48 Shades of Love – God delights in Us

God loves his colorful ones!

God loves his colorful ones!

By: Jana Greene

My church is having a series of prayer meetings each evening for 40 days, and  I attended one of the gatherings last week. For the first hour or so, each of us finds a quiet space in the sanctuary away from distractions and just soaks up God. There is worship music playing softly, and the lights are low, and if you happen to fall asleep in the love of your Father and snore, nobody judges you. After that hour, we gather together with our pastor, who asks us what we “heard” or “felt” or “saw” or sensed during our quiet prayer time.

I’m not spiritually evolved enough yet to say that my thoughts during prayer center on prophesy, or  theological issues, or epiphanies that would part the Red Sea with their amazing-ness. Sometimes, I just tell God how much I love him, and I praise him, and ask for his favor….and then my mind wanders to things like wondering if we need to stop at the store and pick up milk, or what is the deal with the Obama administration, or did I take my vitamin today, to being just amazed that God took a cracked pot like me and calls her his own. He knows I’m a little flaky. He doesn’t hold it (or anything else, thanks to the grace of Christ) against me.

When we gathered up front of the church after quiet prayer, I told the group that I had the  little vision. In it, I was very small – maybe four years old –  and lying on the living room floor at my grandparents’ house. I’m on my tummy, and I have a brand new coloring book and crayons, and I am just going to town in that coloring book…brows furrowed, colors carefully sought, humming a happy song that I was just making up as I went along.

My maternal grandfather, Papa – the only male influence in my young life that was safe and unconditional loving –  is nearby in his recliner, listening to me yammer on. Because I am talking-slash-humming the whole time I am coloring – about everything and nothing. He chuckles every now and again and asks to see the picture I’m working on (and raves over every work of art I do.) These memories  – being 100% who I was (chatty, creative, open) without any risk or fear of rejection….that’s the feeling I go back to as I continue to understand who I am, and who my Heavenly Father truly is.

You might even say that Papa delighted in me.

It’s scary to share your wonkiest thoughts in  a group of people, but I did. And nobody thought I was weird or spiritually inferior. Everyone just loves on everyone else in that church and encourages you to be who God created you. They encourage you to seek out who that is, because honestly, most of us are carrying around so much garbage – self-loathing, conditioning of religiosity, confusion of what the world has told us we are – we need to cut through all of that other crap and accept who Abba really says we are.

Our pastor suggested that Holy Spirit gave me that memory at just the right time, and that – metaphorically, at least – I should think of God as my Papa during those coloring sessions – patient and interested in hearing all I have to say – my yammerings. That he is  anxious to see what I’m working on, and that nothing I do is insignificant to him.  I thought about Little Me coloring on the living room floor and talking to my Papa. Perhaps I should be less worried about coloring in the lines. I’ve tried to make a pretty picture my whole life, and forgot what it felt like to be enough.

The very next day, a dear friend in church brought me a gift that brought tears to my eyes – a grown-up coloring book featuring pictures of butterflies to color. She said something to the effect that God wants to be my Papa and says to start coloring again. You are still that little girl to him.
It was a metaphor I needed to see, to touch tangibly. It was a gift to my heart for her to do such a thing.

And just this morning, my husband gave me a birthday gift – a brand-new, 48-color box of crayons. Not art store  professional pencils, but crayons made by Crayola as God intended they be. I opened the box and smelled them (well, wouldn’t YOU?) and marveled at how good our Father is. In order to remind me that he is my Daddy and I am his own girl, a coloring book and crayons were used to illustrate the point. He GETS me, I tell you!

What a blessing to share a vulnerable insight and be blessed for it! What a blessing to have friends who understand and support this season in my life in which I am seeking to return to the fundamentals of faith as a child. What a blessing to lean into the Papa-ness of Abba – to be 100% who I am without fear of risk or rejection.

It is my 46th birthday today. And I am going to color in a coloring book with my set of brand new crayons – literally and figuratively. I am not going to worry about staying in the lines. I will motormouth my love to God – talking to him about every little detail. There might even be humming. He is my Papa and I am his little one. I might even make him chuckle at times.

He delights in me, you know.


“For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.” – Psalms149:4 (MSG)

 

Learning to Love the Common Cat

It’s true that The Beggar’s Bakery is a blog heavy on the substance abuse recovery material. That’s my passion. But through the ages (the nearly three years I’ve been blogging) I like to mix things up a little on occasion. I am also a “recovering” cat hater. Truly.

Recovery is my passion, but it’s not my ONLY passion. There is also my family, and the kitty cats – animals of all kinds, really – and chocolate, and music, and clothes with elastic waistbands.

Here is one from a blog I maintained for, um….about two posts. But I’m re-posting it because sometimes you just need to write a little, er….FLUFF to go along with the heavier issues.

What’s fluffier than kitties?

This is Catsby, the first cat I've ever heard that is truly mine, a Mama's Boy through-and-through.

This is Catsby, the first cat I’ve ever had that is truly mine (Bob claims him, too, but he is a  Mama’s Boy through-and-through!)

I used to have a funny little blog about cat appreciation, but from the perspective of a person who grew up as a life-long cat hater. (Please, no hate mail! Remember that this blog is satire – or dare I say, “catire?”  – and all in fun!)
Yes…
My name is Jana and I am a recovering Cat Hater. I come from a long line of cat-haters, and honestly, cat hating was all I knew growing up.
As a matter of fact, many in my family would equate penning this blog with signing my own commitment papers. But if there is anything being in my forties has taught me, it is this: We all own some degree of crazy. Own your crazy, without apology.
Really. “Normal” is just a setting on the clothes dryer.
And my love for cats?
I blame My Beloved  husband. He started it.
 Into our blended marriage, he brought one daughter and two cats, and I brought two daughters and The Best Dog Ever. Talk about life in the blender!  I had never been in the same room with a cat, so limited was my experience with them.
All of my life, I’ve had dogs, and I adore them. I’ve always  identified as a Dog Person. I think I will always identify as a Dog Person. I lost my Emmie, my Best Dog Ever, over a year ago. I cannot bring myself to get another. Until I’m ready, there are the kitties.
What I’ve found over the past eight years is that I don’t have to choose to be “either/or.” I can be an animal-lover, and appreciate all of God’s creatures for what they are. It is kind of long story, how this change came about – and it taught me a lot about myself, a lot about tolerance and acceptance.
Mostly, it taught me never to hate a cat for not being a dog, which as it turned out, was my main complaint about them B.C. (before cats.)
I strongly encourage others to expand their animal  “rePEToire.”
Of course, one does not become a Cat Person overnight. Thrust into cat ownership, I went through all of the stages of acceptance:
Denial: “I will just ignore the cats!” and  “The dog and cats will learn to get along.”
Anger: “Is there any surface in this entire house that is NOT covered in cat fur?”  “Go to sleep, kitties!”
Bargaining: “Please, PLEASE sleep at night. Please, I beg of you – SLEEP!”
Depression “This darn cat won’t get out of my pillow….. Hairballs are the most disgusting thing ever….Wet cat food smells like stink and I will never get used to it.  And the cats will never sleep through the night.   NEVERRRRRRR!”
Acceptance: “But I guess the kitties are kind of CUTE, and warm. And I love that purr thing.  And the pouncing … that is adorable.
They DO have so much personality……Yes, the cat hair is everywhere; I will just keep a lint-roller in my car for the fur. And maybe I will learn  to sleep through all of the zooming about at 4 a.m. A cat cannot change its stripes, so to speak. I suppose I must accept them.”
Once cats get under your skin and into your heart, there is NO stopping it. You will make runs to PetSmart for a certain kind of toy mouse. You will find batting at feathers adorable. You will answer your cat’s meows with “Tell me all about it!” You will think internet memes of cats captioned with funny text are the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. You will resign yourself to the fact that you have ‘dropped your basket’ and it is full of kitty cats.
I’ve done a 180, as they say, and I’m grateful for my allergy to the purry ones (as it forces me to a strict limit of two, okay maybe three….and no more.) Catsby greets me at the door every day and mews to be picked up and carried around on my shoulder, and sits on the edge of the bathtub to play in the water. He is kind of a doggish cat, and I love that. I love that he is co-dependent.
Hey, recovery is a process, right? Own your crazy, without apology.
Here’s looking at mew, kid.

In Recovery Magazine – “But it’s Super Bowl Sunday!”

I’m honored to be among In Recovery Magazine’s new bloggers. Here is a link to the piece just published at InRecoveryMagazing.net, titled, “But it’s Super Bowl Sunday!” It explores the sticky wicket that special occasions can feel rife for drinking, and how a reality check can reel us addicts back in with the truth. The truth is that the whole world doesn’t drink on Super Bowl Sunday. And the truth is that every day in recovery is the real special occasion. God bless us, everyone!

BUT, IT’S SUPER BOWL SUNDAY!

The Flippin’ Sweet Whole Love of God

napoleanBy: Jana Greene

Last night, I was tossing and turning. Thinking about all the things that are oh-so wrong in this world. I exhausted my energies with worry, and then I implored my Heavenly Father to please comfort me. As I often do when asking God for favors, I quoted scripture to Him, when really – plain talk would have sufficed. He already knows my heart – a heart thirsty to be filled up with His love.

“I’m tired, Abba. Worn down. I need your strength,” my spirit said. ” I just need a touch, Lord. Just see me through today.” I reminded him of the woman at the well, who touched the hem of the garment of Jesus and was made whole.

Just then a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can just put a finger on his robe, I’ll get well.” Jesus turned—caught her at it. Then he reassured her: “Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you’re well.” The woman was well from then on.” Matthew 9:20-22 (MSG)

And God, in His infinite wisdom and Holy magnificence, brought a very specific thought to my addled mind…. a scene from one of my very favorite movies, Napoleon Dynamite. Because – if there is anything I’ve learned about the Creator of the Universe – it’s that He has a sense of humor. He wants to relate to us.

The quirky film’s protagonist, Napoleon, is just trying to make it through high school. In one of the best scenes, he works up the courage in the lunchroom to talk to the girl he is crushing on, who is sitting at another table. In the most awkward pursuit ever, he commences to woo his girl – who is drinking a carton of milk – with this smooth line:

“I see you’re drinking 1%,” he bluntly states. “Is that because you think you’re fat? Because you’re not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to.”

Why would the God of the universe bring that scene from the movie (CLICK HERE to see it)  so vividly to the forefront of my mind in the middle of the night? Because I’ve been drinking in about 1% of His word lately, and asking for the bare minimum of his power to just get by.

I see you are reaching for a touch of the hem of his garment. Is that because you think you’re not enough? Because in Him, you are enough. You could be filled with Holy Spirit if you wanted to.

I hear you asking for a touch. Are you drinking in God’s love in tiny sips because you think you’re not sure it’s real? Because it is. You could be having the real deal if you wanted to.

Are you asking for less than is already yours because you think only a portion of Me is available to you? Because it’s all here for you. You could be having more comfort than you can handle, if you wanted to.

The “hem of his garment” – the part of Him which is furthest from His heart and still tangible – is flippin’ sweet, as Napoleon might say.

But the heart of Him?

It’s ours, and He wants to fill us with it. And we cannot even begin to imagine the supernatural-ness available to us.

It made me smile, in the midst of my insomnia, that God would remind me of his Whole Power in such a way – a way I could readily understand and even laugh at.

Are you asking for just enough to make it through because you think you’re unworthy? Because you’re not. You could be having the Whole Love of God if you wanted to.

God’s pursuit of us is not awkward, but our acceptance of His love often is. I am learning that Holy Spirit is already in us in full, but our ability to tap into it, to have the Whole Milk Experience, is fettered by our own busy minds and insecurities. Courage, daughter.

Just follow your heart, as Napoleon says.

That’s what I do.

 

 

Drinking and driving: Lives imploded

 drink-keysBy: Jana Greene
Normally, I write pieces urging others to seek recovery.
Today, I write with one focus:
Drinking and driving, and the powerful implications of the practice.
If you feel passionately about drunk drivers, too, feel free to share the link.
In God’s love,
Jana
I can’t stop thinking about her.
She is only 22.

Viral Spiral: A dozen thoughts on ‘going viral’

long-spiral-staircase

By: Jana Greene

In 2014, I received a totally unexpected gift. In February, I wrote a blog post that truly went “viral.” My blog had been up and running two years at that point, and I wasn’t expecting it.

I’d written the piece (“Skewer the Stigma“) on the fly in a 20-minute span. It somehow took flight across the world and ultimately ended up landing in the hands of a quarter of a million people. No one is more surprised about that than me.

I had written it, posted it, and left it alone. But within a few hours, I started receiving email notifications that readers were leaving comments. Like 100 of them – surpassing my normal total daily readership and confounding the mess out of me.

Naturally, I assumed someone had passed out on her keyboard whilst looking at addiction recovery sites, and the multitude of visits were caused by her forehead landing on the “refresh” button repeatedly. It was the only logical explanation.

At 15,000 hits, I was convinced it was a cruel joke of some sort. Those pesky hackers.

But no, for some reason, the article  was truly going ‘viral.’ Something about it resonated with people enough to pass it along. And as a writer, that is really the most you can hope for – to hit the note that resonates with others.

I had wondered what it would feel like to have so many visitors…to have a blog post go viral. Strangely, the experience taught me more about myself than my readers.

Through the experience of going viral, I learned:

1) To pray for favor.

In many ways it was a post like every other. It wasn’t – in my estimation –  better or worse than anything else in the previous 180 blog posts on The Beggar’s Bakery. But I did specifically ask God for favor when I posted it. Now this is where it gets tricky, because while God’s favor is everything, I would subsequently pray favor over all of my posts and gleaned a little pearl of wisdom. I became willing to accept that God’s favor does not “look like” ours. He may favor you with two readers whose lives are forever changed by your words. His favor may look like 1,000,000 hits. Or He may favor you by revealing something to YOU in your own words that you never would have recognized any other way, even in a post that never makes it online. Prospering spiritually is so much richer than prospering in numbers. Speaking of numbers…..

2)  That numbers do not validate me.

I’m not really a “numbers girl” normally. I’m a Words Girl. I have this crazy, innate aversion to numbers, whether they be accessorized with mathematical symbols or dollar signs. But there is nothing like obsessively checking the stats of a blog post to muddy the blogging waters with numbers. 250,000 hits? That’s crazy talk. I must be legit now, right? Numbers that climb ever-higher may feel validating, but they really whip up insecurities. In many ways, blog stats are like alcoholic beverages to me: One is too many and a thousand not enough. When have I “arrived?” The stats and numbers do not hold that answer. Higher numbers often equal higher anxiety. Not a good thing for folks like me whose OCD feeds off of getting “one more hit.”

3) To stake my claim.

People are going to think you are crazy, or wrong. Or crazy wrong. The same vulnerability that makes your writing authentic opens you up to all kinds of criticism. I will never forget the first really negative comment that posted as a comment. The reader was very angry, taking exception with my statement that alcoholics and addicts get well with help from God. “What about atheists? What about them, huh? You must recant! You can’t make blanket statements like that!”  To which I replied, “Oh but I can. And I did. And I will.” At first, it hurt my feelings, but then it gave me an opportunity to learn how to stand firm.

My blog is my reality; my point of view. It is what works for me. I’m not going for a PC award, and I refuse to water down my message to appease readers. You can be both kind and firm. The experience taught me to strike my own authentic stance, and hold it. With hundreds of thousands of blogs out there, any reader who insists I change the content can, well … move along, little doggy.

4) To consider my work realistically.

Even when I write something I’m sure will get tons of traffic, very few posts actually do. I am neither the best nor the worst blogger out there is cyberspace. Going viral taught me to ride the wave without expecting a medal for surfing. Just enjoy the ride.

5) To pray for my readers.

This one should have been a foregone conclusion, but I had to learn to do it. Prayer takes a normal, natural article into a supernatural force to be reckoned with. I will never know where my messages ripple. Asking God to use it for his purposes assures me that even if a post only makes one person smile, or say “Aye carumba! I totally know how this feels!” it was worth writing and posting.

6) To blog honest or not blog at all.

When the post first started going viral, I fought the urge to go back in to WordPress and “perfect” it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have admitted this. Maybe I could take that out. But I try not to censor myself a whole bunch. I usually edit a piece several times before it goes up, but I try to keep the editing to grammar and spelling, and leave the truth raw and bare. It’s the only way, really, to share experience, strength and hope authentically.

7) Confidence to (self) publish my first book.

How many times did I say to myself, “I have a book in me”? Before this experience, I didn’t honestly think it would ever come out. But we all have books ‘in’ us – several. God spurred me to actually write that book – and self-publish it – in a two-week span after “Skewer the Stigma” went viral. God had told my spirit several months before: “Before you walked with me, your story was your story. When it became your testimony, it belongs to others, too.” I pray that the book falls supernaturally into the hands of those who might need some hope regarding addiction recovery. Going viral helped boost me in the direction to share it, just because I felt more confident. That was the only variable that had changed. I didn’t write the book to make money (which is a good thing, since I didn’t) but to share a story. You have one, too.

8) To expect viral posts to spread like … a virus.

It kind of picks up a life of it’s own. It becomes – as it should – more about the message and less about the author. It becomes out of your control in an epic way, in a manner that makes it impossible to track. I discovered that no, I really don’t crave fame. I’m proud of the piece and grateful to Abba for allowing me to share it in such a huge way. But getting my name “out there” was strangely anti-climatic. I became very ‘meh’ about it, very quickly. It just doesn’t satisfy the way you imagine it would. Only God can satisfy that wholly, that perfectly.

9) That I may have peaked, cyber-wise.

I may never go this way again. The heady, surreal nature of going viral is so fleeting. How to recreate it? That’s where faith comes in. God will give me the words he wants me to spread, and hopefully he will help me filter the words I shouldn’t spread. I cannot ‘recreate it’ nor should I try.

There are far, far better things ahead than what we leave behind, as C.S. Lewis said.

Or as is written in Ecclesiastes… to everything there is a season (turn, turn, turn…)

10) Not to bastardize my craft.

When I began blogging, I felt like such an amateur writer. Then a post went viral and I felt legit. And then after things calmed down, I worried after my worth as a writer again. I was causing myself so much drama in figuring out my place in the blogosphere! Nothing I’ve written since has gone bananas, and it may never happen again. And I’m okay with that. Now, I still sometimes wonder how it would feel to be a legitimate writer, for real and for true. And then God reminds me that it’s my job to write, and to skip the labeling, and get over myself. To just write already, and let the flow happen. A real, legitimate writer would just keep writing. It’s that simple.

11) Nifty stats are not my friend.

Oh my heavens, the detail available! There are numbers, and even color-coded maps of the countries whose residents read it!  India. Saudi Arabia. France? Ooo la LA! Such neat accoutrements – they must be tools for success, no?

No. Stats take a creative, open, spiritual soul out of the lush garden, and make her a neurotic, over-analyzing, nut-job in the dry desert. And that about sums up my experience with fancy statistics.

12) Going viral is kind of neato-keen for a while, but not essential.

Our Father in Heaven is not interested in the numbers games, but we humans love to count pats on the back. Pair numbers with technology and you have the virtual world in your fingertips and a real world that hasn’t been touched at all. Algorithms and marketing (I did absolutely none with the one post that went viral) do not determine the “success” of a blog post.

Sometimes I post a blog that gets hit ten times. I am so grateful for my readership, no matter the size. Sometimes I will just be having a day that sucks, and I’m not feeling spiritual at all, and my feelings need a place to go –  so I jot my grumpy words down. And once in a while, a reader will comment that they, too, are having a sucky day and not feeling spiritual at all, but it was a comfort to know that their circumstances were not sucking in a vacuum – that we are all intertwined, somehow. Chin up! You are never alone!

Because we are all intertwined, somehow. And no one is more surprised about that than me – every time it happens. As a writer, that is really the most you can hope for – to hit the note that resonates with others.

God controls the ripples, the currents, and who consumes the words. In all of the great Cyberland, we share our words as experience, and it comes back to us joy. And that is something to get infectiously viral about.

A real gift.

Christmas: God pursuing us

Antonio Allegri, Correggio 1528

Antonio Allegri “Correggio” 1528

By: Jana Greene

We lose the meaning of it all, in the quest to get it right.
This Christmas thing is hard to fathom, under our own might.

We know that Jesus was born in a manger,
We know that animals lowed nearby,
We know the wise men brought him presents,
We’ve all heard of the star that guided them nigh.

But stop the Christmas rush for a moment,
Silence the bells and jingling sleighs,
Look beyond trees and feasts and caroling,
And elaborate displays.

Remember for a moment what we most often forget,
Let it rest in your heart (where it’s a perfect fit!)
Christmas is about a God crazy for you …

Listen …. Can you hear him pursue?

A God who became human for a time,
just to be closer to you?

The Creator of the universe craving relationship,
Wanting to be where you are?
That small, still voice following you
Like the bright Bethlehem star?

So far across the universe, yet as close as drawing breath,
What could make God’s people see
This love that conquers death?

God sent his son – a part of Himself –
A promise he’d made long before.
And so to Mary, a son was born,
On a humble stable floor.

God himself poured over bones, and under fragile skin,
To draw you close and know your pain, and forever conquer sin.

God made manifest in a baby boy,
Who would grow to save the world.
And bring them the gospel of truth and joy,
His prophesy unfurled.

Hark the herald angels sing!
Peace on earth, good will toward men!
Do not fear,
Your God is near,
Even to the end.

Emmanuel – God With Us –
Yeshua,
God most high!
The hope for everlasting life
Heard in an infant’s cry.

That’s the meaning of Christmas.

Rejoice in your heart of hearts,
Where God has made his home …
Your heart – the manger  for the savior,
Filled with peace –
Shalom.

 

“Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
An Event for Everyone

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

Luke 2:1-20The Message (The Message)