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.

There Is Indeed a Time for Everything

“There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens” (Eccl. 3:1 CEB).

I am drawn to the reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-13.  There is something about the incredible awareness of being human that the author brings to the table of our everyday life; that humanity acknowledges before God that there are times that we celebrate as well as times that we struggle.  Of course, the selfish side of me would like to play God’s hand and make him take away the trying times in life.  My prayers tend to be selfish like, “God take this away from me.  Let me know perfect health.  Let my family know perfect peace.  Take hemophilia off of my children’s back.  We have dealt with this bleed for so long.  It is time to release my son from his pain.”  My prayers are not wrong, they are simply a petition to move forward to times of peace and wholeness.  The first thing we want to do when faced with difficult times is to get out of the chaos as quickly as possible.  Who wants to feel trapped in a rough situation?  Not me.

The passage from Ecclesiastes reminds me that life consists of everything.  To deny suffering is to deny joy.  We must face whatever it is that life throws our way.  That is our human condition.  There is no way around it, we must move forward in our victories and our defeats.  How we respond to the situations that we face determines our attitude and awareness of the Divine presence in the middle of all of life’s issues.  We must put our trust in the God who rejoices with us on the mountain tops and carries us through the difficult times in the valleys.  To expect there to be no valleys takes away the joy of the mountain top experiences.  Joy – sadness, faith – doubt, happiness – sorrow; they must remain in balance in our everyday lives.

My hope for all of us this year is that we can praise God while we celebrate and cling to God in our times of greatest need.  May the endless blessings of God surround you so that while you are in the valleys, you may look up towards the mountains and journey forward to the summits of peace, love, and joy.  I pray that you may be comforted by God in whatever season of life in which you find yourselves.  I hope that you may be able to say, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the final victory in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.”

We Know What We Know

First of all, I have to say that I am a very grateful pastor as I have learned how loving and caring my congregation truly is.  We have been inundated by prayers, food, and words of hope and inspiration to carry us through what continues to be our longest hospital stay to date.  Caeleb will be in the hospital for a full month on Monday.  Within the month, we have been discharged twice only to return to the hospital the next day with complications from a knee bleed that will not stop.  Specialists can’t even stop the bleeding.  They try and try, but without much success.

I must admit that this journey has been very difficult for many different reasons.  It is hard seeing my son in pain and not be able to stop it.  We as parents are “supposed” to fix problems.  When we get to the point that we can’t relieve his pain there is a feeling of absolute powerlessness.  Faith becomes the only option by which to express hope.

I look at faith as part of my life intertwined into the very fabric of day to day living.  I have faith that medicines will work, or I have faith that a certain treatment is the one that will restore my son’s health, or I have faith that God will show up in the middle of all of the chaos and create beauty.  I must say, I cannot separate science from my expression of the Divine.  The merging of both worlds is a rich tapestry of both faith and reason that provides a holistic approach to who I am in my finite humanity and that part of me that is connected to Spirit. Together, that which is seen and unseen fills me with the love and knowledge of something that is light years bigger than who I am in this world.

I see God’s work being done by the love and care the nurses on our unit offer to my family.  Their efforts reinforce the holistic identity of who we are by engaging the spiritual aspect of care as they utilize scientific methodology to provide answers to medical issues.  It is an incredible and necessary dependence on various ways that we can validate the existence of both science and the Divine.  The truth is, sometimes we can’t measure what we know to be true.  It is simply profound and present.

So, today I give thanks for the marriage of science and faith and how they come together to make life complete.  I am grateful for the men and women who continue to make life better for my son and seek ways that not only provide him with medical wholeness, but also feed his spirit.  I give thanks for the many people who touch our lives with material and spiritual gifts.  Your service and your compassion are amazing!

And I say, “Thanks be to God.”

Take Time to Be Holy!

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Today I met with my incredible staff at a restaurant (Gabriel’s) in Santa Fe, NM. The food was wonderful. After a great meeting I was dropped off at the Santa Fe Plaza. My wife is joining me for a wonderful concert of American music presented by the Desert Chorale.

It has been strange being on my own. I have spent my time wandering the streets and visiting the Loretta Chapel and the St. Francis Basilica. No one would have branded me a Methodist in this all Catholic setting. My secret was safe with the exception of the cross that hangs from my neck. No crucifix, my secret is revealed!

When I left the Basilica, I noticed a labyrinth outside of the church. I decided to walk the path and did so in silence. The intricate inner workings of the design took me approximately 30 minutes to walk. As I continued on my journey, I tried to clear my mind of the world around me and concentrate on taking the next right turn on the path. Sometimes there were distractions along the way. The street was filled with cars that filled the air with unnecessary noise. I tried not to let the external chaos overwhelm me as I attempted to listen to my soul.

I prayed for my family; for my sons. I prayed that I would continue along my path to be the person, pastor, husband, father, friend, etc…that I am called to be. I had to concentrate on my journey. While I was walking several people started to follow the labyrinth’s path. They were noisy and did not exhibit a sense of solemnity as they ran up and down the colored bricks that indicated the road to the center of the pattern. It was distracting and at times I wanted to break my silence and simply say, “Please be quiet!” Realizing my response would negate the reason I began this journey in the first place I decided to be quiet and make room for the intruders into my holy space.

Despite everything around me, I finished walking the labyrinth. I walked to the center and then back out to where I began my odyssey. Taking this quick 30 minute journey made me realize that as I continue down my spiritual path I will encounter noise, distractions, and fatigue. All of these outside influences should not interrupt my walk. I should push forward with my eyes focused on the next right step and the next right turn. It is my focus on God that carries me through the challenges that I encounter. I am grateful that I am on the road and that I am a child of the One who guides my path. I hope to have more moments to simply be still and focus on God.

The Very Moment I Was Ordained

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It is nice to look at this picture, because when I was ordained I did not see a thing (at least not physically).  I closed my eyes and focused on the moment for which I had studied so hard.  All of the years of the journey seemed to come to this moment.  I am referring to the moment that the bishop (Bishop Earl Bledsoe) placed his hands on my head and charged me to “Take authority as an elder to preach the Word of God, to administer the Holy Sacraments and to order the life of the Church in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (The Sacrament of Holy Orders).

I remember two distinct sensations that I had while kneeling with my eyes closed.  The first thing I felt was a heightened awareness of so many hands that were placed on my head and shoulder to lead me to this particular moment.  I am not just talking about the hands that were physically touching me, but those who helped guide me along my path.  It felt like just about everyone I knew was with me and confirming my calling.  I knew that friends and relatives who had gone on before me were now with me celebrating in this moment.  I knew that I was blessed beyond measure.

I also had an extreme awareness of the presence of God as a white light of love appeared to envelope the service.  This light was pure and bright with its primary source coming from aboveme.  It was an extraordinary second in time that I know will not be repeated again.  It confirmed that light that I felt as a child when I would attend church.  God’s grace was again revealed in my life as I felt the assurance of being in the right place at exactly the right time.

All of these feelings were inside of me during this picture.  We sometimes loose our memories of being present in the moment as we continue our journey.  Time seems to dull those sensations.  I know that there are a few moments in my life that I will never forget the presence of God in my life.  They are my wedding, the birth of both of my children and now my ordination.

I pray that I may be a blessing to others and that Christ may be reflected in my actions.  I hope to empower someone in my own ministry to experience God in ways that leave them speechless and full of wonder.  The journey did not stop with this picture, in fact, this is just the beginning.  May we all take from this odyssey of life the blessings of God so that we may bless each other!

 

 

 

Renewal of Spirit

I am currently in Nashville attending the Festival of Homiletics. I have heard nothing but phenomenal preaching and I am encouraged to journey forward with a renewal of spirit. I have met many people from different denominations and across the country. We all have one thing in common. We want Christ to be seen in the words that we share with our congregations.

It has been way too long since I attended anything like this festival. As I listen to incredible teaching and preaching, I realize that I must take time to attend these different events to rejuvenate my spirit. Renewal is a small word with an incredible meaning. Within the context of that word, we learn how to fill our cup so that way we may take the message of hope to our congregations.

There are many opportunities available to take a retreat. I know that the instant reply is that life is way too busy to take a retreat. Remember, Jesus retreated to reinvigorate himself and reconnect with God. He needed this time as much as he needed to minister to all those who would hear His teaching. Connection to God is as important as air.

Retreats can come in days, hours or even moments. However they come to us we must make good use of our time and be purposeful in our retreat. There must be spaces in our lives to allow the Spirit to speak to us. It is crucial to life and to our connection to God. Silence is powerful. Without it our words would not have a frame.

I enjoy listening to good preaching. I love it when the message is powerful and well crafted. There is a sense of an invocation of the Spirit. God’s voice is revealed through the words of the one who brings the message. The listener is encouraged to take in the Divine and move towards holiness.

It is my goal to take a part of what I have learned here in the “Music City” and challenge my own congregation in new and innovative ways. I hope to be a better pastor because I heard the messages that I needed to hear in Nashville. I am revitalized and encouraged to share bolder, be braver and love stronger. And to think this all happened less than two blocks from the Grande Ole Opry!

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.