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Grace, grace…

I have seen God’s grace this past week! I know it is not always easy to see and experience it today, but his grace is real and recognizable. In fact, it is our responsibility as his followers to show his grace.

In these uncertain days, many people are in need of his unconditional love that can be shown in various ways. It doesn’t have to be a big thing because in the smallest of ways we can show God’s love so that others can also recognize it and experience his grace.

Maybe it is a school teacher starting back to school, or a neighbor struggling with family issues. Maybe it is a stranger looking for help and food. God’s grace may result from just a simple prayer, just a step out of our way, an extra contribution, volunteering to serve others, or maybe just a phone call. If not the church, which is the body of Christ, his followers, where else can the world go to find grace?

The world is looking for God’s grace, his unconditional love and forgiveness; but it seeks them in the wrong places. They can be found, not in our own ideas of religion or piety, but in the life of Jesus, a life that transforms our lives to a life of grace. When you know Jesus, you begin to understand His grace. When you are obedient to his Word and learn to follow him, you will find and experience his grace.

I have seen and experienced his grace.  It is real and it continues to change me and change others. One lady came to the food pantry to get groceries this past week, but she walked away with more than groceries. She experienced God’s love and forgiveness, God’s grace.

I rejoice and I am grateful for his grace, which I need daily.

Marvellous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Eleazar-God is our help!

My dads name was Eleazar “Charles” Maciel, but he took on the name “Charles’’ as his familiar name somewhere along his life. I really only remember people calling him Charles but he would use Eleazar when he was introducing himself. I didn’t realize it until after he passed away that his name “Eleazar” meant, “God is our help.” I am not sure why his parents gave him this Hebrew name but I know his mom, and my grandmother was a devoted follower of Jesus. She was always in the Word and looking for God’s help despite being in a wheelchair much of her life.

It wasn’t until my dad turned 40 that he truly called on God to help him. He was lost and struggling with his purpose and his identity in life. Then one Sunday he was at home by himself and he got on down on his knees and called on God. He asked Jesus to come into his life and to help him. He was found, he began to understand his purpose, he had found his strength and the understand the true meaning of his given name, Eleazar.

I began to see and understand as I grew up around him that my earthly dad called on God to be his help with great devotion. He began to live and trust God in this life with all things, his family, his work, his sickness, and even his death. God was his help, and because I saw that in his life I began to understand that I must also call on God to be my help.

It is not my own strength or wisdom that gets me through each day. It is not my wife or family that helps me through the struggle. It is not even my church, it is God, God is my help. He is my strength through this time of uncertainty. He is my hope when so many people around me are living without hope. He is my peace when everything else around me seems chaotic. He is my help, he is the help. He is the help we all need in this time.

Psalm 91 says, “I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name.” My dad knew his name…the name of the Lord, and God gave him a name…Eleazar…to help him know that “God is our help.”

35 years…a promise

35 years! Wow, we both realized that we have been a couple for a long time. We are thankful for how God has used and taught us about marriage and each other in these 35 years. But I would have to say, that He has really used these years to teach us about His love and grace. Because we both understand that God lives in us through His Spirit we can both experience and possess love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Don’t get me wrong, we are human so we also fail and struggle to allow His Spirit to lead. Therefore, we take over and begin to make a mess of our lives and marriage.

There have been difficult times, struggling, hurting, and painful times. Times we fought and ignored and weren’t considerate of each other. Times we were selfish and rude and not putting each other first. Marriage is a marathon…you run with endurance, it is a long haul. And in that marathon, there will be highs and lows, but our goal is to finish, to complete the task of the holy union we pledged to each other and to God.

We know there will be tough days ahead of us, but we also know that God is our lead. He is really our true goal and we want to honor Him in this marriage. We want to live and love in such a way as to lead others to Him and not just a good marriage. We are blessed to have a good marriage, a marriage of 35 years, but even more blessed that God is using us in the lives of our children and friends, and maybe others.

Think about it…marriage is a commitment to love and be devoted. God is using my marriage to teach me about being devoted to Him. To give myself, to share in the joy of being united, to know His love for me goes on and is eternal. 35 years is nothing but practice for eternity. Thank you, Lord, for Sabrina and for using our marriage to draw us near to you. I promise to be faithful to You.

band blur close up engagement

Photo by Pixabay on


She showed me…

This time of the year brings so many memories and thoughts of my family. In the 60’s and 70’s when I was a boy I lived in a small town where everybody knew you and you knew everybody. Families were close and sat at a table together regularly. Your thoughts and actions in many ways mimicked or represented your family. I tried hard to please my parents and wanted them to be proud of me. I wanted to be like them, I wanted to follow in their footsteps. By the way…I was so proud of them and who they were then. They weren’t perfect but God used them to mold me and shape me.

I loved my dad dearly and still miss him every day but my mom was really a constant image in all of our lives. Not because she was an incredible cook and loved us without reservation, it was because of the way she served and cared for us. She taught all of us how to serve others. She taught me how to give of myself tirelessly. She was that constant in our home, loving, caring, cleaning, cooking, and serving in many ways. Not just her family but others as well. I didn’t realize until recently that she has been an image of Christ, who “did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His live as a ransom for many.”

My mom has showed me…she has showed me how to serve my family, friends, others, and especially Christ. Her life has been an example to me in many ways. Even as a 60 year old man I am still learning from her. Even now, she is showing me how to live in His grace.

She showed me what it means to follow Christ. This Thanksgiving like so many before, I am so thankful for my mom, Elva. The joy-filled, gracious, godly mother who has showed me how to serve.

I love you mom…

I am reminded…

This past Wednesday was National Bologna Day! I know my wife doesn’t like it and I know a lot of people don’t care for it but what’s wrong with bologna, I am celebrating!

My dad was a high school teacher and coach and I actually had one class with him through high school and he was my golf coach. I also had the opportunity to eat lunch with my dad almost on a daily basis. I know that sounds weird… but I was a weird kid. My dad would pack us a lunch most days and I would come to his classroom and eat lunch with him. I remember a lot of those lunches being a bologna sandwich… maybe it was his favorite, maybe a reminder to him of a special meal growing up poor in Mexico City. All I know is that we shared lunch together and had bologna sandwiches. It was also when my dad would tell me about how Christ was using him to witness to others, how God was growing His faith, and how I had a chance to see and hear my dads passion for Christ. I didn’t know it at the time but those meals were a gift, special, not just another bologna sandwich.

I am reminded… of those memorable lunch times with my dad. I am reminded…of his love for God which has also challenged me to follow Christ with passion. I am also reminded that I really like bologna sandwiches, maybe it’s the taste, maybe it’s the memory, maybe both, I just know that those gourmet lunches with my dad help me to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

I am reminded… I think I will have a bologna sandwich today.

Every family has a superhero…

Every family has a superhero…this includes my family.  I have seen it, I’ve witnessed a superhuman effort and courage for some time now.  It has been amazing to see the endurance and perseverance, but also the patience that you normally don’t see in people especially today.

This superhero has gone through two knee replacements and one hip surgery and cares for an aging mother who has a struggle hearing but still has a lot of fight in her.  What incredible spirit it has taken for her to carry on and work, cook, clean, and care for children, family, and also finish her undergraduate degree 30 years later.  On top of all of that she has been losing weight and dealing with the stigma society places on people who are overweight, by the way she has lost 125 pounds.  She has to be superhuman…how could she have done all those things and still press on.  She is a strong lady and a picture of extraordinary strength and will power.  I would say the strength came from her father, but I also see in her the strength of her mother.

I am convinced that this is not on her own, she had an earthly father who closed his bedroom door and spoke to his heavenly Father about her daily.  I am sure he wept and agonized over his baby girl, hoping for health and happiness for her.  His prayer has been answered for years as she continues to be a strength to her family, to me and my family, and to her mother.

I am so grateful for my sister Annette…by the way she is an amazing cook and just about cooked the whole Thanksgiving meal for us this year with energy to spare.  She is amazing…and I know her strength comes from the Lord.

Definition: superhero-a very heroic person, a successful person.  I would say she is successful in all that she has done.  Not successful according to this world, successful according to God, “honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Proverbs 31:31.

I love you Annette, Happy Birthday!

(photo left to right, Annette, René, and Toni)


December 11

Today is December 11…December 11, 2011, I received an incredible gift. My dad had been in the hospital several days and was not improving, in fact, he was dying. But not that day, it was his birthday.

The family had gathered around him hoping to cheer him up and make him feel better through giving a few gifts and celebrating his life. However, it didn’t happen that way…instead, God gave us a gift.

My dad became joyous and strong. He laughed and enjoyed our company.  He was the dad I remember as a kid, he was strengthened that day by God to bless us and remind us that He (God) is the God of the living, not the dead.  God gave us a gift that day…we truly experienced our dad in his new life. It was a gift I will never forget.

One, we celebrated a wonderful day with my dad, his last birthday. Two, we experienced a life changed by Jesus Christ, there was evidence in my dad’s life and death.  What a day, what a gift… “I come that you may have life.”


an instrument of peace…

I was listening to the radio and one of the announcers began to talk about this stressful time of the year.  There is so much stress and busyness, I don’t disagree.  It can be very rushed and chaotic.  So much so that we want to be alone and quiet…at peace.

I have also read a few articles lately about comfort dogs, they actually help with healing and happiness.  I have two dogs that bring me joy and a few laughs, but they are not trained to bring comfort.  I do love the idea of dogs being a comfort to people who are living on the edge or need unconditional love.  I read another story about robots as caregivers, they are putting them in homes to provide emotional as well as physical support.  They are designed to create a bond of trust and improve the quality of life.

I think God has called me to bring peace.  Hopefully, as I walk into my mom’s house this Thanksgiving, I will bring a calmness and a sense of peace.  God has called me to bring His peace, His comfort.  I want to bring healing and happiness to my mom, my family, and everyone I encounter.  I know I can do just the opposite, but as I spend more time in His Word I begin to understand and take on and live out His peace.  I bring an emotional support that comes from His Spirit within me.  God uses me as a peacemaker, and I am always amazed how others begin to trust and want this same peace, a peace that comes from Christ through me, I am an instrument of His peace.

I am anxious to see my mom and family, enjoy the food, and bring comfort, peace…a nature that God has given me.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Have a peaceful Thanksgiving…

It’s been a year…

I cannot believe it has been a whole year. As I get older time just moves by so fast, but memories and life lessons still happen and become etched in our minds.  It is like I have lived in two worlds, two wonderful and incredible worlds.  They are very different, but I treasure them both as precious moments God is using to still form me into the man of God He wants me to be.

One world, an academic setting, predominantly Hispanic community, a very difficult and challenging leadership role.  The very first day I was in that role I realized that this was going to be a God thing, there was no way I could do this, I wasn’t really qualified.  God reminded me that He does the qualifying, He calls and we must obey His leadership.  Despite my inadequacies, He had a plan.  In that environment, I learned so much from my culture, my hermanos, and hermanas, God taught me so much in that world and it wasn’t easy but if we allow Him… He will lead us.

The second world, a church, a predominantly Anglo community, a whole new learning experience for me.  I have felt called and used in ministry for many years – in a Christian educational role and now in the church. I am eager to serve and lead, but I also want to let God show me His way, His will, to wait on Him and His perfect time. I love serving the church. I am learning so much from the incredible leaders around me. I also once again realize how inadequate I am to lead, but He has called me to this place and I am following.

Two different worlds, two challenges, but in this year God has brought these two experiences together to reveal His way in my life.  I am truly blessed by God’s call in my life, I am trusting Him and asking Him to use me. The Scripture says, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

I am following and asking Him to lead me…I look forward to another year of seeing His hand in my life.

Let’s play…

Growing up in my Hispanic home in New Mexico was different.  My father was a public-school teacher, so like him, I learned to love and accept anyone, black, white, rich, poor, those who went church and those who didn’t. My dad loved and cared for all of them.  I guess you could say he taught me to do the same and to not be ashamed or defensive about who I was, where I lived, or what I had compared to others.  My self-worth didn’t come from them it came from my father’s love for me.  He never told me or taught me to hate others because they were different. Most of the time he told me to go and play with them and be friends with them…so I did.  In time, we went to school together, sat on a bus together, played sports together. Nothing really divided us.

It wasn’t till junior high that I finally felt the sting of someone who didn’t like me because I was a Mexican-American.  I knew I was, but that label didn’t define me. They really didn’t know me or play with me.  And even though they said it, it didn’t change my outlook on who I was.  I still had that identity with my father who loved me and that was enough.

In a time when people are acting and speaking hate, it reminds me that we need the Father’s love.  He loved us so much that He wanted to restore us back to our true identity.  Not as children of this world, but as His creation, created in His image and likeness.  We need that love so that we can love others so we can play together again.

I am grateful for my culture, but even more thankful that I am a child of God…His son.  “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Does anyone want to play?