Having it All

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm. ” -Psalm 55:4-8

Today’s reading: 2 Samuel 6; 1 Corinthians 16; Ezekiel 14; Psalm 55

The Bible always offered me something when I opened it. Sometimes it raised questions and other times it gave answers, but it always brought me closer to God. Problems often came from relying too much on me, and ignoring the tremendous importance of serving God and other people in my life.

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever, though he brings grief he will bring compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. – Lamentations 3:31-33.

These verses sounded too good to be true. And while I can’t say I completely understood them, they suggested sometimes we bring difficulties upon ourselves, especially when we turn away from God. But through it all, God’s love remains. Sometimes however, we experience separation from our most important relationships. I have often learned the hard way, but eventually came to see that it made more sense to seek God above my own understanding, regardless of the situation. Still, sometimes, I foolishly chose to turn away, often when I needed Him the most.

Of what value were my earthly goals over those of heaven? When I put my faith in my abilities, any victory I might enjoy would be to my glory and not God’s. Not surprisingly, this approach was typically the beginning of a vicious cycle. A cycle triggered by aspirations based on self reliance.

Obsessing over things, having too much urgency and too many variables was never good. These things were usually followed by my increasing loss of perspective. And when that was lost, so was my balance, causing my other responsibilities and relationships to become urgent; creating more problems. As the pressure mounted, a state of fight or flight began to kick-in.

With stress came the hormonal cascade of chemicals designed to save me, and they began to kill me. Cortisol flooded my body and my mind with fear and loathing. The heightened desire to escape in the elation or the comfort of dopamine created other opportunities for bad choices; then more stress. Before I knew it I was trapped in a nuerro-spiritual whirlpool, one that was easy to drown in. I wasn’t designed for this and no matter how hard I tied, or how capable and smart I thought I was, when I took the place of God as the lord of my life, everything got messed up.

The more I learned to rely on God; to take my time patiently waiting on God — the more things fell into place. By trusting God more, I learned to trust others more, and when I worked with teams made up of talented, honest people of high integrity, anything was possible. Ultimately the glory had to be God’s, and in that truth, everything started to work out.

The more I read the Bible the more evident it was that God wanted us to know Him. And in that knowledge, in that relationship, it was possible to discover the life we were made to live. A life of adventure, danger, mystery and truth; of challenges and peace, of sorrows and grace. God offered everyone amazing grace.

If the path we are called to in the Bible is true, and everything I have experienced says it is, then I believe we can have it all. When we ask for the faith to truly know God, then we are able to experience God’s grace. His mercy makes us whole, allowing us to receive the power of His Holy Spirit, and in that relationship we find the strength to surrender our will to His! God’s gift of salvation, in a sense, is really salvation from ourselves. This gift is offered to everyone through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ who came to our world as God in the flesh, to reconcile sin and offer you and me a righteous relationship with God and each other.

Thank you God that I can know you and that you know me. Amen.

Wedding Invitation

Today’s post is taken from a wedding message that I gave in July of 2009. I laughed and cried a little when I read it, and I hope you do too.

Good evening everyone.  Welcome to the marriage ceremony of Alison Andaloro and Adam Parla.

ap-ap-jh (2)My name is Jon Harris, and for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Alison’s brother in law. For those of you who do know me, yes, I really got ordained online and yes, I’m really going to go through with marrying my sister in law.

When Alison and Adam first approached me to do this my initial reaction was a resounding “Yes!”… what fun to be a part of such an important day in Alison and Adam’s lives. After reality set in and I realized that I had agreed to take on a major responsibility. After all, this is a one-time deal for Alison and Adam, and me as well.

What value can I add here as someone who has known Alison for over ten years? I actually have some vested interest in this marriage.

Alison and Amy (the beautiful bridesmaid who happens to be my wife) are sisters and best friends. To my children, Alison and Adam are celebrities. Alison is like a sister to me and now I welcome Adam as a brother. What else?  I’m a father of two amazing little boys. These boys mean the world to me, and should the worst happen to Amy and me, Alison and Adam would be on point to raise these boys to be respectful, mature, responsible, and loving adults. So do I care who Alison marries, and do I care about the success of this marriage? You bet I do.

When I watch Adam and Alison as a couple I love the way they interact and respond to each others’ needs. They’re loving, gentle, kind, thoughtful. What warms my heart even more is the way they treat our children. When I watch Alison and Adam interact with Peyton and Preston, I see a glimpse as to how they will be as parents and lifetime mates to each other. Selfless.

Look at these two individuals up here. So full of life and passion for each other. Alison’s “Andaloro smile” beaming. Adam, I loved watching you as Alison walked down the aisle.

Take today slowly. Enjoy each moment. Take a step back and observe. Family and friends, support this marriage in any way you can.

Take my words to heart. Many tears of joy went into what I’m saying to you today.

For those of you who are or ever were married, can I ask you to close your eyes think about when you stood before a crowd and professed your commitment. Think about the nervousness. Think about how little you knew (and maybe how much you thought you knew). Now smile knowing it isn’t you up here, but it is these two wonderful people we know and love.

As today is the beginning of Adam and Alison Parla, this is a good segue to the beginning… Genesis, the first book of the Bible… you know, the one that starts with “In the beginning…”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

  1. Adam, man, first man, found his helper. The Bible uses the word “helper”…. And we all know she was more than his helper, right?
  2. Genesis 2:24 says that man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife. Adam and Alison, you loyalty is to each other. Parents of the bride and groom, this verse is also for you. You’ve raised your children well, they’ve been out of your homes for a long time, but now you are encouraged to let these lovebirds fly. Let them make mistakes, let them learn, let them grow in their love for each other. Smile inside when they think they know it all.
  3. Verse 24 continues…They were united and became one flesh. The first of many references to “oneness” of marriage…

Speaking of one flesh… yeah, I’m gonna go there…

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:5)

So take a break from physical intimacy only so you can pray then get back to it. I’m not making this up.

I pose the question to all: What do we as a culture know about marriage? If we looked at statistics, a good answer might be “not much”.

A few things we do know:

  • Anything worthwhile takes work. Let’s not sugar coat it. Marriage is hard. Being a husband or wife is one of the most difficult but also one of the most rewarding jobs you’ll ever have.
  • We know weddings are expensive.
  • We know divorce is even more expensive; so let’s all save some money today and think back to the direction you heard and also the benefits of the Bible verses we went through (yes, I’m referring to the intimacy parts).

What is the number one challenge in marriage? Most people say money but we need to dig deeper. What causes the problems related to money or the other big and small problems in marriage, or even in life? It is selfishness. Marriage was designed to be a partnership and when the intent is distorted, that’s when bad things happen.

Adam and Alison, I ask you to be partners in marriage, and yield to each other. Especially in the first year of marriage. Practice yielding. Die to your own needs and give to the other.  Find the joy that comes with giving to your partner; the best gifts are those that are the hardest to give. I’m not instructing you to be something you are not, and I’m not asking you to be a pushover.

A letter to each:

Adam, lead this marriage as a man and husband. Love this beautiful woman and remember each day why you married her. Find new reasons to love her. Love her for her misgivings. Love her for who she is, who she wants to be, and who she will become. Love her because today you are making a promise to love her. You’re promising in front of all these people. Use your creativity and laid back attitude to the advantage of the marriage. Come up with new ways to have fun, to tell her you love her. Kiss her before you leave for work each day. She’ll remember if you don’t and she’ll always have something to brag about to her friends.

Alison, follow Adam as your husband and leader of your home.  Love your best friends because they’re your girlfriends but love Adam because he’s your husband and the only person who is going to be with you through it all. The guy who got down on one knee to beg you to marry him. Well maybe he didn’t have to beg, but you know his heart belongs to you, you’re the woman of his dreams. Look at him right now, his smile is all for you. You’ve known for a long long time that Adam is your man. The man you want to be with for life, to grow old with, to share in your old favorites like Coast Guard, and in the new experiences you will have as Mr. and Mrs. Parla… treat today as the beginning. You have a lot of history together but start over today. Today and for the next year you’re newlyweds, embrace it.

1 Samuel 26; 1 Corinthians 7; Ezekiel 5; Psalms 42–43

Father God, I pray for your blessing on our marriages today. May we see our partners as gifts from you. Forgive us for our selfishness. Show us the way. Show us your will. Thank you for the joy that marriage brings. Let our marriages become a light that shines and points to you as the author of love, the author of marriage. I ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blind but now I see

Have you ever been metaphorically blind to something in your life, then later ask “what was I thinking?”. Oftentimes the truth, the right path, or even something incredible awaits us but yet it is almost as though we are blind to it. Brainstorming thoughts on the potential causes of this blindness:

  • Selfishness. We can be so focused on ourselves; whether it be our own pleasures or even needs, that we miss the bigger picture.
  • Fear. What we don’t know scares us so we avoid it.
  • Pre-conceived notions (invalid assumptions). For example, taking one bad experience or hearing about someone else’s bad experience we assume something will “always” be like that. Google some reviews on your favorite and most reliable restaurant or hotel and you’ll soon learn that someone has deemed the restaurant “low grade dog food”, and the hotel has bed bugs. My favorite here is beach vacation resorts when people say the mosquitoes were as big as birds, there was sand on the floor in the room (can you imagine?), or the walk to the beach was horrible – a whopping three minutes. Spoiled!
  • Arrogance. My way is probably better so why change?
  • Distractions. Follow your favorite baseball team through the playoffs and the World Series and you’re in for a minimum of 11 games (that’s if they sweep all three rounds). Assuming the team loses four or five games and each game lasts around three hours that is somewhere in the 45 hour range over the course of a few weeks. Not judging here; you’ll find me watching some baseball this post-season. The point is that we need to be cognizant of our distractions.
  • Carelessness. Just plain old “not paying attention” or not caring enough to pay attention.
  • Deception. Believing lies.

Today’s scripture readings include the conversion of Saul (Acts 9:1-19) and while this was true physical blindness, it is also a great example of one who was metaphorically blind to the truth of Jesus Christ but through a miracle, he came to see and believe.

Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; (Acts 9:8-9, 17-18)

One of the things I love about journaling is that it has challenged me to do a lot of self-reflection, and document some of the things of my past. This week I took some time to consider my prior “blind spots” and their causes. The list below is about a third of what I came up with in a short period of time. Writing this list gave me a greater appreciation for God’s mercy and grace in my life as there are so many areas where I’ve been blind to the truth and missed out on the joy that our lord and savior Jesus Christ has for me.

  1. beetsBeets. Okay, so it starts out light but it was the first thing that popped into my head. Quite a few years ago I claimed this was the only food I despised and wouldn’t eat. I was so blind… beets are colorful, nutritious, and delicious!!! They can’t be beat! If you’ve ever seen (or heard) me eat really good food, you know that I do find joy in some of the little things.
  2. Career. Opportunities were right there in front of me. My priorities were not in place. I was selfish, arrogant, careless, distracted.
  3. Tobacco. I “dipped” tobacco as a teen and through college. Literally throwing up upon trying it, I still went on to become addicted to nicotine. The habit of placing a known cancer causing substance between my lip and gums went on for years. Blindness.
  4. Frequently getting home from school and playing video games for countless hours, or procrastinating (or simply not following) other worthy pursuits. These distractions were detrimental to my education, and personal/professional growth.
  5. Recognizing friendships that were good and healthy vs. those that were toxic. Do your friends lift you up? Do they encourage you to follow the straight and narrow path or the path of destruction?
  6. This next one has been on my heart for a while, in part because of some of the marriages that I’ve seen fall apart. Too often I have been blind to my own wife; the person I voluntarily chose and promised to spend the rest of my life with, for better or for worse. It is blindness to not recognize her beauty inside and out, all the time. We (talking about humans in general) invest so much time into education, career, kids, and retirement but how much do we invest in our relationships with our spouses? Simply living in the same house and trying to get along is so not enough, it isn’t even funny. Sometimes I realize Amy is waiting for me to notice her, and I’m just blind. However, when I get it right and pay attention, I receive the most beautiful smile imaginable. She’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met and I’m so thankful for her. She is a true gift from God. Husbands: love your wives. Pay attention.
  7. What greater blindness is there than missing the significance of the cross? Upon Saul’s conversion he proved his belief by immediately taking action. If we are not actively sharing the gospel with those who are lost, what does it say about what we believe Jesus has done for us?

And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20)

What am I blind to now? Lord, please remove the scales from my eyes. Let me see my sin as you see my sin. Let me see others as you see them; lead me to love others more and myself less. Amen.

Judges 5; Acts 9; Jeremiah 18; Mark 4


With wonderment I began to see for the first time how truly selfish I was. Now the question was; what was I going to do about it?

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 17; Psalm 104; Isaiah 44; Revelation 14

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” A second angel followed and said, “’Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.-Revelation 14:6-8

The Book of Revelation is mystical and strange, but there is no mystery that it proclaims the glory of God over all. And like the entire Bible, it draws constant attention to God’s holiness and the importance of seeking restoration with God before the final day of judgement.

Lately I have wrestled with bad behavior of others which has both surprised and disappointed me. Fortunately, now, when I observe this “bad behavior,” I am learning to see myself, like in a mirror, one that I am not afraid to look at anymore.

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. -Matthew 7:5

In the interest of time, due to a crazy week of home improvement colliding with travel plans on both ends and lots of work related opportunity and challenge (as usual); I have selected a page from the epilogue of a book I hope to be releasing next year.

I am able to speak with authority about selfishness and self righteousness, because I have struggled with this disease my entire life, and still do. What I am certain of is this: anytime my focus is more on me than on God or others, I am heading for trouble. This happens time and time again. Fortunately I have been rescued by God, and in His power I have hope of restoration, through the blood of Jesus Christ.

God please grant me the faith and power to surrender my will to yours. Amen.

Here is a page from “Wisdom of The Hidden Places; A Search For God”

American writer John W. Gardner once wrote: “Self pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it gives pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” Eventually I came to see that any focus on self, unchecked, was profoundly destructive, the basis for all that was evil; the very foundation of sin! Slowly, over time, I began to emerge from the poisonous fog of self obsession, trying to escape the prison of my narcissism — my alternative reality.

I was a cultural Christian drowning in the spiritual hydraulic of my narcissism only to be rescued by a collaboration of principled atheists and agnostics, true believers and the Holy Spirit. God was everywhere, even in the places he was not invited or rejected. His Spirit didn’t have to be embraced or even acknowledged, but it couldn’t be denied.

My story is not the proclamation of personal holiness, or a testimony of some great spiritual achievement, it is rather a story about a lost boy who struggled to find the love of an earthly father, who wrestled with grief, personal power and other powers while learning how to love.

I found my Heavenly Father in the end, but in no way do I consider myself better than anyone I have met along the way — I remain a sinner. The difference is this — I have been set free from my slavery to sin and have chosen to follow the righteous path; and only in God’s power, not my own, did this journey became possible.(Romans 6:6)

Through my father’s struggles and mine; and in the struggles of my children to find their place with God, I learned who I was, and who I was meant to be. As I began to rest more and more in God’s perfect will, I was less inclined to over-reach for the things of this world. That’s when everything finally started to fall into place. The more I learned to trust God, the greater my peace and joy. Situations that had once caused anxiety were now turning into anticipated opportunities to see God’s hand in my life.

Leadership and Love

Today’s reading: Exodus 34; John 13; Proverbs 10; Ephesians 3

March 23rd, 2016


Whenever the topic of leadership comes up I like to pass on a simple truth I was taught. I call them the two things. They are simple to understand. Simple to remember. Simple to see why these two things are it. Still they are not so simple to enact without fail. They take sacrifice at the most fundamental level. Self. They take us out of ourselves. Away from us. Away from this world. They leave us with less self and more others. A good friend of mine taught me what leaders do. Leaders do two things:

  1. Leaders lead by example
  2. Leaders serve those they lead

Search your experiences and you will hopefully find a leader in your life who does these two things well. One thing to mention here is that anyone can lead. Power is not needed to lead. Authority is not needed to lead. Though power and authority will accrete to those who follow these two things. Do you want to be a leader? Are you doing these two things?

Leadership and Love

Love, the Fulfillment of the Law

Here I just want to share a collection of verses that point to the importance of love and close with a few verses I encourage everyone to memorize. They are verses you have likely heard several times, but please do not let that cause you to pass over this encouragement without prayerfully considering memorizing them. Once memorized you can meditate on them throughout the day and call them to service as the ultimate checklist against what Jesus has called you to do in any situation. Running late in the check out line; run through the list. In the throes of a tough conversation; run through the list. Frustrated, worried, concerned, angry, scared, upset… go through the list, one by one and make sure you align with God’s word. 

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

If ye love me, keep my commandments. – John 14:15

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. – John 13:34–35

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans – 13:10

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

– 1 Corinthians 13:4–7

God would you give us understanding that we may keep your law and obey it with all our hearts? Would you turn our hearts toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain? Would You turn our eyes away from worthless things and preserve our lives according to Your word? Thank you. Amen.