Acceptance, Anxiety, Brokenness, Devotional, Mental Illness, mothering, Parenting adult children, Serenity, Spiritual, Spirituality

The Privilege of Focusing Elsewhere

sunset

By Jana Greene

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ and he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” –  Mark 4:35-41

Yesterday as a super weird day. Ever feel ‘off’? Ever feel ‘unhinged?’ That was me yesterday, all day.

I woke up upset about the state of the world – the terrorist attacks in Paris, more specifically.  Then I got more and more upset about how improperly people were responding to it.

People I love dearly, suggesting we all basically sit in a giant circle around the globe and sing Kumbaya until mean people stop being mean. Honestly, that makes no sense to me. You’d think you would catch on to the ineffectiveness of that plan already. It’s not working.

Then I wrote about it on this blog, and poised my finger over the ‘publish’ button on WordPress. It was a stellar piece, really. Full of common sense and righteous indignation, and I really wanted to post it. I wanted to post it and share it so that I could stick some facts and impassioned logic in the faces of people who are just NOT getting it. People who make me wonder where the world would be if we applied tolerance liberally to the Nazi regime. (Spoiler alert: The gentiles among us would all be speaking German and the Jews would all have been murdered years ago….)

I am related to some very dove-ish people, they are hopelessly and unrealistically optimistic. I love them dearly, even in their perceived wrongness.

Finger poised over the ‘publish’ key, I decided to shut down the computer. I was simply too sad to even post it.

Now, although I reserve the right to publish it later (and probably WILL at some point) God had other plans for my spirit yesterday, plans put into motion by My Beloved. That man is a saint in sinner’s clothing, I’m absolutely convinced of it.

“Lets take a ride,” he suggests. Understand that I am alternately glowering and crying, slamming things around. I don’t feel like a ride. I feel like crying, and can you not plainly SEE this? But I know the plans he (my husband) has for me, and they are entirely good, always. So I ride along.

While we are driving down to Southport, a quaint little harbor town nearly an hour away, I am on my phone texting madly with my adult daughters. They are not upset enough at the right people my liking about the whole Paris thing, and I am going to MAKE THEM SEE the light. I am also having an internal conversation with God, who keeps insisting that maybe it’s time to trust Him with my daughters (and, um….everything else.)

But when a woman is high on anxiety and low on estrogen, there is no reasoning with her. In a group text, I reminded my kids about 9/11 and how dangerous it can be to try to reason with terrorists, worse even then reasoning with their hormone-depleted mother. They took offense, naturally, but I could not stop. I was going to make my point, dammit, for their own good.

It went abysmally, the whole exchange. They reminded me that they are adults and have their own opinions. I sometimes forget that.

MEANWHILE, as I’m furiously texting 90 words per minute, I am SOBBING. Absolutely just losing it. My poor husband.

Why is everything so SAD? Why don’t my kids GET IT? By the time we got to Southport, I’ve blown through an entire box of Puffs Plus. Little balls of snotty tissue littered the lovely leather interior of the car.

My Beloved pulls the car over at a little ice cream stand and insists I eat some ice cream. I look like a frog from crying hysterically and you think I want ICE CREAM?

Okay, I do want ice cream. So we sit out on the patio and I eat Mint Chocolate chip whilst crying. The kid at the counter looked so confused. I fought the urge to remind him to call his mother and be nice to her.

After the treat, My Beloved drove down to the water, and when we got out of the car, this happened:

sunset 3

It took my breath away, the calmness. I didn’t welcome it at first. I still wanted to hold on to my hysteria because the world is upside down (as if that HELPS turn it right side up?)

But then I just rested my eyes on the whole scene in front of me. You would never know that the world is on fire, if you were sitting at this little spot by the sea. And then came peace.

You have to LOOK for the calmness, it won’t come to you first.

The truth is that while I am very upset about terrorism, I am also upset about everything else changing in my world. From job loss to depression to major surgery to empty nest syndrome to becoming a grandparent….things are weird and different and I’m scared of all the change.

It’s chaos, if I’m looking around me.

Today I told God that I was SO over this planet and everyone on it. And what is the DEAL with humanity being so freaking hateful and disregarding human life and Lord God, do you even SEE what is going on here!?

“Teacher, do you not CARE that we are perishing!?”

And then this happened. In the midst of being so OVER everything, because that’s where He shows up. Smack dab in the middle.

sunset1And this happened too.

Jesus

And then I say, “Okay, God. Now you’re just showing off.” But I’m not crying anymore.

My Heavenly Papa spoke to me.

“Hey you,” He said. “Get over yourself and look at this! Isn’t it incredible? I’m here, never left. Stop flailing about in worried hysteria. I’m still Me. This is to remind you where your eyes belong.”

I just love Him so much.

The world was still crazy when we drove back home. Real messed up. I tried not to watch the news at all. I was still hormonal and unhinged, but a little less weepy. I texted my children to ask them to please forgive my harsh tone and my expectation that they think like me. It’s unrealistic. If you’ve never asked your children to forgive you after a blow-up, it’s very humbling.

And they texted back that they love their mom and forgive her, just as they always do when I mess up. Just like I always do for them when they mess up. We try really hard not to let the sun set on our anger, no matter what. And this day, the sunset was absolutely spectacular (literally and figuratively.)

“Peace!” Jesus says. “Be still!'”

And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Here’s a little insight: You cannot control a SINGLE act or reaction that another person exhibits. Not even a little bit. Don’t say I never taught you anything here at The Beggar’s Bakery.

But you can refocus your eyes. Even when it feels like God is sleeping.

Although pretty sunsets and ice cream don’t ‘fix’ what’s wrong, they can be a catalyst to changing your thinking, even for a while.

You have the right to look for calm in the midst of a crazy chaotic world. You have the right to use up a whole box of tissues in one sobbing sitting if you need to, but God gives us the privilege of refocusing on Him.

It’s a privilege.

Teacher, help us to be still.

Amen.

12 Steps, Devotional, Recovery, sobriety, Spirituality

12 Step booklet to be released in November

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Hello, readers!

I’m working on releasing a collection of essays exploring how the 12 Steps have played out in my own life and how to apply them to life in a practical manner.

It will be a very informal booklet – easy to read one bite at a time – and includes the biblical comparison for each step, a study verse for each, and a simple prayer at the conclusion of each essay. Just something simple to bless you on your own recovery journey…whether you are recovering from alcohol or substance abuse, co-dependency, or any other hurt, habit or hang-up (I think that’s just about ALL of us!)

“Practical to Tactical – Lessons from a 12 Step Life” will release on Amazon and for Kindle in November.

I will post more details when it is published.

A thousand thank-yous to each of you for your readership.

God bless us, every one.

Christianity, Devotional, Jesus, Spiritual

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)

12 Steps, AA, Addiction, alcoholism, Brokenness, Celebrate Recovery, Devotional, Healing, Hitting the bottom, Inspirational, Recovery, rehab, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality, substance abuse, The Big Book

Step Five – The Exact Nature of our Wrongs

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STEP FIVE
We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16 

“There are some secrets I will take to my grave.”

Have you ever said the statement above? I have. It is a sentiment that keeps sickness active and recovery stunted. Step Four helped us form an inventory and delve into the wrongs done to us and done by us to others. What to do with the indiscretions laid bare by the hardscrabble work of the fourth step?

Step Five is clear about taking action.

Words have power. What you speak from your mouth can change the trajectory of your healthy recovery, even change the world around you. Speak light and life over people, and their lives change. Speak darkness and it attracts darkness. Let’s not confuse admitting the exact nature of our wrongs to another human being as speaking darkness. To the contrary, as our searching and fearless moral inventories, they can be cleanly dealt with. It’s hard to see in the dark. But whatever the light touches is seen. And can be grasped to be fully put behind you.

Some items on our inventories might be harder to admit than others. Some may seem impossible to own before God, much less a sponsor or accountability partner. But our wrongs – our sins – stay powerful unless confessed to those we trust. Confessing them deflates them so that we can step over them and move forward.

The exact nature of our wrongs, taking responsibility for those things so shameful we vowed never to admit them on this side of the dirt. You really are only as sick as your secrets.

The problem with taking secrets to your grave is that it requires you to lead a grave-tender’s life to some degree. It forces you to spend your lifetime keeping something destructive underground, making sure it stays covered up. Part of you is always tending to that, protecting it. Digging it back up to make sure it is still there so that you can flog yourself with it’s shame, reburying it twice as deep. It’s a lot of work to keep secrets.

You don’t know what I’ve done,” you might be saying.

And you’re right, I don’t. But I do know that – in order to live victoriously in recovery – you must not keep it to yourself. All the things you’ve done in active disease and otherwise are covered under the blood of Christ Jesus if you accept Him and His love.

You see,  God already knows what you’ve done, and is crazy in love with you anyway. If you are in a 12 Step program, you already know people who are equipped to help you admit the exact nature of your wrongs.

“I’ve done bad things” doesn’t cut it when working Step Five. Share your heart with someone who is trustworthy and then burn or bury your past indiscretions in the place of the secrets that have required you to tend to your grave as you are in the living.

So that you can say “Grave? What grave?”

So that you can get on with this big, juicy life you’ve been given and ask “What’s next, Papa?”

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” – Romans 8:15-17 (MSG)

12 Steps, AA, Addiction, alcoholism, Brokenness, Celebrate Recovery, Creation, Devotional, Faith, God, Grace, Healing, Health, Hitting the bottom, Holy Spirit, Inspirational, Jesus, Recovery, rehab, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality, substance abuse

STEP TWO – Taking off the God Pants

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STEP TWO
 We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Biblical comparison: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13 
There is a God out there. And I am not Him.
Seems a reasonable enough, right? I’m pretty sure YOU know that I am not God, that I didn’t mastermind the universe and place the heavenly bodies in orbit.
But at one point in my life as an active alcoholic – on some really deeply corroded level – I behaved as if I were perhaps God.
No, I didn’t create the universe, but I believed I was able to control my consumption from a liquid in a bottle.
Yet, over and over again, I made hollow promises to myself that tomorrow I would not drink. Period. After a period of thousands of ‘tomorrows’ and repeating the same behavior, I began to question my sanity. Isn’t the definition of ‘insanity’ doing the same thing the very same way over and over, expecting a different result?”
 Time, Higher Power, and that pesky Sanity
Step Two is an action step, in that it takes movement and time on your part.
It doesn’t say “We believe that a power grater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
It states “We came to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Another way of saying “I came to believe” is that I have faith. How do you ‘get’ faith? We have long heard that you either have faith or you don’t, that you can exercise your ‘faith muscle’, and even that faith is ‘blind.’ I believe none of those things, actually. Because each and every one of those misconceptions places the glory of your faith squarely on you. Faith is not earned, it is a gift that our Father wants us all to know we have. Ask God to help you trust in the faith he has already planted in you – trusting Him to do what you cannot do for yourself – and your faith will grow.

He is a good father. If you ask for bread, He will not give you a stone.

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” – Luke 11:11 (MSG)

In Luke 17, the apostles came up and said to the Master, “Give us more faith.”  But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy-seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it.”

Wouldn’t you like to tell your addiction to go jump in a lake?

Understanding that and really embracing it is a process. It’s a faith thing, not a ‘knowing’ thing, so I cannot open a text book and show you it’s true. It takes time to allow what you are wrapping around your mind to melt down into your heart and get gooey love into the deepest crevices of your spirit and what you believe.

What is the catalyst for making that happen in Step Two? Higher Power, of course. My Highest Power (and personal friend, and counselor, and Creator who masterminded the universe and placed the Heavenly bodies in orbit…yeah, that one) is Jesus Christ. I know that in many 12 Step programs, many different applications of a Higher Power are utilized – and in some, none is recognized at all. All I can tell you is what works for me, and Jesus is the ONLY way I’ve maintained sobriety for over fourteen years now (still, one day at a time.)

He is as real as can be – even more so than you or I. Ask Him for help every single day, and he will never forsake you. He loves the brokenhearted, the addicted, the desperate. And He is a Restoration Specialist, especially when it comes to Sanity. We are all a little crazy, right? I think that’s fair to say.

The sanity referred to in Step Two is not addressing our quirks and individual weirdness. It is speaking to rebuke the insane behaviors that we engage in as active alcoholics and addicts.

The insanity that spurs you to place your drug of choice above your children and family.

The insanity that manifests when you tell yourself, “never again” (and really MEAN it each time,) only to drink and use the next chance you get.

The insanity that keeps you down, telling you that you will NEVER be well. You will NEVER get clean.

The insanity that makes you a person that you detest, who does things you know are wrong and destructive.

There is a better way, and Step Two puts it at your fingertips. Take off the God Pants (they are an awful fit, anyway) and ask your Higher Power to restore you to sanity, to really living.  Ask Him to take that poppy-seed sized grain of faith you have and activate it so that it can expand and you can apply it to your recovery. He is the Restoration Specialist, and He loves you more than you can ever understand.

Prayer: Father God, fill us with Holy Spirit in all the spaces chemicals used to reside. Don’t let our faith lie dormant, but help us understand the power we carry that makes all things – sobriety among them – possible through you! We’ve done it our way….Jesus, do it your way now, and help us to trust you through every step. – Amen

12 Steps, AA, Addiction, alcoholism, Brokenness, Celebrate Recovery, Devotional, Faith, Healing, Hitting the bottom, Inspirational, Recovery, Serenity, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality, substance abuse

STEP ONE – The Big Admission

By: Jana Greene

 

BlogSTEP ONE

We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. – Celebrate Recovery

Biblical comparison: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” – Romans 7:18

I don’t know if you are supposed to play favorites with the Steps, but I am rather fond of Steps One and Twelve – One because it gives you the opportunity to admit “defeat” over a substance or habit, and Twelve because – having become victorious over an issue or addiction in Steps 2-11  – you actively become the person paying your new life forward by giving yourself to others. From “It’s all about me and what I cannot handle” to “It’s all about you and I think I can help!”

In some of my 12th Step work, I have been given opportunities to help others get involved in the programs, and nothing brings me joy quite like seeing someone pick up their “Surrender Chip” at a meeting. Each of the plastic chips designates a different amount of “clean time,” and the “Surrender” chip is the very first one taken as an act of letting go and letting God. I can feel the energy coming off of my friend, the Newcomer, who is here for the first time tonight.  Although I’ve seen it 100 times, the it’s all new to her. She is waging a war in her own mind about accepting the “Surrender” chip.

I cannot do this. There are so many people here. What if someone knows me? There is no going back once I stand up.

But I must do it. My way isn’t working. How many times have I tried to get sober on my own? I need to find another way.

If I surrender, I am giving it up. There will be a hole left where my drug of choice took up space…..a lot of space.

But these people seem to know another way. Some of them are even laughing and joking!

It’s all I know, drinking.

But it’s crushing my relationships and killing me from the inside out.

Every day I say NO MORE! But every day I find myself right back in the center of drunkenness and drama.

I think I need to surrender.

Yeah, I know I need to surrender.

And with legs shaking and heart palpitating, she rises from her chair and excuses herself as she walks past the people in her row. They are clapping and cheering, like surrendering her addiction was a GOOD thing.

A gentleman holds out the blue chip to her, and embraces her as she takes it. She didn’t realize that she was crying, but she was – tears streaming down her face. When she turns to walk back to her seat, all attendees are on their feet, applauding. They know how hard it is to surrender an addiction. They, too, are powerless over their addictions and compulsive behaviors, and as their lives became unmanageable, they had mustered the courage to walk up and pick up a “Surrender” chip.

Many folks get caught up on the powerlessness angle of the First Step. How DARE anyone refer to me as powerless?  We live in an age in which we are all  expected to be super heroes in our lives, figure it all out, and certainly be the conquerors of our own worlds. Being powerful is highly esteemed by society (although society holds equal disdain for the powerful among us, too)  because being “in control” is where it’s at, right?

Wrong. The only way for an addict or alcoholic to regain control of his or her life is to surrender. My Highest Power is Jesus Christ. When I surrendered my will to him in regards to getting sober fourteen years ago, it was not an occasion taken lightly. I was giving him my very own will, since my will was only serving to make me sicker and sicker. I tried many times to do it “my way,” with abysmal results. Like Paul wrote in the book of Romans in the Bible, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”

Ever tried really hard to do something you knew would result in destruction? I’ve tried thousands of times. Why can I not carry it out?

Because complete Surrender must precede the abstinence from alcohol, the drug. Not partaking in drugs and alcohol is a nifty concept, but it just doesn’t work. Unless you want to live the rest of your life as a “Dry Drunk,” it’s essential. Surrender to God has to stay strategy #1, or my life becomes unmanageable all over again.

Admitting “defeat” over the drugs and drink is the most powerful thing you can do.

And in the not-to-distant future, you will be paying your life and gratitude forward by helping a shaky-legged, tearful Newcomer take that First Step

 

 

12 Steps, AA, Addiction, Brokenness, Celebrate Recovery, Christianity, Devotional, Health, Hitting the bottom, Inspirational, Recovery, rehab, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality, substance abuse

From Practical to Tactical – Making the 12 Steps Matter in Your Life

1,000 miles
Everyone (even pop culture) seems to know that “admitting you have a problem” is the First Step proper. But does that admittance look like? And what about after Step One? And what does “Step Work” look like in practical living?
This series has been on my mind and in my heart for quite some time, because I know how confusing step work can be. The following blog entries will explore the traditional life-changing and oft-intimidating 12 Steps through observations made along the way. Each day will invite you to ponder a different step.  It is only sharing my own experience, strength and hope, nothing more. Take what you need and leave the rest, as they say in the rooms.  If the 12 Steps can help me, they can help anyone. I promise.
“A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” –  Lao Tzu
The first time I darkened the door of an AA meeting, I was a 20 year-old. I wanted recovery, but I wanted it yesterday, and my understanding of the program reflected my impatience. These are actual thoughts I experienced when I first walked into my first 12 Step meeting:
“Well, Step One…..check! I admitted I have a problem, so that one is done. On to Step Two.”
“And I believe that a Power Greater than Myself can restore me to sanity, on account of I’m clearly not in charge here. So, worked that step already. Next!”
“Turning my will and life over to the care of God? Okay, I’m down with that. ‘God, I turn my will over.’ This isn’t so hard…..”
“Step Four: Making a fearless and moral inventory of myself……yikes.”
And with this one, I was stuck. Trust me when I tell you that Step Four cannot be done in one afternoon, even if you have the whole day off. Truly. You can take an inventory haphazardly, but not a searching and fearless one. This is where the rubber meets the road, right here on Step Four. (And sadly, yes … I actually believed that I had ‘worked’ Steps 1-3 in the course of a one-hour meeting. Ta daaaaa! Of course I only believed that because of, um….denial reasons.)
It would be many years before I would get serious enough about working the 12-Steps to truly explore what they look like in ‘real time,’ how they play out as workable ways to live life on life’s terms. Now, in my fourteenth year of continuous sobriety, I am just starting to get it. Here are some of the stones that I picked up on my ongoing walks with God. With them, I am building a future; and a good future at that!
Musing on 12 Step programs:
You will work the steps more than once. If you had a flow chart that depicted each of your issues and where you are Step-wise on each, well, there wouldn’t be enough ink or paper on the planet to print it out. Seriously, there wouldn’t.  It is an overused analogy, but recovery really is peeling an onion. One layer gets addressed and another is exposed. I’ve employed the steps in a number of situations in my life and will continue to do so,  and personally, I think they are applicable for anyone – addict or not – to apply. Unless your life is perfect, in which case you can go ahead and stop reading now, because you will not be able to relate to me at all.
Our addictions may look differently, but the root causes that trigger them are almost always similar. Alcohol was my drug of choice, heroin might be yours. I really don’t care because it matters little what you drink, smoke, or shoot, because I would venture to bet that the core issues that drove you to do so are pretty identical to mine. The answer is the same for all of these problems, as well. Without my Highest Power Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t have survived my addiction to tell the tale.  One of the things I love most about the Celebrate Recovery program is that it is for anyone to experience the overcoming of any hurt, habit, or hang-up. In my estimation, if an issue or addiction is coming between me and God, it’s a problem worthy of applying the 12-Steps to. Alcohol, drugs, food, porn, gambling….you can learn a new way to live as an Over-comer with any struggle.
There is no schedule for working the 12 Steps. Oh how I wished for a timetable for the 12-Steps when I first got into recovery! Someone to say, “Okay, you will do A, B, and C, and then you will never want to drink again.” It does not work that way, at all. You will, if you are honest, become ‘stuck’ on a step.  This used to frustrate me to no end, until I learned to think of the phenomenon as “marinating” in step work. “Working the steps” alludes to  putting in time and energy and waiting for the quittin’ time whistle to blow. Marinating in a step brings to mind a soaking-up, a “take-your-time because it’s gonna be worth the wait” mindset.  A good marinade cannot be rushed. For it to become part of the meat, it needs time. But you don’t want to spend your entire life in a bowl of marinade either.
If you can find a Step Study Group, by all means, please explore it! It is not for the faint of heart, it is for the determined to survive.  But under guidance from a Step Study Leader and some very fine workshop materials, an in-depth study of each of the steps can be a game changer. No longer floating about in the Program of Your Understanding, but in a group in which everyone has Experience, Strength and Hope, and everyone brings it to the table in order to get well. You will bring ESH to your group that only you can bring. The value of having people delving into the steps one-by-one alongside you cannot be overstated. Find a group in your area and ask if Step Studies are being done. They are a separate animal altogether from the meetings, but incredibly worth your time.
There are no two recoveries alike. They are the snowflakes of the wellness world – each and every one is different. One of the slipperiest slopes out there is to see someone else’s recovery journey and decide they are not doing it right. Trust me when I say that your own side of the street is enough to keep clean. Don’t be passing judgement on someone else’s sidewalk, just stay on yours, keep it clean,  and lead by example. I have had people tell me that I’m not really sober because I don’t have a sponsor. I’ve been told a plethora of things by a myriad of people; people who are – just like me – learning to live life on life’s terms. You just do you, and I’m going to do me.
Put one foot in front of the other and ask God to bless your footfalls. And marinate in this new way of living.

 

Celebrate Recovery 12 Steps and Biblical Comparisons 
 
1) We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” – Romans 7:18 
2)  We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13 
 
3) We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” – Romans 12:1 
4)  We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:40 
 5)  We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16 
6) We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10 
7) We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” – 1 John 1:9 
8)  We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31 
9) We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24
10) We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” – 1 Corinthians 10:12
11)  We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” – Colossians 3:16
12) Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1
Christianity, Devotional, Spiritual

The “Seven Little Action Words” Blog Series

EstherBy: Jana Greene

Leaning.
Falling.
Listening.
Risking.
Trusting.
Rising.
Living.

The last few weeks have been pretty squirrely for me and my family. We had been prayerful about a number of things, hoping they would just change already. And for a long time, nothing changed.  It was if God were purposefully being silent, and it seemed a little spiteful. I forget sometimes that He works ALL things to the good, not just the things on my “Honey Do” God list.

While divine appointments were happening behind the scenes, I made a regular appointment to meet with some divine people in my church. Depression was creeping in like unholy Kudzu, and I know these believers, so strong in faith that they seem tethered to this world only by a cleat of love, would machete that shit right out. I am not being profane – that’s what depression feels like. It’s gotta go.

We met, and they listened. Words that began with a sputter started flowing, as did the tears. I know that in that brief time where two or more of us were gathered in Jesus’ name, powers of darkness were bound, joy was released, and trust was installed. I am ever so grateful that I have a place to go where I am embraced not for my potential as a Christian, but for the person whom Abba truly sees me as. I don’t really have to try so hard. But sometimes I still do. I am learning.

The silence – what I had interpreted as God’s silence – was His quiet machinery doused in the oil of Holy Spirit (that’s why there wasn’t a ruckus going on where I could sense it.) As cogs and wheels turn in a direction that is favorable to us – His most beloved creation – I started thinking about writing again.

When will I learn? He is always forever working things for my good. He is not out to punish me or remind me where I fall short. He is never, ever spiteful. His ways, so much higher than my own, are not subject to human limitation.

In the past few weeks, I have blogged nary a word, but all the while God was instilling words into my spirit. Seven, to be precise.

Leaning. Falling. Listening. Risking. Trusting. Rising. Living. One word for each day of the week; one word for each action I’m currently being asked to undertake. I’ve no idea what ideas it will manifest. I only know I am supposed to write a series about each of the words over the next week.

What will the Creator of the Universe reveal to my puny little brain? More than it can hold, as it pours over into the spirit. And hopefully, into your spirit, too. I have much more use for spiritual truth these days than nuggets of academic matter.

In your squirreliest hour, He is working all things for your good, behind the scenes. Quietly.

Devotional, Health, Holy Spirit, Inspirational, Jesus, Love, Mental Illness, Recovery, Spiritual

No Pain, No Gain – Chronic Illness and the Christian Church

thorns

Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

2 Corinthians 12:7 (The Message)

As I write this, I have the flu. I think I am on day six of it. Every once in a while, I get up to get water or crackers and notice that the sun has made an entire rotation around the earth since the last trip to get water and crackers. And one week prior to getting sick with the flu, I had a freak allergic reaction and infection from a spider bite. And three times previous to that in the past month, I have had debilitating migraines. I have a lot of horrible migraines, for which there are harbingers of auras, sensitivity to sound, and numbness of my face (always disconcerting, that one.)

I get sick a lot. My immune system is not terribly strong, and I have a lot of pain and inflammation issues. If you saw me, you might see a healthy middle-aged person, a little fluffy and dented,  but well. Illnesses don’t always show on the outside. Oftentimes, the erosion is on the inside, where you cannot see.

Some of my dear friends also suffer from ‘invisible illnesses’ – ranging from bi-polar to nerve diseases, diabetes to chronic fatigue. They are health issues that are chronic – meaning more or less constant. Many of them are followers of Jesus Christ, such as myself.  Chronic illness reminds me of alcoholism, in that I seemed to serendipitously end up as a member of a club I didn’t choose to join.

I do, however, get to choose my membership in the body of Christ, which needs to better deal with some of the realities on this planet – chronic illness being one.  I am not the only Christian who has felt awkward about her health problems in the Church proper (not my particular church, which kind of ‘gets it’ on the level … but the church in general.)

Many in the Christian community don’t really know what to do with chronic illness – of that I am convinced.

I believe in miracles all day long. I believe that signs and wonders abound every single day. Nothing is impossible for God – nothing! He can rearrange every cell in my body to work in perfect alignment. He does it for people all the time. Knowing that can make it especially frustrating to suffer.

But the reality of the matter is that some of us will not get the healing we imagine this side of the Kingdom. People suffer in innumerable ways all of the time, and die from disease every day. That’s the reality.

Our bodies are indeed the Temple of the Holy Spirit, but I don’t for a minute believe that God only takes up residence in the Taj Mahals among us. Jesus was not put off by hanging out where there was great pain and suffering – in the alleyways. In bodies like ours.

He can heal me, and one day he will. Until that day, one question usurps the pain, the fatigue.

“Do you trust me?”
Do I trust Him even in the debilitation and pain?

Either I believe that all things work to the good or I don’t. Either I know that His grace is sufficient, or I don’t. On especially painful days, it’s harder to come to terms with that.  If Jesus was not spared pain, why do we imagine we deserve to be spared the experience?

Sometimes we do not get healing that the world recognizes as whole. When Christians insist that you become healed in a specific way on an ongoing basis, a number of things happen to the sufferer, the church, and  most awkwardly, the world as it observes us.

And this makes us all uncomfortable. Let’s bring this thorny issue  into the light where we can deal with it.

The sick believer isn’t believing/praying/wanting wellness enough

Let’s be honest. After your friends have prayed for the same healing for you over a period of months or years, you might start to believe that you are just a dud. I know I have felt like a dud many, many times. The whole “believe harder” angle is so damaging, because it places the miracle out of God the bestower, into you the believer. And nothing we do or do not do causes the heavens to release power. It is all in Christ Jesus that we receive. It is our job to receive what is released – and when you are suffering, accepting and receiving can seem a whole lot harder than turning water into wine.

The sufferer feels embarrassed/ashamed that they have not been restored in the way they’ve prayed.

It’s no fun being run down or in pain. It sucks, badly. If you are healthy on a regular basis, praise God! Please don’t tell sick people, “Wow, you are sick again?” or “I never get sick.” I think I speak for chronic illness sufferers everywhere in saying those comments are not at all helpful. Ultimately, we end up lying to those around us who ask “So how are you feeling?” with the f-word. “Fine.” After all, who wants to hear the same story over and over? It feels shameful, but it shouldn’t. If we cannot be transparent in the church, where is it safe to do so?

If I don’t get healthy, my witness is damaged

This is a pretty persuasive lie, because it makes common sense. Who wants a piece of what I’ve got, if I’m sickly? Over and over again it has been confirmed to my spirit that the world needs to see faith in imperfect lives. Because all of our lives are imperfect, and nobody can relate to perfection. You are going through what you are going through, that is your reality.

“If it hasn’t happened by now, it isn’t happening” is never true

I will never stop asking for healing. I will never stop interceding for my friends who are dealing with chronic illnesses. As chronic as these conditions are, they are ultimately temporal. And God wastes not one single hurt I go through. He can use it all, and He can take it all away. What the devil means to use for destruction, our Father can easily use as a means to love. That’s a fact.

God is not punishing us

God is love in its purest form. He is not sadistic. He hurts that you hurt. His plans are much bigger than the pain. That is the foundation of my survival, because it is truth.

You don’t need to ‘get well’ so that ‘God can use you’

What kind of propaganda is that? Stop saying that, church!

If I am supposed to do a thing, but I cannot because I am sick, then I am not supposed to do the thing. My illness is not keeping God from doing HIS thing, which is the main thing. He equips me, and He knows my innermost being and what it is capable of. That’s the thing about it.

Run the race He has set before you. You are not responsible for running the courses set for others.

Jesus is not afraid of catching my ick

Although migraines are not contagious, it is easy to fall into thinking He is staying far away. But he is present in the pain, He doesn’t run from us when we are in the valleys.

I think about the paralyzed man who was healed by Jesus in a common setting – the one who was told to pick up his mat and walk. This is so easy for God to do – to enable that! Why would he not allow us all to pick up our mats? Why are some of us barely dragging our mats behind us? I cannot begin to understand.

I’m inclined to believe it has to do with the Bigger Picture. For the sake of the whole purpose have had life breathed into these bodies – so that someone else can be blessed by hearing “I know what you are going through, you are not alone.” If suffering comes at the price of one other person knowing that God is to be trusted even through the circumstance of pain, it is somehow more tolerable.

Until I get my full healing, I’ll tell you what Jesus does for me – He gets down on the mat with me and loves me to pieces. That’s what I think the church should do. Pray, always! But also bend down to the hurting people where they are – and love them to pieces in the midst.

We don’t always get restored the way we want, but we always have comfort available to us.

We should stop selling Christianity in a slick package that promises a specific healing

Guess what? People see other people get prayed for that still suffer and die all the time. It’s the circle of life thing. Christianity is so much more than surface healing – so much deeper than tissue and brain matter and physical vitality. It is relationship with the Creator….. SO much MORE. And so much better.

Never stop praying in the Spirit. But get down on the mat and love people where they are.

I know for a fact that other people have gone through pain before me,  so that they could impart that same message to me. So, in a way, I am grateful for the pain of others.I am glad  I can pay that forward. When I have a finite amount of energy  every day, and I can either use it to raise my fist to shake it at God – because I don’t understand this! Or, I can raise it to praise Him. I am about 50/50 with the fist shaking and worship through the pain at this point. But I’m getting better at the latter.

Love the sinner, hate the sin. Love the sufferer, hate the pain. Jesus does.

Come to me, all you chronic pain sufferers, and I will give you rest.

Come to me all you whose minds are tortured with mental illness, and I will give you a soft place to fall.

Come to me, all you exhausted souls, and I will give you my Shalom.

Not a single other human being on this planet might know how much you are hurting, what your body and mind are going through. But God does. Make room on your mat for Him until you can get up and run that marathon.

Are you weak and sick? Then you are strong!

… It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.

God Himself inhabits our puny, struggling flesh as if it were the most beautiful temple in all the land. Because it is.

Rest in Him.

Addiction, Depression, Devotional, Hitting the bottom, Inspirational, Jesus, Love, Spiritual

A Thousand Little Crests of Joy – balancing the blues

wave

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end —
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.” – Isaiah 43:2 (MSG)

The blues…

I’m not sure if it’s an addict thing, or a depression thing, or a human thing….I only know it’s a thing. And it can be a Christian thing, too. Why do I know that? Because I am one, and I struggle with it.

I live for the great swells of emotion … raw joy, good surprises, high energy spurts, times of health, romance. And that’s a problem because it isn’t an even equation.

In happiness numbers, the math doesn’t work. Wake up to the alarm clock + make coffee + go to work +  deal with parenting issues (kids are the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done) + get stuck in traffic + worry about the state of the world +  take a walk + weigh myself (gained three pounds) + pet the cats + load the dishwasher + fight chronic pain + admire my husband’s smile + pay bills + laugh at funny cats on the internet + read the news (the world is on fire!) + go to sleep ….only to do it all again the next day = a deficit.

In the less-than, greater-than schematic, it doesn’t balance.

Have you ever seen how tsunamis are formed? Forced? Before a great swell washes ashore, there is a disruption. There has to be some event – an underwater earthquake, volcanic eruption, or landslide – that causes the initial undulation. That emotional undulation is birthed of frustration.

But with every tsunami swell of the positive, there is a great sucking under to fuel it.

When there is too much sucking underneath and not enough swell, I despair. The waters get shallow, and a great, dark current takes my feet from under me. I’m not afraid anymore to present that honest emotional dilemma – and my pain – to my Creator.  I don’t have to play ‘perfect.’

I can’t.

Deliver me from that dark current, God. From the fear of disaster and of mediocrity!

It is a sign of maturity – in recovery and in my walk with Christ – that I don’t live for the great swells, but for the emotional undulation is birthed of redemption. I am working on remembering that great swells of raw joy, good surprises, pain-free times, and ease of mind are only a swell away, no matter what the circumstances. I live for Christ, in actuality. But I have to do it in this body on this planet awash in feelings, issues, and hormones – and I’m finding walking on top of the water a bit tricky.

I am His. I am not HIM.

In the force that is forming a great tsunami, there is a priming. And in the struggle against depression, there is a priming, too. A stirring up of sand, a washing-out of debris. And a chance to see things from the top of the crest – a new perspective. I am praying for that now. How many times have I felt stuck in the sucking vortex on the bottom – over my head! – only to enjoy the brand-new landscape that couldn’t have been formed any other way? So often I ask God to change my circumstances and he changes me instead. I welcome that, God. HELP me welcome it fully.

Until the landscape changes, He gives me a thousand little crests of joy: Warm baths, my husband’s smiles, Nutella straight from the jar, Van Morrison music, friendships, romance, and funny pictures of cats on the internet. (Never underestimate the power of a cleverly captioned picture of a cat on the internet.)

Or a personal God for whom “deficit” is not an option….a God who isn’t mathematical – and who is always ‘greater than.’

Surf’s up.

Devotional, Grace, Inspirational

Go Boldly, and Forgiven – Guest Blog by Chris Canuel

Hi, readers…long time no “see.”

Since life is a bit crazy for me right now (which almost guarantees a manic spree of future post writing – stay tuned!) I am delighted to welcome my friend and fellow author Chris Canuel as Guest Blogger for today. I’ve never hosted a guest blogger before, but his work always speaks to my heart. He writes about what matters, with a lot less freaking out and spillage of raw emotion. His writing is, shall we say, “refined” and I love it. I really enjoyed this one – because I feel guilty about feeling guilty – or not guilty enough – on the daily.

If you enjoy this post, check out his blog at http://www.StrivingWithGod.com, or any of his books available on Amazon.

Author Chris Canuel
Author Chris Canuel.

I was at work the other day (and not having a particularly good day) when I found myself being rude to a customer. Not overtly rude, mind you…but still rude enough to get the point across that I was not happy with this particular customer. I’m not sure why though, just as the transaction with this customer was completed, I looked at her and wondered what was going on with her day.
I asked myself why this customer might be annoying me so. Why did the customer seem so distracted? Why did I care so much? Was it really going to kill me if this transaction took two minutes – as opposed to a minute and a half?
I actually found myself feeling rather guilty. I found myself thinking this is a person created in the image of God. This is a person Jesus cares about. How would Jesus have treated her?
Yes…all of this happened in span of no more than two minutes.
As I caught myself thinking these thoughts – and realized how rude I was being – and how contrary it was to the way of Christ, I tried to correct myself and be overly nice to this person. I’m sure she thought I was the Jekyll and Hyde cashier. She eventually went on her merry way, completely unaware of the mental and spiritual dialogue that had taken place in my mind.
I thought about this moment for the next several hours … feeling guilty and was beating myself up. I asked myself, “Did Jesus go to the cross so that you could act this way? Is this how you are supposed to live your life in light of the cross? Jesus didn’t die so you could treat people, created in his image in this way. Is this the way I am supposed to live in light of the cross?” I think began to ponder all of the ways in which I am supposed to live in light of the cross. And then it hit me.
Stop beating yourself up. Jesus did in fact go to the cross, and your sins are covered. You are forgiven. The weight of my sin on this particular day was lifted from my shoulders. I started contemplating the beauty of the cross and the riches we have in Christ. I was humbled and amazed by the many facets of what it means to live my life in light of the cross. I was stunned by the grace of God poured out through Christ.
So what does it mean, “…to live your life in light of the cross?” Why is it so stunning?
First of all, the cross of Jesus is a picture of amazing love. As we ponder the love of God displayed by Jesus, we should be moved to love like Jesus. If in our sinfulness God still loved and loves us, how can we not choose to show love to our fellow sinners? Not out of obligation, but so that we can also show them how Jesus loves. Our lives as Christians should be lives defined by love. Our desire should be to make everyone aware of this amazing love that we’ve been shown. This happens as we put this love on display. Jesus loves us in spite of all of our faults and failures. This being true, we must love others in the same way.
This leads to the next point. Even when we mess up, Jesus still loves us. Even when I was treating this customer poorly, Jesus loved me. Jesus died for my rudeness. My sins are ALL covered by the cross. I’m forgiven. Because of this fact, I don’t need to dwell on this sin. I’m free to move on. Does this mean I don’t think about my sin? I don’t think so. I think we should mourn over sin…because I believe God does. God desires holiness from His people…yet, we have this holiness in Christ. Therefore, even though we acknowledge our sin, we don’t stay there mired and wallowing in guilt. We can go boldly, proclaiming that we are forgiven.
We could continue to analyze this from all angles (the many facets of the cross are far more than what can be put forth in any blog post) but I can sum up this point like this:
Because of the cross, we have the responsibility AND the freedom to love others, in spite of all of their sins and failures. Also, because of the cross, we can know that even when we aren’t doing this perfectly, God still loves us in spite of all of our sins and failures.
For those of us who have experienced and known the unbelievable love and mercy of God, we don’t have to live defeated lives of guilt defined by our failure and sin. We can live lives of perpetual joy knowing that we are always loved and always accepted by God. What can be better than that?
This truth is what defines us as believers. Because we are loved much, we love much. Because we are forgiven much, we forgive much. And even when we don’t, we are no less loved or forgiven.
How freeing is that?
How wonderful is that?
Now, let’s go and enjoy the rest of our day, the rest of our lives even, resting in these marvelous truths and resting in this unbelievable love and mercy of God.

Devotional, Inspirational, Jesus, Spiritual

Too Far Gone

“The Prodigal Son Returns: The Art of Soichi Watanabe,”
“The Prodigal Son Returns: The Art of Soichi Watanabe,

By: Jana Greene

www.thebeggarsbakery.net

Ever feel like you are just too far gone?

For a long time before experiencing my current spiritual  revival, I felt an awfully long way off from the Father.

I love the story of the prodigal son because I can relate to all three of the central characters.

I have been the prodigal child, returning to the father after making an absolute wreck of her life.

I have been the brother who did not think his father’s warm welcome of the long, lost brother was fair.

And as the mother of three teen and young-adult daughters, I have been the joyous  parent when a rebellious child returns home that I would gladly kill the fatted calf (or at least make a trip to Costco for a porterhouse steak) for her welcome.

But the most poignant thing about the story is this:

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.  But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then kill the fatted calf and  roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ Luke 15:20-24 (MSG)

While the son was still a long way off. The father did not stand on the porch, arms folded, waiting for his son to reach him.

So tonight – praying on my knees – I  told God that I was sorry for wandering such a  long way off  (as I am want to do from time to time) and that I was feeling pretty lousy about the low-grade effort toward my faith walk.  I’ve been giving it the old college try, but only half-heartedly, feeling like I’m slogging through a muddy rut.

But getting me out of muddy ruts is one of Abba’s specialties.

When I am truly a long way off –  in the throes of addiction, depression, anxiety – and feeling ‘too far gone,”  He simply cannot wait to hold  me. And nothing is sweeter than the embrace of the Father.

When the air (and mud) clears, it is the supernatural, unexplainable, un-containable  God, wildly in love with me.  The God that is not content to be the vague and angry character  we all learned about in  Vacation Bible School as children,  or the long-ago Messiah who turned a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish into a mass-meal.  But the radical, revolutionary of love itself that I want to walk close enough to to be covered in the dust of his sandals.

“My beloved daughter,” he is saying. “You were given up for lost – if only by yourself  ….and now you are  found!”

And this radical, revolutionary Savior who  sees me in various states of disrepair from a long way off,  running toward me  to pull me into a crazy embrace.

And I am 100%, all-in, too far gone in love with him to let go.

Devotional, Inspirational, Spiritual

JUDGED.

JUDGED

By: Jana Greene

“None of us has ever seen a motive. Therefore, we don’t know. We can’t do anything more than suspect what inspires the actions of another. For this good and valid reason, we are told not to judge. ” ― Brennan Manning, The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God’s Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives

You don’t understand me. You may think you know me, but you don’t.

If you only knew my heart … you might not judge me so harshly.

 Or, you might judge me even more harshly….if you knew my heart.

A few weeks ago, I posed the simple question on social media:  “If you could describe the feeling of being judged by others in one word, what would that one word be?”  I  received an avalanche of responses from people of all different ages and creeds –  in rapid succession. Most of the responses were graphic, the words divided pretty neatly between two camps:

Deep, wounded feelings of inferiority,  and a strong, almost violent verbal depiction of spiritual beating.

Being judged  does not feel uncomfortable… or  a little unpleasant.

It’s personal.  It’s the worst kind of personal, because it confirms the  fundamental fear of being misunderstood, and couples it with the sting of rejection.

My own word to describe feeling judged  was “jagged.”  When other people judge me, it makes me feel torn – not slashed in a way that is easily mended or stitched, but with uneven edges and patches missing. When the full brunt of the judging stops stinging, I can tell that healing will be slow and scarring.

Isn’t that the crux of feeling judged? If taken to heart, it never heals just-so. Judgment feels jagged,  because it is sharp-edged self-righteousness … like the blade of a sickle, separating us one from another without benefit of cautery.

Many readers responded with similar words.

“Raw”” shared one friend. “Cut-to-the-bone,  ashamed, disgusted, disappointed, gut-wrenching….take your pick.”  She continued, ” it’s never fun to feel judged… like you came up short on character or something.”

Broken. Splintered. Betrayed. Heavily yoked.

Another friend found it difficult to stop at one word to describe her feelings. “Violated and victimized,” she explains. When people smile to your face, and talk behind your back, “It is sabotage , emotional hijacking.”

Being assessed as “not enough” is just as painful, as having your value estimated by another human being is often worse than having been misunderstood.

“Vulnerable,” described one young woman. And as if she had made herself vulnerable in the posting of the very word, others added to the sentiment. “And less-than.”

Misrepresented. Misunderstood. Rejected. Pitied. And perhaps most stingingly, condemned.

“Unworthy,” shared one. “And crestfallen.”

“Small,” said another friend, to whom I would never would have attributed that feeling. “You know – like someone has just decided you’re not worth a place at the table.”

The comments of one person gave me great pause.

“When someone passes judgement, I feel like they put a label on me,  stuck me  in a box and taped it up tight. This enables them to just ‘walk away’  and not ever really know the true me. I have to also add that I think people pass judgement when they are afraid, or lack knowledge and empathy.”

Only one person can have one person’s experience. Only God knows what my experience is.  The oft-repeated adage, “Only God can judge me” is true, but we forget that sometimes, when we are busy determining whose motives are pure and whose are not (as if we could ever know) and who among us is in the wrong.

Being judged by other human beings doesn’t make one  repentant.  If anything, it makes one defensive. Maybe when our spirits evolve beyond that spiritual schnaudenfrude (by your misfortunate deeds, I feel much holier) the blade will dull.  I hope so. I think God wants his kids to be kind to one another. That evolution can only happen when we ask for God’s help in overcoming our human ways.

I have to be reminded of this constantly –  to live this, because I’ve just made too many mistakes to survive  spiritually intact otherwise.  I’ve been too hurt, and  inflicted too much hurt – in my careless, momentary value judgements of others.

And taking the judgement of others too tightly to heart slices and dices, jaggedly…opening a a big, black, sucking vortex of self-important insecurity. When the scars from all the judgement become too tight, it is a reality check that I am giving people too much power.

The power to stick me in a box, tape a label on it and walk away…and never even know the true me.

The true You.

You don’t understand me. You think you do, but  you don’t. (Heck, I don’t even understand me!) But the Father, who understands every individual’s inherent value,  does. And it’s personal.

God, in Christ, says

“You think you understand me, but you don’t.  If you only knew my heart, you might come sit next to me at the table,  and know freedom.

I KNOW YOUR HEART.

There is no condemnation.

I’ve seen what you’ve done. It is finished, as far as the East from the West.

I’ve walked around in human skin, I know the temptations firsthand. It isn’t easy. Shake off that yoke.

Shake it off and stop trying to tie it around the necks of others. The burden is mine.

I understand you. In me, you are….

Perfect. Unbroken. Complete. Valued.

You are connected. Continuous. Fixed and whole.

I didn’t come to cut you away, but to bridge what is holy with what you are – what you really are …mine.”

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1 (Message)

 

Devotional, Inspirational

Sweatpants of Bloatedness and the Pimple of Doom….

Today, dear readers, another share from Redemption Feast, the WilmingtonFAVS.com blog I write for. It was previously posted as an origional on this blog under “Unhinged” and only minor changes were made for this publication. Anyway, it’s about feeling unhinged. Can you relate at all?

My apologies for not keeping The Beggar’s Bakery more current with new content. I’ve begun working full-time in addition to serving in Celebrate Recovery in church, in addition to all my other goings-on. I really need to become better at this time-management thing!

**also, if there is a video under this post….it is a WordPress thing – I did not post it! The views in expressed in whatever video is there may not represent the views of this writer.**

Thank you for reading, and God bless you and yours.

http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/unhinged-by-the-sweatpants-of-bloatedness-and-the-pimple-of-doom

Devotional, Inspirational, Spiritual

Missing the Moon by Miles: a tale of perception

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By: Jana Greene

Perception is everything.

The other day, I took Emmie the Elderly Golden Retriever for a long walk around the neighborhood. As is her way, she stopped every three feet to intently sniff one of the many olfactory neighborhood newsletters previously left by other dogs. I’m trying not to hurry her along these days. Her hearing is going and her vision as well, and I imagine her sense of smell is not what it used to be.

She takes a really long time, but when she looks up at me between sniffings, her eyes are so grateful that I am patient with her.

The sky just happened to be clear and blue, so I looked up to admire it to pass the time. The moon was out on the horizon in broad daylight, as if it missed the memo that it was not yet night. And from out of nowhere, a jet engine plane roared through the blue sky toward it, cutting the sky in half with its trail of white exhaust. From my vantage point on the ground, appeasing a poky dog, it looked as though that plane would fly straight into the moon and cut it in half, too.

If I didn’t have the most basic rudimentary knowledge about time and space and air travel, I would swear that the two bodies in the sky were set to collide. Because from here on earth, it would seem obvious. Inevitable. In reality, the moon and the plane are thousands of miles apart.

Only a few days before this walk, something wonderful had happened to me that I was not expecting. It really kind of came out of nowhere, an answer to prayer that I had wanted fervently and waiting for without knowing it was even on the horizon. But for a long time before this answer, I pleaded with God to make other things happen– things that I was SURE were right for me – and why wasn’t he making them happen? Why so much rejection over and over and can’t He see that there will be a collision unless He takes this matter seriously? Silly human, His timing is perfect.

My spiritual perception is not what it used to be – relying only on the obvious to determine the inevitable. But it is not where it should be, either – and too often forgets to take into account my vantage point. My perception is earthly, seeing the scene from the ground with possible solutions cut in half by my trail of exhaustion. Either things can turn one way or another way – from here, that’s all I can see.

I wait for the KABOOM.

And then….there is the sudden gliding through just as I wait for the explosion, and it becomes clear that He had better plans all along. As obvious as a daylight moon in a bright, blue sky, a roar of peace and gratitude. Danger was thousands of miles away, I just couldn’t see it.

God, surveying the scene, had been able to see everything from above and around and in. He is in us, you know.

He is so good, making better things happen than I could imagine. Appeasing my poky and impertinent soul, doesn’t rush me. He knows I’m learning. When I look upward at Him, I’m grateful that He is patient with me.

His perception is perfect.

“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.” – Isaiah 55:8

Devotional, Inspirational, Spiritual

Not Fooling Anyone: Christians and the masquerade

mask

By: Jana Greene

I’ve always thought that masquerade balls are a little bit silly. The masks – small and papery – neither really obscure the identity of the wearer in full, nor allow for identification in full. They are ornate but flimsy man-made things, and all the glitter and paint in the world cannot make them anything but.

Of course, it is possible to masquerade in a more virtual manner. We humans hold up all kinds of masks to impress and mislead one another. The idea is to project our sameness to everyone else while protecting our tender faces. Sometimes we think that the glitzier our visage, the more we are fooling the world.

Christians, especially, are known for wearing masks.

But we are not fooling God. We are not even fooling each other. Hidden identities are false identities.

Life is not a masquerade ball, meant to be waltzed stranger-to stranger, emotionless. But a wild movement of fellowship meant to be danced barefoot in the dust that Jesus kicked up when He walked the earth. Barefaced and real, with the tears, smiles, sorrows and joys in full view of one another, and our God.

What of our ornately crafted masks worn to protect our identities? If we remove them, people might see the mess. People might see the pain.

But they might also see the Jesus.

God never made us with that purpose in mind. Jesus had big problems with mask-wearers. “Take them down,” He said in effect. “You are not fooling anyone.” The Apostle Paul – himself a believer in a kind of  recovery for mask-wearing – wrote:

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original..” Galations 5:25 – 26 (the Message)

Our identities are God-given, not flimsy, man-made things. Don’t cover yours with same-ness paint. Take down the mask of glitter and glitz.  I see that your tender face is full of tears and smiles, sorrows and joys – emotion-full. It looks real and raw and beautiful like God intended.

It looks a lot like Jesus.

Devotional

Fighting The Sad with Prayer…and Lemon Ice-Box Pie

PIEBy: Jana Greene

I made a lemon ice-box pie today, for no good reason. Several sad things have happened over the past few weeks – the pinnacle of which was the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, the saddest of all. And I had a jar of lemon curd in the refrigerator (very Rachel Ray of me, no?) that was on sale at the new Trader Joe’s last week and a pre-made graham cracker crust leftover from Thanksgiving, so I figured…why not make a lemon ice-box pie?

I’m fighting the funk a bit these past several days. The Sad is a powerful thing.

Lemons are yellow, the color that is supposed to lift your spirits. And the recipe also called for sweetened condensed milk, which is the antidote to whatever ails you. Throw in some cream cheese and lemon curd and I had a pie filling so yummy that for the two or three minutes of spatula-licking involved, all was right with the world.

Except that it wasn’t, of course.

So after putting my pie in the freezer to chill, I sat down and attempted to do the same.  I was thinking about how much the yum reminded me of my childhood – my grandmother used to make all kinds of ice-box pies. There are things about my childhood that don’t exactly put me in a cheery mood, but there are also many things that do. My grandmother is one of them.

She was from an era before mass school shootings and Doomsday Preppers, a time before it was considered dysfunctional to ease suffering with sweets and feed your family to comfort them. I was a skinny little kid back then who resented that I had to eat at all, much less enjoy food. I was too busy discovering things.

Childhood made me think more about the babies who died in Connecticut last Friday, so I started to cry…again. All through the day today, I checked the news websites to see if they’d come up with any answers (as if there COULD be any) and cleaned the house to distract myself from what I’d just read. My friends, who have recently experienced loss and depression, I am crying for them too.

Busy work, busy work that only made me tired.

There is a pretty well-known verse in the Bible about feeling exactly this way – grieved, exhausted, overwhelmed. As I sat down and tried to fear the quiet stillness that enveloped me, I  told God that The Sad was overwhelming. Sometimes there are so many feelings and thoughts milling about in my mind that I can scarcely communicate them with a tangible person, much less an invisible God. But I pray anyway, because sadness  is powerful, but it will not prevail if I ask for help:

God,

I’m lugging around The Sad, and it’s heavy.

I miss my family…the ones with whom I’m estranged through a series of most unfortunate events, and the ones who have passed out of a world that has to deal with such horrors.

I’m worried.

I’m disappointed in myself on a couple of different levels. Help me to see myself the way You see me, God. Not through the scratchy lens of self-condemnation.

I don’t understand what is happening all around us.

It isn’t fair that children die. That their parents won’t ever have the opportunities afforded to so many of us. Daddy-daughter dances, little girls standing atop their father’s shoes to waltz perfectly; Mommies to clean the mud out of soccer cleats and teach their boys how to be good husbands.

I’m so tired, Lord.

Weary.

I know He is there, I feel His Presence intensely…like a strong wind. You can try to touch the wind; you can try to hug the wind but it’s far too big for that – it envelops you. It can either knock you off your feet or fill your sails, but you cannot deny it is present. I am like a tired toddler right now, I know, with my relative misery while the whole world seems to be falling apart. I need sleep and comfort (and more pie). Most of all, I need to know what my Daddy says about sorrow:

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. – Psalm 119:28 (King David’s lament to God….well, ONE of them. He was another of the Father’s needy children).

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28 (I love this one)

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. – Jeremiah 31:25 (Refresh us, Lord!)

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:3 (Even Jesus Himself became weary)

Knowing the  children who lost their earthly lives are in a perfect place, discovering wonderousness beyond our comprehension dents the grief. They are – I believe – surrounded by yellow there – experiencing ultimate uplift-ment.  All is right in their worlds now; they suffer no more, but their families? I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through. They carry the heaviest burdens anyone can be expected to carry. We cannot allow evil to prevail, but we must ask for help.

Jesus, give them rest.

Maybe we can all learn a bit about living in the now. Spend less time in busy work and more time in honest conversation with our Creator. Hold our families as close as we can for the time we are given.  Go a little easier on ourselves, learn to forgive ourselves.

When we’re weary, take time to be enveloped in the Wind and listen to what God says about strengthening, refreshing and giving rest.

And, of course, make lemon ice-box pie for no good reason.

Devotional

Merry-go-Prophesy: Mayans will be Mayans, but no man knows

Merry

By: Jana Greene

My seventeen-year-old daughter made an interesting comment about the supposed Mayan Doomsday prophesy:  “If the Mayans were so smart, why didn’t they see the Spaniards coming?”

When I was her age, the Social Studies teacher made our class watch a 1983 movie about post-nuclear war life called “The Day After”. I had my first anxiety attack that same afternoon, because sooner or later this is very likely to happen and how can everybody just carry on living normally after KNOWING that this was likely to happen? I wanted to stand under a street lamp with a sign warning everyone that THE END IS NEAR! I had nightmares for years, and my walk with the Lord suffered from neglect because I was too busy wringing my hands to fold them in prayer.

But the world kept spinning like a crazy merry-go-round anyway, and I had to learn to hold on.

Oh how we humans like to believe that SOMEBODY on earth has a clue about our future! Maybe not the crazy Hale-Bopp Comet chasers (remember them?) or Pat Robertson or the paranoid Doomsday Preppers, but SOMEBODY.

If the world really ended this month, I would mostly carry on as I am now.The priorities are getting to know the God that I will spend eternity with, loving people to the best of my ability and letting them know that this planet we call home is NOT ‘all there is’.

I would probably eat more chocolate if I knew the end was near – a LOT more chocolate, watch the sunset from the North End more often, finish the My Name is Earl collection I (selfishly) got my husband for Christmas last year. I would spend more time laughing in general, because so much of life is absurd.

Ironically, it has always been on the bottom-end of my bucket list to learn all of the words to REM’s “It’s the End of the World as we Know it” and not just sing out the words “that’s great, it starts with an earthquake”, “Lenny Bruce”  and “Leonard Bernstein”. (Who IS ‘Lenny Bruce’, anyway?) But really, if we only have eight days to live, I could die without knowing the lyrics and be okay with it.

The truth is that life on this planet will end one day, that life as we know it is already over because it changes every day. The only future I am secured is life in Christ, but really – that’s the only life that matters. The merry-go-round will stop and let us off where we are meant to be.

The Bible says that nobody knows when that will occur. We really can’t see the “Spaniards” coming in advance, we just have to learn how to hold on.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[fbut only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” – Matthew 24:36-44 (NIV)

Buckle up – its a wild ride!

Devotional

Day of the Dog, Day of the Hydrant: Everyday is a Mixed Bag

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By: Jana Greene

Have you ever heard the expression: “Sometimes you are the dog and sometimes you are the fire hydrant”? Sometimes you feel as if you are in control and other times? Well, you are stuck in a bad place, feeling helpless.

Yesterday was a mixed bag for me, for instance.

BAD: Sick with sinus issues…again.

GOOD: The doctor finally gave me antibiotics –the kind that might actually work!

BAD: the cat continually tried to sit on my keyboard when I was trying to work.

GOOD: Hey, the cat was not completely ignoring me, nor plotting my imminent death!

BAD: I yelled at my kids, enthusiastically.

GOOD: I apologized to them for losing my temper and enjoyed the forgiveness hugs.

BAD: Got cut off in traffic.

GOOD: …

Actually, no good came of that particular situation.

BAD: Overdue fine of $1.60 at the library.

GOOD: Happened across Stephen Colbert’s new book while paying the fine! My seventeen-year-old daughter read some especially funny parts to me whilst I was driving home. We both laughed so hard that we cried, and that’s always good.

If attitude is really 90% of any given problem, I really need to work on my numbers. Because good and bad stuff will happen to me, and good and bad stuff will happen because of my own actions or inaction.

It helps me to remember that the same man who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament of the Bible struggled with the same issues we do today. It is never a surprise to God when we are “all over the map”.

“It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” – Apostle Paul, Romans 7:21-25 (The Message)

My thought life is similar and my attitude? Always in flux. But I’m working on it.

BAD: I am a sinner – and like the Apostle Paul, often do, say and think what I shouldn’t.

GOOD: God is full of mercy and grace, and sees me through the filter of His Son.

Most days are a mixed bag, are they not? It is so easy to label the days of our lives as a good or bad one, depending on the good/bad experience tally of any given timeframe.  It’s nice to know that although I cannot be consistent to save my life (literally), God is the same yesterday and today – all day long.

Devotional, Inspirational, Spiritual

Meditation, Rumination and Prayer

By: Jana Greene
What is the difference between prayer and meditation?
The other day, while  sitting on the beach at sunset,  I felt God’s presence in an especially tangible way. Almost automatically, little kernels of prayer started expanding in my mind until each exploded like popcorn – all competing to fill that beautiful space with request.
 Quiet your mind, I felt The Father tell my spirit. And I realized the difference between prayer and meditation (to my heart):
Prayer is making request to God while I have his attention.
Meditation is making my spirit quiet enough for Him to have my full attention. And that isn’t easy.
Of course, we always have the ear and heart of the Lord; sometimes we feel it more acutely. I’m reminded of the scripture about being still and knowing I am not God:
“Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” – Psalm 46:10 (The Message)
I really needed to read that, because in this political season my emotions are popping as well.
Above everything, I have to deliberately turn my attention to God; take a long, loving look at Him above everything else. Meditate on His goodness, which is overflowing….He is good ALL the time.