As a pastor, I am privileged to a wealth of information. There are times that I just shake my head and keep moving forward. No matter what I hear, I try to listen for the truth that is sometimes buried deep within the stories that people tell. Through the deep level of hurt and sadness, there lies the mustard seed of our deepest wants along with our deepest needs. The challenge that I face as a pastoral caregiver is to encourage people to tap into these deep places.
Too often we stop, afraid to travel to the headwaters of our souls. Many of us are afraid of what we may find. This is an allusion because all of us who have boldly made the journey find freedom at the realization of our true selves. I am speaking about our most authentic selves. That part of us that includes the divine spark of ingenuity. The space that the very core of who we are and what we believe exists.
We know the time that we tap into the special places in our hearts. Something within us comes to life. The gospel of our lives transforms us and strengthens us. We find a renewed spark of hope, and a commitment to remain faithful to the truths that have been shared by the Divine.
There is a part of us that is not wounded by pain. It is bathed in light and provides strength. Sometimes it is masked by layers upon layers of hurt, shame, regret, etc… Once discovered, the possibilities are endless. We must remain diligent to rediscover who we were created to be.
Today, I am thankful for the journey. I am grateful that I boldly travel into the deeper resources of my soul to discover my truest self. My hope is that we all may walk on towards healing and wholeness so that we may claim the promises revealed to us by our Creator. Praise be to God, who gives us the victory.
This picture was taken at my sons’ favorite restaurant. It is called Burrito Express. Both boys enjoy the wonderful tortillas that are made on the spot. This restaurant is as close to Tex-Mex that we can get living in Rio Rancho. We are New Mexicans by choice, but the food from Texas will always be near and dear to our hearts.
Don’t let my 19 year old son’s face fool you. He had a good time in spite of my request to take a selfie. I am sure everyone remembers those incredibly awkward moments that you did something out of a sense of obligation. The expression on my son’s face says it all. “Dad, please. Taking this picture is not the highlight of my day.” While that may be so, the food was well worth it!
What I enjoyed, more than the food, was a chance to connect with my stinky sons. We sat and ate and laughed about ridiculous things. These are moments that I treasure beyond words, for they capture the unique camaraderie that I share with these two amazing men. I hope that this is a summer that they will look back on and smile as they remember that insane picture, the delicious food, and their insane dad, smiling with absolute joy over being blessed with small bursts of time with my amazing sons.
Today, I am grateful for my family, who constantly remind me that when life gets messy and stressful, they are there to be a place of comfort. I look at this picture and realize that I am very blessed. I could never have imagined that I would be the father of these guys, much less a husband (In December we will be married for 23 years) to the one who is truly the love of my life. Praise Be to God, indeed!
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…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.
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.
There are people that we meet along the path that, if not careful, will attempt to rob us of our joy. We are left with a feeling of discouragement and absolute defeat. We must be careful to keep the light of God vital and alive in spite of what is going on around us. While this is difficult today, it is necessary. The message that we have to share with the world is way too crucial and way too important to let anyone capture our hearts and leave us injured and isolated.
When this happens, and believe me it happens, I first want to leave and simply not engage. I want to escape to a safe place. This is where God picks me up and gives me the strength to overcome the noise of those who try to steal my voice. I am to rise up and proclaim the gospel (good news) of what God has done in my life. I must remember that my life matters. God will speak through me.
Today, I am thankful that I can continue down a path that reminds me that I am loved beyond my wildest imagination. That, even though I experience a setback, I will still be invited to continue on the path. I know that there will be “Joy Killers” along the way. I must not let them take that spark of divine excitement that gives me hope.
May we find safety in the knowledge that no matter what obstacles that we face, our God will give us strength for our journey. We are simply called to move forward. The rest will be taken care of by the one who gives us hope. Let us embrace the lessons that we learn as we travel our path one step at a time.
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.
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.
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!
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.