I haven’t checked any poll results yet. I’m awake before the birds, having gone into exhausted sleep at 7pm last “night.” This year, I haven’t had the spare energy to get worked up about one candidate or another. Of course, I care deeply – I didn’t vote a straight ticket this year – I probably won’t again. I did take the time to research issues and individuals, with an emphasis on issues, one by one.
But this moment is pretty delicious; I know it’s fleeting. It’s still dark out this morning, and my husband is sleeping next to me, and I’ve no exposure to the militant anger – red and / or blue – that will no doubt flood my social media feed today. Nor do I feel any division at present – the “us vs. them” heavy-hitting that will doubtless follow us around in the coming days (weeks, months…years.) Right now, to my mind, we are a nation that turned out in droves to vote because we all, almost without exception, love our country. Period.
No matter what the results are, most of our motivations are pure. I’ll venture to bed the races were close, which won’t bode well. Because the tighter the race, the angrier the contenders and the more gloating the victors.
I’m urging my dear readers to remember that we are not first hawks or doves, but Americans.
Can we try to remember that opposing candidates – one of which won yesterday – are not saviors or devils? They are people, swayed by money and kudos, just like everyone else.
Let us remember that this election is a blip in history, not an opportunity to amp up national negativity. Yes, it impacts us. But not as much as the contact you have on the person you come across daily – the person who shows you kindness by forgiving your trespass, or even holding a door open for you. Yes, each of us feels passionately. Can we just try not to manifest that passion as hate?
Let us remember that the opposing party is not Enemy Number One, but consists of our daughters and sons, parents and friends – people we love who feel just as strongly as we do.
Let us remember we are first people, not politicos.
Let us remember that absolute pier corrupts absolutely, and that we all need to be represented.
Let us do one small thing today in the name of being the comrades we are – one act of kindness the day after an election is a platform I can really get behind! Heck, let’s do more than one thing, and trigger an explosion of good will, not in spite of our differences, but because of them. Let’s be mindful about it, too. Really stick it to “the man” and get along with each other on purpose. That’ll teach him!
Let’s try to do what Jesus would do today. Because if anyone should have a beef with how they are represented, it’s Christ. Yet He finds a way to keep living. I hope we can too, at least a little.
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.
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.
It was in the Fall of 1981. Rice Stadium in Houston was packed to the gills. I’d been invited by a dear friend (who is still a good friend) to attend a Billy Graham. crusade. The whole youth group piled onto an activity bus for the shuttle ride.
The cool kids congregated in the back of the bus. I sat right behind the bus driver.
Two months shy of my 13th birthday, I was just old enough to join youth group. I remember so many little details about that evening, which is odd because a lot of my childhood I’d just as soon as forget.
I honestly cannot tell you what I had lunch yesterday, but I can recall every nuance of that evening in 1981. It is as though all of my senses were tingling – there was charge in the air.
I remember the loud grumble of the bus, and the smell of diesel fuel (mingled with Love’s Baby Soft perfume, which we girls regularly doused ourselves with.)
The brightness of the stadium lights.
The cold hardness of the bleachers.
The scent of buttery popcorn from the concession stand.
The itchiness of the sweater I’d worn, because it because the weather in Houston was actually cool for a change.
At the stadium, I remember that there was an electric buzz in the atmosphere – a kind of spirit-hum that kind of vibrated in all of us. It seemed to resonate in the whole stadium, in every soul. I’d never felt anything like it, and rarely have I ever experienced again. We took our seats and settled in, most of us just as interested in the cutest boys in youth than on Rev. Graham’s message. The stadium lights were nearly blinding, but as he spoke, I forgot about the cute boy in youth (his name was Rick, and he only listened to the band “Rush,” alas, a story for another time.)
In his booming yet gentle voice and North Carolina lilting accent that I would so come to love as a North Carolinian myself later in life, Billy Graham distracted us all from or wriggling, twittering, self-absorbed teenage selves by introducing us to this revolutionary concept of absolute GRACE.
Many of us had never heard about true grace, even in the Southern Baptist churches we’d been reared in. Hellfire and brimstone – that we knew.
I listened and was overcome with a peace that passed all of my young understanding. I was a broken kid, from a broken home.
So confident was Rev. Graham in his message, that I became confident in God, too. Not the god I’d prayed to for years, but the real and tangible God.
The Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end.
After the service that evening, the Reverend invited all those who wanted partake in the grace of God to come down the bleachers and pray with members of his prayer team. It was like an altar call on steroids – more of the people in attendance made their way down to accept this crazy anointing as did not.
Grace – ours for the taking, all we had to do was accept it, to take what seemed to me an impossible risk: Believing on the basis of the stirrings of my spirit, and nothing else. Risky. Scandalously risky. But I made my way down in a sort of floating transport. I don’t remember navigating the steep stadium steps; only that I positively knew Jesus Himself was fidgeting with anticipation to love on me through the prayers of strangers.
There was a song playing in a continuous loop as I approached a prayer volunteer. I didn’t mind hearing the refrain a hundred times. As thousands of voices joined in from all around, I wished it would never end.
“Just as I am – and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am – though toss’d about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!”
I was never the same after that experience. I knew that I knew that I knew it was Truth.
I was never the same, but unfortunately, still completely human.
I still kissed boys on church mission trips.
I still grew up to be an alcoholic. In my drinking years I did some awful things.
Life happened, and parenthood happened, and marriage happened. Chronic illness, battles with anxiety and depression. And now I’m nearly 50, and still don’t have my sh*t together.
But had I not accepted Christ at a Billy Graham crusade in 1981, I might never know that even for prodigal daughters, the arms of Jesus are always and ever open to embrace this broken girl. I might never have known He would make me whole a million times and with a smile on his radiant face.
A couple of years ago, I was fortunate to attend a Christian blogger conference in Asheville, North Carolina – not far from Reverend Graham’s birthplace. The facility – run by Billy Graham Ministries – that hosted the event is called “The Cove.” In the multi-building complex, there are mementos of the Reverend where everywhere.
In one of the buildings, there was a museum of sorts. Included in the displays were personal artifacts of the Graham family – a family that I (and so many others) felt a part of. There was an odd but wonderful ambiance of peace. It kind of made me feel like I’d come home.
Billy Graham passed away today. Alas, he really is home. I’ve no doubt Jesus is hugging him tight, but the rest of us left here have suffered a loss.
He was one man, on one mission. Humble and empowered by the Holy Spirit. But what a difference he made in this world!
If I could tell him one thing, it would be this: Thank you.
Thank you, Reverend Graham… for making it okay for me to come to the throne of God just exactly as I am.
Even with many a conflict and many a doubt.
Thanks for being the messenger that delivered the concept of boundless grace to my young heart. Fighting and fears within, without – because that’s how God rolls, infinite in his mercy.
And tell Jesus ‘thank you’ as well, for lending you to us.
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.
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 fell asleep easy enough, but a few hours later I woke up to pee (we keep it real here, right?) like I do every other night at least three times, and was assaulted by hip pain when I stood up. Soon after, when I crawled back into bed, I felt the familiar dull headache begin stirring behind my eyes.
I tried to go back to sleep. I really did. But although I was desperately tired, I hurt. Hurting in the middle of the night is a lonely endeavor. Whereas I normally might complain to my long-suffering but incredibly supportive husband, he was fast asleep.
Soon, my mind got in on the action.
Suddenly – at 4 a.m. – I had this primal wave of worry wash over me. As if pain was tag-teaming anxiety. I tossed and turned, and asked God for a little help here, please. We are going through such a weird and wild season right now.
At 4 a.m., I wanted assurances.
I wanted to call my adult child and make sure she was okay. And then I wanted her to make promises to do what I cannot even manage myself – to get my sh*t together. I wanted God to guarantee her safety. To guarantee all of us safety.
Then, the spiraled from there….
I wanted to log into my email and find five job offers in my in-box. Even though I’m really not healthy enough to work right now.
I wanted to will myself well and get on with life already.
I wanted to lift all of my husband’s worries off of his sleeping chest, so that when he wakes in the morning, his burdens are lifted.
I wanted to know that the world is not imploding, contrary to the evidence all around us.
I wanted to fast-track my therapy to purge my closet of skeletons in one fail swoop.
I wanted to stop feeling so crappy about myself.
I wanted a magic pill to calm my nerves so I could sleep.
I wanted – no, I NEEDED to tangibly feel God’s presence RIGHT NOW. Isn’t that the real craving? Without it, no amount of ‘fixed’ satisfies.
Instead, the more I panicked, the more it felt as though my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling.
A little voice in my spirit tapped me gently on the shoulder as if to say, “Excuse me….I hate to interrupt your anxiety attack and throbbing headache, but – um…..Pslams.”
I took a deep breath.
In another lifetime (fifteen years to be exact) I was a single mother of two pre-teen daughters. I was juggling four jobs after having been a stay at home mom all their lives. I became estranged from unhealthy relationships to safeguard my recovery. My health problems kicked in, aided by the stress. My car window didn’t roll up – a hefty bag and duct tape was all that kept me dry. We lived in a bad neighborhood. It felt like loss, loss, loss.
Since the separation from my girls’ father, it had just been one thing after another after another – big life issues – the kind of things that threatened by then-newish (four years) sobriety. That I survived that season in life sober is a walking-on-water caliber miracle.
All on my own and responsible for the lives of two beautiful girls, I’d never felt so alone. I lived on coffee, Diet Coke and cigarettes, and the only other reliable staple I had was my Bible and prayer life.
I made it a habit each morning to rise before my children, grab my Virginia Slim menthols and a cup of coffee, and sit outside on my porch with my Bible, looking for answers. Looking for assurances between drags on cigarettes.
Psalms are assurances. If you read them aloud, they are even promises.
There is no magic pill for me. I’m an alcoholic. I am wise enough to not trust myself to substances.
But there are Psalms.
So this morning, I’m sharing this little love letter that God led me to just now. The words were written by a man who just couldn’t get his sh*t together either – the biblical David. I love David because he is desperate and wildly in love with God, all at once.
I hope these verses speak to you, too. God pretty much drug me out of bed to come write this post. Maybe somebody out there somewhere can feel a little less alone.
Read the Psalms aloud – they are meant for those whose worlds are imploding. Savor every word.
At 4 a.m., I wanted assurances. Thanks Papa God for showing up. You always do.
(I would also love to know what your favorite Psalms are, too.)
Need a Psalm? Take a Psalm.
Have a Psalm? Leave a Psalm.
And God bless us, every one.
“I run to you, God; I run for dear life. Don’t let me down! Take me seriously this time! Get down on my level and listen, and please—no procrastination!
Your granite cave a hiding place, your high cliff aerie a place of safety.
You’re my cave to hide in, my cliff to climb.
Be my safe leader, be my true mountain guide. Free me from hidden traps; I want to hide in you.
I’ve put my life in your hands. You won’t drop me, you’ll never let me down.
I hate all this silly religion, but you, God, I trust.
I’m leaping and singing in the circle of your love; you saw my pain, you disarmed my tormentors,
You didn’t leave me in their clutches but gave me room to breathe. Be kind to me, God— I’m in deep, deep trouble again.
I’ve cried my eyes out; I feel hollow inside. My life leaks away, groan by groan; my years fade out in sighs.
My troubles have worn me out, turned my bones to powder. To my enemies I’m a monster; I’m ridiculed by the neighbors….
Desperate, I throw myself on you: you are my God! Hour by hour I place my days in your hand, safe from the hands out to get me.
Warm me, your servant, with a smile; save me because you love me. Don’t embarrass me by not showing up; I’ve given you plenty of notice…..
What a stack of blessing you have piled up for those who worship you, Ready and waiting for all who run to you to escape an unkind world.
You hide them safely away from the opposition. As you slam the door on those oily, mocking faces, you silence the poisonous gossip.
Blessed God! His love is the wonder of the world. Trapped by a siege, I panicked. “Out of sight, out of mind,” I said. But you heard me say it, you heard and listened.
Love God, all you saints; God takes care of all who stay close to him, But he pays back in full those arrogant enough to go it alone.
Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect God to get here soon.” – Psalms 31 (MSG)
Big, fat changes are on the horizon. I can just feel it. Do you ever sense that change is afoot, yet have no earthly or Heavenly idea what that change may be? It’s 20% exciting and 80% frightening.
When I really trust God, those stats blessedly flip.
Hey, Papa? Help me to trust you ever more.
One of those things is this: I think it may be time to change the name of this blog / ministry from “The Beggar’s Bakery” to something else….I’m not sure what just yet.
The blog has been my ‘home’ for five years now; it’s my ‘baby.’ But it may be time to change the baby’s name.
The Grace Gospel has got me thinking (and un-thinking about religiosity both.) It’s ruined me, really. In the best possible way.
I no longer relate to the beggar I was the hour I first I believed. I don’t have to beg for God to love me – Jesus sealed the deal and it is finished.
I’m learning to operate in the finished work of the cross. It’s a journey, admittedly. It just seems too good to be true!
But it IS good.
It IS true.
As I prayerfully consider what to re-name it (the content will stay the same, unless / until God tells me different) I welcome suggestions and ideas from you Readers. Even keywords might prove helpful.
Big, fat changes can be scary, but they can also be the catalyst for some really awesome things. I just have to trust.