9.06.2011

[prayer]


Hello all, I'm so sorry that it's been so very long since I've published anything on my blog. I got distracted in more than one way. But I'm back for the time being ::smiles::

Here is a short musing that I had recently:

"I'll be praying for you!"

Those five words are words that I say often. So often it's begun to be more of a sentiment than anything else. It's nothing more than saying "good luck."

Far too often we use that "christianese" term without thought. And we rarely follow through and actually pray.

But what if we did? What if we were purposeful about praying? What if we really prayed for that friend who told you that his time with God feels dry? Or your sibling when their relationship with your parents is strained? Or that brand new Christian who has to go back and face family and friends who will hate them for their faith? How many lives could we effect?

We know that prayer has such a tremendous effect in real life. How lightly we hold it though. Think about how the world could be effected if we changed how we viewed it. How many more times would you pray weekly? 50? 100? 200?

Prayer is meaningful. Let's use it to make a meaningful impact, every moment, of every hour, of every day. God just might do something incredible.

4.22.2011

[four-year-old decision]


I apologize for the delay before this post. A couple speech and debate tournaments, some illness and other events have kept me rather busy. I'll try to not let that happen again.

----

When we were very little, all of the Harris boys at one point or another were asked by our mother "who do you want to marry?"

After just a short moment of consideration, the answer always came back, "You!" She would laugh, and remind us that she was married to our father, to which we would reply confidently that we were sure we could make things work.

Now, in present day, looking back, the truth in our answer almost makes me smile. At age 4, I wanted to marry my mother. At age 17, I want to marry a girl just like her.

My mother was a loving wife. Supporting my father when he was discouraged, steadying him when he was confident and serving him regardless of the outcome. She was gentle, and she was gracious.

She was a caring mother. Teaching and training the children with unwavering patience and devotion. She expected the very best from you, and did whatever it took to make sure you fulfilled those expectations. She was your toughest coach, but also your biggest cheer-leader. She had a way of gently pushing you above and beyond what you ever thought possible. She fought to make every bit of potential a reality.

She was a fierce warrior. Her desk by the kitchen was her battle-station. From that place came words of encouragement that crippled the lies of the enemy. Her letters were packed to nearly bursting with scripture. She strengthened everyone she was in contact with in the form of letters, emails, phone calls, and (though later on in life, and with much explaining from the children) text messages.

She did all that while not forgetting to share the same with her own household. The kitchen was a place of refuge, the heart of the home. There you would find encouragement, counsel, kind words, gentle rebukes, and laughter.

She was a persistent friend. Always pushing her friends to be accountable, and to be faithful. If you knew Sono Sato Harris, you simply couldn't help but be affected by her. She wouldn't have it any other way. She'd track you down, to the farthest corners of the earth and make herself a part of your life, in the most loving and gentle way. She was always there with sound counseling. I don't think I ever saw her have a phone conversation shorter than 45 minutes. Her friends looked to her for trusted advice and a godly example. She never let them down.

She was a loyal follower of Christ. She never hesitated to sacrifice herself for the advancement of the gospel. She viewed her best life to be the one where she faithfully served besides her husband to further her Savior's kingdom. She reveled in God's word, her bible always close at hand. Her proudest accomplishment with her children was not their earthly gains or their standing, but to know that they were walking with the Lord. She longed for Heaven, and the relationship she could have with God there. She had one of her favorite books on heaven sticky-noted so thoroughly that you could hardly see the book itself.

The world may look at the life of Sono Sato Harris and see a wasted life. A talented ballerina, a strong, talented leader, a gifted and personal speaker. But I see her accomplishing far more through the path she chose. Through her devotion, encouragement and drive, she has changed the world. They say that behind every great man is a great woman. My mother was behind 6 men and 1 daughter. She was the heart of our home.

The woman I wish to marry is one just like my mom. It is a very high standard. I don't deserve a wife like my mother, but I know I need one, and I know that she will make me stronger and better.

Who knew that my decision back when I was only 4 years old would be the right one?

Proverbs 31:30 "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."

4.02.2011

[indifferent moments]


"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." -- Elie Wiesel

I found this quote (once again) just recently. It really struck home.

Over the past few months, and really over the past year, I've been dealing with quite a bit. Much of it self-afflicted, much of it my fault, yes, but that doesn't make it any easier.

There are times when life is very stressful. There are times where the emotions seem almost unbearable. And I've discovered it's very easy for me to just shut everything out. Go into auto-pilot. Stop caring.

Sure it seems easier. Maybe in the moment things don't hurt so much. But it doesn't fix anything.

And, in the meantime, I miss out on so much. I miss out on offering a broken heart up to God to fix. I miss out on friends who are willing to support me and encourage me. I miss out on reaching out to others and supporting them where I wished I had gotten support.

Caring is such a beautiful thing. Indifference, such a dangerous thing.

In the midst of the pain, in the midst of the complications, in the midst of the emotional roller-coaster life puts us through, are we willing to face it all, and simply care? You'll lead a very bleak life, otherwise.

3.29.2011

[awards and apologetics]


Some of you may be wondering why it's been so long since my last post. The reason being, I was up in Seattle, WA competing in a speech and debate qualifying tournament.

I competed in 5 events, and God was gracious, and it resulted in ‎9th place Team Policy, 4th place Dramatic Interpretation, 3rd place Apologetics, 2nd place Humorous Interpretation, 2nd place Speaker, and 3rd place Sweepstakes.

The following is a bit of reflection on some of the lessons I learned at the tournament.

"God is sovereign." That's what I told myself, as I arrived at the tournament, 6:00am in the morning.

"God is sovereign." is what I mumbled to myself, as I silently lifted a prayer to God after seeing the round 1 match-ups.

"God is sovereign." I whispered to myself frantically as I searched for my apologetics box, which had disappeared from it's designated place 10 minutes before my round.

"God is sovereign." is what I joyfully exclaimed after successfully completing my impromptu-d apologetics card, in which I had drawn a topic that I had practically memorized.

"God is sovereign, God is sovereign, God is sovereign, God is sovereign."

I repeated these words countless times over the weekend. Through the joys of unexpected success, to the disappointment of unexpected failure.

Then, in the Finals for apologetics, I received the topic of "sanctification." In those few short minutes of prep time, God spoke to me more than I spoke to the judges in my speech.

I'm a competitive guy. Really competitive. And often times, it's hard for me to say "God is sovereign" and really mean it. But as I spoke about sanctification, I realized that letting my pride, my competitiveness, and my own agenda get in the way, I was missing out on the biggest reward of all, and that was allowing God to work in my life to sanctify me, and draw me into a closer relationship with Him.

Letting go is tough. I want to do well. But I'm trying to dedicate every moment of every tournament to God's glory. He is the ultimate prize.

3.21.2011

[lessons from my pen]


Over the past week, I've recently embarked on a rather rigorous writing regimen. Though I can't share details on what for, I will as soon as I get it all figured out and put together. That's a promise.

Anyway, during this process I've discovered (or perhaps simply been reminded) that my style and method of writing is rather strange: I tend to begin to write something, based off of a slight emotion, or a feeling. A half-baked concept or conviction. Oddly enough, the well formed, fully constructed ideas are often times the harder ones for me to put on paper.

So most of the time, and with most of the various posts, articles, papers, essays, speeches and whatnots I write, I begin with one idea, and by the time I'm done it's completely different. Usually for the good of audience who receives it.

And then, as I thought more and more, I realized, God does the same thing throughout our lives; we have a plan, God changes it. We have an idea, God morphs it into a future. We have a feeling, God uses it to accomplish HIS purpose.

And you know what the best part is? Unlike my writing, when God changes it all up, you know it's going to be better than you ever imagined. We get to sit back, and watch our Creator work wonders in and through our lives.

Pretty awesome, right?

Sadly though, many of us don't welcome God's intervention the way we should. We protest, we complain, we insist we know the better way.

If C.S. Lewis sat down next to you and made a suggestion for your writing, would you take his advice? Of course! Gladly.

How much more should we accept with joy the hand of our perfect, loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God moving in our lives.

Just so there's no confusion, the musings category on my blog are just simple thoughts, questions, and ideas I have each day. They're usually fairly short, but who knows, maybe some of them will turn into something a little more substantial one day.

3.19.2011

[grandma's faith]

She looked down at the tissue in her hand, smiling through the tears, "He never forgets me. I forgot Him, but he never forgets me."
We got to visit my grandmother (on my father's side) today. She's such a dear old lady, always pointing us to God. She shared with us how lately she had become tired of everything, how she had just given up, and been ignoring God. But God was always faithful to send her loving reminders.

How often do we forget God? How often do we stop reminding ourselves that He's always there for us, and that He always has a plan? How easily we grow tired of our lives, exciting lives that God planned in stunning detail.

I'm so grateful for my grandma, and the life-long example of faithfulness, not through being a "perfect Christian," but through always being a repentant one.

Please pray for my grandma, she's been very ill, and is down to just a few pounds over 70. Ask God to allow her to continue to be a shining light for Him, all the way to the end.

3.17.2011

[saint patrick]

Green clothes. Clovers. Leprechauns. Corn-beef. Pinching.


All of these pleasant (or... not so pleasant) things are associated with the holiday we call St. Patrick's Day. Every year we check our calendars and make sure we have something green to wear to make sure we don't get pinched by our friends.


But, do any of us really know anything more about the holiday, other than that? Funny, if you think about it. This holiday was set aside to celebrate, honor, and remember the life of the man we call Saint Patrick, but we don't even know what he did.


For sake of education, let's see what he really did.


Saint Patrick, or just Patrick, at the time, grew up in Britain. He was part of a family of reasonable wealth and fame as his father was a decurio (or senator) for Rome.


Then, at age 16, Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and sold into slavery to an Irish chieftain. For 6 years, Patrick tended his master's flocks. I found this incredible quote from Patrick's "Confessio:"


"I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the Love of God, and my fear of Him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time."


What incredible faith and trust, even in such a difficult time. God protected him and cared for him until, one day, God told Patrick to escape, and so he did. Through an incredible chain of events that would take far too long to recount, Patrick found his way back home.


What an incredible story of God's providence! What a great ending. The boy gets captured, he never loses faith, God rescues him, and brings him back safe to his home.


But you see, that's not it. We rejoin Patrick a few years later as, under the guidance of Bishop Saint Germain, as he receives his priesthood. As he served with the bishop he began to receive visions of young irish children calling out to him, begging him to return to Ireland.


So what did Saint Patrick do?


He went back to Ireland. Back to the country he had been enslaved by. Back to the people that had captured him, beaten him, mistreated him, and scorned him. Back to face the pagan religion that had it's hold on the country, the witchcraft and deceit. He went back to share the message of Christ with these people. It was no easy task. But eventually, as we see today, the hope, grace and truth he offered was accepted and celebrated by the irish people.


This story astounds me. I have little faith that many of us would have the faith and trust to go back and show compassion to the people that had hurt us in such ways. This story is incredible, but yet it is told so few times.


Instead, we celebrate the color green. We make corn-beef and cabbage. But no mention is ever made about the legacy of Saint Patrick.


What if all that changed? What if we made an effort, every St. Patrick's day to share the true story of the holiday with at least 3 people? What if, instead of celebrating it by pinching someone who isn't wearing green, we let Saint Patrick's day be a day where we sacrifice pride, bitterness, hurt, and prejudice and forgive those who have done us wrong? Can you imagine, if every March, thousands of broken relationships were fixed? If families were reconciled, friendships revitalized? I think this would honor the legacy of a great man far more than images of shamrocks and leprechauns.


What if we made this holiday truly mean something, that truly matters?


[ace wonder]


This is the trailer for Ace Wonder, a film produced and directed by John Moore (winner of the San Antonio Film Festival in 2009) that I had the opportunity to work on back in May of last year. I'd encourage you all to watch it when it's released.

3.16.2011

[lesson from roosevelt]

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

This famous quote from our 26th President, Teddy Roosevelt is one of my favorite of all time. Unfortunately, most people don't take it for anything more than a dramatic phrasing of words. They fail get the point. They miss the benefit.

I find this quote to be incredibly relevant to the Christian culture as a whole. Why? Because most of us have become arm-chair Christians. We criticize everything. We criticize the film industry, and how liberal and secular it has become, we criticize the media in how bias and dis-honest the journalist have become, we criticize politics, the court, sports, and everything else under the sun. We blame it all on "them." "Them" being whoever we want them to be at the time.

Yet we do nothing.

Did we ever stop to consider that so many of these things have gone downhill so far because we stopped trying? That the film industry became so corrupt because honest people never got involved? That bad laws have been passed because morally strong politicians didn't step forward? Why have we never looked to our own ranks, and discovered that few of us are engaging with the culture?

Even worse, as the second part of the quote alludes to, we find Christians, doing absolutely nothing, that begin to criticize other Christians efforts saying "I could have done better."

It reminds me, sadly of a cartoon that I once saw. The four boxes of the strip portrayed different stages of a young man's life. In the first, it shows him as a young boy watching an acrobat on TV, and the boy says, "I could have done better." In the second box, it shows him as a teenager watching a basketball game, and he says, "I could have done better." In the third box, it shows him as an adult, watching a politician giving a stump speech and he says, "I could have done better." Finally, in the last box, it shows the man's tomb stone. On it are written the words, "He could have done better."

Now, please understand, I'm not writing this to condemn anyone or say that all the problems today are our fault. I only wish to shed light on our inaction. Inaction that, if reversed, could lead to positive changes in this world for God's glory.

Are you willing? To strive to make a difference is no small thing. But, remember the parable of the rich man, who gave his silver to his servants to invest? One of them didn't want to risk defeat. He didn't want to risk losing his master's silver. So he did nothing. We all know what his master told him.

Too many of us in the Christian community are that servant. Full to the brim with the gifts and blessings that God has given us, but so unwilling and reluctant to use them.

So, what will your master say?


[excluded relationships]

This was modified from a speech format, so some of the wording may appear slightly off.


I don't know if you've noticed, but the Christian community leads pretty complacent lives. Our rules are set, our methods are clear. We have it all figured out, right?


When you look beyond the fa├žade, you find a problem in our culture that is damaging and destroying teenager’s lives. It is one that I have personally experienced. It is the danger that Christian relationships are posing for our teens.


Before we take a closer look at the issue, you have to understand one thing about me, and that is, I am a sucker for love. Even when I would watch a movie as a kid, and the couple kissed, outwardly I would groan (because I’m a little boy and I’m practically required to do so) but inwardly I would be loving it! I’m what you call a hopeless romantic. I’m quite literally in love with love. And while this characteristic does have its upsides, it was a large part of my message today.


Just a little under 2 years ago, I met a girl, a really incredible young lady. She’s the type of person who’s always encouraging, always supportive, always caring, and over all just one of the most incredible young women you ever will meet.


Sparks flew, and over the next year we spent a large amount of time getting to know each other. Very quickly, we formed a really strong emotional attachment, and as time progressed our wise parents saw it fit to end the relationship. But the emotional connection that we had, made it extremely difficult to move on, and a lot of heartache and pain resulted because of that.


As I look back at the last couple of years, obviously I learned a great deal from this experience, but I think one of the most important lessons I learned was that our Christian teen relationships aren’t doing us a whole lot of good.


What I’ve seen through my experience, and through the experiences of those around me, is that the young Christian relationships are often more damaging then the relationships of our non-Christian counterparts.


Why? Because these Christian teen relationships, while usually physically pure, are emotionally dangerous.


In my brother Josh’s books on relationships, one of the main lessons that is taught is that relationships are serious things. They shouldn’t be recreational they should have a purpose. Fortunately, most young Christian teens get this principle. What they don’t understand is that proper timing has to go hand-in-hand with a serious relationship.


Because of this ignored principle we find ourselves in a Christian culture where young Christian teenagers are in heavily emotional relationship before they’re mature enough to handle one.


Sadly, I’ve seen this damage and ruin dozens of young relationships. Relationships that, had they been cultivated at the right time, may very well have turned out far better.


Is it possible that these Christian teenage relationships are actually more destructive? Could it be that those casual, noncommittal relationships that we so easily look down upon aren’t as damaging as the ones that we allow within the Christian community?


Something needs to change. Relationships and lives cannot continue to be ruined because young people aren’t willing to wait for the right time.


But here's the catch. What I’ve discovered is that most young people don’t even realize they’re in a relationship until it’s too late. "We're just friends. It's not like that." These phrases and dozens more are used as excuses to trick everyone, including themselves, into believing there isn't something going on.


Having been in the same situation I hope I can do all that is possible to keep other young people from making the same mistakes. So I have questions. Questions that need to be posed and answered honestly. You have nothing to gain by deceiving yourself.


Question number one: Is the teen ready for marriage? This may seem like an odd question, but it’s really not. If a young person truly believes in a serious, purposeful relationship then they shouldn’t want anything to do with a relationship until they’re ready for a serious commitment.


Question number two: Is the teen in a relationship? This is perhaps the most delicate of all the questions. I know this because I offered every rationalization and reason to convince myself that I wasn’t in a relationship. Don’t attempt to fool yourself. It won’t help anything.


Push aside all of the rationalizations and excuses offered and ask the question, is the teen in a relationship with another person, in which they view each other as anything more than normal friends? An honest answer, no matter how hard it is, will be far less painful then the pain you will have to endure if you close your eyes and continue down this destructive path blindly.


Question number three: Is this relationship distracting from them investing time in their school, in their friendships, and with God? To answer this, ask yourself these questions: Do they think and dream about that special someone more than they invest in their education? Do they sacrifice spending quality time with dear friends in order to call that person, or IM them online? And most importantly, is their mind more occupied with that person than it’s occupied in prayer to God, and in time delving into his Word? This is a frightening realization. It was for me. Has God been replaced as the first love in our teen’s lives? Their friends, their education, have they taken second place to this relationship?


A relationship is constructive, or destructive. There is no middle ground.


Fourth and final question: Are you going to take this message to heart? Will you allow these questions to change your life-style? The reason that I ask is that every rationalization, and every trick you can play on your mind I’ve already used. We so easily convince ourselves that there isn’t a problem, or that we’ll fix it at a better time. Don’t lie to yourself. Fix things before it’s too late.


Now, please understand, I’m not writing about a magic cure, or a three-step action plan to fix all teen relationships. The way each person deals with this problem will be different from the last. But I trust that, if you answer these questions honestly, the decisions that must be made will become crystal clear.


So back to my story. What is the ending? I don’t know. It continues to be written. And while I can hope and pray that things turn out the way that I want them to, it’s all in God’s hands. Every day, I struggle with the consequences of a premature, emotional relationship. I do not stand before you today as someone who has it all figured out, but rather, as someone who serves as a warning to those like me.


We have an epidemic before us. I do not use that word lightly. Will it be stopped? That will be decided by each individual decision. All I know is that God has been gracious to allow me to use my story to speak into other's lives. And with God’s blessing, perhaps it can impact an entire generation.

[illusive tunes]


I can't write songs. I just. simply. can't. do it. Don't get me wrong, I've tried. Multiple times. Even recently, I tried writing one for a friend. Without going into too many details, let's just say that three hours and four chords later, I figured I'd stick with store-bought gifts.

I love music. Maybe not obsessively, like some, but I truly enjoy it. I'll let off steam by playing the piano, I'll spend a few minutes on the drums (provided that there's no one around that actually has some talent on them) and I'll play "I'm Yours" or "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on my ukulele if I'm in a good mood.

But composition? Absolute and utter failure. It's really quite depressing, actually. I have friends who seem to be able to compose an entire songs just because they stubbed their toe that morning, or got a puppy. Somehow that's enough of an emotional boost to release an excess amount of creative juices.

So why am I talking about this?

Well, in my most recent attempt to write a song, I was very frustrated that I couldn't write one. What was wrong? So many people made it seem so simple. Then, just a couple days later, I attended a speech and debate tournament, and was blessed to do incredibly well in my impromptu speaking and got several comments on my ballots, and words from parents thanking me for the way I spoke. "You make people want to go out and change the world. You never miss an opportunity to make the issue matter."

Whoa. Where did that come from? Those comments, and more truly encouraged me, and I realized that, while I hadn't been blessed with the gift of music, I had been blessed with the gift of words, both in speech and in writing.

As I pondered this more, I realized that too often we focus on what we don't have. The skills, the gifts, the capabilities that we don't possess. And, in doing that, we often miss out on the opportunity to use the gifts that we do possess. This revelation in and of itself, if taken to heart, can impact our lives greatly. But then something else hit me.

In the past few weeks I've been reading "Safely Home" by Randy Alcorn, an excellent fictional story about the persecuted church in China. At one point in the book, the main character talks about Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote that says,

"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, or as Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lives a great street sweeper who did his job well."

This quote sends chills through my body every time I read it. The image it paints is breath-taking and mind-blowing. But even more provocative than the image is the question that quietly begs to be answered.

I've been blessed to be able to communicate well. I can speak in front of groups of people, I can write papers, essays and articles. The gift of communication is one that has a certain amount of glamour to it.

But would I be satisfied with my gifts if God called me to be a street-sweeper? What if that was my gift? What if that was my calling?

To answer honestly, I don't know how I'd respond. I know how I should respond, granted, but I know that my pride would be fighting and screaming in defiance.

What about you? God has a calling for each of us. God has given gifts to each of us. Are we satisfied with them? Are we willing to allow Him to work things together according to his plan?

Now, I don't know if I'll ever write a song. Maybe, someday, if God gives me the grace to persevere. But in the meantime, I will strive every day to be satisfied with the gifts He has given me.

A gift is called a gift because it's something we don't deserve.