Archive for the Category » Jesus Time «

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 | Author:

About a year and a half ago, my world shattered. Today is not the day for those details. Just know that I don’t use the word “shattered” lightly. I lost people, places, calling. I used the word “decimated” a lot.

I walked around in a fog of grief: The heaviness that weights you, making every single task a deliberating, exhausting undertaking. I wasn’t even sure of how I was spending my days. Time got away from me a lot as I sat in my thoughts and memories and questions.

At the beginning, right when everything shattered, a friend sent me a quote from George Matheson that has kept me going like a light at the end of a very very long, very very dark tunnel: “Waiting with hope is very difficult, but true patience is expressed when we must even wait for hope. I will have reached the point of greatest strength once I have learned to wait for hope.”

This has been a season of waiting for hope. When the word “decimated” describes your life, it’s hard to have hope. I didn’t. I was hopeful for hope. And that’s a hard distinction to make, and a hard thing to admit.

This is part of a poem I wrote on January 29, 2013 in the midst of my heavy, empty season.

…Yearning for a new life, a new land, for some hope.

I can see it on the horizon, but the horizon is far away.
I hope I’ll someday get there, but it won’t be today.

I want the joy of healing, i just haven’t found it yet.
Today I’m still alone,  my companions heartache and regret.

Soon I’ll trade them in, trade them new, for hope of better things,
But today I’m lost. I cry. I grieve.

Here are some lines from a bit later in the journey:

I want to have hope
right now I have none
(I want to be done).
But I am hopeful for hope
— I believe it will come.

I have not known hope in 19 months. That is, until a few weeks ago.

The logic in my head said that things would progress in life. That I could rebuild. That in time, with effort, it wouldn’t always be like this. But my heart could not feel it, could not believe it.

But after 19 months of my heart being earnestly on the lookout for hope, I found it.

I’m like Kevin in Home Alone, having the revelation and yelling at the furnace “I’m not afraid anymore!”

DO YOU HEAR ME? I HAVE HOPE!! I FOUND IT!

My soul feels like a broken jar that leaks, but enough has run into my broken heart for long enough that what is being poured in is overcompensating for what the cracks are leaking out. It’s taken a while to fill up because of those cracks. But I’m full again, and filling still.

And I believe part the reason is that in the last few months I’ve begun to take the hard, painful, intimidating step of telling my story — to people I have known for my whole life, to people who I’m just meeting. I’m telling my painful story, again and again, and in the telling, I feel myself getting fuller. I feel the cracks in my heart and my life decreasing in their gaping size.

I believe this is the stage of grief that they call “acceptance.” I had accepted it for myself a while back. But this step of accepting my loss, accepting my story out loud, is different. It is scary and powerful and freeing.  And, it turns out, in the breathing out of the painful story, hope is breathed in.

Last week, I found myself thinking, unfiltered, “I love my life” as I went to bed. And it was true. It’s not even a great life. But I love it and the people in it. And it’s because I’m in love with life again. I’m full of hope again. I’m excited again.

large_127012194photo credit: fanz via photopin cc

Like walking down a dark tunnel toward the light at the end, I could see hope ahead of me this whole journey. My eyes were on it. My focus was toward it. But that night last week was that moment when you finally realize, you not just see the light, you are in the light. Under it. Surrounded by it. You may still be in the tunnel, but you are engulfed in the light of day ahead.

I laugh easily now. Often too loud. The loss doesn’t seem as heavy on most days. The broken pieces don’t feel so “decimated” anymore. The effort it takes to breathe is unnoticeable, as it’s meant to be. I know how I spend my days, and I spend them doing things I love, things that bring me back to life.

I am engulfed in hope.

And I’m giddy like a little kid on Christmas about the whole thing.

And to you who have walked with me through the tunnel, who have assured me that the light of day at the end is real when it felt like it was just an illusion — thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Let’s celebrate. You were right!

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, April 08th, 2014 | Author:

*Note: There are no spoilers in this post if you know the gist of the Noah story from the Bible or the movie trailer or general knowledge.

Here’s my caveat. This is not a movie review. I loved the movie. If you didn’t, you can still read this, though.

There’s one part of the movie that is totally biblically accurate, or, in non-christian-speak, it’s true to the book, and it’s the part that caught me off guard and has had me thinking about it ever since.

Noah got drunk.

This is after the climax of the movie. But it’s odd, because where we’d expect easy resolution to the tension of the plot line, all the sudden it just kind of fades into a weird side note about Noah getting drunk. Because Noah is a real guy, and in real life, when the storm ends and the rainbow comes, you still have to live the rest of your life.

Here it is from the book: “Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent” (Genesis 9:20-21 NIV).

This is the part that hit me hard. I had always read that at face value. Noah got drunk. I always saw it as humorous, like it was something that had never happened before. Like if your sweet, goody-two-shoes grandma had too much to drink one time.

But in the movie, it portrays Noah alone, apart from his family, spending time in a cave on the shore getting drunk. Getting wasted. Until he’s face-down, passed out in the sand, and naked.

It’s heart breaking. It’s a man who, despite the symbols of peace and hope we use to this day being delivered to his door step — a dove with an olive branch, and the rainbow of promise — he’s left alone in a new world being told it has to all start again with him.  And he goes through the long process of planting a vineyard. Waiting for it to grow. Cultivating and fermenting the grapes to make wine. So finally, finally, he can have something to numb the ache. Something to drown out the screams of the drowning world that weigh so heavily on his shoulders.

Because God, in sparing Noah, pulled a merciful, jerk move. He left Noah in a place that he was never meant to be. A new Adam, so to speak. Facing a new world knowing how humans messed it up the last time, and knowing deep down that it will happen again, and that this time it will start with him and his family line.

This passage doesn’t talk about avoiding drunkenness.

It just tells it like it is.  Noah got drunk.

But it took the movie to show me why. It wasn’t celebration or carelessness like I had always assumed. Noah — despite being spared from destruction, despite the promise of the almighty Creator that He would never destroy like this again — is left having lost everything. Having to rebuild. It takes him months of preparation to get drunk. Those vineyards had to be an intentional decision.

I know what it is to start over on a minor scale — to see people in my wake drowning — to be hurt by where my choices, other people’s choices, and God’s path have taken me. And I know that at the end of the day, the rainbow doesn’t just take all that away. We’re still left with a muddy, barren world. And a God who seems so merciful and loving through the storm, but who feels so distant in the rebuilding. He is there. I am sure of it. But while we’ve been rescued, we’re still reeling from everything that was lost.

If Noah was the most righteous guy out there, if he was God’s go-to, start-over-with-him guy, and the pressures of the path turned him into a hopeless drunk, what will become of me?

We don’t hear about him after that. We’re told: “After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.”

Did he spend 350 years blacking out to avoid the pain? I don’t know. Did God use him again in unrecorded ways? I don’t know. Did God ever work in his life and his heart to the point where he didn’t hear the screams at night anymore? I so desperately hope so. Did he get to the point where doves, olive trees, and rainbows really did give him hope for the work God was doing in the world? The part of me that begs for resolution says: I’m certain he did. But to be honest, the Bible does not say.

Assuming we both end up in heaven, I’m going to find Noah, and I’m going to buy him a drink. Not a sad drink. It will be a drink to celebrate that the hope has been fulfilled and that the ache is no more.
It’ll also give me a chance to teach him about umbrellas (since they’ll be in our drinks, obviously).

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 | Author:

I have some amazingly positive people in my life.  And they help me be who I am because they are so supportive.

But how do they do this besides just showing their unconditional, “I’m not going anywhere” spirit? Well, one of the ways I’ve noticed is that they remind me of my worth. They remind me of my talents. They remind me of my beauty, of what I’m good at. They affirm my abilities and my dreams.  Not blindly so. They critique, they give honest feedback, they even have those painful “hey look” moments with me when something needs to change.

But, it’s because of these people that I am confident in my worth, even when I am not confident in who I am.

When I graduated college, I had a clear goal in one area that I wanted to change:

I wanted to be kinder.

I am a naturally feisty, competitive, sarcastic, funny with a little kick to it, person.  As a result, my presence has a bite to it. (It often leaves a bitter aftertaste when my sarcasm has gotten away from me.)

And while I had plenty of friends who loved me, and I could’ve gone on the same, I wanted to change.  These people that I had around me who were sweet, who made me feel so uplifted and valuable… I wanted to make others feel that way too.

I’ve been working on changing my spirit toward kindness since then, and I see significant changes in my heart.

I wouldn’t call myself a sweet person.  I still have a large streak of feist that runs deep through me, and I think that’s ok.  But, while I have a lot of room to grow still, I am kinder than I once was.  I am slower to get irritated. My eyes have changed, and I don’t have to work very hard to see the beauty in each individual person.

But I still want to grow.  And I’ve realized that just being someone who sees the beauty in someone is not really what the world needs. The world needs people who see the beauty in others, and who show it back to them.

I can’t believe I’m using this word, but I want to be a cheerleader.  I am (rooting) for people.  I want them to dream. To succeed. To love.  To know they’re valuable.

It goes against the grains of my old competitive nature. But that’s the reality, is that the woman God is calling me to be doesn’t want others to fail or never try so that I may stand out. I want to be the one with balloons who celebrates the successes of people I barely know.

Because, when I am really secure in my worth, as my loving, positive people have made me… I’ve found it to be much easier to believe that other people are just as valuable as I am. And that their dreams, success, and loves, that those are worth encouraging as much as mine are, too.

And the more I trust God and what He’s doing with my life, the easier it is to be genuinely glad for others when they get things/opportunities/relationships/recognition that I wanted.

I know I’m not near there yet.  It’s a new goal, though.  I want to be an encourager, not spouting empty compliments, but someone who sees the good in the world, and shows the world where its good. I want to be genuinely happy for people about the happy things of life, and sad with them for the sad things.

So, my new goal is going to take more effort, but I hope someday, when people look back on my life, that it will be clear that I was for people. And I hope that somehow, as more and more people find the confidence in their worth, and begin to let their beauty shine, this legacy of encouragement that my friends have spurred in my life will continue, and that the world will become even bit brighter still.

To you who have and do speak and act encouragingly in my life, thank you for who you are and how you are. You inspire me.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 | Author:

“Walking in the light” — When I was supposed to be running at Crossfit

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I was on lap 15 around the track at crossfit last night at the end of our workout (don’t be impressed… these are small laps, 1/6 of a mile each) when I noticed something happen in me.

I was running at the moment, but lots of people were walking at all different points on the track, which I had just been doing, too.  Our trainer yelled across the dark parking lot, “Come on!  Stop walking!  Stop Cheating!  I can see you… you’re not hiding!”

I had fallen into the pattern on the last couple laps of running 3/4 of the lap and then walking around the the last bend (which was the darkest portion of the parking lot and most hidden from view from Troy, the trainer). After he yelled the comment about “I can see you” which wasn’t directed toward me, something happened inside of me without me even being conscious of it.

As I approached the last bend where I’d normally walk, I slowed to a walk for 3 steps to get a few deep breaths, and then I kept running until I was in the light, right in front of Troy. Then began to walk until I hit the next bend where it was dark — then I’d run again.  I kept that pattern for the last 4 laps I had to run.

At first, as I noticed it, I wondered, “what is this… am I being obstinate?” That is like me normally, but in Crossfit, I have a very different personality:  I am not very competitive, I don’t question or challenge, I just do as I’m told. So this seeming streak of obstinance was odd.  And I didn’t feel like I was doing it just to be stubborn. I just needed to walk a few steps each lap.

Then I realized…

I’m an open person. The people close to me know more about me than they may want to know. Believe me. (Ask them about the last time I had the stomach flu… they all know the gross, embarrassing details.) I don’t really keep secrets.  I am independent and I like to not feel tied down or trapped, but I am open and honest

The thing is, I had this one secret that no one knew. I wish I had told it, but I didn’t and the secret got out anyway. It ruined, shattered, decimated my life and the lives of many, many others.  The damage is still very much a part of everyday life for many of us that are left sorting through the ruins, trying to rebuild.  The damage is so much worse because it was a secret for so long.

I made a commitment after that to have no more secrets.  If I’m doing something right, if I’m doing something wrong but don’t want to change it… it doesn’t matter, but I want to be honest about it. It’s a self-protection thing as much as it is an integrity thing. And it’s a practice that I had in place in my life for the most part already, but now I have a knee-jerk reaction against secrecy or the indication of secrecy.

So, put that onto a track in a dark parking lot where we’re supposed to run a 5k after our crossfit workout, and you get me, deliberately walking in the lighted areas where I can be sure that our trainer can see me.

So that’s what I’m trying to do these days: to not pretend to be anything but what I am. In the good ways and the bad ways.

And I believe there’s value in that. I believe it’s even Biblical for those of us of a Christian faith: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

When we walk in the light, we can have fellowship — which means we can be real, be known, and be encouraging to one another.

I’m sure part of it had to do with me being new, too, but Troy never did yell at me for walking when I did. It would be silly to yell, “I can see you” when I was standing in front of him. Instead, he was able to speak words of encouragement at a normal decibal, “Come on, a few more laps, you can make it, good job.”

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and story-teller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.  Other places are

instagram: jrolicious       twitter: jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 | Author:

photo (7)I was talking with a friend recently and somehow the topic of the Proverbs 31 woman came up. “She is not afraid of the snow,” he said, “I always found that part funny.”

“Sweet,” I replied. “I’m not afraid of the snow either! At least I’ve got that part down.”

***

But can I be honest? As I left that conversation, I started to realize – I am afraid.

When I was in 8th grade, I won a “Fear Factor” knockoff competition that was held at a youth event in our town.  Hundreds of kids from ages 11-18 were there. I think about 40 of us started the competition, but by the final round there were only three left. They filled a baptism with ice, then with water, and myself and 2 senior boys were the only ones left.  We had to submerge ourselves in the ice water, and hold our breath for as long as we could.  One of the boys was an extremely talented trumpet-player (like… he is a professional musician now. Not in the struggling musician kind of way, either.) so I knew his lung capacity was better than mine. The freezing water took my breath away even before I put my head under.  But I made a decision that I was going to stay under that water until I passed out if I had to. I wasn’t afraid.

I stayed under for over a minute

And I won. My prize was $75 and bragging rights.

At the end of that school year, we had our annual end of the year band concert, and our band director, as was his custom, said something about each graduating 8th grader. It was his tradition to come up with one word that summed up that person.

My word was “Fearless.

And you know what? I was.

But not even a year later, we received a phone call that my sister was in a coma. Within 24 hours I was in a hospital room with our family and pastors, and we watched her die. Just like that. And our lives have never been the same.

That scares me more than I can say – that life, our most important thing we have, is so fragile that it could end or change forever in an instant.

In the NIV, it says “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet” (Proverbs 31:21)

I think what it’s talking about is that she is capable, she provides for her family, her husband provides for her family, and God provides for their family.  She’s not afraid of the hard seasons because she is provided for and the people she loves are provided for. They’ll make it through. In fact, they’re not just clothed, they’re clothed in scarlet. They’re not just taken care of, they are provided for and blessed in unnecessary ways.

I can look back on the winters of my life – the times when the snow has fallen and covered everything that I knew, where my world became a blank canvas, the comfort of the familiar washed blank by the storm – and I can see that I have been clothed and provided for, and even blessed above and beyond that.

But even while that’s true, I know how incredibly dark, and cold, and scary those winter storms of life were to live through. And if I’m honest, while I trust God to clothe me and the people I love in scarlet when it snows, and while I trust it will be ok, I’m still afraid. I’m not afraid we won’t make it through. I’m afraid of the sheer pain, ache, and effort it takes to make it through. It scares me to know that I will inevitably live through more winter seasons of life.

So, I don’t have that one down.  I am afraid of the snow. But I know that the snow will come, and we will be clothed in scarlet. And I will take a deep breath and walk through those winter seasons when they come, because I will have the hope that spring is coming.

I’ve realized recently that if there was a word to summarize who I am, I don’t know that I want it to be fearless. Because I have seen winter, I have seen darkness, I have known fear. That’s what’s real, what’s true about my life.  But I will not be shackled by fear. I hope, instead of being fearless, that I will be Brave even when I am afraid.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and story-teller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.  Other places are

instagram: jrolicious       twitter: jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com

“Sweet,” I replied. “I’m not afraid of the snow either! At least I’ve got that part down.”
But can I be honest? As I left that conversation, I started to realize – I am afraid.
When I was in 8th grade, I won a “Fear Factor” knockoff competition that was held at a youth event in our town.  Hundreds of kids from ages 11-18 were there. I think about 40 of us started the competition, but by the final round there were only three left. They filled a baptism with ice, then with water, and myself and 2 senior boys were the only ones left.  We had to submerge ourselves in the ice water, and hold our breath for as long as we could.  One of the boys was an extremely talented trumpet-player (like… he is a professional musician now. Not in the struggling musician kind of way, either.) so I knew his lung capacity was better than mine. The freezing water took my breath away even before I put my head under.  But I made a decision that I was going to stay under that water until I passed out if I had to. I wasn’t afraid.
I stayed under for over a minute.
And I won. My prize was $75 and bragging rights.
At the end of that school year, we had our annual end of the year band concert, and our band director, as was his custom, said something about each graduating 8th grader. It was his tradition to come up with one word that summed up that person.
My word was “Fearless.”
And you know what? I was.
But not even a year later, we received a phone call that my sister was in a coma. Within 24 hours I was in a hospital room with our family and pastors, and we watched her die. Just like that. And our lives have never been the same.
That scares me more than I can say – that life, our most important thing we have, is so fragile that it could end or change forever in an instant.
In the NIV, it says “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet” (Proverbs 31:21).
I think what it’s talking about is that she is capable, she provides for her family, her husband provides for her family, and God provides for their family.  She’s not afraid of the hard seasons because she is provided for and the people she loves are provided for. They’ll make it through. In fact, they’re not just clothed, they’re clothed in scarlet. They’re not just taken care of, they are provided for and blessed in unnecessary ways.
I can look back on the winters of my life – the times when the snow has fallen and covered everything that I knew, where my world became a blank canvas, the comfort of the familiar washed blank by the storm – and I can see that I have been clothed and provided for, and even blessed above and beyond that.
But even while that’s true, I know how incredibly dark, and cold, and scary those winter storms of life were to live through. And if I’m honest, while I trust God to clothe me and the people I love in scarlet when it snows, and while I trust it will be ok, I’m still afraid. I’m not afraid we won’t make it through. I’m afraid of the sheer pain, ache, and effort it takes to make it through. It scares me to know that I will inevitably live through more winter seasons of life.
So, I don’t have that one down.  I am afraid of the snow. But I know that the snow will come, and we will be clothed in scarlet. And I will take a deep breath and walk through those winter seasons when they come, because I will have the hope that spring is coming.
I’ve realized recently that if there was a word to summarize who I am, I don’t know that I want it to be fearless. Because I have seen winter, I have seen darkness, I have known fear. That’s what’s real, what’s true about my life.  But I will not be shackled by fear. I hope, instead of being fearless, that I will be Brave even when I am afraid.
Thursday, December 26th, 2013 | Author:

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North State Voices: The year I showed up (again and again)

By Joanna O’Hanlon

Posted:   12/25/2013 09:45:39 PM PST

I was sitting in an apartment that is no longer mine, in a town that I no longer live in, on a couch that I no longer own. It was the end of 2012, and I was writing a letter to the new year.

“Dear 2013,” I began, full of hope for the new year and some phony, feel-good, end-of-the-year reflections. I asked hypothetical questions that sounded good at the time: “What will you bring me this year? Will you bring the best or the worst of times? Will you shatter my world in a moment? Or will you bring the beginning of new things?”

I didn’t know then that in two days’ time, I would collapse in a mess of anxiety, grief and dry-heaving behind that same couch. I didn’t know that my smile would disappear for months. I didn’t know that the hypothetical question about my world shattering would be exactly what this year would bring.

In the latter part of the letter, I made some commitments to 2013, promising what I would bring to the table in the new year. The first flippant promise I made, the one I thought least about before typing it onto the page was this: “I will bring all of me for 12 months, no less and no more. I will be present.”

What I meant was that I would smell the roses and wouldn’t be on my phone at the dinner table. Quickly, though, this promise began to be a theme on a very literal level.

The hardest thing I did this year was to continue to show up to places and spaces in which I didn’t want to be.

It has been a year of great loss. There were many, many days where I didn’t want to get out of bed because life seemed too heavy to handle. But I got up.

It has been a year of great pain — my own, and the pain I’ve caused and seen in others. There have been many rooms I did not want to walk into, phone calls I didn’t want to make, confrontations that I would rather avoid for eternity. I wanted to run away, but I walked into those rooms, I voiced the words that made my gut churn, I was physically present in the hardest of situations I’ve yet to know.

It has been a year of great change. I moved into a new community where I knew exactly one person. I finally got the courage to put in the effort to start over and get to know new people. I took enough deep breaths and talked myself into going to a group function at church, only to find out they were not there — they were having a barbecue at a park.

While a voice inside said, “Oh thank God, I can just go home,” my hands looked up directions to the park, and I went, looking for a large group of people I had never met. I found them eventually, and it was not comfortable. But I went back the next week, and the next, and the next.

It has been a year of growth: Spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. I was able to climb my first 14,000-foot mountain this year because I started to run several times a week. I have never “felt like running” in my life. But I put my shoes on, and put one step in front of the other until I was done with each run. And you know what? The more I run, the easier it gets.

These things only happened, though, because of one decision.

I told 2013 that I would give all of me for 12 months. I promised that I would show up. So I have. As a result, I have traveled farther in every atmosphere of my life than I have in any year prior.

It has been the hardest thing I have ever done. And I intend to do it again next year.

Dear 2014: I don’t know if I can offer much, but I’ll bring all of me for 12 months, no more, no less. I promise to show up.

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Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and story-teller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.  Other places are

instagram: jrolicious       twitter: jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com

*You can read the original “Dear 2013” letter here

Thursday, September 05th, 2013 | Author:

North State Voices: Letter to the church: Stop singing louder
By Joanna O’Hanlon

wailing wall

An open letter to the Christian church:

I heard a story recently about a church in Europe during the Holocaust. The church was situated right in front of the railroad tracks. They would meet for Sunday services and the parishioners could hear screams as the trains chugged closer, approaching their house of worship. They were the screams of human beings being lugged like cattle to the camps — to their deaths.

So the congregation would sing louder to drown out their screams.

I heard this story at a conference tied to an outreach opportunity on a recent Saturday in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco — a place known for being home to many who are down and out. Local legend says the Tenderloin even gets its name from the corruption that pervaded the area back when the police’s blind eye to what was happening there could be bought with a choice piece of meat. Now it is “home” to most of the city’s homeless.

In the closing conference session, a local pastor and nationally acclaimed Christian author, Francis Chan, related the above story of the church on the railroad tracks.

He told the simple truth that once he saw the lives of the people living on and around the streets of the Tenderloin, he couldn’t handle the idea of just singing louder, so he stayed there and is doing something about it.

Unfortunately, much of the Christian church still has the habit of ignoring the injustice of the world. In fact, we often use religious things to excuse or make up for our complacency.

The problem in the church is our love of comfort. It drives us to choose to remain ignorant because it’s easier on our minds, our lives, our time, our wallets.

I’ve done it more than I can stomach. You may have, too.

But more than anyone, Christians are very clearly called to care about social injustice. The Jesus of the gospels was not one to ignore oppression. He called injustice out. He cared about the cast-outs, the dropouts, and the not-good-enoughs. If I know anything about the God of the Bible, it’s that he cares about people. All people. Deliberate ignorance has to stop.

Why do people dislike the church? Because when victims of injustice scream for help, we have historically stayed inside and drowned them out with our hypocritical melodies.

The next day after the conference in the Tenderloin, I was sitting in church in Granite Bay, and a pastor was speaking from the pulpit about an organization that fights against sex trafficking in Asia. He was saying, “They are pulling girls out of brothels and liberating them and rehabilitating them. But do you know how young some of these girls are when they are first trafficked? As young as 4 years old.”

As he said that last part, the woman sitting next to me closed her eyes tightly, made a foul face and plugged her ears. She waited until he was done talking before she tentatively opened one eye, saw that he was through, and then unplugged her ears, letting her face return to a relaxed smile.

Maybe, like Mrs. Bennett in “Pride and Prejudice,” the harsh truth was just too much for her nerves.

But maybe if she had listened, that vomit-inducing, heart-wrenching truth about 4-year-olds being sold and raped repeatedly would’ve been too much to ignore. Maybe she would’ve been disturbed as some of us were for the rest of the day. She would’ve thought about it that night as she tucked her daughter into bed. Maybe it would’ve been enough to spur her to do something about it.

But because she plugged her ears, when the next song was played, she just smiled, and she sang loudly.

To those who have been the victims of injustice while the people of God did nothing, my heart breaks for you, and so does the heart of God. There is no excuse. To those in the church, let’s write a new story of the church where we are willing to abandon comfort for the sake of people, because people matter to God, and they should matter to us.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and story-teller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.  Other places are

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storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Friday, June 14th, 2013 | Author:

North State Voices: Tears sometimes can be tears of hope

By Joanna O’Hanlon
Posted:   06/13/2013 01:44:23 AM PDT

debris removal

Her name was Rosemary, but we called her Miss Rose.

We were sitting on what was left of her back porch, wearing Tyvek suits. We were marinating in the day’s spent energy from sweat-filled hours of shoveling thick silt and mud out of her hurricane-damaged home near New Orleans. And as we shoveled, we had been fishing through, searching for possessions and making three piles — “possibly salvageable,” “not salvageable but possibly sentimental” and “trash.”

Even the trash pile was full of possessions that once made up a life.

Miss Rose was one of the 275,000 people whose homes were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. When our church team came to participate in relief work seven months later, we all fell in love with the sweet, frail yet strong-hearted, 88-year-old widow.

Like ignorant tourists going into the Holy of Holies, we were unaware of the sacred space we were about to enter — unaware of how intimate a thing it is to gut out someone’s home with shovels and wheelbarrows.

“They wanted to do something kind for me,” Miss Rose began her story about the mud-caked play-jewelry in her hand, a gift from her children many years before. One of us had just pulled it from a block of mud. It was a broken, multi-colored pop-bead necklace.

“My children and I always went Christmas shopping on my birthday. But, you know, they were children, so they never got anything for my husband or I,” she said.

She continued, telling the story of how her boys had conspired to get her a gift and asked her if they could shop alone. They had come back, their faces proudly beaming, to present her with the very dime-store necklace she now held in her hand.

We also learned that one of those sons had since passed away. The love and the pain of remembering this moment all brimmed at the edges of her misty blue eyes as she clenched the muddy plastic.

We had almost just thrown it in the trash pile. I believe it did end up there, but before it did, it was a temporary portal for Miss Rose to recall the sweetness of her young sons one more time after decades of holding on to this priceless dime-store jewelry.

Through the sorting of her ruined possessions, Miss Rose shared her life with us.

One day in the week, upon arriving at the house, we had to wait for a dump truck that was slowly moving along the street, picking up the piles of debris that people had begun to place in front of the houses. Most of us were excited by this because we had needed our “trash” pile cleared for a few days and we’d been told it could take weeks to be cleared. We were stripping the house bare, and we needed room for the rest of the debris.

But one woman on our trip — a woman who has children and grandchildren of her own, and knows what it takes to build a life — did not participate in our excitement. “I can’t imagine how hard it must be to see your whole life scooped into a dump truck,” she said softly. “I can’t imagine how painful …”

That was the dichotomy of our week with Miss Rose — it’s the dichotomy of all who have to grieve a loss and move on. There is such pain and sadness in remembering things past and having to let go. I can’t imagine seeing my life tossed mechanically into a dump truck. But to rebuild requires the removal of debris.

While I saw many tears fall from Miss Rose’s eyes throughout the week, at the end, when her house was completely gutted, with only bare studs and power-washed concrete flooring left, there were tears in her eyes as she smiled and hugged each of us. I believe some were tears of sadness, some of grace, and some, I am certain, were tears of hope.

For those in the areas that have been affected recently by tornadoes, this is my prayer. That their tears of loss will become intermingled with tears of hope for rebuilding.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an Oroville resident and columnist for North State Voices, which appears each month on www.orovillemr.com

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 | Author:

simply Christmas coverTUESDAY

DAILY PSALM
God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
Psalm 47:5-6


CONNECTION

JOY PROJECTS
Are you ready to show the joy of Christ to your community?
This should be fun! Get your family together and talk over the ideas below for spreading the joy of our God to your neighbors, or create your own ideas.

HELP THE AXIOM
– Make a financial contribution to help sustain The Axiom’s efforts to help the youth of Oroville start to reach their potential and to have hope for a better future, and a better present. Make checks payable to “OroNaz Church” with “Axiom” written on the memo line. Put your donation into one of the envelopes in the back of the chairs at the worship service next sunday and then drop it into the offering.

– Donate new recreation and game items for students at The Axiom

– Begin to volunteer once a week at The Axiom.

For more information on The Axiom please contact Krysi Chastain at 530-693-8712 or Krysi@theaxiom.org

CHRISTMAS CAROLING
If caroling is already a family tradition or church tradition for you, then continue it. If not, then consider caroling to your neighbors this year.1

HANDMADE GIFTS
As gifts can be expensive, we are often selective in who we give to at Christmastime.  This year, choose a person, or several people who your family doesn’t normally give to, and make presents by hand for them.

FAMILY DEVOTIONS
Light the Advent Candles    Gospel Reading: Matt. 24:32-44

THE JOY OF PREPARING

Jesus makes it clear that no one except our heavenly Father knows the day or the hour in which Jesus will make his return. But this shouldn’t produce fear in us, it should keep us from unnecessary worry.  What a burden it would be to know when Jesus was going to return — we’d feel so much rush and urgency to make sure people knew about Jesus, that we might miss sitting in His presence.  Or perhaps it would cause panic for some people if they were worried about enjoying our earthly experience before Jesus was to come back.  Instead, we can find freedom in simply living as He’s taught us to live, and we can find joy in trusting His timing.

Jesus has given us commands about how to live in the meantime before his return, and in the gospel passage today He assures us that His words will never fade away.  He’s not just talking about His warnings about what the end of time as we know it will look like — He’s talking about His teachings and commands about how to love God and how to love others.  Those aren’t just things we need to know how to do here and now — the kingdom of heaven will require that love just as much as our lives now.

In a way, though, this gives us a joy that what we’re doing now isn’t just meaningless “meantime” work.  If Jesus’ words will never pass away, then the things He’s taught us to do, are truly important to start doing now.  If we waited until right before His return to learn how to love Him and love others, we won’t have been preparing ourselves for the kingdom of heaven, and we won’t have been partaking in Jesus’ heavenly practices for all the time that we could’ve been doing so.

We are to watch for Jesus’ return, not in fear, but in anticipation of finally getting the full experience of being in His presence and in His creation exactly as He intended it to be — without the scars of sin and pain. It’s a joy to prepare for His coming when the very preparation includes loving Him and loving others.


PRAYER

Christ, whose glory fills the skies; Christ, the true, the only Light — Sun of Righteousness, arise and triumph over the shades of night. Dayspring from on high, come near. Day-star, in my heart appear. 3

AMEN

Notes:

1)Adapted from Paul Sheneman, Illuminate: an Advent Experience. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2011. Print.

3)Adapted from Charles Wesley, “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies” (1740), Cyber Hymnal, http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/c/w/cwgfthes.htm.

Category: Advent  | Tags:  | Leave a Comment
Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 | Author:

simply Christmas coverMONDAY

DAILY PSALM
We have heard with ours ears, O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our fathers; you crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory. It was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.
Psalm 44:1-3

CONNECTION
JOY
Three candles are now lit on our Advent wreaths, and they symbolize the fact that our hope in God, and the love He shows us are accompanied by the great joy of knowing and walking with Him. It’s a joyful thing to celebrate any birth, but we look forward to the coming celebration of the birth of our Savior — the very one who makes it possible to experience the joy of knowing God at all.

It is Christ’s presence in our lives throughout the good and the bad, the ordinary and extraordinary circumstances, that gives us a joy that the world could never offer. The world tries to give us happiness in the form of shiny gizmos and gadgets, or success or wealth.  The advertisements all around us are all trying to sell us their little piece of what they believe to be joy.  But the riches will fade, the success will not last, and the treasures that people store up on earth will be of no use to them once they are dead.

The true joy that Christ offers us can be seen in countless memories and stories that have happened since the beginning of time through today. Money given from a stranger or friend, survival from illness or accident, or simply the right words or a hug in a time of despair — all of these are examples of God’s presence in life’s most desperate places. We have a God who loved us so much, He wanted to come suffer with us in this fallen world. We have a compassionate God who didn’t come just to die, but to walk with us through life. So when everything is going well, or when your world is falling apart, it is a joyful thing to have a God who is willing to walk with you through it all. And it is a joy to know that when He returns again, he will make everything right and good.  Let’s joyfully prepare for the celebration of this wonderful, compassionate God, Immanuel, who has come and is coming again.1

FAMILY DEVOTIONS
Light the Advent Candles    Gospel Reading: Matt. 24:15-31

WE CAN’T MISS THE JOY

Have you ever been anxious about missing something? When we were children, many of us wanted to wait up until the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Eve, trying to hear Santa coming into our homes.  Probably because of the tales of Santa’s lists of good children and bad children, I often had a worry of “what if Santa doesn’t come?”

Or maybe you can relate more to being anxious about missing something like your alarm clock on a morning where it’s very important that you wake up on time.  Whenever I’m leaving for a trip and need to make sure I catch my flight, you can be sure I have four to five alarms set, just to be sure I don’t miss it.  On those nights before the trip, I often have a restless sleep, tossing and turning, often checking the clock to make sure I haven’t missed my awaking time.

The gospel passage for today is full of Jesus words telling about what it will be like when He returns for His second coming.  He is talking to people who have known Him and walked with Him, who have learned from Him, and who are going to have to carry on His Father’s work without Him — they just don’t know it yet.  And He’s trying to warn them — and us — about His second coming.  He tells us plainly that Christians and non-Christians will begin to worry about if they have missed Him.  But Jesus tells us one very comforting piece of information that we can take hope in and remember — when He comes, everyone in all the Earth will know it.

As joyful as Jesus’ first coming as a Christmas baby was, it will be even more joyous and even more triumphant when he comes again.  Unlike the Shepherds, we won’t have to go to Bethlehem searching through all the stables for a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths. Unlike the wise men we won’t have to travel for years, following a star with blind faith, stopping into a murderous king’s palace asking for directions.  When Jesus comes again, it will be as plain to see as the lightening in the sky.

We can joyfully prepare for the second advent, when Jesus will come again, knowing that it’s not something we can miss.

PRAYER
You come, the wide world’s King. You come, the true heart’s Friend. New gladness to begin, and ancient wrong to end. You come, to fill with light the weary waiting eye. We lift our heads and rejoice – redemption is nearby.2

AMEN

Notes:

1) Adapted from Paul Sheneman, Illuminate: an Advent Experience. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2011. Print.
2) Adapted from Thomas T. Lynch, “Lift Up Your Heads, Rejoice” (1865), Cyber Hymnal, http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/u/lupyhrej.htm.

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