Radiation Update: Bathroom Edition

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I haven’t written about the radiation treatments lately. So, on this “low Saturday”, I thought I’d take a moment to catch you up and share something…intimate with you! First off, I am crossed the halfway point on this round of treatments. After yesterday’s dosage, I now have 9 down, 6 to go. That means that I will done a week from Monday. So far, the side effects haven’t reared their ugly heads. I have really had NONE. (But last time, the side effects from radiation didn’t show up until I was done, so…!)  

I can’t eat or drink anything for three hours prior to the daily treatments. Which means, by the time I’m done with a treatment, I need to eat something. And yet, I can’t really swallow a lot of really solid food these days. So, we have started a “tradition”- we drive to the Checkers fast food restaurant down the road where I get a chocolate shake! Call it late lunch! 

But there is a general side effect to cancer treatments that I realize cancer patients don’t really talk about. It deals with, shall we say, “gastro-intestinal issues”. Yep- constipation and/or diarrhea. They have been something I have dealt with relatively constantly since I first started chemo and radiation back in June of last year. 

Constipation is the primary issue. And while we have all dealt with that at times in our lives, it’s different when you deal with pretty much all the time. And it turns out that it’s a pretty delicate balance. You GET it. You try to treat it without going overboard. You slowly escalate the treatment approach over a couple/few days. And then, suddenly, you’ve swung too far the OTHER way!  

So, you adjust your diet (BRAT- bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) and you stop the treatment you WERE doing. And you your body starts to swing back to “center”. And for a few days…all is well. And then your body starts to swing back toward constipation. And the vicious circle starts all over again! 

When you deal with NOT going on a regular basis, you’d be shocked at the impact it has on how you feel. (Hint- it’s NOT good!) And when you swing too far the other way, you fell SO much better…but you can’t stray too far from a bathroom! (Darn!) 

I share this, embarrassing as it is, because I find that most cancer patients are A. quick to compare notes on the subjects with their fellow patients and B. reluctant to share at all with “civilians”. (See note on “embarrassing”!) And I get all of that. But it’s important for people to understand what cancer patients deal with. I think it helps. I think it’s also good to remind cancer patients and their caregivers that you are not in this alone. You are not the only one experiencing these things. Others understand and are willing to walk the journey with you.  

As I said, it’s NOT the most pleasant of conversations to have…or to share! But’s it’s pretty universal to cancer patients. And if I am going to continue to be committed to being transparent about my prognosis, treatment and circumstances, I needed to share that, too! The good, the bad and…the UGLY! 

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! 

Why is Friday So Good?

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Today 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. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

 

Monday…WHAT?

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The preacher was delivering a sermon on the evils of alcohol. “If had all the wine in the world, I’d pour it in the river! If I had ALL the wine in the world,” shaking his fist in the air, “all the wine in the world, I would THROW it in the river!” He then sat down, satisfied with a job well done. Immediately, the song leader stood up and said to the congregation, “Will you join me in our Hymn of Response- #365, Shall We Gather At the River!”
All the wine in the world can’t compare to the transforming power of the Communion cup. Today is Maundy Thursday- NOT “Monday” Thursday, but MAUNDY Thursday. It is also known as Holy Thursday. It’s the Christian feast day that falls on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Last Supper. The word “Maundy” is derived from the Latin “mandatum”, the first word in the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos”- which translates “A new commandment I give you- love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus said this to the disciples as they sat in the Upper Room that night, sharing the Passover meal. Up to that point, folks had been instructed to follow THE commandments- the 10 Commandments- as a guiding principle in their lives. But Jesus offers a new commandment- love one another as I have loved you. Throughout the centuries, people have argued that this “new commandment” is simply too short and too simple to be of any real, intrinsic value. I think, however, that misses the point. The 10 Commandments are a GOOD set of guidelines, but they can become a bit…cumbersome. Imagine if we all lived our lives by this “new commandment”. If we TRULY loved each other as Jesus loves us, then we wouldn’t lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, and all the other things covered in the original commandments. We would honor our parents, we would love our spouse and children, we would treat each other with respect and care. Suddenly, this overly short, overly simple new commandment seems to scratch us right where we’re itching!
Whether or not you are a “religious” person (and let me just say, I tend to NOT be a “religious” person, but a person of faith- there is a fairly big difference) or not, whether or not you are a follower of Jesus Christ, I invite you to take some time today to meditate on this “new commandment”. See how it can apply to your life. Where are the areas that you feel you’re doing a pretty good job living it out in real time, and where are the areas that could use some work? Pray about that and ask God for the strength to continue doing the things that are going well and to “shore up” the things that are not going so well.
They walked in tandem, each of the 92 students filing into the crowded auditorium. With rich, maroon gowns and traditional caps, they looked almost as grown up as they felt. Dads swallowed hard behind broad smiles, Moms brushed away tears. It was graduation day, but this class would NOT pray during commencement…not by choice, but by court ruling. As the ceremony unfolded, the principal, the president of the school board, and several students were very careful to stay within the guidelines allowed by the court. They gave inspirational, challenging speeches, but no one mentioned God or asked for His blessings. The speeches were nice, if routine…until the final speech. A student walked to the microphone, and the entire auditorium was still and silent. Then- it happened! ALL 92 graduating students, as if as one…SNEEZED! The student on stage leaned in to the microphone, winked, and said, “‘GOD BLESS YOU, each and every one of you!’ He then walked off the stage as the audience exploded in applause. He was able to invoke God’s blessing on the future with or without the court’s approval. Nothing could separate those students from what they felt was essential. Likewise, nothing can separate Jesus Christ from those who seek Him, and nothing should separate us from His presence and love.
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’m Sorry For the Funeral!”

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There is an interesting dynamic that occurs when you are a pastor. (There are actually many…countless…dynamics that occur when you’re a pastor! But today, we are going to look at one!) This particular one showed up most recently yesterday. I started in the ministry wearing a suit, or at least a shirt and tie, every day. A suit was a MUST on Sunday- the coat would come off and the clergy robe would go on for worship. But a shirt and tie were pretty ubiquitous back then.  

The change probably started in the Sunday wardrobe. I started to get away from “robing” and started, more and more, wearing suits on Sunday morning. Then, the Monday-Friday wardrobe started to relax a bit- sweaters and dress shirt without ties started replacing the “tie every day” look.  

Slowly, over time, the wardrobe continued to morph, Eventually, over several years, I came to what I currently wear- during the week, it’s black jeans, polo shirts and tennis shoes in the warmer months and black jeans, sweaters and tennis shoes in the colder months. On Sundays, it’s black jeans, custom dress shirts (button-down collar with top button open and monogramed with the church name) and black shoes that are, in reality, tennis shoes in disguise! People don’t see me in a suit and tie very often these days. 

So, suits and ties have gone from the rule to the exception for me over the years. But there are times when a suit is still the order of the day. And one of those times is when I perform a funeral. If the service is in the church, I robe. If it’s at the funeral home, I wear a suit. And I always end up at the graveside with a suit on, regardless of where I started the proceedings.  

Yesterday, I performed a funeral. And, because of timing, we had to go straight from the cemetery to my daily radiation appointment. On the way there, I said to my wife, “I am going to make a prediction. I will have at least one conversation at the treatment center that will go like this- “My, you look nice!” “Thank you. I had to perform a funeral.” “Oh! I’m sorry!” 

We walked in, checked in and my wife waited in the outer waiting room while I went into the inner waiting room. On the way there, I passed a nurse we deal with often. She said, “My you look dapper!” I said, “I had to perform a funeral.” She said, “Oh, I’m sorry!” The, the tech who came and got me said, “Well, aren’t you handsome!” I said, “I had to perform a funeral.” She said, “Oh, I’m sorry!”  

It’s funny that I can predict those conversations with such specificity. But it makes sense, if you think about it. Ministers deal with things like funeral on a regular basis- several times a year. On the other hand, most other humans (who aren’t Funeral Directors) don’t deal with funerals much at all. Ministers have the challenge…and the blessing…of sharing the highlights of people’s lives with them- weddings, births, baptisms…and funerals. 

I am grateful to be able to share in the lives of my parishioners. It is a true honor. I am ALSO grateful that I have come to a point in life where suits are the exception and NOT the rule. I am SO much more comfortable in jeans and sweaters!! 

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 Exam!

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Can YOU say “gastroenterologist”? I can! (I need a little help from spell check to actually TYPE it. But I can SAY it!) This is the doctor I saw back in the summer who ended up doing an endoscopy on me and found the adenoma carcinoma of my esophagus. After my 5th radiation treatment (Yep! I already have 5 “in the history books with 10 more to go!) yesterday, we drove “across town” and had a consult with him. 

Why? Because the most recent CT scan found “significant thickening” of the esophagus as well as “thickening” in the colon area. So, we went for my radiation treatment and then…headed to Panera’s! I can’t eat or drink anything for 3 hours leading up to each radiation treatment, since they are aimed at the esophagus. And this treatment was at 1:15PM, which means I hadn’t eaten lunch. And since we had some time to kill between appointments, my smart wife suggested some soup at Panera’s! (I had the creamy tomato. It was good and went down easily!) 

We then headed over to the doctor’s office. I checked in, they took us back and took vitals and such. Then, there was that ubiquitous “interview” with the nurse ahead of the doctor coming in. That all went well. But the time between nurse and doctor- not so much! Actually, I got to sit and talk with my wife, which is always a good thing. But the reason I got to sit and talk with my wife was that we were an HOUR past my appointment time before we laid eyes on the doctor!  

But our experience with him is that, when you finally GET him…you get ALL of him. He is attentive, asks good questions and listens to what you have to say. “In the end” (with EVERY pun intended! Think it through- it’ll hit you!), I also go an “exam” which, while not the most pleasant thing in the world, prompted him to say, “I don’t feel anything BAD going on.” His decision? We are going to do a colonoscopy in April. He had reason for hope in that area, but feels that, with everything going on in my body, the signs that we are seeing and the fact that I’m 56 years old and have never had one all point I get to “join the club”! (Oh, boy!) 

All in all, we left there on a positive note- “I don’t feel anything bad going on”. While we understand that comment doesn’t guarantee ANYTHING, it DOES lend some hope. And we will take ANYTHING that lends hope! We will be back to see him in mid-April and go from there! 

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’m Supposed to Love THEM?

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A farmer had a hired hand who was in love with the neighbor’s daughter. Every day after his work was done, the hand would borrow the farmer’s lantern and walk over to the neighbor’s house to court his beautiful daughter. And every night the farmer and his wife would sit on the porch and watch the young man in his quest, remembering their own courting days.
One day while they were working in the field, the farmer brought up the subject of the young man’s courtship. The farmer expressed his approval of the relationship but stated his displeasure with one thing: “You keep taking a lantern over when you go. That’s wasting valuable oil, son. Why, when I was courting my wife, I didn’t use a lantern at all.” Wryly the hired hand replied, “Yes, and see what you got stuck with!” Who do you love? I mean…REALLY love? Jesus addresses that in thiss Scripture-
     Matthew 22:34-40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied:” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ‘ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself. ‘ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love God…and love neighbor? Really? I wonder- which one of those things is harder? For some, the automatic response might be God. But I think, if we’re honest, the harder one of the two to love is…neighbor! I mean, it’s easy to love the people around us who are…you know…loveable. But then there are those people who are just not all that loveable. We don’t like to even be around them- let alone love them.
But Jesus has other plans in this scenario. He says we are to love our neighbors…even those…especially those we struggle to like. But how? How in the world do we love people that we can’t even stand to be around? We try to live our lives a bit more like Jesus. When He walked this earth, He was willing to linger with those whom society declared unlikeable…off-limits. He hung out with people who were rejected by society. He loved…His neighbor.
How do YOU do in that department? Take some time this week to think that question through. Try and identify the people in your life that you try hard to avoid…and ask yourself, “Why?” Then set out to try and make that relationship better. This Easter, give Jesus’ way a shot. Take time to love God…and neighbor!
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!

 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!: Jerusalem

The Places You'll Go Jerusalem

It was Palm Sunday but because of a sore throat, 5-year-old Johnny stayed home from church with his dad. When the rest of the family returned home from church, they were carrying several palm fronds. Johnny asked them what they were for. “People held them and waved them as Jesus walked by,” his mom told him. “Well that’s just GREAT!” Johnny fumed, “The ONE Sunday I don’t go to church and Jesus shows up!”

We are in the middle of a true journey- traveling from one geographic location to another- as we walk through this series- Oh, the Places You’ll Go, based on the Dr. Suess book of the same name! We’re looking at the geography of the Easter narrative. We started in the wilderness as Jesus faced temptation. We’ve traveled north to the city of Cana to attend a wedding. We then traveled back south to the hub of the Ancient Near eastern world- Jerusalem- where Jesus cleansed the temple. Last week, we headed back to the area of Galilee, going through Samaria and stopping at Jacob’s Well. From there, Jesus finished the trip to Galilee, going to Nazareth and Capernaum. He crossed the Sea of Galilee and healed the man possessed by demons. He then crossed BACK- Jairus’ daughter was raise from the dead. More healings occurred. He headed back to Jerusalem, offered a series of parables AND the Sermon on the Mount. He headed BACK into the area of Galilee, to Nain, raising the young man from the dead. The Transfiguration happens. The disciples argue over who will be the greatest. More healing. More teaching. Lazarus is raised from the dead. Jesus encounters both the Rich Young Ruler and Zacchaeus. And that gets us to today’s story-

Luke 19:28-40 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them. “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.” They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

It’s the beginning of the end. The die has been cast. Before the end of the week, Jesus will be nailed to a cross…dying. But NOT yet! The mood was MUCH different on Palm Sunday. It was much less a funeral procession and much more the Beatles making their initial arrival in America- it was an event! And as the people gathered to see Him, welcome Him, praise Him, they waved their palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna!”

Have you ever actually THOUGHT about what that word really means? Well, wonder NO more! Oddly, even though the New Testament was written in Greek and Aramaic, the word “hosanna” has an Old Testament, Hebrew origin. When it comes to figuring out the origin of a word, there are two things to consider-   translation and transliteration.

Translation is to express the meaning of a word in another language. Transliterate is to write the word in the characters of another language. So to translate something is to swap its entire meaning from one language to another. To transliterate something is to swap one letter at a time with the letter of another language so that the word is the closest match. “Hosanna” isn’t a translation from Hebrew- it’s a transliteration…of two Hebrew words. Those two words are “yasha” and “na”. “Yasha” means “save us” and “Na” means “we beg you”. So literally, the original Hebrew means, “Save us, we beg you.” Originally an appeal for deliverance, it came to be seen as an expression of joy and praise for deliverance already granted…or anticipated. So when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem for the final time, “hosanna” came readily to the lips of the Passover crowd.

Another important thing to understand here is that, historically, a king entering a city during war time would enter riding a horse and wielding a sword. However, a king entering a city during peace time would enter…riding a donkey. This was NOT a happy coincidence- Jesus orchestrated this event to further illustrate that His is a Kingdom of peace.

All too often, we fail to see the power and the majesty of Jesus while we are in the midst of it all- only afterward, with the gift of hindsight, do we more fully appreciate what He’s done for us. But in this case, the news of the miraculous things Jesus had done preceded Him. As He rode into Jerusalem that day, the crowd that gathered wanted to see this Miracle Worker for themselves.

    But did you notice? Even in the midst of such wild adulation, the plans to put an end to it and squash this fledgling ministry once and for all like the bug the religious leaders thought it to be were already in motion.

Palm Sunday is, at its core, a bittersweet proposition. Jesus knew Friday was coming. Many who waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday would be shouting, “Crucify Him” by Thursday. The wild adulation of Palm Sunday was short-lived.

The older I get, the more I realize the impact attitude has on life- it can make or break an individual, a family, a church. Why? Because life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it. And we have a choice regarding our attitude. We can’t change the past, but we CAN impact the future. On this Palm Sunday, it’s time for us to examine our responses and our attitudes. What choice will YOU make?

    Today, we get to decide how close we want to get to Jesus. Are we willing to come right alongside Him…to stand in the shadow of the cross? Today marks the beginning of Holy Week, where our sins…past, present and future…are the nails that hold Jesus to the cross. Once we realize that…once we acknowledge that…our unwillingness will be gone. There are dark days still ahead…but Sunday’s coming. So, for now- celebrate good times- come on!