Spiritual

The Evolution of a Prayer

By: JANA GREENE

Sometimes when I pray, I’m not even sure what to pray for anymore. But when God brings someone to my mind, that’s the impetus to pray for them.

I don’t mean giving God “instructions” on how to help someone, which I used to call “praying with specificity.” I replaced elaborate prayers with simple trust in God, because the most eloquent prayers are “help help help” and “thank you thank you thank you” (as my favorite author Anne Lamott opines.)

Reconstructing my faith has evolved how I speak with God.

I ask and then I try to listen. Because there is no wrong way to pray, and prayer is designed to be communication from one sentient being to a supreme being, no holds barred.

Once I saw a movie that recommended having a “War Room” – a physical place to go to pray where the reception is clearest to God and where mighty battles are fought in the heavenlies, waiting for our next words to change the outcome in supernatural realms.

So of course I decorated my closet with scripture and crosses aplenty. But all I managed to do was feel guilty that I wasn’t praying more (or right?) every damn time I had to grab a pair of shoes out of the closet.

Was I praying enough? What if I don’t and when I get to Heaven, God informs me that he really wanted to do this magnificent thing, but I was two beggings short of getting the outcome I desired.

See, that puts the onus on me. And the onus is not on me – it is on Love.

I don’t make a big show for myself now, prostrate in my literal prayer “closet,” striving, striving, striving to be the person “God created me to be.” Building a tower of Babylon with my puny, pleading words (which are beautiful to him, by the way, but his love is not dependent upon them.)

No. I mean that if you come to my mind during the course of my day, I am simply asking God to love on you in a way that’s tangible. God loves n us through one another, nature, laughter, and hugs from friends.

If you have a need or a heartbreak, I focus my intention on your hurt as best I can, and believe in advance that he is walking alongside you, no matter what event is anguishing you. Being a very visual person, I picture you in a cloud of love, total acceptance, resolution, and peace. I can’t describe it any better than that, but trust me, it’s better than that.

Just like us, the Holy Spirit craves connection. That’s all prayer really is.

And I ask him to increase your awareness of him in and around us. Because he is always at work in and around us, even when we aren’t begging for his favor. I pray he uses me in any capacity he sees fit to convey his great love.

Even when words fail us.

His love never does.

Spiritual

People are “Problematic” (love them anyway)

Photo by THIS IS ZUN on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

I realize that times like these are where the rubber hits the road, faith-wise. I just wish I wasn’t working with bald tires and jacked up pattern of traffic cones to navigate life.

Metaphorically, of course.
We all are burning rubber, and not getting very far. We are all weary and wrung-out, exhausted, divided, and furious.

Think of all the ways we have been divided over the past few years coinciding with Covid.

Think of your friends individually, and all the ways you differ in opinion to the detriment of your relationship… ways you had no idea were so different to yours. Maybe on things that are so close to your heart, you cannot BELIEVE a friend you formerly thought you had a lot in common with feels one way or another. How COULD they?? Ya think you know a person, right?

My daughter and I were having a conversation not long after the Super Bowl half-time show last winter. She was saying that she respected Eminem taking a knee at the performance. “But,” she said. “I have mixed feelings about Eminem. He’s problematic.”

“Everyone is problematic,” I said, because it’s true.

Now, my daughter and I do not agree on many, many issues. BIG ones. But we try to respect the other’s feelings, which is the most any of us can do, I think.

She was referring to the rapper’s controversial lyrics. But it occurred to me –

We really are ALL problematic.

Like… I KNOW I’m problematic. There is probably that one time I said something I didn’t think through before saying it; actually, probably hundreds of times. Or the view I held ten years ago that today makes me cringe. Or the way I handled those situations in the past that are not me, anymore.

What too often happens is that we throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. We end up discounting the whole person for their flaws or differences, but only the ones we ourselves have never struggled with. Because our own problematic ways may not be problematic to US, and therefore, we consider them unproblematic in sum.

The human brain just loves to categorize and label, and the human ego loves to judge others. It just jacks up our righteous-o-meters. It’s how we make sense of the world. It’s how we make sense of each other.

It tells us not to appreciate one aspect of a person, because they are “problematic.”

Nobody is asking “What would Jesus do?” anymore because we know good and damn well what he would do. We just don’t want to do it.

People over policy.

Relationship vs. religion.
Friends over ideology.
Love one another, for that is the greatest commandment.

Not one of us was designed to live in this environment – 24-hour news cycles, being bombarded with hostility, being micro-managed by the government. Not one of us was born to intake what we intake all day every day. Fodder for turning us against each other. It didn’t start at the beginning of Covid. It’s been brewing for years. Dualism has been around since the dawn of time.

My old beliefs aren’t ME, anymore. I’m a different person than I was three years ago. Or yesterday, for that matter.

Every day I’m learning, and I think that’s all we can expect from mere mortals – that we keep growing. Even when it contradicts what you’ve said and done most of your life. Growth is not linear. Keep reaching and forgive your mistakes, but also forgive the mistakes others have made _or are CURRENTLY making – on this road. We are all on the same route.

Differences we may have that divide us:

Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life.

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community vs. Discriminating against them.

Vaxxed vs. Un-vaxxed.

Dems vs. Pubs.

Blue States vs. Red States.

Depp vs. Heard (just making sure your’e paying attention, haha.)

Things we have in common:

We have an unbelievable capacity to love.

We are all experiencing the human condition in many ways that truly sucks.

We are all human.

I won’t finish this off with platitudes and a rousing round of kumbaya, but I will say we can do better. We MUST do better. We must share the road.

We must not pass the stranded in our race to be #1. This is a call for kindness, which I will try to heed myself, even in the midst of Problemville.

Growing is loving beyond differences, I guess.

Love to each of you today, and God bless.

Spiritual

Easter in the Raw

By: JANA GREENE

Happy Easter. I don’t want to be that person who bums everybody out with their posts of grief, but I have to tell you this Easter feels more like death than resurrection.

It’s raw.

I’m raw.

Death is present and lurking, but the joke’s on Death, because it’s defeated. It is finished. But Death – and about 8 billion other voices, if you give them credence – will tell you otherwise.

It is finished, even if we have to live in a broken world.

It’s is finished, meaning our suffering here is not part and parcel of who we are. We don’t take it with us. Only love travels that well.

It is finished, even when our hearts lurch with missing someone so badly it physically hurts.

It is finished, even though the sticky residue of suffering gums up the works, and the whole damn planet seems to have lost its collective mind.

I won’t ask, “Death, where is your sting?” because I call BS on that. It stings like Hell. It hurts like a mother-*. I’m not going to deny the pain of being human just to sell you on Pollyanna positivity. I’m certainly not going to sell you religion, which professes to have all the answers but I assure you, does not.

But Death, after the sting, is never the victor.
Our spirits outlive Death. Nothing can keep us from the love of God. Not even ourselves.

He is risen, friends.

And I’m telling you that with a puffy frog-face from crying, unbrushed hair, balled fists, a heart full of questioning incredulousness, and deep pain. I’m writing this because maybe you’re hurting too.

Maybe you’re pissed off, and for good reason. Maybe you’re sick and feel hopeless. I just want to remind you that you are also risen.

Risen is by far more your identity than broken, or even dead.

Sometimes resurrection doesn’t look like glorious renderings of an ancient, empty tomb – beams of light streaming from within, all CBN Network-style.

Sometimes it looks just like you- in all your holy, grieving glory. Slogging through the messy inconveniences and crippling agonies of life, interspersed with great bursts of love and laughter. All of us redeemed ragamuffin kids of God, all of us made of stardust, mud, and love.

God bless us, every one.

Spiritual

The Scandalous, Offensive Love of God

Enjoy this video snippet from our journey back to North Carolina. Oh how he loves us!

By: JANA GREENE

This morning, I woke up early in the great state of Georgia.

Two of my dearest friends in the world accompanied me to a conference that addressed a faith reconstructed. It was incredible. The teachings were what so many evangelicals (and I was one for most of my life,) would consider utterly scandalous.

Y’all, LOVE that rich, pure, and bounteous SHOULD be scandalous. The most passionate love stories always are.

I didn’t move for a while when I woke, because I simply couldn’t. (If you don’t already think I’m nutty, you might now. And I’m okay with that)

I was pinned in place but this momentous, ridiculously extravagant sensation of love.

It was so thick in the air, it felt womb-ish, like a swim in calm ocean, flowing and bobbing. Or being swaddled like a baby, feeling nurtured and safe.

I didn’t fight it, like so tend to do. I didn’t negate it with my usual self-loathing talk. I always feel “powerless” against my own thoughts. My insecurities are members of a terrorist organization of sorts. During my (literal) “come to Jesus,” I discovered that I don’t have to negotiate with terrorists. I get to choose.

No, instead of fighting and fretting against the swell of love, I just rested in it. It was overwhelming, glorious, and unlike any experience I’ve had in a half-century of Christian fundamentalism. There was not even a trace of shame involved. I was fresh out of bothers for a spell.

At some point, I “feel” God say something to the effect of: “Please don’t talk and think mean thoughts about my little girl. I love her so much.” Wait WHAT!?

“You heard,” says gentle but firm Holy Spirit, her voice strong and convincing.

That little girl is me.

This weekend was like a speed-dating session with my true identity. Lots of uncomfortable moments. Lots of connecting. Lots of nerves.
The result is this radical, rich, ridiculous grace for others.

I MUST share what I experienced in the wee hours of the morning with you. I have to. Because it’s LIFE.

Love is life.

Sometimes the supernatural doesn’t come like a lightning strike, dramatic and jarring. It’s not always signs and wonders that the church proper chases for a dopamine hit and considers evidence of a Being of pure Love.

No, sometimes it’s a soul hug first thing in the morning. Supernatural revelation can be realizing you aren’t a cosmic mistake; that you have belonged to Source since before the formation of the Universe. That He belongs to US. I know it sounds strange. But I’m okay with that too.

I welcome the chance to tell you how incredibly loved you are this day.

I don’t want to convert you.

I have no ulterior motives.

I don’t want to change you.

I have no agenda.

I don’t want to push religiousity. Matter of fact, religion is the whole problem. It has almost nothing to do with the actual Trinity, which invites us to a beautiful dance that includes us all.

And as a result of this Great Forgetting , the church can be stingy with the very thing it’s attempting to sell: Love. Purpose. Being.

This weekend, I feel like I had a heart transplant, and I couldn’t be happier.

My prayer today is that you wrap your arms around yourself and hug. Don’t rush it. Really hug yourself tight. Consider it a hug from me.

And so much better – it will be a hug from Papa God. He is wild about you.

May you come to the overwhelming realization of who you really are, and that the opposite of Love is fear. I learned that I don’t have to rent Fear a room in my head. Evict that sucker.

May your awareness of the supernatural be increased so that you can recognize when God “winks” at you.

May you come to know and (this is the hard part) ACCEPT the TRUTH about your inherent value, which is priceless.

I love you, Dear Reader.

Selah.

Poetry · Spiritual

Why Should the Sky Appear Royal Blue?

This is the sky above our little cabin tonight.

Why should the sky appear royal blue

On this wild and wondrous eve?

The stars,

Diamonds against it,

A smattering of cosmic light

Against the rich, deep backdrop

Of endless, cerulean sky.

They so vividly spackle

The masterpiece

To which no man

Can assign value.

Upward look!

The ring of trees are framing it

In muted, hushed and mellow greens,

As if meticulously painted with soft cotton,

By the hand of a master artisan.

Gazing upon it,

It becomes clear

Why the sky should appear to be

Royal blue.

The sky is royal blue tonight

Because It is the canvas of the King.

– Jana Greene

acceptace · Spiritual

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

By: Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But our kids do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kumbaya, homies.

 

 

Faith · Spiritual

A Cold and Broken Hallelujia – When faith falters, but God does not

 

man tattooed praying
Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” used to be just a song to me. Beautiful lyrics, yes. Haunting melody, certainly. But until the past few years, the words were not a sucker punch to the gut, nor a comfort to the soul. Today they are both. (I’ve attached to this article the video by Jeff Buckley of the song, my favorite version.)

Right now, we are all thinking back to a time when things were simpler, even though we all bitched constantly about the way things were, as human nature dictates. It’s what we do.

In the Hebrew Bible hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase, not one word. … However, “hallelujahmeans more than simply “praise Jah” or “praise Yah”, as the word hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song, to boast in God. The second part, Yah, is a shortened form of YHWH, the name for the Creator.

I don’t identify as an “evangelical” Christian anymore. It was easy to be an evangelical when privilege was running the show. Before I got so sick. Before the world was literally shut down. Before I started questioning things.

I don’t for one second accept that the current state of affairs is God’s doing. Love – and only love – is his modus operandi.

You’d be surprised how much ire you draw professing that God is simply Love, Jesus is that manifestation, and practicing radical love can draw, proving that what many of us learned from “love” is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you because. But, love is not warring with a devil who is already defeated. It’s not giving him credit for things ego produces. It isn’t striving. It’s resting.

In a twisted way, my illness and pain brought me closer to Jesus. But not because he sent it to “test” my faith. And not because I accepted it as status quo, or any of the other ways Christendom tried to convince me I was a dirty rotten sinner and somehow brought it upon myself.

Yes, it broke me down. It is still breaking me down. but it isn’t breaking me. And it didn’t break my faith. “Broken” is okay.

I didn’t fall back in love with God until stopped expecting “proof” to come as a flash, a deliverance. Many Christians will elude to the fact that in order to be healed and whole, we must pray harder, fast harder, beg harder.  But when you aren’t “changed in an instant,” it must be something you’re doing wrong, o ye of little faith!

But I think it takes BIG faith to “keep the faith.”

“Proof” of Jesus is sometimes just standing still, and still standing. Still loving. Still having joy underneath. I’m finding that it’s making life a constant prayer, having thousands of little conversations with God in my head and reminding myself that the same God listening intently to my ramblings and problems (first world and otherwise) is the same God who engineered the cosmos and created microcosm and macrocosm that we so marvel at. It’s telling him whats really going on below. Even when I’m struggling, my life is hallelujah.

Cold and broken, but full of hallelujah anyway.

It’s figuring out for yourself that belief in the unbelievable is the only thing that makes sense after all.

It’s walking away from pain with faith intact.

It’s a white flag on a battlefield that God is holding up for you because you’re too weak.

It’s a Creator who hunkers down with you under the crappiest circumstance because he isn’t afraid to get his robe dirty or get a little dirt under his fingernails on your behalf.

I don’t need a God who is waiting at the finish line for me, to take that victory march when everything is peachy keen again. I need him to struggle in the enmeshed, awkward, three-legged race with me. To fall with me, if necessary. Sometimes falls help me right myself again.

It’s a love that’s ever-present even if we’ve suffered loss so severe that our hearts beat against a constant heaviness. It’s there when we can’t compose ourselves; when we are threadbare with frustration. When nothing makes any sense and we are living in the upside-down.

It’s not somebody who’s seen the light.

It’s a cold and broken Hallelujah; a praise for spiritual commoners and baffled kings, received and welcomed by a God, who – in his infinite mercy – really digs it when we are authentic, even if we’re scared.

Hallelujah.

Hallelujah

Hallelujia.

Amen.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE JEFF BUCKLEY PERFORMING “HALLELUJAH”

 

Acceptance · blogging · Brokenness · Christian writers · Christianity · chronic illness · Depression · Enough · God · God · Healing · Hope · Inspirational · Spiritual

Faith Reconstructed (or, I think I’m ready to write again…)

black and red typewriter
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Hi, my name is Jana and I’m a writer.

Sometimes, I forget that.

I used to write quite prolifically, and about everything.

As a matter of fact, this is the 475th blog post on The Beggar’s Bakery.

Sometime in the past few years, I’ve misplaced my writing mojo, which is to say that I’ve slipped into committing the cardinal sin of true creativity, which is to worry more about what people might think of me than to have confidence in what I have to say.

I think I started writing less when a series of unfortunate events took place, namely the catalyst for me to question, test, and try the faith that I’d inherited from my ancestors and never outwardly doubted.

It started when I got sick, and stayed sick. It started when well-meaning churchy people attempted to cast demons out of me (no, really) that weren’t really demons, but infirmary. The thing about sickness is that it is actually more threatening than demons to religious people, of whom I was chief amongst. After endless rounds of being prayed for, having “deliverance” ministries, and demon casting, well… it turns out that my illness is genetic, and while God CAN and DOES heal instantly, that was not the case for me, which led me to one of two conclusions:

1. I was doing something wrong and was a fundamentally flawed Christian. Or

2. God isn’t real. Healing isn’t real. My life is based on lies.

Now, I’m all about that –  laying on hands and praying in Jesus name. That is GOOD STUFF. We should always aspire to heal one another. We should always ask for our own healing and petition God to heal others. It’s just that when it doesn’t happen the way our religious leaders aspire it to, it leaves us in a spiritual lurch.

A few funny things happened on my way to figuring out that neither of those conclusions are true. It’s kind of a long story, and I’ve taken to the blog to tell it piecemeal, as best I can, whether anyone reads it or not. For a long time, this blog was my sanctuary, where I came to be raw and real. Then I underwent this huge physical and spiritual metamorphosis, and I wasn’t the chipper writer with a fast answer and scripture reference to throw out there anymore.

And I stopped writing here because that little Southern baptist girl inside told me that I had NO right to pen a blog that claims to be “one beggar telling another where she found bread,” because I am not a conventional evangelical anymore. Sickness changed me, yes. But the spiritual angle changed for me in ways I can scarcely count. What if So-and-So thinks I’m a big, fat heathen because I ascribe to this hippy-dippy, love one another craziness that has taken the place of my rigid, religious persona?

I guess that’s what they’ll think, then.

God and I are square, more than ever.

There was a time that I was sure my calling was to be a mom. And then my kids grew up; they still need me, but in a different way. I was sure I was called to be an artist, and poet, and for a season, I was. For many years, I thought my calling was to minister to recovering alcoholics, and that is still true. Those things will always be parts of my mission.

But here’s what nobody warns you about: Our “callings” change. They morph. We are always called to something new because Papa LOVES opening our eyes to the NEW!

So I guess for the foreseeable future, The Beggar’s Bakery will again be sanctuary for my words. Because I badly need to get these feelings out, and why not bring along 1,940 of my closest friends with me?

It isn’t a pretty journey.

It isn’t even a COMPLETE journey.

Just a leg of the trip, replete with all the joy, angst, confusion, acceptance, and hope I can muster and share with my readers.

This revival is for the doubters. It’s for the broken-hearted, and the disenchanted. It’s for those who always feel that they fall short of the glory of God, and the expectations of men. It’s for the marginalized and the giver-upper. It’s for the real people, the ones trying to figure out and complicate what is really, really simple – that God is Love itself and YOU are an expression of that love to the entire universe.

I’m still struggling with a lot, so don’t look to me to feed you in whole – to hand you the Bread of Life – the truths, mysteries, and answers. But I CAN tell you where to find that bread still. The Bakery is open – loaves and fishes for all.

It’s all love.

Til’ tomorrow….

 

acceptace · Brokenness · Christianity · Grace · Spiritual

The Grace Gospel Poem

img_7854

By: Jana Greene

What if you were already “right with the Lord,”

And didn’t have to live by the sword,

And battle every single day

With what you do or what you say?

What if you embraced your human-ness,

And didn’t have to strive and stress,

And earn your way into His good graces,

Would you then lean into wide open spaces

Of redemption and love, unconditionally given.

Would you then be so afraid of living?

If we believe what we claim to believe

Could our weary hearts gain a reprieve?

What if His love is totally free.

What, then, would would you open up to be?

What if you could truly rest,

Would you be less exhausted and less of a mess?

Does “it is finished” ring true to you,

Or are you still giving the devil his due?

We try so hard to earn His grace

When really if we seek his face,

We are already there

It is finished and done,

We are one with the Father

And one with the Son,

And Holy Spirit will guide us through;

If you trusted completion,

Tell me, what would you do?

 

Christianity · Spiritual

Immigration Consideration – one Christian’s thoughts on loving strangers

By: Jana Greene

Hello, Dear Reader.

I hesitated to write this blog post; not because I don’t feel passionate about the subject matter, but because I’m allergic to conflict – it makes me break out in insecurity.

The nastiest comment I have received in the six years of writing The Beggar’s Bakery was from a Christian woman (go figure) who reamed me a new one because I didn’t care for Trump. “He is sent by GOD!” She wrote. “As according to PROPHESY!!!!” There were many expletives in the comment as well, basically assuring me of my place in Hell because I didn’t like the president.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I responded. But what I wanted to say was, “LADY? YOU JUST PROVED MY ENTIRE POINT.”

That being said, I feel like the time is now to say my piece on this – my little corner of the internet. I’m not posting this as a Republican or a Democrat. I’m posting it as a human, as a mother, as a Christian, because I’m sick and tired of watching what’s going on be defended by people who purport to love Christ. I know this is a wide swath of my friend base, and I love you all. But please hear me out.

I don’t care what your political leanings are, it shouldn’t matter which side you lean toward. Children being treated like animals should piss you off. Parents separated from their kids should piss you off. SHOULD. We are all so busy being elephants and donkeys that we forgot how to be human.

If you want to defend the actions of our president, please leave God out of it. I used to be conservative (and still am on some fronts,) but there is no way to justify what he is letting happen. And I’m just gonna spit this out here, because it’s been bugging me and I’m trying to play nice-nice with everyone, but what with children in cages, I think it’s time for a nice-nice reprieve.

How in the name of Davy Jones do you reckon Trump is getting so much of the evangelical support? Because he prays publicly sometimes in office? Because he is pro-life and claims to believe “all life is sacred”? I’m calling bullshit. I’m pro-life, but that means, um…pro-LIFE. That means being just as bothered by human beings being washed up on shores as being ripped from there womb. I’m pretty sure Christ was more concerned with children suffering than national security. Of ALL demographics of people, WHY is Trump getting the “Christian” support? The phenomenon makes no sense.

Jesus is not looking to exclusively bless just the white, middle-class, church-going, law-abiding demographic, which is essentially – if we are honest – what many of us have come to expect. Neither big on law OR homogenized populations, Jesus made it exceedingly clear that he values compassion over all else. He loved the refugee, the orphan, the widow, the marginalized, the disadvantaged just as much. Do you think he is up there cheering when another Mexican drowns in the Rio Grande? Or when those from war-torn countries are turned away from our ridiculously blessed nation? Do you think he thinks it’s okay to rip parents away from little children, and deprive those children of basic necessities?

Jesus was about INCLUSION, not SEPARATION. He was very clear about the “us vs. them” mentality having no place in the Kingdom or God. But boy, we humans LOVE that shit. It allows some of us to feel superior to others and we just eat that right up!

How can you tell one is a Christian? Nope, not by their bumper stickers or angelic demeanor. Not by the KLOVE blasting from their car radios. Not by their instant recall of scripture, or their political stance. By their LOVE, manifested in the fruits of the spirit.

“You will know they are mine by their ‘fruit,” said Jesus. Fruits of the spirit are often recognized as joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and so on. WTF is up with Trump’s fruit? Is anyone inspecting it? (Ew.) Because upon closer inspection, that low hanging “fruit”appears to be pretty wormy.

Another Jesus-ism? “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Since when did it become “Christian” to treat other human beings the way he is treating immigrants? Peeps, YOUR ancestors were immigrants. If you need to justify what’s happening as it relates to YOU personally, there’s your fact.

I won’t go as far as to say that trump uses faith-talk to manipulate people…(if the toupee fits…) but his fruit stinks and he treats women and foreigners like crap – basically anyone who isn’t just like him. All for what? A WALL?!

How do you justify the following with being a disciple of Christ and leading in a Christ-like way? Tweeting a thousand immature and inane nasty words to the people on the opposite side of his politics (will someone PLEASE take The Twitter away from The Donald? ) His history of treating women like objects (at best) shouldn’t be brushed under the rug either.

He is un-apologetically polarizing. But children being treated sub-human should NOT be polarizing and frankly, I’m having a hard time understanding WHY it is so for anyone.

Jesus was a unifier.

Jesus was a radical.

Jesus tore down walls.

Jesus loves the underdog.

How a billionaire who spent a lifetime haughtily thinking he is superior to everyone else and talked about women in such nasty ways on the regular (50% of voters are women, roughly; so riddle me that…) came to run the most powerful nation on earth, I will never understand.

If you read this far, thanks. And please continue to pray for our nation. We desperately need divine help. If you still need proof via scripture, please see below. Thanks so much for your readership.

“I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” – Jesus. Matt 25:35

“You shall love the Lord God with all of your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

“Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers.” Romans 12:13

“In that renewal, there is no longer Greek and Jew…barbarian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” Colossians 3:11

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels unaware. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortutured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13:1-3

“…therefore we must support such people, so that they may become co-workers with the truth.” 3 John 1:5

 

Hope · Spiritual

Christ in the Rubble – Prayers for Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame
Jesus is not offended by our mess. He is present in our ash and rubble.

By: Jana Greene

Yesterday, the Cathedral at Notre Dome burned down for the most part. The building is said to be counted as a near total loss. It is physically painful to look at the images coming from Paris.

You’ve probably seen the picture making the rounds of the golden cross and altar still standing at Notre Dame. Somehow, some way.

I’m not one of those people to ascribe to the following line of dogma: Betty Jo died in a horrific car accident, and only the Bible in her back seat survived completely unharmed! I used to think that was big guns, until I acknowledged the niggling question in my soul, “Yeah, but what about Betty Jo? Surely God cares more for her than a book!”

And he does. I know he does.

As humans, we like to equate beautiful with holy. It seems natural, doesn’t it? We like signs and wonders, and when possible, like to make our own and wait for God to admire our handiwork.

On a trip to New York City many years ago, I visited Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. A more beautiful place I have never seen. As my group toured, there was respectful silence, but for me, there were tears. I couldn’t bear it. Even years later, I skip a breath in considering the majesty.

My prevailing thought is now what it was then, “If puny men can make something so beautiful, Oh my GOD, what can YOU do?”

Notre Dame was stunningly beautiful. I am sorry I’ve never seen it in person, but the pictures alone make me skip a breath just like St. Patrick’s Cathedral. That a place so radiantly stunning could be built by human hands is astonishing. That a place so beautiful could be leveled with flame is heart-breaking.

As Paris mourns, there still is God.

In the muck and mire, soot and ash.

I’m not sure that God saved the Cross at Notre Dame as a sign or a wonder. I see signs and wonders in a lot of innocuous things.  I like to think he did, but I also don’t believe he is a God of destruction, or had anything to do with it burning in the first place….

Still, it’s a stunning visual, isn’t it?  It speaks to my heart today, as dramatically as the walls that cloistered it. I find that rubble is so relatable. No matter how majestic, things crumble. I crumble, too.

Yet, when I crumble, there is Christ.

Wherever ivory towers fall, there is Christ.

Wherever beautiful things lie in rubble, there is Christ.

There is Christ, always, in the midst.

A million stained glass windows cannot outshine him. No stone foundation is more steady.

Be reminded of this as you wade through whatever rubble is breaking your gait and tripping you up. And no power in heaven or earth can keep him from lifting you out.

Praying for you, Paris.

Praying for all of us, world.

 

beach · Faith · Spiritual

Flotsam, Jetsam, and Faith

10303458_10203946120805754_7418253387907206405_n

By: Jana Greene

Ever been through a dry spiritual season? Without exception, we all have. Some of us are there now.

The place where God’s voice seems muffled under the din of mind noise. Oh my Lord, such mind noise!

Faith made stale by either struggle or monotony…because let’s be honest, both can really make us feel small and lost.

Swimming is a great therapy for me. It soothes my janky joints and relaxes my tense muscles. One of my favorite places in the world is the beach, and we are fortunate to live minutes away from the Atlantic ocean. When I go to the coast and scan the vast horizon, it reminds me how tiny we humans are.

But when I get in the water and swim, I’m in another world. It is a soft, enveloping womb – the ocean. I get immersed, letting the gentle current carry my floating form. I like to swim out past where my feet can feel the bottom. When I go with my adult kids, they are forever telling me, “Mom! That’s deep enough!” It’s funny how the roles have somehow reversed.

One of the most fabulous things about a faith walk is that even when you trip up, you still always know where true North lies. Navigating by the Heavens is tried and true, predictable and concise. Sometimes when I trip, I stay down on the ground and have a little spiritual tantrum, refusing to get up for a bit.

But when I come back from a dark place, my worship is fresh and welcome to my Papa God. Just like dipping into the cool waters of the sea, I’m not small but significant. I’m part of the water, and it’s part of me.

That’s all it takes to get my mind right – worship. And worship isn’t always about flashy church worship bands, or getting the lyrics right. It can be about seeking Him in nature. It can be about a long conversation with him – trusting Him to hear us is an act of worship. Noticing the tiny things that are beautiful and miraculous. Because the miraculous surrounds us every day, if we take time to look for it.

I have offered up some of my best worship while floating on the surface of the salty sea. Words fail me at times. But He is as close as my breath as I admire His handiwork.

When I am spiritually dry, He isn’t waiting on me to get it right to respond. He is in that dark place beside me, within me as Holy Spirit.  I am not small and lost, but infinitely valuable to my Creator, and so are you. So much so, that He is in us and around us, guiding our flotsam and steering our jetsam. Interestingly, the definition of “jetsam” is: “unwanted material or goods that have been thrown overboard from a ship and washed ashore, especially material that has been discarded to lighten the vessel.” He wants to lighten our burdens! What a God we serve.

Immerse yourself in Pure Love and be reminded that you were not designed to admire the vast love from a safe place. You were born to learn that trust makes us weightless.

That’s how I think about God – He desires that I don’t stay on the shore, but dive in and trust Him fully, even when our “feet” don’t touch the bottom.

God bless us, every one.

 

Faith · Spiritual

Seasons (that suck) are followed by Seasons (that ROCK!)

fall

By: Jana Greene

This whole post could easily be about hating summer.  Because I really hate summer, and frankly don’t understand why any temperature over 90 degrees exists. That’s what I want to talk about today – hating summer because it’s hot.

In the literal heat of the moment, I can decide the whole damn season just sucks.

Heat is oppressive. My body doesn’t like it. Easily eighty percent of my health woes are directly impacted by temperature, although I hate admitting that because it’s such an old lady complaint. (Spoiler alert: You really CAN feel the storm coming in your bones!)

Something about sweating really brings out my flair for the dramatic. In the foyer of my house – as I am exiting my home – I am woman, hear me RAWR! And I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me! I’m having a great hair day!

Two seconds later, I’m walking to the driveway awash in the oven-like conditions of the great outdoors (yes, the stretch between my front door and driveway IS considered the ‘great outdoors,’ especially in the summer.) Within moments, I have dissolved into a sweaty, ruddy, giant two year old who needs a nap. The air feels too damp to breathe. Ew.

When I get over-heated, all of the sudden, I feel fat and ugly.

All of the sudden, my inflammation levels rise.

All of the sudden, I hate everything about living on planet Earth.

Oh my goodness, what first world problems! But during the experience of segueing between Hearth and Home and Habitat Hell, I become extremely grumpy. What possible purpose could 100 degree weather serve? I mean, sorry about the Ozone, God, but could you hook a sister up with some nice 80 degree days between May and September?

To everything, turn turn turn,

Season, turn turn turn,

And a time for every purpose

Under Heaven.

Purpose. Hmmmm.

The inevitable truth is that summer is only a season – one season – and as such, will turn into Fall. Things turn; it’s the nature of things to turn.

Now, I LOVE everything about Fall, ya’ll. The whole shebang!

Autumn leaves changing colors, and hot apple cider. Snuggly sweaters and crisp, cool air. October is my favorite color, and I can’t wait for it to come around! At the slightest whiff of cool air, my attitude changes. Witnessing the falling of one orange leaf means all of the bounty of my favorite season is in view. It’s coming! It really is!

That seasons change is a fact. Better times are coming. After this season comes another, better one. I will not need gills to breathe outside then. I will be able to exhale, and inhale again, with little to no drama about leaving the house.

So I suppose this whole post is kind of all about hating summer. But even this wretched season has it’s charms – like going to the beach. And….going to the beach. (I got nothin’ else here.)

No matter what we are hating right now – it will change. Seasons always do. Whatever is stifling us and strangling us, making us grumpy.  Knowing that it’s nearly September and October inevitably follows is a great comfort to me right now!

If you are going through some awful season right now, I pray you will just be encouraged. I’m not going to feed you a line about everything happening for a reason; that’s not helpful at all. But I am reminding you that it is temporary.

It helps to remember that in all of the other seasons, too – the ones that make heat strokes look like a walk in the park. Like the Big Three – health, money, and relationships. There’s a season for everything, including huge life changes.

Take heart – your “October” is coming!

Mine is, too.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

 

Depression · Spiritual

The Thing about Ruts

By: Jana Greene

Greetings, readers. Tonight I wrote about getting out of the negativity rut. So here is the brain purge of the day (and a heart purge, too.)  God bless us, every one.

We live about a mile from the Atlantic ocean, as the crow flies. Even though it’s super close, to get there, you have to drive around a while. There is a monumental body of water called the Intracoastal Waterway that you must cross via bridge. Our town is one of the few places left on the East coast that you can actually drive your 4-wheel drive vehicles right onto the beach. The stretch of coast is simply called “The North End.”

During the summer, we locals lay low and stay away, because the strip of beach you can drive on is a huge cluster-bleep. Trucks and other utility vehicles crammed into every square foot of beach. Thousands of tourists. No thank you very much.

But in the Fall and Spring – and even in Winter – riding in a jeep on the sand is a blast.

Until it isn’t.

The beach – like the ocean – is never the same place twice. As you drive down to the southern-most tip of the island, the dunes are on your left. Lush with sea oats and grass, they are roped off from traffic. To your right, the majesty of the sea. Sometimes it is blue and foamy, and other times a vast ocean of green. It looks brown, too, when the sediment below gets riled by a hurricane  or tropical storm; choppy and angry and dangerous.

I have ridden on the beach many times in our old jeep. Just 10 years ago, it was great fun. I loved going there with My Beloved and unzipping the clear, plastic windows so that we could smell the sea as we jostled about.

It isn’t as much fun anymore. It makes my hurting body hurt badly.

There are times when the drive-able sand is flat as an asphalt highway, and times the sand is mountainous and soft. A different landscape every visit.

One of the risks you undertake by driving on the North End is getting your vehicle stuck in the deep sand. Nearly every time we are there, someone gets standed.

For reasons that I do not understand, men take getting stuck / unstuck VERY seriously. And they take a hit right in the pride if they are unable to work themselves out of the ruts. It causes extreme embarrassment when they are the stuck-ee.

The opposite of getting stuck is being a hero. This designation occurs when you help another driver out of a rut. So far as I can tell, the Man Rules for this scenario looks like this:

You happen upon some poor sap stuck in the sand. His wheels are spinning and spinning, but cannot get any traction. This is not a deterrent. He keeps spinning.

You watch him for a while, perhaps a little smugly.  Not only did you NOT get stuck in the rut yourself, but you might get the opportunity to pull someone else OUT of one.

Pulling alongside the dude whose tires are knee-deep in tightly packed tread, you offer your standard greeting (‘Sup?’) and ask if you may help him, all whilst assuring him that it’s “no problem,” and that you have been stuck on the North End yourself. Several times.

You drive your jeep just ahead of his truck, pull out some chains from the back of your own car (beach-driving men always have chains in their vehicles, for just such an occasion,) hook his front bumper to your rear trailer hitch, and engage all four wheels  slowly and deliberately. You have to be careful not to slip the clutch. Sand flies up behind your tires like crazy, but within minutes, your new buddy is being towed out of the rut. Once he is free, you get out of your car and ask him if he needs any further assistance, and he says “no,” thanking you repeatedly.  Assure him that you were glad to help

Here comes the inevitable analogy: I’ve been in a rut. Not in sand, but in spirit. My chronic health issues and pain have hijacked my whole life. I am almost never well, and this has been going on for nearly a decade, slowly worsening. Most of the time, I feel like I am either getting a migraine, having a migraine, or getting over a migraine. I have very little collagen and thus many of my joints sound like gravel with every step I take. Many of my issues will not resolve (thanks, genetics….) and that’s just the facts, and I don’t like it. This is the new normal. I’m thankfully married to an amazing man who looks after me and takes good care of me, but I imagine it wears on him as well. This – as they say – is not what he “signed up for.” Except that it IS, because he signed up for me, whatever that looks like.

God bless him.

This situation, combined with other circumstances in the past few years, have made me a little negative. Okay, a lot negative. Dealing with pain, and life drama – one thing after another – it takes a toll.

So excuuuuse me if I’ve allowed my ills to affect my attitude. Unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes (which I know many of you dear readers have similarly done) you just don’t know how taxing chronic illness is.

Some days I feel like I handle it like a superhero, and other days, I’m quite the whiny little bitch about it. I wake up every day expecting the worst, because otherwise I’m disappointed with the day’s challenges. Expecting the other shoe to drop continually will give you grade-A anxiety of the highest order. It’s a deep rut, and I feel like I’m just spinning tires.

That’s the thing about ruts. The same old, same old.

I genuinely want to be a positive person, and sometimes I am. I love my life, and am blessed beyond my wildest dreams, compliments of 17 years recovery from alcoholism. I have great faith in Father God, and a twisted sense of gallows humor to cope whenever my faith falls short. God is my chain-maker and chain-breaker. It’s pretty amazing to know that the Creator of the universe has got my back, no matter how deep of a rut I’m buried in. He is glad to help.

I think it’s time I pull out the chains and start making a concerted effort to be less negative. And I am reminded again of the Serenity Prayer:

…”God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Hmm. The “wisdom to know the difference” is key here. What amongst the litany of complaints and struggles is under my control?

Genetics I cannot change.

The shitty state of the world, I cannot change.

The co-dependency cycle, in which I agonize over the choices of those I love until I work myself into a frenzy?

I can’t change the actions of others, but I can change my reaction to them.

In the interest of self-care, here are some things I can have the courage to change, God willing:

Engage all four wheels, and pull somebody else out of a rut.

Start physical therapy for my wonky joints, and stay the course rather than give up.

Cut myself a damn break every once in a while and be less self-critical.

Make healthier food and exercise choices, insofar as my joints allow the strain.

And I can wake up in the morning and have the name of Jesus on my lips first thing; instead of expecting the worst.

I may not be able to bounce along in the jeep on the North End anymore, but I sure as heck can pack a beach chair, a picnic, and a book, and park my butt on the beach – one mile away, as the crow flies.

I’m tired of being the “stuck-ee” and ready to pull up my hero pants.

Who’s with me?

Beatitudes · Social Justice · Spiritual

Blessed are Those who Hunger for Social Justice and Spit out the Subterfuge (Part IIII of The Beatitude Series)

Justice.jpg

By: Jana Greene

I gave birth to liberal children.

There, it’s out now (Haha! Whew! What a relief to just SAY it, and put it out there into the UNIVERSE!)

I’m kidding of course. I am very, VERY proud of the strong, young women grew up to be. Nearly everyone in the world could be labeled ‘liberal,’ some ‘conservative,’ but most fall in the spectrum in between.

Labels. Labels. Labels. Oh how we just LOVE labeling people. And the act of doing so is SO not of God.

For the record (and all labeling purposes) I am a moderate – and a moderate with libertarian leanings at that. I apologize to no one. Let’s just get those nasty ‘ol labels out of the way and God bless America and all that.

It bothers me less and less that my kids’ lean to the left, because the older I get, the more I understand how social justice matters to GOD.

Here are the complicated instructions I gave my kids growing up: “Form your own ideas based on what you know, and grow up to CARE about people are treated.”

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they did.

Here’s my honest account of social justice (and those who supposedly hunger and thirst for righteousness):

To this white, middle-aged woman, I used to think of social justice as a phase of American history in which there were blatant abuses and  involuntary segregation and horrible injustices done to people for no other reason than they had more melanin in their skin tone than others. But thank GOD, a man named Martin Luther King came and was the fairest, true-ist man in all the land, and he and his brave and peaceful soldiers of equality rid the world of social injustice so that we could all live in a world where everyone was equal and valued as such. The end.

(I didn’t say it was accurate, I said it was what we were taught. At my particular high school, the black kids were the popular kids, so I had no other perspective to view it from. It was certainly not applicable to every black child in America.

Here’s the thing: We all believe fundamentally that we are right. But statistically, we cannot POSSIBLY all be right all the time. Where are you wrong? I’m wrong about a lot of things.

And as I said, it was the history through the eyes of a white, middle-aged white woman who was educated in ’80’s era Texas and who then – and now – have multitudes of dear friends of every race, color, and creed.

As evidenced by our current political and socioeconomic climate, it ain’t over, obviously. And there is no way of getting around it – liberally or conservatively – it is an issue important to our fully-just Father.  I cannot fathom a subject more near and dear to his heart than how his children treat eachother.

It’s easy to resort to quoting the Bible verses we’ve all come to know (and be kind of confused by:) “Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness,  because it is they who will be satisfied!” Matthew 5:6 (NIV)

or, as The Message translates the verse: You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”

Oh, THIS. Yes, the eating and drinking  analogy. Now , THAT’ll preach!

True justice is the best meal you’ll ever eat?  That goes right alongside drinking of the water that will make you never thirst again. That’s satiation. That’s fullness. That’s true and just satisfaction.

So as I’ve been trying to figure out for weeks how to write this piece, God has given me the word “truth’ over and over.

“Yeah, I get it, God. Truth is part and parcel to justice, and there can be no justice without there being absolute truth. But you see, we here are sorely lacking in thine ultimate truth-o-meter, as we have only our senses with which to mitigate it. Think about it. Most of we humans determine justice by perspective.

The hard part here is determining how we understand justice:

Our own sense of right and wrong (which is subjective).

And our physical senses – what we see here with our gelatinous eyeballs and selective hearing. What we touch, which may vary from person to person. What we taste, which is literally a matter of personal taste; and by what we feel – physically or emotionally.

All these weeks that God has been telling me “write about truth in justice and the blessing therein” I couldn’t complete  writing this piece because I felt something was missing.

I’d been missing the second word he’d told me to write about this morning out of a dead sleep  (and at 2 a.m., thanks, God – your ways are not our ways nor is your timing ours!)

SUBTERFUGE. The key to understanding true just ice is cutting through all of the crap that is subterfuge.

sub·ter·fuge
ˈsəbtərˌfyo͞oj/
noun
noun: subterfuge; plural noun: subterfuges
  1. deceit used in order to achieve one’s goal.
    synonyms: trickery, intrigue, deviousness, deceit, deception, dishonesty, cheating, duplicity, guile, cunning, craftiness, chicanery, pretense, fraud, fraudulence

    “the use of subterfuge by journalists”
    trick, hoax, ruse, wile, ploy, stratagem, artifice, dodge, bluff, pretense, deception, fraud, blind, smokescreen;
    informational, scam
    “a disreputable subterfuge”

There is truth and justice. And then there is subterfuge.  Everything else that is not God’s righteousness is subterfuge. 

The problem being that subterfuge is also highly subjective. What may offend you may not offend me.

But what offends God should offend us all. That’s the hard part because we’ve had so many things chiseled into our minds that God HATES. But God, by his very nature, LOVES.

(Hey, I didn’t claim to answer all the world’s problems, I’m just saying God gave me a word at 2 a.m. and told me to share it, so if ONE single reader has an epiphany through this piece, my work here is done!)

Blessed are those who truly hunger for righteousness; whatever that righteousness looks like to Almighty God, fair in all of his dealings and loving in all of his ways. I think Martin Luther King understood that.

Care about how people are treated, and you cannot go wrong.

Blessed – that state of BEING, not state of FEELING – are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are we who grow up to be people who CARE about other people.

Only God knows every truth that constitutes every justice. But BLESSED are we who work up a good appetite for the Giver of those Truths – God. He truly satisfies.

It’s not necessarily the “figuring out” what is just and un-just (although we should certainly strive to) but the thirsting for truth and justice that releases His power like no other sense we can manufacture on our own. Maybe we can all start by admitting  “hey, this was my perception growing up.” Maybe it’s really important to listen to one another.

Subterfuge would love to keep us all silent.

Let us selah on this, God.

For a day, and for a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Beatitudes · Spiritual

Blessed are the Meek (Part III of The Beatitude Series)

Mystic
The truth will set you free. But first it’s going to be pretty uncomfortable.

By: Jana Greene

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Most everyone knows this beatitude; what with the promise of inheriting the earth and all. I love the way The Message translation breaks it down:

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (MSG)

Who else has felt like they are never enough? I don’t mean the self-depreciation that comes with not meeting individual expectations. I mean,  who else struggles with core low self-esteem? Just feeling less-than?

At times, I feel I can do no right. I wish I were more organized, more punctual. More reliable. Steadier. It’s easy to get swept up in self loathing as a vehicle for ‘meekness,’ at least for me. Once the spiral gets going, it’s easy to believe all of your own negative press. Our self-esteem can ride on our hormonal fluctuations, our bruised egos, our moods.

Before I got sober, I was a very guarded person. I had few friends and because I was operating out of a place of near-complete fear, I reasoned that I wouldn’t say boo to a goose because I was ‘meek.’

I watched every word I said (sometimes that was good) for fear I might incriminate myself. I watched every thought because I just knew that God was displeased with my carnal nature. It was a stifling existence, fighting my voice in order to please everyone else, especially the Almighty.

It wasn’t a lifetime of meekness. It was a lifetime of being afraid. God isn’t afraid of my thoughts – He know them all already. Oh how I wish I had known that the Almighty was already okay with the real me!

Meekness is defined as (trigger warning) “submissiveness.” Why is being submissive considered such a societal ill? Because we are defining submission in terms of how humans treat each other, not how God treats His creation. If someone always has your best interest at heart and never fails at sweeping you off your feet, being submissive is easy. Most of the time.

It isn’t a watering-down, but a building-up!

Four years into sobriety, I met my husband. In an instant I fell in love and took the great risk of being myself with him. Through step work, I started loving people and letting them in, and in return, received a great deal of love. And I was amazed – I am STILL amazed 12 years later – that he actually encourages my quirkiness.

Had I not met him, I doubt very much that I would be writing this blog – or anything else – because I would be too afraid of what you (the reader) are thinking right now.

Sometimes we just need someone to give us permission to see ourselves in a positive light.

God is giving you permission! Blessedness is not a mood, but a state of being. Praise be for THAT!

It took a little longer for me to trust that God encourages our quirkiness, but I’m here to tell you, He does. He really does get tickled by the things that make us US.

It’s okay to have a voice.

In researching the subject of meekness, I came across a wonderful quote (and one that is, as far as I can tell, anonymous): “Meekness is not weakness, just strength under control.”

Meekness is not low self-esteem. To be meek is to know who you are, and not try to be more than that or less than that. But being who God says we are is so much better than who we could paint ourselves to be.
Just BE.

Human being < human doing.

And it is in the ‘being’ that we become content with who we are and find ourselves the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought…

Love among one another.

Strength under control – God’s control.

Intimacy with the Living God. If we are bestowed that, we have gained the whole world.

 

 

 

Christianity · Spiritual

The Beatitude Series – Blessed vs. Happy, an Introduction

blessed

By: Jana Greene

Hi, friends. This week and the next, I will be writing with a focus on the biblical Beatitudes. I’ll try to convey my heart on the subject and – as always – welcome YOUR take on each post. Blessed be, dear readers.

Many of you know that I am involved in a Christ centered 12 Step program. At tonight’s meeting, the leader made an amazing point about being blessed, and I can’t sleep until I share it with you. It was an AHA! moment; an epiphany, if you will. So simple, yet so profound.

We were discussing the Beatitudes – those biblical ‘blessed be’s. I’ve read them a thousand times. I’ve delved into studying them. I thought I understood them. But one single sentence he shared struck a chord, and I am thinking of it still.

You see, My Beloved and I recently returned from a trip to the mountains. We stayed in a tiny cabin and read books all day, and listened to the birdsong on the porch swing, and Van Morrison in the evenings, and went fishing in a little stocked pond multiple times. It was super EASY being happy there.

Alas, the realities back home were waiting for us upon our return. It wasn’t that I was unhappy to be back in real life; it’s just that comparatively, I’d rather sit in a cabin in the woods and read all day every day. Evidently that’s a lot to ask for.

But I’m richly blessed to the point of overflow. And not because of things or lack of things.

Happiness and blessedness are not the same thing.

Happiness is circumstantial. I can be full of mirth one moment, and in another moment become sad or angry. Oh how we love to chase the Happy!

Happiness is what we worship, isn’t it? I just want to be happy.

If I had all of my bills paid, I’d be happy. If my children were serving God, I’d be happy. If I lose 30 pounds, I’ll be happy. When I get that dream job / house / recognition / improved health … THEN  I’ll be happy. And then eventually I won’t, because LIFE keeps happening.

We catch it sometimes in celebration and laughter (which, according to my favorite author Anne Lamott, is ‘carbonated holiness.’ It’s an awful lot of chasing for something so fickle.

Blessed is a state. It is your natural state of being, because of whose you are. Even if you don’t know or believe, you are bestowed with the blessing of being invited to partake in the divine dance of the Trinity. Blessedness surpasses time or emotion or circumstance.

To live in a state of blessing awareness is to live the transcendent life. It’s a lot harder than it sounds! I’m preaching to myself here, too, because I am emotionally driven and get high on the Happy. There is no reality crash on blessedness.

There is only one qualifier to living the blessed life – if you know who you are and who you were created to be, you reap the benefits from the One who loves you.

So that’s what I’ll be writing about in this series; taking each beatitude one by one and hashing it out a bit. I’ll be referencing The Message translation of scripture.

Tomorrow the subject will be “Blessed are the poor in spirit” Please come along for the ride!

And note that my opinions are just that – my take on this very hard thing called Life. I’d love to hear your perspective as well.

Blessed be, friends.

The Beatitudes:

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. – Matthew 5:1-12 (MSG)

 

Spirituality

Filling in the Cracks with Trust

anne lamott

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.

Anxiety · Spiritual

Assurances at 4 a.m. (It’s a Psalms Thing)

lavender
Photo credit: Jana Greene (“Lavender Moon-rise”)

By: Jana Greene

It’s been a long night.

I fell asleep easy enough, but a few hours later I woke up to pee (we keep it real here, right?) like I do every other night at least three times, and was assaulted by hip pain when I stood up. Soon after, when I crawled back into bed, I felt the familiar dull headache begin stirring behind my eyes.

Terrific.

I tried to go back to sleep. I really did. But although I was desperately tired, I hurt. Hurting in the middle of the night is a lonely endeavor. Whereas I normally might complain to my long-suffering but incredibly supportive husband, he was fast asleep.

Soon, my mind got in on the action.

Suddenly – at 4 a.m. – I had this primal wave of worry wash over me. As if pain was tag-teaming anxiety. I tossed and turned, and asked God for a little help here, please. We are going through such a weird and wild season right now.

At 4 a.m., I wanted assurances.

I wanted to call my adult child and make sure she was okay. And then I wanted her to make promises to do what I cannot even manage myself – to get my sh*t together. I wanted God to guarantee her safety.  To guarantee all of us safety.

Then, the spiraled from there….

I wanted to log into my email and find five job offers in my in-box. Even though I’m really not healthy enough to work right now.

I wanted to will myself well and get on with life already.

I wanted to lift all of my husband’s worries off of his sleeping chest, so that when he wakes in the morning, his burdens are lifted.

I wanted to know that the world is not imploding, contrary to the evidence all around us.

I wanted to fast-track my therapy to purge my closet of skeletons in one fail swoop.

I wanted to stop feeling so crappy about myself.

I wanted a magic pill to calm my nerves so I could sleep.

I wanted – no, I NEEDED to tangibly feel God’s presence RIGHT NOW. Isn’t that the real craving? Without it, no amount of ‘fixed’ satisfies.

Instead, the more I panicked, the more it felt as though my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling.

A little voice in my spirit tapped me gently on the shoulder as if to say, “Excuse me….I hate to interrupt your anxiety attack and throbbing headache, but – um…..Pslams.”

I took a deep breath.

In another lifetime (fifteen years to be exact) I was a single mother of two pre-teen daughters. I was juggling four jobs after having been a stay at home mom all their lives. I became estranged from unhealthy relationships to safeguard my recovery.  My health problems kicked in, aided by the stress. My car window didn’t roll up – a hefty bag and duct tape was all that kept me dry.  We lived in a bad neighborhood. It felt like loss, loss, loss.

Since the separation from my girls’ father, it had just been one thing after another after another – big life issues – the kind of things that threatened by then-newish (four years) sobriety. That I survived that season in life sober is a walking-on-water caliber miracle.

All on my own and responsible for the lives of two beautiful girls, I’d never felt so alone. I lived on coffee, Diet Coke and cigarettes, and the only other reliable staple I had was my Bible and prayer life.

I made it a habit each morning to rise before my children, grab my Virginia Slim menthols and a cup of coffee, and sit outside on my porch with my Bible, looking for answers. Looking for assurances between drags on cigarettes.

Psalms are assurances. If you read them aloud, they are even promises.

There is no magic pill for me.  I’m an alcoholic. I am wise enough to not trust myself to substances.

But there are Psalms.

So this morning, I’m sharing this little love letter that God led me to just now. The words were written by a man who just couldn’t get his sh*t together either – the biblical David. I love David because he is desperate and wildly in love with God, all at once.

I hope these verses speak to you, too. God pretty much drug me out of bed to come write this post. Maybe somebody out there somewhere can feel a little less alone.

Read the Psalms aloud – they are meant for those whose worlds are imploding. Savor every word.

At 4 a.m., I wanted assurances. Thanks Papa God for showing up. You always do.

(I would also love to know what your favorite Psalms are, too.)

Need a Psalm? Take a Psalm.

Have a Psalm? Leave a Psalm.

And God bless us, every one.

I run to you, God; I run for dear life.
    Don’t let me down!
    Take me seriously this time!
Get down on my level and listen,
    and please—no procrastination!

Your granite cave a hiding place,
    your high cliff aerie a place of safety.

 You’re my cave to hide in,
    my cliff to climb.

Be my safe leader,
    be my true mountain guide.
Free me from hidden traps;
    I want to hide in you.

I’ve put my life in your hands.
    You won’t drop me,
    you’ll never let me down.

 I hate all this silly religion,
    but you, God, I trust.

I’m leaping and singing in the circle of your love;
    you saw my pain,
    you disarmed my tormentors,

You didn’t leave me in their clutches
    but gave me room to breathe.
Be kind to me, God
    I’m in deep, deep trouble again.

I’ve cried my eyes out;
    I feel hollow inside.
My life leaks away, groan by groan;
    my years fade out in sighs.

My troubles have worn me out,
    turned my bones to powder.
To my enemies I’m a monster;
    I’m ridiculed by the neighbors….

Desperate, I throw myself on you:
    you are my God!
Hour by hour I place my days in your hand,
    safe from the hands out to get me.

 

Warm me, your servant, with a smile;
    save me because you love me.
Don’t embarrass me by not showing up;
    I’ve given you plenty of notice…..

What a stack of blessing you have piled up
    for those who worship you,
Ready and waiting for all who run to you
    to escape an unkind world.

You hide them safely away
    from the opposition.
As you slam the door on those oily, mocking faces,
    you silence the poisonous gossip.

Blessed God!
    His love is the wonder of the world.
Trapped by a siege, I panicked.
    “Out of sight, out of mind,” I said.
But you heard me say it,
    you heard and listened.

 

Love God, all you saints;
    God takes care of all who stay close to him,
But he pays back in full
    those arrogant enough to go it alone.

 Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up.
    Expect God to get here soon.” – Psalms 31 (MSG)

Depression · Spiritual

Occupation: Depression – Thoughts on Faith and Mental Illness

foresale
Photo credit: Denver Post

I’d like to dedicate today’s piece to all of the doctors and health care workers who take the time to treat the WHOLE patient. Not all heroes wear capes. You know who you are ❤

 

By: Jana Greene

Here’s what today’s blog post is not going to be about: Snapping Out of It.

Snapping Out of It is the ugly cousin of Just Get Over It, who is a third cousin twice removed to This Too Shall Pass. There would be no point in snapping out of or getting over something that isn’t going to pass. Know what I mean?

I am not only a recipient of these sentiments, I have – at various times – been the advisor. I never meant to be curt with anyone, but from where I was sitting in my own woe-is-me-pod, some other depressed people had it pretty cushy, honestly.

You went to Disney World twice last year. You drive a car with working air conditioning. You are physically healthy. Your children are little full-ride scholarship, carved-out-of-cream-cheese, ministry workers who worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Oh my God, what more do you WANT!? Why are so SAD!? STOP IT. JUST STOP BEING SAD.

Except that depression is the very definition of subjective-ness. (I once was the lady who went to Disney World twice every year, and eventually nearly drank myself to death anyway.)

Here’s what this blog piece IS about: What depression feels like. I am SO hoping that many of you respond with how it effects YOUR life so that we can interact. It’s such an important subject.

You are already whole in Christ! 

Yes. But I feel like a whole lot of hurt. And that’s just the truth. Maybe if I had normal brain chemistry, I would grasp this wholeness in a more useful and fulfilling way!

That I struggle doesn’t mean my faith is janky.  It might mean my chemicals keep me from realizing the beautiful truths that seem to come so easily to others.

I’ve recently become more proactive in improving my mental state. I am currently in therapy to try to slay old, fermented demons from childhood forward, because you cannot slay and deny the demons simultaneously. Oh, and it would be nice not to have nightmares nearly every night.

I’m doing self-care. It’s a work in progress.

I know a perfectly lovely woman with cerebral palsy. To watch her worship is how I totally envision perfect praise. Her movements may be jerky, she may stumble at times, but I have NEVER seen more genuine worship than that by my friend.

Is she a child of a lesser god because she isn’t in perfect health? Oh COURSE NOT.

Mental illness is no different.

Depression can be *&%^$#@! organic and I have the lab results to prove it! I’m virtually out of stock with the serotonin. This is why God created geniuses in billowy, white lab coats (coincidence that they dress like angels? You decide) to whip up concoctions to help our bodies heal. Better living through chemistry. Yes, I would rather take some St. John’s Wort (although anything with ‘wort’ in it kind of turns me off) or slather on Snake (Essential) Oil) or chaw on some magical, organic hay that has been regurgitated by free range cows, but I don’t have time for that dangerous gamble.

I come from a long line of depressed people. And honey, I mean a LONG line. In the past four generations, many of us have started with the Gerber baby food of antidepressants (Prozac or equivalent) around 13, when hormones make us crazy. Deep despondency requires our brains get a little help.

We are almost ALL ridiculously creatively gifted. We are painters, and artists, and sculptors, and writers, and poets, musicians. (What’s the nice way to describe someone loony? Oh, “eccentric.”)

We fight hard, we love hard – there is no moderation.  If you are in my family and are not on at LEAST three medications to regulate your brain chemistry, thyroid, migraines, blood pressure, and cholesterol, step down, son. You can’t even play in the majors.

You see, we also have this quirk in which our brains do not manufacture dopamine and serotonin sufficiently. It’s hard to call it a curse, as it is directly correlated to our creativity. But it’s impossible to call it a blessing.

Depression feels dark. I’ve been sitting here trying to visualize what depression would look like if it were a person, and an image came to mind. Depression would be a coal miner. A hard-working, hard-scrabble, soot-covered man with the weight of the world (or its resources) on his shoulders.

He is in danger every single day, never sure if this will be the day a shaft collapses or any of 1,000 other mishaps might take his life. That’s the anxiety component.

He wears a helmet like some kind of gag gift – as if it could stop boulders and shaft supports from crushing him. On the helmet is a head light, but it, too, is covered in so much soot. It’s glow is minimal.

You see, there is soot everywhere. Blackness. All of his workday (and much of his life outside) he is blackened head to toe. When he goes to eat his wax-papered lunch sandwich, there are remnants of coal in his lunchbox. When he takes every breath, coal wisps into his lungs. By day’s end, only the whites of his eyes are not blackened by thick, powdery coal.

Had he any other choice, he would have a different occupation, but like so many families dealing with chemical genetic depression, it seems a simple given.

Like fighting depressive feelings, he gives his all every single day. It exhausts him, but he will get up and do it again the next day.

Cavernous darkness and a sinking feeling. That’s what it feels like to me. Depression manifests with thoughts of certain doom, ridiculously high anxiety, and in losing complete interest in anything that has ever brought me joy.  Heavy-hearted, short on hope. Praying to be delivered from the mine, and getting really pissed off at God for not rescuing me. So I cry. I do a lot of crying, but that only makes the soot sticky.

But there are those times in the hole, the black, black vortex, that I sense a miner just like me. His presence is the Comfort. That’s where faith comes in. For what I lack in serotonin, I more than make up for in camaraderie. Eventually I will take hold of the hand – also covered in soot – and allow myself to be lifted up and out. I can try to pull up others with my own sooty hands.

It isn’t that we are truly out of hope, it’s just that it’s hard to find in the darkness.

Please feel free to share your own experience with spirituality in regards to depression.

And God bless us, every one.