Grace, Spiritual

How do you Pray when You Cannot Focus?

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focus
The most important thing on my cork board. No matter how unfocused I am, this is my Jesus.

By: Jana Greene

Over the weekend, one of my very dear girlfriends contacted me. Our friendship is a God Thing to the inth degree. A years ago, we became Facebook friends somehow, and then NAMASTE! – my spirit recognized her spirit the instant we talked. We have much in common health-wise, many of the same struggles. It was as if Abba said, “Hmmm….these two could really bounce things off each other.” And he was right.

She is going through a prolonged episode of ‘brain fog’ due to chronic health issues. If you are healthy (or your brain is young) the fog might be a foreign concept to you. It’s more than forgetting what you went in to the kitchen for. It’s like your thoughts are trying to gain footing on a very slippery rock.  It’s a dulling and jumbling of your mind, which can really do a number on your spirit.

“How does one keep a solid prayer/reading life with chronic illness?” She asked me.  “When you either oversleep (because you are sick and need the sleep, not because you’re lazy), or you truly can’t muster up a prayer, or read. Or your mind is all over the place, not stable like it used to be? Maybe a good blog topic?”

A very good blog topic.

I am worlds WORST with carving out quiet time/devotions. There, I said it. It’s OUT THERE now. And It isn’t because prayer isn’t important to me.

Between chronic pain, ADD (and OCD, which can be kind of severe at times)  and anxiety…there are times that the best thing I can offer is conversational prayer with God throughout the day. For a short while, I took medication for my ADD and the BIGGEST change I noticed was that I could pray like a regular Saint Augustine! HOURS. When I had to go off of it because it raised my blood pressure, I felt like somebody yanked the prayer rug from under me.

I still pray, of course. It’s a constant conversation, but often not terribly structured.

After I saw the movie “War Room,”  I was so stoked to make deliberate time in my bedroom closet. I covered one wall with cork-boards on which to pin my heartfelt prayers every day as soon as I woke up. FIRST THING. Maybe I’ll be so fervent I’ll go into the Prayer Closet several times in the middle of the night! Wow, I’ll bet I will REALLY hear from God then! My boards will resemble the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, it will be so jam-packed with my sacraments and epiphanies!

The next morning I did, in fact, enter it like the Holy of Holies. But the day after that I had a migraine and another day, my anxiety was too full-on to sit still, and other days I just forgot.

Mostly my self-crafted Prayer Closet just caused me to feel guilty EVERY single time I’d walk in to get a pair of shoes. Eventually it went like this: Enter closet for shirt, avoid eye contact with The Wall, feel massively guilty, avoid God because I can’t even hack this focus thing, emotionally self-flagellate. Vow to spend two hours solid in it the next day. Fail to do so and feel terrible. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But then I realized that I talk to God conversationally all day long. He knows my heart, he knows my pain, and my janky brain fog. In trying, trying, trying to be better, I set myself up for failure (it’s kind of a specialty of mine.)

But God, who created my brain and all the other miraculous workings of my body, is not going to withhold from me because of my limitations. That would be pretty freaking cruel. Instead, he caulks in the cracks and loves me like MAD.

My dear friend  is also frustrated with hearing from God the way she used to when she was brain fog-free. I get that, too. That’s the worst thing. But I think he – knowing our plight – compensates by speaking to us in our constant conversation with him. He is never more than a dozen thoughts from my heart, and he knows it.

When someone comes to mind, I pray for her. When I’m worried, I pray. When I see a pretty flower, praise the Creator and thank him for it. Thank him for my friends and blessings and hot coffee.

Especially, I tell him I trust that he is working on issues I don’t see evidence of yet, and ask him to help me trust when I don’t.

I ask for focus fifty times a day, at least.

But when I can’t get through the fog, here’s the cool thing: Grace!

GRACE is the caulk in the space between our best intentions and highest enlightenment. It fills in the cracks and expands in the crevices where I’m foggy or anxious, or even just lazy. We are not perfect but he holds us close to us still! No guilt required.

My sacraments and epiphanies don’t always come down from Heaven like a bolt of lightning when I’m having an Instagram-worthy moment of devotion with the perfect cup of coffee.

Sometimes they trickle in increments of A-Ha! moments that Holy Spirit doles out and pours into me. When I’m too pained or foggy to tune into his frequency, he reminds me that it’s okay.

I told my dear friend that perhaps we can meet this week and brain-dazed and janky together. Pray awkward, foggy prayers together, and trust grace to caulk in our rough spots. Listen for the bolt of lightning, but be okay with the A-Ha moments and roll with it as the Sisters in Christ that we are. Raise a War Room right where we are, where two or more are gathered.

God isn’t angry that we have unfocused seasons. He just desires that we keep the conversation going, and listen for his voice.

God bless us, every one.

 

 


 

Spiritual

He is Risen – Poetic Celebration of Easter

maryblog
The Passion of the Christ

By: Jana Greene

 

The world was in the blackest place

when Messiah breathed His last,

Compassion settled on his face

As precious spirit passed.

He who was to save the world

Hung upon a tree,

Giving pause and crushing blow

To all humanity.

On that day he’d be entombed,

Guards assigned to guard the cave.

And with a stone to seal the room,

There seemed no hope to save.

But then…

But then!

In three days time,

Mary came to tend the shell –

The body of her dearest friend –

Who’d delivered her spirit from darkest Hell.

She came upon an empty tomb

And falling down on bended knee,

Hears a voice beside her say

“Woman, why do you weep?”

He called her then by her name

(Just as he calls us yet still)

And she rest her eyes on living Christ

As prophesy fulfilled.

He is Risen! He’s alive!

All He’d said came true.

He’s living still today in me,

And (if you accept) in YOU.

And where does this leave sin to rest?

Oh Death, where is your sting?

As far as East is from the West!

No condemnation does it bring.

He is Risen! Now rejoice!

Rabbi,  Teacher, Messiah, Friend

Follow the sound of His loving voice –

Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End.

Cast off the linens binding you,

The shroud limiting your spirit’s view,

Ask God to roll your stone away –

And rejoice this blessed Easter Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual

Agape for Amateurs: a love letter from God

HE IS RISEN, BELOVEDS!
And that changed everything.
HAPPY EASTER

The Beggar's Bakery

Only love to lose

Oh Dear Created One,
I am only Love….only ever good.
By avoiding me, you have only love to lose. And love is everything.
I am not angry with you. In Jesus, I gave myself to you, for you – redemption in one fail swoop.
When you have a misstep, I am saddened because you are hurting.I am with you in your hurting places.
When you deny me, curse me, hide from me – I am still with you in the hiding places. I am courting you all along.
Where there is love, I am.
In this fallen world, hope seems in deficit; do not put your hope in this world.
All the things you’ve been foolish for have torn you down, yet you are so afraid to be a “fool” for me?
Enough of the fallen. Enough of the foolish self-dependency. Walk with me – I long…

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Christianity, God, Spiritual

Dry Toast and God Wrestling

858px-Rembrandt_-_Jacob_Wrestling_with_the_Angel_-_Google_Art_Project

Rembrandt – Jacob Wrestling

By: Jana Greene

Yesterday I fell violently ill, the kind of sick that you crawl on all fours to the bathroom and end up sprawled out on the floor because whats the point of going anywhere else? I couldn’t hold down so much as an ice chip.

It was the kind of sick that you feel you might die and don’t really care if you do. I told my husband, who lovingly cared for me, that the last time I was that horribly ill was the night before I got sober in January 2001. There, on another bathroom floor, I was broken and sick, and wrestled mightily with God.

For some reason, God has chosen to meet me on the floor of a bathroom repeatedly. It’s kind of my personal “Peniel.”

But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

The man said, “What’s your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)

– Genesis 32″:22-32 (MSG)

There is nothing like being a collapsed heap on the floor and yet still feeling the presence of God. On the verge of going to the hospital, I tried to will myself to be well. I tried to bargain with God. I wrestled him much like I did on January 2, 2001.

I’m not letting you go until you bless me. And he does.

It astounds me that the force that created the entire universe is not too proud to come hang out with me when I am at my worst. Isn’t that amazing? Sometimes a prayer can be a whimper, but he shows up just the same.

And this morning I consumed and managed to hold down some flat Sprite and toast. Glorious, glorious TOAST.

I guess the moral of this story is that God meets you where you are, whether it be on the floor of a bathroom or a regal palace; whether it be a life-altering and radical thing like getting sober, or having a wretched 24-hour stomach bug.

Sometimes, we come away limping.

I don’t know why some people get almost never get sick, and some people are sick chronically, and why other people die from disease. Theology and biology are not my strong suits.

All I know is that if you cling to Abba, you win any which way. Perhaps dying for the believer is not a triumph for disease, but a respite from a race well-run and finished. To see God face to face is certainly no hardship. You’ve still wrestled with God and come through.

The sun came up when Jacob left Peniel. And then right then and there (God) blessed him. Limp notwithstanding.

Today I am grateful for healing. I’m grateful for My Beloved who went above and beyond (as is his way) for me. I’m grateful for my kitty cats who parked out with me flanking each side of my body and not leaving my side (who says cats don’t have feelings?) all day long. I’m grateful  for dry toast and flat Sprite.

But most of all, I’m grateful for my Heavenly Father, and his capacity for comforting us wrestlers. I do love him so.

A prayer can be a whimper, but he shows up just the same.

 

 

 

Spiritual

A King’s Resurrection – the roar of Easter over culture

The Beggar's Bakery

 

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There is so much noise. Do you hear it?

A pulling like the moon on the tide, darkly scooting across the earth. An undercurrent of intolerance for those who love Christ, who love God. More and more there is a cultural acceptance to bash them. And at Easter time, a growling and blatant disrespect for Yeshua – Jesus – and his lifework and ministry.

Never in history has a single King elicited such passion – both adoration and loathing.
But then, never in history has a single King come to redeem not only his own subjects, but the ones who mock him.

And mock him, they have. Internet memes, social media, and other venues for popular culture may be the latest vehicles for this derision, but on this Good Friday, we mark the day of the Crown of Thorns. We mark the event in which his contemporaries intended to…

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Spiritual

Chronic Illness and Love in Real-Time

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By: Jana Greene

“Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.” – Matthew 10:28 (MSG)

This past week has been a rough one.

I’m sick again, pretty super awful sick. And the medicine is so powerful it is almost making me feel worse. Almost. There is no choice not to take it, unless I prefer having it administered via IV at a hospital. With my immune system, I’d be terrified to set foot in a hospital, or even the gift shop. No thank you very much.

It feels like this may be the straw that broke the camel’s back, or at least made the camel exclaim “OY! What a headache!”

My husband, who lovingly takes care of me when I’m sick or depressed or a combination thereof. God bless that man, he has been encouraging me through my health issues for ten years now. I keep expecting him to say, “Dude, this is one too many issues. I didn’t sign up for this.”

But he never does. He says my issues are his issues –  and vice versa – and that he signed up for being with me, WHATEVER that looks like, period. He is very resolute about that. We are a very affectionate couple, but he holds me extra when I’m feeling broken.

I’ve come to understand that that’s what love looks like in real-time. It doesn’t catch you on the rare occasion you have the sniffles or break a bone. It’s not a part-time endeavor.

You see, love isn’t looking for an out. It’s always looking for an in.

“This too shall pass,” My Beloved said to me yesterday. And I nodded in agreement because, yes, it shall. There is no doubt.

But in my weary state of this illness, I wondered aloud what would come next.

This illness was preceded in short order by the flu (thanks a lot flu shot), on the heels of a year of the worst migraines of my life, on the heels of chronic sinus infections and UTIs,  having had major surgery last July and all the healing from several bouts with (and I am not making this up) Cat Scratch Fever, and the cherry on top that is chronic fatigue. And a generous dollop of anxiety and depression just to keep things interesting.

So yes, I know this too shall pass. But what’s following it? I’m not trying to be a Negative Nancy, honestly. I just feel beat to the ground and want the chance to stand up and fight without the constant overlap of health issues slamming me back to the ground before I can even get footing.

I’ve stopped asking for prayer on social media because really, it’s just been one thing after another, and I don’t want people rejecting God because they don’t see my healing.

So I find myself here, in this place of wanting to tell the world how loving my God is, yet concerned that seekers might not really want what I’ve got, if it means being sick.

But how cocky is THAT thought? That people won’t reach out to my God if I’m transparent about my life and health? God has been doing the God thing far before any of us came to be.

I don’t believe he causes suffering.

I do believe he allows us to experience it.

I believe in 100% healing; I’ve seen it happen many times. But I’ve also been browbeaten by other Christians for not receiving my healing instantly, as if it were a matter of faith or lack thereof. I cannot express how damaging that is to someone who is suffering. Calling into question their faith when they are already hurting is adding the worst kind of insult to injury. “Name it and Claim it” theology takes one very important consideration out of the picture:

That God is sovereign.

And that if he allows us to suffer, he WILL USE that experience to further his Kingdom and to benefit another of his children who will hurt in exactly the way you are hurting now. The more a situation sucks, the more impact your testimony can make to another life. God wastes no hurt.

Sometimes I remind God that I didn’t sign up for this.

“I’m REALLY FRUSTRATED,” I tell him. Often.

“I know, Kiddo,” my spirit hears him soothe.

He reminds me that no matter how my body hurts or fails or frustrated, he will never leave or forsake me. He is in it with me for the long run, WHATEVER that looks like.

Whatever is next, God is already there. The potential for physical maladies are legion, and these Earth Suits we have wear out and down. All of them will fail. We are specifically reminded NOT to allow fear to bully us into making our physical bodies the focus of our lives, but to making our core beings a home to Holy Spirit.

What can man do to me? What can ill health do to me, ultimately? I know the end of the story. My soul is redeemed, perfect and whole in Christ. No matter how many health struggles I endure. So many people are hurting so much worse than I am. I pray for them as well. God help us all – broken bodies and minds and spirits.

So today as I lay in bed, uncomfortable and grumpy and generally out of sorts, I share my frustration with you so that perhaps you are reminded too – you are not alone. Your issue or worry is very real and is not going unnoticed by God. Ask him to hold you. Implore him to not let this experience go to waste. He will take it from there.

That’s what love looks like in real-time. It doesn’t catch you on the rare occasion you have the sniffles or break a bone.The love of God is not an incomplete work. He isn’t deterred by a little Negative Nancy bouts of  frustration. His love isn’t a part time endeavor.

He is very resolute about that. It doesn’t mean I will not get sick. It does mean he holds me extra when I feel broken. It’s okay to hurt, and trust, and mourn, and trust some more.

You see, love isn’t looking for an out.

It’s always looking for an in.

God bless us – the sick and the sad and the struggling.
God bless us, every one.

 

 

 

Spiritual

Take me Higher – an Alcoholic Finds Solid Ground

The Beggar's Bakery

By: Jana Greene

You are an alcoholic. Or an addict. There is precious little difference, really. You indulge in some substance or activity that you cannot for the life of you control. You have tried, under your own power. You simply cannot stop.

It started innocently. You got drunk, or high – maybe a little accidentally. Certainly, it was harmless. Over time, you needed to get just a little drunker or higher to achieve the same result – feeling okay in your own skin. So you start to drink a little more, to get a little higher.

But one day, you start to need the substance or activity more than you really want it.  You begin to dread coming down from it.

Who wants to come down from something? All of the great clichés espouse the glory of high

Ain’t no mountain high enough.

High achiever.

Soaring to great…

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Spiritual

A Tree Grows in Prison – addiction and the harvest of God-seeds

From the archives.
God bless us, every one.

The Beggar's Bakery

TREE

By: Jana Greene, thebeggarsbakery.net

Hebrews 13:3

“Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.” – Hebrews 13:3  (MSG)

God,

I’m thinking today of all the saints in the early church who prayed to you from the cells of prisons. Wrongly persecuted, they mustered their faith and lifted it to you, because they had been stripped of everything else they owned.

I know you’ve gotten your fair share of letters from prisoners.

Jails and prisons are often the venue in which lost souls lift their last remaining possession to you – faith – but the truth is that many have been stripped of that possession, too. Many, before even arriving for intake to be processed by a legal system, were already processed by another captor – Addiction – before ever setting foot…

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Faith, Spiritual

Struck Down but Not Destroyed

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I’m pressed but not crushed
Persecuted, not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
And I am blessed beyond the curse
For His promise will endure
That His joy is going to be my strength

Though my sorrows may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

By: Jana Greene

Have you ever been at the beach playing in the ocean all frolicky-like, splashing int he cool waters, and turned to face the shore when suddenly BAM!  You get knocked down by a wave that came out of nowhere.

At first you’re just stunned. You sure hadn’t seen that coming! So you find the sand on all fours and attempt to stand back up and from behind, another wave – bigger than the last – WHOOSH! The wave knocks you face down into the water. Now your knees are scraped and your pride is bruised. In embarrassment, you look to the beach to see the reactions of your friends on the beach, who are perhaps laughing. Your determination mounts as you right yourself to  stand and walk with some measure of grace, only to get slammed in the back by the biggest wave so far, which takes you down, under the water, and tumbles you face over rear several times.As you try to navigate getting the hell out of this place of battering waves, it’s hard to tell which way is up – which way to the breathable air? Salt water stings your freshly scraped knees, abraded by the sand, and fills your lungs with a choking salinity. Any intention to get out of the water gracefully is long gone.

A LITTLE HELP, God.

Finally – exhausted –  you catch  a momentary lull  between breakers and hightail it to the shore before the ocean can pull another fast one on your landlubber ass.

Even if you’ve never been to the ocean, you probably can still relate to this experience. Because far more daunting that getting knocked down by waves is getting knocked down by circumstances. Over and over. Before you can even get your footing to accomplish the stance that might give you a fighting chance, BAM! Another  rolls in, slamming you back down to your knees.

So many of the people I love are going through this phenomenon right now – being hit with one difficult life situation or loss, one worrisome financial or health battle after another.They are quite literally drowning in sorrows and anxiety.

Has a situational  smackdown happened to you?

On the heels of losing your job, your significant other breaks up with you. You find out your child is on drugs, and you bounce a check trying to pay a “last notice” bill due. You find a lump in your breast, on the same day a dear friend loses her valiant battle with cancer. Your heart is breaking from an estrangement from a toxic family member, someone stole your identity after hacking into your computer. The transmission in your car finally dies. Your health issues, despite fervent and believing prayers, are only getting worse. The loss you’ve experienced in your life seems more than you can bear. And although you still have your faith, it is not the flotation device you always believed it would be. God seems to have turned a deaf ear to you (and that hurts worse than everything else combined.)

God, don’t you see I’m battered? I can’t tell which way is up anymore. I’m bleeding. I’m embarrassed that even though people keep praying  for me, I’m still sick / broke / unemployed / grieving. A LITTLE HELP HERE, GOD!?

I’ve been there, several times.

“I can not take ONE more thing,” I remember telling Jesus once, right after losing a job and shortly after,  getting pneumonia.

And the next day, my car konked out –  for good.

“Ok, Lord…..This time I MEAN IT! I cannot handle ONE MORE THING.” And with that, another check bounced. Back to back challenges. I could scarcely find my footing.

If you are going through a season in your life where you cannot seem to escape the battering, listen up. This perfect storm of woes and worry – of loss and ‘run of bad luck’? It is shitty and horrible, but also TEMPORARY.

I won’t even pretend to know why God allows us to go through seasons of great trial in which we experience one awful thing after another, but I will tell you HE WILL NOT LEAVE YOU IN THAT PLACE.

He will never leave you there. Hold on to that floaty faith. You cannot STAY under, and as long as it is attached to you.  You  may still be knocked down and stunned and embarrassed, but you will not perish. This too (as cliche as it sounds) WILL pass. He will set your feet on solid ground again.

When you can’t tell which way is up, Jesus rights you and brings you to shore.

Grace is for the person who has been so repetitively beat up that she comes out of the water with one boob and one ass cheek  popped out of her  bathing suit….gagging on snot and salt water. Grace kicks in when you are too winded to breathe.

There is grace in the falling. I didn’t realize it then – I thought there as only grace in the standing firm. But no, Grace in its purest form was not withheld from me in seasons of rapid-fire heartbreak.

I’m so grateful for Jesus and His propensity for delivering us from smackdown mode at just the right time. I’m grateful that He gives us the strength to hold on to faith so we may frolic another day.

God bless us, every one.

 

 

His eye is on the sparrow, kids getting tattoos, Spiritual

More than Many Sparrows – My Daughter’s Tattoo

My daughter's tattoo, which has come to have significant spiritual meaning to me as a mother.

More than Many Sparrows

or

A Tale of My Daughter and the Audacity of Ink 

By:  Jana Greene

 

      The first thing I noticed about it was the blackness of the outline, almost as if it were drawn with bold magic marker.   My next thought was that I must absolutely write about thisthe design that now lay bare on her skin.   As if, somehow putting pen to paper would give permanence to the moment, as the needle brought it to her flesh.

My daughter’s first tattoo.

     I had known that it was coming, that she considered it a rite of passage. My girl had always danced to the beat of a different drummer; a lover of eclectic music, performance art and sculpture.  If she had a credo it would be this:  Live by Deliberate Acts of Impulsivity.

As her mother, I would surely prefer that she not bear any tattoos at all, because (and yes, I am the expert here) she is absolutely perfect the way God made her.  I am rather attached to her being, looking, sounding exactly like my daughter – the only one of her kind, anywhere.  Tattoos are just not my thing”, whereas she very much is.  

           Nineteen years ago, just after she was born, the delivery room nurses whisked her away for her first bath and returned with my infant girl swaddled very tightly.  No sooner was she in my arms than I was removing the blankets, unwrapping her like a present on Christmas morning.  As mothers have done since the dawn of time, I checked her, head to toe.  I found her birthmarks, the dimples in her plump hands, and worked my way to her tiny, peach-fuzzed back.  There, between two flawless round shoulder blades, I placed my open palm to her skin.  It was a perfect fit.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined anything marring that space.

  In her “growing up” years, there were manifestations of her free spiritof course… harmless acts of rebellion, none of them leaving a lasting mark.  She formed strong opinions before she could form complete sentences, and had no trouble expressing them.  At around age four, she developed magnetism to the camera (any camera) andmade it habit to insert herself into any and every photograph.  

Around the same time, Alexandra began displaying fashionista tendencies.  An ensemble she chosen for a summer day in the park might include: a sweater with leggings, plastic Disney princess shoes, a toboggan with ear flaps, seven necklaces and a life-vest (after all, it was July!)…all worn together and on dry land.  It soon became apparent that stares, glares and pointing in her direction by the public at large was not a deterrent to this behavior.  It was more the entire motivation.

This is when the adage “choose your battles” took on meaning for me.  And as I became a student of war, the years rolled on like a tank.

With the advent of tweenhood, there were lines drawn, of course. Not a fan of shirts that showed adolescent bellies and shorts that declared suggestive adjectives across their bottoms, those were not tolerated.  Alexandra compensated with crazy combinations of adornment, including stick-on tattoos of all kinds.  

At twelve, after spending a long day with friends at the beach boardwalk, she returned home with a henna tattoo, ecstatic.  

“Until I get a real one,” she told me.

She managed to graduate high school with only a nose ring as modification, butno sooner was the ink dry on her diploma than she was ready to display ink on her body.

“I’m ready,” she said to me one day.  “I’m getting my tattoo. A bird.”

          Okay.  A bird.

         “A Tribal Sparrow,” she added.

         “What in the world is a ‘tribal sparrow’?” My voice is more condescending than I intend.

          Eye rolling and head shaking.  Translation: Mother, you just don’t get it.

          I wonder about the subject she has chosen for the artist, and it’s tribal-ness.  Our family heritage is sort-of a homogenized breed.  We have no “tribe”. We have no “people”.  We are Scotch-Irish with German in the mix, and a little Louisiana-Cajun-French (but you have to really look for it).  No- we are very garden variety, Ellis-Island mutt American.  Perhaps that’s the attraction for her, the tribal aspect.

         “If you’re trying to belong,” I said, in an attempt to appeal to her lovingly (sometimes changing strategy can be effective)“You already do.  You don’t need a tattoo to belong here.”

She knows that, she says.  

Is a bird something you now,” I pause for effect. “And forever more want to be associated with?  Because you will.you will be ‘that girl with that tattoo. But as I am asking her, I am secretly grateful she isn’t branding herself with a map of Area 51, or the image of a pop tart, or a beer keg.  It should be something meaningful to you.”

         “It is.  It represents freedom to me, Mom.”

        “You still live at home,” I reply dryly. We pay all of your bills…..  Don’t you want to wait until you are free to commemorate freedom?”

        Heavy sigh.  “Freedom from things.  Personal things.”

        “If it’s so personal, why does it have to be permanently inked on your body for the whole world to see?”

        “Why would I not?” she counters, and I have no reply.  All their lives, my children have been told to be authentic, true to themselves.  Encouraged to be real.

Don’t be afraid to show who you are.  It’s the message I’ve tried to impart, even during the years of life-vest accessorizing.  Don’t wear the masks.

         “You know what?” I say. You don’t even know who you are yet!  You are whoyou are right now, and a mere five years from today, you will be in a completely different place.”

She says that none of us remain the same, not even for a single year. And it’s true  .I am a very, very different mother than I was when she was born, unwrapping her like apresent on Christmas morning.  The particular audacity of getting inked is that it alters your shell, the only one you will get in this life.    It is a deliberately impulsive act.

Parenting is not a sane endeavor, and complicating the matter is that she is, in fact, not a child.  Still, I have to believe she will listen to reason.

“Not everyone is going to be so accepting of your ways in the world,” I bleat wearily..   “There are people who will make value judgments about you based solely onthe fact that you have a tattoo.

But my instincts tell me to RETREAT, as I watch her body tense.

RETREAT, or there will be immediate launch into mutual hysteria, familiar territory for us.  It seems that – these days –she and I are either dissolving into tears of laughter together (our ‘inside jokes’ are legion), or hurling words of frustration at one another, rapid-fire.

If I ever care what people think of me based solely on my appearance, than I have bigger problems than having a tattoo!”

How can I not admire that statement?  Who can argue?  She is, after all, an adult.  I surrender, but silently, and with a slow refrain of “Taps” playing in my mind.  

What I want to tell her, but do not say aloud, is that she will be marked, molded, and modified, without ever setting foot into a tattoo parlor.  I look at my body, once just as perfect as hers, mapped by the story of my life.  Constellations of freckles from forgetting sunscreen a thousand times, and wrinkles from the same offense.   Smile-lines around my eyes from laughing, scars from mishaps and missteps, and from the pieces I have lost to surgeries….all part of the story.   But it’s the pink, translucent ribbons that cover my lower belly that mean the most to me.  Tributaries of skin stretched to accommodate the growing bodies of she and her sister long ago….These are my tribal marks.  

When the time arrives, Alexandra comes to tell me it is The Day.  .  She tells me the name of the artist who will do the work.  I recognize his name; he attends my church.  She is the definition of “all smiles”, luminous.

“Do you want to come with me while I have it done?” She asks.  “You can hold my hand.”  I am instantly frustrated with her for acting like a little girl – still needing my approval, and equally frustrated that she is not one anymore.

I politely decline, and her boyfriend goes with her instead.  I am considering the natural order of things, pondering the business of ‘letting go’ when she walks out the door with him.  I try not to think about ink and needles.  I’m glad he will hold her hand.

It finally occurred to me to talk to God about my qualms; it should have been my first  response.  How many times do I wrestle tiny inconsequential issues to the ground as though they are giants without asking the Almighty God to assist me on the mat?  As usual, He was already in that place I had hesitated to invite him.

The Bible has a lot to say, and the gist of the message that speaks to my life is Grace.  True, there are passages that warn about marking the body, scriptures that warn against cutting the hair.  But it is a verse about birds that God brought to my mind.  Leafing through the pages, I found it right away:

Matthew 10:29.  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Has my daughter inadvertently given flesh to the scripture I pray over her?    

Though I hate to admit it, Alexandra’s tattoo has forced me to consider the messy business of acceptance.   The “Choose-Your-Battle” cry of all parents has a different tone for each scrimmage and every life stage.  What do I gain, as a mother, if I choose not to accept my grown child’s decisions?  Am I selfishly seeking validation that I have “raised her right” if she refrains from what society might be uncomfortable with?  

The freedom she is trying to parlay is that today, she can still go anywhere from here.  This tattoo is meaningful to her.  And she is meaningful to me.

When she returns, she cannot wait to show me, walking backwards into my bedroom so that it’s the first thing I see.  There is no hiding the work; she will have none of that.  This girl, a lover of eclectic music, performance art and sculpture….Now adorned.

So that’s a Tribal Sparrow...  

A clear coat of laminate covers the wound, so that it can heal properly.  In the mental melee of preparing myself to see it, I had forgotten that it would scab and scar…that it would be a ‘no pain, no gain’ commitment, as most things that become permanent are.

“It’s lovely,” I say.  And I think I mean it.

The Tribal Sparrow is a beautiful bird.

Her outline is striking and very bold, not the least bit likely to fade, but her plumage is just the color of Alexandra’s complexion.  Centered between my daughter’s flawless and round shoulder blades, the sparrow is exactly the size of my open palm…a perfect fit.  She is in flight, but I’m not sure she knows where she is going, her two tail feathers pointed high.  Her eye appears to be a soft swirl, peering neither downward or behind, but straight ahead.  Her wings are gently drawn with a curve, as if she is gliding, not yet looking for a place to land.  A true Artist painted her right onto my daughter’s perfect body.  And every time I see it now, I am reminded that His eye is on the sparrow,and that she can go anywhere from here.  

Anywhere at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual

Love in a Strident Age

As the stridency escalates, so must love.

The Beggar's Bakery

StridentBy: Jana Greene
If you have a computer, watch the news on TV, hold casual conversations around the water cooler at work, or simply do not live under a rock, you may be noticing the obtrusive, piercing, and jarring way people interact with one another nowadays.

Everybody seems so strident, so harsh and self-righteous and RIGHT about everything, all the time. Worse, from causal conversation to message boards online to Facebook posts and letters to the editor, those same folks lord their views over the rest of us peons who may believe differently. Where does that come from?

If it is not coming from a place of love and compassion, it isn’t of God.

I think the stridency has something to do with the determination that neither God nor devil exists. We make our own rules, and in doing so, have no rules about how to treat one another. The…

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Spiritual

Reasonable Happiness

The Beggar's Bakery

Happiness

By: Jana Greene

God grant me the serenity…

Last week was an almost magical week for me, having had the opportunity to connect with some family members and friends, with whom I needed connecting. For a few days I was back in my state of origin, geographically. But my spirit was in it’s element…happy. There were times that I felt my heart would burst from the pure enjoyment of living one moment at a time, just as my belt would burst from so much Texas barbecue. My face was sore from smiling. There was healing and forgiveness bestowed and accepted, and the kind of camaraderie that only dear childhood friends can resurrect.

Visiting rivers and singing along to songs in the car to Pandora’s “’80’s Radio Hits.”

Seeing how much my hands are like those of my father, who I’ve only ever seen a handful of times in my 46…

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Grace, Spiritual

Splintered – a Chip of the Old Family Stone

Only love to lose

By: Jana Greene

Remember the old Sly and the Family Stone song “Everyday People?” (In case you don’t, here is a link to listen: Everyday People )

I think the modern Christian Church needs to heed the message. We’ve become so splintered by theologies, ideologies, and ego-ologies. My heart is heavy for the division, and frankly, all it manages to do is prop up the devil, who – in case you haven’t noticed – is having his heydey on this planet already.

Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in
I am everyday people.
There is a blue one
Who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one
Trying to be a skinny one
Different strokes
For different folks.

For the longest time, I operated from a place of loving God out of fear, terrified of displeasing him. And that meant shunning you if you participated in certain behaviors, so that I could not be accused of “condoning” it.

We don’t have the time to bicker among ourselves, because Rome is burning right now.

Billy Graham put it succinctly:

“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”

(And yes, I am throwing in a little Billy Graham into a piece about Sly and the Family Stone. God digs it when his kids mix it up.)

Sometimes I’m right, but I can be wrong. That STINGS, doesn’t it?

Peter is my favorite disciple, but he was far from the most perfect. His propensity for flubbing things is what endears him to my heart, he was ‘wrong’ a lot.  (Google ‘Peter’s sins’ if you are interested)  Yet Jesus told him –

“…And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” – Matthew 16:18

Peter was Everyday People. Just like me and you.

I am no better and neither are you
We are the same, whatever we do
You love me, you hate me, you know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in
I am everyday people.

There is a gay one, who won’t accept the straight one, that won’t accept the trans one for living with the  (fill-in-the-blank with your favorite deadly sin of choice.) one.  And that’s WITHIN the Church. We are sending the world the message that we love everybody all the same but stay over there so you don’t rub off on me.

Jesus wants us to go to the world and rub off on it like crazy. That was his whole modus operandi.He came to welcome everyone into the family of God. We don’t get to exclude certain groups of people because we find their choices distasteful, or even because the Bible says its wrong.

Are we to pretend then that all behaviors are acceptable to God and just ‘get over’ ourselves? The world is well aware that they are considered sinners by the Church.

What they maybe haven’t heard is the message of LOVE that is supposed to be our cornerstone.

When I’m perfect, I will pick up rocks and throw them at you. But honestly, I’m pretty sure that’s not happening.

It’s not that sin is unimportant to God.

It’s that sin became dwarfed and overcome by the power of the Cross, and LOVE is a bigger deal.

Our message of Love rests on the Cornerstone that cannot be moved by cultural trends. It’s so much bigger than that. What would the world look like if we didn’t make sin the biggest consideration in loving? We like to label the stones we throw at other people, don’t we? We feel so JUSTIFIED, righteously angered.

In essence, I guess I am saying yes – let’s get over ourselves.

Let’s loose those stones around our necks that we carry to make ourselves feel morally superior to “those” people Playing Superior is exhausting, believe me, I know. Jesus said this, and the weary world needs to hear it:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:30 (MSG)

And so on and so on
And scooby dooby dooby
Oh sha sha.

We got to live together.
I am everyday people.

Please Church, can we just get on with the business of loving one another? I believe if we do, the gates of hell itself will not prevail against us.

God bless us, every one.

 

“With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: “Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I’ll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is ‘the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.’ Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.” – Acts 4:8-12.
Spiritual

The Holiness of Old Dogs

Emmie crossed over the Rainbow Bridge a few years ago, but I still miss her presence like crazy. Reposting this in honor of her. See you on the other side, old girl.

The Beggar's Bakery

By:  Jana Greene

There is something holy about old dogs.  I can’t quote scripture to prove it, but I can see the sacredness in the eyes of my old dog, Emmie.  And I know God sees it in her too, that He placed it there.

I’m finding that God often places the holy and pure things where we least expect them.  I know that He uses my dog to make me a better person, to teach me things.

Emmie has been a good and faithful friend to me for more than fourteen years.  A Golden Retriever (with a bit of Chow-Chow) she never knew the first thing about retrieving. But being kind and loving, joyful and true?  She knows everything about that.

When I call to her, she comes to me – even though she is old and creaky probably has a million good doggie reasons why she would rather not.  She might be…

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