Becoming a “Bleeding Heart Christian” and Other Perils of Radical Love

By: Jana Greene

This is an article I need to write. I’ve been needing to write it for years, but haven’t had the courage to “come out,” lest I disappoint friends and family. And that itself is sad, from my current vantage point, but we too often inherit our political beliefs and sit on them like the goose who laid the golden egg.
But I can sit on it no longer. The egg is rotten.
I’m finding it disturbing which issues are falling down party lines lately. Things that should just be a HUMAN thing are becoming a political thing.
Us vs. them. Right vs. wrong. Enough already.

Something shifted in me years ago and I can’t dance around the really hard issues anymore. It started when it became apparent that my daughter in her late teens was becoming a *GASP* LIBERAL. I couldn’t believe it! My far-right heart was in despair! But one day when I picked my girls up from school and we enjoyed one of our many spirited (ha) conversations about current events, I made a snarky remark offhandedly that she was becoming a “bleeding heart liberal.”
To which my kid, who was brought up in the evangelical church but professed no religion, says:
“But Mom, didn’t Jesus’ heart bleed for other people? The disadvantaged and marginalized?” (And yes, those are the actual words she used, she’s a smart kid.)

And I sat there and stewed in my judginess for the rest of the ride home. I was SO offended! I thought I had it all figured out.

Welfare: Get a damn job already. Why should I work and someone else get my money?

Death penalty: Stop wasting taxpayer money and just do it.

Immigration: Take a number like everyone else and wait your turn.

For the rest of the day and even for weeks after, I couldn’t shake the question. It became clear that I had gotten to the point I was using my religion not to help people, but to help me decide who was worthy! There are a myriad of other things I had “strong feelings” about before my spiritual reconstruction and could justify by political lines. Then it gradually became clear to me that Jesus didn’t let politics get in the way of loving people. Not once.

Our hearts SHOULD hurt that we have been propping up politicians and giving them all the power in the world to decide what is morally acceptable. Because none of them are Jesus. Many of them shouldn’t even be in office. And some things should not be partisan.

And so a paradigm shift began. “Break my heart for what breaks your heart, God,” I prayed on my knees.

And here’s the thing: My heart didn’t break for the rich and privileged. Or the justly treated. Or the Christian who darkened the door every time it was open. No. Instead my thinking became:

Feed the poor, without holding back. Without a superiority complex. Quietly.

Welcome the immigrant who is fleeing violence. And for God’s literal sake, uncage the children. What have we become?

Against abortion? Me too. But mothers need help to care for the children who we insist they carry and raise. And if a mother chooses to abort, we have to find it in our hearts to be compassionate to them, too.

Speak out for justice for George Floyd, the gentle giant who had the life choked out of him by a cop. It is happening to untold others. This cannot be. A man murdered slowly in broad daylight by someone by means of an abuse of power.

Stand with the oppressed, including our African American friends. Because black lives DO matter. Oh how my heart ached for Mr. Floyd as he was calling for his mama with his dying breath! You might even say it bled.

I unequivocally understand that there are reasons of law and plain old practicality that require order. Nobody disputes that. But Jesus was less concerned about law than human beings. I just want to emulate Jesus. And Jesus loved on everyone, whether or not they had the right values. He saved his harshest words for people who thought they were better than everyone else. The ultra-religious.

My previous and inherited belief system was wrong for me. It was unintentional.
But I won’t make the mistake of hardening my heart that should rightfully break for hurting people. No more. I want to love them intentionally.

Lobby and vote and all the rest, but don’t wait around for a bunch of rich old white men to get the ball rolling. It starts with you and I, in our words, deeds, and actions. No two party system can separate us from the love of Christ, and no politician should have the power to separate us from one another.

So don’t fight it; go ahead and let your heart bleed when you see racism and discrimination. Cry for the refugee. Let a little seep out for the victims, the underprivileged; the addicted and the homeless. Please. Let it gush!

Pray the most surrendering of all prayers – “God, break my heart for what breaks yours.” It may start a flood, but you’ll never be the same. And that’s not always a bad thing.

There is liberation in that release.

What We Sign Up For

black and white clouds dark dark clouds
Photo by Seatizen.co on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

This rainy Tuesday morning, I am sitting on my back porch at the crack of dawn. The sun is coming up behind the clouds, I’m sure, but you’d never know it from this vantage point. All I can see is grayness. Dampness. It began raining around 3 a.m., when my pain woke me up. They call it “painsomnia” – a more fitting term I cannot imagine – when you move in your sleep and the pain wakes you up. And keeps you up. It’s always a rude awakening, literally.

So I did what I normally do when I cannot sleep, which is not to do edifying things like read my Bible or work on getting back into seminary, but to scroll through my phone ad infinitum, which is Latin for “again and again in the same way; forever.” There are a lot of things that seem to be operating “ad infinitum” these days. Including a pandemic with no end in sight. Including chronic illness and pain.

While scrolling, I came across an article on “The Mighty” (a site I highly recommend for those battling invisible illness) titled ” “How My Husband Helps me Fight Chronic Illness.”

As you can imagine, it is a piece written by a chronically ill woman about all the ways her husband holds her up – emotionally, and sometimes physically. It’s a great piece. I wish I’d written it.

Earlier, I was reading the article while still in bed, laying next to my sleeping husband. I’m glad he is sleeping soundly. He has much on his plate these days. Too much. And part of that “too much” is that his wife is having a horrible pain flare, and I can’t fake otherwise, and I know he worries.

In the back of my mind, there is still a little joy-hijacking goblin that insists that THIS – a wife who is bedridden part of the time – is NOT what he “signed up for.” The goblin can be very convincing, what with telling me he deserves better. Because he really does – he deserves a wife who can easily travel and have adventures with. That was the PLAN, you see.

 The goblin carries a knapsack full of guilt, which it does not hesitate to unzip and unfurl the contents thereof when I have my guard down. When I am weak. Like now.

My husband has to do things like bring me water, when I’m too sore to walk to the kitchen and back. And that’s the very least of it. There is no task he shirks at helping me with, and he does it with remarkable patience. He is my best friend, and he knows when I hurt, no matter what I do to try to hide it.

But before he woke today, I got up and fed the cats and made some coffee to take out on the back porch, to watch the storm.

If there’s anything that we are all experiencing, it is the frying-pan-in-the-face that things do not go as planned. As we socially distance, this situation is either bringing out the very best in us, or the very worst. Much like chronic illness. And marriage.

I once remarked to my hubby that he “didn’t sign up for this.” To which he said, “I signed up for whatever being with you looks like.” Such a simple answer to a messy, muddled, mind-goblin riling situation. And I knew I could accept that – which is harder than you’d think – or continue the rest of our marriage mired in guilt because I’m sick. I’m trying hard to work on my insecurities. It’s a process.

But all during the process, God has shown so much grace – including the grace with which my better half has risen to for the crappiest of occasions … a life together that didn’t go as planned.

On bad days, it feels like a storm rolling in. You cannot see the sun for the dark clouds, as cliche as that analogy is. You’d never even know it was there. So the only thing to do is trust what you cannot see. Or change your vantage point, because perspective is everything. And tell the Guilt Goblin to put a sock in it already.

I’m so grateful for a mate who signed up for whatever being with me looks like. I certainly didn’t earn it. But that’s the thing about love … it doesn’t play by selfish rules. It refuses to leave. It digs in and stays in.

Ad infinitum. Again and again; the same way forever.

Where is the Love? The Heartache of Division

hands heart love
Photo by ATC Comm Photo on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Oh, Dear Reader….
I feel like we are all becoming more and more divided every day.
Social distancing adherents vs. “don’t tread on me” Americans.
Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter.
MAGA people vs. Team Impeachment.
Hoarders vs. have-nots.
Where is the love?
The truth is this: The more we divide, the more we implode. The world is one big Hadron Collider. So many particles running into each other. So much volatility. So little tenderness.
I’m as guilty as anyone else. It’s easy to become bitter with people who refuse to see another’s point of view.
We ALL feel strongly right now, ergo, the problem.
Everyone feels strongly. None of us have any experience living through a pandemic and the level of chaos we are having to deal with on the daily. None of us. There are no stronger feelings than conviction, the pursuit of justice, and survival elicit.
All lives DO matter, but some are being assigned less importance by others who have been traditionally privileged.
Nobody wants to be stripped of their rights, but everybody wants to be assured they are safe. One group shouldn’t be more important than another. How do we balance that? Surely we can see the inherent worth of EVERY PERSON.
Side note to my African American friends: I see you. I hear you. I grieve with you.
Our president is the embodiment of Cult of Personality, and we either love him or loathe him, and somehow use that as an excuse to love or loathe one another.
And, of course, we all just want to wipe our butts at the end of the day. (A little comic relief there…) Liberty, justice, and toilet paper for all!
All the division just makes me sad, that’s all.
I don’t have the answers, except to strive to be more like Jesus in all my dealings. I fall short a lot.
But maybe we can all just try to see things from other perspectives.
Just try. I think we forget to even try.
Looking out for #1 isn’t really panning out for us. This is not a sprint, but a marathon. And in every instance in which someone feels strongly, there is a wounded spirit at stake. Egos cannot run the show.
We can’t tire of seeking justice and fighting hate.
We can’t tread on others in our determination not to be tread upon ourselves.
We can’t keep dividing and dividing and dividing.
That much I do know.

“FIERCE Recovery – Living Your Best Sober Life Now” Coming Soon!

By: Jana Greene

 

Hey, guess what, dear readers?

I’m happy to announce that I’m working on a new book, “FIERCE Recovery – Living Your Best Sober Life Now.”

I believe that living a passionate, vibrant recovery life is one of the most badass things a person can choose to do. I’m a society that often misunderstands or underestimated the recovering populace, it’s time to show our stripes.

A FIERCE recovery is:

Faith-filled

Intentional

Engaging

Restorative, and

Empowered.

Watch this space for updates, and as always, thank you so much for your faithful readership!

Fiercely,

Jana

A Little Ditty about Self Acceptance ❤️

By: Jana Greene

Oh if I were just more thin

Perhaps then I’d be happy.

I’d strut my stuff,

Wear stylish clothes

And dress all kinds of snappy.

I’d not so hate my muffin top,

Would know when to eat

And when to stop.

Maybe that’s it,

Perhaps that’s the key,

I’d be happier

As a thinner me.

Or maybe it’s a vacation

That would set my heart anew,

One in a place where

The waves lap the shore

And the water’s a crystalline blue.

Where the sun always shines

And dark clouds stay away,

Yes perhaps I’d have peace then

At least for a day

(Or however long I decided to stay!)

If my venue underwent change.

If I were only healthy, you see,

If the pain would scram and let me be,

I’d run and jump and skip and hop

If my body were only free.

No matter what struggles we all face.

So long as we hold tight to love,

Hope, and grace.

Well make it through

This difficult race

And come out the other side.

Would I really be a better me

If all the things above were true?

Do circumstances dictate

The happiness in me and you?

It’s not ‘bout getting when we’ve wanted,

But wanting what we’ve got,

If we don’t practice self acceptance

All these things would be for naught.

So wrap your arms around yourself

Give yourself a hug (from me to you,)

Know that you are more than enough,

And God will see you through.

A Cold and Broken Hallelujia – When faith falters, but God does not

 

man tattooed praying
Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” used to be just a song to me. Beautiful lyrics, yes. Haunting melody, certainly. But until the past few years, the words were not a sucker punch to the gut, nor a comfort to the soul. Today they are both. (I’ve attached to this article the video by Jeff Buckley of the song, my favorite version.)

Right now, we are all thinking back to a time when things were simpler, even though we all bitched constantly about the way things were, as human nature dictates. It’s what we do.

In the Hebrew Bible hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase, not one word. … However, “hallelujahmeans more than simply “praise Jah” or “praise Yah”, as the word hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song, to boast in God. The second part, Yah, is a shortened form of YHWH, the name for the Creator.

I don’t identify as an “evangelical” Christian anymore. It was easy to be an evangelical when privilege was running the show. Before I got so sick. Before the world was literally shut down. Before I started questioning things.

I don’t for one second accept that the current state of affairs is God’s doing. Love – and only love – is his modus operandi.

You’d be surprised how much ire you draw professing that God is simply Love, Jesus is that manifestation, and practicing radical love can draw, proving that what many of us learned from “love” is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you because. But, love is not warring with a devil who is already defeated. It’s not giving him credit for things ego produces. It isn’t striving. It’s resting.

In a twisted way, my illness and pain brought me closer to Jesus. But not because he sent it to “test” my faith. And not because I accepted it as status quo, or any of the other ways Christendom tried to convince me I was a dirty rotten sinner and somehow brought it upon myself.

Yes, it broke me down. It is still breaking me down. but it isn’t breaking me. And it didn’t break my faith. “Broken” is okay.

I didn’t fall back in love with God until stopped expecting “proof” to come as a flash, a deliverance. Many Christians will elude to the fact that in order to be healed and whole, we must pray harder, fast harder, beg harder.  But when you aren’t “changed in an instant,” it must be something you’re doing wrong, o ye of little faith!

But I think it takes BIG faith to “keep the faith.”

“Proof” of Jesus is sometimes just standing still, and still standing. Still loving. Still having joy underneath. I’m finding that it’s making life a constant prayer, having thousands of little conversations with God in my head and reminding myself that the same God listening intently to my ramblings and problems (first world and otherwise) is the same God who engineered the cosmos and created microcosm and macrocosm that we so marvel at. It’s telling him whats really going on below. Even when I’m struggling, my life is hallelujah.

Cold and broken, but full of hallelujah anyway.

It’s figuring out for yourself that belief in the unbelievable is the only thing that makes sense after all.

It’s walking away from pain with faith intact.

It’s a white flag on a battlefield that God is holding up for you because you’re too weak.

It’s a Creator who hunkers down with you under the crappiest circumstance because he isn’t afraid to get his robe dirty or get a little dirt under his fingernails on your behalf.

I don’t need a God who is waiting at the finish line for me, to take that victory march when everything is peachy keen again. I need him to struggle in the enmeshed, awkward, three-legged race with me. To fall with me, if necessary. Sometimes falls help me right myself again.

It’s a love that’s ever-present even if we’ve suffered loss so severe that our hearts beat against a constant heaviness. It’s there when we can’t compose ourselves; when we are threadbare with frustration. When nothing makes any sense and we are living in the upside-down.

It’s not somebody who’s seen the light.

It’s a cold and broken Hallelujah; a praise for spiritual commoners and baffled kings, received and welcomed by a God, who – in his infinite mercy – really digs it when we are authentic, even if we’re scared.

Hallelujah.

Hallelujah

Hallelujia.

Amen.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE JEFF BUCKLEY PERFORMING “HALLELUJAH”

 

More than Enough (A sonnet for mid-life sisters)

age

By: Jana Greene

Dear Mid-Life Sisters,

We live in a world that says,” fix yourselves!

And what you can’t fix, deplore!”

A world that tells us that age is the devil and

We’re not enough anymore.

We “should” be more vibrant,

Wrinkle-less, “hot,”

The world loves to tell us

What we are not.

And we agree with all the hype

When not reaching unrealistic goals,

We talk to ourselves in a way

We wouldn’t speak to another soul.

But here’s the truth, dear sisters,

We can write our narrative.

We can love ourselves much bigger

Than love the world is apt to give.

Girl, 

Heroism is rejecting all the hype that we are done,

And realizing that our imperfections

Are scars from battles WON.

So feel sexy, sisters,

Know your worth,

We’re fierce, able, and strong.

You still have the power, grace, and beauty

That you’ve had all along.

And when that inner voice says

You’re best days are on the wane,

Remember how much ass you’ve kicked,

You still have the whole world to gain!

Remember that no other being on Earth

Is quite as sassy and sage

As a woman empowered by self-acceptance

A woman of middle age. ❤