Poetry · Spiritual

You’re Already Whole

BY: Jana Greene

I used to tell people,
“God can fix you.”
But now I say,
You’re not broken.
You are not bad.
You don’t need fixing.
You need loving.
Love put you back together,

On the day You breathed your first.
You already have it on-board.
God already inhabits you.
In every loving gesture you express
To humankind (or animal-kind.)
In every breath, holiness.
In every feeling of fresh hope,
In every laugh, sacred joy.
You are whole.
You are not broken,
No matter the evidence
Stacked against you. Keep your head up!
God is FOR you.
You are loved.

Blessed be.

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

Okay, but Zoom Out

The legendary Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), captured a dazzling snapshot of a large galaxy (NGC 169) pulling cosmic material away from a smaller galaxy (IC 1559)

!y: JANA GREENE

The legendary Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) captured a dazzling snapshot of a large galaxy pulling cosmic material away from a smaller galaxy, and my mental health is HERE for it.

It is helping my mental health because I am fascinated with all things galactic, and every time a new image is captured by Hubble, my worries seem to shrink. It’s impossible to be in wonder and see while nursing a grudge or fussing over a human problem.

Not that our problems aren’t real. Or important. They ARE important, even to the Being who came up with the crazy idea of eternity.

Infinite ness is not a concept we default to. We cannot wrap our minds around the concept of endlessness. But in a world where our troubles seem the most infinite thing we know, Hubble reminds me to zoom out.

Yes, I am hurting. My body aches. My heart grieves. The pandemic looms. The world’s a hot mess express.

Would you look at this economy?

This sociological crap-shoot we are calling “life.”

We become Chicken Littles, running in circles exclaiming, “the sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and then we like to proclaim anyone who doesn’t join our panic is Pollyanna about reality.

Okay…but ZOOM OUT. Pan the picture wider, then wider still.

Imagine yourself and all your pain, a tiny speck on a giant blue marble – just one of billions. Imagine this as an image on your iPhone, in hi-def, as most problems seem.

Now imagine that the same Creator who spins planets in orbit cares intimately about what you do. He cares about you not only as a marble-dweller, but a miracle of cells and thoughts and feelings.

Imagine that this Being of Love is intimate with your every heartache and just as concerned about the state of you as He is the state of the Multiverse.

Just zoom out of the picture, wider and wider. See how perfect the orbits are? Check out those stars. Wow! Each and every one a sun. Each and every molecule of the cosmos is worshipping just by existing.

Existence is worship.

We cannot reach the end of it, just like we cannot reach yet end of Love itself.

Just zoom out. It’s going to be okay.

God is zooming in on us. Let your heart marinate in the magnificence of this concept – a Love so endless, Hubble will never reach it.

You’re made of stardust, baby.

Spiritual

Reconstruction (Or: “That Soul-Lurching, Discombobulating, Radical Spiritual Overhaul’)

This is one of those pieces that originated as pure pent-up anxiety that would only be assuaged by writing. It’s a little rambly!

By: JANA GREENE

On the way to the dentist, I passed a gentleman whose entire existence was contained in a shopping cart. My heart lurched heavy in my chest. I gave him what cash I had, which wasn’t much. “God bless you,” I said. But it rang hollow in my throat.

The rest of the drive, I thought about how many thousands of times I’ve told people that.

If God could bless him, he wouldn’t be living out of a shopping cart, would seem evidential, so I told God so, as if maybe he forgot this one straggler, and PLEASE COULD YOU GET ON THIS?

Like I can tell God about mercy.

See…this is where the deconstructing of religion has given me a great gift. A really wonky, welcome, serendipitous gift.

If for no other reason than it gave me permission to give voice to the GIANT chasm of inequity, I increasingly became aware of. I cared; I really did. But the sheer inequality didn’t shred my spirit.

My God is only ever Good, I believed on the surface. But I couldn’t reckon that with all the pain – personally and globally.

God will rescue you from suffering, is easy to say. But I kept getting sicker.

God has a PLAN. (Which is totally true, but not always helpful.)

His ways are not our ways. (No SHIT!)

You know those HGTV shows where they find a property and deem it worthy of saving even though it looks like a straight-up dumpster fire? My Spirit was a real fixer-upper. The rebuilding of my faith stripped away the pretty stucco facade of a neat and tidy belief system and turned it into a real shitshow. Wrecking balls. Bulldozers. Hard hats required. Flattened it into the ground. I was sure that was a wrap on my relationship with a Higher Power.

But SPOILER ALERT: I can’t do that. I’ve seen things. I’ve felt things. My heart of hearts knows things. I suspect yours does too.

It’s a gift to be able to question existence without feeling damned to Hell for it (eternal conscious torment is a topic for another day.) It stands to reason that the innate ability to question God is a gift he alone gives. If we don’t feel comfortable enough to approach the throne without fear, where’s the relationship?

Unfortunately, my “healthy fear” of God kept me from God, because deferring to somebody you’re terrified of is not a good model. Fear was the theme of my entire childhood, and a “healthy fear” of God kept me from some degree of meaningful spiritual growth. That’s just me.

So, it’s a work in progress. But as we say in the Program: “Progress, not Perfection.”

My soul is on a state-of-the-art foundation now…though there is still scaffolding all the way around (which I’m hoping is permanent, to hold my structure in ongoing work.) But the house is solid. Good bones, as they say. There’s still a bit of debris, which makes excellent confetti with which to celebrate LIFE and all the chaos that is part and parcel. The interior is shaping up, too; although it feels like it’s taking forever, it’s right on the Designer’s schedule. Open floor concept – very spacious.

I have no answer as to why some of us are born into one station or another. Why some of us are healthy and some will always be sick. Sickness is my sticky wicket. I don’t know why I’m having this whole, soul-lurching, discombobulating, radical spirit reckoning the past few years.

But I know it’s got me thinking things like: That gentleman living out of the shopping cart? He could BE God, for all I know…can you imagine if we ALL treated one another with the reverence we allow only God? What if we really saw God in every person. Oy vey, so much to think about.

I can only explain it as: God is only Love. When our souls’ sense that benevolent drenching in experience nature, that is God.

God + Love…there ya go. That’s my whole entire theology:

Shit happens, but God is Love.

(Now the rest of the blog will be me hashing out what that looks like; pull up a chair.)

When we are bothered for people less fortunate (whether we deem them at “fault” for it or not)…

When we declare grace over people (who we have decided are pushing their luck in the grace department.)

When we are enjoying the purely divine gift of music and the chords hit so hard that you hit repeat for a solid half-hour…

When babies smile at us in the grocery store checkout lines…

When a friend sends a heart emoji for no reason…

When your husband kisses you on the top of your head…

When are we allowed to get angry with God and ask him the hard questions without fear?

WHEN WE ARE HUMAN….

God is there. God is love.

WE ARE the mercy.

You are not a wayward straggler, but a sturdy and essential journeyman, who is going to get through this pandemic – and a million other very hard things – and come out laughing.

We don’t have to hustle for our worthiness. There is genuine GOD in you.

Rest in that, Loves, and I will too.

love · Spiritual

The Messy, Glorious Business of LOVE

BY: JANA GREENE

Love is the singular thing, and absolutely everything, all at once.
All are in it and of it, imbued with this remedy.
It is the answer to whatever ails your heart.
Love is all that lives on after our Earth Suits fail.
It is fed and starved by a thousand moods, yet always nourishes.
Love lands in its feet.
It’s the only thing we were legit created to experience.
Love is like sacred oil – fragrant and dousing and scandalously generous. It leaves a film on you all of your days, and everyone in your world gets a little “oily” when you touch their lives. (Touch them lots!)
Love pisses people off when it is believed undeserved, when really people are under-served by it.
It breaks the economy of deficit, as its endless.
But even though it’s free, people seem to like hoarding it. Many enjoy rationing it, as if there was a finite supply.
As if it originated for us, by us.
As if we weren’t given it in order to pass it on.
Love is a Being.
And a Doing.
It’s an action and a sacrifice.
The feet of Love can walk through fire to get to another hurting soul, and strike up a dance to celebrate itself.
Love has wings to fly us to a place of acceptance, and roller skates with which to flee from hate in all its forms.
It’s the only thing that will ever make a dent in suffering, and the ultimate remedy for pain.
Love is all we take with us.
Spread that stuff around copiously.
God loves you and so do I. ❤️

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.

Spiritual

How to Cook Up a Batch Religious Deconstruction (recipe for re-construction included)

Just like Grandma Used to Make (I’m kidding)

BY: JANA GREENE

Recipe for Spiritual Reconstruction:

Take one lifetime of Old Time Religion. Stir in two cups of Fear-Based Theology. Sprinkle in 2 tbsp of unintentional judginess, three tbsp of Obviously I’m Right, work through dough. Add additional The Bible CLEARLY Says! to taste.

While religious “dough” is trying to rise, but just kind of petering out, prepare in a shofar – I mean BOWL:

Two cups each of Chronic Pain and Debilitating Illness powder that has been sifted through a “name it and claim it” sieve for 40 years, but it’s still lumpy.

Add 4 tbsp frustration, and a dash of Must Not Be Worthy of Healing. Stir in a packet of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think. Cry about this step for approximately three more years.

Check ingredients in first bowl to make sure dough is indeed rising. But nope. It’s just sitting there in a big glop.

In yet another bowl, add one adult child who has come out as bisexual, which was NOT in the original recipe, so sayeth the Expectations Set Forth by the Church. Add a smidge of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think (if you have any left, which is doubtful. We go through it like gangbusters around here!)

Decide to add many dollups of Mother Love anyway (heck, dump in however much you have,) and set the kitchen timer to two more years on the “acceptance” setting. This is a wet ingredient, so thinning it out will just make it easier to spread. Use liberally.

Open up the pantry and see what else you have that might somehow make it more palatable.

Aww, shucks. All you have is a Costco-sized box a bag of Everything Else Life Can Throw At You. That stuff is SPICY. Always check the label…let’s see…it contains Mental Health Challenges, Losing Mobility, Family Estrangements, Crippling Anxiety, Bouts of Financial Struggle, Alcoholism, Codependency, Childhood Trauma, and 1000 grams of pure Shame Concentrate.

Going back to the bowl, taste the batter. See that it is bad. Mix all ingredients. See that it is WORSE.

While waiting for the timer, it’s important to assume that the Master Chef is angry and frustrated with you. Kind of like an astral Gordon Ramsey or something.

Assure yourself the whole Universe is against you, as is everyone you know and love who is following directions from a 2,000 year old book of recipes that several hundred fallible human people contributed to. Kind of like Gramma’s recipe box that had a hundred food-stained index recipe cards from her friends shoved into between the pages. Make sure to take everything out of context for best results.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and when timer sounds, decide on how much savory Self-Doubt to use. Seasonings come in “I’m a Worthless Sinner,” and “Searing Disappointment” flavors.

Ask yourself WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
Am I just a shitty cook, or so I just have so few ingredients to work with, I’m having a hard time accepting the result?

And what if I’ve been forgetting the Main Ingredient all along?

Next (scary) step:

Decide you’re tired of fear-based faith, dust off your hands, open your heart, ask the Universe to help you see what is Truth, battle-weary, heavy-hearted, and feeling raw inside like dough that won’t rise.

Decide to put all judgement and Christian-ese down the garbage disposal. The Expectations of Other People went bad a long time ago and is really stinking up the place.

Decide to fold Unconditional Love into every single recipe. Never run out! Keep it on the top of every list so you always have enough.

Follow the example set by Jesus always…He is always cooking up something GOOD.

Next, march all three containers used previously out your back door. Gently set down all three, and leave them outside to think about what they’ve done.

Now – this is important – turn off the oven. Nobody is burning on my new watch!

You are not alone, Chef Self.

So join a “cooking” club – one that is comprised of other Seekers with open hearts who want to get at the meat of the Truth, and offer you endless sugar.

Flip the script. Read the instructions anew.

Take one bowl – the most chipped and beat up one you got, and butter it with kindness.

Then invite all your friends over to help you create a masterpiece.

All you will need is:

8 cups HOPE – brimming.
Five tbsp of self-forgiveness.
A heaping scoop of Studying what the Cookbook Really Calls For – reading between the lines.
A tbsp of of Learning to Love Yourself Too will hold it all together when you want to throw in the towel.

And last, but MOST importantly, add All the Jesus You Have, all day every day. All of it. Tip it over and smack the bottom of the box for every molecule of Jesus it’s got. Really pile it in on. Study his ways in the context given, and leave room for Holy Spirit in every dish.

Oh, and tell your friends that All the Jesus is just another measurement of LOVE. Get to know HIS way around the kitchen together.

These few ingredients are all you need, Junior Chef, to mix up a reconstruction of faith for the ages. And keep in mind:

If you feel like you have to keep Fear on hand “just in case,” know that God is not the store where you purchased Fear. That stuff is very in-organic.

If you’re grieving the losses of this hard life, pull up a chair and come sit by me. There is always plenty of room at Christ’s table. And mine. *Pulls out chair and pats the seat in a welcoming invitation.*

If you’re ambling around aimlesssly, your chef hat askew, join me. I’ll be celebrating that I finally understand, “It is for freedom you were set free.”

And if you’re deconstructing your faith, and If you’re being called “deceived,” “fallen” – or (and I’m okay with this one) – “ex-evangelical,” remind yourself that the Word of God is an actual person. As Master Chef, he wants to see you succeed.

And so do I. ❤️

Bon appetit!

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”

 

pandemic · Spiritual

Fuzzy Brows, Bathing Suits, and the Renewal of the Mind

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

And here I thought ordinary life was daunting!

Three weeks ago, I was obsessed with getting my brows and upper lip waxed. It was driving me crazy, all the peach fuzz and renegade brow hairs. I didn’t feel better until I had my hairstylist do it when I got a haircut.

And then another thing seemed paramount: Getting a bathing suit for the summer, since I’ve put on hella pounds since I injured my hip seven months ago. I’d given away most of my “fat clothes,” since I’d lost 25 lbs prior to the injury and was SO SURE I wouldn’t gain any of it back. Gained it all back and then some. Damn it.

Then I fixated on the problems my kids are going through. I really don’t even need my own problems; just give me a few kids who are learning things in life the hard way, and I’ll think of little else than their welfare.

The things these issues have in common are: 1. They either seem laughably insignificant now. Or 2. They are out of my control entirely. All within a short span of time, I found things to worry about that fell under these two headings.

Also, the joke’s on me. All the pools and beaches are closed! Who needs a bathing suit?

What I have right now is fear and anxiety. What I want to have is the renewal of my mind. It’s happening, but it’s happening piece-meal. If you’re one of those people who trust God with nary a care in the world, my hat is off to you! I’m having to turn my will and mind over to his care every day, especially during this time of extreme weirdness.

That being said, I would very much like to avoid catching Covid-19, as my immune function is ridiculously low and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to fight it. I’m also worried that my loved ones won’t be able to fight it.

There ARE things I can do – and so can you – to alter the trajectory of the virus. That’s the thing I find supremely frustrated. There are things we can ALL do to reduce the risk for the people we cherish. Can we all please take this thing seriously enough to protect them?

One of my favorite songs by the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn, “Things That I Used to Do,” and it’s been in my head for days. Because “things that I used to do, Lord, I won’t do no more,” as the song goes.

But I also will try to remember that some of those things were – in truth – pretty insignificant. And certainly pale in comparison to what we are all going through now. It’s funny how stuff that seemed crucial three weeks ago seem frivolous now. When this shit show wraps up, I’m going to try to make the conscious effort to NOT “sweat the small stuff” as much. But it’s easy to fall back into old ways.

Lord, let this thing make me a better person. Help me to take this day as it is, not as I would have it. Help me rise to the occasion of surrendering my will and worries to you, less inclined to obsess about the things I get worked up over.

Help us all over this bombardment of anxiety we are experiencing, so that we can live life abundantly in you. Hairy brows and lips, and all.

In the meantime, please stay home if you can. I know it’s boring. I know the people you live with are getting on your last nerve. I know that we are all on edge, and experiencing an unprecedented level of NOT knowing what the future holds. Let’s do all we DO have in our power to protect one another.

God bless us, every one.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” – Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

 

 

 

blogging · Spiritual

Resurrecting the Bakery – a blog revival

Beggars

By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear readers.

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged; the longest span of time in the six year history of The Beggar’s Bakery.  In the interim, I began another blog, “So She Laughed Anyway,” which takes on issues with a humorous bent. I think I’ve only posted three posts to it. It has been a dry season, writing-wise.

But here in a difficult place, I find myself needing to write again. And I think I need to do so often, as writing things down seems to relocate my thoughts to a better, less scary, neighborhood. The challenge to myself is to write a blog post every day, for 60 days. I am prayerful that God gives me material with which to work, but chances are good some of the posts might be drivel. If I go off the rails, please be patient with me. I will get my mojo back at some point.

What has been happening since last we met? A lot. A whole lot.

Over the past two years especially, my heart has been in religion deconstruction mode. In crisis with my health, I came face to face with the issue of trying to relegate the personal Jesus I know with the dogma of the Church Proper, and Jesus came out on top. I questioned everything I’d ever been taught, took a historical and contextual look at the Bible, and prayed that the very Spirit of God would reveal truth to me. I plan on touching on this process in the days to come. Much like any worthwhile endeavor, the process has not been linear. In reconstructing my entire faith, I feel like I might be able to tell others “where to find bread” again. But it won’t be white-washed and it won’t be fundamentalist Christianity. It will be Truth.

The aforementioned illness is a trifecta of health issues that are slowly causing me to lose mobility, and constantly causing me pain. Every day. Pain, in one form or another. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, POTs, and Mast Cell Activation Disease, severe and recurrent migraines, along with lots of other disorders and diseases. I just call it “Alphabet Soup Disorder” to save time. Lots of acronyms. Some of my genes are mutated, I am only grateful that neither of my children seems to have inherited these issues.

So, suffice to say, I am home a lot. I am by myself a lot. This necessity has proven to be both a benefit and a curse. It’s a sticky wicket, because the more isolated I become, the more depressed I get, and the more depressed I become, the less I want to physically be with my friends, because sick people can be a real drag.

There are two of me these days.  There is the sick me, who seems to be taking over some days. She is whiny, sad, hopeless, and in horrible pain; and there is the REAL me, who loves to laugh, be silly, encourage people, and travel. The real me is clawing her way back, but it seems that each time I gain a little foothold on the side of the wellness cliff, another boulder comes tumbling down. Sounds dramatic, right? Well, it feels dramatic.

It’s been a dramatic year for my family. A very difficult time. Yet I still haven’t taken a drink, and for that I am proud and very grateful.

I’ve begun a new hobby recently that has been a stepping stone to writing again. I’ve discovered abstract art, and the therapy of painting. A pretty good gauge of my mental health is the amount of paint on my person. The days I am up to my elbows in acrylics are the days that I started off sad and scared, and in some degree of physical and mental pain – and ended up creating something colorful that cheers me.

So, I am setting a goal to blog every day for two months, but I’m not going to set it in stone. I am fantastic at setting unrealistic expectations of myself. I’m going to try to write here or at SoSheLaughedAnyway.com each day, even when nothing I have to say is earth-shattering. I need to get back in the habit, even if not one single person reads my stuff.

There will be “brain droppings” (as the late, great George Carlin called random musings) about recovery, chronic illness, spiritual growth, and the general absurdity of life; and literally God only knows what else.

There will be posts with what some might consider controversial subject matter. There will be potty words. There will be transparency about my relationship with God, which looks almost nothing like it used to, but in a good way. There will be randomness.

Oh, so much randomness.

If you’re one of the 1,950 subscribers to The Beggar’s Bakery, I am so grateful for you. Thanks for sticking around. ❤ Please consider following “So She Laughed Anyway” on WordPress as well.

If you’re new, welcome to the jungle!

My goal is simple: Do life honestly, and share the journey.

God bless us, every one.

 

Hurricanes · Spiritual

Faith and Florence – Riding out the “Storm of a Lifetime”

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By: Jana Greene

Good day, dear readers. I’m going to try to blog about this experience with Hurricane Florence a little each day. Maybe someone else will be able to relate to my fear, faith, and feelings…maybe it will just prove good therapy for me to get them all OUT! Be safe out there, friends.

I was thinking about “hurricane preparedness” this morning, and what a misnomer that phrase is. We feel we are prepared. We did all the cursory prep as most of my neighbors –  bringing in every porch / yard item that could become a missile in Cat 4 winds…shutting all of the interior doors before we left…evacuating two states away. Hurricane Florence, you see, is taking dead aim at our lovely little beach town.

You know that feeling you get when – first thing in the morning – you open your eyes and realize there is something very wrong? That sinking feeling? A giant monster storm coming straight for your city and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. “Preparedness” is important, but how do you prepare yourself for coming home to utter devastation? What if we lose everything we own? It’s a very real possibility. I’ve had several mini panic attacks over the past few days, like many of you, I’m sure.

OMG, this is happening.

This is the “big one.”

I might lose the things of my heart, like my kids’ baby books. The unity candle from our wedding.

The outfits my babies came home from the hospital so many years ago.

The more I think about all the things, the more I remember we could lose, and the more I have trouble breathing.

Then I remember I have lost nearly everything before, during the course of my 2004 divorce. I just left, took the kids and left with little more than we had on our backs. It was a horribly difficult time, but we survived it, and my daughters actually thrived.

Eventually, the sad sting of losing so many pictures and yearbooks lessened. But that was high school yearbooks and pressed homecoming mums; furniture and trinkets. Not a whole house.

Today, one of my kids is here in Atlanta with us, another is in Charlotte safely with her boyfriend (who is an absolute super hero…) and one on the way to VA.

Even our kitties are stuffed into this tiny hotel room – all three. It’s cozy.

So what we are going through is unbelievably stressful. I just consumed an entire bag of “extreme” sour gummy worms. Yes, I’m’ praying to Jesus but candy helps, too.

This hurricane is not an “act of God.” God is responsible for all that is good and lovely, pure and true. He is in our laughter and in our joy. He is not punishing anyone. He is always either blessing us with all the beauty around us, or he is hunkered down with us in the storms. He hasn’t left us.

File natural disasters under “sh*t happens,” and look around you. You will find some of the kindest, most loving people manifesting right now. I’ve lost count of how many friends I’ve seen post, “I have an extra bedroom; whoever needs a place, you are welcome here!” And “What do you need?” on public FB feeds. “I can run errands. I can help you pack. I can give you a ride.”

That’s where I’m seeing God at work – not in a swirling vortex of doom. I don’t know why bad things happen and I’m not going to yank your chain with useless platitudes.

It sucks. I’m scared.

This whole shebang is super stressful.

Can faith and fear occupy the same space? I used to think not. But anymore, I’m convinced that our Creator is grace-full about the overlap. He isn’t mad at our anxiety. We’re his kids, for crying out loud.

Right now, those same girls who went through the valley of having a single mom in the early 2000’s (and my Bonus Daughter, too) are out of North Carolina. Nobody knows what this thing will do, but stuff be darned, my family is safe.

We are just one family of the literal million who has left for higher ground. There’s nothing special or particularly unique about us. We are all going through this together.

For your family – whether you are riding it out or stuck in your car right now in a long, seemingly stationary line of traffic, I pray for you. I worry for you. I’m hopeful for you.

And I’m super glad to be a part of a community of people whose hearts are so loving and giving. You guys are – in the worst of circumstances – being the hands and feet of God. Thank you.

beach · Faith · Spiritual

Flotsam, Jetsam, and Faith

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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.”

 

Faith · Spiritual

A Prayer for the Hallway – Faith in the in-between

 

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By: Jana Greene

Lots of people say that starting a thing is the hardest part, but I beg to differ. To me, the hardest part is when you’ve done all the things to put yourself on the right track, but it seems forces are conspiring against you.

Paranoid? Maybe. True? Certainly.

When you’ve changed your lifestyle to a healthy one, but have hardly lost an ounce over the course of weeks. I don’t know about you, but it was my intention to have a window opened to me when I said goodbye to pleasures like sugar and carbs. When I’m stuck in limbo, my Inner Jana really just wants to say, “Well, screw it! I tried! Back to the Haagen Dazs!”

And in matters much more important…

When you’ve chosen to step out in faith but doors are not exactly opening up to you.

When you are expecting God to part the Red Sea but He isn’t making a way for you like you’d trusted. He is doing it some other way – even though you clearly instructed Him to please come through.

Getting started isn’t always the hardest thing. Sometimes the hardest thing is to KEEP going.

Here’s another thing a lot of people say:

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.” To which I’d like to add – “but it’s HELL in the hallway!”

The hallway is the perfect place for giver-uppers to give up; trust me, I know.

In the hallway, the light is often busted. You cannot see a way out, no matter where you turn. Where’s that window again, God?

In the hallway, our hearts hurt. It’s a lonely, unforgiving place. It can easily feel like no one even knows you’re missing.

In the hallway, you feel vulnerable, like Eve when she discovered she was naked. Just you and your Maker in this strange place of neither here-nor-there.

It seems like the long hallway will never end at times. You walk and walk, and the hall just stretches ahead like a mirage. I mean, sometimes it REALLY just goes on and on.

The hallway seems like a TERRIBLE place to rest! Right beyond a locked door and with no other exits clearly marked. But “rest” is what we are supposed to do in the damn Hallway, I think.

The hallway can be a purgatory-esque place of extreme anxiety building and extreme faith building, in that order.

Here’s the thing about hallways, though. They always lead to somewhere.

Some of the longest, darkest hallways I’ve had to camp in on have been great places to wait it out and wait on God. Not COMFORTABLE places, mind you. But pretty good incubators for learning to truly trust, even when you cannot imagine what the future holds.

When I went through a divorce in the early 2000’s, I experienced a stint in one of the loneliest hallways of all time. Formerly a mom who worked from home, I had to go out and get four part-time jobs to care and feed for my kids. We had nobody else. For a period of a couple of years, I stayed in “fight or flight” mode, to the extent that I’m pretty sure I crashed my spiritual hard drive. I had shut a door that badly needed shutting, only to find that my circumstances got more difficult before they got any better (and they did.)

When I quit drinking, deciding to quit was not the hardest part. The hardest part was on Day 11 and 105 – random times when I’m just minding my own sober business and the shit hits the fan and I’m caught unaware by the drama. The only thing that got me through sober was the faith result of spending untold time in the hallway.

And now, with my janky health problems and chronic “I’m not sure what I want to do when I grow up” (I’m nearly 50…) state, I find myself in yet another corridor, waiting for God to open my window and trusting that when He does, it won’t be on the 21st floor.

I’m preaching to myself as well as anyone else! I’m struggling, ya’ll. That’s why I’m writing about this phenomenon, hoping to pull myself AND you up with the hope that God is indeed working on things, even when nothing changes on the surface.

Had I not sat in that lonely place of in-between for so long, I wouldn’t have known how to survive life on life’s terms. The Hallway isn’t really a Hell, but a changing room.

A portal to accepting GRACE.

I will keep pressing through the hallway if you will!

Until we come out the other side, please join me in this prayer. ❤

Dear Papa God,

I feel like I’m in between. In between things and people and places. I’m ready for the glorious answers to prayer, but I know that you ONLY have my best interest at heart and have wonderful things stored up for me just beyond the open window. Thank you for changing things in your perfect time, instead of my time – which is seen through such a limited scope. Help us to be patient in the hallways, when we feel lonely, lost, scared, or anxious. Thanks for camping out in the hallways WITH us. What a wonderful thing for a Father to do. Holy Spirit, instill in me the faith to keep on keepin’ on, every day, with assurance that YOU are faithful.

Amen.

 

Grace · Spiritual

How ’bout that OFFRED?

Offred1
By: Jana Greene
Okay. I’m about to pull a Jesus juke The Handmaid’s Tale.
If you’re not familiar with the show, that’s too bad. Remedy that please.
The protagonist – played by Elisabeth Moss – is everything a heroine should be, including relatable and flawed.
In addition to giving me the compulsion to approach strangers in the produce section of the grocery store and whisper, “Blessed be the fruit” for my own entertainment, The Handmaid’s Tale is also an incredible series laced with danger, truth, and foreboding.
SO much terrifying allegory for a world that I could not have imagined in my younger days, but is now reality. It is about having human rights stripped away – even one’s very identity.
No spoiler alerts here, just little old me spreading thoughts for your perusal.
This show illustrates religion vs. grace in an embarrassingly bright light.
It’s about what happens when an ‘elite’ few in are allowed to run amok over its own citizenry, in the name of the “common good.”
Or worse, in the name of God.
And I guess that’s what especially pisses me off about the world we live in. We use His name to damn and to bless, as if we had that kind of power. Look at what a mess we’ve made! The evidence perpetuates itself –  God is rules. God is anger. God is the Nanny State.
Except that He is not. He is courage. He is compassion. He is freedom. The Word is a person, not a book.
Without going into spoiler-heavy detail, let’s just say in this cliché: the season two finale had many twists and turns. But all the while maintains it’s message:  You can try to twist ideologies to glorify your own, or embrace the truth about who you are. We cannot be boxed; Commanders, Guardians, Marthas, nor Handmaids.We were created for the wild liberation of individuality.
The fact that love conquers insurmountable odds is the godliest tale.
We simply cannot worship political parties.  Both have to potential to land us in a Orwellian spot like Gilead, one just as easily as the other. God has no political agenda. Only God can show us how to fight for justice while keeping our love front and center.
Like Jesus. Or like Offred….
I mean, JUNE.
May the Lord open.
Mental Health · Spiritual

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)

 

 

 

Grace · Spiritual

You can Run on for a Long Time, but Sooner or Later God will Tackle You with Relentless Mercy (The Beatitudes Series V)

cash

By: Jana Greene

I absolutely love Johnny Cash. It is rumored that he always only wore black because he forever identified with the poor and the downtrodden. I like to include those who are spiritually poor in this consideration.

One of his very best songs, in my humble opinion is “God will Cut you Down.” It’s so gritty, so confident in the justice in its lyrics. Do You know the song (CLICK HERE TO HEAR ” SOONER OR LATER GOD’LL CUT YOU DOWN”

 

If you haven’t heard the song I’m referring to, here is the main refrain:

“You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down”

On this blog, all I can do is share my personal experience, opinion, and hope with you. I like to do so honestly, and I know there are many who disagree with me on key subjects. That’s okay.

But my own personal story’s refrain goes something like this:

“I ran on for a long time.

I ran on for a long time.

I ran on for a long time,

But sooner or later Jesus found me and heaped so much copious grace on me that I had to start a blog to tell the rambler, the gambler, the back-biter that God himself is love and mercy.”

Not as catchy, I admit. But it’s the truth as my heart receives it.

Jesus isn’t running after you to cut you down, but to tackle you and tell you that he loves you. Right where you are. That’s the Good News.

He isn’t a god of cutting down, but a God of Great Mercy.

Don’t take my word for it. Matthew 5 1:7:

“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (NIV)

or, more plainly,

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

We are blessed when we are merciful toward the riff-raff,  because God was and is merciful with us. The act of showing mercy brings about a state of revolutionary and scandalous blessedness, and people don’t always know what to do with it.

At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. Hmmmm.

Mr. Cash himself struggled as a rambler most of his life. Whether we like to admit it or not, so do we. We may not all dress in black to identify with the poor and downtrodden, but our white-washed, white-collar rambling is rambling, just the same.

You know the classic question, “If you could sit down with a person living or dead and have coffee with them, who would you choose?” I must admit Johnny Cash isn’t my first choice.

But if I were having coffee with him right now, I’d ask “What did Jesus come for, if not to be merciful and graceful? Of what value would the blood of Christ have if it only washed away the surface-level stains?”

Yes, we must repent. We must repent to gain the full benefit of relationship with Christ. That job position is already filled by Holy Spirit.

If I remember correctly, God doesn’t wait for us to get our sh*t together before loving us, making Grace available to us, and showing us mercy.

“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” – Romans 5:8 (MSG)

There are other lyrics in “Run On” that almost contradicts other parts of the same song:

“Well my goodness gracious let me tell you the news
My head’s been wet with the midnight dew
I’ve been down on bended knee talkin’ to the man from Galilee
He spoke to me in the
voice so sweet
I thought I heard the shuffle of the angel’s feet
He called my name and my heart stood still
When he said, “John go do my will.”

I like that part. I like that part a lot.

Let’s do God’s will.

Let’s be merciful.

Let’s be blessed.

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.