Thomas Merton on Gratitude

Gratitude is more than a mental exercise, more than a formula of words. We cannot be satisfied to make a mental note of things which God has done for us and then perfunctorily thank Him for favors received.

To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us — and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is grace, for it brings with us immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder, and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference… Gratitude is therefore the heart of the Christian life.

Thoughtful Thursday November 19 2009

“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.” – Jeremiah 6:16

 

I’m reading a book on liturgy right now. Not sure what I’ll find. I like the “rest for your soul” concept. I’m at a cross roads in worship.

I find myself hungry and tired. If I’d remembered in time, I would have made this my memory verse this month. Maybe I’ll save it for next month. For now I like the direction it gives.

Ask (God) for the ancient paths

Ask (God) where the good way is.

And then dear one – WALK IN IT.

A recipe for peace.

A needed word for now.

What crossroads do you face today?

Having Fun in Broken Arrow with Mission Ablaze!

I apologize for my lack of posting, I’ve actually been sick. Still am. However. I did want to jump online and give you some highlights from church for the last few weeks. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

This is our crew from the Murder Mystery Night at my house. Planning nights like this are actually, very easy. All I did was go to MurderMystery.com and order a mystery package. Very simple. I cooked the main dish and everyone brought a side dish or drink to share and we had a blast.

This isn’t the best photo, but is is me performing at an outdoor festival this fall called “Taking Jesus to the Streets.” in Manford OK. This was the first year they had a stand up comic. They have four different bands who play and I told jokes between set ups. Load of fun. And they asked me to come back next year. I always like that.

Looking for a cure for “Terminal Seriousness?” — try hiring a Christian Comic for your next outreach event. Pictured here are Michele VanDusen, Dan McGowan, and myself. The three of us performed almost two hours of clean, family friendly comedy for the folks at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Tulsa OK. This proved to be a wonderful outreach event. Tickets were only $5 a piece to cover expenses and we had 80 people show up. 1/3 of them had never been to our church before. Comedy nights are a great outreach.

We intentionally chose to host this event at Our Savior rather than Ablaze for a myriad of reasons, and you know, I think it turned out great. So well in fact that our board of evangelism wants to host more events like this.

Yeah God!

And that is us in a nutshell right now. Ablaze Church is still chugging along while we wait for the survey results. We worshipped over 50 people again last week and that is a good sign. Whether or not we keep Ablaze as a stand-alone mission start or a satellite has yet to be determined. In time, we’ll know. For now, we serve.

I was talking with a friend of mine recently and you know, we serve an amazing God. This blog has taken many turns while I find my voice, and my place in His kingdom. I’ve always been a servant, it is the where I serve that has changed and grown. I’ve traveled from humorist, to bible teacher, to missionary of sorts, to comedy. My love for God and his word has not changed. I still first and formost want to be a Bible Teacher, in His plan though and not my own.  He hasn’t closed that door, but I do know that there are things I still need to learn, work through, and overcome. Each direction is a place where he let’s me grow up into his next role. I just don’t know that that is yet.

I love to teach, and can relate to small groups without a problem. I struggle with larger crowds and the minute you put a microphone in my face, I become an introvert. Learning stand up, has taken that fear away. It’s amazing to me to see God’s hand in all of this. He opened those doors, I didn’t. It is God who allows favor, not man.  Will he keep me here? I don’t know. But I do know that He is smiling and that I make him laugh. And that is a good thing.

If you are new to my blog, I should warn you, I’m a little strange. Fear is a major stronghold in my life and so I made a decision several years ago to find that one thing that scares me most and to keep doing it until I’m not afraid anymore. This is that one thing right now.

Until next time. Trusting in him.

Deana

ps… I forgot to sign on and give my memory verse to Beth’s blog this week — so I don’t have a new verse. I’m keeping with last time’s verse… which is a good thing, because I haven’t memorized it yet. ;-)

It all Started in Branson: How I became a stand up comic

The roads I travel in life are rarely smooth. Maybe it’s because I live in Oklahoma and we don’t believe in repairing concrete, or maybe it’s the wonderlust redhead in me, either way I start down one path and I inevitably wind up on some motorcross race track doing loops, turns, tricks and stops, pausing from time to time to eat mud pies.

This is a mud pie kind of day. I’m editing what I used to think are funny stories into something more compatible with a stand up format. As I sit at my computer picking gravel out of my knees and my stories, I’m struck by the thought of “Who can I blame for this mess?”

Being a humor writer and loaning out stories and jokes is a smooth road. Stand up comedy? Not so much. I don’t know this road and yet here I am, forsaking one for the other. I’m taking my shot and running with the big dogs. Why? Only my psychiatrist can answer that. It just feels right. That’s all there is to it. I have this insatiable need to make people laugh and to do it well. “Hi, I’m Deana and I’m a stand up comic.” My 12 step group meets in clubs throughout the United States.

I didn’t start my comedy career doing stand up. I’m a humorist. I write and tell funny stories. Have for years. Then it happened. My oldest son gets straight A’s in 6th grade and he wants to see Yakov Smirnoff in Branson. Simple enough really. Branson is only three hours away so off we go. I should have just bought him a car. It would have been cheaper.

Yakov has this part in his show where members of the audience are allowed to tell him jokes. The person with the funniest story gets to go on stage and interview him. Neat little piece. At least it was before my son looked up at me and said “Mom! You’re funny, why don’t you tell him one of your stories?”

” How hard can it be.” I thought to myself.

I’m convinced those words will be on my tombstone. In short, I died a horrible, humiliating, miserable death-by-choking in front of Yakov, my son, and 1,400 people. All of it on film. Nice.

I can only blame myself for what happened next. I spent the next two years striving to save my pride and convince this dear sweet long on patience man that I am indeed funny. I went to no less than six of his shows hoping for another shot. We communicated via telephone, email, snail mail and in person. I even bought roughly ten of his paintings. Hey, it’s not stalking until you see the whites of the retraining order, okay? It turns out that I cannot get within a hundred yards of Yakov without turning into a walking labotomy. Go figure.

In short I made an idiot out of myself. I convinced him that I was something alright. I’m not so sure about the funny part though. Suffice to say, I have not set foot in Branson in about five years. Just driving through Missouri gives me hives.

Undeterrred by my egostically driven set back, I continue on as a humor writer and story teller. Joining writing groups and comedic message boards to better hone my craft, I learn that Christian comics have their own club of sorts. They have a message board, facebook, fan pages and conferences. Figuring that four years is enough time to hide from comics and that the stigma has to have worn off by now, I drive with a friend to their most recent conference in Nashville Tennessee.

I am at home with these funny people. No longer a slave to my comedic lust, I find other kindred spirits and I find peace. My friend talks me into participating in their Open Mic for newbies and I gladly participate.

In all fairness, I erroneously assumed that the men and women would be separated. Women would critique women and men would critique men kind of thing. I assumed incorrectly. Imagine my surprise to learn that my panel of advisors would consist of men named Bone, Nazareth and Thor. There was also Kenn and LeLand, the oddballs with normal names, but I digress. Bottom line, I’m a female humorist/story teller about to face an entire audience of comics and male critiquers with a story about the time my husband’s doctor guilted me into being present during his vasectomy.

I’m an intelligent woman. It did not take me long to assess three things.

1.) This story was probably not appropriate for this particular venue.
2.) I don’t have the energy to stalk these five men for two years to convince them I really am funny so I better think of something quick.
3.) I had consumed so much sweet tea that evening that the stability of my bladder is now questionable.

I took three of my funniest bits and tried to turn them into stand up material on the fly. Thankfully they laughed while I tried not to hyperventilate or pee.

As for my bladder issues, I just moved around a lot hoping it would stablize. If that failed, I’m over weight so I was just going to tell the guys that I’m pregnant and my water broke. They are men. They would have dropped me off at the nearest hospital and gone on their merry way and I would have hidden out in my hotel room until the conference was over and my room mate was ready to drive home.

And that, my friends is how I became a stand up comic.

Deana O’Hara is presently living with her husband of 19 years and two teenage boys in Broken Arrow, OK. She can be found perfecting her craft at any and every open mic night throughout Oklahoma as well as at a Target Store near you. While Deana no longer “loans” her jokes and stories for free, she will be performing this Friday night with Tulsa comedienne Michele VanDusen. Headlining the night will be funny man Dan McGowan from Denver. You can call the Our Savior “box” office at 836-3752 for ticket information.

Or order you tickets online via Eventbrite by clicking here: Just Pure Laughs with Dan McGowan

The Danger of a Single Story

When all you know is a single story, about yourself, about your neighbor, about the world, a dangerous thing can happen.

“Single stories create stereotypes. The problem with stereotypes are not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete” –Chimamanda Adichie

I’ve never heard of this young author. She is an amazing woman. This speach leaves me spellbound!

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story —

Ablaze Church Update Nov 2 2009

There are days when I wish we all read the same Websters Dictionary. Words are becoming too interchangeable  and it is easy to miss a point and lose your audience.  I’m especially aware of it now that I’ve returned from a speaker’s conference. The “but I know what I meant” doesn’t cut it. I need to make sure other people know what I mean as well.

It has also changed how I listen and how I ask clarifying questions. Sometimes it’s not what is said that causes confusion in my head, but what I think I hear. I get it wrong sometimes.

I’m a bit of a scatter brain, let’s face it. This is going to be a challenge for me. It’s also one I think is worth facing.

A good example is the way LCMS interchanges the words “Mission Start” and “Daughter Congregation”. One implies an eventual independent church and the other implies a satellite location. Most lay-ministers agree those are two different entities.

The problem lies, not in the layministers, but rather with those in pastoral rolls.  Many LCMS pastors and publications are using those two phrases synonymously when they really aren’t the same thing. This is causing confusion Synod wide, not just in our little church.

Is Ablaze in Broken Arrow a satellite or a mission plant? It honestly depends on who you ask. And that status is up for grabs at various intervals of time. The bottom line is, Our Savior is trying to figure that out. Our church leaders are reviewing many roads and many options. They will be presented to the congregation once they sift through it all.

Good changes have come about in recent months.

1 The board of directors at Our Savior is taking a stronger level of ownership at Ablaze and is applying the OSL by-laws to our plant. This is a change from last Spring when the BOD did not think those by-laws should apply.

2. Our Savior voted to allow Open Arms Learning Centers to come in a do market research. Just the research. They did not vote to build a preschool yet.

3. Four parcels of property were reviewed and released for the market proposal last week.

4. A new Bible Study is starting up in one of our member’s homes on Thursday evenings.

5. The teen youth at Ablaze are being included with our Senior High Youth Group at Our Savior and are all working together towards going to National Youth Gathering next June.

Now we wait.

Once we get the survey back, the board of directors at Our Savior will present the findings and recommendations to the congregation.

We still have some page turning to accomplish.  The in-house recommendation from the Strategic Planning Committee and the Board of Directors (both at Our Savior) is to treat Ablaze Church as satellite. That isn’t what the congregation approved three years ago. That too will need to be addressed after the first of the year before we move forward with anything.

If we treat Ablaze Church as a satellite location that means sharing of staff and resources. It means also that Our Savior carries the fiscal burdens of Ablaze as well. It means of lot of things that still need to be ironed out and researched.

In the meantime, the team worshipping at Ablaze are diligently searching out a more permanent venue for worship. Mobile churches are exciting, to be sure. They are also exhausting. We have over 50 people worshipping with us on Saturday nights. They and we, need a more stable home. Please pray with us that we find it.