Women of Faith: Tulsa Oklahoma, Imagine Tour

 Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Real Women

Real Life

Real Hope

I can still remember the day back in 2004, that my friend Rita stopped me in the hall, pointed to me and said, “YOU need to go to Women of Faith this year. It’ll change your life.” I seem to think I rolled my eyes at her and laughed. I was tired, beaten down with life and grief (I’d buried 10 friends that year), and frankly I was not in the mood for some churchy, happy, smiling faced, woman’s conference. I was falling apart and the last thing I wanted to do was sit around and listen to a bunch of women who had it all together tell me how great they are.  Don’t mind my pity party or self loathing – or the fact that I lived in constant comparison at that time – and always (in my opinion) fell short of everyone else – I was apparently enjoying it because I stayed there for an awefully long time. There is defeat brought on by life and there is the kind of defeat brought on by ourselves – I was losing hope.

The truth is, I was already secretly handing in my ministry resignation to God — going to a conference was not (in my opinion) going to fix me. I’d already convinced myself that I was too broken to be of any use anyway. Basically while I hadn’t given up on God, I had pretty much given up on myself – and thought he has too.

Ever been there?

Feeling smug in my ability to ignore my friend’s recommendation, I was not amused when I got a flier in the mail inviting me to a Women of Faith Conference in Oklahoma City.  Nor was I amused when a gal in my bible study announced that she was going and wanted someone to come with her and decided it would be me.

I’m a believer that God speaks through people. When I hear something once I might pay attention — but when the message comes to me three times in one week, I’ve learned to listen even when I have a broken heart.

I’ll never forget that first conference. I was introduced to wonderful teachers and speakers like Kathy Troccoli, Sheila Walsh, Patsy Clairmont, Luci Swindoll, Thelma Wells, and Marilyn Meburg. I laughed. I cried. I learned and I leaned into Christ for two solid days. I had no idea Christian women could be so honest with eachother.  Chonda Pierce was even there – which is how I met her, but that is another story.

I knew then and there, if I only go to one conference a year WOF was it.  Every year, God breaks my heart open just a little bit more and makes room for His healing touch in my secret places. He fills my heart with scriptural truths, joy, and tears and faith in what He alone can accomplish.  This year was no different.

This year I got to go with a bunch of gals from my church who had never been before and since it was in Tulsa they thought “Why not.” — What a joy it was to be there with them, laugh and cry with them — and stretch out to God with open arms — knowing that He was reaching back. One of the gals even asked if it was always like this and when I said yes, she said “oh this is a no brainer, I’m coming back next year.”

How cool is that?

Women of Faith is totally Christ focused. It’s full of gifted communicators and teachers who share their life stories, and share a faith in Jesus that always leaves me astounded – and hungry for more. I love it.

I’ll give you a brief recap of the Imagine Tour and some of what we learned. If you want to know more about the speakers, just click on their names to go to their web pages.

Marcus Buckingham: In a world that mainly focuses on fixing what we’re weak at, author and speaker Marcus Buckingham offers a rather different paradigm. Marcus believes that our strengths are gifts from God and he suggests that we find what we are strong at, and grow in those areas.  Now I’ll be honest I reviewed Marcus’ book Find Your Strongest Life Now a few months back and I had a hard time reading through it at first. It’s a bit too technical for me. I read a page of credentials and my eyes start to roll back into my head, but that’s just me. Once I saw Marcus speak and explain his thoughts at WOF’s opening day, I gained new insight into what it means to use the gifts God has given us – not for ourselves – but in order to make a difference in the world.  Strongest Life is definitely one for the tool box. Marcus has put together an easy test that helps you find your strength categories. I’m a Creator/Teacher. If you’d like to take his simple test, simply click Strong Life Test.  and see for yourself. – and remember, this is just a tool — Our toolboxes are only as useful as the tools we place in them. I like adding things to mine.

 Lisa Harper: My first question is how did this wonderful bible teacher keep from being on my radar all these years.  I really like this woman. She’s bright, funny, intuitive, and scripturally sound -  I could relate to Lisa on almost every level. I say almost, because I haven’t lived through everything she has. But close. Lisa talks about a personal relationship with a God who is passionate, powerful, loving, and untamed. She speaks of a Hero in her life – named Jesus and what he has done and continues to do.  She speaks about the women in his life from Mary to Martha to the woman in rags, she speaks of His grace, forgiveness, attention and love that he displayed towards them and continues to display towards us today. My only regret was not taking notes — I really wish I’d done that.

Luci Swindoll: How do you describe a woman like Luci? She’s a painter, a singer, a liver and lover of life. She is passionate about everything she does and brilliant to boot. What I originally liked about Luci was her common sense approach to living out her Christian walk. She embraces the life God has given her and does her best to live it out to his glory and not her own. She’s a giver in every aspect of living. She spoke about the importance of feeding our souls – with important stuff, not stuff of the world, but stuff of God’s gifts to the world – she is also careful to remind us not to be selfish with that, but to share with others.

Sheila Walsh: Even though Sheila is second on the roster, I’m writing about her last. I cried my eyes out the first time I heard Sheila speak – her story is so profound and heartbreaking and refilling all at once that you can’t help but be moved by it. I’ve had a wonderful time watching Sheila grow over the last six years. She is a beautiful, anointed, and gifted teacher, singer and speaker. I can only describe this journey as watching her grow into her skin and be happy there. She’s British (or maybe Scottish, I’m not sure) and it’s easy to mistake the posture that comes with it as cold assurance – when in reality I find Sheila to have this tender heart that just melts anyone’s who knows her. She teaches with clarity and focus and apparent confidence. This year she taught on trust — she spoke of Gideon and Abraham – and to quote my girlfriend – she got “in my business.” and I love it. She has a very gentle and affirming way of combining Gospel and Law in life changing lessons. If you saw only her — it would still be worth the price of the entire weekend.

There were more speakers and skits and singers but it would take a whole week to write about them. They are all wonderful teachers and inspiring women who speak of a faithful and true God. If you’d like to know more about Women of Faith please see their web page at www.womenoffaith.com

Have a blessed Monday ya’ll

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved. Please note that no goods or services were exchanged for this blog post. I am simply sharing my personal opinion on valuable resource.

What if the pastor doesn’t like me? Can I still join?

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14

 

I am a member today of a Lutheran Church in Oklahoma, very much a Christian and very much forgiven and beloved of God, but you know I didn’t always belong to a church.

Confession: I used to believe if the pastor didn’t like me, he (or she) wouldn’t let me belong to their church.

For you life long, church going, Christians out there, that probably comes as a shock. Shock or not, I really did believe that and acted accordingly. This false belief creates a serious dilemma. I want to be part of a faith community and this one man (or woman depending) stands (I believe) as a spokesperson for God; I’m going to have to perform and dance and lie through my teeth if I want to stay here. Not much different really than what I believed about God back then but I am ahead of myself.

My desire to belong mixed with the possibility of rejection, created a fear within me that was so strong that the presence of a pastor made my body shake.  And if they were wearing a death suit? (Black shirt and collar) I would hyperventilate. Nice hunh? yeah, I was a mess and a half. They call that idolatry – placing things or people in higher regard than God, but I didn’t know that. I just thought those were the rules. You are either in or you are out.

I used to try and hide my shaking by placing my right hand on the wall and my left hand on my hip. But then my knees would start to give and ….

To put it another way, my attempts to keep from falling off the planet, made me look like Mae West.

My physical shaking did not stop until about six years ago when I buried ten friends in twelve months. I was so devastated by my personal losses that I no longer cared if any of them liked me or not. They could all hang from a tree as far as I was concerned and like me or hate me I was here for the duration. I sat in church and cried for weeks on end, hanging on – not to their words, but to God himself.

Some faith communities require believing before belonging. Others allow a person to belong long before they really believe. Thankfully for me, by God’s Grace, we found such a community in Oklahoma.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Busted Stick Oklahoma is the very first church I ever belonged to in my entire life. Our family joined Trinity in 1993.  It was a strange set of circumstances that brought us there really. 1. My husband was raised Lutheran, therefore… 2. It was within walking distance from our house. 3. I was a young stay at home mom in a new town, thousands of miles from my old friends. I needed other women to be around and they had young mom’s there.

Not one of those logical to me reasons included my believing what they believed. I just needed to belong somewhere. I was lonely. I’m also ahead of my story here.

When I was a young girl, I tried to join churches. I would visit my grandmother in Buffalo NY and take the bus to this beautiful cathedral and just sit in awe. Back home in Michigan, I would attend festivals and youth group things at local churches and would secretly wish for more. Even though I didn’t belong to a faith community, and I didn’t know all of the fancy prayers those churches had, I knew God and I believed I knew him well and knew that he knew me.  We were best buds growing up. He was the one adult I could always talk to — and he’d listen. I liked that about him.

One day (1978) I went with my neighbors to hear Lisa Welchel (Blair from Fact’s of Life) speak at their church. There was something different about Lisa and while I didn’t understand it I knew it had something to do with Jesus and I wanted what she had. I went home that night and sat in my bed talking to God like I normally did. I told him about everything she said and how I wanted him to please - if it wasn’t too much to ask – do for me what he did for her.

(Edited to add: I had the awesome joy of meeting Lisa Welchel in 2008 when she spoke at E-Women in Tulsa. Lisa knows this story, is touched by it and allows me to share it. — I’m not name dropping here — Lisa was a teen just like me, I could relate to her and that is important)

That very week I walked to every church my little feet would carry me to and boldly sought out the pastors. Each time I’d tell them I want to learn about Jesus and could I join their church.  Every pastor said no.

The Lutheran Pastor said no.

The Catholic Priest said no.

The Baptist Pastor even said no.

My mom, who was seeking her own place to belong brought me with her to a community not far from town, asking if we could belong, and you know what? The Maharishi, said yes.

to be continued….

Facebook and LinkedIN and Twitter, oh my

When I first opened my Facebook account back in whenever it was,2006 or 2007 maybe, it was just to keep track of my kids activities. Soon after that our church friends started joining, then my comic friends, family, highschool, college, and pets. I have so many groups and subgroups, events and book clubs on my account today that I cannot keep track. All this social media is a little overwhelming sometimes. I know I have too many friends when someone can delete me and I cannot figure out who it is. Facebook is my address book of people I’ve met over time and I think I really should have a plan B here because if Facebook suddenly went away, I’d be toast. It’s my glass house menagerie of  acquaintances, family, and friends all mashed into one giant fish bowl and the world feels very very small sometimes.

I’ve noticed a lot of my working friends are establishing two accounts. One for public consumption (fan pages) and one for private use. I’m beginning to like that idea – a lot. but that begets the question of who gets to be public and who gets to be private. I’m too neurotic to decide and so we swim in the same bowl.

For some, Facebook is just composed of their inner circle of friends and I think that’s great. It’s a safe place on the net. There are some pages I don’t need to be on because I’m not in their inner circle — I’m learning it’s okay to step back and give them their pages back –

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my own page yet. I do need to split it out somehow, I’m just not sure how yet.

For those of you  who have Facebook, how do you handle that? Is it private? do you have business contacts separate from friends and family or something else? I’d love to know.

Let’s Talk About it: Spawn of Satan

You couldn’t pay me to be a pastor’s wife. Which is a good thing really because churches don’t pay the wife, only the husband. And even then, they don’t pay much.  I would make a horrible pastor’s wife. Really, I would. I’m too emotional. Too political. Too ADD. Too mean. I have opinions that probably don’t line up with everyone. I sin. As Anne Lamott would say, “I think things so awful that if I were to say them out loud, it would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of a cat bowl.”  Really.

I’m Job’s wife a lot of the time.

“These are the people you love and serve and this is how they treat you? – Don’t tell me God called you to this, quit, it’s not worth it! ( curse God and die basically) - they don’t deserve you!”

Yeah – I’d be a horrible pastor’s wife to be sure.

A friend of ours is a deacon in another church. Their pastor is allegedly the spiritual leader of their church, but only when he does things exactly the way they (the congregation) wants him to. If he steps out of line someone is there to slam him back across the tape.  Some people view him as an employee to do their bidding and nothing more. Fun place to be.

Our friend’s pastor has been teaching the deacons how to lead small group bible studies on Wednesday nights and one of the deacons didn’t like that, so he wrote a letter. In this letter he wrote “you are the spawn of satan and so are your children. If you aren’t willing to do your job and teach on Wednesdays than you have no right taking a paycheck from us….”

WOW. A deacon wrote that!

If that were my husband to receive a letter like that?

 Lock and load baby!

That man wants to see the spawn of satan? I’d show him the spawn of satan all right. Hell hath no fury and all.

Pastor’s wives aren’t allowed to lock and load – they have to love and forgive and cry at home. It’s not fair really – in my opinion. Yeah, I’m not good at that.

Let’s talk about it:

What role does your pastor play in your church? Are they the spiritual leader or just an employee? How would you handle a letter like this? If you are a pastor’s wife or husband reading this — you can comment anonymously if you like — I’d really love to hear from you. – email me privately if you want at deana_ohara@yahoo.com, I’ll protect your name.

From Clown School Drop out to Major Film Star? News at 11.

                                                                              

What secret dream do you dream when no one is looking?

I dream about juggling and being a clown in the circus. That’s a nice practical dream to have when you are 45 don’t you think?   Sometimes, I go into my garage and dig out my old polyester scarves and practice juggling them. Just for fun mind you. When no one is home, I will stand there dropping juggling tossing up my colorful scarves. While I watch them float to the ground, I remember what it is like to dream about running away and joining the circus, . Not just any circus mind you, but THE Ringling Brother’s Barnum and Bailey Circus to be exact. Clown College filled my hopes and dreams for many years. I had the chance to audition for it back in 1988 and I chickened out. True story.

The auditions were a cold call in Chicago.  A come as you are – no make up, no costume, no character, just me. I couldn’t do it. I never arrived – I never tried. I failed before I even began.

Deep down in the secret places of my heart I still want to be a clown, just like my hero Emmett Kelly.

Sometimes secret places can be good places and sometimes not. This kind of memory brings joy mixed with regret. 

I studied clowning for a short time under a former Ringling Brothers clown named Bonzo - aka Barry DeChant – he’s long retired by now I’m sure. Barry worked with our class of wannabes and did his best to teach everyone every secret he knew. I would hang on to every word he said and would try to master every last stance, grin, guffaw, and stunt right up until he taught us how to juggle.

Did I tell you I’m dyslexic? Dyslexic people should probably not juggle. Just sayin.

They shouldn’t twirl batons either — I did that in Junior high. Everyone would toss their batons up and to the left. Mine would go up and to the right. I took out more basketball players with my baton during half time than the cheerleaders did all season.

juggling was no different.

Toss Toss Catch Catch became Toss Toss deargodrun!

The class excelled and Barry gave me scarves proclaiming proudly I couldn’t possible hurt anyone with those — he would have been right too, if he hadn’t stuck me next to the flame thrower for our final show. Good thing those flames weren’t real or that would have been really ugly.

I’m too old for clown college but I’m not too old for second chances. I’ve MCed various fundraiser events for several years. I’ve performed comedy during open mic nights and in churches. I even tried to perform at a Christian Comedy Association conference last year for their open mic night — I suffered severe stage fright, but I did it. I’ve traveled and taken classes on speaking and teaching and performing. I’ve narrowed my focus from speaking and teaching to mostly comedy and I have no regrets. I’m actually pretty funny in case you were wondering. 

I don’t want to wake up 20 years from now and find myself in my garage with my microphone tossing out jokes to an invisible audience.

I have an audition today – with a major motion picture filming director. It’s an open call, come as you are, no character, no costume, no experience necessary — it’s just like the one I ran away from in ’88. Only this time, I’m gonna be there.

Wish me luck.

Living with Epilepsy: D-man has his permit

Pictures aren’t allowed. I wanted to take a photo of D-man with his permit, but he won’t let me. We got it yesterday. The permit that is. The licence will come in six months after he logs the hours and classes needed, as well as passes the state drivers test. 

It took longer than we wanted. He’d actually passed the written test in June. Then we had to wait on the neurologist to see us, file paper work and wait for the state to say yes. D-man had to be seizure free for a year before they’d let him drive. His last seizure was October 5, 2008 – I think we’re good. I’m excited for him and scared all at once. He’ll have to see a doctor regularly and have forms sent in for approval every year for the rest of his life — but he can drive. That is exciting.