout the season enhance my walk and my faith. I know that I will not be able to continue writing every day, but I will be sitting down to put pen to paper much more often than I had before Ash Wednesday. Praise be to God, who still guides us and teaches us throughout our lives. We grow by moving forward and not remaining idle.

So, I leave this space by walking through a new door. I do not know what opportunities are ahead of me, but I do know who guides me. I look forward to seeing what my new space will feel like. What will the new part of this road look like? There is only one way to find out the answer to the question. That is by moving forward.

Today, I am grateful for the journey through Lent to get to Easter. I travel embracing the life lessons that will be revealed as I continue down my path. This is my hope. This is my joy. This is my strength.

Resurrection on the Darkest of Days

Today is a day that our church traditionally focuses on the death of Jesus. Our church service is usually called the Service of Darkness. There is typically little, if any, light in the sanctuary. I am drawn to it because it is one of the very few services where we worship in a more contemplative style. The quiet is very loud as we observe the darkest part of our tradition. We remember the times that we have failed to be a people of faith. Remembering these bleak times, we ask forgiveness.

It is with my thoughts looking toward the darkness that I was asked to preside at a memorial service this morning. We celebrated the life of an amazing man. It was a beautiful day here in Rio Rancho and the sun seemed to glow especially bright. As I began the memorial service this morning I thought of the paradox between the mood of the day as it gave way to the observance of death in the evening.

In the morning, I quoted scripture reminding the mourners of the hope of resurrection and the life to come. I spoke of the same death that I would observe in the evening. This one that is God’s gift to the world. With 21st century eyes, I know what happens after the death. There is life and a divine renewal of hope and spirit. We didn’t have to act like it hadn’t happened. Like Paul Harvey, we know the rest of the story.

Those that attended the memorial service needed to hear the rest of the story. They needed the words of hope in that moment. It couldn’t wait until Easter. Unlike our ancient predecessors, we are able to offer the words of the Gospel when everything around us is dark and uninviting. Praise be to God for the gift!

My hope for today is that we not wait to share the good news of God for a particular moment, but we are actively sharing now. I hope that we take the message of love to a world that is starving to hear something that brings strength in times of weakness. Let us remember to continue to live as Christ’s disciples. We can change the world by bringing the light of joy and peace into the darkest of places.

We Will Conquer Rome

I just returned home from our Maundy Thursday service. We presented the Living Last Supper as we did on Palm Sunday. I heard a line that really touched me this evening. One of the disciples said the phrase, “We will defeat Rome by out-living and out-loving her.”

I was reminded that divine love can overcome anything. I am not talking about the kind of love reserved for emotions or desperate signs of affection (though God can use these things to make His presence known). I am talking about the kind of love that radically forms and transforms the deepest parts of the human spirit. The type of love that realizes itself by actions. When a person loves as Christ loves there is a resolve to be present and to express kindness.

I believe that the heavenly notion of love is most often watered down and resigned to just a “word” that sounds pretty. The reality is that sometimes love is not very pretty. It weathers the storm and survives the rough seas that we experience in our lives. Christ’s love is powerful and is the strongest expression of divine hope that is humanly possible.

Tonight I was reminded of the might and goodness of a holy commitment to the Creator. It goes the distance and radically moves us into faithfulness. Love will move the mountains of regret and anxiety that can sometimes cloud our vision. It is sturdy and confident. Love will overcome the struggles that we face.

Praise be to God for the gift of love. Be transformed by its strength. Be led by its kindness. Be made whole.

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!

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.