Sometimes, All I Can Do is Shake My Head

200135951-001     There has been that story in the news the past few days- a little boy reported missing. It caught my attention that, basically right from the start, the police said they were not treating as a runaway, wondering off OR and abduction. That seems to GREATLY diminish the possibilities of what happened to him. His parents reported him missing and the police seemed rather suspect of them from the moment they got the call. 

     Although they (the police) were rather tight-lipped (understandably) about their investigation, everything pointed to the fact that they strongly suspected that one or both of the parents was involved. And sure enough- they found his body and the parents have been arrested. Now, I am WELL aware of the whole “innocent until proven guilty” approach, and I believe in it. However, in this case, it’s hard NOT to make the jump to “guilty”.  

     Cases like this make me come to one simple yet profound question, “How, in the name of all that is holy, could someone do something like this to a child, especially your OWN child?” I don’t mean by that question that it would be somehow OK if this story was about a teen or an adult instead of a little kid. It wouldn’t. But it feels even worse to me when an innocent child is tortured, abused or murdered by someone- especially someone who was specially trusted to protect them.  

     To me, children are a special gift from God. And while I love my wife more than anything or anybody but God, I have a special kind of love for my sons that is reserved for them and them alone. I don’t want them to do ALMOST as well as me or be ALMOST as good at me at something. I want them to make look like a total hack- a slacker who can barely function in the world. Nothing would make me happier. 

     Now, by that I do NOT mean that I will measure my pride and joy in them by how well they do or don’t “succeed” in the world. My love for them is agape- a love that expects nothing in return. And as a result of all that, I would protect my family- my wife and both sons- by whatever means necessary. I would, as a preacher friend of mine says, walk through the fires of Hades in a suit made of gasoline suit if necessary. Would I lay down my life for my family? Every day and twice on Sunday, without hesitation. 

     My prayers go out to that little boy, his extended family and his community. And yes, I pray for his parents. If they are somehow innocent of this heinous crime, I pray that is revealed. If, however, the preponderance of evidence that seems to point to guilt is accurate, I pray they find Jesus in the midst of this fresh Hell they are in and that He forgives them. Either way, I weep for a world that has created such a scenario and made it all to prevalent. Made Heaven help us. 

        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 and Cake!

chemo and cake

     We are gearing up for more chemo. In two days- this Friday- I will go to our local hospital the get my “labs” done. (Blood draw and urine sample!) The lab will fax those results to my oncologist. Then, Monday morning, we will head out to that very same oncologist. She will give me a physical and evaluate the lab results. Assuming everything is within acceptable levels, we will then head to the other side of the oncology center for the infusion. This will be the full-blown one, with both meds. It takes longer and has more of an impact on me than the middle week of the cycle.  Getting back on chemo after a month off is a mixed bag. One the one hand, I KNOW it is having at least SOME positive impact on the cancer- a good thing. On the other hand, I know the side effects are coming.  

     So, after almost a month off, where do I stand? Well, on the down side, the fatigue and the neuropathy are no better than they have been. The appetite is still non-existent. And the ability to taste is still NEARLY non-existent. I still am weak in the arms and legs, hands and feet…especially the legs. (Stairs are a TON of fun!) On the upside, my wife and I both notice that I am MUCH more talkative- a sign that, in some ways, I feel ”better”. With the weather warmer, I am taking the dog out more and more, which gives me more exercise than I had during this past wicked winter! 

       The thing about this particular upcoming cancer treatment center visit is that it happens to fall on a very important date- April 29th. That day is a VERY important one for my wife and me. It is not only her birthday, but it is also the anniversary of our first date! Back on April 29th, 1977, I invited her out to the opening night of the school musical- Oliver! I was a part of the cast. After the show, we went to a local restaurant, where we shared an order of sautéed mushrooms and had a small cake (still partially frozen!) that I had arranged ahead of time! 

     The staff at the oncology center has become like family to us- we have been going there for almost two years now. Most of them know us by name. The chemo techs spend so much time with us when we are there that they ask things like, “how are your boys doing?” So, since we have to spend such an important day in OUR lives getting chemo, we are taking a sheet cake with us so that the staff can share the day with us!! 

      I have NO idea how long their average patient comes to the center. I DO know that NO ONE thought we specifically would still be coming there almost 2 years after my diagnosis. That has developed a strong bond with them that we will celebrate in the midst of everything else on Monday! 

        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! 

The Great Easter Egg Debacle of ’12

Protesters fall as they are pushed back by police in riot gear during a protest after a not guilty verdict in the murder trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley in St. LouisI was looking back over Easter yesterday when I remembered a story about an Easter egg hunt in Colorado Springs, CO that was canceled back in 2012. Was it canceled because of bad weather? No. Was it canceled because of lack of funding? No. Was it canceled because there wasn’t enough interest? No. Was it canceled because there was TOO MUCH interest? Well…sort of!
Here is a portion of an article written by Associated Press writer Solomon Banda about it- “An annual Easter egg hunt attended by hundreds of children has been canceled because of misbehavior last year. Not by the kids, but by the grown-ups. Too many parents determined to see their children get an egg jumped a rope marking the boundaries of the children-only hunt at Bancroft Park last year. The hunt was over in seconds, to the consternation of eggless tots and the rules-abiding parents…There was no place to hide the plastic eggs…So thousands of eggs were put in plain view on the grass.”
The article goes on to talk about “helicopter parents” hovering over their children, trying to give them the best edge possible. It quotes some people who even try to put a positive spin on what happened last year. One guy said, “Of course I’m going to help my kid. I promised them an Easter egg hunt and I want to make sure he has an even edge.”
Now I understand folks wanting to put a positive spin on things- I am often quite the Spin Doctor, putting a positive face to things. But the bottom line of this story is- it is PITIFUL! Frankly, I’m embarrassed to call myself a human being when others act like that. I am stunned to see how many parents do everything for their kids. They wake them up in the morning- the little darlings might have their self-esteem damaged if they have to actually set an alarm! They call them in late or absent from school because the student…bless their precious heart…just doesn’t feel like getting up. They step up and throw a fit and threaten lawsuits if their perfect little angel gets in trouble. “Make other people responsible for their actions if you want, but my son/daughter should simply NOT have to live by the same rules and standards as everyone else…they’re SPECIAL!”
What are we actually doing for (or to) our children when we act that way? We are crippling them. Think about it- unless you go and live with them at college, they are not going to get that kind of treatment there. And even if they DO get that kind of treatment in college, not many businesses are going to take kindly to the parents of their employees calling in and saying, “Little Johnny won’t be at work today- his tummy hurts!”
It’s a pitiful shame to see parents behave like…kids. And it needs to stop. Love your kid- unconditionally. Do anything for them…anything, that is, that they NEED! Enjoy them. Laugh with them. Talk with them. Read to them. Play with them. But let them make mistakes. Why? Because if they get to make “safe” mistakes when they are younger, if they are allowed to see that life is simply NOT always perfect or fair, they will be SO much better equipped to handle what the world throws at them as adults.
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!

A GREAT Easter Sunday!

Easter 2     What a GREAT Easter Sunday! It began VERY early Sunday morning. I was out of the house by about 5:45AM. (Which, now that I think about it, isn’t really any earlier than most Sundays!) Usually, if I get to church by 5:50AM, I have an hour and 20 minutes to get “stuff” ready. That “stuff” includes helping our Worship Director get the building open for the day. (There are a LOT of doors to unlock and a LOT of lights to turn on!) I usually need to touch up the Powerpoint presentation that will accompany my sermon. I need to copy 3-4 Powerpoint files onto a flash drive.  

     I then head to the sanctuary. Job #1- load those Powerpoint files into the sanctuary computer and add them to the 3 files that represent our three morning services. From there, it’s setting up Communion for our 9:15AM service (weekly) or all 3 morning services (monthly). Then I set up the tripod and iPod that livestreams our sermon for the day.  

     By then, it’s 7AM and the 8AM Praise Band is coming in for a “warm-up” prior to the start of that service. We practice for about 30-35 minutes, which leaves about 25 minutes to visit with people before the first service of the day begins. 

     That’s a normal Sunday. Easter, however, is NOT a “normal” Sunday! Our Sunrise Service starts at 6:30AM. I usually have someone else preach that service. This year, our Director of Young and Young Family Ministries volunteered for that task. I encouraged her to take on as much or little of that service as she wanted to. In the end, she and our Worship Director led the lion’s share of the service and my job was to officiate over Communion. That service ran about 50 minutes and she did a GREAT job! 

      That meant that, by the time the 8AM Praise Band “got the ball”, it was about 7:30AM- just 30 minutes before the start of the next service. We had an abbreviated warm-up. I had about 10 minutes to “visit” and then- the rest of the morning was off and running! 

     The 8AM service- well-attended- was over about 9:03AM, leaving a whopping 12 minutes to get one crowd OUT, one crowd IN, the next Praise Band OUT and the next Praise Band IN! That service- also well-attended, ended at 10:10AM, giving us 20 minutes to get that group out and the next group in. The 10:30AM service, again well-attended, ended at 11:35AM.  

     By about noon, we were all at home, working on Easter dinner. It was what we call “steakarama”. We don’t eat steak very often. But for steakarama, we pull several out of the freezer. Since I can’t manage steak (I can’t swallow it very well), we get out some hamburger for me and make myself a burger on the stove while our older grills the HECK out of that steak outside. The menu was rounded out by hash brown casserole, roasted carrots (boiled carrots for me), fresh asparagus and strawberry-pretzel salad. It was great! By 2PM, I was asleep, where I stayed until 5PM! 

     For the week (Holy Thursday plus 4 services yesterday), we had a worship attendance total of just under 500 people. The worship services were powerful. The fellowship was great. And we lived up to our mission statement- “we exist to connect people to Jesus Christ”. Great week to be a part of the church we currently serve. Great week to celebrate an empty tomb and a risen Savior. And a great week to worship Jesus- Who the grave couldn’t hold! Christ is risen indeed! 

        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! 

The Nails: Victory

The Nails Week 6   A woman was at work when she received a phone call that her daughter was very sick with a fever. She left work and stopped by the pharmacy to get some medication. She got back to her car and found that she had locked her keys in the car. She looked around and found an old rusty coat hanger that had been thrown down on the ground, possibly by someone else who at some time or other had locked their keys in their car, but she didn’t know how to use it. So she bowed her head and asked God to send her some help. Within five minutes an old rusty car pulled up, with a dirty, greasy, bearded man who was wearing an old biker do-rag on his head. The woman looked up and whispered, “This is what you sent to help me?” But, she was desperate, so she was also very thankful. The man got out of his car and asked her if he could help. She said, She told him her situation and asked if he could help. “Sure”. He walked over to the car, and in less than a minute had it opened. She cried and hugged him, and through her tears said, “Thank you SO much! You’re a very nice man.” The man replied, “Lady, I’m not a nice man. I just got out of prison…today- I’ve only been out for about an hour. I was in prison for car theft.” She hugged the man again and with sobbing tears cried out loud, “Oh, Thank you God! You even sent me a professional!” 

     Lent- the season of the church calendar leading up to Easter. It begins the Sunday AFTER Ash Wednesday and it is a 7-week period of preparation. Today, we reach the end of our current sermon series that has led us to Easter morning. We started in a rather unorthodox place…Christmas. And from the full manger of the first Christmas morning, we said we would walk all the way to the empty tomb of the first Easter. And along the way, we would always keep the image of “the nails” in front of us- reminding us that it was never the nails that held Jesus to the cross- it was His love for us all along. 

Matthew 28:1-10 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me. 

     The story of Mary Magdalene meeting Jesus at the empty tomb is one of some women going to the tomb to anoint a body for burial. It ends with the mourners becoming missionaries, running to tell the others what they had seen and heard.  

     Death is never easy to deal with. Most of the time we can avoid it or postpone it. But sometimes death stares us in the face and we don’t know what to do. If you’ve ever lost a loved one who meant more to you than life itself, you know why Mary and the others were there– death couldn’t destroy their love for Jesus. We see the empty tomb as one of the greatest proofs of the Resurrection. But unless the evidence is accompanied by proper understanding and an open heart, no one will ever be changed.  

     The women clung to Him because they thought that, now, everything was the same as it used to be. But Jesus says, “No, everything is different now.” Then He tells them to go and tell the others. So they go to the disciples and tell them they have seen JesusIn that moment, the mourner becomes the missionary! So it is with everybody who meets Jesus. We are called to do what Mary did- run and tell everybody who will listen that we’ve seen Jesus!  

     There’s great power in the words of someone who can say, “I was there. I saw it.” A church in Bangladesh was showing a movie about Jesus to an audience of people who’d never heard the Gospel before. As the story of the crucifixion unfolded, there were tears and audible gasps. As the natives watched, one young boy suddenly spoke up, “Don’t be afraid. He gets up again! I saw it before.” That’s our message to a world overwhelmed with the reality of death. God’s given us the answer. We can say to those who feel bewildered and heartbroken, “Don’t cry…Jesus has come back from the dead. I’ve seen Him!” 

     Who are we? Why are we here? It seems to me the reason we’re here is because we’re in love…I would be so bold as to call it the passionate throes of “first love”- the love we have for Jesus. It’s that “first love” that brings us to His feet. It’s that “first love” that empowers us to ask Him to make us His. It’s that “first love” that, through God’s grace, gives us the gift of faith. How much more could we fulfill the Great Commission if we were to reconnect with our first love and shut ourselves off from all those things that are add-ons to our faith? What if we were to rediscover the heart of our faith, our love for Jesus? 

     A woman read that dogs were healthier if fed a tablespoon of cod liver oil every day. So, every day she followed the same routine–she chased her dog until she caught it, wrestled it down, and managed to force the cod liver oil down the dog’s throat.  Until one day when, in the middle of this grueling medicinal effort, the bottle was kicked over. With a sigh, she loosened her grip on the dog so she could wipe up the mess–only to watch the dog trot to the puddle and lick it up. The dog LOVED cod liver oil! It was just the owner’s method of application the dog objected to. The delivery method was the problem. The same could be said of the church.  People desperately want to know that God is alive and well…and that He loves them. Why then aren’t all our churches full? I fear too many churches have a problem with how they communicate their message, with the delivery system. What if, before every committee meeting, every church asked this question: “Is what we’re about to discuss worth the price Jesus paid on the cross? Is what we’re doing right now worth the shedding of Jesus’ blood? Did Jesus die on the cross so that we could be this kind of church?” 

     Can we take Christianity at face value? Can people take our church, our lives, at face value? Without strong roots, our face value can quickly become farce value. Oscar Wilde sarcastically wrote, “The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible. What the second duty is no one has yet discovered.” So many Christian faces look like following Jesus is more a life sentence than a life style! But human beings of every age, at all times and in all places, whether they realize and reflect on it or not, are in relationship with the amazing mystery of human life we call God.  

      If you don’t know Jesus, or if you’re not sure, there’s no better time than Easter Sunday to put your trust in him. If you sense God’s calling you to come to Jesus, and if you truly want to know him, your faith will grow and your doubts will wane as you tell others what Jesus has done for you.  

     I close with this reminder- the nails led to the ultimate victory- over death. However, they were NEVER what held Him to the cross. It was His love for US that held Him there. The time to share the Good News has come. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! 

Low Saturday

tombFat Tuesday. Ash Wednesday. Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. Easter Sunday. Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute! What about Saturday? I didn’t see any Saturday in that list! (Didn’t see any Monday, either, but since we’re focusing on Saturday here, let’s just keep that between us!) There actually IS a day for the Saturday of Holy Week- which is today, by the way. And that name is Low Saturday. Seriously- Low Saturday.
Now I know that it doesn’t have the ring that some of the others do. After Fat, Ash, Maundy, Good and Easter, Low just…comes up a bit short! If this were a kid’s program, we would be singing, “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things does not belong.” And we would, of course, be talking about Low Saturday!
So why is it Low Saturday? Well, because it’s the day…THE day…that the stone was NOT rolled away, that Jesus was NOT alive and out of the tomb. It was…well…low. And although it’s a perfectly good name for it, it needs more. It deserves more. What about “Sunday’s Comin’ Saturday”? Or maybe “Almost There Saturday”? Or perhaps, because we have read the back of the book and know how the story turns out, it should be called “Great Expectation Saturday”.
Think about that for a minute- Great Expectation Saturday. It not only has a much more positive feel than Low Saturday; it also better captures the true feeling we should have for Easter- great expectations. We should be nearly beside ourselves with excitement, expectation and anticipation about Easter. It should be arguably THE most exciting event in our lives.
So…is it? For you, I mean? Is it Great Expectation Saturday? And NOT because of the eggs, candy, baskets and bunnies. And NOT because of ham, scalloped potatoes and great aunt Tillie. (No offense intended to great aunt Tillie, btw!) Is it Great Expectation Saturday for you SOLELY because tomorrow is the day we celebrate the fact that the grave could not hold our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? The obvious answer is “yes”…but is it the HONEST answer?
Pray about that today, and prepare for what should be THE most glorious day of the year. I pray you look into the tomb tomorrow…for yourself- don’t take someone else’s word for it…and see the graveclothes, empty and in a heap. See the stone rolled away. And see Jesus, standing there in the garden, beckoning you to a new way of life…a new LIFE!
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!

What is so “Good” About Friday?

good fridayToday is Good Friday- the day we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. Let’s take a look at what the act of crucifixion ACTUALLY consisted of.
Crucifixion is thought to have been invented by the Persians around 300 BC. But it was Rome who “perfected” it in the first century BC. The common crucifixion cross consisted of an upright pole permanently fixed in the ground with a removable crossbar that weighed about 100 lbs. The victim was laid on their back with their arms outstretched- they were then nailed to the crossbar. Nails (about 7-9 inches long) were driven through the area surrounded by the radius and ulna arm bones and the small carpal bones of the hand. The nail placement was intentional- that specific area is strong enough to support the body, the nail would sever the median nerve in the hand, causing burning pain and rendering the hand useless, and there would be minimal blood loss, prolonging death.
The positioning of the feet was also crucial. The knees were bent and the feet flexed until they were parallel to the vertical part of the cross. Another 7-9 inch nail was driven through both feet between the 2nd and 3rd metatarsals. That nail would sever the dorsal pedal artery, but again blood loss was insufficient to cause death. The resulting body position created a horrific sequence of events- events that resulted in a slow, painful death.
The bend of the knees caused the victim to bear their weight with their thigh muscles- which was impossible to maintain for any great length of time. As leg strength gave out, the body weight had to be sustained by the arms and shoulders.
As the arms gave out, the body weight was transferred to the chest, putting pressure on the rib cage. In order to exhale, the victim had to push their feet down so their rib muscles could relax. As the legs tired again, the victim was less and less able to bear their weight, making breathing more and more difficult. The inadequate breathing caused the blood oxygen level to diminish and the blood carbon dioxide (CO2) level to rise. The rising CO2 level caused the heart to beat faster in an effort to increase oxygen delivery.
Unable to deliver more oxygen, the rising heart rate only increased oxygen demand. After several hours, the heart began to fail and the lungs began to collapse and fill with fluid. The combination of blood loss and hyperventilation caused severe dehydration. This combination of collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and inadequate oxygen supply eventually caused death. The victim, in effect, suffocated to death. When the Romans wanted to expedite death…they would break the victim’s legs, causing them to suffocate in a matter of minutes. A more gruesome death would be hard to find.
So, why in the WORLD would a day when we remember the HORRIBLE death Jesus endured be called GOOD Friday? One theory is that the words “God” and “good” were inadvertently switched because of their similarity. So, “God Friday” became “Good Friday”. But I think it’s more simple and direct than that- we call it Good Friday because, with the benefit of hindsight, the events of that horribly “bad” Friday 2000 years ago ultimately brought about the greatest good there could ever be. So a bad Friday becomes the ultimate Good Friday.
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.