Christianity · Enough · Grace · Spiritual

The Importance of Being ENOUGH

Sea glassBy: Jana Greene

Being enough.
If I had a self-help book for every time I didn’t feel I was enough, I’d have a  library of self-help books.

Wait, I do.

I buy the books (and occasionally even read them) to convince myself that I am enough. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of actualizing self; it’s just that sometimes my ‘self’ is a bullshit artist. I know this because she constantly tells me that I’m not now – nor will I ever be – enough.

Not pretty enough.

Not healthy enough.

Not thin enough.

Not pious and thoughtful enough.

Just not good enough. And although the arguments in favor of all of these things being true are pretty concrete, it isn’t what my Creator says about me.

When you become a Christ-follower and “walk with him,” it doesn’t mean that the people-pleasing, self-flagellating, hurting person inside of you pipes down all the days of your life. I am a new creation in Christ, but the devil is still a liar and I’m still working through some pains.

I continually have to give up my frustrations, but sometimes they roll downhill at a pretty high clip and make me feel bulldozed. God knows I am not trying to minimize his awesome power, but I’m just being honest about how I feel (which all the self-help books say is important, and also my recovery experience has taught me.) Denial ain’t just a river, but it can drown you all the same.

I am so blessed, yes. I long for the day that I can blithely respond to people who ask me “How are you?” that I am “too blessed to be stressed” or “blessed and highly favored!” But then again nevermind. Christians who spout off things like that when it is clear they are  hurting have always secretly made me want to throw up. On them.

Because, you see, sometimes I still struggle with feeling enough.

My inner critic is a heartless wench, a dominatrix, really. She combines lording my inadequacies over me with equal parts humiliation.

“Roll up your sleeves, and do! You must do more to be more. …
Well, you really fell short there.
You did it again. Get it together, already!”

She cracks that whip with enough force to split me in two, and she has.

I really just want to know that I am enough already.
I don’t have to prove my worth or disprove my frailties.

That people will run their mouths about things they know nothing about, and that’s okay. I’ve run my mouth plenty. It’s what people do. (What is that old AA adage? “What you think of me is none of my business.”)

That having spent a lifetime on one pursuit and have the season end, doesn’t mean that I’m spent altogether.

That I cannot control my own flesh and it’s propensities, but I can rest in that flesh instead of fight against it. That bodies wear down against our wills. Somehow I’d like to learn how to keep my will from breaking down with it.

God knows that it’s hard to roll up your sleeve when you wear your heart on it!
And therein lies the answer, I think.

God knows.

I know in the deepest pools of my spirit that what God believes about me is absolute truth, that everything else is either bullshit or outright lies. Everything else is having my spirit ‘taken behind the woodshed’ and beaten to a bloody pulp. People will try to take you back there, you know…behind the proverbial woodshed. Don’t follow them – or your inner critic – there.

God says I am already enough. He said, “It is finished.” That’s a really good thing, because I’m tired, Lord.

“It is finished already.” That’s what Abba tells my soul.  “Stop making idols of people whose opinions of you don’t matter.”

(Why do I DO that? When will I learn? What’s my DEAL? See? Self-flagellation engage.)

Today, I am asking God to do what I cannot seem to do for myself (for the millionth time) – remind me that I am enough, more than a conqueror, in flighty emotions and failing flesh.

I’m praying he will convince me of it – not in some flashy way –  but with an installation in my spirit too deep for my inner critic to deny. Because knowing that I am enough will never truly come from any other source – not an entire library of books, not from the opinions of others – only from God.

ONLY from God.

But his is the only opinion that matters. He has no use at all for pious. He needs present. He doesn’t care about ‘thin,’ he just wants to know I’m IN.

It is finished, it is finished, it is finished.
So, pipe down inner-critic, and naysayers, devil and other purveyors of bullshit.

I am enough already.

(And reader, so are you.)

Grace · Holy Spirit · humor · Inspirational · Jesus · Love · Spiritual

The Flippin’ Sweet Whole Love of God

napoleanBy: Jana Greene

Last night, I was tossing and turning. Thinking about all the things that are oh-so wrong in this world. I exhausted my energies with worry, and then I implored my Heavenly Father to please comfort me. As I often do when asking God for favors, I quoted scripture to Him, when really – plain talk would have sufficed. He already knows my heart – a heart thirsty to be filled up with His love.

“I’m tired, Abba. Worn down. I need your strength,” my spirit said. ” I just need a touch, Lord. Just see me through today.” I reminded him of the woman at the well, who touched the hem of the garment of Jesus and was made whole.

Just then a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can just put a finger on his robe, I’ll get well.” Jesus turned—caught her at it. Then he reassured her: “Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you’re well.” The woman was well from then on.” Matthew 9:20-22 (MSG)

And God, in His infinite wisdom and Holy magnificence, brought a very specific thought to my addled mind…. a scene from one of my very favorite movies, Napoleon Dynamite. Because – if there is anything I’ve learned about the Creator of the Universe – it’s that He has a sense of humor. He wants to relate to us.

SWEET (Yes, even this guy….)

The quirky film’s protagonist, Napoleon, is just trying to make it through high school. In one of the best scenes, he works up the courage in the lunchroom to talk to the girl he is crushing on, who is sitting at another table. In the most awkward pursuit ever, he commences to woo his girl – who is drinking a carton of milk – with this smooth line:

“I see you’re drinking 1%,” he bluntly states. “Is that because you think you’re fat? Because you’re not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to.”

Why would the God of the universe bring that scene from the movie (CLICK HERE to see it)  so vividly to the forefront of my mind in the middle of the night? Because I’ve been drinking in about 1% of His word lately, and asking for the bare minimum of his power to just get by.

I see you are reaching for a touch of the hem of his garment. Is that because you think you’re not enough? Because in Him, you are enough. You could be filled with Holy Spirit if you wanted to.

I hear you asking for a touch. Are you drinking in God’s love in tiny sips because you think you’re not sure it’s real? Because it is. You could be having the real deal if you wanted to.

Are you asking for less than is already yours because you think only a portion of Me is available to you? Because it’s all here for you. You could be having more comfort than you can handle, if you wanted to.

The “hem of his garment” – the part of Him which is furthest from His heart and still tangible – is flippin’ sweet, as Napoleon might say.

But the heart of Him?

It’s ours, and He wants to fill us with it. And we cannot even begin to imagine the supernatural-ness available to us.

It made me smile, in the midst of my insomnia, that God would remind me of his Whole Power in such a way – a way I could readily understand and even laugh at.

Are you asking for just enough to make it through because you think you’re unworthy? Because you’re not. You could be having the Whole Love of God if you wanted to.

God’s pursuit of us is not awkward, but our acceptance of His love often is. I am learning that Holy Spirit is already in us in full, but our ability to tap into it, to have the Whole Milk Experience, is fettered by our own busy minds and insecurities. Courage, daughter.

Just follow your heart, as Napoleon says.

That’s what I do.

 

 

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Grace · Jesus · Poetry · Spiritual

MORE

more

Father, Son and Holy Ghost
We’re the ones you love the most.
It’s only in You that we boast,
But Abba, we want more.

Over all and under none,
Not by our might, but what you’ve done
The battle has been fought and won,
But we want more of You.

When we worship and adore
In our pews (and on the floor)
Until our hearts can take no more,
We want more of You.

Your presence like a gentle breeze
Is a prompt, a holy tease
Of what will bring us to our knees,
More and more of You.

You made the earth, the moon, the stars,
And still make time to heal our scars
Freeing the prisoner from iron bars
But Abba, we want more.

Radical Savior, we seek your face
An avalanche of holy Grace
To overflow, fill every space
With more and more of You.

Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End,
Counsel, Provider, Redeemer and Friend
Calling out torn hearts to mend.
Give us more of You.

Drench us in your Spirit sweet
From the top of our heads to the soles of our feet,
Only then are we complete.
More and More of You.

 

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” – Luke 11:13 (MSG)

Addiction · Inspirational · Recovery

EDGWISE for Kindle Free through June 28

Okay, folks….I am running a promotion for EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God.

It is a FREE Kindle download, via Amazon for the next few days. I pray my story will bless someone out there!

Just click on the link below, and choose “Read it for free.”

God bless us, everyone.

FREE KINDLE COPY

EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God
EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God

Addiction · Inspirational · Recovery · Writing

EDGEWISE book giveaway time!

EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God
EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God

It’s book giveaway time again! I am happy to announce that two copies of my recovery memoir, “EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God” will go to winners in the http://www.goodreads.com giveaway event. The deadline to enter the contest is July 20.

It’s easy to enter, and there is no obligation whatsoever.

To enter, CLICK HERE.

God bless you!

 

Creation · Inspirational · Jesus · Spiritual

Losing my Religion

The truth will set you free. But first it's going to be pretty uncomfortable.
The truth will set you free. But first it’s going to be pretty uncomfortable.

By: Jana Greene

I have been reading “Mystical Union” by John Crowder. And it is wrecking me, absolutely wrecking me. If you are a Seeker, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Getting wrecked can be a good thing.

“It will turn everything you believe on its ear,” I was told by the person who suggested I read it. “In the best possible way.”

Oh, goody. Because everything I believe is all that I know. And I know so little, really.

The word “mystical” can be off-putting for Christians, although it shouldn’t be – you don’t get much more mystical that the Creator of the Universe becoming human to reconcile himself to his creation – Christianity 101. The whole thing is mystic to the core.  Still, I am rattled by what I am reading.

Among the  dozen or so ideas that have taken me aback – in the book I’m only half-way through with –  is Crowder’s assertion that  “God is never looking at your performance as the indicator of His pleasure toward you. So many people live on an emotional roller-coaster ride … ”

Raising hand, and wearing the promotional roller coaster T-shirt, nauseated from the marathon ride…

I am on a quest to lose my religion – religion being all  the spin that man has put on relationship with God through the ages – and turn down the noise of it, so that I can hear what God is really saying.

That we cannot fathom how much he adores us, every one of us.

That He is always in a good mood, not temperamentally mood-shifting, like we are.

That He is only always good.

That He is less the stern-but-loving Father-figure that churches have historically made him out to be….assessing our accomplishments and shortcomings – and more of a laid-back,  hippie-dippy, all-you-need-is-love (Christ), welcoming, tolerant Father – in a way that transcends all time, space, and reason.

(What if He isn’t even disappointed in me for comparing him to a hippie-dippy, all-you-need-is-love, welcoming, tolerant, Father and Creator  who transcends all time, space, reason with pure, unrelenting love?)

I usually invite a challenge, especially the kind in which I can easily prove the challenger wrong. But this time, I know the Challenger Himself is Almighty God, and He is  pulling me away from the idol of religion, and into Him. My weaponry of thin, papery religiousness powerless against His embrace of Truth.

He transcends all with pure, unrelenting love. He transcends the regulations, pontifications, rules – all the things we’ve made it about for more than 2,000 years. Surely he can transcend my own dirty deeds; my wonky quirks.

Maybe that’s what Jesus meant, when He uttered his last words, ” IT. IS. FINISHED.”

I don’t think I’ve ever grasped the finality of what happened at the crucifixion and resurrection of God. If it is  finished, the residual guilt and shame I keep picking up and hauling around is not my cross to bear– as I’ve always believed.  The grace I ask for and receive is not meant to counterbalance the heft of my shame. I do not receive grace by the bucket-full to douse the fire of each indiscretion – I am already drowning in it. So are you. The work of the cross was the catalyst for God to flood the world with grace.

Religion says that God swoops down and saves me from myself a thousand times a day, and that is what grace looks like. But the theology of Mystical Union says (and with scripture, I might add)  that we believers were co-crucified with Christ and in one swoop. God reconciled us to Him….

We can stop trying to make perfection happen. Perfection is not going to happen.

It is finished, period. Mind blowing.

Sometimes being a Seeker gives me a headache.

Religion says we are responsible for aspects of our salvation – ergo, we can turn the volume up or down on our spiritual speaker, tweak the boom of the bass, turn down the treble, change the center with the fader of our deeds and actions.

But God cannot be moved from Center. He is the Center. He is undeterred by the noise we create.

Fundamental to this spiritual epiphany is the idea that we are not “sinners saved by grace,” which I have – over the years – convinced myself was my identity. After many years of sobriety and much prayer, that had been the only conclusion.

But what if the work of the cross – that event in which Creator God heaved toward humankind with such love and power that it knocked the evil in us to the ground and buried it with Christ – was powerful enough to resurrect us in glory with Christ, while leaving evil in the grave?

What if God only sees us through the lens of his living, life-giving Son, and not as sinners wearing toe-tags that say “Admit One – Heaven.” I am going to have eternal life, yes. But I don’t want to slog out my existence here during my mission on Earth, not understanding and appreciating what my birthright truly  is. I want joy now too, please.

Hey, has  anyone seen my “everything I thought I believed?”

Oh, there it is – on the ground. On it’s ‘ear’

Wreck me, God. Wreck me.

I’m after Truth. Help me to accept it, and to share it with others as I walk the journey. I’m ready to be fully, 100% set free.

Amen.

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Addiction · Inspirational · Jesus · Prayer · Recovery · Spiritual

Praying Through the Desert – Jana Greene

Could be titled “Prayer in the desert” … Could be titled “VEGAS, BABY!”
A friend of mine, who happens to be a writer I admire very much,
asked me to guest blog. When I was trying to figure out what to write, I struggled a bit. He suggested that ‘prayer’ might be a good subject. I told him that I’m having a bit of a (as Christians are disposed to saying) Walking in the Desert prayer spell right now. Then I prayed about it a bit. Then I remembered a trip to Vegas. And then I wrote. The result is attached below.

Thanks, Chris Canuel, for the opportunity to guest write for your awesome blog.

And thanks, God, for reminding me of Vegas.

Striving With God

I’m so excited to have one of my favorite writers guest blogging for me today. Her name is Jana Greene and she blogs over at The Beggars Bakery. Jana is also the author of Edgewise: plunging off of the brink of drink and into the love of God. Be sure to check out both her blog and book. You won’t be sorry!

vegas prayer

How do you get out of the spiritual desert? You build a huge, blinking distraction to it.

Or, you can just walk through it, and fully expect God to bring you to the other side.

About eight years ago, I went to Las Vegas on a business trip. The long and short of it was that I had a mini-nervous breakdown.

My colleagues and I stayed in the Luxor – a magnificent pyramid structure on the Vegas strip, smack dab (as we say in the South)…

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Easter · Holiday · Spiritual

A King’s Resurrection – the roar of Easter over culture

 

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There is so much noise. Do you hear it?

A pulling like the moon on the tide, darkly scooting across the earth. An undercurrent of intolerance for those who love Christ, who love God. More and more there is a cultural acceptance to bash them. And at Easter time, a growling and blatant disrespect for Yeshua – Jesus – and his lifework and ministry.

Never in history has a single King elicited such passion – both adoration and loathing.
But then, never in history has a single King come to redeem not only his own subjects, but the ones who mock him.

And mock him, they have. Internet memes, social media, and other venues for popular culture may be the latest vehicles for this derision, but on this Good Friday, we mark the day of the Crown of Thorns. We mark the event in which his contemporaries intended to make a parody of him, affixing a sign to the cross that read, “King of the Jews.” The event in which an innocent man was whipped and nailed to that cross, his body in ribbons, so that he could die a sinner’s death to bridge the gap for sinners to God.

His dying retort? Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.

And now, more than 2,000 years later, why such vitriol still spewed in his direction? Why does the very idea upset this generation so … that there is a God, and that he so adores his creation that he sent his very own Son – his flesh and blood – to die for us and draw us near while we were still sinners?

Because, in this fallen world, Jesus and his resurrection are offensive.

It offends humankind that they might require atonement. It annoys them that their deeds might be construed as “sin” at all!  The natural within us wills to live bound by appetites they feel justified in satisfying.

The same culture of entitlement that parlays that we are all entitled to all the good things in life, also tells us we are entitled to the not-so-good things…self-satisfaction at all costs. The world and everyone in it? Yours for the taking. It is owed to you.

Jesus offends people because – at the end of the day – they don’t believe they need any redemption at all. Which is nothing new, of course, as evidenced by the day of the Crown of Thorns.

We live in a time in which the credibility of all things mystical and paranormal are not questioned, but all things holy and divine (and by the way, plenty mystical) are treated with disdain. Like resurrection. Like eternal life.

So much noise.

I am not offended by Christ. You see, the stakes were just too high. I’ve seen in my own life that he not only rose from the tomb, but set me free from one as well. I’m not willing to bargain on this fallen world being my oyster. I’ve seen what my appetites can do. I am hungry for much more than this meager life, and living in this skin … depending on the turning of the tides – the lucks.

The mockery is not the only noise, of course. As the tide turns on the phases of discontent this Holy Week, and the enemy ups the ante in popular culture – the noise – you can hear the rolling rejoicing from believers all over the world that the grave holds no power at all!

Can you hear it?
With no cultural constraints, it will undulate forever, just as it has for 2,000-plus years.

It roars like the sea in the lives of those who follow Christ. Just under the surface (but deeper and more authentic than anything that has ever resonated in popular culture) the thunder rises, drowning out the drums of denial and mockery for the Savior.

Forgive them Father. They know not what they do.

Yeshua, KING OF KINGS!
It is finished.

It sounds like an enormous stone being rolled away from crypt, grinding and roaring and echoing from the empty chamber. It sounds like life.

It sounds like Easter.

Holy · Inspirational · Jesus · Spiritual

The Princess and the Plea: a Christ-follower explores true identity

 

Photo credit: Jana Greene
Photo credit: Jana Greene

I’ve been learning a lot about my identity in Christ lately. Through a series of events and sermons, experiences and words of knowledge – it has been presented to me that I am not, in fact, a sinner saved by grace, but a most-beloved daughter of Abba whose transgressions were nailed to the cross of my savior over 2,000 years ago.

It would behoove my spirit to believe that, to know it 100 percent. But I am really struggling with it. It took a long time for me – my sin-list dragging behind me everywhere I go like coattails – to accept that I am a sinner and a saint, both. …that there was any “saint” in me to be had.

I am, after all, a paradox. Like the Apostle Paul, I find myself doing what I do not want to, and not doing what I should. But I love Jesus with all my heart; it’s just I’m actually not Jesus; you would never in a million years mistake him for me.

My pastor just happens to be a man I respect very much – a man whose heart beats for God. He knocks around in the supernatural as if God had just poured it into his spirit to overflowing. That might be because God did – in fact – pour it into him. He is different; he is chosen – and humble and grateful. I want that supernatural walk, but my struggle with my identity in Christ is putting a damper on the manifestation of my faith.

I can believe – for 30 minutes in church – that I am an absolute princess, daughter of the most-high God; and as such, God sees me only through the filter of his son when he looks at me. He doesn’t see sin. God is – spiritually speaking – illiterate to my self-professed labeling. “Sinner,” “Alcoholic,” “Worrier,” “Selfish,” “Short-tempered,” “Moody,” “Judgmental.” All of these things about me are true, really. The truth is that I’d rather be all of these things, than to be “self righteous.”

For those 30 minutes in church, I will know that I am royalty – God’s own child – but I also know that – on my drive home from service that very day – I will curse at least a dozen other drivers in the ten minute drive home (under my breath if I’m really feeling holy.) I will have negative thoughts almost immediately, and ask Jesus to help me rein them in, and he will – but I will hesitate to let them go because I feel justified in thinking them. Because I have three young adult daughters (who sometimes make abysmal choices – where do they get that?)  I will worry about each of them, one at a time. Maybe I have had a lustful thought thrown in to the mix for some random reason, or entertained thoughts of how someone has wronged me, or beat myself up for a diet failure, or ….. Well, you get the picture. By the time I get home from church, I feel like a “Princess of God Gone Wild”  at the very least; certainly like a sinner, not so much like a saint. Like one of those princesses who cannot quite get the hang of it, or worse…makes the royal family look bad…brought shame upon the throne –  Apox opon ye!  That kind of thing. (My paparazzi of self-condemnation follows me everywhere, and catches every slip for the world to see…)

But what of the old adage I learned in recovery, “Feelings are not facts?” Am I living in regal-ity, or legality?

Hmmm.

What if the blood of Christ were powerful enough not only to save a wretch like me when I first believed, but cover all of the transgressions I am yet to be guilty of? What if I was royalty enough to cut off the coattails, leave the labels behind, and – and a daughter of the Most High God – accepted the supernatural to overflowing?

While these things sink into my spirit, and begin the (often long, treacherous) journey to my brain, I ask God to help me struggle less and trust more. And wear this crown that sits on my head ever-so-wonkily just now. And ask for him to see me through the filter of his son as I learn to be righteous in Him, and not in self. I want to knock around in the supernatural, overflowing with the same love and grace for others that has been given me.

Help me understand my birthright, God. And until I understand, hold the paparazzi at bay, in the name of your son, Jesus.

Amen.

Addiction · Hitting the bottom · Inspirational · Recovery

Dry Bones and Fresh Starts

From dry bones to fresh starts - that's how our God works.
From dry bones to fresh starts – that’s how our God works.

Them bones, them bones gonna’ walk around……

Today, the message at church was about (among other things) Ezekiel, the biblical Old Testament prophet. I  know only a few things about Ezekiel – that there is an unleavened bread named after him that is okay to eat if you are on the Daniel Fast; that he saw a wheel  “way up  in the middle of the sky;”  and – courtesy of another song learned as a child  – I know that God asked  him to raise the dry bones of soldiers into an living army.

Dry bones, like the skeletons we keep in our closets. Living with active addiction is like having only dry bones with which to function in life.

Addiction renders our spiritual bones dry as desert sand. Active disease sucks the marrow from us, the very cells that keep life going. It saps our souls of the muscle to get up and move out of that place, our lifeblood drained from veins and vessels. Without the sinew to hold us together, our skin – protective covering for what has wasted away – falls away until.  Our hope gone, there is nothing left of us but dry bones.

This week, having published my first book – a tome of essays addressing my alcoholism and recovery – my bones have been rattled a bit. I long ago decided that if I were to share my experience, strength and hope with others, it is important to be authentic, but sometimes who I authentically am is messy. In publishing the book, I unlocked the closet, swung the door open, and let the bones fall where they may for all to see. If I tidied up my story, I would be in danger of becoming only a bleached-out, “dry” drunk, and not a person in active recovery.

But it’s hard. It’s really difficult because my humanness – my flesh – still just wants to get a bigger closet for my skeletons.

Until this morning, I had been feeling a little embarrassed going public with some of the details of my story; the graphic nature of my pain. And then in church (of all places!) I was  reminded about Ezekiel, because you see – what God asked him to do is not all that different from what God has asked me to do – what he asks each person redeemed by his love to do:  To spread the message that dry bones can rise up in life again.

In Ezekiel’s own words:

“…Dry bones, bleached by the sun.  God said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I prophesied just as I’d been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling!

The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them. He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’

 So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army.

 Then God said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’

I am prophesying today as he commands me.  Yes, me. This middle-aged, middle-American, middle-classed woman seemingly of no great consequence….I am prophesying to the breath to those alcoholics and addicts all the world over walking wounded. The hopeless ones.  Because God grabbed me and showed me the bones strewn about, you see. And he says that we are ALL of great consequence.

“I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”

He is raising an army of the lost and broken, the addicted. God, breathe on these slain bodies! Breathe LIFE!

There is a sound – oh, a rustling! Dry bones knocking together, but then a wind from Heaven giving breath to a  huge, living army. An army that goes forth in flesh to prophesy for the others who have only dry bones with which to function.

Now hear the word of the Lord:

“Therefore, prophesy. Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says: I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it. God’s Decree.” – Scriptures from Ezekiel 37 1:-14 (The Message)

Alleluia!  Make it so, God. Make it so.

Devotional · Inspirational · Jesus · Spiritual

Too Far Gone

“The Prodigal Son Returns: The Art of Soichi Watanabe,”
“The Prodigal Son Returns: The Art of Soichi Watanabe,

By: Jana Greene

www.thebeggarsbakery.net

Ever feel like you are just too far gone?

For a long time before experiencing my current spiritual  revival, I felt an awfully long way off from the Father.

I love the story of the prodigal son because I can relate to all three of the central characters.

I have been the prodigal child, returning to the father after making an absolute wreck of her life.

I have been the brother who did not think his father’s warm welcome of the long, lost brother was fair.

And as the mother of three teen and young-adult daughters, I have been the joyous  parent when a rebellious child returns home that I would gladly kill the fatted calf (or at least make a trip to Costco for a porterhouse steak) for her welcome.

But the most poignant thing about the story is this:

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.  But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then kill the fatted calf and  roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ Luke 15:20-24 (MSG)

While the son was still a long way off. The father did not stand on the porch, arms folded, waiting for his son to reach him.

So tonight – praying on my knees – I  told God that I was sorry for wandering such a  long way off  (as I am want to do from time to time) and that I was feeling pretty lousy about the low-grade effort toward my faith walk.  I’ve been giving it the old college try, but only half-heartedly, feeling like I’m slogging through a muddy rut.

But getting me out of muddy ruts is one of Abba’s specialties.

When I am truly a long way off –  in the throes of addiction, depression, anxiety – and feeling ‘too far gone,”  He simply cannot wait to hold  me. And nothing is sweeter than the embrace of the Father.

When the air (and mud) clears, it is the supernatural, unexplainable, un-containable  God, wildly in love with me.  The God that is not content to be the vague and angry character  we all learned about in  Vacation Bible School as children,  or the long-ago Messiah who turned a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish into a mass-meal.  But the radical, revolutionary of love itself that I want to walk close enough to to be covered in the dust of his sandals.

“My beloved daughter,” he is saying. “You were given up for lost – if only by yourself  ….and now you are  found!”

And this radical, revolutionary Savior who  sees me in various states of disrepair from a long way off,  running toward me  to pull me into a crazy embrace.

And I am 100%, all-in, too far gone in love with him to let go.

Spiritual

Permission to Land

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By: Jana Greene

I’ve been looking back on my very brief career in the airline industry recently,  not out of melancholy or nostalgia, but because so many of the terms I learned while training seem to relate to my current spiritual life.

You see, I’ve been in a bit of a funk, waiting upon the Lord to reveal his plans – and himself – to me.

“I’m ready, Lord,” I tell him, impatient that his timing so out of whack with mine.

But instead of instructing me on where to let the wheels down and make a descent, I am getting: “Circle back around, be patient.”

Life in a holding pattern, it seems, is not my forte.

And so I wait, trying to trust that the Pilot knows what He is doing. He has all the credentials, certified and able to direct the course of my life. This is not his first flight.  He knows his way around – the lay of the land, the circumstances of my life – since he is the mastermind of both.

He knows exactly where I’m going, and I don’t have a clue.  Not having an idea of my destination only adds to my frustration.

 “Thank you for flying blind with God today,” pre-flight announcements would say. If there were any. ” on your way to God-only-knows-where, for the purpose of God-only-knows-what.”

And that’s not where the air travel metaphor ends..

Right now, God is on the precipice of taking my life somewhere wonderful, but it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

So many challenges have presented lately,  I feel like a Frequent Flyer who has earned the status as a hostage  – having experienced too may changes in a short period of time.

And most recently, I’m just  justthisclose  to a full-on Tarmac Tantrum, because there has been an inordinate amount of time just sitting in the plane without even getting off the ground. Confined, and feeling slighted, the whole situation out of my control.

I’m afraid of new journeys, and resent  the Comfort Compromise – even though the safety constraints are there for my  well-being, I’m tired of being all buckled-in.

But when we are soaring, God at the controls – and I take enough time to look out the window instead of trying to figure everything out,  the views are incredible.

“We are, once again, in a holding pattern,” I hear God’s voice crackle across the intercom.

“But you can still enjoy the view!”

Down through the clouds, I see the people milling around, as they become tiny ants on the ground. I stop to consider that my Pilot knows  every thought in the heads of each “tiny ant” –  and ever hair on each of their heads, so precious are them to Him.

I can’t help but admire his creation as we fly over,  knowing that the majesty of mountains and vastness of the sea  that confirms God’s handiwork is also manifest in the smallest cells and molecules .

He is in all. He IS all.

Why do I so often Miss that?

And as to directly answer my question, I hear:

“The Free Will sign is always illuminated,” my flight attendant – an angel – advises. “so feel free to move about your life.’

Ah, yes. The Free Will, so generously given us by God. That’s how I so often miss the things God shows me…my free will is busy focused on  other, more trivial pursuits.

As the Captain indicated that we will be descending shortly, he reminds us not to fear. “you may hear changes in the engine, or feel a little turbulence,  I’ve got this. I’ve got you.”

I’ve been flying in a holding pattern so long, I scarcely know what to do when Permission to Land has been directed. What shall I take with me into this new place where God has brought me?
The armor of God, of course. It’s really heavy, but absolutely essential.

His word, of course. It is how I will navigate my new surroundings.

Good friends, who have been through thick and thin, and love Christ with all of their hearts.

And faith. Never leave home without it!

And as I depart the plane, which has kept me hostage in a holding pattern for so long, God stops all of the important things he is doing to thank me for flying with him. Thank you for Trusting Him.

Stepping onto the concourse, the whole atmosphere changes, It is loud and bustling, full of people and full of opportunity. It is almost always a vastly different place than I thought I would end up.

But I know that my Pilot accompanies me on my missions every day of my life, even – especially – on a new, bumpy journeys.

It’s going to be wonderful.

Christmas · Friendship · Holiday · Inspirational · Middle Age · Motherhood · Prayer · Recovery · Spiritual

Friendship – Sisters by Design

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C. S. Lewis

By: Jana Greene

This letter is a gift to someone who is a gift to my life.  I asked her permission to publish it, to which she responded:

“You have full permission to publish it if you want—I hope it inspires others to have real friendships like ours!”

Amen, Sister-Girlfriend. The world would be a much better place.

My sweet Melissa,

Do you remember the first Christmas that we became friends? Our daughters – now freshmen in college – were fourth-graders who had just declared themselves Best Friends Forever. I was a struggling, single mom, just having divorced my children’s father after fourteen years of marriage. My little girl was having a terrible time.  I got her a good therapist, and tried to calm her fears of loss, which were pretty well-founded.

What she really needed was a very good friend. Your daughter was that very good friend to her.

It was a horrible, awful  time in my life. I was working four jobs to feed my girls after being a stay-at-home mom all of their lives. They became latch-key kids. I became a hot mess from the guilt.

When we first met, I was holding on to my four-year-old sobriety by a single thread, it seemed, and living on high anxiety. You invited me over anyway when the girls were having a play-date, serving coffee (and, I’m certain)  sweets.  You asked questions that nobody else had bothered to ask, and didn’t judge me when I answered honestly.

Sometimes when you stop trying so hard, God makes mystical things happen. Like our friendship.

At the time, you were wary of organized religion, and I was wary of everything. But in your guest bathroom, you had a display of decorative crosses. Every time I went to the loo at your house, I thanked God for you and your kindness. I prayed that you would trust Him again, even as I struggled to trust Him myself. Yes, on the loo!  I can tell you that now, all these years later.

That Christmas, I sat with all of our girls while you went on a date with your hubby. Before you departed for the evening, you gave me a pretty little wrapped gift box, and instructed me to open it when you left.  I did, and it was a lovely new wallet.

When you came back home, I thanked you, and you said that I should make sure to look inside of it. Folded in the zipped compartment was a hundred-dollar bill.

“Get your girls a little something for Christmas,” you said, like it was not a big deal.

It was SUCH a big deal, Melissa, to fill the girls’ stockings that year. Such a big deal.

Little did I know that praying for you on the loo would be the least of what we would come to discuss as our friendship deepened!  No subject was off-limits, no pretending to be who we were not. No pretense, all acceptance – what a wonderful foundation for a friendship.

I have to tell you, my friend, throughout the storms, you were my safe place. And always – even if there were tears –  laughter was ultimately the order of the day.

We are pretty cool that way.

Over the years, we have really been through it together, have we not?  With six daughters between us, holy cow – have we ever!

Teenagers and all the stupid stuff they do. Teenagers and all the awesome stuff they do.

Through a divorce and a new marriage (both mine) you were such a support. Through your steady marriage, you taught me so much.

When our husbands drive us bonkers, we have a kvetch session, and are a-okay again.

When our kids drive us bonkers, well … together, we find the strength to soldier on.

We’ve done the Mom Circuit, and weathered the “Mom, leave me alone!” syndrome.

Between us, we’ve done new careers, and unemployment.

We’ve drowned our sorrows in Queso dip at every Mexican food restaurant in town. (Cheese plays a major role in our relationship, as well it should!)

We’ve had pajama parties, and felt the betrayal of gravity (especially me….you look MAHVELOUS!) and – as we schlepped into our forties – the reward of chasing dreams and catching them, on occasion. (Or should I say, we sashay gracefully into our forties – and beyond.)

We’ve struggled with the discovery of what is out of our control (everything, essentially) and celebrated what we which we can control (keeping the faith.)

We’ve threatened to write a book togetherwhich, incidentally is still TOTALLY happening!

Most meaningfully, when my own family members high-tailed it out of my life, you ran towards me.

You and I …. we’ve  had spiritual crisises and awakenings, stumblings and triumphs. And shared with honesty every experience.

We discovered together that we are NOT orphans after all, but beloved daughters of the Most High King….princesses, really!

And that makes us sisters. Family.

Even our husbands became MFFs (Man Friends Forever…please don’t tell them I said that,) and our daughters as close as any siblings.

Family, like I said.

Your love, prayers and steadfastness have helped keep me sober. Honestly, I doubt I would have maintained it without your support.

That love….those prayers and acceptance – they have kept me from running away from home on numerous occasions (“This parenting teens thing? I QUIT!”)

In the midst of building this friendship, you had a revolution in your spirit.  When God lit a fire under you, he used spiritual kerosene!

Girl, you were on FIRE, and you are still on fire!  It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever been witness to.

A spark from the heart of Jesus himself caught the hem of your garment, and you just had to serve Him. You served Him by helping other women, like you helped me. By genuinely loving them – fiercely. From it came additions to the sisterhood – the WAYwards – and lots of tears and laughter.

And laughter came in handy during the difficult times.

Several years ago, when I got sick, I stayed sick for nearly three years. It was another awful, dark time in my life.  Chronically fatigued. Endlessly in pain. And with no answers in sight, living on high anxiety once again.

For three solid years, I fought numbness, pain, fatigue….every single day, and bitched about it plenty. My complaining and frustration had to have tested your dedication! But you listened every time, and never gave up.

You prayed for my health fervently. Sometimes, when I was in the middle of exhaustion and complaint, you would just extend your right hand toward me and pray so hard that we would both cry – even when I was right in the middle of a bitching session!

It’s hard to be hopeless when someone is that dedicated to asking God to help you.

But sometimes – when you stop trying so hard – God makes mystical things happen.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I remember telling you. And I meant it. “I can’t!”

“God can,” you said, with no judgement. More listening, more praying, more encouraging. You listened. Like a true friend, you loved fiercely, calming my fears of loss, which were pretty well-founded. “Father,” you prayed. “Please heal my friend. But even if she doesn’t get better, we praise you. We LOVE you!”

Because you see, what I really needed was a very good friend. You were – and are – that very good friend to me.

All these many years later, how many cycles have we gone through !– Distrusting organized religion, and calling on God. Trusting God, and being there for each other.

I’m so grateful for you.

Thank you for being so steady a prayer-warrior. Thank you for never, ever saying, “This friendship thing? I QUIT!”

Thank you for all the times you still give me encouragement (and chocolate) and for being my “nothing is off limits” sister.

When I think about who you are and who you’ve become, and all God has in store for you, it brings me to my knees.

When I pray for you, I ask God to take that beautiful, bright, effervescent and glorious spirit of yours and just unleash it on the world in a way that brings him glory. I pray that the same joy your spirit brings me gets unfurled on the world, and comes back on you like a tidal wave.

I never forgot the Christmas that you folded a Benjamin in the gift of a new wallet  … so that I could give my daughters a Christmas. But more importantly, I never forgot that you reached out to this hot mess girl, that you went out of your way to be kind.

I never forgot that you treated my frightened, maddeningly insecure and hurting fourth-grade daughter like your own. Now a confident – gregarious, even!- young woman, she never forgot your love, either.

I love that you never stopped praying for my healing. I love your heart, that it breaks for hurting people.

I love that the most important prayer I ever learned to pray, I learned from you – “I trust you, God. I may not understand a single thing you are doing, but I trust you.”

It was a  beautiful thing to do for an old friend, to teach me that prayer.

I love you with all my heart. Thank you for being a friend. Thank you for being family.

And Merry Christmas, BFF.

Addiction · Hitting the bottom · Motherhood · Recovery

A Tree Grows in Prison – addiction and the harvest of God-seeds

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By: Jana Greene, thebeggarsbakery.net

Hebrews 13:3

“Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.” – Hebrews 13:3  (MSG)

 

God,

I’m thinking today of all the saints in the early church who prayed to you from the cells of prisons. Wrongly persecuted, they mustered their faith and lifted it to you, because they had been stripped of everything else they owned.

I know you’ve gotten your fair share of letters from prisoners.

Jails and prisons are often the venue in which lost souls lift their last remaining possession to you – faith – but the truth is that many have been stripped of that possession, too. Many, before even arriving for intake to be processed by a legal system, were already processed by another captor – Addiction – before ever setting foot in jail.  Addiction is a thief of hope.

Today, I have a broken heart for a dear friend and Sister in you, whose adult son is both literally, and figuratively, a prisoner. He is addicted to drugs, God. He has reached the end of himself. Right now, he seems a shell of himself.

But a long time ago, this friend raised this man up by filling him with God- seeds. She took him to church, and youth group; she talked out her active faith in you….all the way forming rows as she raised him, and planting  seeds in the soft soil of youth.

He is familiar with you. But he has made some bad choices, covering that fertile, planted ground with all the world has to offer, including substances that distract him from You. He has filled his life with all the plastic distraction that keeps the sunlight from getting in; that keeps the water of life from reaching the seeds.

Society sometimes has very little compassion for those who bring woes on themselves. Society forgets that it is only made up of infinite units of just the same kinds of people – sinners.  It’s easy for them to open their bibles to the letters that Paul wrote as a prisoner, and feel compassion.
But you don’t forget to be compassionate, because you never forget that we are infinite units of people who sin, but whom you love dearly.  All people must come to you from their knees on the floor of a prison cell, its only a matter of what four-walls constrain us.

Today, this man – this addict – is on the floor of a cell. I like to think he is calling out to you right this minute, but I know how stubborn addicts can be (being one myself) – I know how insane the cycle is, and how hard it is to let go of that tarp of denial we keep covering ourselves in.

But I am asking you – right now, in Your Holy Name, to crouch down on that prison floor with this man. Scrootch up so close to him that You feel familiar, that the seeds planted in his spirit in his growing-up-years feel like beads under his skin. Crack them open, and as they are opened, let him feel surrounded by love.

The supernatural feeling all addicts crave, that many addicts are willing to go to prison for – to die for – is only just a craving for you, Lord.

This young man is feeling the pain of the chemicals leaving his body, as we speak. Let the suffering he is experiencing  be for the cause of one little Seed of Faith germinating. Fill up the space left by the chemicals, the hurt, the loneliness, the shame and pain. I’m sure he will remember you, God.

Be with his family, who is suffering beyond comprehension. Fill them up, too.

Since this precious son of my Sister in You is currently  in no position to “write letters” in your name, and lift prayers from his broken spirit, mind and body, today I am interceding on his behalf. I ask that everyone who reads this to pray along with me.

For the addicts, the prisoners. The broken, the sinners. For my friend’s son.

Remind them that they are full of seeds of Truth, let them receive water and light, in their own personal prisons, and let those seeds grow healthy and strong and take root in You. So they can go out and tell other prisoners that there is life waiting to be lived.

Give them HOPE, Jesus.

In the name of the Father God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

AMEN

Inspirational · Recovery · Spiritual

Who do you say Jesus is?

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By: Jana Greene

Who do you say that he is?

Jesus, I mean.

He asked me to ask you…..who do you say that He is? He is quite concerned about what you think of Him.

Do you say that He is Historical Figure, criminal, prophet or ordinary man? Would you say that  He is the Son of the living God?

Writer and scholar C.S. Lewis, who was an avowed (and very vocal) atheist for many years before accepting Christ described him this way: “Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

This Jesus, who so radically changed the world, was brought up on bogus criminal charges at the end of his earthly life.  He was the first and only completely perfect human being  to have walked the earth. His reward? Death by brutal crucifixion, burial in a tomb from which He would rise in splendor three days later.

But what does that have to do with you? Why would it matter what one man did over two-thousand years ago?

You and I can never live as perfect human beings. I’ve tried, and it was the hardest seven minutes of my life! We need God’s help to secure our place in eternity. Jesus was the sacrifice that makes this possible. But God is not only interested in the “forever”; He is sincerely invested in the ‘here and now’.

Who do I say that Jesus is? He is my

Debt Settler: Jesus is not a debt collection agency, reminding you of every mistake. He is not in the business of setting up payment plans for all of your sin, either.  He settles the debt of all you have accrued  in the past (and I mean ALL of it!) and cancels it entirely when you ask Him to be your savior.  When asking His forgiveness,  no sin debt is  too big or too small. He is waiting to set you free!

Game Changer: Your rules? The way you’ve always handled challenges on your own…He doesn’t even need to see the playbook. He wrote a better one! He changes the trajectory of your life in ways you cannot imagine….in ways you will be so humbled by.

Name Changer: When you accept Jesus, your name is written in permanence in God’s book of life. It isn’t penciled in, jotted down hurriedly. It is written in Spiritual Sharpie, bold and eternal. Your name, and your life, becomes His as you are adopted into His family. The name He remembers you by when He thinks of you? “Mine.”

Life-Giver: I want the kind of life that is eternal, but let’s be honest…I’d like it to be pretty awesome here, too. Jesus doesn’t want us trudging through each day with just enough energy to survive until we get to heaven.  Here’s what Life-Giver Jesus has to say about that in scripture: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.

Friend: Why the Creator of the universe would want to hang out with me, I have no idea. But for some reason, He does. If he were a great human teacher, that would be humbling enough; but no. Jesus, in dying on the cross and raising to life, bridged the gap between the Holiest of Holy Ones and puny, neurotic, recovering alcoholic, generally-all-around misfit and master of mistakes – ME. His Holy Spirit never leaves my side and calls me “friend”.  And that’s a miracle.

Who do you say that He is? It matters very much.

My name is Jana Greene, and I say He is also the Savior of the world.

Devotional · Inspirational · Spiritual

Missing the Moon by Miles: a tale of perception

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By: Jana Greene

Perception is everything.

The other day, I took Emmie the Elderly Golden Retriever for a long walk around the neighborhood. As is her way, she stopped every three feet to intently sniff one of the many olfactory neighborhood newsletters previously left by other dogs. I’m trying not to hurry her along these days. Her hearing is going and her vision as well, and I imagine her sense of smell is not what it used to be.

She takes a really long time, but when she looks up at me between sniffings, her eyes are so grateful that I am patient with her.

The sky just happened to be clear and blue, so I looked up to admire it to pass the time. The moon was out on the horizon in broad daylight, as if it missed the memo that it was not yet night. And from out of nowhere, a jet engine plane roared through the blue sky toward it, cutting the sky in half with its trail of white exhaust. From my vantage point on the ground, appeasing a poky dog, it looked as though that plane would fly straight into the moon and cut it in half, too.

If I didn’t have the most basic rudimentary knowledge about time and space and air travel, I would swear that the two bodies in the sky were set to collide. Because from here on earth, it would seem obvious. Inevitable. In reality, the moon and the plane are thousands of miles apart.

Only a few days before this walk, something wonderful had happened to me that I was not expecting. It really kind of came out of nowhere, an answer to prayer that I had wanted fervently and waiting for without knowing it was even on the horizon. But for a long time before this answer, I pleaded with God to make other things happen– things that I was SURE were right for me – and why wasn’t he making them happen? Why so much rejection over and over and can’t He see that there will be a collision unless He takes this matter seriously? Silly human, His timing is perfect.

My spiritual perception is not what it used to be – relying only on the obvious to determine the inevitable. But it is not where it should be, either – and too often forgets to take into account my vantage point. My perception is earthly, seeing the scene from the ground with possible solutions cut in half by my trail of exhaustion. Either things can turn one way or another way – from here, that’s all I can see.

I wait for the KABOOM.

And then….there is the sudden gliding through just as I wait for the explosion, and it becomes clear that He had better plans all along. As obvious as a daylight moon in a bright, blue sky, a roar of peace and gratitude. Danger was thousands of miles away, I just couldn’t see it.

God, surveying the scene, had been able to see everything from above and around and in. He is in us, you know.

He is so good, making better things happen than I could imagine. Appeasing my poky and impertinent soul, doesn’t rush me. He knows I’m learning. When I look upward at Him, I’m grateful that He is patient with me.

His perception is perfect.

“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.” – Isaiah 55:8

Devotional · Inspirational · Spiritual

Not Fooling Anyone: Christians and the masquerade

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By: Jana Greene

I’ve always thought that masquerade balls are a little bit silly. The masks – small and papery – neither really obscure the identity of the wearer in full, nor allow for identification in full. They are ornate but flimsy man-made things, and all the glitter and paint in the world cannot make them anything but.

Of course, it is possible to masquerade in a more virtual manner. We humans hold up all kinds of masks to impress and mislead one another. The idea is to project our sameness to everyone else while protecting our tender faces. Sometimes we think that the glitzier our visage, the more we are fooling the world.

Christians, especially, are known for wearing masks.

But we are not fooling God. We are not even fooling each other. Hidden identities are false identities.

Life is not a masquerade ball, meant to be waltzed stranger-to stranger, emotionless. But a wild movement of fellowship meant to be danced barefoot in the dust that Jesus kicked up when He walked the earth. Barefaced and real, with the tears, smiles, sorrows and joys in full view of one another, and our God.

What of our ornately crafted masks worn to protect our identities? If we remove them, people might see the mess. People might see the pain.

But they might also see the Jesus.

God never made us with that purpose in mind. Jesus had big problems with mask-wearers. “Take them down,” He said in effect. “You are not fooling anyone.” The Apostle Paul – himself a believer in a kind of  recovery for mask-wearing – wrote:

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original..” Galations 5:25 – 26 (the Message)

Our identities are God-given, not flimsy, man-made things. Don’t cover yours with same-ness paint. Take down the mask of glitter and glitz.  I see that your tender face is full of tears and smiles, sorrows and joys – emotion-full. It looks real and raw and beautiful like God intended.

It looks a lot like Jesus.

Inspirational · Spiritual

Debt Relief – The motives of a Most Charitable God

God moves all obstacles between Himself and His children
God moves all obstacles between Himself and His children

By: Jana Greene
When I first met my husband several years ago, I had a lot of debt in the form of medical bills. Years without health insurance had not kept the health issues at bay, and the bills were stacked high with neglect. Like a Mega-Debt Mountain, it was not just a stack of papers, but a looming monument to financial failure. As a single mother working three jobs, I still couldn’t make ends meet. As a matter of fact, I didn’t think the ends would ever even see one another from afar!
As my soon-to-be husband and I got closer and closer, I was ashamed of all this debt. Thousands of dollars for office visits, treatments for migraines, endometriosis and chronic sinus infections had been wracked up. I felt embarrassed that I owed so much, that I would owe it the rest of my life and still never get it paid off, most likely.
One day, he asked to see Mega-Debt Mountain for himself. We were getting pretty serious at the time, and I couldn’t put off showing him my debts much longer. Still, I presented a lame stalling technique.
“Why?” I asked.
“So I can pay them off,” he said without so much as a sigh.  In that season of his life, he had the means to free me of this debt.
At first, I was embarrassed because, after all, it was a substantial amount. I brought the stack of bills, most of which were marked “Last Notice” or “Past Due” (or both) and felt the shame burn my face. He took them gently from my hand and laid them on the desk without even glancing at them, and then he kissed me. Tears sprang to my eyes with gratitude, because I never expected such a thing; such grace.
These were not his debts. He took them on for two reasons:
So they would no longer hang over my head.
And because he “just wanted to be with me for the rest of my life.”
He had erased a debt that I had assumed I would carry all my life, simply because he loved me. The truth was, as huge as Mega-Debt Mountain was, it did not hinder his love for me. He didn’t see the “balance due” when he looked at me, but a future together.
Kind of like God when He looks at us through the filter of His Son. So often we all allow our own mountains to block the view of the grace He offers, because we are ashamed of our sin. Our Father has the means to free us. The blood of Jesus has the most amazing stain-removing properties!
“What are you waiting for?” God is saying. “The debt of everything you’ve ever done wrong is already paid for when you accepted my Son as your Beloved!” Our Father doesn’t see the “balance due” when He looks at His Christ-redeemed children.
God offers us freedom from sin debt for two reasons, you see:
So they will no longer hang over the head of one He loves VERY much. (Debt cannot hang over our heads and on the cross both!)
And because He wants to be with you for all eternity.
Such a thing is grace.

Amazing.

Marriage

The Geometry of Marriage

I really do!
I really do!

By: Jana Greene

“Did you lose the bet?”

It was a man’s voice. I was sifting through birthday cards at the drugstore, and it took a moment for me to realize he was speaking to me.

“Excuse me?” I said politely.

“Did you lose the bet with your husband?” He nodded at me, looking at the words on my t-shirt.

Emblazoned in simple, black lettering on the front of the pink shirt: I love my husband.

“Nope,” I said, laughing a little. “I just really do.”

He shrugged and walked away.

Another time, I had a nurse who was taking my blood pressure say, “That’s an interesting shirt. What does it say on the back?” He was thinking maybe that there was a snarky retort on the reverse…a zinger.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I just love my husband.”

“Huh.”

I’d bought the pink t-shirt it at a  bookstore several years ago when My Beloved and I were newlyweds. I had never been in love in the all-encompassing way that I loved him, and had never really expected to be. That head-over-heels-ness was for other people, I’d thought.

But God had other, better plans.

It’s the second marriage for each of us; not quite a May-December union, but possibly a June-September one, in that we were older and – if not wiser – more in tuned with God.

We actually did meet in church, and there was chemistry right away. But there was sanity, too – and that was a new wrinkle in relationships on my part.

As we fell in love more deeply, it became apparent that we were meant to be married. But because we had both failed at our previous marriages,  we decided to do something differently. We made a conscious and verbal decision not to make our marriage about ourselves – or even about each other. Making marriage about the other person is like making salvation about religion. It’s the relationship that really matters.

From the very start, we agreed to consider our marriage as a triangle of sorts, with God sitting at the top and he and I on the bottom corners, looking up. The “circle of trust” may be important, but the Triangle of Marriage keeps us in check.

In the years since My Beloved married me, reality has moved in and made itself at home, as is inevitable.  With the blending of three teen daughters came epic drama in the household. With reality came  economic ups and downs, health issues and challenges of getting older.  We are two very imperfect people, in love with each other and with God. And sometimes we disagree, and have to check our positions in the triangle of relationship and remember who is in the Highest Place of honor.

So, come to think of it….maybe I do wear the t-shirt because I lost a bet.

I happily and gratefully lost a bet with God. Before marrying my husband.  I had staked my understanding of the future on my own past failure in marriage. I couldn’t make it work, so I was doomed to be alone (or worse, repeat the cycle).

But God had other, better plans that are not dependent on my failures or successes.

There – at the top of the Triangle – He gives our marriage chemistry, sanity and loads of grace when reality makes itself at home.  In the all-encompassing way that only God can love us, he emblazoned it in simple, black lettering in the pages of His Word:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16.

We are His Beloveds, and He is head-over-heels for us.