The Front Porch

 

andy griffith front porch    I don’t mean to sound like my dad, but…back in MY day…there seemed to be more pride for a job well done. That pride seemed to translate, in part,  to what we all know as Customer Service. If you walked into a business, you were greeted, you were welcomed, you were appreciated. And although pragmatism would dictate that you were treated that way because you were the customer and you helped pay their salaries, I always felt it was more than that.  It felt more like people actually…CARED…about each other, a sentiment that seems in short supply these days. And one place that really seems to SCREAM that lack of caring is in the marketplace. I am saddened  and somewhat appalled by how BAD customer service has become!
     One, some years back, my family went to an area pizza place for dinner (our older son was home from college and specifically picked the place). We walked in AT 5PM on a FRIDAY night (the beginning of prime time for restaurants), and there was NOBODY there! (That should have been the BIG tip off, but again, I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed!) We walked to the counter to place our order, and found NO employees, either! We stood for a few minutes, partially deciding what to order and partially wondering where everyone was, until a lone employee came from the back. At last…service! But wait! He walked toward the counter, took a left turn, came around the counter out into the restaurant, walked RIGHT behind us, said NOT A WORD, and disappeared out the other side! We stood, stunned, until another employee stuck his head out of the office, saw us…and disappeared back into the office! At that point, we decided we should heed these blinking neon signs of bad customer service and go elsewhere. Pizza Hut was glad to see us, feed us, and take our money! Then, I went into a costume/magic shop looking for some things for a magic show I’m doing this weekend. I went to the part of the store that carries magic props, only to find it roped off with a “closed” sign dangling from the rope. I walked to the front counter (where I was the ONLY customer) and asked one of the THREE employees standing there why that area was closed. The reply? “We’re too busy to have that part opened during Halloween week!” (Apparently standing is a 3-person job!)

     What’s happened to hospitality? Caring? Kindness? I personally think it was killed by the demise of the front porch. Think about it- back in the day, folks sat on their front porches. As neighbors went by, they stopped and talked, developing deeper relationships in the process. Today, the alarm wakes us up and we hustle around, getting ready, barely even speaking to the people who actually live in our house. We walk into the garage, drive to work, and then, at the end of the day, we get in our cars, drive home, pull straight into our garage, and hunker down for the night. It’s perfect- we never have to actually SEE another living being! As a minister, I see so many people literally starving for relationship. Are YOU one of them? Here’s a thought- become part of a faith community. I happen to be United Methodist, but any denomination/tradition would do. When you become part of a group, you have a built-in way to foster and develop relationships. And what greater gift, in our current societal climate, could there be?
#TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations: Extravagant Generosity

Five Practices Logo Extravagant Generosity.png  When we first started in the ministry, we lived in a town that was about a 35-40-minute drive from the church. We commuted like that for a year and a half. Then we decided that we really needed to move to the town where the church was. However, I was only half-time while I was attending seminary. And because of that, it wasn’t the church’s responsibility to provide us with a parsonage- a house for the pastor and their family. So…where would we live? Then…a miraculous thing happened. There was a a small United Methodist congregation in the same town as my church who didn’t use their parsonage…and so…they offered it to my family…FREE! All we had to do was pay the utilities! So we got to live in a perfectly fine 3-bedroom house, IN the town where I was serving, free. And THAT, my friends, is the textbook definition of what we’re talking about today! 

     Today we wrap up our five-part series on Bishop Robert Schnase’s book, The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. The first week we looked at Radical Hospitality. The 2nd week we focused on Passionate Worship. Week 3, we talked about Risk-Taking Mission and Service. Last week, we considered Risk-Taking Mission and Service. Today, we wrap things up with a look at Extravagant Generosity. 

     So what IS extravagant generosity? Extravagant Generosity is abundant giving- which is as much about attitude as it is about amount, as much about quality as it is quantity. Extravagant Generosity is humble giving, the often anonymous gift of something valuable that makes a difference. Extravagant Generosity is a response to Jesus’ love…and it’s communicating that same love to those who need to feel it, sense it, experience it for themselves. 

     2 Corinthians 9:6-15– Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 

     Did you hear what the Scripture said? It said if you sow sparingly…you’ll reap sparingly. BUT…if you sow generously then you’ll reap generously. As you sow…so shall you reap. You get back what you put in. However you want to say it…we clearly have some input into the whole thing. We don’t have to be small-minded. We don’t have to live a life of spiritual scarcity. We’re God’s children. We are the people of God, for crying out loud! We’ve read the back of the book…we KNOW how it all turns out!! We’re can afford to be something the world thinks is crazy- generous…in our giving, our emotions and our gestures. We can show the generosity of love; we can live with open hands. Why? Because God’s generosity is the source of our generosity. And we don’t have to fearfully worry whether there’s enough. God gives Himself away extravagantly- and in doing that His love multiplies, because love is extravagant and generous-  like God. And a life penetrated by His love is nothing more and nothing less than beautiful. We’re always looking for the shortcut, the easy way, the bargain. Know what a bargain is?  A bargain is something you can’t use at a price you can’t resist. But when you look at the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and see that God’s extravagant generosity caused Him to lay down His life for us…can you think of a more fitting way to live your life than Extravagant Generosity?  

     Think of a person who has shown you Extravagant Generosity. It might be someone very close to you…or it might be someone you met once…and never saw again. They may have been extravagantly generous with their money, or their time, or their compassion, or their love. Think of the amazing impact they’ve had on your life. What legacy will we leave for our kids…and their kids…and their kids? When we practice extravagant generosity, our children and our children’s children might know the extravagant abundance and generosity that is God’s love as it manifests in the church. 

     Vibrant, fruitful, growing congregations practice Extravagant Generosity. These churches teach, preach, and practice proportional giving with a goal of tithing. They encourage their church members to grow in the grace of giving as an essential practice of Christian discipleship, and as a congregation they practice generosity by their extraordinary support for missions, connectional outreach ministries, and organizations that change people’s lives. They thrive under the joy of abundance rather than starve under the fear of scarcity. They give joyously, generously, and consistently in ways that enrich the souls of others and strengthen the ministries of the church. 

     Churches that practice Extravagant Generosity speak confidently and faithfully about money, giving, generosity, and the difference giving makes in the life of the church AND the life of the giver. They emphasize the Christian’s need to give for more reasons than just the church’s need for money. They emphasize mission, purpose, and life-changing results rather than shortages, budgets, and institutional loyalty. These churches view “giving beyond their walls” as indispensable to their Christian discipleship, mission and vitality. Churches that grow in giving know that generosity increases with participation in ministry and community, and so they work to deepen the core ministries of worship, small group learning, and mission. The spiritual maturity that comes from growing in extravagant giving brings clarity of purpose and greater integrity to all the church’s ministries. 

     Extravagant Generosity: the love of Jesus in us, moving us to give our lives—our time, our talent, an even our treasure to a mission. Many people spend most of their life losing their health to try and gain wealth, and then spend the end of their life losing their wealth trying to gain their health. Have we bought into the fear and paranoia of scarcity that the world wants us to cling to, or are we willing to engage in Extravagant Generosity?  

     So…five practices- Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity. In the windup, they need to be embedded into the very fabric of our congregations. In the end, they work together to enhance the mission of the church. After all is said and done, they produce…and signify…fruitful congregations. 

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What a Transition!

Hammock.pngWhen I announced, at the age of 35, that I was going into the ministry, my then 9-year old son said, “Awesome!” Thinking that he had some sort of theological epiphany, I encouraged him to say more about why he thought that would be awesome. His reply? “You only work ONE day a week!” Yep…that’s right! I only work for a few hours on Sunday morning and the rest of the week I watch soap operas and eat bon-bons with my feet up- what a life! Actually the ministry is few very ODD profession in many ways. I remember in my younger days swearing that I would NEVER have a job where I had to work a split shift. So what do I do? I have my mid-life crisis a bit early, quit my job, willingly go to seminary, spend three years as a full-time student, full time parent/husband, and nearly full-time pastor (almost killing myself in the process!), just so I can…wait for it…work split shifts! I spend mornings in the office, followed by afternoons either at home working on the computer or out making calls. THEN, I often go back to church at night for meetings, counseling, rehearsal, etc. Never work a split shift, huh? I have learned this- DON’T tell God what you’re NOT going to do…unless of course you REALLY want to end up doing it!

Does that ever happen to you? You start the day with the best laid plans, yet when your head hits the pillow at the end of the day, you realize that most of those plans still reside solely on your to-do list, unchecked and unfinished. When that happens, you have to evaluate WHY that’s the case. If they remain undone because you simply didn’t feel like it, that’s one things to consider. However, if they remain undone because other equally important things came up that required you attention…go with the flow. A plan is great, but if you’re not flexible, life is really hard! As I say in church (almost every Sunday), “The bulletin is JUST a suggestion!” This week, start each day with a plan- but be open to God nudging you in a different direction.
#TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A GREAT Example of Servant Leadership

Servant-Leadership-Attributes-Word-Cloud-2     Here is yet another example of how the church we currently serve has a strong servant’s heart. A few days ago, I “cherry-picked” a Call-Em-All to about 8 guys who are all retired and all very active in the church, asking if any of them could give me a ride to, from or round trip going to the oncologist. The downside to agreeing to a round-trip was that it would require them to either wait at the Cancer Center or drop me off and kill time in in Iowa before picking me up again- roughly 2 hours PLUS the 90-minute drive time. 

     Within about 4 minutes of the Call-Em-All going out (NOT exaggerating), one of them responded and said he would be happy to do the round-trip! So, yesterday at about 8AM, he pulled up, I hopped in and off we went. We got there and he dropped me off, saying he was going to run some errands and come back. Awesome! 

     I went in and had my appointment with the oncologist. It went well. She was happy with my blood work and the physical exam and said I could have the treatment. So, they send you back to the lobby, you check back in for the infusion and you wait- anywhere from a few minutes to a half and a hour, depending on how you were scheduled that day. Then, they take you back and prepare you for the infusion. 

      This immunotherapy infusion is much shorter than the chemo one is. It went fine. And when it was done, I got unhooked and walked out, hopped in with my ride and headed home. We had great conversation on the way home and he dropped me off at the front door– curb-side serice! 

     After thanking him profusely, I started to get out and he stopped me…and thanked ME for the opportunity to help. He said it was a blessing to HIM! It doesn’t get much better than that and is SUCH an example of being a servant leader. And it’s just one example of many I could give you from this church. Can you possibly wonder why we love serving here?! 

     #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!  

Another Health Update

health update     Today, I receive Immunotherapy Infusion #2. Just a reminder- this particular approach is one infusion every three weeks. I will go (someone from the church is driving me since my wife can’t currently drive) and meet with the oncologist, who will go over my lab work that was done yesterday. There will also be a physical exam. Then she will decide if I get the infusion or not.  

     Assuming I do, I will start that about 20 minutes or so after I meet with her. The actual infusion only takes about 30 minutes, but when you count getting everything ready and then taking everything off, the process lasted about an hour. Then, I will come back home! Then, I have the rest of the next 3 weeks to recover from that one before having the next. 

     When this part is done, we will evaluate how I have handled it and if it is helping. Then, we will decide how to move forward. I figure if the oncologist keeps saying, “this will take a month”, this will take 4 months”, whatever, she is just prolonging my life! 

     I will continue to keep you posted as to who I am doing!  

                #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!  

The Magic Table

table    Now that my wife has been home from the hospital for a week, now that both sons have come, helped a lot and have gone home my wife and I begin the process of establishing a new norm. As she recovers from a rather severe knee injury, we look for what we need to do to get both her AND me what we need. 

     One big piece of that is food. It’s something yo don’t think much about until it is ab issue. But food is very important in the day-to-day operation of a life! And, once again, the church we serve has come through big time! When I had the brain tumor back in 2014, they debuted “The Magic Food Table”. It sat on our front porch. Every day, a church member would drop off dinner for the day. And even though we KNEW they were coming, it seemed like magic- open the door and there was dinner! 

     It, of course, went away after I recovered. But it made its triumphant return last night. The congregation is back to bringing daily meals at dinnertime. We open the door…and there is food! And it is great! It’s amazing how good food can be when someone ELSE cooks it for you.  

 So, HUZZAH for the magic table and HUZZAH for the church members yjay are once again stepping up and helping us. We are GRATEFUL people.  

                #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!  

A Miraculous and Wondrous Thing

miracles_signs_wonders     An incredible thing happened at church yesterday! As you know, a week ago yesterday was NOT a good day. Even though I actually made it to the building, I hurt so bad that I had to go home, abandoning my staff to pick up the slack. Not position, and I breathe great day! Between then and yesterday, two things happened- I saw the neurologist and I taught myself a new coping skill. 

      The med the neurologist prescribed, although cumulative and very early in the administration, already seems to be helping, and the coping skill seems to be a good choice. And here is that coping skill. I get up about 30 minutes earlier than I need to get ready. I make coffee and then go into the living room and sit in my chair. By the time I sit down, I can feel the headache coming on. But I sit in exactly the correct position, with my head in exactify the correct position and breathe through my mouth a certain way. I take my glasses off, close my eyes and just—meditate and pray. It takes about 30 minutes, but slowly the eyes open back up, the glasses go back on and the symptoms subside. Those two things combined seem to have a positive impact on headaches for the day. 

      When I went to church yesterday, the headache symptoms were at a relative minimum. But when I got up to preach the first/early service, as I started talking, the headache started to build. That negatively impacts, as you might imagine, my ability to preach. So, I anticipated it was going to be a tough morning. 

     But then, an amazing thing happened. Instead of slowly going downhill and sapping my energy, the services, and God’s power started pushing me UPHILL! By the time the second service came, my drumming was the best, most energetic, it has been in weeks. The sermon was stronger. And by the time the third service started, I was feeling the best I had in weeks. I was energized. My preaching was strong. My voice was clear and strong. I felt so good coming OUT of worship yesterday that I stayed longer after church and chatted with more people. I got home about 12:20PM- probably 30 later than usual. I fixed lunch for the two of us. We talked for 45 or more straight minutes. And the I FINALLY laid down for a nap, so jazzed and energetic that it was tough to go to sleep! 

    I have not experienced anything like that since this whole cancer thing showed up. I claim it as a gift from God and I pray that it’s a sign of things to come! 

                 #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!