Water (and a baby) changes everything

December 21, 2014

DSC_0969Joy & I have been absolutely overwhelmed the last few days with the incredible gift we have received of Everett Jeanette. I could rattle on and on here about our ever-growing love for this chubby little cherub. Who knew your world could look so dramatically different in such a short period of time?!DSC_1027

When we left the hospital, it was in a car equipped with all the latest safety features and a brand new car seat with straps and harnesses galore. I’m fairly certain the first trip to the moon had fewer safety protocols than our car seat does. We were leaving a hospital with floor upon floor of amazing technology that helps tackle so many of the problems and challenges that babies (and mommas) face. We arrived home at a house with a new kitchen, a first floor laundry, and a bajillion little things to help make Everett safe, healthy and comfortable. I mean, we have a wet-wipe warmer for crying out loud. Sheesh!

DSC_0970Yesterday we found ourselves talking about the miracle of baby Jesus. No…not about being born of a virgin or being 100% man and simultaneously 100% God or any of the other theologically significant miracles. We talked about the miracle that he was born at all. In a time with such limited medical knowledge, in an environment inherently unclean (in a stable, laid in a manger!), baby Jesus survived the odds (including a trans-country migration in his toddler-hood) to even make it out of childhood.

All this to say that we feel overwhelmed by the safety systems in place around our precious Everett Jeanette.

But 783 million people don’t have access to clean water (over twice the population of the US!) and almost 2.5 billion don’t have access to adequate sanitation. CLEAN WATER! It’s a staple to a healthy environment. Mom’s health requires clean water. Baby’s health does. The health of the community. Cleaning, cooking, drinking, disease and it goes on and on…they all circulate around clean water.

DSC_0995With all this in mind, we felt like we had to do something. So we enlisted the help of one of my favorite non-profits, charity: water. Charity: water is an inspiring organization founded by Scott Harrison that helps bring clean water to people all over the world. Originally a night-club promoter in New York City, Scott got to a point where he wondered what he was doing with his life and traveled the world on a Mercy Ship as a photographer for a year. When he got back, he knew he had to take action and he started charity: water, a non-profit that has revolutionized the non-profit sector with their emphasis on communication and accountability.

A part of the beauty of the charity: water model is that 100% of what we donate goes toward actually building a well in a community that needs it. 0% goes to overhead. That’s what we call return on investment! In about a year, we’ll get an email that will show us pictures of the well that we helped build and the GPS coordinates of that well. That’s what we call accountability!


Time to go home dance!

So would you join us in celebrating the birth of our beautiful daughter, Everett Jeanette, by helping others have a bit safer environment to have a son or daughter of their own? Here’s how it will work:

Click here to join us in giving.

We’d love to have everyone participate, so small gifts are great. If you don’t know how much, Everett was born on December 18th, so just give a dollar for every day she’s been alive on whatever day you donate (of course you’re welcome to give more if you like :).

And it’s that easy. Thanks for helping us help a few others. And we look forward to sharing with Everett the generosity of her community in the years ahead that helped mark her wonderful birth.

By the way, click on any picture to see a crazy huge version of it. And Merry Christmas!

Clean water, coffee, and casting convenience aside.

December 3, 2012

This morning I sat with 3 eighth grade guys, hearing their dream about holding a Water Walk, opening up the eyes of their peers and their community to the difficult condition that others live in on a daily basis. Having personally experienced the difficulty of getting clean water in the villages of Mozambique several years back, this is an issue that cuts straight to my heart.

But alongside the obvious importance of the issue was the earnestness of this incredible group of middle schoolers. They had done thorough research and prepared a presentation better than what most university students would put together. They presented with passion and purpose and I couldn’t help but say yes! to getting involved.

I don’t have time to do this. I’m getting married in 25 days. I’m launching a start-up that, yes, does these sorts of things, but I already have 2 projects in motion and am running dawn to dusk figuring out organizational structure, communication strategy, administrative design, funding, and a passel of other things.

But that doesn’t matter. These students’ have an idea that does matter. They have potential and the the ability to act on that potential and I refuse to be the one that holds them back, that limits their possibility.

And I’m reminded in this moment of the importance of what I’m about. It’s not about a job, a salary, a to-do list. It’s about dreams and hopes, about healing and restoration. It’s about not waiting until tomorrow what can and should be done today.

Will you join me in this? I still have spots open over the next two weeks to sit down over a cup of coffee, learn more, and join a growing movement that will change the world. Click here to find your spot.

TomTod drinks coffee. And so can you!

November 26, 2012

What do 750 strips of duct tape (and counting), Google+, an Assistant Superintendent, a stand-up comedian, and a downtown Canton art gallery all have in common? They’re all part of the wild journey known as TomTod Ideas!

As many of you know, 3 months ago this Friday I left my full-time job to launch a crazy dream called TomTod Ideas (www.facebook.com/tomtodideas). TomTod walks alongside middle school students through a year-long, personalized mentoring experience that empowers them to launch ideas they have dreamt up that will bring help and healing to the places in our world that need it most.

In that short time, an incredible group of volunteers have risen up to help push this idea forward and all sorts of wonderful things are happening that I would love to tell you about.

To aid in this story telling and to help TomTod continue to move forward, some friends and I are hosting a series of coffee hours over the next several weeks as opportunities to hear the vision and heart of TomTod and to enable friends like yourself to be part of the team that help support and encourage the dreams and possibility that lie within middle school students. There are no monetary, time, or talent requirements to join one of our gatherings…just a desire to hear more about what is happening.

You’ll find a wide variety of times/places available below and I do hope that you’ll join me for one of them! Please RSVP to jdh@tomtodideas.org at your earliest convenience so that we can make sure that we have ample beverages and informational materials for everyone present. I can’t wait to share with you!

Thursday, November 29th at 6:30 am
Hosted by Chip Weisel
Arlington Road Panera

Sunday, December 2nd at 6:30 pm
Hosted by Todd & Kellie Johnson
9220 Bletchley Ave NW,
North Canton, OH 44720

Wednesday, December 5th at 7:00 am
Muggswigz Coffee Shop
137 Walnut Ave NE,
Canton, OH 44702

Friday, December 7th at 8:00 am
Belden Starbucks
4472 Belden Village St. NW
Canton, OH 44718

Friday, December 7th at 7:30 pm
Hosted by Steve & Sue Moroney
701 9th St. NW
North Canton, OH 44720

Sunday, December 9th at 7:00 pm
Muggswigz Coffee Shop
137 Walnut Ave NE,
Canton, OH 44702

Monday, December 10th at 7:30 pm
Hosted by Peter & Paula Guiler
326 22nd St. NW
Canton, OH 44709

Tuesday, December 11th at 7:00 am
Belden Starbucks
4472 Belden Village St. NW
Canton, OH 44718

Thursday, December 13th at 7:30 pm
Hosted by Jeff & Linda Leon
1217 22nd St. NE
Canton, OH 44714

Friday, December 14th at 7:30 pm
*special Columbus, OH appearance*
Hosted by Brenda, Jim & Julianna Smith
7150 Davis Rd.
Hilliard, OH 43026

Are you from outside of the area? Join us for International Cup of Virtual Coffee Day on Tuesday, December 4th! We’ll be hoisting virtual cups of joe at 7:30am, 10:30am, 3pm, 7pm & 10pm (all EST) via Google+ with friends from all over! Just send me your username and your preferred time.

What tomorrow holds…

June 27, 2012

Last week, sitting in the living room of my friends, Brian & Cathi, surrounded by a passel of middle school students sharing about their experiences serving Christ in Boston throughout a week-long urban-ministry plunge, I was struck by how much I love my job. Getting to walk alongside middle school students as their hearts are opened to the life that God is calling them to, watching compassion and love spring up in their lives in tangible ways, seeing their eyes light up as they connect thought, choice, and action…all of this and more is an immense privilege to be a part of. It’s these sorts of things that I want my life to be about: helping early adolescents own their faith and begin to live lives that reflect the hope of Christ to a broken and hurting world.

A couple of months ago, I announced (read it here) that I was moving on from my position at First Friends, but that I didn’t know what was next. Leading up to that decision and since has been a great time of growth, stretching, challenge, and encouragement as I’ve spent time with my Discernment Committee and many friends and family, praying and considering what God might be leading me toward.

And so it’s with much excitement that I get to share with you that my next step lies in doing many of the same things that I’ve been doing, in the Canton community that I deeply care about.  This fall I will be launching a new non-profit called TomTod that will act as an entrepreneurial incubator for middle school students centered on compassion and justice issues. Though new in form and formality, TomTod has been an idea in the back of my head for several years and is currently in its second trial run with students from Flipd.

I believe that middle school students possess a unique combination of imagination, intellectual capacity, energy and passion that allow them to dream and create in ways that those both younger and older than they struggle to. With this in mind, TomTod will be a place for middle school students to bring their dreams and ideas and be connected to a mentoring community that will help them refine and launch them from concept into reality. The whole process will operate as an educational gateway for students, helping them grow and learn while opening pathways for future opportunities along the way as they pursue their project.

TomTod won’t be launching just any idea that a student brings to the table, though. We’re particularly interested in how we can work together to affect areas where we find brokenness in the world around us, particularly among marginalized people. For example, projects we’ve worked with up to this point have been directed toward homelessness, Down Syndrome, and bullying. Middle school students have a singular insight into the world around them and an ability to see it through imaginative eyes. TomTod will work to connect that openness and excitement that these students possess with areas of great need in the world.

I know this description just begins to scratch the surface and probably raises a lot of questions. While I can’t hope to answer all of that in a simple blog post, I want to offer a few ways to connect to TomTod as we start to develop it and move forward.

Go here to sign up for future updates on TomTod. Don’t worry…I promise not to overwhelm your inbox with mundane emails.

Go here to become a fan of us on Facebook. Our Facebook page will be a central communication space and will keep you connected to our developing plans.

Follow us on Twitter (@tomtodideas)

Bookmark www.tomtod.org, which will be our web home in the future.

Read this PDF with some FAQ’s and additional thoughts.

In closing, I want to especially express my thankfulness for your presence in my life. There is much about launching something like this that makes me nervous, but knowing the incredible community that I have surrounding me gives me much confidence to walk forward in faith. I look forward to sharing the steps in the journey with you (don’t forget to sign up, fan, & follow!) and to experiencing together what God is about to unfold. Thanks for walking with me up to this point and beyond…I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds!

Season of Change

March 4, 2012

This morning I made a pretty life-changing announcement to my students at Flipd. Here’s the email/letter going out to families. I appreciate your thoughts/prayers in this time of transition for First Friends, for me, and for the students and leaders of Flipd that I love so dearly.


This weekend I’ve been speaking at a retreat in Louisville with 200 high school students from across Ohio. One of my favorite things to do while speaking is to reflect on stories and memories from my childhood, often comical in nature, while observing some overarching truth of what God is up to in the lives of his creation.

For me, these stories always remind me about my beginnings. And my beginnings always involve First Friends. My family started to attend First Friends just before I was born and it’s all I’ve ever known as a home church. Innumerable people have spoken and lived into my life throughout my time here and have shaped me in ways great and small.

Four years ago, when Pastor Stan approached me about returning to First Friends on staff, I was humbled and excited to have the opportunity to work alongside so many who had meant so much to me. Having the privilege of serving the community of First Friends has been truly a blessing.

Over those four years, it’s been awesome to witness God at work. The birth, launch, and many projects that we’ve had the opportunity to tackle as the Justice League has been exciting to be a part of, including the Hope Garden, Food For Children Challenge, Faith in Plain, Adoption & Foster Care Ministry, and more. It’s been a blessing to see Flipd grow in so many areas, digging into the Word and training students in living and sharing the Kingdom of God, serving alongside of them in tangible expressions of Christ’s love, and seeking a balance of both being together in community and doing the work that Christ has called us to.There’s honestly too much to list of the beautiful ways that God has moved through the lives of our students and leaders during this season and I’m humbled to have been a part of it.

Awhile back, though, God started to stir in my heart that, as good as this time has been, that there was something “next” as well. Not wanting to launch haphazardly into anything, I gathered a group of close friends and mentors around me to serve as a Discernment Committee (in the Quaker practice of Clearness Committees). I also brought Pastor Stan into the conversation at this point, seeking his wisdom and input. Together we have prayed, discussed, reflected, and sought what God’s direction might be.

So it is today, Sunday, March 4, that I shared with students that I will be stepping out of my role as Middle School Youth Pastor and Instigator of Justice effective by the end of this summer. Pastor Stan and I settled on this before the Christmas holidays and I met with the Elders in January to share with them. At this point, I do not know what’s next, but I know that I feel as if I’m to take a step of faith and trust that God will guide that step to land where he directs.

A couple things I’d like to say:
    -I love First Friends and the community that is here. I hope the best for all of you and will always consider First Friends as my home church.
    -I love Flipd and the Justice League. One of the hardest parts of this decision has been accepting that I have to lay down these two groups of people that I love dearly in order to step into what’s next. I don’t have any less of a heart or energy for middle school students than I ever have, but I want to be faithful to where I feel God is leading.
    -Flipd and the Justice League will both continue to be vital ministries at First Friends. The leadership at First Friends has indicated a desire to continue to see Christ’s love spread through these ministries on their current trajectory. Flipd has an absolutely amazing group of leaders and what’s happening there is about much more than just me. If you have a child in Flipd, you can trust that it will continue to be a place where students will be together in community, come to own their faith, share the Kingdom of God with others, and have their eyes opened to the work of Christ all over this city and world. I will do whatever is in my ability to set this transition up for as smooth of a process as possible.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of you again for your investment over the years, for entrusting your children to me, and for your encouragement and prayers. It’s been an honor to serve alongside of you for this season. I do think that our life comes in seasons and First Friends has been a springtime for me, one of new growth and potential blossoming. Now, as God calls me onto summer, I am excited about what space he might call me to expand into and trust his calling. I will do my best to keep everyone up to date about my journey along the way as to where God may be leading.

Thanks again. Much love to all of you…

Humbly Gracious…

joel daniel harris

Looking in the mirror…

January 16, 2012

I had the opportunity this weekend to speak at a retreat for nearly a hundred middle school students and leaders from a dozen different churches. On Sunday, I stood before my youth group in both the morning and evening, teaching, challenging and edifying. It was a great weekend, full of ministry and relationships.

This morning I re-read a post that I had put up last year on MLK Jr. Day. It was a challenge to the church to consider why they didn’t more fully engage the meaning and significance of this day. I felt like I got punched in the gut. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Eyes, Open Mind: a weekly reflective (2012; issue 1)

January 7, 2012

Welcome to the first official issue of 2012. If you’re new to Open Eyes, Open Mind, check below the fold for a short description of what you’ll find here.

Some weeks in our lives have themes and this week’s theme is the start of a new year. A lot of us spend time at the beginning of the year reflecting on the previous year and considering the possibilities of the coming year. A number of the resources found in this week’s reflective point in these directions. Feel free to leave any thoughts, comments, or conversations.

Read the rest of this entry »

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