Are You Leading or Taking a Walk?: Courage

Are You Leading Courage

Several years ago now, my wife and I were in Memphis on a brief vacation. While there, one of stops we made was at the Pink Palace- a really cool museum there. As we walked around, all of a sudden, there was, right in front of us, a museum employee who was holding a 4-foot albino boa constrictor. The reaction that each of us had was a different as it could be. As I back-pedaled as quickly as I could, my wife stepped forward and…accepted the woman’s offer to hold that wretched creature! I stepped BACK a little further and took a picture while she held that snake and petted it. She is truly Wonder Woman!

I am, I will claim, not afraid of much. People say, “Oh, the church is scary late at night. It makes lots of noises and I’m afraid to be in it by myself after dark! Aren’t you afraid to be in there at night?” My come response is, “Not even a little bit. In fact, I will walk through the 100+ year old building late and night and not even turn the lights on- I just use the red lights from the “exit signs” to see. Doesn’t bother me a bit.

When there is somebody outside the house or it sounds like somebody is IN the house, I’m comfortable to walk right into the fray, not smart enough to be afraid. When we stop to see if someone broken down on the side of the road needs help, I will tell my wife, “I’m leaving the car running- lock me out. If there is a problem, drive away and call for help. I’m simply not afraid of much. But I am TERRIFIED of snakes. I have no idea why it’s snakes, but I DO know that I felt I was in better company when the first Indiana Jones movie came out and we all learned that even that fearless, intrepid explorer is terrified of snakes! “Snakes- why’d it have to be

What IS leadership? And perhaps more importantly, who does it apply to? Today, we continue our current sermon series- Are You Leading or Taking a Walk? It’s based on the concept that, if you think you’re leading but look behind you to find that no one is following- you’re just out taking a walk! This series is NOT simply for “church leaders” but for…everyone. We are ALL called to be leaders- in our homes, our church, our community and the world. We are called to help lead by connecting people to Jesus Christ. This series focuses on the qualities of a good leader as seen through the lens of some of Jesus’ 12 disciples.  Today, we look at James, another of the “Big Three” along with Jon, who we looked at last week and Peter, who is coming up. Today, we consider another important aspect of good leadership- courage.

     Luke 5:9-11 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So, they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.

James, often called the Elder, same surname as his brother John –Boanerges. Again, he is the son of Zebedee and Salome, a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem. He preached in Jerusalem and Judea and was the first of the disciples who was martyred- beheaded by Herod, AD 44. As I mentioned last week, he was a member of the Inner Circle, the Big Three, along with Peter and John. The New Testament doesn’t really tell us very much about James. His name never appears apart from that of his brother, John. They were inseparable pair.

He was a man of great forgiveness. He was a man without jealousy. He was a man of extraordinary faith. He lived in the shadow of John. And he was a man of great courage. If you noticed, Jesus tells the Disciples in this passage, “Don’t be afraid.” That’s what EVERY angel who appears in the Bible says. Depending on the translation, there are 365 examples in the Bible of Heavenly beings telling us average Joe citizens “don’t be afraid”- one for each day of the year!

And James, along with the others, showed great courage by dropping EVERYTHING and following Him. James continues to shows great courage, boldly proclaiming the Gospel until, as I said, eventually being the first of the Disciples to be martyred.

To have courage requires confidence. The best leaders are very confident in themselves and their ideas, which allows them to be decisive, courageous. But, they have to be able to share that courage without being arrogant and bragging.

Great leaders have the ability to make tough decisions and are courageous, even when conventional wisdom would dictate otherwise. They are willing enough and courageous enough to stand alone if they believe in their convictions. This is directly related to their visionary skills, strategic thinking and their self-confidence. They are also courageous enough to be able to recognize when they need the expertise or knowledge of others and are not afraid to admit it. The strongest leaders are confident in themselves and their ideas, which allows them to be decisive and courageous. I want to leave you today with the wisdom of six great minds from history- all well-known but from a wide varieties of backgrounds.

Winston Churchill said, “Failure is NOT fatal- it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Thucydides, an Athenian historian and general, said, “The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.”

Author t.s. eliot said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

I’m COLD!

Cold-Weather-Movies-082215

I figure that this winter ought to be interesting. Here we are- it is only the end of September and I am struggling to stay warm. To be fair, the morning temps here have been in the 40’s the last few days. But even at 68-70 degrees with the sun blocked and a good breeze blowing- I’m cold! 

I good example would be yesterday. At lunchtime, I took the dog out to “do her business”. It was in the mid-60’s. I was already wearing a t-shirt and gym shorts, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants AND a zip-up “warm up” jacket. To take her out, I added gloves, a scarf AND a coat with the hood up! I am clearly struggling with issues of body heat! 

It is NOT uncommon, in my circumstance, to experience this. My core temperature is routinely down when we go to the doctor’s office- because of the cancer and the treatment. Couple that with the aversion to cold that this round of chemo causes and it’s no wonder I’m cold.   

This is SO foreign to me. My WHOLE life, I have been the warm-blooded one. In the middle of winter, I was known to be walking around the house in shorts and a t-shirt. I would absolutely wear a coat outside during the “cold months”, but I would rarely zip it up. And I was perfectly comfortable. By the time we hit 70 as a regular outside temperature, I was starting to sweat when I was outside.  

But again, cancer and its treatments tend to change all of that. Although I can’t speak for every cancer patient, and wouldn’t try to, I KNOW that they have impacted ME that way. And my sense is- I’m not alone here! 

So, perhaps we’ll move to Del Boca Vista Condo Development #3 in Florida, get a time share, break out our cabana wear, socks with sandals and a big straw hat and sip Mai Tais by Phase Three’s pool. We’ll eat breakfast at 5AM, lunch at 11AM and dinner at 3:30PM- the Early Bird Special. We’ll watch whatever is on the channel that the TV happens to be on because we won’t know how to change the channel. And then, we’ll go to bed at 8:30PM. The next day, to quote that great theologian Jackson Browne, we’ll “get up and do it again. Amen.” Or then again, maybe I’ll just bundle up tighter and stay right where we are! I think that WOULD be best! 

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!

Something to Talk About

talking-Touchscreen

My wife and I started dating in April…of 1977! Yep! We were sophomores in High School (our school district had 7th-9th Grades at the Junior High and Sophomore, Junior, Senior at the High School.) and met almost exactly 42 years ago. Oh. My. Gosh!! 42 years ago! That is amazing to me!

We met on a hayride. (Ironically, we were within about a mile of my house…out in the middle of absolutely nowhere…at the moment we met!) Our meeting was rather inauspicious- she was dating someone and I had just been dumped by somebody! But over the weeks and months ahead, a friendship grew. That friendship grew so much, in fact, that on her 16th birthday- late April- we went on our first date!

One of the things I noticed right up front with her (I mean, in addition to the fact that she’s gorgeous!) is that we always had things to talk about. There were simply never those awkward moments when there was nothing to say. WE just always had something to talk about. And we always seemed to enjoy talking to each other.

Take, for example, when we go out to eat. You have to assume that we have shared WAY over 30,000 meals together over the years. WAY over! And you could easily make come to conclusion that, after that many meals, there would simply be nothing left to talk about. And…you would be wrong!

I see these couples sitting in restaurants. All too often, one of two things is going on: either 1. they are both buried in a book or a tablet and completely ignoring each other or 2. they are just sitting there, NOT reading, just eating…and completely ignoring each other. Two grown human beings, married for however many years, who can’t even think of one thing to say to each other? Or maybe they can…and they just don’t want to!

We have a deal in our family- no books, phones, tablets, magazines, whatever at the table. None. Period. And that rings true for us whether we are all eating together or whether it’s just me and my wife. We not only can always find things to talk about- we actually enjoy talking to each other! We laugh, we share, we reminisce, we talk about the kids, we talk about church…whatever. We talk about everything. We talk about nothing. We just…talk!

I feel incredibly blessed to have met this amazing woman all those years ago. I feel incredibly blessed that she actually wanted to marry me. And I feel incredibly blessed that, after all these years she stills wants to hang with me and we still have things to talk about!
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

It’s Code!

codecode

OK- I have already shared (TOO many times) about diarrhea. But here is ONE more funny (hopefully) story about it! (Is that oxymoronic, before I even start? “Funny” and “diarrhea” in the same sentence?) In 1999, Billy Graham came to St. Louis. We had been serving a church on the Illinois side of the St. Louis area for 2 years by then. We (the church) chartered a bus to take us there every night. (Many of us “worked” the event, in one capacity or another.) We also partnered with what was my wife and my home church- they drove to our church, which was closer to the venue, and shared our chartered bus.  

So, the bottom line was, I got to ride the bus with my current parishioners AND members of my home church. Pretty cool stuff. The first night, I sat with a member of our home church- we’ll call him Tom Corning. (I RARELY name names in this blog, and almost always, when I do, I’ll say “let’s call him…”. Sometimes, the name IS made up and sometimes, the name is actual. I always say, however, “let’s call them…”) This time, the name is COMPLETELY made up. The person was real. The events were real. But the name? Not so much! 

So, the first night I sat with Tom. We “caught up”, not having seen each other for a few years. Along the way, the conversation led to how life changes as you get older. And Tom said something that made me almost drop to the floor from laughter. He said, “I’m at a point where I base the quality of my day on the quality of my BM!”  

Fast-forward to the NEXT night. Tom ends up at the front of the bus while I end up at the back of the bus. As we are about to take off to head to Billy Graham, Tom stands up and hollers my name. This, of course, not only gets MY attention but the attention of everyone on the bus. I look and the bus gets quiet. Tom smiles and loudly announces, “to me”, “I had a good BM!” I LOST it while everyone else on the bus was left to wonder- has he LOST it?! 

Since “bowel habits” have become such an issue for me, my wife and I developed a code. (Because REALLY, who wants to talk about diarrhea and constipation all the time? No one I know!) Here’s the code- when I have a “bout” of diarrhea, I will say, “Tom Corning called!” And, of course, we both know what that REALLY means. So, it’s not unusual to hear any of the following at our house currently- “Tom Corning called.” “Tom Corning called 3 times yesterday.” “Tom Corning called at 3:30 this morning.” “When Tom Corning calls, you HAVE to stop and answer!” “I wish Tom Corning would stop calling so much.” I am quite sure that Tom, who is, sadly, no longer with us, had NO idea what an impact that one extremely funny “throw-away” line had on my family! Now, if you’ll excuse me…Tom Corning is calling!! 

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!

25 Novels

25 novels

I was thinking- (THAT will get you in trouble!!) I started this blog on September 14, 2009. That means that today would be- roughly- Blog Post #3,297. That would also mean that, over the last roughly 9 years I have written and published over 2.5 MILLION words in this space. The average novel is somewhere around 100,000 words. I would guess that would mean that, during that time, I have published about the equivalent of 25 novels…in roughly 9 years. That blows my mind. 

I started this blog because it sounded like something I would enjoy. The jury is still out about that one! But I’ll get back to you!! I also decided, right out of the box, to write daily. I know myself. If I had started it with the approach a lot of bloggers take- “I’ll write when I have something to say”- I would find an excuse to not write every day. And SOON, it would have been an old car, abandoned and pushed off into the weeds, barely visible and only if you really looked for it.  

Then, in 2013, they found the brain tumor. And for the next basically year, this site became my version of CaringBridge- keeping people posted on my health. After I got past that, other than reporting on the return visits to make sure the tumor wasn’t coming back, it morphed back into a daily blog.  

And then, June of 2017 came. The cancer diagnosis came. And the site turned back into Rev. Mark’s personal CaringBridge site. I mean, I DO still post “regular” blogs, because frankly…there isn’t always something new to report every day.  

But what has amazed me is the “life of its own” this site has taken on. I was talking to my sister on the phone and she mentioned about how many people in other parts of the state are reading this. People who don’t know me. People who have never met me. But people who are touched by the honesty and transparency they say they find in it. People continue to talk to me about how they read every day. Or they have got their dad, or their mom, or their brother or grandma or neighbor or whoever reading it. People who have cancer and are struggling to find answers seem to be finding hope and encouragement here. 

First off, I am deeply humbled at that reality. It IS my goal…but I am deeply humbled. Second, the funny thing is that often I sit down to write and what ends up on the computer screen was NOT what I set out to write. I often have to change the title I started with or picture a different picture to go along with the blog because I ended up in a totally different place than where I set out to go.  

I THINK that’s because I have learned to simply “let go and let God” when I write. I just sit at the keyboard and let whatever is in there pour out. Does that mean I have this illusion that I am some “modern day prophet”, passing on directly the word of God? Nope! Instead, I’m just an average Joe citizen, trying to do my best every day and working hard to follow God’s leading in my life.  

Does it stink that I have cancer? Speaking personally, YES! But has God found a way to use this situation to further His kingdom and highlight His love and His glory? Also…yes! And I’m OK with that. I must decrease so that He may increase. If I have to decrease, I amd delighted that it so that He may increase! Thanks for reading! 

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!

Another Cheeseburger Story?!

cheeseburger

Many people get worried about addiction to prescription meds or alcohol or cigarettes. I MIGHT need to start worrying about an addiction to…cheeseburgers! Last night, I ate my 4th one in a week! If you remember, a few days back I shared that I ate a cheeseburger from McDonalds. (https://stickwithjesus.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/i-ate-a-cheeseburger/) And for MOST people, that is NOT an event to celebrate. It’s just…you know…food. But when you haven’t been able to actually eat “food” to speak of, eating a cheeseburger, as I shared in that blog, is a big deal!  

I ate that first one. Then we went BACK to McDonalds about 2 days later, where I had Cheeseburger #2. Over the weekend, our younger son was home from college and we ordered out from a local café for dinner. I had…a cheeseburger! And then came…last night. 

A few months back, we bought a ¼ of a cow from friends of ours at church. My wife and I, as a couple, have NEVER done that before. We have always bought our meat from the grocery store. Growing up, my parents bought beef a side (half a cow) at a time from a local meat locker. (They had A. more mouths to feed than we do and B. a bigger freezer than we do!) But MY family had never done it before. 

We decided right up front to eat anything “store-bought” first, to use it up. I like to buy meat when it’s on sale, whether we actually need it or not, and throw it in the freezer. Then, we look at what we have and that dictates what we eat. So, we ate up the store-bought stuff before going for the “good stuff”. 

That got us into the steaks from the fresh beef almost immediately. (WE don’t buy much steak around here, except for special occasions!) But it took up a bit to get through the store-bought ground beef we had on hand. Well, we finally worked through that a couple of weeks ago. But based on how I’ve been feeling and what life has been like, we had tapped the fresh ground beef yet. That happened yesterday. 

I was feeling pretty good and hadn’t cooked in a while. I LOVE to cook and miss it when I don’t/can’t. So, yesterday morning, I announced to my wife that it was “cook lots of ground beef day”! I started with getting 4 pounds out of the freezer to thaw. But by the time I was done planning, that 4 pounds had burgeoned to 8 pounds.  

It thawed (pretty much) over the course of the day. Then, with dinnertime approaching, I got to work. First, I peeled off enough of the thawed meat to make two really nice, good-sized burgers. I formed those patties, put them on a paper plate and set them aside. 

Then, I put about 3½ pounds of the ground beef in a skillet with 2 large, chopped onions and cooked that up to be taco meat or sloppy joes or whatever. At the same time, I thawed the rest of the meat in the microwave and I chopped more onions.  

That all went into a bowl with a couple of eggs and some ketchup and barbecue sauce. I mad 2 skilletfuls for meat balls out of that, put them on a cookie sheet and froze them. That way, we can pull out just as many as we want to cook with and not have to thaw the whole bag.  

I then shredded up 3 carrots into the meat mixture that was left and made a dozen “muffin tin” meat loaves, topped with a little ketchup and barbecue sauce. After baking those, they each went into a sandwich bag, then a gallon freezer bag and then into the freezer, ready to be pulled out, as many or few as we wanted, when the time was right. 

THEN came the burgers! It was nothing fancy- two nice-sized burgers cooked in a skillet. No big whoop. I topped them with what we call “cheap cheese”- the individually-wrapped singles. I ate mine with a simple, cheapy wheat hamburger bun and mayo while she ate hers with NO bun and mayo and ketchup. They were SO good. (At least, with my dinihsed ability to taste, I THINK THEY were! My wife loved hers, I know that!) 

Enjoy the simple things. Take time to do what you love to do, with people you love being with. The world will keep on spinning and you WILL get the other things, the things you HAVE to do, done! 

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!

Quarantined!

hazmat

Quarantined. I use that word to describe what I am right now. It is, of course, not an accurate word to use. Quarantined means “impose isolation on a person”. Okay, maybe it IS the right word! 

When I think of the word, I think of someone who is in some kind of isolation in a hospital ward somewhere. The few people who come in have to wear full hazmat suits and masks, like that. And if THAT’S what “quarantined” is, then no- I am not. BUT- if it means “impose isolation on a person”, then that EXACTLY what I am!  

With my immune system so shot and my blood count number low, I simply can’t afford to get sick. If I get a bug that someone else has- we pass them around like they were candy- my body will be unable to adequately fight it off. That could be a bad thing! A “common” cold could be catastrophic in MY body. And so- quarantined! 

Let me explain further. My oncologist said it would be best for me to limit contact, limit exposure to large groups, as much as possible. I chuckled. I mean, I’m a pastor. Large group are my specialty. So, I have learned to compromise. I still lead 3 worship services every Sunday. But I have had to adapt how I do that.  

My usual M.O. is that I try to shake EVERY hand that comes in the building on Sunday morning. And since we are averaging about 280/week in worship- that’s a LOT of hands! Well, NO handshaking. No hugging. I’ve even eliminating fist-bumping. NO contact. Couple that with, at least for now I simply can’t walk as far as I used to be able to, and it means that I stand (or sit) in the back of the sanctuary and wave “hi” at as many people as I can. 

I also don’t attend our Wednesday night meals and ministry nights. Too close contact with too many people. I skip our United Methodist Men’s monthly dinner meetings for the same reason. Next month, we will have 700+ people visit us for our annual Trunk or Treat event. I will need to somehow amend how I am involved in that.  In November, we’ll have our annual Follow the Star Holiday Bazaar. I probably won’t attend that, either.  

The truth is- I understand it. It all makes perfect sense. Do the BEST you can to set yourself up for success. BUT…I DON’T have to like it! I am an odd duck- fiercely private but extremely social when it comes to church. I love being at church worship and social events. I love going around and checking in with everybody- seeing how they are doing and letting them know I’m glad they are there. But now, I am relegated to standing in the back of the sanctuary, arms folded, smiling, welcoming and reminding people, “No contact!” Yet another “day in the life” of a cancer patient! 

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!