Friday, May 20, 2011

Traveling With Flat Stanley

Flat Stanley is a book that is read by most first graders in our area, followed up by a class project. The story is about a boy named Stanley who is literally flattened by a bulletin board that falls on him while he is laying on his bed (OUCH!). Of course it seems terrible. But, Stanley quickly learns that the terrible thing that has happened to him has many benefits—one of which is that he can now be put into an envelope and mailed to different people in different parts of the world. Thus, Stanley goes places and does things he could never have done before.

The follow-up project for the students involves coloring in a picture of Flat Stanley and mailing him to a family friend or relative who in turn takes Flat Stanley to all kinds of places. The friend or relative takes pictures of Flat Stanley and sends back both pictures and a letter outlining Stanley’s many adventures. A few weeks ago, I received Flat Stanley from my nephew Billy. (I think Billy is the second or third one to send us Flat Stanley.) Thus, over the past few weeks we’ve taken Flat Stanley to New York City, to a Japanese restaurant (he loved eating with chopsticks!), to the park where he rode the swing and went down the slide (to name just a few of the places we’ve been). He really liked taking a walk with our dog Mabel! In the end, Stanley’s misfortune became the start of a new adventure for him; something good actually resulted from what seemed to have been a terrible tragedy.

I know in my life, I’ve often felt like a “Flat Stanley.” I’ve had those times when it’s felt as if a bulletin board has fallen on me and done all but wipe me out. The pain and confusion have been very, very real. But thankfully, the flattening times of life need not be the end of the story—not for me, nor for you. Like Flat Stanley such times may in fact be the doorway to something new and special within our lives, especially as God steps in to work his good purposes for us.

The Bible never negates the flattening times of life. But we are always reminded that with God there is always hope, no matter how flattened we might feel by the circumstances of life. Thus, the writers of Scriptures penned words such as:

    Proverbs 23:18 – “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (NIV)

    Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)

    Psalm 30:11 – “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy….” (NIV)

If you feel flattened today by the circumstances of your life, know that there is hope. God may be preparing you for something new…maybe for a brand new adventure! God might even use Flat Stanley to inspire you to see your difficulty as a new opportunity!

Have a great day! And, wish me “luck” with Flat Stanley—we only have a few more days to do go!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, May 13, 2011

Small Birds

The other day, while watching my son Nathaniel play a high school tennis match, I looked up and saw a surprising sight: a huge hawk was being chased through the air by five or six much smaller birds. It was quite a sight to see. After all, the hawk with its wingspan of three to four feet was huge and majestic looking. Often I’ve seen it in the area perched on the top of a tree or soaring through the air. At times, I’ve even seen it diving towards the ground in response to the sighting of some prey. But here it was, this majestic bird being chased by a small flock of little birds, each one no bigger than a small robin.

I don’t know much about ornithology, but I’m sure there was a reason for the chase (possibly the hawk was threatening the eggs or chicks of the smaller birds). What I do know, however, is that the hawk could have taken out those little birds pretty easily. It seemed to me that all it needed to do was turn around, go on the attack, and the little birds could have been quickly knocked to the ground. But instead, this huge, powerful hawk was being chased through the air by a small flock of much smaller and weaker birds.

Isn’t it true that, very often we find ourselves being chased by the small things of our lives? Rather than living like the “hawks” we have been created to be, we allow the small “birds” of life to chase us around. It’s not always the big things in life that threaten us and keep us on the run—i.e. the life and death situations (although at times they do come)—but more often it’s the worries and fears over the small things of life.

Jesus alluded to this when he said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?... Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25, 27 - NIV)

I know that too often I allow the small “birds” of life to chase me around. Rather than living the way God has called me to live, I give into worry and fear, forgetting that I have a heavenly Father who has promised to take care of me. The same is probably true for you. But Jesus calls us to soar high above the situations of our lives; he calls us to take on a God’s-eye view of life, saying, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33-NIV)

I want to encourage you today to trust your heavenly Father with the situations of your life. See life from his perspective. Pursue the things that really matter. And, don’t allow yourself to be chased by the little “birds.”

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Two Baby Boys

One day in 1931 a baby boy was born in Indiana, USA.  Twenty-six years later (1957) a second baby boy was born, this one in Saudi Arabia. Each one was just another baby being birthed into our world like millions of babies are birthed each year. Each one, however, would eventually make a tremendous impact on our world--actually changing our world—but for greatly different reasons. One baby grew to become a man of hate, the other a man of love. One became a man of war, the other a man of peace. One became man who killed, the other a man who brought life.

This week I heard it said, “When you were born you cried and the people rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, people cry and you rejoice!” It made me think of these two baby boys.

The baby born in 1957 died, or more accurately was killed by our U.S. armed forces, on May 1, 2011. He was none other than Osama Bin Laden, the man whose terror plots led to the deaths of thousands of men and women, including those killed in the attacks on the World Trade Centers. His life was one that was dictated by hatred and anger. He lived his life to destroy the lives of others. His heart and mind were consumed by the terror he sought to inflict on innocent people around the globe. Thus, when he died, with the exception of his handful of followers, most people around the world rejoiced. To him the scripture can be applied, “He passed away, to no one's regret….” (2 Chronicles 21:20 – NIV)

The other baby boy, the one born in 1931, died in a very unfortunate car accident on April 27, 2011. His name was David Wilkerson. Although not as well known around the world as Osama Bin Laden, David Wilkerson was a man who nonetheless made a global impact. The impact of his life, however, was not because of hatred or terror, but because of his love and compassion. Moved in his heart to reach the gang members and drug addicts of New York City, David Wilkerson went to the streets of Brooklyn, NY in February 1958, seeking to rescue young men and women from a lifestyle that was destroying them. Eventually he became the founder of Teen Challenge a world-wide and highly successful rehabilitation program based on the Bible and on the power of God to change people’s lives. For David Wilkerson we can easily apply the scripture, “All Judah and the people of Jerusalem honored him when he died.” (2 Chronicles 32:33 – NIV)

One man will be missed. The other we are relieved to no longer have to deal with here on this earth. One man’s death is reason for tears. The other man’s death became cause for rejoicing in the streets. We will miss David Wilkerson. We will not miss Osama Bin Laden.

Although most of us will never impact our world to the proportions that these two men did, it is good for us to be reminded that each our lives has a lasting effect on the people around us. May we be remembered for the love and life that we brought into the lives of others as we live after the pattern of our Savior who “…did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matt 20:28 – NIV)

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris