Dress For…Success?

mens-long-sleeve-tab-clergy-shirt-black   I read a blog once that talked about how pastors should dress like…well…pastors. Much of the emphasis was on clergy wearing “clerics”- black clothes with a white collar. (For you Protestant readers, picture the stereotypical Catholic priest garb and you are at least on the right track.)  The article was interesting. (I didn’t agree with…MUCH of it, but it was interesting.) The comments were also interesting. Some agreed completely. Others were a bit “on the fence”. Still others talked about being laughed out of their churches if they showed up in “clerics”. 

A large part of the blog focused on the fact that other professionals wear the “uniform” of their trade. Policemen wear a uniform. Firemen wear a uniform. Doctors wear a lab coat. Attorneys wear pinstripe suits. You get the idea. The author intimated that the clothes help delineate who they are and what role they serve. And because of that…pastors should dress like pastors. 

Let me stop and make a side comment here- everybody is entitled to their opinion. That’s what makes this country great. You think one way. I think another. We agree to disagree. America! And I’m sure it is obvious by now that, at least at some level, I’m going to agree to disagree with the author of the blog! 

Is there anything wrong with a pastor wearing clerics? Not at all. Is there anything wrong with a pastor wearing a suit and tie every day? Nope. The problem arises when someone who chooses to dress that way, or is required to dress that way by their denomination, has the notion that, because THEY wear those clothes…that’s how “pastors” should dress. 

I had a parishioner once who didn’t care for the way I dressed- no tie every day. She said, and I quote, “Pastor So and So (OK, so it’s not an exact quote! I didn’t want to actually use the pastor’s name!) even mowed his lawn in a shirt and tie!” My response didn’t help! “Well, bully for Pastor So and So! But I can GUARANTEE that you will NEVER see me mowing my lawn in a shirt and tie!” I also know a now-retired pastor who, toward the end of his active ministry, earned a DMin- a Doctor of Ministry degree. After that, he insisted…demanded…that people call him “Doctor”. When “Pastor” or “Reverend” would come out of someone’s mouth, he would interrupt them, “Doctor!” 

The reality is that we do NOT earn respect simply by what we wear or what we insist people call us. Don’t believe me? If you’re like me, you were told to call adults Mr. and Mrs. when you were growing up- a sign of respect. But did you actually respect all of them? Of course you didn’t- some of them were big jerks! Have you had a doctor, all decked out in the snazzy white lab coat, that you couldn’t stand? Of course you have! (My first oncologist didn’t even wear a lab coat most of the time- GASP!- and he is considered one of the best in the country!) 

I have worn everything there is to wear in the ministry- robes, collars, suits, ties…the whole nine yards. And over the years I have decided two things about the whole topic- none of it guarantees respect and I am MUCH more comfortable in something OTHER than a robe or a suit. And quite frankly, when I’m more comfortable, I’m more effective at what I do. 

I go by Rev. Mark. The last 2 churches I served were used to that. The church I currently serve was more used to Pastor than Rev. when I got here. I told them that A. I go by Rev. Mark…because I have to call myself something, B. they are welcome to call me Rev. Mark, Pastor Mark, Mark or whatever and C. I really don’t care!! (I suggested they could call me NEARLY anything as long as they didn’t call me late for dinner! (Buh Doom Ching! Thank you! I’ll be here all week!) 

We earn respect by who we are and what we do- day in and day out. Period. Respect is earned in the trenches, not in the clothes closet. 

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! 

Things Change

Things Change

They say that, if you live in Illinois and don’t like the weather today, just wait…it’ll change tomorrow! Well, that’s what happened to my “post-port” recovery yesterday! I of course write these blogs the day before. (It can make you a little…schizophrenic…at times, writing as if it is another day. In the ministry, between sermons, bulletins, newsletters and pre-filmed Announcement Videos, let alone the blog, we call that “a day ending in ‘Y’”!)  

When I wrote the blog for yesterday, I was feeling pretty good- post-port surgery. And at that moment, everything I wrote was true. Unfortunately, things went south afterwards. Nausea hit pretty badly. On top of that, the diarrhea came back with a vengeance right about the same time. I had a pretty crummy night Tuesday night- coughing, nauseous, up and down all night. Of course, it stormed all night and the power went out, which didn’t help anything! 

All of that, coupled with the fact that I still felt bad when I got up yesterday morning, had me decide to go in to work a bit later. (Yes, I WAS planning on going at the normal time!) So, I emailed our Office Administrator and got under the blanket in “my chair”. 8AM turned into 9AM which turned into 10AM. By then, it was apparent I wasn’t probably going to answer the bell. So, I emailed her again and told her that. Meanwhile, I WAS working…just out of my laptop and in “my chair”.  

By 11AM, it was clear that I needed to go to bed. But the nausea was such that lying flat did NOT feel like a great choice. So, I climbed into the recliner in the bedroom, fully clothed, threw a comforter over myself and slept for the next almost 4 hours. In the end, it helped a lot. I drank some hot tea with sugar. By 4PM, I was starting to feel a bit more…human.  

Somewhere along the way, the doctor’s office called- the surgeon who put the port in on Tuesday- to see how I was doing. I was very honest about how I felt AND very honest that, with me, it’s always hard to tell which “input” is making me feel like crud on a cracker. She asked about nausea, before I could even bring that up. She was sympathetic, but didn’t seem terribly surprised by what I was telling her. 

The upside was that I had NO fever and NO swelling or redness around the area where the port was installed. (I got to take the dressing off after I got up from my extended nap!) Those are GOOD signs. And, amazingly enough, NO pain. I never once took any of the pain meds- either the ones that were prescribed or the Ibuprofen that was suggested. And that wasn’t me being a “hero”. I simply had no pain.  

As I write this, about 6;30PM last night, I feel the best I’ve felt in the past 24 hours-ish. I’m praying that means I’ve turned the corner from Tuesday night and much of yesterday. My PLAN is to be at work today- the fries still have to made by SOMEBODY!  

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 Port in In


So, the port in is and all is well! The whole thing simply couldn’t have gone any smoother, frankly. We were to check in at 6:30AM (“the crack of midnight”!) and arrived in the hospital parking lot about 6:20AM. Perfect! We got checked in and moved to the next stop on the way. That stop included a brief wait and then the more comprehensive check-in- copying insurance card, signing more papers, etc.  

That led us to the surgical floor, where we were met at the elevator by a very nice, young nurse. She weighed me- I continue to stay with “2 pounds of center” after more than a year. Pretty darn good! BP continues to be excellent. Body temp a little low- nothing new. Then it was into one of those LOVELY backless hospital gowns. She DID give me blue non-skid surgical socks- they match my eyes! (Bat! Bat!) I got a couple of nice, heated blankets and then, in the pre-surgical bed.  

The next step was getting the IV in. On the upside, this was to be, theoretically, the last IV I will need to be “stuck” with. On the down side, the last month or two of IV sticks have not gone well as the veins get worse from the chemo. But this woman was GOOD. It went it SO well that I told her, “I may not remember my first IV, but I think I will remember my last!”  

Then, it was wait. Doctors and nurse came in and out checking on me and checking in WITH me. And then, about 8:15AM, they came in and announced that the time had come, the time was NOW! I was wheeling out of the waiting/recovery and down to the surgical suite. And from there, it was like an Indy pit crew. Switch beds. Roll this way. Lift your head. Slide over slightly. Lift your arms. Roll that way. We’re putting this rolled-up towel between the shoulder blades.  

The one interesting thing about this procedure was that I was told going in, “You’ll be fully awake but won’t feel the pain. We’ll manage that.” But I was told that same thing for the endoscopy and the colonoscopy…and don’t remember eight of them. So, I went into this one wondering if I would actually be awake. Nope! I remember the “rolled towel under that shoulder blades” and then, the next thing I know, I’m back in the recovery room with my wife and she is talking to me. I remember a grand, whopping total of…nothing! 

Before we could leave, I had to be able to walk around, drink and pee! Done, done and done! (Although it DID take a bit longer than they thought!) Of course, my wife drove home- through what turned out to be nearly blinding rain. We got home about 11:15AM and I pretty much went straight to bed and slept until about 2:20PM.  

As I write this (about 7:45PM last night), I have yet to feel ANY pain from the procedure ANY! I have pain meds, and I will probably take one proactively before I go to bed, but so far, this could not have gone better! I get to take the dressing off the “wound” tomorrow and the stitches are dissolving. So, we go back next Wednesday as a follow-up, right before going to see the oncologist and probably starting the next round of chemo. Glad yesterday is over, now…on to the next adventure!! 

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! 

Port Day!


Today is the day! Today is “Port Day”! (And I never got my Port Day greeting Cards out- doggone it!!) Today, I get the IV port put it. I used an expression in church to describe how early we had to be there today that I think confused a few people. The expression is simply an “old school”, down-home Southern Illinois term. The term is “the crack of midnight”. The point is that, if “the crack of dawn” is early, “the crack of midnight” must be REALLY early! With that in mind, we had to be at the hospital at “the crack of midnight” this morning! 

We actually don’t know what time the procedure itself is scheduled- we only know what time we have to be there. We have been told that the pre-op and post-op will take longer than the procedure itself. That will only be 10-15 minutes! 

They will sedate me at some level- we have also been told that I’ll remain fully awake throughout. Once they start, the will make a small incision near my left clavicle. They will then insert the tube, guided by technology, into the vein that is “down there”. (A technical, medical term!!)  The end of the tube, the “button” part of the port, will be inserted under the skin. Then they will sew up the tiny incision and- Voila- done! 

The surgeon is frighteningly confident in his abilities- exactly what I want in a surgeon! He has done more than 2,000 of these! I’ll just be another routine day at the office for him- another good thing in my mind. The fact that we have to be there so early tells me we must be at or near the top of the list. I figure he’ll be his freshest. Again, good! 

If you read my blog of a couple of days ago- it seemed REALLY strike a chord with a lot of people- the surgeon told us that, out of the 2.000+ of these he’s done, he has NEVER done one for a patient with Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer- one of the kinds I have. The reason? They haven’t lived long enough to need one! So, once again, “The Special Snowflake” is back at it! 

The surgery is so minor and so routine that he told us they could, if needed, immediately use the port! They won’t…but they could! That’s amazing. That, using the port, is scheduled for a week from tomorrow. We’ll have to see how that goes. My numbers have to be good enough. But if they are, 8 days from now will be the maiden voyage of the new port. I think I will appreciate the difference. I KNOW the techs who have to put the IV to administer the “chemo cocktail” will appreciate it! I’ll let you know tomorrow how today went! Stay tuned- same Bat-time, same Bat-channel! 

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! 


tevye71     Have you ever seen Fiddler on the Roof? There is, of course, a movie version of it. And I seriously doubt there is a high school in America that HASN’T done a production of that classic show somewhere along the way…at LEAST one! One of the classic songs from that classic musical is Tradition. And the concept of tradition is a very important theme in the show.

What does that word mean? A tradition is “a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past”. OK- I get that. People have traditions. Families have traditions. Communities have traditions. Countries have traditions. And churches have traditions.

Some church traditions are quite good. “Every Christmas, we prepare baskets for families that are in need.” Some church traditions aren’t good or bad…they just…are. “We always serve ham at our church Thanksgiving dinner.”

But when it gets interesting is when tradition can’t even be consistently defined. Here’s an example- Person A says, “We always sing [SONG TITLE] on Christmas Eve…and I always sing it. It’s our tradition.” That’s great…until you talk to Person B, “We always sing [SONG TITLE…same song] on Christmas Eve…and I always sing it. It’s our tradition.” they agree on which song is sung…but totally disagree on WHO sings it! (And in case you think that’s just a made-up example…think again!)

When I was new to the ministry, I was naive enough to think that “tradition” had one definition that everybody in the church agreed with. Please note the intentional use of the word “naive”! But over time, I have come to understand that “tradition” in a church is a slippery slope. In some cases, it is easily identified and continued. In other cases, even properly defining it can be next to impossible.

In the end, “we’ve always done it that way” is simply not reason enough to do something…especially when no one can even agree on how it’s always been done! It’s a good thing to change it up a bit from time to time. Introduce some new traditions while still embracing some of the “old” ones.

The next time you someone…anyone…use the term, “We’ve always done it that way!”, stop and think about that. A. Is that even accurate? And B. Is that a good reason to continue to do it instead of trying new 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!

The Five Sacrifices- The Trespass Sacrifice

5 Sacrifices The Trespass Sacrifice

My wife has this theory that seems to hold a GREAT deal of water when put to the test! Her theory is that, before you are born, God says, “Which do you want more of on Earth- intelligence or common sense? You can have SOME of both, but you can either be ‘REALLY SMART’ or you can have ‘REALLY GOOD COMMON SENSE’ but you don’t get both in large amounts!”

My parents were a GREAT example of that theory. My mom was a smart woman- don’t misunderstand. But she had a LOT of good ol’, plain ol’ common sense. My dad, on the other hand, was frighteningly smart but often lacked in common sense.

Once, my mom was canning. She had a small batch of something- picture one of those old-school yellow mixing bowls- about 12” across and 6” high. She asked how many pint jars we thought she needed to prep to hold the contents of that bowl. My then-girlfriend and I looked at and said, “What do you think- 6? 8?” Meanwhile, my dad breaks out paper, pencil and…a slide ruler. (Not kidding even a little bit!) He proceeds to crunch numbers, scribbling on the paper and sliding that slide ruler all OVER the place. We all wait as he completes his “calculamations”. He slaps the pencil down as if he’s finished the test and confidentially announces, “56 pints!” 56 PINTS?! “Dad, loot at the bowl. There’s NO way!” He insisted that he had crunched the numbers and that the slide ruler didn’t lie! You might imagine- my mom, with her common sense, did NOT prep 56 pint jars!

Today, we wrap our current sermon series- The Five Sacrifices. It’s been based on a list found in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus and included some powerful views on connecting with God. These “offerings of the law” are a pattern for our approach to God. Four weeks ago, we started with the first sacrifice, or offering, called The Burnt Sacrifice- the first step toward loving God more perfectly. Three weeks ago, we moved to the Meal Sacrifice- a grain offer that focused on a life dedicated to generosity and giving. Two weeks ago, we considered The Peace Sacrifice, which focused on praise and thanksgiving. Last week, we moved on to The Sin Sacrifice, which looked at our unintentional weaknesses and failures before God. And today, we come full circle as we end with The Trespass Sacrifice and focus on intentional sin. Today’s Scripture is found in the fifth chapter of the Book of Leviticus-

Leviticus 5- If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible. If anyone becomes aware that they are guilty, they must confess in what way they have sinned. As a penalty for the sin they have committed, they must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering and the priest shall make atonement for them for their sin and they will be forgiven.

     So, we now have Five Sacrifices. The first three, if you recall, were voluntary and seen as sweet aromas lifted to God. These last two were mandatory and seen as seeking atonement for sin. The difference is that last week’s Sin Sacrifice focused on unintentional sin. Todays’ Trespass Sacrifice focuses on intentional sin. Did you notice? The portion that we heard started right out with the concept that if you KNOW something, you’ve seen or heard something, you have a responsibility to speak up about it. If you do NOT, God will hold you accountable. In fact, the strict Levitical laws describe that behavior as sin- sin that requires the seeking of atonement. And the way they would atone- set things right- would be to bring a FEMALE lamb or goat from the flock as a offering of atonement.

It’s interesting that this is the ONLY one of the Five Sacrifices that focuses on female animals. There is a Latin term- Haggai Sophia. It means “the wisdom of God”. In an Old Testament, Orthodox understanding, the wisdom of God was seen as God’s more feminine side. (You can feel free to insert your joke here…and you would probably be right!)

So, one thing I carry away from this fifth Sacrifice is this- when you exercise Haggai Sophia- God’s Wisdom, you are responsible for what you hear and what you see. When we came here, one thing that impressed upon me by folks farther up the “United Methodist food chain” than me was that this congregation had GREAT potential for growth but was so landlocked that the only way it would work would be to build a new building.

But once we got here, we quickly saw two things: 1. This congregation has been a pillar and a beacon in this community IN THIS BUILDING for over 100 years. We are an integral part of the heart of this community. And 2. You all, wisely, invested a LOT of money in the past 12 years, making this building more secure and more useable. From nuts and bolts issues like tuckpointing, weatherproofing and roofing through that amazing elevator to the Campaign we are currently engaged in, you all have shown a REMARKABLE, UNPRECEDENTED commitment to BOTH holding your roots HERE AND growth. I don’t think you all realize how unique and special that makes you.

With that in mind, I would like to invite our Administrative Council Chairperson and a team of leaders to come forward with a unique, unexpected opportunity they want to present to you.

Roll With the Punches


You may or may not find this hard to believe, but I am a pretty big fan of professional boxing. I don’t watch it all the time. And frankly, I could tell you little to nothing about the current state of affairs of the sport. But “back in the day”, from Ali up through Tyson, I watched pretty much every major fight I could. I know- it’s brutal. I know- it’s savage. But there is something barbarically simple about two guys, getting in the ring and simply punching it out until one emerges the victor. Yes, there is pageantry. Yes, there is pomp and circumstance. But unlike professional wrestling (which, while “scripted”, is a dangerous venture on its own. Those get very legitimately injured quite regularly), when two guys step INTO the ring, ANY outcome CAN happen. 

There is a concept in boxing that I call “rolling with the punch”. (I have no idea if there is an “actual” term for it.) You see it happen all the time. A punch is thrown. The boxer on the receiving end tries to either A. duck it completely or B. block it. BUT- if they fail at those choices, they at least try to “roll with the punch”. 

Think about it- you throw a punch. If I do nothing, you hit me dead on. Whatever part of my body you hit takes the full brunt of the blow and does maximum damage. But, if I roll with the punch- pull BACK as the punch is connecting- my backward motion absorbs some of your forward motion, thereby softening the blow a bit. It doesn’t always work- timing is very important. But when it DOES work, it can be the difference between losing and not losing, 

That’s what getting cancer treatment is like. The punch comes- chemo or radiation. You can’t dodge it or block- then it won’t help. You have to take the blow. BUT- if you learn to roll with the punch, you can soften the blow. And that’s what my wife and I have tried to do with my treatments. You look for trends in how your body reacts. And, while that is a very inexact science, trends DO emerge if you pay attention.  

For instance, once I receive an IV infusion of chemo drugs, I KNOW that the rest of that day is not going to be too awful because of the drugs they give you prior to administering the chemo. I ALSO know that Day 2 will be a relatively awful day, and so we plan accordingly. Then, Day 3 is going to feel like a “bounce back day” and so we also plan for that. But Days 4 & 5 are going to be a slide backward again. By Day 6, you’re starting to again feel human and that get better every day, pretty much, until you have the next treatment.  

The truth is, there is no point in trying to simply stand there, take that punch and then try to move forward like you didn’t get hit. NOT a good choice. But, if you roll with the punch, anticipate how you are going to feel on those days, you can lessen the negative impact of the chemo by planning around it.  

What does all of this have to do with you? Regardless of whether you are a cancer patient, a caregiver or just Average Joe Citizen, it has a LOT to do with you. Life is GOING to throw punches- period. Some of them will just be little jabs that you can duck and parry from. But some of them are going to be haymakers out of the blue that threaten to cold-cock you right on the spot. Duck and parry as best you can. But when the really big ones come, the ones you can’t avoid or block, roll with them. Take them as best you can and then figure out how to best move forward. Stay on your feet. Keep moving. Don’t throw in the towel. Fight the good fight! 

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!