Miracles Are All Around Us!

I could write about the wonderful class that I just finished at Austin Presbyterian Seminary, but then I would also have to write about the amazing friendships that I developed while I was in Austin.  I could write about the incredible fact that my son is turning nineteen years old tomorrow, but then I would also have to write about the amazing gift of being a father.  With so many amazing things going on around me, I think I can sum them all up in a simple little word; miraculous.

It is a herculean feat that I am even enrolled in a doctorate program.  Boys with my demographic background are lucky to get a high school diploma.  How blessed am I to not adhere to such low expectations.  I serve a God that whispers incredible strength into my soul and says to me, “You are not finished!  Continue to reach for heights beyond anything or anyone.  I created in you a desire to live out your life, complete with passion and joy.”

And the friendships that I am developing at the Seminary…well, let’s just say that they are the kind that one hopes for throughout one’s life.  These amazing people that have made it clear that I am loved unconditionally.  Those words can be said, but when they are spoken with heart and truth, they are game changers.  It is indeed what I call miraculous.

Then there is my son, that is one of the greatest gifts (my youngest son included) that I could have ever been given.  He is an amazing young man with incredible amounts of talents.  I never knew how to identify a miracle in my life, until I saw his face.  That incredible face, that looked on me immediately, and I knew that I was standing in the presence of a divine gift from God himself.  How blessed I am to have this one human being change my life in ways that I could have never imagined.  And it all took one little word; daddy.

Today, I am humbled to see the miraculous all around me.  I see it in my family, my friends, my calling into ministry.  Praise be to God who continues to mold me and places signs and miracles all around me to remind me that I call someone mein vati.  My daddy.

Gratitude

Gratitude…what a simple little word with incredible depth. There is no other way to describe the moments when I am overcome with thanksgiving for my journey. Sometimes I have climbed some very large mountains, while at other times I simply walk in quiet pastures. While the scenery may change at a moment’s notice, the presence of God is with me, always encouraging me to continue down the path.

The past few weeks have proven very rough. Sometimes, there have been mountains that appeared to be too high, or too impossible to climb. The good news is that I reached the summit and continued my journey. Each challenge has been met. Each experience a chance to grow in grace.

And through it all, there is an incredible awareness of gratitude. Thanks to the friends who remind me that I am a part of something so much bigger than I could imagine on my own. Grateful for colleagues who support me and encourage me to continue to grow and become the pastor and person that I want to be. And most of all, a family who believes in me and encourages me to continue to reach for the stars.

Today, I am thankful for the presence of the Divine, as I am filled with strength and purpose. Thanks be to the One who is my creator, who designed me to be the person that I am, complete with joy and hope. Praise be to God, who fashions us in His image. My hope is that we all might remember that we are created to be who we are and not anybody else. We are enough! End of story.

More Travel?

Last week I was in Glorietta, NM attending the New Mexico Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. I went home on Friday and flew to Austin, Texas to take my third class in my Doctorate of Ministries studies. While I enjoy traveling, I am a home body at heart. There is nothing more enjoyable to me than to be at home working on projects around the house. The last thing I wanted to do this morning was get on a plane.

While it is exhausting, I am reminded that the journey is worth it. Through all of the struggle and stress, the prize is in sight. It is just a matter of continuing forward and not stopping. That is the key to our struggles. We must journey on.

As we continue down the path, we learn to appreciate the marvels of God that surround us. It can come in the form of a friend who sends a text to let you know that he/she is thinking of you, a friend who strikes up a conversation that reminds you how important that you are in their world, or a colleague who hand picks you to be their partner for a class project. In whatever way God chooses to reveal God’s self in your life, you must be present on the journey to notice the still small voice that is holy and divine.

Today, I am thankful for friends who reveal themselves in mysterious ways in my life. I give thanks to a God who reminds me that moments with special people are separate and holy. It all starts as a part of the journey. Let us remember to give thanks to the One, who created us and gave us the heart to be a part of a wonderful family.

This, That, and Everything in Between!

My schedule over the next few weeks will be chaotic to say the least.  Over the course of the next three weeks I will travel from my home to Glorieta, Austin, El Paso, back to Austin, and then home.  And in the middle of all of this travel, I will be attending the New Mexico Conference of the United Methodist Church’s Annual Conference, and then taking a third course in my DMin program at Austin Presbyterian Seminary.  As I write this, I think I know why I am feeling so overwhelmed.  The travel alone is enough to kill a person.

While I am a little stressed out, I look forward to seeing old friends and reaffirming new friends.  I look forward to experiencing the energy that new adventures bring into my life.  Through all of the struggles, there are glimpses of excitement and spiritual renewal.  There is no time like the present to remember and give thanks for little nuggets of hope that come into my path.  This is what feeds me and keeps me going.  These journeys remind me of why I dared to change the course of my life and step into something completely different.

My hope for today is to not let the preparations for the journey be an incredible source of stress as I journey.  I must move forward giving thanks for what lies ahead of me.  I hope to remember that when things get tough, I will recall the kindness and humor that are present in my life.  I hope to remember the friendships that make me aware of the many people that stand behind me and support me through all of life’s ups and downs.  Praise be to God for the people that love me and make me aware that I am more than I ever though that I could be.

My Greatest Work of Art

Yesterday Cazandra and I decided to watch one of our favorite movies, the Cider House Rules.  Both the movie and the book are amazing and deal with issues of abandonment, family, and true calling.  It is storytelling at its finest.  I was drawn to something that the character Dr. Larch writes to Wilbur in a letter.  He writes, “You are my greatest work of art.”

What an amazing statement to make to and about someone.  I sat with that sentence for a while.  As I kept answering the question in my head, my camera lens kept shifting wider and wider.  I couldn’t quite capture the answer to the question, “Who is my greatest work of art?” in one broad sweeping acclamation.

I could easily say my children.  That would be safe and easy, and truthful.  What about my wife and the life that we have shared for over 26 years?  Surely, she would have to be a part of my answer.  Then, what about the many students I taught, or the many people that I directed as a minister of music?  What about family and friends?  What about performing?  What about being in the role of pastor?

My greatest work of art had to include all of my experiences.   Perhaps the paintbrush included the times that divine love and purpose transcended the craziness of everyday life and revealed itself in profound ways.  I am talking about the special moments that redefined the course of my life.  Moments like kissing my wife for the very first time, finding out that my sons were coming into the world, secrets shared in confidence, making music that left me breathless, discovering that it was okay to be me and to live in this world as my complete self.

I think our lives are the true masterpieces; our creations, that give thanks and ultimately point to the Creator.  Thank God that we are given these gifts.  The incredible awareness that love itself seeks to make the world better through our acts.  This is breathtaking.  It is indeed miraculous.  It is a masterpiece.

I hope that you move forward in your journey with the hope and knowledge that God is creating something that is rich and profound in your spirit.  It is perfect.  It is complete.  It is life changing in its scope and design.  Today, I say thank God for the incredible masterpieces that are being revealed in all of us!

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.

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 Is Good to Be Back

It was great to be back in the pulpit this Sunday. I have not preached in two weeks due to some very special Sundays in the life of our church. While we worshipped well the last few weeks, I felt like I was back where I belonged this morning. Life seemed to be balanced, right where everything makes sense.

There is a feeling of strength and wholeness that I experience when delivering a sermon. Nothing feels the same. I have a place in which the words that come out of my mouth matter. I enjoy struggling with the issues of life and God, along with my congregation. Transformation occurs as I surrender to the One who gives me strength. I become a vehicle by which hope can be expressed in ways that will empower a room full of those seeking solace.

There is something that is other worldly when I stand before the congregation each Sunday morning. It is a time to share absolute gratitude for being allowed to live in a space that is holy and sacred. This is where lives are made whole and hearts are “strangely warmed.” I am blessed beyond all measure, because I get to share with everyone what the Holy One has done in my life. Believe me, it is a true miracle!

It is my hope that you will find that special something that guides you and brings you into your heart’s joy. You may be able to share that passion with a world that needs to hear the good news. Stand up and allow the Spirit to guide you and direct your path. You will be much happier as you continue your journey.

Praise be to God that we can search and find our passions in life. May we embrace them and give thanks for all that we are given. Live within the joy of your salvation and know that you were created to shine the light of God into the world. Be ever present and always joyful.

Giving Thanks for Friends

On Thursday I was going through my daily tasks of clergy life when I received an unexpected e-mail from a friend. I smiled and continued my day. By Friday I had heard from several other friends (all in the same boat of navigating church life). At this point, I could not help but give thanks for what they all bring to my life.

Throughout our lives we are given the gift of friendships and enjoy the company of wonderful people who weave their way in and out of our lives with careful attention to the patterns that are stitched together in the depths of our spirits. Some people journey with us a lifetime while others are only with us for brief periods of time. No matter how long they are with us there is one truth that exists; our lives are better because they taught us valuable lessons to which we hold fast. We live stronger. We love richer and deeper.

Today I am especially grateful for my new friends that attend Austin Seminary. Yes we will journey on with the hope that we will stand and celebrate the milestone of receiving our Doctorate of Ministry degree. Somewhere in the middle of this educational pursuit, I have come to realize that one of the biggest life lessons that I am continuing to learn is that it is never too late to share in the joys of friendships.

I give thanks that we are hard wired to share our lives with each other. I look forward to the many more times we will have to discuss life’s issues and rejoice in a project being finished, or a life event that occurs. This is the spark that motivates me to continue my journey. Praise be to the One who created us. Today my amazing friends, I say, “Thanks be to God for you!” Oh yeah, and did I mention that I give thanks?

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.