Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Where are you God?: A Crown, a Shepherd Boy, and a Handful of Torches

From 2008:

I don’t know about you, but as a writer, I have found that my character’s spiritual journey often mirrors things that are happening in my own life. 

In Blood Covenant, the main character, Paige, feels far to small for the task God is calling her to do—something I can certainly relate to at times. Throughout the course of the book, she comes to the realization that if she is going to survive, she will have to admit her weaknesses and fears and rely completely on God’s strength.

Paul has some powerful words in II Corinthians 12:9-10 that have to do with our weaknesses.

“…he said to me. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NIV)

Paul is telling us that it is through our weaknesses that we are made strong because of Christ’s power. I don’t know about you, but those words sound pretty incredible to me. And there’s more. At the greatest moment of weakness, according to the world’s point of view, Christ’s death on the cross brought victory, allowing God to enter into a relationship with us through that sacrifice. He loves us that much.

Still thinking you’re too small? Think again. 

Today, we're facing things we've never had to think about before. Our world looks different than it did just a few short months ago. And in the middle of the crisis, it's easy to feel overwhelmed, weak, and lost. 

There are numerous examples in the Bible of men and women who God called to serve Him in an extraordinary way through His power. Gideon was victorious with only three hundred men, a handful of trumpets, jars, and torches. Esther became queen in order to save her people from the threat of death, David was a shepherd boy who became king of a nation, and the list goes on and on. 

So what does that have to do with you?

God calls us in the middle of our ordinary, run-of-the-mill, take-out-the-trash-and drive-the-kids-to-school routine. So stop and ask yourself this one question. How do you see God calling you to make a difference in your world?

You might feel inadequate to follow God’s call as a writer, a parent, student, or whatever your situation might be, but never forget that the God who created the universe loves you and wants to be your strength. He’s the one who will give you the strength to do what He has called you to do.

Be blessed today!

Lisa Harris

Friday, May 01, 2020

Behind the scenes of Port of Origin

Lynne and I recently took some time to chat about Port of Origin and what's it's been like to write a book about a pandemic and then experience one in real life!


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Where are you God?: The Beauty in Sacrifice

New mother with twins
One of the things the ECHO Project has been doing over the past few years is identifying those who are struggling physically. Often this means a grandmother who is raising her children, or a young mother with twins who can't provide enough milk.

We've also seen the sacrifice a number of women in particular who have taken on additional mouths to feed even out of their own poverty. They bring in the orphaned, those sick with HIV/AID, and the homeless and care for them in their homes.

This is the beauty in sacrifice.

They are not giving not out of their excess, but in spite of their own needs. And in that they show Christ's love.

It reminds me when Jesus was watching people give to the treasury. The rich threw in large amounts, but it was a poor widow who caught Jesus' attention. She put in two very small copper coins that were only worth a few cents. And yet Jesus said she put in more than all the others. They had given out of their wealth. It didn't hurt them to give, or make them uncomfortable financially.

But the poor widow put in everything she had to live on.

Today we are faced with a worldwide pandemic and Jesus is calling us to be different.

Not just to say we were following him, but to truly live each day as a beautiful sacrifice. That is why these are the women who challenge me everyday. They challenge me to get out of my comfort zone and not to just give of myself when it's easy. But when it's uncomfortable, which it hurts, and when I have to sacrifice my own needs to minister to those around me.

Because that is how He calls us to live.

Lisa

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Where are you God?: Endurance


If you’ve ever thought that God doesn’t know you, or doesn't have a plan for your life, think again. Even in the midst of the chaos around us He has a plan for you.

Learning to open our hearts to God’s will can be difficult, but as we learn to persevere through life and let trials strengthen our faith, we will be able to find intimacy with God.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
                               ~II Corinthians 12:9-10

Be encouraged today, for He is faithful!

Lisa

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Where are you God?: Expectations


From July 27, 2012


How often are expectations are the source of our discontentedness?  

We expect things from our family, spouse, children, employers, employees, and friends. When they fall short of our expectations, we react.

We get upset at our children because of unreached expectations.

We divorce over unmet expectations.

Employees are fired over unmet expectations.

Relationships are strained or broken through expectations not met.

Expectations can be realistic, unreasonable, or even false.

Sometimes we fail without even knowing we’re not meeting expectations.

And now, we are facing even more loss. Graduations and trips are cancelled. We're stuck inside, worried and anxious about tomorrow.

Sometimes we have to raise our expectations. 

Sometimes we have to be patient with our expectations. 
Sometimes we have to change our expectations.
 
David, in the book of Psalms, tells us to 'Wait and hope and expect the Lord.' (Ps 27:14)

When all else fails and expectations around us are not met, He will never fail us.

When disappointment reigns, He is still there.

When we are afraid, He is there.

Wait and hope and expect the Lord.

Be encouraged today.

Lisa

Friday, April 17, 2020

Where are you God?: Is doing the impossible, possible?





From December 13, 2012:

I wanted to weep this morning when I finally met him for the first time, we will call him Mike. He smiled up at me with those big brown eyes, a little shy and timid. His parents have died. He doesn’t know how old he is, we guess about 8. His stomach is still swollen from being sick.

The sores he had on his body a few weeks ago are healing from gifts of soap and food, but as I looked at him, I wondered about his heart. Does he feel loved? Does he feel scared at night? Does he feel alone?

Yesterday, the hospital diagnosed him HIV+. I’m not sure he understands what that means, but for one so young, who has been through so much, the road ahead is going to be hard.

And he isn’t the only one. The hospital asked us to help them follow up on those they are trying to work with in the villages, actually pages worth of names. There are many more who are dying. So many who feel lost and alone. They need to know that they are loved. That they aren’t alone. That there is One who created them and loves them.

But it still seems completely overwhelming to me. My mind spins as I try to figure out where to start? Can I really do anything to help?

My youngest and I are reading J. Hudson Taylor’s autobiography. Taylor was one of the first missionaries in to China many, many years ago. As we read together, I find that his story is convicting me over and over. His faith. His prayer life. His passion. His love and faith amazes and humbles me.

All God's giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.” J. Hudson Taylor

It’s not a new idea, but for me it is still profound. I’ve thought about it many times when what I see around me seems impossible. It makes me encouraged to realize that I don’t always have to be strong. I don’t have to have all the answers. All I have to do is listen and follow His call.

Even when it seems impossible.

There are three stages to every great work of God; first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” J. Hudson Taylor

What I see here might seem challenging, but isn’t unique to this part of the world. You don’t have to look far to see people who are hurting. It’s come to the point to where I don’t want to check out the news anymore. There is so much hate, anger, hopelessness, and evil in our world.   

Maybe you are the one who is hurting. Maybe you feel unloved, scared at night, and alone with no answers. We might live in a fallen world, but there is hope.

Which means we as a church must move out of our comfort zone and make a difference. Give even when it hurts. Love the unloveable. Give hope to the hopeless. Share Christ’s message of life.

I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize that He is able to carry out His will for me. It does not matter where He places me, or how. That is for Him to consider, not me, for in the easiest positions He will give me grace, and in the most difficult ones His grace is sufficient.” J. Hudson Taylor

Paul said it this way in II Corinthians 4:17. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Be a blessing today,

Lisa Harris

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Where are you God?: Nine Ways to Kiss Stress Good-bye

From June 23, 2012:

The last few months have been exceptionally hectic for our family. Between homeschooling, ministry, building a house, short-term mission groups, writing, and life in general, I sometimes find myself feeling that all I do is run from early morning to late at night.

As I grow older, I've noticed that it is essential to find both quiet and balance in all the chaos. Especially when my 'jobs' are never ending. For example, as a writer, between writing, brainstorming, editing, and marketing, and social networking my job is never finished. And that is just one segment of my life! 

Today we are looking at a whole new layer of stress and anxiety that we have never had to face before. I hope you can find something here that will help you! 

Learn To Say No: Michael Hyatt recently had a blog post dealing with the importance of saying no. We can only do so many things in a day, and as hard as it might be, sometimes we have to say no.

Delegate: Are your kids old enough to take on extra responsibilities around the house? Can you call on a friend to help you out on a project? It’s easy to want to keep that control and do it all ourselves, but there is also a blessing in having others pitch in and help.

Exercise: I always see a difference in the way I feel when I stick to my exercise routine. I feel better, I’m healthier, and more relaxed. Exercise can improve so many aspects of our lives both mentally and physically by improving our mood, combatting disease, and boosting our energy.

Positive Self-talk: I’ve been amazed at how many time the Bible talks about the importance of our thoughts. Paul says in Philippians 4:8 that we should be thinking about things that are true, pure, and lovely. He also says in 2 Corinthians 19:5 to take captive every captive and make it obedient to Christ.

Keep in Tune with the Spirit: In connection with positive self-talk, it is important to look at what are we filling our minds with? If we are filling our minds with constant negativity from the media and television, it’s hard to be in tune with the Holy Spirit and his active roll in our lives.

Remember You’re not Superwoman or Superman: (And you don't have to be.) It’s so easy to compare ourselves with others, and believe that we have to do it all ourselves. We look at others around us and feel as if we fall short when we can't keep up. Putting reasonable expectations on ourselves is essential to cutting out stress. 

Prioritize: Have you ever heard the old expression, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." It means that when you are facing an overwhelming situation that feels too big to handle, you need to take a deep breath and don't panic. My own kids, for example, start to panic when they find out they have to write a research paper, until I tell them not to focus on the overall goal, but instead the mini-steps they will take to get there. Break things down into small pieces. One thing at a time. One day at a time. It really does make a difference.

Laugh more: I have some good friends who send me links to funny You Tube videos because they know how important laughter is. The saying is true that laughter is the best medicine!

1    What about you? I’d love to hear your ideas of what helps you handle stress, especially today. 

          Lisa

Friday, April 10, 2020

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Where are you God?: Is God really in control?



 From October, 2012                                                      

The last couple of weeks have been tough. For those of you who haven't heard, two weeks ago our teammates' three-year-old son was life-flighted to South Africa after an accident that resulted in a serious head injury. After a week in ICU, he passed away last Wednesday morning. Today was the memorial service in South Africa. In many ways, it’s still hard to believe sweet little Reiner is gone. And sometimes it’s hard to understand why God didn't save him. 



It’s reminded me of a time in my own life when I asked so many of the same questions. Many years ago, after struggling with infertility, I got pregnant, but had a miscarriage and lost our baby. While I can't even begin to compare that loss with Reiner's death, I remember clearly the depression and panic attacks that followed. God seemed so far away. I remember crying out to Him. I remember being angry and frustrated, wondering why He’d allowed this to happen. Doesn’t the Bible say "ask and it will be given to you?" (Matthew 7:6)

I knew of God’s promise of rest to the weary and peace for the soul in need, but God instead became a distant figure who had left me to deal with my own humanity and confusion.

A friend came to me one day and challenged me to dig deeply into the word of God to discover for myself who God is and to develop an intimate relationship with Him. I was forced to answer one challenging question: Did I believe God was in control of everything, including my own life? If He wasn’t, there would be no reason for me to continue to follow Him. If He was in control, then I needed to let go and trust Him completely with my life. 

Healing takes time, and the road wasn’t easy, but I learned that with His power we can overcome our grief and doubts and begin to live a life filled with His spirit. He has promised to be our strength when we are weak, to give us hope when we are hopeless, and to love us when we feel unlovable. It’s never relying on our own strength to get us through difficult times, but leaning on the mighty arm of God and being continuously filled with His Spirit. Isaiah 41:10 tells us not to fear, because “I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I Peter 4:12 tells us not to be surprised at the painful trials we are suffering. But through Christ and the workings of His Spirit, the void can be filled. James tells us that we are blessed when we persevere under trial, because if we love him, we will receive a crown of life. (James 1:12) With God as our strength and heaven as our goal, the journey is worth it.

Be blessed today,

Lisa

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Where are you God?: Finding Hope

From March 30, 2010


I've been amazed at the number of comments I've received from people who have been struck by the fact that slavery is still an issue today after reading my books, and how they have been disturbed by its implications. Today, I received an email that said:

"When I first began reading (Blood Ransom) I was so intense it riled up in my sense of indignation against injustices, so I had to pray..."

What I've always wanted my readers to see, though, is that despite the horrors that are taking place around the world, there is hope. As we move into Easter weekend, much of the world is focused on what Christ did on the cross. He came to set us free both physically and spiritually.

Revelation 5:9 says, "And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

What a powerful verse. What a powerful God.

Today, I wanted to share a letter I wrote to my readers. Parts of this I've already shared, but here's the entire letter. I hope you will be encouraged and inspired.

~~~~~~

Dear Reader,

Have you ever noticed how God often uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things? In writing Blood Ransom, I wanted my heroes and heroines to be ordinary people, faced with extraordinary circumstances. Chad and Natalie’s lives were changed not only through the challenges they faced, but also through their reliance on God. And when they set off on their journey to the capital to save Joseph’s family, they never imagined that God would call them to a task that was beyond the scope of their own power.


But while this story is fictional, the issue of a modern day slave trade is very real. It is estimated that there are currently more than 27 million slaves on the world today from Africa, to Eastern Europe … to the United States of America. The fact is, we don’t have to travel around the world to see people hurting and exploited. They’re real people we pass every day, living in our neighborhoods, and attending our churches and schools. They’re empty and broken, searching for freedom and hope in an often hopeless world.

Today, our world is facing yet another enemy, COVID-19. This time it is one we can't see, but people around us are scared and anxious and needing hope.

But what can we do?


Maybe you feel the same as I often do. God I’m too small and inadequate to do what You’re calling me to do! But Paul says that it is through our weaknesses that we are made strong because of Christ’s power. And how through His sacrifice, at the greatest moment of weakness from the world’s point of view, Christ’s death on the cross brought victory as He ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Have you noticed that the Bible is filled with inadequate people? When God called Gideon, Gideon’s response was that not only was his clan the weakest in his tribe, but that he was the least in his family! God proceeded to lead Gideon to victory with only three hundred men, some trumpets, jars, and torches. David was a shepherd who became the king of a nation. Rahab was a prostitute, yet because she feared God, she not only saved Israel’s spies, but she became a part of the linage of Jesus. They were ordinary people, who God used to do extraordinary things with His power!

Do you remember what Esther’s uncle told her when faced with the possible sentence of death for her and her people? “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

I truly believe that we’ve all been placed here for such a time as this.

The Bible says in Acts 17:26, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” (NIV)

That means you!

In the middle of your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, take-out-the-trash and drive-the-kids-to-school routine, you’ve been called by God for this time. For this moment. Wow!

And yes, even in the middle of a not so ordinary pandemic!

So what does all of this have to do with you and me right now? One person at a time, we can make a difference in the world through His power. It starts with each one of us, wherever we are, letting God take us on that amazing journey He’s prepared for us.

Hebrews 10: 24 says, "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."

Why?

Because of what Christ did for us on the cross. It is there, and only there, that we can find hope.

Be blessed today,

Lisa

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Where are you God?: Embracing the unexpected on Palm Sunday

From December 22, 2009:

You might be surprised to know that I don’t like surprises and love a strict routine. Life on the mission field, though, has forced me to bend, grow, and become flexible.

At least I try.

When Scott called me earlier today and told me the car still wasn’t ready as promised, I struggled not to cry. As we’ve waited in South Africa, the kids have been counting down the days until Christmas, but we’ve yet to put up a Christmas tree, wrap presents, or even play Christmas music.

And while I know that Christmas isn’t about hanging stockings and singing Christmas carols, I love those special family traditions.

The truth is that the past few years haven’t gone according to “my” plans. When we bought our house in northern South Africa four and a half years ago, I told Scott I wasn’t moving again.

Ever.

Well, God certainly had other plans. In the past two years, we’ve lived in four countries, which has caused me to look hard at what’s important. I’ve pretty much chucked the idea that my kids will lead a normal life (though who’s to say what “normal” is). No T-ball, ballet classes, Fourth of July parades, or white Christmas’ with boxed stuffing and pecan pie for desert.

Which is okay. Most of the time anyway. ☺

The truth, though, is that life rarely holds to our expectations. We all know that all too well at this moment, as the whole world is on lockdown because of the pandemic. This definitely wasn't in my plans!

So this reminder is for me today, but maybe you need it as well. Jesus left the glory of heaven with all it’s perfection and beauty and especially the presence of His Father to come to a world full of sin and strife. And because of His love for us, He was willing to endure all that pain to the point of dying on the cross.

For us.

Yes, that’s you and me with all our flaws, imperfections, dreams, hopes and failures.

He came to Earth as a baby to fulfill God’s plan of redemption because of His great love for us.

Luke wrote: So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

I’m sure Mary never expected that visit from the angel that changed her life, that she would be with child from the Holy Spirit, or that she would have to travel to Bethlehem and give birth to her firstborn child in a manger.

And yet she listened and followed God’s plan for her life.

Wow.

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Sometimes the pain seems too hard to bear, while other times we’re surprised by blessings beyond our wildest dreams. And through all the laughter and the tears, one thing that remains constant. Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

Did you hear that?

He won’t change who he is or what he expects from us, or his love for us. How reassuring in times of uncertainty.

So for today, embrace the unexpected and hold fast to the One who never changes.

And as we celebrate Easter in a different way this year, don't forget the baby born in a stable, who grew up to give His life for you and me, then rose again giving us hope of a future.

Be blessed today,

Lisa

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Where are you God?: Freedom



Over the years, I've written about many of the injustices that are taking place around the world, including human trafficking. (Blood Ransom and Dangerous Passage) but for every person caught in the grips of physical slavery, there is another person caught in the grips of emotional and spiritual slavery. We don't have to be forced to work physically to be in bondage.

Whither it is bondage from addictions, depression, financial debt, or something else, there are people everywhere searching for freedom. I don't think I would want to write the stories I write if I didn't believe that there was hope. And that hope comes from one person. Jesus Christ who died on the cross.

Jesus said in Luke 4, "...he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recover fo sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

As many of us look toward Easter as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, let's remember those that there are so many living in fear and anxiety right ow. And let's not forget that the Lamb of God, who triumphed over death for each one of us, now sits on the throne.

“And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9 NLT


Lisa

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Where are you God?: Oh, me of little faith





This is so applicable for today as we strive to take fear captive.

From May 15, 2012:

I took the plunge, yesterday. Literally. After four years of living thirty minutes from the Indian Ocean, I went snorkeling for the first time to celebrate Mothers Day. It was an interesting experience to say the least. As we returned on the boat, I started thinking about when Peter walked on the water and how I could now relate some to his reaction.

Yeah...Oh, me of little faith.

You see, for my first snorkeling experience, we went out on the boat into the ocean to first search for whale sharks. Now keep in mind that I much prefer sitting on land and watching the ocean. Thus the reason I've never been out in it other than on a boat. But despite my lack of experience (and shall I add fear) I decided to be brave and jump in with the others when a school of dolphins appeared. I was fine, for the first few seconds. Then I saw those big blue waves swelling around me. And let me tell you, they were big swells. Suddenly I felt extremely small and vulnerable. And as the boat begun floating further and further away, I started to panic.

The same thing happened to Peter. The disciples were out on the water and thought they saw a ghost. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I would have panicked as well.

Then Jesus said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

When is the last time you've been afraid? The loss of a job, a bad diagnosis, problems with a child...It happens to all of us. Something happens and we panic. We forget to trust in Him.

Peter, though, decided to trust. At least for a moment. He got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward Jesus. But like me, he was distracted by the wind and the waves and started to sink.
Huge school of sardines.

Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying "You of little faith. Why did you doubt?"

Why do we doubt? What a piercing question.

With all the negative news storming the media today, along with the difficulties people are facing every day--it's easy to give in to fear and panic. I've noticed it in my own life. In many ways, it's been a challenging year for us. This means that--along with many of the frustrations we face every day--I've found it too easy to get caught in that downward spiral of negativeness and fear. Instead, though, I want my focus to be on Christ and His holiness. Is it easy? Not when that storms raging, but here are a few things that help me.

1. We have to guard our minds and what we put into it. Paul had great advice for this. He says in Philippians 4:8 that "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about these things.

2. Read through the Psalms. David was placed in some difficult situations, and yet his reaction was always to turn to God for strength.

"He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. Psalm 112: 6-7

3. I'm also reading Soul Detox: Clearing Living in a Contaminated World by Craig Groeschel. Craig talks out the importance of fighting soul pollution that is threatening our health, faith, and witness to others. He gives practical ways to remain clean, pure, and focused on God's holiness.

What about you? What practical steps are you taking to navigate the storms of life?

Lisa




Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In the middle of everything that's happening in the world, I'm grateful to be able to work at home. If you're needing something to read, I'm super excited to announce that The Traitor's Pawn releases today!! So excited to share Jack and Aubrey's story with you!! 


WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING:
“Harris (Deadly Intentions, 2019), writing in the thriller style of J.T. Ellison and Julie Garwood, presents a fast-paced adventure which balances intriguing clues, complex suspects, light romance, and messages of forgiveness to create an excellent, entertaining read.” ~Booklist


ABOUT THE TRAITOR'S PAWN:
When FBI agent Jack Shannon arrives in Corpus Christi, Texas, he is focused on one thing: find the man who has been selling encrypted government secrets to the Chinese through online birding chat rooms. But when a senator is shot during a hunting trip and the woman he was with is abducted, Jack agrees to join the search--especially when he discovers that the kidnapping victim is Aubrey Grayson, a woman he was once in love with.

As the search continues, it becomes clear the senator may not have been the intended victim--and Aubrey may be connected to the other case Jack is supposed to be working on. Can Jack untangle the knots before it's too late? And when he learns the truth, will it be too painful to get past?


Join the hunt for the truth--and a traitor--in this tension-laden story of secrets, betrayal, and second chances.


Grab your copy here today, or wherever books are sold!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Where are you God?: He is powerful, loving and faithful

From: September 4, 2010





If you're feeling tired or anxious today, read this reminder from the devotional my mom wrote a few years ago, and be blessed with the reminder of God's faithfulness!







Matthew 6: 25a, 33-34  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Fear of the unknown.

Concern for the fate of the children.

Hunger.

Exhaustion.

Do any of these sound familiar? If not, ask most any single parent about them. Does God care? These problems are common in today’s world wherever one lives. Does He care? Let’s look at the first chapters of the book of Exodus.

God’s people were unsure of what would happen to them next. They were exhausted from the work of slavery. Hungry? Oh, yes. Concern for their children? The Pharaoh had ordered their newborn boys killed. Skip a few chapters and see the rescue of their God. It was God who brought them out of Egypt and a life of slavery. It was God who drove back the waters of the Red Sea. It was God who fed them in the wilderness even after their unfaithfulness. It was God who protected them from their enemies. They could look back and see the faithfulness of a loving God.

Does He care?

Yes, He absolutely does. And it isn’t just the people way back then. He cares now too. How can I be so sure? Because I was afraid of the unknown. I was concerned for the fate of my children. I was exhausted. And I worried about if we would go hungry. I was a single parent struggling to keep life together. And the powerful, faithful, loving God of heaven and earth ALWAYS provided. Looking back I can see how everything we needed was given to us from His Hand at just the time we needed it. I never needed to have worried, because He was in charge.

Prayer:  “Our loving Father, our all powerful God, We bow humbly before You to thank You for Your Faithfulness in caring for us. Help us to not doubt or worry about our lives here on earth, but keep our eyes on You and heaven.”

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Where are you God?: Encountering Him


From: July 4, 2010

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Ephesians 1:17


In I Kings 19, we read that Elijah believed he was the only man left who was following God. As a prophet of the Lord, he spent his time warning the Israelites to stop following false gods and to return to the one true God. He was a zealous man, heartbroken that the Israelites had broken down God’s altars, rejected His covenants, and even killed His prophets. And to top it off, his own life was in danger as the queen was planning to kill him.

Certain that he was soon to meet his death, Elijah went and spent the night in a cave. God though, told him to go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, because He was going to pass by.

Three things happened next. A great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart, shattering the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. Next, an earthquake shook the ground, causing the earth below Elijah’s feet to tremble. I’m sure that by this time, Elijah himself was trembling. But once again, the Lord was not in the shifting of the earth beneath his feet. Next came a raging fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

After the fire, though, came a gentle whisper. And in that quiet, gentle whisper was where Elijah found God.

How often, in the constant roar of life, do we stop and look for God, pausing to seek His face? Most of the time, life seems to be rushing past us like a fierce whirlwind or earthquake. Commitments keep us jumping, disaster spins round us, and the urgent takes over the important. But it’s often in the stillness of a morning sunrise, the quite touch of a friend, or in the pages of His Word where we encounter God face to face.

Just like with Elijah, the Lord knows what he needed, and he was strengthened by God’s presence. Jezebel still wanted to kill him, and his trial had not "gone away," but God gave him the strength to continue. What compassion God showed to Elijah. God was tender with him, and in Elijah’s distress He provided for His immediate needs by sending an angel who told him to eat and drink the food the Lord had provided because the journey was too much for him.

As in Elijah’s life, think about what compassion God shows to us each day. Just as the angle of the Lord comforted Elijah, He has given us so much; His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His Spirit, adoption as His children, and much more.

In closing, read James 5:11b and John 14:16 and thank God for the blessings he has given you today.

Be blessed!

Lisa Harris

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Where Are You God?: the Therapy of story

From: October 5, 2018

No matter who we are or where we come from, we all have at least one thing in common. At different points in our lives—maybe even right now for you—we experience loss. It might be the loss of a job, of a marriage, or of a dream. It might come as a phone call in the middle of the night, or the exhausting reality of watching a loved one slowly slip away. It has a way of making us vulnerable, and yet it’s also what makes us human, because no one is untouched by loss. 

And today, we all have something else in common as we face this virus.

While I love a happy ending in a story—and of course just as much in real life—our journey is not only full of different seasons, it’s also rarely void of pain. The first book I wrote was from a deep place of hurt while dealing with infertility. The characters I wrote about helped me deal with that pain and was a catalyst in helping me heal. As a reader, this can also happen when we pick up a book. Readers have told me how they’ve connected with a character because of similar circumstances they’ve faced, and in turn have been challenged spiritually. And it makes sense. When we connect with a character because of something he or she has gone through, the story impacts us and stays with us long after the last page is read. 

In A Secret to Die For, Grace Callahan is a psychologist. On a day to day basis, she deals with the pain and loss of her patients, but she also understands grief on a very personal level after the death of her little girl four years ago. Detective Nathanial Quinn has recently experienced trauma with the loss of his partner in an explosion and is dealing with PTSD. When Grace is thrown into a life and death situation with Nate, she finds herself able to relate to him on a deeper level because their shared understanding of loss.

While loss and trials are never easy, God has reminded me over and over throughout the years that he never promised us a life free from pain. In fact, the opposite is true. John 16: 33 tells us that difficulties will come. But there’s another promise he’s given us as well that we can hold onto when hard times hit. Isaiah 43: 2 says, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.” 

Did you hear that? We are not alone. He will walk through the pain with us.

He also asks us to put our trust in him—not in our circumstances. Is that always easy? Definitely not. But though him we can find hope no matter what is happening around us. In the story, Grace discovers this same profound truth in her own life.
  
Somehow, though, in the middle of feeling as if no one understood, she’d begun to discover there was One who did understand this journey of grief. Sometimes she’d hear God’s quiet voice in the wind. Feel his presence in the words of a song. She realized that he could feel her pain and that he understood the depth of her loss. Because he’d watched his own Son die as well.

For Grace and Nate, their losses play a large role in bringing them to a place where they discover unexpected love with each other, and together they are able to help each other find peace through Him. It’s not a peace that makes any earthly sense. Instead, it’s a peace that “exceeds anything we can understand.” Philippians 4:7 (NLT)

May you find peace in Him today!


Lisa Harris

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Where are you God?: Writing as therapy

From: March 7, 2018

Writing has always been like therapy for me. I wrote my first book over two decades ago after suffering from a miscarriage. I felt shattered and lost and completely alone. I ended up writing the fictional novel of a couple and their struggle through infertility as well as a non-fiction study guide stemming from my own search for God in the midst of the pain.

A lot of good came out of that writing therapy. 

Like any family, we’ve had plenty of ups and downs over the years. We’re now coming up on the two year anniversary of one of our worst when our family was attacked by armed intruders in our home. Believe it or not, I was actually in the middle of writing a hostage scene for my heroine when the robbers broke in. 

Here’s what I wrote about that experience in the Dear Reader letter in the back of the book just a few weeks after the attack. (The letter was later condensed.)

While I was in the process of finishing Desert Secrets, everything changed. Three armed men walked into our house, tied up myself, my husband and my daughter—gave me two black eyes and a mild concussion in the process—and robbed us, including the wedding ring off my finger. 

The experience changed how I felt about a lot of things, including writing suspense. Before I could continue, I had to rethink why I write what I write. I was eventually able to move forward and pour my emotions from the attack into this story, which ended up bringing me healing.  I knew that I wanted my readers to never forget that the God who created the universe loves us and wants to be our strength no matter what is happening in the world around us. Jesus came to heal the empty and broken hearted, and those searching for freedom and hope. Psalm 91 says that He is our refuge and fortress. That no matter what we are going through, He will cover us with his feathers and it is under His wings we will find refuge.

I truly believed what I wrote.  But still, after the attack, I found myself seeking answers about God, and pain. Sin and the fallen world we live in. In the next book I wrote, Vanishing Point, I tackled the question that we’ve probably all asked at one time. Where were you, God? I worked through this question in my own life as I was writing conversations between my characters who were responding to their own string of tragedies they were dealing with.

Here’s part of a conversation between. Detective Garrett Addison and Special Agent Jordan Lambert. 

“We ask that question—where were you, God?—as if we’re surprised when evil surfaces. We ask it because we want to know why he didn’t show up and stop what happened. We wonder what’s wrong with our world when we watch the news and hear all the tragedies happening around us. We forget that we live in a fallen world. We forget that God gives us the freedom to make choices. We wouldn’t like it if he forced us to follow him. But that means we have to suffer the consequences of our bad choices as well as enjoy the consequences of our good ones. God doesn’t give us free will, then stand over us and fix everything. Does that make sense?”

“It does,” Garret said. “Think of all the times in the Bible when people cry out to God for something. They beg him to rescue them from their enemies or give them something they want. Sometimes God intervenes and steps in dramatically, but it seems like more often than not, he doesn’t.”

“Exactly. And what I’m realizing is that when he doesn’t intervene, it doesn’t mean he isn’t there. I think it means just the opposite. He decided not to just sweep down and fix our problems every time something goes wrong. Instead he chose to redeem us eternally by sending his Son.”

“Immanuel,” Garrett said, feeling a chill go through him. “God with us.”

“Yes. I have to believe that he’s here with us. That he understands what we’re going through and feels our pain far more than we do ourselves.”

“It’s hard for us to understand why a loving God would allow such horror to exist among his creation,” Garrett said. “It doesn’t make sense to us. But God’s intent was never a fallen world. That was man’s choice.”

“But even though he never promised us we wouldn’t feel pain, he did promise that we would never be alone.”

Tragedies like the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Sandy Hook (and the Corona virus) flipped through Garrett’s mind. The reality of a fallen world was clear. And yet like Jordan said, wasn’t God’s plan really a plan of redemption? Yes, he believed that God was capable of fixing our problems, but he chose instead to rescue and redeem humankind permanently.

“When we suffer a loss,” he said, trying to put his thoughts into words, “some people say that everything happens for a reason. But I don’t think there’s always necessarily a particular ‘reason’ for something to happen. Maybe the truth is that things happen because we live in a world where pain, death, and loss are all naturally a part of life. No one is immune.”

Jordan nodded. “But instead of believing that hardships are the norm, we say that we deserve being showered with God’s blessings. And yet Jesus told us that in this world we’d have many troubles. Sometimes we do experience God’s blessings, but he never promised us that everything would be perfect in this world.”

“Only in the redeemed world to come,” Garrett agreed.

“What he does promise is to walk with us through the bad times. As crazy as it seems, somehow, when bad things happen, we start to see God’s grace. We start to dig deeper. Sometimes it takes trauma to get someone searching for God.”   ~From Vanishing Point

Once again, my writing was therapeutic for me and something I hoped as I wrote it would minister to those who read the book. But there has still been something that has always bothered me. My family and I walked away from the attack on our family. We saw miracles that night, so many we made a list. We saw how things could have turned out so much worse. To this day anxiety that sometimes still lingers, but my family was okay. We were alive. And I was grateful. 

There was a moment that night, though, when I didn’t know how things were going to end. When I ran around locking up the house after the robbers fled and didn’t know where my husband was. I remember as clearly as it was yesterday, sitting down in the hallway with my daughter, believing I was facing my new reality. Life without my husband. I was now a widow. They'd made threats and now they’d killed him. And at that moment, I truly believed he was gone.

Not long after that, he arrived back with the police. Little did I know that his leaving to get help was what saved us and scared them off. But what if God hadn’t saved him that day? Would I still be able to praise him? Would I still trust?

A scene from Daniel keeps repeating in my mind.

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 NLT 

Even if He doesn’t we will still serve You.

I suppose I’m a glutton for punishment, but I’m writing a book right now (Deadly Intentions). It’s centered around a man who loses his wife during a home invasion. I know. What was I thinking? But the spiritual thread of the story is one that dives into that very question. And it’s one I wanted—needed—to explore. What if God doesn’t say yes? What if He doesn’t heal my loved one? What if He doesn’t move mountains or save me from the fiery furnace? 

Jesus said very clearly that we would have trouble in this world. Later Peter said: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”  I Peter 4:12-13

What if my husband had been killed that night of the attack? What would my response to that have been? Would I have blamed God? Left the mission field? Turned bitter? Honestly, I don’t know. I hope I wouldn’t have. I hope that I would have seen God even in the midst of my pain.

Here is what I do know. 

He has promised to be our strength when we are weak, to give us hope when we are hopeless, and to love us when we feel unlovable. It’s never relying on our own strength to get us through difficult times, but leaning on the mighty arm of God and being continuously filled with His Spirit. Isaiah 41:10 says not to fear, because “I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

So what is my response today? Like the song below, whether I'm facing tragedy like a world-wide pandemic, or just a bad day, may my life be filled with His strength and mercy.