The Grace Gospel Poem

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By: Jana Greene

What if you were already “right with the Lord,”

And didn’t have to live by the sword,

And battle every single day

With what you do or what you say?

What if you embraced your human-ness,

And didn’t have to strive and stress,

And earn your way into His good graces,

Would you then lean into wide open spaces

Of redemption and love, unconditionally given.

Would you then be so afraid of living?

If we believe what we claim to believe

Could our weary hearts gain a reprieve?

What if His love is totally free.

What, then, would would you open up to be?

What if you could truly rest,

Would you be less exhausted and less of a mess?

Does “it is finished” ring true to you,

Or are you still giving the devil his due?

We try so hard to earn His grace

When really if we seek his face,

We are already there

It is finished and done,

We are one with the Father

And one with the Son,

And Holy Spirit will guide us through;

If you trusted completion,

Tell me, what would you do?

 

Resurrecting the Bakery – a blog revival

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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.

 

The Grace Commodity

 

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BY: JANA GREENE

Grace is a funny thing.

It delights us when granted when we screw up.

And it pisses us off when applied to someone we feel is undeserving of it.

It slips out of the cuffs of condemnation,

It rises above the rules we think it should follow.

It holds accountable only itself.

It is pure.

Grace is golden when get extend it,

And humbling when we receive it.

It runs ram-shod over rules, and laws,

It cares not for protecting secrets,

Or making others pay.

It isn’t “fair” to us,

And thank God for that.

Grace is a thousand points of light,

A thousand Tiffany lamps,

Shining, bold, brightly colored.

It is a “do over,” for what is done,

And a fresh start for what is coming.

Grace is the Bail Bondsman who leaves the door open.

It is the Father who forgets that you tripped up at all.

It is free, but not cheap.

When all other avenues have been exhausted,

Grace chases shame out of the neighborhood.

The only commodity we are commanded to spend,

Grace builds up,

Shores up,

Holds up.

The byproduct of love,

Grace has unfathomable value,

Just like those for whom it is poured out.

Grace can be scandalous and offensive,

But it always makes it’s mark,

Washing the Spirit clean.

Trade it, give it, spend it,

Let it set you free.

It is for freedom we are set free by it,

Spread that stuff around.

 

Election Reflection – thoughts on the day after

By: Jana Greene

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.

God bless us, every single one.

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.

 

How ’bout that OFFRED?

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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.

Goodnight, Billy Graham. And Thank You.

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    By: Jana Greene

     

    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.

    Rest in well-deserved peace.