Spiritual, Spirituality

Tiaras and Mudpies (excerpt from “The Beggar Princess”)

princesstiara

Good day, lovely readers!

I will likely be on hiatus for a while, as I am having shoulder surgery tomorrow morning (all prayers and warm fuzzy wishes welcome!)

But I did want to write a little post for you today (I don’t want you to forget me altogether!)

It is an excerpt from the book I am currently working on.

The book will explore our true identities as women who walk with Christ. Are you just a beggar, desperate for Him? Or are you legit royalty – the Daughter of the Most High King…..that sort of thing. This little snippet is from the 1st chapter. I hope you enjoy it, and I will be back writing the blog as soon as I’m able.

God bless us, every one!

As always, THANK YOU for your readership ❤

….Years after the damage of fatherlessness left me feeling unworthy, God healed my heart. Actually, if I am honest, He  is still healing my heart, which has a tendency to hold on to things because they are familiar; and not because they are in my best interest.  I trust my Father daily, but it is an ongoing process to give up the hurt.

Very soon after I seriously entertained the concept of being a daughter of the King, I had a really vivid dream.

 I was a little girl in full Ren Fair, Princess garb –  Tiara, sparkly pink plastic shoes, a dress with layers upon layers of taffeta and satin. I was indeed a princess! Anyone could see I was royalty.

And all around me is the perfection of nature I’ve loved all my life – clear, flowing waters, flowers surrounding me, lush, greenery and this incredible feeling of peace. It was the Garden of Eden!

I make my way to water’s edge to admire the tinkling creek,  taking care not to muss my gown or dirty my sparkly shoes. 

But oh, OH! MUD!

The mud by the river is so delightfully squishy. I cannot resist stepping in a puddle of it. And before I know it,  I’m making elaborate mud pies – all shapes and sizes, decorated with flowers from Eden’s own garden.

I was just lost in the muck, icing my cakes with more squishy mud, adding silken grass leaves and smooth pebbles as garnishes. Soon, I had enough mud pies to open a bakery.

“Look, Papa!” I remember saying.

And then – in one sick moment –  I realized that I was a mess. Nobody could tell I was a Princess, so caked in mud was I.  Mud encrusted my shoes, and my dress was filthy.  I’d dropped my tiara somewhere in the grasses while looking for cake decorations.

Shame and self-loathing started sinking in. The more I focused on my muck, the more everything around me started fading darker and dimmer.

It was then that I started to cry, avoiding the glare of the King, but when I peeped through my muddy fingers, King Jesus smiled widely at me! He scooped me up in wild embrace and held me there until I stopped crying.

He wasn’t about to let a little mud get in between Him and His Daughter!

I can still conjure the feelings I experienced in that amazing, tangible dream. It really made me consider if I believed (deep, deep down) that I am just a little more royal when I get things right and please the father; and a muddy beggar urchin, when I make a big mess. And the truth is – Papa sees through the mud and muck. It is I who focuses too much on the dirt and not enough on the divine.

Do you ever feel unworthy? Have you ever made a mess of your life?

The mud doesn’t get in the way of His love for you, either.

Anyone can see you are Royalty, Daughter.

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Health, Mental Illness, Psalms, Spiritual

Hurts, Psalms, and Healing Balms

japanese

By: Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless us, every one.

 

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Ageing, Spiritual

The Fierceness of Facing Age

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Ugh. It was really hard to put this picture up on the blog. No make-up, no filters. Photo filters are increasingly becoming my very best friend, to be honest….

 

By: Jana Greene

About that ageing gracefully thing….

Let me just preface this with a nod to those more spiritually evolved than myself, who will remind me that old age is an honor, and that silver hair a crown of glory, and that women are like fine wine and only get better with age (I never understood that one, but I drank only wine that came in a box before I got sober 15 years ago.)

You are right, yes. I get it! But some days, plain old regular vanity kicks in and sucks all the platitudes right out of getting older.Sometimes it’s just helpful to hear, “You, too?”

Remember those first wrinkles you discovered around your eyes in your early thirties? The ones that snapped you out of the delusion that wrinkles weren’t going to happen to you? The ones that spurred you on to buy that expensive sunblock at the Clinique counter? Doesn’t that seem wildly over-reactive and optimistic now?

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I feel like Father Time has been walking on my face wearing soccer cleats and things on my body (including my face) are forever getting softer, lower, and unable to ‘snap back.’ Can we just be honest about it?

I was musing about this on Facebook one day, and I invited my women friends to weigh in on their processes of ageing AND accepting that the process is a thing.

Crepey neck skin, bags under my eyes – who said “getting old is for sissies”? Is there a meat clever around? I’ll give em sissies!

Ah, the crepey skin. Just when I’d finally learned how to properly apply eye shadow, it disappears into the crepey folds of eye lid.  (Take care to take your eye makeup off without rubbing, young ones! You will thank me later on.)

Another sister really just kind of summed it up thus: (If ever there were an occasion to use multiple emoticons, it is here. Mid-life is ONE LONG EMOTICON, I’m finding.)

Hello death to the metabolism… Moment of silence please …… Ok, no need to expound there … Attack of weird skin issues. All things saggy , crepey, spotted, super dry, moles, veins veins, veins..did I mention veins ? Hormones that go up and down, like the rides at the county fair …. One minute I want to devour my husband, and another I want to zap him with a stun gun!  😍😘🔥😱😁😂 😊… Let’s just Changing sleep patterns can not be a good thing 😱😁💤😴💤😵😵😵and so begins The Strangeness … Memory ? Oh yeah what was I saying ? Why did I come In this room again? … I don’t feel like doing a darn thing ..life takes too much energy…

And…

Inside there is this 20 year old thinking she can still do what she used to. Then someone decided we need mirrors over every stinking bathroom sink and BAM! I see that the outside is not a 20 year old any longer.
How did that happen?
Wrinkles? Seriously? They are coming folks and it doesn’t matter how much cream or moisturizer you apply, they are coming.
I think the hardest part is the wisdom streaks that seem to be popping up everywhere. Anywhere there is hair.  Sheesh.  Gray…… thank God for this wonderful invention of color. We really can be anything we want to be. Not a blond? Not a brunette? Not a red head? No problem, there’s a color to suit your every whim.
For me, well, I’ll try to continue to do this aging thing gracefully but I’m just not ready to show all of my wisdom to the world just yet. Maybe in another 20 or 30 years. Maybe by then, I won’t be bothered by those pesky, lying bathroom mirrors anymore.
In the meantime, I know whose child I am and He loves me even with all of wrinkles that pop up daily it seems and the ever growing wisdom streaks..

Dang, that’s good.

I have the best girlfriends in the world, ya’ll.

Arthritis in the back. I love being active and that reminds me every time that I am not at young as I used to be. Not that it is stopping me now. I just fear it will some day!

Fear is a big thing with us, but we need to let that go. We ARE all still 20 year-olds, we are just driving classic cars now. Costly, sputtering, high-maintence, they-don’t-make-’em-like-that-anymore classics. We’ve survived this long, Baby.

Suck it, Fear. (I say that now….wait 5 minutes for mood to change, and we’ll re-assess.)

Several friends mentioned the dreaded and slow-morphing phenomenon that is ‘turkey neck,’ which deserves it’s very own blog post. Seriously, it needs a blog post all it’s own.

But then this:

I like me more emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. So things drag a bit…and the skin is drier, and there are things I never had before–moles, skin tags, hairy face….I am good with me. I love this stage of life.

OMG, I love this stage in my life, too. I really do!  I can be authentic without feeling like I need to apologize for being who I am.  The younger me wanted to people please 24/7, and was always worried about making herself small.  Part of authenticity is being honest about grieving the loss of the season, while still being cognizant of the honor that comes with age.

As the Facebook thread bemoaning our collective youth kept moving along, the posts got more positive. Like we all needed to just SAY IT – admit our struggles in gory detail – and find camaraderie with one another.And then we could entertain the awesomeness of mid-life.

We are all women who love God and know that silver hair is a crown of glory. But sometimes we bitch about getting older anyway, and grace fills in the cracks in our vanity like the wrinkle creams promised to do for our faces. Grace-fully.

Slowly, the sentiment became – yes, our bodies, faces and minds carry the wear and tear – but our spirits have never been so vibrant! Getting older ain’t for sissies, but that’s okay. We ain’t sissies.

We’re FIERCE, friends!

I wouldn’t take all the young, taught skin and youthful energy in the world for the relationship I have with The Father now – it took a lifetime to learn how to ACCEPT His love. My earlier years were so focused on earning it, I forgot to accept it.

I laugh more, share more, love more, taste more, savor more, give more. In the end, I suppose vanity aims to squash down the ‘more-ness.’ Don’t let it take your MORE!

If there’s a damn wrinkle cream on the planet that works, I haven’t found it. And there are a thousand things about ageing I sincerely do not appreciate. I would like my metabolism back, pretty please. Also, I’m very sorry I didn’t appreciate estrogen when I had tons of it…in retrospect, it was rad. I wish I still only equated ‘crepey’ with French foods, and thought only of giblets when I consider the ‘turkey neck.’

About that ageing gracefully thing again….to re-quote a fabulous friend of mine:

….In the meantime, I know whose child I am and He loves me even with all of wrinkles that pop up daily it seems and the ever growing wisdom streaks..

You, too?

Amen, Sister.

Amen.

 

(**Side note: If you are a woman in mid-life and have not read Nora Ephron’s book “I feel Bad about my Neck, and other thoughts on being a Woman,” please do. You will relate and likely be brought to tears from laughter. Which may bring more smile lines, but honey, it’s WORTH it. Laughter is ALWAYS worth it!**)

 

 

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Health, Spiritual, Spirituality

Whatever Comes Further, God is already There

 

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By: Jana Greene

“Hey, God…..”

“Yes?”

“What’s going to happen further along down the road?”

“I’m sorry, that’s on a need-to-know basis. Just trust me.”

“But….”

“Trust me, love. Whatever comes further, I’m already there with you.”

I’m always badgering God about what’s next, even though I know that I couldn’t even handle it if I knew. Seriously, I COULD NOT EVEN. But in some convoluted way, I ask God to reveal to me the outcome of certain things, but the gift of prophesy is not my strong suit.

I am considering this today as I’m struggling with my health issues. I have a rare-ish condition that causes chronic fatigue, migraines, intermittent system pain, and recurrent infections. It’s not going to kill me, but some days I feel like it would kill me if it were more merciful.

Here’s the thing, though: If God had revealed to me that I would do battle with this for the rest of my life, I don’t know that I would have stayed sober. I don’t know if I’d handle it well at all, so I’m grateful for the not knowing.

While I was busy NOT knowing, He went further down the road with me when I wasn’t even looking. The manifestations of His mighty hand over this struggle were being constructed long before I was even symptomatic.

If God had revealed that I would carry this thorn, maybe it would have gone down like this:

“Child, enough badgering! Come sit with me, and I will indulge your curiosity….

“As you grow older, you will feel like your mind and body are falling apart, because they will be – sort of – and you will be scared and tired and frustrated. But I’m working on an infrastructure for your life so that you will be able to carry this yoke…..

“I will bring you a spouse who adores you, and believes you when you are telling the truth about your pain. He will never give up on you, even when you are really sick….

“I will drop friends into your life with EXACTLY this same disease that you suffer from, and they will seemingly drop from the clear blue sky. You will marvel that I took such care to place those perfect people in your life at just the right moments. Lean on them and let them lean into you. They are sent directly from me….

“When you are having a bad day and hurting inside and out, I will scootch right up next to you so close that you can feel my love  for you, even through the pain. My Holy Spirit will be IN you, giving you fresh hope, even through the tears…..

“I will give you the gift to write about your experience, so that you can pay this Love forward to others….the ones who are gravely sick but look well, the ones whose labs and tests all come back normal and they feel like they are losing their minds, and that nobody believes them. YOU will comfort and believe them, just as you have been comforted….

“I will give you humor in copious quantities, so that you can not just survive, but THRIVE….

“Whatever comes further, I am already there with you.”

I get by with a LOT of help from my friends.

God bless us, every one.

 

 

 

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Christianity, Grace, Spiritual

Love Swings Harder

distresstolerance

By:Jana Greene

“Persuasion confirms confident expectation and proves the unseen world to be more real than the seen. Faith celebrates as certain what hope visualizes as future.” – Hebrews 11:1 (The Mirror Bible translation)

Can I just take a minute to appreciate the beauty of that verse? Faith celebrates as certain what hope visualizes as future. MIND BLOWN.

There doesn’t seem to be a glut of things to celebrate right now.

I was turbo-thumb scrolling through Facebook chuckling at goofy cats wearing hats and babies teaching each other to walk, and then.. a trickle of posts from news agencies. Lives of yet more law enforcement officers were taken in Baton Rouge, and oh my dear Lord, what is happening to us?

Oh no. Please God, no.

I’m ashamed to say I haven’t even tuned in for live coverage yet. Much like the grounds of my beloved hometown of Houston, my ground is saturated. My spirit is just saturated. I can’t take one more sad thing. Storm after storm have filled the ground and there’s nowhere for the runoff to go. I know we are all hurting. We are all just trying to doggy paddle in the flood of awfulness right now.

The past few weeks have been an abysmally horrible example of what people of a godless world can inflict upon each other. Does blood mean NOTHING to us anymore?

In between tragedies and murders, there have been tides of goodwill and love between fellow men. Each tragedy followed by an outpouring of people helping one another, followed by another blow, followed by good people acting, followed by more blood in the street….Each time Grace gets on her feet, she is assaulted with another hard swing. But like a boxing match between Hatred and Grace, Grace is getting its ass kicked.

Or so it seems.

But still …

I keep thinking of the end of Jesus’s last day on earth, and how terrified the disciples must have been when the sky turned black and their One True Hope died just like a regular guy. Can you imagine?  Talk about feeling like God has left the building!  There was even an earthquake as His Spirit ascended, but from the human viewpoint, it just looked like the world was ending.

It just looked like doom.

That’s what it feels like to me now.

Blood means everything, and is the only way anything matters. The darkening sky had to happen; It had to happen for love to swing harder. Blood and disaster ushered in hope for the whole of mankind.

I guess faith isn’t about not questioning, because any sane person is doubting and questioning right now. I know I am – big time. Just being honest.

In spite of everything, I believe we are on this planet right now because God deemed us fit to thrive in it for His sake. Not just survive – but thrive.

Even when I just want to make a blanket fort and consume multiple cartons of Haagen Dazs and wash it down with boxed chardonnay while I snuggle with my cats and listen to sad Coldplay songs so I can properly grieve the state of the Union (and the state of the world.)

Again, just being honest.

I’ve been sober a long time, but I have to tell you, I am asking God for help every single day. I need him to help me stay sober and sane.

How can love swing harder if we all stay drunk in our blanket forts? Faith celebrates as certain what hope visualizes as future.

Here’s my strategy, and it’s kind of weird but wildly helpful to me:

Each time I become despondent and feel anxiety rising,  I try to visualize the expressions on the faces of the disciples when they laid their actual EYES on the resurrected Jesus. Awe, wonder, hope sprung eternal. Doom turned to dust, death made impotent for all eternity.

Jesus was all like “TA DAAA!”

And “What part of ‘I’m coming back’ don’t you understand?”

And “I love you! Go now and love on everybody else.”

That’s how I’m coping and staying sober – striving toward the day Hatred doesn’t get the last swing, the day evil gets its ass kicked forevermore. Leaning INTO a loving Father whose heart is breaking for the way His kids are treating one another.

And trying to honor the One True Hope – and be the best ambassador for Him that I can.

When it looks like doom, stand on this saturated ground with me, and keep proclaiming who we KNOW God to be. By grace, love wins. This broken world needs to know it.

God bless us EVERY one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All Lives Matter, Spiritual

Bitter Strife and Loss of Life – American Anathema

Strife

By:  Jana Greene

Life is crazy, and blogging about it such a crazy process. Yesterday, I spent hours writing a fanciful and spiritual fairy tale. Today, I’m writing about death and chaos and the ever-widening chasm between us as members of society.

I hardly slept at all last night. I know many of you probably didn’t either. The happenings in Dallas did a number on my already-over active ‘fight or flight’ response. Anxiety was the order of the night, all night. I pulled out every anxiety-quelling practice I’ve ever learned (it’s a very big toolbox.)

The word “Anathema” kept popping up in my head.

Here’s how the dictionary defines it: “An abomination, an outrage, an abhorrence, a disgrace, an evil, a bane. Abhorrent, hateful, repugnant, odious, repellant, and offensive. And what example did the good people of Google use in the definition? “Racial hatred was anathema to her.”

After a fitful three hour sleep full of nightmares, I woke up and posted this to my personal Facebook wall, and I meant every word:

If you are trying to somehow justify what happened in Dallas, go ahead and unfriend me now. Do us both a favor. Hate begets hate. Those officers were picked off by sniper fire as they are protecting citizenry. No, I cannot justify what happened to the innocent black men killed, but here’s the rub:

Not ONE of the Dallas cops was responsible for what happened in MN or LA. Not a single one. An officer is killed every 58 hours, on average in this country.

Michelle Malkin: A cop is killed every 58 hours

If we are going to be outraged about murder, let’s be outraged about murder. Period.

The sad state of affairs we find ourselves in as a nation is making my heart so heavy.

I am sad that “All Lives Matter” even has to be a thing. It should be a given.

I am sad for the slaughter of peoples everywhere, including the unborn. Violent acts against another human being can never inherently bring PEACE.

I am sad that portions of our citizenry consider justice and vengeance interchangeable terms.

I am sad that we are a nation more divided today than ever. (And I’m mad that the current administration seems to have perpetuated a lot of that division among Americans instead of uniting them.)

I am sad that my young adult children are already bitter about the state of the world, instead of hopeful.

I am sad that my granddaughter has to grow up in such a time as this.

I am sad because the undercurrent of hatred is rising to the mainstream, and people are dying as a result.

And I’m just just sad, but scared. I talked to God at length in the wee hours of the morning about being scared. And wouldn’t you know, He comforted me quite a bit – and didn’t even chastise me for my ‘lack of faith.’

You see, to my mind, the chaos and injustice in the world is indeed socioeconomic and racial and political , but it is fundamentally a SPIRITUAL problem at the root. The skin is only, well…skin deep.

But the spirit? We are all connected.

I’m going to go out in a limb here, but I’ve got to say it, perhaps at the risk of over-simplifying. I mean no harm in what I’m saying. I have friends of all races and creeds, and I love them all so dearly.

It’s a spiritual problem, and ain’t no way to fix that except Jesus. What we are seeing is the human race operating as its own Higher Power. If you’re not already, please pray for our nation.

It’s the devil’s game to divide us all. He is the author of confusion and the father of lies. It seems obvious that he is gaining a foothold.

Division is NOT the way of the Father. My Jesus is your Jesus. We NEED the intervention of a good and inclusive God, and we need it desperately.

I hated to pull the ‘unfriend’ card on my Facebook account,  as it seems on the surface as a divisive action itself. But for the sake of my adrenals and blood pressure, I can’t. I just cannot even, ya’ll.

I see a sick pattern emerging on social media: Are you “Team Black Lives Matter?” or “Team Thin Blue Line?”

I don’t know how this will all pan out. But I am imploring those in my itty bitty blog sphere of influence to consider that what we are doing is clearly not working, and to call on the Almighty to hook us up with some supernatural Shalom here. STAT.

In my flesh, I am not optimistic. There is so much strife and pain and rage.

But in my Spirit? I know ALL things are possible through Christ Jesus.

It’s going to take a miracle. Hearts have to change, not just minds or views or laws. HEARTS.

I’m going to close this out with one of my favorite Mother Teresa quotes: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

God please….please bless us. Every one.

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Christianity, Parenting, Spiritual

A Lady who was Mean to her Kid (or “Grace for Jerks”)

Friends.jpg
“Friends” by Liz Lemon Swindle

“One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”– Matthew 19:14 (MSG)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Jana Greene

In her book “Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith,” Anne Lamott wrote a chapter entitled “A Man who was Mean to His Dog.” She wrote about witnessing a guy being mean to his Golden Retriever at her local beach, and her incredulousness that anyone could be unkind to a dog of that breed. Goldens are the most people-pleasing dogs in the world, just so full of goofy and abundant love. They just want to win your approval.

I witnessed something this morning at the grocery store that may have been the human equivalent, which is even worse.

I live in a coastal town, and here’s one of the Rules of Living at the Beach on any 4th of July weekend: DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE. And if you must leave the house, do it at 7 a.m. in the morning before the tourist craziness reaches fever pitch, usually around 9:30 a.m on a holiday.

But I had to leave the house, because I needed some things from the grocery store, so I trekked out early and thankfully there were few people out and about yet.  Unfortunately, one of those people was a really upsetting presence. A harried-looking mom (or grandmother? Could have been either) with a darling little tow-headed 3 or 4 year-old girl.

The first time she opened a tirade on the wee one was in Bakery.

“Put that down!” the mom shouted, when the girl reached for a free cookie. “Can’t you just ever do anything right?

To which the tiny, blonde adorable human being who has the inalienable right to enjoy a free grocery store cookie (it’s in the Constitution) responded with a muted “Sorry.”

I blew it off as a frustrated albeit really cranky mom, and made a note to try to avoid her for the rest of my shopping, which of course resulted in her passing me in almost EVERY AISLE.

In Bread, the girl skipped around the cart while her mother scanned the shelves.

“STOP IT!” the mom commanded.

“I’m just being silly….”

“Well, knock it off. You’re always silly. Its getting really old.”

Ok, now I’m getting angry. Who the hell reprimands a child for silliness? I catch the mother’s eye and give her a mid-grade stink-eye in return. She looks mean. MEAN, I tell you. But I thought she might think twice about berating her daughter if someone gave her the stink-eye.

But no.

In Pasta / Rice / Soup, I met them again. This time, the girl was trying to put a tiny stuffed animal she had brought into her mom’s purse.

“What do you think you’re doing?” She snapped loudly. “Carry it! If you didn’t want to hold on to it, you shouldn’t of brought it. If you put it in my bag, I’m throwing it away.”

Let me stop right here and assure you that my mothering skills are completely imperfect and always have been. I try really hard and always have, but I make mistakes. I snapped at my daughters plenty as they were growing up, I know I did. We all have bad mommy days. Snapping at your child occasionally isn’t what I’m talking about. I don’t mean to judge this woman harshly, but as she systematically tore down her child in such a nasty way,  I started judging aplenty. Every word she directed at her daughter was full of scorn. I can only describe it as venomous. (The sad thing is that if this is mom at 7 a.m., I cannot imagine how she might treat the kid at 5 p.m. when exhaustion really kicks in, or at 8 p.m. when putting her child to bed.)

I started praying for the girl, who wasn’t even misbehaving in the least – just being a kid. Even on the aisles we didn’t mutually cross, I could hear the mom yelling at her.

When we met up in Frozen Foods, the little girl told her mom “You look pretty.” Anyone could see that this child was trying to win approval, and it was freaking heartbreaking, because her mother responded with “Yeah, whatever.”

Finally, at the checkout, who should queue up behind me but this woman and her daughter. The girl touched a candy bar and her mother loudly said in a seething tone: “You got a hundred dollars? No, you got nothing. Don’t even touch that.”

She didn’t get physical with the girl, but I wanted to scoop the child up and get her away for a while. I wanted to offer to babysit, and invite the girl to come skip around my dining room table and eat candy. I would take her to feed the ducks at the pond near our house, and I would put flowers in her hair and assure her that she IS doing everything RIGHT, and that silliness is a character attribute of the very highest order.

Instead, I smiled and winked at her. She was just precious beyond all description and she smiled back at me – as sweet and happy as a Golden Retriever whose owner had mistreated it. What I’d witnessed  wasn’t cruel enough to be reported to the authorities, but it was definitely cruel enough to chip away at the spirit of a beautiful little girl.

Four year-olds are full of glee and “why?” and skipping around. Quite frankly, that age is often the most lovable of the childhood years, the most people-pleasing age, just so full of goofy and abundant love. I continued praying for the girl as I checked out my groceries and put them in the cart. By this point, I’m beyond angry. I am rolling away to my car, imploring God to protect and comfort that child’s wounded little spirit.

And then I had a thought invade my pleadings: Pray for the mother.

Hurumph! I shut that thought down quick, dismissing it on the grounds of righteous anger.

I’m loading my groceries, and again – like an annoying internet pop-up ad, it comes again: Pray for the mother.

What do you want me to pray, God? Forgive her,  for she knows not what she does? She knows damn well what she’s doing! But still, as I started the car, God really just wouldn’t get off my back about it, so I prayed an honest prayer:

God, I’m just so mad. I’m mad but I’m asking you to somehow work in the heart and mind of that mother. I don’t know what she is going through, but you do. That meanie is your little girl. Forgive me for praying for her very last, and with trepidation.  You were pretty clear about praying for our enemies, and I ask for you to pour your supernatural, unconditional love on her. Show her grace, Lord. And show me grace and mercy too, please. I need it just as much.

Praying for thine enemies is very, very difficult. That’s why Jesus was the only person ever to do it perfectly. It’s especially hard when the aggressor is mean to a child or a dog. I’m working on learning to petition God on the behalf of the jerks in the world, because I’ve been a jerk before too in other ways, so maybe someone was praying for me.

God bless us, every one. Please, God. We need it so.

 

 

 

 

 

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Recovery, Spiritual

Grace – Apply liberally and immedietly (and preferably before calling yourself a dumbass)

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Whenever you consider excellent candidates for a liberal and immediate application of grace in your life,  imagine yourself here – the divine hand of God pointing straight at YOU. Now go forth and LOVE on that person to whom God is pointing. She deserves it!    (photo taken on a truly divine trip to Wimberley, TX – God’s Country proper.)

By: Jana Greene

Greetings from the State Capital! I am reporting from Raleigh today to share a story with you that is a little difficult to share and really quite embarrassing. But I feel transparency is important, so here it goes:

Several months ago, I made a decision to start a brand new career at 47 years of age. I didn’t think it would be too hard because I’ve kind of been doing aspects of this job for many years. It’s my passion and I badly want to succeed at it.

When I grow up, I want to be a Peer Support Specialist in the recovery field.

Yes, it’s a thing. But it’s a pretty new-ish thing. I did my research and signed up for the certification class. I tried to dot my ‘i’s, and cross my ‘t’s’. I wanted to make sure it was right. I arrived today (the first of five days) early and with sharpened pencils. I would have brought the instructor an apple, but I didn’t want to appear over-eager.

So imagine my surprise when, in the middle of the first day of training (yes, it took me half of a day), it dawned on me that I was sitting in THE WRONG CLASS. I had traveled half the state away and booked a hotel and spent gas money on a program to become a Recovery Coach – a noble aspiration, but not exactly what I thought I signed up for.

When the realization hit, I felt my face burn. And the barrage of self-shame was immediate.

You DUMBASS, me called me-self. How could you get this SO WRONG?  Very quickly, things got dark in my head. This is why you are having a career crisis in mid-life. Get your SHIT TOGETHER, loser. You’re old, you’re not qualified.  You can’t do anything right. You just really can’t. You never have and you never will. Well, that escalated quickly!

But then I did something crazy and deliberate. I caught myself and decided to treat myself the same way I’m always imploring others to treat themselves – grace-fully.

I’m here for a reason. I’ve already met incredible people who I can tell will become friends. I cannot spend a few hundred dollars and five days to launch a new career. It will take longer and be more difficult. But so what? God’s got a PLAN, MAN. Go with the flow already.

It wasn’t automatic, I had to deliberately derail the sneaky spiral of negative thoughts. THIS IS A BREAKTHROUGH.

As it turns out, I will need these credit hours to become certified anyway. I’m just doing things in reverse – not because I’m a dumbass who cannot do anything right, but because I’m a willing participant in whatever gig Abba has got going behind the scenes. It doesn’t have to look like my preconceived notions (and it’s usually better it doesn’t.) My very kind instructor and awesome classmates (some of which made the very same mistake) all rallied around and noshed on the process.

“Is it a big deal I didn’t take ‘x’ class before ‘y’ class?” I asked.

“Oh, you couldn’t have signed up for ‘x’ class anyway before now,” the instructor informed us. “The state suspended the training. They’ve only just now re-instated it.”

Ah.

Shortly after this episode, I private-messaged one of my best girlfriends. She is this fabulous, wild, creative, loving tour de force for the Father, and a safe place for me to fall on more than one occasion. She had very recently schooled me on taking every thought captive.

Me: I screwed up, but I’m not going to stay there because I’m here for whatever reason and have learned tons and met incredible people already…Here for a reason!

My sweet friend: I am so proud of that much progress in giving yourself GRACE! !! (God) allows us to make this sort of mistake so we learn to apply grace liberally and immediately!

Yes! of COURSE! Instructions for grace: Apply liberally and immediately. I LOVE that.

Be tender and gentle with yourself.

Don’t call yourself any name that you wouldn’t call a hurting friend to her face.

I’m allowed to make mistakes, and so are you.

I’m starting a brand new career at 47 years of age, and that’s kind of a brave thing to do. It’s my passion, and I will (God willing) succeed at it. It may take longer and be more difficult, but all things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.

Your thing? It’s brave, too. Do the thing. So what if it doesn’t go off without a hitch. You’re DOING it!

Do something crazy and deliberate. Be passionate.

And when you mess up? Apply grace liberally, and with the same zeal you grant it to others.

You’re worthy of that grace.

Yes, you are.

 

 

Parenting adult children, Spiritual

Trusting Adult Kids to God’s Care (Even when it really freaks you out)

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By: Jana Greene

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and because it was Mother’s Day, I cried a lot. I cried because it is my first totally empty nest Mother’s Day. I cried because  my own relationship with my mother is fractured into a bazillion pieces. I cried because someone I love didn’t acknowledge me at all. I did have a few tear-free segments of the day, but menopause was around to keep the good times rolling.

I may or may not have fed my feelings heaping spoonfuls of Haagen Dazs Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Ice Cream.

I’m still kind of mopey, honestly. But I’m getting a grip today. I must get a grip today.

You see,  I love my daughters. Oh my God, how I love my daughters. But they took different paths than I’d expected.

I think that every mother has a certain set of dreams and assumptions for her child. Those assumptions are that your child will grow up to be successful and kind and happy, and stop wiping boogers on the wall. Happily, this is usually the case.

I assumed mine would grow up and get scholarships to universities because they are super smart, they would naturally stay away from all drugs and alcohol (from, you know, learning from MY mistakes, like THAT ever worked,) graduate college and get jobs they are passionate about. That they would be in straight, monogamous relationships – not living together before marriage – then get married to Godly men, and have a couple of kids that they devote their entire lives to, just like mom. (But that was MY own dream, and I couldn’t even do it right!)

Then there are is The Big Granddaddy of All Dreams –  that they will follow God – really know Him on a personal, intimate level. That they will pray regularly, and allow Him to guide their lives.

The reality is that kids are not appliances – there are no warranties. They are on a crazy merry-g0-round. You can try to hop on if you dare, but it won’t slow down for you and in the end, there is a lot of nausea involved. It’s best just to stay out of the way. There is no control.

There is, however, a loving God we can trust them to.

Perhaps your child grew up and stopped wiping boogers on the wall (remember when that seemed like such a BIG DEAL? Sigh)  but instead ran away from home and you don’t know where she is.

Or is gay / transgendered.

Or is a drug addict.

Or is in prison.

Or drinks to much.

Or is mean to people who don’t think the way she does.

Or has turned her back on everything you taught her.

Or hates you.

Or hates God.

…Any deviation from the loving plans you made for that child when she was first born and they lay her on your belly. (Remember how EASY it was to TRUST GOD with that child when they were brand new? Piece of cake!) New babies don’t stay new, though. They grow up and do wonderful, glorious, horrible, confused, amazing, and confounding things. Things for which YOU HAVE ZERO CONTROL.

Yet, in the midst of whatever your child engages in that breaks your heart, you still – always – love that child.  If YOU love her so much, can you imagine how much ABBA loves your child? He isn’t surprised at your kid’s lifestyle choices, and He isn’t limited by  our ways of imagining our children ‘fixed.’

There is no grace deficit for your child that you have to worry will run out. God is merciful and FULL of grace! Because they are not the droids we were looking for – happy little predictable robots – does not mean God is not working out HIS PURPOSE IN OUR KIDS, even as they experience stuff.

I still pray every day that my wild and loving and confounding children will make good choices. I pray that The Big Granddaddy of All Dreams that I harbor in my heart for them comes to fruition. I will pray that until my dying breath.

I want to trust the Lord with my daughters JUST AS MUCH as when they lay on my belly as little newborns, squinting up at their mama. I want to trust Him that easily with them still, and I’m asking Him to help me do it.

Jesus, 

I lay my children down at the altar and TRUST YOU with their lives. Ultimately I know that my children must know YOU intimately. Lord, help me get out of the way.

And all God’s children said, Amen.

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Spiritual, Spirituality

Wanted: Black Sheep

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By: Jana Greene

Part 6 of The Seismic Seven Series

“When somebody’s religious identity is being challenged, things are bound to turn nasty quickly.” —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

Good readers,

Today Abba has downloaded a blog post into my heart that makes many Christians squirmy and causes a lot of division. I know because it made me super squirmy. It’s the gospel of inclusion, and it’s pretty radical stuff.

Jesus came so that we could all be included in the love of God, not so that we could take His Gospel and divvy it up by law and procedure and methods and doctrinal argument, until it is splintered and divided. He didn’t come to provide religious identity.

At the Open Table Conference, this message was more or less hammered into us – and I couldn’t be more grateful. I could go on for days about this (and I may….) because it resonates on a base-level. It speaks to a contingent who may not even possess faith yet, and we sure do love to preach to the already-faithed.

Once upon a time, there was a Pure and Spotless White Lamb who came to a new pasture –  one much sparser and less lush than the one he called ‘home.’ He came so that he could  show all of the scattered and flaw-full black sheep the way to greener pastures and lead them to the care of a loving Shepherd.

While he was among the black sheep, he did not cloister himself up on the highest hill and look down upon them grazing on the crappy, cut-rate grasses they had chosen.

He didn’t call attention to himself and brag about his spotlessness.

He didn’t shame the less-than-perfect sheep for being spotty and lame.

He didn’t cavort around with the black sheep so that he could do the naughty things that they were doing.

He was goodness and light and mercy, something the flock had never experienced before, and they drew close to him because of those attributes – not necessarily because he appeared without blemish. Blemishes can hide far under the wool.

He included ALL of the fold, selecting NONE of them for banishment. Division was not this Sheep’s end-game. Inclusion was.

He supped with The Blackest Sheep in the Family, and hung out among the fallen, and challenged them to believe that there was a Shepherd of Love who could make them perfect. He’d left a perfect pasture to bring more sheep to the shepherd. Through this loving and acceptance of the Pure White Lamb, the wool of the others became spotless, too.

So that when the Shepherd called his flock home, he couldn’t tell one from another. All were pure and spotless in his sight.

Let me say that again: So that when the Shepherd called his flock home, he couldn’t tell one from another. All were pure and spotless in his sight.

Graze on that for a minute. When you follow the Lamb of God, you are spotless too.

I’m not saying that accepting Christ as Savior isn’t key. It’s everything. But God loved you long before you ever made that choice. His love for you is not even contingent on that choice. If it were, it would be YOU responsible for the love.

I’m not saying repentance isn’t necessary. I’m just saying God’s love for you isn’t contingent upon it. Some chose not to follow the Spotless One, but it did not diminish the Shepherd’s love for them OR his deep longing for them to experience His presence. Not one whit.

If you had to turn from all sin in order for God to love you, it would be all about you and your piousness, and I think we can all agree piousness is a bunch of crap. Otherwise the Pure and Spotless White Lamb would have hung around black sheep in white sheep’s clothing (a.k.a Pharisees / Sadducees) to save face, which is not at ALL what he did.

You cannot be responsible for the Grace God showed you before the hour you first believed. He has already included you in the love.

If the sheep don’t know there is One who will care for them right where they are, they will have no desire to leave the cut-rate pasture.

And if you are The Black Sheep of your family, take heart! The God of the cosmos loves you and longs for you to experience His presence. He has goodness, light and mercy abundant for you, right where you are.

You are included.

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

 

 

 

Spiritual, Spirituality

A God Most Intimate

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Part 5 of The Seismic Seven Series

By: Jana Greene

“I don’t believe in God. I know God! Once you know someone, believing is no longer a concern.” — Wm. Paul Young (Eve: A Novel)

I once wrote a blog post about the disservice atheists do to children in persuading them that there is no God. Sure enough, I received a comment from a fellow blogger and devout atheist (if you can be such a thing) chastising me for perpetuating a myth.

To read the article, click here:   Little Humans, Big Faith

“I’ve lost nothing if I’ve base my life on love. Not a single thing,” I asserted in the piece. To which he countered: “So you would consider basing your life around a lie a good use of your time?”

“Kids are the most questioning people on the planet and God wants us to come to him as little children. I think He definitely gets it. I think He knows that we are curious and that’s okay,” I wrote.

“Sounds extremely spooky but not a very reliable method of forming beliefs,” said he.

Oh, dude. You have no idea how supernatural it really is. My faith is the most reliable thing in my life, far more so than my emotions or book-sense.

Believing in God is risky business. But even that is not enough for me. I crave the intimacy of KNOWING God.

One of the most powerful talking points at The Open Table Conference was about intimacy with the Father. I just eat that up. I’m not content to walk beside Jesus anymore – I want the union whereby He is in my spirit and I am in His. The kind of relationship you simply cannot figure out with the brain, and really don’t need to.

“Some things in life you just aren’t going to be able to think your way through—so you might as well save yourself the stress by simply trusting your way through them.” – Steve McVey (The Grace Walk Devotional)

There’s that “trusting” thing again. Pesky trusting, there is no shortcut to it.

“The Christian God is interested in relationship with us, and not just relationship, but union, and not just union, but such a union that everything He is and has—all glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life—is to be shared with us and to become as much ours as it is His. The plan from the beginning, in the Christian vision, is that God would give Himself to us, and nothing less, so that we could be filled to overflowing with the divine life.” — C. Baxter Kruger (Jesus and the Undoing of Adam)

The conversation between my atheist friend and I continued in a few more comment exchanges. He asked me if I thought we had disembodied minds, and I prayed a bit before I answered:

Can I prove that to you? No, I know it in my heart of hearts. Do I need to prove it to you? No. Because you cannot prove something that is true in the Spirit to a mind that is closed off to the possibility of there even BEING a spirit. It’s like proving to you that I am having thoughts about chocolate by showing you my big toe. Yes, my mind and body are related and intertwined, but not exactly the same thing. Different parts of me.

I’ve seen supernatural things, and have not found them lacking in evidence or reality at all! Spooky? Sometimes. Glorious and ethereal? Oh, yes. (I’m a natural-born skeptic, too, believe it or not.)

Can you prove that love exists? Can you bottle it, break down its chemical make-up (yes, I know you can manufacture serotonin, etc. That’s not what I’m talking about.) No. But you can see the manifestations of it all over the place. Ditto evil. Manifested everywhere.
It’s enough to make your brain hurt. If you try to process it only with your brain.  The spirit of a person is not their disembodied mind at all.

“Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.” – C.S. Lewis.

The crazy thing about faith is that it will respect your wishes. If you wish to hold God at bay by choosing not to take the risk of knowing, you will never know. If you wish to know the Father in the most intimate parts of your spirit, He will meet you there.

Don’t take my word for it that God wants the closest relationship with you possible. Don’t even take these learned Theologians’ words for it. During the entire workshop, we participants were encouraged not only to think for ourselves, but “Ask Jesus if it’s true.”

Ask Him yourself. Approach the throne – He welcomes your curiosity. He honors your seeking of the truth. If you don’t seek, you will not find out it’s true.

“The challenge to have more faith about a specific outcome is often nothing more than a religious promotion for positive thinking.” — Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

It’s easy to call it a myth or a fairy tale, or an exercise in positive thinking. Its easy if you’ve never tasted the truth. But OH! When you know the glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life – there’s no going back.

And yes, I consider basing my life around The Truth a very good use of my time.

Faith, Spiritual

Sweeping up Eggshells – Life in the New Covenant

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By: Jana Greene

“When people form their opinion about God from what they hear from contemporary legalistic religion, it’s no wonder they conclude that God is a cranky, old, bookkeeping, judgmental, demanding deity who is more interested in people’s behavior than anything else. It would be easy to see how a god like that would be angry much of the time. Sadly, people who hold that view of God impose it on the Bible and interpret the Bible to present a God like that. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not saying that our God is a milquetoast, a mild-mannered god who can be managed. He’s no kitten, that for sure.”  —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

Part 4 of The Seismic Seven Series

When I was a little girl, my father would often go into rages. I learned early how to walk on eggshells, as you never knew what mood he would be in when he walked through the door. We all braced for the worst, but sometimes he would arrive with gifts or candy. Just when you came to expect gifts and candy, the raging and violent alter-ego would walk through the door. When that happened, I learned to flee. But when I didn’t have time to flee, I’d hide behind my mom’s legs as my parents fought. Ugly, hostile, screaming fights were the norm when I was growing up.

I hid behind my mom’s legs because if she were the barrier, perhaps he would not ‘see’ me and I could avoid getting the brunt of his fury. Sometimes this worked, other times, my mother and I both got the wrath.

At The Open Table Conference, Steve McVey likened this very thing to how we perceive God. We want to go to Heaven, but we imagine meeting God and hiding behind the legs of Jesus, so maybe God won’t ‘see’ us and smite us on the spot. Because – judging by many Old Testament Bible stories – God might send a plague upon me.

The God of the Old Testament would surely smite me! I’d better stand over here behind Jesus just to be safe.

One theological thorn I’ve learned to work around is this: If God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow….how do I justify that seemingly angry God with the God of love I know and adore? Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know that I don’t have to ‘work around’ my questions. It’s okay to ask them.

“It’s important to remember that the verses in the Old Testament were addressed to the people of that covenant, and not to you.” — Steve McVey (UNLOCK YOUR BIBLE: The Key to Understanding and Applying the Scriptures in Your Life)

It’s all about New Covenant – the solution of new promise through the Messiah that the New Testament details. It’s all about Jesus. It’s the difference between legalism and relationship; between stone tablets of commandments and a flesh-and-blood living God.

“God’s covenant with Israel, known as ‘the Old Testament’ or ‘Old Covenant,’ called upon the people to do their part. God repeatedly told them that if they would fulfill their end of the covenant, they would be blessed, and if they didn’t, they would experience all kind of curses.”—  Steve McVey  (UNLOCK YOUR BIBLE: The Key to Understanding and Applying the Scriptures in Your Life)

I won’t have to hide behind Jesus’s legs when I get to the Kingdom, because God – quite literally – sees me through Christ. Through his redemption of me. No need to walk on eggshells. No need to flee. Everything God ever did – Old Testament or New – was a gesture to invite people to Him. Even the things we percieve as horrible because we don’t see the big picture. We are reconciled to God through Christ, who made sure of it.

But although God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, the New Covenant with His people was a game-changer.

“The heart of our Creator is to bless you. Dead religion presents a freakish caricature, a pseudo-god who is reluctant to bless his creatures unless they toe the line of impeccable moral behavior and tireless service to him. But the authentic God of the Bible blessed Adam and Eve immediately [Genesis 1:27-28] – before they worshipped, before they served, before they prayed, before they displayed any kind of action at all. The first divine act toward humanity tells us so very much about Him.” —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

I don’t need that old work-around any more.

God is not a cranky, old, bookkeeping, judgmental, demanding deity who is more interested in people’s behavior than anything else.

His love is too passionate for you to be mild-mannered. He cannot be managed, no kitten, to be sure. But you are His favorite interest. Jesus wants to make sure you know that.

I’ll close with this musing by Paul Young (author of The Shack):

“Religion is about having the right answers, and some of their answers are right… but i am about the process that takes you to the living answer… it will change you from the inside. there are a lot of smart people who are able to say a lot of right things from their brain because they have been told what the right answers are, but they don’t know me at all. “

It’s God’s desire that we know Him. Not because we tow the line, but because His love for  us is so great.

He does love you so.

 

 

 

 

Spiritual, Spirituality

Stone Throwing for Sinners

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Part 3 of The Seismic Seven Series

It (trying to keep the law) grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainly out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse. ” – Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

By: Jana Greene

Oy vey, this world is a mess. Right thinking has become wrong thinking, and vice versa. The climate of this country is chaos, and I could go on and on about all the ways society is courting the title of Most Sinful this side of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I could, but I won’t. Because even as the world’s brand is chaos, God is changing my brand to love. I asked him to do a work of compassion in my heart, and boy howdy is he ever.

It’s a tall order. I have my perceptions and holy prejudices in place and there are certain behaviors or lifestyles that really upset my self-righteous apple cart.

But there is this radical thing called Grace that I just cannot shut up about.

As one of the speakers at last week’s conference said: “Sanctification is not a sin-management program.”

Some of my friends are having a hard time figuring this out. They think I am placating the sinful, losing my convictions. Sin is a very big deal; I get that. It’s just not the biggest deal.

We humans love to relegate the sins of ‘those people.’ We take great pride in choosing the stones to throw, as if the perfection of the stone gives us superiority. The weight of the stone in our hand feels good, doesn’t it? Go ahead and throw it, as soon as you are sin-free.

I joke that my heart breaks for the people society casts off – the heroin addicts and the drunks (having struggled with alcoholism myself)  etc. – but if you don’t use proper grammar, I just judge the crap out of you. And using improper grammar isn’t a sin at all, but for some reason it offends me. What’s up with that?

I suspect it’s because grammar comes easy to me. The predisposition NOT to sin in a particular fashion makes it easier to judge the ones to sin in just that manner.

If you do not struggle with homosexuality, heterosexuality comes easy to you – making the lifestyle of a gay person super offensive –  even though every sin is equal to every other. If you are a teetotaler, drunkenness may rate higher on the Sin Scale to you. If you don’t gamble, the pitiful sight of a man dropping token after token in a slot machine for hours on end may not illicit compassion.

There is black and white, right and wrong, by damn! Yet  none of us – lo not even ONE – is going to get it all right in this life.

So much of the Christian faith has become about pointing out the wrongdoings of others,  and driving home the message of how wrongdoing separates one from God.

“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” – Billy Graham

Nothing can separate you from the love of God. If you are the wickedest person alive, God loves you beyond your capacity to understand.

This is a revelation to me. I didn’t like entertaining the thought because IT’S NOT FAIR. We like things to be fair, right? Our human nature says we must withhold the expression of love when someone displeases us. But God is not bound by our behavior to love us.

Here’s a newsflash: The world already knows what Christ-followers know as ‘sin.’ What they maybe don’t know is the crazy, radical love of Jesus. I don’t need to be Holy Spirit Junior, and that’s incredibly liberating.

I love the way The Mirror Bible translation delves into the subject with commentary…(Romans 7:18-25)

“The total extent and ugliness of sin that inhabits me, reduced my life to good intentions that cannot be followed through. Willpower has failed me; this is how embarrassing it is, the most diligent decision that I make to do good, disappoints; the very evil I try to avoid, is what I do.” Commentary: If mere quality decisions could rescue man, the law would have been enough. Good intentions cannot save man. The revelation of what happened to us in Christ’s death is what brings faith into motion to liberate from within. Faith is not a decision we make to give God a chance, faith is realizing our inclusion in what happened on the Cross and in the resurrection of Christ!

 “If I do the things I do not want to do, then it is clear that I am not evil, but that I host sin in my body against my will….

The situation is absolutely desperate for humankind; is there anyone who can deliver me from this death trap?

… Thank God, this is exactly what he has done through Jesus Christ our Leader; he has come to our rescue! I am finally freed from this conflict between the law of my mind and the law of sin in my body.” Commentary:  If I was left to myself, the best I could do was to try and serve the law of God with my mind, but at the same time continue to be enslaved to the law of sin in my body. Compromise could never suffice.

I can strive and strive and strive, and, like the Apostle Paul, still miss the mark. My striving to live a sinless life does not impress God into loving me harder.

Because His love is already perfect.

If Jesus took care of it to draw us near, why are we still making sin The Biggest Deal? Love people and Holy Spirit will convict them, just as he convicts us holy rollers.

There is this radical thing called Grace that I just cannot shut up about. It is unabashedly, gloriously NOT FAIR, thanks be to God.

May he bless us, every one.

Christianity, Spiritual

You are God’s Favorite

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By: Jana Greene

Hi Readers,

In Part 2 of The Seismic Seven Series, I want to talk about how much you matter – how important and integral you are to the entire Cosmos.

We are all born with a primal need to MATTER. We have a longing to be a Really Big Deal to someone else, set apart and appreciated for who we are in our deepest hiding places.

I’ve always kind of hated the platitudes like “If God has a refrigerator, your picture is on it.” Or, “God carries your picture in his wallet.”

To my mind, that only means He has a enormous Frigidaire to keep Kingdom feasts fresh, and a billion pictures plastered with holy magnets on it, with no one face standing out more than another. Or carrying around a fat, honking wallet full of Benjamins and  millions of plastic photo sleeves to whip out and show the saints when He brags about his kids.

But five little words spoken to me by a pastor I respect very much changed my whole perception:

You are God’s very favorite.

What!? Um, no, I’m pretty sure I’m not.

God loves the saintly, the selfless. The cool. Mother Teresa may be His favorite. Or maybe even Lenny Kravitz. He is super cool. Oh, and people who win the lottery. Not me. That was my understanding in my deepest hiding places where fear-based unworthiness tried to get the last word.

“Do you know how janky my life is?”  I asked him. “I’m selfish and have a salty tongue. I lose my patience with people who cut me off in traffic, and soothe my feelings with food binges, and I just cannot seem to GET IT TOGETHER.”

“Yes, and you are His favorite,” he insisted.

But I could not forget that sentiment. In the following weeks and months, I let it rattle around in my mind until it found refuge in my spirit. And I found out that it’s true.

I know what you’re thinking: How arrogant to assume I’m His favorite! But here’s the rub:

YOU are his favorite too. In our puny, fallen capacity to understand love, there can only be one “favorite.” One chosen over all the others. We want so badly to be someone’s favorite, to be a Really Big Deal to someone. Each one of us being Abba’s favorite isn’t possible in our human understanding, but it’s 100% true.

We are dealing with two dimensions here – the one coming from above presides over all – while the reasoning from a mere earthly perspective is confined to communicate from an earthly point of view. The conversation realized as originating in Heaven has the final say.” – John 3:31 (Mirror Bible)

He is pursuing you…can you feel it? If you’re reading this, I know you feel the pursuit. He brings us to people and places that speak life over us. He is whispering to you, “It’s TRUE! No one else will do for the relationship I want to have with you!”

Not restrained by time or space or a limited capacity to love, God favors YOU. Like a favorite son or daughter, He adores you and longs for relationship with you, no matter how janky your life may be.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask Jesus if it’s true. He wants you to ask. Never hesitate to bring honest dialogue to the Father.

Your life and your words and deeds carry enough weight to affect the very Cosmos, and I’m not even exaggerating.

If anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will be the same again.” — Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

YOU MATTER.

C. Baxter Kruger puts it like this: “What does the understanding that we are accepted into the mutual indwelling and communion with God remove from our hearts? Fear and hiding. So because of Jesus’ knowledge of the Father’s acceptance, which he shares with us, we now are free to let go of our racial and personal prejudices, and to love and accept one another, which leads to the freedom to know and be known, which leads to fellowship and mutual indwelling.”

The freedom to know and be known, and mutual indwelling with the Creator of the Universe, who poured just as much love and favor into you as He poured stars into the sky, galaxies into the vast universe. You are set apart and appreciated for who you are in your deepest hiding places.

Abba doesn’t carry your picture in His wallet or keep it on His refrigerator.

He carries YOU in His heart of hearts.

You are a REALLY BIG DEAL to Abba.

His very favorite.

 

 

Grace, Spiritual

Your Future-Tripping Sunday Self

jacob's well
Jacob’s Well in the Texas Hill Country. I was blessed to visit the locale last year. It is stunning!

By: Jana Greene

Hello, readers.

As some of you know, I was privileged to attend a forum called “The Open Table Conference” in Atlanta over the weekend. There were four speakers there – which is not unusual for a conference – but the unique thing about it as that the attendees were invited to approach the speakers open table-style. No subject too dangerous. No shame in asking what your heart is longing to know. And while I cannot say I ‘agree’ 100% with everything covered (As we say in AA, “Take what you need and leave the rest,) my spirit was incredibly blessed by these men of faith and their transparency, humor and faith. (See below for bios of each of the speakers I quote.)

For this series of seven posts (I’ll try to post one per day…emphasis on the TRY!) I will be weaving my personal experience from the event with what I learned and explored. That’s a pretty important distinction, as I am NO Theologian and can only present what I gleaned over the course of the conference as a messy, curious, and head-over-heels in-love-with-Jesus believer.

*Note that the scripture included in the series will be referenced from the “Mirror Bible,” which often breaks verses down to consider the original Greek or Aramaic meanings and nuances. They are the scriptures that corresponded with what I explored during the absolutely SEISMIC weekend, as they relate to my studying.

As Steve McVey said, “Revolutions are not started by mild-mannered people.

I just love that.

“This kind of hope does not disappoint; the gift of the Holy Spirit completes our every expectation and ignites the love of God within us like an artesian well.” – Romans 5:5

Paul Young (author of “The Shack”) was one of the presenters at the conference. I feel kind of terrible that I have not read the book yet, so lets start this off with a confession. I have not read The Shack. I may be the only person on the planet who has not. But I HAVE watched a ton of Wm. Paul Young’s videos on YouTube, and I AM currently reading The Shack right now. Young is the kind of Christian who reminds me of fellow-believers Anne Lamott and Brennan Manning, meaning – the kind of Christian who really used to piss me off earlier in my faith walk because they were so HONEST and sold out for Christ and that was threatening to me. Radicals! SHEESH.

It’s not threatening to me any more.

So, I haven’t read The Shack in its entirety yet, but I love the premise (which also would have pissed me off in my younger years….God as a middle-aged black woman!? Holy Spirit as an Asian woman!? HERETICAL! Jesus as an Israeli!? Well, okay, I guess that’s alright…) Thankfully a lifetime of grace has smoothed out my sharp edges, and I know God is SOOO much bigger than the box I liked to keep Him in (as if…)

Young’s narratives really did a number on my heart all weekend. They all did, but his especially.

One of the simplest takeaways I soaked in was this: God is not just interested in our Sunday Selves. The Self that we plop in a pew on Sunday mornings and cast off by the time we hit the K & W Cafeteria after the service. He’s just not. He is interested in each one of us in an intimate way – knowing how pointy our sharp edges and embracing us anyway. He is invested in us in the most precious way imaginable.

God gave His Son for us, yes. But here’s what we forget –  Jesus volunteered for the job, so great was his longing to draw us close, pointy edges and all.

Another mind-blower was this: Future Tripping – a term Young uses for one of my more badass companions – Worry. Worry is like a bad boyfriend you just can’t seem to break up with, even though he is bad for you all the way around, and full of drama. He’s also a stalker, that one. Like any good father, God sits on the porch with an arsenal to blast his head off, but a really dysfunctional part of me is like, “No, Papa! I LOVE him!” Ugh.

My Sunday Self wouldn’t tell you that. She’s been around awhile and knows how to plaster the Sunday Face on, all nice and shiny. She can worry about a million things at once, even though only approximately 2-3% of her worries will ever even remotely come to pass. She has adapted because she is world-weary.

I think that’s one reason we are told to become like children. Children are not world-weary. They are authentic.

Or as Young says: “We need to learn to become children again – to let go of ‘future-tripping,’ where out of fear we imagine what’s going to happen and waste today’s grace on things that don’t exist.”

Wasting today’s grace. Yeah, I want no part in that. We can also waste grace by being do-driven. Anxiety is also an Unsavory Character. There is a place for good works, but it is not the foundation of our faith.

The venerable Steve McVey also spoke at the event, and he was also amazing:

“God wants to bring us to the understanding that we weren’t saved to do something for God. We were saved so that we might know Him in intimate daily fellowship.” –  Steve McVey  (“Grace Walk: What You’ve Always Wanted in the Christian Life”)

I hope this series will embrace you, sharp edges and all. And invite you to explore the radical love of a very real Father who doesn’t want just your Sunday Self, but your messy, future-tripping, sinful, hurting Selves.

Other pieces will incorporate subjects like You Matter; Sin – Nothing can Separate You;  Hiding Behind the Legs of Jesus; Know that You Know that you Know; Inclusion; and Perichoresis for Dummies – The Triune God.

May you share in the hope that does not disappoint; and revel in the Holy Spirit that completes our every expectation and ignites the love of God within us like an artesian well.

By the way, an artesian well is simply a well that doesn’t require a pump to bring water to the surface; this occurs when there is enough pressure in the aquifer. The pressure forces the water to the surface without any sort of assistance.

You cannot fall short because it isn’t your effort that brings Holy Spirit to the surface.

I’ll leave you with this gem, also by Steve McVey: “When we focus exclusively on the love of God, when we see love as the totality of His being, are we leaving out something? To say yes is to insult Divine Agape. Love is His fundamental makeup. Everything that can be known of Him must be seen through the lens of agape, or we end up presenting a god with multiple personality. Jesus proved that God is pure love by coming into the world.” – (“Beyond an Angry God”)

God bless us, EVERY one!

 

*Wm. Paul Young, author of The Shack, Eve, Cross Roads, and The Shack Reflections, was born a Canadian and raised among a stone-age tribe by his missionary parents in the highlands of what was Netherlands New Guinea (now West Papua). He suffered great loss as a child and young adult, and now enjoys the “wastefulness of grace” with his family in the Pacific Northwest.

*Dr. C. Baxter Kruger is the Director of Perichoresis, an international ministry sharing the truth of our adoption in Christ with the world. Baxter has a degree in Political Science from the University of Mississippi, and earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree under Professor James B. Torrance at Kings College in Aberdeen, Scotland. Dr. Kruger is the author of eight books including The Great Dance, Across All Worlds, and the international bestseller, The Shack Revisited.

*Dr. Steve McVey is the founder of Grace Walk Ministries, with offices in Atlanta, GA and six other countries. He is the author of 19 books that have been translated into over 15 languages. They include the best selling, Grace Walk and his most recent book, Beyond an Angry God.

 

 

Christianity, Spiritual

The Seismic Seven Series

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By: Jana Greene

Hello, readers!

This past weekend, I was privileged to attend an event in Atlanta with a couple hundred other believers  called “The Open Table Conference.” I went into it with a pretty open mind (which really came in handy) and was not disappointed. The panel of speakers included Steve McVey, John MacMurray, C. Baxter Kruger, and – this is important – Wm. Paul Young, author of “The Shack.”

Here is the link for the event, which gives you a general idea of what the forum was all about:

The Open Table Conference 

(If you are in the Portland area, another conference is happening this summer and I HIGHLY recommend checking it out!)

Since returning yesterday, I’ve attempted to go about my faith business-as-usual. It took a long time to construct many of the religious support beams that have held up my spirit (a lifetime, really) but the radical things I learned about Christ and grace and each one of us leveled me to the ground.

Rubble is not always a bad thing. It can create the opportunity to build a stronger, safer structure. The cornerstone of Jesus is unshaken, but the walls of religiosity have crumbled like the walls of Jericho.

Now, it’s time to rebuild from the rubble. Like the walls of Jericho, walked around seven times, I have an idea for a blog series exploring seven points gleaned from the conference, at which I learned more about radical Jesus love than I had in many months prior.

The series will not be a verbatim preaching synopsis from the gentlemen presenters. No, it will be my take-aways from the event. My own perceptions and the musings Holy Spirit shared with me. I hope that you will keep an open mind and an open heart to receive this VERY Good News. If it provokes discussion, I’m down with that. The news is too good to let lay in rubble.

I’d love to give you a bullet-point outline of what will encompass the series, but you see…it hasn’t been completely revealed to me yet. I am praying Holy Spirit guide my words, and often I’m not given them on retainer ahead of time. But I’m thinking the series will touch on:

The gospel of inclusion, which leaves no one out from the love of the Father.

Seeing through a glass darkly.

Sin – How big of a deal is it?

Radical, crazy good news that flies in the face of what I’d been taught most of my life and accepted as truth.

Some of it made me cringe, some made me cry. But overwhelmingly, steeled my resolute spirit to go shout to a hurting world that they are included in God’s best and invited to partake in this crazy love.

Lord have mercy Miss Percy, as the ZZ Top song goes.

Ain’t no turning back now. I’m ruined.

Grace, Spiritual

How do you Pray when You Cannot Focus?

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focus
The most important thing on my cork board. No matter how unfocused I am, this is my Jesus.

By: Jana Greene

Over the weekend, one of my very dear girlfriends contacted me. Our friendship is a God Thing to the inth degree. A years ago, we became Facebook friends somehow, and then NAMASTE! – my spirit recognized her spirit the instant we talked. We have much in common health-wise, many of the same struggles. It was as if Abba said, “Hmmm….these two could really bounce things off each other.” And he was right.

She is going through a prolonged episode of ‘brain fog’ due to chronic health issues. If you are healthy (or your brain is young) the fog might be a foreign concept to you. It’s more than forgetting what you went in to the kitchen for. It’s like your thoughts are trying to gain footing on a very slippery rock.  It’s a dulling and jumbling of your mind, which can really do a number on your spirit.

“How does one keep a solid prayer/reading life with chronic illness?” She asked me.  “When you either oversleep (because you are sick and need the sleep, not because you’re lazy), or you truly can’t muster up a prayer, or read. Or your mind is all over the place, not stable like it used to be? Maybe a good blog topic?”

A very good blog topic.

I am worlds WORST with carving out quiet time/devotions. There, I said it. It’s OUT THERE now. And It isn’t because prayer isn’t important to me.

Between chronic pain, ADD (and OCD, which can be kind of severe at times)  and anxiety…there are times that the best thing I can offer is conversational prayer with God throughout the day. For a short while, I took medication for my ADD and the BIGGEST change I noticed was that I could pray like a regular Saint Augustine! HOURS. When I had to go off of it because it raised my blood pressure, I felt like somebody yanked the prayer rug from under me.

I still pray, of course. It’s a constant conversation, but often not terribly structured.

After I saw the movie “War Room,”  I was so stoked to make deliberate time in my bedroom closet. I covered one wall with cork-boards on which to pin my heartfelt prayers every day as soon as I woke up. FIRST THING. Maybe I’ll be so fervent I’ll go into the Prayer Closet several times in the middle of the night! Wow, I’ll bet I will REALLY hear from God then! My boards will resemble the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, it will be so jam-packed with my sacraments and epiphanies!

The next morning I did, in fact, enter it like the Holy of Holies. But the day after that I had a migraine and another day, my anxiety was too full-on to sit still, and other days I just forgot.

Mostly my self-crafted Prayer Closet just caused me to feel guilty EVERY single time I’d walk in to get a pair of shoes. Eventually it went like this: Enter closet for shirt, avoid eye contact with The Wall, feel massively guilty, avoid God because I can’t even hack this focus thing, emotionally self-flagellate. Vow to spend two hours solid in it the next day. Fail to do so and feel terrible. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But then I realized that I talk to God conversationally all day long. He knows my heart, he knows my pain, and my janky brain fog. In trying, trying, trying to be better, I set myself up for failure (it’s kind of a specialty of mine.)

But God, who created my brain and all the other miraculous workings of my body, is not going to withhold from me because of my limitations. That would be pretty freaking cruel. Instead, he caulks in the cracks and loves me like MAD.

My dear friend  is also frustrated with hearing from God the way she used to when she was brain fog-free. I get that, too. That’s the worst thing. But I think he – knowing our plight – compensates by speaking to us in our constant conversation with him. He is never more than a dozen thoughts from my heart, and he knows it.

When someone comes to mind, I pray for her. When I’m worried, I pray. When I see a pretty flower, praise the Creator and thank him for it. Thank him for my friends and blessings and hot coffee.

Especially, I tell him I trust that he is working on issues I don’t see evidence of yet, and ask him to help me trust when I don’t.

I ask for focus fifty times a day, at least.

But when I can’t get through the fog, here’s the cool thing: Grace!

GRACE is the caulk in the space between our best intentions and highest enlightenment. It fills in the cracks and expands in the crevices where I’m foggy or anxious, or even just lazy. We are not perfect but he holds us close to us still! No guilt required.

My sacraments and epiphanies don’t always come down from Heaven like a bolt of lightning when I’m having an Instagram-worthy moment of devotion with the perfect cup of coffee.

Sometimes they trickle in increments of A-Ha! moments that Holy Spirit doles out and pours into me. When I’m too pained or foggy to tune into his frequency, he reminds me that it’s okay.

I told my dear friend that perhaps we can meet this week and brain-dazed and janky together. Pray awkward, foggy prayers together, and trust grace to caulk in our rough spots. Listen for the bolt of lightning, but be okay with the A-Ha moments and roll with it as the Sisters in Christ that we are. Raise a War Room right where we are, where two or more are gathered.

God isn’t angry that we have unfocused seasons. He just desires that we keep the conversation going, and listen for his voice.

God bless us, every one.

 

 


 

Christianity, God, Spiritual

Dry Toast and God Wrestling

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Rembrandt – Jacob Wrestling

By: Jana Greene

Yesterday I fell violently ill, the kind of sick that you crawl on all fours to the bathroom and end up sprawled out on the floor because whats the point of going anywhere else? I couldn’t hold down so much as an ice chip.

It was the kind of sick that you feel you might die and don’t really care if you do. I told my husband, who lovingly cared for me, that the last time I was that horribly ill was the night before I got sober in January 2001. There, on another bathroom floor, I was broken and sick, and wrestled mightily with God.

For some reason, God has chosen to meet me on the floor of a bathroom repeatedly. It’s kind of my personal “Peniel.”

But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

The man said, “What’s your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)

– Genesis 32″:22-32 (MSG)

There is nothing like being a collapsed heap on the floor and yet still feeling the presence of God. On the verge of going to the hospital, I tried to will myself to be well. I tried to bargain with God. I wrestled him much like I did on January 2, 2001.

I’m not letting you go until you bless me. And he does.

It astounds me that the force that created the entire universe is not too proud to come hang out with me when I am at my worst. Isn’t that amazing? Sometimes a prayer can be a whimper, but he shows up just the same.

And this morning I consumed and managed to hold down some flat Sprite and toast. Glorious, glorious TOAST.

I guess the moral of this story is that God meets you where you are, whether it be on the floor of a bathroom or a regal palace; whether it be a life-altering and radical thing like getting sober, or having a wretched 24-hour stomach bug.

Sometimes, we come away limping.

I don’t know why some people get almost never get sick, and some people are sick chronically, and why other people die from disease. Theology and biology are not my strong suits.

All I know is that if you cling to Abba, you win any which way. Perhaps dying for the believer is not a triumph for disease, but a respite from a race well-run and finished. To see God face to face is certainly no hardship. You’ve still wrestled with God and come through.

The sun came up when Jacob left Peniel. And then right then and there (God) blessed him. Limp notwithstanding.

Today I am grateful for healing. I’m grateful for My Beloved who went above and beyond (as is his way) for me. I’m grateful for my kitty cats who parked out with me flanking each side of my body and not leaving my side (who says cats don’t have feelings?) all day long. I’m grateful  for dry toast and flat Sprite.

But most of all, I’m grateful for my Heavenly Father, and his capacity for comforting us wrestlers. I do love him so.

A prayer can be a whimper, but he shows up just the same.

 

 

 

Faith, Spiritual

Struck Down but Not Destroyed

wave

I’m pressed but not crushed
Persecuted, not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
And I am blessed beyond the curse
For His promise will endure
That His joy is going to be my strength

Though my sorrows may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

By: Jana Greene

Have you ever been at the beach playing in the ocean all frolicky-like, splashing int he cool waters, and turned to face the shore when suddenly BAM!  You get knocked down by a wave that came out of nowhere.

At first you’re just stunned. You sure hadn’t seen that coming! So you find the sand on all fours and attempt to stand back up and from behind, another wave – bigger than the last – WHOOSH! The wave knocks you face down into the water. Now your knees are scraped and your pride is bruised. In embarrassment, you look to the beach to see the reactions of your friends on the beach, who are perhaps laughing. Your determination mounts as you right yourself to  stand and walk with some measure of grace, only to get slammed in the back by the biggest wave so far, which takes you down, under the water, and tumbles you face over rear several times.As you try to navigate getting the hell out of this place of battering waves, it’s hard to tell which way is up – which way to the breathable air? Salt water stings your freshly scraped knees, abraded by the sand, and fills your lungs with a choking salinity. Any intention to get out of the water gracefully is long gone.

A LITTLE HELP, God.

Finally – exhausted –  you catch  a momentary lull  between breakers and hightail it to the shore before the ocean can pull another fast one on your landlubber ass.

Even if you’ve never been to the ocean, you probably can still relate to this experience. Because far more daunting that getting knocked down by waves is getting knocked down by circumstances. Over and over. Before you can even get your footing to accomplish the stance that might give you a fighting chance, BAM! Another  rolls in, slamming you back down to your knees.

So many of the people I love are going through this phenomenon right now – being hit with one difficult life situation or loss, one worrisome financial or health battle after another.They are quite literally drowning in sorrows and anxiety.

Has a situational  smackdown happened to you?

On the heels of losing your job, your significant other breaks up with you. You find out your child is on drugs, and you bounce a check trying to pay a “last notice” bill due. You find a lump in your breast, on the same day a dear friend loses her valiant battle with cancer. Your heart is breaking from an estrangement from a toxic family member, someone stole your identity after hacking into your computer. The transmission in your car finally dies. Your health issues, despite fervent and believing prayers, are only getting worse. The loss you’ve experienced in your life seems more than you can bear. And although you still have your faith, it is not the flotation device you always believed it would be. God seems to have turned a deaf ear to you (and that hurts worse than everything else combined.)

God, don’t you see I’m battered? I can’t tell which way is up anymore. I’m bleeding. I’m embarrassed that even though people keep praying  for me, I’m still sick / broke / unemployed / grieving. A LITTLE HELP HERE, GOD!?

I’ve been there, several times.

“I can not take ONE more thing,” I remember telling Jesus once, right after losing a job and shortly after,  getting pneumonia.

And the next day, my car konked out –  for good.

“Ok, Lord…..This time I MEAN IT! I cannot handle ONE MORE THING.” And with that, another check bounced. Back to back challenges. I could scarcely find my footing.

If you are going through a season in your life where you cannot seem to escape the battering, listen up. This perfect storm of woes and worry – of loss and ‘run of bad luck’? It is shitty and horrible, but also TEMPORARY.

I won’t even pretend to know why God allows us to go through seasons of great trial in which we experience one awful thing after another, but I will tell you HE WILL NOT LEAVE YOU IN THAT PLACE.

He will never leave you there. Hold on to that floaty faith. You cannot STAY under, and as long as it is attached to you.  You  may still be knocked down and stunned and embarrassed, but you will not perish. This too (as cliche as it sounds) WILL pass. He will set your feet on solid ground again.

When you can’t tell which way is up, Jesus rights you and brings you to shore.

Grace is for the person who has been so repetitively beat up that she comes out of the water with one boob and one ass cheek  popped out of her  bathing suit….gagging on snot and salt water. Grace kicks in when you are too winded to breathe.

There is grace in the falling. I didn’t realize it then – I thought there as only grace in the standing firm. But no, Grace in its purest form was not withheld from me in seasons of rapid-fire heartbreak.

I’m so grateful for Jesus and His propensity for delivering us from smackdown mode at just the right time. I’m grateful that He gives us the strength to hold on to faith so we may frolic another day.

God bless us, every one.

 

 

His eye is on the sparrow, kids getting tattoos, Spiritual

More than Many Sparrows – My Daughter’s Tattoo

My daughter's tattoo, which has come to have significant spiritual meaning to me as a mother.

More than Many Sparrows

or

A Tale of My Daughter and the Audacity of Ink 

By:  Jana Greene

 

      The first thing I noticed about it was the blackness of the outline, almost as if it were drawn with bold magic marker.   My next thought was that I must absolutely write about thisthe design that now lay bare on her skin.   As if, somehow putting pen to paper would give permanence to the moment, as the needle brought it to her flesh.

My daughter’s first tattoo.

     I had known that it was coming, that she considered it a rite of passage. My girl had always danced to the beat of a different drummer; a lover of eclectic music, performance art and sculpture.  If she had a credo it would be this:  Live by Deliberate Acts of Impulsivity.

As her mother, I would surely prefer that she not bear any tattoos at all, because (and yes, I am the expert here) she is absolutely perfect the way God made her.  I am rather attached to her being, looking, sounding exactly like my daughter – the only one of her kind, anywhere.  Tattoos are just not my thing”, whereas she very much is.  

           Nineteen years ago, just after she was born, the delivery room nurses whisked her away for her first bath and returned with my infant girl swaddled very tightly.  No sooner was she in my arms than I was removing the blankets, unwrapping her like a present on Christmas morning.  As mothers have done since the dawn of time, I checked her, head to toe.  I found her birthmarks, the dimples in her plump hands, and worked my way to her tiny, peach-fuzzed back.  There, between two flawless round shoulder blades, I placed my open palm to her skin.  It was a perfect fit.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined anything marring that space.

  In her “growing up” years, there were manifestations of her free spiritof course… harmless acts of rebellion, none of them leaving a lasting mark.  She formed strong opinions before she could form complete sentences, and had no trouble expressing them.  At around age four, she developed magnetism to the camera (any camera) andmade it habit to insert herself into any and every photograph.  

Around the same time, Alexandra began displaying fashionista tendencies.  An ensemble she chosen for a summer day in the park might include: a sweater with leggings, plastic Disney princess shoes, a toboggan with ear flaps, seven necklaces and a life-vest (after all, it was July!)…all worn together and on dry land.  It soon became apparent that stares, glares and pointing in her direction by the public at large was not a deterrent to this behavior.  It was more the entire motivation.

This is when the adage “choose your battles” took on meaning for me.  And as I became a student of war, the years rolled on like a tank.

With the advent of tweenhood, there were lines drawn, of course. Not a fan of shirts that showed adolescent bellies and shorts that declared suggestive adjectives across their bottoms, those were not tolerated.  Alexandra compensated with crazy combinations of adornment, including stick-on tattoos of all kinds.  

At twelve, after spending a long day with friends at the beach boardwalk, she returned home with a henna tattoo, ecstatic.  

“Until I get a real one,” she told me.

She managed to graduate high school with only a nose ring as modification, butno sooner was the ink dry on her diploma than she was ready to display ink on her body.

“I’m ready,” she said to me one day.  “I’m getting my tattoo. A bird.”

          Okay.  A bird.

         “A Tribal Sparrow,” she added.

         “What in the world is a ‘tribal sparrow’?” My voice is more condescending than I intend.

          Eye rolling and head shaking.  Translation: Mother, you just don’t get it.

          I wonder about the subject she has chosen for the artist, and it’s tribal-ness.  Our family heritage is sort-of a homogenized breed.  We have no “tribe”. We have no “people”.  We are Scotch-Irish with German in the mix, and a little Louisiana-Cajun-French (but you have to really look for it).  No- we are very garden variety, Ellis-Island mutt American.  Perhaps that’s the attraction for her, the tribal aspect.

         “If you’re trying to belong,” I said, in an attempt to appeal to her lovingly (sometimes changing strategy can be effective)“You already do.  You don’t need a tattoo to belong here.”

She knows that, she says.  

Is a bird something you now,” I pause for effect. “And forever more want to be associated with?  Because you will.you will be ‘that girl with that tattoo. But as I am asking her, I am secretly grateful she isn’t branding herself with a map of Area 51, or the image of a pop tart, or a beer keg.  It should be something meaningful to you.”

         “It is.  It represents freedom to me, Mom.”

        “You still live at home,” I reply dryly. We pay all of your bills…..  Don’t you want to wait until you are free to commemorate freedom?”

        Heavy sigh.  “Freedom from things.  Personal things.”

        “If it’s so personal, why does it have to be permanently inked on your body for the whole world to see?”

        “Why would I not?” she counters, and I have no reply.  All their lives, my children have been told to be authentic, true to themselves.  Encouraged to be real.

Don’t be afraid to show who you are.  It’s the message I’ve tried to impart, even during the years of life-vest accessorizing.  Don’t wear the masks.

         “You know what?” I say. You don’t even know who you are yet!  You are whoyou are right now, and a mere five years from today, you will be in a completely different place.”

She says that none of us remain the same, not even for a single year. And it’s true  .I am a very, very different mother than I was when she was born, unwrapping her like apresent on Christmas morning.  The particular audacity of getting inked is that it alters your shell, the only one you will get in this life.    It is a deliberately impulsive act.

Parenting is not a sane endeavor, and complicating the matter is that she is, in fact, not a child.  Still, I have to believe she will listen to reason.

“Not everyone is going to be so accepting of your ways in the world,” I bleat wearily..   “There are people who will make value judgments about you based solely onthe fact that you have a tattoo.

But my instincts tell me to RETREAT, as I watch her body tense.

RETREAT, or there will be immediate launch into mutual hysteria, familiar territory for us.  It seems that – these days –she and I are either dissolving into tears of laughter together (our ‘inside jokes’ are legion), or hurling words of frustration at one another, rapid-fire.

If I ever care what people think of me based solely on my appearance, than I have bigger problems than having a tattoo!”

How can I not admire that statement?  Who can argue?  She is, after all, an adult.  I surrender, but silently, and with a slow refrain of “Taps” playing in my mind.  

What I want to tell her, but do not say aloud, is that she will be marked, molded, and modified, without ever setting foot into a tattoo parlor.  I look at my body, once just as perfect as hers, mapped by the story of my life.  Constellations of freckles from forgetting sunscreen a thousand times, and wrinkles from the same offense.   Smile-lines around my eyes from laughing, scars from mishaps and missteps, and from the pieces I have lost to surgeries….all part of the story.   But it’s the pink, translucent ribbons that cover my lower belly that mean the most to me.  Tributaries of skin stretched to accommodate the growing bodies of she and her sister long ago….These are my tribal marks.  

When the time arrives, Alexandra comes to tell me it is The Day.  .  She tells me the name of the artist who will do the work.  I recognize his name; he attends my church.  She is the definition of “all smiles”, luminous.

“Do you want to come with me while I have it done?” She asks.  “You can hold my hand.”  I am instantly frustrated with her for acting like a little girl – still needing my approval, and equally frustrated that she is not one anymore.

I politely decline, and her boyfriend goes with her instead.  I am considering the natural order of things, pondering the business of ‘letting go’ when she walks out the door with him.  I try not to think about ink and needles.  I’m glad he will hold her hand.

It finally occurred to me to talk to God about my qualms; it should have been my first  response.  How many times do I wrestle tiny inconsequential issues to the ground as though they are giants without asking the Almighty God to assist me on the mat?  As usual, He was already in that place I had hesitated to invite him.

The Bible has a lot to say, and the gist of the message that speaks to my life is Grace.  True, there are passages that warn about marking the body, scriptures that warn against cutting the hair.  But it is a verse about birds that God brought to my mind.  Leafing through the pages, I found it right away:

Matthew 10:29.  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Has my daughter inadvertently given flesh to the scripture I pray over her?    

Though I hate to admit it, Alexandra’s tattoo has forced me to consider the messy business of acceptance.   The “Choose-Your-Battle” cry of all parents has a different tone for each scrimmage and every life stage.  What do I gain, as a mother, if I choose not to accept my grown child’s decisions?  Am I selfishly seeking validation that I have “raised her right” if she refrains from what society might be uncomfortable with?  

The freedom she is trying to parlay is that today, she can still go anywhere from here.  This tattoo is meaningful to her.  And she is meaningful to me.

When she returns, she cannot wait to show me, walking backwards into my bedroom so that it’s the first thing I see.  There is no hiding the work; she will have none of that.  This girl, a lover of eclectic music, performance art and sculpture….Now adorned.

So that’s a Tribal Sparrow...  

A clear coat of laminate covers the wound, so that it can heal properly.  In the mental melee of preparing myself to see it, I had forgotten that it would scab and scar…that it would be a ‘no pain, no gain’ commitment, as most things that become permanent are.

“It’s lovely,” I say.  And I think I mean it.

The Tribal Sparrow is a beautiful bird.

Her outline is striking and very bold, not the least bit likely to fade, but her plumage is just the color of Alexandra’s complexion.  Centered between my daughter’s flawless and round shoulder blades, the sparrow is exactly the size of my open palm…a perfect fit.  She is in flight, but I’m not sure she knows where she is going, her two tail feathers pointed high.  Her eye appears to be a soft swirl, peering neither downward or behind, but straight ahead.  Her wings are gently drawn with a curve, as if she is gliding, not yet looking for a place to land.  A true Artist painted her right onto my daughter’s perfect body.  And every time I see it now, I am reminded that His eye is on the sparrow,and that she can go anywhere from here.  

Anywhere at all.