Coulda Woulda Shoulda Take Two

ImageFor those who tried to click on this yesterday, I do apologize. A technical glitch (ie. ID10T error) caused this post to temporarily post prematurely.

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Nothing quite says “good morning” like walking outside and realizing your car has been stolen and nothing quite makes finding the car bittersweet like discovering that the thief kept all of your electronics.

Granted the whole issue is 90% my fault. If I hadn’t decided to unpack my car in the morning because I was “tired” from a road trip, I’d still have my camera, IPad, and laptop. Lesson learned.

And I’d still have my video footage of my comedy as well as the boys high school graduations if I’d backed my camera up to more than just my laptop. But I didn’t.

Oh well.

Coulda woulda shoulda does nothing for how I feel about the whole situation though. Truth is, I feel violated.

Feeling violated is a perfectly normal response. Staying stuck in that feeling however, is not.

Even though I wrote a rather funny comedy bit about how the police officer didn’t believe my car was actually stolen and even though I got to tell my bit on a nationally syndicated radio show (Thank you Daren Streblow for that wonderful chance), it was months before I could tell that bit without my voice shaking.

I kept telling myself “It’s just stuff, no big deal. At least we got my car back” but I didn’t really believe it.

My “stuff” – my tapes, my stories, my photos, were stolen in July 2013. It is now March 2014 and only now have I saved up enough money to replace my lap top and my camera. I even took that as forgive me for this “a sign from God” that maybe I shouldn’t do comedy ever again.

I mean let’s face it, all proof that I’d ever done comedy was now gone.

We let fear get the best of us during the in between stage of theft and recovery. I live in Fort Knox. I no longer keep my front door unlocked. I keep lights on in my house, I leave nothing in my car and I don’t go anywhere alone.

I really needed to take back my peace of mind. I made the decision to replace what was stolen once and for all.

This is my first post on my new laptop. This is me telling whomever stole my stuff that you can’t steal my heart.

Honestly, I could have probably found a way to replace it sooner, but I think I was punishing myself for allowing it to be stolen in the first place and put it off.

I convinced myself that my $299 Samsung tablet was good enough. It wasn’t. Not for what I do anyway.

I write.

I do stand up comedy.

I take amazing photographs.

I love sitting on my back porch, writing in the sunshine.

I’m doing that today.

I win.

Question for you dear readers. Have you ever had anything stolen? How did you deal with it?

Robert Downey Jr is a Class Act All the Way Around and I’m a Puddle of Tears

I’ll be honest, when my friend shared this video (via his blog – Save a Cactus Hugger) with me last week, I sat down and cried.

I didn’t cry because I’m such a fan of these two men. I am (and you my readers know that, probably ad nauseum I’m sure.) but that’s not the point. I think this video shows courage, and great humility. Robert Downey Jr has proven himself to be a class act all the way around.

I’m not sure why it made me cry really. My reaction was so strong emotionally that I’m forced to look at it and find out. Yeah me, another Fantastic Growth Opportunity. (AFGO as my friend calls it) – I know that I’ve had many periods in my life where I’ve been overcome with a severe case of dumb-butt and have needed to face that in myself. And while I’ve been blacklisted for serious infractions like admitting I’m a more of a Ben and Jerry’s Fan than a Dairy Queen Gal, I have fortunately been spared the limelight of these two men’s lives.

Not that I haven’t necessarily done worse.

I just never got caught. Or if I did, it never made the nightly news or cover of People Magazine.

Maybe I cried because I’m one of those women who loves alcoholics to death — literally sometimes. (To point, if our eyes meet across a crowded room and my heart starts doing 280, chances are pretty good they either have a flask in their pocket or a criminal record. Which is in all honesty how I landed up in a 12 step room to begin with. I was raised to believe that I am personally responsible for other people’s bologna and it took a few years to let go of that responsibility, one clutched controlling finger at a time.)

Maybe I cried out of self pity? I have several alcoholics in my life who have yet to accomplish (on a personal level) what I witnessed here.

Maybe I cried because I know so many who left the room before reaching this place of hope and real forgiveness.

Or maybe I cried because I’ve been around 12 step rooms for so long and I honesty wish church were more like this and it isn’t always.

No matter, I love the video and believe that Robert’s actions show great class, love, and humility – not to mention courage and so do Mel’s. These men are a great example of true friendship — we should all be so blessed.

Making Peace With my Inner Child Again

My inner child has been screaming at me all summer. Have you ever been there? Every once in a while she needs positive attention and words of love and forgiveness and acceptance. – Think The Ring only far less creepy. She will not leave me alone until I listen to her. If I don’t listen to her, she’ll act out.

I went to Nashville in June with a few of my comic friends.  Christian comics from all over the country converged on a small church for three days where we loved on each other, laughed and cried with each other and helped each other as best we could. Several of us wish we were still there. Re-entry into the real world was a little rough.

One night, a group of us were sitting around the table talking about using humor to help convey certain truths.  We also spoke about the importance of telling the truth. That caused a few people to shrink in their chairs. Yours truly included. Being the new kid on the block, I assure you that did not go unnoticed.

“Tell me one thing you’ve done in your life that you don’t want me to know.”

HELL TO THE NO! I’m here to tell jokes, not play truth or dare.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, if I want to throw people off the scent of my personal fear and shame, I throw them the Johnny Cole bone.. “I went to a concert when I was 21. We stalked the band and beat them back to their hotel. I met Johnny and he invited me to the after party. It’s okay though because I didn’t go. Huey spotted me and sent me home because he didn’t believe I was over 18.” The end.

Nothing wakes up my inner child like being lied about. She wanted to know why I didn’t answer his question honestly. I don’t care who knows about Johnny, I do care who knows about Plano and she knows that.

Now, I’m a Christian. We’re supposed to believe that our past has been forgiven and redeemed of God. I have no reason to shrink down, blush, or look at the ground. Right?

We should believe that. We should be able to hold our heads up and not be afraid or filled with shame. And usually we are until something reminds us of that one story —

You know the one I mean.

The one that if anyone found out I’d die a thousand deaths because I just know that I’ll be abandoned, branded, and left for dead by the side of the road.

THAT story.

I have one of those.

Or two or three.

Mostly the one though.

Having been in a 12 step program before I have shared my life story all over the United States. And I’ve never told this one – to anyone ever. Which is a problem really. Things fester in the dark. It’s getting moldy and stinks to high heaven.

Which is probably why that one story has come back to me time and time again all summer.

Being as I can’t shake it and since I have menopause induced insomnia, I’ve been writing about it all summer. My journal begins with

“The statute of limitations on my personal rights to be a dumb a$$ expired the night I found myself….”

Thought I was gonna tell you, didn’t you?

Nope.

I’m not going to tell you, because you have your stories and if you see mine, you’ll weigh it and decide – for better or worse – how yours matches up. I don’t want you to do that. I want you to own your own stories and learn how to release them as well.

I will admit there is just something about getting it down on black and white that takes the power out of the sting. I had to do some grieving and some owning up to my part. This is a 23-year-old secret. That is a looong time to be buried. I needed to let the woman I used to be cry and heal.

I’ve already talked to God about it and He’s already forgiven it. The problem is, I haven’t forgiven myself so I added a letter to that young girl and mothered her like I wish someone had mothered me then. I gave her permission to be human, to make bad choices and good choices (she did the right thing in the end) and I gave her permission to forgive herself because the woman I am today forgives her.

Forgiving her has been wonderful and for some reason my menopause induced insomnia is gone.

HMMMM

This weekend we are at our cabin. Hopefully fishing and jamming out on the guitar and banjo. If the burn ban is lifted, I’ll be placing that journal in a kettle and burning it. My last step in letting it go. Hopefully now I can get back to the fun stuff of writing jokes.

Have a great weekend you guys.

Medusa Face and Jesus Juking. What a day.

“Do you know what  a Jesus Juke is? What you just did — followed by a link .” –

I didn’t know what that was, until one man trusted me with truth. – I appreciate him tonight.

My weekend started out simple enough really. Other than recovering from the flu, I was doing rather well. Until Medusa showed up that is. (medusa is my name for my other self, she’s kinda hateful and full if bite)

I got dumped on pure and simple. A simple conversation turned ugly with an onslaught of scripture verses, accusations, rebukes, and a rather clear insinuation that perhaps I wasn’t really a Christian after all. I did nothing. I just let her rant and moved on and let her exhaust herself. I never once told her the truth about how her actions were impacting me.

In retrospect, I believe I am a tad too proud on how I handled that. Meaning, I didn’t tell her to shove it. Which is really what I wanted to say, but that would have messed with my halo and heaven forbid I mess with that because I’ve got that whole good girl lie groove thing going on.

Nope. I was kind to her.

Unfortunately, I took all that pent-up unkindness and dumped my bullshit onto someone else’s shoulders.

I was very passive aggressive about it, trust me. I didn’t want to seem like I was juking him. but that is exactly what I was doing. Stuff runs downhill and all that jazz.

He posted a scripture verse on Twitter about hating those who cling to idols and his faith is in the Lord, yep I’m a hater – kinda quote – not a bad quote actually if taken entirely in context of say the rest of his posts. I posted back a scripture verse about how we are called to love and that if you claim to love God but hate your brother you are walking in darkness. Nothing more. Just the verse.

I sure know how to make a great first impression.

Have I told you yet that he doesn’t know me?

Never met.

I apparently know how to piss him off as well. Granted, I would be upset if someone did that to me.  Oh that’s right. Someone did do that to me and I passed it on to him. Lucky man.

He replied directly to me as soon as he saw it, which was several hours later, telling me I’d juked him and even sent the link to explain exactly how I sinned against him. Then wondered how he could be such a magnet for self righteous whack jobs.

Ouch.

This first thing I did when he pointed out my actions was admit to myself that I wronged him. Then I admitted it to God. After that and only after that did I admit to this man that yes, he was correct my actions were out of line. I immediately apologized – publicly since I insulted him publicly and promptly removed my original remark as an act of repentance.

Honestly, he didn’t have to respond. He could have simply ignored it and I would have missed out on a great growth opportunity. Not that I necessarily like this kind of growth opportunity. Still. There is a scripture verse about how an enemy will kiss you with lies, and a friend with rip your heart out with truth or something like that. I know it, it’s just eluding me right now.

While I’m embarrassed by the response, I’m more embarrassed that I actually did that whole I’m holier than thou here’s my scripture verse to prove it garbage. I try not to do that, and sometimes I fail.

The point in life is not to avoid failing – although it would be splendid if I could. Leading a grown up life means owning it when you fail and asking for forgiveness.

He did me a real favor. He trusted me with truth. I actually appreciate that.

This is the link he sent me, written by Jon Acuff  explain what Jesus Juking (Click the link if you’d like) WHAT IS JESUS JUKING ANYWAY? Totally worth reading.

My question to you dear readers, has anyone ever trusted you enough with the truth when you were showing your medusa-esque self? How did you respond?

Oh I forgive you, but I’m still going to make you pay.

Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor in television, Marghanita Laski, one of our best-known secular humanists and novelists, said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.”

John Stott in The Contemporary Christian.

You’ve blown it and you know it. Rather than deny it, you suck up your pride and apologize. Being forgiven feels wonderful (see Can you Give Me Three Days?), but what happens when they choose not to forgive you? Do you fall apart, jump through impossible hoops, or do you just walk away?

It is impossible to make someone forgive me and I hate that. I like to think that I am basically a nice person and that most people like me. And yet, we all have people in our lives who cannot, for whatever reason, forgive even the slightest of hurts even after we’ve apologized and made ammends. Or perhaps, they say they’ve forgiven , but oh are they gonna make you pay.

While I know that forgiveness is not an entitlement or a right, I do believe that being willing to forgive comes with healthy relationships.

I live in the same fallen world as the rest of you and not all of my relationships are healthy. I have choices as how to respond in light of this. I can either:

1. become a neurotic insecure people-pleaser, crushed by failure in the face of unforgiveness. I know this world well.

OR

2. I can accept who I am in Christ, know that God is in charge of everything, including my dysfunctional relationships and allow His Grace to carry me through.

I spend a lot of time in both camps. Learning how to stay in Camp 2, takes time, practice, patience, and lots of prayer.

Like it or not, there are people in this world who would rather set them selves on fire over my sins (real or imagined) and hope I die from smoke inhalation than forgive me. It doesn’t matter how many flaming hoops I jump through, or how deep the eggshells I walk on are, I can still feel the undercurrent.

I’m not a strong relational swimmer and under currents can pull me under more quickly than you can say…

                               well…..

                                             anything really.

It is difficult to show love in the face of being unforgiven;  anger brews just beneath the surface, snarky remarks and lit arrows flow freely and there are not eggshells big enough to walk on to keep the tinderbox from igniting. Fortunately love is a verb and not a noun. It is not my responsibility to make sure the other person forgives me or receives loving actions well, it is only my responsibility to make amends carry them out.

Maybe you have people like that in your life, or maybe you are that unwilling to forgive person. Either way, unforgiveness is an invisible weight that bares down on the soul and suffocates hope.  Unforgiven might make for a good Clint Eastwood movie, but it doesn’t cut it in real life.

Unforgiving people suffer from all kinds of spiritual maladies such as depression, anger, fear, insecurity, isolation, and  loneliness to name a few.  An unforgiving spirit almost feels entitled to punish those who’ve wounded them in the past by either withholding relationship, or by constantly reminding them of past mistakes. I know because for a long time, I was such a person. Unforgiveness is based in selfishness and pride.

Now I’m not talking about major screw ups here, although I’ve been guilty of those myself and yes, even those can be forgiven. Rather I’m referring to the lifetime of mis-steps, misunderstandings, and oversights that add up and take their toll when someone allows those events to take precedent in their mind.

It isn’t the little things that kill relationships, it’s the unwillingness to let them go.

An unforgiving person will ask me, “How do I know you won’t hurt me again?”

The unfortunate, yet honest, answer is, “You don’t and truthfully, I probably will. I’m not perfect.”

It really boils down to choices you know.

  • We choose to love.
  • We choose to be in relationship
  • We choose to forgive.

So what do you do when you are in a relationship with someone who chooses not to forgive past hurts? Do you choose to love them anyway or move on? I think it depends on the relationship and it depends on you. —

Three things I like to remember:

1. It is not about me. – It is impossible to live up to the unrealistic expectations of others, and being imperfect people we will inevitably have a bad day and let each other down. Healthy relationships involve telling each other the truth, facing problems head on, confessing our shortcomings and forgiving each other without keeping score.

I have no idea what has happened to the other person to create such a lifetime of hurt. Only Christ can fill that void and heal that hurt.

2. Unforgiven does not equal unforgivable – I have a book I like to read and it states, “As God’s people we stand on our feet; we don’t crawl before anyone.” — I am God’s child and my past is in his hands and no one else’s. Jesus Christ came to die for my sins. I am cleansed by his blood and set free from the past through his sacrifice. When I place my self-worth on a human beings ability – or lack thereof to forgive me, I place them on a higher plane than God.

3. The bells tolls for them not me, it’s okay to drop the rope. – Corrie ten Boom told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest. “His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor,” Corrie wrote, “to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks.” “Up in the church tower,” he said, nodding out the window, “is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.” “And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force — which was my willingness in the matter — had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts.” (source: http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/f/forgiveness.htm)

Just because we have someone in our life who insists on pulling that rope and ringing our bell, it doesn’t mean we have to answer it, we can drop the rope. We can choose to detach with love, forgive them, and surrender them to Christ. Only then can we be free.

Being unforgiven by others does not mean I am unforgiven by God, nor does it mean that I can be unforgiving.  Beth Moore has a great teaching on this very subject on Life Today. For more information on Living a Forgiving Life — You can see Beth Moore on Life Today at: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JB99CMNU and Part 2 at: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JBE0MJNU

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. July 30, 2011. All rights reserved.

Can you give me three days?

It is really difficult to make eye contact with someone when I’m feeling shame over a past event.  Even when I have reconciled with whomever, the very memory of what I said, or did, can come flooding back in an instant and render me helpless.

I hate moments like that. 

Being forgiven by someone feels strange at times. 

Have you ever been there?

Someone told me recently that it’s as if God doesn’t allow us to forget our transgressions, that way we never repeat them. But that does not line up with the God I know and worship. Nor does it add up with the person in question who has never brought this issue up again once we handled it, it’s as if he has forgotten. I apparently, have not.

I have a hot temper.

Sometimes I keep a lid on it.

Sometimes I don’t.

I once verbally crucified a man and instead of reacting in anger back, he asked for three days to think about it before he responded.

THREE DAYS?

Was he serious?

Apparently so. 

Once he responded, with grace and integrity I might add, I realized that I had been in the wrong, and quickly apologized.

THREE DAYS.

Christ was crucified.

He rose on the third day.

This man, meaning to or not, modeled Christ to me at a time when I wasn’t behaving very Christ-like.

Proverbs 16:32 New American Standard Bible (NASB) – He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

I never forgot that.  As for my friend’s comment though that God doesn’t allow us to forget our sins, he’s wrong. Jesus came as our arbitrator, not our accuser. Shame is NEVER of God. That’s Satan’s job.

Scripture says

Psalm 130:3-4

 If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

Psalm 130:12

As far as the East is from the West,

So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

As far as the East is from the West

To better visualize exactly how far the East truly is from the West take out a globe.

Put your finger on the state or country you live in. Start walking North. Once you reach the North pole you cannot keep going without walking South.

Put your finger back.. now start walking East on the globe.

You will circle the globe without EVER heading West.

Do you get that?

East and West do not touch!

That is how far He has removed our sin.

So when shame over comes you.

When eye contact is painful

and the Devil says “Did God really say?” Answer back

YES, the Lord DID say he keeps no record.

YES, the Lord DID say he has removed our sin.

And the next time you – or I – feel the urge to react rather than respond, remember Jesus took three days to rise from the dead; maybe we should try the same thing.

This is one lesson, I will never forget.

I’m heading home to Chittenango NY for three weeks. Have a great 4th and I’ll see you in August.

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart, June 29, 2011. All rights reserved.