Surprise Stealth Ninja Prayer Quilt

Cardinals

They “got” me! I will be honest- I don’t get “got” too often! But this time- they got me! Let me explain. A while back, the church we currently serve had t-shirts printed up in support of me and my family as we struggle with this cancer battle. Pretty cool stuff. And not a week, often a day, goes by that I don’t see someone wearing one of those shirts. Again, pretty cool stuff. 

But yesterday at church, an odd thing happened. As people started filtering in for the 8AM Worship Service, more and more of them had their Team Harris shirts on. First the Prause Band. Then, the Café workers. The greeters. The “early birds”. The regular folks. By the time that early service started, there were easily 40+ people in the building wearing their Team Harris shirts.  

Now, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I DID notice that. In fact, I even commented that “I apparently didn’t get the memo”! And, as it all turns out, no I did NOT get the memo- on purpose! As the Announcement Video ended and I started to get up to continue with the service, suddenly our Worship Director and the co-presidents of our United Methodist women swooped in, grabbed a microphone and started talking! (I still was confused and also found that odd because, if they have something they want to do/announce, they are very good about talking to me ahead of time!) 

As it all turns out, they had something up their collective sleeve! I will call it the Surprise Stealth Ninja Prayer Quilt! They had a Prayer Quilt the likes of which I have never seen! It was a series of St. Louis Cardinals baseball-themed squares that made up the quilt. And scattered over the face of this quilt, in a pre-designed pattern, were triangles sewn on to make pockets in the fronts of some of the squares. And in the pockets were hand-written prayers regarding me and my family! In all, over 100 of them. AND…the whole thing was a COMPLETE surprise to me and my wife!  

After presenting it to us and praying for it…and us…they put it up for display during the service. They also invited everyone to come up after the service and pray over the quilt. Many did. They re-did this same scenario at each the other two services. (Amazingly, they surprised me every time! Again, NOT the sharpest tool in the shed!! LOL!)  

I love serving with this group of people. They have been SO supportive throughout my health issues of the past 5 years. Many congregations would have said, at some point, “Look, we love him and all, but we need a HEALTHY pastor!” And it would be hard to argue with that mentality. But they have, instead, walked with us, supported us, encouraged us. This is just one more example of what it means to be a Christian! Gotta love 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! 

Liar, Lunatic or Lord?: Lord

Liar Lunatic Lord Lord

I like to hear what kids say about God. Here are some actual prayers kids offered up to Him:

“Dear God, if you watch in Church on Sunday I will show you my new shoes.”

“Dear God, I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday night. That was really cool.”

“Dear God, I don’t think anybody could be a better God. Well, I just want you to know that I am not just saying that because You are God already.”

“Dear God, please take care of my daddy, mommy, sister, brother, my doggy and me. Oh, and please take care of yourself, God. If anything happens to you, we’re gonna be in a big mess.”

“Dear God, if You can’t make me a better boy, don’t worry about it. I’m having a real good time like I am!”

For three weeks now, we’ve talked about author C.S. Lewis- prolific writer of 67 books and countless articles and other publications and how he often wrote about Christian themes. We talked about the piece he wrote about Jesus that basically laid out what we’ve called a trilemma- a choice among three options. Lewis’ three options were, in a nutshell, that Jesus was either A. a liar, B. a lunatic or C. The Lord. If He wasn’t divine, then the only other alternatives were that He was evil or deluded. Lewis said Jesus couldn’t be more than one of them. Therefore, we are left with a choice.

Today, we wrap up our current 4-week sermon series designed to delve into those three options, pick them apart and see where they lead us. Two weeks ago, we looked at “liar”. Last week, we looked at “lunatic”. Today, we consider the third option- “Lord”. We have tried to be as objective as possible- not simply dismissing the first two because we “know” the third choice is the “right” answer but instead weigh each one from its own merit. With all of that in mind, here is today’s Scripture-

     John 3:16-21 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

If the 23rd Psalm is arguably THE most recognizable and quotable passage in the Old Testament, then part of today’s Scripture is arguably THE most recognizable and quotable passage in the New Testament. People who know NOTHING about the Bible have heard of John 3:16. In fact, some theologians have said that, if you had to boil the entirety of the Bible down to one sentence…it would be John 3:16. “For God SO loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Good stuff, to be sure. But if you read on, it STAYS “good”. “For God didn’t send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” And those two verses- John 3:16 and 17, are really the crux of the argument for today. Think that through- God loves us SO much that He sent His Son- His ONLY begotten Son- here to teach us, to guide us, to be an example for us. And when that task was complete, He sacrificed Himself as payment for our sins.

And that is key- He sacrificed HIMSELF. No one took His life from Him. He willingly laid it down, as part of the plan, for our sakes. He took the pain and punishment of the world on His shoulders and bore them all the way to the cross. And when that task was complete, and not a MOMENT sooner, He declared that “it was finished” and He laid down His life. His time on earth, roughly 33 years, came to an end and He took His rightful place in Heaven.

And how do I know that? Well, originally, I knew it because other people taught it to me. I learned it from sitting in church and listening to pastors preach about it. I learned it from sitting in Bible studies and being part of conversations about it. I learned it from watching other people live their lives in ways that told me they actually believed what they had learned about Jesus.

All through this series, I have stressed that I wanted you to get to the point that you could look into the tomb for yourself and decide what you believe. So, I am NOT going to tell you what to believe. Instead, I’m going to tell you what I believe. Do I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is God in human form? Do I believe that He is Lord? As I have shared before, the simple answer to that question is, unexpectedly, no. I do NOT believe it.

If you have not heard me say that before, I’m going to guess you are more than a little surprised to hear it now. Here’s the deal. If I say I believe something, there is clearly room in the use of that word- believe- for it to NOT be true. Look at it this way- if I say I believe there is life elsewhere in the universe, I am also saying that I might be wrong. Why? Because I don’t KNOW there is life elsewhere in the universe- I haven’t experienced it. I simply believe it.

On quite the other hand, I KNOW Jesus Christ. I have had personal encounters with His grace, mercy and forgiveness. Can I prove it to YOU? No. I don’t have any kind of definitive proof at all. But I know it. He changed my life. I am not the person I once was. And the reason why is because God SO loved the world…

I can honestly say that I have been through all 3 choices in C.S. Lewis’ trilemma- liar, lunatic and Lord. And while it makes my heart hurt to know that I have thought those things, the fact THAT I’ve thought them is, in the end, a good thing. Because I have considered all the options. I have wrestled with them. I have fought them. And I have come out the other side with the seep, abiding conviction that Jesus isn’t just Lord- He is MY Lord.

I love my family. I love the church I serve. But I love Jesus more. I have people say, “How can I truly love Jesus if I don’t love my family first?” My response is, “How can I truly love my family if I don’t love Jesus first?” If I put something ahead of Him…anything…I can’t find any real balance in my life. But if I put Him above all else, then the other relationships tend to fall into place.

Can I tell you what to think? No. Can I make you believe something simply because I claim to know it? No. But what I CAN tell you is that getting to know Jesus Christ is the best thing that I ever did in my lifetime. And that’s a lifetime that includes marrying the beautiful creature who is celebrating her birthday today! The BEST thing I ever did is coming to the understanding that Jesus is my Lord. My advice to you is this- don’t miss the opportunity.

The Spiritual Gift of Reading Bad Handwriting

bad-handwriting I have a rather unusual spirit gift! You can ask the people who have worked in the church office with me, and they will all tell you the same thing- I have the spiritual gift of reading bad handwriting! Seriously! Seldom does a week go by that my Office Administrator doesn’t come into my office with the weekly attendance info that the folks who sit in the pews fill out every Sunday. She is having trouble reading what someone has written, so she brings it to me.
Now, I don’t mean to brag, but I can USUALLY decipher it. I ALWAYS 1st announce that I have the spiritual gift of reading bad handwriting (and I’m quite positive that after the 100th time she’s heard that, she is only laughing because she’s a wonderful person!), then I check out the information in question, usually successfully decipher it, then go on my merry way!
I was thinking about that fact recently- probably because I had just deciphered some more bad handwriting! I was wondering why it is that I can read bad handwriting and I think I have hit upon something. 1st, it undoubtedly has something to do with the fact that I HAVE bad handwriting! I’m talking BAD! And I have ALWAYS had bad handwriting. I can remember in grade school getting constant comments sent home about my bad penmanship. I would get straight A’s…and a C in writing! Ouch! My wife says, based on my signature alone, that I should have been a doctor! (Oh, if it were THAT easy!) But that’s not the only reason.
I think that another reason I can decipher bad handwriting is that I tend to see words as pictures and not a group of letters. Think about that- when I read a sentence, I don’t see each word as a collection of letters to be “read”. Instead, I see each word as a picture- the word as a whole instead of the sum of its parts. Because of that fact, I sometimes glance at a paragraph and see a word that is not there, because my mind caught pictures of two different words and melded them together.
So, how do you see words? Do you look at a word as a series of letters to be sounded out as you read? OR, do you see words as pictures, seeing the word as a whole unit? I am convinced that one way is no better than the other. It matters not one whit how you do it, just THAT you do it!
Isn’t it amazing how God works? You and I are NOT alike! (Surprise, surprise, right?) Of course we’re not. But think about just how “not alike” we are. We think differently. We act differently. We look differently. We couldn’t be more different if we tried. And yet…and yet…we are the same! Huh? Yep! We are the same! Why? Because we are all made in the image of God. How can we be SO different…and yet be made in the image of God? Because the image of God isn’t about how we look, how we talk or how we see words for that matter. Being made in the image of God is about what’s on the inside- what we act like, what we do.
And since we are made in the image of God, we should reflect that in our everyday life. People should be able to look at us and see that we are Christians. NOT that we are perfect (because we’re not), but that we are His! So, it matters NOT what color you are, or what age you are, gender, size, whatever- you are made in the image of God!

    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! 

Would YOU Go Back?

geek    High School…fall of 1976 through spring of 1979…at least for me. (In case you did the math, 1. yes- my high school was only 3 years, and 2. yes- I’m 57 years old!) It was the period when I met the woman who was to become my wife, the mother of my kids and the love of my life, so High School wasn’t ALL bad!
Seriously, High School was a great time in my life. I was in every band there was to be in. I acted in ALMOST every play I could have. I had good friends. There were no car payments, mortgages, busy schedules…life was PRETTY much (but not quite all) fun and easy.
I have been thinking about my High School years a lot recently. A friend from High School posted her senior picture on Facebook, and the memories literally flooded back. (By the way, no- this is NOT my senior picture! In fact, I have no idea who this young man is. It just looked like a stereotypical senior picture from “back in the day”!)
I know people…we ALL know people…who seem to clearly wish they were back in high school. They talk about it all the time, and the tales grow taller on down the line! Now, in case my old classmate is reading this, I am NOT implying that posting your senior picture on your Facebook page constitutes being stuck in the past! That was fun! In fact, it IS fun to look at the old pictures or tell the old stories. That’s good. That’s healthy.
What I’m talking about are the folks who act as if their life stopped the moment they walked across that stage, “marbled” the principal (if you are a member of MY graduating class, that is!) and received their diploma. From that point on, they were determined to live in the past. Oh sure, they might go to college, get married, have kids…but everything hinges on those High School years.
Someone once asked me if I would like to go back to High School, knowing what I know now. My answer? Absolutely NOT! Loved High School. SOOOOOOO glad I met my wife there! (Thank you, hayride!) Glad I made so many friends, had so many fun times, created so many good memories. But would I want to go back? To quote that great MASH theologian Major Frank Burns, “Not on your Nellie!” I love my life. It’s not perfect, but then what is? I have an awesome wife, 2 awesome sons, a church I love and some fun hobbies! But most of all, best of all- I have Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, dwelling in new Holy of Holies- my heart. He came to me, worked on me, changed me. AND…He continues to change me, every day in every way. Why would I want to go BACK, when the “here and now” is so awesome?
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah says we are to forget the past. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about what was, or that we should not remember it fondly and learn from it. Instead, it means that the past is just that- passed. We need to focus on where we are and where we are going. And with God in your life, that is pretty rosy!

    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 Blessing of a Death Sentence

Integrity-the-foundation-of-a-respectful-workplace-767x383@2x

There are many truths in life. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If you drop a piece of buttered toast, it WILL land butter-side down. It’s also true that people are born, people grow up and people die. It’s just how life works. And just like we take the sun rising and water freezing for granted, we tend to take life for granted as well. That is, until something intervenes that forces you to take a long, hard look at reality. 

As you know, in early June of last year, I received a death sentence. Now, that may sound overly dramatic and I don’t mean it to…but it IS true. My wife, younger son and I sat in a deserted waiting room. It was a little after 5PM. We were supposed to meet a doctor there after a day of needle biopsies in my neck. Just when we wondered if we had missed him- in he walked. We sat together as he delivered the news we did not want to hear. At that point, he couldn’t confirm the diagnosis because we had to wait for the results of all those biopsies. But based on what he DID know, he felt pretty comfortable to label what I had. He also felt compelled to say that, if the diagnosis was correct, I probably had 6-8 months to live. That was almost 11 months ago. 

No one is prepared for such news. And we continue to run the gamut of thoughts and emotions as this whole thing unfolds in time and space. But there is one thing that I have learned over these almost 11 months that I wish more people could learn WITHOUT the terminal diagnosis hanging over them. And that is a new perspective on life. Let me explain. 

I used to spend WAY too much time and energy on “the small stuff”. You know what I mean- we worry so much about things that really don’t matter. And that attitude causes us to lose one key element of an emotionally healthy human being- integrity. We need SO badly to be “right” that we will easily…almost gleefully ignore the truth. We want SO badly to be loved that we willingly surrender the best of who we are and instead focus solely ways to fuel that love, whether it’s healthy or not. We crave SO badly to have things our way that we behave in ways that would make us cringe with embarrassment if we could but step out of our own skin for a moment and watch what we are doing.  

When you think you have all the time in the world- which most of us think we do- you are willing to exist in such a state of “tunnel vision”. It’s not that you can’t see the “big picture”. It’s that you refuse to. “I’ll do that later. Tomorrow, after all, is another day.” (Fiddle-dee-dee, Miss Scarlett!) But that is the blessing of receiving a death sentence. And yes, I said blessing. Because, in the midst of the tragedy of dealing with your own mortality, there IS a blessing…if you’re willing to look for it. I have learned to not sweat the small stuff…and it’s almost ALL small stuff. I have learned that NONE of us is guaranteed tomorrow so make the most of today. And I have learned that if you don’t have integrity…not much else matters.  

When I finally succumb to this nasty cancer (And that will NOT be without more fight than we have put forth thus far!), I pray, more than anything, that people who know me can…and will…say that I had integrity. I grew up wanting fame, fortune and attention. I was willing to do pretty much whatever it took to get it. It never crossed my mind that sacrificing your integrity to get those things cheapens them to the point of worthlessness. Now, I could care less about those things. I want my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my church family and, most of all, my God, to be able to say, “He was a man of integrity”.  

Am I perfect? FAR from it. Am I always the best example of what it means to be a Christian? Nope. But the key is this- I want to be, as United Methodist founder John Wesley liked to say, “moving toward perfection”. I want to be a little closer today than yesterday, but not quite as close as tomorrow. And I want people to be able to say, with some assuredness, “He had integrity.” THAT is the blessing of a death sentence! 

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! 

Thank You, Carol Merrill!

Lets_Make_A_Homebuilding_Deal

I have written about this before, but it since it happens less frequently these days and stands out SO much when it DOES happen…I am writing about it again! I can always tell when I am having a good day/stretch of time- when I am feeling better. And it’s beyond the obvious, “Hey, I feel pretty good today!” The big, key indicator is how much I talk! And yesterday…I basically didn’t shut up all day!  

The truth is- I am a very verbal person by nature. I talk for a living! I love words. Now, I can also be VERY private and require my “down time”, to be sure. But I tend to be pretty verbal. But then, this nasty cancer stuff reared its ugly head. And as the effects of the disease…and the treatment…take their toll, it is manifested in different ways. I lose energy. I move slower. I have lost the sense of taste. The neuropathy in my hands and feet continue to be a daily struggle. Etc. Etc. Etc. But I also just get quieter. Between the loss of energy and the feeling like crud on a cracker, that “gift of gab” just doesn’t come nearly as naturally as it used to. There are days when I don’t talk much at. 

And then there are days like yesterday. Later in the day, I commented to my wife that I hadn’t really shut up all day long! She turned, looked at me, smiled and said, “I know…and I love it!” Even if nobody else really notices, SHE notices everything. She knows when I am quiet and when I’m not. I mean, my goodness- we’ve known each other since we were 15 years old! There are few people on the planet who have known me that long and NO ONE who knows me as well as she does. She’s very sweet and doesn’t take it personally when I am quiet. But she notices when I can’t stop talking, as well. And THAT’S when she knows I am having a better day!  

So, why am I feeling that much better at the moment? Well, I continue to get farther and farther away from the radiation treatments. The worst of the side effects of that radiation seem to be fading. (I pray!) I continue to not have chemo. The “flushing” that the prep for the colonoscopy (As well as, oddly, the “flushing” that recent bout with the stomach flu did) seem to have had a positive effect on LOTS of things. And, I’m sure, the fact that the colonoscopy is over AND revealed some good news for a change hasn’t hurt any! You combine all of that and the result is- someone stuck a quarter in my, pulled the string on my back and started me talking!  

Two of the many things I have learned on this journey are that 1. I have NO idea how long “feel good” moments” like these will last and 2. I therefore enjoy them while they last! I have no REAL control over #1- they last as long as they last and I can do little to nothing to change that. But I have LOTS of control over #2. I can either be pessimistic when I feel better and say, “Well, that won’t last!” Or, I can embrace the good days and just enjoy them for the gifts they! I choose what’s behind Door #2 that Carol Merrill is now showing us! (Google 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! 

The Colonoscopy is in the Books

colonoscopy     Yesterday was my colonoscopy. Now, let me say right up front, this is not a “woe is me, I had a colonoscopy” post. I fully understand that people have them every day and they are, in the grand scheme of things, no big deal. My intent is twofold: 1. give you an update on what they found and B. hopefully make anyone reading this who HASN’T had one but will feel better about it ahead of time.  

First, the results. The reason for this colonoscopy was that the last CT scan showed a “thickening” in that area that they were a bit concerned about, given the other inputs. Therefore, they wanted to go in and see what’s what about you know what. The colonoscopy showed that there is no tumor. Good stuff. My body hasn’t been getting rid of the “bad stuff” like it should because of the chemo and radiation. So, the colonoscopy didn’t/couldn’t really see if there are polyps or not. But revealing that there is NO tumor is a good thing! 

My gastroenterologist said that, basically, he wants me therefore to have diarrhea, so that everything can get cleaned out. So Miralax and I, already on a first-name basis, have just started “going steady”. (Don’t tell my wife!!) It’s not what I would want to do but, given the things we have been through since the original diagnosis, this is simply no big deal! 

Now, to the procedure itself. If you’ve never had one and your doctor says, “It’s time for a colonoscopy”, your first response is prone to be anything BUT, “Hooray! I was HOPING you would say that!” The truth is that just the thought of it is rather distasteful and somewhat humiliating. But let me assure you, publicly, that the actual event is really pretty easy. It’s the prep that is a challenge! 

My wife and I have learned that each doctor has a slightly different prep regime. But here is the one my doctor has. A week prior, you have to stop eating any kind of seeds or nuts. You also can’t eat the skins of any fruit- i.e. apple peels. Then, starting 24 hours before the procedure, you have to switch to an all-clear liquid diet. No food. No dairy. Nothing with red or purple coloring. It all has to be liquid that you can see through. Then, 21 hours before the procedure, I had to start with the laxatives. From noon Sunday through 6AM Tuesday, I consumed a dozen capfuls of Miralax powder in a total of 48 ounces of water. In addition, I took 6 Dulcolax pills. I also drank a stupid amount of white grape juice and chicken bouillon. And, of course, the bathroom and I were close friends during that timeframe. (I had to miss the 90-minute round-trip to the train station to get our older son to his train back to Chicago because I knew there would be NO way I could be THAT far away from a bathroom!) The final doses of Miralax, included in the above total, happen early the morning of the test. 

Once you arrive at the place where the procedure will be done, they take your vitals and have you get undressed and into one of those lovely hospital gowns. You get on the rolling bed that will be your “home” for the next few hours and wait. Then, the IV is put in. (I usually get mine in the area of the bend in the elbow. This one went in the back of my hand.) Once they are ready, they wheel you to the room where the procedure will actually happen. They have you roll on your side and drawn your knees up- like in a sitting position only laying on your side. They then start injecting “stuff” into the IV line. At first, you fell nothing different. And then, suddenly, the eyelids get VERY heavy! And that, my friend, is the LAST thing I remember before seeing my wife standing there saying, “It’s all done!” You are NOT awake for anything that you would dread or be humiliated by. Nothing. Turn on your side. Wake up when it’s done. There you have it and there you are. 

It IS imperative that you have someone with you. Obviously, you have to have someone drive you home- you can’t drive for several hours afterward. But you also need someone to hear what the doctor says. He came in and gave us a report afterwards. I don’t even remember SEEING him! So, I was VERY grateful my wife was there to listen and ask questions. She could then tell ME what happened when I was awake enough to actually hear it and remember it.  

I had 2 goals coming into this blog- 1. update and 2. information. So, let’s summarize- all in all, good news from the scope. And I pray that the “blow by blow” (if you will) gives you a bit more peace and confidence when you have to have this done for the first time! 

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!