What I’m Reading Right Now: Fully Alive by Ken Davis.

I am a huge Ken Davis fan. If you read my blog, you know that. I feel like I owe him a lot and I tend to gush when I talk about his impact on my life over the past 20 years.

Depression does horrible things to people. I have friends who can’t bring themselves to eat when they are depressed. HA! Not to be flip, but I don’t have that problem. When I went through my depression from 2004-2008 I went from 154 lbs to 207 lbs in just a few years. Instead of needing to lose 20 pounds, I now need to lose 60. Not fun. I’ve spent the last four years gaining and losing the same 20 pounds. To add insult to injury I have friends and family who thought taking bad photos of me would convict me to change. Nope, just made me camera-shy.

When I met Ken in 2009, he talked about how he was planning to ride in a triathlon of sorts. The dude is in his 60’s. I was 43 and in no condition to even think of doing such a thing. The photos never bothered me. Sitting in a room listening to a man old enough to be my father talk about a life change, got to me. I started following his blog. He placed second for his age group in said triathlon. He’s not depressed any more. His spiritual life is changing. His personal life is improving.

Now he has my attention.

I had an unexpected hysterectomy in 2010 and my doctor told me I HAVE to lose weight. I listened. I pursued multiple forms of diet and exercise and learned my ankle does not tolerate a lot of things. My bulimia became active again and I had to deal with that monster one more time. (Walking in victory today) I learned that walking, running, Zumba, Step Aerobics are all out as my ankle cannot handle the strain. I can however ride a bike and so I purchased my first real bike last October. I even lost 20 pounds (again) if you’ll recall. Then I got busy and gained it all back.

I got my first copy of Fully Alive in June and devoured it in three days. No lie. Loved the book. I even took the DVD to my Mom’s and we laughed ourselves stupid for an hour.  Then something humbling happened. My husband started reading the book and asking me questions about passages. “So what do you think of thus and such? I like his point, don’t you?”

I must have missed that passage.

“Oh well how about…..”

Nope..

“Did you read the book or did you skim it?”

I read it.

Hmmmm

OUCH.

My goal was to read the book. I read the book. I never allowed it to digest. I Deana, am a passive participant in literary pursuits. Nothing traversed past my brain. Sure I highlighted great tweetable quotes, but you know what – reading without gaining the nourishment intended and much needed and then regurgitating it all back to you guys makes me a literary bulimic.

Yuck.

My husband went out and purchased a new bike himself. He is at the “I own a grown up bike and it isn’t a Huffy” honeymoon phase. He wants me to ride with him. I like that. I also want to really read Fully Alive, not from a passive stand point, but as an active participant. I want to digest the chapters and get the words from my brain and into my heart. Once I do that, I plan to walk it out with my husband and with you guys.

Do you want to join me?

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “Many men die at 25 and aren’t buried until they are 75.” This book is intended to wake up these people.

Fully Alive uncovers forgotten signs of life in a culture seemingly filled with the opposite. Through action steps that led to his physical, mental, social, and spiritual health, Ken Davis recounts his journey back to the land of the living and the signs of life he found along the way.

The anchoring focus is based on the apostle Paul’s quest for life, when he said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” A power greater than death is available for what we face today? Who doesn’t want a piece of that?

Filled with narrative stories, humor, and practical help, this book is for anyone who wants to live fully and wonders just what that might look like in daily life.

Many people are lurching in the twilight, hoping to sing once again…living lives of quiet desperation, searching in vain for signs of life.

St. Irenaeus said, “The Glory of God is man fully alive.” For those who have been sidelined in life, for those tempted to give up, this book screams…Live!

In Fully Alive, readers will learn how to:

  • Discover the adventure hiding in the middle of the mundane.
  • Exchange the pain of unmet expectations for the joy of living with expectancy.
  • Get unstuck and take the first step that will lead to a new body, mind and spirit.
  • Kick guilt to the curb and experience real freedom.
  • Drive a stake into the heart of your everyday fears and live again.
  • Tap into a power that will protect you whether you’re crawling through the valley or standing on the mountain top

You were made for more. It’s time to reignite your desire and live Fully Alive!  Go here http://fullyalivebook.com/ for more information.

Entertaining Angels, God with Skin On

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

It is important to have friends you can be 100% yourself with. I have those. We try our best to be there for each other whenever we are needed. Life happens sometimes though and our friends are not always available. Those are the moments I take to God. Sometimes he sends me someone, and sometimes it’s just us. He must have known I needed an angel this week.

Well, not literally, I don’t think anyway. I can say one thing, they did not come in the neatly wrapped package I usually prefer (ie well known to me and female.) They are part of a group I am in and I believe they use a nom de plume. People I trust know them and therefore I talk to them on occasion. 

Don’t get me wrong, I know that blind trust is a sin and we don’t discuss anything deep or too revealing – safety rules and all – but we do talk sometimes, mostly about comedy, sometimes about faith. I like the whole no preconceived expectations aspect of that and I enjoy talking with them. They know more than I and I love surrounding myself with people further down the path. It’s how I grow.

I also set boundaries because they appear to be male. I’m not above temptation and will not replace things I should tell my husband with a stranger. There is no lure in that for me. I’m in ministry to serve God. Even so, I am fully aware of my own potential pitfalls and watch for those slopes.  The fact that He (meaning God) can even use me astounds me sometimes. I don’t want to mess that up.

I find it interesting how willing we are to let down our masks with strangers, more so than with friends. While I reveal a lot here for you, I do strive to keep the private out of the personal. I only share that which I think might benefit someone else because we are not alone in our daily struggles. Some things are universal. While it is true there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, not everything is everyone’s business nor do I wish to glamorize sin.

I’m a sinner saved by Grace, through faith. No more. No less.

Even so, I caught myself telling him things I don’t typically share with people in my comedy group. Like how I wasn’t raised in a church. I don’t talk about that. Must have needed to.

 I caught myself wanting to know who they really were and even tried to trick them at one point. The Holy Spirit tweaked me on that one and I apologized.  I finally gave up the ghost.  I believe that God puts people in our lives for a reason. This weekend I needed a prayer partner. I was genuinely upset about something and had requested prayer for a person. I failed to explain that I was on the ceiling myself over the situation but somehow talking with them calmed me down.

Ministry can do that. So many people are hurting in this world and I’ve yet to find a channel or way to listen to their hurt without drowning in it myself. I never want to become so cold-hearted that I feel nothing when someone shares pain. Even so, balance is good.

 I needed someone to talk to and this person was there and I appreciate that.

Truth is, knowing me, as much as I’d like to believe I’d be fully myself I’d probably try to impress them with my brilliance or baffle them with my BS and neither sounds satisfying. 

God gave me an ear to listen, and heart to hear and prayers when I needed them most.

Not knowing who he really is, keeps God’s face ever before me. — And for that, I am thankful.

“I will not wish thee riches nor the glow of greatness, but that wherever thou go, some weary heart shall gladden at thy smile, or shadowed life know sunshine for awhile. And so thy path shall be a track of light, like angels‘ footsteps passing through” — Words on a church wall in Upwaltham England

I’m Sorry + I Forgive You should = Peace but does it?

No sweat…just send me your best cash love offering and we’ll call it all good. – the dude I insulted last weekend after I apologized. (see Medusa Face)

I think his response is hilarious – and frankly God’s way of telling me to lighten up just a scoshe and breathe. It took about 48 hours for him to see my apology and respond to it. The dude is not on twitter that much. I died a million deaths in those 48 hours let me tell you.

Honestly, I stink at receiving forgiveness. If I were to walk this out, I’d take him at his word and then avoid him for the rest of my life. Which is self-defeating really, but again. it’s how I roll sometimes even with God. I have a lot to learn. If you want to know more about that see Can You Give Me Three Days?

I’m not different from any of you. We all need forgiveness even if we aren’t willing to admit it. I have this hole inside of me sometimes that craves to be filled and rather than receive the right things, like forgiveness, I’ll fill it with fear and overachieving perfectionism and call it good even if it isn’t.

My abandonment issues can be so bad that I catch myself jumping up and down causing great internal injuries just to prove I’m loveable. It’s annoying at times I’m sure. Failure and Forgiveness are not part of my family tree. Not only do we never admit fault when we can blame someone else, we never forgive others even if they do try to make amends. Forgiveness has always been that carrot we hold out to each other while we make the other person jump through hoops to “earn it.” not that they ever do of course.

It took me years to unlearn those teachings.

While I’ve learned the difference between I’m sorry and I was wrong and how to forgive others who are asking for forgiveness, I’ve yet to fully learn how to receive forgiveness in the right spirit. I don’t trust it really. I’d much rather buy my way out of a bad deal than receive grace any day. Which is why I thought his response is so funny.

I noticed a lot of you (over 1,000) found my blog this last week looking for how to say I’m Sorry and Letting Go. No one came to my blog this week looking for forgiveness per se, but that’s really what they were looking for when they searched “I’m sorry.”

Something interesting happened this week. My elder pulled me aside after our Sunday School class and asked if I’d teach on Luke 21. The whole chapter. We are on 19 right now and I’d have roughly two weeks to prepare. I immediately said yes, and then excused myself to throw up.

Yep, that’s how I roll. I say yes to God and spend as much time praying to the porcelain god as I do the real one. Hope that doesn’t offend, I’m just trying to keep it real.

I’ve taught before. I’ve spoken a lot of places, acted in some movies and have done stand up and yet again I’m giving  God my list of “why I can nots” and He tells me “Just read it will ya?” The very first paragraph caught me right between the eyes.

The Widow’s Offering

 1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

All of my reasons of why I can’t, courtesy of the evil committee that lives rent free in my head.

1. I’m not good enough – did you not see what I did to that man? A stranger yet!

2. He hasn’t even forgiven me.

3. What if I’m not forgivable?

4. Why are you wasting your time on me?

5. I’m a neurotic mess, isn’t there someone more qualified?

The God I worship for whatever reason doesn’t seem to want someone who can give out of the wealth of their gifts. He sees my two copper coins for what they are – and calls it beautiful. My poverty: My sinful nature,  my pride, my fears, my needs for forgiveness even when I don’t know how to receive it yet, my ego, my low self esteem, my neurosis and bad attitude, my warped sense of humor and my willingness to be humble – all of it matters to him.

 I have no confidence (as the world would define confidence) in my own gifts and / or abilities, but I am in confident in this – “Being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1: 6 (NIV) –

And I have confidence in knowing that He will indeed bring people into my life who continue to model true forgiveness and that I will eventually find peace that lasts .

Now, if you think that God would just leave me here – you would be wrong. Click on the photo below to hear His answer to my doubts. Thanks!

Just Breathe

He (sic My father) used to hold his breath and pass out on the streets of Tokyo where his parents were Presbyterian Missionaries. I think he was a little angry: Held breath is the ultimate withholding; you’re not taking anything in, you’re not putting anything out. – Anne Lamott, Plan B Futher Thoughts on Faith.

Has it really come to this?

Freud will have a field day.

I’m having a field day.

Every year I pray and meditate and choose a new word, or scripture verse or phrase for the coming year. After two weeks of semi-fasting from the internet, prayer, retreat, and journaling THE word that resounds in my deepest of spirit for 2012 is “Breathe.”

It’s not that I’m disappointed really , okay maybe a little, it’s just that most years my phrases have been, well I’ll just say it, more encouraging than something as simple as “breathe.”

Here is an example of what I mean:

  • 2003 when I just began working in a church -– Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
  • 2004 (Isaiah 41:9) – “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’: I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
  • 2005 – My word was forgiveness and letting go. It was truthfully a year spent grieving the loss of friends through death and learning how to forgive others. It was a dark night of the soul kind of year for me. I deleted all my writings and former blogs and got about the busy work of recovering from severe depression.
  • 2006 – “Baptize me, oh Lord, to the criticism of man, that I might one day become immune to it.” – Beth Moore
  • 2007 – Hebrews 10:35-36 – “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded, you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”
  • 2008 – Romans 31-39 – “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  • January 1, 2009 – Ephesians 3:17-19. “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – that was a year of exploring what it meant to LIVE with Intention. A year of celebration. It was also the year that I started doing stand up comedy and intentionally studying and growing my gifts/abilities as a speaker.
  • 2010 –  “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” – I spent a year studying ancient liturgy under the auspices of a local pastor and reading authors such as St Augustine.
  • 2011 – Live with Intention which for me translated to Love/Laughter Inspiration Volunteering Encouragement/excercise. – okay notsomuch on the exercise thing, but the rest – I totally nailed that.
  • 2012 – I get one word. Breathe.

 I’m not really amused. My ego wants something grander or more grand whichever than breathe. I want something that will make people stand on their heads and listen to me as if I were EF Hutton himself. “Breathe.” feels so bourgeois really. So ordinary. I’m an artist and a poet, I don’t want to be ordinary I want to be captivating. Shooting a loving smile at my artsy fartsy neurotically insecure yet comical self – Grown up me responds – Yeah well suck it up baby girl — you get to be real this year. Welcome to planet earth. – Grown up me can be a real downer sometimes can’t she?

When I think about it though, it’s actually pretty deep. Held breath IS the ultimate withholding just like Anne writes. I can’t help but wonder, how often do you or I forget to breathe in the moments of life? I hold my breath a lot. Beauty can capture my breath, so can anger and fear. All last week I dreamt nightly of people trying to hug me and my holding my breath. I would write it off as just a silly little dream (or three) but then last night someone I hadn’t seen in a few years grabbed me in a spontaneous hug and — you guessed it – I held my breath until they let go.

I really forgotten how to breathe. No wonder my gut is a mess and my shoulders are in my ears. I will have you know that this doesn’t come as some great and welcomed epiphany. This self-knowledge comes to me with bits and spurts of denial and a great deal of fighting back. While I know how I feel about this new word that landed in my heart, I’m not sure what to think yet – and so I simply offer some thoughts by some of my favorite poets on this whole “breathe” business.

To one who has been long in city pent,
‘Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven, – to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.
~John Keats, Sonnet XIV

He lives most life whoever breathes most air.  ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

You know that our breathing is the inhaling and exhaling of air.  The organ that serves for this is the lungs that lie round the heart, so that the air passing through them thereby envelops the heart.  Thus breathing is a natural way to the heart.  And so, having collected your mind within you, lead it into the channel of breathing through which air reaches the heart and, together with this inhaled air, force your mind to descend into the heart and to remain there.  ~Nicephorus the Solitary

 Now — tell me, how was your Christmas? What did you do? Did you have a good New Years? Do you make resolutions or do you pick words or phrases for the year? Please drop a comment and let me know. Thanks.

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved. January 1, 2012. No goods or services were given in exchange for quoting Anne Lamott — I just totally dig her vibe as an author – thought you might too. — and yes son, I really used the words “dig’ and “Vibe” in a blog post. HA!