Love and the Fluid Flow of Grace

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By: Jana Greene

I was thinking today about love; how it is a hardship. Even when it is the most wonderful thing on the planet. It really is. If you love someone enough, you risk heart damage and an emotional pummeling. Parenthood is a great example of this. Nothing will pummel your heart like a teenager (but take heart….they DO come ‘back around.’) Relationships are hard.

The hardship is in the risk.

No, this is not just another post reminding you that Jesus loves you, or that he endured ultimate hardship in manifesting that love. Although both of those are absolutely true.

It’s about the trustworthiness of an invisible God. That’s what it really comes down to, isn’t it? Is there a Supreme Creator and does He really give two craps about me as a person? Because I struggle, folks. Sometimes I struggle mightily.

My whole life, I’ve believed in the core of my being that I was not ‘enough.’ I confirmed it to myself a thousand times a day in fault-finding, in re-living childhood trauma. Thinking disparaging thoughts about myself – physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually – were my default.

Why would God love me when I can hardly stomach myself? When I feel like a colossal screw-up 90% of the time?

I’m working on that…..listening to what God Almighty says about me vs. all of the bullshit I feed myself about how screwed up I am. It’s all lies, the latter.

And love is winning.

Love is a hardship, by its very nature.
But grace? It’s an easy flow of forgiveness so fluid and so complete, we would sink in it if we weren’t so buoyed by the love. The only hard thing about grace is accepting it.

Grace says I see you.

Grace says I’ve been searching for you!

Grace says I know you – all of the hidden places, each skeleton in the closet, every tear you shed in the agony of loss.

Yeah, I see it and so what? I  just want you near to me. I just want to be close to you.

Please be near to me, God is saying. My grace is not in short supply!

If you cannot accept that God is real and loves you right exactly where you are, that’s okay. Pray that He will reveal Himself to you, and then wait expectantly for Him to REALLY do so. Don’t ask Him to be an intimate part of your life without even believing it’s possible.

If you cannot find one lovable thing about yourself because all of your life people have put conditions on that love and you simply cannot measure up, that’s okay, too. Loving and being loved by humans is risky business, and that’s usually all we ever know.

But there’s more.

Loving and being loved by God carries no risk. Even though He is invisible to our human eyes, He is all around. Isn’t that ironic? If you call out to God, He will NOT strand you. There is no risk that he will drop you and forget about you.

He will come through for you…..In the kind words of a friend. In ministering to the quietest places in your spirit that (if you let them) will echo with the sound of His love in every cell of your being. His love will echo in all of the empty chambers of your heart that you keep barren just in case truth shows up one day.

Truth just showed up. Make room.

He shows up – in a hug from someone you cherish. In nature. In tiny molecules bound together and endless space. It was all created for you to feel His love.

What if the love that created a perfect universe culminated in your very essence? What if accepting grace for what it is – a gift – were the vehicle for bringing that love into your reality?

Make room for Love not bound by human condition. Human love, in its hardship, is risk.

But love from your Father in Heaven is the opposite, full of antonyms that describe Grace as well: Blessing. Boon. Comfort. Consolation. Good fortune. Gratification. Happiness. Joy. Pleasure. Prosperity. Relief Success. And best of all – TRIUMPH.

But there is no risk in letting God love you.

He is trustworthy. And oh so complete is his love for you.

Jana Goes to Prison (sort-of)

ChainsBy Jana Greene

For as long as I can remember, I have been interesting in ministering to people in prisons.
This January, I have the opportunity to travel to my home state of Texas and accompany my friend (and fellow ON FIRE FOR CHRIST Warrior Princess) Susie Juma in ministering to three separate prisons – both mens and womens.
Although I’m so excited about this endeavor, this is my first ‘rodeo’ so to speak.

I did just lose my job in March and I’m a tad worried about God making the financial angle happen.
I’m asking for you to prayerfully consider making a donation to make the trip happen. IF you feel led to do so.
I simply cannot thank you enough.
God bless you. God bless us, everyone.
And thank you in advance!~ Every little bit counts.

CLICK HERE TO CONTRIBUTE

The Main Thing – Jesus and His Crazy Radical Love

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“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. ” – John 3:16

By: Jana Greene

If you know me even casually, you know that God has propelled me into a radical spiritual journey over the past couple of years. I use the word “propelled” because that’s what it feels like….like being ejected from a plane that has been shot down. You know it’s for your own good, that the ‘eject seat’ saved your life, but you are still zooming into the stratosphere at a million miles an hour and the G-Force is a bitch.

Still, I asked him to intervene. I asked God to reveal Himself to me. I just have to trust that He has packed my parachute.

And these times are just so incredibly weird. So RADICAL. It’s easy to become unfocused, with all the brouhaha going on in the world. It’s too easy to become divided into camps in the Christian community.

Pro-gay-marriage. Anti gay-marriage.

Pro-abortion. Anti abortion.

Pro/Anti-Feminist, Immigration, Gun Control….

The list is endless, inducing stridency and resentment in even the most pure-hearted. I feel so strongly about some issues that it literally makes my heart hurt.

The unintentional message we often relay to a world when we shut them out is this:

If you are pro-(fill in the blank) – you are separated from God and also you are making me SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE. So, knock it off already. I will be over here with the Good Christians feeling smug about my superiority if you change your mind about your lifestyle. I will be over here ready to help when you get with the program.

Except for there is EVERY hope for whomsoever believes, if you a sinner. While we were still sinners, Jesus came. And hung out with some of the most disreputable folks of the day, loving them where they are.

I was so sure I had it all figured out, before I asked God to take me deeper. I was so sure I knew all of the main things. I knew where the right side to stand was on every issue. The Biblical stand. The 10 Commandment Stand. I expected God to basically confirm that all the things I was focused on were the “correct” things.

And I was right and you were wrong, and sorry. Just sorry, but there is not hope for you if you don’t tow the line, Buddy.

Just tow the line.

Instead, Abba wrecked my heart with compassion for the people and groups I previously considered unreachable. Just wrecked it, I tell you.

Much like a game of Red Rover, society requires us to pick a side or be picked by a side. And link arms with similarly-minded bretheren, sisteren (or gender-neutral-‘ren) so that when the opposing side sends someone to run up against the chain, no one gets through.

Except that when we do that as believers, NO ONE GETS THROUGH.

No one gets to change sides to the team that is destined to win.

Grace gets lost to the object of the game. And that is not what Christ overcame the world for…..to be elusive to people who don’t think or behave the way we think or behave.

It isn’t that these things aren’t important.

It’s not that some of these things are not sin.

It’s just that none of them are The Main Thing.

“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” Romans 5:8 (MSG)

This crazy world, the one that pushes through our chains of solidarity? Jesus died for THAT world, not the neat and tidy one we like to disenfranchise from. The world is begging to know The Main Thing.

He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves readyBeing weak and rebellious isn’t The Main Thing either.

Jesus. He is the Main Thing.

Do I have it all figured out? No. I have zero superiority over ANY OTHER PERSON ON THIS PLANET and I know it. I’ve figured out that much.

Am I willing to be uncomfortable? Because my comfort isn’t The Main Thing. That was hard to let go of. Comfort is so COMFORTABLE.

Do I risk having other Christians consider me a heretic? What people think about me isn’t The Main Thing either. (That G-Force is a bitch.)

In these radical times, what is The Main Thing?

Jesus is.

That’s all I have to know and that’s all I have to tell YOU.

So, I’m telling you. Christ came to set you FREE!

Red Rover, Red Rover, let WHOMSOEVER come over.

Amen.

This is an interview with a Pastor I have followed for about the past year. I love her message. I love the rawness of it, the energy she brings. I pray that it might bless you today, as you perhaps try to figure out less, and love more.

Just click the link under her picture.

God bless us, every one.

Nadia Bolz-Weber
Nadia Bolz-Weber

Lutheran Minister Preaches A Gospel Of Love To Junkies, Drag Queens And Outsiders

The Shock and Awe of Self-Forgiveness

The Beggar's Bakery

By:  Jana Greene

Many promising reconciliations have broken down because, while both parties came prepared to forgive, neither party came prepared to be forgiven.

… Charles Williams

The gesture of forgiving someone else is often referred to as “extending the Olive branch”.   How peaceful is that imagery?  The phrase conjures a picture of Biblically attired individuals, stepping forward in dusty, sandaled feet and stretching out a hand to offer and receive a leafy twig in reconciliation.

Self-forgiveness doesn’t feel like that at all to me.  When it comes to forgiving myself, it’s not a peace-summit  olive branch that comes to mind.  It’s more like a flag raised on a bloody battlefield.

Part of the difficulty is that as long as I carry guilt, it seems like I’m paying back some of the debt that I drove up in my sin.   This is really like telling God, “Thanks for the mind-blowing…

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Tasty Feelings, Empty Hole

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By: Jana Greene

I never in a million years thought I’d actually be a writer. Oh me of little faith.

I never thought people would read my words, much less follow my blog. But here I am, blessed beyond measure to be able to share my crazy motherhood, marriage, and recovery journeys with people – sometimes total strangers – who can sometimes relate. It’s incredibly humbling and befuddling, this whole blogosphere experience. Weird, yes. But also wonderful.

As C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

You are never the ‘only one.’ I know I’m not either, which is why I am blogging about this situation.

In the interest of transparency, I think I need to be honest. I’m so embarrassed. I am going through a scary season in my personal life, having resurrected my old starve / binge / purge behaviors as they rear their ugly eating disorder heads. It’s gotten pretty bad and I am sick and scared. I starve myself until I’m famished and then binge to a ridiculous degree. I don’t know how to stop. I’m so ashamed and disgusted with myself because I I cannot seem to control it. It’s happening nightly now, and I wake up so ashamed every morning.

Please don’t hate on me, I’m hating on myself enough already.

Why can I just not get it together, already?! Just be normalsauce for ONE WHOLE DAY….

The little threads of sanity keeping me together are woven of words. Lots of words. Words on this blog. Words in letters and messages to friends. Words – communication – is my saving grace. I had to go through every trial in life alone for a very long time, and I’ve no desire to do this alone. I’ve gotten accustomed to sharing E.S.H. with others.

Isolation is doom for me. But isolation is 100% my default when protecting my secrets. And little thoughts of “It’s no big deal” keep me sick.

Christians can – and do – struggle with the same issues as everyone else on the planet. None of us are immune, and that’s the truth. I wish more people were honest about that. It doesn’t draw anyone to Christ to be ‘perfect’….and I’m surely in no danger of being that.

But I cannot imagine going through this, or anything else, without Jesus by my side. I can feel Him close, even in every storm.

So, yeah. Accountability…..

Hoarding food. Bingeing. Sometimes (only occasionally) barfing as a result. Skipping meals until I’m starving and shaking. Wait until I cannot take it anymore (you know, until I’ve punished myself adequately for the last binge) and repeat the cycle. And throughout the entire cycle, it makes me feel good for about 10 minutes, tops. I feel OK for those 10 minutes and somehow, in my addicted brain, that justifies the whole shebang.

I’m not a stranger to eating disorders. I starved myself down to a tiny weight once because I had zero control over ANYTHING going on in my life at the time, and I could control that, by damn. Except that I clearly could not survive on cigarettes and Diet Coke and any sane person should know that.

I’ve managed to stay sober, and I’m leaning into God. But I’m not in a terrific place right now. Since I blog largely about addiction recovery, I thought it important to share this predicament. I cannot write about sobriety and go sit in my closet and eat my feelings for half an hour until I’m sick. That’s not okay.

I want a good, quality, solid, honest recovery.

I want to be OK. I want to be authentically me as God intended, able to lift others up.

I don’t even just want to be OK. I want to leave this world a better place than when I was first granted this earth-suit and put on mission Earth. I want to love people and be whole, in essence.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the same triggers that set me off drinking are setting me off with this battle. I’m not sure how to do this. Alcohol, you can stay away from that entirely. Food….it’s kind of a necessity.

It’s so much easier not to write about this issue, to just keep it in the closet (literally). But it’s too easy to keep the game going that way.

So, hello.
My name is Jana and I’m a believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with food issues. And a plethora of other assorted challenges. I’ve been sober from alcohol for nearly 15 years, one day at a time, all glory to God.

Here are some words.

I’m putting them out there in the universe for the selfish reason that it is therapy for me to share my struggles, and for the self-less reason that I don’t want you to feel alone if you are going through something similar.

God bless us, everyone.

The Jesus Pledge

Name of Jesus

By: Jana Greene

A few weeks ago, our pastor suggested that we congregants try something new.
“When you wake up each morning, just say the word ‘Jesus,’ and it will change the trajectory of your whole day.”
Jesus.

The following Monday morning I remembered to do it. I couldn’t WAIT to say His name. There is power in that name, and when it is said with your first breath of the day, it changes things. Vibes, for lack of a better term.

Sound combines with human breath, and puts forth priorities.

The next day, I said His name again with my waking breath, and let it hang in the air. I swear to you that I felt His Spirit brush my heart, in Good Morning greeting.

Wednesday, I woke up and thought about saying “Jesus” out loud, but a myriad of worries rudely cut in line. After a few minutes of self-flagellation for some of my behaviors the night before, I remembered to say it. “Jesus,” I said. But it wasn’t whole-hearted.

Thursday morning, I had a headache. Grrrr. I don’t even want to get out of bed. I felt the downward stirrings of depression seep in the cracks of my being. I completely forgot to call on God in any capacity, and part of it was purposeful forgetting.

Lord, I’ve been calling on your name first thing in the morning for THREE WHOLE DAYS NOW, and I still can’t (fill in the blank with favorite short-coming) or have a solution for (fill in the blank with worry of choice.)

I didn’t feel like it. I felt like worrying in justification of my depressed feelings, and the name of Jesus would certainly bust up my pity party.

Friday morning, I think my first words were “I am so OVER everything!” (sick/fat/tired/lousy at being self-disciplined.) I grumped into the kitchen and said “Jesus,” but with a mouthful of salt and vinegar chips for breakfast, which is really great for the blood sugar and also feeling inadequate. An overflowing mouthful.

I also said a quick, internal prayer to God that went like this, “Sorry, but I’m just not feeling it this morning. Look how fat and out of control I am. Surely you understand.”

And He does understand. But He still wants first place in our lives.

He doesn’t expect us to be in a good mood all the time.

He doesn’t expect us to be perfect.

That set of criteria you have formulated that must be met before calling on Jesus? It is a list unto hell. Our Abba is  eternal and eternally ruling, and all of my worries (no matter how looming or large) are just passing through.

There really is power in the spoken word. That’s not new-age rhetoric, but truth. What we form in our minds often makes it out of our mouths, and we know not to use our tongues as swords to inflict mean words on others. But do we extend ourselves the same courtesy?

Mean words are mean words, and when we tell ourselves nasty things, it hurts the same.

I cannot BE that Christian that ‘has it all together.’ That woman who dismisses her worries automatically and trusts God immediately ALL the time (I’m working on it…) THAT woman – the one who never uses potty language and always radiates the Shalom of God, the Sound combines with human breath, and puts forth all the right priorities all the time. She always acts and reacts to SENSIBLY, the  quintessential “Proverbs 31” Woman, shining as a beacon of virtue and perfection. She torments me, that lady.

“A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds….
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear….”

(You get the picture.)

I have strived my whole life to be her, and fallen miserably short. A Proverbs 31 woman would not sully her robes with the grease of potato chips. She would not slip up and screw up like I do. (Bingeing on potato chips are the very LEAST of my foibles!)

I’m not the Proverbs 31 woman. But I don’t have to be. I am valued far more than diamonds NOT because of my good deeds, but because…..
Jesus.

I CAN CALL ON JESUS.

This is my pledge, and I would love it if you would join me. Not as an experiment in which we don’t know the outcome until the data is processed, but as a pure act of faith. We say His name in making priorities, first thing. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will show up. He will bless that effort.

Let “Jesus” be the first word on my lips each and every day. That’s all. The whole pledge.

Say His name first thing every day, and then listen for His Spirit to answer back.
Let Holy Spirit inhabit the sound that combines with human breath, and puts forth priorities.

I love The Message translation of the Bible; it makes plain speak of text I otherwise might not understand. These words laid bare the prayer I could not put into words today. I pray it blesses you, too.

“I hate all this silly religion,
but you, GOD, I trust.
I’m leaping and singing in the circle of your love;
you saw my pain,
you disarmed my tormentors,
You didn’t leave me in their clutches
but gave me room to breathe.
Be kind to me, GOD—
I’m in deep, deep trouble again.
I’ve cried my eyes out;
I feel hollow inside.
My life leaks away, groan by groan;
my years fade out in sighs.
My troubles have worn me out,
turned my bones to powder.
To my enemies I’m a monster;
I’m ridiculed by the neighbors.
My friends are horrified;
they cross the street to avoid me.
They want to blot me from memory,
forget me like a corpse in a grave,
discard me like a broken dish in the trash.
The street-talk gossip has me
“criminally insane”!
Behind locked doors they plot
how to ruin me for good.
Desperate, I throw myself on you:
you are my God!
Hour by hour I place my days in your hand,
safe from the hands out to get me.
Warm me, your servant, with a smile;
save me because you love me.
Don’t embarrass me by not showing up;
I’ve given you plenty of notice.”

PSALM 31:6-18 (MSG)

The Good Place (or ‘They Don’t Stay 14 Forever’)

This young lady gave me quite a time in her younger years, oy vey!
This young lady gave me quite a time in her younger years, oy vey!

By: Jana Greene

It’s not often that I write a blog post based on inspiration from another post,  but I got so excited about this one, I had to share. I laughed, I cried…..you get the picture. Consider it Blog Inception, if you will.

Here is the link to the Chicago Tribune story:  Raising a Daughter? Handle with care, especially when she is 14. 

You see, the article hit a nerve with me. As the mother of two now-grown daughters and one grown bonus daughter, I can relate. My husband and I blended our family when our oldest girls were 14, and my youngest was 11. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

So much could go wrong, and a lot of it did.

I chose the picture at right of my Firstborn for this post  because it was a goof-ball, on-the-fly, authentic moment between my 23 year-old daughter and I. It captures us.

Well, it captures us NOW. A few years ago, she and I were in a completely different space. It took a lot of fighting, ‘tough love’ on my part, and major frustration for both of us. It took time, prayer and patience to get to The Good Place.

There’s no manual on raising children, and certainly no map that leads you to The Good Place.

Look at your baby daughter’s tiny face (isn’t it THE most beautiful face in the world!?) and repeat after me:

“My child is not an extension of me. My child is not an extension of me.”

Now, keep repeating it for the rest of your natural-born life, and try to accept it. She will inherit many of your mannerisms and outlooks, but she will also shape-shift the ever-loving shit out of your preconceived notions for her life.

Like, you have no idea. Your preconceived notions you have about who she will grow up to be? They are just that – notions.

I know, I know. You cannot imagine those cute little pouty lips spewing forth “I HATE YOU!” but it’s almost a certainty that they will. If you have one teen daughter, buckle up for a wild ride. If you have two, buckle and strap yourself in. If you have three teen daughters, you may want to consider just super-gluing yourself to the seat. Any more than three at a time? Girl, I got nothing….yeah.

As your sweet baby grows:

You will wonder where you went wrong a million times. You will want to pat yourself on the back a million times, too.

You will wonder why it’s embarrassing to her that you breathe so loud in front of her friends. You find yourself saying, “I’ll try to breathe quieter,” only to be met with eye-rolling.

You will be certain that aliens abducted your sweet lovely little girl and replaced her with a clone with a nasty attitude.

You will blame yourself when she makes bad choices, and your heart will bleed each time she suffers consequences.

Missing your little girl, you will be tempted to despair.

But I’m here (as the mother of three adult daughters) to tell you STOP IT. Do not despair!

Fourteen is the brutal pinnacle of challenge for both parent and child (it HAS to be or you would never want her to become independent. The teen years prepare you to let them go. OH HOW THEY PREPARE YOU!)

These daughters of ours? THEY COME BACK AROUND, emotionally. They try and they test, and deduce and rebel, but they come back to you and a whole other relationship blossoms in The Good Place.

It’s all part of her figuring out who she is.

She got some attributes from her father, and some from you.

But she is 100% her own girl.

She will not be your mini-me. She will be her own maxi-she.

All of my daughters are out of the nest now, and it’s strange and wonderful that they are making it on their own, in their own ways. They are my favorite people to spend time with, honestly. We have so many inside jokes, and the same twisted sense of humor. I still kiss their foreheads, and sometimes we snuggle on the sofa watching funny YouTube videos when they come over, and drink hot tea. There were many years I could not IMAGINE these simple things would ever be so.

And really, if we hadn’t gone through the “14” era as mother and daughter, I don’t know that our relationships would be as close as it is now.  I don’t know that we would BE in The Good Place now, and that would be a shame. I would do it all over again to be at this place with them.

(I suppose it’s like having been soldiers together in the same trench. War was hell, but now there is a common bond that most folks cannot possibly understand. Yeah, raising teen daughters is a lot like that.)

My darling, strong-willed daughters and I talk almost every day. We don’t discuss politics, and sometimes avoid even talking about religion, as we disagree. We’ve learned to accept one another – a sign of maturity for both of us. I raised them to be passionate people, I just always expected them to be passionate about the same things I’m passionate about. It doesn’t work that way, trust me.

Guess why they have different ideas and opinions? Because they are not an extension of me, of course.

Make no mistake, they are 100% their own person. And they absolutely ROCK at being uniquely who they are.

I love that.

Never Forget – Where were you on 9/11/01?

I run this piece each and every anniversary of 9/11. May we never forget.

The Beggar's Bakery

sculpture that originally stood very near the Twin Towers. Relocated now closer to the Staton Island Ferry, you can see the holes made by falling debris on 9-11, melted metal and twisted pieces.

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

I just happened to be watching the news while having my coffee at 9 a.m. The reporters on the morning show said that there was breaking news from the World Trade Center in New York City.  An airliner had run into the North Tower….what a horrible accident!

That’s strange.  The pilots and co-pilots must have lost control of the plane, or had heart attacks simultaneously – some freak incident that made it impossible to avoid hitting the building.  A commentator was suggesting that it may have been aircraft trouble when I walked into the kitchen to get a bagel. It may have even been the angle of the sun, he was saying. Then…

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The Saint-Sinner Paradox: Come as you ARE

Sharing with all my fellow paradoxers today. God bless you!

The Beggar's Bakery

saint-sinner ambigram tattoo – inkarttattoos.com

By:  Jana Greene

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”

 –Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

I don’t know if you are familiar with Brennan Manning’s books, but if not…I recommend them highly.  Although Ragamuffin Gospel is a classic, “Abba’s Child” spoke to me the plainest. 

I like plain talk, I like honesty. 

Brennan Manning is just plain honest.  A quick Google search of his name will alert you of the controversy among Christians about his life.  It seems that Brennan…

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Recovery Memoir Giveaway – Enter to win an autographed copy of EDGEWISE

Edgewise

By: Jana Greene

Greetings and Salutations!

I’m giving away two autographed copies of my recovery memoir, “Edgewise, Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God” now through Sept. 16th.

There is no obligation whatsoever to enter. It just blesses me to share my story with people who are looking for hope.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

(Scroll to the middle of the page and fill out the fields under “WIN A COPY OF THIS BOOK”)

Can a believer in Christ also be an addict or alcoholic? On the edge of active disease and surrender, Jana Greene shares her recovery journey in a collection of raw and honest essays. Somewhere during the process, she let God get a word in edgewise, and plunged into a spiritual awakening that she could not have had any other way. D.T. Niles is famously quoted as having described Christianity as “One beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.” This book is a telling of Jana’s journey to find food for the spirit, and inviting others to follow. “Because,” she says. “When I couldn’t love myself enough to lift myself up, I crawled to Jesus, and he said, “You look hungry … come to the table!” Redemption is the best feast ever.

Feel free to share the contest link, and God bless us, everyone.

Recovery Option “B” – Have Faith Anyway

bBy: Jana Greene

Very recently, I came across the prayer journal that I  kept before I got sober on January 3, 2001. That is my D.O.S. (date of sobriety) which has become far more meaningful to me than my birthday or any other anniversary.

In this particular journal, the entries began about a month before my D.O.S. (the date in which my sobriety ‘stuck’) and continues only through about six months into recovery. There are about ten entries, total. It would not seem to be a very in-depth journaling exercise if, say, I were being graded on it. But I wasn’t being graded on it, of course. The number one key to keeping a journal, in my humble opinion, is remembering that nobody is going to grade you on it. It is for the benefit of you own tender spirit, and no one else.

I sat down with a cup of coffee to read my old, cringe-worthy journal just the other day.

On an entry dated December 11, 2000 – about three weeks before I came to the end of myself in my addiction – I am hopeful at the top of the page:

Reflections/notes: “I am saving this space to write in tonight when I am tempted to drink.”

And then scrawled in the center of the page many hours later …

Drank anyway.

Even today, nearly 15 years later, I can feel the collapse of my heart as if it just happened. Oh how vividly I remember that sensation of disappointment. I hope I always remember it, it helps keep me sober today.

In between those two writings, a full-on war was going on inside of me. Picking up a drink was, for me, setting down a portion of my faith that God was in control and could handle my problems. Drinking was my way of sitting out the game. Not only did I relinquish my part in saving my own ass, but I was shaking my fist at God for not helping me save it. By continuing to pick up, I was in essence tying the hands of God. He is a gentleman, you see, and will coerce by force. There must be surrender.

I don’t know why it took so long for my sobriety to become ‘sticky,’ I only know that it took what it took. And I know that I had to do the work to put my disease in its place. Meetings. Prayers. Surrender every minute of the day. Strategy. Every war requires expert strategists or it is doomed to fail.

Part of the strategy in very early sobriety was to give myself only two choices. Any more than two were completely overwhelming.

Today will be challenging in the same old ways. It will also be challenging in some brand-new ways. You have a choice. You can …

A) Drink/use anyway.

or

B) Have faith anyway.

The latter is so much more difficult than the former. But choosing the second option saved my life.

“Having faith anyway” looks messy! It means believing that which seems completely impossible. It means accepting THIS, one day at a time, one hour at a time, one SECOND at a time, if need be.

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28 (MSG)

It’s interesting to read the journal entries that followed. They were desperate. Here is the entry from five days sober:

“I cannot drink today, not today. Maybe not ever again. Nobody knows the extent of my disease. My hands are trembling, holding this pen. I feel toxic, inside and out. The alcohol is bad for my body but worse for my soul. It’s like acid and sweet nectar of oblivion, all in one. I cannot serve two gods anymore. I can feel the hand of Jesus reaching to me, I know He is with me, even now. I used to boast that Jesus was my crutch. I used to be embittered by all that happens in life, and talked to him every day. Over the years, the wine instead became my crutch….just a ‘little something’ to relax me, and then a few more, and then I don’t even remember, until an empty bottle or box. And so here I am on this cool January morning, trembling and calling out the demon. I want God back at the helm, and it’s not because I ‘deserve’ it, but because of this amazing, impossible-to-comprehend gift of Grace. I don’t want to feel the constant shame, the uneasy and bewildering guilt anymore. I’m ready to change, with His help.”

Lots of other notes in the journal follow.

“Okay, God….what is the DEAL with my LIFE?”

and …

“Help me, God, I cannot do this!”

But I COULD choose option B…Have faith that if I surrender to the will of God, I will survive it – and thrive, even.

And so I chose Recovery Option B, no matter what.

Is everything falling apart and you can see no possible resolution? Choose faith anyway. He’s Got this, if you only surrender your will to His.

Are you hurting – mind, body, and soul?

Choose faith anyway. NOTHING has ever been healed by drinking / using the toxins.

Angry, bitter, fed-up?

Don’t pick up and HAVE FAITH ANYWAY. Have faith that your D.O.S. – that glorious, meaningful GIFT of a date – is yours to keep, but you’ve got to work to keep it.

And surround yourself in a healthy recovery community. Journal, if it helps, and remember nobody is grading you! Don’t sit out the game of your own life. Don’t tie the hands of God. He has SUCH good plans for you. He knows you far better than you know yourself. And He is madly in love with YOU. When you get tired, ask for His Spirit to help you along. It’s a messy thing, recovery. But oh how your tender spirit will rejoice on the journey, one single day at a time.

It can save your life.

It saved mine.

 

 

Skewer the Stigma: In the wake of losing a star, an addict shares “who we are”

The Beggar's Bakery

Philip_Seymour_Hoffman_2011 Rest in peace, Mr. Hoffman.

He had enjoyed 23 years of clean time, previous to his relapse.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

In the announcement of his recent death from a drug overdose, CNN refers to Hoffman as “everyman,”  and indeed, he was extraordinarily talented while still remaining personable. I know in my head that people with two decades of sobriety “fall off the wagon,” but it is always jarring to my heart when I hear about those occasions. Addictions will not be taken for granted.

There seems to be a slight shock that Hoffman, who suffered the same disease as Amy Winehouse, died from the same disease. His spin was not that of a train wreck, but of an accomplished and revered performer.

The article goes on to describe Hoffman as an actor so versatile that he “could be anybody.”  I’m not sure the author of the piece really appreciates how…

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Rock-Hard Hope for the Soft Desires of our Hearts

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By: Jana Greene

This morning, I wake up, grab coffee, and read my email. My Beloved had taken the time to send a wonderful Rick Warren devotional gem to me this morning. My husband shares scripture with me, and that in and of itself just stuns me every time it happens.

Click here to read the message and share in the hope for yourself!

Sometimes, when I get really overwhelmed by STUFF, it’s easy to forget how far God has brought me and how generous He is with me. Prior to nine years ago, I would never in a million years thought I’d ever have a Godly man as my husband. A husband who is your best friend and who loves God? That stuff happened to other people, not to me!

But I’m here to tell you that your Heavenly Father is a GOOD God who loves to give you the desires of your heart. It may not FEEL like it, it may not LOOK like it. It certainly wasn’t in MY timing when he blessed me with a happy marriage In MY timing I would have appreciated a good husband LONG before he came my way.

But in MY timing, it would not have been My Beloved. All kinds of crazy (and painful) things had to happen in order for our roads to converge as they did. Of this I am absolutely convinced:

The absolute crappiest things you are going through right now, the situations you cannot imagine resolving at all, much less resolving to glorify God one day? Oooooo, our God just LOVES to use those to show the world hope!

The circumstance that you are in that the devil orchestrated for your destruction? It’s pretty elaborate, the trouble he went to in order to set you up like this.

That VERY thing that has been set up for your destruction? It’s going to CRUMBLE, I tell you. It’s built on sand – it doesn’t stand a chance.

And out of the rubble, the same God who created the universe will make concrete ROCK from that sand, solid and fortified. You will build your life on that rock and all the little pieces of garbage that satan tried to bring you down with? God will use them in the fortification of your solid foundation. They will shimmer like stars in the rock itself, attracting others who are in similar pain to the beautiful TEMPLE God has made from your prior disaster.  My life is living proof of this.
My addiction to alcohol nearly killed me nearly 15 years ago, but dang if God hasn’t used that crappiest of crappy situations to His glory!

What the devil meant for destruction, God used for GOOD. That ‘good’ is not just meant for other people, it’s meant for YOU.

You are broken, yes, maybe. But there is HOPE.

God loves to give you the desires of your heart. That doesn’t mean that we don’t experience loss, or that we receive each thing we ask for. I’m not even going to try to pretend to understand why bad things happen. I only know that as they do, our Father does not abandon us, but uses every experience to bring us closer to Him.

Ask Him for the desires of your heart. And then tell Him you trust Him no matter what.

He will draw us nearer to Him at times at the expense of something we think we badly ‘need.’ He wants to hold us close.

He is not a Pez-dispenser god, doling out blessings on demand.
 
He is not a genie in a bottle, granting our wishes.
No…He is SO MUCH GREATER THAN THAT, and His timing is PERFECT. All kinds of crazy (and painful) things might have to happen in order for the roads to converge at the right place. It may not FEEL like it. It may not LOOK like it. But your life is built on the Rock, you are solid.
Our God is SUPERNATURAL, and He has GOT THIS.
PRAYER: “Holy Spirit, breathe new hope into us as we trust in Abba to make ALL things right in His timing. We surrender to You and Your perfect and pleasing will, and ask you to take every molecule of hurt, loss, worry, and doubt captive, so that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against us! In the name of Jesus. Amen.
“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” – Jesus (Matthew 7:24-28, MSG)

How to Write a Life in Twenty (not so) Easy Steps – For my Daughters

The Beggar's Bakery

 
By: Jana Michelle Greene

You are a writer when you take your first breath in life, perhaps even before that. Preceding the ability to have cognitive thought, you start to etch the words of your life into being. Just by living, you write a story, an imprint on the world.

It is read by every person you come in contact with, and devoured by those you hold most dear. People are funny about books. Those who love them usually love them much.

Some are not readers. But all are writers. As you write the book of your life, remember these things, my daughters:

Don’t allow yourself to be typecast.
Fancy yourself an Overachiever? A Diva? A Loser? Never wear a label, it limits your dimensions. Chances are you will be an Overachiever, an Underachiever, a Type-A Personality and Types B through Z at differing times in your story. Expect…

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Crouching Dragon, Hidden Feelings – Binge eating and temporary comfort

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By: Jana Greene

There is something so humbling about attending a 12-Step meeting, thinking “Whew! I’m glad I’m not THAT crazy person anymore!” and then waking up to walk on a carpet of pork rinds in your own bedroom. It kind of really drives things home.

I haven’t had a drink in nearly 15 years. As an alcoholic, I cannot afford to have even one.

That’s the truth about my drinking.

The truth about my ‘everything else?’ Its a little more complicated. I’ve heard it said that recovery is like peeling an onion – you address one issue and another is exposed. It’s so true.

Like this morning. I stepped out of bed, and into a pile of miscellaneous crumbs. They are miscellaneous because I parked out in bed last night (after a day battling chronic illness and a plethora of other minutia) I decided to binge on potato chips, pork rinds (pork rinds!) AND pickles, mindlessly, like a glassy-eyed Cookie Monster. Oh, wait. There WERE cookies involved too. I get so INTO food sometimes that I forget to taste it, and tasting it was not the priority anyway.

Eating my feelings was the priority. I am still – after all these years of NOT drinking – learning what to DO with all of these FEELINGS. There are so many of them, all the time.

The evidence of a ‘morning after’ eating binge can be just as distressing as a morning after alcohol binge. You wake up with that ‘what did I do last night?’ introductory thought, followed by deep shame and guilt when you remember (IF you remember, because sometimes I get so into it, I don’t even.)

I did not take into account last night that I was not actually really hungry, or that I would wake up the next day bloated and angry at myself.

No, because that isn’t how this thing works. You do not think ahead.

You are only thinking …

“I feel bad. I want to feel better. What will make me feel better RIGHT NOW?

That’s kind of a summary of ALL ADDICTION, even in it’s most seemingly-innocent forms: I MUST feel better right NOW.

One cup of coffee? What is the POINT? Three gets the blood pumping.

Nothing wrong with a sleeping pill on occasion. But I have a high tolerance, you see. It takes more for me. And more than occasionally.

Exercise? No, thank you. UNLESS I work out far past exhaustion, and only in rare spurts.

All or nothing. No moderation. One of anything is insufficient…..candies, hugs, books, cups of coffee, cats. One is too many and a thousand not enough, as they say.

It is a miracle that I’ve not had a drink and I love knowing that sobriety is a real, actual thing…that God can enable ANY of us to live. I have not had a drink in 15 years, but the beast is only debilitated.

My alcoholism recovery is not a means to an end, in and of itself. I’ve de-clawed a Komodo Dragon, in a manner of speaking. Have you ever seen a nature documentary featuring one of those giant lizards? They have razor-sharp claws that can shred an animal bigger than itself in one swipe. They have super-sharp teeth, too. And the worse thing is that their spit is toxic as hell and if the bite doesn’t take you down, they wait patiently for the poison spit to infect and fell you.

So, in this glorious recovery from alcoholism, I’ve de-clawed the dragon. But I have to stay on guard. It has more than one destructive mechanism. It is always poised to pounce.

There is so much work to be done on my inside. The parts that demand instant gratification, while complaining it ‘takes too long’ (as the great Carrie Fisher – herself a recovering addict – has noted.) I want to feel better RIGHT NOW.

That’s not how this thing works.

I’m still that ‘crazy person’ and that’s the truth about me. But I now know that I don’t want to be the feeling-stuffer / eater / drowner / deny-er.) I cannot afford to keep doing that. If I do, the alcoholism is just waiting to infect and fell me.

I want to actually taste life, and think ahead. Look forward. I need to continue to learn how to be kind to myself and gentle with all of my parts. And to heck with what anyone else thinks.

You cannot please everyone and get well at the same time, of this I am sure.

That’s why I’m sharing this today, because you are only as sick as your secrets, and I’m ready to slay that damn dragon.

Here’s what the Bible has to say (insert Lion instead of Dragon, and this is actually kind of scriptural, even!)

“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.” 1 Peter 5-8 (MSG)