Spiritual, Spirituality

The DMV, God and Me (When Waiting Sucks)

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By: Jana Greene

But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind. – Isaiah 40:29 (MSG)

If my life had an allegorical venue right now, it would be the DMV office.

Nobody there seemed to care about rules. The last time I went, there were children running all over, people playing games on their cellphones with the volume up, others having boisterous telephone conversations (mostly about making gravy,) and – I swear this is true – eating the Kentucky Fried Chicken they’d brought in.

It’s chaos in the lobby.  And not even the controlled kind. Much like the circumstances in my life right now.

When I go to pick my cattle-tag “next in line” numbered ticket, the printer is jammed. I go ask a worker about it, but she tells me to sit down and wait for my ticket to be called.

“But….”

“Go sit DOWN please.”

There are four DMV agents on duty and about 40 people waiting. Some of them are moving so slowly, I think they might be walking backwards. One of them finally comes to my aid and tinkers with the machine. When I go up to accept the ticket she pulled, I can feel the eyeballs of the other people waiting bore through my skull. I know what they’re thinking, because I’m thinking it too.

CAN’T WE JUST GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD ALREADY?

License renewal is such a PAIN.

See, I know how to drive a car, but the state thinks it’s a good idea to make me come back every 10 years or so and prove that I still remember.

But then I pick up the leaflet about road signs that I am about to be quizzed on, my confidence deflates. They’ve come up with some new ones, folks! We didn’t have those when I learned to drive, back is the Jurassic period. New directional signs, because the dozens we already had weren’t enough to heed.

When my number got called, I hopped up like Charlie when he found the Golden Ticket to the Chocolate Factory, and hustled up to the agent available.

And there I stood with nary an acknowledgement from her that I was there.

A good three minutes I stood there, then six more minutes. Finally she looks up and asked me with cold, dead eyes how I can be helped.

Now at this point I’m feeling super awkward and cannot remember what to do with my face. Smile? Furrow the brow?

Then she rushes  (dawdles) through the tests and I’m seated for the dreaded license photo that inevitably makes me look akin to Winston Churchill.

And then it was done…..my license was renewed.

I’d only been at the DMV for 2 1/2 hours, though it seemed so much longer. It always seems so much longer when you are going through something.

It was not the Department of Motor Vehicles fantasy experience I’d hoped for (haha) But it made me think about waiting in a new way.

I know this is a strange analogy. But in this season of my life, I do feel like I’m at the spiritual Department of Motor Vehicles.

I wrangle with outside forces just to find my place in line.

(Do I belong in this line or that?  What am I supposed to be doing, God?)

Wait.

In life, struggling minutes become hours, and while there is activity all around me, none of it is about solving my problem.  It’s just noise.

(Lord, I feel like maybe I can be still and know, well…YOU are YOU, if I were in a little less chaotic atmosphere….)

Wait again.

I’ve studied the  roadside pamphlet of life, and realized that I don’t know everything. Or even many things. So I try to cram as much of the apparent hieroglyphs into my sad, tired brain.

(Delve into the Bible, eeny-meeny-miny-mo style. Lord I know you are trying to tell me something! I’ll just flip through your Word until a page gets stuck on my hangnail, and that will be the magical verse that gets me through this season in life.)

Wait some more.

A renewal can mean being called in to prove that I  still know what I’ve known all my life. God is never content with His children just eeking by.  He loves me too much for that. He loves you too much for that. He knows our potential and wants great things for us.

(Why am I feeling like I’m being taken back to the basics in my faith?)

Just wait a bit longer, He says.

I’m too tired to learn new things Lord. I thought we had a pretty good thing going already. What’s up with all this drama? It’s like eerything is happening right now, and NOTHING is happening right now.

(I need to know you are with me in the midst of all of this.)

Wait upon me, child.

But this WAITING, oh Lord. Oy vey, the WAITING! I’ve discovered that what I hate most about waiting is that it gives me too much time to run through a thousand scenarios in my mind, nearly all of which are doomsday in nature. I suppose that’s where ‘lean not on your understanding’ becomes applicable.

God’s timing is perfect – the machine is not jammed. (Sometimes I shake it and yell at it just to be sure…)

Spirit renewal can be a little painful on occasion, but we always have the full attention of Jesus.

And you don’t have even have to wait for that ❤

Prayer

Father God, Make me more aware of your directional signs and give me the guidance to follow them. I’m so fidgety right now. As you  know, waiting is not my strong suit. You know how badly I just want to get this SHOW ON THE ROAD already, but I trust that your plans are exceedingly and abundantly superior to mine. Please just sit in the lobby with me, holding my hand. I do so love you, Jesus.

 

Spiritual, Spirituality

A Tiny Little Cabin and a Lot of Thinking

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By: Jana Greene

I love camping.

And by ‘camping,’ I mean staying in an air-conditioned cabin in the woods that has gas logs in the fireplace, and a hot tub on the back porch that faces a little creek.

It is My Beloved and I’s 10th wedding anniversary, so we decided to retreat to one of our favorite places in the world – a tiny little cabin in the woods with lots of creature comforts.

There are creature comforts at home, of course. We also have a ton of standard-fare life issues at home. We all do. We have bills, home and car repairs, kids, grandkids, doctor appointments, three high maintenance cats, and routines.

Routines can harken comfort. They can also become a distraction.

This week with my husband is a re-boot from all the distraction. We can be us, and focus on who we are to each other. We can be reminded that not everything is falling, as so often seems the case these days.

The new normal seems to be trying to keep up with the new normal. Things change and morph and so do we.

In these North Carolina mountains, Autumn is amping up before our eyes. I swear the leaves have gone plum technicolor in the mere two days we have been here so far. It’s exciting to watch the reds and yellows. The purples and oranges. It looks like the whole world is on fire with vibrancy, getting ready for the big crescendo! But even as the trees explode in living color, other leaves are falling, littering the wet ground with dull, brown peat.

It has to happen when winter comes. The trees must become bare, lest there be no spring buds gestating in the seemingly frozen branches. Things must fall so that things can spring up anew. And things must spring up anew so that the trees can be full again and, in turn, become technicolor with the reds and yellows, the purples and oranges.

What could have me feeling so cornball about this crazy life, and waxing poetic about autumn leaves?

Nature. Nature does it to me every time.

For a girl who loves her a/c and hot tubs, I do so adore nature.

My beloved and I needed badly to get away to the smoky, rolling hills of North Carolina and reflect on the best – and most challenging – 10 years of our lives. There were times when we weren’t sure we’d come out alive – blending a family of three teenage girls, dealing with debilitating health issues, living out “for richer or for poorer.”

But we come out alive and even manage to thrive, because the same Creator who orchestrates the seasons also orchestrates our marriage. We insisted that He did so, right out of the gate.

So, I’m writing this blog post from a little cabin in the woods. There are still issues waiting for us when we go back home, but right now, the gas logs in the fireplace are roaring, I am sipping sparkly apple cider, and My Beloved sits next to me leisurely reading a James Patterson novel. We are an old married couple now.

I LOVE it.

I love disconnecting from the routines, even if for a few days.

I love this man whom with I am celebrating ten years of wedded bliss. I love that we are so predictable that we finish each other’s sentences.

Nature reminds me that everything about God’s creation has a purpose and an inevitable rebirth. Nature has a way of  refreshing the weary spirit.

It reminds me why people name their children after flowers.

As I listen to the ripple of the creek down below, I am reminded why there are hymns written about deer panting after water.

It reminds me that paying bills can be usurped by paying attention to the glory of an Autumn forest.

It reminds me that earth has a smell and that leaf litter is preferable to kitty litter.

It reminds me that the drudgery of life can be put in its proper place with a strategic plan for a second honeymoon away from it all.

It reminds me that things fall, but there is purpose in the falling.

And as my husband absently reaches for my hand as we sit on the front porch swing together saying nothing but communicating everything, I’m so grateful.

God bless us, every one.

 

 

Spirituality

Filling in the Cracks with Trust

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As I wrestle with many changes in this time, I’ve been posting pieces to invite you along the journey. The good, the bad, the ugly. All of it.  I believe the late, great George Carlin refereed to such drivel as ‘brain droppings,’ and as crude as it sounds, that is a pretty accurate assessment of the life and work of a blogger in cyberspace. So follow the trail, and maybe we will learn from each other along the way. I strongly invite you to leave comments and / or share your personal experiences, as you feel comfortable. And as always, thank you for your readership. ❤

By: Jana Greene

“How do you love an invisible God?”

The question hung in the air at the Celebrate Recovery meeting I was leading in 2012. A woman who was struggling to stay clean from the soul-sucking heroin asked me after the meeting (or, as we say in the Rooms, ‘the meeting after the meeting.’)

It was a very good question; and one so primal, it threw me. God was an old friend of mine. I thought I had spiritually evolved past that question. But in times of deep duress, I’ve found it to be a legitimate inquisition.

The answer I’ve found? You love each other. Any place there is love, be it by squeaky-clean Christian or ‘heathen’ who has never uttered the name of the Lord, there is God.

There you go. That’s how you get to know and love the ‘invisible’ God. TA DA!

It’s just that easy! Except for sometimes, it isn’t. Shifting all of our focus onto worry, can make him seem less visible; less tangible.

And like any relationship, the more time you spend seeking the face of God, the more intimate the relationship becomes – and the more full his reality reveals itself.

I used to think that the only love that counted for Team God was that fostered under the umbrella of a corporate, official, Jesus-brand ministry with a Bible to beat people up with (or worse, cause call to shun them) and a Federal tax ID number.

But that simply isn’t so.

It’s hard to dis-believe in someone you know personally, so that is not my struggle so much these days.

But I do have other struggles, and maybe you do too. Maybe you are worried about your future as well. Maybe every decision you make feels like filling out a voting card that is missing several candidate choices.

So today’s post is about TRUST.

Is God in charge of the future, or are we just scraping by like the children in Lord of the Flies, trying to carve out survival while our God watches the wretched, gladiator-style event?

Because I cannot believe he is love, and believe he created us to watch us implode.

It’s easier to love an invisible God, whose love physically manifests in nature and through his people, than it is to make peace with the unknown. And right now – above all else – my struggle is with having no idea what is coming next. Which, of course, is a struggle with TRUSTING God.

So, I’ve been a Christian most of my life, yet still – in times like these – wrangle with trusting him when every shred of physical evidence points to certain doom.

He is not the god of Certain Doom. He is the God of orchestration, working behind the scenes to arrange things for our own good. I’ve seen it play out 1,000 times. Why do I still struggle with trusting completely in uncertain seasons of life?

There is grace for the blessed seasons – written clearly to us and in bold font, and in Sharpie. We see it. It spills off the page and stains our fingers so that we can rub it off on an unbelieving world.

But there is also grace for seasons of struggle – in seemingly invisible ink. Even when we hold it up to the light, we cannot see it written. We cannot decipher it even when we do get a glimpse. It reveals itself in due time, but while we wait, we are flummoxed.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “I believe. Help me in my unbelief,” I implore: “I trust you, God. Help me in my distrust.

And God bless us, every single one.

God, help me to keep seeking your face. Thank you for your endless mercy, spilled off the page and into my heart. Thank you for making your love so easy to find. Lord, my fears are primal, and I cannot face them without trusting you. Hook a sister up with an extra measure of faith. And God? Thanks in advance.

Spiritual, Spirituality

Cruelty – the Worst Disability of All

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By: Jana Greene

Hi, Readers.

I was all set out to write a pithy little piece in tribute to the Great Shel Silverstein, if for no other reason that he taught me to love words and even sometimes love the WORLD, janky as it may be. It was a little ‘wherever you go, there you are’ piece, except my keyboard jammed, taking me to a magical, mystery land of four-letter words and sucked the whimsicalness right out of me visa my aft end, and then -right that minute – I got a brrrrrring notice from my iPhone alerting me that someone very special to my life was possibly having an existential crisis right that very moment, so heads-up. In her text was a lovely family reunion picture, my friend’s hand rested on her little baby bunp (the child they’d prayed and hoped for and long awaited. My dear friend has survived a LOT of bullshit in her young life and has come out with faith intact (miraculously) and I am so stinking proud of her. She has battled and overcome Anorexia and a host of other chronic, debilitating maladies – things that would make a lesser woman (me) not even want to get out of bed in the morning. AND she takes awesome care of her hubby and service dog, and loves on EVERYONE, working hard for those facing even more difficulties than her own. She is my hero.

So after I enjoyed the lovely picture for a minute or two, I scrolled down to read what someone had posted in response to the picture. Presumably someone else in the picture.

It said, “Well, stop faking your fake disability and keep your fingers out of your throat.”

And then I stopped to read it again because SURELY NOT.

Surely there are not people who are Lex Luthor/ Bob Cratchet/Lucifer/Any and all evil parts in movies played by Jack Nicholson/Wicked Witch of the West/Scarface/Hannibal Lechter  HYBRID of villains.

But there it was, for God and all creation to see.

“Well, stop faking your fake disability and keep your fingers out of your throat.”

More hurtful words I cannot imagine coming out of the mouth of a demon. I know God loves this nasty person and loves her dearly. I, on the other hand, think she’s a real asshole. Hey, I’m working on it, but I ain’t yet arrived, as we say in the South.

And to my sweet, brave, amazing, mama-to-be friend? You have always always brought to mind the song by “Nice & Wild” – Diamond Girl. It was written long (long, long) before you were born, but you’ve always made me think of it.  Youtube it, or download it, or do whatever you young people do these days to listen to music, but just take a listen.

Shine on, Diamond girl. You sure do shine. Kick off them haters – don’t pay them no mind.

(That last line is compliments of yours truly, but I think Shel Silverstein would approve.)

I love you.

 

 

 

Spiritual, Spirituality

Settling the Cosmos – Calling out Hopelessness

Hi, dear Readers.

The past few weeks has been WOW. And not “WOW! SO GREAT!” either.

Just wow.  It’s superfluously wacky, this life season.I wonder if Mars got out alignment with Venus, or Pluto is pouting  for being excommunicated, or the stars are staging a great rebellion.

I used to believe in astrology many, many years ago. I still get my direction from the Heavenlies – just not the heavenly bodies.

It’s tempting to seek out what God seems reticent to tell us in tangible, chart-able ways.

But it isn’t he fault in our stars or the heavy hand of Karma trying to set us straight. The less-glamorous truth is that a lot of crap happens, and keeps happening. It’s so largely out of control, it makes you wonder if anyone is supervising this planet, which seems to be spiraling into a Lord of then Flies level madness.

The truth is often, before our stars ‘align,’ we have to somehow make it through this experience, hurling through the chaotic cosmos sight-unseen (and violently so, on occasion.)

Several things have happened in my life lately – all of them emotionally loaded – in a short span of time, and an old, sickening vibe in my stomach resonates a foreboding  sense of doom.

Ah, I remember you, you dirty rat. You’re Hopelessness. Don’t even THINK about getting settled in here. I’ve renovated the space you used to rent, I think you will find it most uncomfortable. I’ll chase you out a million times if need be, and bring  the Landlord with me. Go on, now, GIT!

Hopelessness is, excuse the expression, an attention monster.  It thrives where it is welcome. It grows where you allow it to feed.  I know all of its favorite foods! Self-pity, alienation, wallowing.  I am currently trying to starve my old nemesis, but like the monster in the movie” Alien” that also resided in the pit of a stomach,  it’s not leaving neatly and politely.

You have to knock Hopelessness on its keister; it won’t go willingly.

Don’t despair,  my friends, and I’ll try not to despair too. God is here for us.

Take despair breaks to practice self-care…the two cannot inhabit the same space for long.

What soothes your raw and ragged soul? Are you denying it’s cry for attention? Are you being 100 % real with God about how you are feeling? Tell Him. Yell it if you need to. It’s okay to do so.

Does nature soothe your soul? Or music?

Go for the car ride and blast your music with the windows down.

Eat the chocolate and/or cheese.

Call your friends, the ones who ‘get’ you.

Take the nap.

Go to the meeting.

Hug someone you love for five minutes solid.

Talk to the God.

You won’t get empty platitudes here at The Beggar’s Bakery about how when God closes a door, he opens a window. I always hated that saying. What does hat even mean? It’s Hell in the hallway!

But soon – and very soon – in God’s perfect timing, there comes a shift. There always is. Eventually, crappy things will un-happen, and some really good stuff will happen that will make you forget all about hurdling though the vortex.

Things like belly laughs, birthday cake, time with friends, sand between our toes, hugs, family, romance, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…

Those really good things include participating in life so that we can look forward to the future with hope.

If you are struggling today, I get it.

Remind yourself that its not an endless black hole;  just a black moment. I’ll remind myself, too.

We are not unsupervised, as it may feel,  but always carry the Navigator with us. This by no means minimizes the crap-storm of challenges you are experiencing right now. Sometimes things just suck.

But Heavenly Papa is with you. You’re not alone.

This too – whatever this is – shall pass to make room for the belly laughs and happy experiences yet to come.

I’m not preaching to you, but at myself! Hang on tight and so will I.

God bless us, every one.

 

Spiritual, Spirituality

The Good Natured Father (Part I)

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Good day, Dear Readers.

Today I would like to share Part I of an article I recently wrote for seminary class. 

I will post Part II – the second half – tomorrow.

As always, I welcome comments and conversations, and shares if you so choose 🙂

God bless us, every one!

 

By: Jana Greene

“What is your most dominant image of God? What does that say about your own belief system? Your own temperament? Your own faith community?” ― Bradley Jersak, A More Christ like God: a  More Beautiful Gospel

I’ve been having a wee bit of an identity crisis over the past several years. Nothing too wild and reckless, but a low-grade churning in my spirit. This identity crisis burbled up from the primordial ooze I’d always been so careful not to fall into. Step on the stones, only on the stones. Jesus is your rock, etc. and so on, more stone / rock / foundation analogies; anything to keep from falling into the ooze, because if I fall off a rock and into the ooze, God is really going to be angry with me for taking my eyes off of the Prize – Him.

But what about Him?

Never before had I been compelled to systematically dismantle (oh how Religion loves things done systematically) all I had learned from birth, but now? Now I am forming a brand new construct out of what crumbled down in the destruct, and it changes everything.

This nature of God.

When considering the nature of the Almighty, I have the tendency to cling to one of two hard-line descriptions:

God is Love incarnate. He is full of mercy, overflowing with grace. There is only GOOD in His being, and wants to captivate us with his adoration.

Or….

God often has to punish and crush, as a means to the end of making man righteous. He smiles on us when we remind him of Jesus (maybe once or twice a day) but is filled with grief and fury when we remind him of the very humans he created. He gives us a whoopin’ because He loves us, and it really does hurt Him more than it does us, as parents are apt to say.  He gets tired, you know, with so many naughty children to keep in line. This would explain why natural phenomenon can be so destructive. This would explain the grumpiness of the Old Testament Lord. We like to think it explains a bible-ed up version of Karma. You’ve got whatever’s coming your way, buddy. Too bad you didn’t tow the line.

Except here’s the rub: God’s nature is scandalously lousy with Grace. And I so enjoyed learning about His true nature in my education at Global Grace Seminary.

Of all the excellent materials, Steve McVey’s way with words pierced me. I would read his work and stop to ponder it, and read it again. There was so many practical presentations of grace, I found myself re-reading each line in order to soak in the truth.

“You have been set in the place of a child who is loved and accepted by the Father just as surely as Jesus Himself knows that love and acceptance. Your place is in the triune circle dance is as safe and secure as the place of Jesus for the staggering reason that you are in Him.”

― Steve McVey, Beyond an Angry God: You Can’t Imagine How Much He Loves You

As Kay Fairchild explored in the module “Our God is One,” not only is there One True God, but He is three-fold – each facet of his Being sentient and in perfect, permanent synchronization. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three distinct individual entities, each one supreme and whole, and wholly loving.

I am learning truths that explore scripture in context. In all honesty, one of my biggest challenges is that small, still voice saying, “Yes, but why then is there still so much evil in the world?” I wish I had a better understanding of that fundamental question. I am trusting that God will reveal truths ever more as I chug along. If we ask Him for bread, He will not give us a stone; that much I know.

For thousands of years, humankind has tried to explain God. We’ve placed Him in boxes to keep Him out of (or in) trouble. We’ve elaborated on his life story and we’ve left the context of his Word out far too often. The Word is a person, and that person is Jesus.

When considering this, I’m reminded of the fun house mirrors that appear to be endless images – mirror inside another mirror, inside another – an endless tunnel of reflection. There is so much more depth in the Trinity than I’d ever considered. The Triune God layer upon layer of Love, grace, and inclusion. And we are the very mirror image of those three beings of love! We sell ourselves so short.

Will the real Nature of God Please Stand Up?

With nearly 17 years of recovery time from alcoholism, I’ve come to love the legendary 12 Steps.  Before I happened across the Christ-based recovery step meetings I attend now, AA was the initial safe zone to explore the nature of God as His grace pertains to sobriety.  The program’s third step proclaims that “we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” In this model, you hire and employ your own Higher Power. It could be a floor lamp. Or a door knob. Anything, really. And that deeply offended me! You cannot just go making up gods as your puny mind perceives them, all willy-nilly.

Now I so clearly see that I was so grace-less. So self-righteous. Anything less than recognizing the One True God – my Jesus – was blasphemy. What I didn’t understand was that these folks didn’t want to hear that they were going to hell, because they’d already been. And the “God of our understanding” is a great place to begin the Seeker journey. I sat in the meetings with angry arms folded, shut down and petulant. What a way to represent Christ!

“If you have seen your God through the lens of legalistic religion, you most likely have believed that God was warning them [Adam and Eve] that He would punish them if they ate from the tree. Nothing could be further from the heart or intent of God. He wouldn’t kill them – sin would kill them. God wasn’t warning them about what He would do but about what sin would do to them.”

― Steve McVey, Beyond an Angry God: You Can’t Imagine How Much He Loves You

What if God’s nature is really only good?

Part II to be published Sunday, June 25th

Spiritual, Spirituality

Prayers for the Snake Guy

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By: Jana Greene

Four months into seminary (or, as I like to call it snarkily ‘Holy Roller School,’ after an acquaintance referred to it as such) and I am starting to see things in a whole new light. I hope more and more light seeps in and around me, as I continue on this trepidation journey to fire my old god and fully embrace the God of Love. Accepting pure love is harder than you’d think.

Today our community lost a local celebrity – and venomous snake aficionado – to a domestic violence incident. The man was missing fingers from messing with the most dangerous snakes in the world, and yet he died from a gunshot, presumably fired by his wife.

If you met him, you’d never forget him. He was so un-vanilla; a very colorful character.

As these things go, my little web of Facebook friends started posting the in-credulousness of his death,  and before you know it, information is spreading like wildfire.

The murder happened in a little apartment over the Cape Fear Serpentarium – owned and operated by the victim. So the first hints of what had happened were…

I wonder if it was the snake guy?

The serpent dude is dead!

Half of the street has blocked off around the serpentarium!

Speculation runs amok. Did his wife shoot him in self defense? Where was his toddler at the time of the shooting? All kinds of scenarios play out in an epic display of what the great George Carlin often referred to as ‘brain droppings” – thoughts that used to clang around in our skulls and peter out are now open fodder for theorists – conspiracy or otherwise. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker…everyone has a platform in the interwebs, myself included. Within a page of feed, he was either a wife-beating monster or a national treasure, victimized by his spouse. In reality, nobody knows exactly what happened at this juncture.

I have felt convicted of the ‘Proper Prayer Reproach” lately. It goes something like this:

I need the facts to pray. What if he was a vile monster who provoked his wife to violence? As a Christian, I should hope he is in ‘hell’ facing eternity skinny dipping in a lake of fire! Right?

But what if he was just a little quirky – a genius with serpents but not so much marriages? Then we should pray that he is standing at the Pearly Gates.

Who gets top billing in this prayer thing?

When did Christians – of ALL people – earn the right to cherry pick who is deserving of what fate? What if we ‘accidentally’ pray a blessing on someone who is guilty? God forbid.

Sometimes, we use Proper Prayer Reproach as a way to gossip, as in “I need more information on Suzie Q. so that I can pray for her better….”

Other times, it’s even a little malevolent – manipulation sandwiched between two slices of self-righteousness. “Lord,  do your Karma thing because so-and-so really deserves it.”

I can assure you as a Holy Roller student, God is the only judge of who deserves what. And that no matter who/what/when/where there is a need for prayer, Jesus gets top billing. When we think we have to know who the Bad Guy is in order to pray, we are making the praying all about ourselves, our power.

I’m learning this as I go. Parts of me really want to get all the facts on a given situation so that I can ‘pray properly.’ But prayer can’t – and shouldn’t – wait. And we will never in a million years have an understanding of every nuance and action that all parties involved have experienced.

So here is my prayer for the gentleman and his family. I ask that you join me in prayer – whatever that looks like to you.

Jesus.

I pray for the deceased, that he is at your feet right now as we speak, and that his heart is whole and his spirit at peace. I don’t know if he knew you in life, but you’ve known him before he was in his mother’s womb. I pray he recognizes your face as the countenance of an old friend. I pray that you welcome him.

I also don’t know what his wife believed, and right now she needs you more than ever. She may not even believe in you, but you believed in her since before time. Tonight she is in a cell, likely terrified and shattered. Sit on the jailhouse bench with her, so close that she knows you are tangible. Pour your love out on her.

Jesus, there is a three year old child whose whole life as he knew it was changed forever today. He is an innocent victim, an instant orphan. He is perfectly adorable – when I saw this little boy’s picture, I immediately thought, ‘this must be how Papa sees his kids,’ mischievous twinkle in his eye and cherubic smile. Oh, sweet Jesus. Wrap your arms around that child and minister to his little spirit in a powerful way. I don’t know anything about him, but I know you desire him to grow up and walk alongside you. That’s what good Papas want for their little ones.

I don’t need the facts to ask God to intercede. Prayer is urgent! It brings God into the darkness, banishing it. Lord, help me to see more light.

That’s seminary progress, from a lifetime student of the Proper Prayer Reproach.

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

Comfort. Move. Surround. Inhabit. Assure. Draw near.

LOVE.

Save

Spiritual, Spirituality

Tiaras and Mudpies (excerpt from “The Beggar Princess”)

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Good day, lovely readers!

I will likely be on hiatus for a while, as I am having shoulder surgery tomorrow morning (all prayers and warm fuzzy wishes welcome!)

But I did want to write a little post for you today (I don’t want you to forget me altogether!)

It is an excerpt from the book I am currently working on.

The book will explore our true identities as women who walk with Christ. Are you just a beggar, desperate for Him? Or are you legit royalty – the Daughter of the Most High King…..that sort of thing. This little snippet is from the 1st chapter. I hope you enjoy it, and I will be back writing the blog as soon as I’m able.

God bless us, every one!

As always, THANK YOU for your readership ❤

….Years after the damage of fatherlessness left me feeling unworthy, God healed my heart. Actually, if I am honest, He  is still healing my heart, which has a tendency to hold on to things because they are familiar; and not because they are in my best interest.  I trust my Father daily, but it is an ongoing process to give up the hurt.

Very soon after I seriously entertained the concept of being a daughter of the King, I had a really vivid dream.

 I was a little girl in full Ren Fair, Princess garb –  Tiara, sparkly pink plastic shoes, a dress with layers upon layers of taffeta and satin. I was indeed a princess! Anyone could see I was royalty.

And all around me is the perfection of nature I’ve loved all my life – clear, flowing waters, flowers surrounding me, lush, greenery and this incredible feeling of peace. It was the Garden of Eden!

I make my way to water’s edge to admire the tinkling creek,  taking care not to muss my gown or dirty my sparkly shoes. 

But oh, OH! MUD!

The mud by the river is so delightfully squishy. I cannot resist stepping in a puddle of it. And before I know it,  I’m making elaborate mud pies – all shapes and sizes, decorated with flowers from Eden’s own garden.

I was just lost in the muck, icing my cakes with more squishy mud, adding silken grass leaves and smooth pebbles as garnishes. Soon, I had enough mud pies to open a bakery.

“Look, Papa!” I remember saying.

And then – in one sick moment –  I realized that I was a mess. Nobody could tell I was a Princess, so caked in mud was I.  Mud encrusted my shoes, and my dress was filthy.  I’d dropped my tiara somewhere in the grasses while looking for cake decorations.

Shame and self-loathing started sinking in. The more I focused on my muck, the more everything around me started fading darker and dimmer.

It was then that I started to cry, avoiding the glare of the King, but when I peeped through my muddy fingers, King Jesus smiled widely at me! He scooped me up in wild embrace and held me there until I stopped crying.

He wasn’t about to let a little mud get in between Him and His Daughter!

I can still conjure the feelings I experienced in that amazing, tangible dream. It really made me consider if I believed (deep, deep down) that I am just a little more royal when I get things right and please the father; and a muddy beggar urchin, when I make a big mess. And the truth is – Papa sees through the mud and muck. It is I who focuses too much on the dirt and not enough on the divine.

Do you ever feel unworthy? Have you ever made a mess of your life?

The mud doesn’t get in the way of His love for you, either.

Anyone can see you are Royalty, Daughter.

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Health, Spiritual, Spirituality

Whatever Comes Further, God is already There

 

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By: Jana Greene

“Hey, God…..”

“Yes?”

“What’s going to happen further along down the road?”

“I’m sorry, that’s on a need-to-know basis. Just trust me.”

“But….”

“Trust me, love. Whatever comes further, I’m already there with you.”

I’m always badgering God about what’s next, even though I know that I couldn’t even handle it if I knew. Seriously, I COULD NOT EVEN. But in some convoluted way, I ask God to reveal to me the outcome of certain things, but the gift of prophesy is not my strong suit.

I am considering this today as I’m struggling with my health issues. I have a rare-ish condition that causes chronic fatigue, migraines, intermittent system pain, and recurrent infections. It’s not going to kill me, but some days I feel like it would kill me if it were more merciful.

Here’s the thing, though: If God had revealed to me that I would do battle with this for the rest of my life, I don’t know that I would have stayed sober. I don’t know if I’d handle it well at all, so I’m grateful for the not knowing.

While I was busy NOT knowing, He went further down the road with me when I wasn’t even looking. The manifestations of His mighty hand over this struggle were being constructed long before I was even symptomatic.

If God had revealed that I would carry this thorn, maybe it would have gone down like this:

“Child, enough badgering! Come sit with me, and I will indulge your curiosity….

“As you grow older, you will feel like your mind and body are falling apart, because they will be – sort of – and you will be scared and tired and frustrated. But I’m working on an infrastructure for your life so that you will be able to carry this yoke…..

“I will bring you a spouse who adores you, and believes you when you are telling the truth about your pain. He will never give up on you, even when you are really sick….

“I will drop friends into your life with EXACTLY this same disease that you suffer from, and they will seemingly drop from the clear blue sky. You will marvel that I took such care to place those perfect people in your life at just the right moments. Lean on them and let them lean into you. They are sent directly from me….

“When you are having a bad day and hurting inside and out, I will scootch right up next to you so close that you can feel my love  for you, even through the pain. My Holy Spirit will be IN you, giving you fresh hope, even through the tears…..

“I will give you the gift to write about your experience, so that you can pay this Love forward to others….the ones who are gravely sick but look well, the ones whose labs and tests all come back normal and they feel like they are losing their minds, and that nobody believes them. YOU will comfort and believe them, just as you have been comforted….

“I will give you humor in copious quantities, so that you can not just survive, but THRIVE….

“Whatever comes further, I am already there with you.”

I get by with a LOT of help from my friends.

God bless us, every one.

 

 

 

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Spiritual, Spirituality

Wanted: Black Sheep

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By: Jana Greene

Part 6 of The Seismic Seven Series

“When somebody’s religious identity is being challenged, things are bound to turn nasty quickly.” —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

Good readers,

Today Abba has downloaded a blog post into my heart that makes many Christians squirmy and causes a lot of division. I know because it made me super squirmy. It’s the gospel of inclusion, and it’s pretty radical stuff.

Jesus came so that we could all be included in the love of God, not so that we could take His Gospel and divvy it up by law and procedure and methods and doctrinal argument, until it is splintered and divided. He didn’t come to provide religious identity.

At the Open Table Conference, this message was more or less hammered into us – and I couldn’t be more grateful. I could go on for days about this (and I may….) because it resonates on a base-level. It speaks to a contingent who may not even possess faith yet, and we sure do love to preach to the already-faithed.

Once upon a time, there was a Pure and Spotless White Lamb who came to a new pasture –  one much sparser and less lush than the one he called ‘home.’ He came so that he could  show all of the scattered and flaw-full black sheep the way to greener pastures and lead them to the care of a loving Shepherd.

While he was among the black sheep, he did not cloister himself up on the highest hill and look down upon them grazing on the crappy, cut-rate grasses they had chosen.

He didn’t call attention to himself and brag about his spotlessness.

He didn’t shame the less-than-perfect sheep for being spotty and lame.

He didn’t cavort around with the black sheep so that he could do the naughty things that they were doing.

He was goodness and light and mercy, something the flock had never experienced before, and they drew close to him because of those attributes – not necessarily because he appeared without blemish. Blemishes can hide far under the wool.

He included ALL of the fold, selecting NONE of them for banishment. Division was not this Sheep’s end-game. Inclusion was.

He supped with The Blackest Sheep in the Family, and hung out among the fallen, and challenged them to believe that there was a Shepherd of Love who could make them perfect. He’d left a perfect pasture to bring more sheep to the shepherd. Through this loving and acceptance of the Pure White Lamb, the wool of the others became spotless, too.

So that when the Shepherd called his flock home, he couldn’t tell one from another. All were pure and spotless in his sight.

Let me say that again: So that when the Shepherd called his flock home, he couldn’t tell one from another. All were pure and spotless in his sight.

Graze on that for a minute. When you follow the Lamb of God, you are spotless too.

I’m not saying that accepting Christ as Savior isn’t key. It’s everything. But God loved you long before you ever made that choice. His love for you is not even contingent on that choice. If it were, it would be YOU responsible for the love.

I’m not saying repentance isn’t necessary. I’m just saying God’s love for you isn’t contingent upon it. Some chose not to follow the Spotless One, but it did not diminish the Shepherd’s love for them OR his deep longing for them to experience His presence. Not one whit.

If you had to turn from all sin in order for God to love you, it would be all about you and your piousness, and I think we can all agree piousness is a bunch of crap. Otherwise the Pure and Spotless White Lamb would have hung around black sheep in white sheep’s clothing (a.k.a Pharisees / Sadducees) to save face, which is not at ALL what he did.

You cannot be responsible for the Grace God showed you before the hour you first believed. He has already included you in the love.

If the sheep don’t know there is One who will care for them right where they are, they will have no desire to leave the cut-rate pasture.

And if you are The Black Sheep of your family, take heart! The God of the cosmos loves you and longs for you to experience His presence. He has goodness, light and mercy abundant for you, right where you are.

You are included.

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

 

 

 

Spiritual, Spirituality

Back to Nurture

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Stone Mountain Falls

By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear readers. I will soon resume completion of The Seismic Seven Series, but an unforeseen distraction took place over the past few days, and I’m sharing it with you so that you also might be encouraged. I had an opportunity to run away with My Beloved to a little cabin in the woods, and here is what my spirit pondered there:

During the days of my steeped-in-nature trip, my spirit experienced such peace that my busy mind became willingly submissive to it.

Worries fell off before they had a chance to stick, like Teflon coated the surface of my soul. Anxiety tried to get in, of course. It’s ruthless that way. But my spirit would not allow it. “Sorry'” I felt it say. “There is no room for you thieves of joy.”

The cacophony of rushing waters, birdsong, and buzzing bees drowned out all else. I felt Holy Ghost in every breeze and rustle, and in me – manifested as Peace.

It occurred to me that this is the way God intended us to feel back in the garden. We’ve lost it through the falling, and through trying to convince The Father that we know a better way.

If only I can find a way to replicate this Great Shalom, back in the ‘real’ world where the cacophony seems only to be struggles and bills and drama.

Lord Jesus, please keep my spirit coated with the Teflon coating of trusting you. Help me reign in the ruthless anxiety. Holy Spirit, manifest in and around me even in the Land of the Lost. And hey, thank you for this glorious respite of rushing water, birdsong, and buzzing bees. Block the thieves of joy so that I might find this shalom even in the mundane.
Amen and amen.

and God bless us every one.

Spiritual, Spirituality

A God Most Intimate

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Part 5 of The Seismic Seven Series

By: Jana Greene

“I don’t believe in God. I know God! Once you know someone, believing is no longer a concern.” — Wm. Paul Young (Eve: A Novel)

I once wrote a blog post about the disservice atheists do to children in persuading them that there is no God. Sure enough, I received a comment from a fellow blogger and devout atheist (if you can be such a thing) chastising me for perpetuating a myth.

To read the article, click here:   Little Humans, Big Faith

“I’ve lost nothing if I’ve base my life on love. Not a single thing,” I asserted in the piece. To which he countered: “So you would consider basing your life around a lie a good use of your time?”

“Kids are the most questioning people on the planet and God wants us to come to him as little children. I think He definitely gets it. I think He knows that we are curious and that’s okay,” I wrote.

“Sounds extremely spooky but not a very reliable method of forming beliefs,” said he.

Oh, dude. You have no idea how supernatural it really is. My faith is the most reliable thing in my life, far more so than my emotions or book-sense.

Believing in God is risky business. But even that is not enough for me. I crave the intimacy of KNOWING God.

One of the most powerful talking points at The Open Table Conference was about intimacy with the Father. I just eat that up. I’m not content to walk beside Jesus anymore – I want the union whereby He is in my spirit and I am in His. The kind of relationship you simply cannot figure out with the brain, and really don’t need to.

“Some things in life you just aren’t going to be able to think your way through—so you might as well save yourself the stress by simply trusting your way through them.” – Steve McVey (The Grace Walk Devotional)

There’s that “trusting” thing again. Pesky trusting, there is no shortcut to it.

“The Christian God is interested in relationship with us, and not just relationship, but union, and not just union, but such a union that everything He is and has—all glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life—is to be shared with us and to become as much ours as it is His. The plan from the beginning, in the Christian vision, is that God would give Himself to us, and nothing less, so that we could be filled to overflowing with the divine life.” — C. Baxter Kruger (Jesus and the Undoing of Adam)

The conversation between my atheist friend and I continued in a few more comment exchanges. He asked me if I thought we had disembodied minds, and I prayed a bit before I answered:

Can I prove that to you? No, I know it in my heart of hearts. Do I need to prove it to you? No. Because you cannot prove something that is true in the Spirit to a mind that is closed off to the possibility of there even BEING a spirit. It’s like proving to you that I am having thoughts about chocolate by showing you my big toe. Yes, my mind and body are related and intertwined, but not exactly the same thing. Different parts of me.

I’ve seen supernatural things, and have not found them lacking in evidence or reality at all! Spooky? Sometimes. Glorious and ethereal? Oh, yes. (I’m a natural-born skeptic, too, believe it or not.)

Can you prove that love exists? Can you bottle it, break down its chemical make-up (yes, I know you can manufacture serotonin, etc. That’s not what I’m talking about.) No. But you can see the manifestations of it all over the place. Ditto evil. Manifested everywhere.
It’s enough to make your brain hurt. If you try to process it only with your brain.  The spirit of a person is not their disembodied mind at all.

“Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.” – C.S. Lewis.

The crazy thing about faith is that it will respect your wishes. If you wish to hold God at bay by choosing not to take the risk of knowing, you will never know. If you wish to know the Father in the most intimate parts of your spirit, He will meet you there.

Don’t take my word for it that God wants the closest relationship with you possible. Don’t even take these learned Theologians’ words for it. During the entire workshop, we participants were encouraged not only to think for ourselves, but “Ask Jesus if it’s true.”

Ask Him yourself. Approach the throne – He welcomes your curiosity. He honors your seeking of the truth. If you don’t seek, you will not find out it’s true.

“The challenge to have more faith about a specific outcome is often nothing more than a religious promotion for positive thinking.” — Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

It’s easy to call it a myth or a fairy tale, or an exercise in positive thinking. Its easy if you’ve never tasted the truth. But OH! When you know the glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life – there’s no going back.

And yes, I consider basing my life around The Truth a very good use of my time.

Spiritual, Spirituality

Stone Throwing for Sinners

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Part 3 of The Seismic Seven Series

It (trying to keep the law) grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainly out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse. ” – Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

By: Jana Greene

Oy vey, this world is a mess. Right thinking has become wrong thinking, and vice versa. The climate of this country is chaos, and I could go on and on about all the ways society is courting the title of Most Sinful this side of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I could, but I won’t. Because even as the world’s brand is chaos, God is changing my brand to love. I asked him to do a work of compassion in my heart, and boy howdy is he ever.

It’s a tall order. I have my perceptions and holy prejudices in place and there are certain behaviors or lifestyles that really upset my self-righteous apple cart.

But there is this radical thing called Grace that I just cannot shut up about.

As one of the speakers at last week’s conference said: “Sanctification is not a sin-management program.”

Some of my friends are having a hard time figuring this out. They think I am placating the sinful, losing my convictions. Sin is a very big deal; I get that. It’s just not the biggest deal.

We humans love to relegate the sins of ‘those people.’ We take great pride in choosing the stones to throw, as if the perfection of the stone gives us superiority. The weight of the stone in our hand feels good, doesn’t it? Go ahead and throw it, as soon as you are sin-free.

I joke that my heart breaks for the people society casts off – the heroin addicts and the drunks (having struggled with alcoholism myself)  etc. – but if you don’t use proper grammar, I just judge the crap out of you. And using improper grammar isn’t a sin at all, but for some reason it offends me. What’s up with that?

I suspect it’s because grammar comes easy to me. The predisposition NOT to sin in a particular fashion makes it easier to judge the ones to sin in just that manner.

If you do not struggle with homosexuality, heterosexuality comes easy to you – making the lifestyle of a gay person super offensive –  even though every sin is equal to every other. If you are a teetotaler, drunkenness may rate higher on the Sin Scale to you. If you don’t gamble, the pitiful sight of a man dropping token after token in a slot machine for hours on end may not illicit compassion.

There is black and white, right and wrong, by damn! Yet  none of us – lo not even ONE – is going to get it all right in this life.

So much of the Christian faith has become about pointing out the wrongdoings of others,  and driving home the message of how wrongdoing separates one from God.

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

Nothing can separate you from the love of God. If you are the wickedest person alive, God loves you beyond your capacity to understand.

This is a revelation to me. I didn’t like entertaining the thought because IT’S NOT FAIR. We like things to be fair, right? Our human nature says we must withhold the expression of love when someone displeases us. But God is not bound by our behavior to love us.

Here’s a newsflash: The world already knows what Christ-followers know as ‘sin.’ What they maybe don’t know is the crazy, radical love of Jesus. I don’t need to be Holy Spirit Junior, and that’s incredibly liberating.

I love the way The Mirror Bible translation delves into the subject with commentary…(Romans 7:18-25)

“The total extent and ugliness of sin that inhabits me, reduced my life to good intentions that cannot be followed through. Willpower has failed me; this is how embarrassing it is, the most diligent decision that I make to do good, disappoints; the very evil I try to avoid, is what I do.” Commentary: If mere quality decisions could rescue man, the law would have been enough. Good intentions cannot save man. The revelation of what happened to us in Christ’s death is what brings faith into motion to liberate from within. Faith is not a decision we make to give God a chance, faith is realizing our inclusion in what happened on the Cross and in the resurrection of Christ!

 “If I do the things I do not want to do, then it is clear that I am not evil, but that I host sin in my body against my will….

The situation is absolutely desperate for humankind; is there anyone who can deliver me from this death trap?

… Thank God, this is exactly what he has done through Jesus Christ our Leader; he has come to our rescue! I am finally freed from this conflict between the law of my mind and the law of sin in my body.” Commentary:  If I was left to myself, the best I could do was to try and serve the law of God with my mind, but at the same time continue to be enslaved to the law of sin in my body. Compromise could never suffice.

I can strive and strive and strive, and, like the Apostle Paul, still miss the mark. My striving to live a sinless life does not impress God into loving me harder.

Because His love is already perfect.

If Jesus took care of it to draw us near, why are we still making sin The Biggest Deal? Love people and Holy Spirit will convict them, just as he convicts us holy rollers.

There is this radical thing called Grace that I just cannot shut up about. It is unabashedly, gloriously NOT FAIR, thanks be to God.

May he bless us, every one.

Brokenness, Christianity, Faith, Forgiveness, God, Grace, Healing, Hitting the bottom, Holy, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, Inspirational, Jana Greene, Once Upon a Gospel, Prayer, Radical Love, serving God, Spiritual, Spirituality, trust, Weariness

Once Upon a Gospel – An Invitation to Love

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By: Jana Greene

Once upon a time, there was a good and perfect King whose agenda for the whole land was Love.

He provided everything his subjects needed – in this realm and The Eternal one – but one subject became jealous of the King and wanted to rule in his stead. Being the good and perfect King that He was, Love banished the hateful subject -who was one of the beings considered a friend of The King Himself  – from the Kingdom. He became a defector with his greedy endeavor to be equal with his Creator.

Furious at being banished, The Defector appealed to the less-than-royal castle walkers to leave the King’s dominion. He was very persuasive, and took a third of their masses with him. Because The King was Love Incarnate, The King mourned their loss. But his mourning was supplanted by a great concern for the subjects of his kingdom and their heirs. For the The Defector and his minions – subject to eternal separation from Love – vowed to use whatever evil means necessary to recruit members. Nothing was off limits.

Suffering and death. But also temptation and slick false-life advertising to sell it.

One of the biggest weapons used against the kingdom subjects was the very freedom The King had invoked a the First Testing. Essentially, it sounded something like this (and like exactly the same message he is spinning in this generation):

Don’t you think YOU should be King? Why does King Love get, well … all the love. You are ruler of your own life! You can have all the power. The King is out to ruin your fun and your lives. He sits up there on His throne, having no idea of your struggles. And that’s IF He exists…..Have you ever even SEEN Him in person? I didn’t think so. Maybe He doesn’t even exist. Maybe Love cannot save the world.

And the subjects were deceived, because a tiny seed in their hearts was watered by the slick words that appealed to Self over King. And confusion took root and has become a plague upon the earth ever since. Many subjects decided to follow the ruler of Self and, in turn, rejected The King’s perfect will.

Many declared they were subjects of no land at all, and by doing so, still made a choice to defect the Kingdom. There was no dual citizenship. Perfect Love casts out all fear, and fear was at the root of autonomy of the Subjects of No Land.”

There seemed no end to the weaponry that The Defector had at his disposal. Yes, good old sin bugaboos ran amok, But often times the destruction came in other slippery forms: Shame, Defeat, Distraction, Depression, Addiction, and a general elevation to Self while – at the same time – beating it down by diminishing it’s value.

It seemed like The Defector had the deck stacked in his favor, as all of the subjects had one thing in common, bestowed by the King – Choice. The Power to accept The King of Love, ruler of the Kingdom and keep the laws enacted by him in love for their own good, or to defect themselves to a more self-serving path.

Oh, the humanity – literally!

Could no one save The Kingdom from the author of confusion?

Will no one step in to save the subjects created to serve The King and those He loves?

And then The Magic happened. The King Himself would become a subject. He himself – through His divine heir – would become man and King, and show up in person. He would be Redeemer. He would know the anxiety and hardship of the masses, just like any other subject. But He would come to show them that The King is Love.

A nobler knight or king, the world had never known. Instead of cavorting with elite and rule-keeping, The Redeemer loved on the castoffs, touched the un-touchables. The peasants. He lived His life in a manner befitting The King in all ways. Whether teaching in the temples or on the street, all subjects were invited to become members of The King’s fold. And His love was the invitation to citizenship.

Healing. Unselfishness. Unconditional Love.

The Redeemer walked the realm for 33 years, a short span of time in history, but changed absolutely everything.

No longer could the subjects resent The King for not have walked among them as a common subject. The Redeemer showed the way that any subject could  become a bona-fide royal. He did so without serving Self or following any of the rules of the conniving Defector.

He would finally be crowned a King with a headpiece of thorns in a mockery of ascension to the Kingdom Throne. The Defector had a heyday. He considered a major win for his ruling. In truth, it was the beginning of His ultimate end.

Those who followed the defectors and beat him to a bloody death did not know they were in fact cementing the admission of Whomsoever into an Eternal Kingdom. The one who defected from The Eternal for seeking equality with The King made it possible for all of us to be equal heirs in all The King’s riches, in essence. Ironic, and beautiful paradox, that one.

The names of all the subjects – those who serve The King and those who serve The Defector – were on His lips, pleading with Love to administer grace and mercy. The subjects who accepted The Redeemer received permanent citizenship in the Eternal Kingdom.

The King ALWAYS uses what the enemy plans for evil to the GOOD of those who love Him.

The Magic – known as Holy Spirit – he left with the subjects, so that His power would be forever close at hand. That spirit of all that is lovely, The Magic lives on to this very generation.

The Defector knew the Day of the Redeemer had been coming, and he was prepared. Further making a mockery of Love, The Defector upped his war game, and with each new generation of subjects, became better and better at deceiving them.

Those satisfied to serve Self we easy to take down and make slaves to The Defector and his flunkies. With the ultimate knowledge that he is doomed to failure, he is quite literally hell-bent on taking as many subjects with him in eternal alienation from Love.

Even some of the Eternal Kingdom citizens sometimes forgot they are citizens of a Higher Order through the work of The Redeemer, the spoils of a war already won on the cross.  They struggled mightily, far more than people with an eternal birthright should. Tasked with spreading the message of unearned love to the whole world, they became weary.

The Defector must never allow subjects of The King to rest. They are dangerous on the battlefield, a liability to the Evil One’s schemes to overthrow The King. He was always on the prowl, looking for chinks in the armor that The Magic covered them in. He perfected the tips of his arrows and narrowed his aim, upping the ante with each attack.

It is for this reason the Redeemed subjects are not spared hardship and even occasional agony.

It’s not the end of the story. The King gets the last word. Love always wins, you know.

Because the Bible isn’t a fairy tale at all.

The King of Love exists. We call him God, and He isn’t the stuff of fables. The Redeemer who is both God and Man? He is Jesus. And there is, in fact, a Defector called Satan, and his demonic hosts of demons who defected the angelic realms. I know it sounds mythical, until you consider the state of the war, pestilence, and destruction both large-scale and in our personal lives. Look around the world we inhabit, so infused with suffering and tribulation. There should be no doubt we have a living enemy. And – here’s the twist in the story – it’s not us.

Yes, evil seems to be running the trial of the world as it hurtles toward implosion, as The Defector makes his closing arguments against us. Darkness is his counsel.

But our Counsel is Truth.

Our Judge? Love.

Your enemy doesn’t get to make it to your sentencing at the end of your life without allowing you to testify on your own behalf. And that testimony is the one and true light that vanquishes even the blackest darkness.

Our testimony is simply JESUS.

If you know The Redeemer, this tale may seem a filtered-down, fable-esque take on the Gospel. But a lot of people haven’t heard it in a relate-able way, and I’m hoping this little blog post helps one person see hope with new eyes.

The story has a happy ending.

If you don’t know The Redeemer, know that there is a good and perfect King whose agenda for the whole life is Love. He came in human form to understand the  anxiety and hardship of the masses, and to offer reprieve and eternal life.

His Kingdom – His LOVE – is available to you. Not Once upon a time, but today.

God bless us subjects, every one.

 

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

“And don’t tell me that I have no authority to write like this. I’m perfectly free to do this—isn’t that obvious? Haven’t I been given a job to do? Wasn’t I commissioned to this work in a face-to-face meeting with Jesus, our Master? Aren’t you yourselves proof of the good work that I’ve done for the Master? Even if no one else admits the authority of my commission, you can’t deny it. Why, my work with you is living proof of my authority!” – 1 Corinthians 9:1-2 (MSG)

It is written: “In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. …” – Genesis 1 (AMPC)

“When Lucifer was cast out of Heaven, one third of all the angels were cast out with him.” – Revelations 12:14-9

“Bilious and bloated, they gas,
    “God is gone.”
Their words are poison gas,
    fouling the air; they poison
Rivers and skies;
    thistles are their cash crop.

God sticks his head out of heaven.
    He looks around.
He’s looking for someone not stupid—
    one man, even, God-expectant,
    just one God-ready woman.

He comes up empty. A string
    of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
    to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
    follow their fellow.” – Psalm 14:1-4

This history-changing gift changed the world forever. “This how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.– John 3:16-18 (MSG)

 

Choosing YOU: “How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.” – Ephesians 4:1 (MSG)

“How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” 1 Corinthians 5:21 (MSG)

As his killers laugh and mock him as He is dying, throwing dice to see who would keep His robes as a macabre souvenir, He pleaded with The King: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:24 (ENT)

The Redeemer said it Himself: “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” – John 14:26-27 (MSG)

To which The King decreed  “You see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” – Hebrew 12:1 (MSG)

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

As fellow subject and apostle summed it up: “You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message.  Colossiains 1:22 (MSG)

“Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.” – Philippians 2:15-16 (MSG)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Acceptance, afterlife, Christianity, God, Heaven, Jesus, Ministry, serving God, Spirituality

God’s Property – Why Zero is More than Enough

A seat for everyone

By: Jana Greene

If I were privy to the secret of living forever (and given coping mechanisms to live this life to the fullest) but withheld that secret from other people, I would be a pretty sh*tty individual.

But that’s all ministry is.

I once asked a very candid question to a pastor who I respect a great deal.

“Okay,” I said. “To live victoriously, what percent of my sh*t do I have to have together? Ten percent? Fifty? Ninety-nine?”

“Zero,” he replied. “Exactly zero percent.”

“Yeah, but...” I continued.

But I swear some. I think unkind thoughts at times. I yell at people who drive slow in the passing lane. I get frustrated with people on ‘the wrong side’ of political debate. I struggle with food mightily, and a plethora of other issues….

The pastor remained adamant. It’s GRACE, he said. It is finished.

Jesus never once said that in order to serve, we have to have it all together. His disciples were quite a mess, and He CHOSE them. He could have chosen the “holy men” of the day, but he steered clear of those others deemed pious and righteous.

He can use me. He can use you, right where you are. Most days, I AM the ‘one percent’ at having it together…..yet sitting on all the wealth of Christ.

I’m done telling myself I cannot be in “ministry” until I get a certain percent of my sh*t together. Because just when I gain a percentage point for NOT going on a cookie bender, I lose a point for swearing. It’s exhausting, that theology…and the numbers don’t ever crunch just the right way.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, people are desperate for a God who loves them beyond imagination.

A God who isn’t into percentage math.

A God who isn’t looking to cut me a commission, but who considers we messy ones THE Great Commission.

A God so big that human rules cannot contain Him.

It isn’t being perfect or trying to deceive people. It isn’t about striving to “get it right” or about judging others.

It’s being given the key to overcome even death and being willing to make copies of that precious unlocking device so others can get in on what God desires for them.

And being willing to show the property to people who don’t even desire a key. Ministry is showing the property, so to speak.

How else will folks know there is a venue for a love so full?

The Kingdom of God is within us. Literally.

He is CHOOSING you right now.

And you don’t have to have one single iota of your sh*t together before following Him.

I’m grateful for that.

12 Steps, Devotional, Recovery, sobriety, Spirituality

12 Step booklet to be released in November

BookCoverImage

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.

12 Steps, AA, Addiction, alcoholism, Brokenness, Celebrate Recovery, Christianity, fellowship, Grace, Hitting the bottom, Holy Spirit, Inspirational, Jesus, Recovery, Serenity, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality

Recovery Option “B” – Have Faith Anyway

bBy: Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drank anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

A) Drink/use anyway.

or

B) Have faith anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of other notes in the journal follow.

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

and …

“Help me, God, I cannot do this!”

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

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

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

Are you hurting – mind, body, and soul?

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

Angry, bitter, fed-up?

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

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

It can save your life.

It saved mine.

 

 

Anxiety, Beach Life, Spiritual, Spirituality

Getting Past the Breakers

11904022_10204792590566969_5504121508774011898_n
The Happiest Place on Earth

By: Jana Greene

As some of you know, I’ve recently had major surgery. Before my post-op appointment with the surgeon, I formulated a list of questions to ask him.  At the top of that list was when I was cleared to visit the beach and swim in the ocean. To my delight, he advised me that it would be just fine to do so now, just as long as I am careful not to get hit in the chest with a full-on wave. I went to the beach the very next day.

The waters are calm, except for the roll of waves near the shore passing over an underwater sand bar. Those waves, known as ‘breakers’ for breaking over sand, can be quite high and strong, even as they form in otherwise calm waters. Still, my need to be suspended in the ocean is great.

It’s been that way since I got sober nearly 15 years ago. The ocean was my church in some of the more difficult early times of recovery. My daughters and I lived in a tiny garage apartment across the street from the beach for some of that time. In periods of great stress, I would venture to the waters and swim until I exhausted myself and my means of anxiety. In times of pain – physical and emotional –  swimming became therapy. I’d swim out so far that the houses on the shore appeared like tiny, colorful boxes instead of million-dollar homes. My problems shrunk much the same way. It gave me perspective. Seawater had an almost tranquilizing effect on my spirit. And that I could commune with God on a whole other uncomplicated level out there in the water. A passer-by walking on the beach may have just seen a little head bobbing around out in deep water, a crazy person talking to herself. But God always meets me there in the water. Sometimes the crazy person talking to herself is just pouring her heart out to The Father in prayer.

When my children would suffer a scraped knee or a bout with eczema, my answer was the same. “You just need to get salt water on it.”

Salt water heals everything.

But today – in order to reach that place of suspension – I have to get through the rough breakers without disobeying doctor’s orders. I have to get to the good place by going through the bad place (where oh where have I experienced this phenomenon before?)

Donning my standard-issue, middle-age woman black one-piece bathing suit, I approach the edge of the sea. At the edge, the water is ebbing and flowing in calm and clear. My toes rejoice at the familiar chill and I cannot wait to go deeper. Ankle-deep now I stand, watching the sand gently sucked out around my feet at each tidal recession. It is a warm day, and the coolness of the water is beyond refreshing. At knee-depth, the waves start to get a little rougher, I am only several feet from the sand bar that is causing their swelling.  I reconsider this foray into the ocean, shrinking back a bit from the prospect of the breakers and their impact on my still-tender surgical wounds.

But I can see the waters on the other side, and they are resplendently lake-like! They are smooth and perfect. I wish I could just jump over the harsh breakers like a dolphin, skip over the rough and powerful waves. Or walk through them careless of the consequences, all que sera sera-like. I try to will them to calm, angry that they might send me home without my satisfying swim before I ever get the chance to have it.

I just need to get salt water on it, on my spirit. (Oh, and my surgical wounds too, salt water heals everything.)

Nirvana is just past this sand bar!

I cannot see the sand bar under the waves that is causing the ocean commotion, but I know it is there because of what I see manifest. High waves, churning waters. I’m afraid to move forward in case a wave slams me and afraid to go back and miss a great thing.

Eventually, the desire to move past the crashing breakers is greater than the desire to be afraid to go through them. I turn my back to the ocean to take the waves to the least painful part of my body, but I press on, walking backwards. I can hear them forming behind me, a great sizzling – the sound of water stacking more of itself on high.

Slam!

Up against my backside. I feel the bar of sand rise as the water gets shallower. Move faster now, I tell myself. The longer you hang out on the bar, the more opportunities the waves have to knock you down. I keep walking backward.

SLAM!

More water, nearly knocking me over. I balance myself the best I can, and keep going. The last wave over the breakers is powerful, nearly taking me with it toward shore, losing all that ground. But then, one more step backward and I float back into complete calm. It is as if I had fallen into a brand new fluid venue. The breakers are still breaking, but they are none of my concern now! Every muscle in my body un-kinks and oxygen fills my lungs. Ah, I just needed to get salt water on it.

I lie back and float, enjoying the weightlessness of both my body and soul. The only sound I hear is the a gentle water moving over my body. Like a band of angels playing the triangles. This is the only place for me that quiets my mind long enough to hear angels play triangles. My mind hardly ever shuts up.

On this day, I’m not able to swim like I am accustomed to yet – making great arcs with my arms and wide kicks with my legs, and actually getting from one spot to another. My body is still healing, so I make only little motions. A head bobbing about awkwardly in the Atlantic Ocean, making little velociraptor-like arm movements and talking to herself. No matter. The healing is the same.

And right on schedule, God meets me there. He had been with me in the breakers, too. Otherwise I wouldn’t have ever made it to the other side! He is ALWAYS in the breakers with me.  But in this place of having come through, I could feel His presence fully.

The beach is my big, messy prayer closet. I can try to talk to God in my living room, and I often do, with mixed results (thanks, ADD.) But covered in sand and swimming in the sea? I can tune into the frequency of The Creator. My noisy spirit communing with God on a whole other uncomplicated level out there in the water. Truth be told, it is one place where I am not finding fault with myself. I’m weightless, floating in an amniotic sac of what feels like pure love. The sun is warming my face, kissing new freckles to the surface. I am not finding fault with myself, I am too busy loving God.

There are a million breakers we all must somehow overcome. Addiction, divorce, abuse, depression. Perhaps you cannot see your own private “sand bar” under the waves that is causing the instability, the commotion. You only know it there because of what it manifests in your spirit.

Looking at the shore from my new Heavenly vantage point  –  the colorful boxes – I am considering the importance of occasionally distancing  oneself from the usual. I think about The Breakers in life, the rolling and smashing seasons that every single one of us has to move through. Try as we might, we cannot casually leap over them, or barreled through them on our own terms and come out in one piece. These times when we feel we are getting sucked under and smashed? Giving up and turning back isn’t always an option, nor should it be.

Do you feel that pull on your spirit? The desire to move past the crashing breakers steadily getting stronger than the fear of going through them?  Guard your most painful parts, but press on. You may get knocked down. Get back up. God is not just waiting for you in the calm waters but accompanying you in those crazy, awful waves that take you from one place to another. He doesn’t expect you to do it all by yourself.

Can see the other side. Isn’t it resplendent?

For each of the million waves trying to knock you down, there is a place that your spirit lets down it’s guard. It’s where your body un-kinks and oxygen fills your lungs. You will know you are there when you are too busy loving God to find fault in yourself.

It is the place or activity that brings you peace! You will only know where that space is by going through the breakers.

Perhaps gardening in soft, warm dirt, if that’s your thing. Or working with animal rescues, or in creating needlework. Or perhaps while wearing hiking boots, or picking up pen and paper. Find that sweet spot and go there every chance you get. GOD DELIGHTS IN YOU.

 

Celebrites, Christianity, church, Jesus, Love, Spiritual, Spirituality, viral blog posts

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?