Politics, the Devil, and the Deep Blue Sea

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“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” – Anne Lamott

By: Jana Greene

This planet is a scary place to be stationed for the duration of our earthly lives, isn’t it? It is full of manifest proof that people are completely whack. Especially in this political season, so rife with corruption and spite and division. I quite fancy the bumper sticker I saw the other day that simply says, “GIANT METEOR 2016” and in small print “Just end it already.”

In my flesh, I’m pretty sure that a giant meteor is the best contender, if for no other reason that it would at least be a quick death, and not a slow-burn of horror that might be a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump presidency.

Surely God is avoiding those two candidates like the plague. Surely, God is a nice libertarian, right?

Right?

Be a light, I keep telling myself. Enough people are bitching about the election. Bitching about the state of the world is kind of a specialty of mine, because I feel so STRONGLY about things that I often work myself into a Chicken Little-style frenzy of running in circles yelling THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!

In my flesh, I’m pretty sure we are politically doomed. Yet even as bits of sky are raining down, my supernatural spirit knows God will work all things to the good.

(God can even use Hillary and Trump somehow. THAT’S how powerful our God is, people.)

God is in this place, in this time. He isn’t in hiding. Contrary to many believers’ cries that God is so fed up with this country, he has left ‘Murica altogether. If that were true, indeed all hope would be lost.

But hope isn’t lost. Not all of it, anyway.

Christians especially love to put demographics of people into little boxes, so that we can give ‘those people’ wide berth.  There are many, many believers who think that God would never be present in unholy places – the back alleys. The venues of ill repute.

The campaign trail (*shudder*)

But that’s just not true. I know this because Jesus entered into darkness when he signed up for this Earth gig. He never said, “Ew, I can’t go THERE with THEM.”

He entered into darkness so that every one of us has the opportunity to walk in the light. Because of that, I don’t have to fear the dark (I don’t HAVE to, but sometimes I still do…its a work in progress!)

One tiny light vanquishes darkness; it doesn’t have to be a torch or an incandescent bulb. It just has to be willing to be lit – accepting Christ and trusting that he is still on the throne no matter who is in the White House.

What to DO when you feel like you are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea? Stand there and be a lighthouse, of course.

Here is what I believe:

God is in me, and he is in you.

He is faithful and steadfast (no meteor required).

He has a plan, even when all evidence points to the contrary.

Plot twists are kind of his specialty.

He is not deterred by people, places and things.

He is only ever good at heart.

Because God is love, anywhere there is love, there God is.

 

God bless America. And may he bless us, every one.

 

 

 

 

 

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?

The Saint-Sinner Paradox: Come as you ARE

saint-sinner ambigram tattoo – inkarttattoos.com

By:  Jana Greene

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”

 –Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

I don’t know if you are familiar with Brennan Manning’s books, but if not…I recommend them highly.  Although Ragamuffin Gospel is a classic, “Abba’s Child” spoke to me the plainest. 

I like plain talk, I like honesty. 

Brennan Manning is just plain honest.  A quick Google search of his name will alert you of the controversy among Christians about his life.  It seems that Brennan Manning is an alcoholic whose theological views go against the grain of some denominational teaching.  He is a sinner, whose view is that life is messy, and relationship with God is all about grace. 

Are you a bundle of paradoxes? 

Some of my favorite people are, including my other two favorite authors – Donald Miller, who wrote “Blue Like Jazz”, and Anne Lamott, whose “Traveling Mercies” literally changed me forever.  I love everything these two write.  But they are not what you might expect, if you were to expect traditional Christian literature.  They are honest in a literary way like Bob Dylan (or perhaps Adele, for the younger generation) is honest in a musical way….raw and real.  And I love that.

I once attended a live simulcast by a very famous Christian author and speaker.  There was a sense of excitement leading up to the event that I can only liken to the Super bowl, if the Super bowl was geared toward middle-aged females of the Caucasian persuasion.  The speaker, I must tell you, is very charismatic and popular.  She is “The Face of the Christian Bookstore”, I suppose you could say.  The simulcast was very nice.  It was two hours well spent, but not two hours that changed my life.  I’m glad that there are people whose lives are touched by this speaker.  There is nothing wrong with her message, she seems to have gotten past some truly difficult times in her life and she gives God all of the glory, as she should.

But “very nice” doesn’t hook me anymore. 

Donald Miller’s bestselling “Blue like Jazz” is a semi-autobiographical account of Mr. Miller’s departure from his Christian upbringing by attending university at “the most godless campus in America”.  Some Christians are shocked that the book (and recent film depiction) contain references to both sex and drugs, and believe those things should be omitted.  Had they been, the story would never have been told.  Because sex and drug issues are a part of life, and a very real part of what many people struggle with….even many Christians.

And Anne Lamott?  Although I personally disagree with her political views, I adore her honesty.  She writes like a sinner; like a sinner who is crazy in love with Jesus.   A 2003 Christianity Today article b Agnieszka Tennant describes her this way:  “She came to Jesus just as she was—a foul-mouthed, bulimic, alcoholic drug addict. One week after having an abortion, she surrendered to him in her very own version of the sinner’s prayer, punctuated with the f-word. The author calls Ms. Lamott “a Born-Again Paradox.”

Indeed. 

Please don’t think I am condoning any of the behavior mentioned.  Being a follower of Christ means that you try to walk in His footsteps because He was perfection incarnate.  But being human means that you will misstep sometimes because you are not.  That’s my theology.

Are you a paradox?

I am a bundle of them, when I get honest.

I admit that I forgive and struggle with grudges.  I am sober but crave oblivion.  I run to the downtrodden but turn away from what I see.  I am real but I still sometimes wear a mask.  I am no rational animal; my emotions run the show far too often.

A Born-Again Paradox, crazy in love with Jesus.