Love Swings Harder

distresstolerance

By:Jana Greene

“Persuasion confirms confident expectation and proves the unseen world to be more real than the seen. Faith celebrates as certain what hope visualizes as future.” – Hebrews 11:1 (The Mirror Bible translation)

Can I just take a minute to appreciate the beauty of that verse? Faith celebrates as certain what hope visualizes as future. MIND BLOWN.

There doesn’t seem to be a glut of things to celebrate right now.

I was turbo-thumb scrolling through Facebook chuckling at goofy cats wearing hats and babies teaching each other to walk, and then.. a trickle of posts from news agencies. Lives of yet more law enforcement officers were taken in Baton Rouge, and oh my dear Lord, what is happening to us?

Oh no. Please God, no.

I’m ashamed to say I haven’t even tuned in for live coverage yet. Much like the grounds of my beloved hometown of Houston, my ground is saturated. My spirit is just saturated. I can’t take one more sad thing. Storm after storm have filled the ground and there’s nowhere for the runoff to go. I know we are all hurting. We are all just trying to doggy paddle in the flood of awfulness right now.

The past few weeks have been an abysmally horrible example of what people of a godless world can inflict upon each other. Does blood mean NOTHING to us anymore?

In between tragedies and murders, there have been tides of goodwill and love between fellow men. Each tragedy followed by an outpouring of people helping one another, followed by another blow, followed by good people acting, followed by more blood in the street….Each time Grace gets on her feet, she is assaulted with another hard swing. But like a boxing match between Hatred and Grace, Grace is getting its ass kicked.

Or so it seems.

But still …

I keep thinking of the end of Jesus’s last day on earth, and how terrified the disciples must have been when the sky turned black and their One True Hope died just like a regular guy. Can you imagine?  Talk about feeling like God has left the building!  There was even an earthquake as His Spirit ascended, but from the human viewpoint, it just looked like the world was ending.

It just looked like doom.

That’s what it feels like to me now.

Blood means everything, and is the only way anything matters. The darkening sky had to happen; It had to happen for love to swing harder. Blood and disaster ushered in hope for the whole of mankind.

I guess faith isn’t about not questioning, because any sane person is doubting and questioning right now. I know I am – big time. Just being honest.

In spite of everything, I believe we are on this planet right now because God deemed us fit to thrive in it for His sake. Not just survive – but thrive.

Even when I just want to make a blanket fort and consume multiple cartons of Haagen Dazs and wash it down with boxed chardonnay while I snuggle with my cats and listen to sad Coldplay songs so I can properly grieve the state of the Union (and the state of the world.)

Again, just being honest.

I’ve been sober a long time, but I have to tell you, I am asking God for help every single day. I need him to help me stay sober and sane.

How can love swing harder if we all stay drunk in our blanket forts? Faith celebrates as certain what hope visualizes as future.

Here’s my strategy, and it’s kind of weird but wildly helpful to me:

Each time I become despondent and feel anxiety rising,  I try to visualize the expressions on the faces of the disciples when they laid their actual EYES on the resurrected Jesus. Awe, wonder, hope sprung eternal. Doom turned to dust, death made impotent for all eternity.

Jesus was all like “TA DAAA!”

And “What part of ‘I’m coming back’ don’t you understand?”

And “I love you! Go now and love on everybody else.”

That’s how I’m coping and staying sober – striving toward the day Hatred doesn’t get the last swing, the day evil gets its ass kicked forevermore. Leaning INTO a loving Father whose heart is breaking for the way His kids are treating one another.

And trying to honor the One True Hope – and be the best ambassador for Him that I can.

When it looks like doom, stand on this saturated ground with me, and keep proclaiming who we KNOW God to be. By grace, love wins. This broken world needs to know it.

God bless us EVERY one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The “Seven Little Action Words” Blog Series

Hello, dear Readers. I’m reposting the pieces from the Seven Little Action Words series, and hope they might bless you. As always, feel free to share the link.
God bless us, every one.

The Beggar's Bakery

EstherBy: Jana Greene

Leaning.
Falling.
Listening.
Risking.
Trusting.
Rising.
Living.

The last few weeks have been pretty squirrely for me and my family. We had been prayerful about a number of things, hoping they would just change already. And for a long time, nothing changed.  It was if God were purposefully being silent, and it seemed a little spiteful. I forget sometimes that He works ALL things to the good, not just the things on my “Honey Do” God list.

While divine appointments were happening behind the scenes, I made a regular appointment to meet with some divine people in my church. Depression was creeping in like unholy Kudzu, and I know these believers, so strong in faith that they seem tethered to this world only by a cleat of love, would machete that shit right out. I am not being profane – that’s what depression feels like. It’s gotta…

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Bitter Strife and Loss of Life – American Anathema

Strife

By:  Jana Greene

Life is crazy, and blogging about it such a crazy process. Yesterday, I spent hours writing a fanciful and spiritual fairy tale. Today, I’m writing about death and chaos and the ever-widening chasm between us as members of society.

I hardly slept at all last night. I know many of you probably didn’t either. The happenings in Dallas did a number on my already-over active ‘fight or flight’ response. Anxiety was the order of the night, all night. I pulled out every anxiety-quelling practice I’ve ever learned (it’s a very big toolbox.)

The word “Anathema” kept popping up in my head.

Here’s how the dictionary defines it: “An abomination, an outrage, an abhorrence, a disgrace, an evil, a bane. Abhorrent, hateful, repugnant, odious, repellant, and offensive. And what example did the good people of Google use in the definition? “Racial hatred was anathema to her.”

After a fitful three hour sleep full of nightmares, I woke up and posted this to my personal Facebook wall, and I meant every word:

If you are trying to somehow justify what happened in Dallas, go ahead and unfriend me now. Do us both a favor. Hate begets hate. Those officers were picked off by sniper fire as they are protecting citizenry. No, I cannot justify what happened to the innocent black men killed, but here’s the rub:

Not ONE of the Dallas cops was responsible for what happened in MN or LA. Not a single one. An officer is killed every 58 hours, on average in this country.

Michelle Malkin: A cop is killed every 58 hours

If we are going to be outraged about murder, let’s be outraged about murder. Period.

The sad state of affairs we find ourselves in as a nation is making my heart so heavy.

I am sad that “All Lives Matter” even has to be a thing. It should be a given.

I am sad for the slaughter of peoples everywhere, including the unborn. Violent acts against another human being can never inherently bring PEACE.

I am sad that portions of our citizenry consider justice and vengeance interchangeable terms.

I am sad that we are a nation more divided today than ever. (And I’m mad that the current administration seems to have perpetuated a lot of that division among Americans instead of uniting them.)

I am sad that my young adult children are already bitter about the state of the world, instead of hopeful.

I am sad that my granddaughter has to grow up in such a time as this.

I am sad because the undercurrent of hatred is rising to the mainstream, and people are dying as a result.

And I’m just just sad, but scared. I talked to God at length in the wee hours of the morning about being scared. And wouldn’t you know, He comforted me quite a bit – and didn’t even chastise me for my ‘lack of faith.’

You see, to my mind, the chaos and injustice in the world is indeed socioeconomic and racial and political , but it is fundamentally a SPIRITUAL problem at the root. The skin is only, well…skin deep.

But the spirit? We are all connected.

I’m going to go out in a limb here, but I’ve got to say it, perhaps at the risk of over-simplifying. I mean no harm in what I’m saying. I have friends of all races and creeds, and I love them all so dearly.

It’s a spiritual problem, and ain’t no way to fix that except Jesus. What we are seeing is the human race operating as its own Higher Power. If you’re not already, please pray for our nation.

It’s the devil’s game to divide us all. He is the author of confusion and the father of lies. It seems obvious that he is gaining a foothold.

Division is NOT the way of the Father. My Jesus is your Jesus. We NEED the intervention of a good and inclusive God, and we need it desperately.

I hated to pull the ‘unfriend’ card on my Facebook account,  as it seems on the surface as a divisive action itself. But for the sake of my adrenals and blood pressure, I can’t. I just cannot even, ya’ll.

I see a sick pattern emerging on social media: Are you “Team Black Lives Matter?” or “Team Thin Blue Line?”

I don’t know how this will all pan out. But I am imploring those in my itty bitty blog sphere of influence to consider that what we are doing is clearly not working, and to call on the Almighty to hook us up with some supernatural Shalom here. STAT.

In my flesh, I am not optimistic. There is so much strife and pain and rage.

But in my Spirit? I know ALL things are possible through Christ Jesus.

It’s going to take a miracle. Hearts have to change, not just minds or views or laws. HEARTS.

I’m going to close this out with one of my favorite Mother Teresa quotes: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

God please….please bless us. Every one.

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Kismet’s Blanket – A Faithy Fairy Tale

kismet

To say this piece is a departure from my usual blogging material is a major understatement. Still, Abba gave it to me in a dream, so I’m doing the only thing I know to do with it – sharing it with you.

 

By: Jana Greene

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Kismet who loved a blanket. It was a very special quilt, a gift from The King himself. Every child born into the Kingdom received one, but Kismet cherished hers more than most. It was made from snowy white fabric. In the finest thread of spun gold, the King had commissioned that every good decree and promise be embroidered into the fabric. Kismet took her blanket everywhere, wrapping herself in those promises.

Each morning, she would take the short walk to a green pasture between the woods and the hillside, and spread her blanket over the velvety grass. Laying on her back, hands clasped behind her head, she spent hours watching the clouds morph into shapes and patterns against the endless blue sky; and at night, she watched the infinite array of stars as they rolled across the Heavens.

One day, while she was cloud-gazing, a mighty wind kicked up and caught her off guard. She sat up suddenly just as a gust blew big clods of dirt onto the quilt, and when she stood to shake it off, another wind nearly blew the blanket away. She caught it by the corner and held on to it for dear life until the wind passed. Then she dusted off as much debris as she could and tried to get comfortable, but it wasn’t the same. It was dirty and itchy, and distracted her from her peaceful sky gazing.

That night, while she was admiring at the great, dark sky, she felt a sudden and violent tug on the top corner of her blanket. Startled, she gasped and sat up straight, only to catch sight of an enormous dragon’s tail as it lumbered into the woods. Kismet was terrified,  and ran home, dragging the ripped blanket behind her.

The next day, she ventured to the pasture again – this time keeping an eye out for dragons. She spread out her blanket, now grungy and dragon-nipped. All the same, it was still a gift from the King, and the little girl loved it so.

As she’d settled down to watch the sky and marvel at creation, she felt the ground give a sudden rumble, shaking her bones and rattling the hillside. For several moments, the ground shook. She was afraid the earth would open up and swallow her whole! In fact, the earth did not swallow her, but did upset several stones on the hillside, which tumbled down and landed on the quilt, missing her by only inches.

It was then that a scared and shaking Kismet decided to run away. Nothing was going right and she feared that the King might be angry if he found out that she’d let his precious gift get ruined.

Far away, she might have a better view of the clouds and stars. Far away, she might find her wonderment again.

She placed the stones in the center of the blanket, and gathered the three good corners of the quilt and the one torn edge, and tied them together. She then found a stick and fashioned a knapsack. It was far too heavy for a little girl such as herself,  what with it being full of stones, but she feared she might encounter another windstorm in her travels and the stones might be needed to hold the blanket down. She dragged the sack across the rugged ground for much of the day-long journey.

She finally came upon a small pasture by a river, and – exhausted – unloaded her pack. Stones and debris took up most of the space, but she found a little space in the center of the quilt, and pulled her knees to her chest. She didn’t look upward. She was sad and certain the sky would be empty. She cried and cried until evening settled over this strange land and she fell into a fitful sleep. When she awoke, a voice surprised her.

“What troubles you, little one?”

Kismet tilted her head up to see the King himself, sitting on the corner of the quilt. She could scarcely believe her eyes!

Slowly sitting up, she saw that the blanket was good as new! The torn corner had been  mended. The heavy stones had been thrown into the river. The fabric was white as snow again. The gold-stitched embroidery twinkled in the evening moonlight.

The King smiled at her and reached for her hand. She took it and he pulled her into a fatherly embrace. For the rest of the evening, they both lay back and played dot-to-dot with the constellations before falling into a safe and cozy slumber.

And when they returned to the Kingdom the next day, there was a great party to welcome them.

Was everything happily ever after? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Kismet’s blanket got dirty on occasion. She even lost it a few times. But that’s what happens when you take something everywhere you go.

She learned that the promises embroidered in golden thread were eternal, and ensured by the King. She learned that the blanket itself was not magical, but the bestower of it most certainly was. And she stayed in His presence all of of her days.

Because the King and his subjects are eternal, there is no “The End” to this tale. Instead, I invite you to consider this:

You and I? We are Kismet, too.

Your blanket is your faith. It was custom-made for you. Take it everywhere you go. Cling to it, even when the winds kick up. Catch it by the corner and hold on for dear life.

Even when the dragon tries to steal it from you. (Remember, it is his life’s work to steal it from you.)

Even when the ground shakes beneath your feet.

The King’s decrees are no less true because of the quaking.

The embroidery is scripture – the King’s Decree over you.

Don’t carry the things meant for your destruction to ensure your future comfort.

If you pick up the heavy stones of fear, doubt, and hatred on your travels, ask the King to help you let go of them. You were never meant keep them for holding down your faith.

Look upward! Even as you are surrounded by chaos.

There is no need to run away, for wherever you go, there you are.

Wrap up in your faith, all nice and cozy. Don’t keep it in a box.  Share it with others.

Don’t let your sense of wonder get away! Chase that thing down and never let it go!

And, Little One, if you do happen to lose your faith on occasion? The King will go a great distance to find you and restore your faith to its former glory.

Everywhere you take your faith, the Good King is with you.

Always.

 

 

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A Lady who was Mean to her Kid (or “Grace for Jerks”)

Friends.jpg

“Friends” by Liz Lemon Swindle

“One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”– Matthew 19:14 (MSG)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Jana Greene

In her book “Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith,” Anne Lamott wrote a chapter entitled “A Man who was Mean to His Dog.” She wrote about witnessing a guy being mean to his Golden Retriever at her local beach, and her incredulousness that anyone could be unkind to a dog of that breed. Goldens are the most people-pleasing dogs in the world, just so full of goofy and abundant love. They just want to win your approval.

I witnessed something this morning at the grocery store that may have been the human equivalent, which is even worse.

I live in a coastal town, and here’s one of the Rules of Living at the Beach on any 4th of July weekend: DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE. And if you must leave the house, do it at 7 a.m. in the morning before the tourist craziness reaches fever pitch, usually around 9:30 a.m on a holiday.

But I had to leave the house, because I needed some things from the grocery store, so I trekked out early and thankfully there were few people out and about yet.  Unfortunately, one of those people was a really upsetting presence. A harried-looking mom (or grandmother? Could have been either) with a darling little tow-headed 3 or 4 year-old girl.

The first time she opened a tirade on the wee one was in Bakery.

“Put that down!” the mom shouted, when the girl reached for a free cookie. “Can’t you just ever do anything right?

To which the tiny, blonde adorable human being who has the inalienable right to enjoy a free grocery store cookie (it’s in the Constitution) responded with a muted “Sorry.”

I blew it off as a frustrated albeit really cranky mom, and made a note to try to avoid her for the rest of my shopping, which of course resulted in her passing me in almost EVERY AISLE.

In Bread, the girl skipped around the cart while her mother scanned the shelves.

“STOP IT!” the mom commanded.

“I’m just being silly….”

“Well, knock it off. You’re always silly. Its getting really old.”

Ok, now I’m getting angry. Who the hell reprimands a child for silliness? I catch the mother’s eye and give her a mid-grade stink-eye in return. She looks mean. MEAN, I tell you. But I thought she might think twice about berating her daughter if someone gave her the stink-eye.

But no.

In Pasta / Rice / Soup, I met them again. This time, the girl was trying to put a tiny stuffed animal she had brought into her mom’s purse.

“What do you think you’re doing?” She snapped loudly. “Carry it! If you didn’t want to hold on to it, you shouldn’t of brought it. If you put it in my bag, I’m throwing it away.”

Let me stop right here and assure you that my mothering skills are completely imperfect and always have been. I try really hard and always have, but I make mistakes. I snapped at my daughters plenty as they were growing up, I know I did. We all have bad mommy days. Snapping at your child occasionally isn’t what I’m talking about. I don’t mean to judge this woman harshly, but as she systematically tore down her child in such a nasty way,  I started judging aplenty. Every word she directed at her daughter was full of scorn. I can only describe it as venomous. (The sad thing is that if this is mom at 7 a.m., I cannot imagine how she might treat the kid at 5 p.m. when exhaustion really kicks in, or at 8 p.m. when putting her child to bed.)

I started praying for the girl, who wasn’t even misbehaving in the least – just being a kid. Even on the aisles we didn’t mutually cross, I could hear the mom yelling at her.

When we met up in Frozen Foods, the little girl told her mom “You look pretty.” Anyone could see that this child was trying to win approval, and it was freaking heartbreaking, because her mother responded with “Yeah, whatever.”

Finally, at the checkout, who should queue up behind me but this woman and her daughter. The girl touched a candy bar and her mother loudly said in a seething tone: “You got a hundred dollars? No, you got nothing. Don’t even touch that.”

She didn’t get physical with the girl, but I wanted to scoop the child up and get her away for a while. I wanted to offer to babysit, and invite the girl to come skip around my dining room table and eat candy. I would take her to feed the ducks at the pond near our house, and I would put flowers in her hair and assure her that she IS doing everything RIGHT, and that silliness is a character attribute of the very highest order.

Instead, I smiled and winked at her. She was just precious beyond all description and she smiled back at me – as sweet and happy as a Golden Retriever whose owner had mistreated it. What I’d witnessed  wasn’t cruel enough to be reported to the authorities, but it was definitely cruel enough to chip away at the spirit of a beautiful little girl.

Four year-olds are full of glee and “why?” and skipping around. Quite frankly, that age is often the most lovable of the childhood years, the most people-pleasing age, just so full of goofy and abundant love. I continued praying for the girl as I checked out my groceries and put them in the cart. By this point, I’m beyond angry. I am rolling away to my car, imploring God to protect and comfort that child’s wounded little spirit.

And then I had a thought invade my pleadings: Pray for the mother.

Hurumph! I shut that thought down quick, dismissing it on the grounds of righteous anger.

I’m loading my groceries, and again – like an annoying internet pop-up ad, it comes again: Pray for the mother.

What do you want me to pray, God? Forgive her,  for she knows not what she does? She knows damn well what she’s doing! But still, as I started the car, God really just wouldn’t get off my back about it, so I prayed an honest prayer:

God, I’m just so mad. I’m mad but I’m asking you to somehow work in the heart and mind of that mother. I don’t know what she is going through, but you do. That meanie is your little girl. Forgive me for praying for her very last, and with trepidation.  You were pretty clear about praying for our enemies, and I ask for you to pour your supernatural, unconditional love on her. Show her grace, Lord. And show me grace and mercy too, please. I need it just as much.

Praying for thine enemies is very, very difficult. That’s why Jesus was the only person ever to do it perfectly. It’s especially hard when the aggressor is mean to a child or a dog. I’m working on learning to petition God on the behalf of the jerks in the world, because I’ve been a jerk before too in other ways, so maybe someone was praying for me.

God bless us, every one. Please, God. We need it so.

 

 

 

 

 

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Through a Glass Darkly – a Migraine Tale

migraine

By: Jana Greene

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”

– 1 Corinthians 13:12 (MSG)

Greetings, Readers. I’ve been away a while due to several obligations and one horrible migraine that lasted – roughly – for as long as it took Jesus to rise from the tomb. Three days.

Here’s what my migraines feel like – An army of tiny, pix-axed elves are carving Mount Rushmore on the surface of my brain. They are groovy little elves because they provide lots of auras for my visual displeasure as they are unloading their tools. After a prelude of giving me auras and scary face numbness, they start chipping with their elfly chisels, but several hours in, they break out the jackhammers.

I must lie in absolute stillness in a dark and silent room for however long they ascribe to completing their dastardly and painful masterpiece. Sometimes that’s a couple of hours. Sometimes it’s days. DAYS.

I woke this morning gloriously pain-free, as if the stone had been rolled away. I wanted to get out of bed and dance the jaunty jig of the grandfather in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” when he finds out that Charlie has the Golden Ticket.

Come to think of it, maybe biblical King David was a migraine sufferer and danced post-headache:

“David, ceremonially dressed in priest’s linen, danced with great abandon before God.” – 2 Samuel 6:14 (MSG)

You never know.

But I digress…

This is where I’d like to give you some platitude about how all things work to the glory of those who love the Lord. I’m not about to praise God for horrible migraines. Every time I crawl out from under one, my spirit feels a little bruised. “Hey, Lord. I thought you had my back? FIX ME.”

It hearkens back to my primal and paradoxical predicament of thought: Is God an angry and vengeful, spiteful being who is punishing me for my infractions? Or is he a good, good Father who protects me from He-knows-what regularly and walks through every single circumstance with me.

I choose to believe that God is only good. He is love and He is lovely.

He shows UP.

Even as the jackhammers rat-a-tat-tat in my head. Even as we near a nightmare election. Even as I use ice cream as a coping mechanism. Even as I’m angry at him for allowing pain to invade.

Migraines necessitate that I must lie in absolute stillness in a dark and silent room, sometimes for a couple of hours. Sometimes for DAYS. I have some really amazing prayer times while squinting in the fog.

I’m not grateful for brain-invading  jackhammers. But I AM grateful that the God of the Universe hunkers down with me, escorting me through the pain. Clearly there are a LOT of things on His plate in the world right now, but He takes the time to crawl into that dark and painful space with me. Sometimes that is Kingdom Work enough.

I’m convinced that presence is the real Golden Ticket.

God bless us, every one.

*I don’t know about you, but whatever beef I’m having with The Almighty has a applicable Coldplay song. Don’t ask why or how, it’s just a cosmic thing. Music is HEALING. As I was writing this piece, I decided that the following might apply:

CLICK HERE to watch Coldplay’s “Fix You” video on YouTube.

 

 

 

 

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All About the Ride – Lessons from an Elderly Dog

Three years ago today, we lost our Emmie girl. I’m re-posting this in her honor. She was just the absolute best❤

The Beggar's Bakery

My girl, Emmie

By: Jana Greene

I took Emmie the Elderly Golden Retriever to the vet this morning. It’s only for a nail-trim, I told her when she balked a bit about getting into the back-seat. It was cold outside, and her old bones don’t like the cold. Finally she did her best to jump into the car, her posterior getting a little boost from me.

Along the way,  I rolled down the window so that my rearview mirror was filled with the vision of Emmie’s face behind me – full splendor, tufts of golden fur and a wide smile of teeth and gums (okay, mostly gums) and eyes squinting in the cold sunlight. She had forgotten that there was a destination involved. She was all about the ride.

When we arrived at the vet’s office, she remembered, of course. The last time we’d been here, she was extremely sick…

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