Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Would Jesus Weep at Our Grave?

John 11:25

Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die

photo on 6-11-19 at 10.52 amAs a pastor – I am often called upon many times in the course of a year to celebrate the life of folks from our church and from our community. As I have recently mentioned – it has been nearly 7 years since we celebrated my father’s life. I have also celebrated the life of my mother and my father-in-law. Some day I will help the family celebrate my mother-in-laws life – unless they celebrate mine beforehand.

Someone once said – in this world you can be certain of two things – death and taxes. Some attribute this to Benjamin Franklin. It is a true statement. We weren’t created to die – we were created to live eternally. Yet – because of sin – we are born to die.

Folks – even folks who only know me on the day of the celebration of their loved one’s life – say I hold a nice service – a comforting service – a service that brings them into the presence of God. Recently a man said – I’m not a religious man – but you said some things that touched me today. Another women told me – you made celebrating my father’s life doable. I thought I would be too broken to get through the service. God has gifted me with the ability to connect with people and to help people to be at ease and to remember the good as they celebrate the life of a loved one. Continue reading

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September 2, 2019 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Other Side of the Casket

Philippians 4:12

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

June 2019This verse came to mind almost seven years ago as I sat in the front row at my father’s burial.  For 36 years I had been on the other side of the coffin – trying to give words of encouragement and lifting prayers on behalf of the grieving family. Other than my two grandmothers (both grandfathers died before I was born or when I was an infant) I have not lost anyone close – other than some childhood friends. With my maternal grandmother died I was in the family section – not upfront. I did celebrate my paternal grandmother’s life as her pastor. I have not had a close family member pass since – until my father died. We had both sets of parents – still married to each other and living strong!

I am a pretty emotional person – and I think I held up pretty well through the visitation time and at the funeral (almost broke down once during the sermon and as the coffin was being closed the previous night). There I was – placing the cocoon that held my father into the ground and yet I was an emotional wreck.  I knew it wasn’t my father. I knew he was with Jesus. I knew the story of the butterfly I have told hundreds of times and even shared it at my father’s graveside service – but the emotions of the moment hit me hard. Continue reading

July 16, 2019 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Worship | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clothe Ourselves in Christ

Colossians 3:12

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

June 2019Dear readers – did any of us have a favorite piece of clothing growing up? I apparently – according to old photos – had a favorite cowboy shirt and a red baseball hat. In many of my childhood pictures – from a certain age – that was what I had on. I still have favorite clothes – enjoying the more casual look over anything dressy. When I was in my early teen years – I had a favorite hat that was always on my head it seems. I remember when I finally had to give it up – it was old – torn and smelled from years of sweating in it. I remember buying it with my own money at Ocean City one year. I know my girlfriends probably didn’t like it much – but it was a favorite!

As a pastor – I know there are proper times to wear certain clothes. For instance – I when I have a funeral – I will bring my collar and my suit jacket to work with me – so I can change before the service. I will return to the office for meetings after the funeral and put on my church shirt – typically a polo shirt with my name and the church’s name on it. I hardly ever wear a tie anymore – using the clergy collar shirt when I need to dress up. Continue reading

July 12, 2019 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seeing Jesus Face-to-Face

1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I pulled this message from five years ago. I’ve reworked it some but basically it is the same. My father’s passing five years ago is part of what has me emotionally depleted today.

As I sit in the hospital room with my dad my thoughts are scattered. I know I need time to grieve. I know my emotions are on edge. I know that just the sight of my in-laws this morning followed by my father’s brother brought tears to my heart – for them and for me. Did I say I know I need time to grieve? I know that working helps me grieve and helps control my emotions at the same time. I have thoughts like: what will I do without my father? Who will I turn to with my many questions in life? As the oldest son – the oldest patriarch of the family – what does that mean? Why can’t I be strong for the family and friends? Why must I be so emotional? What will my mom do without dad? What about my sister and brother and the grand/great children? What about my wife, my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law? My brother-in-law has been like a son to dad and has cared for him like his own father – and we cried in each other’s arms last night at the hospital! My mind races to the next steps. Should we have a private burial followed by a memorial service? Should we have a fellowship meal? Where will we hold the service? Who would we ask to help – there are so many pastors in the family – pastors dad influenced – pastors that know him and us? What funeral home will we use – we have such a good relationship with so many? Should we call Hospice Care? Is dad really comfortable? Can he still hear me pray with him? How many angels can dance on the head of a needle? These are just a few of the things running through my head. If you have been where I am right now – you know the many thoughts that are going through my mind. Continue reading

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Personal, Prayer, Theology, Worship | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Showing Love At A Time Like This

Romans 8:37

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

RayMcDSome of us – the older persons for sure – grew up in an era when men had a hard time showing their emotions.  Even in today’s society it is not unusual for some men to have a hard time saying I love you to their spouse – their children – family – or others. Some women have a hard time as well – but it seems to come more naturally for them. Expressing our feelings – our love and our emotions – shouldn’t be so hard.

Along the lines of some men having a hard time saying they love the ones they do love – it is not uncommon to hear at a funeral for a dad – he may not have said it very often if at all – but I knew my father loved me.

At funerals I often remind people to not wait to say I love you to those they love – because the opportunities might be short – and the end can come unexpectedly. A clergy friend of mine – four years my junior – died suddenly of a heart attack – here one moment and gone the next.  We all know of people who died suddenly – and maybe we had some regrets about not saying we loved them enough – if at all. Same thing for people holding grudges against those they love. It is often heard at funerals – the last time we spoke we had an argument – and then I find out that the argument was months – even years ago at times. Continue reading

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Build, Community, Daily Devotion, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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