Pastor’s Biography

Reverend Galen “Joe” MacDonald

Reverend Galen “Joe” MacDonald and his wife, Pam, began their tenure with First Presbyterian Church of Livingston in September, 2010. Pastor MacDonald, a native of northern Maine, came to us from the Sandy Lake, PA area. Before he came to us, he served two churches for 12 years in the Sandy Lake area. He has been with First Presbyterian Church in Livingston since 2010. Rev. MacDonald earned bachelor degrees in Bible and Psychology in 1968 from Gordon College and a Master of Divinity from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1970. In 1990 he earned a Masters Degree in clinical psychology from Edinboro University.

Poor Planning

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” – Proverbs 21:5

I have always loved the following story, and whether you have heard it or not, you will love it too:

“A bricklayer working on a three-story-tall chimney had set up a pulley system so that his helper could raise the bricks up to where he needed them. As he was working, his helper complained about how difficult it would be to get the last of the bricks up to the flat roof of the building. Just then another contractor had some material delivered and it was placed on the roof by a fork lift brought to unload it. The bricklayer asked if the driver would load the rest of the bricks up there as well and the driver agreed. The bricklayer realized that he would not need his helper anymore and sent him home.

When the bricklayer completed the chimney he noticed that he had quite a few bricks left over and that the fork lift was no longer at the job site. Now he had to figure out how to get the leftover bricks back down by himself. If he dropped them, they would surely break. So he decided to use the pulley he had set up earlier to lower them down.

First, he went down to the ground and raised a large metal bucket up to the roof level using the rope and pulley. Next, he tied the rope off onto a railing and climbed back up to the roof and loaded the bricks into the bucket. Then he went back down to the ground. He knew that the bricks would be heavy, so he wrapped the rope around his hand a couple of times and then untied the end of the rope with his other hand. Well, the bricks were heavier than he imagined and with physics being as it is, he was immediately launched upwards at a high rate of speed.

As he was racing up towards the roof he encountered the bucket full of bricks coming down at an equally fast rate. He collided with the bucket and broke his nose and his shoulder. The bucket passed him by as he sped upwards. He reached the pulley just before the bucket hit the ground and broke a few of his fingers as they were pulled into the pulley. When the bucket hit the ground, its bottom fell out and all of the bricks spilled onto the ground. Now the fun reversed. As the now light bucket sped upwards, the mason took a shot to the groin when one of his legs slipped into the empty bucket.

He then tilted enough to fall out of the bucket and continued with his gravity experiment. Eventually, he landed on top of the pile of bricks and broke both feet. He collapsed in pain there on the bricks but was glad to be alive. He let go off the rope and cried out for help. It was then that the bucket hit him in the head and fractured his skull.”

An oft-told urban legend known as “The Barrel of Bricks”

Most of us don’t plan to fail, we just fail to plan. I confess that I wish I were a better planner. Lack of planning and preparation is a form of laziness and often procrastination. Are you guilty, as I often am, of this phrase: ready, FIRE, aim? Planning is critical and God is our greatest example. He planned for us before the foundation of the world, not only to be born but to be born again by believing in Jesus Christ, through whom His work of redemption was planned even before the fall of Adam and Eve.

Blessings, Pastor Joe

Where Do You Belong?

“They will be my people, and I will be their God” -Ezekiel 11:20b

When I started first grade (and that was eons ago) I had a traumatic experience on my first day that has stuck with me for years. I had never been in this new school and I needed to go to the boy’s room. The teacher gave me permission to go but when I left the classroom I had a hard time finding the restrooms and I was kind of wandering the halls alone. A big man came toward me (possibly the principal) and in a loud and, what seemed to me, a threatening voice said, “Where do you belong?” For a moment I was stunned because I wasn’t sure where I belonged. I was new in that place and had not developed a sense of belonging anywhere, but I felt that I needed to give this man an answer so I said “I think I belong in the bathroom.”

Social psychologists state that belongingness is an innate human need to be accepted in a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, organizations, clubs etc., there is a drive to belong to something more than just oneself – the need to give or receive attention from others. Belonging creates a backdrop and feedback for developing one’s own identity. It is such a deep need that people (especially children and adolescents) will choose to be part of even destructive groups like gangs or cults or faddish social groups that develop extreme forms of self- expression.

Because of technology, especially “social media,” millennials and even older generations are driven by a need to be accepted or “friended” on these sites. The down side is the severe rejection, humiliation and bullying that can take place in these venues which have resulted in adolescent despair and even suicide.

The good news, in fact, the best news is, that if we have a relationship with God we are recipients of the greatest state of belonging possible. The person who has a relationship with Jesus Christ belongs to the ultimate family and that can never, ever be taken away. I hope you can really “get it” that you belong to God and He belongs to you. When you go through the darkest times of isolation and aloneness you can count on the fact that you belong to a Father above all fathers. In Romans 8, Paul makes it clear that nothing can interfere with that belonging: “ I am persuaded that neither death, nor life nor angels or principalities or powers, or things present or things to come, or height nor depth nor anything else in all creation shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” So when someone says “Where do you belong,” you can boldly say, “I belong to God.”

Blessings, Pastor Joe


“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that I have said to you” -John 14:26

I have never been one who has had God “speak” to me in a voice that I could hear. There are some who say that they have heard God speak to them clearly in that way and I certainly would not be one to critique such an experience, because God is not contained in my or any other person’s limited theological box.

However, I have had God communicate through internal promptings, sometimes described as inner urgings, burdens or impressions. Have you ever had a time when someone was strongly on your mind and you couldn’t get them off your mind; or you developed a strong inclination to do something special for someone or become involved in some activity or ministry? I call those moments in our lives as promptings of the Holy Spirit and may I suggest that you do not ignore them. God is trying to use you to minister to someone or some ministry in the church or some mission in the community. In fact, this morning I was prompted to send a text to my son because I knew he was facing a major decision in his life this weekend. It may be something as simple as just making a phone call, sending a text or note or spending some significant time in prayer. Promptings can come to you any time of the day or night, and for me they often come in the middle of the night in dreams, or I am just awakened with a strong and specific urging to act or pray about a special person or circumstance.

I have had people come to me at times, either complaining about some ministry we do not have in the church or something that should be done for someone. My response is, “How can I support you in making that happen?” Sometimes those people turn on their heels and leave because they only wanted to complain but not be a part of the solution. However, if it is a real prompting then they will step out and act on that way that God is “speaking” to them. Have you or are you experiencing a prompting of God in any area of your life? Don’t ignore it. Step into it and watch God do something special.

Blessings, Pastor Joe