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! 

The Great Easter Egg Debacle of ’12

Protesters fall as they are pushed back by police in riot gear during a protest after a not guilty verdict in the murder trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley in St. LouisI was looking back over Easter yesterday when I remembered a story about an Easter egg hunt in Colorado Springs, CO that was canceled back in 2012. Was it canceled because of bad weather? No. Was it canceled because of lack of funding? No. Was it canceled because there wasn’t enough interest? No. Was it canceled because there was TOO MUCH interest? Well…sort of!
Here is a portion of an article written by Associated Press writer Solomon Banda about it- “An annual Easter egg hunt attended by hundreds of children has been canceled because of misbehavior last year. Not by the kids, but by the grown-ups. Too many parents determined to see their children get an egg jumped a rope marking the boundaries of the children-only hunt at Bancroft Park last year. The hunt was over in seconds, to the consternation of eggless tots and the rules-abiding parents…There was no place to hide the plastic eggs…So thousands of eggs were put in plain view on the grass.”
The article goes on to talk about “helicopter parents” hovering over their children, trying to give them the best edge possible. It quotes some people who even try to put a positive spin on what happened last year. One guy said, “Of course I’m going to help my kid. I promised them an Easter egg hunt and I want to make sure he has an even edge.”
Now I understand folks wanting to put a positive spin on things- I am often quite the Spin Doctor, putting a positive face to things. But the bottom line of this story is- it is PITIFUL! Frankly, I’m embarrassed to call myself a human being when others act like that. I am stunned to see how many parents do everything for their kids. They wake them up in the morning- the little darlings might have their self-esteem damaged if they have to actually set an alarm! They call them in late or absent from school because the student…bless their precious heart…just doesn’t feel like getting up. They step up and throw a fit and threaten lawsuits if their perfect little angel gets in trouble. “Make other people responsible for their actions if you want, but my son/daughter should simply NOT have to live by the same rules and standards as everyone else…they’re SPECIAL!”
What are we actually doing for (or to) our children when we act that way? We are crippling them. Think about it- unless you go and live with them at college, they are not going to get that kind of treatment there. And even if they DO get that kind of treatment in college, not many businesses are going to take kindly to the parents of their employees calling in and saying, “Little Johnny won’t be at work today- his tummy hurts!”
It’s a pitiful shame to see parents behave like…kids. And it needs to stop. Love your kid- unconditionally. Do anything for them…anything, that is, that they NEED! Enjoy them. Laugh with them. Talk with them. Read to them. Play with them. But let them make mistakes. Why? Because if they get to make “safe” mistakes when they are younger, if they are allowed to see that life is simply NOT always perfect or fair, they will be SO much better equipped to handle what the world throws at them as adults.
We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TheGlovedAvenger #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A GREAT Easter Sunday!

Easter 2     What a GREAT Easter Sunday! It began VERY early Sunday morning. I was out of the house by about 5:45AM. (Which, now that I think about it, isn’t really any earlier than most Sundays!) Usually, if I get to church by 5:50AM, I have an hour and 20 minutes to get “stuff” ready. That “stuff” includes helping our Worship Director get the building open for the day. (There are a LOT of doors to unlock and a LOT of lights to turn on!) I usually need to touch up the Powerpoint presentation that will accompany my sermon. I need to copy 3-4 Powerpoint files onto a flash drive.  

     I then head to the sanctuary. Job #1- load those Powerpoint files into the sanctuary computer and add them to the 3 files that represent our three morning services. From there, it’s setting up Communion for our 9:15AM service (weekly) or all 3 morning services (monthly). Then I set up the tripod and iPod that livestreams our sermon for the day.  

     By then, it’s 7AM and the 8AM Praise Band is coming in for a “warm-up” prior to the start of that service. We practice for about 30-35 minutes, which leaves about 25 minutes to visit with people before the first service of the day begins. 

     That’s a normal Sunday. Easter, however, is NOT a “normal” Sunday! Our Sunrise Service starts at 6:30AM. I usually have someone else preach that service. This year, our Director of Young and Young Family Ministries volunteered for that task. I encouraged her to take on as much or little of that service as she wanted to. In the end, she and our Worship Director led the lion’s share of the service and my job was to officiate over Communion. That service ran about 50 minutes and she did a GREAT job! 

      That meant that, by the time the 8AM Praise Band “got the ball”, it was about 7:30AM- just 30 minutes before the start of the next service. We had an abbreviated warm-up. I had about 10 minutes to “visit” and then- the rest of the morning was off and running! 

     The 8AM service- well-attended- was over about 9:03AM, leaving a whopping 12 minutes to get one crowd OUT, one crowd IN, the next Praise Band OUT and the next Praise Band IN! That service- also well-attended, ended at 10:10AM, giving us 20 minutes to get that group out and the next group in. The 10:30AM service, again well-attended, ended at 11:35AM.  

     By about noon, we were all at home, working on Easter dinner. It was what we call “steakarama”. We don’t eat steak very often. But for steakarama, we pull several out of the freezer. Since I can’t manage steak (I can’t swallow it very well), we get out some hamburger for me and make myself a burger on the stove while our older grills the HECK out of that steak outside. The menu was rounded out by hash brown casserole, roasted carrots (boiled carrots for me), fresh asparagus and strawberry-pretzel salad. It was great! By 2PM, I was asleep, where I stayed until 5PM! 

     For the week (Holy Thursday plus 4 services yesterday), we had a worship attendance total of just under 500 people. The worship services were powerful. The fellowship was great. And we lived up to our mission statement- “we exist to connect people to Jesus Christ”. Great week to be a part of the church we currently serve. Great week to celebrate an empty tomb and a risen Savior. And a great week to worship Jesus- Who the grave couldn’t hold! Christ is risen indeed! 

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

The Nails: Victory

The Nails Week 6   A woman was at work when she received a phone call that her daughter was very sick with a fever. She left work and stopped by the pharmacy to get some medication. She got back to her car and found that she had locked her keys in the car. She looked around and found an old rusty coat hanger that had been thrown down on the ground, possibly by someone else who at some time or other had locked their keys in their car, but she didn’t know how to use it. So she bowed her head and asked God to send her some help. Within five minutes an old rusty car pulled up, with a dirty, greasy, bearded man who was wearing an old biker do-rag on his head. The woman looked up and whispered, “This is what you sent to help me?” But, she was desperate, so she was also very thankful. The man got out of his car and asked her if he could help. She said, She told him her situation and asked if he could help. “Sure”. He walked over to the car, and in less than a minute had it opened. She cried and hugged him, and through her tears said, “Thank you SO much! You’re a very nice man.” The man replied, “Lady, I’m not a nice man. I just got out of prison…today- I’ve only been out for about an hour. I was in prison for car theft.” She hugged the man again and with sobbing tears cried out loud, “Oh, Thank you God! You even sent me a professional!” 

     Lent- the season of the church calendar leading up to Easter. It begins the Sunday AFTER Ash Wednesday and it is a 7-week period of preparation. Today, we reach the end of our current sermon series that has led us to Easter morning. We started in a rather unorthodox place…Christmas. And from the full manger of the first Christmas morning, we said we would walk all the way to the empty tomb of the first Easter. And along the way, we would always keep the image of “the nails” in front of us- reminding us that it was never the nails that held Jesus to the cross- it was His love for us all along. 

Matthew 28:1-10 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me. 

     The story of Mary Magdalene meeting Jesus at the empty tomb is one of some women going to the tomb to anoint a body for burial. It ends with the mourners becoming missionaries, running to tell the others what they had seen and heard.  

     Death is never easy to deal with. Most of the time we can avoid it or postpone it. But sometimes death stares us in the face and we don’t know what to do. If you’ve ever lost a loved one who meant more to you than life itself, you know why Mary and the others were there– death couldn’t destroy their love for Jesus. We see the empty tomb as one of the greatest proofs of the Resurrection. But unless the evidence is accompanied by proper understanding and an open heart, no one will ever be changed.  

     The women clung to Him because they thought that, now, everything was the same as it used to be. But Jesus says, “No, everything is different now.” Then He tells them to go and tell the others. So they go to the disciples and tell them they have seen JesusIn that moment, the mourner becomes the missionary! So it is with everybody who meets Jesus. We are called to do what Mary did- run and tell everybody who will listen that we’ve seen Jesus!  

     There’s great power in the words of someone who can say, “I was there. I saw it.” A church in Bangladesh was showing a movie about Jesus to an audience of people who’d never heard the Gospel before. As the story of the crucifixion unfolded, there were tears and audible gasps. As the natives watched, one young boy suddenly spoke up, “Don’t be afraid. He gets up again! I saw it before.” That’s our message to a world overwhelmed with the reality of death. God’s given us the answer. We can say to those who feel bewildered and heartbroken, “Don’t cry…Jesus has come back from the dead. I’ve seen Him!” 

     Who are we? Why are we here? It seems to me the reason we’re here is because we’re in love…I would be so bold as to call it the passionate throes of “first love”- the love we have for Jesus. It’s that “first love” that brings us to His feet. It’s that “first love” that empowers us to ask Him to make us His. It’s that “first love” that, through God’s grace, gives us the gift of faith. How much more could we fulfill the Great Commission if we were to reconnect with our first love and shut ourselves off from all those things that are add-ons to our faith? What if we were to rediscover the heart of our faith, our love for Jesus? 

     A woman read that dogs were healthier if fed a tablespoon of cod liver oil every day. So, every day she followed the same routine–she chased her dog until she caught it, wrestled it down, and managed to force the cod liver oil down the dog’s throat.  Until one day when, in the middle of this grueling medicinal effort, the bottle was kicked over. With a sigh, she loosened her grip on the dog so she could wipe up the mess–only to watch the dog trot to the puddle and lick it up. The dog LOVED cod liver oil! It was just the owner’s method of application the dog objected to. The delivery method was the problem. The same could be said of the church.  People desperately want to know that God is alive and well…and that He loves them. Why then aren’t all our churches full? I fear too many churches have a problem with how they communicate their message, with the delivery system. What if, before every committee meeting, every church asked this question: “Is what we’re about to discuss worth the price Jesus paid on the cross? Is what we’re doing right now worth the shedding of Jesus’ blood? Did Jesus die on the cross so that we could be this kind of church?” 

     Can we take Christianity at face value? Can people take our church, our lives, at face value? Without strong roots, our face value can quickly become farce value. Oscar Wilde sarcastically wrote, “The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible. What the second duty is no one has yet discovered.” So many Christian faces look like following Jesus is more a life sentence than a life style! But human beings of every age, at all times and in all places, whether they realize and reflect on it or not, are in relationship with the amazing mystery of human life we call God.  

      If you don’t know Jesus, or if you’re not sure, there’s no better time than Easter Sunday to put your trust in him. If you sense God’s calling you to come to Jesus, and if you truly want to know him, your faith will grow and your doubts will wane as you tell others what Jesus has done for you.  

     I close with this reminder- the nails led to the ultimate victory- over death. However, they were NEVER what held Him to the cross. It was His love for US that held Him there. The time to share the Good News has come. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! 

Low Saturday

tombFat Tuesday. Ash Wednesday. Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. Easter Sunday. Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute! What about Saturday? I didn’t see any Saturday in that list! (Didn’t see any Monday, either, but since we’re focusing on Saturday here, let’s just keep that between us!) There actually IS a day for the Saturday of Holy Week- which is today, by the way. And that name is Low Saturday. Seriously- Low Saturday.
Now I know that it doesn’t have the ring that some of the others do. After Fat, Ash, Maundy, Good and Easter, Low just…comes up a bit short! If this were a kid’s program, we would be singing, “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things does not belong.” And we would, of course, be talking about Low Saturday!
So why is it Low Saturday? Well, because it’s the day…THE day…that the stone was NOT rolled away, that Jesus was NOT alive and out of the tomb. It was…well…low. And although it’s a perfectly good name for it, it needs more. It deserves more. What about “Sunday’s Comin’ Saturday”? Or maybe “Almost There Saturday”? Or perhaps, because we have read the back of the book and know how the story turns out, it should be called “Great Expectation Saturday”.
Think about that for a minute- Great Expectation Saturday. It not only has a much more positive feel than Low Saturday; it also better captures the true feeling we should have for Easter- great expectations. We should be nearly beside ourselves with excitement, expectation and anticipation about Easter. It should be arguably THE most exciting event in our lives.
So…is it? For you, I mean? Is it Great Expectation Saturday? And NOT because of the eggs, candy, baskets and bunnies. And NOT because of ham, scalloped potatoes and great aunt Tillie. (No offense intended to great aunt Tillie, btw!) Is it Great Expectation Saturday for you SOLELY because tomorrow is the day we celebrate the fact that the grave could not hold our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? The obvious answer is “yes”…but is it the HONEST answer?
Pray about that today, and prepare for what should be THE most glorious day of the year. I pray you look into the tomb tomorrow…for yourself- don’t take someone else’s word for it…and see the graveclothes, empty and in a heap. See the stone rolled away. And see Jesus, standing there in the garden, beckoning you to a new way of life…a new LIFE!
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 so “Good” About Friday?

good fridayToday is Good Friday- the day we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. Let’s take a look at what the act of crucifixion ACTUALLY consisted of.
Crucifixion is thought to have been invented by the Persians around 300 BC. But it was Rome who “perfected” it in the first century BC. The common crucifixion cross consisted of an upright pole permanently fixed in the ground with a removable crossbar that weighed about 100 lbs. The victim was laid on their back with their arms outstretched- they were then nailed to the crossbar. Nails (about 7-9 inches long) were driven through the area surrounded by the radius and ulna arm bones and the small carpal bones of the hand. The nail placement was intentional- that specific area is strong enough to support the body, the nail would sever the median nerve in the hand, causing burning pain and rendering the hand useless, and there would be minimal blood loss, prolonging death.
The positioning of the feet was also crucial. The knees were bent and the feet flexed until they were parallel to the vertical part of the cross. Another 7-9 inch nail was driven through both feet between the 2nd and 3rd metatarsals. That nail would sever the dorsal pedal artery, but again blood loss was insufficient to cause death. The resulting body position created a horrific sequence of events- events that resulted in a slow, painful death.
The bend of the knees caused the victim to bear their weight with their thigh muscles- which was impossible to maintain for any great length of time. As leg strength gave out, the body weight had to be sustained by the arms and shoulders.
As the arms gave out, the body weight was transferred to the chest, putting pressure on the rib cage. In order to exhale, the victim had to push their feet down so their rib muscles could relax. As the legs tired again, the victim was less and less able to bear their weight, making breathing more and more difficult. The inadequate breathing caused the blood oxygen level to diminish and the blood carbon dioxide (CO2) level to rise. The rising CO2 level caused the heart to beat faster in an effort to increase oxygen delivery.
Unable to deliver more oxygen, the rising heart rate only increased oxygen demand. After several hours, the heart began to fail and the lungs began to collapse and fill with fluid. The combination of blood loss and hyperventilation caused severe dehydration. This combination of collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and inadequate oxygen supply eventually caused death. The victim, in effect, suffocated to death. When the Romans wanted to expedite death…they would break the victim’s legs, causing them to suffocate in a matter of minutes. A more gruesome death would be hard to find.
So, why in the WORLD would a day when we remember the HORRIBLE death Jesus endured be called GOOD Friday? One theory is that the words “God” and “good” were inadvertently switched because of their similarity. So, “God Friday” became “Good Friday”. But I think it’s more simple and direct than that- we call it Good Friday because, with the benefit of hindsight, the events of that horribly “bad” Friday 2000 years ago ultimately brought about the greatest good there could ever be. So a bad Friday becomes the ultimate Good Friday.
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.

Monday Thursday?

maundyThe preacher was delivering a sermon on the evils of alcohol. “If had all the wine in the world, I’d pour it in the river! If I had ALL the wine in the world, river,” shaking his fist in the air, “all the wine in the world, I would THROW it in the river!” He then sat down, satisfied with a job well done. Immediately, the song leader stood up and said to the congregation, “Will you join me in our Hymn of Response- #365, Shall We Gather At the River!”
All the wine in the world can’t compare to the transforming power of the Communion cup. Today is Maundy Thursday- NOT “Monday” Thursday, but MAUNDY Thursday. It is also known as Holy Thursday. It’s the Christian feast day that falls on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Last Supper. The word “Maundy” is derived from the Latin “mandatum”, the first word in the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicutdilexi vos”- which translates “A new commandment I give you- love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus said this to the disciples as they sat in the Upper Room that night, sharing the Passover meal. Up to that point, folks had been instructed to follow THE commandments- the 10 Commandments- as a guiding principle in their lives. But Jesus offers a new commandment- love one another as I have loved you. Throughout the centuries, people have argued that this “new commandment” is simply too short and too simple to be of any real, intrinsic value. I think, however, that misses the point. The 10 Commandments are a GOOD set of guidelines, but they can become a bit…cumbersome. Imagine if we all lived our lives by this “new commandment”. If we TRULY loved each other as Jesus loves us, then we wouldn’t lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, and all the other things covered in the original commandments. We would honor our parents, we would love our spouse and children, we would treat each other with respect and care. Suddenly, this overly short, overly simple new commandment seems to scratch us right where we’re itching!
Matthew 26:17-28 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says:My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house. ‘” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Whether or not you are a “religious” person (and let me just say, I tend to NOT be a “religious” person, but a person of faith- there is a fairly big difference) or not, whether or not you are a follower of Jesus Christ, I invite you to take some time today to meditate on this “new commandment”. See how it can apply to your life. Where are the areas that you feel you’re doing a pretty good job living it out in real time, and where are the areas that could use some work? Pray about that and ask God for the strength to continue doing the things that are going well and to “shore up” the things that are not going so well.
They walked in tandem, each of the 92 students filing into the crowded auditorium. With rich, maroon gowns and traditional caps, they looked almost as grown up as they felt. Dads swallowed hard behind broad smiles, Moms brushed away tears. It was graduation day, but this class would NOT pray during commencement…not by choice, but by court ruling. As the ceremony unfolded, the principal, the president of the school board, and several students were very careful to stay within the guidelines allowed by the court. They gave inspirational, challenging speeches, but no one mentioned God or asked for His blessings. The speeches were nice, if not routine…until the final speech. A student walked to the microphone, and the entire auditorium was still and silent. Then- it happened! ALL 92 graduating students, as if as one…SNEEZED! The student on stage leaned in to the microphone, winked, and said, “‘GOD BLESS YOU, each and every one of you!’ He then walked off the stage as the audience exploded in applause. He was able to invoke God’s blessing on the future with or without the court’s approval. Nothing could separate those students from what they felt was essential. Likewise, nothing can separate Jesus Christ from those who seek Him, and nothing should separate us from His presence and love.
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 Would KILL For an Easter Egg!

Easter-Eggs1 (1)Back in 2012, there was an Easter egg hunt in Colorado Springs, CO that made me just shake my head. It was canceled. And WHY was it canceled? Bad weather? No. Lack of funding? No. Not enough interest? No. TOO MUCH interest? Well…sort of!
Here is a portion of an article written by Associated Press writer Solomon Banda about it- “An annual Easter egg hunt attended by hundreds of children has been canceled because of misbehavior last year. Not by the kids, but by the grown-ups. Too many parents determined to see their children get an egg jumped a rope marking the boundaries of the children-only hunt at Bancroft Park last year. The hunt was over in seconds, to the consternation of eggless tots and the rules-abiding parents…There was no place to hide the plastic eggs…So thousands of eggs were put in plain view on the grass.”
The article goes on to talk about “helicopter parents” hovering over their children, trying to give them the best edge possible. It quotes some people who even try to put a positive spin on what happened last year. One guy said, “Of course I’m going to help my kid. I promised them an Easter egg hunt and I want to make sure he has an even edge.”
Now I understand folks wanting to put a positive spin on things- I am often quite the Spin Doctor, putting a positive face to things. But the bottom line of this story is- it is PITIFUL! Frankly, I’m embarrassed to call myself a human being when others act like that. I am stunned to see how many parents do everything for their kids. They wake them up in the morning- the little darlings might have their self-esteem damaged if they have to actually set an alarm! They call them in late or absent from school because the student…bless their precious heart…just doesn’t “feel like getting up”! They step up and throw a fit and threaten lawsuits if their perfect little angel gets in trouble. “Make other people responsible for their actions if you want, but my son/daughter should simply NOT have to live by the same rules and standards as everyone else…they’re SPECIAL!”
What are we actually doing for (or to) our children when we act that way? We are crippling them. Think about it- unless you go and live with them at college, they are not going to get that kind of treatment there. And even if they DO get that kind of treatment in college, not many businesses are going to take kindly to the parents of their employees calling in and saying, “Little Johnny won’t be at work today- his tummy hurts!”
It’s a pitiful shame to see parents behave like…kids. And it needs to stop. Love your kid- unconditionally. Do anything for them…anything, that is, that they NEED! Enjoy them. Laugh with them. Talk with them. Read to them. Play with them. But let them make mistakes. Why? Because if they get to make “safe” mistakes when they are younger, if they are allowed to see that life is simply NOT always perfect or fair, they will be SO much better equipped to handle what the world throws at them as adults.
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!

Ah…Holy Week!

holy_9038c     Holy Week is here! After weeks of build-up, here we are. I have said before that Easter (and Christmas Eve) are, for churches, the Super Bowl and the World Series combined. They are highlights of the church year. They represent the dual centerpieces of Christian theology, to be sure. But they are also our two best opportunities to welcome guests who don’t normally come to church. People who never set foot in a church all year are more likely to visit on Christmas Eve and Easter. Those folks are euphemistically referred to as “C & E people”. 

     For the churches we have served, Holy Week really begins the Sunday BEFORE Easter- Palm Sunday. Palm branches are waved. “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna” is often sung. The story of the parade-like triumphal entry into Jerusalem is retold. It’s a feel-good moment if ever there was one in church 

     Then, again for the churches we have served, comes Maundy/Holy Thursday and Good Friday. I have tried two different approaches to those days during our ministry- a separate service on each of those two nights and a combined service on ONE of those nights. In the end, I have found that a combined service on Maundy/Holy Thursday is the best choice. Having one combined service on Good Friday draws fewer people than one on Thursday while having two separate services tends to diminish attendance at both. 

     So, a special service is offered on Thursday of Holy Week. We will look at that in more depth ON Thursday. Good Friday, the church we currently serve has a powerful tradition. It is one that draws a small crowd, but even I would agree that it’s not always about the numbers! A dedicated group from the church gathers in front of the building at 7AM. There is an “old rugged cross” at the entrance to the church that they take out of its holder. They take turns carrying the cross, which is fairly tall and rather heavy. About 5-6 blocks up the street the church sits on- a rather well-traveled street- to what most people would consider the center of town. They rest there at the intersection for a moment or two, then cross and head back on the opposite side of the same street they took on the way out. 

     The purpose of those endeavor is two-fold: It is very impactful to the folks who DO it and it is highly visible to th folks who are out driving during that 7AM hour. Folks going to work or school…or wherever they are going…see this event as they drive by. Our hope is that it is a visual that causes them to consider Easter throughout their day. That event takes about an hour. 

     Then comes Easter Sunday! The church we currently serve offers 4 worship services on Easter Sunday: 6:30AM Sunrise, 8AM Contemporary, 9:15AM Rock & Worship and 10:30AM Blended/Traditional. It makes for a FULL Sunday morning! With the day beginning so early, we offer something for everyone as we celebrate the glory and the majesty of Easter. Each service has its own “personality” and yet they ALL are built around a message of hope. Communion is served at all 4 services. Great music is lifted up at all 4 services. And the “C & E People” come out to join us. 

     A word about that as I close. Too many Christians use that term, “C & E”, in (intentionally or unintentionally) derogatory ways. I have heard many a regular church-goer kind of chuckle as they talk about people who only come twice a year. But if you ARE one of those folks, you don’t hear that term as anything but an indictment. And THAT’S why I don’t use it. That’s why I don’t say, ‘Gosh, when was the last time I saw YOU? Oh yeah- Christmas/Easter!” That’s why I don’t say anything but, “GREAT to see you! SO glad you’re here!” Guilt and shame NEVER brought anybody to church. Welcoming and inviting, on the other hand? Well, you KNOW how I answer that! Sunday’s comin’! 

        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! 

Musical Giftedness in the Church

music     Yesterday was a great day in the life of the church we currently serve. In addition to it being Palm Sunday, it was also Easter Cantata Sunday. And it was GREAT! This particular choir does three presentations on Palm Sunday. That was a tradition I inherited. They traditionally do the 8AM service, the 10:30AM service and a bonus 6PM presentation.  

     They had, at times, struggled to get a cantata and a sermon in during a worship service. But I quickly decided that the cantata WAS a sermon, in its own way. So, I just didn’t plan a sermon for that day. Instead of a 7-week Easter season sermon series, I would do a 6-week service and “cover” Palm Sunday at the Holy Thursday service.  

      When we added the third Sunday morning worship service, the choir director came to me a little concerned- she was sure the choir could DO 4 presentations in one day- the three morning worship services plus that 6PM service. I assured her that was NO problem- we just leave that 9:15AM service, with a sermon and weekly Communion, as it was every week, offering another Sunday choice for the week.  

     Two things stand out to me about the cantatas that we do. One is that, in a climate that has so many churches struggling to field a choir or being unable to have one at all, we had 22 folks in the choir for this presentation! And, quite honestly (and I will admit that I’m a little bias!), I have heard 50-member choirs that these 22 folks blow out of the water!  

     The other thing that stands out to me is this choir’s willingness to do multiple presentations. I know churches where the choir couldn’t imagine doing it more than once. They aren’t even willing to consider the possibility. But this choir? They are more of the “bring it on” variety!  

     I love the fact that we offer the evening presentation. It tends to draw both folks from the church AND folks from the community. And anything you can do that draws folks from OUTSIDE the church INTO the church is a good thing! (Okay, maybe not ANYTHING! But you know what I mean!)  

     I am so blessed by the singers and musicians of this church. In any given month, there are about 50 singer and/or musician slots that are filled on an average week. Some of those slots are filled by the same person- someone may be in both the choir and the bell choir or they might be in one of our two praise bands and either the choir or the bell choir. You get the idea. We are truly blessed with musical giftedness in this congregation! 

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

The Nails: Palms to Passion

The Nails Week 5     A few years ago, I read a book written by Robert Fulghum- All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.  These are the things I learned from the book:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some, and think some, and draw, and paint, and sing, and dance, and play, and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Think about it- all we really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to BE…we learned in kindergarten. Wisdom is often missed at the top of the grad school mountain, but instead found in the sandpile of Kindergarten.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living. Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your school or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if everybody had cookies and milk at 3:00 every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put thing back where they found them and to clean up their own mess. And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Lent- the season of the church calendar leading up to Easter. It begins the Sunday AFTER Ash Wednesday and it is a 7-week period of preparation. Today, we near the end of our current sermon series that leads us to Easter morning. We started in a rather unorthodox place…Christmas. And from the full manger of the first Christmas morning, we said we would walk all the way to the empty tomb of the first Easter. And along the way, we would always keep the image of “the nails” in front of us- reminding us that it was never the nails that held Jesus to the cross- it was His love for us all along.

So, Palm Sunday- the story begins at the gates of Jerusalem. Picture the scene- Jesus rides triumphantly into the city. People lined the streets, shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!” They waved palm branches and spread their cloaks along the road- the “red carpet” of the day. And notice WHAT Jesus rode as He came into Jerusalem- a donkey. Historically, a king rode a horse into the city during times of war or occupation. But during times of peace, he would ride…a donkey. This was a true celebration.

But we would be remiss, on Palm Sunday, if we stopped there and simply picked up the story again on Easter morning by peering into an empty tomb. If we make the quantum leap from waving palms to rolling away the stone, then Easter loses its power. We HAVE to experience whole week, the cross to truly appreciate the empty tomb, because Palm Sunday tells us that it is the cross that is the true tree of life.

By Thursday, Jesus was gathering His disciples in the Upper Room to share the Passover meal- the Last Supper. After the events of the Last Supper, which we will consider in greater depth on Thursday evening at our Holy Thursday/Good Friday service, Jesus led the disciples out to the Garden of Gethsemane. While there, He was arrested, which sets a series of events in motion that takes Him all the way to the cross. Over the next few hours, He is questioned, beaten and brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judaea.

Matthew 27:15-22 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him. While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”

Born of a virgin. Raised as the son of an honest, hard-working carpenter. Didn’t start His public ministry until He was 30. Only HAD a public ministry for 3 years. Gathered some followers. Eventually ticked off the wrong people…and paid for it with His life. Dragged through the streets like a common criminal. Hauled out to a hill called Golgotha- The Skull. Nailed to a cross between 2 criminals…and left to die perhaps the most painful death possible. And when it was time, and not one moment sooner, He willingly laid His life aside. No one took it from Him. He gave His life. Why? Why would anybody do that? What would you do for your kids? Your grandkids? Would you lay your life down for them if it was absolutely necessary? I would, in a heartbeat…every day and twice on Sunday. Would we expect God to love us ANY less than that? No…of course not.

What keeps you going in the face of hardship and tragedy? Would YOU have started this journey if you KNEW the pain that was coming? Imagine how you would feel if someone you were close to betrayed you with a kiss. Imagine how you would feel if someone you knew began to treat you like a dangerous criminal, especially when you had done absolutely nothing to warrant such treatment. Imagine KNOWING the suffering that lay ahead for you. Jesus’ ultimate act of love PROVES that even in the midst of our worst suffering, God is with us. It proves that there is always hope. And what oxygen is to the lungs, hope is to life. And when hope seems most elusive, it may be just around the corner.

We don’t like the story of Holy Week. And frankly, who would? It’s a horror story, full of blood, torture and death. Not the feel-good story we want…we NEED…at Easter. And yet- we simply HAVE to experience this “fright night” if we have any hope of truly appreciating Easter morning. If we don’t walk the Via Dolorosa…the Way of Suffering…alongside Jesus, helping Him carry the cross, if we don’t force ourselves to wait at the hill called Golgotha…The Skull…and watch the horror unfold, if we don’t stand by as Joseph of Arimathea takes the body down off the cross and lays it in a borrowed tomb…then Easter is meaningless. It’s simply a day when we have family over, don our best duds, eat lots of ham and scalloped potatoes and search for plastic eggs full of delicious treats. The true power of Easter is completely lost.

Every Easter season, we are forced to consider questions like: “Why did Jesus have to suffer?” “Why did God send Jesus to die on the cross?” “Why do WE suffer?” “Why do some bad people live long lives, while some good people die young?” The list goes on and on. We struggle with the questions- and we struggle for the answers. But today, we unapologetically face the joy of the palms and the suffering of the cross head on, knowing that, in Jesus Christ, we can find true hope…even in the midst of pain.

Walking on the Wire

nik wallenda grand canyonHave you ever seen Nik Wallenda walk ACROSS something…like the Grand Canyon…on a tightrope? And when I say “across”, I LITERALLY mean across! He is the first human being EVER to walk a 2″-wide wire across the Grand Canyon. I’m not gonna lie, I watched it a few years ago when he did it. I watched ALL 4 hours and 20 minutes of it. (I REALLY need to get a life!)
If you are one of the 7 people in the free world who DIDN’T see it, let me tell you about it. They stretched this 2″-wide cable 1,400′ across the Grand Canyon…1,500′ in the air. Then Nik Wallenda, the great grandson of the late, great tightrope walker Karl Wallenda walked across it. Without a net. Or a rope. Or a safety line. Or…anything! He simply walked 1,400′ across the Grand Canyon. If he fell…it would have suddenly become THE live television story of the decade. But he didn’t fall. After a RIDICULOUS amount of hype and build-up, he walked those 1,400′ in just under 23 minutes. And at the end, he stepped off the wire and into the history books.
Perhaps the most significant thing I noticed, other than the fact that Nik Wallenda must be about 3/4 nuts, is that ENTIRE time he was making his historic walk…he was praying and praising God. On live TV, as he faced certain death below, he spoke into his open microphone. And almost every word out of his mouth was directed at God and/or Jesus Christ. He was thanking God, praising Jesus praying about the rising wind…it was a constant conversation with God, all the way across the wire. Pretty amazing testimony!
While it is probably true that you won’t be doing anything quite as death-defying as that today, you still have the opportunity to make today one long conversation with God. What do you need to talk to God about? What do you need to tell Him? What do you need Him to tell YOU? Just let today be one long conversation with God. And remember- any good conversation includes AT LEAST as much listening as it does talking!
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!

Trends- Big and Small

trends     If you read this space at all, you have probably figured out that I spend a decent amount of time and energy looking for trends. And that fact is not simply focused on the cancer, which a lot of this blog space HAS been focused on ever the past almost 2 years. I look for trends in worship attendance. I look for trends in church giving. Sunday School attendance. Christian Education participation. I look for trends in state, federal and world economics. In social issues. You name it, I am simply geared that way. Where are we at? Where have we been? Where are we headed? What can we expect? 

     But today, we are going to NOT talk about world trends or church trends. We are going to talk about “Rev. Mark battling cancer trends”. I have shared MANY times what my wife and I have observed as trends in my cancer journey. I was reminded yesterday that some of these trends are macro- cover pretty much the whole of the cancer/chemo experience- while others are more micro- they only cover specific parts of the journey. Here is a trend that is clearly macro! 

     Monday, March 18 was the last time I have been in the chemo chair. That was Week 3 of that 4-week cycle. That means I had a week off, right at the end of March. Then, on Monday, April 1 (RIGHT after we got back from Chicago), we had an appointment with the oncologist to go over CT scans and blood work. The interesting thing about that day was that both my wife and I thought this was ONLY a doctor’s visit- there would be NO chemo that day regardless. Therefore, we didn’t pack to go. (Usually, we take my blanket, our iPads, lunch, etc.) But we found out that she had us “on the rolls” to have chemo that day! But…we didn’t!) We decided to take the month of April off from treatment, starting back up on April 29.  

     That means that, as you read this, I have gone 25 days without chemo, with 11 days left before I have it again. The micro trend that accompanies that fact (“I was WONDERING when you would get back to this whole trend thing!”) is that I feel better than I would if I was having chemo very week. And the farther I get from it, the better I feel. The MACRO trend is that, chemo or not, I am still fairly worn out by Thursday evening! By then, I have worked all week- Sunday through Thursday- finishing up with rehearsals for two different Praise Bands on Thursday evening.  

     I thought about that as I walked the whole 20 steps home from the church last night after practice. “I’m tired!” What that tells me is that, while the cumulative effect of chemo is substantial, so is the impact the effects of the cancer. It is sometimes hard to identify which has more impact. And in the end, the lesson to be learned is this- they go hand in hand. The cancer works SO hard to drag you down. Meanwhile, the chemo is designed to fight the cancer. But the chemo also takes a major toll on the body.  

     And so, the fatigue, the neuropathy in both my hands and feet, the lack of ability to taste food and the lack of hunger all still remain. And, as it turns out, so does that fact that Thursday evenings and Fridays are still “rebound days” for me- rebounding from the simple toll that working all week takes! So, I will rest as much as I can today and continue to rebuild in preparation for April 29th. 

         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 Do You Praise?

praiseWho or what is worthy of praise? I don’t know about you, but I think a good bowl of my home made mashed potatoes [s worthy of some praise! There are LOTS of songs (being a lover of music and all!) that I think are worthy of praise. There are several actors (Heath ledger as The Joker, Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade and Tom Hanks in Forest Gump, Philadelphia AND Castaway, just to name a very few of the many) whose performance is worthy of praise. Many, many books are worthy of praise. Really, the list could go on and on and on!
But what does “praise” actually mean? And what does “worthy” mean? Well, according to dictionary.com, “praise” means-

1. the act of expressing approval or admiration; commendation; laudation.
2. the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship.
3. the state of being approved or admired.
4. to express approval or admiration of; commend; extol.
6. to offer grateful homage to (God or a deity), as in words or song.
“Grateful homage, offering, extol”…sounds more specific than MY list! “Worthy”, on the other hand, means-
1. having adequate or great merit, character, or value.
2. of commendable excellence or merit; deserving.
“Great merit, value, excellence, deserving”…again, sounds more specific than my list! What does the Bible say about being worthy of praise?
Psalm 65:1-2 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed. O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come.
Praise is due…who? Praise is due…God. And it seems to me that, if God is worthy of praise…then MY list is pitiful in comparison! No offense to those authors, musicians, actors or potatoes, but when you stack, well, ANYTHING up against God, it will undoubtedly pale in comparison!
And the passage says that, not only is God worthy of praise, but that we should feel led to make promises (vows) to Him. In other words, we should want to commit ourselves and our actions to Him. In fact, the passage says that ALL FLESH shall come to God! Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Next time you find yourself praising something, stop and ask yourself, “Is this worthy of my praise?” Lift your praise and your thanksgiving to God. Make your promises to Him. and Come to Him!
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!