On the Air

Click here to listen to my first interview as an author: Sunday, 1/11/09 on Urban Literary Review (BlogTalkRadio) with L. Martin Johnson Pratt ( @iluvblackwomen on Twitter ).

Click here to listen to my Saturday, 7/11/09 interview with Evangelist Maureen Chen and her co-host Juergen on Kingdom Club on BlogTalkRadio.

Robin Tramble interviewed me on 7/14/09 on the subject "Why Forgiveness Tests Our Faith", during her awesome Dynamic Women of Faith Telesummit. (Recording issues required that the interview be split into two parts - Part II is here.)

My transformation from atheist to born-again Christian minister was fodder for a second 60-minute interview with Evangelist Maureen Chen and co-host Juergen Mair on Kingdom via the BlogTalkRadio network on Saturday, 7/25/09.

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Stepping into the Light: You’re a Christian, what now? is a great primer for the new adult Christian, as well as a devotional and inspiring Christian living guidebook.

Written by Diane L. Harris, the daughter of a South Bronx born Jew and a Jamaican-American ex-Episcopalian Jewish convert, Stepping into the Light is the fearless testimony of a former atheist who admits that while Christian salvation erases the threat of eternal damnation, becoming a Christian is not a magical pill for the ills of life on earth.

Combining curiosity, transparency, a gift for simplifying erudition and a palpable joy, Minister Diane explores the questions for God that inundated her as a “baby believer.”

With clarity and wielding a humble sense of humor, this woman of God leads the way to a down-to-earth relationship with a loving Messiah by answering such important questions as: What’s the meaning of salvation? Who do I become when I’m born again? Do I need to know about spiritual warfare? How is the Old Testament relevant to me as a Christian? What does the New Testament teach? What promises does God have for me? Can I contribute to the kingdom of God?

If you are a Christian, “baby believer” or not, who is asking yourself, “what now?” this book is written for you.

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.
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Tuesday
Jul212009

Could You Be Wrong About God?

A healthy theology begins with doubt.

Now I'm not saying one needs to become an atheist like I did in order to wind up a true believer. What I am saying is that if your faith comes out of someone else's experience rather than your personal knowledge of who you are in relation to God, how strong can that faith be?

Of course Mom, Dad, Grandma or whoever can lead you from the cradle to the altar, and that's a good thing when it happens. However, until you sidestep the one(s) who led you, take time to tear down what you've been taught, and reassemble it from scratch, your faith is liable to be blown apart by any huffing, puffing wolf that comes along.

Study your Bible and your heart like your life depends on it, because it does. Will your faith take you from where you are now to an eternity in union with the Spirit of God? Do you even believe that is possible, or are you jumping, shouting, praying, and saying what you've been told just because you have been told?

If you don't think it makes a difference how you worship or who you think God is, ask Paul of Tarsus.

Play it safe if you want and choke down your questions so you don't look like a bad Christian (or a bad Jew, bad Muslim, or unsure atheist, for that matter). Sooner or later you'll gag on all those swallowed question marks, and the mess will need to be cleaned up. Why not just start the questioning now?

(Cartoon by the late, great Charles Schulz)

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Thursday
Jul162009

New Blog Features Great Preaching

Just tonight I set up a blog for Saint Stephen's Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia on which we will feature video clips from the sermons of Pastor Benjamin W. Harris, Jr., my husband.

Four months ago, Benjamin honored Kenneth Sheppard, the retiring pastor of Saint Stephen's with a sermon about Jesus, The Good Shepherd, and the "5 B's" Jesus promises us. A video clip from that sermon is the first post on our new blog. Please visit and enjoy.

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Tuesday
Jul142009

Black Bear on the Loose

Occasionally we get reports here in Richmond about black bears on the loose somewhere in our suburbs, or even in the city proper. Just this weekend, a local news station showed video of a black bear cub trying to figure out how to get inside a supermarket in a nearby town. Witnesses said they'd just looked on in disbelief as the cub gave up and ran off. They laughed about having confused the young bear with a Rottweiler.

If you saw a black bear running through the parking lot when you stopped to shop at your local grocery store, what would you do? What if it were just a cub? As cute as a bear cub may be, it is still a bear--a dangerous animal with sharp teeth and claws--and it does not belong in the city.

Too many Christians react to our own sins the same way this weekend's surprised shoppers reacted to the bear cub.

"Oh, isn't it cute what I did?" "I sinned, isn't that funny?" "What I did wasn't that bad." "Hey, this might look bad, but I'm a good person."  These are some of the thoughts and excuses that we offer.

There are no cute sins, or small ones. Every sin is dangerous, even the ones that don't feel as bad to us as the supposedly big ones of murder and adultery. Sin always becomes a barrier between the sinner and God until the sinner repents. Sin may be part of nature, but it doesn't belong in my life as a Christian.

If I commit a sin, I'm a sinner. Not cute, and not funny.

(Photograph by Amy Jacobs)

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Tuesday
Jul142009

Why Forgiveness Tests Our Faith...

...and what does forgiveness have to do with your success?

To forgive is to let go of control, and it may seem counterintuitive but happy, successful people have learned what they must control as well as what control they must release.

I'll be going deeper into this tonight when Robin Tramble, The Empowerment Diva, interviews me during the Dynamic Women of Faith Event at 6:30pm Pacific / 9:30pm Eastern. Click here for info on how to join us.

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Thursday
Jul092009

The 3 R's in Forgiveness

On the 1980's television show "A Different World", the character of Whitley had a mantra she learned to say when she was stressed. It was three R's: "Relax, Relate, and Release". When faced with the difficulty of forgiving the seemingly unforgiveable, we should follow Whitley's prescription of the three R's by relaxing, relating, and releasing.

First, relax your tension by focusing on the benefits of forgiving: better physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being.

Second, relate to forgiveness by looking not at what you think the other person has done to you, but look at and admit what your own unforgiving attitude has done to you. When going through this exercise, it doesn't matter how well-justified your attitude toward the other person may be or may seem. That's not the point. You can't do anything about what someone else did to you. You can, however, look at how you reacted and how your reaction has affected you. That is something you can change.

Third, choose to release yourself from the control the other person's attitude or actions have on you.

If you are still having trouble forgiving, use a fourth R: you’d better recognize that no matter what action is performed toward you by someone else, you can control your reaction. You can have peace with or without an apology or restitution.

Forgiving someone who hasn't changed does not mean you are condoning their behavior; it means you are not permitting their behavior to control the quality of your life.

You also don't have to continue to subject yourself to bad behavior by others just because you have forgiven them. The point is not to get bitter, but just to move on. How you move on is an entirely separate question from whether or not you forgive.

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Monday
Jul062009

7 Signs That You Probably Have Not Heard from God

Some of the most unreliable people I've met expect others to believe that they're quitting their fifth church in six months because God is directing them somewhere else; or every time they change husbands, underwear, or their business plan, it's because God said so.

Why do some of us think we can justify every cockamamy action we take by blaming it on God? Be an adult. Own up to your choices, and admit when your words are your own.

If you're truly confused, here are seven signs that you probably have not really heard from God:

  1. He's constantly telling you to say "no" (especially if it involves work for you).
  2. He keeps telling you to say "yes". To every request for help. (God likes balance.)
  3. He always tells you to go where the money is.
  4. He's always telling you what other people should do (as if helping you manage yourself isn't enough of a job).
  5. He's constantly telling you to do something different from His last instruction. (God doesn't waver.)
  6. He's always assuring you that you're right. (Remember a little verse called Romans 3:23? That includes all of us--yes, you too.)
  7. He tells you He'll make an exception in your case. (Ever heard the phrase "God is no respecter of persons"? Hmmm.)

What unlikely thing has someone tried to convince you they heard directly from God?

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Saturday
Jul042009

Thank Jesus This is Not a Christian Country

If I'd lived in 16th-century England, I'd never have made it to my current age of 52. Raised as an Episcopalian, then turning to Judaism, atheism, years and years of my own makeshift non-churched theism, then suddenly a born-again hallelujah-happy Christian? And a female minister on top of that? I'd have had to go into some exotic exile to avoid an awful punishment.

Can you imagine being dragged from your home and burned alive because you prefer to be a Baptist or Lutheran, but your head of state is Catholic or Anglican? This was one risk taken by every 16th or 17th Century English man or woman who refused to change his or her religion when one of the Tudor monarchs changed theirs, but persecution took many forms.

As far as I am concerned, the greatest freedom we have in the great United States of America is the freedom to worship as we choose. This was the original impetus for the Mayflower settlers to come here, because they were oppressed in England and elsewhere in Europe by state established religions which were Christian-based, but still persecuted alternative denominations. That is why our Constitution says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

Glory be to Jesus that we enjoy this precious liberty here. Of course, this freedom includes every non-Christian American. Precisely because of the 1st Amendment to our Constitution, this is not a Christian nation. It is a nation established by people, mostly Christian, who desired a place where anyone could worship God in their own way. It is a nation populated 233 years into independence by over 300 million descendents of nearly every nation on earth, overwhelmingly Christian (or at least we say so) who enjoy that freedom that a few dozen original European settlers risked their lives to find here.

I thank Jesus (yes I do) both that Christianity is the faith of the majority of U.S. citizens, and that this is not a Christian country. Tudor England was a Christian country, from which the Mayflower settlers had to run for their lives. The Scandinavian nations today are long time Christian countries, with state-supported churches which hardly anyone attends. If one day 100% of our population bows to Jesus, I will shout "Hallelujah" until I am permanently hoarse, but only if this is not a Christian country like those.

If we ever fall for a state-sponsored Christianity, we will no longer be free to worship, and our worship will mean nothing any longer.

Thank Jesus that every American--Protestant or Catholic, Christian or not-- is free to worship (or not) as they please in these great United States of America. Happy Independence Day, and may Jesus bless America.

Of course, as stated above, the Constitution says government has to keep its nose out of religion. "Vice versa" is neither stated nor implied. But that's another post for another time.

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Thursday
Jul022009

Little Flies, Big God

In the 1986 film, The Fly, Jeff Goldblum plays Seth Brundle, a brilliant young scientist who slowly and tragically turns into a giant fly after something goes horribly wrong with one of his experiments. Goldblum's amazing acting elicits equal parts of pity and disgust from the audience, aided by Oscar-winning makeup. The fear one feels for the life of Brundle's loyal girlfriend, played by Geena Davis, is electrifying.

As dangerous as a giant fly would be, I think I might deal with that threat more sanely than the invasion of dozens upon dozens of regular size houseflies that invaded my home last year. The incessant little buzzing and the fear of germs being spread around my kitchen by their little sticky feet drove me to the brink of fly-directed homicidal mania. Even when I finally found their breeding ground (too gross to be repeated, as I'm writing right before my bedtime), I could not get rid of the out of control fly population in my home. So I frantically called an expert fly killer, better known as Home Team Pest Defense.

It's often the same with spiritual issues. I may feel like I'm on pretty solid ground with plenty of faith to deal with major issues like whether or not I should steal, lie, kill, commit adultery, or take the Lord's name in vain. But sometimes it's the smaller issues--job stresses, money worries, car issues, personality conflicts, etc.--that seem to gang up on us all of sudden and seriously test our giant-killing faith.

When I get weak and worn down, I often think about Elijah, who had enough confidence in God to taunt the prophets of the false god Baal and to call down the power of the God of Israel against them. Yet, when he was done proving God in such a big, public way, Elijah turned and ran from Queen Jezebel. He cowered in the woods and asked to die.

Why?

Probably for the same reasons as we behave similarly. He was human and tired and it seemed like his troubles would not stop, and so he took his focus off God and put it on his own frail heart, just as we do.

Please remember, next time your own frail heart says, "I can't cope," you have someone to call on who can and will defeat anything that attempts to overpower you or chase you into the woods where your view of God is obscured. The same as the big things are never too big for Him to handle, neither are the little things too many for Him. Just call on the name of Jesus and He will feed you hope, as the angel fed Elijah physical food at his weakest moment. Jesus will let you use His strength to overcome all your fragility and fear. In fact, He's praying that you will lean on Him, because you operate more fully in His will then. This is what He meant when He told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

By the way, we have another influx of flies starting up. This time, I'm calling the expert sooner and much more calmly. I know what they can do. Do you know what God can do for you?

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Wednesday
Jul012009

You are a Leader

Today's post is a sharing exercise. Be a leader and answer the following questions:

  1. When you see or hear the word "leader", what comes to your mind?
  2. What is the most immediate opportunity you see for yourself to lead?
  3. Name the greatest challenges you face regarding leadership?
  4. What is your greatest strength as a leader and how many people are aware of it?

You can't help but be blessed and a blessing to others if you share your honest answers. Thank you.

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