When we got Nothin’, we Still have Hope

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By: Jana Greene

“You haven’t posted to The Beggar’s Bakery in a while…”

“The Beggar’s Bakery hasn’t gotten any new likes.”

“It’s been a while since your readers have heard from you.”

Such are the multitude of notices I’m getting that remind me I haven’t blogged in a while.

I’M SORRY, FACEBOOK OVERLORDS. I GOT NOTHIN’.

For six months, I’ve been writing a book about recovery. It hasn’t left any time and / or creative juice residue with which to write other things. Writing a book is stressful, but not nearly as stressful as surviving all the things that become material for the book. Right now, things are tough.

The book is all about the fierceness of the recovery life, whether that recovery be from drugs and alcohol or shitty childhoods, or bad relationships, or poor self-image. It is in fact titled “FIERCE Recovery.” But I am not feeling particularly fierce these days, you see.

I think maybe I am fierce in the same way as my fat house cat, who has delusions of grandeur that he is a big, scary panther, when in reality he is scared of the vacuum cleaner. We love him dearly, so he gets to live out his fantasy and we all pretend that he is super badass.

I AM fierce. I am strong.  But sometimes I’m delusional about what that means. Any thread of self-glory in those statements is being unraveled like a sweater. I’m naked underneath, but the thread keeps being pulled. Part of my fierceness is being exposed as vulnerability. Vulnerability can dangerous, but no more so dangerous than we are to ourselves when he hurt. Depression is a bitch.

But still, we have hope, because it’s a gift that is not the enemy’s to take. It’s not even OURS to withhold from ourselves.

I think my own personal free fall began with the death of a dear friend’s daughter from a heroin overdose. She was not just a friend’s daughter, but a young woman who I’d watched grow up alongside my kids and struggle with drugs. I had the distinct honor to “mentor” this girl for many of her recovery years, and came to love her.

My city is the “opiate capital” of the East Coast. Overdoses are commonplace. People are dying – mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. It is becoming “normal” to hear that someone I know directly or indirectly owe their lives to Narcan now.  Every day I hear of another overdose death, and every single time it brings my heart back to the girl who didn’t mean to die, but didn’t know how to live without her drug.

In other news, the suicide rate is skyrocketing. We were all sad to hear of Chef Anthony Bourdain’s passing, but how much more devastating are the lives lost in our own friend and family circles? People I love very much are being hospitalized for depression. Beautiful human beings are considering taking their own lives, choosing a permanent “solution’ to temporary problems. (Note: ALL problems here on planet Earth are temporary! It’s a universal law that things ALWAYS get better!)

Its as if two of the four horses of the apocalypse – suicide and drugs  – have decided to trample the human race under sharp, deadly hooves. We are all so tired.

But we cannot ourselves afford to tire of pulling each other out of the way, when people are hurting so badly.  But damn, it’s overwhelming.

Maybe it’s not so important that I fit the definition of FIERCE.  Perhaps I don’t need to feel like I have all the answers before I feel worthy to write a blog that says “I’m struggling. You?”

Maybe FIERCE is simply keeping the faith anyway. Maybe ‘fierce’ is just not drinking, and instead writing all of your janky and desperate thoughts and publishing them to a blog that other people might be able to relate to.

Maybe that’s why I’m supposed to write this piece because Facebook wouldn’t get off my back. Maybe we all need reminding that there is hope.

So long has we have a shred of hope, we cannot count ourselves spiritually bankrupt. Sometimes a direct hit right in the delusions of grandeur can shake hopelessness loose and release our inner Big Scary Panthers. Those badasses are all about survival.

The world would be a different place if people understood that they are precious to a loving God, who adores them just the way they are. Still a difficult place, but not a hopeless one.

That means you. He loves YOU.

“I got nothin'” has, in prior times of struggle, been enough for God to work with. Empty of all suggestions to make to God in order for things to work out the “right” way, we just ‘are.’ We stand in need of the one thing we cannot ourselves manufacture – HOPE. We are empty of answers, and desperate for his intervention.

If I’ve got nothin’, my hands are free to pull others up off the ground. They are free to hold tight to God’s promises.

So if you are reading this and your heart is despondent, just know that you’re not alone.

I won’t drink if you won’t!

I won’t give up, if you don’t!

Please don’t lose hope – you are loved.

Vulnerability is okay. We can be badasses in need of help. That’s not an oxymoron!

Take my hand and I’ll pull you out from under the stampeding horses.

And then when you can get on your feet,  YOU take someone else by the hand and pull them out, too.

Because when we got nothin’, that is everything.

Romans 5:4-5 [Full Chapter]

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” – (MSG)

 

If you are overwhelmed, please reach out for help!

SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION

1-800-662-HELP (4357)

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

1-800-273-8255

NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL HEALTH

1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

 

 

 

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?

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

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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)

Occupation: Depression – Thoughts on Faith and Mental Illness

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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.

 

Love Takes Home the Prize (a little poetry slam attempt)

jacob's well
Jacob’s Well in Texas

Hello, dear readers. I pray everyone is safe in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires.

Oy vey, this world.  What is the DEAL with it?

As I fight my own battle with depression, I’m learning that fighting it is exhausting, like trying to climb out of a deep well where the walls are slick and there are no footholds. I’m learning to be still, let Jesus shimmy down the well to where I am, hold and comfort me, and then lift me to safety. I know He will because He always does. As surely as death or taxes.

I have recently become addicted to watching poetry slams on YouTube. I love the wordcrafting and tempo, the emotion and power that go into the slamming. I would love to write poetry for a gathering of slam fans, but I don’t really have the guts to do it in front of actual people, so I’ll just do so from my little corner of the world here at The Beggar’s Bakery, where I don’t have to stutter or worry about what to do with my face or hands in front of people.

Here is my slam of the day.  It’s my first in this style of writing. Chalk it up to a mid-life crisis.  It almost has to be read aloud, and gives little credence to punctuation and grammar and all that jazz.

It may be pure awful. Something I look back on publishing and cringe.  Trying new things is hard. But hey – that’s always a risk when starting anything new. Right?

 

By: Jana Greene

There is no love apart from God

That being who embodies us

And shines like glass inside of us

Reflecting who He is.

Not given straight-up, tidy, neat

This thing we make about ourselves

This thing that wracks and wrecks ourselves

Spills over, out, and through.

We look at life through half-blind eyes

Despairing at the poverty

Body, mind soul  poverty

that chokes and breaks our hearts.

How can you say that God is Love?

I’ve heard asked in angry tones

Broken, acrid, angry tones

Where is He in the hurt?

Has Love gone void in this dark place

Where pain crushes the human race

This fickle, tender human race

And leaves it there to die?

But I say ‘no’; do not give in

To throwing in the towel, my friend,

The towel so soaked with blood and tears

Wring it and be free.

Chin up, all creation!

Rise up, all you nations!

And then crouch down with fellow men

And make yourselves Jesus to them,

For he is inhabiting you.

It’s not by spell of your own power

But by His Spirit enmeshed in you

The Friend he left to dwell in you

Manifesting Love for you.

Like liquid gold, let it flow

Out from the vessel and into the mold

The empty, barren, starving mold

In your brother’s heart.

We see here through half-blind eyes

Through the glass darkly in side of us

But even in spite of the dark in us,

Love takes home the prize.

 

 

Sufficient Grace in a Season of Suffering

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By: Jana Greene

Good morning, God.

I woke up in a panic today. Sick and tired, and tired of being sick. I have basically been ill since I had shoulder surgery 3 1/2 months ago, and I’m so over it. Feeling like crap for nearly 4 months straight would depress dang near anybody.

I’m really fighting the emotional funk, and I know I’m not alone – so I’m posting my prayer here. I know several of my friends are fighting (or have fought) the same funk. Depression and anxiety are real bugaboos, even for believers. I’m so tired of the stigma that gets perpetuated in churches. Jesus People should be the LEAST stigmatizing, for crying out loud. (No, really, I have cried out loud a few times this week.) Being of good cheer seems out of the question. Getting dressed today might be doable.

Every day in February, I have declared that THIS is the day I shall get it TOGETHER already! Mind over matter, right? (Wrong.)

I tell myself that TODAY, I shall work on taxes, get caught up on seminary, write another chapter for the book (AND get busy on some other projects) and lose 10 lbs and basically be a better version of me – the me in her PJs 24/7 this week, the me bingeing on Munchos. The me that feels so weak, she can hardly sit upright for more than 30 minutes.

Everything seems to be beyond my control right now, and I need Your comfort. I am asking for more faith, which comes from You. Help me with that, please.

Weakness…..Hmmmm.
There’s a scripture for that….

Your Grace is sufficient, I seem to recall. Praise Jesus for that sweet, amazing GRACE!

In your Word, you tell me that radical weakness is not a character flaw, but an opportunity for You to really bring home the razzle dazzle. You know how you do. Paul said it best:

“…Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (MSG)

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Hurts, Psalms, and Healing Balms

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By: Jana Greene

A long time ago, when I had retrospectively minimalist problems, I used to read the Psalms out loud in my morning devotion time. Until recently, I’d forgotten how much power is invoked in reading them aloud.

It’s 4 a.m. right now. And it’s me, it’s me, it’s me, Oh Lord…..standing in the need of prayer. I’ve been up all night with gargantuan aches, pains, and the like –  that seem hellbent of keeping me awake.

The Bible says that biblical David was a man after God’s own heart, but if you read the scripture, it seems that David was a bit of a whiner at best, and a real drama queen at worst. I mucked up a lot, made a lot of mistakes, and STILL God knew his deep and abiding love for him. I absolutely love Kind David. He GETS me.

Yesterday, I got some medical news that I suspected was coming. I’d warned my mind and body about it (as the symptoms had already revealed themselves to said mind and body), but my Spirit put up quite a fit upon learning what’s going on. Renal issues. Enlarged Liver issues. Chronic pain and more migraines to expect. Fatigue as the order of the day forthcoming. And leg and foot cramps that make you want to cry uncle at the top of your lungs at 2 a.m. (My poor, poor husband, I KNOW he is losing sleep…..)

Oh, and did I mention mental health issues arising from dealing with the stress of all of the above PLUS childhood trauma that has never been dealt with, and a whole lifetime of untreated depression? As I lurch forward in treatment for mental health issues, I’m feeling black-and-blue, my heart beat up badly, and bones and soul, too.

Which brings me back to the biblical David, bitcher of circumstance, beloved man after God’s own heart (is it possible to be both? I’m kind of counting on it….) Like David, I am on the cusp of digging deeper in my faith. Like David, I’m getting ready to clean out my closet and make room for fresh hope.

The Psalms are best read aloud because you can better capture biblical David’s desperation aloud. He is one of my favorite biblical characters because he can slay giants, become a mighty king, loves God with all of his heart, and seemingly and impulsively throw it away for a hot chick in a bathtub. Hey, who am I to judge?

Here is a man who knows frustration. Here is a man who gave us authentic prayer of the highest order.

Pray it aloud when you are at the end of your proverbial rope:

1-2 Please, God, no more yelling,
    no more trips to the woodshed.
Treat me nice for a change;
    I’m so starved for affection.

2-3 Can’t you see I’m black-and-blue,
    beat up badly in bones and soul?
God, how long will it take
    for you to let up?

4-5 Break in, God, and break up this fight;
    if you love me at all, get me out of here.
I’m no good to you dead, am I?
    I can’t sing in your choir if I’m buried in some tomb!

6-7 I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed
    has been floating forty days and nights
On the flood of my tears.
    My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears.
The sockets of my eyes are black holes;
    nearly blind, I squint and grope.

8-9 Get out of here, you Devil’s crew:
    at last God has heard my sobs.
My requests have all been granted,
    my prayers are answered.10 Cowards, my enemies disappear.
Disgraced, they turn tail and run.  Pslam 6:1-10 (MSG

Read this aloud when imploring the Lord, perhaps in times you feel forgotten:

 

13-14 Be kind to me, God;
    I’ve been kicked around long enough.
Once you’ve pulled me back
    from the gates of death,
I’ll write the book on Hallelujahs;
    on the corner of Main and First
    I’ll hold a street meeting;
I’ll be the song leader; we’ll fill the air
    with salvation songs.” Psalm 9:1-10 (MSG)

And then this. Pray it out loud. Pray it so that the devil can hear you. Pray it so that the cells wrapped in pain in your body can know it’s true. If we don’t get healing this side of the kingdom, we get it eventually and in full, and forever! In the meantime, pray it LOUD:

And this after-God’s-own-heart, keeping it 100, plea from an authentic David to God:

“Oh, God, my Lord, step in;
    work a miracle for me—you can do it!
Get me out of here—your love is so great!—
    I’m at the end of my rope, my life in ruins.
I’m fading away to nothing, passing away,
    my youth gone, old before my time.
I’m weak from hunger and can hardly stand up,
    my body a rack of skin and bones.
I’m a joke in poor taste to those who see me;
    they take one look and shake their heads.

26-29 Help me, oh help me, God, my God,
    save me through your wonderful love;
Then they’ll know that your hand is in this,
    that you, God, have been at work.
Let them curse all they want;
    you do the blessing.
Let them be jeered by the crowd when they stand up,
    followed by cheers for me, your servant.
Dress my accusers in clothes dirty with shame,
    discarded and humiliating old ragbag clothes.

30-31 My mouth’s full of great praise for God,
    I’m singing his hallelujahs surrounded by crowds,
For he’s always at hand to take the side of the needy,
    to rescue a life from the unjust judge.(Psalm 109:25-31)

And here, finally, we see the AHA moment in which David sees the light, so to speak. He is at that pivotal place we all need to find ourselves in, in order to keep running that most challenging race set before us:

“Don’t put your life in the hands of experts
    who know nothing of life, of salvation life.
Mere humans don’t have what it takes;
    when they die, their projects die with them.
Instead, get help from the God of Jacob,
    put your hope in God and know real blessing!
God made sky and soil,
    sea and all the fish in it.
He always does what he says—
    he defends the wronged,
    he feeds the hungry.
God frees prisoners—
    he gives sight to the blind,
    he lifts up the fallen.
God loves good people, protects strangers,
    takes the side of orphans and widows,
    but makes short work of the wicked.

10 God’s in charge—always.
    Zion’s God is God for good!
    Hallelujah!” Psalm 146:3-10

Lift up us fallen ones, Abba. We are so tired.

But even in our sickness and sadness and end-of-our-rope-ness, we are are a people after your own Heart!

God bless us, every one.

 

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