A New Health Update

health update          Yesterday was “back to chemo” day. After a full month off, we went to the oncologist yesterday with the plan that, if everything looked good, it was “Strap into the chair and fire it up” time. We left the house about 8:10AM. The first thing scheduled wasn’t until 9:30AM and it takes us pretty much EXACTLY 45 minutes to get to the Oncology Center- geographical oddity…45 minutes from everywhere! But we needed to get gas and, because it was my wife’s birthday, she wanted to take a sheet cake for the staff at the Center- awesome woman that she is! So, it was gas, cake and then head out!  

     We hit some snags along the drive. There are 2 primary bridges that we COULD take to cross the Mississippi, based on where we live and where we were going. The bridge we normally take, however, is undrivable right now and will be for quite some time. They are building a replacement bridge right now and they are at the stage where they are finishing the new bridge and tearing down the old one. Therefore, we take the OTHER bridge! 

     The next challenge was that, we got “down the hill” and into the basin of the Mississippi River/Rock River Valley…only to find that a section of the road we need to travel to GET to the other bridge was under water due to the heavy ran overnight. So, we had to take a detour but managed to bypass the closed section and get back on track.  

      Then we came upon a spot in the 4-lane divided highway we as we headed to the Mississippi that had SEVERAL emergency vehicles blocking the right lane. We managed to get by, but found out that someone hydroplaned and ended up in the floodwater off the highway. (Sadly, they did not survive the ordeal!) We were then back on track and made it at about 9:21AM- 9 minutes BEFORE our appointment with the oncologist. Good driving, Sweetheart! 

     We got called back. My numbers all looked good, except my BP was a little high for me. It ended up staying that way the whole time we were there- they check it several times throughout the process. All in all, the oncologist was happy and continues to be amazed. She released us to go to the other side of the office for treatment.  

     They got me situated, gave me my oral meds and got the IV attached to the port. We have found that perhaps the biggest thing that impacts how long we are there on any given trip is how long the pharmacy takes to release each of the drugs that will be infused into me. Some weeks, they are caught up and the techs get them before they even need them. Other times, the pharmacy is busier and we all have to wait between drugs. This was a “every drug was ready ahead of us” day, so it was the shortest day it could be. 

     The injected Benadryl, as it has been doing for months now, both makes me want to nearly slip into a coma and have what we call “the Jimmy Legs”- a kind of temporary Restless Leg Syndrome. So, the first hour + of that part of the infusion is me fighting with a body that A. wants desperately to sleep and B. CAN’T sleep because of the stupid legs! Finally, about 11:30AM, I could sleep. 

     Then, about 12:15AM, something (beeping alarm, check chemo tech, whatever” woke me up. We decided to go ahead and eat lunch since I was awake. (We had our leftovers from Saturday’s trip to Olive Garden! Quite good!) Then, it was back to sleep. I managed to sleep, off and on, until we were done- about 2:15PM. We packed and headed home, getting back about 3PM. That means it made for a nearly 7-hour day! It IS a commitment! 

     I will, theoretically, have 2 more treatments over the next 2 Mondays and then have a week off to rest. I will then start back up with that same schedule-3 weeks “on” and 1 week “off” for the more rounds, That will take us, if all goes well, roughly mid to late August. Then, it will be evaluation time again. Time will tell! 

     Even though that is not the ideal scenario for spending your wife’s birthday with her, I’m just glad THAT I got to spend it with her! We have set our next “goal” as our 34th wedding anniversary- July 6th. But qe continue to simply take life one day at a time, one moment at a time. 

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

My Angel

angel*This is a “greatest hits” post from 3 years ago.) Today is the anniversary of one of THE greatest things that has EVER happened in the history of humankind. Seriously. No foolin’! And what, you may ask, was that monumental event? On this date…the woman who said, “Yes” to my rather lame, nervous, poorly-thought proposal of marriage was born!
My wife and I met when we were but 15 years old…yep- High School Sweethearts! We met in the fall on a hayride and, over the next few months, struck up a friendship. It started slowly, almost imperceptibly…but it grew. She tells me that the “tipping point” for her, the moment she was sure I was interested in more than friendship, was the “standing in the rain” day.
Our high school was 3 large buildings built around a central, sunken parking lot- The Pit. It was not at all unusual that, during the short passing period between classes, you would need to get all the way from the 3rd floor of The Main Building, across The Pit and to the 2nd floor of The Annex Building. That meant you had LITTLE time to dawdle and still get to your destination on time. Partway through the 2nd semester of that Sophomore year, I was walking away from The Main, toward The Pit and The Annex, trying to get to class, when I heard, “That’s OK- don’t wait for me!” I turned…and there she was! It turned out that she, too, had the same route to take and was behind me. I laughed and waited for her. We walked together across the campus.
The next day, it was pouring down rain at that same moment in the schedule. But I was NOT going that make that same mistake again! So…I stood out in the pouring rain, waiting for her. When she came out and saw me standing there, knowing full well WHY I was standing there…a significant moment happened! Our first official date was not terribly long after that- April 29, 1977- her birthday. She came to see me perform in the school musical Oliver! (She said it was foreshadowing- me standing up front talking and her in the crowd, listening!) We then went to a local restaurant where we had sautéed mushrooms and partially-frozen birthday cake while listening to the synthesized stylings of one Mr. Mike Zicovich.
The journey from that night to our wedding…to today…was not always smooth. There were LOTS of bumps in the road- some pretty substantial. I was NOT always the partner I wanted to be…should have been. But that deep, abiding love just kept bringing us together…holding us together.
She certainly did NOT sign on to marry a preacher. If you would have given her a potential list of a THOUSAND jobs I might end up doing…”ministry” would have STILL not been on the list! And yet- God continues to use the least, the lost, the reprobate. And so, WAY down the road- I finally had no choice but to relent to God’s call on my life. And as she has always done, this amazing woman who manages to somehow tolerate me year after year stepped up to the plate. She is both the least “typical” and best “pastor’s wife” I have ever seen! And she just continues to be the absolute best partner I could have ever imagined. Thank you, God, for the unfathomable gift of this beautiful woman in my life. I am truly blessed! Happy birthday, Sweetheart!
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!

Unsung Heroes of the Bible: Rahab

Unsung Heroes Rahab    The 1982 World Series winner the St. Louis Cardinals were a team of unsung heroes. While it DID have 2 future Hall of Famers on the roster- Ozzie Smith and Bruce Sutter- it was, for the most part, was made up of what I call “situational players”- guys who may not have been the biggest names in the game but who worked together to get the job done. But perhaps the MOST unsung hero on that team was Glenn Brummer. You might be saying, “WHO?” And to that, I say, “Exactly!” Brummer was a 3rd string, back-up catcher for the ’82 Cardinals. On August 22, in the middle of the pennant race, Brummer was on 3rd, tie game, 9th inning. Now, Glenn wasn’t exactly known for his speed, so no one expected what was about to happen.

On the pitch…Brummer attempted to STEAL HOME. The place went up for grabs, Brummer ran, slid in under the tag and scored the winning run. One sportswriter described him as not only the slowest guy on the team but probably the slowest person in the stadium. And he stole home! Amazing!

Fast forward several years. I was going to preach on Glenn Brummer and I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight so I called KMOX, THE sports radio station in St. Louis, to ask the sports department about the event. Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck had just been on the radio MOMENTS before I called, so I asked to speak to him…what was I thinking?…and they said, “Just a second.” A few moments later, there was that highly recognizable voice on the other end! I was floored! So, I picked my jaw up off the floor and told him why I was calling. He talked with me for about a minute or two about that game. I then said, “Did Herzog send him?”, meaning did the manager tell him to do that. Buck laughed and said, “You’ve gotta be kidding! NOBODY knew he was going to run!”

Fast forward again. Our older son was a student at Illinois Wesleyan University. The Cardinal Winter Caravan was coming to IWU and Brummer was one of the Cardinal alumni on that tour. I sent a baseball to my son and asked him if he would go to the event and get Brummer’s autograph. He said that when he got to Brummer, he said, “My dad sent me to get YOUR autograph on this ball.” He said Brummer looked at him and said, “REALLY?” Even he was surprised!

Great heroes, both men and women of faith have been recorded throughout the Bible. However, there are many Biblical characters who can be easily overlooked and yet should be regarded as heroes, not necessarily because of their extraordinary feats but because they simply chose to stand on the right side of history. They chose to align themselves with the promise made to their ancestors and to the spread of the Gospel. With all of that in mind, we will spend the next few weeks considering the lives of s handful of these unsung heroes and how significant they were to their time and generation…and to us.

Joshua 2:1-4 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from.

Rahab was a member of the oldest professional. Or to quote those great theologians over at Steely Dan, one of “the workin’ girls in the county jail”. We all know what I mean, right? I’m trying to save those of you with kids conversations on the way home that you don’t want to have!

Rahab lived in Jericho- part of what the Hebrews saw as The Promised Land. And she is one of the most thought-provoking and astonishing heroes in the Bible. She is significant for her great faith, to be sure. But she is also significant for her place in the lineage of Jesus. A closer look at this remarkable woman gives us more insight into God’s plan for His church as well as how He deals with us when it comes to grace and mercy.
So, Rahab’s story is found in the Book of Joshua, during the taking of the walled city of Jericho by the Israelites. Jericho was the most important Canaanite city in the Jordan Valley- a military stronghold that was right smack in the path of the advancing Israelites. Joshua, the successor to Moses, has his people amassed at the banks of the Jordan River. But before they cross, he sends two spies to check things out- advance scouts. They cross the Jordan and head to Jericho. The king of Jericho somehow finds out about it and orders them captured and brought to him.

The spies end up at the home of Rahab. Some ask, “What were the two spies doing at HER house?” Ancient historian Josephus lists her as an innkeeper…and nothing else. Also, it was not uncommon for someone to run BOTH an inn and a “house of ill repute” in the same building. So, we don’t have to try too hard to question the spies’ presence there.

She tells them how the citizens of Jericho have been fearful of the Israelites ever since they defeated the Egyptians through the Red Sea miracle. She agrees to help them escape, as long as they promise that her family will be spared when the Hebrews take the city. The spies agree, as long as three conditions are met: 1) she has to hang a scarlet rope out the window of her home so they’ll know who to spare; 2) her family has to be inside her house during the battle; and 3) she can’t turn on the spies later on. She agrees, hides them on the roof under some branches and tells the king’s men that they left at dusk and they’d better hurry after them before they get away.
The two spies safely escape Jericho and report back to Joshua that the “whole land is melting with fear.” The Israelites cross the Jordan, attack Jericho and the city is destroyed. Only Rahab and her family are spared.

Rahab was perceptive, smart and well informed. She identified the spies for what they were, hid them, and had a plausible story ready when she was questioned. She said they left at dusk- when it would be hard for any witness to be sure of clearly seeing anything. She created a sense of urgency so that the king’s men, rather than searching her house and risking letting the spies get away, went after them. And she gave the spies excellent advice- hide in the hills for three days before trying to cross the Jordan.
Given her chosen occupation and her subsequent reputation, Rahab is NOT a very likely candidate as a hero of the faith. And spiritually, she wasn’t the ideal candidate to believe in the one true God, the God of Israel. She was part of a corrupt, depraved, pagan culture that was under God’s condemnation. But she had a change of heart. Let’s be clear- she betrayed her people. And she came to know God. It was that change of heart, that faith that ultimately saved her and her family. And that faith makes her the first recorded Gentile convert in history.

Through Rahab’s story, we learn of the amazing grace of God that can save even the worst sinners and bring them into an abundant life in Jesus. Once we come to Jesus, our past no longer matters- the slate is wiped clean for all who believe. Her story also reminds me that, although we are saved by God’s grace through faith, true faith requires action. We have to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and then live in a way that shows our faith is real.

The late, great singer/songwriter Rich Mullins perhaps said it best when he said, (Video of song and lyrics that include the words, “It’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine. Faith without works, Baby- it just ain’t happenin’!”) “Faith without works, Baby- it just ain’t happenin’!” Living by faith should lead to righteous works- NOT as a requirement but as a response. What “good works” are you producing that demonstrate your faith to the world?

My Midnight Confession

Midnight_Confessions_singleI recently had an interesting thing happen. I posted a daily blog that had several people point out, “You just posted this a few days ago.” The rest of their comments varied from “Are you testing us?” to ‘I THOUGHT this one sounded familiar!” Let me explain. I started this blog in September of 2009. Since then, except for a brief period a few years ago when I cut back to three or 4 posts/week so I could work on other writing projects…but then the cancer diagnosis came…I have stuck with that schedule ever since.  

     I intentionally described it right from the start as a “DAILY look at life…”. My goal was to give folks some insight into the life of a pastor. It gave me the latitude (and continues to do so) to post the sermon weekly, share my thoughts on life and theology and simply talk about weird, touching and/or funny things that happen daily. I have tried HARD over the years to write something fresh every day. I still TRY to do that! 

      However, the reality of A. the cancer diagnosis, B. the chemo and radiation treatments I receive, C. The side effects of both of those (including daily naps and earlier “bedtimes”) and D. feeling like crud on a cracker sometimes leaves me with no “gas left in the tank” to write. On those days, I will go back in the archives and choose a “greatest hits”. Again, I try NOT to do that- there are days when I simply can’t avoid it! 

     So, there you go- my Midnight Confession! It was NOT something I intentionally tried to hide- it just happened naturally! I’ll make you a deal- from here on out, if I have to print a “greatest Hit”, I will identify it as such! I will start with the fact that this blog is NOT one! (LOL!) Thanks for reading and walking this journey with me and my family! 

     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! 

Steve or Freddy?

Perry MercuryThe greatest voice of the rock era- that’s a loaded topic! I am (NO surprise) a HUGE fan of classic rock. For ME, “classic rock” means from 1974-1983…give or take a year here and there! I grew up the baby of the family (I suppose that means I am STILL the baby of the family! Some people would heartily agree with that!), and so I “cut my teeth” musically on what my siblings and parents listened to. Because of that, I have an incredibly varied taste in music. My parents listened to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Julie Andrews, Jim Nabors, Frank Sinatra…like that. My siblings listened to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Iron Butterfly, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Three Dog Night, Joni Mitchell…you get the idea. I knew the extended drum solo from In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida before I knew my ABC’s!

But then, I began to “come into my own”…musically. I started listening to Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Chicago, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Head East, Boston, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Blue Oyster Cult, The Edgar Winter Group…the list could go on and on. And let me be clear…I LOVE all of those groups and their music…and many more! But two groups that always seemed to draw me in even more were Journey and Queen. Great music, to be sure, but over time, I began to realize that there was more to it than that. With all the REALLY good groups out there, Journey and Queen seemed to have something…special…different…than the others. I finally realized what that was- they had, in my humble opinion, the two greatest lead singers of the classic rock era. Steve Perry from Journey could hit notes that no human should be able to git…and do it effortlessly. And Freddie Mercury from Queen…well…there has never been another singer quite like Freddie Mercury!
As a drummer, I realized LONG ago that, for the VAST majority of successful rock bands, once you get beyond the lead singer and MAYBE the lead guitarist, the rest of the band is basically a collection of interchangeable parts. NO offense intended to any drummers, keyboardists or bass players out there, but  if a different musician sat in at that instrument for a recording session, the average fan would never know the difference. BUT…take away the lead singer…suddenly it’s a Tribute Band covering someone else’s songs! But, at least for me, that’s OK! I don’t play music for the glory (good thing!)- I play for the sheer joy of the creative process!
Who do YOU think is the greatest voice of the rock era? Admittedly, I “wussed out” a bit by choosing two, but who would YOU pick?
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!


Sometimes, All I Can Do is Shake My Head

200135951-001     There has been that story in the news the past few days- a little boy reported missing. It caught my attention that, basically right from the start, the police said they were not treating as a runaway, wondering off OR and abduction. That seems to GREATLY diminish the possibilities of what happened to him. His parents reported him missing and the police seemed rather suspect of them from the moment they got the call. 

     Although they (the police) were rather tight-lipped (understandably) about their investigation, everything pointed to the fact that they strongly suspected that one or both of the parents was involved. And sure enough- they found his body and the parents have been arrested. Now, I am WELL aware of the whole “innocent until proven guilty” approach, and I believe in it. However, in this case, it’s hard NOT to make the jump to “guilty”.  

     Cases like this make me come to one simple yet profound question, “How, in the name of all that is holy, could someone do something like this to a child, especially your OWN child?” I don’t mean by that question that it would be somehow OK if this story was about a teen or an adult instead of a little kid. It wouldn’t. But it feels even worse to me when an innocent child is tortured, abused or murdered by someone- especially someone who was specially trusted to protect them.  

     To me, children are a special gift from God. And while I love my wife more than anything or anybody but God, I have a special kind of love for my sons that is reserved for them and them alone. I don’t want them to do ALMOST as well as me or be ALMOST as good at me at something. I want them to make look like a total hack- a slacker who can barely function in the world. Nothing would make me happier. 

     Now, by that I do NOT mean that I will measure my pride and joy in them by how well they do or don’t “succeed” in the world. My love for them is agape- a love that expects nothing in return. And as a result of all that, I would protect my family- my wife and both sons- by whatever means necessary. I would, as a preacher friend of mine says, walk through the fires of Hades in a suit made of gasoline suit if necessary. Would I lay down my life for my family? Every day and twice on Sunday, without hesitation. 

     My prayers go out to that little boy, his extended family and his community. And yes, I pray for his parents. If they are somehow innocent of this heinous crime, I pray that is revealed. If, however, the preponderance of evidence that seems to point to guilt is accurate, I pray they find Jesus in the midst of this fresh Hell they are in and that He forgives them. Either way, I weep for a world that has created such a scenario and made it all to prevalent. Made Heaven help us. 

        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! 

Chemo and Cake!

chemo and cake

     We are gearing up for more chemo. In two days- this Friday- I will go to our local hospital the get my “labs” done. (Blood draw and urine sample!) The lab will fax those results to my oncologist. Then, Monday morning, we will head out to that very same oncologist. She will give me a physical and evaluate the lab results. Assuming everything is within acceptable levels, we will then head to the other side of the oncology center for the infusion. This will be the full-blown one, with both meds. It takes longer and has more of an impact on me than the middle week of the cycle.  Getting back on chemo after a month off is a mixed bag. One the one hand, I KNOW it is having at least SOME positive impact on the cancer- a good thing. On the other hand, I know the side effects are coming.  

     So, after almost a month off, where do I stand? Well, on the down side, the fatigue and the neuropathy are no better than they have been. The appetite is still non-existent. And the ability to taste is still NEARLY non-existent. I still am weak in the arms and legs, hands and feet…especially the legs. (Stairs are a TON of fun!) On the upside, my wife and I both notice that I am MUCH more talkative- a sign that, in some ways, I feel ”better”. With the weather warmer, I am taking the dog out more and more, which gives me more exercise than I had during this past wicked winter! 

       The thing about this particular upcoming cancer treatment center visit is that it happens to fall on a very important date- April 29th. That day is a VERY important one for my wife and me. It is not only her birthday, but it is also the anniversary of our first date! Back on April 29th, 1977, I invited her out to the opening night of the school musical- Oliver! I was a part of the cast. After the show, we went to a local restaurant, where we shared an order of sautéed mushrooms and had a small cake (still partially frozen!) that I had arranged ahead of time! 

     The staff at the oncology center has become like family to us- we have been going there for almost two years now. Most of them know us by name. The chemo techs spend so much time with us when we are there that they ask things like, “how are your boys doing?” So, since we have to spend such an important day in OUR lives getting chemo, we are taking a sheet cake with us so that the staff can share the day with us!! 

      I have NO idea how long their average patient comes to the center. I DO know that NO ONE thought we specifically would still be coming there almost 2 years after my diagnosis. That has developed a strong bond with them that we will celebrate in the midst of everything else on Monday! 

        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!