Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Smile Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

Psalm 9:1

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

Ray 2019We celebrated my friend’s life yesterday. Norma was a pastor’s dream. She was musical – she was administrative – she was friendly – she was hospitable – she was sensitive – she had a deep faith – she had a great work ethic – and she did it all with a smile.

Norma didn’t just smile when things were going well. Norma smiled all the time. I can’t remember too many times when I didn’t see a smile on her face. Battling cancer – there was a smile. Having personal issues – there was a smile. Facing surgery or treatment – there was a smile. Getting chemo – there was a smile. Breaking her wrist and coming back to work way too early – there was a smile.

What are we facing this Christmas? We have families where both parents are out of work. We have several friends fighting addictions. We have several friends facing their first Christmas without a life partner – a child – a parent or a close friend. We have some who are facing their first empty nest Christmas as well. Some have little or no family at this time of the year. Others have abusive family members. Continue reading

December 23, 2019 Posted by | Advent Thought, Build, Christmas, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Knows Us the Best?

Psalm 139:23

Search me, God, and know my heart;

Ray 2019Who is it that knows you better than any other? That might be a curious question and the Sunday School answer would be Jesus for sure. But think about it for a moment. If you’re married – as I have been for nearly 40 years – your spouse might know you pretty well. If your children have any age on them – mine all in their 30’s – they might know you pretty well. If you worked in the same place for a few decades – your co-workers might know you pretty well too. Your parents – if they are still alive – might know you pretty well also.

Unless we are hermits – there are those in our life who know us pretty well. Well enough in some cases to guess how we will react to certain things – or even finish our sentences (isn’t that scary?). Other than my wife and children – maybe my brother and sister – no one knows me like my dear friend Norma – who just transitioned to be with Jesus for eternity. Thanks for your prayers for me – for her children and grandchildren – and her many friends.

I perform a lot of funerals and often friends and family have some of the same stories about their loved one. They laugh and cry at the same memories. Yet – no one knows us like we know us and know one knows us like God knows us. We can hide so much from others – our deepest thoughts – yet we know them and God knows them. We can put on a show or a façade for many who see us – even on a regular basis – but we can hide from God. Continue reading

December 20, 2019 Posted by | Advent Thought, Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Marriage, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Serving God at the Winter Shelter

Galatians 5:13

Serve one another humbly in love

Ray 2019This Sunday will end our week this winter – serving the homeless communities men – with the Winter Shelter program. I’m always impressed by those who participate in this ministry. Many stay up all night and then go to work the next day. I know this is hard – regardless of your age – because I have been doing it one night each year that I have had the privilege to serve First Church. If the men are calm and sleeping – the hardest part of spending the night is staying up all night and then going to work the next day. From Wednesday at 6 am till Thursday morning at 9 am – the posting of this devotional – I got 3.5 hours of bed time (less in sleep time). I will crash tonight or maybe take a nap this afternoon. I know the two men who stayed last night along with me are tired. One went to work this morning and the other will go to work in the afternoon. Some people work more evenings than one. I’m not sure how they do it. We could certainly use more help this year and each year. We have the shelter for the men through Sunday morning.

Aside from the lack of sleep – the amazing part of the week is getting to know the men who visit the shelter. I usually take the time to sit and eat several dinners with the men – talking with them and getting to know them. Several of the men have jobs. We talked about their work. Several of the men were new to the shelter program this year. Several of the men from years past have found shelter elsewhere. Continue reading

December 19, 2019 Posted by | Advent Thought, Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Missions, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Wish This Rain Were Snow

Isaiah 55:10-11

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Ray 2019Rain falls at different rates than snow. Back in 2016 – we had 30 inches of snow during a (#snowmaggedon2016). When it rains that hard – the ground has a hard time soaking it in and much runs off. As this snow melted – the hope was that much of it would soak into the earth and replenish the land and underground reserves. It has been raining for a few days now and tomorrow the sun might shine. I wish all of this rain had been snow. No matter how fast or light the rain/snow falls – water is good for the ground – the crops – the flowers – the grass  and our wells. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater.

At times – when there is very little rain – we will hear reports about how far under normal we are in the rain fall. We will hear that water supplies are low and how much we need the rain. I imagine we do well when there is much snow and it slowly melts. The creek bed in back of my property will probably be flowing soon from all of the rain fall! Continue reading

December 18, 2019 Posted by | Advent Thought, Build, Christmas, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Need Some Prayer Warriors – Please

Jeremiah 20:11

But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten.

Ray 2019Lamar Jackson – Marlon Humphreys – Marshal Yanda – Earl Thomas – Mark Ingram – Mark Andrews and Marcus Peters – just to name a few Baltimore Ravens – have played like mighty warriors this year. They have won 10 straight games and have won games in very hostile stadiums and in terrible weather. They have won when they have not played their best. They have fought hard – for entire games – not taking off any time during games. They are 12-2 and could lock up the #1 playoff slot in the AFC with a win Sunday against the Cleveland Browns (who beat them early in the season).

Another mighty warrior that I know is my dear friend Norma Floyd. She has been battling cancer for many years. There have been times we all thought she was at the end – only to see her bounce back. Last fall we didn’t think she would see Christmas 2018 and now we are facing the thought that she may not make Christmas 2019. Norma has never wavered from her faith and her love for her children and grandchildren. She has always been a dear friend of mine. In the words of another dear friend – when he found out that Norma was not doing well said – Norma always made you look good Rev. Ray. To which I responded – and that is not an easy task for sure.

My dad was always a mighty warrior to me – he stood for Biblical truth – and never wavered from it. He was consistent and reliable and in this day and age when everything is ever changing – that was a solid foundation for me growing up. He stood for Jesus – even to the very end.

Mighty warriors are not easy to find. Mighty prayer warriors are even harder to find. We need some mighty prayer warriors today! Things are not going well in the world around us.

Continue reading

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Advent Thought, Build, Church, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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