Memory Verses for 2011

As some of you know, I spent 2010 in a praise and worship fast and studied liturgical worship, not because of some legal requirement, but because this was honestly the path I believed God was leading me down. Jeremiah 6:16 – Thus says the LORD:”Stand by the roads, and look,and ask for the ancient paths,where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. “

While I may be married to a Missouri Synod Lutheran – which are historically liturgical almost to the point of legalism (depending of course on who you are speaking with) – I love praise and worship and interestingly enough so does my husband. Also interesting is neither of us really like blended services. – I may or may not write more about that later, just know that my soul craves both the fullness of praise and the richness of liturgy at different times and combining the two is like – well, I don’t have a good analogy other that to say it’s like trying to fish while I water ski, if that makes sense.

And rather than go down a rabbit hole today, let me just leave it as – I needed a break. After four years of helping with our church plant – which is primarily praise and worship, teaching bible studies, pursing new career paths (comedy), and sending my oldest away to college, I entered 2010 worn out and dry as the desert. Jeff’s mom had a fatal stroke . I had a mass in my uterus that knocked me down for six months, and I started abusing diet pills trying to lose weight. 2010 was a low bottom year for me.

And yet – even in the midst of all of that I found rest. I’d been reading Joan Chittister’s book on Liturgical living and while I found her book to be dry and cumbersome to read, I did feel a certain draw in my spirit to learn more and so with the help of a local mentor/pastor – I spent 2010 studying the church year, and liturgy. I regret neither the fast, the lows, or the choices of the year – 2010 was as gloriously rich with love and grace as God had promised.

My season of fasting is over and a new season has been placed on my heart – “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” – Luke 6:21 ESV Bible

Some changes for 2011, praise and worship is back in my fold of worship opportunities as is high liturgy. I’m not sure if I’ll teach or not as I am still needing much time in the master’s hand. (I have food issues that we are working through) Last but not least, I am back memorizing verses this year, just like I did in 2009. If you would like to join me on that, please see Beth Moore’s Living Proof live page and jump in. You won’t regret it.

Have a great week you guys.

Today is Epiphany, also known as Kings Day, or the 12th day of Christmas. If you would like to know more about Epiphany, please check out the very cool link a friend of mine posted on Facebook: http://www.crivoice.org/cyepiph.html

Theotokos: The Mother of God

Not everyone hates Mary. It’s easy to think that sometimes, especially when sitting in a protestant church. Pastors seem afraid to speak of Mary – Mother of Jesus – in a positive light, lest they give the opinion that we are worshipping her. Lutheran pastors are probably the worst in that regard.

For those who don’t know me, let me add I am a Lutheran, by marriage, but a Lutheran nonetheless. I don’t want you thinking that I’m picking on Lutherans here because that is not my intent. Most Lutherans are, however, overly cautious on anything that might be perceived as Catholic teaching. And so,they avoid Mary.

Mary, as a mother, has always fascinated me. I can’t imagine what she must have been thinking, or how she did the things she did. She was 13, 14 at the most, when Gabriel came to her and offered greetings. WOW — I haven’t really given her much thought lately, until.. A half sheet of paper fell out of a book bag this morning. On it are my notes from a Sunday School class I taught last December. Doesn’t mean much really, except that I taught a class DEFENDING Mary’s title as Mother of God as well as her dignity within our church. My passionate tone, opinions, and facts cover that half page of take home material.

I’m not sure what I remember most, the excitement over being allowed to lead the women’s class in December while pastor led the men – or the fact that I got teach on something that resonated so passionately within my spirit.

Like I said, Lutherans seem to be afraid of Mary. – Unless you are a Catholic – with a capital “C” Lutheran – and I recently learned that we have a few of those around. It was because of one such local pastor, that I found the courage to dig deeper into Mary’s story. By doing so, I found pieces of my own.

I’m looking at my notes today and I see my first point – Mary’s response to Gabriel seems flip, almost a “yeah what do you want” kind of response and why is that? Because Mary knew her history. She wasn’t the first person to “find favor” with the Lord. Abraham, Moses, and King David to name a few also found favor.

Having an angel of the Lord appear to you to say “you found favor” means only one thing really; Your life is about to be turned upside down. Go or someone is going to die.

Lot to ask of a 13 year old. Lot to ask of a 44 year old.

What has me pondering today, isn’t the message I taught on Mary, but the fact that I have roughly 50 of these pages scattered throughout my closet, into my den, and on my kitchen counters. Someone probably just needed that book bag, but still… I’m a little on the creeped out side because

Everywhere I look I see that phrase “Your life is about to be turned inside out – go – or people will die… Will you answer the call?

Edited to add: My liturgical studies have ended for now. I will write more about it later, but for now I’d like to leave this thought. There is a difference between capital C, Catholic and small c, catholic; one equals Rome, the other means universal. While I am grateful for the opportunity to dig more deeply into the things of God, I’ve learned that to replace a real relationship with Christ for the things of Christ (a worship service only from the hymnal) is like having a parishioner who mails in their tithe but doesn’t come to church. They’ve done their duty, but nothing more. They are bound by obligation and pride, but not love.

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.

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.

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.

The Higher Road to liturgical literacy

Funerals denied.  Ashes held for ransom. Heirlooms stolen by angry family member. An old friend suddenly dies.The meanest pastor in the world is layed to rest. And I don’t have the faintest clue which road to travel.

Hearts are still tender today. It’s been a long strange road this past week and we aren’t finished walking it yet. Mom’s estate will not be settled until the 19 of February. And on that day a small few will gather to spread Mom’s ashes in Tampa Bay. Another memorial service will be held in Chicago at a later date.

There have been many opportunities to walk the low roads this week. Chances to fight fire with fire. Bark out orders, smack down the arrogant, and have our way. Lucky for me I married my opposite. While he may have the same less than sanctified thoughts that I can have, he chooses not to act on them. I like that about him.

My nemesis passed this week and once again my feelings are raw as I remember his words and actions over the years. He was the first person I ever met in my life who openly and publically hated me and called me names. I’ve been disliked, avoided even – but to be hated and called names? That was new.  I probably would not have minded  so much, if I hadn’t adored him and his wife as much as I did. We chose not to attend his funeral. I’m not sure if that was the right choice or not, but it was the best choice for us this weekend.

Having said that, I really feel I have little to offer just yet. Jeff hasn’t been able to play praise music all week – which is rough when you lead worship, kwim? And I haven’t been able to write.

It’s all part of the grieving processes. Before we know it, our words will once again flow. Until then, I’d like to offer up this blog post by Pastor Beecroft. I can come up with a funny here – if you really must know, I read it because I thought it was a sermon on sex. Which is not my fault — he wrote all over facebook that this was Sex Sunday.

This is what happens when you are liturgically illiterate.

Enjoy!

Sexegesima 2010 — The Parable of the Sower

No Baggage Section Please

I love the stillness of private worship before corporate worship begins on Sundays. While visiting a church across town, I quietly sit in what is probably someone else’s pew, close my eyes and drink in the solitude and peace. My spirit is content, and I say a prayer.

“Thank you Lord for this church. The sermons are wonderful. The pastor is brilliant. I have yet to hear him say anything that I disagree with. I know he must truly be a righteous man. The music is uplifting and scriptural. The people are so warm friendly. No one has said or done anything mean or hateful. I haven’t lost my temper, got into an argument or let anyone down. No one gossips. This church is perfect Lord. But… we haven’t joined yet, and I know as soon as we do, that will all change… “

 It doesn’t take long for baggage to accumulate. A look here, a snide remark there. Misunderstandings, unmet expectations,  hurt feelings, gossip, lost tempers. There are all kinds of issues that can get in the way of worship if I let them. Geographical cures, while nice for a while, are not sustainable solutions.

The solution isn’t perfection, constantly moving, or avoiding all entanglements. The only real solution to baggage free worship, is Christ.

I really like visiting other churches. I especially like visiting churches that are nothing like my own. What I don’t like is when God has the audacity to speak to my heart in the middle of a service and tell me “You like it here because there isn’t any baggage.” Not to sound disrespectful to God or anything like that, but I was really annoyed that he would interrupt my denial and worship with truth that day.

I don’t suggest arguing with God while sitting in church. It might look funny. Nor do I suggest accusing his voice to be that of Satan. Communion doesn’t quiet go down right on those days. Who knew you could get indigestion from a little wine and bread.

The pastor asked me TWICE if I was okay as we were leaving. I’m not sure if I looked white as a ghost or what.. No I was not okay, I wanted God to agree with me and I wasn’t getting what I wanted. And how did he know I wasn’t okay?  

 Sin exists in and out of the church. We are all sinful and fall short of the glory of God. It doesn’t matter if it’s a church or a relationship of some kind. Sooner or later, we will let each other down. There will be misunderstandings, differing opinions, anger, and hurt feelings. There will be opportunties as well for reconciliation, repentance, and forgiveness — IF I don’t run away every time I get my feelings hurt, or hurt someone else’s.

I can carry that baggage with me into church via resentments, or even shame and guilt. OR I can lay those things down in my confession, be fed and strengthened by the body and blood of Christ, allow the sermon to renew my mind and leave behind that which weighs heavily on my heart.

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. –We aren’t changing churches, by the way.  My husband and I are very active in our home church and committed to our church’s mission plant. We do however like to change things up and really do enjoy worshipping across town at another church as well. It’s a high liturgy service and we think it’s beautiful.