Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sitting in Silence

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting with my dad, first in the hospital and now in the nursing/rehabilitation center.  In fact, I’ve probably never spent so much time with him—at least not in such extended periods of time.  And, what I’ve learned over the past few weeks is, we don’t always have to talk.  Sometimes it’s enough to just sit in silence. 

For one, due to his illness, my dad has limited speech capacities. Thus, from his end of it, it is hard and exhausting for him to carry on an extended conversation.  But, secondly, in light of all that is taking place, so many of the things we would normally talk about seem so trivial. Although he still likes to know what is going on with the rest of the family and in the world around, it can seem so trite to talk about where we are going for dinner, the latest sale in the supermarket, and how the Yankees are doing.  Not that we don’t talk about any of that, but after a while it begins to sound like just a lot of time-filling chatter.  So, sometimes we put on the television and sit and watch it together.  Other times, we might just sit for a while in silence. 

As a person who seems to always have something to say, sitting in silence can be a bit difficult for me. I tend to want to fill every inch of empty space with words. But, I’m learning that there is something more important than words; that is, presence.. At times our words can be trivial, trite, meaningless. At other times, we end up speaking the wrong words. Eventually we run out of words.  But, when words run out, presence remains. There are times when we don’t need any more words; all we need is the other person’s presence.

I’m reminded of God’s promise to his people: “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  (Deuteronomy 31:8 – NIV) Or, Jesus put it this way: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 – NIV)  The promise is not for more words (as important as God’s Word is to us). But his promise is for his continued presence; a presence that is with us even when we don’t hear him speaking. 

So today, I’m first of all thankful for God’s continued presence in my life and in the life of my family. Secondly, I’m learning the importance of a person’s presence. Although my dad can’t speak to me a lot of words, at this point, I’m just glad to be with him and experience the nearness of his presence. I’m learning that sometimes it is ok to sit in silence. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris                                 

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Role Reversals of Life (In Need of God's Grace)

Without getting into too many details, these past couple of weeks have been very, very hard for my family and me.  My 85 year old dad who, up until the beginning of the year was relatively healthy, active, and independent, was suddenly hospitalized and is now facing some very difficult health issues—illness that will gravely affect whatever time he has left in this life.  These past couple of weeks, my siblings and I have spent much of our time with my dad in the hospital and now in a rehabilitation-nursing facility—all while trying to also take care of our mom (and our own families and jobs). 

For me, the hardest part of it all is seeing the man who to me was so strong and invincible now so frail and in need.  It is strange for me to have to help him get up out of a wheelchair to get to the bathroom, to help him wash his face or brush his teeth, or have to watch over him as he eats his meals.  He was the one who always took care of us. He was the provider, protector, teacher, coach, motivator, disciplinarian, etc.  In my mind, it’s not supposed to be the other way around. 

But, life has a way of switching things around; we all face it in one way or another.  The provider becomes the one in need. The one who once was cared for, is now the caregiver.   The protector needs protection.  The child becomes like a parent to his or her own parent.  And, it’s all very hard to face. In fact, it feels very sad.  We don’t want life to pull out its unending reversals. We want life to stay as it was or is.  When it comes to my parents, I want to be the child. When it comes to my children, I want to be the parent. Unfortunately, however, we have little say in the way time affects the roles we play in life. 

Through all of this I am learning how important the grace of God is to our lives—grace to strengthen us; grace to help us face those things that comes our way; grace to keep us from being overwhelmed. I need grace to face the reversals. I am realizing how much I need to rest in the words the Lord spoke to the Apostle Paul during his times of physical trial: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9 – NIV)

No matter what side of the equation I am on—parent or child; caregiver or the one in need—the best I can do is to rely on God’s grace. I am in need of “the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 2:7) today and every day. I am sure that the same is true for you as well.  

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Have a grace-filled day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, March 7, 2014

Thankful For the Locksmith

Back in the month of January, Kim and I arrived home late one Friday evening on one of those very, very cold nights that we have been having throughout this winter.  Of course we couldn’t wait to get into the warmth of the house. But when I put the key in the door lock and turned it, I found that although the key turned, the door would not unlock.  The lock had broken.  We couldn’t get the door open—and we have no other door by which to enter or leave the house. Kim and I were locked out—stuck on the outside!

Thankfully our daughter Joanna was home; she was actually locked on the inside. After a bit of discussion through the door and trying to figure things out, Joanna opened a front window, I found a chair, and at 11:45 p.m. on a freezing cold Friday night, Kim and I were climbing into our house through the window!  (We were hoping none of our neighbors would see us and call the cops!)  Once we were inside, like Joanna, we were now locked in. But, better to be locked in than locked out—especially on such a cold night!  Thankfully, the next morning a locksmith came.  (He too had to climb through the window!)  Eventually he took everything apart, put in a new lock, and we could once again come and go without having to climb through the window!  That day I was very, very thankful for that locksmith who unlocked our door.

The Bible shows us that we are all in need of what we might call a locksmith.  It shows us that, because of our sin we are all actually locked out of the Kingdom of God and in need of a way to get in. On our own we cannot open the door to the Kingdom. We do not possess the right key.  For us, it is like the lock is broken. We cannot do enough good works or practice enough religion or give enough money to get in. We needed a locksmith to come and open the door for us. Thankfully, by his grace, God sent Jesus to be that locksmith; Jesus came for the purpose of unlocking the door that we might enter in. 

The writer to the Hebrews says, “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.” (Hebrews 13:12 – NIV)  Earlier he wrote these words: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith….” (Hebrews 10:19-22 – NIV) 

We might say, Jesus died on the outside so that we can live on the inside!  By means of his death, Jesus unlocked the door to the Kingdom of God. We can now freely enter in!  We can now draw near to God!  So let’s give thanks for Jesus, the One who is our ultimate locksmith!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

PS – Remember to spring your clocks forward on Saturday night!!