Just Say “NO” to Resolutions

blank list of resolutions on blackboardStatistics say that 40 to 45% of American adults will make one or more resolutions this new year. 34% will set resolutions related to money, 38% will set resolutions related to weight, 47% will set resolutions related to self-improvement or education and 31% will set resolutions related to relationships. So less than half of us will even make them…but how will that less that half do about KEEPING them? Again, statistics bear out that 75% will still be keeping their resolution past the first week, 71% will make it past 2 weeks, the number will be down to 64% after one month, and after 6 months only 46% of that original 45% will still be keeping their resolutions.

Apparently there is some truth to the “old dog, new tricks” thing…because statistically the younger you are, the more likely you are to achieve your resolutions. 39% of those in their twenties achieve their resolutions every year or every other year, while less than 15% of those over 50 achieve their resolutions every year or every other year. All in all, not a GREAT winning percentage, is it?!
Do YOU set New Year’s resolutions, and if so- what kind do you typically set? Why do you set those particular resolutions? What do you hope to gain by setting them? What will you do to be more successful than you were last year? Here’s a suggestion…take it for what it’s worth…DON’T make New Year’s resolutions this year. Instead…set goals. And yes, Virginia…there IS a big difference…if done correctly! A resolution is “I’m going to TRY and do better about (fill in your weakness here) next year!” That “TRY” is the caveat that let’s us off the hook when we fail. Instead, set goals. And here’s what a goal is: SMART. And yes…that’s an acronym! And here’s what it stands for:
S is for specific- a goal can’t be “I want to lose some weight”…NOT specific.
M is for measurable- a goal can’t be “I want to be a better person”…NOT measurable.
A is for achievable- a goal can’t be “I want to lose 200 lbs. by Feb. 1…NOT achievable.
R is for reasonable- a goal can’t be “I want to lose 4 ounces”…NOT reasonable.
And T is for timely- a goal can’t be “I want to learn the guitar sometime”…NOT timely.
So, goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable and timely. If you set them with those guidelines, it’s NOT a guarantee that you will achieve them…but you have a MUCH better chance! Tomorrow begins the New Year- along with looking forward to what you want, make sure and spend some time reflecting on what you have.
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!

No Sermon Today!

no sermon     No sermon today! If you read this space very often, you know that basically never happens on Sunday. Here’s the deal. As a fully ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, I get 31 days of vacation each year, with up to 4 Sundays included in those 31 days. The truth of the matter is that I never take all of my vacation days. (You can chastise me later!)  

I historically take the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. In fact, this is the 15th straight year of that practice. It’s a great week to take off- our sons are usually home/off school, the busy-ness of the Christmas season is passed and the week is relatively quiet at church.  

This year, although I still didn’t take all of my vacation, I took more than I often do. There were more than a few Mondays that I simply couldn’t answer the bell after a chemo week and a full Sunday. But in the midst of all of that, counting today, I only missed 2 Sundays all year. Ironically, they were bookends- January and December. We went to Florida for a week in later January and then this week. That means that, after about 3 January Sundays in the pulpit and then one off, I went about 47 straight weeks of preaching every Sunday before today.  

I’m going to be honest- that surprises me. Mostly, it surprises me because the chemo takes so much out of me that, had you asked me at the start of the year, I would have said that there would probably be a Sunday or two throughout the year where I simply couldn’t answer the bell. And yet, with God’s help, I managed to answer it every week.  

Everybody has their “natural habitat”. Doctors do what they do in exam rooms and hospitals. Nurses do what they do in ER’s and hospital rooms. Teachers do what they do in the classroom. And preachers do what they do in the sanctuary. It is, in large part, my natural habitat. 

And so, as I write this, I feel “at odds”. On the one hand, this has been a great week of just hanging with my family- no church, no office hours, no worship service. On the other hand, it is very…weird…to be sitting here Saturday evening with no sermon! 

I pray for those who ARE leading worship today at the church we currently serve. We have a GREAT staff in place and the woman who is filling the pulpit for me has a powerful story to tell. God will be at work…and I won’t 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!

Milestones

milestone Goal     I have written in this space before about milestones. They are things my wife and I set- the next thing to look forward to and “shoot for”. With this “less than rosy” outlook, we decided not to shoot too far ahead. Instead, we look for the next somewhat short-term event that we can strive for.  

As you might imagine, the one we JUST hit was Christmas. That’s an easy one to pick. And…I made it! And…we had a GREAT Christmas! We don’t wallow in the milestone when we reach it. Instead, we just enjoy it for what it is, savoring the time. The milestone before Christmas was Thanksgiving. Before that, it was our younger son starting college. The list goes on backward from there. 

The next milestone is in about a month. We are going to take a couple of days or so and visit our older son in Chicago. He moved into a new apartment and said that all he really wanted for Christmas was for us to visit and see his new place. So…we are going to do that. We have to work out some logistics and it will assuredly involve taking a wheelchair- I simply can’t walk as far as we are going to need to walk at times. (One of the concisions we are beginning to make as our “new norm” changes from day to day, week to week. And BOY have we made a lot of them in th past 18 months!) 

One thing this overall approach to life has taught me is that we should all set milestones. Don’t hesitate to set long-term goals: they are a good thing to strive for. But also, set short-term milestones and keep them on the horizon, in your sights. They give you something to work toward in the relatively-near future while you also plan for the long-term.  

What milestones might you set? What is something that is coming up in, say, the next 1-3 months that you can focus on? Don’t put all of your eggs in that one basket. But make it, whatever it is, a front-burner item. And When you achieve it, savor it and then set the next one. You’ll be amazed at how it can change your attitude, your outlook. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some planning to do for Chicago! 

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!

Buckets For Christmas!

BucketIt’s done. After weeks and weeks of preparation…it’s over. It’s kind of like cooking Thanksgiving dinner- you spend HOURS and HOURS shopping, preparing and cooking. Then, everybody sits down at the table…and 11 minutes later, everybody’s done! Christmas is much like that!

Now, don’t misunderstand- I LOVE Christmas. And this was a good one! Our Christmas Eve services were great! We had great attendance and the services were very special.

In the end, we offered 5 worship services in 39 hours. And 571 folks worshiped with us over those 5 services. The music was great. The prayers were powerful and heartfelt. And the fellowship was top notch!

The church we currently serve started a new Christmas tradition a couple of years ago. We call it The Reverse Advent Calendar. If you know anything about Advent calendars, they are usually built around taking something OUT every day during the Christmas season. Our Missions Team talked about creating something that would be built on the notion of putting something IN every day.

After a great amount of discussion and prayer, we settled on…galvanized buckets. Yep- you read that right: galvanized buckets! Every household in the church got a 4″ tall galvanized bucket on Sunday, December 2- the first Sunday of Advent. They were encouraged to put it somewhere in the house where they would see it every day. And when they saw it, they were to drop their change in. That’s it. Easy, peasy, one, two threesy! 100% of the money that was raised would got to The Heifer Project- buying animals for folks in need around the world.

Then, on Christmas Eve, everybody was encouraged to bring their bucket with them. (If you were out of town that night, you could either bring it in before you left or after you got back.) Late in the service, we took Communion. And as people came forward for Communion, they brought their buckets with them. There were LARGE galvanized buckets down front. As folks passed them, they dumped them change in the big bucket and then added their little (now empty) bucket to the stack. We won’t know for a few days how much we raised, but the buckets were so heavy we struggled to move them at the end of the night!

I love it when we think outside the box and try something that A. has the potential to make a big impact and B. isn’t something we’ve always done! Based on what I’ve seen over the past three Christmas seasons, The Reverse Advent Calendar is a huge success! Through the ministry and the generous donations of those who participated, lives are touched around the world. And for my money…it just 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!

On Vacation

vacationYesterday, I saw a meme (Google it) that said, “Today, I’m doing nothing. That’s because I started doing nothing yesterday and didn’t finish…and I’m no quitter!” That could be my rallying cry this week! I’m on vacation!

As an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, I am entitled to 31 days vacation, including up to 4 Sundays, every year. Notice the way I phrased that- “entitled to”. Those words were carefully chosen. There has probably NOT been a year (unless you count the 6 weeks off for recovery from brain surgery in 2014) that I have taken that much time. And before you chastise me for that fact- I know. I should take all of those days. I know. This year, I will have taken about 3½ weeks when the dust all settles- pretty high for me.

I started this vacation at about 12:30AM Christmas morning- after the 11PM Christmas Eve service was over and I took care of a few things! So, as you read this, I have been on vacation about 2 days so far. And I have done a grand, whopping total of diddly-squat! Well, I guess that’s not true. I just haven’t done “church stuff”!

We had some GREAT family time. Our older son, who lives in Chicago, has been home for  what will be a total of 8+ days! That is the longest stretch of time we have been able to spend with him since he took a week’s vacation to help us move here- 6½ years ago. It has been great. We’ve spent a lot of time together, ate a lot of food, played games and had a great time!

We’ve mostly been laying low. We have watched some movies, with more on the near horizon. We have slept it- which is amazing! We’ve read. Video games have been played. More food. Just…stuff! And it’s been great!

I love what I do. My dad always said, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’m pretty darn close to that! No matter WHAT you do- some days are diamonds and some days are stones, to quote that great theologian John Denver. But with what I do, there are very few stones and a WHOLE lot of diamonds! So, to sum up- love my time with my family…and love my job!! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
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!

Christmas Reflection

Christmas-christmas-32793663-1280-800     What a great Christmas! We were home from Christmas Eve Services by about 12:30AM. (Note- AM. As in 30 minutes after midnight, or 30 minutes INTO Christmas Day!) We set an all-time attendance record on Christmas Eve and had two GREAT services. 

We went to bed rather quickly. My wife got up at about 7:30AM yesterday morning to get the egg casserole going. She let me sleep, bless her heart. I got up at 9AM and finished wrapping presents. She picked up her mom about 10AM so that we could have brunch. The boys got up and we ate- egg casserole, cinnamon rolls, chocolate bread and blueberry muffins. It was a feast! 

We then spent some time opening presents. That was such a joy! Then my wife’s mom was ready to go back home, so we ran here home. The rest of the afternoon was spent vegetating, talking and looking at presents! 

We have a LOT of food in the house, so we decided that dinner would be “go in when you are hungry and pick something to eat”! I had a bowl of the white-bean chicken chili my wife made especially for me! It is AWESOME. Once everybody had their food ready, we settled in for what has become a Christmas tradition at our house- watching Die Hard with Bruce Willis! (Hey- don’t judge- it IS, after all, a Christmas movie!)  The rest of the evening was quiet.  

After the “busy-ness” of the Christmas season, I love having a day that is laid back, fun and not schedule-driven. I love a day that I can spend with my family. I love the exchange of gifts. And I love observing the true meaning of the day! 

I pray you had a great day yesterday. I pray you got to spend some time with people you love. I pray that you had a joyous day. And I pray that the impact of a Baby in a manger Who came to split time in half and change our lives was not lost on you. On this day after Christmas, one last time for the season- Merry Christmas! 

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!

Silent Night, Holy Night: Christ the Savior is Born

Silent Night Christmas Eve.png   So…here we are! Christmas Eve. When you’re 4 years old, it seems like Christmas will NEVER come. When you’re 57 years old, it feels like you are on a runaway train and Christmas Day is the station! Advent- the season leading up to Christmas- began 4 weeks ago. It all leads up to tonight.

What are your best Christmas memories? I have shared some of mine this season. But overall, the best memories I have of Christmas all revolve around being with family, laughing, sharing, just enjoying being with each other. And this has been one such Christmas season. I am grateful.

Our Christmas season sermon series has been Silent Night, Holy Night. Tonight marks the 200th anniversary of the beloved hymn that has become a bedrock of the Christmas season. We have spent the weeks leading up to Christmas looking at this hymn and how its words impact our holiday season.

Each week, we’ve focused on one of the 4 verses of this classic hymn. We have sung that verse, acapela, and then heard part of the Christmas Gospel read. We then have talked a bit about the ongoing history of the hymn and how that day’s verse applies to the larger story of Christmas.

Luke 2:6-7 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

We’ve talked about Josef Mohr and Franz Gruber coming together 200 years ago this Christmas Eve to write and present Silent Night for the first time. We talked about it being written for guitar because the church organ wasn’t working. We talked about the organ repairman hearing the newly-minted hymn and taking it out into the world. We talked about two prominent families helping it spread all the way to the thrones of Europe. We’ve talked about it being brought to the United States and, in 1863, translated into English. We’ve talked about it being one of the most-sung songs of all-time- translated into more than 300 languages. And we’ve talked about the fact that the original manuscript was lost. Mohr’s name was forgotten and although Gruber was known to be the composer, many people assumed the melody was actually composed by a famous composer, and it was variously attributed to Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven. However, a manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr’s handwriting and dated 1820, putting Mohr and Gruber back where they belonged. “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!”

Why Bethlehem? Makes no sense.  You would have picked Jerusalem- the capital city. Or Rome- the power center of the Ancient Near Eastern World. Or at least Nazareth- Mary and Joseph’s home town. Why Bethlehem? Did you know that “Bethlehem” means ‘house of bread’? Jesus came down to earth to be the “Bread of Life”. SO, God saw fit for His Son, the “Bread of Life”, to be born in the “house of bread”. And notice that He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. Wrapped. It’s the 1st Christmas and Jesus was “wrapped” as a present from God to the world. Jesus is a love gift from God. The time was right. The stage was set. Everything was ready. And then…Jesus was born. It was God’s plan, God’s timetable and God’s design. God was in charge- God had a purpose.

Why the shepherds? Why wasn’t Jesus’ birth announcement delivered to the Mayor of Bethlehem? Or the City Council? Or the Priests? I mean, almost ANYBODY but the shepherds! They were 2nd class citizens. They didn’t smell good, They didn’t dress well. They didn’t have much book learnin’. Most of them were shepherds because they didn’t really know how to do anything else. So why them? They weren’t asleep. Everybody else in town was sound asleep. But these lowly, poor, humble shepherds were READY!

There are a lot of Christians who are “spiritually asleep”- and missing out on the peace, joy and blessings of God. If salvation could be purchased, only the rich would be saved. If salvation could be gained by being very moral, only the good would be saved. If salvation could be reached by prominence, only the famous would be saved. If salvation could be earned by strict adherence to religion, only the pious would be saved. But God doesn’t call those who are equipped- He equips those who are called.

We have a saying at this church- “God is good, all the time!” And that’s easy to say when everything is all kittens and moonbeams. But what about…when it’s NOT? Well, I just stopped by here this evening to tell you that God is good on the good days AND the bad ones. When our stress level is about to pop the overflow valve and spew everywhere…God is good. When we’re in the hospital, God is good. When we’re facing an uncertain future, God is good. When we’re struggling financially, God is good. When we lose a loved one, God is good.

I’ve been there. You’ve been there. We’ve all been there. I’ve walked through hard times with God and without God. And while I can’t speak for you, I would MUCH rather walk through the hills and valleys of life WITH God than without. Having God in your life doesn’t suddenly make your life perfect. Instead, it provides you with Someone to walk the journey with you- to walk ahead of you, encouraging you, to walk behind you, gently nudging you, to walk alongside you, arm in arm, and on those days when you’re pretty certain you can’t even put one foot in front of the other…to carry you.

A Baby, born in a stable- the humblest of surroundings. How can He POSSIBLY save me? Dig a little deeper- you’ll see the enormity of the gift and the sacrifice it represents. Jesus is the perfect gift for a hurting world a world that often seems so undeserving! Why does God offer us the gift if we don’t deserve it? It goes the promise found in John 3:16- “For God SO loved the world…” God’s grace can’t be earned. It is simply…given, as a gift to anyone who will receive it.

Many of us are going to exchange gifts in the next few hours. Perhaps you already have. And I’m no Scrooge- I pray you get a little somethin’ somethin’ that you want, that means a lot to you. Just don’t lose sight of the best gifts you could receive this Christmas- God’s Son, God’s love and God’s grace. Into this cold, dark world Jesus came as a baby. He came to touch our lives. He came to change us forever. He reached down into time and space to save us from our sins. He came to show us a better way to live.

Tonight, God freely and naturally provides us with something- life abundantly. Life is a blessing…a gift. And life can’t be fully explained in human terms. It’s a mystery. As Shakespeare’s’ Hamlet says, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” We’re called to something so much bigger than ourselves. Life is found at its fullest when we trust in God, when we walk by faith and not by sight…even through the failures and disappointments. Life is measuring ourselves by how Jesus sees us and not by how the world sees us. The mystery of Jesus birth is that He wrapped Himself into our flesh and became like us. And, if we’re honest, that fact is, at some level, simply beyond our ability to understand it- the Creator of the cosmos would CHOOSE to take on the weakness of a newborn baby.

This Christmas Eve, remind yourself that the gift God’s given us is WAY better than the socks from Aunt Tillie, the hand-knitted sweater from Grandma or the Old Spice deodorant and cologne collection from Uncle Delmar. It’s an awesome gift that simply cannot disappoint. We spend a lot of time…and money…every year picking out the perfect Christmas gift for those we love. God spent a lot of time on the very first Christmas gift … His Son, Jesus. And He’s the PERFECT gift. “1 size fits all.” The gift you’ll never return. Never exchange. God offers us a gift tonight. And unlike the socks, the sweater and the Old Spice, this gift can change your life…if you let it. On Christmas Eve 200 years ago, a song was born that would wing its way into the hearts of people throughout the world. Son of God, love’s pure Light.