Spiritual

An Ex-Evangelical Looks at Your Holy Ancestry (yes, YOURS)

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

So earlier today, I couldn’t get a signal on my phone to listen to a podcast while I was running to the pharmacy, so I turned on my old gospel station that I used to listen to all the time, and a preacher was talking, as preachers do.

The message was about being able to call on God in your darkest hour; no matter how hard things were hitting the fan, which I believe and we can surely appreciate this year. I was fine with his message for a long time, until – at the conclusion – he says with a quiver in his voice – “Beloved, if you are not yet a child of God…”

HOL’ UP.

It then occurred to me that THIS is why I left evangelical Christianity. In ONE sentence, “the veil was lifted,” as they are prone to say. The whole inequity of a supposed god who loves his kids, but will send them to the eternal, conscience torment if they don’t tow the line.

Christians often like to say they are accepting and tolerant of everyone, because “God loves everyone.” They share a message of love, but tend wrap it up with an ultimatum. (Even though monitoring repentance is the job of the Holy Spirit, and she doesn’t need an apprentice.)

THIS IS NOT LOVE.

It feels icky and insincere because it’s a counterfeit “love,” and the world sees right through it.

In the back of many Christian minds, there is “us” and “them.” Believers and non-believers. “Saved” and unsaved. Righteous and unrighteous. That was my thinking all my life.

In short, “Enlightened or deceived.”

Oh, the duality!

But Jesus turned all of that on its ear. The least are first. The broken are exalted. The “can’t seem to get their shit together” people were welcomed. It was upside-down hierarchy, which the self-appointed “Beloveds of his day absolutely abhorred.

It’s no wonder that Christ followers are leaving the church in droves. The message of Jesus is so radical, it’s downright offensive. The NERVE of him, including all! WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS?

Um….

If you are reading this, I know the shit is hitting the fan. But you are God’s child.

I know you’ve been ostracized by the very people who purport to carry his message, but those who subscribe to the “us vs. them” mentality are just plain wrong. You are his child. He made you because he delights in you.

Salvation isn’t activated by any action on your part. I’m sorry, but you’re just not that powerful. The love of a supreme deity isn’t ours to ration or withold.

Your pedigree is magnificent!

When Jesus broke my heart for the broken, I had to deconstruct the faith I inherited and was afraid to question, and it was not always pretty. There were tears and doubting, and snotty tissues and dismantled pride.

What about all the rules? What about all the wrath and smiting? I was so well versed in regurgitating what I’d been taught, I missed the forest for the trees. Scripture is inspired by God but filtered by 2,000 years of dogma and politics, written by imperfect people.

But here is no “us” and “them.” One Love, man. And his love is so far-reaching and divine!

Beloveds, you are already his child. And there’s nothing you can do about it and no way to escape his confounding, overwhelming, grace-laden LOVE.

In my reconstructing my faith through the Spirit, I met a Jesus whose radical and scandalous love for this broken world is his actual brand. He is the Living Word. He turned the world upside down, and it wasn’t for rewarding the pious or following a set of rules. It was for the likes of me.

Because I am his child too.

Selah, friends.

Spiritual

“Making the Best of Things” and Other Challenges of Trusting

By: Jana Greene

Let’s talk about “making the best of things,” because if 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s taught us that it’s going to be a major theme in our lives. (And it always has been, just not always so obviously so.)

This year is demanding that we pay attention.

As for myself, I have been slipping into this baseline tiresome-ness. I am starting to feel like nothing can surprise me anymore.

If, on my way to check the mailbox, a pterodactyl swooped down and picked me up, carried me to an active volcano and dropped me in, I’m not sure I would register surprise.

“Well,” I can imagine saying to myself. “I guess we are doing dinosaurs and liquid hot magma now. That’s 2020 for ya!” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

“Making the best of things” sounds like a platitude that you might have to dust off sparingly. Like maybe when you look back at your life, you’ll think of your overcoming those times – few, far between – and dodging other bullets of happenstance. I will admit I didn’t know how often adjusting my disposition would be required, but as it turns out, it’s the universal human experience. And as long as we have breath in our bodies, life is going to require it.

The truth is that making the best out of shitty situations is not likely to be a rare occurrence. It will either become a lifestyle or a liability – striving toward what is good, pure, and true – even in the face of pandemics, political chaos, and other hazards of life on Earth.

Dare I say …. it’s a choice?

When you think about the term “make the best of it,” do you hear it in a defeated tone? well, we will make the best of things” in a defeated tone? Does it harken feelings of settling? Sound like a cheap concession?

Because it’s a feeling that springboards off of disappointment, isn’t it?

But each occurrence of making the best becomes a springboard for the next instance of circumstances that require great faith to overcome. Life is full of those opportunities.

Bodies get sick.

Loved ones leave.

Finances give anxiety.

Our minds betray us.

Our spirits falter.

There will be times it will feel like you have to work harder than some others to see the best in things. But rise up.

But all God’s children got things that require overcoming. It’s the rule, not the exception.

It doesn’t mean that the pterodactyls won’t circle.

Or that we operate in denial that lava is hot.

This crappy thing that happened to you that seems like the end of the world? Making the best of things can look like upside-down gratitude, which is natural byproducts of acceptance. Self care nurtures a “make the best of it” mindset.

But trusting in God is a decision you will be challenged to make all the days of your life.

Because at the root of every inability to handle life on life’s terms is TRUST. Or perhaps lack thereof.

I cannot live transcendently if I’m not willing to trust that the story has a good and perfect conclusion – more importantly – that the Author is filling in the plot holes. Even when things make NO sense.

My challenge, should I choose to accept it, is to train myself to say it with hope. With determination. And with the assurance that this – whatever IT is – will too pass, but not without leaving me with hope and a kick-ass set of coping mechanisms.

There’s no need for a Polyanna mindset, only an open one. No denial required, only trust.

My prayer for you today is that you will be given grace in such measure that you take an active role in making the best of things in 2020 and beyond. Lets work to nurture our best selves, and live our BEST lives, no matter what life throws at us.

I’ll work on it if you will. ❤

Spiritual

The 12 MINUTES OF THIS MORNING (a little ditty about being overwhelmed online)

We are all over-saturated and overwhelmed

By: Jana Greene

Im telling you, we were not created to have so much information bombard us online. I was overwhelmed today by 10:30 by all that’s going on. So I cope like I always do – by writing. It’s really goofy but I didn’t get much sleep and I’m pretty punchy. Everybody sing along. It goes a little something like this:

THE 12 MINUTES OF THIS DAY:

On the first minute of this day
Life gave unto me
An argument on my wall about Trump.

On the second minute of this day
Life gave unto me
Two new crappy candidates
And an argument on my wall about Trump.

On the third minute of this day
Life gave unto me
Three “weather systems to watch”
Two crappy candidates
And an argument on my wall about Trump.

On the fourth minute of this day
Life gave unto me
Four political scandals
Three “weather systems to watch”
Two crappy political candidates
And an argument on my wall about Trump.

On the fifth minute of this day
Life gave unto me
Five ads for Clorox wipes
Four political scandals
Three “weather systems to watch”
Two crappy candidates
And an argument on my wall about Trump.

On the sixth minute of this day
This life gave unto me
Six Trolls a stirring
Five ads for Clorox wipes
Four political scandals
Three “weather systems to watch”
Two crappy candidates
And an argument on my wall about Trump.

On the seventh minutes of this day
Life gave unto me
Seven rapture warnings
Six Trolls a stirring
Five ads for Clorox wipes
Four political scandals
Three “weather systems to watch”
Two crappy candidates
And an argument on my wall about Trump.

On the eighth minute of this day
Life gave unto me
Eight mask refusals
Seven rapture warnings
Six Trolls a stirring
Five ads for Clorox wipes
Four political scandals
Three “weather systems to watch”
Two crappy candidates
And an argument on my wall about Trump.

On the ninth minute of his day
Life gave unto me
Nine Covid updates
Eight mask refusals
Seven rapture warnings
Six Trolls a stirring
Five ads for Clorox wipes
Four political scandals
Three “weather systems to watch”
Two crappy candidates
And an argument on my wall about Trump.

On the tenth minute of this day
Life gave unto me
Fires in California
Nine Covid updates
Eight mask refusals
Seven rapture warnings
Six Trolls a stirring
Five ads for Clorox wipes
Four political scandals
Three “weather systems to watch”
Two crappy candidates
And an argument on my wall about Trump.

On the eleventh minute of this day
Life gave unto me
Incoherent Biden
Fires in California
Nine Covid updates
Eight mask refusals
Seven rapture warnings
Six Trolls a stirring
Five ads for Clorox wipes
Four political scandals
Three “weather systems to watch”
Two crappy candidates
And an argument on my wall about Trump.

On the Twelfth minute of this day
Life gave unto me
Voting controversy
Incoherent Biden
Fires in California
Nine Covid updates
Eight mask refusals
Seven rapture warnings
Six Trolls a stirring
Five ads for Clorox wipes
Four political scandals
Three “weather systems to watch”
Two crappy candidates
And an argument on my wall about Trump.

Spiritual

Unraveling Loss and Looming Hope (and Patterns You Didn’t Expect)

By: Jana Greene

Hello, Dear Reader.

This is the 501st blog post on The Beggar’s Bakery. When I started the blog eight years ago, I was undergoing a season of loss. I would have hoped that by now, my posts would be more light and fluffy. More chipper. You would think, right? So many relationships in my life have grown since then. Some people I barely knew, I now know intimately. Other relationships have inexplicably imploded.

We aren’t living in a very chipper world right now, and my heart is heavy. So I’m writing, because it’s what I do when I don’t know what else to do.

Time is a big weaving loom, in a curious way. It is forever moving. You watch it work, and see an intricate pattern come to life before your eyes as if by magic. Tiny, easily-breakable threads that seem nothing on their own become a part of something bigger and better. You think the warm blanket you are looking forward to wrapping up in is a sure thing as the time chugs along. What a day that will be when the careful weaving becomes a finished product!

But sometimes there are glitches. Either by my own human error or the seemingly random equipment failure of outside forces, things get off kilter.

The threads – manifested as relationships woven as time passes – knot up. One wrong move and the pattern is ruined, and how in the world are you ever going to set it right?

Lately, I feel like I am desperately trying to force the pattern I chose back into being; tweaking this part of machinery or that, even though I have no idea how the thing even works.

I feel a little like the bumbling character Mr. Bean at the loom, awkwardly (and sometimes comically) breaking off the pieces I’m trying to fix; the whole fabric paying the price for my ineptitude. It is then that only making things worse as the beautiful tapestry I set out to make turns into the World’s Ugliest Sweater or World’s Biggest Ball of Yarn.

Interestingly, “loom” has two distinct meanings. First, a loom is a tool for weaving. Second, to loom is to appear or stand over someone in a threatening way. Even more succinctly, “loom” can mean “to come into view indistinctly, often threateningly.” I found that pretty ironic.

If there were ever a time of looming for the world, it is now. It would be bad enough if all we had to deal with was a world of inequity and deadly viruses; of isolation and economic worry.

But as these challenging things are going on, so too is the difficulty of sustaining relationships. Something as simple as one wrong stitch can throw the whole woven cloth into a big, knitted mess.

Even relationships that took years to craft, and so much precious thread and careful patterning, become a mess. Things come into view indistinctly. And nothing makes my heart sadder.

I think I speak for most of us when I saw that 2020 can go screw itself. Everyone is stressed. Everyone is hurting. It sure feels like time is standing over us in a threatening way.

This is not what I’d hoped things would look like 500 posts into this blog. Loss – that ugly Spector – once again at the forefront. Unraveling.

But as the loom of time spins out of control, I will keep trying to grab hold of that single thread that isn’t knotted. There is still time, right? All I can do is take responsibility for my part

If I’ve learned anything about God, it’s that he takes the shittiest circumstances and makes beautiful tapestries out of them. I’m counting on that happening again, continually. I’m counting on one day stepping back from the finished product and seeing the pattern intended for me. I know it will not be flawless. But it will be what it’s meant to be.

Five hundred posts ago, I thought I knew what to expect from friendships and other unpredictabilities of the passing of time.

But God, who designed time and space itself, is close to the broken-hearted. And sometimes that has to be enough.

I’ll keep weaving I’d you will.

Peace be with you and God bless us, every one.

Spiritual

When Love tells Depression, “That’s a Wrap!”

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.

Just as it always will.

  • Jana Greene
Spiritual

Ballad of 51 (for my half-century sisters)

By: Jana Greene

I took a “selfie” today, you see,

And gave myself the third degree

Right off the bat, right out of the gate,

I found a lot of things to hate.

Like, oh my neck!

What the #%&$! HECK?

It used to be tighter

and I think you’d agree,

The Thanksgiving turkey’s

got nothing on me.

And didn’t my eyes used to be bluer?

Was ever there uttered a statement truer

Than “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder?”

So why do I mind so much getting older?

My neck and chest scream “Sunblock please!”

Crow’s feet pop up with careless ease.

Marionette lines around the mouth?

Body parts migrating South?

What’s this new crease in my chin?

*Sigh.* Pass the wrinkle cream again.

See the furrows in my brow?

You ask how it got there and I’ll tell you how…

Birthing two daughters and raising another

That is the furrow of being a mother.

And the crinkles you see around my eyes

Are from laughing so hard I thought I’d die

(Laughter’s a good way to go as any…

And occasions for laughter have proved to be many.)

Those lines are proof of the joy life brings,

Because silliness is such a sacred thing,

Sure, everything on my body is a little bit lower,

Every task I complete goes a little bit slower,

But even as I rush to cover gray hair,

I’ve survived long enough for it to be there.

My teeth are not straight and there’s fluff

in my booty,

But I’ve earned the right

to be eccentric and moody.

Women, this is the pivotal stage in our being.

All the years have led up to our seeing

This as OUR time to shine and regroup.

Who cares about a little bloat and droop?

Society may think we’re past our prime,

But I’m calling bullshit on that line!

You’re a queen! Stand strong!

And y’all?

We must love ourselves, cellulite,

wrinkles and ALL.

I’ll remind you if you remind me

To love the image in the mirror we see.

I’ll fix your crown when it’s off kilter,

(And post the occasional pic with no filter).

At this point in life, we’ve covered our bases,

We wear history itself on our faces.

Women of a “certain age?”

Let’s flip the script and turn the page

On accepting that we are fine as we are,

Embrace every crease, and wrinkle, and scar.

Cuz there ain’t nothing more fierce, feisty, and bold

Than a woman over half a century old.

Spiritual

Marry Your Best Friend (and the rest will fall into place)

We will soon celebrate 14 years as a couple.

By: Jana Greene

If I could give one nugget of advice to my daughters and all the young women in my life that I love so much, it would be this:

Marry your best friend.

Marry someone who loves you not ONE iota less when you are at your worst, someone you are proud to be associated with, someone who impresses you with his integrity.

Someone you miss when you are only apart during the workday. It’s possible, I promise!

The secret, I think, is that each person loves the other far more than him/herself, and puts his/her needs first.

You will spend your life adoring the person you wake up next to and fall asleep with. Don’t settle for any less!

If he doesn’t “get you” move on. You deserve to be “gotten!”

It is far, far worse to be with the wrong person Han to be alone.

You deserve to be loved big, and to love hard in return.

Blessed be.

Spiritual

White Evangelicals Confound Me (Or “why are they claiming President Trump?”)

By:Jana Green

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.

  1. Too many white evangelicals blindly follow the cult of Trump, even though they wouldn’t accept his words and behaviors from ANY other person.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.”
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Poetry

Ode to a Nocturnal Cat

Our distinguished Socks

By: Jana Greene

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.

Spiritual

What the HELL? Doom, Gloom, and the Illuminating Perfection of a Loving God

long-spiral-staircase

By: Jana Greene

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.

As far as God and I?

We good.

acceptace, Spiritual

The Times, They are ‘a Changin’ (and we Must Listen)

By: Jana Greene

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.

Kumbaya, homies.

 

 

Spiritual

God in Every Face

By: Jana Greene

There can be honor in tradition

Sometimes that’s surely true,

But old ways hurt so many

It’s past time for something new.

Changing your mind means a change of heart,

By the shortest route,

Count it all joy when loving others

Becomes what you’re all about.

Don’t grieve for all the old ways

That only worked for a few,

Show respect for me and mine,

And I’ll show respect to you.

We can do this, I believe,

But it’s required of us all.

To pick up one another

When we falter, when we fall.

Don’t mourn the way it’s always been,

Instead let your soul embrace

Kindness, justice, righteousness,

And you’ll see God in every face.

Spiritual

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.

Spiritual

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.

Spiritual

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.
Spiritual

“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

Spiritual

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.

Faith, Spiritual

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”

 

Poetry, Spiritual

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. ❤

 

pandemic, Spiritual

Fuzzy Brows, Bathing Suits, and the Renewal of the Mind

renew signage
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

And here I thought ordinary life was daunting!

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)