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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Entries in fear (4)

Friday
Apr162010

Strength in Weakness

Each time he said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. - 2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT

God, I need You more than I have ever needed You in my life. For as long as I live I will need You more every day and I'm learning to be okay with my weakness.

It's a relief to have gotten past the whispery romance of brand-new belief and beyond the delirious determination of a new minister, but later came the soul-twisting despair of doubt.

Deliverance is another name for surrender to a God who only manifests perfection and can do nothing against His good and perfect nature. Deliverance came when I laid down, gave up, and refused to get back up with my old burdens. Deliverance is the gain of one just weak enough to let go of even addictive evil at the feet of a redeeming Lord.

Thank you for loving me too much to let me settle for my own limitations when all Your blessings are mine, as an adoptee into the fullness of Your promises.

God, I need You more than I have ever needed You in my life.

Without You, the scary second-year dissonance in my marriage may have moved me to throwing shoes and packing heavy suitcases rather than throwing myself on my dusty carpet to beg Your intercedence--perhaps equally dramatic as option one, but infinitely more productive.

Without You, fear and elevated stress over the last few years might have ended in my self-destructive urges winning. But even when I railed against You, and emotions encouraged me to reject love and life, my first love for You directed me back to the Bible and into Your arms again.

You're teaching me to be neither complacent nor fearful even in times when danger seems past, but to grab hold of You and pull closer, whether I'm happy or sad. I'm learning not to own my problems but to dutifully hand each one to You, knowing You are always with me.

For as long as I live, I will need You more each day, and that's a good thing.

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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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Thursday
Jun252009

Is Your Pastor Handicapped?

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite comedians was the manic, multi-personality Jonathan Winters. Years later, I read his recounting of an incident in which he pulled his car into a handicapped parking spot, and a woman observing this began to scold him. She demanded that he move his vehicle. "You're not handicapped," she said. Jonathan's dry response was, "Madam, can you see inside my mind?"

Early in his career, Jonathan Winters did actually get hauled off by the San Francisco police to a "rubber room" in a mental hospital for a few days, so if difficulty coping with mental issues were a criteria for obtaining a handicapped parking placard, he might have qualified.

Many people have mental, emotional, and spiritual issues or handicaps that require outside help. Generally, there is less and less shame nowadays in asking for that help--unless you are the one person that so many people turn to for guidance and advice.

In his new book, "Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor" , W. Mark Elliott asks, to whom does a pastor talk when he needs help? Where can a pastor go to be real?

Elliott, a veteran pastor of twenty-seven years, gets very real about his personal temptations and attempts to join the ranks of the alarming number of pastors who are leaving ministry each year.

Unless you can see inside the mind or soul of your pastor, you cannot know how handicapped he is. But obviously pastors are troubled in droves, because 80% of new ministers coming out of seminary will quit ministry within their first five years. Fifty percent of paid ministers would leave if they knew another way to make a living.

Why?

"I'm not sure what I am doing."

"I have emotional baggage."

"I work too much."

"People get on my last nerve."

"I'm disillusioned by the ministry."

These are just a few of the "confessions" of Pastor Elliott. We may all have similar issues, but we're not expected to handle our issues plus the same issues for dozens or even hundreds of other people in our congregations as well. Pastors are expected to be wise, caring, praying for others, and not to have troubles of their own.

As a pastor's wife, I know that Christians run to their pastors, and think nothing of calling them in the middle of the night, for everything from marital distress to loan requests to hurt feelings to major an minor health issues. Pastors get called to settle arguments, preach funerals, and counsel wayward teens. They're even called on to cast out real demons. We depend on our pastors to help when we're troubled.

But, "Doc" Elliott asks, to whom can your pastor turn when he needs a pastor? The shepherd doesn't want the flock to know when he's uneasy, and is often afraid to tell fellow pastors or superiors in the church for fear of being looked at as "less than". Probably most of us would look askance at a pastor who admitted ongoing depression or confusion.

Your pastor's strength does come from God, but the pastor is still human and needs restoration and replenishment on a regular basis.

Pastors also are partly to blame for their stress, because they work so hard at hiding weaknesses in order to maintain credibility as spiritual leaders.

Fortunately, Pastor Elliott not only lays out an long list of issues, from "I'm not Billy Graham" to "I've got baggage" and "I failed as a parent", but he also has Biblical answers for all of them. By looking at the weaknesses and failures of Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Jonah, and on and on--but also reminding us how God used these people to accomplish His purposes in spite of their downsides, he reminds pastors (and the rest of us Christians) that God can and will use anyone who is only willing to serve Him.

"Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor" overflows with reality checks and real encouragement for pastors and for others in church leadership. It's about getting the ministry done without drowning in defeatism and depression. It's about faith and faithfulness working together to help insignificant people do significant things after all.

"Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor", by W. Mark Elliott, should be read by pastors, ministers, their spouses, and the church members who love them enough to liberate them to live out their God-given anointing.

(Photograph by Benjamin Earwicker)

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Tuesday
Mar242009

Does the Real Jesus Scare You?

From the blithe, blond, bland Jesus pictured in so much Sunday School wall art, to an enraged avenger, we seem to enjoy inventing our own version of Jesus so we can worship who we desire.

Why do we love these false or at best incomplete images of our Savior? The real Jesus scares us, that's why.

It's not necessary to pretend that the real Jesus doesn't frighten you. I think this is what the Bible means when it tells us to live in fear of the Lord--not in fear of what He'll do to us, but in awe of what He wants to do through us. God is not our buddy; He is our master. Even Jesus' closest disciples were often frightened and confused in the face of His power and His prophecies of death and rebirth.

It's right to be frightened, but not right to respond to our fear by worshipping a fake Jesus who is either totally non-threatening or whose possible punishments keep us up at night.

We often get our false ideas of Jesus either from other people, when we don't read the Bible for ourselves, or when we pull scriptures out of context.

We have to read the entire Bible to get the best picture of Jesus. There is great danger in picking and choosing which scriptures to emphasize in our understanding and worship, but that is standard practice for Christians and our churches.

While the New Testament as we know it records just the highlights of Jesus of Nazareth's three year ministry, and extremely little of His earlier life, every chapter in both the Old and New Testaments can help us to see Him more fully.

When we do see Jesus more fully, any Christian with any sense should experience a healthy degree of fear. After all, to be a Christian means to follow this perfect Jesus the Christ, not just to believe in Him.

Who would not be scared at the prospect of developing a relationship with someone who sacrificed His life to pay for our sins and wants us to become just like Him? Though our sins are forgiven for His sake--just for the asking if we trust Him--we are called to sacrifice ourselves just as He did, for the sake of fulfilling God's will. We don't have to literally die on a cross for God, that work is completed; but we are all called to give up pursuing the wants of our flesh and to substitute God's will for our own. All of which is a little like dying--in a good way.

The ideal is for our flesh to be crucified as was Jesus, and for our spirits to be reborn as kindred to His.

This is scary only until we do it--again and again and again. The closer we get to God's will, the more we are filled with the Holy Spirit, who comforts us and enables us to continue on in the life God wants for us, without fear.

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