Health Update

health updateI had chemo again yesterday. This was Infusion 3 of this round. That means that I now have 1 week off from treatment and should (theoretically) start back up on the 30th of this month. I have written before that, this particular “cocktail” of drugs has caused some different side effects. One of them seems to “The Jimmy Legs”.     A reminder- and I’m making an educated guess on what I am about to say- the Benadryl they give me at the onset of an infusion session, for some reason, knocks me out more this time around. But something- I assume it’s the steroids they ALSO give me at the same time- cause me to have what I can only describe as Restless Leg Syndrome. (I have friends who have it and they describe the same thing I am experiencing.)  

The legs seem to take on a mind of their own. They want to be in almost constant motion. And it takes real concentration to slow down that movement. Not stop it- just slow it down. So, there I am, nearly comatose from the Benadryl. If I give in to that, the legs wake me up every 60 seconds or less. And so, I sit back up, plant my feet on the floor, grab my coffee and try to stay awake to better control the legs. I fail. I put the coffee down and doze off. Legs! This nearly Abbott and Costello routine lasts about an hour. It’s frustrating. Then, about an hour or so in, my body seems to adjust to the meds and the legs quit, especially if, at about that hour mark, I get up, unplug the “Christmas Tree” that has all the equipment and hangings meds on it and take a walk. The bathroom down the hall is my destination of choice!  

Then, I sleep pretty hard- especially considering the fact that Chemo Techs come in and out OFTEN and there is usually another patient, sometimes 2 more, in the room. (Yesterday, I slept right through the lady we were sharing the with getting done, unhooked and leaving. All I knew was- I went to sleep and she was there, I woke up and she was gone!)  

Interestingly, I was spared this whole scenario LAST week- Infusion 2. The only difference was that, on Week 2, I only get one of the two chemo drugs. So, I have to assume that this whole thing hinges on how much Benadryl and steroids I get, which itself hinges on whether I am getting one chemo drug or two. I have come to that conclusion because it happens long before I would get that 2nd chemo drug. 

So, bottom line- I know have that extra week- two weeks total- to recover before we start this all over again. I am not unhappy about that. As I have shared before, getting the chemo treatments is a double-edged sword. I get them because they are having a profound impact on extending my life- a good thing. On the other hand, they knock the crud out of you so the prospect of a week without them is a pretty good thing. 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #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!

I Must Decrease

decrease_graph (1)          Well, here we are- back in the saddle again! Today, we go back to meet with the oncologist. Assuming everything looks good, I’ll be back in “the chair” today, receiving the next dose of chemo. As a reminder, here’s how that works. 

I went yesterday morning to the local hospital to have a blood draw. That is easy, peasy, one two, threesy. Pull up in a handicapped parking spot, walk a few feet into the hospital and head to the lab, which is RIGHT there inside the main doors. They know me, so they see me coming and go ahead and pull the standing orders I have on file. Usually, I don’t even have to sit down in the waiting room- they send me straight back to a blood draw room. Left arm out of sleeve, tourniquet on, vein chosen, prepped and “stuck”. They draw two vials of blood, stick a gauze pad over the spot and I am right back out the door on the 3-minute drive back home! 

Then, today, we sit down with the oncologist. She reviews all of the pertinent info- blood work results, vitals, physical exam and then she lets us know whether the chemo is a go or not. It has only NOT been a go once in the past 18 months. We talk about what’s next and then she sends us back out to the waiting room to “check in” for the other half of the office- the infusion center. We usually are scheduled to wait another 20-30 minutes by that time. Then we head back to get “hooked up”.  

This will be a “full-blown” week, so I will get both drugs, unlike last week, where I only got one. That makes the whole event take longer. I envision I will sleep at least part of the time- the large dose of Benadryl hits me pretty hard. Meanwhile, my wife sits in a straight-back chair, reading. She is SUCH a trooper. 

After today, then I get a week off to recover some. The plan is that there should be two more rounds of “3 weeks on and 1 week off” to follow, taking us through late March. Then, yet another evaluation and decisions to make. 

So, we are on this particular round for a while yet. To be honest, it feels like we should already be farther through this round than we are. But, we are NOT. And so, like pre-school- you take what you get and you don’t throw a fit! 

I lead a staff meeting every week- we had this week’s yesterday. Part of that is a devotional I offer each week. Yesterday’s led me to share that there are times when I start feeling a little sorry for myself and I ask, “Why me?” This diagnosis, this struggle, to be entirely honest, sucks some days. There are times when I don’t feel good and I catch myself asking, “Why me?” And when I catch myself asking that question, inevitably the answer comes back, “Why NOT you?” Hard to argue with. 

Indeed, why NOT me? If God had called me to the position I’m in, and if He has equipped me for the position I’m in (and He DID and He has), then why not me? In the New Testament, Paul calls for God to use him or set him aside. He says that he must decrease so that Jesus might increase. And if that approach is good enough for the Apostle Paul, then who NOT me? So, I readily invite God to use me or set me aside. And if I must decrease so that Jesus can increase…so be it.  

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #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!

It Just Proves My Point!

thank youI have decided something about this ol’ world in which we live. And what I’ve decided is actually rather simple- you’d THINK I should have figured it out a while back. BUT…I am not always the sharpest tool in the shed!

Anywho, what I figured out is to not get too bent out of shape by people who continue to make bad choices and who love to try and build themselves up by tearing others down. You know the type of people about whom I speak- they are always right. They are always smarter than everybody else. They always want to tell you why you’re wrong and why, if you’d just listen to them, life would be SO much better. And what they are most committed to is to NOT let the “big picture” or “the facts” confuse them away from what they think.

I am always a bit…torn…when one of those kinds of folks says or does something that simply proves the point I am making today. The painfully human side of me…and BOY does that exist…wants to say, “Well THANK you for proving my point for me!” The Christian/Pastor side wants to close my eyes, shake my head and pray for them.

What about you? Do you HAVE to be right all the time? Are you convinced that everything would be all kittens and moonbeams if everybody else would just wise up and listen to you? If so…be careful. I had a wise boss tell me once, “If everybody around you seems to be a jerk…you may need to reconsider who the jerk is!” Ouch! But it’s true. Don’t worry about the speck in your brother’s eye until you have addressed the log in your own. Jesus said, “Love God…love neighbor.” But He NEVER said it would be easy!!
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #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!

Angels Watching Over Me

angel gabrielIn 1984, Christian singer Amy Grant recorded and released a song called Angels. The first verse is:

“Take this man to prison,” the man heard Herod say. And then four squads of soldiers came and carried him away. Chained up between two watchmen, Peter tried to sleep. But beyond the walls an endless prayer was lifting for his keep. Then a light cut through the darkness of a lonely prison cell and the chains that bound the man of God just opened up and fell. And running to his people before the break of day. There was only one thing on his mind, only one thing to say.”

And that “one thing” that he said is found in the chorus:

“Angels watching over me every move I make. Angels watching over me. Angels watching over me every step I take. Angels watching over me.”

The 2nd verse is:

“God only knows the times my life was threatened just today. A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way. Near misses all around me, accidents unknown. Though I never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home. God, I know they’re all around me all day and through the night. When the enemy is closing in I know sometimes they fight to keep my feet from falling. I’ll never turn away. If you’re asking what’s protecting me then you’re gonna hear me say…” and then- back to the chorus!

What do you think about angels? If you believe a lot of art, they are either chubby, cute little children with doe eyes and wings OR they are beautiful young women with flowing hair and…wings. If you believe the cartoons I watched as a kid, as soon as Daffy Duck or Sylvester the Cat died in some ill-conceived plot they had hatched, they became transparent. And then, complete with robe and…wings…they floated to heaven. If you believe the sentimental American understanding, our loved ones become angels the moment they die, complete with…wings…and they watch over us. But if you believe what the Bible says about them, well…that’s a whole different story.

The Bible portrays angels with male names. Words like “archangel” are bandied about. And it seems clear from the various Biblical stories that they are heavenly beings, created by God to be His messengers.

I’ve taught Bible studies that focused on this topic- angels. I’ve helping groups walk through both study guides and Biblical accounts to see what we could find out about angels.

So many questions come up in those conversations: are they people who once walked the earth and now are heavenly messengers? Do our loved become angels when they die? When we lose someone, did God need “another angel”? Do we have a guardian angel? What IS the dealio?

I have found, both through those studies and many other conversations I have had with folks on the subject, that most people have a relatively passionate belief about angels. What I don’t mean to imply by that is that I think everybody believes in them. I have had conversations with folks who basically said, “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard! Angels? Pffft!” Likewise, I have talked to people who are sure their deceased mother or father is their guardian angel, watching over them, guiding them, protecting them.

What do YOU think? I’ve tossed out a LOT of possibilities. Which one(s) do you adhere to? What…or who…are angels?
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #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!

I Didn’t Know THAT: Delilah Didn’t Cut Sampson’s Hair!

i didnt know that delilah didnt cut sampsons hair    Hair is an interesting thing. Even in High School, I had a receding hairline. Or as we called it when I was growing up- a Widow’s Peak. In college theater, it was not unusual for me to play men older than I was. I even played, rather convincingly I would like to think, an 80-year old Irishman with long, thinning hair. In fact, one of the roles I played as a professional actor was as an old, drunken riverboat captain!

Then, one day, all the “hair loss” chickens came home to roost. Our bedroom at the time had closet doors that were hinged instead of sliding. The inside of each door had a nearly full-length mirror on it. I was getting ready for work and had to tie a tie. So I stepped in front of one of those mounted mirrors. AS I tied my tie, I happened to look beyond my reflected image and noticed that I could see my back in the other mirror. Quite by accident, I had never found those doors in exactly the right position…before that day!

AS I looked at my back in the other mirror, I noticed something. My hair was thinning in the back. There was…a bald spot! I called out to my wife, who was in the bathroom, also getting ready. “Honey?” “Yeah.” “I have a bald spot!” (Pause) “Yeah?” “You KNEW about this?” “Well…yeah.” “Why didn’t you TELL me?!” (Pause) “Would it have helped?!”

Today, we continue our current Sunday sermon series- I Didn’t Know That! We are spending 4 weeks looking at things we may not have even known were IN the Bible! Today, we dig into a fact that I am finding a LOT of people don’t know- Delilah did NOT cut Samson’s hair!

So, Samson- out of all the judges that ruled Israel, none of them have stood the test of time like Samson. If I said Samson, everyone knows something about him. But the truth is one of the primary things people know about him…didn’t actually happen the way we all think it did.

Samson was one of the last of the ancient Israelite judges mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Judges. According to the Bible, God gave Samson supernatural strength to overcome his enemies and carry out heroic feats. Samson had only two weaknesses- his attraction to untrustworthy women and another one that we will take a look at now. These two weaknesses ultimately not only rendered him powerless, but they proved fatal.

As chapter 16 of the Book of Judges opens, the author doesn’t try to cover up Samson’s scandalous behavior. Samson seems to feel absolutely NO sense of shame in his behavior. It was Mark Twain who once said, “Man is the only animal who blushes…and needs to.” At this point, Samson has become an embarrassment to Israel. And so, in chapter 16 of the Book of Judges, we see the beginning of the end for Samson. He:

  1. spends the night with a prostitute
  2. thwarts a mob that’s waiting to kill him by ripping two doors completely off their hinges
  3. SOME TIME LATER meets and falls in loves with another woman.

And all of that happens in just the 4 verses! In Verse 5, the Philistine rulers come to this new woman…Delilah…and ask her to find out the secret to his strength so that they can defeat him. To “grease the skids”, they EACH offer her 28 pounds of silver. She is swept up in greed and agrees. And so, she goes to Samson and asks him to tell her the secret to his strength…so that he could be tied up and controlled. He tells her it has to be with new leather straps that are wet. So the “bad guys” supply her with them and she ties him up. There are men hiding in the room to get him but, as they come out, Samson breaks his bonds.

Delilah tells Samson he made her look like a fool- he lied to her. she again encourages him to reveal the secret to his power. He tells her that it is new rope. The scenario unfolds, only with the rope and…the same result.

She again tells him he lied and made her look like a fool. So, he says that if she weaves the 7 braids of his hair into a loom and pin them there. he will be weak. So she does and…again…same outcome. She calls him out again- “How can you say you love me? You STILL haven’t told me your secret.” He finally tells her the truth, “I’ve never used a razor on my head. I’ve never cut my hair. If you shave my head, I won’t be strong anymore. I’ll become as weak as any other man.”

Delilah sends a message to the Philistine rulers. She then gets Samson to go to sleep on her lap. Then, and I quote, “She called for a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair.” So- after all these years of thinking we knew the story- Delilah did NOT cut off Samson’s hair. She “called for a man” to come and do the deed. And that brings about tonight’s first question:

Why did she have someone ELSE do it instead of doing it herself?

Notice there’s no description of Delilah. We imagine her to be beautiful. But it doesn’t tell us that. In fact, it doesn’t give us any description of her at all. That’s because that’s not the important part here. On the surface, she’s every man’s fantasy and every woman’s nightmare. But if you dig just a bit beneath the façade, you find that she is so much more…and less..than that. She is the most treacherous, wicked and lethal weapon Samson would ever face- the most lethal weapon we’ll ever face.

The bottom line is this is NOT story about simple promiscuity or a woman betraying her man. It’s a story about being led astray by evil. The reality is that Delilah doesn’t really have to be a woman. She could be a man. She could be an attitude. She could be a weakness. She could be that thing…that ONE thing…that causes you to cross the line of decency and morality and do that thing you never thought you’d do. Delilah can be that feeling that causes you to be depressed, discouraged, lonely, frustrated and hopeless. Delilah is dangerous in whatever form she shows up. She’s dangerous. She’s unpredictable. And she can easily become lethal.

How would you define “temptation”?

Temptation comes in in many forms. But it doesn’t just show up- all accidental like, floatin’ on a breeze. It’s intentional. The devil knows exactly what to send you. He’s watched you, sized you up and then figured exactly what he should send your way. He knows exactly what might be the best bet to cause you to cross that line. Delilah proves that the devil isn’t playing around. He’s serious like a heart attack. He doesn’t waste his time on Nerf guns- he specializes in lethal weapons. He’s not going to bother with something that you don’t already want. He’s going to choose that one special weapon, tailor-made for you.

Samson didn’t follow the instructions. He wanted to have his cake and eat it, too…whatever that means! But the truth is that you can’t party with the devil during the week and praise God on Sunday and hope that everything is going to be OK. But God’s promise is both easy to understand and very real- if you follow the instructions, if you love God and love others…in EVERYTHING you do…then you will live fully in God’s favor and fully receive God’s blessing.

You Might Be an Ear!

BA3462-0011Corinthians 12:12-21 says, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up only one body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into Christ’s body by one Spirit, and we have all received the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? Suppose the whole body were an eye — then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything? But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

I have always loved that passage. Well, to be entirely honest, when I first started being exposed to Scripture in general, I thought that one was a little…dumb…and more than a tad…obvious. But THEN, I actually began to better understand and appreciate Scripture! And so NOW…I love that passage!

I think what I like the most about it is the fact that it points to a radical sense of equality. It totally, and I mean TOTALLY, looks beyond things like the color of our skin, our gender, our age, our heritage, our economic status…whatever it is that separates us. Instead, it points to that radically equality that God offers.

Think about that for a moment- when we are out in the world, we are FAR from equal. We SHOULD be equal…but we’re not. All of those things I mentioned above, plus about 99,000 others, drive a HUGE wedge between us- one that is hard…if not impossible…to overcome by worldly approaches. But when we are in the presence of God, we are radically equal. Not just equal, but RADICALLY so.

Now you might thinking, “This whole thing SOUNDS good, Pastor, but I have BEEN to church. And those people can’t even get along with each other, let alone think anybody NEW is ‘radically equal”!” And to that I say, sadly, “Amen”. I too have been to churches where this concept is lip service at best, reviled at worst. But I have also been to churches that take seriously the notion that we are all…ALL…children of God. In fact, I serve just such church now!

Don’t misunderstand- this church isn’t perfect. I mean…we ARE human, after all! But I am regularly amazed at how welcoming these people are. It doesn’t matter who it is that walks in- I honestly see no snubbing, ignoring or avoiding going on. And that, my friend, is pretty rare and pretty awesome! We ARE radically equal in God’s eyes. And so we should treat each other that way.

Are you an ear? An eye? A finger? A toe? A spleen? A duodenum? (Google it!) Whatever part you are…you are welcome in God’s world, God’s house!
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #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!

Chemo- Day 2

day2     So, yesterday was Day 2- the day AFTER a chemo infusion. Oddly enough, it turns out that, as I have pointed out before, Day 2 tends to be one of my better days. You would think it would be one of the worst days, coming right after chemo. But the steroids they give me prior to an infusion still seem to be doing their thing on Day 2. Plus, as I have also pointed out before, my wife recently found out from the pharmacist that the anti-nausea meds that I take on Days 2 and 3 also have steroid IN them. So, the day after chemo tends to be a fairly good day. And it was. Day 3 tends to be a decent day, but not as good as Day 2. Day 4 tends to be a rather crummy day. Day 5 tends to be a wild-card day- sometimes crummy, sometimes starting to bounce back. 

Given my current schedule, Day 5 is Sunday. So, I pray each Sunday that it will be a “start to bounce back” day- that I have the strength to navigate Sunday morning well. All joking about only working one day a week aside, Sunday IS the taxing day of the week for me- `up at 5AM, 3 full worship services, including preaching three times and playing the drums at all 3 services all in the span of 3½ hours- 8AM-11:30AM. (Counting 7AM practice, I play 20 songs on Sunday morning!)  

Monday will be Day 6. That should be a pretty good day, chemo-wise. But since Sunday is Day 5, Monday becomes another bounce-back day because of how taxing Sunday can be. Tuesday, Day 7, I go to the hospital and get a blood draw. And then Next Wednesday will be back to Day 1- Chemo Day. And it will all start over again.  

But then I get a week off the next week, so that will be a good thing. And this coming Wednesday, we will step back and evaluate where I’m at and if I go one for another round of 3 on, one off. I think we WILL do that, for two more rounds in fact, which would take us to the end of March. Then we will do a full evaluation and perhaps take some extended time off. That has been the pattern so far- 4 rounds and then a longer break. We will see!  

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #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!