A Bad Night

headache-man-senior (002)    Monday night into Tuesday morning was, in a word, tough. I shared with you yesterday how Monday went. But, of course, I had already written yesterday’s blog prior to going to bed last night. As I have shared in this space before, I have been struggling with headaches, among other things, for the past while. Well, about 3:30AM yesterday morning, I woke up feeling like my head was going to explode. I don’t think I have ever had pain like that- even when discs in my back ruptured years ago. I couldn’t even keep my head on the recliner- the pressure was too much.  

     I tried sitting up. I tried sitting very still. Nothing helped I took Ibuprofen and went downstairs to the family room to sit in my chair. As I sa there, trying to slow my breathing and be still, the headache raged. I gave the Ibuprofen an hour to work. But by 4:30AM, I was beginning to consider a trip to the ER. It went as far as getting my phone out and bringing the keypad up…to call 911.  

     But then, the headache started to abate. And by 5AM, it was basically gone and I was asleep in my chair. I was contemplating calling the oncologist Tuesday morning and seeing if she thought we needed to move the scans up from Friday. We decided to wait. So, I left staff meeting and worship planning meeting to my staff and slept in my chair the rest of the morning.  

     I woke up at noon, ate lunch…and then went upstairs and took a nap! I came down about 4:30PM and hung out with my wife. We ate dinner about 6PM (I had fresh cantaloupe with vanilla Greek yogurt for protein and a Boost vanilla shake.) As I write this, about 8PM last night, I feel a LOT better than I did at 4AM yesterday morning. We will see what today brings.  

     As I have said many times in this space, I do NOT share this because I am seeking attention or pity. I would be just as happy to NOT share it. But it has been clear to me throughout this journey that God continues to call me to be as transparent as possible so that I can be a dim reflection of Him to others. And so, we continue to take things a day at a time, a moment at a time. We try HARD to live intentionally and in the moment. And, as always, I am grateful for my family, my church, my extended family and friends, all those who are praying for us daily and especially for my God who continues to walk with us. 

    #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 Change in Plans Moving Forward

change-architect-sign1      Yesterday was supposed to be the beginning of my 4th and final month of chemo for this cycle. BUT…things haven’t gone quite like we planned. We arrived at the Cancer Center about 8:45AM yesterday morning for our 9AM appointment with the oncologist. You start with the nurse, as is usually the case. First off, they weigh you. I had lost 9 pounds in 2 weeks. Then they take your vitals. My BP was up, as it has been for the past several weeks. I had a headache which I have had off and on for a few weeks and can’t seem to shake. I shared with the nurse that the past 2+ weeks have been especially hard, even given the fact that last week was an “off”  

     She dutifully noted everything in the computer and then left, telling us the doctor would be in soon. She (the doctor) came in not long after. She could tell I was struggling more than usual. We had a very frank discussion. And we all came to the same conclusion that my wife and had come to Sunday evening- that it was time to shift gears a bit. 

     So, here is the new plan. I did NOT have chemo yesterday. Instead, we quite a month early. I now have 2 CT scans AND an MRI along with lab work scheduled for Friday. (I usually have just 1 CT scan- period.) Then, we will go back and see the oncologist early next week. After evaluating all of that data, decisions will be made as to how we move forward from there.  

      There are several possible realities that could be the end result of that meeting with the oncologist. The scans could look good to fairly and we could simply start back up. The scans could look good to fairly good and we could take some time off before starting back. The scans could look “not so good” and we could re-think yet again what chemo meds to use. Or, the scans could reveal something we didn’t even know about and cause us to decide whether or not to even start chemo back up at all.  

      The truth of the matter is, we simply won’t know anything else until that appointment next week. In fact, I said to the oncologist when it seemed like she was done for the day, “Can I ask you one more question?” She, of course, said, “Yes.” I asked if, in her professional opinion, this could be the cancer finally rearing its ugly head like they all thought it would 2 years ago, if it could just be just a combination of the many things that are going on or if there was simply no way of know without more input. She said exactly what I expected to hear- not way to know right now.  

      So, we look toward Friday. I will keep you posted as to how the next few days go. And I will let you know how the visit to the oncologist goes. I ask that your prayers continue- we feel them, covey them and greatly appreciate them. We continue yo live one day at a time as hopeful pragmatists. 

    #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!  

Pilgrims in an Unholy Land

       (This is a “greatest hits” from years ago. It was a LONG Sunday!) I have always been a fan of Indiana Jones. (Well, let me clarify that- I am a fan of the 1st and 3rd Indiana Jones movies. The 2nd one is OK, and the 4th one…well…don’t get me started!) The best of the 4 is Raiders of the Lost Ark (the 1st one), followed closely by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (the 4th one).  

     In that movie, Indy (Harrison Ford) goes to save his dad, Henry (Sean Connery). In an effort to regain Henry’s diary and find the Holy Grail, they end up in Berlin. It is just before the start of WW2 and Hitler has citizens burning books in the middle of the city. As “the Jones boys” stand in the midst of the carnage, Henry looks to his son and says, “We are pilgrims in an unholy land.” 

     My experience as a St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan has been an interesting study in that phrase! I grew up in the St. Louis area and my first church was in that same region, so pretty much EVERYBODY bleeds Cardinal red. Then I moved to Central Illinois and found that what had once been 95% Cardinal fans has slipped to about 40% Cardinal fans. And, to make matters worse, the other 60% was predominately Cubs fans! And THEN, I moved farther north (and west) in Illinois, and I the 40% has slid to about 30%! Bishop, I simply can’t be moved any farther north! I fear I  might see them burning Cardinal gear in the middle of town square! (I, of course, kid!) 

     But you know what the truth of the matter is? If you are a Christian, you ARE a pilgrim in an unholy land. Seriously. Part of the definition of the word “pilgrim” is- “on who journeys to foreign lands”. We are living in a foreign land, regardless of what “land” we live in. Why? Because we are called to be IN the world, but not OF the world. We are called to be counter-cultural. And I KNOW that sounds crazy to some. Abby Hoffman was counter-cultural. Lenny Bruce was counter-cultural. The hippies of Haight-Ashbury were counter-cultural. And we are NOTHING like them…are we?  

     Well…yes and no. We probably don’t look, act or dress like them. BUT…we are called to speak out against that which is not of God. We are called to NOT simply “give in” and be like everybody else but instead be who God calls us to be, regardless of what others think. We are called to stand our ground. We are called to be pilgrims…in an unholy land.  

     The next time you get to feeling overwhelmed by life, the next time you feel like simply giving in, scrapping this whole “Christian” thing and being like everybody else- think for a moment. You are a pilgrim in an unholy land and your time on this earth is fleeting and transitory in comparison to the eternity you will spend in heaven with Jesus. He makes that promise to each of us, and His promises are steadfast and true! 

     #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 Holy Spirit Is Teacher     Teachers are an amazingly underappreciated lot! Having lived with one for the past 34 years, I have been able to “peek behind the curtain” and see what being a teacher is REALLY like. With that in mind…I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to…ALL of the teachers I had growing up! Here’s just ONE example-

Drummers are notorious for getting in trouble in band. They are A. almost always the ADHD kids, B. therefore easily distracted and bored and C. have WAY too much time on their hands while the director works with…the REAL musicians! When I was in High School, our band room had a tuning machine that sat on a little table up against a rather large load-bearing structural pillar. It was SO boring to watch the band tune…drummers don’t HAVE to tune, thank you very much!…that I decided to amuse myself one day. I snuck down front and positioned myself on the side of that pillar that was OPPOSITE the tuning machine. That put me A. very near the tuning machine and B. out of sight of the director! When he had the whole band play their tuning note, I whistled about a half-step off-key…JUST enough that the tuning machine told him that the band wasn’t in tune! I then remained silent as he went section by section, checking the “in-tune”ness of the trumpets, clarinets and so forth. Because I was quiet, each group registered in tune. He then went back to the whole band…and I then went back to whistling off-key! From there, he went back to each section and tried it again. Eventually, he went instrument by instrument. And no matter what he tried, the individuals and the sections were always IN tune…but the BAND was NEVER in tune! We spent 25 minutes tuning that day! It was awesome! But this morning, I would like to go on record, for the first time in 31 years, as saying, “Mr. Cohill…I’m very sorry and I’ll never do it again!”

Today we wrap up this sermon series of digging deeper into exactly Who the Holy Spirit is. Each week, we have focused on one word- a name that describes the Holy Spirit. The first week, we talked about the fact that the Holy Spirit is the Author. Week 2, we considered that the Holy Spirit is the Encourager. Week 3, we looked at the Holy Spirit as Indweller. Week 4, we considered the Holy Spirit as the Intercessor. Last Week, we looked at the Holy Spirit as the Revealer. Today, we close this series as we talk about the fact that the Holy Spirit is our Teacher.

Jesus promised that the Spirit would teach His disciples “all things” and bring to their remembrance the things He said while He was with them. They were moved by the Spirit to remember, understand and implement the instructions Jesus gave for the building and organizing of the Church and the revelation of things to come. Jesus promised US that the Holy Spirit would teach US all things as well.

John 14:25-26 I have spoken all these things while I am still with you. But the Father will send the Friend in my name to help you. The Friend is the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things. He will remind you of everything I have said to you.

What defines a great teacher? We’ve all had teachers who either should have never gone into the profession or at least should have retired years ago. But for those GOOD teachers- the dedicated ones who pour out their passion for no other reason but to help others learn- what are some common, defining characteristics?

They are resilient. They have an unwavering desire to make life better for their students. They’re always looking for opportunities to strengthen their students’ learning…AND their own. They create a healthy environment where students’ lives are touched and their minds challenged. They provide a comfortable and safe space for students to take risks and express their own opinions and ideas. They encourage an environment where everybody is heard and everybody knows they belong. They foster excitement and enthusiasm for learning. They talk WITH and listen TO their students so they can design work that motivates and inspires them.

But what makes a good teacher a great teacher is when they have a firm grasp of both the science AND the artistry of teaching. I had a 2nd Grade teacher who was also my 4th Grade teacher- she got “promoted”! Every student wanted her as their teacher, and every student who HAD her as their teacher…cherished that relationship! She made me WANT to learn! She made me WANT to do my best. She made me WANT to do everything I could to make her proud. But what she did better than ANY of that was make me feel like…I mattered. I grew up in a rather dysfunction home. And there were lots of days when I came to school feeling pretty lost…pretty unwanted. But the 2 school years I had her as my teacher, I was EAGER to get to school. Why? Because I knew she cared. I knew she loved me. I knew I mattered to her. And because of that, I wanted to be the best…ME…I could be. I wanted to please her. I wanted to jump through whatever hoops she could lay out for me that day. All because she made me feel like I mattered. Thank you, Mrs. Nillson!

And so it is with the Holy Spirit. He is constantly showing us how much He loves us. And that love should compel us to want to do whatever we need to do to grow in faith.

The Holy Spirit works for one main purpose and one main purpose only- to bring glory to God. He is a foretaste of heaven- a glimpse of what an eternity with God will be like. He lives with us and in us. He convicts us of our sin and teaches us a better way. He guides us to the truth and offers us insight into God’s ways. And He will be with us forever. God has given us His Spirit to teach us and His Word to serve as our textbook. Our main source for faith learning should be the Word of God as inspired by and taught by the Holy Spirit. Through His encouraging, His guiding, His indwelling, His intercession, His revealing and His teaching, He equips us, enables us to be so much more TOGETHER than we could EVER be apart. Two are better than one and a chord with three strands isn’t easily broken. God has given us His Spirit to teach us and His Word to serve as our textbook.

The Ups and Downs of It All

uphill both ways     Yesterday was typically hard day. It was Friday, which is basically always a bad day, “off-week” or not. And I have come to understand that my frame of mind is not great on Friday. And then Saturday comes and I feel a little better. And then Sunday comes and I start coming around to, “I can do this”. And then on Monday we march into the Cancer Center saying, Let’s get this thing done.”  

      It’s really weird how things can change day to day. As I have shared many times here, I can predict with relative certainty how each day is going to go- how I will feel. And then, I can usually tell you in advance how tomorrow will differ from today.  

      As always, I don’t share this looking for sympathy- it’s not my style. Instead, we ALL know people who fighting valiantly against cancer. It’s important to know the roller coaster they ride every day. Life is a series of ups and downs when you are fighting cancer. Cancer patients and their caregivers go through things that are impossible to fully appreciate if you haven’t been through a terribly debilitating disease or you have taken care of someone who has.  

     Many people who deal with cancer have to either take a leave of absence from work or go on disability. I have been incredibly blessed to keep working. Noy only is it important financially as we struggle to “dig out of the hole” each year. It is also, I am convinced, one of the things that is keeping me going.  

     And so, we just keep on pushing as best we can. My wife and sons are are AMAZINGLY supportive. The church we currently serve is Also incredibly supportive. And God continues to be our rock and our salvation. 

     #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 Role of the Caregiver

caregiver     Today is “hunker down in my chair and read” day! Pretty much every Friday is because, if I’ve had chemo, it’s my worst day. Well, no chemo this week, but A. I did just finish 3 months of chemo (one more to go) so I am feeling it and B. it’s my day off after a long week. So, we TRY to make Friday a quiet day with not much if anything scheduled. Tomorrow, my wife and younger son are going on a “date”- take off for the Quad Cities to just spend some time together. I LOVE the fact that my wife has always done that with the boys! She is an awesome mother! Meanwhile, my sister and her husband are planning on coming up later today, stay in town overnight, come to church on Sunday, have lunch then head home. Extended lab work gets done tomorrow morning in anticipation of Month 4 of this cycle of chemo. Then, Monday gets us back to the oncologist and back in the chair again. 

       Monday will be the start of Month 4 of this cycle- almost assuredly the last month for a little bit. The oncologist says she COULD go 5 or 6 months instead of 4. But her experience is that, once you finish Month 4, tou tend to be doing more harm than good to do more without a break. I am NOT going to argue with that! 

      We have friends who are going down a somewhat similar path right now. The husband is valiantly fighting his cancer. (As his wife says, he is “tougher than dirt”!) They have a Caring Bridge page and I read the updates as she posts them. As I have shared here, my goal is to try and “normalize” this process for my readers. If you are fighting this battle, for yourself or along with a cancer patient, I want to help you know that you are not alone. If you aren’t, but find yourself in one of those later, I want you to have something to fall back on. That’s why I have been painfully transparent at times. 

    Those are exactly the same reasons I appreciate reading what the wife of this couple I mentioned has to say when she posts. I appreciate the update on how they are doing. But I also appreciate and respect what she shared about how she is feeling as the caregiver. I get the lion’s share of the attention. And while people DO show concern for her, the caregiver often doesn’t get the understanding they need and deserve.  

     If you have never been the caregiver, let me assure you, from my perspective, that their job is incredibly hard. They have had so much more of the day to day stuff dumped on them. They are terribly concerned for their loved one. They have to try and stay “up” for their loved one’s sake. And yet, they are exhausted, wrung out and watching the person they love slowly dwindle.  

      I want to offer a special “thank you” to all the caregivers out there. You have a hard, often overlooked job. Thank you for who you are and what you go through on a day to day basis for the sake of the person you love. You are awesome. 

     #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! 

     There is something to be said about serving a church in the “Heartland of America”! A retired pastor we had the extreme honor of serving with at the first church we served had a great story about that! He said that, when the new pastor and their family would love in, the church would “pound” them- give them a pound of something to help stock their pantry. He also shared that he and his wife never had more lsrd in the house than when they had been “pounded”! 

     We have experienced much that same thing in our ministry. At the last church we served, during sweet corn season a man from our church would pull up in the driveway on Saturday mornings, having just come from the farm (where he worked) at the University of Illinois. He would walk to the back of his truck, get a bag out, transfer SEVERAL ears of fresh sweet corn from a big gunny sack into the bag and bring them to the door, He would do that pretty much every week! We practically foundered in sweet corn! It was awesome!  

     Where we now serve- same sort of thing. My Office Administrator has the same love for greens (kale, collard, spinach, whatever) as we do. You may know- during the right season, those things grow like weeds! So, we get lots. Yesterday, another one of our “suppliers” walked into my office mid-morning with a brown paper grocery sack. It was fresh-dug potatoes and onions, fresh-picked green beans and a cucumber! 

     Now, don’t get me wrong- this congregation is very generous in other ways as well….Pastor Appreciation month, for example. But as someone who grew up raising, harvesting and eating a LOT of fresh produce, there is just nothing like it! So, while my clergy brothers and sisters in places like Chicago don’t get a lot of parishioners stopping by with potatoes and kale, we are truly blessed to have that happen! Now, to decide how that all goes together best for dinner tonight! 

     #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!