Bumping into the Light (Prayer, Awkwardness and the Wildest Love)

By: Jana Greene

I’m not sure if God is moving me slightly out of my comfort zone, or if he just keeps changing where “comfortable” abides in me, but He has been manifesting His love in the wildest ways lately.  Like standing under a blackening sky, I find myself a bit afraid of the darkness in the world until….Look! A tiny star appears, and then another, and another.  He keeps bringing points of undeniable light all around me until I am so surrounded by his obvious love, and the darkness is overpowered.  I just keep bumping into light and love, utterly grateful.

One of the areas becoming new to me is praying aloud with others.  Strangers.  I am perfectly comfortable writing to God, writing about God, writing with the Holy Spirit guiding me.   But verbally, I am not eloquent in the least.  I stumble over my words and stutter in making my request. Complicating the matter is that I don’t do so well in large groups, or in public speaking, and the role I’m stepping into requires both.   But still, I’ve felt the tugging at my spirit to step out of what is comfortable in order to plead on behalf of others in front of the father.  So, I’m trying to be obedient in that.

I am blessed that one of my closest friends, Melissa, is a gifted pray-er. The first time I prayed for others with her, I was humbled immensely.  She and I were huddled together with a couple of people who were hurting and needed prayer, all of us crying, and my friend’s words were cascading into the small, intimate space between our faces.  She first invited God to our circle, and then her words just knew what to ask Him for.  And as she made petition to the Lord to heal the hurts, she praised him for meeting us in that place and for all that He was already at work doing.

Request and praise.

Make vulnerable and give glory.

Ask and trust.

Afterward, I thought about her glorious prayer, which was not stumbled over, but straight from her heart to God’s in the most raw and holy way.

“You are such a good pray-er,” I told her, and hugged her tight.  But later on, I wondered if “pray-er” is even a word found in the dictionary.  As it turns out, it is not.

Prayer is defined as an address (as a petition) to God in word or thought, or a set order of words used in praying.  But in doing a little research, I found out that “one who prays” is called: a “Supplicant” -one who makes humble petition. My friend, Melissa, is an excellent Supplicant.

We, in relationship to God our Father, are all Supplicants – whether our set of words flows easily or with struggle.  Perhaps when we link hands with a stranger and petition God to hear us, our willingness to act with supplication is part of our prayer.  I’m trying to learn this when I pray with others, not to worry about presentation, but presence.

Last Sunday after church, I went up front to pray for others with my Supplicant friend.  We held hands as we waited for others to come forward for prayer, and I peered out into the congregation.  The lighting in our sanctuary is kept very low during this time, so that worshipers might concentrate more fully on God instead of worrying what others might think.  I’ve always appreciated this twilight-prayer time personally because I get so easily distracted, but today, it looked dark out there in the crowd.

Until a young lady and her friend came up for prayer- two tiny stars of light until they were in our arms and under Melissa’s fervent prayer. I allowed myself to stop nervously formulating prayers for my time aloud, and melted into the pleads and tears and worship that was spreading throughout the entire sanctuary like wildfire.  I was the “amen” section for this prayer-time, which was just fine with me.  All of us – we prayed in agreement – and  Jesus, huddled up with us, delighting in  Melissa’s beautiful words of supplication, through her gifting – music to His ears.

On the walk back to our seats, we could not move without bouncing into light and love, and I wondered….

Is it possible  my stumbling on words is of no consequence to God, who considers the heart even in silent prayers?  If He can read my thoughts, he knows my gifting and lack thereof, He can translate my awkward out-loud requests. Perhaps the word ‘prayer’ is both a noun to describe words that petition and a noun that describes the humbled person doing the petitioning.   Maybe we are walking, breathing prayers – going about the daily business of living in constant pleading and praising.  Continual requests and praise as we make ourselves vulnerable, asking and trusting and giving Him glory throughout.

And He answers, overpowering darkness….manifesting His love in the wildest ways.

The World Gone Crazy, but we still have The Friend

I took this picture at the Little Chapel in NYC at the base of Ground Zero. The banner was decorated by children to cheer the emergency workers and volunteers during the recovery. The Little Chapel, directly next to the Twin Towers was virtually untouched by the carnage that day.

By: Jana Greene

“Judas (not Iscariot) said: ‘Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not the world?’ (in reference to ascending to heaven).

“Because it is a loveless world, “said Jesus. “A sightless world.  If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and the Father will love him – we’ll move right into the neighborhood!  Not loving me means not keeping my words.  The message you are hearing isn’t mine.  It’s the message of the Father who sent me.”   John 14:22-27 (MSG)

Over the past few weeks, I have felt like the world were falling apart.  Losing hope, like Jesus is not welcome in many neighborhoods.  As we are approaching a Presidential  election, media coverage (largely unbalanced) is stepping up the mud-slinging and Americans are picking mud off the ground and  hurling it at each other.  Civil rights issues are at the forefront, and people and businesses with belief systems that have been practiced and adhered to for centuries are being sucked into the vortex under the guise of “civility”.

It is un-hip now to be a Christian, no matter which side of one particular debate that Christian might fall on. That’s the crazy thing – Christians as a whole are slowly but surely starting to be persecuted  in America – not by bodily threat, but by that thing that Americans have long disdained: intolerance.  A witch hunt for historically conservative people is still a witch hunt.

There is even a movement to make “all religion illegal”.  It is still a small and restless, largely underground phenomenon, but I can assure you, it exists.  I have seen the evidence with my own eyes, in my own town.   The frightening thing is that such a thing doesn’t seem  out of the realm of reality these days.

Allow me to describe the current government trajectory as I see it with my earthly eyes:  It is growing into a massive,  monstrous machine that sucks the civil liberties of the masses into a grinder in the name of its own twisted definition of the ‘greater good’.  In the end of digestion, this ravenous machine – having  gorged on the constitutional sacrifices of Americans, craps out a tiny brick of pseudo-rights for a small segment of society.  That’s positively un-American.  And yes, that’s my opinion.

So far as I know, we are all still entitled to have one.  But leaning too much on my passionate opinions and too little on my faith doesn’t usually go well.

Everyone seems angry with everyone else right now, myself included.  I hate that feeling, that angst.  Because it comes from a place of fear.  I need to take a step back and breathe, and give my earthly eyes a rest.

It seems to be American against American, in chat rooms, on blog pages, on Facebook, even in our homes, our neighborhoods.  It is so easy to get focused on the manifestations of evil all around – the horrors that took place in a movie theater in Colorado, the epidemic of human trafficking – which takes in our own country!  The distractions of feeling politically passionate because of movements and issues, and freaking out with fear about the possibilities.  The longing for justice, because it is so out of whack. I get so wrapped up in my emotional frustrations with the entire world, which  are largely out of my control, that I forget that none of it is a surprise to my God.   I forget that He himself said that it is a loveless world, and that even when it feels completely out of control, He did not leave us all here stranded.

“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you,” Jesus continues in the verse.  ” The Friend, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you.  he will remind you of all the things I have told you.  I’m leaving you well and whole (on earth) – that’s my parting gift to you.  Peace.  I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left – feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset.  Don’t be distraught.”

Distraught doesn’t even begin to TOUCH how I’ve been feeling lately.  But that’s what happens when you look around the world for peace, instead of exclusively  within – where He has placed it.  Within, where He gives us The Friend, who in turn fills us up so that we can love on a loveless world.  The Friend, to guide us through a sightless world.  Hearing the message of the Father, who IS love, instead of talking heads on the news, and instead of the voices of hatred.

Because I will worship God on my knees forever and ever, and no law can stop me.  The government didn’t give me the right to pray and worship and it cannot take that right away.   It is a right endowed by my Creator, who will is not subject to the rules of man, and who gives a peace that passes understanding to ALL who ask for His redemption.  There is also a lot of beauty still in the world.  Because the Holy Spirit is still on this planet and within us, there is still majesty, purity, grace, hospitality, and love – so much love.  God fills all of us imperfect, cracked vessels with his love in order to love on a world that is falling apart.  My hope is in Jesus.

Amen and God Bless America!

You are Invited to Check out my Other Blog – Redemption Feast @ Wilmingtonfavs.com

Good morning, readers!

I’m working for a piece for The Beggar’s Bakery today.  But in the meantime, I wanted to share a link to another site that I blog for (Redemption Feast @ wilmingtonfavs.com) and the piece published there today.  If you have time, don’t miss the video attached to the link.  – about redemption from addiction, about grace and about contentment.  God bless you today!

http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/i-am-second-happily

Sign of the Fish

The great “Gatsby”. So proud my daughter named him with a nod to literary greatness!

By: Jana Greene

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Phillipians 2:3-4 (NIV)

The need is so great.

Yesterday I took my youngest daughter to the pet store to purchase a pet fish.  First, she chose a fishbowl, colorful gravel, and a sad little plastic plant to “furnish” the habitat.  It was then time to choose an actual pet.

The Betas were stacked in individual cups, each with barely enough space to swim in a circle.  There were dozens of them, stacked end-to-end in what looked like a rack for giant test-tubes.  To really see each fish, my daughter had to lift every cup out and bring it into the light.  She would study the creatures one-by-one and return them gently to the rack, noting the special attributes of each.  One had long, flowy, red  tail-fins, another was a sapphire blue.  One of the fishes was the color and sheen of a pearl.  They were all incredibly different, and there were so many!  She had to make sure she got the “right” one.

“Please pick a fish!” I implored, after what seemed an eternity of her inspecting them.

“I’m trying,” she laughed.  And I knew she was trying.  There were so many fish, and every single one was distinctly beautiful.  Every single one needed a home.

My girl finally did choose a fish.  It was a smaller one, hidden behind the cups of the bolder, fancier ones. He has nice red fins and perfect, opalescent scales, and he seems happy in his new home with the sad plastic plant.  He is a little different from all the rest of the fish, which makes him perfect for our family.

In a small way, it reminded me of making a commitment to minister to those in need – because “those in need” encompasses everyone.  Many times I get paralyzed by the vastness of the need – people who are suffering from addiction, poverty and other ills -and fail to do anything at all.   It begins with the one person, of course.  Instead of becoming intimidated by the sheer numbers of people needing care (they are all so different, and there are so many!), step out for the “one”.  Not must telling God, “I’m trying!” but meeting  a need and bring it out into the light.  Out of the darkness.

The need is so great.

Terminally Unique….Just Like Everyone Else

By: Jana Greene

Terminal uniqueness.

The first time I heard the term bantered around in an AA meeting, I was personally offended.  After all, I was at a meeting because I couldn’t drink like normally like “everyone else” and by attending, I was spotlighting a weakness that had resulted from my unique set of circumstances.  And I had stayed sober for weeks by then – in spite of very challenging things:  My unhappy home life.  My health issues.  My negative thought patterns.  Of course I am special!

Just like everyone else in the room.

Nowadays, I don’t bristle at the suggestion of feeling terminally unique. It makes me chuckle a bit because I know how terminally unique I am, as are you and each other person whom God has created.  For years, I used it as an excuse to keep from getting sober.  Easy for her, I would think of someone in recovery.  She doesn’t walk in my shoes.

We are all incredibly unique, endowed with a one-of-a-kind skill set of coping, growing, thinking, feeling and choosing….our weirdness, perhaps.  Our unique weirdness, combined with life experience, is terminal – there is no chance of being born one soul and dying entirely another.

Even as we are born again in the spirit, that soul still exhibits some quirkiness on occasion.

I used to believe that if I were doing it “right”, being a Christian cause me to have it all together.  In my mind’s eye, I saw myself evolving into an entirely different creature:  Poised, reverent, polished and wise, the Christian Me would be emotionally available, sane at all times, selfless and serene.

Just like everyone else seems to be!

Except that no-one is all of those lovely things all of the time.  Only Jesus could manage to pull that off.  God is teaching me that my addictions and behaviors are not weakness born of my terminal uniqueness, but of my humanity.  They were born for one unique purpose: to bring his name glory.  The weaker times in my life – when I couldn’t cope, grow, think or feel like anyone could pull me out of my troubles, I chose to ask God to help me up.  And despite my being so terminally unique, he answered my prayers and advised me to tell others that he can use weirdoes like me.  And you.

What about the very unique circumstances that challenged me?  My home life, my health issues, my negative thought patterns? Perhaps allowed by God to share hope with those in similar circumstances, walking in similar shoes.

Not the least bit “all together”, terminally unique, and saved by Christ.

Gratitude, intentionally

By:  Jana Greene

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. – John Milton

I don’t know what I would do without everyday epiphanies.

In recovery circles, they are called “aha!” moments…those times when things suddenly make sense just a little bit.  My favorite brand of “aha!” moments are the ones of reverent, intentional gratitude.

Yesterday, my husband and I visited with some old friends at the beach.  It was – at the risk of sounding dramatic – as perfect a day as I’ve ever had.  We hoisted beach chairs to the water’s edge and talked for hours about how fast our babies grew up, about all of the things that surprised us about parenting (a lot!)  We swam in the salty sea and snacked on chips with homemade salsa.  And spent the evening having dinner on the back porch, which overlooked the marshes.  We shared so much laughter, our cheeks ached.

Several times, I reached over to touch my good friend, because I felt so blessed by her that I wanted to make sure she was real!  God loves on us through his other children….Aha!

On the drive home, I held my husband’s hand, which is not at all unusual.  But we locked fingers like we have a thousand times before and I thanked the Lord for this perfect fit.  And that prayer led to gratitude for all of the other ways I love my husband.  I can’t count all of my blessings if I don’t start with “one” ….Aha!

Washing my sandy feet in the tub before bed, I considered the events of the day.   I thought about friendship – and said a quick prayer to let the Father know I appreciated his orchestrating those relationships.  I smiled, thinking of the ocean and complimented Him on His handiwork.  I couldn’t remember a day in recent history in which I’d felt so humbled by blessing, so full of gratitude.  It isn’t because I’m not blessed; it’s just that worry has been renting the space in my head that joy rightfully owns.  Worry is a destructive tenant, opposite of thankfulness in every way.

God is always bestowing gifts big and small to us, but sometimes I don’t encounter grateful-ness because life is full of not-so-wonderful days, chock full of them.  Things seem to go wrong more often than right, and days are not often even close to perfect.

I know that we are not here to be blessed, but to bless. But I also think God gets tickled when we notice the things that we, ourselves, cannot take credit for – the things we shouldn’t take credit for that change forever how we experience life and the world.  It takes almost no time at all to say “thank you” but it can change the whole trajectory of mind-set.

Being truly thankful makes sense of things, I think.

Aha!