JOY IN THE JOURNEY

April 16th, 2013

The journey toward becoming an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church began in earnest in January 1995, on the Sea of Galilee in Israel.  It was there that Bishop Alfred Norris, while delivering a mediation to over 240 United Methodists on two boats in the middle of this large body of water, a body of water on which Jesus walked, said, “If we don’t go back and make the world a better place, I don’t know for sure because I am not God, but I think that God will be disappointed in us.”

This journey, which began over eighteen years ago, has included becoming more involved in the life of the church as a lay person, going to seminary, serving as a pastor in four churches and now having the honor and privilege of serving as the Amarillo District Superintendent.  What a journey it has been!

My journey as a disciple of Christ has been filled with many wonderful and incredible moments.  It has been filled with excitement, happiness, affirmations, aha moments, manifold blessings and awe at how God has worked in my life, all the things usually associated with joy.  It has also been filled with trials, tribulations, challenges, grief, doubt, and even anger at God for a season when my mother died at the age of 48 when I was 22 years old, all these things usually not associated with joy.  It has been a journey filled with growth, transformation, learning, new beginnings, continued discernment and much, much prayer.  It has been a journey which has gone from asking the question, “What do I do Lord?” while still working as a geologist in Midland, Texas, to now asking the question, “What will you have me to do today, Lord, so that I might faithfully serve you as one of your disciples?”  There is joy in the journey, even in the midst of life experiences that bring us to our knees, a joy that is filled with the assurance and inner peace that God is with us, no matter what, accompanying us and yes, sometimes carrying us, along the way.

Michael Card is a Christian folk singer and contemporary artist whose songs and lyrics are inspired by the biblical witness of the Christian faith.  One of my favorite songs of his speaks to the joy we can experience in the journey of life and to what we are called to do in order to experience this joy no matter what we face in life.  Here are the words to the song, Joy in the Journey:

            There is a joy in the journey, there’s a light we can love on the way.
            There is a wonder and wildness to life, and freedom for those who obey.
            And all who seek it shall find it, a pardon for all who believe.
            Hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind.

             To all who have been born of the Spirit and who share incarnation with him;
            who belong to eternity, stranded in time, and weary of struggling with sin.
            Forget not the hope that’s before you, and never stop counting the cost.
            Remember the hopelessness when you were lost?

             There is a joy in the journey, there’s a light we can love on the way.
            There is a wonder and wildness to life, and freedom for those who obey,
            and freedom for those who obey.1
 
My prayer is that you will find great joy in the journey God has called you to and that your life will be filled with joy, a joy that is shared with others so that they might experience the joyful presence of God through your life as one of God’s dear children and disciples.

The journey continues . . . !!

Blessings,

Paul

1 From the Audio CD entitled, Joy in the Journey: 10 Years of Greatest Hits (The Sparrow Corporation, Brentwood, TN., 1994).

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT . . .

April 1st, 2013

Love is a “many splendored thing.”  Thoughts about it fill the airways and emanate from IPods daily.  The words “I love you” are spoken, experienced, felt, dreamed, imagined, yearned for and hoped for by most every person on earth.  It is dramatized on the big screen and the little screen, and now the littlest of screens, smart phones and the like.  Love is expressed and lived out daily throughout the world.

Love is a part of who we are, wouldn’t you agree?  But, it is also a part of our lives that is defined in so many ways, many good, but some not so good as this characteristic of human life is misunderstood and often taken for granted as we are in relationship with others.

Tina Turner’s hit song of 1984 entitled, What’s Love Got to Do with It, spoke about the idea of love and relationships.  The song, I think, points to difficulties of love in our relationships with others.  The refrain of the song summarizes love, then, in the midst of those difficulties.

What’s love got to do, got to do with it?

What’s love but a second hand emotion?

What’s love got to do, got to do with it?

Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?

This past week on Good Friday, we witnessed once again what true love, never ending love looks like.  In the midst of Jesus’ suffering, in the midst of Jesus’ pain and agony, in the midst of Jesus’ hanging on a Cross, in the midst of Jesus’ dying, love shone through it all.  There on the cross, Jesus witnessed to what love does have to do with it.  In the midst of his broken heart, a heart broken by those who claimed to love him, those who he called friends and all those who just a week earlier had welcomed him into Jerusalem shouting great hosannas, love was lived out fully when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34a, NRSV).

For Jesus, love was not a second hand emotion.  It was a way of life, a way of thinking about others before thinking of Himself, a way of expressing deep feelings about others without worrying about the possibility of a broken heart, a way of living that transcended His humanity and connected Him with His heavenly Father so that others might experience the never ending love of God through His life as God’s dear child.  For Jesus, love was life itself.

As disciples of Christ, we experience the love of Christ each day.  In the midst of our human frailties, in the midst of our shortcomings, in the midst of our brokenness, yes, even in the midst of our sinfulness, what a blessing it is to know that we are loved by the One who loves us unconditionally.

What will be your response to Jesus’ unconditional love today as you live as one of His disciples?  How will others experience the never ending love of God you offer as you give praise to God through your life?

What’s love got to do with it?  EVERYTHING!

Blessings,

Paul

SING A NEW SONG

December 24th, 2012

Scripture:  Luke 2:8-20

8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”  13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”  15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”  16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.  17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.  19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.  20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

An angel suddenly appears as we are living our daily lives and says:  “I interrupt the program of your daily life to bring you a news bulletin.”  It is a news flash announcing something spectacular and life changing.  And then, before saying, “I now return you to your regularly scheduled daily life program,” a multitude of angels sing a song of praise: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!

Fear, awe, trepidation, disbelief and wonder may be just some of the emotions we might experience.  Like us, the shepherds on that Christmas night may have felt similar emotions.  They might have wanted to run and hide, to ignore the message, or to rub their eyes and say “This isn’t really happening, I am just seeing things.”  But instead, they responded to the invitation of the angel to come and see and to experience the Messiah, the Lord, a little baby in a lowly manger who would change the world.

Will you respond to the invitation of the angel this Christmas to go to the manger and experience the love of the babe lying there?  Will you respond to the invitation to go to the manger and give thanks for the One who gives you new life through Him?  Will you respond to the invitation to go to the manger once again this Christmas and let the babe lying there change your life anew?

May we each approach the manger of our Lord this Christmas with an open heart and an open mind so that we might experience the hope, love, joy, and peace we find waiting for us as God’s dear children.  May we kneel in His presence and give thanks for the gift which has been given to us and to the world.  And as we leave the manger, may we, like the shepherds, sing a new song with our lives, a song filled with Good News, a song filled with hope, love, joy and peace, a song that is filled with the transforming love of the Babe in the manger who has been born in us anew this Christmas!

 

Prayer:  Loving God, we give you thanks and praise for the gift of your Son, Our Lord, the Messiah.  Help us to sing a new song with our lives as He is born in us anew this year through our experience of the hope, love, joy and peace that is Christmas and then to proclaim the Good News with the song of our life.  Amen.

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR . . .

December 12th, 2012

It’s that time of year, a season of the year filled with expectation and anticipation.  It is a season that comes after a time this summer that was filled with expectation and anticipation as new bishops were elected at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference and assignments of bishops were made, a time when the Northwest Texas and New Mexico Annual Conferences were momentarily left wondering what was going to happen next.  In an instant, the expectations and anticipation turned from excitement to disappointment and uncertainty.

Then, in the midst of expectations dashed and anticipations dulled, the wonderful gift of not one, but two extremely gifted and graced servant leaders of God was received as they were assigned to serve for an “interim” time as the resident Bishops of the Northwest Texas and New Mexico Episcopal Area.  What a blessing it continues to be for this episcopal area to be inspired, challenged, encouraged, affirmed and led by Bishop Solomon and Bishop Hutchinson through their faithful and fruitful ministry.  In the midst of disappointment and uncertainty, came a new beginning filled with renewed anticipation and expectation of great things to come.

Now, with the recent Judicial Council ruling, it is once again a time of expectation and anticipation of who God will provide and call to lead and to serve the Northwest Texas Conference and this episcopal area.  Given all that has transpired over the past several months, our anticipation and expectation might be accompanied by hope for healing and reconciliation, anxiety and uncertainty, affirmation of great gifts and graces of one called by God to serve and lead as a bishop, and excitement about the bright future to which God is calling us with a new episcopal leader as we continue to make and grow disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and the Northwest Texas Conference.  It is a time of great expectation and hopeful anticipation for the future into which God is calling us in this vital part of God’s Kingdom here on earth filled with faithful, loving, caring, and spirit-filled disciples bearing fruit for the sake of Christ.

Most importantly, it’s that time of year when we wait with great expectation and anticipation for the coming of the Lord into the world.  It’s that time of the year when we prepare our hearts and minds for the Advent of a promise fulfilled.  It’s that time of year when we give thanks to God for the new life we have received through Christ, our Lord, and anticipate His being born into the world and into our lives each day.  And it’s that time of year that we experience Emmanuel, God with us, as we live the life of faith, a faith filled with trust, hope, assurance and great joy in all that God has planned and will provide for us, all made possible by the Babe in the manger.

It’s that time of year when we await anew the coming of the Christ Child into the world, the One who lovingly walks with us each day as we serve as His disciples in the mission field . . . 8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night.  9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people; 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11, NRSV)

Blessings,

Paul

Welcome to D.S.’s Blog

May 15th, 2012

Thank you for visiting D.S.’s blog on the new United Methodist Church Amarillo District website!

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