What a Transition!

Hammock.pngWhen I announced, at the age of 35, that I was going into the ministry, my then 9-year old son said, “Awesome!” Thinking that he had some sort of theological epiphany, I encouraged him to say more about why he thought that would be awesome. His reply? “You only work ONE day a week!” Yep…that’s right! I only work for a few hours on Sunday morning and the rest of the week I watch soap operas and eat bon-bons with my feet up- what a life! Actually the ministry is few very ODD profession in many ways. I remember in my younger days swearing that I would NEVER have a job where I had to work a split shift. So what do I do? I have my mid-life crisis a bit early, quit my job, willingly go to seminary, spend three years as a full-time student, full time parent/husband, and nearly full-time pastor (almost killing myself in the process!), just so I can…wait for it…work split shifts! I spend mornings in the office, followed by afternoons either at home working on the computer or out making calls. THEN, I often go back to church at night for meetings, counseling, rehearsal, etc. Never work a split shift, huh? I have learned this- DON’T tell God what you’re NOT going to do…unless of course you REALLY want to end up doing it!

Does that ever happen to you? You start the day with the best laid plans, yet when your head hits the pillow at the end of the day, you realize that most of those plans still reside solely on your to-do list, unchecked and unfinished. When that happens, you have to evaluate WHY that’s the case. If they remain undone because you simply didn’t feel like it, that’s one things to consider. However, if they remain undone because other equally important things came up that required you attention…go with the flow. A plan is great, but if you’re not flexible, life is really hard! As I say in church (almost every Sunday), “The bulletin is JUST a suggestion!” This week, start each day with a plan- but be open to God nudging you in a different direction.
#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 Example of Servant Leadership

Servant-Leadership-Attributes-Word-Cloud-2     Here is yet another example of how the church we currently serve has a strong servant’s heart. A few days ago, I “cherry-picked” a Call-Em-All to about 8 guys who are all retired and all very active in the church, asking if any of them could give me a ride to, from or round trip going to the oncologist. The downside to agreeing to a round-trip was that it would require them to either wait at the Cancer Center or drop me off and kill time in in Iowa before picking me up again- roughly 2 hours PLUS the 90-minute drive time. 

     Within about 4 minutes of the Call-Em-All going out (NOT exaggerating), one of them responded and said he would be happy to do the round-trip! So, yesterday at about 8AM, he pulled up, I hopped in and off we went. We got there and he dropped me off, saying he was going to run some errands and come back. Awesome! 

     I went in and had my appointment with the oncologist. It went well. She was happy with my blood work and the physical exam and said I could have the treatment. So, they send you back to the lobby, you check back in for the infusion and you wait- anywhere from a few minutes to a half and a hour, depending on how you were scheduled that day. Then, they take you back and prepare you for the infusion. 

      This immunotherapy infusion is much shorter than the chemo one is. It went fine. And when it was done, I got unhooked and walked out, hopped in with my ride and headed home. We had great conversation on the way home and he dropped me off at the front door– curb-side serice! 

     After thanking him profusely, I started to get out and he stopped me…and thanked ME for the opportunity to help. He said it was a blessing to HIM! It doesn’t get much better than that and is SUCH an example of being a servant leader. And it’s just one example of many I could give you from this church. Can you possibly wonder why we love serving here?! 

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

Another Health Update

health update     Today, I receive Immunotherapy Infusion #2. Just a reminder- this particular approach is one infusion every three weeks. I will go (someone from the church is driving me since my wife can’t currently drive) and meet with the oncologist, who will go over my lab work that was done yesterday. There will also be a physical exam. Then she will decide if I get the infusion or not.  

     Assuming I do, I will start that about 20 minutes or so after I meet with her. The actual infusion only takes about 30 minutes, but when you count getting everything ready and then taking everything off, the process lasted about an hour. Then, I will come back home! Then, I have the rest of the next 3 weeks to recover from that one before having the next. 

     When this part is done, we will evaluate how I have handled it and if it is helping. Then, we will decide how to move forward. I figure if the oncologist keeps saying, “this will take a month”, this will take 4 months”, whatever, she is just prolonging my life! 

     I will continue to keep you posted as to who I am doing!  

                #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 Magic Table

table    Now that my wife has been home from the hospital for a week, now that both sons have come, helped a lot and have gone home my wife and I begin the process of establishing a new norm. As she recovers from a rather severe knee injury, we look for what we need to do to get both her AND me what we need. 

     One big piece of that is food. It’s something yo don’t think much about until it is ab issue. But food is very important in the day-to-day operation of a life! And, once again, the church we serve has come through big time! When I had the brain tumor back in 2014, they debuted “The Magic Food Table”. It sat on our front porch. Every day, a church member would drop off dinner for the day. And even though we KNEW they were coming, it seemed like magic- open the door and there was dinner! 

     It, of course, went away after I recovered. But it made its triumphant return last night. The congregation is back to bringing daily meals at dinnertime. We open the door…and there is food! And it is great! It’s amazing how good food can be when someone ELSE cooks it for you.  

 So, HUZZAH for the magic table and HUZZAH for the church members yjay are once again stepping up and helping us. We are GRATEFUL people.  

                #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 Miraculous and Wondrous Thing

miracles_signs_wonders     An incredible thing happened at church yesterday! As you know, a week ago yesterday was NOT a good day. Even though I actually made it to the building, I hurt so bad that I had to go home, abandoning my staff to pick up the slack. Not position, and I breathe great day! Between then and yesterday, two things happened- I saw the neurologist and I taught myself a new coping skill. 

      The med the neurologist prescribed, although cumulative and very early in the administration, already seems to be helping, and the coping skill seems to be a good choice. And here is that coping skill. I get up about 30 minutes earlier than I need to get ready. I make coffee and then go into the living room and sit in my chair. By the time I sit down, I can feel the headache coming on. But I sit in exactly the correct position, with my head in exactify the correct position and breathe through my mouth a certain way. I take my glasses off, close my eyes and just—meditate and pray. It takes about 30 minutes, but slowly the eyes open back up, the glasses go back on and the symptoms subside. Those two things combined seem to have a positive impact on headaches for the day. 

      When I went to church yesterday, the headache symptoms were at a relative minimum. But when I got up to preach the first/early service, as I started talking, the headache started to build. That negatively impacts, as you might imagine, my ability to preach. So, I anticipated it was going to be a tough morning. 

     But then, an amazing thing happened. Instead of slowly going downhill and sapping my energy, the services, and God’s power started pushing me UPHILL! By the time the second service came, my drumming was the best, most energetic, it has been in weeks. The sermon was stronger. And by the time the third service started, I was feeling the best I had in weeks. I was energized. My preaching was strong. My voice was clear and strong. I felt so good coming OUT of worship yesterday that I stayed longer after church and chatted with more people. I got home about 12:20PM- probably 30 later than usual. I fixed lunch for the two of us. We talked for 45 or more straight minutes. And the I FINALLY laid down for a nap, so jazzed and energetic that it was tough to go to sleep! 

    I have not experienced anything like that since this whole cancer thing showed up. I claim it as a gift from God and I pray that it’s a sign of things to come! 

                 #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!  

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations: Risk-Taking Mission and Service

Five Practices Logo Risk Taking Mission and Service     The boss needed to call one of his employees about an urgent problem with one of  the main computers. He dialed the home phone number and was greeted with a child’s whispered, “Hello?” Feeling put out at the inconvenience of having to talk to a kid, the boss asked, “Is your Daddy home?” “Yes”, whispered the small voice. “May I talk with him?” the man asked. To the surprise of the boss, the small voice whispered, “No.” Wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, “Is your Mommy there?” “Yes”, came the answer. “May I talk with her?” Again the small voice whispered, “No”. Knowing that it was not likely that a young child would be left home alone, the boss decided he would just leave a message with the person who should be there watching over the child. “Is there any one there besides you?” the boss asked the child. “Yes” whispered the child, “A policeman”. Wondering what a cop would be doing at his employee’s home, the boss asked “May I speak with the policeman”? “No, he’s busy”, whispered the child. “Busy doing what?, asked the boss. “Talking to Daddy and Mommy…and the Fireman”, came the whispered answer. Hearing a loud noise over the phone the boss asked, “What’s that?!” “A helicopter”, answered the whispering voice. “What’s going on there?”, asked the boss, now alarmed. In an awed, whispering voice the child answered, “The search team just landed the helicopter.” Alarmed, concerned and more than just a little frustrated, the boss asked, “Why are they there? What are they searching for? Still whispering, the young voice replied with a muffled giggle: “Me!” 

      We’re in the 4th week of The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, based on the book by United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase. The 1st week, we looked at Radical HospitalityThe 2nd week was Passionate Worship. Last week we looked at Intentional Faith Development. Today, our emphasis is on Risk-Taking Mission and Service. Risk-taking mission and service is an outward focus that changes the world and invigorates the church. Let’s see an example of it from: 

     Matthew 25:14-30- “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19″After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21″His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 22″The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 23″His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 24″Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26″His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 

This is a fairly familiar passage. Before the master leaves, he entrusts his servants with some of his money. Two of them put his money to work and double it, while the 3rd one buries the money in the ground, returning it safe and sound. It’s easy to think that the 3rd servant did pretty good…or at least OK. I mean, the master gave him 1 talent, and that’s exactly what he gave back to the master…1 talent. What’s wrong with that? We find the answer to that when we look at what the other two servants did. They could have easily followed suit and buried their talents. But instead, they chose to involve themselves in risk-taking behavior. They dare to step out in faith and put the master’s money to work, and the reward is that his resources are doubled! 

There’s a difference between doing things because they make us feel good and doing things because we exist to serve God and others. Almost all churches are involved in some kind of mission and service- the projects, efforts, and work people do to make a positive difference in the lives of others. But when you add “risk-taking”, it suddenly refers to extraordinary opportunities for life-changing engagement with other people with movement into greater uncertainty, a higher possibility of discomfort, resistance, or sacrifice. As congregations move beyond their comfort zones and follow Christ into more risk-taking, adventurous encounters with others, God changes them. 

     There are three truths that help us move forward boldly…even when the task appears overwhelming, even when our first response is to do nothing. 

     1.) We are called by Him.  

     2.) We are simply not up to the task asked of us.  

     3.) We need to respond.  

The fact of the matter is this: risk taking is about what…and more importantly who…we place our trust in. Do we place our trust in the resources of the world? Do we place our trust only in what we can see, touch, feel, taste, smell…and control? If so, we are placing our trust in ourselves! What this passage is yelling at us from the top of this Mountain Jesus sits upon is this, “to be salt and light in my world; to really make a difference for my Kingdom; you must place your trust in me.” And that means at times doing things that take us WAY out of our comfort zones. It may also mean doing things that seem every bit counter-intuitive to our understanding. 

     But vibrant, fruitful, growing congregations practice risk-taking mission and service because they love God and love others. When churches take the risk to turn outward, they come alive with a real sense of purpose as they are transformed…both individually and collectively. Their relationships and conversations change and they develop a whole new purpose of being together. That’s what happens to churches when people serve together in risk-taking mission and service. Are we ready for the adventure that is the Gospel? Are we up to God’s nudges to get involved, try something new, take a risk? What are you willing to risk? 

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

SWJ 1     As you know, I have been writing this blog for long time now. The first day I every published was Monday, September 14, 2009! That very first blog was called “Talk To the Ear”. I thought it might be fun to re-run it today, just to give you an idea where we started! Here it is, as written and published:

I have a fascinating thing that happens whenever I meet someone for the 1st time (or the 2nd, 5th, 147th…)- people talk to (ready?) my ear. Yep, that’s right- my ear. My left ear, to be specific. See, I have a cross dangling from that ear. In their 40’s, some men get a sports car, some go skydiving, some (sadly) get a girlfriend. My midlife crisis involved going to Claire’s at the mall (it sounds SO lame to admit I went to Claire’s at the mall to implement my midlife crisis! Am I a 40-ish pastor or a 12-year old girl?) and having a teenager stick a gun to my head and blow a (small) hole in my left lobe. Anywho, the bottom line is that I have a bit of bling on the left side. When people talk with me therefore, their eyes dart back and forth between my baby blues and my earring. Makes for fascinating conversations! I admit- I am NOT the prototypical pastor. With the shaved head, the earring, the funky soul patch under my bottom lip, and my penchant for classic rock, I don’t fit the mold. In fact, I tend to pick up the mold, smash it to the ground and dance on it! But perhaps that’s the point- perhaps Christians need to spend some time breaking the mold. The unitiated often have a preconceived notion of what Christians are like…and often it’s not flattering. We opine the fact that they won’t visit our churches. Maybe they know something we don’t! Don’t be something or someone simply because you think that’s what’s expected of you. Be who you are- God made you that way. Be who you are- but be willing to listen to God, who often calls us to be more than we currently are. From me AND my left earlobe, God is good, all the time!

 

Tomorrow, I will publish the Sunday sermon transcript as always and then, on Monday, I give you a general update on how I’m doing and how my wife is doing! Thanks for reading! God is good, all the time!