Marriage · Spiritual

Six Years – an anniversary poem

I do, I do, I DO!
I do, I do, I DO!

Dear Bob,

Today is out sixth wedding anniversary. Of course, you remember – because you are just so cool that way, husband-wise.

What a wild ride our lives have been since Oct. 27, 2007, right?

This morning, when you wake up next to me, you will likely sneak out quietly to make the coffee. You will feed the cats and shush them as they mew for food, so that I can sleep in a little late.

And when I wake up, my first thought will be to make the coffee and feed the cats so that you can sleep in….on this – our Anniversary day.

And maybe that’s one of the reasons we just work so well. Come to think of it, yeah. I think that has a lot to do with it. Here is a poem for you….it’s pretty corn-ball, but it comes from the heart. I do love you so.

Your Wife

Six years of marriage…. How can that be?

(Seven since you’ve shared your life with me.)

You are the rational, organized one,

I bring the chaos (we’ll call it the  ‘fun’ ?)

You calm me down when my anxiety peaks,

You are the  one through whom God often speaks

to quell my nerves and bring the sense.

Do I thank you enough for this?

We’ve done richer and poorer,

For Better or worse,

In sickness and health?

By letter and verse!

We’ve blended a family –

All girls, no less…

We’ve lived through the drama, the triumphs, the stess.

At the end of the day, there ‘s just you and me,

And our wonky, blended-up family,

God at the most honored place,

At the top of the triangle,

Showing us grace….

And laughter,

And love,

and a place to belong,

To keep our momentum going strong.

May our PDAs always gross-out our kids,

And remain the stuff of lore,

May we always find the humor in things,

And learn to laugh even more.

May we always be the best of friends

Growing closer as we grow in age,

Hand-in-hand walking as one –

Not two –

Through every life chapter and stage.

Six years ago, how can that be….?

It seems like yesterday to me,

Beloved, I love you forever and more –

I can’t wait to see what else is in store!

Thank you, Baby, for marrying me –

Oh,

Happy Anniversary!

Spiritual

Ruminations by Chris Canuel

Ruminations
Ruminations

I have a friend. I know, I know…don’t we all?  Sometimes I even have more than one at a time!  Sometimes, friendships evolve as a result of “a God Thing,” which is the circumstance I found myself in by ‘friending’ a ‘friend’ of a friend on Facebook. Yeah, that old chestnut.

But wait! This friend grew to be an actual friend, on account of the fact that he is a gifted writer/blogger AND loves Jesus. He just came out with a new book, Ruminations.

I am plugging it here, because it is an excellent collection of essays on faith (and surrender) and also – because that’s what friends DO. I believe in his work wholeheartedly.

May it bless you as it blessed me. My review of the book is below, and here is the link on Amazon, if you are so inclined:

Author Chris Canuel writes in his latest book, Ruminations, that if he had to sum up Christianity in two words, they would be surrender, and Jesus (no necessarily in that order.) He shares his heart transparently about each of those subjects, and his struggles to do the first in order to get to know the second.  

Canuel addresses the foibles of  faulty human nature, when it comes to learning to be content (no matter what the circumstance) as the Apostle Paul addressed in Phillipians. In his ruminating, the author shares, “When things are going great, when I have plenty, when life just doesn’t seem like it can get much better, I get prideful. My mind tends to wander from God. Even in my Spiritual Life, it seems that even as I am focusing on God, there is a strong ‘me’ element that I am seeking to show off … Look how blessed I am! Look how much I love the Lord! Check out how awesome my life is! … this, in itself, is not bad, but most times I think I am doing it in order to puff myself up, rather than glorify God.”

That’s so relatable. I understand that low-grade discontent so well.

In these essays, Canuel shares intimate details of his life, in order to know Jesus more intimately – and to share with a hurting world that there is hope. The transparency of his ruminations inspire, because they so often made me think, “Whew! I thought I was the only Christian who has felt like that!”

That’s the great thing about believers who are willing to be honest about their faith, their walk … their true ruminations. They chisel away at the boulder of Christian Perfectness in their own lives until they separate the rubble from their true likeness. After all the chiseling, the world might recognize the face of Jesus in what was formerly pretty stone-like.

In the end, Canuel reminds us that we have an antidote to discontent; we just have to remember to pick it up continually.

“Go back to this truth,” he writes, of the Word. “Go back to these passages, these pages, this glorious book that we call the Bible. Go back to it often. Reflect on it, pray over it, and let us always remember … the answer is Christ.”

There’s that surrender thing again. And always, there’s Jesus. – Jana Greene

Childhood

That ’70’s Halloween

This image, posted by a Facebook friend, took me down memory lane.
This image, posted by a Facebook friend, took me down memory lane.

By: Jana Greene

Being a child in the 1970’s at Halloween was just the best. Am I right?

If you are a 40-ish person, you know what I’m talking about.

This is not a blog post about Halloween as a celebration of evil, because in 1976,  I had no idea that there was a dark side to the day. It was not about evil (or breathing or seeing in a mask.) I am no fan of modern-day Halloween, or what it represents, but when I was seven years old, it was all about the candy.  And all about fun.

If you were a child in those days (oh Mercy…did I just say ‘in those days?’ Also, did I just say ‘mercy’? OLD) you might remember that:

The coolest thing was to be ‘ready’ to trick-or-treat at 6 p.m. That was the earliest acceptable time, because “you wouldn’t want to interrupt anyone’s dinner.”

You gladly wore the standard plastic and vinyl costume (see photo above. I assure you it is not photo-shopped. No, not even the plaid couch is photo-shopped.)

While in costume (mask must be engaged before leaving your house,) your eyes never lined up with the  holes. They  were not really  for seeing out of; just holes punched randomly in a factory, and seldom over the actual eye design.

Actually, “pants” weren’t part of your costume at all. It was, more of a Onsie made from a  good-quality lawn bag – with other holes for your limbs,  and a tie on the back of the neck that your mother always tied way too tight.

As a result, you stumbled around over your plastic pants like some kind of wonky-eyed mutant cousin of whatever character you were trying to portray.

You collected candy from strangers who weren’t really strangers, because all the neighbors knew each other, at least casually.  Nobody checked your candy  for razor blades or poison, because such a thing nearly never happened (and, if it did, it was the stuff of Halloween-lore instead of a daily news event.)

Your parents told you ahead of time – before you set out with your friends unchaperoned – which houses to skip (“Don’t go to that house….the man that lives there gives your mother the creeps!”)  Every other home that displayed a lit porch was open for business, and that was nearly every single one.

You trick-or-treated with the standard-size orange plastic pumpkin. No pillowcases. Greed was not a virtue then, and greedy children were frowned upon.

If you dilly-dally at someone’s door to check your stash, it was considered rude.

Also … if you dilly-dally at a door, you might walk home with an entirely different group of kids than you set off with (since there were many Caspers, princesses, H.R. Puff-n-Stuffs, and yes…sheets with eyeholes cut in them ala Charlie Brown.) Somehow, that was okay. You eventually wandered home, having only lifted your ill-fitting mask to stuff candy in your mouth.

No self-respecting teenager would caught trick-or-treating. That was for babies. Sure, every year there was a  random sprinkling of young teens in lame costumes, trying to milk the last Milk Duds from their childhoods. But there were not roving gang going door-to-door, comprised of people old enough to vote in an election (or run for an election, for that matter.)

 Driving to other neighborhoods for better candy was not groovy. It was tacky.

You always said thank you, even when there were no parents around to nudge and remind you.

If you were the kid whose front tooth was lost in a caramel apple, yours were ultimate bragging rights on Nov. 1st.

And yes, you ate genuine candy apples, and bobbed for the regular kind – in a bucket of water, and without wearing a life vest or having your parents sign a waiver prior to bobbing. Quaint in retrospect.

Your neighbors held Halloween parties in their living rooms, and you were invited to them without social media. All you had to do was ring the doorbell, say “Trick-or-Treat!” and you were invited in for purple punch and cookies with icing-spiders on them, while Monster Mash blasted from the speakers from an 8-track. Nobody issued an Amber alert for missing trick-or-treaters, because it was a different world.

When you were a tween, it wouldn’t have occurred to you to dress as the “naughty” versions of superheroes, cartoon characters, or inanimate objects. You didn’t try to sex-up Raggedy Ann, not even ‘just for Halloween.” Childhood icons were not fodder for making naughty, and if you did – you were perverse.

(Sidenote: It’s sad to me that any beloved character can be made “naughty” now. That Raggedy Ann – perfect in her innocent doll-ness – is so often sluttied up with stilettos and a gingham bustier, and society is A-OK with it. It’s not sad because I’m a prude, it’s sad because, well – it should make all of us sad.)

When you were a trick-or-treater in the ’70’s, things got real at dusk, and legit scary at dark, when the “older,”  8-12 year-old kids made  spooky ghost noises in the dark.)

There were no store-bought, life-sized Frankensteins from Lowe’s adorning the porches in your neighborhood, mechanically raising zombie-menace arms. Inevitably, one of the Old Fart neighbor dads would have painstakingly painted a Monster-face on, giving you a personal (but purely fun) scare.

You traded candy with your friends on somebody’s front lawn after trick-or-treating, and after divvy-ing it up, took care to wipe the blades of grass off each piece.

After the swapping, you didn’t feel entitled to better candy ..,.an  “all-Hershey Halloween.” Your parents had just sanctioned the pillage  of sweets  from the whole neighborhood!  How could it BE any better?

By the end of the evening, you returned home thoroughly winded – mostly from breathing in your own carbon dioxide – infused with the smell of plastic – from wearing your mask for hours. But, who needs oxygen when you have this much CANDY?

So. Much. Candy. And evil-free fun.

You didn’t get treats every day, which made the veritable sugar buffet  even sweeter.

I’m not a fan of Halloween now, because it’s a different world and there is so much wickedness on the daily. Back then, when I was seven, the only dark thing about Halloween in my young life was the Mounds bar in my orange, plastic pumpkin.

It was a different world.

Mercy, it was glorious.

Jesus

Tattooed for my Transgressions

What do you think of this image?

One of the Jesustattoo.org billboards in Texas (I'm a native Texan, by the way)
One of the Jesustattoo.org billboards in Texas (I’m a native Texan, by the way)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2452535/Tattooed-Jesus-billboard-campaign-condemned-blasphemous-Bible-Belt-residents.html
It, and others like it, is at the center of a firestorm. As evidenced by the exchange on Facebook with a total stranger, when a friend of mine posted the link and asked simply, “What do you think of tatted-up Jesus?”
Jana Greene:  I think it’s beautiful.  I think Jesus cares about the heart of a person. Our bodies are the Temple, yes – but temples can be adorned, or defaced.  It’s in the eye of the beholder (plus, there is plenty of grace to cover what society deems as blasphemous.  Just my 2 cents.
Stranger:  Ends don’t justify means. He is the Lamb without spot or blemish.
Jana Michelle Greene:  Respectfully, without spot or blemish physically? I don’t understand it that way….too surface-based.

Stranger: I appreciate your disagreement Jana, however the physical characteristics of Christ …”Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
Jana Greene:  Respectfully, the spot and wrinkle – to my heart – is a reference to purity of spirit. God is such a Creative Force, I believe he appreciates art. I know we are made in His image and perfect the way we are born (to Him) but my Jesus is an “in the trenches” force of redemption. He bore our transgressions. The image of a tatted up Christ squeezes my heart, because it is a visual of Him bearing them. I used to feel the exact same way that you do about tats (piercings, etc.) but I no longer do. After struggles with many transgressions myself (including being an alcoholic in recovery) I can appreciate that skin is skin and Grace is sufficient to cover all – surface deep and spirit-deep.
He goes on to say that “there can be no compromise….”
Yikes.
I love a good debate.  Not argument, mind you – but a nice, flowing exchange of reason. And I’m grateful for the thoughtful interchange. Still … is it “letter of the law” to bicker about this?
I am not offended by tattoos, in general. But I also read The Message translation of the Bible – I am that Christian. That opinion, admittedly, has been hard-learned (see More than Many Sparrows – https://thebeggarsbakery.net/2012/04/21/more-than-many-sparrows-my-daughters-tattoo/).
But no matter what the mindful  opinion on tats, I don’t understand this campaign imagery as “blasphemous.”
When I saw it, it didn’t occur to me that an image of Jesus was desecrated. It didn’t bring to mind my Jesus going through all of the stages of tattoo-dom….., trying to choose just the right design, in just the right font and color – and then schlepping down to Ink n’ Such and going to the artist to ask for a tattoo on his arm or back.
Metaphorically, He did chose to be covered – without getting picky about the color, style, or location of the markings. He took it all.
When I first saw the image, it just broke my heart. Oh, the humanity! Oh, the Holiness! All so that we can be found without blemish to the Father.
It isn’t a debate about whether Jesus would have gotten tattoos if He were walking around in a physical body on this planet in the flesh right now (and, who’s to say that He is not walking among us from time to time?)
Tattoos are a human thing, right? He wouldn’t have marked Himself.
That’s kind of the point. It WAS humans who covered him in stripes. He WAS branded in a literal and figurative sense, by humankind.
But – GOOD NEWS! – He was also branded, marked (and, semantics notwithstanding) tatted up FOR all humankind.
You and me.
And if the sins of the people were represented by tattoos, there wouldn’t be enough ink in the world for it to be represented, and Jesus wouldn’t have had enough surface space on his body to accommodate it.
In prophesy, written long before his world-changing mere thirty-three years in flesh on this earth, it was written of him:
“But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5  (NKJV)
By his blood I am healed. In the beautiful representation of all he carried to the cross – by His Ink, I compromised my shame and sorrow, and He made me whole again.
Against all reason.

Here is the campaign page, for your enjoyment: http://jesustattoo.org/

One of the Jesustattoo.org billboards in Texas (I’m a native Texan, by the way)
Racism

Reverse the Church March – racial healing for our city

Reverse the Curse

Hello, Dear Reader. Today I am sharing the link to  a piece that I just wrote for my Redemption Feast blog at WilmingtonFAVS.com, about an upcoming event in our city –

The Reverse the Curse March.

http://janagreene.wilmingtonfavs.com/2013/10/11/reverse-curse-march-aims-help-heal-hurts-wilmingtons-past/

If you are a Wilmingtonian, I urge you to consider participating. If you don’t live around “these parts,” I hope you will enjoy the article anyhow.

I, myself, will be marrying off the eldest of our daughters with My Beloved on Nov. 2nd, and so will be unable to attend the march.

God bless each of you, and as always – thank you for reading thebeggarsbakery.net.

In His Love,

Jana

humor · Inspirational · Spiritual

Christians and Swearing – mercy, mercy, mercy

"God, put your arm around my shoulder, and a hand over my mouth" - Anonymous
“God, put your arm around my shoulder, and a hand over my mouth” – Anonymous

By: Jana Greene

The office was silent, except for the gentle clicking of keys and an occasional throat clearing. I  took a bite of the carrot I’d brought for a snack.

CRRHHRUNCH. The sound echoed through the open space filled with short-walled cubicles. I had no choice but to finish chewing, each bite resonating.

“This is one crunchy-ass carrot,” I said awkwardly, without thinking – and to no-one in particular.

And then I felt guilty. The whole office knows I’m a Christian, and Christians don’t curse, right? Real Christians don’t.

It’s difficult to exist in a work environment 40 hours per week without saying a naughty word. And….is “ass” a naughty word?  Any fourth-grader can tell you that the words “ass” and “hell” are in the Bible. I suppose it depends on the context, since carrots don’t have asses, per se.

I’m a wordsmith. Sometimes, when I weave words, a strand of metallic thread makes its way into the fabric of a story. It can get pretty shiny, what with all those threads.

Sometimes, it is just pure laziness when I resort to the four-letter-genre. The societal standard for what constitutes a curse word is always changing.

Curse words are fuzzy territory to me, as a Christian – I know they shouldn’t be fuzzy. We aren’t supposed to say offensive words, period. But what is offensive, and to whom? The Bible also warns against saying, “by heaven or earth….,” but every translation of this verse is slightly different.

I have a slightly salty tounge, which I try to tame on occasion. Hey, I’m working on it.

Once, while trying to reign in my language, I tried substitute a particularly virulent word (said mostly in frustrating situations) with “mercy.”  For a two-week period, I refrained from said Big Daddy Curse Word, and instead, said “mercy. …until my husband remarked that I sounded a lot like his aunt, whose most favorite word in the universe is “mercy.”  This aunt  is a lovely Christian woman,  80 years old, and I’m sure she has never said either “ass” or “hell,” even in passing, unless reading scripture.  (If “by heaven and earth” is not biblically acceptable, what about “mercy?” I mean, if we are going to be legalistic.)

But I am not a lovely 80-year old Christian. I am a 40-something recovering alcoholic with three daughters, a full-time job, a passion for Jesus and recovery, a red-headed temper, and an occasionally salty tongue.

All of this wondering about potty words reminded me of a post I’d read by favorite blogger, Jon Acuff, about the subject. He is much more astute in his observations (and much funnier, I might add.)

“Christians occasionally swear. They don’t do it a lot. I’m not talking about thirty-second tirades laced with profanity. I just mean that every few days they’ll say a swear in the middle of a conversation. Why do we do it? I think we want you to know that we know those words exist. We want you to be aware that we are aware they are out there and we know what they mean. Plus, everyone knows that swears are nineteen times more powerful coming out of the mouth of a Christian. That’s a scientific fact right there. If you’re a nonbeliever and swear a ton, it’s just not that big of a deal. If you’re a Christian though and you swear, birds fall out of the sky. Trees shake to their roots. Magma gets fourteen degrees cooler under the crust of the Earth. Wielding that kind of power is too tempting to ignore.”

Mercy!  Jon Acuff is one funny-ass writer.

And I mean that with the utmost respect.