Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 11:31 PM


Kim and I and all associated with simple-truths would like to thank you for investigating Gracie’s tab; we pray your moments here will be fruitful. God blessed us with Gracie almost three and a half years ago; during that time she has been a great blessing as well as a great teacher.

Gracie is a child born with Down syndrome; she has been an extra special gift from the Lord. In her short time here on this earth she has reached more people with the love of the Lord than most adults. Her smiles, hugs and waves have captivated thousands in church, the neighborhood and any store she happens to be in. Gracie has shared with us her own unconditional love and taught us more than any seminary could about the true unconditional love of God. We only thought we knew it before.

Our desire is that you will use this sight as a resource of hope, encouragement and education. Our hope is to develop the sight further as we grow in our own understanding of the gift that is Gracie.

God Bless,

Richard and Kim

Psalm 139:13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Insight For Living:

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On at 11:29 PM

God Knows Your Ways

Beach Balls

May It Be as You Have Said

Getting Out the Door

Oh, the Places You'll Go

Becoming Real

Dependence

Second Homes

Grace Awakening

It's Okay

One Step at a Time

Two Horses

A Tough Assignment

Tending Sheep

Playing Hooky

Back To School

Where Are You Looking?

Ocean Transformation

The Neighbors

Bitterness

Crisis Today, Mentoring Tomorrow

Deep Courage: Walking with Adversity

The Report

The Report

The Gift of Grace

When Hope Returns

The Simple Truth

In Abundance

10 Essentials of a Healing Church

It's Free!

Somewhere Down the Road

There is Growth in the Valley

You're not Alone

The Catcher

Reflections

The Little Troll

Weeds

Challenges of Siblings

Celebrating 20 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Celebrating the Influences of a Mother

What Does “Trusting God” Mean?

Journal

Do You Believe?

Bubbles

Committing to the Road Less Traveled

“Believe”: Sometimes Found in Stars over the Porch

Attitude Check

Where Did January Go?

Changing Our Minds, Changing Our Lives

Good Attitude

Thick Glass

2010 Something Better

A Weekly Gift For You

A Busy God

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On at 10:59 PM


Life does not always go as you plan. You may like to set your own course, but God has His own agenda. You may plan to be a businessman in a big company, but He may have planned for you to teach children in an inner city school. You may have planned to teach children all your life but God may plan for you to be a missionary in a far away land. Who knows? God does.

My plan over the last almost nine months was to celebrate the birth of my seventh child somewhere around the first of February. In order to make that plan work, we did all we could do. My wife had a sonogram that showed a perfectly healthy baby, perfect being the key word. She took care of herself the best she could. The pregnancy went as planned, really without flaw. We had done this six times before and my mind was at ease that this time would be no different. And then….

We went to the hospital around 10:30 pm on January 26th. The family joined together in the waiting room as we always have. The excitement grew and after several hours, at 5:25 in the morning, little Gracie Harris was born into this world, just as planned. And then…

The nurses joined around little Gracie, and I knew something was not right. They said little and went right to work. After a few minutes they told me they would be taking her up to the Intensive Care Unit. This still did not make me too nervous; I had been there before with another baby. After everyone was settled in, a doctor entered my wife’s room and delivered the news that our new child had several serious health issues and was born with Down Syndrome. Life does not always go as planned.

This started the longest day of my life. My emotions took every turn possible as we struggled with the unexpected news. There were phone calls to make, a family to worry about, and a child with sudden needs to concern myself with, both long and short term. My mind raced, my stomach had a knot in it and my eyes were wet with tears. And then…



God got busy. First he sent someone from the hospital, a fine Christian woman to talk to us. She had a sweet spirit, a calming voice and helped bring us back into the light. She gave us information but did not overwhelm us. She listened to our questions and set about working to answer them. I will never forget her smile. Without a doubt, God sent her our way. And then…

We walked into a room with a child filled with wires, and standing next to her was a young woman named Glennis. She had a good spirit, a friendly smile and was working hard around our child. Her words were comforting, informative and caring. She, too, will not soon be forgotten. But God was not through. He just kept sending nurses to baby Gracie’s side that were just like Glennis. They all were the best, and it gave us comfort as we left our child in their hands. A group of servant angels sent to care for God’s little children. They were a Godsend, no doubt. And then…

He kept right on working. God sent a Filipino nurse who loved God for my wife. She missed Kim at first because she was with our baby. But she kept coming back until, the third time, she caught my wife in her room. She had been on that floor for 25 years. She brought with her experience, but more importantly than that; she dripped with sincerity and a love for God. She had a message for us. She told my wife through tears that she knew we had a special family because she had never met a family gifted with a Down Syndrome baby that was not very special and close. God gave her the words and she delivered them, right on time. She continued to come back with more words of encouragement, more smiles, more hugs and more tears until my wife was discharged, a little angel, with special tears and a beautiful smile. And then…

God wouldn’t let up. He sent a young chaplain our way with a listening ear, a sweet spirit and a strong prayer. He delivered more than a pink Bible; he delivered a spirit of peace. As I listened I was reminded of how good God is and how He has a plan for our lives and Gracie’s as well. And then…

God wouldn’t stop. As I made phone calls to relay the message of Gracie’s long- and short-term health issues, each call was a ‘gut wrencher’. But with each call, words were said that should have been said years ago. Closing words like I love you, words like whatever I can do. There were quite moments of tears during some, but strong words of encouragement from all, words of prayer, love and peace. Each phone call was another visit from God.

Life does not always go as we plan, but God is always in control. He is not surprised by the turn of events in our lives. He is ready for them, and just when we need Him the most, He gets busy. And you see Him like you never have before.

A perfect sonogram revealed a perfect baby. The world may think differently, but God has His plan. As I look back over the last six days I am sure the sonogram was right on the money -- a perfect baby, planned and placed by a perfect and busy God. Thank you God, for your grace and for Gracie.

· I realize this I am not the first person, nor will I be the last, that God has changed the course of their life. Each of you has faced sudden changes. Today take a moment to recall how God worked in those moments. Maybe there is a card of thanks that needs to be sent, or a phone call or just a praise to God offered up thanking Him for being there in a critical moment.

· Perhaps you are in the process of that sudden change. Your emotions are raw; your life seems to have lost its balance. Know this: God understands. He is there. Though circumstances change, God never does. That’s good news. Fall in His arms this day, there is safety there.

Scriptures:

Psalm 34:17-19,

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.

Same verses in The Message

‘If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath. Disciples so often get into trouble; still, God is there every time.

Lamentations 3:21-23,

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Proverbs 16:9,

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

Prayer:

Dear Lord though we do not always understand your ways we are thankful for your presence. Help us not to worry about tomorrow but to lean on you for strength each and every day. Indeed, great is your faithfulness, and no doubt it is fresh and new each and every morning. We praise you for that. We ask all these things in the name of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Put a Steeple On It

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On at 10:58 PM

What goes on at church? If it is a good one then, of course, Christ is mentioned often and He is worshiped. That should be a given. But there are other things that make a church strong.

Let me name some. Things like people sharing freely with one another, each member being able to share without any fear that they will be looked down upon for what they say. Fellow members should mourn with their brothers and sisters in Christ when sad moments come and celebrate with them during the joyous ones. There also should be a commonality between the members; they should be able to relate to one another’s feelings. A good church knows no prejudice against people of any race, education level, or social status. All should be working for the common good of each other, selflessly putting others before themselves.

Having said all that let me lead you to a wonderful church. Where is this church? It is on the 7th floor at Baylor Hospital in the Neonatal Intensive Care waiting room. I have been a member for a month now and have grown to love it and its members. As much as I love it, I must admit I am looking forward to moving my membership back to my previous church just as soon as possible.

So why, you may ask, am I calling a waiting room a church? Because it has operated as one, and perhaps even better at times. First, all of us current members have one thing in common. We have a sick baby that needs critical care. This fact alone is enough to create a bond that has helped us to build friendships that will last in our memories forever. This bond starts conversations over things like, “How is your baby doing?” “How long have you been here?” “When are you going home?” “How is the other twin doing?” “Where do you live?” There is one subject and one subject only that is a priority -- our babies.

With the subject in focus we have learned to pray for one another. The name of Christ comes up often. Here there has been no question of God, only the mention of His name when we talk about praying for one another, or thanks to Him for his provisions during a difficult time. Funny, but on the 7th floor denomination is rarely mentioned but Christ often is. Barriers of religious politics and denominationally fighting do not exist when you are a member of the 7th floor church.

I am a preacher, and I must admit that I have talked more about God to strangers in the last month than in any other period of time in my life. By the way, who needs preachers here? Everyone has a testimony; everyone has a word to say. At times it is said through tears of heartache and at others through tears of joy. Let me tell you, I have no trouble staying awake for their messages either.



You might think this is a sad church filled with misery. Think again. Though our focus is on our babies, we have had a great deal of time to share with one another about our lives. There have

been moments of laughter. God has used this church to cut through the pressure with moments of joy. Amazing? Not really. When God is involved, when there is freedom of sharing with one another, laughter seems to follow.

Now any good church needs a good outreach leader. We have the best; he is my 20-month old son. This guy will walk up to anyone at anytime, no matter of age, race or gender. And of course he is so cute (writer’s prejudice) they cannot resist him. He has created more conversations and more smiles than I ever could have imagined. With him as our outreach leader we have been able to meet all kinds of different people and welcome them into the 7th Floor Church Of The Waiting Room.

For one reason or another, churches in this day and time have become show oriented, more concerned with the personality than the person. Rarely does real fellowship develop. Deep meaningful conversation is a rarity. Until that changes, church will be cold lifeless places where few lives are changed.

If you’re looking for a good example of church done right, visit the 7th floor. I am thinking of putting a steeple on it before I leave.

Take a look at how you do church today. Are you a surface person, only going through the motions of playing church? Staying on the surface is safe, but it is not church as it was intended to be. Who knows? You may be the engine God uses to get a whole new church started; one that reaches and changes lives for Him.

Scripture: Jude 20-22,

“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in our most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Prayer:

Dear Lord, we thank you for your church and how it ministers to believers and to the lost. Help us to be faithful members, motivated by the love of Christ as we live out the remainder of our days here on earth, awaiting your soon return. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

The Road—I would less like to travel by

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On at 10:58 PM

I hesitate to continue to refer to my experience over the last seven weeks because I understand that they are my experiences not yours and that I may feel them deeply but you probably don’t. With that risk in mind I need to share another devotional thought with you, this time about going where you don’t really want to go.

Who ever says I want to loose my job just as my kids enter college, or who says I am so glad I lost my wife at such a young age? Who says I am so glad my kids have been rebellious or my parents are in great need of care and I have no room to care for them or money to pay for it. While I spent my days in the NICU I noticed a group of great people but I never noticed anyone really rejoicing that they were there.

I must admit people who have it all together during difficult moments make me nervous and extremely skeptical. Some of course do have it all together but the majority are just like you and me are just trying to cope the best they know how and are taking it one day at a time.

If we had our way of course we never experience difficulties in life. We would sail right alone and the sun would always shine, good health would be our constant friend, our kids would always mind not to mention they would always do well in school. Our boss would give us the money we deserve, our family would be the picture of harmony and we would never argue with our spouse.

Here is the deal, we don’t have it our way and so many times in life all of us will have to travel roads that we would just as soon avoid. Seven weeks ago I was expecting the normal; good pregnancy for my wife, healthy baby born, the family celebrates, the insurance pays, the baby comes home in three days and life is great. That unfortunately was not in the plans and thus I have begun to travel an unfamiliar road of hospitals, insurance issues, government programs not to mention at first disappointment. Fear of the unknown has become a constant companion. I have learned new meaning to the words ‘taking it one day at a time’.

If I would have had the choice of course I would not have traveled this road, but no one asked me and hear I am. I am sure of this God had something in it for me, something to draw me closer to Him. He has used it to draw me closer to Him and to reveal Himself in ways I never knew existed. So what if I had traveled my road, what would have missed? Good question and here are some answers to that.

  • I would have missed the chance to be a real father to my family, helping them through difficult times. I had become lazy in that area and had a sudden wake up call.
  • I would have missed the chance to be a better husband. Meaningful conversations, holding hands, helping with chores, protecting her from business aspects as she cared for our child and crying together would have been missed. I feel closer to my wife than I have in a long time.
  • I would have missed my older children stepping up to the plate in a big way. I would have missed seeing them act as adults which of course they are but it is hard to admit. I would have missed watching them love and care for Gracie. I would have missed them crying and holding her with compassion.
  • I would have missed meeting a whole set of people whose very life is to care for sick babies and there families.
  • I would have missed a hundred conversations about God that would have never happened otherwise.
  • I would have missed sitting with people and really for once understanding at least a little how they feel.
  • I would have missed some great phone calls with close friends and some family members I had not talked to for months or years.
  • I would have missed seeing how really wonderful my church family is. I had watched with admiration as they cared for people in the past and now I was able to receive it. What a family!
  • I would have missed knowing what it really means to ‘feel the prayers’ of friends, family and people I do not even know.
  • The biggest loss is I would have missed holding Gracie and looking in her eyes and loving her so much. Wanting to whisk her in my arms and make sure life is good to her.

I could have gone on for another three pages but I believe you get the point. Would I have traveled the road no, but look what I would have missed. I know I have just begun a new journey in life but I am certain God is there with me because he has proven to be there for me as we take the first steps.

It is hard to see at times but God has a plan for our lives and I am thankful He reveals it to us slowly; otherwise of course we could not handle it. Maybe God has started you on an unwanted road; know this He goes there with you, know this He cares for you and know this He does not waste any experience in life on you, each one comes with a purpose. Sometimes the lessons learned are hard but with God they come with a purpose.

I am no expert on difficult roads many of you have been on them for years and have far more experience than I. But this I know; Gods light shines brightest on the roads we lest want to travel.

Scriptures: 2 Corinthians 1:3&4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we honestly do not understand your ways. We struggle with tough roads and circumstances; we ask not that you show us the reason why but that we simply feel your presence while on the journey. You are a good God and we praise your name that you care for us and walk with us! We ask these things in the precious name of Jesus our Savior.

Everybody Needs a Wave

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On at 10:57 PM

Waving the lost art. Often at work I will walk within two feet of someone and never make eye contact and certainly not wave. Walking down the street I will see folks and many times just keep right on going. What about those scary people, you know those rough looking characters that look like they might knock you on the head and steal your billfold, do you ever wave at them. Hey I don’t know about you but that just is not happening. I keep my feet moving and my head straight ahead, the only wave I am thinking of is a wave to the police to let them know I am in trouble.

We live in a world that has lost the art of waving. Too bad, because I hang out with someone who is bringing it back and bringing it back with style.

Gracie, my two year old knows no limits to waving. When we are in a restaurant she has a smile and a wave for everyone. Often we are just sitting there in our own world and we look over at the table next to us and they are smiling and waving our way. I am thinking what is going on, then I turn and look to Gracie and there she is just waving away. You want a smile? You want a wave? Just turn it over to Gracie and complete strangers who would have never given you a second look are waving and smiling like you’re their best friend.

Of course we all love to be friendly at church, sure we all say hello but seldom do we wave and rarely do we get a big smile, hello and a wave. At the place where Gracie worships there is one place to get a wave, wherever Gracie is. Walking down the hall there she is, sometimes she points and then waves. Most every time there is a smile associated with it and that smile gets even the hardest of hearts every time. People at any church disagree from time to time but there is no disagreement, Gracie brings a smile to all without a word. Just a smile and a wave, yes she is bringing it back.

What about those tough guys I talked about earlier. Hey everyone deserves a wave at least that is what Gracie thinks. When we walk in the park from time to time we will see some undesirable looking folks. Maybe there talking some loud ugly trash, maybe they look like they slept at the park the night before. Certainly they have few smiles for me and that’s okay because I have few smiles for them.

Gracie as is her nature knows no boundaries when it comes to the wave and these rough looking folks are no different. She will look their way and before you know it the hand is moving and the smile is showing. Then I slowly glance over to see what the response will be. Nine times out of ten it only takes a moment and slowly but surely they will give a wave, who can resist?

What can be learned from this lost art that Gracie is bringing back and the reaction it creates, here are few thoughts?

  • Being friendly is contagious, it is hard to resist, if your are friendly most people sooner or later will give in and start to soften there exterior and give you a chance.
  • Like a hug; a wave and a smile says I like you. It helps the receiver feel good about themselves.
  • A wave takes no effort but pays off large dividends.
  • Everyone deserves a wave, no matter your situation all need to know someone is paying attention to them and cares for them.

Gracie knows no enemies, just loves everyone. She smiles when she sees you and she enjoys waving at folks. No matter if they smile or not, no matter if they wave back or not, she is still throwing out those waves.

Do you want to make this world a better place? Do what Gracie does. Smile a lot, wave a lot and don’t be picky about who gets one, give one to all! Join Gracie in bringing back the wave and creating a friendly world.

Scripture: Proverbs 15:30, “A twinkle in the eye means joy in the heart, and good news makes you feel fit as a fiddle.” The Message

Prayer: Dear Lord, walk with us and help us to live out the joy you give us in our hearts. Help us to give smiles to all people, no matter what they look like or where they sit in life. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

The Disability of Choice

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On at 10:55 PM

Three years ago when our daughter was born she had several complications that required some extra time in the hospital. The first aspect of her health that we found out was that she was born with Down syndrome. This syndrome can carry with it many differing health issues and also most importantly varying degrees of mental retardation. Within hours of her birth we knew she would have some learning difficulties and would have some very special needs.

We also knew that life would be a little unsettled for a period of time. With that in mind and six other children to care for, we chose to keep most things close to the house and as routine as possible.

One of those activities was basketball for my seven and nine year old. As had been the pattern in the past I happened to be coaching both of these teams. In order to keep some normalcy in their life I would come home from the hospital in time to practice once a week with them and then we would all make it to the games on Saturday.

During our time in the hospital we received support from our family and our church, we were greatly blessed. We also received support from these teams and the families on those teams. Most of that support came in the form of prayers, meals and gift cards. One form of support came at me from a direction I was not prepared for and has impacted me to this day.

On one of the teams I had two assistant coaches. When they first asked about how the baby was doing I told them of her condition. One was very supportive and gave encouraging words and then offered to pray with us and for us. The other coach kept strangely quiet.

After practice had finished and most of the children were leaving he asked if he could talk to me and of course I agreed. He began at that moment to tell me of his older son, not the one on the team. He told me that he had been born with severe autism. I could see the intensity in his face and hear the sincerity in his voice; this man was not just speaking to me from experience he was speaking to me from his heart.

He told me how his wife had tried with all she had to keep and care for their son. That he had the mental capacity of a 3 year old but was in his late teens. He could not talk to or communicate with them. He shared that he would have outburst at home and in public places. Finally the strength of this beloved son was too much for this mother. At that point they had to make the unbearable decision to put him in a home nearby so that he could have the constant and professional care he needed.

At that moment in my life his words were the last thing I wanted to hear. Though I may not have wanted to hear what he had to say I am sure now that this was a God ordained conversation. I needed to hear it and this dad needed to share it. Looking back there is no doubt that God was in all the details of that season, placing his younger son on my team for this moment.

As the season progressed I got to know the wife a little better and she would check on Gracie. One day again I had another God ordained moment in a conversation with this mom. She shared her heart with me for several minutes and then she said something I will never forget. She said that if they had their disability of choice for their son; it would have been Down syndrome. Those words struck me and still do to this day; disability of choice. Looking at it from a three year perspective I know where she was coming from and it has really made me think.

While some people like my daughter and my friend’s son are born with disabilities most of us choose ours. With that in mind this is what I am absolutely certain of; we all have our disabilities of choice. What is yours?

Do we choose addictions or greed? Do we choose a hateful and disconnected spirit? Do we choose selfishness, pride or lust? Do we choose bitterness over forgiveness? The definition of the word disabled says, “To make somebody unable to perform the activities needed to earn a living or carry out the basic task of daily life without difficulty.” Does that sound like your disability, it sure sounds like mine.

Just as sure as I am that we all are disabled to some extent I am also sure that God is there each and every day to help us overcome our disabilities. Without His help we would be unable to make it day to day.

Your disability of choice; you can either embrace it and live your life short of what God has for you, or you can choose God and overcome it. The decision is daily and it is ours to determine.

Scripture: Jeremiah 1:18-19, “Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land-against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.” Just as in Jeremiah’s day the Lord is still in the business of rescuing his people!

Prayer: Dear Lord, we bring our needs to you this day, we bring the things to you that have overcome us, that defeat us and that make our life less than it should be and we lay them at your feet. We know that you desire the best for us and so we ask for your strength to overcome our weakness. We thank you that you love us and desire the best for us. You are a mighty and great God and we ask all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.