Quite the Outpouring

Image result for jesus hand on your shoulder     I have been somewhat amazed by the outpouring from yesterday’s blog about seeing Heaven. I realize that the naysayers are more prone to simply stay out of it. So, I have no illusion that everyone who read the blog agreed with my assessment that it was a real, tangible event and not just a dream. And I’m OK with that. Everybody has to figure out for themselves what they believe and what they don’t. And I don’t begrudge anybody that freedom. BUT- I DO know what I experienced! 

All of you who contacted me were very supportive. But more than that, many of you have had your own experience, or someone you know/love/trust has, of Heaven. And the stories were fascinating to read. The blog obviously touched a nerve.  

One of the best “Heaven” stories I have ever been a part of happened about 12 years ago or so. A parishioner was in the “active stage” of dying. He was under hospice care at home. It was about 4:30AM. I had been called out by the family. He was in a hospital bed, laboring HARD with every breath he tried to take. I was seated by his right side. His wife was standing by his left side. Other family members were gathered at the foot of his bed. It had been quiet for some time when, seemingly out the blue, the wife started talking. She was telling him it was OK to let go. She would be fine. He could let go and “go home”. Then, silence fell back over the room.  

Then, it happened. Not 4 minutes after she said that, after HOURS of this horribly labored breathing, he simply…stopped. He stopped. He died. She said she’d be OK. She gave him “permission” to let go. And…he did. The hospice nurse stepped up, checked vitals and confirmed that he was dead.  

Then, his wife said something I will never forget. She said, “You all saw that, didn’t you?” I replies, “I didn’t SEE anything…but I sure felt it.” Everyone else in the room immediately agreed after I “broke the ice”. I asked he what she saw. She said, as she stood there, a hand was suddenly on her shoulder. No one was close enough to her to do that. She turned, and she said Jesus was standing there next to her, encouraging her to let him go. That’s when we turned and told him it was OK. 

We all assured her that, although we didn’t see or hear anything, we ALL felt it- the presence in the room. It was palpable. There was NO doubt in my mind one more person was in that room that, although we couldn’t see or hear Hi, was a real as any of us.  

I have seen it too many times to dismiss it. A person is actively dying. There is no earthly reason they are still alive. And yet, they keep on. And then, someone gives them permission to go, assuring their dying loved one that they will be OK. Or someone who has been coming in from out of town finally makes it and gets to see the patient. But regardless of what they are waiting for, once they are no longer waiting…they let go and die.  

The human spirit is strong, resilient. And the Holy Spirit is infinitely stronger and more resilient. When you combine the two, miracles happen. I have witnessed many. Thank you to those who shared having their own experiences of the miraculous. God is good, all the 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!

I Saw Heaven. NOT Kidding!

Heaven 9

Now it can be told. A week ago Sunday night/early Monday morning…I saw Heaven. Not kidding even a little bit. No metaphors or similes here. I. Saw. Heaven. Let me explain. OK- TRY to explain. I will fail! 

The cancer (I would presume) and the impact it has on my subconscious causes me to have very frenetic dreams. (If you are not familiar with the word “frenetic”…it means exactly what it sounds like it means!) They aren’t always “bad” dreams per se. But they often negatively impact my sleep and occasionally cause me to wake up in a full-blown panic attack. I do NOT want to take medicine for it. But I have prayed every night that they would go away.  

Then came early Monday morning a week+ ago. I woke up. Had to go to the bathroom. (Darn 57-year old bladder!) I got up, went, came back to bed. I fell back to sleep quickly. And then, everything changed. I was suddenly…in Heaven. And the weird thing about it was that I saw…nothing. No buildings. No giant gates made of giant pearls. No choirs of angels. No loved ones beckoning me home. And no God, Jesus or St. Peter meeting me at the entrance. Instead, everything was just…white. A soft, but rather bright, white light. Not from ONE source (“I saw the light and went toward it”) but just from everywhere. That was all I saw. Although I was walking, there seemed to be no discernible floor or “ground”. Imagine walking through the middle of a pure white cloud with no discernible detail- all smooth and even. That’s what I saw. 

What did I hear? Nothing as well. No choir singing. No harps. No soft voices beckoning me forward or encouraging me to go back. Everything was stone silent, featureless, people-less…and the most peaceful thing I have ever experienced. It was rather brief…I think.  

You may be asking, “How do you know it just wasn’t another dream?” I can’t answer that question because I don’t HAVE any answers. But I CAN tell you that…I just know. I have NO doubt about it. I. Saw. Heaven.  

So, what does it mean? I don’t know, which is why we are more than a week past it and I am just now writing about it. I talked to my wife about it the next day (I am not ashamed to confess that I cried as I shared this vision with her), but have been processing it ever since. It’s hard to wrap the scientific, analytical side of my brain around what I experienced and why I am so sure of what I saw. But I would stake my reputation against the fact that it was real. It was NOT a dream, it was a vision. From God. A gift. An effort to tell me something. I have my own theories as to what that “something” is, but I would be curious to hear what YOU think God’s purpose was. Feel free to message me or respond here with any thoughts you might have.  

(On a side not- perhaps totally related, perhaps not related at all- but my dreams have been MUCH better since then. NOT always perfect. Still sometimes frenetic. But MUCH better!) 

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!

God Called Me

Baptism_Plain

What a day in church yesterday! Saturday, evening, about 8:30PM, God spoke. He said, “Hey! You know that ‘close’ you wrote for tomorrow morning’s service? Yeah…about that…it kinda’ stinks! How about THIS instead.” And He dropped an idea in my head. I then re-wrote probably the last 1/3 of my sermon! And here’s what happened.

The “new and revised” version built toward an altar call. I encouraged 3 things: 1. if you have NEVER been baptized, but would like to be, come, 2. If you HAVE been baptized, but you feel like you have strayed, come and 3. if you would like to join the church but haven’t, come.

I shared that I didn’t want ANYBODY coming because they felt bad for me that no one came forward. It is a somewhat risky move, but I assured them that A. I’m a big boy and B. I can stand up front and act the fool as well as anybody! I do it every week! I also shared that I didn’t want them NOT coming because they felt self-conscious about what people would think or because, to quote that great theologian Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow’s another day.” If there is one thing 18 months into a 4-6 month terminal cancer diagnosis has taught me, it’s that there may not a tomorrow. Today IS the day. I had the sound tech start sound background music on the iPod and off we went.

At ALL 3 SERVICES, people immediately started to come. As they reach me, I asked if they had been baptized. (Although, for MANY of them, I knew in advance!) If they had been baptized but wanted to renew it, I did that. That amount to literally several dozen people throughout the morning. If they had never been baptized but wanted to, I baptized them, individually, on the spot. We ended up baptizing 5 people. And if they had already been baptized but wanted to join the church, I had them stand off to the side for a moment. Once all of the “baptism-related” folks made it through, I then turned to the membership folks. In the end, we brought 4 new members in. So, if you were keeping score at home, that’s 4 new members, 5 baptisms and dozens and dozens of “remember your baptisms”!

Again, it was an awesome morning, totally unexpected by everyone in the building until they heard the sermon and totally unexpected by even me until 8:30 Saturday evening. I love it when I get a nudge from God that changes everything! The spontaneity and the movement of the Holy Spirit throughout the sanctuary and throughout the morning was palpable. Tears were flowing. People were deeply moved. It was GREAT- a true gift from 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!

John’s 3 Letters: Water and Blood

Johns 3 Letters Water and Blood

When my wife and I were kids, the in which we grew up, Alton, IL, had MANY neighborhood parks. One of them was, as I recall, just past the “split between State Street and 9th Street. If you bore to the left, you were on 9th Street and if you bore right, you were on State Street and headed right past a little park called Olin Park that, according to Google Maps still sits there.

At least back then, the park featured a small playground and a baseball diamond. The playground was right by the street, separated from the public sidewalk by a low stone wall. Next to the playground was the baseball diamond, set down into a “natural amphitheater”. As with most kids, I loved ANY playground I could find. (We had no playground equipment out “on the farm” and therefore I didn’t get a ton of opportunity to avail myself.)

My dad was out of town for work- very “normal”. My mom was trying to do EVERYTHING by herself, also very normal. And my brother had a baseball game at that park. So she dropped us kids off- my sister was 12, my brother was 10 and I was 6- and headed off to do errands. Now, I would NEVER do that in this day and ages. But 1967 WASN’T “this day and age” and she did it. I was playing on the playground- a PAVED, flat area with equipment mounted in it- with my sister as I recall. I feel off of…something…and skinned my knee pretty badly. It was bleeding and I was crying. There wasn’t much at that park in the way of a First Aid station. Besides, I refused to let my sister help me. I wanted Mom. So, against my sister’s insistence and wishes, I sat on that low stone wall and waited.

As I sat there, blood oozing and gnats gathering, trying not to keep crying, ALL I think about was how everything would be better once Mom got back. People who came by offered to help BUT…they weren’t Mom so I assured them I was OK and “dismissed” them. Eventually, Mom got back, felt horrible, chastised my sister…even though it was NOT her fault…and took me to get cleaned up. AS we washed the blood away with some cool, clear water, I thought about the fact that NOW- everything was going to be alright. Water and Blood.

Our current sermon series- John’s 3 Letters- focuses on the 3 letters of John (Makes sense!) found near the tail end of the New Testament. They’re rarely read, rarely referenced, but have a lot packed into their short length. Three different letters, written at three different times, to three different people- yet they’re all tied together by the same ideas. Last week, we started by talking about Love and Hatred. Today, we move to Water and Blood. Here is today’s Scripture:

1John 5:1-8 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His Child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the One Who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

So, let’s take a minute and dismantle today’s Scripture and see what it is really saying. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well.” If you believe in Jesus and Who He was…IS…you are born of God. And therefore, if you love God, you love His Son as well. OK, makes sense.

To better prove his point, John goes on to that, in fact, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands.” How we know that we adequately love one another? We love God AND carry out His commands. “Well gee, that’s SWELL because I can say that I love God!” Ah, but it’s not enough to just say, “I love God”. I have to also carry out His commands. Come ON- that’s hard!!

John goers on to say. “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” In other words, keeping the commandments isn’t just showing love FOR God. It IS love for God. And he says that keeping the commandments isn’t a burden. If you are born of God, you have already overcome the world.

The next thing John says is, “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” The only way- the ONLY way- to overcome the world is to believe in Jesus Christ. “I am THE Way, THE Truth and THE Light…”

He then closes today’s Scripture with, “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the One Who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”

OK- sounds great. But what does “come by water…and blood” actually mean? I think it has two meanings…at least. We’ll close by focusing on those two. There is a literally meaning- biologically speaking. We are ALL born of water and blood in that sense. The blood that is passed down from parents to child and the blood that flows during childbirth is mingled with the water of the birth itself and we are born OF that- through it.

BUT- there is so much more there as well. To be born of water and blood is also a direct connect to baptism and Communion- the two…ONLY two…Sacraments of the United Methodist Church. To be born of water spiritually is represented by baptism. The Holy Spirit washes over us, cleansing us of our sin and bringing us into closer relationship with God. The blood that Jesus shed on the cross on our behalf is representatively found in the cup of Communion. The wine- or in our case, Welches- that we consume take the place of that blood, renews and refilling us. So, we, as flesh and blood humans, are born of the water and the blood. And we as believers are born of the Water and the Blood.

What about you? And you born of the lower-case water and blood only? Or are you also born of the capital Water and Blood as well? To be born of the capital Water and Blood is to be “born again”, as it were. We die to self and are re-born as children of God, fearfully and wonderfully made.

With all of that in mind, I am going to ask a couple of questions and then do something I NEVER do. First, the questions. What about YOU? Have YOU been baptized? Have you made that leap of faith, that “next-level” commitment to God? Have you been baptized but feel like you have fallen way? I am going to open up the altar. If you have NOT been baptized, or you feel you have strayed and need to renew your baptism, I want you to come forward. I WANT 6you to come forward. I will ask you if you have been baptized. If the answer is “no”, I will baptize you right then and there. If the answer is “yes”, I will instead renew your baptism.

The other question is, “have you joined the church? If not, is NOW the time?” If you feel led to join the church TODAY, and you came up to be baptized or renew your baptism, just step off to the side for a moment. When anyone who wants to be baptized or have their baptism renewed have come, I will open the altar to anyone who is still out in the congregation and wants to join the church. (Please keep in mind that you DO need to have been baptized to join the church.) I will then lead any and all who remain in the vows of membership.

Please DON’T come simply because nobody else comes and you feel bad for me. This is NOT about me. But please don’t avoid coming because you don’t like to draw attention to yourself or because you keep telling yourself, Tomorrow is another day.” One day, that won’t be true. TODAY is the day. Why? Because God wants to wipe the blood from our skinned lives. He wants to cleanse our playground wounds with His healing Living Water. Because He wants to make us whole. Because we are NOT physical beings on a spiritual journey, but we are spiritual beings on an earthly journey. Water and blood. If you feel led to come, for ANY of those reasons, don’t let ANYTHING hold you back today. If you feel led to come because you wish to be baptized or have your baptism renewed, please come, for all is ready.

A Recipe to Try- California Breakfast Casserole

california breakfast casserole

You know, if you read this blog very often, that I like to cook. So, how’s THIS for a recipe? It’s called California Breakfast Casserole. My sister forwarded it to us and I made a couple of alterations. (Gee- what a surprise!)  Here it is:

A pound of breakfast sausage (recipe called for pre-cooked sausage patties)

3-6 Roma tomatoes (depending on size), sliced into “coins”

2-3 ripe avocados (depending on size), peeled, cored and sliced

1 lb. (or so) Shredded hash browns (thawed but uncooked)

1 large sweet potato (uncooked and shredded, recipe did NOT call for this, but my sister uses them in place of the hash browns. I threw caution to the wind and used BOTH!)

1 C. Shredded Cheddar

12 eggs

1¼  C. milk

Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X13 casserole dish with Pam. Cook the sausage in a skillet and layer it in the bottom of the 9X13. Cover the sausage with a layer of Roma tomato slices. Cover the Romas with a layer of avocado. Next, a layer of hash browns followed by a layer of sweet potato. Cover that with the cheese.

Wisk eggs, milk salt and pepper together. Pour it evenly over the casserole. Put the casserole in the over, uncovered, and bake for 55-60 minutes- until a knife blade comes out relatively clean. (DON’T wait until the blade is dry- the casserole will be over-cooked. 60 minutes seemed to work out perfectly for me.)

Serve with diced tomatoes, diced onions and sour cream on the side. My “maiden voyage is done, cooling and “setting” on the stove, waiting for the boys to get home! (We “snuck” a piece and loVED it!) Try it and tell me what you think!

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!

Revelation

There have been times in my ministry when I was neck-deep in the New Testament Book of Revelation for…a WHOLE lot of weeks! I taught a study a few years back on it in a Tuesday morning Bible Study. WE decided right up front to spend 1 week/chapter. Now, that is NOT 1 week/chapter of a STUDY GUIDE, but 1 week/chapter of…the Book of Revelation! That means we spent 22 weeks studying that book. Right about the time we finished that Tuesday morning study, I started the SAME study for a Wednesday night group! By the time the dust settles, I spent basically 44 straight weeks on the Book of Revelation! That’s a lot!

But if you have read the Book of Revelation, you know that you could spend 144 weeks studying it and still not really have a great handle on it! It is a TOUGH nut to crack! I would argue that it is THE toughest book in the Bible to get your head around!

Why is that? Well, for one thing…it’s pretty doggone scary!There’s LOTS of mayhew and killing. Horrifying beasts. Locusts with human faces and women’s hair. Dragons. Pits of fire. I mean, this could be a Stephen King novel…right?

But I think there is more, underneath all the overt “scare-fest”, that makes us stop dead in our tracks. (EVERY pun intended!) If you are a believer, then the Book of Revelation is the Apostle John’s way of describing what he saw when God revealed what was to come. And while he may have struggled to fully understand, and therefore adequately describe, what he saw, if what comes to pass is ANYTHING like what he describes…it’s going to be nasty!

And because of that, there is a sense, when we read the Book of Revelation, of, “What if I’m not ready? What if I can’t make the cut?” You know what I mean? We go to church every week. We put our offering in the plate. We say our prayers. (And, if you are Hulk Hogan, you also take your vitamins!) We try to live decent lives. But are we THAT “good”? Are we “Christian” enough to be on the RIGHT side when all of this stuff goes down? Will we be able to handle it?

For me, the answer to all of that can be found in the Book of Revelation itself. The first 7 verses of the 21st chapter, to be exact. Those verse offer a hope that is amazing in its scope. They help put everything in some perspective. And here they are.

Revelation 21:1-7 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

It just doesn’t, for my money, get a whole lot better than THAT!
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Whats-Love-Got-To-Do-With-It-Logo

Donna Summers loves to love you, baby. Peter Frampton loves your way. Bill Withers thinks it’s a lovely day. Tina Turner wants to know what love’s got to do with it. Paul McCartney thinks that his love does it good. John Paul Young thinks love is in the air. Dionne Warwick is never gonna fall in love again AND she’s never going to love this way again. Earth, Wind and Fire wants to know what’s going to happen after the love is gone. And the Captain and Tennille are sure love will keep them together. Apparently not!

Love is a fascinating thing. In English, there is one word for love: we love our pets, our chocolate, our family, Christmas and pizza…all with the same word. Anything that makes us feel good…we love. But in the Greek, there is a multitude of words for love, with 4 main types:

Eros- passionate, romantic love that centers around desire and longing
Philia- this is the “friendship” kind of love- a virtuous love focusing on loyalty to friends and community.
Storge (storgē)- this is a natural affection- think “family relationships”
Agapē- this is a more general, all-encompassing affection, when you hold others in high regard. It encourages us to be self-sacrificing and giving to all.
The 1st 3 types of love are based on what the OTHER person does for you and what you receive- the benefits of the relationship. But it is agape alone that exists for the sole benefit of the one receiving the love. And in today’s passage, that’s exactly the kind of love we are talking about- agape.

1John 3:16 This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave His life for us. So we should give our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Love- true agape love- expects nothing in return, demands nothing in return. Agape love is doing something for someone simply because it’s the right thing to do. Agape love is the love that Jesus shows us…and that we should mirror to others.
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!

Customer Service is Job 1

customer-service.0822.12 3

I have strong feelings about customer service. I spent parts of about 3 years working in “fast food” in high school and early college. I spent about 2 years working as a magician at a restaurant near and at the end of college. I managed 20 retail photography studios. I was the Business Manager of a professional theater. And I helped run my brother’s restaurant and meat market during seminary…trying to help put food on my table! In other words, I have done a LOT of retail work. I have spent a great deal of my life working with the public- serving. I think everybody- did I mention EVERYBODY?- should have to do retail, restaurant or some kind of service job at least once in their life. And because of that…I have strong feelings about customer service.

In the restaurant business, as well as in retail, taking care of the customer is Job One. Why? Because if you have no customers…you have no job! That’s how important they are. They simply do NOT need you. But…you NEED them! And if you don’t treat them right, there is another place, just down the street, that’s DYING to meet their needs.

When you work in a restaurant, you greet the patrons as they walk in the door. We all know that there is nothing worse than being ignored when you walk into a place of business to spend your hard-earned money. You get them to a seat a quickly as you POSSIBLY can. You get them A. a menu and B. a drink immediately if possible. THEN you can take a little breather and check on your other customers. Once they order, if the kitchen is running behind, you DON’T ignore them…you go, tell them the kitchen is running a bit behind but their food will A. be out soon and B. be hot and fresh. Oh, and…fill their drinks!

I could go on and on, but you get the gist. Take care of the customer. But I have found that there are people who simply take advantage of that fact to treat their server like dirt. WRONG! That is a decidedly non-Christian approach to the whole thing. Servers have a responsibility to behave a certain way. But patrons do, too! My wife and I take it as our goal, when we get a cashier at Walmart who hates her job and can’t wait to go home, to get her to engage in conversation, smile and…hopefully…laugh. If she says, “Have a great day!” when we leave- job well done!

Christmas Day, 2003, my family drove 2½ hours to see my mom, who was too sick to “come to Christmas”. (She died 6 months later.) We got there, stayed for a while and then began the 2½ hour journey home. By now, it’s 7:30PM on Christmas Day. We haven’t eaten since about 10:30AM. And NOTHING is open. But then, about ⅓ of the way home, we found a Jack in the Box that was…OPEN! Huzzah!

We stopped and went in. The people working there were, you might imagine, NOT too happy to be working…at 7:30PM…on Christmas Day. So, before we ordered, I acknowledged that I was SO sorry they had to work on Christmas and I thanked them all for being there. I shared about my mom fighting cancer and our trip to see her and how hungry we were. By the time we left, we were all best buds, wishing each other a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

We have a responsibility to treat each other with respect, with love. If you are a “server”, then serve with a glad and gracious heart. Treat your customer like they are the most important person in the world. Make them feel valuable. If you are a “receiver” (customer/patron/etc.), be grateful for the person doing the work for you. Let them know you appreciate what they are doing. Make them feel valuable. In other words, “Golden Rule” it- treat others the way you would want to be treat…regardless.

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!

Stephen Hawking…Was Wrong

Hawking

Stephen Hawking was, arguably, THE smartest human being of our time. A true genius. A once in a generation “beautiful mind” if there ever was one. I will claim that right up front. I will also claim that this blog isn’t intentionally timed to come AFTER he died. So, having thrown all of my howevers and therefores out there, I want to say…Stephen Hawking did NOT understand something that I do! 

I know- big talk from some yahoo farm boy from the struggling state of Illinois. But I just read an article written about Hawking’s newest book- Brief Answers to the Big Questions- which was published posthumously. So, he can’t defend himself…but that’s not my fault! 

One of the things this book sets out to do is answer the question, “What of our humanity do we owe to God, and what do we owe to scientific process?” Hawking’s conclusion? “There is no God. No one directs the universe.” The author of the article, Sarah Rense, writing for Esquire Magazine, says, “Hawking’s work on quantum mechanics also gave him an explanation for what came before the universe. It wasn’t a lonely god who snapped his fingers and created life. Quantum theory explains that the Big Bang was born from a singularity, like a black hole, where time and space were so warped they didn’t even exist. Nothing happened before the Big Bang, because time didn’t happen. “We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in,” Hawking wrote. “For me this means that there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in.”  (The Bold Type was added by me for emphasis and did NOT appear in Ms. Rense’s article.)  

I appreciate the article, as well as Hawking’s thoughtful, thorough approach to the subject. But, for my money, his own argument tears down his thesis. (I’m sure he would disagree!) He says, “It wasn’t a lonely god (intentional decision to use a lower-case g!) who snapped his fingers and created life…Nothing happened before the Big Bang because time didn’t happen…there is NO (my emphasis) possibility of a creator (again, lower case), because there is no time for a creator to have existed in.”  

For my money, THAT’S the flaw in the argument. Hawking BELIEVED that a god couldn’t EXIST outside of time. I BELIEVE that the God Who created the universe exists OUTSIDE of time. Our time is somewhat capricious and made up, based the best we can on the movement of planets and suns- the universe, the product of The Big Bang. (Yes, I have NO trouble with a Big Bang- I just argue how it happened!) We have created an artificial structure to best explain and live within the physics of the universe. It hasn’t even remained consistent throughout the history of mankind, with different calendars being adopted and time added or subtracted to and/or from “days”, “months” and “years” to adjust for the imperfection of our measurement of “time”.  

There is a perfectly reasonable expectation of a God Who created everything if you accept that God exists beyond our imperfect “time”. I believe that. Hawking did not. His leap in logic was that his “opinion” was rooted in fact while mine is rooted in fantasy and mythology. My opinion (which I readily admit, if you add $1 to will currently buy you any size drink at McDonalds!) is that the greatest mind of our time was…wrong.  

God exists, beyond the constraints of words like “time”. That word is WAY too confining for the God I worship. And what makes me say that? I have had real, tangible experiences that, for my money could not be anything but and experience of God. I don’t BELIEVE in God- I KNOW God. I readily confess that I can’t prove that to Stephen Hawking, Sarah Rense or anybody else for that matter. I can do what I do and only be who I am- a God-loving, scientifically- minded former agnostic who has been lovingly and patiently “brought into the fold” over the years by a God Who has been WAY more patient that I deserve! 

(A side note- Sarah Rense, if by some remote chance you stumble upon this blog and read it, remote though that chance may be, first off- I am excited that a nationally-published author is even reading my work. Thank you for taking the time. I also want to state, in case it isn’t clear, that even though I disagree, my blog should be in no way construed as an attack. I great appreciated reading what you wrote. It was well-written and thoughtful!) 

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!

Fall Is Falling

Fall_image

Can’t you just feel it in the air? Fall is falling! It got down into the high 20’s overnight! So even though there might be some warm days left, fall is clearly stepping into summer’s place. And I, for one, am VERY happy!

I love everything about fall! OK- I love ALMOST everything about fall! When we hit those extended periods of cold and wet- not so much. And the mold that accompanies that time isn’t so great, either. But all in all, fall is the bomb.com!

And here’s an odd thing about fall. If I said “the time of new things”, MOST humans on the planet would say, “Spring”. And that makes perfect sense. I mean, the flowers bloom, the trees bud, the grass turns that lush shade of green. Spring is the time of new life.

But over the years I have come to decide that Fall is also a time of newness. Kids go back to school. And considering I have 20 years of schooling behind me, not to mention the years my boys have gone to school, there have been a LOT of “back to school” moments in my lifetime.

But it is more than that. Having spent the past 23 years in the ministry, there is a strong sense of newness when fall comes. There is a mentality in churches that things slow down and quiet down during the summer and then fire back up in the fall. And while we didn’t quiet down much this summer, we are firing back up right now. The Choir is back in worship. The Bell Choir is back. Our Wednesday Night ministries are back online. And there is a noticeable change in the air. There is an excitement. A heightened anticipation of what’s to come. And let me assure you that, for a pastor, it simply doesn’t get much better than that!
Can’t you just feel it in the air? Fall is falling!

And here’s an odd thing about fall. If I said “the time of new things”, MOST humans on the planet would say, “Spring”. And that makes perfect sense. I mean, the flowers bloom, the trees bud, the grass turns that lush shade of green. Spring is the time of new life.

But over the years I have come to decide that Fall is also a time of newness. Kids go back to school. And considering I have 20 years of schooling behind me, not to mention the years my boys have gone to school, there have been a LOT of “back to school” moments in my lifetime.

But it is more than that. Having spent the past 19 years in the ministry, there is a strong sense of newness when fall comes. There is a mentality in churches that things slow down and quiet down during the summer and then fire back up in the fall. And while we didn’t quiet down much this summer, we are firing back up right now. The Choir was back in worship this past Sunday. The Bell Choir is coming VERY soon. Our Wednesday Night ministries are back online. And there is a noticeable change in the air. There is an excitement. A heightened anticipation of what’s to come. And let me assure you that, for a pastor, it simply doesn’t get much better than that!

     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! 

John’s 3 Letters: Love and Hatred

Johns 3 Letters Love and Hatred

When I was a college student, I had an RA- Resident Assistant. If you don’t know, RA’s are responsible for a portion of a college dorm- usually one floor. They are kind of a blend between the “University police” and a parental figure- watching over their flock. This particular RA? We’ll call him “Ron”. (Sometimes the “we’ll call him…” is code for “that is his REAL name” and sometimes it’s not. Today, it’s NOT.) Ron was a perfect decent human and…a fairly terrible RA.

One day, at dinner in The Commons, a couple of guys at my table starting talking smack about Ron. I, unfortunately, joined in and soon, I was regaling the table with stories of Ron’s ineptitude as an RA. (Not even a LITTLE proud of it, looking back.) I had been riffing, holding the table right in the palm of my hand and, metaphorically, holding Ron at the same time…by the throat.

Then, it happened. I was right in the middle of my free-form rant when I happened to look over. Ron was sitting at the NEXT table over and clearly heard the whole thing. The look on his face was devastating. I tried to recover by pretending that I was joking and he wasn’t even paying attention…but he wasn’t buying what I was selling. In the end, back in the dorm, I apologized but it was really too little, too late. My interaction with him was never the same for the rest of the year. There is a fine line between love and hatred- finer than we would care to admit.

Our new sermon series- John’s 3 Letters- focuses on the 3 letters of John (Makes sense!) found near the tail end of the New Testament. They’re rarely read, rarely referenced, but have a lot packed into their short length. Three different letters, written at three different times, to three different people- yet they’re all tied together by the same ideas. Here is today’s Scripture:

1John 2 :7-11 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

As I said, we have three different letters, written at three different times, to three different people. Yet they’re all loosely tied together by the same ideas. Oh, and written by the same author: a guy who only calls himself “the elder.”

In this first letter, the elder encourages the Christians in his community to stay together. See, there are some naysayers who’ve been spreading lies about Jesus, and the elder really wants to set things straight.

First, Christians need to believe that Jesus was a for real a human being, not just some divine deity walking around on water. Second, Christians have to love each other. God IS love- it’s His favorite thing- and He really wants us believers to love our little hearts out.

Agape is a word that John will use in various forms many times as this letter continues, and he will define its meaning by the way he makes use of the word. The use of this word is extremely rare in classical Greek. Its extensive use in the New Testament is the result of the fact that the Septuagint translators of the Old Testament employed it consistently to express the love vocabulary of the Old Testament. It is with a form of that word- agape- that John addresses his readers. He acknowledges that they are loved. The question is- is John expressing HIS love for them or the larger truth of God’s love for them? I would like to think both.

Did you notice what Jesus says in the quote we heard? The commandment he’s writes is not new and yet it is new. How can it be old and new at the same time? It becomes clear what he means from what he writes next. The will of God has remained steady and unchanging. He is from the beginning and doesn’t change in that respect. The will of God is permanent.

Then what’s new, Pussycat? The new part has to do with us and the fulfillment of God’s will.  Because of Jesus, there’s a radical newness, not in GOD’S character, but in OURS- new because we’ve been forgiven and therefore should obey God’s commandments with a fresh perspective. Look at it this way- we love out of fullness. We follow God’s will because of His prior acts- His prevenient grace as United Methodist founder John Wesley would call it- on our behalf. Evil is powerful, but its power is bounded by a greater authority. God’s love is more permanent, more powerful than the power of hatred.

So, what do you hate? Better still WHOM do you hate? What person or group of people do you have genuine hatred for? Now, sitting here in church, all scrubbed clean and sitting properly, it’s EASY to say, “I don’t hate ANYBODY!!” But I’m not asking about NOW. I’m asking about when you are at Wal-Mart. When you are at the grocery store, or restaurant or a movie theater. Whom do you hate? I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that, even though you are trying to say, No One”, you HAVE someone or a group of someones who keeps creeping, uninvited, into the back of your consciousness. That person or group that makes yo honestly stop and assess whether or not you hate.

I can’t tell you what to do. Well, I COULD tell you until I’m blue in the face what to do. But I can’t actually make you do it. I can only give you some advice. Take it for what it’s worth. (At McDonalds, my advice and one dollar will buy you any size drink!) When you insist on hating someone or a group of someones, you aren’t hurting them at all. (If you ACT upon that hatred, that’s a different story!) Instead, they probably…ready for a shocking truth?…don’t care. They could care less. They probably don’t even know.

So, you are fuming and stewing over them and they sleeping like babies at night. You are letting them live rent-free in your head. You are wasting valuable “brain space” and a LOT of time and energy that only hurts YOU! Yep, offering forgiveness is as much, or more, about you than about the other person.

So, again- whom do you hate? My advice? Stop it! “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

Don’t be blinded by the darkness. Instead, be blinded by the light- not the light of hatred. Not the light of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. No, be blinded by the light of Jesus Christ. The Light that never dims. The light that is SO bright, Heaven needs no sun or moon- Jesus is the light 24/7/365.

I said a few minutes ago- there is a fine line between love and hatred. I think that’s why married couples get in trouble. The love that they had sours and turns to hatred. I think that’s why parents and adult children have problems. I think that’s why the world has problems. But deep in your heart, you know two things: 1. You know what love is. It was that great theologian Forrest Gump who said, “I may not be a smart man, but I KNOW what love is.” And 2. You also know that hatred is the wide and easy path while love can be the difficult, narrow road. Love takes work- especially that sacrificial agape love we talked about earlier. But we are called to love each other with a agape love- not expecting anything in return but to simply love our neighbor as we walk in the Light of Jesus Christ. Everything old is new again.

What Can One Person Do?

tree down

The winds came without warning. Later, The National Weather Service said they were “straight line” winds, but THEY didn’t come out and inspect the damage at my parent’s house. We all claim “tornado” as the event that occurred that day. We were serving a church near St. Louis, which put us about a 45-minute drive from the “ancestral manse” (Google it) as it were. A severe storm hit the area, causing a great deal of damage across a wide swath of Southern Illinois, including the area where my parents lived. We called to see if they were OK, only to find that, while they AND their house were unharmed, some 24 trees were down in their yard and barn lot alone, along with dozens of trees and power line poles up and down the road on which they lived. They were in NO position to tackle the mess by themselves, and we were all worried about the cost of hiring a service to come in and do the clearing. Then…God stepped in. Someone at the church we were serving, who had heard about what happened, said, “why don’t we just put together a work crew from here and go take care of it?!” Gee…what a GREAT idea. Wish I’D thought of it! So we asked for volunteers. 36 people later, we were ready to head out!
We loaded chainsaws and hand saws up and caravaned to their house. When we turned onto their road, the devastation became apparent. Their house sat 1/2 mile from the end of the lane, and we could only make it a few hundred feet in, blocked from driving any further by trees and poles across the road. So…we unloaded and walked the rest of the way, lugging all the equipment with us. When we arrived at their house, it truly looked like a war zone. Miraculously, not one tree hit the house, although several came REALLY close! My folks were delighted to see all the help. and people jumped right in. The sound of chainsaws and the smell of burning gasoline/oil mix filled the air as we worked. At one point, we found a man in his late 70’s (the SAME man mentioned in previous blogs about Outhouse Evangelism and a preacher with his microphone on in the restroom) standing on a limb, 20 feet off the ground, cutting branches off with a chainsaw! From that day forth, Chainsaw became his nickname! By 2PM that afternoon, ALL the trees were cut up and piled for burning. all the workers were fed, all the equipment was loaded, and we were saying our goodbyes. An amazing amount of work got done by a relatively small group of people in a relatively brief period of time. As I reflected on what had happened that day, I remembered a quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
How often do we think, “Why bother? I’m just one person- I can’t make a difference!” But imagine if we all took Margaret Mead’s philosophy to heart. Or if we truly BELIEVED what Helen Keller said, “I’m only one…but I’m still one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something, and I won’t refuse to do the something I CAN do.” We are often so quick to dismiss the possibility of getting involved. We either are too cynical to care or too unsure of ourselves to feel we matter. Know what? None of us is SO awesome as to not care and none of us is so unworthy as to not be able to make a difference. In this current economic climate, there are many things that have been bedrock for us forever that we can no longer cling to: our jobs, our pensions, our 401K’s, Social Security, etc., etc., etc! So to where do we turn? You KNOW what my answer is- God. We turn to God, we ask for guidance, strength, discernment. And then we roll up our sleeves and get involved. We seek out the least, the lost, the hurting in our communities (believe me, when you look, they are NOT hard to find!), and we…get…involved! How awesome would it be if that happened? If people once again acted like…well…PEOPLE, and cared for, and about each other? Who can you help this week? What difference can YOU make in the lives of others? 

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!

Funny…Yet Awkward!

awkward

I saw maybe the funniest thing I have seen in a LONG time a few years ago! I was at my son’s high school, waiting to pick him up. School had JUST let out and teens were streaming from every door! (And a few windows!) I am a people watcher, so I like to watch the kids coming out. As I watched them, I noticed a girl wearing a dress. It was a long dress and she was a pretty girl. What stood out, for me, was simply the fact that she was wearing a dress. I don’t see a ton of dresses at the high school. (I don’t EXPECT to see them, either.) 

This girl was heading out to the parking lot and was maybe 30’ in front of my car, walking across my field of vision. Then I turned my head to the right and noticed a young man walking toward me. He was MUCH closer to me and was walking directly toward the front, passenger side of my car. 

Now, remember- I am watching dozens and dozens of high school kids come out of the school. And out of all of these kids, two stand out. One girl and one boy. The girl stands out because she is wearing a dress and the boy stands out because…he is staring intently at the girl! 

So picture this- this pretty high school girl in a dress is walking along, minding her own business, unaware that any of this is going on. Meanwhile, this guy is walking straight toward the right front corner of my car…but is looking in a totally different direction than he is walking. And that direction would be…the pretty girl in the dress! 

And then- the perfect storm of circumstances happened. She kept walking (and unintentionally distracting him), he kept walking (and not looking where he was going) and it was time for him to turn left and cut between my car and the car next to me. (You can smell this one coming from a mile away, can’t you?!) He didn’t turn nearly soon enough. In fact…he didn’t turn at all! Instead, he ran directly into the front right fender of my car! 

Now, I want to be clear here- had I been able to stop him somehow…I would have. Also, if he had hurt himself in any way, I wouldn’t have found this funny. In fact, I wouldn’t have written about it all. BUT…I couldn’t stop him and he didn’t hurt himself at all- unless you count his pride, which DID get scuffed a bit! 

He ran into my car, came to a screeching halt, looked up, caught my eye, turned nine shades of red, flashed the most embarrassed grin ever, turned and was gone. And I’m not gonna lie- I laughed so hard that I was still wiping the tears from my eyes when my son got to the car! 

Life is simply TOO short to take everything so seriously. We HAVE to be able to laugh at ourselves…and each other. We shouldn’t be mean or hurtful about it. But we should be comfortable enough to be able to find the humor, the joy in life and appreciate it! So, to that young man, thanks for a GREAT laugh! 

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 FedEx Truck Conundrum

fedex-towing

Two days ago, we had my new lift chair delivered. (I wrote about it yesterday! The top half of it is upstairs in the bedroom while the base currently remains on the main floor!) It’s delivery, anticipated by us, ended up causing quite the unexpected upheaval. The FedEx truck that brought it had a lift built into the back. (Maybe they all do- I don’t know.) He needed the lift AND a dolly to get the box out of the truck and across the street. (It was very heavy.) The original information said “curbside” delivery. They weren’t kidding. I was rather unceremoniously dumped at the foot of the steps that lead up to our enclosed porch. 

But we had anticipated that, so we had a dolly (from the church) ready. My wife and got out there, got that behemoth on the dolly and wheeled it around our side yard to the handicapped ramp. It cleared the door onto the porch and the front door of the house. Yeah!

Meanwhile, the Fedex driver, who had parked across the street along the curb, was trying to leave. Turns out, that didn’t go so well. We thought at first that he forgot to bring the lift all the way up and it caught on the curb, because we heard a loud “BANG” kind of sound. Looking out, the lift seemed to be jammed on the curb and the rear driver’s side wheel was OFF the ground. He was stuck!

But it turns out that was NOT what happened. Instead, he happened to pick the spot where an undetected water main leak had undermined the ground. The weight of the truck was too much for the pavement, which was, in that spot, unsupported from beneath, to give way! The rear right side of the truck was in the subsequent hole, lifting the aforementioned wheel off the ground. Still, he was STUCK!

Almost immediately, there were three police cars and two city trucks there, assessing the situation. Following soon after them was a tow truck. The FedEx truck was extracted fairly quickly and he drove off. (I guess the truck was not damaged.) Then, the real work began.

A backhoe showed up. Pumps and huge hoses got pulled out. Before you knew it, there was a huge hole where the sidewalk used to be and there were guys down in said hole, working. I wondered if we still had water-we did…and we do! (“So, I got THAT goin’ for me!” What movie is that a quote from?)

I couldn’t help but think about the Fedex driver, the police, the city workers and the tow truck driver. You are going about your day, doing your job, not bothering a soul. Then suddenly, everything changes. You are suddenly neck deep (literally for some of them) in something you couldn’t even have imagined when the day began. What do you do? Do you throw up your and wail, “Why does everything happen to me?” OR, do you simply re-calibrate and deal with the situation at hand? So many people seem to think that the BOTH Ptolemy and Copernicus got it wrong- the sun does NOT revolve around the Earth nor does the Earth revolve around the Sun. Instead, EVERYTHING revolves around them!

You and I are simply NOT so important. Everything doesn’t revolve around us. If life suddenly changes- in little ways OR big ways- you have to re-calibrate and figure out a way to move forward. Quit whining about what IS and starting working ahead to what COULD be!

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!

Be Prepared

be-prepared-not-just-for-scouts

I was never a Boy Scout. (I WAS an Indian Guide! I was Rising Sun and my Dad was Setting Sun! But that’s a story for a different day!) But I DO believe in being prepared. And that fact leads to today’s health update! In recent days, we received not two but THREE separate things that I don’t necessarily need NOW but probably WILL as things continue to unfold.  

First- last Friday, we received my permanent Handicapped Parking placard…the kind you hang from your mirror. We haven’t used it yet. And most of the time, I wouldn’t even think of needing it. But occasionally now, we have to park far away from something and it will be nice to have. (Took about 2 months here in the beautiful but often pitiful state of Illinois, FYI.) So, that is in place. 

Second- we got a wheelchair. I family in the church had one they weren’t using. They saw my blog recently about deciding to take one to Parent’s Day at our younger son’s University and offered us theirs for as long as we might need it. Again, don’t need it muxch these days, bu there IS the occasional time when we wish we had one and we will definitely take it with is to Parent’s Day! 

Third- yesterday FedEx delivered an electric lift chair to us. I sleep in a recliner for sometimes a month or two at a stretch, depending on where I am in the treatment and how I’m feeling. The chair comes in two separate pieces- the back and the base. You might imagine that, while the back is pretty lightweight, the base is heavy enough that it’s a challenge to move.  

We got the whole box, intact, in the house with a dolly. We unpacked the chair and carried the back upstairs to its final destination, easy peasy. But the base proved to be a bit more of a challenge. Even with the dolly, the base was simply too heavy for me weakened legs to power up the stairs. (Would have been just as easy, peasy two years ago!) So, for now it aits in a largely unused room on our main floor, waiting for me to get a couple of strapping…younger…guys to help us!  

None opf them are absolutely needed right now. All of them will be used at some level now and will become more valuable as the cancer continues to do its stuff. But either way…we continue to prepare for as many eventualities as we can! We remain Hopeful Pragmatists! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A Huge Inheritance

inheritance

My dad passed away more than 7½ years ago. And my mom passed away more than 14 years ago. So when my dad died, my siblings and I had the unenviable task of “breaking up house” for our parents. Most of my mom’s personal things had been taken care of, but of course all of the furniture, along with “family things” were still there and needed to be dealt with. 

I was the Trustee of their estate, so I was responsible for that disposition. Along with calling all of the people he did business with (electric company, water company, telephone, cable, etc.) to stop service and make arrangements for the final bills, I also had his mail permanently forwarded to my house. Because of that fact, HIS name coupled with MY address has made its way onto SEVERAL mailing lists. So the bottom line is this- I STILL get mail, in his name, at my house…this many years later! (Even though he never lived here- never even HEARD of “here”!) 

All of those facts play into something funny that happened to me a few years ago. I got a piece of mail- first class mail in a business-sized envelope- at the house…addressed to him. Often, when those things come in, I will joke, “I don’t think my dad is going to want a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens” or whatever the mail was…and then pitch it. But this particular envelope caught my attention. 

The return address was from a settlement group and I thought I remembered the name. And if I remembered right, it was regarding a class-action lawsuit filed against one of the big cell phone companies (who shall remain nameless but whose initials are A, T and T!). And since my dad was a customer of theirs, he was automatically a member of that lawsuit. 

About 6 years ago, I got paperwork regarding his involvement. It stated that I should fill it out and return it on his behalf if I wanted to keep his name in the suit. So…I did. And then I gave it not ONE more thought! That is, until about 2 years later. So, I’m holding this envelope, remembering all of this and thinking that the contents looked like it may be a check. Now, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck this morning, so I wasn’t naive enough to think it would be any REAL money, but I was interested in how much it was. So…I opened it! 

It was an 8½X11 sheet- the top ⅔ was a letter and the bottom third was a check, microperfed to the letter. I figured I had all the time in the world to read the letter, so I unfolded the paper to see the check. And the amount? The number of dollars sent to me on my dad’s behalf? A check that took A. labor to produce, B. paper on which to print, C. a printer on which to print, D. an envelope in which to mail and E. postage to get into my hot little hands? Ready? 18 cents. 18 CENTS! It took them AT LEAST 10 times that just to get it to me! 18 CENTS!! 

So my wife and I figured that this should be split 4 ways- between me and my three siblings. Therefore, I contacted my brother and sister in Southern Illinois and my sister in the panhandle of Florida to see just how they would each like to receive their 4½ cents! I just pray that all that unexpected inheritance didn’t go to their heads and ruin them!! I then went on Amazon.com to see what nice thing I could find for myself that cost…4½ cents! 

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!

Shortest Blog Ever

short-posts

Today will be the shortest blog I have ever written in 9 years of day-to-day posting. Long day? Too tired? Nothing to say? Answers, in order- yes, no and no. Was it a long day? Yep! Am I too tired? Nope. (In fact, it’s only 7:15PM as I write this. I have LOTS of time.) Do I have nothing to say? Come on- really? Do you know me at ALL?!!      

No, as I write this, 9 YEARS into a daily blog I wasn’t at all sure I could sustain, I have posted around 3,285 blogs, or 2 MILLION words! And all along the way, people have asked me, “why do you continue to write?” There are lots of reasons, but the main one popped up in my Facebook feed yesterday. A reader commented on yesterday’s 9:15AM worship service. The last thing she said was, “I attended worship yesterday at your church…because of your blog.” Any other questions?! 

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!

Are You Leading or Taking a Walk: Team-Building

Are You Leading Team Building

There is this strange phenomenon in professional baseball. Actually, other sports do it too, but I don’t follow other sports, so we’ll look at baseball. It’s called Tanking. Here’s how it works, in a nutshell. A team sees that they have a roster of older, established, higher-paid players who are at or past their prime. Likewise, their “farm system”- the Minor League pipeline that supplies new, young players to their Major League roster, is relatively depleted. So…they tank. They trade away their established players so that they will be a bad team. Then, they get better position in the amateur draft. Which means they can draft the best players who are coming INTO the system. They add them to the Minor League prospects they got by trading away their established players…and the rebuilding begins.

It usually takes a couple of years, maybe three, to start to see dividends from that approach. Occasionally, the approach works sooner and occasionally the approach doesn’t work and they have to do it again! Either way, patient fans have that patience tested during the tanking process.

Teams will deny intentionally being “bad” to get good draft picks. But the proof, as always. Is in the pudding. It IS a method of team-building that exists. But it may not be the BEST model for everybody who is trying to build a team!

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 Simon Peter as we consider the last important aspect of good leadership- team-building.

     Luke 5:1-11 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around Him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 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.

So, good ‘ol Simon Peter. Son of Jonas. A fisherman who lived in Bethsaida and Capernaum. He did evangelistic and missionary work among the Jews, going as far as Babylon. He was a member of the Inner Circle and authored the two New Testament epistles which bear his name. Tradition says he was crucified, head downward, in Rome. Reportedly, Peter requested that he be crucified head downward because he wasn’t worthy to die like Jesus did.

In every list of the Apostles (disciples), Peter is mentioned first. His Greek name was Simon and his Hebrew name was Cephas- the rock. As I said, by trade he was a fisherman. We know he was married and his lived was in Capernaum. That’s probably where Jesus set up shop when He visited Capernaum. Peter was also a Galilean- typical of many of the disciples. Early AD historian Josephus described the Galileans as “ever fond of innovation, disposed to change and delighted in sedition (rebellion). Ever ready to follow the leader and begin an insurrection. Quick in temper and given to quarreling and very chivalrous”. The Talmud says they were “more anxious for honor than for gain, quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional, easily aroused by an appeal to adventure, loyal to the end.” Yep- sounds like Simon Peter.

Peter was the leader, the spokesman for the twelve Apostles. It was him who asked how often he had to forgive. It was him who asked about the reward for all who followed Jesus. It was him who first named Jesus as the Son of the Living God. He was at the Transfiguration. He saw Jairus’ daughter raised to life. He also denied Jesus three times. And in the end, he laid down his life for Jesus. No matter how many times he failed, he always recovered his courage and his integrity. He was, by all accounts, a team-builder.

Every great leader knows they can’t do it alone and that having the best talent around them enhances the opportunity for success. They know they need to build a team with complementary skill sets and experiences and constantly look to bring in people that know more than they do. They also understand that a team performs best when its members have differing personalities and styles, to expand perspectives when problem solving and avoid getting caught up in what experts call “group think.”

A good leader is often more of a facilitator of the team, able to generate healthy discussions and consensus. Great leaders know that if the team believes in, and is committed to a plan, the chances of success go up immensely. The team becomes passionate about doing what they said they would do. Conversely, when a team feels that the leader will force them to do what he or she thinks is best, innovation is lost and there is little passion. The best leaders are highly organized and trust the team members to do their jobs. The leader becomes a delegator, setting clear expectations and providing on-going feedback. Finally, effective leaders regularly and publicly recognize other people. They’re quick and willing to accept blame for failures, even when they may have not been directly responsible. And are just as quick to give others credit for successes rather than themselves.

In closing, these six fundamental skills- Honesty & Integrity, Self-Awareness, Vision, Courage, Communication, and Team-Building, are found in virtually every person who’s an outstanding leader. But it is equally important to understand that few were good at all of these when they started. Knowing and admitting one’s own strengths and weaknesses is the first step in developing the requisite skill set to become a more effective leader. Next, committing and working hard to improve areas of weakness furthers leadership development. Then finally, asking other people for help and feedback is essential to acquiring all the necessary skills and traits required to become an effective leader.

The Bakery Ministry

bakery

Today is HyVee Bakery Day. I have talked about this ministry before, but it bears repeating occasionally. I bring it up NOW because it is our week to lead it. If you don’t know about the ministry, here’s how it works. Every Saturday morning at 10AM, a van pulls up to the church. The gentleman who drives the van (and owns it, for that matter!) has, loaded in the back, a BUNCH of day-old bakery good from the HyVee Grocery Store. (Imagine the big, chain grocery store in your area- Schnucks, Meier, whatever) We never know what we are going to get- hamburger and hot dog buns are pretty much a given. Sliced bread is common. French bread loaves are usually there. The foil-wrapped pre-prepared garlic bread is often there. Bagels. Hard rolls.  

And there is the dessert selection. Some weeks, there is none. But some weeks, there are doughnuts by the dozen or half-dozen. Doughnut holes. Muffins. Cupcakes. Cookies. Sheet cakes. Bundt cakes. You name it, we get it! Like I said, you never know what you’ll get and you can’t “order” anything- it’s “take what you get and don’t throw a fit”! (It IS, after all, donated!)  

We have four rotating teams, one for each week of the month, who show up to unload the van and prepare the delivery. The groups have been doing it so long, they are (at least our group is) like and Indy Pit Crew. We have that van emptied and the bakery sorted in a matter of minutes. And, even though the driver does it as a volunteer ministry, he still has gas expense every week. So, we give him $10 every week to help cover his costs. 

There are two questions most people ask- how did this come about and what do you DO with all of it. First off- there was a church in the area that was getting the weekly delivery. They contacted us and said they wanted to go to only twice a month and did we want the other half? I said “yes” immediately. Then, a bit later in the story, they decided they didn’t want to participate at all and did we want the other half of the month? “Yes!”  

Secondly- what do we do with it? We do SO much “food ministry” that a decent amount of it goes toward that. Between our weekly Wednesday Night meals, our Café’ that feeds a lot of people on Sunday mornings, our monthly Caring Individual Adults luncheons, our monthly United Methodist Men’s dinners, our Power Pack Ministry, special events like the Holiday Bazaar and The Journey and our Caring Hearts program, we feed a LOT of people in any given month. I even get the bread for our weekly or monthly (depending on the service) Communion from that delivery. So, much of that bakery “produce” goes to these ministries.  

What isn’t used by those ministries then goes out in the Café area on Sunday morning. Anybody is welcome to take anything they want. Many take things to use at home. A growing number take things to families who are in need. Then, whatever is left over on Monday morning (which usually isn’t MUCH!) alternated between donated to the food pantry and taken to a low-income housing spot in town, to be distributed to the residents.  

If you paid attention, that means, by Monday morning, it’s ALL gone or in a fridge/freezer waiting to be used. That was my ONE insistence when we agreed to take the whole month- that we simply didn’t throw half of it away. That was not acceptable. I am grateful for the HyVee Bakery Ministry and I am grateful for a church that is willing to get behind such an ambitious ministry! 

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!

When I Play, I Feel His Pleasure

drumset 3

My arms and legs are starting to work. I know that probably sound strange. And I get that. But the neuropathy has been bad enough, and progressive enough, that I gave up magic and juggling a year ago. (And by “gave up”, I mean “making real-time plans to sell all the magic and juggling props I’ve collected over the last 35+ years” kind of “gave up”.)  

In the past few months, I have been fighting harder and harder to play the drums. After years and years behind “the kit” (a term I despise…especially from people who don’t really know anything about playing the drums but have just heard someone else call a drumset “the kit”! I guess I’m a bit of a drum snob!), I have really been struggling for the past few months. My arms and legs, especially the right arm and right leg because, as a “righty”, they do the bulk of the heavy lifting, have just not wanted to work right.  

I was finding it harder and harder to keep up. I couldn’t do a lot of the things I have always been able to do. I have had to drop back to what I call “default playing” many times. I don’t know if anyone but my wife notices or not. I DO know that I notice. In fact, I notice enough that I have had the talk with myself in the past two weeks or so, wondering if it’s time to quit them, too, and find a new drummer for the church. That was a sad talk! 

But then, in the past 10 days or so, I have been seeing a renaissance. Two weeks ago, I couldn’t do ANY extended run of 8th notes on the bass drum anymore. I couldn’t do my patented “8th note triplets” on the bass, either. It was ¼ notes all the way. The basic “1, 2, 3, 4” for me. 

And the right hand and arm- the quarterback of the football team, the catcher on the baseball- the field general who runs the offense, was struggling just to keep up at all. I again was having to cheat just to keep playing. And when I would get done with 1½ of practice on Thursday nights, I was so spent that I had to drag myself across the sidewalk to home just to throw myself in my chair.  

But last night, our Rock & Worship band needed to either put the finishing touches on the Steve Winwood song Higher Love or postpone its worship debut. I was worried, because it is a challenging drum part, to say the least. But my right arm and leg answered the bell, were up to the challenge and, if I do say so myself, knocked it out of the park. To paraphrase my Worship Director, my limbs “hit for the cycle” last night! 

It may seem like a small victory to many. But for me, I think of the movie Chariots of Fire. The lead character is Eric Liddell, a runner for Great Britain in the 1924 Olympics. He says, at one point in the movie, “God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His please.” Well, God made me for purpose. But He also made me a drummer. And when I play, I feel His pleasure. And when that feels like it is being taken away from me, it leaves a hole where it was. So, that have my right arm and right start working again, maybe NOT like the used to but a LOT better than they did, I once again feel His pleasure!! 

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!