And the King will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40 NRSV)
This photo of son Benjamin captures a moment in time during our walking holiday-spiritual adventure along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales, U.K.
Most of the time, Ben and I take turns leading and following along the trail. As I recall on this day, we had decided to look for a small village pub for lunch. Ben was ahead of me and as I caught up to him, he seemed deep in thought. This is not unusual for Ben or me or members of my family. We are wired that way - to think in a contemplative and quiet way.
But this moment made me pull out the phone camera and collect a keepsake of my son. To say I am proud of him would be an understatement. To say how much it meant for me and Laura to have Ben on this adventure - well words are not enough.
As I write this mid-week post to circulate among friends Along the Way, I am reminded of the importance of relationships in my life. I prioritize these relationships in the order of family, faith, and fiesta. Simple really, not my own philosophy, just one that makes sense. The persons I hold dear are my family, my faith community, and my friends who share a passion for life. I don't have to think about this too much. It is what it is...as they say.
And then there are "others" Along the Way with whom I come in contact for a moment, a season, or a crisis. These are the people with whom I am truly blessed as a pastor. I appreciate the parable that Jesus uses (find it in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25) to teach his followers (and us) about relationships. We hear that when we treat one of these persons, the "other" person who may not make it on our family, faith, and fiesta team, as we would treat Jesus if we were to meet in person - we then become part of the family of the people of God.
I pray for encounters with folks as my family meets the new congregation and community in which we now live and serve. I also pray for encounters with others. And in the encounter, may there be much love and many blessings for all.
I hope you have a great week and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, if not before...
Along the Way
In 2016, recovering from colon cancer surgery and treatment, I began to reassess life. In real terms, I resumed daily prayers with a time of giving thanks to God for the many blessings of family, faith, and fiesta! I was convinced again that life can be and should be lived in gratitude and with generosity.
Several authors offered counsel in the area of giving thanks and sharing generosity in my daily life, in the church, and in the community.
As to daily life, I decided to live each moment in the majesty of God's creation and take each step in the assurance of my faith in Jesus Christ. Each step in the mystery of faith has manifested in daily walks, longer walking treks, and in conversation along the way with dear and new friends.
In the church, wherever appointed to serve as pastor, I share stories of God's faithfulness and providence. Author Kent Millard helped remind me of the blessings we receive daily and how as people of faith we should count our blessings as they lead us into conversations of generosity.
"I invite congregations not to start the conversation about giving with the needs of the congregation. I encourage them to start talking about the blessings God has already given each of us. When people begin to count their blessings, they realize that God has blessed us abundantly. And if we feel any sense of gratitude for these blessings, we want to give to God in appreciation for all God has first given us.
(Kent Millard, “The Gratitude Path: Leading Your Church to Generosity.”)
In the community, I find that generosity from gratitude leads me to live into God's grace and love my neighbor as Jesus taught. Each of us has something to offer our community in the form of service. The gifts of God are amplified when we all share of ourselves with others - with neighbor.
You will hear me speak more on this topic of gratitude and generosity throughout the year. I have resumed my writing toward the goal of publishing a memoir: "Along the Way: thoughts on gratitude and generosity from a pilgrim's perspective" - stay tuned.
And may you experience many blessings in gratitude and generosity this fine day.
Along the Way
A Prayer for Grace
I AM bending my knee
in the eye of the Father who created me,
in the eye of the Son who died for me,
in the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
in love and desire.
Pour down upon us from heaven
the rich blessing of Thy Forgiveness;
Thou who art uppermost in the City,
be Thou patient with us.
Grant to us, Thou Savior of Glory,
the fear of God, the love of God, and His affection,
and the will of God to do on earth at all times
as angels and saints do in heaven;
Each day and night give us Thy peace.
Each day and night give us Thy peace.
You can find it in Mark, Matthew, or Luke: when Jesus teaches to love God and neighbor. This week we go to that next question humanity asks...
But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
The story Jesus used to answer involves "A Rescue on Jericho Road." As you read the gospel this week, include Luke 10:25-37. Who do you identify with in the story?
See you Sunday if not before. Many blessings to you this week!
Wednesday mornings and River Road crossings have healthy intersections now as we have joined a walking group organized by Wesley Nurse Liz Thomas.
Five of us and BotheDog walked along River Road from Cave Springs Road to FM1340 and back. Outstanding company today included Barbara Lingle, Tom Deupree, Laura Harris, Liz Thomas, and Pastor Paul Harris.
I recommend this activity as heart healthy and soul enriching. And you may find me there each Wednesday I am able to walk for as long as the blessing of this pastoral appointment allows us to call this place home (a long time we hope).
Speaking of home: I once wrote that home is where your family abides. If you would like to be a part of the family of faith at Hunt UMC, please come and worship with us and abide in the love and grace of the Lord.
I hope to see you soon!
Alomg the Way
Arriving today July 5 in Hunt, Texas to begin a new appointment as Pastor of Hunt UMC - this was the setting sunlight showcasing the sanctuary steeple.
I look forward to seeing many sunrises and sunsets across the beam of this tower.
Today really started last night.
It seemed a bit weird that our belongings were being unloaded in Hunt, Tx as we are still traveling in the U.K. And something else didn't seem right. I had not heard from Dad as he had planned to go out and see how "the movers" were doing unloading our stuff.
We are six hours ahead of Texas time in our stay abroad; so, I went to bed not seeing the text that said Dad had fallen and was being transported to the hospital.
At about 4:40 am London time, I awakened in a hotel in Salisbury. Instinct or something like that (we call it family intuition) told me to check messages, emails, and other communication. There it was - the message. Dad is celebrating his 92nd birthday in the hospital with three broken bones.
I called my sister. Many blessings to her for flying in to be with the folks. Not much I can do from here except pray and ask others to pray.
I called a dear pastor friend and woke him up and asked him to pray with me and for my Dad. He did. Tomorrow on Sunday, he will take Holy Communion to my parents at the hospital. Praise be to the Lord from whom all blessings flow!
As my wife and I and our son finish our time here in the U.K., I give thanks for the connection of ministers that hold my Dad (retired minister) in their prayers. I give thanks for all of our friends who are now praying for our family. I give thanks for Mom & Dad's church family and their prayer connection.
I continue to experience the abundance of grace that I preach about weekly and give witness to daily. Dad is stable and being cared for by a competent and caring medical team.
Cheers Dad on the milestone of 92 years. Sorry you have suffered this injury. Grace and peace be with you now and in the days ahead. See you very soon.
Much love and many blessings!
Along the Way
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend