Local Author Spotlight - June 2019
Local Author Spotlight - June 2019
Daniel Ethan Harris
Centennial Library's Local Author Collection is proud to include four titles by Daniel Ethan Harris. Harris is a native Midlander, father, scholar, and spiritual leader. Our spotlight for the month of June belongs to him.
questions for Daniel Ethan Harris - June 4, 2019
When did you start writing and why?
My wife and I worked at an orphanage in Guatemala from 2006-2008, and we started a blog to be able to keep in communication with people at home and share some of our stories about living and working there. We both enjoyed writing about our experiences there, and I started another blog after we returned to the States, which I still maintain, and which eventually included book publishing projects (www.salvationlife.com).
What is the most difficult part of writing?
I think there are a lot of layers to what’s hard about it. On one level, I’m well acquainted with the tendency to find anything to do but write when it’s time to write. But that tendency has roots in something somewhere within me. There’s a quote from Henri Nouwen which I think describes both the difficulty and the reward of writing very precisely. He says,
"Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us. The writing itself reveals to us what is alive in us. The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know. Thus, writing requires a real act of trust. We have to say to ourselves: 'I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.' Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes one has, trusting that they will multiply in the giving. Once we dare to 'give away' on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath these thoughts and gradually come in touch with our own riches.” (From Nouwen’s unpublished Reflections on Theological Education.)
Although that sounds––and is––very satisfying, it also makes clear why we are so resistant to it.
What writers do you admire? Did you model your work after any particular writer?
The writer who has influenced my life the most is Dallas Willard, although I wouldn’t say I try to model my work after his. Since most of my reading and writing is in the area of spirituality, it isn’t uncommon to find writers whose content is fantastic, but to find one relates that quality of content with a corresponding level of skill and creativity is rare. Henri Nouwen was a master at both, because of his clarity and simplicity. I also really appreciate the work of Robert Benson––I don’t know that I’ve come across a more skilled writer in this genre. I’m also very biased, because he’s a friend, but the books of Robert C. Pelfrey are both reliable and very well written.
There are many others, both within Christian spirituality (C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Robert Mulholland, Martin Laird), and in other areas (Isabel Wilkerson, Bryan Stevenson).
What are some of your favorite books?
Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy was a book that came along at the right time for me, and it has given shape for much of how I have sought to live my life. It thoroughly renovated my understanding of what it means to live as a Christian. In other kinds of books, I love C.S. Lewis’ fiction (and I put the more recent Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson right near it). On social issues, in the past couple of years, I was intrigued by Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, Just Mercy from Bryan Stevenson, and The Locust Effect by Gary A. Haugen.
Having young kids has also given me a list of favorite kids’ books. My favorite to read with them is the Skippyjon Jones series.
I love talking about my favorite books, and a couple of years ago, I put together a list of some of my favorites on my website as, “The Best Books for Christian Spiritual Formation” to attempt to be helpful when folks are looking for good resources for spiritual growth.
What are you reading right now?
Some that I’ve been dipping into recently include The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis, and re-reading Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia with my daughter.
What advice would offer an aspiring writer or what advice do you wish someone had given you?
As the Nouwen quote above describes, I think writing matters so much because of the unique way that it helps us access things that are going on in our souls. Therefore, my writing is primarily about my own soul-work. Writing turns into something completely different (sometimes even destructive) when that gets lost. An adapted statement from Dallas Willard hits the nail on the head: Don’t focus on finding an audience to listen to you, but on becoming the kind of person who has something to say.
Are you currently working on another writing project?
I’m in the process of applying for a PhD program, so my writing will likely have an academic focus for a while. Within that, I’m particularly looking forward to diving into the life and work of New Testament scholar M. Robert Mulholland, Jr., and the sources who influenced him (particularly Thomas Merton and John Wesley).
If you could assemble a dinner party of writers (living or dead) who would you invite and why?
Great question. If I were to limit myself to the first ten (because I can never handle large parties): the Apostle John (or whoever wrote the Gospel of John, since it’s anonymous), Howard Thurman, C.S. Lewis, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, Isabel Wilkerson, Desmond Tutu, Ruth Haley Barton, Andrew Peterson, Thomas Merton.
That’s a hard list to stop. I would add two more seats for Ignatius Loyola and Martin Luther, as it would be fun to see what would happen with the two of them at the same table.
If it were really an ideal list, I think it would be men and women from various time periods and various cultures––the only problem is that I haven’t come across some of their writings. Yet.