Grateful for His Grace

I’d shared with many people that I was going to completely fast from Facebook for lent. I wanted to replace the time I normally spend in the virtual world with face time with God. I didn’t tell people in a “hey look at me” way, but rather as a courtesy — meaning if I don’t reply to you today, it’s because I’m not online right now.

My choice wasn’t as practical as I’d originally thought. I couldn’t bring myself to allow friend requests and important messages just sit there, unanswered until April. So my full fast has been reduced to a partial fast, and that’s okay. And since I am not doing it to fulfill some law, but rather as a way to stop using the virtual world to replace what I sometimes find lacking in my real world — live human connection — I can find balance if I so choose.

I’ve spent the past week and a half, leaning deep into the heart of God, studying, praying, and writing about what I’ve learned so far. I’ve loved every minute of it. I’m actively engaged in my studies rather than passively absorbing partial truths. I’ve gone back from being at the foot of the mountain telling Moses to talk to God for me and tell me what he says to being engaged with God myself. It feels good to be fully alive again. (Challenge from a blogging friend).

What is Lent to me?  It’s a time to take time to look at the layers I’ve allowed to build up around my heart. The coats of paint, the stains, and everything else that keeps me from being alive in Christ. It’s not a legal thing, I assure you. It’s a relational thing.

This video sums it up really well. I hope you watch it.

WordPress will not allow me to embed Tangle Videos… so please click here to see it. Furnature and Spirituality.

Skywatch: Glorietta NM

These golden Aspens in Glorietta New Mexico surprised us last fall. This particular row of trees is called “Heavens Highway.” The golden foilage against the brilliant blue sky, just took our breath away.

For more  Skywatch photos, please see the Skywatch Web Sight.

I also wanted to say thank you to all who are sticking with me during my litugical studying.  I don’t always get the verbiage exactly right, and true to my relational heart, I write/talk more about feelings than I do facts. Even though I do that, please don’t for a minute think that feeling is all that makes church great. It isn’t about feeling, it’s about faith. Being fully present again in worship, continues to be a wonderful gift from God.

I’ll still write about my more humorous adventures, I promise.

Replacing Judas:Matthias the Apostle

This post is far more tongue in cheek than my theologically minded friends will probably enjoy. The intent here is not to teach you something about Matthias, but rather to hopefully encourage you to dig and learn for yourself. You’ll remember more that way. —


Congratulations Matthias! As we gather today with prayerful and humble hearts, seeking the will of God — we cast lots, and guess what, you won! You are the new apostle. Don’t let the fact that your predecessor betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver and consequently committed suicide bother you. You can only go up from there. Granted, you won’t come out of this alive. Accounts of your death will vary but know that you will be martyred; you’ll either be crucified or stoned and subsequently beheaded. What are you going to do now?

I’m guessing he didn’t go to Disney World.

Wikipedia states he went on to preach the Gospel in Judea  as well as to the barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia. — That’s a polite way of saying “Gentiles” I suppose — loosely translate – you and me folks.

Are you game?

Of course he was game. Why wouldn’t he be. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was so alive, so real, so prevalent in his life that he was willing to lay down his very own to preach the good news.

Me? I get cranky if I have to miss the newest episode of 24 to talk to a family member.

I’m being a little tongue in cheek ya’ll and I hope you aren’t offended. The facts are true — see the book of Acts for more information.

In reconnecting with liturgy this year, I wanted to look at the festivals as well. I wanted to see what we can learn from these people who went before us. We can learn a lot. And rather than do a brain dump here, I’m encouraging you to look into St Matthias yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

The Festival of St Matthias is listed as February 24 in our Lutheran Book of Worship. Some churches celebrate it, some don’t.  It’s a day of mixed feelings. We mourn over Judas’s loss. We are reminded that we too can fail and sell Jesus for pennies on the dollar. We can also rejoice in knowing that God see’s all things — and saw in the heart of Matthias and chose him to continue the call.

You don’t know who Matthias is? It’s an easy name to miss, he is afterall only mentioned briefly in the book of Acts. Look him up, learn about him. Ask questions. What does his choice (by God) teach you about Christ? Did he compare himself to Judas and puff up? Or was he more humble than I myself can be most of the time and mourn the loss while taking his call seriously.

What do you think? What would you do? Would you answer a call like that?

Written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights Reserved.

Wordless Wednesdays:Remembering my Gardens

Remembering my Gardens

I wasn’t going to garden this year seeing as I killed everything last year. But the catalogues started arriving. They had pictures and promises of daisies, flowering bushes, baskets overflowing with forget-me-nots and other sundries. I started sorting photographs for scrap booking and I came across my garden pictures. My gardens may be dead, but they were pretty while they lasted. Pray for my husband ya’ll. The gardening itch is back. I cannot wait to get out there, clean up the horticultural cemetery I call a garden, see what survived and start again.

Liturgy isn’t sterile, my notebook is…

I found myself lamenting earlier this week about how I still wasn’t getting it (see post here) regarding my present course of study and I finally figured out why. (And by not getting it, I mean not being able to explain it in a way that other people feel what I feel) I’m trying to answer a heart question, with my brain. I have many friends who do not follow a liturgical calender in their churches and do not know what Lent is or Advent or about any of the high festivals. In failing to answer their questions, I feel as if I’d been kicked in my proverbial teacher’s pride. If I can’t teach it, I don’t understand it.

I can’t give away what I don’t have.  If’ my heart isn’t in worship, than I’m only going to be able to answer questions of the heart with my brain. What I have discovered, at least for myself, is that I’m taking church – and worship – for granted. I’m not paying as close attention to the details as I did when I was younger. I get into these moods of “yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before. Tell me something new.” with church much like I can with that family member who has told the same joke for 20 years.

We can do that with everything in our lives. Take driving to work. We know the way, and at some point in the journey, we go on autopilot and don’t pay as close attention to the road as we should. We miss the scenery. We miss the sunsets and the birds, and the landscape. We think we’ve seen it all before and we focus instead on other things.

When I first joined the church back in 1993, everything was new and inspiring. “Why” was my favorite question. That is why I think my notebook is so sterile right now. When I first started studying the Bible, I didn’t just list facts in my brain, I applied them to my life. I wanted to know how this or that piece of the story can fill me and change me. What about this or that chapter brings me closer to Christ. Read the Bible a few times, and I find myself skimming over passages that I think “I know already” and I miss seeing it with fresh eyes.  It’s the same with liturgy. 

I can mentally skip through a worship service, take the seasons for granted and feel empty at the end of the day. Filling my notebook with facts in order to better answer people’s questions isn’t going to serve anyone and it definately isn’t going to bring me closer to Christ. I need to be an active participant in worship, laying down all preconcieved notions and ideas and be intentional in my focus and my attention. Only than can I truly find rest in the landscape.

That is, for me, what has been so great about this journey so far. In asking what and why again, in opening my eyes to the landscape around me, I’m become fully present in worship. I’m once again inwardly digesting truth and finding peace.

Question: What landscape in your church are you taking for granted? Are you on auto-pilot when it comes to worship? What steps do you take to refocus your attention? 

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved.

Tiger’s Confession: I’m Sorry vs I Was Wrong

Me — “Tell your brother that you’re sorry.”

Child “Sooorrryyy!”

Me – “No, say you’re sorry like you mean it!”

Eye roll.


Me “Well if you two don’t make up, I’m going to make you sit on the couch and hold hands until you forgive each other.”

— Word to the wise N-E-V-E-R do that if you have boys. I won’t go into details, let us just say, it wasn’t pretty.

Teaching my boys how to apologize and how to forgive is no easy feat. And to make matter worse they have a neurotic mother who tends to apologize for everything.

Are you having a bad day? – I’m sorry.

Did I forget to call? – I’m sorry.

Is it raining? – I’m sorry.

Do I think you are mad at me? — oh dear God, I’m-sincerely-horribly-sorry-and-I-hope-you-will-forgive-me-because-I’ve-obviously-done something-horribly-terribly-wrong-or-there-wouldn’t-be-this-tension-between-us! (DEEP BREATH) tell-me-you-forgive-me-before-I-hyperventilate-and pass-out!

I’m am a recovering apology queen. If I think for a minute that I have done something wrong, I will immediately apologize and ask for forgiveness, even for something that is the other person’s issue, just so that I do not have to suffer the uncomfortable consequences of relational tension.

There is a world of difference between “I’m sorry.” and “I was wrong.”

I was wrong to call another blogger friend an “overstuffed pig” last year. I did feel badly about that once I thought about it and had to make amends – repent, apologize, and seek forgiveness. My actions were out of line and had a negative impact on another human being. My hostility was undeserved. I began by telling him I was wrong. Why I thought I was wrong and wanted to make it right. I’d sinned, that was an appropriate action step for sin.


I was sorry that I thought I’d offended a pastor on his blog a year or so ago — sorry because I didn’t want any ill will between us, I liked him and I wanted him to like me. Just because I felt uncomfortable, doesn’t mean I did anything wrong. It’s taken me a long time to learn I don’t need to repent of having a different opinion than someone else. And if someone chooses to take offense at my different opinion that does not mean I have sinned. That’s a tough one for me. I did apologize for giving voice to my opinions and for possibly offending him and his response fascinated me –

“No sin committed, therefore no forgiveness needed nor offered.”

You’d think I’d be relieved – but what I felt was panic. I didn’t understand the grace and wisdom behind those words for a very long time. I was so freaked out by his response that it took me over a year to work up the nerve to talk to him again. True story.

In time I understood that he was right. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I wasn’t repenting for sin, I was lamenting over potential loss of good will and tried to patch it up before the boat sank. I was simply afraid. He saw through that fear and offered truth and grace. Through that example, I’ve learned how to help my own boys discern sorry from wrong and forgiveness from peace treaties.

A very good example of personal accountability, integrity, and honesty can be seen in Tiger Wood’s public apology that aired last Friday. If you haven’t seen it you can see it here:  Tiger’s very public apology

I’ve already seen the comments and posts about how “it was scripted.”, “It’s just a PR.”, “He’s a buddhist? He needs Jesus and then we’ll talk” Faith issues aside, I am quite honestly, impressed by his statement. I’m also just as impressed with what he didn’t say, as I am what he did say.

He could have blamed others:  “I had an unhappy childhood.” He could have made jokes or blamed his wife for not understanding him. Or he could have blamed the other women — “They came on to me.”

But he didn’t.

He could have also said “I’m sorry and I won’t do it again” and expected his responsibility to end right there.

Instead he did more than that.

Think what you may of him, his actions, his confession, or his faith, his confession does contain four very important elements.

  1. He named the sin – “I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was unacceptable.”
  2. He took personal responsibility: “I was wrong. I brought this on myself. I recognize I have brought this on myself. And I know above all I am the one who needs to change.”
  3. He acknowledged the impact his choices and actions had on others: “I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife’s family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me.”
  4.  He acknowledges active repentance: “My real apology to her (Elin) will not come in the form of words. It will come from my behavior over time.” And he named some of those behavioral changes that will enable him to take right action.

What I like is that Tiger seems to understand that this apology doesn’t automatically make everything okay now. He acknowledges, and owns his part and his part alone. Are there two sides or more to this story? Sure, there probably is, but he doesn’t need to be concerned with any sidewalk except his own. Tiger seems to understand this is about a life time of change that he, and his family, has to look forward to.

I have too much debris on my own sidewalk to stand as judge and jury over Tiger’s apology. It’s not my place to decide whether or not he is sincere or even whether or not I’m going to forgive him. God alone knows the heart of a man (or woman) and He calls us to forgive as we have been forgiven.

Repentance doesn’t end with I was wrong or I’m sorry, it begins there. I wish him well on his journey.

Check back tomorrow while I write about my journey back through the pages of liturgical worship, Lent, and finding Christ in the seasons.

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved.

I’m Still Not Getting it

In light of what I consider to be the worst book review ever, I made a decision to really study liturgy this year. I loved the book, but cannot verbalize why. I felt so lost after reading it that I almost sent it back to Thomas Nelson with a letter of apology stating excellent book, but I’m not smart enough to review it, I’m sorry. But I didn’t. The book changed something. The book awakened a desire within my spirit to want to know more. And for that reason alone, I gave the book five stars. And I stand by that review.

If I could capture my emotions on a canvas this book would be filled with deep greens, blues, and violet. It wouldn’t pop like modern art, rather I would have it  flow with depth and substance. It would have texture, high places and low places where you can put your hands and feel the landscape. It would be much like Raphael or Botticelli paintings where the entire story could not be conveyed at first glance. There would be hidden subtleties that only come out with contemplative attention to it’s detail.

Modern art has it’s own beauty, don’t get me wrong. The painting I’m trying to give voice to is simply a different kind of beauty.

I am lost in this sea of the political debates over “right worship”, Liturgy vs. Contemporary, and a concept of a liturgical life that resonates within my spirit. I haven’t found my landing point. It’s as if I think it has to be one side or the other. You are either pro liturgy or you are pro contemporary services and one cannot stand on both sides of the fence. And to make it more interesting, the debate goes deeper than that. Within liturgical circles you have the debate over ancient liturgy vs. modern. There is no reprieve from the arguments.

I don’t get the personal peace that Sister Chittister is talking about from a church life that is 100% contemporary. There are too many distractions and I feel disjointed if I stay in that world for too long. That life is lacking or missing key components of a contemplative life. The sacraments of communion feel empty and void of substance and more of a representation than real presence without that contemplation and repentant stillness before God that a liturgical life or service provides. At least for me.

And yet, it’s occurred to me today, that maybe I’m still not getting it. The object of my studies is still a thing and not a person. I’m missing the connection as much today as I was when I read Joan’s book. My liturgical notebook is cleanly organized by church season, color, and festivals. Full of facts waiting for meaning. It’s too neat, too sterile. It’s missing something. The notebook  and the journey isn’t finished yet.

Am I looking for a peace that passes all understanding from the things of liturgy rather than the person of Christ?

Have I traveled back to the young woman who railed against our new sanctuary that had only an empty cross and no pictures of my king? Or am I again the young woman who upon entering a Lutheran church for the first time, whispers (too loudly) to her then boy friend “Why is the cross naked?” making my there-for-moral-support girlfriend fall off her pew?

I don’t know. But I do know that this is the season of Lent. A season to lay down the things that get in the way and keep him from drawing us closer. Much like earthly marriage, I have a lot to learn about my heavenly groom. Maybe the trick for me is to stop trying to think quite so much — and simply be in the journey.

I See Dead People, and other church funnies

“I had a receptionist job once. Man was it tough. I got yelled at, had things thrown at me, I was lied to, lied about, hit on and called names — yeah, last time I ever work in a church.”

Do you know that joke get’s high laughs. Not just a polite chuckle, but high sustained laughter. Are people laughing because they are shocked, or because they can relate? Church workers have it rough.

It’s often said that great humor is born from tragedy. And there is truth in that.  I poke fun at a lot of things that did not start out as funny becauseI choose to find the funny through the tears. Like my funeral story — pastor has a funeral on Friday, Wedding on Saturday and Sunday service. That’s three services and three sermons. Friday morning pastor gives me his funeral sermon and asks me to put it on the pulpit for him. I start to read it and realize he may have given me the wrong sermon so I go back to his office. I try to tell him it’s the wrong sermon and he tells me it isn’t and to do what he asked. Walking away I mutter “alright, but I don’t think the Browns are going to be happy when you open Mom’s funeral with I see Dead People. Just sayin”  — I promptly received the correct sermon for the funeral and no one was the wiser. Funerals might not necessarily be funny — but that story is.

Pastor started his Sunday Sermon with a quote from the movie The 6th Sense. “I see dead people. They just don’t know they are dead yet.” I’m really glad that one didn’t make it to the pulpit for the funeral, that would not have been good. His sermon verse was Matthew 23:27-28  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Many of us walk around as part of the living dead. Including ministry workers.  We either kill ourselves with overwork or get killed by flying arrows so to speak,  either way we keep standing up until we fall down.

I rarely write about that season. I’d rather write about this season. I’d rather write about the fruit I’m living in now than the saddness I lived through then. But maybe that’s not the right approach.

I read and hear so many stories about broken ministry leaders. There are so many people walking around with severed limbs, bleeding profusingly on everthing they come in contact with. The burnout rate for ministry leaders is higher than any other field. We should talk about it.

Are you a ministry leader? Have you ever been burnt out? What did you do?

Written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. February 10,2010