Thoughts on an Examined Life.. Learning how to tell your story.


“How do you live an authentic life without being so transparent that your story speaks louder than God’s?”

That was a question our team at Ablaze asked last night. We talked about it for quite a while and came back with some excellent thoughts that I want to share with you this week.

I don’t begin to claim that I have all the answers, because I don’t. What’s cool is, I’m still learning like everyone else. While I do tend to share on a more personally transparent level than some people are used to, I’m also learning how to keep the private stuff – well… Private. Otherwise I run the risk of glamorizing sin, inflating myself, or tempting comparison – “Wow she did that? I must not be so bad.” Or worse “That’s all she did. Now I know there is no way God is going to forgive me.”

I don’t ever want my story – to block out His. I am His story – I’m His creation – He has taken my life and created a new thing. That’s what I want people to see. That’s what we all want people to see – His story, not ours. That is why we asked the question we did.

Have Microphone: Will Tattle

I started speaking when I was 15. A family member had gotten sober three years earlier and people wanted to hear from me. They wanted to listen to a story about growing up in alcoholism. They wanted hope – but that’s not where I started.

Learning how to tell God’s story and not mine or theirs, is not the easiest line to walk. It takes practice. It takes time. It takes learning how to live an examined life. These stages can be true for someone in a recovery program or even for someone learning how to share their Christian testimony. I’ve seen it on both sides

There’s a progression from extreme privacy and secrets to authentic transparency. The kind of transparency that reveals God more than it does our underwear takes time to learn how to develop.


Some people catch on quickly, others not so much. When we first learn to tell our stories, we can sometimes begin by being emotionally bulimic. We talk about “them” in Technicolor detail. We talk about those horrible people who hurt us, who damaged us, who victimized us. Oh yes, for years no one listened, and now we have a captive audience. People who will just know how wonderful we truly are once they understand everything “they” put us through. (Super gluing wrist to forehead for effect.) Still blind to our own shortcomings (sins) we can be very harsh and judgmental at this stage.

 I Wanna Talk About Me

After a while, as we start examining our own lives with the help and guidance of others, we begin to see our story emerge. As we begin to take the focus off of them and put it back on ourselves, we learn how to tell our story. Our part in this thing called life. I don’t suggest speaking during this stage of recovery, or growth in Christ. The reason being, we can get stuck in the drama of the past, the hurts, the self-recrimination and shame. We turn the podium into some kind of confessional, laying all of our sins at the feet of those who came to witness. We’re still being bulimic – emotionally vomiting over the audience, using that time to show the world how messed up we really think we are. Telling my story too soon – can be detrimental, if it’s not sifted through God’s love and Grace.

I’ll write more this week about things we thought of. until then, please let me know your thoughts. Have you ever listened to a speaker in one of these two stages? What were your thoughts? How did it make you feel? Please leave a comment and let me know.




Ministering at Ablaze Tonight

Tonight is the night that Jeff and I get to lead our monthly leadership study for the team at Ablaze Church. We meet the last Sunday of every month at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Tulsa. We meet there because Ablaze doesn’t have a permanent home yet.

We love doing this. Leading this study together. Not because we have all the answers. We don’t. But because we get to come together as a team and search the scriptures. We are all fellow sojourners on this road we’ve been called to travel. We are a community of believers, put together by God – for such a time as this. We have eachother’s back – and God keeps ours.

Tonight’s Topic? – Protecting the Leader’s Heart from the book Leadership From the Inside Out. We’ve added our own personality and gifts to the class – but it’s still mostly this book.

  1.  A heart that Loves
  2. A  heart that forgives
  3. A  heart for the lost

1 Corinthians 13 – The Way of Love – from

The Way of Love

 1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have(A) prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith,(B) so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3(C) If I give away all I have, and(D) if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

 4(E) Love is patient and(F) kind; love(G) does not envy or boast; it(H) is not arrogant 5or rude. It(I) does not insist on its own way; it(J) is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6it(K) does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but(L) rejoices with the truth. 7(M) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,(N) endures all things.

 8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For(O) we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but(P) when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For(Q) now we see in a mirror dimly, but(R) then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as(S) I have been fully known.

 13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I can’t wait.

Called on account of snow.

march 28 snowWe had to call our Ablaze services tonight. That was hard. I hate canceling church. Pastor and Jeff both drove around – separately – to test the roads and check on the conditions.  Roads in Tulsa are really bad. Broken Arrow is okay, but once we get off the main roads, it’s ice and slush. Tulsa closes when it snows even a little.

This winter storm, in Spring, isn’t a ‘little snow.’ I have almost six inches in my yard and the temperatures are hovering right at freezing and are expected to drop after dark.  Ablaze meets in North East Broken Arrow. The side roads are not well traveled. As much as we hate to cancel church services, it’s the right call for everyone.

Even Acquire the Fire is letting out three hours early. That’s where my youngest son is today. It will be interesting picking him up at six or so.

Ablaze will meet at Liberty Elementary next Saturday for our quarterly pot luck. Everything we had planned for tonight, will be next week.

As for me, I’ll be hunkered down inside my home, with my family, enjoying the fireplace, hot cocoa and folding laundry.

Stay safe and be blessed.


She Who Laughs, Lasts

I pretty much have a party going on in my head 24/7. It comes with being ADHD. There are 20 some odd TV stations all running at the same time and my brain bounces back and forth between them a lot. Sometimes I tune into one long enough to actually say the most ridiculous things out loud. I’ve learned that some things just sound funnier in my head and really need to stay there. Knowing that, however, does not always keep me from sharing my party with others.

Ever have that happen?You think up a quick retort, and upon hearing it hit the air realize it really isn’t that funny after all? It turns into a private joke that nobody gets but you.

Happens to me a lot.

Take today for instance. Most of my Twitter friends are into running. I am not. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I just usually lose lunch long before I lose calories. Add that to the fact that I have one trick knee and one bad ankle, I’m not allowed to run anymore. Really. I even have a doctor’s note.

My knee is the result of a church baseball injury (blew out my ACL), the ankle came from falling off my house when I was eight. (I was a climber as a kiddo.)

I’ve had surgery to fix both injuries, but my ankle is now beyond repair. Technically, I need a metal brace to keep my ankle straight. Realistically. I refuse to wear any such device at 43. I have a hidden prosthetic insert instead. I hide it by wearing boots or tennis shoes. The days of beautiful Prada heels are far behind me.

So, my tweet peeps like to twitter about running. Bless their athletic little hearts.  Usually I leave those alone. Until today. Someone was listening to “Born to Run” while running this AM saying it was his favorite running song and wanted to know what ours was.

It wasn’t a rhetorical question. He wanted to know. I suppose one should actually be a runner before offering some smart alec remark, but that did not stop me today. Feeling ornery, I replied “C is for Cookie.” And as is the norm for those share-my-party days – they politely ignored that comment.

Yep – that sounded much funnier in my head. Good thing I can laugh at myself even if no one else does.

The Hunt is On

d20_1047I’ve been privey to some awesome converstations lately. Ablaze is doing another Easter Egg Hunt this year. I was a little surprised to hear that because, honestly, I’m not over last year.

But we’re doing it. This year, it’s all outside. No stage and no band. Our friends from the police station will be there in uniform to help with image and security if needed. We have 15,000 plastic eggs and 30,000 pieces of candy plus two ipod nano’s and four bikes to give away. Baskets are being filled for prizes.

Steve is helping design the new t-shirts and Kaiapo will be screenprinting them at her college.

We are having a pot luck dinner this Saturday night and we’ll be stuffing eggs together as a church. All 50 of us. We are also having four new people baptized that night – what a celebration that will be. I’m excited.

50 people – putting on a community egg hunt that brings in 1,500 people.

I feel like Gideon.

Have you ever taken on a task in which you knew you were outnumbered? You knew your resources did not match the demand, and yet it worked out?

I want to hear from you. Would you tell me about it?


NOTE: Chris Taylor – our drummer and Web Guru – is working hard to get our new and improved web page up. You can see it at Ablaze Church.  The Joomla text is still there – but he should have it all finished within a week or so. I think he’s doing a great job. Once it is finished all ministry leaders will be given their own section to keep updated. Blogging – will be an essential. 😉 Now if only I could get them on Twitter and Facebook.

Guest Blogger – Charlie O’Hara

Charlie wrote this introduction for his senior year scrapbook and I asked his permission to publish this here. Charlie dreams of being a writer and is leaving for college in the fall. I also think he has some level of comic in him, but that will be determined later.He’s a very engaging writer. I think he’ll do well in college. So, I’d like you to meet our oldest son, Charlie.  

charlieWritten by: Charlie O’Hara – 2009

 Hello, readers! Allow me to introduce myself. I am Charles O’Hara, senior in in high school, resident of Oklahoma, and currently 15 years sober* (mom’s explanation follows later) … Moving on. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably wondering one thing: Who am I? Well, you’re in luck, because I’m here to answer that exact question. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Now, in my opinion, there’s no better way to accurately describe myself than to start from the very beginning. Unfortunately, that’s apparently not allowed, so I’ll just start by talking about my life in its current, unaltered and somewhat stable condition. As I mentioned earlier, I currently live in Oklahoma with my family. My parents’ names are Jeff and Deana O’Hara, and I have a 15-year old brother named Dillon. I’d like to say it’s a pretty quiet life, but if you’ve met my brother for even a minute, you’d know I was lying.

 As I also mentioned earlier, I am currently experiencing my final year of high school. After this, it’s off to college. I just know the time is going to fly by, so I plan on using this year to the fullest. I will be determined! I WON’T GIVE IN! THEY CAN’T LET ME!!! Ahem… Sorry, got a little carried away. Anyway, I go to Our Savior Lutheran Church every Sunday (usually). I also go to an event called Ablaze Live Church every Saturday at Liberty Elementary. It’s a contemporary worship service that is also sponsored by a movement that is trying to establish more churches in the Midwestern U.S. It’s an awesome place to worship on Saturdays. What? No, I’m not using this as an excuse to advertise. What would make you think that?

(4300 S 209th East Ave, Broken Arrow, OK, every Saturday night @ 7:00. Be there!)

Ahem… So, what’s next? Oh, yes! The neighborhood. Well, there’s been a bit of drama around my neighborhood recently. I was not extremely social around the people in my block, so I’m not too involved with the sitcom feuds between the families. So, here’s the situation in an eggshell. Two of the families were in a bit of a feud that started over their basketball nets, both of which had been badly damaged (there was probably more to it, but that was what started it). Things have calmed down a bit since then, and both families have a new net, though there are now some strict rules about playing with them.



 Now, I think I’ll describe my family for a brief moment. My parents are both actively involved in the Ablaze movement. As a matter of fact, my dad’s the lead singer and guitarist for Zion’s Fire, which is the band that usually plays at Liberty on Saturdays. As most of you know, I also have a 15-year old brother named Dillon. He’s currently in 9th grade. All I can say about him is… well, it’s never a dull day when he’s around.

Okay, checklist. Home? Check! Church? Check! Neighborhood? Check! School? Big check! …Etc. Hm. Well, I’m a member of the Varsity soccer team for WCA. I’ve finished two stories in my “Holiday Detective” series. I like video games, I’m 18 years old, I have a Driver’s License, I type 65 wpm, I have a MySpace and a Facebook, I’m 5’ 9”, 145 lbs, and I have an alter ego! …Huh. I think that’s it. So for now, this is Inspector Charles O’Hara, Private Eye, Holiday Detective signing off.

* The Baby-Sitter Story

It’s late, we arrive home from our first date night in well over a year to hear our babysitter tell us, “I think we got your kid drunk, we are so sorry.”

 Those are not words, parents want to hear and those are indeed words that need an explanation, especially when your kids are only one and three at the time.

 Jeff’s boss and his new wife were considering having children and wanted to baby-sit for us. Charlie was three and Dillon was one and a half. We thought to ourselves “Hey a night out. cool!” and let them baby-sit. We had not been out by ourselves since our youngest was born.

 Desperation can definitely lead to lack of judgment.

 Unaware of how quick little ones are, our want to be parents some day baby sitters, set out chips, salsa and Coronas to snack on (for themselves.) Charlie walked over to the table, grabbed a chip, dipped it into the very hot salsa and ate it. Shocked at the heat, he looked for something to drink.

He found the Corona’s and before our babysitters could reach him, he was vertical with it. They are guessing he downed about half of the bottle before they were able to grab it.

 Thanks for the intro Charlie – I’m looking forward to more guest appearances on my blog.

Church was great yesterday

I almost didn’t make it to church.  Our whole family stayed up until after midnight, and this aging lady should know better. There was a moment early in the morning, where I considered skipping out on my own Sunday School Class. I’m the leader, that would have been bad.

I’m glad I made it.

We are studying Seven Celebrations for the Soul (Kathy Troccoli) – and the lesson was on Refill and Refuel. Primary we focused on the things we substitute for Jesus – fillers really.  While talking about that, we pondered Barabbas and how things must of have seemed from his point of view. Sitting there in the prison, within ear shot of the angry mob. “Give us Barabbas!” they cried. 

What was the next thing he heard?

“Crucify him!” , “Crucify him!”

Did he have any idea – he was about to be set free? Do I?

Do you?

Barabbus probably thought they were calling him out for a death sentance, instead of freedom. I would have. 

I still can.

John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

It isn’t a death sentance – it’s an invitation to live.

Welcome Home

March has definately been a month for traveling. First Jeff leaves for a week in Florida, and then I am in Nashville Tennessee. I came home in time for Spring break and have been blessed to have time with my family this whole week. My boys and I, spending time hanging around the house watching scary movies, working in the yard, or just making cookies. It’s been different this week. In a good way really.

I can remember when I’d send my boys to camp. How different, and more grown up they would seem when they came home.

I feel different today. I feel like I’ve been to camp. I even feel a little more grown up. I know more about myself than I did just a week ago. I know more about God.

It’s strange. Both of us traveling. We aren’t used to it. Jeff isn’t. I’m not. And yet here we are, following God individually and together.

Our family is growing. My boys are changing. I’m changing. I’m still Mom. But I’m not Mom in the sense I was when they were younger. Our relationship is evolving into something more. And something less at the same time. It’s almost bittersweet in that regard.

They don’t need me like they used to.

And yet, they need me more.

They need a Mom who is a person as well as “Mom.”  A mom who follows God where – ever he takes her. Knowing that she will always come back home.

I’ll always be Jeff’s wife, Charlie and Dillon’s Mom.  I haven’t always been Deana. Not until recently anyway. Finding her is fun.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot.

Have you ever said something you thought was really stupid, expected the worst and received grace instead? I have. I’ve also received the worst when that happens too. Human grace, can be inconsistent. The impulsiveness that comes with being an ADD Redhead, is sometimes a blessing, and sometimes, not. There are days when I really wish the filter between my brain and my mouth worked better. There are also days where I wish I could simply relax and not worry so much about stuff like that.

My husband has a catch phrase for those foot in mouth moments, “This moment brought to you by Attention Deficit Disorder.” and we have learned to laugh them off. I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older. I am however still human and when I go on rabbit trails, I like to take people with me for the ride sometimes.

There are people who cannot handle that. And you know, I’m learning how to accept that about them and find different people to hang with. I prefer to surround myself with Grace-Filled people today. I also try to model grace to others as much as possible. In part because I need a lot of grace at times, and in large part, because I’ve noticed that Grace is decidedly lacking in this world. Everyone needs people in their lives who love them unconditionally. People who celebrate our differences and embrace us, rabbit trails and all. I need people like that, and you need people like that.

I was a Rotary International Exchange Student when I was 16. During my year in Sweden we went to the Nobel Awards and was granted an audience with the king. I’d never met a really live king before and I was excited. I imagined that he would be like every fairy tale that I’d ever read. My host family spent weeks preparing me for the event. I had lessons on poise and etiquette, had my hair done, bought new clothes – the whole package. The day finally arrived and we all were a bundle of excitement and nerves. We could not wait to meet this King.

Our group of teenagers formed a circle in the grand palace waiting for his entrance. The rules ran through my head. Don’t make eye contact, bow low, speak only when spoken to and address him only as your grace. A man entered the room, surrounded by security. Looking at him I noticed that he didn’t really look anything like what I’d read about in the books. He wasn’t tall and statuesque. There really wasn’t anything remarkable about him that would set him apart from other men. He looked (gasp) NORMAL. I couldn’t get over it.

By the time he made it to me, my nerves got the best of me, and I forgot every rule I had been told. I made eye-contact, forgot to bow, and instead of waiting to be spoken to and responding with your Grace, I stuck my hand out to shake his and said “Hi, I’m Deana. Wow, you’re shorter than I thought you’d be.” (Open Mouth, insert foot.)

True story – my questionable remark silenced the room and all eyes were on him. Everyone was looking at the King to see how they should react. I was mortified. I suddenly remembered the rules and bowed down as low as I could, hoping he wouldn’t cut off my head or anything.

And then I heard it. The sound of unmerited Grace,laughter. The King was laughing. I felt the hand of Grace while he reached out, took my hand and pulled me back up to a standing position. His eyes were dancing. I hadn’t offended him at all. I’d amused him. I was safe and I was relieved.

Grace, in human form is an awesome gift. When we extend grace to others, we model God’s grace. And while the level of grace I model isn’t always in top form and is very contingent on my mood or day, God’s Grace is eternal and for that, I am grateful.

I’d love to hear from you – can you share with me a time where you tripped up, expected the worst, but received Grace instead.

Copyright: Deana O’Hara, Redemption’s Heart. 2009.