Not Enough Paper to Go Around

“But there are also many other things Jesus did; and if they were all to be recorded, I don’t think the whole world could contain the books that would have to be written!” (John 21:25 CJSB).

As the Gospel of John comes to a close, the above verse is the last one. To sum up the phrase, Jesus completes so many miracles, that there were not enough writing utensils to record everything. We only have highlights (which is more than enough to feed us), while Jesus continued to love the people around Him. Our road map, the Gospels, gives us all that we need to know to follow the Messiah. Love God with everything you are (warts and all) and love your neighbor as yourself. To complete the two commandments requires a change of heart, which leads to redemption and hope.

I believe that Jesus continues to work miracles all around us. We simply must stop and look to find the Holy Spirit alive and well in our day-to-day living. Think of the many ways that God guides you on your path, and recall the healing processes in which the hope of Jesus restored you to wholeness. There are enough miracles we continue to witness that could not fit in a book. The Holy One is deeply connected to us and restores our souls.

My hope for us, as we leave the Gospels and begin reading the Book of Acts, is that we take a few moments to look around and remember, Jesus, is still in the business of healing hearts and restoring minds. Praise be to God that we may stop and give thanks for all that we receive from the Father. Let us stop, observe that beauty of faith, and then go out into the world to make a difference. In so doing, the last verse of Luke is not an ending of the story, but a continuation.

Our Songs of Ascent

Psalms 120-134 are known as the Psalms of Ascent. The title possibly refers to physically climbing the outer stairs of the temple to reach the center square. Songs reflected melodies that started low and gradually got higher with each idea sung. The primary focus reflected God’s elevation and our constant desire to reach up for His guidance.

Our world teaches us to keep our head to the grindstone and get the job done.  While it is important to be productive, the Creator of the Universe wants us to look up and remember to give thanks for our deliverance.  Just as God calls us from the pit of despair, “ADONAI, I call to you from the depths; hear my cry, Adonai!  Let your ears pay attention to the sound of my pleading” (Ps. 130:1-2 CJSB), we are to acknowledge the hope and assurance found in those who are faithful.  The Psalmist expresses a strong dependence and commitment to God’s protection when he proclaims “Those who trust in ADONAI are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but remains forever” (Ps. 125:1 CJSB).

This week I invite you to join me in taking moments to reflect on God’s deliverance in your own lives.  What ways do you stop and raise your head to offer the Holy One your joys and concerns?  Please feel free to share your moments of divine revelation with me by posting a response.  Allow the blessings of God to overwhelm you as you recount all that the Lord has (and continues) to do for you.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.