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.

Fear is a Part of Life

I have to admit something right off the bat. I am a pastor and I struggle with fear. I have heard it said that a pastor should never allow fear to enter his/her life. Faith should be enough to carry a “person of the cloth” through any situation. Well, if only it were that easy.

The truth is fear is a reality that seems to be present in my life and makes its way into my psyche without warning and without any introduction. This past week my youngest son was admitted into the hospital and had his fifth port-o-cath removed and his sixth placed in a new position in his body. For some reason I had a tremendous amount of anxiety regarding this his eleventh or twelfth surgery (I’ve lost count). I kept thinking that the Spirit had protected my son in the past, but another procedure is really tempting the fates.

I did the one thing that I never do; I lost control of my emotions. I am very good at keeping things in check except when it comes to my family. I tend to love much deeper and feel things much stronger where my wife and children are concerned. So, it should have been expected that fear would be present in most aspects of my life. In other words, the “What Ifs?” were killing me.

As I was feeling overwhelmed, a Bible verse came to me. The text reminded me that my son would be protected and that he would be okay. I felt a sense of relief wash over me as I claimed the promise found in this special verse. While it did not wipe away all of my anxiety it did bring me a sense of peace.

I thought about the crazy notion that a pastor does not, or should not fear. I say balderdash to that idea. The truth is, we are human. We can get angry, happy, sad, resentful, etc… The issue is not that we feel emotions, but whether we let our emotions become our god. Notice I put the little “g” and not the big “G”. That is the constant struggle with fear. While it is normal to experience feelings, nothing should replace the source of strength to which we are called. For me, I reclaimed my strength in a verse from scripture. I didn’t go from frazzled to fantastic, but I did reclaim the source of hope that holds me up when my path becomes uncertain.

My prayer is that we all my return back to our source of hope, light, and life when we struggle. May you encounter that Divine spark and let it illuminate your soul to penetrate the darkness. It all comes down to one word; trust. This five letter word filled with a ton of meaning.

What will be your God? The choice is yours to decide.

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.”

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.