Friday, June 16, 2017

Room in Our Dad's House

With Father’s Day upon us, it’s natural for many of us to think back to our childhood days with our dads.  Many of my memories of my dad (who passed away in May 2014) are tied to the house in which my siblings and I grew up. In fact, once having purchased that house in 1963 (for $19,000!), it was the only house my dad would live in for the rest of his life.

Having been built in the 1920’s there was always lots of work to be done around the house.  And, although he grew up in an apartment in the Bronx, somehow my dad learned how to do plumbing, electrical work, and roofing. He even figured out how to lay a foundation and put up walls—all from books and magazines (after all, this was long before YouTube!). Somehow he figured out how to close in the screened porch to add a family room and how to expand the garage to make room for all of our stuff!

The house I grew up in...3 Park Ave. Monsey, NY 
Most of all, I remember my dad adding bedrooms to the house as our family grew. Originally the upstairs of the house had two bedrooms and an enclosed sun porch.  One bedroom was for my parents and the other for “the kids” (my two sisters and me). In 1967, when the fourth child, my first brother, was born, dad took the sun porch and turned it into a bedroom for my brother and me.  Now we had three bedrooms—one for my parents, one for my two sisters, and one for “the boys.”  In 1971, when my mom became pregnant with my youngest brother, Dad had to figure out a way to sleep a family of seven.  That’s when he took what had been a landing area on the second floor and enclosed it to create a bedroom that was about 6’2’’x 6’2’’ with a small closet. That room became my bedroom through my teen years.  In the end, we all had a place to sleep, hang, play, etc.  There was room for each one of us in our dad’s house!   

Jesus said,  “Do not let your hearts be troubled, Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you.”  (John 14:1-2 – NIV) In other words, just as my dad made sure there was a place for each one of his children in his house, God has a place for each one of his children in his house. No one is going to be left out. No one is going to be told that there is no more room. And in fact, right now Jesus is helping prepare that room for you and for me!

Let’s live our lives trusting God, knowing that there will be room for each one of us in our Dad’s house! 

Have a great day…and, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

Pastor Tim Harris


Friday, June 9, 2017

The Empty Nest!

I know that the title of this Pastor’s Devotion makes most people think that I’m writing about that period of time when one’s grown children move out and leave mom and dad to live alone in their “empty nest.” However, that’s not what I have in mind. Rather, I’m thinking about the robin’s nest that was built in a very odd spot along the side of our house. Instead of building her nest in a bush or a tree, this robin built her nest on top of our electric meter, only a couple feet off the ground. It was a spot that left her nest very much exposed to danger.

When I first came across the nest, it was empty. A day later there were two little blue eggs in the nest.  For the next couple of days, whenever I went near it, the mother bird would fly to a nearby tree and make a racquet, yelling at me in her bird language, trying to chase me away.  And, I would oblige. After all, I wanted to see the babies hatch and see how the mother bird would care for them. At the same time, however, I was quite concerned that she had built her nest in a place that left the eggs and subsequent baby birds exposed to predators.  Sure enough, just a few days later, I went to check on the nest again and rather than see the two eggs or find two baby birds hatched, I found an empty nest.  Apparently some predator had stolen the eggs.

What a strange place for a robin's nest! 
In some ways, I felt badly for the mother bird that continued to hang around the spot for a few more days. After all, she had just lost her two babies. On the other hand, she had not been wise in where she had built her nest and laid her eggs.  She had found an easy spot to build her nest (no going in and out of the branches of a bush or flying up into a tree). But, she had not been careful enough to put her nest in a place that would be safe.  She had not protected her young ones properly from those predators that threatened their lives.  

At times, the Bible likens God to a mother bird very much unlike the mother robin in my backyard. The Psalmist wrote, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4 – NIV)  We read in the book of Deuteronomy, “He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.” (Deuteronomy 32 10b-11 – NIV)  It’s no wonder Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26 – NIV) 

I want to encourage you today to know that God is watching over your life.   He will not leave you exposed to danger, but He will protect you. He will not foolishly put his children in harm’s way. But, like a wise mother bird who diligently takes care of her young, so God will take care of you. 

Have a great day.

Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, May 26, 2017

God's Daily Routine!

We all have our daily routines.  For me, the alarm clock goes off, I wait a couple of extra minutes and then get out of bed to head to the bathroom to shower and shave.  I then get dressed and head downstairs to put on the coffee, eat some breakfast and then drive over to the office.  There’s the time for daily devotions and prayer, the daily office routines, hopefully getting in some daily time at the gym (at least a few days a week), dinner in the evening, and the daily routines to get ready for bed.  And, the next day it begins again.  That’s not to say there’s no variety, change ups, or surprises that take place day to day.  It’s just that there are pieces of my day—and, I know yours—that are part of a daily routine. 

But, did you know that God has a daily routine as well? Psalm 68:19 says, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (NIV) Some translations say, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits….” (KJV). Either way, the Psalmist refers to something God does each and every day, something that is part of his daily routine.  In one translation, God steps into the lives of his people and picks up the burdens that come along each day (as we all know they do), and God carries those burdens on their behalf. In the other translation, God steps into the lives of his people and loads them up with “benefits” or blessings.  I’ll take it either way!

No matter which translation we use (and, the Hebrew is a bit nebulous), we see God coming to us each day to help us and/or bless us.  It is part of God’s daily routine. After all, God doesn’t want any of us to know one day without his presence at work in our lives. The One who promised never to leave us nor forsake us, doesn’t want us to know one day without him standing by our side.  Thus he has promised that each and every day he will come to us to carry our burdens or to pour out blessing upon us—or maybe a little bit of both!

So, no matter what is happening in your life today—or, wherever you are in your daily routine—won’t you take a moment to thank God for his daily work in your life?  Allow yourself to sense God helping you, blessing you, and ministering to whatever your need might be.  After all, it’s part of God’s daily routine!

“…his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22b-23 – NIV) 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, May 19, 2017

One Final Graduation!

This Saturday, May 20th, our daughter Joanna will graduate from Lafayette College in Easton, PA.  Joanna will receive two bachelor's degrees, one in psychology and one in music, with a minor in Spanish.  Since she is our youngest, this will be our final college graduation as a family.  Thus, with Joanna's graduation, Kim and I are officially done with the college years! 

Of course, this is a bittersweet occasion for us.  No doubt, we are very proud of our daughter. And with her graduation, we are glad to be moving past the years of trying to choose the right school, filling out applications and the annual financial aid forms, the endless moving in and out of dorms, and the mountain of complications that are just a natural part of attending college these days (not to mention the financial matters!).  Since 2009, Kim and I have had a child in college—that eight years worth of college!  In fact, for five of those years we had two attending at the same time!  So, yes we are glad to be moving past the college years.

Joanna & me by the river in Easton, PA
On the other hand, it's also a bit sad for us as parents, for we know that once our children graduate they begin to focus on the stuff of their own life much more than on the stuff of our lives. They become much more independent from the home and from us as their parents, and rightfully so. In fact, Joanna will be moving within just a few weeks to New Haven, CT for her first post-college job.  Thus, with this final college graduation, Kim and I know that we ourselves are moving into a new stage within our lives. For us, it's as if a chapter of our lives is coming to an end.

As it does, I look back with great thanksgiving for the years we have spent together as a family. I know I speak for Kim when I say that we are glad to have had the privilege of raising our children. And, with God's help we will continue to do our best to bless them as each of their lives progresses. Truly each of them is a gift from God—which is the meaning of each of our boy's names: Jonathan and Nathaniel. And, each of them is a sign of God's grace upon our lives—which is the meaning of Joanna's name.

My prayer for them, for each of you who is reading this blog, and for Kim and me as well comes from the last few words of the book of Hebrews:  “Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21 - NIV)

I pray that in each stage of life, God will bless and use each of us for his glory!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Lesson From My Mom: Live in the Moment!

Yesterday I went to visit my mom who has been struggling with dementia since 2014.  Mom is only 79 years old and yet she can hardly speak due to really bad aphasia, is wheelchair-bound, and is unable to feed herself or take care of her own daily needs.  Thankfully, she still recognizes our faces (although she can’t come up with our names) and seems to get excited when she sees one of my siblings or me, or even our spouses or children. What strikes me the most, however, is that my mom has very little concept of either the past or future.  She is pretty much just living in the moment. 

A great moment with my mom and dad in 1960!
With Mother’s Day coming this Sunday, I stopped at a nearby supermarket on my way to see her and picked up a Mother’s Day card and flowering plant.  Since mom can’t read, I needed to make sure the card would be visually attractive to her, so I got her a card with lots of little kittens on the cover (she always loved cats!).  The plant had large daisy-like flowers in a very bright peach color. Again, I wanted to make sure it would be visually appealing to her.  Although my mom doesn’t understand that it is Mother’s Day or what that means, when I gave her the card and plant her face lit up.  It was for her, a moment of pleasure. And, that’s our goal: to simply make the most of the moments we are with her and the moment in which she is living. 

The Apostle Paul speaks of “making the most of every opportunity” or literally, “making the most of every moment.” (Ephesians 5:16) The writer of Ecclesiastes writes, “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12)  Later on he writes, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” (Ecclesiastes 11:6 – NIV)  In other words, we are challenged us to enjoy and use well the moments in which we find ourselves living.

We all know we have a tendency to keep on looking back, often holding onto regret and pain; while at the same time looking ahead, often with anxiety and fear. We can become so taken up with the past and the future that we begin to miss the moments at hand. Before we know it, the moments we were meant to enjoy and use wisely have passed and we are left wondering where life has gone. 

Although I grieve over my mom’s current condition, she has reminded me to not allow myself to become trapped in the past nor to obsess over the future. It’s as if she is teaching me another lesson: Don’t forget to live in the moment!

Have a great day! And, happy Mother’s Day to all the moms!

Pastor Tim Harris