Hello, my beloved readers. Today I commemorate the 500th post on The Beggar’s Bakery! What a long, strange trip it’s been. Thank you for letting me share you thoughts and dreams with each and every one of you. Here’s to 500 more!
By: Jana Greene
To all my friends struggling mightily during this crazy, isolating, chaotic time, I see you.
For those of you also hurting so deep inside that you feel like you’ll implode from the sadness and confusion. I hear you.
My sweet friends wondering if things will always be this way, and despairing because there is no end in sight, I feel you.
Depression is a cold bitch who delights in despondency, but she will not have the last word.
Because as much as she feels like the strongest force around right now, she lies.
She is a house of cards, building upon one fear at a time on a foundation of sand. And she is helpless when the tides turn and again – always – wash her out.
Love will have the last word, as it spurs us all on toward hope.
Hope is the Comeback Kid, and Love it’s vehicle.
Hope nudges us to remember to reach out to others, even when all we really want to do is shut down.
And there Love gently guides us. It holds us. It comforts us through one another.
Love says “keep going” and eventually, one fine day, yells “that’s a wrap!” when despair finally backs down and we can laugh again.
And it will back down.
It will always bow down to Love.
It can’t help but bow down.
I’ll keep going if you will. Keep going with me.
And we will wait together for the tide that is surely turning again, just as it always has.
This piece is born of sheer frustration. So enjoy, or don’t enjoy. You’ll feel one way or another though! I can guarantee that.
NOTE: It’s been brought to my attention that thisis article may enforce stereotypes that are obviously not true of all evangelicals. But bear with me. As a Christian who also doesn’t fit the stereotype of evangelical (or any other “denomination”) I get my fair share of misunderstanding. I am writing today about the “Trump can do no wrong” segment of Christians that seems oblivious to the fruits of his Spirit. Read ahead with an open mind, and try to understand the point of view of a Christ-follower who cannot figure out what the Sam Hill “born again” people SEE in said POTUS. This is one person’s POV on her personal blog. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
Too many white evangelicals blindly follow the cult of Trump, even though they wouldn’t accept his words and behaviors from ANY other person.
Too many loudly proclaim him King ‘o the Land now and forever more because they believe he is sent by God and not even his OWN actions and words will sway them.
Many evangelicals claim to be persecuted by the media, freethinkers, and humans with eyeballs who see what’s really going on. If you don’t agree, you’re in the dark side, no acceptions. Christians, open your eyes and risk seeing him for what he is. Keep them closed and you told America will be “great again.”
White evangelicals tend to be keen to agree with every petty, nonsensical, mean spirited thing Trump says. You are wrong if you think differently, according to the current line of thinking. We don’t do dissenting points of view here now in America; not unless you tow the party line. If you dissent out loud, enjoy your brandishing. You are now a flag-hating, Jesus-loathing, baby-killing, God-denying, anti-American dumbass and he will not hesitate to call out out as such.
Today’s evangelicals also get to be martyrs for staying true to Trump even though they are “persecuted” for it. Fighting the good fight, I suppose. We are being divided by design, more every single day. And not just by ONE political side. Trump is no unifier.
Many white evangelicals insist that you are “among the deceived” if you don’t buy all-things-Trump hook, line, and sinker. If you’re lucky, they’ll pray for your soul because you’re going to Hell if you don’t support the POTUS.
They like to banter about their loving God sending human beings to eternal conscious torment forever. No wonder they believe POTUS is sent by God, if that’s their theology. It seems like he would totally be down with throwing anyone who disagrees with him into the lake of fire. But maybe that’s just my perception. I’ll be super happy if proven wrong.
Many white evangelicals don’t seem to mind that he calls world leaders names like a first-grader. Or that he deeply insults every person who isn’t on his “team.” Or that he has the diplomatic skills of (um, I can’t even think of anyone with worse diplomatic skills.) Never you mind! He is clearly doing “The Lord’s Work.”
And some – not all – white evangelicals are in denial that in addition to him displaying evil tendencies, he’s is off his rocker entirely. And like the Emperor’s New Clothes, I guess none of us are supposed to notice.
Please wake up. Look at the fruits of his Spirit. Don’t blindly believe what he tells you. Don’t blindly believe what I’m telling you. God gave you a brain and expects you to use it. Until we all start thinking for ourselves, I worry about the direction we are heading.
Things have been so heavy lately, I thought I’d share a poem I wrote for our elderly cat who – for 18 years – has run through the house batsh*t insane in the middle of the night, most every night. It’s a little Dr. Suessical, but a light reprieve from the usually heavy blog fare. Hope you enjoy!
That Old Man Socks! That Old Man Socks! He’s up all night, that Old Man Socks! Socks, do you like good sleep and peace? “I do not like them” Socks decrees. “Unless it comes as mid-day nap, Sleeping at all is utter crap.” Socks, would you sleep instead of mew When the moon is nice and new? Would you please sleep all night through? Is this something you can do? I know you don’t like night time peace. But humans need a few hours, at least. Would you sleep at night on a sheet? Would you sleep at night for a treat? You do not like to let us sleep So please count mice (or please count sheep!) When we don our sleeping frocks, It’s not your cue to go wild, Socks. Would you pipe down in the night? Would you, could you, please….alright? Sleep in a box. Sleep with a fox. Sleep in a house. Sleep with a mouse. At nighttime, sleep either here or there. For the love of God, sleep SOMEWHERE.
Let’s talk about eternal damnation in the fiery furnace we like to call “Hell.” Because apparently, if you don’t believe that God would punish his very own children forever and ever (amen) in the modern-day definition of Hell, you are a sorceress. File this under “Huh. Who knew?”
When I stopped preaching that a loving God would damn his children to the eternal, conscious, tormenting flames of Hell, all sorts of accusations come ‘a flying. And on really special days, you sometimes wake up to people accusing you of witchcraft on social media!
You see, I got on Facebook to scroll-about as I enjoyed my coffee this morning, when what to my wandering eyes should appear but a witch hunt afoot directed right here! Yep. Toward me, ya girl.
Here’s the thing. God gave us brains to THINK. All my life I believed what I was raised to believe. I’ve read the Bible a few times. I know what it says. I’ve also studied the original Greek and Hebrew texts, which take into account the literal meanings of the scripture we like to beat each other up with. Also, taking into consideration the sociopolitical climate of the day, especially in the Old Testament.
It ain’t like I’m pulling this outta nowhere. It’s been six years of delving and praying and researching the roots of the concept of Hell. The church of Acts is unrecognizable to most churches in modern times, but it would behoove all of us to study it and emulate it.
I came away with wrestling with God to find he is so much more wonderful than I’d ever imagined. And that when I get to heaven, I don’t have to hide behind Jesus’s garment to avoid an angry, vengeful God. ANYTHING that can be in ANY way construed as “New Age” (a reaalllly broad term,) is considered witchcraft?
I’m sorry but when did we give away our mysticism? What is more mystical than the Creator of the Universe coming in skin and flesh to our environment to show us how to love? New Age it is, then, I suppose.
I came out of this study free of my fear-based relationship with God. And opened my heart to the possibility that He is only ever good. I think we need to stop scaring people into loving Jesus, and just represent Jesus to the best of our abilities.
You would think that because of what I believe, I’m “gambling” with my own eternal soul because I that’s how strongly I feel about the inclusive gospel of grace. A gospel that came from Jesus himself. Don’t get me wrong – there is a hell. I’ve been there. Plenty of it here on this planet, just look around. But is it Dante’s Inferno? Does my loving Papa, invisible to the naked eye, send us to Earth to try to figure out if He is real or not, so that if we get it wrong, into the lake of fire we go? I don’t believe that anymore.
But nobody likes to pigeonhole a person more than an Evangelical Christian. I know, because I was one for most of my life.
I’m of the mind that when it was said that every knee shall bow, every knee shall bow. When he said it is finished, it is finished.
THAT, I take literally.
Hell as we think we know it was popularized in the Medieval period as a way to keep the church in line. The masterpiece Dante’s Inferno also helped lend to the idea – it’s what culture “sees” hell as. God did not create us to bring us here to doom us if we don’t say magical words or we screw up. My God, what kind of father would that be?
He is in all, and all are in him. Some just don’t know it yet.
My question since my faith reconstruction is this: It’s actually pretty creepy how much time Christians spend fixating on Hell. And some of them get VERY upset if you take away their eternal torment thing. It took me years to let go of my Hell concept, so sure was I that people I loved would be cast into the fire and brimstone if they don’t get their shit together. Which, of course, leaves no wiggle room for grace, which is kind of the whole point.
Ditto giving Satan too much credit. We are always spiritually exhausted because we are fighting a battle that has already been won. Whatever is good, think on these things. Can you imagine how many hearts would open to Jesus if his children weren’t constantly threatened with being thrown in a lake of fire? Holy cow.
Bottom line: You have to do your own research and come to your own conclusion, either way, God is not mad at you. Ask Holy Spirit to help. She is willing and able (and yes, I refer to Holy Spirit in the feminine because of the nurturing and gentle care taking she provides for my spirit. Also, spirits are gender-less. They are SPIRITS, not people.)
Of course this is all just my two cents and I’m sure some of you are dooming me to “hell” right this very minute. But that’s okay. We all gotta figure it out for ourselves.
I promise you that if you want to know what God is like, look no further than Jesus – not the other way around. Consider the cultural of the people who lived in Biblical times. It’s okay to think.
I could touch on so many other points, and likely will. In the meantime, God loves you. I love you. Namaste and God bless.
My husband and I were discussing how crazy the world is the other day. We talk about it a lot, actually. Just like everyone else.
The conversation ended in frustration and befuddlement, because we couldn’t understand what the world has “come to,” and frankly, why young people have such contrarian views on so many things.
We sounded like crotchety curmudgeons, because if we aren’t careful, that’s what we will become. And I’m at an impasse now – become bitter, or (God I hate to use this cliche but it’s so appropriate here….) better?
It’s going to be one or the other. I have to choose.
So I took it to God and stewed on it for several days. In the interest of enlightenment, I had a, um….robust conversation with my 28 year old daughter about the political climate. We agree on many things. We also disagree on many things. She helps me see things from another vantage point.
I have not abandoned some of my views. Because I feel they are right.
But we cannot react to militancy with militancy – meaning all sides are yelling at each other and nobody is listening. Young people don’t always have the life experience to listen. But we do….or should.
As Bob Dylan sung so many decades ago, the times, they are ‘a changin’. They are changing fast.
Even though I was a tot back then, I’m having early 70’s flashbacks. The renewed feminist movement, the remnants of an only partially successful civil rights movement, and heck, even yoga and house plants are back “in.”
Some of the best things ever came out of the 70’s (okay, mostly just the music.) And good things will come of all of these movements we are currently experiencing. This all needs to happen, and I’m optimistic about the outcome. You can say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.
The Eastern philosophies I was so spooked by my whole life that our Baptist forefathers warned us of? I’m dipping a toe in some of their teachings because they are NOT contrary to Christ. At ALL. Christ was not a Westerner. He is opening my eyes to all kinds of awesomeness, because of one thing: I prayed for – and received – an open mind.
My prayer is that no black citizen is ever treated poorly. My eyes have been opened to what day to day life is like is for our African American brethren and it is with shame I admit that I had no idea how bad it was. After all, I treat everyone the same, doesn’t everyone?
NO. No, they don’t and it’s unacceptable. As a Southerner born and bred, I’m convicted of how my ancestors (all who purport to be upstanding Christians, I’m sure) belived and behaved.
Forgive me Father, I knew not the scope of the problem. I just didn’t know.
But our kids do.
My fellow Karens and Boomers? We have to listen. We have to have open minds. Or we are choosing to spend the rest of our lives upset and disgruntled, and we’ll leave the world no better than we found it.
It is NOT our fault – the whole state of the world. If youths blame us for it all, they are mistaken. The world we inherited wasn’t a whole lot better. But it is our fault if we don’t find common ground. We have turned a blind eye to so many things. And we cannot afford to do it anymore.
We can’t keep acting like it’s our world and the young people are upsetting it. The world belongs to us all, and American belongs to us all. Things that smack of anti-patriotism are often the reverberations of cultural and racial pain. And that’s a shame.
I don’t worship America. I don’t bow down to a flag, which is, if you really want to get biblical, is technically idolatry. I worship God, who is the spirit and definition of Love.
First Corinthians 13 says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” And if I say I’m a Christian, but hate any one people group, I’m but a “clanging symbol.” I’m making a lot of noise, but really just crushing the fruits of the spirit between two cymbals.
Of all the deafening noise going on in the world right now, I don’t want to be just a clanging cymbal.
We can’t keep insisting that old-timey ways are better. Because they weren’t always. And they certainly weren’t for everybody.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot possibly live my best life if I’m angry and resentful all the time. I don’t have to understand everything. I do have to be willing to change, to grow. And to respect others. Even when we disagree.
The world we all share – young and old – depends on us doing our best to love one another.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Watch this space for updates, and as always, thank you so much for your faithful readership!
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, “hallelujah” means 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.
Three weeks ago, I was obsessed with getting my brows and upper lip waxed. It was driving me crazy, all the peach fuzz and renegade brow hairs. I didn’t feel better until I had my hairstylist do it when I got a haircut.
And then another thing seemed paramount: Getting a bathing suit for the summer, since I’ve put on hella pounds since I injured my hip seven months ago. I’d given away most of my “fat clothes,” since I’d lost 25 lbs prior to the injury and was SO SURE I wouldn’t gain any of it back. Gained it all back and then some. Damn it.
Then I fixated on the problems my kids are going through. I really don’t even need my own problems; just give me a few kids who are learning things in life the hard way, and I’ll think of little else than their welfare.
The things these issues have in common are: 1. They either seem laughably insignificant now. Or 2. They are out of my control entirely. All within a short span of time, I found things to worry about that fell under these two headings.
Also, the joke’s on me. All the pools and beaches are closed! Who needs a bathing suit?
What I have right now is fear and anxiety. What I want to have is the renewal of my mind. It’s happening, but it’s happening piece-meal. If you’re one of those people who trust God with nary a care in the world, my hat is off to you! I’m having to turn my will and mind over to his care every day, especially during this time of extreme weirdness.
That being said, I would very much like to avoid catching Covid-19, as my immune function is ridiculously low and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to fight it. I’m also worried that my loved ones won’t be able to fight it.
There ARE things I can do – and so can you – to alter the trajectory of the virus. That’s the thing I find supremely frustrated. There are things we can ALL do to reduce the risk for the people we cherish. Can we all please take this thing seriously enough to protect them?
One of my favorite songs by the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn, “Things That I Used to Do,” and it’s been in my head for days. Because “things that I used to do, Lord, I won’t do no more,” as the song goes.
But I also will try to remember that some of those things were – in truth – pretty insignificant. And certainly pale in comparison to what we are all going through now. It’s funny how stuff that seemed crucial three weeks ago seem frivolous now. When this shit show wraps up, I’m going to try to make the conscious effort to NOT “sweat the small stuff” as much. But it’s easy to fall back into old ways.
Lord, let this thing make me a better person. Help me to take this day as it is, not as I would have it. Help me rise to the occasion of surrendering my will and worries to you, less inclined to obsess about the things I get worked up over.
Help us all over this bombardment of anxiety we are experiencing, so that we can live life abundantly in you. Hairy brows and lips, and all.
In the meantime, please stay home if you can. I know it’s boring. I know the people you live with are getting on your last nerve. I know that we are all on edge, and experiencing an unprecedented level of NOT knowing what the future holds. Let’s do all we DO have in our power to protect one another.
God bless us, every one.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” – Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
Spent some time with God today, but it was restless, addled time. I can’t seem to still my mind right now, what with the current state of Covid-19 ravaging the planet. I like a certain amount of chaos with my order, but this is ridiculous.
BLESSED is not a word I would use to describe the state of my mind right now. Edgy, tense, scared….these are the adjectives that describe my state more accurately. Still, I started thinking about the Beatitudes, and how the “blessings” Jesus outlined in them run contrary to what many of us would consider positive things, or even bearable things at times.
This is one such occasion – the unprecedented happenstance we find ourselves in, in the midst of a global pandemic. So I thought I’d write a little piece today so that I can have a little peace today. I invite you with much love to join me.
“When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:”
Blessed are the exasperated, the cooped up, the frustrated, and the lonely. For they shall be reminded that God is not bound by illness or protocol, or the foibles of human nature.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”
Blessed are those grieving the loss of certainty and structure. For their hope lies in bigger things. Hold on tight, you are still in the Father’s embrace, even though the world seems upside-down.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”
Blessed are the odd ducks and weird people, who are just trying to navigate their way through the “new normal.” We are all free to be who we were created to be, no need for shame. Yours is the Kingdom, weirdo.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
Blessed are the seekers, the doubters, the spiritually starving. Does your soul feel empty? Are you hungry for peace, comfort, and hope? Your system is just making room for the One who gives those things, and in abundance.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”
Blessed are the helpers, the lovers, the carers. For they are showing the rest of us how to be the hands and feet of God on Earth, modeled after the Perfect One.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”
Blessed are those who “check themselves before the wreck themselves.” For they are ever striving forward, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
Blessed are the calmer heads, the team players, and the encouragers. For where would we be without the Light Bearers? They see the Spirit in all, and welcome all to the table with Christ.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
Blessed are the ostracized, yet steadfast. For they keep moving forward, in the face of opposition and a bleak forecast for a broken world.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”
Blessed are those who get knocked down, but keep getting back up. For they are US! In us lies incomprehensible power, as we are the Kingdom of God on Earth.
So let’s remind one another that LOVE is the strongest force – far more contagious than a virus. Hardier than any microbe, or quantum physics, for that matter. Love swallows up hopelessness and gives us a boost to keep soldiering on. No sickness can touch it, no disease can end it.
In sickness and in health. In warm gatherings and in lonely quarantine. In times of plenty, and times of rationing. Always, there is love.
… “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Stay safe, every one. And God bless you.
Scripture taken from Matthew 5:1-12, The Message translation.
What a strange experience this is for us all. I don’t know about you, but I vacillate between being okay and not being okay, all day every day. I will be trucking along in my day, trying to enjoy things that I have taken for granted and now fear I will lose, when my primitive brain is more than happy to remind me that something is wrong. Something is very, very wrong. A sudden sinking feeling. Heart palpitations. Raw, unadulterated panic. And then, eventually, I pray for peace that passes understanding. And I again laugh at funny memes, indulge myself in painting (or ice cream…) and rather calmly go about my day in this “new normal.” This pattern cycles throughout the day, maybe a handful of times. Or maybe 100 times. It varies. Lather, rinse, repeat. I know I’m a a Christian, and as such, should “fear not.” If I had a dime for every post I’ve seen about FEAR NOT, I’d be a gazzilionaire. But I’d probably still fear, because I have anxiety disorder. I have anxiety attacks, it isn’t so much my evolved brain that forgot to “fear not,” but the primal brain. Christ-followers have mental illness too. Rather than consider our faith weak, you should know that someone who battles depression and anxiety has HAD to keep the faith in ways you probably cannot imagine. Their faith was hard fought and won, war-torn, and durable. But at the end of the day, we still have to make the best of the genetics and brain chemicals we were dealt. Add life circumstances, and it can be overwhelming. None of us have ever been through anything like this before. It’s weird, and it’s foreign, and it feels like a zombie movie. How are your brains processing all this, friends? Do you have moments that the surreal-ness overwhelms you? What are some ways you handle anxiety? This isn’t going away any time soon, and I love to know what makes people tick. How are you doing with isolation, being confined with family members, and your self care routine? We are all in this together. ❤️
Greetings from The House of Greene, where we now eat unsalted peanut butter, because on our last visit to the grocery store, that’s all that was available.
Now that I write that, how FIRST WORLD does THAT problem seem? And it’s because they ARE first world problems. But I have a funny little quirk about food. Well, MANY quirks. But this one is especially relevant.
It started in my single mother days. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for years when my daughters were little. I was room mother in their classes. I made wholesome dinners every night. Even in the hardest times, when I’d have to get food from the church pantry, we were well-fed.
And then my divorce happened. All of the sudden, it was all on ME. Two children, no child support, no help from family, NOTHING. It was all me and I had to work four part-time jobs just to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. The girls that I had ‘helicopter parented’ became ‘latch-key’ kids, which made me feel horribly guilty. We ate a lot of hamburger helper, minus hamburger. Instant mashed potatoes. Boxed mac and cheese shaped like Spongebob characters.
I will never forget the evening I put the girls to bed and took a bleak inventory of our week’s food supply. There was NO WAY we were going to make it. You know that feeling you get when anxiety comes on real sudden-like, and your blood turns to ice water? Your heart starts racing? This was a normal anxiety attack times 100. Something went awry in my brain that day.
Now, we all made it through and somehow, Jesus pulled a ‘loaves and fishes’ on me. He did THAT by some of my wonderful friends, who (much to the dismay of my pride) showed up with a meal or a $20 bill or something. Let the record show that we were NOT fed by the scriptures that other friends threw at me. Nor the lofty platitudes about if I only had more faith, “claimed” a scripture, or “believed” that our needs are already met.
(If you don’t meet a person’s basic fundamental rights, do me a favor, and DON’T preach at them. A Bic Mac and a couple of kids meals were a whole lot more effective than an “I’m praying for you.” But I digress.)
At some point in my single motherhood, I became a bit of a food hoarder. If I had some around, I felt great. So if I had MORE around, well…you know. I also recalled my old trick of soothing myself with food. I was only a handful of years sober back then, so it was all I could do not to pick up a drink. I picked up ice cream instead. Fast food is hella cheap and filling.
It became a way to reward and punish myself. Then I discovered that I could experience the comfort of stuffing my face, and then throw up to get rid of the calories. This is a HORRIBLE practice and I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. But I hooked up with bulimia for a bit and thought I’d found the best of both worlds. Eat yummy food. Barf. Repeat. I lost 80 pounds during my divorce. The whole bulimia issue is a blog for another time (and I’ve touched on it before) but I’m telling you the whole story so that you can fully appreciate how f-cked up my relationship with food truly is. It’s WHACK, I tell you.
So fast forward to when I met my now (and forever) husband in 2006. He was so kind and loving. We didn’t have to worry about running out of food after we married, but old habits die hard. For years and years (and up until TODAY, ACTUALLY) it’s kind of a family joke that we always have stuff falling out of the freezer because it’s too full, and we can’t find anything thing in the pantry because I have this sick thing about having it COMPLETELY FULL to feel secure, and in order to fit anything in our fridge, I have to play “fridge Tetris” to make things fit.
It’s super annoying to my family, and honestly – to myself, but I can’t seem to stop it because WHAT IF we run out. It’s not just about the food. It’s some primal holdover from when I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids or something. It’s like a COMPULSION. It IS a compulsion, actually.
But today I opened the fridge and there is an empty shelf. AN. EMPTY. SHELF. I can actually see the back wall of the fridge (hey, it’s WHITE!) which never happens.
Over a week ago, I’d taken a fall due to my POTs and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome symptoms, and it was a bad one. Nearly broke both my arms and was bruised from fingertips to elbows. People thoughtfully brought meals over, since my arms were useless for a while. We had a REALLY full fridge (there are between 3-5 of us living in this house at one time, so it’s not just my belly I’m worried about) and it was glorious.
My first thought was: “I’ll run to the store.” Except I WILL NOT run to the store, because I have virtually no immune function and there is an actual PANDEMIC (another fear formerly referred to as “irrational,” but pretty damn rational now) and I am staying home to avoid germs.
It’s not that we are anywhere NEAR running out of food. It’s that if we were, there is nothing we could do about it. I’m thinking that this whole pandemic is going to be a HUGE re-boot for all of us. I can’t let an empty refrigerator shelf throw me into an emotional tailspin, although that is my habit. Habits are gonna have to be tweaked, as are knee-jerk emotional responses, which are kind of my forte.
I cannot afford to be ruled by my many, many compulsions. But I CAN come here and drone on about how different things are now, and be honest about how I’m freaking out on the regular in spite of my best effort to use my “tools.” Applying my emotional coping tools feels like using a regular screwdriver on a screw that requires a “Phillip’s head” screwdriver (I’m using this analogy because those are the only two tools I can differentiate…) It kind of works, but not really.
It’s like there is a Woody Allen (sans perversion, of course) Me, and a Brene Brown Me. Woody Allen Me’s hair is all askew, he is neurotically pacing, displaying nervous tics, and generally running in circles exclaiming “THE SKY IS FALLING!” while my inner Brene Brown interjects with Ghandi-esque, rational quotes about walking inside your story and owning it, and not standing outside your story and hustling for worthiness, and what not (which, frankly, isn’t even helpful at a time like this.) She is calm. She is at one with the Universe.
Why am I both these people at once. (I’m thinking maybe we are all a little of both right now?)
So for the foreseeable future, I’m planning on coming here to blog about empty refrigerator shelves, and one-ply toilet paper. But also about the very real crossroads of anxiety and faith in an unprecedented time. It’s an opportunity for me to dust off the ol’ 12 steps and revisit “surrender” mode, lest I revisit self-destructive behaviors (which will only make things worse.)
One of the scary things about all of this, if we are honest, is that it’s a leveler. We all feel far less “first world.” But that’s not a bad thing, spiritually. Spiritually, we are all One – all the same. We bear one another’s problems, even when they are more severe than unsalted peanut butter. Seriously, though. Not one of us is less precious than another, and sometimes we get so wrapped up in our privilege, we forget that this is the NORM for so many people across the globe – doing without. I know I forget.
I don’t know what else to do but write about it. Eating my feelings isn’t suitable, since food is more or less rationed, but my feelings are not following suit. All I know for sure is that we will all get through this together. Woody, Brene, me, and you. ❤