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.
If you are overwhelmed, please reach out for help!
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.
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.
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.
By: Jana Greene
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Most everyone knows this beatitude; what with the promise of inheriting the earth and all. I love the way The Message translation breaks it down:
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (MSG)
Who else has felt like they are never enough? I don’t mean the self-depreciation that comes with not meeting individual expectations. I mean, who else struggles with core low self-esteem? Just feeling less-than?
At times, I feel I can do no right. I wish I were more organized, more punctual. More reliable. Steadier. It’s easy to get swept up in self loathing as a vehicle for ‘meekness,’ at least for me. Once the spiral gets going, it’s easy to believe all of your own negative press. Our self-esteem can ride on our hormonal fluctuations, our bruised egos, our moods.
Before I got sober, I was a very guarded person. I had few friends and because I was operating out of a place of near-complete fear, I reasoned that I wouldn’t say boo to a goose because I was ‘meek.’
I watched every word I said (sometimes that was good) for fear I might incriminate myself. I watched every thought because I just knew that God was displeased with my carnal nature. It was a stifling existence, fighting my voice in order to please everyone else, especially the Almighty.
It wasn’t a lifetime of meekness. It was a lifetime of being afraid. God isn’t afraid of my thoughts – He know them all already. Oh how I wish I had known that the Almighty was already okay with the real me!
Meekness is defined as (trigger warning) “submissiveness.” Why is being submissive considered such a societal ill? Because we are defining submission in terms of how humans treat each other, not how God treats His creation. If someone always has your best interest at heart and never fails at sweeping you off your feet, being submissive is easy. Most of the time.
It isn’t a watering-down, but a building-up!
Four years into sobriety, I met my husband. In an instant I fell in love and took the great risk of being myself with him. Through step work, I started loving people and letting them in, and in return, received a great deal of love. And I was amazed – I am STILL amazed 12 years later – that he actually encourages my quirkiness.
Had I not met him, I doubt very much that I would be writing this blog – or anything else – because I would be too afraid of what you (the reader) are thinking right now.
Sometimes we just need someone to give us permission to see ourselves in a positive light.
God is giving you permission! Blessedness is not a mood, but a state of being. Praise be for THAT!
It took a little longer for me to trust that God encourages our quirkiness, but I’m here to tell you, He does. He really does get tickled by the things that make us US.
It’s okay to have a voice.
In researching the subject of meekness, I came across a wonderful quote (and one that is, as far as I can tell, anonymous): “Meekness is not weakness, just strength under control.”
Meekness is not low self-esteem. To be meek is to know who you are, and not try to be more than that or less than that. But being who God says we are is so much better than who we could paint ourselves to be.
Human being < human doing.
And it is in the ‘being’ that we become content with who we are and find ourselves the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought…
Love among one another.
Strength under control – God’s control.
Intimacy with the Living God. If we are bestowed that, we have gained the whole world.
By: Jana Greene
Hi, friends. This week and the next, I will be writing with a focus on the biblical Beatitudes. I’ll try to convey my heart on the subject and – as always – welcome YOUR take on each post. Blessed be, dear readers.
Many of you know that I am involved in a Christ centered 12 Step program. At tonight’s meeting, the leader made an amazing point about being blessed, and I can’t sleep until I share it with you. It was an AHA! moment; an epiphany, if you will. So simple, yet so profound.
We were discussing the Beatitudes – those biblical ‘blessed be’s. I’ve read them a thousand times. I’ve delved into studying them. I thought I understood them. But one single sentence he shared struck a chord, and I am thinking of it still.
You see, My Beloved and I recently returned from a trip to the mountains. We stayed in a tiny cabin and read books all day, and listened to the birdsong on the porch swing, and Van Morrison in the evenings, and went fishing in a little stocked pond multiple times. It was super EASY being happy there.
Alas, the realities back home were waiting for us upon our return. It wasn’t that I was unhappy to be back in real life; it’s just that comparatively, I’d rather sit in a cabin in the woods and read all day every day. Evidently that’s a lot to ask for.
But I’m richly blessed to the point of overflow. And not because of things or lack of things.
Happiness and blessedness are not the same thing.
Happiness is circumstantial. I can be full of mirth one moment, and in another moment become sad or angry. Oh how we love to chase the Happy!
Happiness is what we worship, isn’t it? I just want to be happy.
If I had all of my bills paid, I’d be happy. If my children were serving God, I’d be happy. If I lose 30 pounds, I’ll be happy. When I get that dream job / house / recognition / improved health … THEN I’ll be happy. And then eventually I won’t, because LIFE keeps happening.
We catch it sometimes in celebration and laughter (which, according to my favorite author Anne Lamott, is ‘carbonated holiness.’ It’s an awful lot of chasing for something so fickle.
Blessed is a state. It is your natural state of being, because of whose you are. Even if you don’t know or believe, you are bestowed with the blessing of being invited to partake in the divine dance of the Trinity. Blessedness surpasses time or emotion or circumstance.
To live in a state of blessing awareness is to live the transcendent life. It’s a lot harder than it sounds! I’m preaching to myself here, too, because I am emotionally driven and get high on the Happy. There is no reality crash on blessedness.
There is only one qualifier to living the blessed life – if you know who you are and who you were created to be, you reap the benefits from the One who loves you.
So that’s what I’ll be writing about in this series; taking each beatitude one by one and hashing it out a bit. I’ll be referencing The Message translation of scripture.
Tomorrow the subject will be “Blessed are the poor in spirit” Please come along for the ride!
And note that my opinions are just that – my take on this very hard thing called Life. I’d love to hear your perspective as well.
Blessed be, friends.
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. – Matthew 5:1-12 (MSG)
As I wrestle with many changes in this time, I’ve been posting pieces to invite you along the journey. The good, the bad, the ugly. All of it. I believe the late, great George Carlin refereed to such drivel as ‘brain droppings,’ and as crude as it sounds, that is a pretty accurate assessment of the life and work of a blogger in cyberspace. So follow the trail, and maybe we will learn from each other along the way. I strongly invite you to leave comments and / or share your personal experiences, as you feel comfortable. And as always, thank you for your readership. ❤
By: Jana Greene
“How do you love an invisible God?”
The question hung in the air at the Celebrate Recovery meeting I was leading in 2012. A woman who was struggling to stay clean from the soul-sucking heroin asked me after the meeting (or, as we say in the Rooms, ‘the meeting after the meeting.’)
It was a very good question; and one so primal, it threw me. God was an old friend of mine. I thought I had spiritually evolved past that question. But in times of deep duress, I’ve found it to be a legitimate inquisition.
The answer I’ve found? You love each other. Any place there is love, be it by squeaky-clean Christian or ‘heathen’ who has never uttered the name of the Lord, there is God.
There you go. That’s how you get to know and love the ‘invisible’ God. TA DA!
It’s just that easy! Except for sometimes, it isn’t. Shifting all of our focus onto worry, can make him seem less visible; less tangible.
And like any relationship, the more time you spend seeking the face of God, the more intimate the relationship becomes – and the more full his reality reveals itself.
I used to think that the only love that counted for Team God was that fostered under the umbrella of a corporate, official, Jesus-brand ministry with a Bible to beat people up with (or worse, cause call to shun them) and a Federal tax ID number.
But that simply isn’t so.
It’s hard to dis-believe in someone you know personally, so that is not my struggle so much these days.
But I do have other struggles, and maybe you do too. Maybe you are worried about your future as well. Maybe every decision you make feels like filling out a voting card that is missing several candidate choices.
So today’s post is about TRUST.
Is God in charge of the future, or are we just scraping by like the children in Lord of the Flies, trying to carve out survival while our God watches the wretched, gladiator-style event?
Because I cannot believe he is love, and believe he created us to watch us implode.
It’s easier to love an invisible God, whose love physically manifests in nature and through his people, than it is to make peace with the unknown. And right now – above all else – my struggle is with having no idea what is coming next. Which, of course, is a struggle with TRUSTING God.
So, I’ve been a Christian most of my life, yet still – in times like these – wrangle with trusting him when every shred of physical evidence points to certain doom.
He is not the god of Certain Doom. He is the God of orchestration, working behind the scenes to arrange things for our own good. I’ve seen it play out 1,000 times. Why do I still struggle with trusting completely in uncertain seasons of life?
There is grace for the blessed seasons – written clearly to us and in bold font, and in Sharpie. We see it. It spills off the page and stains our fingers so that we can rub it off on an unbelieving world.
But there is also grace for seasons of struggle – in seemingly invisible ink. Even when we hold it up to the light, we cannot see it written. We cannot decipher it even when we do get a glimpse. It reveals itself in due time, but while we wait, we are flummoxed.
As the Apostle Paul wrote, “I believe. Help me in my unbelief,” I implore: “I trust you, God. Help me in my distrust.
And God bless us, every single one.
God, help me to keep seeking your face. Thank you for your endless mercy, spilled off the page and into my heart. Thank you for making your love so easy to find. Lord, my fears are primal, and I cannot face them without trusting you. Hook a sister up with an extra measure of faith. And God? Thanks in advance.