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.

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.

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.

My Mind is a Dangerous Neighborhood

There was a phrase that I heard a long time ago. Someone told me, “My mind is in a dangerous neighborhood, so I never go there alone.” I laughed as my friend revealed this information. As I continue through the years I often come back to that phrase. I think I have even used it in a sermon or two.

There is a lot of truth about my friend’s remark. My mind can travel into some seriously strange places. My thoughts can bring tremendous amounts of joy, but they can also lead me into the darkest places imaginable. Sometimes, thought processes can arrest me and hold me hostage. I am often overwhelmed by my own projections or anxieties stimulated by my psyche.

This is where the power of God steps in and sets within me a new place to dwell. It takes me out of the rough neighborhood and into a place that brings healing and wholeness. I am no longer forced to surrender to the negative thoughts and feelings that want to move into my mental space. I am given the power to reclaim my heart and offer it to God. My strength stems not from my own abilities, but the power of the Holy One.

My task is to remember that I have moved out of the neighborhood of despair and regret and into a place that affirms me and guides me. I am no longer in a place of shame and sorrow. I have to stop acting like I live in that negative space. That is a very hard thing to do; shift my paradigm. I am not left to my own defenses, but it is God who secures my heart. I am a new creation.

For today, let us live in the joy and peace that God gives to us. The world will see that we have been changed. They will see the light that shines in our hearts. They will long to move into a neighborhood similar to ours. We will now be able to say, “I live in a new neighborhood, and it is God who dwells with me. It is divine light that shines and lights my path.” Praise be to God.

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.

The Moment We Embrace Change

I am currently reading a book titled Love and Hate: The Story of Henri Landwirth.  Henri was a holocaust survivor.  His journey takes him through the atrocities of the death camps in Germany, his struggles to survive in a world torn apart by war, and his ability to carry on with his life.  We share in his moment of transformation, when he realizes in postwar Paris that he wanted more for his life than to live with continued hostility.  He discovers that in order to live a life filled with meaning and purpose he had to surrender his anger and bitterness.  Henri concluded that if he were to continue down a path of hate the Nazis would win.  He was determined not to give them the victory.

The power of transformation occurs in our lives when we discover the desire to be made complete.  Our lives must be more than the events of our past.  We have no control over people or situations that occur before the present moment.  What we can manage is now.  How often do we let the events of the past control us and leave us feeling like victims; without power, without joy, without hope?

In order to change our situations, we must allow God to transform our hearts.  The power of the Holy Spirit is an amazing thing.  It’s brilliant fire fills us with a sense of renewed passion.  Where once there was no hope, now there are is meaning and wholeness.  Through our surrender to God’s love our rebirth sparks within us the joy of creation.

As we journey through this Lenten season let us call to mind how God has changed us.  Let us reclaim the brilliant handiwork of the Divine in our lives.  We renounce hate and bitterness only to embrace joy and love.  This healing power alters the course of our lives and gives us a gift beyond our own understanding.  We are transformed.  We are made whole.

I Come to This with Fear and Trepidation

Today is Ash Wednesday, and I have made a commitment to write a post each day throughout the season of Lent.  I have to admit that I enter this with a ton of fear on my shoulders.  I have not been consistent in my posts, so why should I change my wicked ways now?  I hope to be able to follow through with this.

Another fear that I carry is that I will not have enough material to form meaningful sentences.  In other words, I am not sure that I have anything substantial to say.  I want to write about things that matter.  What if my writing is not of good quality?  This is a major concern with which I consistently struggle.

So the first of my Lenten writings is acknowledging my fears.  It is crucial for me to simply own up to the fact that “adding in” is sometimes a lot harder than “giving up.”  Adding in requires making room for reflection and discernment.  Planning becomes a necessary component of who we are.  In other words, we must be intentional by making our time an important part of our day.  I am not sure that I will be able to write at the same time of the day each and every day, but I do know that as I plan each day, I will include time to write in my day.  Some people need to plan a consistent time, but that is something I don’t think will work for me.

Now that I have shared some of my concerns, I can look toward the process of writing.  I start the journey and look forward to sharing what God continues to do in my life.  I hope to create a space that will challenge me and inspire me to find wonderful new ways to grow in the joy and love of our amazing God.

I Will Teach You How to Skate

I am reflecting back on the journey my family and I have taken over the course of the year. My youngest son spent almost every holiday between October thru February in the hospital.  I helplessly stood by and watched my son lose the ability to walk.  He was suffering from an internal bleed that occurred right in the knee joint.  As the bleed progressed he lost mobility in his right leg.  He could not extend his leg fully and the bleeding continued for almost four months.

Hemophilia has reared its ugly head in our family many more times than I care to admit. At times living with the effects of a bleeding disorder takes a toll on one’s psyche.  For me as the caregiver it is sometimes overwhelming. I can’t imagine how my son must feel.

Last week my stinky boy and I went to the ice rink near my home. He wanted to go with me to see me skate.  I enjoyed seeing him sit in the stands.  This was a part of my life that I had not shared with him.  The ice actually is my solitude.

As I was leaving the ice my son said to me, “Daddy, I wish I could skate.” It never occurred to me that he would want to join me.  I quickly grabbled around for the right words to say to him.  I said, “Son, I will teach you how to skate.”  As I listened to the words come out of my mouth I realized that all I have to offer my amazing boy are words of assurance.  Sometimes a quick message of hope is all that we can bring to the table in the toughest of times.  These mighty words filled with confidence and a promise that things will not stay the same.

I give thanks today that we are at a new point in our treatment. Knock on wood, my son has not had a bleed since February.  With the help of a good physical therapist he is beginning to walk again.  It is our hope that he will not depend on a wheelchair in the very near future.  We will look back on this season of struggle and give thanks for the lessons that we have learned through these difficult times.

I will teach him to skate. I will also teach him many other things reserved for dads and sons.  I will continue to be his biggest cheerleader; his biggest advocate.  I will…

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.