A Christmas Carol Redux – In Recovery Magazine

This piece ran in last winter’s edition of In Recovery Magazine.

I pray it blesses you, and as always – feel free to share the link.

Merry Christmas!

 

redux.jpg

By: Jana Greene

In the Twelve Steps of Recovery, my Higher Power gave to me . . .

There is something cool about the number “twelve.” It makes me think of the number of recovery steps; a dozen fresh, hot doughnuts; the number of beloved disciples of Jesus; and the Twelve Days of Christmas (even though that never made much sense to me – having little appreciation for a Partridge in a Pear Tree or Lords a-Leapin’).

But I do have all the appreciation in the world for addiction recovery. In my twelfth year of active recovery and in celebration of the Twelve Steps, I composed a “Twelve Days of Christmas” redux.

In the First Step of Recovery, Higher Power gave to me – a serving of humility.

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.

It was difficult to admit that I had zero power over a silly substance – alcohol – truly humiliating, but in the best way possible. I had to learn how to bite off one single day at a time without drinking, then another and another – in complete surrender to God. I continue to approach sobriety this way.

….to read the article in its entirety, CLICK HERE

2014-4-Greene-Christmas_Carol

 

Fudge > Fortitude (or, “Blaming Elsie”)

fudge

By: Jana Greene

Today I melted Godiva chocolate chips in the microwave, threw in a little vanilla extract and a can of sweetened condensed milk. I don’t know exactly what happened. I unintentionally made fudge, I guess.

I’m not proud of this.

I have been putting out Christmas decorations all day, all by myself. I am a brand new empty-nester, and there isn’t anyone to help me decorate in the spirit of family tradition. I guess that makes me a little sad.

And hungry.

I’m supposed to be eating healthier, and I WAS eating healthier since this morning when I made myself a green smoothie for breakfast. Green smoothies make you feel invincible, like if you literally cram enough spinach in your almond milk and bananas, you can leap tall buildings in a single bound. In reality, it does help you go to the bathroom, which can be no less impressive.

Anyway, I smugly sipped on my green smoothie all morning, giving myself mental high fives for being such a HEALTH NUT for drinking one shake. I was on my way to a slimmer, healthier, more attractive, less jiggly ME and this shake would so satiate me that I will give carbs in all their delicious varieties wide berth for the rest of the day.

And then I opened the pantry and saw a little can with this happy little cow’s face. She looks like she just took a lot of really effective drugs, but no …. she has been dipping into the sweetened condensed milk, and I’ll tell you how I know.

elsie
LOOK AT HER FACE. I want what she’s having.

Because sweetened condensed milk tastes like hopes and dreams.

The next thing I know, I am standing at the kitchen sink crying a little about my empty nest and consoling myself with the same sweet nectar that makes Elsie the Cow look like she just won the lottery on the label.  I’d dip the spoon into the melted Godiva chocolate…consider the lonely affair of putting up lights by myself and cry just a little……dip the spoon into the sweetened condensed milk…..feel my eyes go back in my head in rapt pleasure.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Until I have a really bad chocolate goatee and a sugar rush to end all sugar rushes.

“MAKE THE FUDGE,” one part of my brain implored. “You can save face if you just make fudge!” So I did, to avoid eating the whole gooey mess with my fingers. Fudge is a very acceptable thing to make at Christmas time, right?

The other part of my brain said, “NO! STOP! Your green smoothie was all for naught if you don’t stop mainlining sweetened condensed milk like a sugar fiend. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU”RE DOING. Remember how fat you felt at the Christmas party last night? Green smoothies didn’t get you that way. THIS BEHAVIOR makes you feel miserable”

That particular part of my brain got super dissed today. I made the fudge. I licked the spoon. AND the bowl.

I washed away all the evidence in the sink, but I’m blogging about it here because I need to be honest. Although I wouldn’t call it a binge exactly, I WAS temporarily possessed by a cartoon cow on a label and gave in to my baser, fudgier instincts.

And I need to be accountable, right?

Tomorrow is a brand new day with green smoothie possibilities galore. Thank God for second helpings, er….second chances.

God bless us, every one.

Christmas: God pursuing us

Antonio Allegri, Correggio 1528
Antonio Allegri “Correggio” 1528

By: Jana Greene

We lose the meaning of it all, in the quest to get it right.
This Christmas thing is hard to fathom, under our own might.

We know that Jesus was born in a manger,
We know that animals lowed nearby,
We know the wise men brought him presents,
We’ve all heard of the star that guided them nigh.

But stop the Christmas rush for a moment,
Silence the bells and jingling sleighs,
Look beyond trees and feasts and caroling,
And elaborate displays.

Remember for a moment what we most often forget,
Let it rest in your heart (where it’s a perfect fit!)
Christmas is about a God crazy for you …

Listen …. Can you hear him pursue?

A God who became human for a time,
just to be closer to you?

The Creator of the universe craving relationship,
Wanting to be where you are?
That small, still voice following you
Like the bright Bethlehem star?

So far across the universe, yet as close as drawing breath,
What could make God’s people see
This love that conquers death?

God sent his son – a part of Himself –
A promise he’d made long before.
And so to Mary, a son was born,
On a humble stable floor.

God himself poured over bones, and under fragile skin,
To draw you close and know your pain, and forever conquer sin.

God made manifest in a baby boy,
Who would grow to save the world.
And bring them the gospel of truth and joy,
His prophesy unfurled.

Hark the herald angels sing!
Peace on earth, good will toward men!
Do not fear,
Your God is near,
Even to the end.

Emmanuel – God With Us –
Yeshua,
God most high!
The hope for everlasting life
Heard in an infant’s cry.

That’s the meaning of Christmas.

Rejoice in your heart of hearts,
Where God has made his home …
Your heart – the manger  for the savior,
Filled with peace –
Shalom.

 

“Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
An Event for Everyone

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

Luke 2:1-20The Message (The Message)

Don’t Tread on Christmas

Christmas

Christmas is Christmas. Everyone just needs to accept it and move on.

There is definitely a movement of opposing the true meaning of Christmas going on, and to the folks perpetuating it, Christmas is just the High Holy Occasion for said hate. Last year, in New York City, atheists paid good money to put up billboards at Christmas espousing the holiday as a “fairy tale.” The celebration of the Messiah who changed the landscape for all mankind draws ire from those who don’t know Him. I get it.

But I have a truly revolutionary idea, which I put into practice all the time. You won’t believe it, it is such a crazy-radical idea!

Every single year….

At Hanukkah, I don‘t light a Menorah.

At  Ramadan, I do not fast.

On special atheist days (such as “Tuesday”) and Santeria holy days, I do nothing to commemorate them.

I do not own a statue of the Buddha.

I appreciate nature, with no regard whatsoever to paganism.

And although I like reggae music, I do not follow one single Rastafarian tenet.

I also don’t recognize the Summer/Winter Solstices, or celebrate the ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Because, you see, I’m not Jewish or Muslim, pagan or Hindi. I am not Buddhist, or Rastafarian, or an atheist.

I believe with everything that God poured himself over bone and under skin to be born in a humble manger. I believe he came to walk around in flesh, so that he could (a) know what the human condition feels like, and (b) give himself as a living sacrifice for all mankind. Jesus was revolution incarnate.

So, you can see why the birth of that savior is a big deal to Christians.

As a revolutionary thinker,  I just  don’t celebrate the holidays that are not meaningful to me.

I don’t insist that members of other religions alter their icons of celebration so that little crosses are part of their displays.

I don’t ask that they change their traditions to suit my skepticism and faith.

I don’t ask that they homogenize the teachings of their prophets,  so as not to offend my delicate spiritual sensibilities.

I would have no right to insist upon these things – to change an entire religious celebration for ME! Because I am JUST. THAT. SPECIAL.

I wouldn’t think of demanding that they light candles on alternate nights, eat a mid-day meal, or “don’t stop believing” (I couldn’t help it) because those ways are not my ways. How arrogant that would be of me!

But I would defend the traditions of either of those groups, and even of atheists – yes, atheists! I defend their right to NOT celebrate MY religion, it’s tenants, OR it’s holidays. Crazy, right?

It’s kind of the American Way, religious freedom.

In return for my not imposing my beliefs (or non-beliefs) on you – like I’m doing you a favor there –  I ask that you extend the same to me.

You know, the whole Golden Rule idea. It’s an idea that has roots in Judeo-Christian origin, not that its okay to mention that in polite society.

If Christmas has no meaning to you, don’t celebrate it. But how arrogant of you to ask that those who do change the very definition of the occasion.

If it offends you to be wished a “Merry Christmas,” I feel kind of sad for you. The message of Christ is and was love, and Christmas a celebration of goodwill toward men.

If it pains you to respond, “And Merry Christmas to you,” perhaps you are not as enlightened and tolerant as you fancy yourself.

(My favorite take on giving Christians the courtesy to allow them celebration is written by Ben Stein, himself Jewish. If you’ve never read it, I recommend it highly:  A Ben Stein Christmas.)

If you begrudge Christians the right to celebrate the birth of the savior, all you manage to change in the hearts of Christians is their resolve to keep Christ in Christmas.

You do not – by displaying a hardened, offended  spirit  – change the fact that God came in the form of a human being, changed the course of history one life at a time for over two thousand years now.

You will not change our hearts.

But yours might be.

Would your heart change if you passed along the goodwill that Christians celebrate at Christmas, by not insisting that the single most important event in history to millions of people be watered down to assuage those who don’t believe?

Are you just that special? (Irony: to the God you deny, you are incredibly special.)

I would rather Jewish, Islamic, and yes – even atheists! – celebrate their respective religions (or lack thereof) full-on without watering down their traditions to please me.

Don’t tread on me.

Don’t tread on my Christ.

Don’t tread on my Christmas.

And Merry Christmas. Welcome to the resistance.

Five People You Meet at Christmas

375438_2328192976642_569007938_nBy: Jana Greene

 

They come from all walks of life and every background.

The people you meet at Christmas.

They love, hate, dread or excitedly anticipate Christmas. They are us, full of the spirit or full of ourselves.

 Here is sampling of the Five people you might meet at Christmastime:

The Consumer:

“My ornaments are so last year.”

Stuff, stuff and more stuff.  Black Friday? Not for these guys and gals. Why wait when you can blacken Thanksgiving evening? Christmas is packages, boxes and bags. So much to DO! Genuine givers they may be, but the baby Jesus gets a little lost in the shuffle of shopping and wrapping.  In the extravagance of perfectly decking the halls, it is easy to forget that the son of God was born in a simple stable surrounded by livestock. It’s very easy to forget when retailers break out the red and green before the Labor Day sales are over.

The Grinchy Begrudger:

“If you can’t prove it, remove it!”

These folks don’t believe in a power higher than themselves and resent anyone who does. Live and Let Live is not their strong suit. They will spend time researching to make sure that a life-size nativity scene is not set atop any government or public property, and would cut the leg off of the Wise Man whose plastic sandal touches the border. Bah!

The Homogenizer:

“Christmas tree? No-sir-ee! That right there is a” Holiday Tree!”

The star atop that tree is not representative of the Star of Bethlehem, but could be any astrological phenomenon. The Homogenizer doesn’t really want to take Christ out of Christmas, just water it down enough to please everyone. “Happy Non-Specific Winter Jubilee Holiday Solstice,” might be the response to a greeting of “Merry Christmas”, when a simple “you, too” would be just as easy.

The Revelers:

For true believers, Christmas is  the birthday of someone whom they love very much.  Having had an intimate spiritual encounter with Jesus, they know him personally. They appreciate folks who – if they practice another faith (or no faith at all) -can allow Christmastime to be celebrated without knickers knotted in staunch offense. For Revelers? The wonder and awe of the season revolves around the birth of a savior. But be warned; Revelers might insist on wishing you a merry Christmas with nary a thought of hurting your feelings because, um…. it is Christmastime.

God:

The fifth person you might meet at Christmas is God.

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

God as a person? Yes.

That’s what all the hullabaloo is about, you see. God poured over bones and under flesh and wrapped in swaddling clothes. God himself, who lived as a carpenter by trade and at thirty years of age began to assemble a rag-tag band of twelve to follow him. God, who in three years of ministry to his creation, changed the entire trajectory of human history (and more importantly, of human lives). God, whose flesh and bones hung on a cross to make sacrifice for all of us – Begrudgers, Homogenizers, Consumers, Revelers, and everyone else– and rose from the dead on the third day. His birth has been celebrated in some way every year since. He lives even today.

You might encounter God this Christmas. He welcomes us all -– to gather at the manger and see what Christmastime is all about.

God bless us. Every one.

Carols for the Saturday of Awkwardness – Sing Along!

Santa says, “I’m still at the beach! Don’t rush me!”

I ought to be excited about this day.
Thanksgiving is over, but there are still plenty of leftovers. And the ominous Black Friday is finished, giving way to the Saturday of Awkwardness.

For me, every year, The Saturday of Awkwardness opens up the first weekend after Thanksgiving. There are still dishes from the feast in the sink, soaking and re-soaking – but nobody is really in the mood do finish scrubbing off the residue, much less start decorate for Christmas yet. Awkward Saturday is a 24-hour period in which nobody really knows what to do with themselves, and as a result – a sort of funk can settle over us. Our bellies are still too round to carry in boxes of ornaments from the garage; we light the short wicks on the leftover pumpkin-scented candles and hope they burn down in time for the Frazer fir candles to come out. We aren’t ready for real Christmas music quite yet. We are in full-fledged holiday-flux.

Speaking personally, The Saturday of Awkwardness can even be a little depressing. I am still tired from being on my feet preparing and cooking twelve meal items, but antsy about the upcoming holidays, which are looming ever closer like a bumbling turkey float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on a windy morning.

How will we afford Christmas this year, without my income? Writing about my experiences may be fulfilling in some very important ways, but Santa’s workshop does not accept blog posts as payment…not even on Pay Pal! I thought that by now I would have a paying job; it has been seven months since my last employment. Seven months since I broke my ankle that resulted in the surgery that kept me down for more time.

Write, God had said. Clearer than I’d ever heard His voice. And down for the proverbial count, I did. Now, we are approaching the commemoration of the blessed birth of His Son, and I’ve written enough to fill a horn-a-plenty, but have not even generated enough income to fill a mouse’s Christmas stocking. This does not seem to be a problem to God, although I’ve tried making Him understand that the numbers just don’t work.

And then there is the whole family angle.  How will the drama play out this year? Family and Drama go together like the pilgrims and Indians who’s coming together we replicated just a couple of days ago for Thanksgiving: two very different Peoples exchanging niceties and delicious food.  But just underneath the request to pass the maize pie, someone is plotting the scalping of another before the day’s end.

The Saturday of Awkwardness makes me tired; because I know that the holidays are coming like a tsunami and I do not have the energy to dodge it. So, as I poke around the house as slow as a sloth that has participated in a competitive eating event (and won): without purpose to clean, cook, wrap, and shop or decorate the thought occurs to me: The awkward Saturday may the perfect time for resting, and maybe a little songwriting.

During the holidays, we love our festive Christmas music, and Thanksgiving has it’s oven tunes about going to Grandmother’s house (and figgy pudding…you know the one).  So I decided to write a couple of little carols the about Awkward Saturday time. They go a little like this:

(to the tune of O’Tannenbaum)

Oh Saturday

Oh Saturday

Thanksgiving dishes in sink still lay.

Oh Saturday,

Oh Saturday,

Black Friday stole my joy away.

The reds and greens of Christmastime,

Shant’ prematurely hang in mine.

Oh Saturday

Oh Saturday

Make me a turkey sandwich.

 Or….

Joy to the world,

For crying out loud,

We just had Thanksgiving meal!

For Black Friday, You’re a fan of all

The sales, like a crazed animal,

Shopping til’ you dropped

And now your cash flow’s stopped.

And it’s still just November

Awkward Saturday.

God bless us…one and all!