Steve From Wichita

tech-support-planI have a new name. It is NOT a name that was given to me. It is, instead, a name I have given myself. And that name is- Steve from Wichita! I am considering getting business cards printed up, put out a shingle (as they say), start a cottage industry!

Let me say up front- I am an amateur when it comes to tech. I have ABSOLUTELY no training or education in the subject. So take that into consideration here! But there is an old saying- “even a sparrow appears as an eagle when there are no other birds”! So…Steve from Wichita!

The truth is that I have a great interest in “tech”. It intrigues me. It fascinates me. I want to know more about it. And so- I read. “Back in the day”, the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Publisher, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.) was made available to me. BUT- I didn’t know how to use it. So I read. And I experimented. And I fumbled. And…I figured it out.

I wanted to start a blog and had no idea how. So…I read about it. I then began to muddle through how to make it happen. And I got it off the ground. Then, somewhere along the way, I had the idea of turning it into a full website. Again, no idea how. Again, read, muddle, fumble, trial and error.

And somewhere along the way- it started to sink in. There is still a TON I don’t know. But it amazed me on a daily basis how far I have come in my understanding of technology. Computers, cell phones, tablets, wifi, Bluetooth, websites, blogs, green screen technology, video production- not that many years ago I knew nothing about them and now, they are a part of my everyday existence.

So what’s the moral of this story? It’s this- don’t let anything stand in the way of what you want, of what God is calling you to do. If He has a plan for you, He WILL give you what you need to make it happen. The saying is this- “God doesn’t call the equipped- He equips the called”. You and I- we ARE the called. And since we ARE called, He WILL equip us with whatever we need to carry out that to which He calls us. Don’t look at what’s ahead and say, “Why?” Instead, look ahead and say, “Why NOT?”
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!

Today’s Health Update

health update     If you follow my blog, you know that I am currently working through yet another iteration of chemo. Along with two rounds of radiation, I have had a LOT of chemo over the past 20-ish months. This particular “cocktail” has been structured as “3 weeks on and 1 week off”. Weeks 1 and 3 are “full” weeks, where I get both chemo drugs. Week 2 is a “short week”, where I only get one of the two drugs. Then, Week 4 is an off-week- a chance to let my body rest a little. 

Historically, I have done 4 rounds of chemo each time I have had it. My oncologist does a more thorough exam, along with a fresh scan, after Round 4 because she often finds that, although she WILL do Rounds 5 and 6, you often are starting to do more harm than good by that time. I have yet to have more thaan 4 rounds on any given version of chemo. 

As the patient, I understand the whole “more harm than good” concept. As I said, I have this next week off- a good thing- followed by one more round of “3 on and one off”. I am really beginning to feel the effects of week after week of chemo. Last night, as I prepared to write this, I sat in my chair, psyching myself to write. I spent 40 minutes of Antique Roadshow psyching myself up!  

So, all that being said, I have another 4-week round ahead of me, which will put us later into March. Then, I expect that we will make the decision to stop treatment for the time being. We have talked about options. There seem to be few, if any more, options for treatment. It appears that the only real treatment we could try would be one of the versions of chemo I have already done again. We will see. 

As I have shared multiple times, the fatigue is the really hard part. Your body is so worn out that “tired” just doesn’t describe it. I mean, I get tired every day and take a nap almost every day. But fatigue is different. It is constant, regardless of naps or good/bad sleep. The neuropathy has much of my fatigue settle in my legs. I “do” elevators and chance I have to avoid steps. I have folks who come and take the Communion ware from me while I am up on the altar level, saving me the few steps I would have to take with each set of cup and plate. I manage my trips upstairs out our house so I have to climb the steps as little as possible.  

I have also noticed this time around that I am slower and slower when I eat. I haven’t had an appetite for a year, but I have continued to eat because I knew I had to. I am still eating, but fewer and fewer things hold any interest.  

This is an insidious disease. It tries its best to strip away who you are. It wears you down from the inside out. It threatens to completely dominate your entire life, if you let it. We work HARD to not let that happen. But it is hard and intentional.  

And yet, in the midst of all that seeming gloom and doom, we continue to find the daily joy. We know that modern medicine says I am on borrowed time and that it is only a MATTER of time. But we hold fast to this mantra- that day in NOT today! We don’t know when it will be, but we know it’s NOT today. So, we live very intentionally, appreciating every day, every moment that we have been given! 

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 Cave

CaveI grew up out in the country. We were NOT farmers, but I worked for farmers and our setting was very rural. On “days off” (my mom had LOTS of chores for us to do, so even as a kid, having a full “day off” wasn’t all that often.), my buddy and I would often plan adventures. (Sometimes, we would play Whiffle ball all day, however!) Our adventures often had to do with going to…The Creek.  

There was one creek that ran about equa-distance between our houses, which were a 1/2 mile apart. That was a fun place to play or camp, but not really “adventure” quality. The adventure creek was farther away. To get to it probably took a 20-30 minute hike. We would pack a lunch, head out in the morning and not get back until near dinner-time. Frankly, if something had happened to us, no one even really knew where to even look for us. It was different time and place! We would get there and start hiking down the edge of the creek, following the flow of the water. A ways down the creek, it came to a waterfall. This was one of the highlights of this leg of the creek. While the water flow was seldom all that great, the dropoff was a good 20 feet, which was pretty cool. We would stand there for a while, admiring the scenery and throwing things off the edge. We would then continue down and around the waterfall on dry land. 

A ways farther, there was a confluence with a larger, deeper, faster moving creek. This confluence was interesting because, unlike most confluences you will find in the country that somewhat resemble highway off-ramps, curving from one to the other, this one literally was a T-bone- the smaller creek just dead-ended into the larger creek at a 90-degree angle. We tried going both directions on the larger creek over time, but usually settled on continuing to follow the flow of the water. There was a reason for that. There was a natural feature about a mile down that leg of the waterway that drew us like the Song of the Sirens- The Cave! 

We had heard stories of The Cave. One local farmer told us that, if you crawled far enough back, it opened up into a large room. MAN did we want to see that room! The problem, however, was two-fold- the mouth of the cave was in the side of a bluff that shoulders the creek, about 20 feet up, and the entrance to the cave was narrow, a tunnel that required shimmying in on your belly! 

The day we found the cave, it was like finding One-Eyed Willy in the movie The Goonies. It was the realization that this thing that we thought might just be legendary was actually real! That first day, we managed to scaled the bluff to the mouth, which stood in a recessed “shelf”. We had NOT come prepared- not flashlights. But we stood at the mouth of the cave and marveled. True to form- the mouth was so small and round that the ONLY way in would have been to shimmy in on your belly and, if you didn’t find the promised “large room”, then only was out would be to shimmy back out…backward. We went home and made plans to return.  

The shimmying part seemed pretty daunting. Okay- terrifying. But the lure of that large room was great. So, a week or so later, we made a return trip, armed with flashlights. We arrived. We scaled the bluff to the mouth and stared into the cave. With the light help, it was now apparent that, not only was the cave a small tube cutting back through the limestone…it undulated. Which meant that, even with the added help of the flashlights, you couldn’t really see more than about 20’ back. You would be shimmying into the complete unknown. Even at that age, we understood it was a recipe for potential disaster. So, we did NOT “screw our courage to the sticking place” and attempt it that day. We sat there on that shelf, ate our lunch, dreamt about what might be back there…and then went home.  

As we got a little older, we also got a little braver. (And, apparently, more stupid!) So, one day, we went back, determined to actually breach the cave. We got there, scaled the bluff and made it to the mouth. I decided to be the one to try first. Armed with the flashlight, heart pounding, I started shimmying in. It was rather tight, even for a kid. I shimmied and I shimmied and that cave felt like it was closing in more and more. Claustrophobia started to set in. Then panic started to follow next. I was probably about 20’ in. I had made it past the first undulation and found…another one. I still couldn’t see very far in front and still had NO idea if there WAS a large room and, if there was, how much farther it was…and what I might find if I made it that far. By then full-blown panic was very near the surface. I decided to give up. I started shimmying backward as fast as I could- I felt like I couldn’t breathe. After what felt like an eternity, mt feet stopped hitting the sides of the cave- I was almost out. I nearly feel off the shelf and down the bluff scrambling the last few feet out, so grateful the be back in the fresh air and sunlight.  

I told my buddy what I saw- which wasn’t much. He could see how scared I was, but we never talked about that. We sat there, silently, for a bit, looking into the mouth of the cave with our flashlights. Then, without saying a word as we climbed down. The trip home started out pretty quiet. But by the time we were half way home, conversation had settled back to relative normal. We talked about all sorts of things, but not the cave. In fact, we never really talked about it much at all after that, And my recollection is that we never went back.  

To this day, two things stand out- I still wonder if there was REALLY a large room back there (everything ELSE the farmer had told us about the cave proved to be true, so…?) and, as I said earlier, BOY was that a different time and place. I would have never willingly just let my kid wander off for the day, not knowing where they were going or were to even begin to look for them if they didn’t come home. But that wasn’t a sign that our parents were bad parents. Not at all. Instead, it was sign of a simpler day and age, when people left their houses and cars unlocked, where kids played outside all day and where the only rule was, “be home when the streetlights came on”. (We didn’t even HAVE streetlights out where we lived!) 

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! 

It Takes a Village…

it-takes-a-villageIt all started Saturday. I came downstairs after my nap to find my wife not feeling well. She, just like our boys, wears her health in her eyes. All you have to do is take one look at their and know when they don’t feel well. She clearly didn’t feel well! Let me say that, in the almost 21 months since my cancer diagnosis, she has stayed staggeringly healthy. I attribute it to sheer will power on her part. But she works SO hard to take care of me…and does such a GREAT job of it…sometimes her body just catches up to her. She had a low-grade fever, a headache, cough, congestion- a cold. And we all know that Antibiotics aren’t really going to help that. Sleep, time and some over the counter meds to alleviate the symptoms is about all you can do. She said she didn’t think she should go to church on Sunday. I readily agreed. She is very active in all 3 worship services, so Sunday morning we lined up people to take over her regular duties and off we went.  

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon. By that point, She had gotten some more sleep. I had led Sunday morning and then taught Confirmation Class #1 Sunday afternoon and taken a nap. It was about 4:30PM and I still had meetings- 3 in a row starting at 6PM and running to 8:30PM or 9PM. As we talked, neither of us thought it was a good idea for her to go to chemo infusion with me. (An aside, she NEVER misses one of my appointments so that was a hard decision for us-her to make, but it was the RIGHT one!) She was still sick. She rightfully pointed out, after I said I would just drive myself, that I am usually in NO position to drive home AFTER chemo. She is SO right.  

She suggested we ask if anybody at church could help. (They’ve volunteered SEVERAL times.) Well, with 3 meetings yet to happen, I had a built-in pool of possibilities to ask. So, at the end of the Trustees meeting, I asked. I said I knew it was short notice and a lot to ask, AND I still had 2 other meetings worth of people I could ask, so no harm, no foul if no one in this group could do.  

I needed 2 people. 1 would (90 minutes round trip) drive me there, wait 30 minutes while I met with the oncologist to see if my blood work was good enough for me to have treatment or not- and then go home…either with me or without me. If I DID have it, the other one would drive in (another 90-minute round trip) to pick me up. Within about 60 seconds of me shutting up after asking, I had them both lined up! 

We also have a woman in the church who regularly comes by the house when we are gone to chemo to take our dog out. My wife dutifully said, “I’ll be home. I’ll take her out.” And I dutifully said, “You’re still sick!) So, in the end 3 people from the church stepped up in major ways to help us out on chemo day! And chemo day went fine, although that IV Benadryl continues to make me nearly comatose every time I get it! I walked out of the house at about 9:30AM and walked back in about 3:30PM- 7 hours for those of you keeping score at home! 

Yesterday reminds me just what a church is all about. It’s about us all pulling together and doing what we…and others…need to do. About a common goal. About connection people to Jesus Christ. I am SO grateful to serve with such a group of people. I am even MORE grateful to have such a loving, care-giving, AWESOME wife who stand by me at every twist and turn of this cancer roller coaster. And I am EVEN more grateful to serve a God Who loves me unconditionally. God is good, all the 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! 

These Kids Today

kid-meme-lgThere is this expression- “These kids today”! It’s an expression that gets bandied about a lot these days. And frankly, it’s an expression that has been bandied about…since there have been kids! Every generation has thought that the next generation was going to be the death of civilization. Seriously. Since the dawn of humans, that has been the case. 

And so, I here it a lot. Why? Because there are, you know…HUMANS running around. And in response to the notion that the current generation is the worst ever, I have two bullets points. And…here they are! 

  1. Are there rotten young people today? Of course there are. EVERY generation has its share of rotten people. Sorry- may seem a bit harsh, but we all know it’s true. But are they representative of ALL young people today? Not even a little bit. 

Between having kids of my own and being a pastor, I spend a lot of time around a pretty wide variety of young people. And, based on my experience, we are in pretty good hands! Whether it’s the kids and youth who populate the churches I have served or the ones who are in the variety of things our sons have been involved in, I see a LOT of really fine young people. They are smart. Pleasant. Good social skills. Respectful. Fun to be around. 

Are they perfect? Of course not- again, they’re human. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. (Sorry to break that to you, if you didn’t know!!) None of God’s children are perfect. But they have a great deal going for them. And I feel pretty darn good knowing they are the future. 

  1. What about the young people who aren’t doing so well? What about those kids who seem to always be in trouble, who seem to always be disrespectful, who seem to not really honor anybody or anything? What about them? 

Well, first off- my heart hurts for them. I look at the way I grew up and I realize that I could have ended up there myself. One more stray step, one more bad choice and I could be in a MUCH different place than I am. So I am very empathetic for young people who have tough lives. 

But I have to ask myself one question- how did they GET to be in that situation? Behavior, good or bad- isn’t learned and developed in a vacuum. Where do kids learn the words, the attitudes, the behaviors? 

The truth is that there seem to be some who are simply predisposed to that kind of behavior. But my experience is that they are the exception and not the rule. So, again, where do the rest of those kids learn what they have clearly learned? Someone had to teach them…or allow them to be taught by others. 

I’m amazed when parents exhibit negative behavior on a relatively consistent basis and then are stunned when their kids struggle. The old “do as I say, not as I do” may be a worthwhile punchline, but it is NOT a foundation for solid parenting. 

And then there are the parents who consistently exhibit the behavior they want their kids to model but then let them be around people and situations that fly in the face of that approach. It is our responsibility to not only consistently model the behavior we want out of the kids we impact but to also draw the lines that need to be draw to ensure that they receive that same reinforcement from their other influences. 

Am I saying that EVERY time a kid “goes bad”, the parent is at fault? No. It’s not that simple. But I AM saying that, when kids end up in places and situations that we don’t want them to be in, we HAVE to ask ourselves how they got there. And we HAVE to be honest…brutally honest…with the answers. 

Impacting kids in a positive way is NOT an easy job. And a large part of the reason it’s hard is that there is NO vacation- it’s a 24/7/365 kind of deal. They are ALWAYS watching and therefore we are ALWAYS impacting them- either negatively or positively. God entrusts us- as parents, extended family, a church, a community, a nation- with raising our kids to be the best humans they can be. That is THE most important job we have!\ 

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

 

5 Di.N.T.S.: Jesus Gets Mad…at a Tree

5 Dints Logo Week 3     How long did the Hundred Years War last? 116 years. Which country manufactures Panama hats? Ecuador. From what animal do we get catgut? Sheep and horses. In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution? November. Have you ever noticed that some things are not what they appear to be? 

Today, we continue our Sunday sermon service- 5 Difficult New Testament Stories. This series looks at 5 stories from the New Testament that are hard to wrap your head around. The first week, we started with a doozy- God condemns angels to eternity…in Hades! Last week, Jesus died and went to Hades to preach to those in bondage. Today, we stay right here on Earth as we watch Jesus throw a temper tantrum…at a fig tree! 

Mark 11:12-14 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it. 

To walk from Bethany to Jerusalem would take about an hour. Mark’s Gospel says that it was on that trip that Jesus saw a fig tree standing on in the distance. Imagine it- a tree, out there all by itself, its branches and broad green leaves calling out to weary, hungry travelers, offering a bit of respite in the form of delicious, juicy fruit. But as Jesus nears the tree, something becomes apparent- it has no fruit. But of course, Mark is quick to point out that it’s not the right time of year for the tree to have fruit. So…no harm, no foul. But as they get closer, Jesus sees that there is no fruit on the tree. So…He curses it and it dies. 

Question #1- Was Jesus just a little harsh with this tree?  

Was He just being mean, or was here some underlying point that Jesus was trying to make to His disciples…to us? What lesson are we supposed to learn here? 

Well, let’s start with this- a botany lesson. It’s the nature of a fig tree to produce growing fruit…and THEN open up its leaves. So first the fruit and THEN the opened leaves. So, armed with that knowledge, this fig tree- the one sitting out there on the hill, flaunting its pretentious green leaves- is deceptive. You know the old saying- if it seems too good to be true, it usually is? Boy does that apply here! 

Two important things happened around this story. First, Jesus had JUST entered Jerusalem- Palm Sunday. So this story takes place on the Monday of the last week of His life. And then, just after this incident with the fig tree, He went to the Temple, where He found money changers- people buying and selling in the Temple. He overturned their tables and threw them out. Think about that- RIGHT after this tree withering, Jesus goes to the temple and finds the religious leaders standing in the temple, spouting the laws of Moses…but not actually knowing the Giver of the Law.  

They had become corrupt through the love of money and the world. They bragged about how much Scripture they knew…and yet they were ignorant of God’s love. They were hypocrites. Just like that fig tree, these teachers of the Law had spread their enticingly pretentious branches out- beautiful to the eye but yielding absolutely nothing of any real substance. 

Jesus says that He expects more from us than just the ordinary…the least possible effort. And if that’s the expectation, then it really doesn’t matter if it wasn’t fig season. If you’re showing yourself to have fruit…then you ought to actually have some fruit. And showing fruit in your life is more than just showing up at church on Sunday. It takes more than that to show your fruit.  

How can we avoid being a fruitless and cursed fig tree? I said earlier that this story is about Jesus throwing a temper tantrum at a fig tree. In reality, it’s not about that at all! Jesus had nothing against the fig tree. I mean, it was a fig tree! He didn’t speak this in anger. The lesson was for the disciples…and for us.  

We should carry through with what we promise- produce the fruit we say we will. This tree promised fruit because it had leaves. But in the end, the tree is simply not important in this story- the lesson is! The people had failed to keep their promises to God. God will NEVER break His promises. In this story, the fig tree withered because it promised fruit but didn’t deliver. Jesus teaches that promise without performance is unacceptable. Have you ever made a promise to God that you violated? Not one you couldn’t keep…but one you chose not to keep?  

Question #2- Who decides whether our faith is bearing adequate fruit or not? 

Well…not me and not you. I can see what you do and you can see what I do…but we simply can’t know what’s in each other’s hearts. Only Jesus can truly judge whether or not we are producing adequate fruit. 

Therefore, our main concern shouldn’t be how much fruit others are producing. Our main concern should be how much fruit WE are producing. Christianity isn’t meant to simply provide a comfortable place to go on Sunday mornings. It should change lives. 

The story of the withered fig tree teaches us that unfulfilled promises and empty professions won’t satisfy God. It also tells us that God will give us both the power and the help we need to fulfill our promises and live up to our high calling…if we really want Him to. 

Technology

techieI have shared before that, about 15 years ago, the “tech committee” at the church we were serving at the time was charged with ordering a new computer for my office. It was to be a desktop model. They came to me with the specifications they were proposing. I will admit right up front that I knew a LOT less about “tech stuff” then than I do now. But I knew enough to notice the COMPLETE absence of a modem. If you are reading this and thinking, “Modem? Modem? That SOUNDS familiar!”…a modem is the thing that connects a computer to the internet! 

I looked over the specs again, just to make sure I was reading it correctly. When I brought it to the attention of the committee, I presented it from the perspective of, “Of COURSE this was simply an oversight.” But no- it wasn’t. They left it out on purpose. The reason? They simply couldn’t imagine any reason I would have to get on the internet while at church! 

Well BOY have things changed in those 15 years! I look at the how technology and the internet impact my ministry and I am amazed. From this blog- which has been published DAILY since September 15, 2009- through the church website to mobile apps, in-house produced videos, all-church robo-calls and online giving, technology has a HUGE impact on today’s ministry. 

If you read this blog at all or know me at all, you know that I not only embrace technology…I LOVE it. I readily admit that fact. But I worry about those folks who steadfastly refuse to see the benefits of technology to today’s ministry. It doesn’t really matter if you like it or not. There are aspects of ministry that I don’t particularly care for- the nature of the beast, so to speak. But if we REALLY want to connect people to Jesus Christ, we have to be willing to go where they go and do what they do. And the reality of life in the 21st Century is that technology is the order of the day. 

If you read the Gospels, Jesus met people where they were. He went to their homes, their events. That’s what He calls us to do. Be willing to embrace the culture. Why? Because that’s where all the people are! Meet them where they are and then help them get to the place Jesus is called them to. What better way could you spend your 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!