Drinking and driving: Lives imploded

 drink-keys
Normally, I write pieces urging others to seek recovery.
Today, I write with one focus:
Drinking and driving, and the powerful implications of the practice.
If you feel passionately about drunk drivers, too, feel free to share the link.
In God’s love,
Jana
By: Jana Greene
I can’t stop thinking about her.
She is only 22.

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Viral Spiral: A dozen thoughts on ‘going viral’

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By: Jana Greene

In 2014, I received a totally unexpected gift. In February, I wrote a blog post that truly went “viral.” My blog had been up and running two years at that point, and I wasn’t expecting it.

I’d written the piece (“Skewer the Stigma“) on the fly in a 20-minute span. It somehow took flight across the world and ultimately ended up landing in the hands of a quarter of a million people. No one is more surprised about that than me.

I had written it, posted it, and left it alone. But within a few hours, I started receiving email notifications that readers were leaving comments. Like 100 of them – surpassing my normal total daily readership and confounding the mess out of me.

Naturally, I assumed someone had passed out on her keyboard whilst looking at addiction recovery sites, and the multitude of visits were caused by her forehead landing on the “refresh” button repeatedly. It was the only logical explanation.

At 15,000 hits, I was convinced it was a cruel joke of some sort. Those pesky hackers.

But no, for some reason, the article  was truly going ‘viral.’ Something about it resonated with people enough to pass it along. And as a writer, that is really the most you can hope for – to hit the note that resonates with others.

I had wondered what it would feel like to have so many visitors…to have a blog post go viral. Strangely, the experience taught me more about myself than my readers.

Through the experience of going viral, I learned:

1) To pray for favor.

In many ways it was a post like every other. It wasn’t – in my estimation –  better or worse than anything else in the previous 180 blog posts on The Beggar’s Bakery. But I did specifically ask God for favor when I posted it. Now this is where it gets tricky, because while God’s favor is everything, I would subsequently pray favor over all of my posts and gleaned a little pearl of wisdom. I became willing to accept that God’s favor does not “look like” ours. He may favor you with two readers whose lives are forever changed by your words. His favor may look like 1,000,000 hits. Or He may favor you by revealing something to YOU in your own words that you never would have recognized any other way, even in a post that never makes it online. Prospering spiritually is so much richer than prospering in numbers. Speaking of numbers…..

2)  That numbers do not validate me.

I’m not really a “numbers girl” normally. I’m a Words Girl. I have this crazy, innate aversion to numbers, whether they be accessorized with mathematical symbols or dollar signs. But there is nothing like obsessively checking the stats of a blog post to muddy the blogging waters with numbers. 250,000 hits? That’s crazy talk. I must be legit now, right? Numbers that climb ever-higher may feel validating, but they really whip up insecurities. In many ways, blog stats are like alcoholic beverages to me: One is too many and a thousand not enough. When have I “arrived?” The stats and numbers do not hold that answer. Higher numbers often equal higher anxiety. Not a good thing for folks like me whose OCD feeds off of getting “one more hit.”

3) To stake my claim.

People are going to think you are crazy, or wrong. Or crazy wrong. The same vulnerability that makes your writing authentic opens you up to all kinds of criticism. I will never forget the first really negative comment that posted as a comment. The reader was very angry, taking exception with my statement that alcoholics and addicts get well with help from God. “What about atheists? What about them, huh? You must recant! You can’t make blanket statements like that!”  To which I replied, “Oh but I can. And I did. And I will.” At first, it hurt my feelings, but then it gave me an opportunity to learn how to stand firm.

My blog is my reality; my point of view. It is what works for me. I’m not going for a PC award, and I refuse to water down my message to appease readers. You can be both kind and firm. The experience taught me to strike my own authentic stance, and hold it. With hundreds of thousands of blogs out there, any reader who insists I change the content can, well … move along, little doggy.

4) To consider my work realistically.

Even when I write something I’m sure will get tons of traffic, very few posts actually do. I am neither the best nor the worst blogger out there is cyberspace. Going viral taught me to ride the wave without expecting a medal for surfing. Just enjoy the ride.

5) To pray for my readers.

This one should have been a foregone conclusion, but I had to learn to do it. Prayer takes a normal, natural article into a supernatural force to be reckoned with. I will never know where my messages ripple. Asking God to use it for his purposes assures me that even if a post only makes one person smile, or say “Aye carumba! I totally know how this feels!” it was worth writing and posting.

6) To blog honest or not blog at all.

When the post first started going viral, I fought the urge to go back in to WordPress and “perfect” it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have admitted this. Maybe I could take that out. But I try not to censor myself a whole bunch. I usually edit a piece several times before it goes up, but I try to keep the editing to grammar and spelling, and leave the truth raw and bare. It’s the only way, really, to share experience, strength and hope authentically.

7) Confidence to (self) publish my first book.

How many times did I say to myself, “I have a book in me”? Before this experience, I didn’t honestly think it would ever come out. But we all have books ‘in’ us – several. God spurred me to actually write that book – and self-publish it – in a two-week span after “Skewer the Stigma” went viral. God had told my spirit several months before: “Before you walked with me, your story was your story. When it became your testimony, it belongs to others, too.” I pray that the book falls supernaturally into the hands of those who might need some hope regarding addiction recovery. Going viral helped boost me in the direction to share it, just because I felt more confident. That was the only variable that had changed. I didn’t write the book to make money (which is a good thing, since I didn’t) but to share a story. You have one, too.

8) To expect viral posts to spread like … a virus.

It kind of picks up a life of it’s own. It becomes – as it should – more about the message and less about the author. It becomes out of your control in an epic way, in a manner that makes it impossible to track. I discovered that no, I really don’t crave fame. I’m proud of the piece and grateful to Abba for allowing me to share it in such a huge way. But getting my name “out there” was strangely anti-climatic. I became very ‘meh’ about it, very quickly. It just doesn’t satisfy the way you imagine it would. Only God can satisfy that wholly, that perfectly.

9) That I may have peaked, cyber-wise.

I may never go this way again. The heady, surreal nature of going viral is so fleeting. How to recreate it? That’s where faith comes in. God will give me the words he wants me to spread, and hopefully he will help me filter the words I shouldn’t spread. I cannot ‘recreate it’ nor should I try.

There are far, far better things ahead than what we leave behind, as C.S. Lewis said.

Or as is written in Ecclesiastes… to everything there is a season (turn, turn, turn…)

10) Not to bastardize my craft.

When I began blogging, I felt like such an amateur writer. Then a post went viral and I felt legit. And then after things calmed down, I worried after my worth as a writer again. I was causing myself so much drama in figuring out my place in the blogosphere! Nothing I’ve written since has gone bananas, and it may never happen again. And I’m okay with that. Now, I still sometimes wonder how it would feel to be a legitimate writer, for real and for true. And then God reminds me that it’s my job to write, and to skip the labeling, and get over myself. To just write already, and let the flow happen. A real, legitimate writer would just keep writing. It’s that simple.

11) Nifty stats are not my friend.

Oh my heavens, the detail available! There are numbers, and even color-coded maps of the countries whose residents read it!  India. Saudi Arabia. France? Ooo la LA! Such neat accoutrements – they must be tools for success, no?

No. Stats take a creative, open, spiritual soul out of the lush garden, and make her a neurotic, over-analyzing, nut-job in the dry desert. And that about sums up my experience with fancy statistics.

12) Going viral is kind of neato-keen for a while, but not essential.

Our Father in Heaven is not interested in the numbers games, but we humans love to count pats on the back. Pair numbers with technology and you have the virtual world in your fingertips and a real world that hasn’t been touched at all. Algorithms and marketing (I did absolutely none with the one post that went viral) do not determine the “success” of a blog post.

Sometimes I post a blog that gets hit ten times. I am so grateful for my readership, no matter the size. Sometimes I will just be having a day that sucks, and I’m not feeling spiritual at all, and my feelings need a place to go –  so I jot my grumpy words down. And once in a while, a reader will comment that they, too, are having a sucky day and not feeling spiritual at all, but it was a comfort to know that their circumstances were not sucking in a vacuum – that we are all intertwined, somehow. Chin up! You are never alone!

Because we are all intertwined, somehow. And no one is more surprised about that than me – every time it happens. As a writer, that is really the most you can hope for – to hit the note that resonates with others.

God controls the ripples, the currents, and who consumes the words. In all of the great Cyberland, we share our words as experience, and it comes back to us joy. And that is something to get infectiously viral about.

A real gift.

Christmas: God pursuing us

Antonio Allegri, Correggio 1528
Antonio Allegri “Correggio” 1528

By: Jana Greene

We lose the meaning of it all, in the quest to get it right.
This Christmas thing is hard to fathom, under our own might.

We know that Jesus was born in a manger,
We know that animals lowed nearby,
We know the wise men brought him presents,
We’ve all heard of the star that guided them nigh.

But stop the Christmas rush for a moment,
Silence the bells and jingling sleighs,
Look beyond trees and feasts and caroling,
And elaborate displays.

Remember for a moment what we most often forget,
Let it rest in your heart (where it’s a perfect fit!)
Christmas is about a God crazy for you …

Listen …. Can you hear him pursue?

A God who became human for a time,
just to be closer to you?

The Creator of the universe craving relationship,
Wanting to be where you are?
That small, still voice following you
Like the bright Bethlehem star?

So far across the universe, yet as close as drawing breath,
What could make God’s people see
This love that conquers death?

God sent his son – a part of Himself –
A promise he’d made long before.
And so to Mary, a son was born,
On a humble stable floor.

God himself poured over bones, and under fragile skin,
To draw you close and know your pain, and forever conquer sin.

God made manifest in a baby boy,
Who would grow to save the world.
And bring them the gospel of truth and joy,
His prophesy unfurled.

Hark the herald angels sing!
Peace on earth, good will toward men!
Do not fear,
Your God is near,
Even to the end.

Emmanuel – God With Us –
Yeshua,
God most high!
The hope for everlasting life
Heard in an infant’s cry.

That’s the meaning of Christmas.

Rejoice in your heart of hearts,
Where God has made his home …
Your heart – the manger  for the savior,
Filled with peace –
Shalom.

 

“Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
An Event for Everyone

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

Luke 2:1-20The Message (The Message)

Don’t Tread on Christmas

Christmas

Christmas is Christmas. Everyone just needs to accept it and move on.

There is definitely a movement of opposing the true meaning of Christmas going on, and to the folks perpetuating it, Christmas is just the High Holy Occasion for said hate. Last year, in New York City, atheists paid good money to put up billboards at Christmas espousing the holiday as a “fairy tale.” The celebration of the Messiah who changed the landscape for all mankind draws ire from those who don’t know Him. I get it.

But I have a truly revolutionary idea, which I put into practice all the time. You won’t believe it, it is such a crazy-radical idea!

Every single year….

At Hanukkah, I don‘t light a Menorah.

At  Ramadan, I do not fast.

On special atheist days (such as “Tuesday”) and Santeria holy days, I do nothing to commemorate them.

I do not own a statue of the Buddha.

I appreciate nature, with no regard whatsoever to paganism.

And although I like reggae music, I do not follow one single Rastafarian tenet.

I also don’t recognize the Summer/Winter Solstices, or celebrate the ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Because, you see, I’m not Jewish or Muslim, pagan or Hindi. I am not Buddhist, or Rastafarian, or an atheist.

I believe with everything that God poured himself over bone and under skin to be born in a humble manger. I believe he came to walk around in flesh, so that he could (a) know what the human condition feels like, and (b) give himself as a living sacrifice for all mankind. Jesus was revolution incarnate.

So, you can see why the birth of that savior is a big deal to Christians.

As a revolutionary thinker,  I just  don’t celebrate the holidays that are not meaningful to me.

I don’t insist that members of other religions alter their icons of celebration so that little crosses are part of their displays.

I don’t ask that they change their traditions to suit my skepticism and faith.

I don’t ask that they homogenize the teachings of their prophets,  so as not to offend my delicate spiritual sensibilities.

I would have no right to insist upon these things – to change an entire religious celebration for ME! Because I am JUST. THAT. SPECIAL.

I wouldn’t think of demanding that they light candles on alternate nights, eat a mid-day meal, or “don’t stop believing” (I couldn’t help it) because those ways are not my ways. How arrogant that would be of me!

But I would defend the traditions of either of those groups, and even of atheists – yes, atheists! I defend their right to NOT celebrate MY religion, it’s tenants, OR it’s holidays. Crazy, right?

It’s kind of the American Way, religious freedom.

In return for my not imposing my beliefs (or non-beliefs) on you – like I’m doing you a favor there –  I ask that you extend the same to me.

You know, the whole Golden Rule idea. It’s an idea that has roots in Judeo-Christian origin, not that its okay to mention that in polite society.

If Christmas has no meaning to you, don’t celebrate it. But how arrogant of you to ask that those who do change the very definition of the occasion.

If it offends you to be wished a “Merry Christmas,” I feel kind of sad for you. The message of Christ is and was love, and Christmas a celebration of goodwill toward men.

If it pains you to respond, “And Merry Christmas to you,” perhaps you are not as enlightened and tolerant as you fancy yourself.

(My favorite take on giving Christians the courtesy to allow them celebration is written by Ben Stein, himself Jewish. If you’ve never read it, I recommend it highly:  A Ben Stein Christmas.)

If you begrudge Christians the right to celebrate the birth of the savior, all you manage to change in the hearts of Christians is their resolve to keep Christ in Christmas.

You do not – by displaying a hardened, offended  spirit  – change the fact that God came in the form of a human being, changed the course of history one life at a time for over two thousand years now.

You will not change our hearts.

But yours might be.

Would your heart change if you passed along the goodwill that Christians celebrate at Christmas, by not insisting that the single most important event in history to millions of people be watered down to assuage those who don’t believe?

Are you just that special? (Irony: to the God you deny, you are incredibly special.)

I would rather Jewish, Islamic, and yes – even atheists! – celebrate their respective religions (or lack thereof) full-on without watering down their traditions to please me.

Don’t tread on me.

Don’t tread on my Christ.

Don’t tread on my Christmas.

And Merry Christmas. Welcome to the resistance.

Five People You Meet at Christmas

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By: Jana Greene

They come from all walks of life and every background.

The people you meet at Christmas.

They love, hate, dread or excitedly anticipate Christmas. They are us, full of the spirit or full of ourselves.

 Here is sampling of the Five people you might meet at Christmastime:

 

The Consumer:

“My ornaments are so last year.”

Stuff, stuff and more stuff.  Black Friday? Not for these guys and gals. Why wait when you can blacken Thanksgiving evening? Christmas is packages, boxes and bags. So much to DO! Genuine givers they may be, but the baby Jesus gets a little lost in the shuffle of shopping and wrapping.  In the extravagance of perfectly decking the halls, it is easy to forget that the son of God was born in a simple stable surrounded by livestock. It’s very easy to forget when retailers break out the red and green before the Labor Day sales are over.

The Grinchy Begrudger:

“If you can’t prove it, remove it!”

These folks don’t believe in a power higher than themselves and resent anyone who does. Live and Let Live is not their strong suit. They will spend time researching to make sure that a life-size nativity scene is not set atop any government or public property, and would cut the leg off of the Wise Man whose plastic sandal touches the border. Bah!

The Homogenizer:

“Christmas tree? No-sir-ee! That right there is a” Holiday Tree!”

The star atop that tree is not representative of the Star of Bethlehem, but could be any astrological phenomenon. The Homogenizer doesn’t really want to take Christ out of Christmas, just water it down enough to please everyone. “Happy Non-Specific Winter Jubilee Holiday Solstice,” might be the response to a greeting of “Merry Christmas”, when a simple “you, too” would be just as easy.

The Revelers:

For true believers, Christmas is  the birthday of someone whom they love very much.  Having had an intimate spiritual encounter with Jesus, they know him personally. They appreciate folks who – if they practice another faith (or no faith at all) -can allow Christmastime to be celebrated without knickers knotted in staunch offense. For Revelers? The wonder and awe of the season revolves around the birth of a savior. But be warned; Revelers might insist on wishing you a merry Christmas with nary a thought of hurting your feelings because, um…. it is Christmastime.

God:

The fifth person you might meet at Christmas is God.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” – John 3:16

God as a person? Yes.

That’s what all the hullabaloo is about, you see. God poured over bones and under flesh and wrapped in swaddling clothes. God himself, who lived as a carpenter by trade and at thirty years of age began to assemble a rag-tag band of twelve to follow him. God, who in three years of ministry to his creation, changed the entire trajectory of human history (and more importantly, of human lives). God, whose flesh and bones hung on a cross to make sacrifice for all of us – Begrudgers, Homogenizers, Consumers, Revelers, and everyone else– and rose from the dead on the third day. His birth has been celebrated in some way every year since. He lives even today.

You might encounter God this Christmas. He welcomes us all -– to gather at the manger and see what Christmastime is all about.

God bless us. Every one.

Half Measures Avail us Nothing: How rigorous honesty and fellowship help avert relapse

68206a0ca12711e19dc71231380fe523_7People in recovery continue to amaze me. They are some of my very favorite people, because they have a high compassion level coupled with a low judgement level. One of my friend, J, is like that. He is brave and in love with Jesus in a way that just scours the complications of sobriety and salvation clean. When you meet such a person, you feel you can scale that pillar of recovery that can be the hardest to keep firm – rigorous honesty.

I emailed him today: “Do you know where I can hit a meeting tonight?”
And he emailed me right back: “What’s up?”

I told him that I’m struggling. The past few months have been super emotional and crazy….a cruel mixture of extreme change and boredom of mediocrity, both. I’m not sleeping well. I’m cranky about things out of my control. Experiencing health challenges. My kids are grown now, and my purpose has shifted. I feel depression tugging on my sleeve and anxiety strangling me with it. And all the while, I’m feeling a little guilty because I’m a follower of Christ and THIS IS NOT WHAT TRUSTING LOOKS LIKE.

And in the midst of emotional turmoil, a thought popped in to my head, smooth and serpentine.

“I’m just going to move,” I told myself, emotions rising. “I’m going to move far away from here and leave everything and go where nobody knows I’m an alcoholic. And I’m going to drink. I’m going to have a whole bottle of wine.”

What a very alcoholic thought! Lose it and leave it – to gain an hour of oblivion, just to be out of my skin for a temporary stay. Perhaps not even one hour – a time that would be followed with heaps of shame.

The thought – a skilled assassin….poised on the edge of my clean time – ready to take my sobriety out.

Nevermind that God has graced me with fourteen very good sober years now.

Nevermind that my life is – my all accounts, including mine  – a really good life.

Nevermind that I’ve cultivated friendships and recovery partners.

Or that I would be dead, had I not gotten into recovery in 2001.

How cunning and baffling the disease of addiction is. You can be trucking along, and BAM! That’s why we must be on our guard.

I told J about my assassin thought. I thought about glossing over the messier points, but I shared my heart honestly, because I figure that assassins who are called out into the open are less likely to get off a clean shot.

“I know exactly how you feel,” he wrote. “ I’ve had those same thoughts. And I wasn’t even really in a bad place or anything. My mind just always defaults back to my old ways.The good news is you are aware of it and want to get to a meeting.”

It is a fact of chemistry that we addicts are wired differently. Our default is so often continuing the old behaviors that never really worked in the first place. Rigorous honesty can be tough.

“The best possible news any of us can hear,” continued J, ” is that the God of the universe put on skin and walked the earth. And while He was here He went through what we went through – he was tempted, in many respects just like us. Worse actually…worse, because He is GOD. He can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. I mean really, how tempting must it have been to not just say ‘Pfft, forget this. I can fix it all, and I’ll start by erasing Satan from history.’ But he didn’t. He resisted the temptation, and used His own written word to do it.”

People in recovery are some of my favorite people.

“And we have Jesus,” he reminded me.”The absolute best possible sponsor – which falls so insanely short in describing Him – living inside of us! He is alive, and He completely understands our struggle because He came here and went through it. That is absolutely mind blowing! And the only reason I still have hope, is because all of that is 100% fact.”

Brave and in love with Jesus. Like I said, scoured clean.

Assassination averted.

Addiction has a sort of timelessness to it. A day is a thousand years and a thousand years is a day. I don’t rely on ‘clean time’ to keep me clean for that reason.
I rely on Christ.  And on others walking the same path. Others who are willing to say “What’s up?”

So, I’m saying…sharing honestly, because there is healing and fellowship in vulnerability.

I’m in a messy place. But I won’t always be in a messy place. While I’m in the midst of it, I stay put. I gather with my tribe and drink coffee in fellowship halls, asking God for help just as I have for 14 years, knowing that He will help – every time.  He has not dropped me on my ass yet, even as I often try to wriggle free of his grasp. I will use God’s written word to resist temptation. He knows exactly how I’m feeling and doesn’t love me any less, emotional basket case as I may be.

That’s 100% fact.

Asking for help is what trusting looks like. Yeah, I think asking for help is sometimes what trusting looks like.

“HOW IT WORKS” AA Big Book pg. 58:

“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of beng honest with themselves. …. At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of
us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely. Remember that we deal with alcohol- cunning, baffling, powerful!  Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power—that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”