Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Day Before Thanksgiving

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse…actually it is kind of quiet here at our home, at least for the moment. Kim is at work for the first half of the day. The two college students who’ve come home for the weekend, are still in bed, maybe just beginning to wake up. I’ve been at my computer studying and preparing for the weekend. And, it’s pretty grey and rainy outside. Oh, the dog has been sleeping all morning, as well (but she usually does!). 

It’s the day before Thanksgiving! That means the roads will be filled with cars trying to get to their next destination and the airports will be filled with passengers waiting to board their planes. The supermarkets are full of Turkeys and stuffing and cranberry sauce—all of it quickly flying off the shelves—and, filled with people pushing their carts, getting all their last minute items, and standing on long lines. 

It’s the day before Thanksgiving so, people are in a hurry to get home and begin preparing for the next day’s meal. The house needs to be cleaned, the pies need to get in the oven, the stuffing needs to be prepped.  There’s so much to do on the day before Thanksgiving. 

Yes, it’s the day before Thanksgiving. The anticipation is building for the reunions with family and friends. Many are looking forward to sitting down at a table filled with food and indulging in foods that they eat possibly just once a year.  Some are looking forward to going to getting up early and going to a parade or to the local high school football game. Some anticipate cheering on their favorite team via the television. Everyone’s thoughts are on tomorrow. After all, it’s the day before Thanksgiving.

But, what will actually happen on Thanksgiving Day?  Yes, there will be the parades and football games, the reunions and the meals. There may even be a quick word of “Grace” before the meal. But, will there be any “thanksgiving?”  Will anyone actually remember to give thanks? 

Maybe on this day before Thanksgiving, we should begin to plan and prepare for how we will actually give thanks to God once Thanksgiving Day arrives. Maybe today we ought to find a way today to prepare our hearts for a true moment of gratitude to our heavenly Father, the One from whom all good gifts come. 

“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)

“You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. (Psalm 118: 28 – NIV)

Have a great Thanksgiving Day! And, a great “day before Thanksgiving!” 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, November 22, 2013

Going Nowhere Fast!

As I was on the elliptical machine at the gym the other day, I looked around me and saw all these people moving like crazy on treadmills, stationary bikes, Stairmasters, and the other elliptical machines.  As I watched them for a moment, it struck me that for all of our movement and burning of calories we were all going nowhere fast—some very, very fast!   I know that the point of these machines is not getting to a particular destination, yet we all know that, normally the goal of movement is to get a person to a particular geographic location.  In this case, however, it is simply about the movement (for the sake of the burning of calories and strengthening of muscles). So everyone moves very fast and hard and actually gets nowhere—at least in terms of location. 

I think we all go through times in our lives when we feel as if we are working hard and moving fast, but coming up with little to show for all of our effort.   There are times when we feel as if we are on a perpetual treadmill or elliptical machine, doing our best, yet stuck in one spot—going nowhere fast.  And, we can become quite frustrated.  We can begin to wonder whether or not all the effort is worth it. We can begin to feel as if maybe we should just get off the “exercise machine” of work, church, school, family, etc. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes felt like this. We read it in the question he asks multiple times: “What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?” and “What does the worker gain from his toil?”  (Ecclesiastes 1:3; 3:9 – NIV)  He too felt the frustration of working hard and moving fast yet feeling as if he was getting nowhere fast. 

As he stepped back, however, and slowed down for a moment, he realized the answer is not to stop working, moving, and living. The answer is to find joy in the journey, rather than in the destination.  The answer is found in learning to see all of the movements of life as a gift from God; to understand that the walking, running, working, and living is itself is a blessing from God’s hand.  The writer put it his way:

“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 from God.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 – NIV) 

This Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks to God for the simple joy of walking, running, working, and living. It’s not always about where we are going, but about appreciating and enjoying the life God has given us to live.   

Have a great day!  And, happy Thanksgiving! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, November 8, 2013

Better Than Before!

Not too long ago I wrote about New Jersey’s post-Sandy campaign slogan, “Stronger Than the Storm.”  Well recently, New York State came out with its own post-Sandy slogan, “Better Than Before.”  (I can’t help but notice that both make use of alliteration to make the words memorable!)  New York’s slogan is meant to encourage and entice tourists and businesses to come back to New York by saying that what is being built during the current post-Sandy rebuilding process is going to be stronger and better, more durable as well as more enjoyable, than what was destroyed by the hurricane. In the end, New York will be better off in spite of and even because of hurricane Sandy. 

Although none of us likes to go through the “hurricanes” of life, it is true that many times, after having gone through them, we come out “better than before.”  The storms of life have a way of helping us get rid of those things within us that ought not be there and make room for that which needs to be built within our lives.  Although difficulties can be quite painful and the rebuilding process hard, in the end character and strength, right priorities, and a new perspective on life seem to take root within us. Most of all, our faith can be strengthened. After the storm, we can be “better than before.” 

The Bible says, “…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4 - NIV) and, “… the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4 – NIV) It is because of the positive outcomes that suffering and difficulty can bring about within our lives, the Bible says, “Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of any kind.” (James 1:2 – NIV)  

I am reminded today that, God is able to take the negative situations of our lives, all the difficulties and pain that we face, and use them for good. He is able to work in them and through them so that we might be “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” But, we must trust him with our lives. We must continue to hold onto him, believing that he is more than able to use for good that which we thought was for evil.  We must continue to believe that, he is at work in and through the storms of our lives, working to make us “better than before.” 

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  (2 Corinthians 4:17 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, November 1, 2013

Around (or "On") the Kitchen Table

As many of you know, Kim and I have become, at least temporarily, “empty-nesters.”  But this past week, we finally had all three of our children at the kitchen table once again...well, sort of.  Here’s the way it really was:  Nathaniel was home for a couple of days from college, so he was home with us in person.  As we were preparing dinner, Jonathan called in on Skype from Nicaragua. I set up the computer on the kitchen table so that Kim, Nathaniel, and I could talk with him. Soon afterwards, Joanna called in on Google plus.  I answered her on my iPad and set up the iPad on the table as well, placing it in such a way so that Nathaniel, Joanna, and Jonathan could all see each other. It was quite the amusing scene. 

Of course, it wasn’t the same as everyone being there live, but I have to say it was the next best thing.  Except for some Internet connection slowdowns, it was pretty cool having all three of them together in our kitchen like that. It was almost like a family reunion, albeit via telecommunication. Sure, it would have been much better to have everyone together in person, but I was amazed how the dynamic of the three kids was just about the same as they began talking and laughing and telling their stories all at once, around (or for some “on”) the kitchen table! 

Although being in person is much better, sometimes we need other forms of communication to stay in touch and maintain our relationships.  In the past people used letter writing and then eventually the telephone. Today cell phones, Facebook, Skype, and Google plus, etc. have become our means. When someone is far away, each of these becomes a real blessing to help us stay connected. 

I’ve come to realize, that’s what prayer is all about.  Sure, it would be much better to be with God our heavenly Father in person. And one day, those of us who are his children, we will be. In the meantime, however, God has given to us a means of communicating with him long distance in order that we might maintain a relationship with him.  

This is why the Bible tells us to “Be faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12) and to “Devote yourselves to prayer.” (Colossians 4:2).  This is why the Apostle Paul tells us to saturate our daily lives in prayer—i.e. “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)  It is our means of communicating with God our heavenly Father—building relationship with him; staying in touch with him—until the day we are brought into his presence. 

So, let me encourage you today to take time to pray.  Speak to God throughout your day.  Prayer: It’s the next best thing to being right there!

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer….” (1 Peter 3:12 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris