Friday, June 21, 2013

A New Son, Grandson, Nephew, Cousin!

This past Thursday, Levi James Harris was born to my brother John and his wife Kivian.  He is John and Kivian’s fourth son, my 10th nephew (on the Harris side of the family), my children’s 13th cousin on that side of the family, and my parent’s 16th grandchild and 12th grandson! In other words, there are a lot of kids, and especially boys, on my family’s side! 

In spite of the fact that Levi was born a bit premature (about 34 weeks), he weighed in at just over 5 pounds and was breathing on his own.  Of course, he will remain in a neo-natal unit for a couple of weeks. But, we thank God for his life as we look forward to the way he will one day interact with us all as a son, grandson, nephew, and cousin.  In our hearts we have already welcomed him into the family. 

Someday, however, he will be more than a son, grandson, nephew, or cousin.  He will go on to be a friend, a fellow student, and co-worker. One day he may be a husband, a dad, even a grandfather.  In other words, his relationships and influence will extend beyond the family boundaries. He will be more than John’s and Kivian’s son. He will become a man who will stand on his own, set up his own household, and have his own place in our world.  His life will eventually affect the lives of many. 

That is the case with us all.  We all have a place of influence, both within and outside of our family boundaries. We are sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, husbands and wives. We are someone’s friend, neighbor, co-worker, or fellow student.  We affect the lives of others daily by our words and deeds.  We have the potential to bring blessing or harm to others.  We lift people up or we put them down.  

The Bible teaches us to live our lives in such a way that we bring the positive into each other’s lives, and not the negative.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up….” (1 Thessalonians 4:18 – NIV);  “Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15:2 – NIV)  Jesus even said, “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,”  (Luke 16:27 – NIV)

So, what kind of affect are we having on the lives of others?  After all, every day we come into contact with lots of people who are affected by who we are, the things we do, and the words we speak.  May our lives be lives of blessing to those both within and outside of our family boundaries.

Have a great day.

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Daily Pilgrimage

When we use the word “pilgrimage” I know we are normally speaking about a trip to a religious site such as Jerusalem or Mecca, for religious purposes.  Usually such trips are a once in a lifetime event.  But as I made the commute to my office in Queens today, I couldn’t help but think of the millions of people who make a daily pilgrimage to their places of work in Manhattan and other parts of NYC. 

Statistics tell us that almost 2 million people commute into Manhattan every day, drawing more commuters than any other county in the nation.  All one needs to do is try to cross the George Washington Bridge, pass through the Lincoln tunnel, stand in the middle of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, or catch a subway during rush hour to get a feel for the mass of people making their pilgrimage each day to an office, school, hospital or some other place of work in the City.  (And, that’s not even considering the tourists who are moving about!) As frustrating, difficult, and time consuming as it might be, these people are making the trip each day because of the benefit they receive in return (i.e. the paycheck!).  For them, the pilgrimage is, at least to some degree, worth the effort. 

In Psalm 84, the Psalmist writes of another kind of pilgrimage when he gives us these words:  “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage…They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”  (Psalm 84:5, 7 – NIV)   These are people who are living their lives as a pilgrimage towards God. These are people who are making a journey through life with one goal in mind: to live forever in God’s presence.  Although the journey may not always be easy, they press on knowing that the end result of the journey will be well worth whatever effort is required of them.  They have determined to live their lives as a pilgrimage, believing that one day they will receive their reward as they enter forever into the presence of Almighty God! 

As I think about it, it’s not a bad way to look at our lives—i.e. to see our lives as a journey, a pilgrimage, towards God.  By doing so, we realize that the goal of our lives is much greater than anything we might find in this world.  And, no matter how frustrating and difficult life may become, we press forward filled with faith and hope, believing that it will be well worth our effort, for at the end of the pilgrimage we will experience the joy of God’s eternal presence.

“Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.” (Psalm 21:6 – NIV) 

Keep on moving and have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Lot of Lasts

This month my daughter, Joanna, is graduating from high school.  That has made this month both very exciting and very exhausting, for her and for us (i.e. Kim and me).  Last week was prom (for which she looked absolutely beautiful!). This week was a track dinner, an AP English Action Fair, and an awards ceremony.  But not only has it been about the number of events occurring, we all realize that just about every part of this year, and especially this semester, has been a last in Joanna’s high school career.

There has been the last football game (as color guard), the last school musical, the last track meet, and the last orchestra concert.  And such has been the case not just for Joanna, but for Kim and me as well.  After all, we have been with our kids in the high school since Jonathan was a freshman (2005) and in this school system for 15 years.  When it comes to the high school, Kim and I have been to eight years of concerts, football games, track meets, tennis meets, madrigal dinners, musicals, etc.  We have interacted with students, teachers, parents, guidance counselors and administrators.  As we have attended various events, we have a built a network of people whom we know and who know us.  But, now it’s all coming to an end.  By September, if we attend any high school event such as a football game, we will no longer be the parents of a high school student, but visitors from the community. It’s going to be very strange. 

Whether we like it or not, our lives are full of lasts.  We are constantly coming up against those times when the seasons of our lives are changing and we meet another last.  It may be that last day on the job you’ve worked at for years; that last night in the house you grew up in; that last day with your son or daughter before they marry; that last moment spent with a parent or grandparent before they pass from this life to the next.  We eat one more dinner together, spend one more night together, share one more holiday together.  And as we do, we hopefully cherish each moment and create memories that we will hold close to our hearts. After all, we will always remember our lasts.

While reflecting on the temporary nature of life, King Solomon wrote these words:  “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.  That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 – NIV) 

As we go through life we need to be careful not to take any of it for granted. Rather, we must embrace and enjoy each moment—especially, the people in those moments—knowing that much of it will eventually come to an end. And, as we encounter the seasons of change that inevitably come our way; in the midst of the pain of moving on; in the face of another last, we must receive each one as a gift given to us by the hand of our gracious and loving God. 

Well, time to get back to a few more lasts.  Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris