Poetry

Ode to a Nocturnal Cat

Our distinguished Socks

By: Jana Greene

Things have been so heavy lately, I thought I’d share a poem I wrote for our elderly cat who – for 18 years – has run through the house batsh*t insane in the middle of the night, most every night. It’s a little Dr. Suessical, but a light reprieve from the usually heavy blog fare. Hope you enjoy!

That Old Man Socks! That Old Man Socks!
He’s up all night, that Old Man Socks!
Socks, do you like good sleep and peace?
“I do not like them” Socks decrees.
“Unless it comes as mid-day nap,
Sleeping at all is utter crap.”
Socks, would you sleep instead of mew
When the moon is nice and new?
Would you please sleep all night through?
Is this something you can do?
I know you don’t like night time peace.
But humans need a few hours, at least.
Would you sleep at night on a sheet?
Would you sleep at night for a treat?
You do not like to let us sleep
So please count mice (or please count sheep!)
When we don our sleeping frocks,
It’s not your cue to go wild, Socks.
Would you pipe down in the night?
Would you, could you, please….alright?
Sleep in a box. Sleep with a fox.
Sleep in a house. Sleep with a mouse.
At nighttime, sleep either here or there.
For the love of God, sleep SOMEWHERE.

Spiritual

What the HELL? Doom, Gloom, and the Illuminating Perfection of a Loving God

long-spiral-staircase

By: Jana Greene

Let’s talk about eternal damnation in the fiery furnace we like to call “Hell.” Because apparently, if you don’t believe that God would punish his very own children forever and ever (amen) in the modern-day definition of Hell, you are a sorceress. File this under “Huh. Who knew?”

When I stopped preaching that a loving God would damn his children to the eternal, conscious, tormenting flames of Hell, all sorts of accusations come ‘a flying. And on really special days, you sometimes wake up to people accusing you of witchcraft on social media!

You see, I got on Facebook to scroll-about as I enjoyed my coffee this morning, when what to my wandering eyes should appear but a witch hunt afoot directed right here! Yep. Toward me, ya girl.

Here’s the thing. God gave us brains to THINK. All my life I believed what I was raised to believe. I’ve read the Bible a few times. I know what it says. I’ve also studied the original Greek and Hebrew texts, which take into account the literal meanings of the scripture we like to beat each other up with. Also, taking into consideration the sociopolitical climate of the day, especially in the Old Testament.

It ain’t like I’m pulling this outta nowhere. It’s been six years of delving and praying and researching the roots of the concept of Hell. The church of Acts is unrecognizable to most churches in modern times, but it would behoove all of us to study it and emulate it.

I came away with wrestling with God to find he is so much more wonderful than I’d ever imagined. And that when I get to heaven, I don’t have to hide behind Jesus’s garment to avoid an angry, vengeful God. ANYTHING that can be in ANY way construed as “New Age” (a reaalllly broad term,) is considered witchcraft?

I’m sorry but when did we give away our mysticism? What is more mystical than the Creator of the Universe coming in skin and flesh to our environment to show us how to love? New Age it is, then, I suppose.

I came out of this study free of my fear-based relationship with God. And opened my heart to the possibility that He is only ever good. I think we need to stop scaring people into loving Jesus, and just represent Jesus to the best of our abilities.

You would think that because of what I believe, I’m “gambling” with my own eternal soul because I that’s how strongly I feel about the inclusive gospel of grace.  A gospel that came from Jesus himself. Don’t get me wrong – there is a hell. I’ve been there. Plenty of it here on this planet, just look around. But is it Dante’s Inferno? Does my loving Papa, invisible to the naked eye, send us to Earth to try to figure out if He is real or not, so that if we get it wrong, into the lake of fire we go? I don’t believe that anymore.

But nobody likes to pigeonhole a person more than an Evangelical Christian. I know, because I was one for most of my life.

I’m of the mind that when it was said that every knee shall bow, every knee shall bow. When he said it is finished, it is finished.

THAT, I take literally.

Hell as we think we know it was popularized in the Medieval period as a way to keep the church in line. The masterpiece Dante’s Inferno also helped lend to the idea – it’s what culture “sees” hell as. God did not create us to bring us here to doom us if we don’t say magical words or we screw up. My God, what kind of father would that be?

He is in all, and all are in him. Some just don’t know it yet.

My question since my faith reconstruction is this: It’s actually pretty creepy how much time Christians spend fixating on Hell. And some of them get VERY upset if you take away their eternal torment thing. It took me years to let go of my Hell concept, so sure was I that people I loved would be cast into the fire and brimstone if they don’t get their shit together. Which, of course, leaves no wiggle room for grace, which is kind of the whole point.

Ditto giving Satan too much credit. We are always spiritually exhausted because we are fighting a battle that has already been won. Whatever is good, think on these things. Can you imagine how many hearts would open to Jesus if his children weren’t constantly threatened with being thrown in a lake of fire? Holy cow.

Bottom line: You have to do your own research and come to your own conclusion, either way, God is not mad at you. Ask Holy Spirit to help. She is willing and able (and yes, I refer to Holy Spirit in the feminine because of the nurturing and gentle care taking she provides for my spirit. Also, spirits are gender-less. They are SPIRITS, not people.)

Of course this is all just my two cents and I’m sure some of you are dooming me to “hell” right this very minute. But that’s okay. We all gotta figure it out for ourselves.

I promise you that if you want to know what God is like, look no further than Jesus – not the other way around.  Consider the cultural of the people who lived in Biblical times. It’s okay to think.

I could touch on so many other points, and likely will. In the meantime, God loves you. I love you. Namaste and God bless.

As far as God and I?

We good.

acceptace, Spiritual

The Times, They are ‘a Changin’ (and we Must Listen)

By: Jana Greene

My husband and I were discussing how crazy the world is the other day. We talk about it a lot, actually. Just like everyone else.

The conversation ended in frustration and befuddlement, because we couldn’t understand what the world has “come to,” and frankly, why young people have such contrarian views on so many things.

We sounded like crotchety curmudgeons, because if we aren’t careful, that’s what we will become. And I’m at an impasse now – become bitter, or (God I hate to use this cliche but it’s so appropriate here….) better?

It’s going to be one or the other. I have to choose.

So I took it to God and stewed on it for several days. In the interest of enlightenment, I had a, um….robust conversation with my 28 year old daughter about the political climate. We agree on many things. We also disagree on many things. She helps me see things from another vantage point.

I have not abandoned some of my views. Because I feel they are right.

But we cannot react to militancy with militancy – meaning all sides are yelling at each other and nobody is listening. Young people don’t always have the life experience to listen. But we do….or should.

As Bob Dylan sung so many decades ago, the times, they are ‘a changin’. They are changing fast.

Even though I was a tot back then, I’m having early 70’s flashbacks. The renewed feminist movement, the remnants of an only partially successful civil rights movement, and heck, even yoga and house plants are back “in.”

Some of the best things ever came out of the 70’s (okay, mostly just the music.) And good things will come of all of these movements we are currently experiencing. This all needs to happen, and I’m optimistic about the outcome. You can say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.

The Eastern philosophies I was so spooked by my whole life that our Baptist forefathers warned us of? I’m dipping a toe in some of their teachings because they are NOT contrary to Christ. At ALL. Christ was not a Westerner. He is opening my eyes to all kinds of awesomeness, because of one thing: I prayed for – and received – an open mind.

My prayer is that no black citizen is ever treated poorly. My eyes have been opened to what day to day life is like is for our African American brethren and it is with shame I admit that I had no idea how bad it was. After all, I treat everyone the same, doesn’t everyone?

NO. No, they don’t and it’s unacceptable. As a Southerner born and bred, I’m convicted of how my ancestors (all who purport to be upstanding Christians, I’m sure) belived and behaved.

Forgive me Father, I knew not the scope of the problem. I just didn’t know.

But our kids do.

My fellow Karens and Boomers? We have to listen. We have to have open minds. Or we are choosing to spend the rest of our lives upset and disgruntled, and we’ll leave the world no better than we found it.

It is NOT our fault – the whole state of the world. If youths blame us for it all, they are mistaken. The world we inherited wasn’t a whole lot better. But it is our fault if we don’t find common ground. We have turned a blind eye to so many things. And we cannot afford to do it anymore.

We can’t keep acting like it’s our world and the young people are upsetting it. The world belongs to us all, and American belongs to us all. Things that smack of anti-patriotism are often the reverberations of cultural and racial pain. And that’s a shame.

I don’t worship America. I don’t bow down to a flag, which is, if you really want to get biblical, is technically idolatry. I worship God, who is the spirit and definition of Love. 

First Corinthians 13 says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” And if I say I’m a Christian, but hate any one people group, I’m but a “clanging symbol.” I’m making a lot of noise, but really just crushing the fruits of the spirit between two cymbals.

Of all the deafening noise going on in the world right now, I don’t want to be just a clanging cymbal.

We can’t keep insisting that old-timey ways are better. Because they weren’t always. And they certainly weren’t for everybody.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot possibly live my best life if I’m angry and resentful all the time. I don’t have to understand everything. I do have to be willing to change, to grow. And to respect others. Even when we disagree.

The world we all share – young and old – depends on us doing our best to love one another.

Kumbaya, homies.

 

 

Spiritual

God in Every Face

By: Jana Greene

There can be honor in tradition

Sometimes that’s surely true,

But old ways hurt so many

It’s past time for something new.

Changing your mind means a change of heart,

By the shortest route,

Count it all joy when loving others

Becomes what you’re all about.

Don’t grieve for all the old ways

That only worked for a few,

Show respect for me and mine,

And I’ll show respect to you.

We can do this, I believe,

But it’s required of us all.

To pick up one another

When we falter, when we fall.

Don’t mourn the way it’s always been,

Instead let your soul embrace

Kindness, justice, righteousness,

And you’ll see God in every face.

Spiritual

Becoming a “Bleeding Heart Christian” and Other Perils of Radical Love

By: Jana Greene

This is an article I need to write. I’ve been needing to write it for years, but haven’t had the courage to “come out,” lest I disappoint friends and family. And that itself is sad, from my current vantage point, but we too often inherit our political beliefs and sit on them like the goose who laid the golden egg.
But I can sit on it no longer. The egg is rotten.
I’m finding it disturbing which issues are falling down party lines lately. Things that should just be a HUMAN thing are becoming a political thing.
Us vs. them. Right vs. wrong. Enough already.

Something shifted in me years ago and I can’t dance around the really hard issues anymore. It started when it became apparent that my daughter in her late teens was becoming a *GASP* LIBERAL. I couldn’t believe it! My far-right heart was in despair! But one day when I picked my girls up from school and we enjoyed one of our many spirited (ha) conversations about current events, I made a snarky remark offhandedly that she was becoming a “bleeding heart liberal.”
To which my kid, who was brought up in the evangelical church but professed no religion, says:
“But Mom, didn’t Jesus’ heart bleed for other people? The disadvantaged and marginalized?” (And yes, those are the actual words she used, she’s a smart kid.)

And I sat there and stewed in my judginess for the rest of the ride home. I was SO offended! I thought I had it all figured out.

Welfare: Get a damn job already. Why should I work and someone else get my money?

Death penalty: Stop wasting taxpayer money and just do it.

Immigration: Take a number like everyone else and wait your turn.

For the rest of the day and even for weeks after, I couldn’t shake the question. It became clear that I had gotten to the point I was using my religion not to help people, but to help me decide who was worthy! There are a myriad of other things I had “strong feelings” about before my spiritual reconstruction and could justify by political lines. Then it gradually became clear to me that Jesus didn’t let politics get in the way of loving people. Not once.

Our hearts SHOULD hurt that we have been propping up politicians and giving them all the power in the world to decide what is morally acceptable. Because none of them are Jesus. Many of them shouldn’t even be in office. And some things should not be partisan.

And so a paradigm shift began. “Break my heart for what breaks your heart, God,” I prayed on my knees.

And here’s the thing: My heart didn’t break for the rich and privileged. Or the justly treated. Or the Christian who darkened the door every time it was open. No. Instead my thinking became:

Feed the poor, without holding back. Without a superiority complex. Quietly.

Welcome the immigrant who is fleeing violence. And for God’s literal sake, uncage the children. What have we become?

Against abortion? Me too. But mothers need help to care for the children who we insist they carry and raise. And if a mother chooses to abort, we have to find it in our hearts to be compassionate to them, too.

Speak out for justice for George Floyd, the gentle giant who had the life choked out of him by a cop. It is happening to untold others. This cannot be. A man murdered slowly in broad daylight by someone by means of an abuse of power.

Stand with the oppressed, including our African American friends. Because black lives DO matter. Oh how my heart ached for Mr. Floyd as he was calling for his mama with his dying breath! You might even say it bled.

I unequivocally understand that there are reasons of law and plain old practicality that require order. Nobody disputes that. But Jesus was less concerned about law than human beings. I just want to emulate Jesus. And Jesus loved on everyone, whether or not they had the right values. He saved his harshest words for people who thought they were better than everyone else. The ultra-religious.

My previous and inherited belief system was wrong for me. It was unintentional.
But I won’t make the mistake of hardening my heart that should rightfully break for hurting people. No more. I want to love them intentionally.

Lobby and vote and all the rest, but don’t wait around for a bunch of rich old white men to get the ball rolling. It starts with you and I, in our words, deeds, and actions. No two party system can separate us from the love of Christ, and no politician should have the power to separate us from one another.

So don’t fight it; go ahead and let your heart bleed when you see racism and discrimination. Cry for the refugee. Let a little seep out for the victims, the underprivileged; the addicted and the homeless. Please. Let it gush!

Pray the most surrendering of all prayers – “God, break my heart for what breaks yours.” It may start a flood, but you’ll never be the same. And that’s not always a bad thing.

There is liberation in that release.