Friday, August 30, 2013

Just The Two of Us

The old pop song said:
“Just the two of us, we can make it if we try…Just the two of us, building castles in the sky; Just the two of us, you and I.” 

Well, that’s how it is for Kim and me these days: it’s just the two of us.  With the all three of our children away now (two in college and one working in Nicaragua), things have changed a bit here in our home.  We don’t have to think about getting home for anyone at the end of the day. The schedule is much less cluttered—we don’t have a host of school events on our calendars.  There’s less laundry, less picking up, less cooking, less dish washing, etc.  After all, it is just the two of us. 

I guess on the surface all of that sounds great.  And, maybe at some point we will appreciate it. But although Kim and I love our time together as husband and wife, right now there is something strange for us as we look into two empty bedrooms, see the empty seats at the table, and experience so much less energy in the house.  It’s not that we don’t like being alone with one another it’s just that after twenty-two years of taking care of children it is suddenly a very strange feeling to not have them around.  It’s strange to be living once again as “just the two of us.”

What I have come to realize, even in just this past week, is how important it is for a husband and wife to maintain their relationship during the child-rearing years.  If they don’t, when the children leave they won’t have a relationship to fall back on. Now I understand why it is that so many couples at this juncture in their marriage struggle. Thus, my word of advice to all the young parents out there is this: In spite of all the time, energy, and focus your children demand, make sure you continue to pour time and energy into your marital relationship. Stay focused on the relationship that brought those children into this world in the first place. 

Secondly, as a lesson for all of us—married, single, with or without children—I have realized how often during our child-rearing years, I allowed the proverbial “mole hills” to become “mountains.” Without getting into specifics, I realize that, things I perceived to be so important at that point in time, have turned out not to be important at all.  I wonder how many times I acted and reacted based on the fact that my priorities had become a bit mixed up.  I wonder how many conflicts and discipline issues I could have avoided if I had been a little more focused on my relationship with my children and less focused on some of the other stuff of life.

I want to encourage each of you to, keep first things first. Don’t allow the small things of life to create conflict or build walls between you and those around you.  After your relationship with God, the people in your life and the relationships you have with them need to be seen as the top priority of  life. Take time to love, to enjoy, and care for those around you. Take time to appreciate the gift of people God has placed into your life. 
I love my kids, miss them a lot, and look forward to when they come home on their breaks—or whenever. In the meantime, Kim and I will adapt to once again living as “just the two of us,” not just because we have to, but because we really do love each other, appreciate each other, and realize that the relationship we have is truly God’s gift to us.  I hope only to use the time we have with each other—as well as any time we may have with our children—wisely. 

 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10 – NIV) 

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”  (Romans 13:8 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Time Has Come!

The day has come! That is, the day Kim and I had to take our youngest child and only daughter to college finally arrived!  After almost two years of college visits, SATs, college applications, acceptance letters, decisions, financial aid forms, and, last but not least, shopping for college stuff, it all came to the time up to which everything has been building.  So this morning with a van filled to the brim, we made the trek to Joanna’s new campus, unloaded the van (with the help of some great student volunteers), set up the room (after moving the furniture about ten times to make it all fit), did the new student-parent stuff that the school had planned, said our farewells—with of course, a few tears showing (and many more that we were hiding)—and left Joanna at her new school and temporary home.

But, not only has the day come for Joanna to begin her college career, tomorrow the day comes for Kim and me to begin a new phase in our lives—to live as “empty-nesters,” at least temporarily.  You see, tomorrow we do the whole off-to-college and move-in routine all over again with our second son, Nathaniel, who is going back for his sophomore year. (Jonathan, who graduated this past spring is currently living and working in Nicaragua.) So, the day that Kim and I could never imagine actually coming to pass—the day we find ourselves once again in a home without children—has come! 

I’m reminded by it all that, not only does time move very quickly, but that our children come into our lives as gifts from God. The truth is, we are merely stewards over their young lives.  In the end, we do not own them; they belong to God, not to us. Our job is to simply take care of them the best that we can and then, when the day comes, to release them back into the hands of God, praying that what we’ve sown into their lives will bear good fruit.

The reality is, the time we have to invest into the lives of our children is a very short span of time. And although none of us will ever be the perfect parent, we must try our best to love them, teach them, nurture them, pray for them, and lead them in the ways of the God’s kingdom.  Then, before you know it, the day comes when we must “let go and let God,” trusting and praying that God their heavenly Father will continue to watch over them and help, especially when we cannot. 

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 – NIV) 

Have a great day! (Sorry for being a sappy and emotional dad.)    

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, August 9, 2013

Not Rights, But Love!

I know I might get myself in trouble with these thoughts this morning, and some may miss my point, but I can’t help but notice how often people today use the argument of “rights” to justify just about anything they like.  In fact, most arguments today on both the right and left sides of the political spectrum have to do with rights.  People speak about their rights in discussions about abortion, gay marriage, personal privacy, smoking laws, pornography, and the carrying of semi-automatic weapons.  Here in the U.S. we take our “inalienable rights” and extend them far beyond “the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness” - or at least to our own exaggerated interpretation of those words.  We tend to forget, as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. put it, “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.” 

I believe, however, that we who call ourselves Christians need to set the example of what it means to move beyond one’s rights.  Our way of thinking, lifestyle choices, and that which we promote ought to follow the example given to us by Christ. That means that we no longer live our lives based on our rights, but rather based on what is best for others—individually and corporately.

The Apostle Paul wrote,  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”  In other words, Jesus gave up all of his rights—we might even say his “inalienable rights”—for our sake, that we might have eternal life.  And, this is the way we are called to think and to live.

Thus, as followers of Jesus Christ we will gladly forfeit some of our privacies and privileges if it means safety for others.  We will not do anything we want with our bodies if it means life for another—or even another person’s health.  We will not engage in freedoms that lead to bondage for others. We will not engage in pleasures that bring harm to others or degeneration to our culture.  We will not live merely according to what we perceive to be our rights! Rather, we will live as Jesus did: laying down our rights for the sake of others. 

Today I want to challenge each of us to move beyond the argument of “rights.”  As a Christian, the question I must always ask is, what is best for the people around me, for future generations, and for our society and nation as a whole? I must challenge myself to consider not what is my right, but what will promote the well-being of others.  This is the example Jesus gave us.

Ultimately, it’s not about our rights, but about love! 

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, August 2, 2013

Missing Luggage

It’s a terrible feeling. You’re standing at the luggage carousel just after getting off your flight, watching the luggage come out of the shoot, waiting for your own suitcases to show up.  People are grabbing theirs’ off the moving belt. The number of bags is beginning to dwindle.  There’s just one more bag left circling, and it’s not yours.  You wait another couple of minutes thinking that yours is about to come out of the shoot any moment.  But, nothing happens.  And you realize, although you have gotten to your destination, your luggage has not.  That’s exactly what happened to me last week when I arrived in Managua, Nicaragua.  Both of my suitcases had been left behind in Miami.  Of course, I was just a little bit upset! 

I will say, however, that considering the number of people traveling and the enormous amount of luggage an airline has to process in a day, I am somewhat amazed that not more luggage gets mixed up, left behind, or sent to the wrong destination.  It is something we take for granted. Thus, when our luggage doesn’t show up on time, we are a bit upset, asking questions like, “How could this happen to me?” and “What am I going to do now?” 

Of course, we do have a right to expect our luggage to show up at our destination because it is in some ways a promise that the airline has made to us. As we hand our bags over to the person at the ticket counter; and as they receive it, tag it, and place it on their belt to who-knows-where, they are in essence making a promise to us that, if we entrust them with our bags they will get those bags to the same place to which we are going.  But, an airline is run by people. And, no matter how good their intentions, they cannot always keep their promises. There will be times when they will fail; times when someone messes up; times when they break their promise—just as we all do at one time or another!  And, we end up with missing luggage. 

I like what the Bible says about God and his promises:  “Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”  (Joshua 21:45 – NIV)  This verse was a reminder to the people then and a reminder to us today, that God will never mess up; that he will keep every promise he has ever made to us.  We could say, God will never lose our luggage! 

So today, let’s put our trust in God and in His Word, believing that, “he who promised is faithful.”  (Hebrews 10:23 – NIV)  He truly is! 

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim