“Whatever Life Looks Like” – An 8th Wedding Anniversary Letter

October 27, 2007 The day I became Mrs. Greene
October 27, 2007
The day I became Mrs. Greene

By: Jana Greene

I don’t remember what life was like before you.

I know the first 37 years of my life existed, obviously. But I was always alone, even when in relationship with others. And I know that I was a complete person then, before I knew you. I wasn’t always a complete person, you know. God had to do a work in me when I was all on my own in order for that to happen.

I’m glad for that because it enabled me to bring a whole person into your world at just the right time.
You changed everything, and for the better.

I can recall the first time our eyes locked in church. I was trying really hard not to look your way. Focus on Jesus, I kept thinking. But I could feel your eyes on me.

I was SO DONE with dating at that point. I’d made up my mind to be single forever, for simplicity’s sake. My mangled-up heart was too raw to consider anything else. But still, it skipped so many beats when you smiled at me.

After church, you asked me to lunch and I said yes, and it changed the trajectory of both of our lives forever. It was (at the risk of sounding completely inane) as if I’d known you my whole life. There was a distinct lack of awkward in our gait together.

After that one event, I was hooked. You were in my bloodstream. You were implanted into my heart. A year later we placed rings on one another’s fingers and pledged our lives to each other, mindful of keeping God at the top of our “relationship triangle” – where he still reigns.

We have needed Him to be at the top of our lives. Loving you has always been effortless, but day-to-day life hasn’t always been easy.

Do you remember a conversation we had when we were dating, in which I offhandedly said, “Things are perfect right now. I hope they never change!” We were in a season of glowy illusion then, everything misty watercolors and cupid’s arrows. (Science says that when we are in love, the same areas of the brain ‘light up’ as do with delusional mental illness. My brain was alight, alright!)

And you said, “Well, of course they’re going to change. Things change all the time, that’s the way life is. But we are in it together no matter what that looks like.”

Life has looked like a lot of things since then!

We were both single parents when we wed. Single parents to teen girls. There were times I wanted to run away from home (but even then, I wanted to take you with me.)

“In sickness and in health” kicked in at starting gate. Richer or poorer, for better or for worse. CHECK.

But we’re still standing.

Eight years ago, life happened, and kept happening. In times of upheaval, we lean into each other harder, and look to God at the top of the triangle to keep us on an even keel so that we don’t fall overboard, and somehow, he keeps showing up and showing off with His love for us.

He really is showing off in our marriage, you know. In a big way.

And the rewards of staying on board are so incredible. You ‘get’ me, and I ‘get’ you, and it’s positively supernatural the way we love one another. Not because it’s easy, but because it is and was always a “God Thing.”

It tickles me that the man I met in church who distracted me from Jesus that day would help me focus on Jesus for the rest of my life in a way I had never done before.

Our wedding vows were not pie-in-the-sky, movie-romance, sugary words spoken as a crime of passion, but as a passionate preamble to a lifetime of “whatever life looks like.”

I’ve got you and you’ve got me, no matter what.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. So much of it looks like laughter, comfort, ease, and passion. It looks like just being ourselves, together.

Our daughters grew up beautifully, with an actual idea of what a good marriage can look like. We are grandparents now. All of the ‘things’ work out and we grow stronger.

I still can’t take my eyes off of you.

My brain has never gone back to ‘normal’ (as if it ever was!) It is still lit up like crazy for you.

Of course things change. Things change all the time, that’s the way life is. We are in it together, whatever that looks like.
Misty water-colors, cupid’s arrows, challenges and trials – all. All of it, I get to do with you.

I cannot remember life before you and I’m glad I don’t have to. God blessed the broken roads that led me straight to you.

Eight years ago, life happened to me at just the right time. You happened to me, My Beloved.
I’m so grateful.

Happy anniversary!

Love and the Fluid Flow of Grace

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By: Jana Greene

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

The hardship is in the risk.

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

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

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

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

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

And love is winning.

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

Grace says I see you.

Grace says I’ve been searching for you!

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

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

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

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

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

But there’s more.

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

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

Truth just showed up. Make room.

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

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

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

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

But there is no risk in letting God love you.

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

The Main Thing – Jesus and His Crazy Radical Love

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

By: Jana Greene

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

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

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

Pro-gay-marriage. Anti gay-marriage.

Pro-abortion. Anti abortion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just tow the line.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus. He is the Main Thing.

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

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

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

In these radical times, what is The Main Thing?

Jesus is.

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

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

Red Rover, Red Rover, let WHOMSOEVER come over.

Amen.

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

Just click the link under her picture.

God bless us, every one.

Nadia Bolz-Weber
Nadia Bolz-Weber

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

Love in a Strident Age

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

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

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

I think the stridency has something to do with the determination that neither God nor devil exists. We make our own rules, and in doing so, have no rules about how to treat one another. The current vernacular seems to be “And in the off chance they do exist (and not just the Almighty Science), they are not the boss of me!”

But as Bob Dylan reminded us in a song released during another strident age, “You may serve the devil, and you may serve the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” When you are your own Higher Power, you are not accountable for hurting others.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

We were all born with natures that desperately wish to be right about everything. Never before have people been so keen on using their own personal opinions to belittle those of others. The explosion of the internet age seems to have renewed our license to do so 100-fold.

Is it wrong to be a man who feels trapped in a woman’s body?

Speaking of a woman’s body, should the life in her womb be considered part and parcel of her alone, or a soul developing separate from her own?

Are you a bigot if you believe in equality for all, rather than special privileges for some?

What about race riots? Am I unsympathetic to consider rioting a crime in itself?

And is it unrealistic to expect that taking guns from a law-abiding people will result in those non-law abiding throwing theirs to the ground?

We all have opinions on all of these issues, some of us very strong ones. You can probably tell how I feel from the way the sentences were worded.

But remember the old adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?” It was a ‘thing’ back before folks found offense in absolutely everything EXCEPT offending one another by means of disrespecting them. Disrespect is ALWAYS offensive.

In asserting our oh-so-surely-right opinions about every conceivable subject, we spew vitriol at even people we purport to love. That’s when we lose everything. That’s when it doesn’t even matter if you are right or wrong. You are bankrupt.

In an internet age, it is helpful to refer to an antiquated (but still living) document that gives advice for how not to leave this world in worse shape than when you entered it. In such a strident age – where everything seems topsy turvy – checking the list can be a helpful way to determine who is influencing you when you engage with others.

(I have to check it myself in order not to wreck myself frequently.)

Love never gives up.
This doesn’t mean fight about it until you are right! This means always remain hopeful for resolution and hope.

Love cares more for others than for self.
Holy moly, this is a biggie. We are only on number two on the checklist and already, I’m squirmy. If I love you more than myself, the nature of my need to be right all the time becomes much less jarring.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
In this case, “what it doesn’t have” is the illusion of being right all of the time. I’ve been guilty of ignoring this one in my quest to best the opinion of one I deemed wrong.

Love doesn’t strut.
“Strutting” proudly in Facebook comments or in real actual life is not an act of love. The enemy loves to see you strut.

Doesn’t have a swelled head.
Our heads are just so crammed with ‘knowledge’ in this explosion of information, we forget to leave room for plain old love.

Doesn’t force itself on others.
OUCH.
I’ll venture to bet that in the entire history of the interwebs, nobody has ever said, ‘gee…..I DID see it this way, but now that you’ve forced it down my throat, I now see it THAT way.”

Isn’t always “Me First”.
This is where it gets the stickiest. Because we are born with ‘me first’ natures and then conditioned to groom that ‘me first’ attitude in all of our affairs. The fastest train to true unhappiness is the Me First Express.

Doesn’t fly off the handle.
Flying off the handle includes putting hurtful thoughts directed toward others to keyboard and on a computer screen.

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.
Another tricky one because, by damn….we LOVE to keep score, don’t we? We are really good at it! If you have determined that I am a terrible human being because of something I believe, you will be sure to keep a scorecard every time I screw up so that you can prove to yourself I am that terrible human being.
Doesn’t revel when others grovel.
If someone offends you and disrespects you, and apologizes, you should especially throw that scorecard away. Keeping no record of wrongs means forgiving.

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.
We all do reap what we sow, of that there is no doubt. Think about that the next time you are tempted to engage with a person who you perceive as ‘goading’ you. Your response will plant a seed. You can plant a seed of your truth without pulling up their whole garden. You can say what you need to say in love. It is a lost art, that.

Puts up with anything.
Short of abuse, of course. If you love someone and their opinions differ from yours (no matter HOW wrong they are!) be patient with them. Love is patient and kind. Not a doormat, but a welcome mat.

Trusts God always.
Choose this day whom you will serve. Because (and this will come as a shock to some of you….) you are not the Highest Power in the universe. If you choose not to serve God, who IS Himself LOVE, you are still making a choice. Serving and trusting go hand-in-hand. He is trustworthy, I promise.

Always looks for the best.
Looking for the worst in people is the path of least resistance, and it is SO easy. But Jesus rolled out the red carpet for the worst sinners, He saw them for who they truly were to His father – royalty. He saw beyond their ideologies and wrong-thinking.

Never looks back.
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” C.S. Lewis knew it. I know it, too.

But keeps going to the end.
It’s a process, to be sure. But until I breathe my last, I will keep striving to be less strident and more full of Love. To be rich in it, you know? Not bankrupt of respect for others. Because we all have to live on this big blue marble together by God’s design.

Love never dies.
And at the end…..what end?

The thing about love is that you take it with you. Every kindness, every positive word you give others in place of disrespect, every encouragement – it all lasts forever. It is the only thing that lasts forever. Harsh words sting and rot the flesh until death. But words said in love? They flower and you carry the scent into heaven with you.

When you manifest hatred toward someone because of their beliefs, you too are a bigot. When you manifest disrespect toward another human being, you are bankrupt. You have nothing to draw from to prove yourself either wrong or right – your account is already empty.

Whom are you serving? The obtrusive, piercing, and jarring way people interact with one another nowadays comes from somewhere. God is not at its source.

Now, see….if God is Love itself, there is hope. This is what I love about Jesus. While we were still sinners – obnoxious, self-righteous, strident and rude sinners –  (who perhaps denied his very existence) he died for us. He manifested love. He simply IS LOVE.

Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled….

And this absolute truth –

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

So, how to conduct ourselves until we see clearly? It starts with recognizing that loving others is more important that “being right” about everything. That includes loving the ones who simply don’t care that they are not acting in love toward others.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.

*Scripture referenced found in 1 Corinthians 13:3-13 (The Message)

Jenner, LaBeouf, Lamott and Me (or – Jesus Keeps Good Company)

11168893_10204079572661967_636148430257844832_nBy: Jana Greene

This post has been on my heart for weeks now, and it was a difficult one to write. Still, this spiritual journey I’m on of getting to know Jesus on a more intimate level and not accepting the church “status quo” as what He necessarily intended it to be has really messed me up. In the best way.

And the reaction from an alarming number of fellow Christians to two big celebs making news recently has riled me up.

There is potty-mouth language in this piece, be forewarned. If that offends you, you can stop reading now. But then, if that offends you, you are probably not among the ragamuffin band of readers who follow my blog (who are open-hearted, open-minded, spiritually seeking, awesome people, by the way.)

I’m referring to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and Shia Labeouf – both whom have at some juncture accepted Christ as their personal saviors, and made some really non-mainstream choices.

On many of the blogs by Christian authors I follow (and in voices both hushed and raised in indignation in the real world) I hear it over and over again:

(Fill in the blank with the celebrity who most offends your sensibilities) isn’t a “real Christian.” Obviously. Look at their life choices! We are in the end times, they say. We can’t just accept what’s going on here! And we are scrambling to portray an image of a godly people …  but are we portraying Jesus in the way we do it?

When will I feel comfortable determining someone else isn’t a “real Christian?”

When I can see past the board in my own eye.

When will I feel comfortable damning another soul to hell?

When I don’t live in a glass house anymore.

The world knows what the mainstream Bible believing community thinks already. Truly. Does the world-at-large know that Jesus saved his biggest criticism for the keepers of religion back in the day? He came to shatter our rule-keeping, self-righteousness with the power of His Father, who is Love. He kept company with all kinds of ne’er-do-wells. The real fringes of society.

I’ve decided to err on the side of love.

“Don’t criticize, and then you won’t be criticized.  For others will treat you as you treat them.  And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own?  Should you say, ‘Friend, let me help you get that speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t even see because of the board in your own?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother.” – Jesus.  Matthew 7:3 (Living Translation)

Shia LaBeauf’s defacto damning offense? Using four-letter words in an interview with – aptly – Interview Magazine.

“I became a Christian man, and not in a f*cking bullsh*t way — in a very real way … I could have just said the prayers that were on the page. But it was a real thing that really saved me.  And you can’t identify unless you’re really going through it.”
GASP. Oh no he didn’t!
Yes, he did. And you know what? I can understand the rawness of his sentiment. It sounds like it came from a soul absolutely desperate for crazy-genuine redemption, and not a nice white-washing. Really nice white-washing isn’t working. Prayers on the page are not cutting it. The world sees right through it.
The whole LaBeauf debacle reminds me of my very favorite author and her propensity for peppered language, Anne Lamott. Her writing is incredible! She does things with words that I’ve not seen anywhere else and probably won’t see again this side of the Kingdom. She is a Christian, too. A messy, relate-able, strong-faith, cussing believer. She is far-left liberal and you might think we have nothing in common on the surface – if you don’t bother to scratch that surface –  but in every other way, she is my soul sister. Why? When I was at my alcoholic lowest,  I was done with my fellow Christians telling me they would pray for me. I couldn’t even be REAL with them, so how could they even know what to pray? What got through to me – and the shame of being a Christian with a Big Fat Secret – was reading Lamott’s  2000 released book, Traveling Mercies. Chronicling her conversion to Christianity, she used raw words (some four-letter ones) to weave an incredible tale of unpolished, honest redemption that I could relate to where I was at that moment.
So, I call bullsh*t. This idea that we can ascertain where on this crazy plane of life another human being’s spirit is borne of our love of placing other human beings on the graph lower on the plane than we are on. You might not be where I am in recovery or my spiritual walk, but you might be further along than me in other areas.
God only knows. Literally.
And Jenner?
If you’ve been living in a cave (or cloistered yourself from the worldliness at the risk of contamination) you might not know that The Celebrity Formerly Known as Bruce Jenner is now Caitlyn Jenner because she decided he was a she and transitioned from man to woman. What were those lyrics from “Lola” by The Kinks so many years ago? Girls will be boys and boys will be girls. It’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world.
Let me just preface by saying Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s particular issue makes me uncomfortable personally. I’m just being honest … yes, it made me feel squirmy. So I squirmed a little and recognized that to me personally, it felt like an icky thing.

But you know what made me feel ickier? Reading that he/she is going to hell by a Christian blogger. That made me ashamed. How much torment must this human being have endured in life? Where is the compassion from followers of Christ? That’s between him/her and Her Maker, sir. Frankly, we aren’t called to feel comfortable with everybody’s life choices.

(And further, how clean would the surfaces of our lives stay if we had paparazzi following us around? Yet God sees it all, and loves us like mad anyway.)

We are called to love.

I felt uncomfortable about Jenner. But I never felt as if he/she should be condemned to hell. We all have encounters with the ‘ick’ and our triggers are different. (My own addiction issues have made plenty of people feel icky, I know.)

Who am I that I should judge the state of others’ souls? Because I am a Christian, it’s okay for me to judge who is damned and who is “really a Christian?”

We the Church are so worried about ‘watering down the gospel’ by sending a message of love to others that we are dehydrating the whole world of Living Water. The world is thirsty for the only thing that separates Christ-followers from the rest of religion – organized or not.

If you have committed any of the following, there are Christians walking this planet who believe you are doomed to hell: Being divorced, drinking alcohol, watching TV, cursing, committing adultery, have children out of wedlock, or being wealthy. Sucks, doesn’t it?

“And you can’t identify unless you’re really going through it.”

They will know we are Christians by our holiness? By our goodness, our refraining from using four-letter words? Our pious-ness, our general knack for clean-living?

No.

They will know we are Christians by our love.

Or let’s face it. We’re all screwed.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” – Jesus Himself. John 13:35 (The Message)

We cannot withhold the massive, radical love that God showed us through His Son because of four letters in a word or even a sex-change operation. You believe it is wrong, Biblical? Refrain from doing it. Pray for people you believe need praying for. But the world is not ours to condemn. God must have thought we beings were worth saving because He sacrificed His son. For this mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only Begotten Son, so that anyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have ever-lasting life.” – John 3:16 (and even the most heathen-esque among us know THAT scripture.)

Jesus didn’t give His life for our self-righteous asses. Although our self-righteousness was also one of the nails he took willingly.

A friend of mine once said to me, in response to this issue “Yeah … but God thought sin was a pretty big deal.”

Yes. But He thought love was a much bigger deal.

Go and sin no more is an excellent, excellent scripture and oft-quoted. But how often do we really absorb the text preceding it?

“Then everyone went home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early the next morning he went back to the Temple. All the people gathered around him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery, and they made her stand before them all. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. In our Law Moses commanded that such a woman must be stoned to death. Now, what do you say?” They said this to trap Jesus, so that they could accuse him. But he bent over and wrote on the ground with his finger. As they stood there asking him questions, he straightened up and said to them, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.” Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground. When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”

“No one, sir,” she answered.

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.” – John 8 (Good News translation.)

Do you think she ever sinned again? Have you ever thought about that? Do you think that when and if she did, she was dead to God? Of course not. She had encountered the Christ. And in his eyes, she was LOVED.

So I implore my fellow Christ-followers to stop acting like we are all running for public office, like we have to present a platform for every issue and current event. You have no constituents to impress, only mercy to share. We are in the end times, we can’t just accept what’s going on here!

We are scrambling to portray an image of a godly people, but are we portraying Jesus in the way we do it?

Let’s be a people who live in glass houses – transparent, letting in plenty of Light, open to a hurting world. Throwing stones is so incredibly shattering, far beyond our comfy church circles.

The Rabbi’s platform was radical, all-encompassing love. Shouldn’t ours be, also?

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.

48 Shades of Love – God delights in Us

God loves his colorful ones!
God loves his colorful ones!

By: Jana Greene

My church is having a series of prayer meetings each evening for 40 days, and  I attended one of the gatherings last week. For the first hour or so, each of us finds a quiet space in the sanctuary away from distractions and just soaks up God. There is worship music playing softly, and the lights are low, and if you happen to fall asleep in the love of your Father and snore, nobody judges you. After that hour, we gather together with our pastor, who asks us what we “heard” or “felt” or “saw” or sensed during our quiet prayer time.

I’m not spiritually evolved enough yet to say that my thoughts during prayer center on prophesy, or  theological issues, or epiphanies that would part the Red Sea with their amazing-ness. Sometimes, I just tell God how much I love him, and I praise him, and ask for his favor….and then my mind wanders to things like wondering if we need to stop at the store and pick up milk, or what is the deal with the Obama administration, or did I take my vitamin today, to being just amazed that God took a cracked pot like me and calls her his own. He knows I’m a little flaky. He doesn’t hold it (or anything else, thanks to the grace of Christ) against me.

When we gathered up front of the church after quiet prayer, I told the group that I had the  little vision. In it, I was very small – maybe four years old –  and lying on the living room floor at my grandparents’ house. I’m on my tummy, and I have a brand new coloring book and crayons, and I am just going to town in that coloring book…brows furrowed, colors carefully sought, humming a happy song that I was just making up as I went along.

My maternal grandfather, Papa – the only male influence in my young life that was safe and unconditional loving –  is nearby in his recliner, listening to me yammer on. Because I am talking-slash-humming the whole time I am coloring – about everything and nothing. He chuckles every now and again and asks to see the picture I’m working on (and raves over every work of art I do.) These memories  – being 100% who I was (chatty, creative, open) without any risk or fear of rejection….that’s the feeling I go back to as I continue to understand who I am, and who my Heavenly Father truly is.

You might even say that Papa delighted in me.

It’s scary to share your wonkiest thoughts in  a group of people, but I did. And nobody thought I was weird or spiritually inferior. Everyone just loves on everyone else in that church and encourages you to be who God created you. They encourage you to seek out who that is, because honestly, most of us are carrying around so much garbage – self-loathing, conditioning of religiosity, confusion of what the world has told us we are – we need to cut through all of that other crap and accept who Abba really says we are.

Our pastor suggested that Holy Spirit gave me that memory at just the right time, and that – metaphorically, at least – I should think of God as my Papa during those coloring sessions – patient and interested in hearing all I have to say – my yammerings. That he is  anxious to see what I’m working on, and that nothing I do is insignificant to him.  I thought about Little Me coloring on the living room floor and talking to my Papa. Perhaps I should be less worried about coloring in the lines. I’ve tried to make a pretty picture my whole life, and forgot what it felt like to be enough.

The very next day, a dear friend in church brought me a gift that brought tears to my eyes – a grown-up coloring book featuring pictures of butterflies to color. She said something to the effect that God wants to be my Papa and says to start coloring again. You are still that little girl to him.
It was a metaphor I needed to see, to touch tangibly. It was a gift to my heart for her to do such a thing.

And just this morning, my husband gave me a birthday gift – a brand-new, 48-color box of crayons. Not art store  professional pencils, but crayons made by Crayola as God intended they be. I opened the box and smelled them (well, wouldn’t YOU?) and marveled at how good our Father is. In order to remind me that he is my Daddy and I am his own girl, a coloring book and crayons were used to illustrate the point. He GETS me, I tell you!

What a blessing to share a vulnerable insight and be blessed for it! What a blessing to have friends who understand and support this season in my life in which I am seeking to return to the fundamentals of faith as a child. What a blessing to lean into the Papa-ness of Abba – to be 100% who I am without fear of risk or rejection.

It is my 46th birthday today. And I am going to color in a coloring book with my set of brand new crayons – literally and figuratively. I am not going to worry about staying in the lines. I will motormouth my love to God – talking to him about every little detail. There might even be humming. He is my Papa and I am his little one. I might even make him chuckle at times.

He delights in me, you know.


“For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.” – Psalms149:4 (MSG)