Have you ever played small? Cut it out.

Making myself nothing to suit others is not humility; it’s ego and lack of trust. When I make myself small to “help” someone else feel like they are important what I’m really communicating is I think I’m too big for you to handle and you are too weak to see my greatness. Real relationships require real honesty. If I cannot allow myself to be fully me when we’re together, am I really allowing the other person to be all they can be? Of course not.

Making myself nothing is just another mask for fear. Fear is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real. What are we really afraid of when we do that? Rejection? Failure? Pride?

We get caught up in the lie that we are being too prideful if we boast (talk) about our accomplishments. Really? Isn’t playing small prideful as well? Yes, we can be very prideful in our ability to make ourselves small — I see it all the time in church. We get hung up on thinking that playing small pleases God. No it does not.

God did not create us to be small nor did He create us to fit in. We are created in HIS likeness in order to make a difference in this world. We cannot make a difference if we are playing down to nothing.

Making myself nothing so that other people can feel like everything is about manipulation and control. It’s about people pleasing and being liked.

Let go of the control.

Be who you were created to be and make a difference.

You can do it.

I believe in you.

Perfectionism is self hatred in disguise.

I would rather be naked than let you see me learn the banjo. That says a lot. I don’t do naked well. (Think Bob the tomato). Learning something new while people watch is apparently worse.

I call it being an introvert.

My husband calls it being a perfectionist.

Either way, I don’t like people seeing me or hearing me try something new until I master it.

The problem with that?

Life isn’t meant to be lived in a vacuum.

Truth is, I’ll let my husband see me naked, but I won’t let him sit out on the porch while I practice my banjo. For some reason I feel more vulnerable playing the banjo than I do in the nude.

Refusing to let my husband (he’s a professional musician on weekends) hear me play robs him of the joy of music.

I knew my anxiety level had reached an all time high when not only did I not want my husband to hear me play the banjo, I couldn’t play for my teacher either.

When we first started out with lessons — in May, I’d get so nervous that I made my instructor nervous.

That’s rough.

My husband finally offered me his great wisdom.

“This isn’t the Opry, it’s our back porch. Now lighten up and have fun already.”

I’ve been having a lot of fun since he said that. When I get frustrated (like I am tonight) I remind myself that I started playing the banjo on May 25 2012 and I missed three lessons in June because of traveling. So really, I’ve only been playing for four weeks. In those four weeks, I have learned chords, how to tune a banjo, how to read tabs, four basic rolls and now I’m learning slides.

My husband does not think less of me because I haven’t mastered this yet.

My instructor (who has been playing guitar for 40 and banjo for 3 years) does not think less of me because I’m not as good as he is.

Fact: I sing in the chorus of the second longest running presentation of Handel’s Messiah in the US. Have since 2000. I cannot read a lick of music. I’ve memorized the entire piece. That takes talent.

Learning how to create music brings me joy and will help me become a better songwriter.

Hating myself because I have the unrealistic expectation of mastering something over night (like slides) is ridiculous.

This isn’t the Opry.

It’s my back porch.

I hereby give myself permission to not be great while I learn with the knowledge that every time I try, I will get better.

What new thing are you trying to learn right now?

Are you willing to be kind to yourself while you learn?

Oh the Humility! This isn’t your Mama’s Schwinn.

When it comes to learning new things, I am like a two-year-old with a “me do it myself” attitude, only with better resources. Blame it on my DNA if you must, or the fact that I was raised by a boomer to be independent. Who knows. Either way, I’m a book nerd through and through, and have spent most of my 46 years believing if I can’t find it in a book – fake it. Pulling my nose out of the books and interacting with – gasp – humans while I learn, stumble, fall, and learn some more is a HUGE growing experience. The whole everything is better in community stuff. Getting over the whole I-hate-to-look-stupid mindset is a trip and a half down a dark alley. Fortunately my close friends know this about me and love me anyway.

I’m learning a lot of things right now. All of them on purpose. Most of these new adventures do not affect my ego really. Not much anyway. I used to design ss7 switching protocol for a living, complete with electronic and geographic diversity for a major player in telecommunications. (SS7 is, or perhaps was, to telecom what the central nervous system is to the human body.) While that isn’t exactly rocket science, it isn’t easy either. I remind myself of this fact rather frequently these days while I stumble through my new adventures.

Jo is teaching me how to ride horses –– We practiced jumping this week and while I fell off Cowboy during a jump last week, I didn’t die and we were right back at it the following week. We literally raised the bar and the speed and I am having a blast. I’ve known Jo for almost ten years. Having her teach me how to ride, race, and jump does not bother me. This is my escape from the testosterone around me. Nothing against the guys, but being the lone female in a house full of men can get overwhelming sometimes and I need a break. There is a coolness factor involved here to be sure. There is no way I could simply saddle up a horse and start jumping all on my own. I needed someone to step me through it.

Ruth is teaching me how to make a quilt. I cannot presently sew to save my life. I was raised by a woman’s rights baby boomer. My never learning how to sew is no big deal. My mother wanted more for my life than to be domestic slave. I mean housewife. – I am a housewife today. This kills her. That status is changing ever so rapidly, but I digress. I’m learning how to quilt because my grandmother was a blue ribbon quilter. She cut small squares, pieced everything by hand, and even quilted by hand. That’s a strong legacy. My mother also quilts, but uses a sewing machine. My mother is dying and does not have the time left to finish all of the quilts she had in mind. Mom gave me two boxes of material when I was home last summer. I’m learning how to quilt as a way to honor both her and my grandmother. Ruth is taking our small class through every baby step imaginable. This too is fun and does not bother me.

Soccer Mom meets Hipsters and Racers – oh yeah this one bothers me a little. – Broomfield this is for you. Riding bikes with the kids on our Mom bikes is NOT the same thing as wanting to go the distance with adults. I’m just sayin. There is a learning curve so curvy that it makes Dolly Parton look like an A-Cup. 

My Bicycle evolution: (do not be fooled by the photos, owning bikes and knowing what to do with them – are not the same thing.)

An example of my Very First Bike -- I got a banana seat Schwinn for Christmas when I was 10. It was totally decked out with streamers and a flowered basket. Being the only girl on the block I raced the boys up and down hills and destroyed it in no time. But I still loved it.
I got my first and only 10 speed when I was 13. Oddly I never had to change a tire or anything major. I owned this bike until I was almost 30. My husband and I used to ride the trail systems of Chicago back in the day.
Example of the "pretty" 5-speed from Wally World. I HATED this bike. Nuff Said.
My new 18 speed Giant. My very first true road bike purchased just last fall.

I bought a new bike last fall because I wanted to get back in shape – easy peasy. It’s just a new bike, how much is there to know? Apparently a lot.  I learned this week that leaving the sporting goods store behind and going to a local bike shop is fun, exciting, and scary. Scary because I’m a soccer mom. They are well, not soccer mom’s. They are mostly grown men (save for one nice gal that helped me pick out my bike) who get to work on gears, chains, frames etc in what I will call an oversized garage – only much cooler looking. — If I could pick a dream job for my youngest son, it would be this. They also race and I hear there is beer involved at the end of the day. — Testosterone heaven, minus the pin up calendar.

For some strange reason, I find myself slightly intimidated at this point. I love this store and I really like the staff. Yet walking in with my questions, I feel like Velma from Scooby Doo walking in to a surf shop wanting a boogie board. I could swear there were moments when I could see the backs of people’s heads through their eyeballs. — My first attempt at picking out a new bike last fall met with some quiet smirks and a few giggles. It seems I picked out a rather expensive trick bike that was primarily for “hipsters.” I wanted to know what a hipster was, but decided it was one of those words that if you don’t know, don’t ask. We landed on a just my size Giant and I’m very happy with it.

Not a whole lot of humility has been required at this point. I order a bike, I pick it up. I notice the tires are thin and bald, but I don’t ask why. It doesn’t have a kick stand either but I don’t notice that until I get home. — I later learn that street bikes come that way. OH! — I try my new bike out for two months and keep falling over because of the death straps on the pedals. I get a post card in the mail reminding me the shop will tune up the bike for free after 30 days and to bring it in. They lure me with the promise of 15% off any one accessory.
I get to accessorize? OOH! I’m there.

I wasn’t feeling intimidated when I dropped off my bike for its check up, I did however feel intimidated when I had to pick it up. Dropping off was easy, the store was empty. Picking it up, the store was full — of pros. Racers et al. Some nice fellow puts my bike back on the rack because whoever worked on it forgot to remove the death grips. While talking about those little buggers that want to kill me, I did learn that they are called “toe clips.” OH! — I can hang any hope for cool points out the window. This is Walmart meets Lance Armstrong all the way. Part of me was secretly wishing for my soccer van back.

Watching him work on my bike, I am suddenly transported back to Chicago, 1987. My car is in the shop, running badly, and the mechanic is little lady this, little lady that – trying to convince me that my sweet pinto is on it’s deathbed but for $500 he can hook it up to machines and bring it back ala Frankenstein. I grab my keys, turn the motor, and the car shakes like crazy so I pop the hood. I jiggle the spark plugs, reconnect the loose wire that wasn’t loose when I dropped it off for the oil change, and viola my car is resurrected from the soon to be dead. hmm. Jerkface was trying to rip me off.

Truth is, I knew more about cars at 22 than I know about bikes at 46. I also paid more for this street bike than I did for my first three cars. I am completely at the mercy of these guys. These men who probably have other jobs, but maybe not. Who race, sweat, get covered in grime, wipe out, drink beer and live to ride another day. If you really want to know, I’m not a mercy rule kind of gal, unless I am the one dealing the mercy cards anyway.  I’m more often than not the two-year old who insists “I do it myself.” sigh.

Thankfully, none of them laughed at my questions – at least not to my face. I needed a “kit” and helmet. Having no clue what either entailed I had to rely on the guys. The kit I learned is made up of an inner tube, tire repair kit, bag that fits under the seat, some blue plastic sticks and a CO2 Cartridge. The look on the guys face when I asked what the sticks were for was priceless. Yes I’m sure I saw the back of his head through that one. He then walked over to the bike on the rack and mimed how one would use them to pry off a flat tire. That was nice of him. A real mountain biker walked in at that point and needed his expertise and so Mr Mechanic dude took over after that.

He seemed far more well, amused? Empathetic? Tolerant? Closer to my age – yes that would be it right there.  He got me a CO2 kit that was “idiot proof, no offense.” none taken I assured him, put the kit bag together, double checked everything on my bike, and helped me size my first helmet. A simple grey deal which I consider my starter helmet.

Being helped to pick out a helmet that fits by a total stranger, that kinda bugged me. Dear lord, you’d think he helped me pick out a training bra or something.  I’ve never worn a helmet in all my 46 years, there is no way I would instinctively know anything about sizing, so why it bugged me I don’t know. Must be my EGO pure and simple. It’s not like I put my first pick on backwards or anything, I just happened to pick up a kids helmet. Yep – I needed help with sizing. It only killed me a little bit. You know?

So now I have my re-tuned bike, a road kit, and a helmet. I’m ready to step up the challenge and learn to ride with a group. Maybe. That is my eventual goal I know. Can’t ride the MS150 by myself. I’m thinking I should try the trails on my own first, maybe?  That way I know them and I”m not learning group etiquette and geography all at the same time. Baby steps and all that jazz.

I know I said I was going to post miles each week, but I can’t figure out how to gauge that. Probably another toy or something. I’ll figure it out eventually that or I’ll ask someone. Just not today.

Have a great weekend you guys.



Modern Evangelism: Your Church Sucks, Come to ours instead

I am a sword carrying idiot. I’ve been known to wrecklessly wield my good intentions at people and not only cut their ears off, but their heads as well.  This blog post is as much about me as it is THEM.


Remember when there used to be ethics in advertising? There was a day when companies would spend their ad dollars on themselves without ever once mentioning the competition. I miss those days. I could be wrong, but I think Burger King was the first nationally known company to advertise against someone else. That someone else being McDonalds.  It was only a matter of time before everyone followed suit and today some companies go so far trashing the competition that the only name I remember from the commercial is the other brand. Yeah that’s effective.

Politicians do the same thing. They spend their advertising budget slandering their opponent without ever saying what they themselves stand for.

What saddens me is churches and some pastors are following the same path. Not just in my LCMS world either. Follow Twitter for a while and you’ll see what I mean – pastor’s world-wide trashing other pastors and churches for being different.

You’re going to hell and I’m not and let me tell you why. – ooh love me some piety. With an opening like that, I don’t even want to be in the same room as you, much less be stuck with you for eternity.

The emergent church this.

The liturgical church that.

This conference is horrible and ours is much Godlier – wanna know why? No not anymore, I send my kids to that and you just accused me of being ungodly for doing so. Besides – the horse you’re riding on is so high, I can’t hear all the way down here in the gutter you act like I live in.

Marketing 101 says “Don’t waste precious resources (dollars and time) talking about someone else’s brand. Talk about your own.

Every worthwhile communication skills book I’ve ever read tells me not to start with you statements. You statements are confrontational and achieve nothing more than putting the other person in a defensive position. People don’t hear anything past a slam; it’s ineffective and childish. You’ve just told me I’m an idiot, bad parent, ungodly, whatever for supporting X and you want me to listen to you? Fat chance bub.

Insulting me – which is what happens with you statements, doesn’t make you look better in my eyes, it makes you look like, well… a donkey.

Imagine if we spoke to our spouses or kids like that? You never take out the trash. You’re lazy why can’t you keep the house looking the way I like it? You never listen to me. You… you… you…

Problem is, the real issue is rarely about you and really about me — I have a need that is going unmet and I while I may not be intentionally blaming you for it, I’m going to defend it even if it means cutting your head off. You statements breed rebellion or worse – little deaths of esteem, trust, respect and maybe even the relationship.

The only thing that can heal that is the supernatural touch of Christ.

Remember Peter and the night in the garden? He cut off the ear of a Roman soldier sent to take Christ to Pilate.

John 18: 1When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.

 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

 4Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

 5″Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

   “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

 7Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
      And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

 8″I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”[a]

 10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

 11Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

The Gospel of Luke Chapter 22 states this as well: 

47While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

 49When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

 51But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

Poor Peter – just hours before this little skirmish he told Jesus he was ready to follow him to prison and even death. But Jesus knew better. Peter was passionate to be sure and his passion was actually a stumbling block for the progression of the church and the Gospel. Peter wound up being humbled through incredible failure – he denied knowing Jesus three times.

I’m a former Shaolin Swordsman. I know how heavy swords are and how to properly wield them. The laws of physical science also prove that Peter wasn’t going for the guard’s ear. He was wielding that sword perpendicular to the ground and going for his head. Fortunately the soldier ducked.

How does that apply to today’s world? Well meaning (I hope) and passionate people – people like you and like me – are wielding verbal swords at each other – intending I believe to defend Christ – only we mess it up and cut each other’s ears and heads off with you statements and arrogant piety, and Christ has to intervene and tell us to stop.

My passion for truth can be a stumbling block for many – and it takes the hand of Christ to heal the ears I’ve cut off in my life.

My actions in my life have also denied Christ a time or two. My sword has probably turned more people off than on when it comes to the Christian faith.

I “get” Peter. I understand his love, his wellmeaningness and his passion. I used to carry his sword with me and wielded it any chance I got, confusing those who disagreed with me, with the enemy. Maybe that is why I kinda like some of these younger missionaries I see passionately supporting their stand. They are in the Gethsemane season of life – praying lest they fall into temptation – defending Jesus with all their soul and might – thinking they know what lies ahead, but they really don’t. Not yet. They are living on the dark side of the resurrection if you will. And what I mean by that, is they see the Law – Jesus having to suffer and die for our sins – and they have not lived long enough yet to see the Gospel – The Ressurected Christ, the grace and mercy bestowed upon our lives. They’re not there yet.

They too will be humbled and they too will be restored – just like Peter and the rest of us sword carrying idiots – and soon enough they will learn how to fish again.

Who is the swordsman in your life? Is it you? Or is it someone else. How do you deal with swords that come your way?

This blog post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved. July 16, 2010