Friday, August 31, 2012

Stars in the Night

The other night as I was taking our dog for her late night walk, I noticed how few stars I could see in the sky.  Although it was a clear night, I could only see a handful of them.  The problem, of course, is the fact that here in this New York Metro area there is so much light coming from buildings, roadways, cars, etc.  All of these other lights dim out the light of the stars.

What a contrast to what we are able to see in the sky when we as a family are in the Adirondack Mountains.  There, because there is so little man-made light, the stars shine so brightly.  The sky is filled to such an extent that we can even see the Milky Way!  So many nights we sit by the fire on the beach, gazing at the stars, trying to see how many shooting stars we can catch going by.  Because the sky is so dark, the stars seem so bright. 

Many times our world can seem rather dark.  It’s upsetting to read about another shooting, another war, another threat to our safety.  We can’t help but take note of the moral decline that is taking place all around us.  On a personal level, we struggle with sickness, broken relationships, and difficulties that affect every area of our lives.  There are days that I’m sure you’d just rather not get out of bed.  After all, it can our world can feel so dark. 

To believers such as us, people living in a rather dark world, the Apostle Paul gave this instruction: “…shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life….” (Philippians 2:14-16 – NIV)    Jesus said, “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14, 16 – NIV)  The truth is, the darker our world, the more opportunity we have to shine.  The greater the darkness, the brighter the stars can shine. 

Don’t be discouraged by the darkness that might surround you. Instead, take it as an opportunity to shine in such a way that others might come to know the wonderful light of Jesus!  

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Grandma's Old Neighborhood

One evening this past week I was on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, so I decided to swing by my grandmother’s old neighborhood. For 68 years she had lived on 114th St between Riverside Dr. and Broadway.  It’s been about four years now since we moved my grandmother out of her apartment to an assisted living facility in NJ.  (She passed away in April 2011.)). And, it had been just as long since I had been back to the neighborhood where not only had my grandmother lived all those years, but where my mother had grown up and where we, as the grandchildren, had spent so much time. 

After finding parking right on her block, I decided to walk the neighborhood for a bit.  I went by the bookstore up on the corner where we always loved to stop and peruse the books that were on display outside the store.  I peaked in the Cuban restaurant where my grandmother loved to get shrimp “in the green sauce” and churros to have with her coffee (always black!).  I stopped by Nussbaum and Wu, the bakery/deli type place where she and I had shared many coffees and Danishes through the years. I ate dinner there.  Just before I left the area, I decided to ring the doorbell of the superintendent of the building where she had lived.  Franky, who had known my grandmother for many years, came out.  I informed him of her passing.  We spent a few minutes talking about her old apartment – now renovated and sold off as a condo.  We said our goodbyes.  All I could see of her apartment were the shades in the windows—fancy shades that she would have loved, but would probably have never bought. 

Being back in my grandmother’s old neighborhood was quite bittersweet.  It was nice to be back in what is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Manhattan and to reminisce in my mind.  At the same time, it was a bit sad.  As I walked down the sidewalks and glanced in the shops and restaurants, I thought about all the times my grandmother had stopped in each one of them and how many of the owners once knew her by name.  Yet now, a mere four years later, no one was missing her.  No one was looking for her.  And, only a few of them might have recognized her name. 

Now, I don’t want to sound depressing but, I couldn’t help but think to myself, I guess, that’s the way life is.  We are here for a while and then we are gone.  People may miss us for a time—but only a few really remember us.  So, what ought we do?  How ought we to live?  Do we just give up and say, If no one is going to remember me, it’s of no use? 

The writer of Ecclesiastes, as he pondered these things answers this way, “Go eat your food with gladness and drink your wine with a joyful heart…Always be clothed in white and anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life you’re your wife…Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might….” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 – NIV)  The Apostle Paul wrote, And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  (Colossians 3:17 – NIV) 

In other words, the answer isn’t to give up on life, but to live it to it’s fullest.  It is to live in such a way that our hearts are always filled with gratitude toward God for all we have and all he allows us to do.

So today, let’s commit ourselves to living our lives the way God intended for us to live them: filled with enjoyment, gratitude, and purpose.  In the end, life isn’t about how many people remember us, but how we have used the life that God has given to us.    

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, August 17, 2012

Off to College

It’s that time of the year again, time for college students all around the country to head back to school.  So it is in our home.  Yesterday we packed up Jonathan, our oldest son, said our goodbyes, and off he went to begin his final year.  In fact, this is the first time we were not actually moving him into his dorm room. (That in and of itself is strange.)  And, this coming week we will, for the first time, pack-up Nathaniel, our second son, and take him off to school to begin his college career.  I know already that, that day is going to be very hard for both Kim and me (as well as Joanna!). 

This whole experience is very bittersweet for me as a dad.  Of course, I want to see my children grow and mature and become independent.  I know I need to give them space to learn, to develop new relationships, and to experience life outside of my constant watch.  At the same time, I know that, that process does not come without its bumps and bruises.  These years that we call “young adulthood” or “the college years” are fraught with all kinds of difficult decisions, relational challenges, temptations of every sort, and lots and lots of pressure.  If I could, I’d protect my kids from the negative and only let them experience the positive. But that would not be healthy for them.  Nor, is it feasible—I don’t have that kind of power.  So, I do my best to watch from a distance, put in my two cents here and there (well, sometimes it’s probably more like a half-dollar), and then release them to themselves—actually, not merely to themselves, but to God’s watchful eye. 

That brings me to my point.  Is it possible that this process of letting go as a parent really does mean, as some say, “Letting go and letting God”?  As I drop them off at college or watch as they begin to make decisions more and more on their own, can I  trust that, although I may not be able to watch over them the way I used to, God their heavenly Father is still watching over them?  They may be moving out from under my watchful eye, but they never move out from under His.  And, in fact, He is a much better parent than am I. 

So, as I think about my boys going off to college, and the fact that next year Joanna will be doing the same, I try to remember Jesus’ words, applying them to them lives of my children: Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7 – NIV) 

Yes, each of my children is very valuable to God. He loves them and is more than able to take care of them.  And, He loves you and is able to take care of you as well. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Old Friends

For some reason, I’ve recently run into a number of old friends—that is, friends from the past, not “aged” friends.  In supermarkets, restaurants, the park; via phone calls, Facebook, impromptu visits, I’ve connected with a number of people I haven’t seen in at least a year.  One guy called whom I hadn’t spoken to in probably 25 years! This past week I even had dinner with my former pastor—the pastor under whom I worked when I first finished seminary.

I don’t know about you, but I find connecting with people from the past can be both exciting and a bit difficult.  It’s great to catch up on life and find out what’s been going on with them and their family.  It’s fun to hear the stories of what has been taking place in their life and to share your own stories.  But, it can also be difficult.  For one, where do you start when they ask, “So, what’s been going on?”  And, then there are the bits of sad news that rise to the surface: the divorce, the death of a spouse, the loss of faith, etc.  And there is often the sense that so much of life has gone by, life has changed, and we who were once sharing our lives have now been separated by time and space. 

Through all of these recent encounters, I have been reminded that every person God brings into my life, even if it is for just a brief season of my life, is a gift from his hand.  I been reminded of my need to be mindful that the time we have together is not for forever.  Thus, I ought to treasure each person, each relationship, and every experience that we are allowed to share.  And, let me encourage each of you to do the same. 

So, today I am grateful for my “old friends”—people who, throughout the years have blessed my life; people who have shared bits of pieces of my life. My prayer for each of them, for all my “old friends” (and for my new ones) is this:  “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”  (2 John 2)

And, I do especially hope and pray that your “soul is getting along well” in our Lord Jesus.

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris