Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thanksgiving Table


originally posted on fourwardwrcc.org


THE THANKSGIVING TABLE.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sweet baby Jesus, but Thanksgiving is it for me. There are no gifts to buy or open, no fancy dresses with matching shoes and little girls pulling up their tights with each step into the sanctuary. No elf with elaborate set designs. Just time with family and invited extras. There are always extras. Thanksgiving is never about the place settings or the trendiest recipe. It’s not even about my corn casserole or my momma’s stuffing and they are so stinking good it could be. It’s always been about the people around it.
tble
One Thanksgiving my mom made us, or should I say, gave us the opportunity, to go around the table and say what we were thankful for and a family tradition was born. Some years, it was shared around the table after our meal, often through tears. Some years it’s been penned directly on the tablecloths. “I am thankful for light sabers and basketballs,” from one of the cousins. “I am thankful Dad beat cancer,” after a year filled with fight. “I am thankful for my trip to Africa,” spoken after the fruit of a lifelong calling to go. “I am thankful this year, I’m a mother,” from a sister after a decade of infertility. “I am thankful I have a family,” when the loss of one is still fresh in your veins. There have been countless celebrations announced and victories won spoken around that table of thanks. Some years it’s been written on leaves of construction paper and hung on small branches from the yard serving as a centerpiece. This year, in true Pinterest fashion, we will write them on a pumpkin.
There has been really difficult, grasping for air as you come to the surface kind of years. There have been year’s of fighting cancer and grieving lost pregnancies and dumb choices. There have been times when the struggling marriage sat around that table, the father in law losing his words to dementia, the friend fighting addiction, the new member at church that feels isolated. Seated at the table has been a wife beaten by her husband and an exchange student thousands of miles away from home. The mother that gave my youngest children life sat there with us the last time she chose to see her children…needing to witness the love firsthand before she gave herself permission to let go. Each year we are one family. A broken bunch of crazies striving to love one another well. Each year there is something to be thankful for, appreciative of; even in the pain. There is redemption around the table. Each year there is a harvest. Around that table sits forgiveness, reconciliation, perseverance and strength. Patience and faithfulness are seated there. Love sits there. Big, messy, we are in this together kind of love.
There has never been a year I’ve not had something to be thankful for. There has never been a year that anyone else has had to exclaim, ‘nothing to say, no blessings this year.’ Each year. Each year there are blessings. Each day. In abundance. There is always appreciation and gratitude and the time to reflect on those moments, those gifts, brings joy to the faces seated around me. Where there is appreciation and thanks, there is praise.
At that same table, throughout our lives, we were taught thankfulness. It’s how this day looks so beautiful now. Messy beautiful. Thankfulness was an intentional way of living, an intentional attempt at grace and joy and praise. In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp talks about the eucharisteo“And he took bread, he gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them … ” (Luke 22:19 NIV). In the original wording, ‘’he gave thanks’’ was translated from the word eucharisteo, meaning grace and joy…the gift of grace and joy at the table of thanksgiving.
eucharisto-grace
There has been some tough stuff in my family this year. Sitting at the table might even be hard. Maybe you’re in the same situation. Our circumstances may change but thankfully, our God does not. He is the same. We will give thanks because of who HE is, not how we feel. We give thanks, because even if not, HE is still good. He is ever present. He is always with us. He is the gift of grace and joy. He gave us that example when He carried the cross through town and in the midst of unconscionable pain, praised God anyway. That is thankfulness. And after that thanksgiving, the miracle came 3 days later. It is our gift back to Him to remember. Out of our love for Him, we remember. Because of His love for us, we give thanks.
Voskamp writes, “The Eucharist is the central symbol of Christianity. One of Christ’s very last directives He offers to His disciples is to take the bread, the wine, and to remember. Do this in remembrance of Me. Remember and give thanks. This is the crux of Christianity: to remember and give thanks, eucharisteo. Eucahristeo always precedes the miracle.”
And for that, I am thankful.
May your Thanksgiving table offer grace, joy and praise.
~Jen Harris

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

God's got this

Originally posted at fourwardwrcc.org  God's got this.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Let us leave a legacy

Originally posted at fourwardwrcc.org  Let us leave a legacy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Star Light, Star Bright

Guest post over at the blog for White River Christian Church. You can find it here.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mercy Is Messy

I've been quiet over here because I've been lending my voice to the blog for White River Christian Church. I thought I'd share a few of them here from time to time.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cool Runnings: An open letter to my children

My dear children, we are about to take off to Jamaica. This has been my dream for our family since I can remember. The reason we are going brings me much sadness but I know it is a trip that will also be quite special for us. I always wanted to go to visit Grandpa but something tells me this might have been a dream of his too and he's making sure we will all get there now. I trust God's timing in it. Do not worry about missing school and all of the make-up work you will have. This is an education those four walls or a book could never give you. For so many Jamaica is a tropical vacation destination, a fun place for Spring Break. For us, it is so much more. I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you before we depart.

You will see some very extravagant places while we are there....beachside wonderful vacation homes and resorts with all the food you could ever want to eat and 5 pools and water sports and all the fun and fancy. People from all over the world come to admire the beautiful resources Jamaica has to
offer.I know you'll notice the beauty of the island: lush green rain forest, clear turquoise waters, rushing waterfalls, white sand under your toes, bamboo forests that look like they reach the heavens. While you notice those things, remember Who created them. Thank Him for it.

You will also witness a poverty that most of you have never seen. We talk about it in our home. You know it is there. Seeing it with your own young eyes is different. You might feel like you want to cry. Mom did. That's okay. It hurts our hearts when we see people struggling. It should hurt our hearts. That's Jesus whispering to you...that's Jesus nudging you that with your own set of gifts and talents you have the ability to make a difference in this world. In fact, He calls us to.  That's Jesus
telling you, yes you, through Me, are my answer to the people in the world that are hurting. So you take a deep breath and you gather up all that love in your heart you hold for Him and that He has for us and you pour it out on those around you. It is okay to question why we have so much and others so little. I wish I had the answers to that. You will probably have many questions while there that Mom doesn't have the answer to. The contrast between those that have and those that don't is very easy to see here and it will be hard on your hearts.

You will notice the difference in the development and infrastructure of the country.You won't have a name for it but you'll notice. You might complain because of your lack of wifi access or the no hot water at Daddy's house. The electricity might even go out for a short time and we'll survive. The van might hit a hundred potholes in the road and sometimes their won't even be a road so we'll park and walk up the path to your great aunties house.You will think her rain tank is cool and be amazed that is how she gets her water to her home. You will love the cane field that daddy will lead us too. He will cut a piece clean off and the taste of the juice from it will be a memory that never leaves you.

When we visit the school named after Grandma B you will see disparity in the way your school building looks and the school they are in. You will observe that there aren't 3 or 4 choices for lunch but each child will be given rice and maybe some carrots. You won't see IPads. Might not see a computer. But do not be fooled, you will see educators and students all the same. You will see children who value education and know it can make all the difference.


I already know you are in love with the food. When Daddy and Aunt Ju take over the kitchen your mouths start watering and it's as if the flavors of the island were more nature versus nurture. The smells, the colors, the intense flavors are one of the things I think Daddy misses most.  We will get our fill of patties and bullah and Ting and you can eat jerk chicken til your eyes water.  Some of the best food in the world is from Jamaica.

You will hear the music everywhere you go.  Constant music, as if it were to stop, the people would too. The entire country seems to move in rhythm.  It is full of life and rich in history. From the moment each of you first heard reggae and the steel drum we've seen the innate love for it that was birthed deep within. It is your culture.  Soak it in.

The thing I am most excited for you to experience is the people, oh the people.  Whether it is the lady at church on Sunday with her hair neatly tucked under her best hat and color coordinated from her earrings to her shoes or the Rasta that lives in the hills by aunties house that carries his machete to cut away the brush as he walks, or the young man that serves you the best patty you've ever had in your life, they will be friendly. You will notice the joy of life they have and you will feel a sense of energy there that you have probably never seen here in the states. It's hard to describe but you will feel it and you will want to experience that again and again. You will notice the beautiful sea of all shades of brown faces. You will notice how proud Jamaicans are to be Jamaican. You will fall in love while we are there. You will fall in love with the island and the culture and your family.

I know you'll notice the melody of your daddy's national dialect. You will hear so much Patois your head will spin and every conversation will seem to be on fast forward for the first few days and then it will start to become clearer.  By the end of the week you will give it a shot yourself and I want you to know that language is a part of you.  It originated from the English control over Jamaica and the slaves coming to the island from West Africa. It is a blend of those languages born out of ingenuity and circumstance and smart, brave, young black men and women that learned how to make it in a world they were thrown in to. Be proud of it. Speak it loudly. Let the sounds of it fill your spirit and lift your shoulders high.

I hope this trip gives you an insight in to your Daddy you haven't had the privilege of knowing until now. I pray you see just how hard he has worked. I pray your young eyes see the concrete walls and the dirt yard, the broken bottles that serve as a security gate around the house and the bars on the windows. I pray you see your Daddy for the man he is and know that he is that man because of all of that. His integrity and character are the best you will find. He works tirelessly for our family. His parents gave selflessly for him to have more opportunity. That is what he does for you. God put people in Daddy's life to encourage him and offer opportunity. God created Daddy to be who he is and I am thankful your daddy allowed Him to work in his life. The best way you can honor Grandpa and Daddy is to become who God made you to be.


I know you will see so many come to honor Grandpa this weekend. You will hear stories about his life and love. You will see the fruits of his work and meet people that know Jesus because Grandpa showed them who He was. You will experience first hand the legacy that has been laid out for you. It is my prayer that this brings you comfort as your grieve and that it inspires you. It is my prayer that you take in every single second and that you tuck each memory neatly away to be able to bring it to mind when you need it most in this world. I am so very thankful to see this life through your eyes and watch as you learn more about yourself and your dad and Grandpa.

I know you'll remember the sights and the sounds.  I know you will remember the aunties and the uncles and the new cousins and their love for you and you them. I know you will remember Daddy's home. Look deeper. Listen closer. This is you. Claim it as your own. This is a part of you no one can ever take away. This is your culture, your rich amazing heritage. This is your grandpa's legacy. Your daddy's legacy and it will be yours. Embrace every last drop of it. Take pictures in your mind and stay in the moment. Read the lines of the faces of your great aunties and uncles that tell of the hard work and soak in the sound of the laughter that have carried this family through life and it will fill your soul and carry you in yours. Wipe the tears of the pain around you at Grandpa's funeral and know the tears come because love came first. Big, crazy, God filled love. Appreciate who you are and to Whom you belong. To whom much is given, much is expected.

Enjoy Jamaica, my sweet babies. Cool runnings....Peace be the journey.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fruits of the Spirit....


We knew this day would come.  You can not prepare your heart for it.  Trevor's dad, one of the greatest servants of God I've ever known, met Jesus face to face today.  I am heartbroken for my husband, my children, Joy, and all who loved him.  He was one of God's greatest works.

When I first met my father in law the thing that stood out to me were his eyes.  They danced. I had only seen eyes like that a few other times and I came to realize it was for the same reason....the joy of Jesus.  His eyes had an eternal light in them.  He shined God's love on everyone. He hugged me tight and long, laughing, and rocked me from side to side like he would countless times throughout the years. He was so joyful. He would often belly laugh with his 'big son' and his Joy girl.  So joyful.

He would ask me and my family about our lives and listen with intentness and a total presence.  He was not distracted by any outside otherness and gave you his full listening self.  I watched him treat everyone that way.  He was so very kind. You were the most important person in the room to him. Always kind.

He served the people of Haiti for years as a Missionary and spent a lifetime serving the people of Jamaica.  On my first, and so far only visit to Jamaica, we turned on to a rough looking street and Trevor declared it his.  Pot holes the size of our little Toyota were the norm.  The houses either had sharp glass or barbed wire at the top of the gates surrounding their home for protection.  A goat and a rooster wondered down the side of the road. The sounds of loud reggae music came from one home and a Rasta man sat on the porch of another with a ring of smoke around his head.  A group of young men were walking down the middle of the road and looked like they were up to no good.  As I am praying that we hurry past, Trevor's dad slows his car to a stop and the young men come over and shout "hello Pastor" and give high fives and hand shakes and "nuff respec."  You see, Trevor's dad loved like Jesus.  The neighborhood knew.  They all loved Pastor.  The ragamuffin in the street and the church lady with her well kept home, the businessman in the suit and the street vendor selling fruit.  Everyone loved Pastor.  Because he loved mightily.

I have never heard my husband yell.  Ever. We've been together over 20 years.  He is like his father and as gentle as they come.  My father in law would speak conviction and truth in to someone's life but always with a gentleness for their soul.  He was sweet and gentle with his grandbabies.  He was sweet and gentle with his wife and his children.  He was sweet and gentle with the thousands of children and their parents he introduced to Jesus across the countryside of Jamaica.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease on a 3 week visit here in 2003.  He wouldn't leave our home for 3 more years. It was beyond hard for him to leave his preaching, his church, his country, his community.  So difficult to lose his ability to drive, to remember to take his medications or to go on a walk by himself....to lose his independence.  It must have been a difficult adjustment to over night be living with his son, his wife and their two very small children.  But he did it all with grace. I am sure he wanted to lash out at his son for making these decisions he felt he should be making but he never did.  I am sure he wanted to tell me to take a hike when I wouldn't let him go for a walk by himself or reminded him again to take his medicine but he never did.  I bet there were times the chaos of two babies in a small home were overwhelming to him but he never uttered a complaint.  Not a single one.  He had self control.  As even keeled as they come.

He lived in our home for 3 years.  With me.  And our children.  He had patience.

We watched Alzheimer's take so much from him but nothing could take his faith.  I simply have never met anyone that loved Jesus more or trusted in His promises.  What great joy it gives me to know that he is seeing them fulfilled right now.  Daddy would sit and recite scripture long after he had forgotten our names.  It grew in his soul. I have never seen anyone read the word like he did.  He was a student of Jesus.  He embodied faithfulness.

And all of that.....all of that Jesus brought him peace.  In the last years of his life, the last months and days, he always had peace.  He was not fearful or angry.  He was at peace.  He had waited almost 84 years to be at the right hand of Jesus.  I have no doubt he is there.

As I sat to write about the legacy he's left us, it dawned on me that I was naming the fruits of the spirit.  Daddy walked in the spirit of Christ and he lived his life firmly rooted in them. What an honor it was to know and love him.  Galatians 5:22 "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control."

He was as good as they come.  Loving the great ones is easy.  Losing them is hard.

After 11 years of battling Alzheimers, tonight Daddy is whole again.  Reunited with Trevor's mom. I would always well up with tears thinking of how someday he would feel to be face to face with Jesus and last week it hit me that Jesus would get to meet Daddy face to face...Jesus would get to meet one of his greatest disciples...a true servant...such a celebration must be taking place.