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.

Cake For Christmas!

111714-300x214-Easter_lamb_cakeWhen I was a kid, Mrs. Martin used to make my birthday cakes. She was a lady who lived up the road (I grew up out in the middle of nowhere…we didn’t have streets…we had ROADS!) and she made cakes shaped like animals. And I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen! (I was 14 years old at the time…but don’t laugh at me!) Actually, I was about 5 years old, and I remember seeing a picture of me, on my knees on a stool at the kitchen counter, holding the edge of a cake shaped like a lamb so that it tipped forward for the camera. I had a MASSIVE smile on my face!
Birthdays are a big deal…aren’t they? In our house, we try and make them very special- it’s the one day of the year that’s YOURS, and no one else’s! You get to pick the dessert AND the dinner, and you get to pick how we celebrate (within reason, that is)! How do YOU celebrate birthdays at your house? What are the special things you do? And why am I asking about birthdays on Christmas Eve, you might ask? Because tomorrow is the biggest birthday celebration in the history of the world…and many people aren’t even really aware of it.
Think about it- a bit over 2,000 years ago a baby was born. Now, you can argue all you want about whether Jesus was REALLY God’s Son, God Incarnate, or not (I’ll always argue that He IS, by the way!), but it would be hard to argue that there is another person who walked the face of this Earth and has had MORE impact than Him. Jesus, very simply, came into the world in a back water town in the middle of nowhere, in a stable, and changed the world. Forever. We even measure TIME by His birth. Seminaries across the nation can change from designating time by BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini, which means “in the year of our Lord”) to designating it as BCE (before the common era) and CE (common era) all they want…for my money it’s all smoke and mirrors. Regardless of what you call it, Jesus’ birth STILL forever split time in half. Period.
So how will YOU recognize Jesus’ birth tomorrow? I doubt you will make a cake shaped like a lamb…although it would be terribly appropriate, what with Jesus being the Lamb of God and all…but what WILL you do? Will you set aside some time tomorrow to remember His birth, a birth that changed the world, change me…and you? Take a moment tomorrow, in the midst of everything else you will do, to thank God for the best birthday/Christmas gift ever!
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: Wondrous Star, Lend Thy Light

Silent Night Week 4I wonder- did you ever stop and about what would have happened if it had been three Wise WOMEN instead of three Wise MEN? Here’s how I imagine things would have been different. If they were Wise Women, they would have   asked directions, they would have arrived on time, they have helped deliver the baby, they would have cleaned the stable, they would have made a casserole AND…they would have brought PRACTICAL gifts!

With all of that in mind, today we look at the Wise Men- men who were willing to follow a star…a STAR…to find the King Who had been foretold, to find a better way to live. Imagine these exotic strangers showing up, speaking a foreign language, bringing extravagant gifts- all for this …peasant child. The only thing that could happen today that would approximate the degree of wonder Mary and Joseph must have experienced would be…aliens in a spaceship.

History tells us that 3 Wise Men came to the stable to worship the baby Jesus. But the Bible makes absolutely no mention of how many Wise Men there were. The number 3 was chosen simply because that’s how many gifts were brought:  3-  gold, frankincense and myrrh. And why THOSE 3 gifts? Gold was a gift reserved for royalty. Frankincense was reserved for the worship of God. And myrrh was usually reserved for use in…burials. The 3 gifts seem incredibly…appropriate, don’t they?

The Wise Men are an interesting lot. As I said, historically there are 3 of them. But did you know that, according to legend, we know their names? Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar. Legendary explorer Marco Polo, in his book “The Travels”, claims to have seen their perfectly preserved bodies on display in their tombs in the 13th Century.

Our Christmas season sermon series is Silent Night, Holy Night. Tomorrow 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. Here is Verse 4. Would you join me as we sing it together.

Verse 4- “Silent night, holy night! Wondrous star, lend thy light. With the angels let us sing, “Hallelujah!” to our King. Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is Born!”

Matthew 2:1-12 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

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. And we’ve talked about it being one of the most-sung songs of all-time- translated into more than 300 languages.

Over the years, because 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 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 back where he belonged. “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!”

The Wise Men technically shouldn’t even be in our Nativity sets. Jesus was NOT a newborn when they got there. Instead, He was about 2 YEARS old. And they didn’t find Him in a stable full of hay in Bethlehem. They found Him in a house in Nazareth. And it was not so much their arrival as it was their departure that made this event special. Up until their leaving Jesus to go back home, the news of His birth had remained a regional thing. But with them heading back to…wherever they were from…the came from “afar”….the news of Jesus’ birth was suddenly going to spread to the known world. It was an epiphany- a sudden perception or insight into something.

We usually call these guys kings, but they were more likely astrologers, familiar with the movement of the stars…and the prophecies of a coming Messiah. But whatever their background, they were wise men from the East who were moved into action by a star that signaled the Messiah’s coming. They came to worship at the feet of the newborn King, each bearing a unique and valuable gift.

People walk into churches every week looking…looking for the baby- looking for this Jesus guy Who promises hope, help and healing. But all too often, they’re turned away. Not intentionally, but through their experience at the church…and with the people. A lot of visitors to a lot of churches experience indifference- indifference to the message, indifference to faith, indifference to the baby. The story simply seems like it’s become old hat- a way-too-comfortable shoe. They come to our churches asking the same question the Wise Men asked, “Where IS this child Who has been born a King? I’ve come to meet Him, worship Him…be changed by Him.”

And churches mean well. They WANT to be able to offer the words, the warmth and the welcome that visitors want and need. We WANT to help them pay homage to the One they’re looking for. But we don’t always know how. Therefore, our hope needs to be fresh- fresh enough to allow us to share the Good News that there IS life and hope in Jesus Christ.

This story shows us three different ways people respond to Jesus- three possible ways for US to respond to Him. Herod was antagonistic, the chief priests and scribes were apathetic and the wise men were enthusiastic. The wise men showed us what can happen when God’s Word takes root and the Holy Spirit begins to do some serious work in us. The Holy Spirit moved them to continue their journey, to follow the star, and to worship the one, true King.

 

The wise men remind us of the fullness of the coming of Jesus. And on this fourth Sunday of the Christmas season, as we remember the coming of the Wise Men and their gifts, I have a question for you- what gifts do YOU bring to the King? God has put gifts of great value inside of each of us. And God calls us to share those gifts for the benefit of His people. But we often mistakenly identify…or completely ignore…our gifts, don’t we? If we’re not careful, we tend to bear our gifts as though they were burdens. A lack of confidence in our ability to use our gifts to serve God reflects more than just a lack of belief in ourselves; it also reflects a lack of trust in the power of God.

But we have at our disposal, fully ready to use, the most power tool in the cosmos- God. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been given the matchless opportunity to experience and harness that extraordinary power of God working in and through us. This Child that the wise men worshipped is our only path to salvation. And we have been chosen, by God, for just such a time as this. We need to renew the awe and wonder we have for a God Who is willing to break into time and space to change our lives. And a star lights the way.

The Apple and the Tree

AppleOrchardHistory is full of “apple” stories. If you start at the very beginning (a very good place to start!), you get that famous apple-eating pair- Adam and Eve. (And yes, I KNOW the Bible doesn’t actually say “apple”, but we all THINK it was!) You know the story- they aren’t supposed to eat the apple. They EAT the apple. Bad things happen.
There is, of course, the story of Sir Isaac Newton, sitting under the apple tree. An apple falls out of the tree onto his head, and he figures out gravity. Then there’s Johnny Appleseed- the guy who walked the length of the good ‘ol US of A planting apple trees.
There’s the Adam´s apple. And we ALL know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. We give an apple for the teacher. When we brown-nose, we are known as an apple polisher. The person we love is the apple of our eye. Some things are as American as apple pie. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch. (Although the Osmonds say JUST the opposite!) That big city out east is the Big Apple.
Apples are everywhere. They are as American as…well…apple pie! But there is another saying about apples we haven’t considered yet- the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. That means, of course, that kids are often very like their parents. We often don’t want that to be true- once someone said to me, “You are just like your dad!” I replied, “You take that back!” LOL! But the truth is, we ARE like our parents…at least in some ways. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
That can be a daunting realization. Everything you do and say…your kids, grandkids and any other children around you are watching and listening. They see what you do. They hear what you say. And they tend to do and say…those very same things. They also see whether what you SAY matches what you DO. They are WAY smarter than we give the credit for.
Now, think about the things you do and say. Are you OK with your kids and/or grandkids doing and saying those things? If so, keep up the good work! If not…knock it off. Buck up. Raise the standard. Pick up the pace. make sure that you are doing and saying what you want them to see and hear!
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 Music

Nat King ColeI love the music of Christmas, don’t you? In fact, I love it so much that it’s not at all unusual that I might have the church we serve sing “Joy to the World” in July! (Why not? If we can celebrate Jesus in December, why not July?!)
Where we used to live, the local Christian radio station starts playing Christmas music on the day after Thanksgiving, and they play it 24/7 until Christmas Day. I LOVE it. In fact, I love it SO much that I tend to drive my family crazy by about the week before Christmas!
What are YOUR favorite Christmas songs? Do you tend toward the more traditional “Joy to the World” and “Away in a Manger”? Or perhaps you are more of a Michael W. Smith or Steven Curtis Chapman kind of person at Christmas? Do you prefer religious or secular music at this time of year?
Personally, I LOVE to sing “the classics”. I can’t wait for Advent to start every year so we can start putting all of those great songs in the worship services! But I also love the more “modern” Christian Christmas music. And I also love the secular stuff as well! OK…I just simply love Christmas music!
For my money, here are the three greatest Christmas recordings of all time (in order):
1. The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole. Written in 1944 by Mel Tormé (The Velvet Fog) and Bob Wells in an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool” on a scorching summer day in California. It is the most-performed Christmas song ever. Torme says, “I saw a spiral pad on the piano with four lines written in pencil- Chestnuts roasting…, Jack Frost nipping…, Yuletide carols…, Folks dressed up like Eskimos. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics.”
2. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
3. Christmastime by Michael W. Smith.
I have used all of them during worship at some time! Music speaks to me like few other things can. It has a way of seeping into my soul and changing me. I have been a singer for 39 years, a musician for 47 years and a music lover my entire life! What are YOUR favorites?
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!

More Art Than Science

art and science     As I write this this, it is early evening on Wednesday- last night. (Many of the tasks of a pastor are somewhat…schizophrenic…because you are OFTEN “working ahead”!) And as I write this, I have 5 more worship services before my vacation starts. (I historically take the week between Christmas and New Year’s off.) So, I have three this coming Sunday, the 23rd of December. We always have 3 on Sunday, so nothing new. And then, since Christmas Eve is on Monday this year, I have our 2 Christmas Eve services the next day. So, within 40 hours, I will lead 5 worship services. What you are used to will dictate whether that is a lot, about right or a light load! 

It’s very interesting to juggle that many services in a short period of time. They all need attention. They all need a sermon. (IN this case, that will involve 2 sermons preached a total of 5 times.) They all need music. Musicians. Candle lighters. Liturgists. Ushers. Greeters. Communion stewards. Tech support. And order. 

You have to sit down with all of these parts and pieces and make some semblance of order out of them. Where do you put the choir? Where do you put the Bell Choir? Where do you put the soloist? Communion? Offering? Sermon? Congregational songs. You have to try to not just slap it together haphazardly. You are trying to tell a story- one that lasts about an hour. And like any good story, transitions are very important. What you have after the choir, for example, should be affected by what kind of piece the choir is singing. If they offer up a quiet, spiritual “hymn”, you don’t want to immediately follow it up with having everybody greet- it spoils the mood the choir set. 

What will be the response to your sermon? Offering? Communion? A song? What can follow up the Bell Choir that gives them a chance to move back to the pews without drawing too much attention? And then there’s what tone do you want the service to END on? Upbeat and positive? Quiet and contemplative?  

These are all things we talk about every week in our worship planning meeting. I will ask, “Do we need to do that section differently because of…?” And then we will all bandy about ideas until we settle on what we feel is the best one.  

Worship shouldn’t be a series of disjointed pieces cobbled together with finishing nails and fishing line. It should be a well-thought out, well-executed bit of story-telling, spread out over 60 minutes or so. If there is one thing I have learned in 22 years in the ministry, it’s that worship planning is more art than science! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to planning Christmas Eve!  

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!

Brutiful

brutiful     As a pastor, it’s not uncommon to sit with a family as they waited for the funeral home to come and tend to the patriarch of their family, who died. For most people, it is a scenario that they will either never experience or perhaps experience once…maybe twice…in their lifetime. But for a pastor, it is not uncommon. It’s part of the gig.

And over the years, I have been in that situation MANY times. I have been with families as they waited for a loved one to die. I have been with families AS their loved one died. And I have been with families after their loved one died and they waited for the coroner or funeral director.

It is a circumstance that is, at some level, unique each time and yet…similar. The details surrounding the death of the loved one vary from one to the next. The response of the family varies. But grief is, in many way, universal. And the familial expectation on the pastor can vary greatly from one instance to the next.

I will always remember one such instance. I had JUST started a 3-month hospital chaplain internship as part of the requirements for being ordained. I was on the way to the hospital (which was 60 minutes away) for my FIRST “overnight”. As I drew near, I got a phone call from the on-duty chaplain that I was about to relieve- there had been a death in the hospital and he wondered if he could pass it on to me since I would be there all night and he was getting ready to go home. I assured him that was fine.

I got to the hospital and went straight to the room. It was a pretty big space, as hospital rooms go, and there were SEVERAL family members there. The woman who died, the matriarch of this large family, was still in the hospital bed. Trying to assess the situation as quickly and completely as possible, I identified a gentleman who I thought must be her husband- the patriarch of the group. I approached him, identified myself and, making an educated guess, asked him if he was, in fact, who I thought he was. He…was! He then did something that totally caught me off-guard. He turned, put his hands up for emphasis and nearly shouted, “OK- everybody quiet down. The pastor is going to speak!” He then turned to me and said, “Pastor?” No pressure!

One of the hardest, yet most impactful things a pastor does is interact with a family who has lost a loved one. It is a huge challenge…and a great privilege. It is the absolute definition of the word “brutiful”. A hybrid of “brutal” and “beautiful”, brutiful is the perfect word to define sitting with a family who is dealing with the loss of a loved one. It reminds me of two things every time I am in that circumstance- 1. I am in TOTAL need of God at all times and 2. it is a humbling privilege to be a pastor!
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.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

RalphHe was one of a kind. To say they broke the mold when they made him would be a gross understatement. He was a retired pastor we had the pleasure of serving with at our first church. He died a few years ago…and the world is a bit more…drab since he’s been gone. Now…I have NO doubt where he went- the man was a certifiable saint. But I also have no doubt of the hole that was left here on Earth by his passing. I have thought a lot over the years about WHY I thought so much of him. He couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. He didn’t play an instrument. He had no flair for the dramatic. He wasn’t the most well-spoken person I have ever met. And yet…I wanted to be him when I grew up…still do, in fact! And I could name MANY others who feel the same. So, again…WHY? And I think I’ve hit upon the answer.
He didn’t demand respect. We all know people who, by virtue of their position, or their stature, or their presence…demand respect. Insist on being called Rev. or Dr. or Prof…whatever. And, at least for me, that does…NOTHING! I do NOT respect someone simply by virtue of their title or their pedigree. I’ve known LOTS of folks with enough letters before and after their names to start their own alphabet, and I couldn’t even stand to be around them, let alone respect them. But then there are people like this pastor of whom I have been speaking who don’t try to impress, don’t try to demand respect…or anything else for that matter. Instead, they just…live their lives. They go about their daily routine, and by virtue of who they are, and how they do what they do…they earn our respect. But to do that, the first thing they have to do is touch our heart. Once that happens, they don’t have to do anything…they have respect.
Think about your own life- who do YOU respect? Now, you have to separate respect from fear, or admire, or follow, or any number of others words that could be inserted here. Respect is different. Respect is, according to Dictionary.com- “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person”. I held this man in such esteem, not for what he had or said, but because of what he did…and how he did it. In short, he didn’t demand my respect, he earned it. Who has earned YOUR respect? Who do you have “esteem for”? maybe the better question is this- who respects YOU? Who feels you have earned their respect? It seems to me that the world would be a better place if we had more respect for each other. And it further seems to me that something like that only happens when we live our lives in such a way that we earn that respect! So this season…earn respect. Live your life in such a way that other people notice, without you having to bring it to their attention. You will be more productive, you will make a bigger positive impact on the world, and you will help bring about change in others. How cool is 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 IS Fatigue?

fatigue     One word- fatigue. That MIGHT be the most insidious thing about chemo…maybe. Chemo creates this fatigue that makes it hard to function. When you are NOT in the middle of it, it’s relatively easy to be objective about it. “”Oh, yeah…there’ fatigue. It’s not TOO bad.” But when you are firmly in its grip, it’s hard not to get swept up in it.  

Let me try and explain. There is sleepy. There is tired. There is even exhaustion. But then there is “chemo fatigue”. And even exhaustion is preferential to “chemo fatigue”. Exhaustion is, “Gosh, I’m tired. I need to get some real rest.” “Chemo fatigue” is, “I have to hang on to things just to walk, because I can’t pick me feet up enough to really walk properly.” 

When you’re in it, it’s hard to even THINK straight, let alone function properly. I have a parishioner who calls it “chemo brain”. She is the only one I have heard refer to it as that…but I get it. And it is a cumulative thing- the more consecutive weeks you have chemo, the worse it gets. And then, as you move through a time of no chemo, you begin to move through the fatigue and past it. And you kind of sugar-coat the fatigue- down play it. Until the chemo starts back up! 

I recently had a conversation with my wife. I said that, all modesty aside, I consider myself a strong individual. I can take a LOT and keep on going. I have a high tolerance to pain, a high tolerance to stress and a high tolerance to fatigue. I am NOT trying to brag- often this points more to my stubbornness more than anything else. But it’s true. I tend to be able to “handle” more than most people. Again- NOT bragging, just stating a fact.  

But this fatigue is BAD. This past Friday and Saturday were especially bad. I spend an hour psyching myself up to get up and go in the kitchen to get my hot tea. When it’s time to go take a nap, I stand at the bottom of the steps and think, “Oh…my…goodness! I have to climb THEM?!” If there is a chair, I am going to sit. If there is an elevator, I am going to ride.  

I was talking to my wife about all of this. In the context of the conversation, I shook my head and said, “I don’t know how ‘normal people’ survive this fatigue.” Her quick and honest response? “They don’t.” Well, there you have it and there you are. Attitude has a lot to do with how well one navigates chemo. Now, PLEASE don’t misunderstand. I am NOT implying that people who don’t survive or who succumb rather quickly do so because they didn’t have the right attitude. I would NEVER want that be what I was quoted as saying. The best attitude in the world isn’t always going to help. But the worst attitude in the world is NEVER going to help.  

If you are fighting cancer…or anything else, for that matter…and you find yourself thinking or saying, “I can’t…”, you’re right. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Keep a positive outlook. It may NOT help in the long run, but it will definitely not hurt. Do the best you can every day. If you need to rest…rest. If you need to eat, even if you’re not hungry…eat. Sleep and food are fuel at this point. And keep reminding yourself that things like chemo treatment are two steps backward to gain one step forward. And some days, that’s just the best you can do!! 

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: Son of God, Love’s Pure Light

Silent Night Week 3      I am a huge fan of the Peanuts cartoons. Did you know that creator Charles Schultz never liked the name “Peanuts”. It was assigned by an edition and he felt stuck with it all those years. I have always appreciated the simple, philosophical approach those little kids have. There is humor, but there is also a depth to the humor, and they make you think! (Don’t you hate THAT?!) Therefore, you won’t find it a surprise that my all-time favorite Christmas TV special is a Charlie Brown Christmas.

The humor of the show, and there is plenty of it, is interspersed with the beauty and struggle of the season. Trying to mount a Christmas Pageant. Trying to find just the right tree. Trying to balance the commercialism of the season with the true meaning. They are all right there, competing for the entire episode.

But to me, the highlight of the episode is when Linus recites the Christmas Gospel. Even when I was a kid (and a younger adult) and the true impact of the Gospel was rather…lost…I still always felt the magic- if you will- of Linus asking for a spotlight, dropping his security blanket (a GREAT detail!) and simply reciting Luke 2. “And there came to pass in those days…” Creator Schultz and Producer/Director Bill Menendez fought to keep that part in- CBS didn’t want it. I’m glad they won!

But Linus does more than recite the Christmas Gospel in that scene- he offers The Word. In simple yet powerful ways, he touches everyone who hears him every year when that show resonates cross TV screens around the country. He may be the ONLY Word many people hear all year, in fact. And there is GREAT power in The Word…as we will find out in just a moment!

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

Each week, we focus on one of the 4 verses of this classic hymn. We are singing that verse, acapela, and then hearing part of the Christmas Gospel read. We then talk a bit about the ongoing history of the hymn and how that day’s verse applies to the larger story of Christmas. Here is Verse 3. Would you join me as we sing it together.

Verse 3- “Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light. Radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus Lord, at Thy birth! Jesus Lord, at Thy birth!”

John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

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. Our story picks up from there. Twenty years after “Silent Night” was first written, the one of those prominent families- the Rainers- brought the song to the United States, singing it (in German) at the Alexander Hamilton Monument located outside New York City’s Trinity Church.

In 1863, nearly fifty years after being first sung in German, “Silent Night” was translated into English for the first time. Eight years later, that English version first made its way into print in the Charles Hutchins’ Sunday School Hymnal. Today, 200 years later, the words of “Silent Night” are sung in more than 300 different languages around the world. In 2011, it was designated an “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This simple yet elegant, and timeless hymn continues to touch people 200 years later. The song has been recorded by a large number of singers from every music genre. It is one of the most-recorded songs ever. In fact, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the third best-selling single of all-time.

Did you notice that the Scripture that was read is NOT from the Christmas Gospel but instead from the beginning of the Gospel of John. It is not a passage that is normally directly connected with Christmas. But it has a lot to tell us today. There are 4 Gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They each tell the same story, but they each have their own perspective, their own emphasis. And even though Matthew is listed first, most theologians think Mark’s was the first Gospel written. And that makes sense. The closer to the actual event something is written, the more you can focus on the meat of the story. But as you get farther away from the source material, you feel the need as an author to include more of “the back story”.

So, if Mark was written first, it starts with Jesus’ adult ministry. There is no growing up. There is no birth narrative. He is full formed when Mark begins. Then comes Matthew, which backs up a bit and starts with Jesus’ genealogy before giving us a portion of Jesus’ birth narrative. Next comes Luke, which backs up a bit more and foretells the coming of John the Baptist as a herald of Jesus’ coming and THEN gives us the bulk of what we know as the birth narrative. And then comes John, which backs the story up even farther- “In the beginning”.

We go all the way back to the beginning of…everything. And IN the beginning was The Word. And The Word was with God. But The Word was MORE than just WITH God- The Word WAS God. IS God. And The Word is Jesus. He is the words on the pages of the Bible- the best-selling book of all-time, come to life. God’s Word isn’t just ink on paper- thank you, Mr. Gutenberg. Instead, it is a living, breathing embodiment of those words. He is THE Word. He is Jesus. The name we tend to focus on at Christmas is “Emmanuel”, which literally means “God with us”. THAT is Who The Word is.

Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him is life, and that life is the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Do you know The Word? And I don’t mean can you recite the Bible chapter and verse? If you can, more power to you. There is NOTHING wrong with having The Word literally in your head. But it’s more important that you have The Word in your HEART. People might be impressed with your ability to quote the Bible. That’s a gift that not everyone has. I guarantee there are people in this room right now who can quote Scripture much better than me. But in the end, people are more interested in your ability to live out The Word than your ability to quote it.

How are you living your life? Do you try to live out The Word day in and day out? Or is it more like the t-shirt my friend in seminary had that said, “Jesus is coming…look busy!” We laugh, but a lot of people live their lives as if that’s their motivation- Jesus is coming, look busy. Every day should be another step in the journey toward The Word, toward the Son of God, love’s pure light. Radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus Lord, at Thy birth! Jesus Lord, at Thy birth!

This Christmas, take time to focus on The Word. Take time to focus on a light, shining in the darkness. Think about the fact that it doesn’t take a blinding light that washes out everything. It doesn’t even take a small spotlight on Linus on a school stage. In the right conditions, the human eye can see one simple candle burning from 20 miles away in the darkness. One candle can defeat the darkness. The Light came to defeat the darkness. The Word came to be the embodiment of God in the world. The Word was with God. The Word was God. The Word IS God. The Word is Emmanuel- God with us. Son of God, love’s pure light. Radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus Lord, at Thy birth! Jesus Lord, at Thy birth!

Remembering a Great Man

remember     Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my father-in-law’s death. December 14, 2017 he passed. My wife and I were with him when he died. My wife and I took Chinese carry-out to my mother-in-law for lunch to commemorate the day. (She lives in an assisted-living facility near us.) We had a nice remembrance. 

I have shared may times the strained relationship I had with my dad. I have also shared that, in the later years, that all changed and I got…my dad. It was great. And I realize, from day to day, all the things my dad taught me. He taught me how to do basic plumbing and electricity. Her taught me to survey a problem and try the easiest solution first. He taught me to work hard and stick to something until you had it done. Not a day goes by that I don’t use things my dad taught me. 

On the other hand, my father-in-law taught me a different skill set. He taught me how to be a husband and a and a dad. He was one of the best husbands, fathers and grandpas I have ever known. I was truly blessed to have had him as a second dad for all those years. (I knew him for 40 years and was his son-in-law for 32 years.  

He was funny- wickedly so. He was loving. He was caring. He would do anything for his family…and often did. He loved to try and convince you about something that wasn’t true. And his “tell” at times like that was that his eyes would twinkle and his lip would curl because he was trying not to smile! 

When my dad dies, he remained relatively heathy and lucid until the very end. And when his time came, it was pretty much like God just turned the light out. But with my father-in-law, we started losing him a few years before his body decided to catch up. Dementia started setting in. And BOY is that an insidious thing. It robs the best of what people are and leaves behind this person you KNOW they would not want to be if there was a choice to be had.  

Appreciate the “seasoned citizens” in your life. They have lived full lives and have much to offer in the way of wisdom and life experience. They continue to enrich those around them. And remember the saints who have gone before you who helped make you the person you are! 

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 Ain’t the Sharpest Tool in the Shed!

Dumb-and-Du-010     Abraham Lincoln said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt”.  Well…prepare to have your doubts blown away! When I was a kid, I thought there were tiny people IN the TV who acted out the scenes live as I watched! They had all the costumes, props, etc., right in the TV with them, and they would do the show/movie at the moment I was seeing it! (Imagine “The 10 Commandments”!) My brother told me they were in there. I also thought they could see me- I would wave at them, not scratch or pick inappropriate places when I thought they were looking, etc. You are saying to yourself, “How old WERE you?” 17! No…not really! I was a pre-schooler. And to my defense, if you ever watched Romper Room, you can understand my confusion. Miss Lois would stand there with her Magic Mirror and SAY she could see me! (It never dawned on me that I have a relatively common 1st name!) I also thought that if I turned off the TV, it would freeze the show right there, and I could pick it up when I came back! (Remember, this was DECADES before DVR!) 

Then  there is the radio. I thought that the singers/musicians were actually AT the radio station, performing the song live as I listened. My brother told me that, too. (Remember, I have been clear to state that I am NOT the sharpest tool in the shed!) They would tour the country, with ALL their equipment, setting up in radio stations from town to town, just to perform that one song…and move on! (Sounds REALLY cost-effective, doesn’t it?!) I am unable to explain why I thought people were IN the TV, but had a gear to “get” that the radio signal was broadcast. 

I also thought that there were little people inside my body- factory workers if you will, who made the whole shootin’ match work! Come to think of it, my brother told me that, too! (I am suddenly getting some serious clarification on many things! Give me just a second………OK, I’m back. Note to self: call your brother!) I thought people didn’t breathe when they slept (it made for some interesting times when I tried to pretend I was asleep)! I thought people could hear you through the phone if it was only ringing; when we were ducking a call, I’d be really quiet! I thought if I closed my eyes…you couldn’t see me! I thought lemonade was lemon juice and sugar…period! (Remember, no Rhodes scholars in MY home town!) 

Misconception is a pretty common thing. We are incorrectly informed on all sorts of things. I am often surprised and saddened by the misconceptions people have about the Christian faith. People think they have to earn their way to heaven- enough good deeds and they’re in. The reality is that we CAN’T earn our way to Heaven- it is instead offered by God. People think that God is a distant Clock Maker- crafted the whole thing, wound it, started it, and then…walked away into eternity, leaving it to run on its own. 

But God is very active in our lives, guiding us, teaching us, forgiving us. People (including some seminary professors) think that Jesus was just a good guy- taught some things, got on the wrong side of the Roman government, paid for it with his life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. He came into our world, to quote singer Chris Rice “wrapped our injured flesh around You, breathed our air and walked our sod”. He experienced the things we experienced. He never traveled more than about 50 miles from His home. He taught, healed, saved- and when His time here was complete, and not a moment sooner, He willingly laid down His life to take away our sin. On the 3rd day, He just as willingly picked that life back up so that we might have eternal life. THAT is Who we recognize when we celebrate Christmas- a baby in a manger who split time in half! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go try and feed the little people in my TV…they have GOT to be starving! 

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!

Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong

spin-doctors-longview-squirrel-fest-95 -POZA

I’ve been thinking about a rock group I first “met” in the 90’s- The Spin Doctors. I hadn’t heard anything from them for a long time, so I Googled them to see if they were still together. Turns out, they are. But their big radio hits were in 1991, off their Pocket Full of Kryptonite Album. And those two songs were Two Princes and Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong. I really liked- still like- their sound- driving, full, true rock and roll- my kind of stuff! 

The song that has been playing in my head is Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong. It’s one of those songs that, on the surface, is just a catchy rock/pop tune that’s easy to sing along with. But when you dig into the lyrics, it has a lot to say about the human condition.  

The main idea is about a person- in this case Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong- who simply…well…can’t be wrong. And if you don’t believe it, just ASK her. The gist behind the song is about people who get “stuck” at a certain point in their life and can’t truly get beyond it. Therefore, they can’t be wrong.  

And I know from whence I speak. Because of my dysfunctional upbringing, it happened to me. And while I’m sure this is painting with a broad brush, it seems like the majority of people who get “stuck” get stuck somewhere around 7th–8th Grade. To quote that great theologian singer/songwriter Randy Newman, “I could be wrong now, but I don’t think so!” I got stuck there and didn’t even know it. I went on to High School and succeeded- quite well in many ways. College, same way. But there were these lingering anger issues, issues with authority and some immaturity issues (coupled with what I would call hyper-maturity at the same time) that were always there. Got out of college, got married, bought a house, got a job, had a kid. But I had problems. And they CAUSED problems- in my marriage and my home life. Over the years, it got worse. And it took the concerted efforts of my wife and some good counseling to even begin to pull me out. 

But over time, I began to see that, somewhere along the way, I needed to acknowledge that I was stuck. I needed to acknowledge that I was blaming everybody and everything else. And I needed to acknowledge that in the end, only I could make the changes necessary to get out of the spiral. I had to learn that I could NOT change anything that had gone on before, but I COULD change what was coming. I could vow to stop blaming other people for my problems and let go of the hurt. And that, my friend, is hard. But of you can find a way to do it, you can truly make some life-altering changes. I am NOT the person I once was. I’m not yet the person I want to be…but I’m a LOT closer. 

I see people every day who fit this pattern. They are adults who are stuck in Junior High. They ARE Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong. They can’t let go. They won’t let go. They don’t even acknowledge any need to. And it rules their lives. They make decisions that, under “normal” adult circumstances, don’t make ANY sense. Other people see it…and just shake their heads in disbelief. These are people that seem like ordinary adults until some major stressor pulls back the curtain and reveals their true colors. And their typical response is to run from the circumstances they have created. But all that does is create what, in computer terms, is known as a new backup point. They can now back the hurt up to that NEW point and blame the person or people who are the “face” of it. They still, deep down, also blame people from 30 years ago who hurt them, but now they have a whole new cast of characters to point their troubles at. 

If this describes you, I encourage you to seek professional help. Listen to the people who are trained in such things. Be willing to be honest- brutally honest- about your true motives. Why do you do the things you do? And then be willing to accept responsibility for them. Realize that you can’t change what WAS. And when you try, you only hurt yourself and those around you. But you CAN change what IS and what WILL be. And if you are able to embrace that truth, you will come out the other side a much more contributing member of society…AND much happier with yourself and your life. Words to live by- thank you, Spin Doctors! 

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

Another One is Done!

chemotherapy     Well, Chemo Round #4, Infusion #3 is “in the books”, as they say. We arrived at the infusion center for our 11AM appointment with the oncologist. My weight, BP, pulse ox and blood work all looked good…or good enough to have chemo in some cases!  

We had a good visit with the oncologist. She had just gotten back in the past few days from a conference in San Diego, so we asked her about that. You might imagine- when you spend this kind of intimate time with one doctor for these many months, you develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship. She is an awesome lady and an awesome doctor.  

Our infusion appointment was for noon- they got us about 20 after 12. Same gig as always- oral meds, saline through the port, Benadryl, steroids, cancer drugs. As it it did two weeks ago, the Benadryl hit me like a ton of bricks. My cozy blanket went on, the chair was reclined and later, I had to ask my wife if I really ate lunch or not! When the dust had settled, they unhooked my port from the system about 4PM. In the car and on the way back home! A buzz through McDonald’s drive-through on the way into town to get my cheeseburger that will supply some much-needed natural protein and iron, completed the trip home. It was a quiet- and EARLY- evening! 

This is a “3 weeks on and one week off” round. So, I am now starting the off week. Going on with the schedule we established would have me getting chemo on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Needless to say, they are NOT doing chemo those days! So, we decided to not start back up until 1/2/19. That will give me 2 weeks and 1 day off between treatments. I will be on vacation then. Both of our boys will be home. That puts us PAST our next “goal” (Huzzah!) and with a few days still off to start the recovery process. It will be interesting to see what the oncologist wants to do when we finish that Round #4 Treatment #4 regimen.  

Thank you for your prayers. We feel them. We covet them. We appreciate them. Literally thousands of people around the world are praying for us and we feel truly blessed by that. Your “partnership” with us is something that is hard to describe but easy to connect with! 

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!