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

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.

Grace, Spiritual

Your Future-Tripping Sunday Self

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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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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.

 

 


 

Spiritual, Surrender

A Hundred Little White Flags of Surrender

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By: Jana Greene

This past weekend, I instructed a workshop about “Surrender” for a large group of women. In it, I shared the absolute necessity of LETTING GO of our anxieties.

And, in the interest of honesty, I also shared my own propensity of surrendering my worries to Jesus, only to revisit them on occasion – as if I have some twisted kind of weekend custody of them or something.

“Thanks for handling the financial worries I surrendered to you, God. Now, if you don’t mind, I believe it’s my right to have visitation with it. Just to check up, you know.”

Or…

“I know I surrendered by kids to you, God. But they seem to be making worse choices than even  BEFORE I fully trusted them to your care, so maybe if I revisit the situation, I can give you some pointers on fixing them. Nobody knows them like their mother….”

At which point, God usually reminds me that, no….actually nobody knows them like their Father.

I keep forgetting that. even though it’s right there in 1 Peter 5:7: “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.” (MSG)

At the conclusion of last weekend’s workshop workshop, I invited the ladies to visit the Surrender Board on a table in the back of the room. After channeling my Amateur Craft Maven earlier in the week in preparation for the ceremony, I’d covered a large Styrofoam board with some glittery scrap booking paper, and made over a hundred little white flags from toothpicks and white masking tape. I provided metallic paint pens at the table for the ladies to emboss the flags with their most difficult struggles before raising their own white flags in surrender on the board.

To get it started, I’d  pre-added about seven of the issues nearest and dearest to my heart. The names of my children. My weight struggles. Anxiety. Fear.

One by one, the women filed to the table to the accompaniment of soothing worship music.  Tearfully, they turned their worries into a Styrofoam battlefield of surrender, letting go of their issues and giving them to God.

After the workshop, I took the Surrender Board home with me, and vowed to pray for the surrenderees each day this week.

But last night, I had a dream.I was approaching the board in a room where it sat on a fancy table (think “Arc of the Covenant” fancy)  Jesus stood between me and all of the white flag surrenderables, which I had come to pray over.He was lovingly guarding them.

“Excuse me, Lord,” I think I said. (Very politely, it was Jesus, after all.) “I need to pray for these items left here by my sisters.”

“But they gave them to me,” He countered.

Not wanting to argue with The Great I Am, I peered past his shoulder to take a look-see at all of the little white flags. The metallic paint that marked each struggle was so aglow in the light of Christ that I couldn’t make out the words.

“Yes, but you see,” I explained. “I told myself I would pray over each one.”

“Yes, but you also told them that they could trust these things to me.”

As I peer over the shoulder of the Living God again (I can be really stubborn sometimes) I can see that each little white flag has been folded and stamped crimson with an old-fashioned molten wax-type seal. Upon closer inspection, I could see that the insignia was the stamp of a Cross. And the crimson wax? It was the blood of Jesus.

cross

Whatever was written beneath was inconsequential. The same seal covered each one.

All at once, I faded from the dream and experienced a kind of had an epiphany. When I was fully awake, I logged on the very modern research tool of the interwebs to find out more about the ancient art of seals:

A seal, in biblical times as today, is used to guarantee security or indicate ownership. Ancient seals were often made of wax, embedded with the personalized imprint of their guarantor.

“….Third, the seal of the Holy Spirit helps protect against tampering or attack. Romans 8:13 declares, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (www.BibleStudyTools.com)

Jesus wasn’t upset with me that I wanted to have visitation with my struggles and those of my sisters, but He DID want me to make good on my promise to surrender them to HIM and leave them there.

And that INCLUDED my own items of surrender.

No need to revisit them anymore. It’s sealed by the blood. You cannot even tell what it used to be. Even the little white flags of surrendering my children and their lives. (Nobody knows them like their Heavenly Father.)

Each little white flag erected by the wonderful women who so bravely surrendered it? Precious to Him beyond all imagining.

Leave it there at the altar. He has sealed it with his blood.

Signed, sealed, surrendered. Personally imprinted by their Guarantor.

LIVE CAREFREE IN GOD – HE IS MOST CAREFUL WITH YOU.

Surrender is a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

 

Brokenness, Christianity, Faith, Forgiveness, God, Grace, Healing, Hitting the bottom, Holy, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, Inspirational, Jana Greene, Once Upon a Gospel, Prayer, Radical Love, serving God, Spiritual, Spirituality, trust, Weariness

Once Upon a Gospel – An Invitation to Love

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By: Jana Greene

Once upon a time, there was a good and perfect King whose agenda for the whole land was Love.

He provided everything his subjects needed – in this realm and The Eternal one – but one subject became jealous of the King and wanted to rule in his stead. Being the good and perfect King that He was, Love banished the hateful subject -who was one of the beings considered a friend of The King Himself  – from the Kingdom. He became a defector with his greedy endeavor to be equal with his Creator.

Furious at being banished, The Defector appealed to the less-than-royal castle walkers to leave the King’s dominion. He was very persuasive, and took a third of their masses with him. Because The King was Love Incarnate, The King mourned their loss. But his mourning was supplanted by a great concern for the subjects of his kingdom and their heirs. For the The Defector and his minions – subject to eternal separation from Love – vowed to use whatever evil means necessary to recruit members. Nothing was off limits.

Suffering and death. But also temptation and slick false-life advertising to sell it.

One of the biggest weapons used against the kingdom subjects was the very freedom The King had invoked a the First Testing. Essentially, it sounded something like this (and like exactly the same message he is spinning in this generation):

Don’t you think YOU should be King? Why does King Love get, well … all the love. You are ruler of your own life! You can have all the power. The King is out to ruin your fun and your lives. He sits up there on His throne, having no idea of your struggles. And that’s IF He exists…..Have you ever even SEEN Him in person? I didn’t think so. Maybe He doesn’t even exist. Maybe Love cannot save the world.

And the subjects were deceived, because a tiny seed in their hearts was watered by the slick words that appealed to Self over King. And confusion took root and has become a plague upon the earth ever since. Many subjects decided to follow the ruler of Self and, in turn, rejected The King’s perfect will.

Many declared they were subjects of no land at all, and by doing so, still made a choice to defect the Kingdom. There was no dual citizenship. Perfect Love casts out all fear, and fear was at the root of autonomy of the Subjects of No Land.”

There seemed no end to the weaponry that The Defector had at his disposal. Yes, good old sin bugaboos ran amok, But often times the destruction came in other slippery forms: Shame, Defeat, Distraction, Depression, Addiction, and a general elevation to Self while – at the same time – beating it down by diminishing it’s value.

It seemed like The Defector had the deck stacked in his favor, as all of the subjects had one thing in common, bestowed by the King – Choice. The Power to accept The King of Love, ruler of the Kingdom and keep the laws enacted by him in love for their own good, or to defect themselves to a more self-serving path.

Oh, the humanity – literally!

Could no one save The Kingdom from the author of confusion?

Will no one step in to save the subjects created to serve The King and those He loves?

And then The Magic happened. The King Himself would become a subject. He himself – through His divine heir – would become man and King, and show up in person. He would be Redeemer. He would know the anxiety and hardship of the masses, just like any other subject. But He would come to show them that The King is Love.

A nobler knight or king, the world had never known. Instead of cavorting with elite and rule-keeping, The Redeemer loved on the castoffs, touched the un-touchables. The peasants. He lived His life in a manner befitting The King in all ways. Whether teaching in the temples or on the street, all subjects were invited to become members of The King’s fold. And His love was the invitation to citizenship.

Healing. Unselfishness. Unconditional Love.

The Redeemer walked the realm for 33 years, a short span of time in history, but changed absolutely everything.

No longer could the subjects resent The King for not have walked among them as a common subject. The Redeemer showed the way that any subject could  become a bona-fide royal. He did so without serving Self or following any of the rules of the conniving Defector.

He would finally be crowned a King with a headpiece of thorns in a mockery of ascension to the Kingdom Throne. The Defector had a heyday. He considered a major win for his ruling. In truth, it was the beginning of His ultimate end.

Those who followed the defectors and beat him to a bloody death did not know they were in fact cementing the admission of Whomsoever into an Eternal Kingdom. The one who defected from The Eternal for seeking equality with The King made it possible for all of us to be equal heirs in all The King’s riches, in essence. Ironic, and beautiful paradox, that one.

The names of all the subjects – those who serve The King and those who serve The Defector – were on His lips, pleading with Love to administer grace and mercy. The subjects who accepted The Redeemer received permanent citizenship in the Eternal Kingdom.

The King ALWAYS uses what the enemy plans for evil to the GOOD of those who love Him.

The Magic – known as Holy Spirit – he left with the subjects, so that His power would be forever close at hand. That spirit of all that is lovely, The Magic lives on to this very generation.

The Defector knew the Day of the Redeemer had been coming, and he was prepared. Further making a mockery of Love, The Defector upped his war game, and with each new generation of subjects, became better and better at deceiving them.

Those satisfied to serve Self we easy to take down and make slaves to The Defector and his flunkies. With the ultimate knowledge that he is doomed to failure, he is quite literally hell-bent on taking as many subjects with him in eternal alienation from Love.

Even some of the Eternal Kingdom citizens sometimes forgot they are citizens of a Higher Order through the work of The Redeemer, the spoils of a war already won on the cross.  They struggled mightily, far more than people with an eternal birthright should. Tasked with spreading the message of unearned love to the whole world, they became weary.

The Defector must never allow subjects of The King to rest. They are dangerous on the battlefield, a liability to the Evil One’s schemes to overthrow The King. He was always on the prowl, looking for chinks in the armor that The Magic covered them in. He perfected the tips of his arrows and narrowed his aim, upping the ante with each attack.

It is for this reason the Redeemed subjects are not spared hardship and even occasional agony.

It’s not the end of the story. The King gets the last word. Love always wins, you know.

Because the Bible isn’t a fairy tale at all.

The King of Love exists. We call him God, and He isn’t the stuff of fables. The Redeemer who is both God and Man? He is Jesus. And there is, in fact, a Defector called Satan, and his demonic hosts of demons who defected the angelic realms. I know it sounds mythical, until you consider the state of the war, pestilence, and destruction both large-scale and in our personal lives. Look around the world we inhabit, so infused with suffering and tribulation. There should be no doubt we have a living enemy. And – here’s the twist in the story – it’s not us.

Yes, evil seems to be running the trial of the world as it hurtles toward implosion, as The Defector makes his closing arguments against us. Darkness is his counsel.

But our Counsel is Truth.

Our Judge? Love.

Your enemy doesn’t get to make it to your sentencing at the end of your life without allowing you to testify on your own behalf. And that testimony is the one and true light that vanquishes even the blackest darkness.

Our testimony is simply JESUS.

If you know The Redeemer, this tale may seem a filtered-down, fable-esque take on the Gospel. But a lot of people haven’t heard it in a relate-able way, and I’m hoping this little blog post helps one person see hope with new eyes.

The story has a happy ending.

If you don’t know The Redeemer, know that there is a good and perfect King whose agenda for the whole life is Love. He came in human form to understand the  anxiety and hardship of the masses, and to offer reprieve and eternal life.

His Kingdom – His LOVE – is available to you. Not Once upon a time, but today.

God bless us subjects, every one.

 

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

“And don’t tell me that I have no authority to write like this. I’m perfectly free to do this—isn’t that obvious? Haven’t I been given a job to do? Wasn’t I commissioned to this work in a face-to-face meeting with Jesus, our Master? Aren’t you yourselves proof of the good work that I’ve done for the Master? Even if no one else admits the authority of my commission, you can’t deny it. Why, my work with you is living proof of my authority!” – 1 Corinthians 9:1-2 (MSG)

It is written: “In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. …” – Genesis 1 (AMPC)

“When Lucifer was cast out of Heaven, one third of all the angels were cast out with him.” – Revelations 12:14-9

“Bilious and bloated, they gas,
    “God is gone.”
Their words are poison gas,
    fouling the air; they poison
Rivers and skies;
    thistles are their cash crop.

God sticks his head out of heaven.
    He looks around.
He’s looking for someone not stupid—
    one man, even, God-expectant,
    just one God-ready woman.

He comes up empty. A string
    of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
    to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
    follow their fellow.” – Psalm 14:1-4

This history-changing gift changed the world forever. “This how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.– John 3:16-18 (MSG)

 

Choosing YOU: “How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.” – Ephesians 4:1 (MSG)

“How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” 1 Corinthians 5:21 (MSG)

As his killers laugh and mock him as He is dying, throwing dice to see who would keep His robes as a macabre souvenir, He pleaded with The King: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:24 (ENT)

The Redeemer said it Himself: “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” – John 14:26-27 (MSG)

To which The King decreed  “You see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” – Hebrew 12:1 (MSG)

For The King issued this proclamation: “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.” – 1 Peter 5:8

As fellow subject and apostle summed it up: “You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message.  Colossiains 1:22 (MSG)

“Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.” – Philippians 2:15-16 (MSG)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Focus on God, Spiritual

Changing Focus and Making Landfall – The birth of a New Year

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Hurricane Andrew, 1992 Landfall

By: Jana Greene

As I approach the 15th anniversary of my continuous sobriety from alcohol, new opportunities are rising up. To tell you the truth, I’m a little scared and intimidated. And excited. Of course, I’m excited too.

God is always working on the good for those who call Him savior. He’s always brewing up, stirring up, putting things in motion.

The whole analogy as a New Year being like a re-birth is so cliche I hesitate to use it. But Abba gave me a little vision earlier this week, so as cliche as the Baby New Year thing is, I think it applies. Maybe it will encourage you to keep pushing toward what our Father is calling you into in 2016.

Hurricane Andrew made landfall on the Floridian coast the exact hour I gave birth to my Firstborn. I know this because while I was laboring to bring her into the world with no drugs whatsoever, my “focal point” was a tiny television set propped on a TV stand high on the hospital wall (this was way before flat-screen sets.)

Everyone was watching the news on August 24, 1992. Andrew came ashore as a Category 5 hurricane when it struck Dade County, Florida. We lived far from the danger in North Carolina, but the country was riveted to the powerful landfall.

I’d been ushered into the delivery room in a big rush and the nurses who had prepped the room had been watching the news had not had time enough to even turn the volume down.

My baby was coming, and she was coming fast.

Here’s what I remember, in a flurry of surreal-ness…an audio-soup of words from the doctor, encouragement from my husband, instructions from nurses, the voice of The Weather Guy, and – most importantly – what I would come to recognize as that intuition of Mother Instinct:

OhmyGod, there is NO WAY this being is going to exit my body in the manner expected, THISISIMPOSSIBLE, I cannot believe this is how babies are born and we haven’t gone extinct as a species! **Screaming, blinding, severing pain**

You’re further along than we thought! Eight centimeters already! Almost there!

FOCUS ON THE TV. In childbirth class, they told us to KEEP A FOCAL POINT. Pant, pant, pant.

…”Ladies and Gentleman, here we see the eye wall nearly making landfall. Take precautions. This is a dangerous storm…”

You can DO this! Breathe!

I can’t I can’t I CAN’T! You don’t understand I CANNOT.

You CAN! You ARE!

I cannot blink, transfixed on my Focal Point. The Weatherman cuts to live feed of Homestead, but the storm is at such a chaotic frenzy, I cannot tell what I’m looking at. The driving winds and rain make everything blurry.

Not long now!

Focal point, PANT, PANT, PUSH. Focal point, PANT, PANT. PUSHHHHH.

…”It’s official. The storm has made landfall. Here we see the eye intensifying as the storm….”

Here she comes!

Searing excruciating pain, pressure.

Good job, Mama!

We urge you to stay indoors, many buildings have lost their roofing…”

JESUS, HELP ME!

One more push! She is coming!

AUUGGHHHHRRRRRR! **I give it EVERYTHING!**

A RUSH. In the physical realm, in the spiritual realm! She was immediately the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I remember being amazed that a human being just exited my BODY.

THERE SHE IS. MY DAUGHTER!

Then silence. She didn’t cry, she didn’t move. In that moment, I summoned what would become MANY a “mom prayer.” It was simply, please Jesus…please. My Spirit made utterances that my mind couldn’t comprehend, and where there were gaps in-between, Holy Spirit intervened.

There is nearly no sound in the room. The Weather Man is silent. I only hear the wind and rain from the television set.

And then her tiny cry. Music to my ears! And her wriggling little body placed on my belly. Angels are present in the room now, I swear to you. I feel their presence welcoming my daughter.

It was as if God whispered in my ear, “You can take your eyes off the storm now. LOOK! Look at her. Nothing else matters!”

My Focal Point has changed entirely, and for life.

The entire labor was three hours long, start to finish. It seemed MUCH longer, I can assure you. And there were some complications for my daughter and I.  I nearly stroked out during the birth, the toxemia was not immediately relieved upon delivery as expected. She was three weeks early and had to have a little extra attention from the pediatricians.

Life is always more complicated than you hope.

But, ya’ll. The new life that came into the world as a result of the pain and pushing and impossibility…

Pain. WHAT pain? Have you seen my baby? She is a MIRACLE!

I wanted to tell everyone, “Hey, I know you THINK you know what love is, but let me tell you…..to have a baby is to REALLY know.”

Bringing it back around to the current day – 2015 has kind of a gestation year for me.  I’ve kind of had my eye on the storm. It didn’t start – nor is it exiting – in quite the way I expected.

But the impossible is going to come into being. I’m claiming it. Because God is always working on the good for those who call Him savior. He’s always brewing up, stirring up, putting things in motion.

We are living in crazy, radical, extreme times. The storm is intensifying…can you feel it? Spiritually, our world is spinning in what amounts to far beyond  a Category 5 storm.

Take precautions. This is a dangerous world. Yet, even in the chaotic frenzy, God is unchanged. People need to know that He is a worthy Focal Point.

Jesus is coming back, and He’s coming back fast.

My prayer for the new year is “HOLY SPIRIT, MAKE LANDFALL!”

Yep, I’m a little scared and intimidated by new opportunities. Things like public speaking and possibly giving my testimony to a national TV audience. Out of my comfort zone, just a tad. I’m giving it EVERYTHING.

I want to say to the world, “Hey, I know you think you know what love is, but to be redeemed in Christ is to REALLY know. Your Creator LOVES YOU just exactly where you are, even in the eye of the storm.”

Please pray with me that God’s voice will rise above the audio-soup of chaos in 2016, and that the hurting ones will receive it.

God bless us, every one!

 

Dreams, Middle Age, Spiritual

The Dream-Maker’s Daughters – Women stepping out in mid-life

wish

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.” – (The Great) Erma Bombeck

By: Jana Greene

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to do a lot of things. But while she was waiting until she had time to do them, she did other things. She became a woman who did lots of important life work:

She became a mother and raised children.

She fell in love and got married.

She wrote a lot of poetry read a lot of books.

She even wrote a few.

She held several full-time jobs at one time or another.

She served in church.

Pretty standard fare.

Then, one by one, many of the manifestations of importance in her life grew up and moved on, fell away, or got too messy to maintain.

As things left, she sought new things to do. But she couldn’t remember what her inner little girl had dreamt of doing in the first place, when she finally had the time to consider it.

The messed up part of her says “Bah! All of it was frivolous and time-wasting. Better you don’t remember those dreams. And especially don’t ACT on the ones you do remember. Time is precious, don’t waste it.”

But her truest identity as Daughter of the King won’t be shushed for exactly that reason….time is precious.

Now, in midlife, she is finding that she has been considering God from a place of paralysis….so afraid to do the wrong thing, she does nothing at all.

“What if I fail?” She asks. “I’m too old to start over.”

Take action, God says. I will bless it if it’s the right thing, and if you are wavering and need to be corrected, I will restore gently. Either you win or you learn, but operate from a place of Love and move. Step out.

Time is only finite, but here’s the thing….it bends to the Creator.

In the tenderest places in her soul – the ones where the King keeps as storehouse for that crazy Grace of His – He keeps reminding her of the truth.

That she is kin to The Dream-Maker Himself, and is more than free to ask Him for new dreams. He delights in His children!

That she is still on a mission, with the benefit of experience to move forward expecting great things.

That this season is a time for exploring and listening, not being plagued with identity crisis. Satan is the author of confusion and the enemy of clarity.

That she is not ‘past her prime’ and done with her purpose until she stops asking “What’s next, Papa?” He placed the dreams in her heart for a purpose in every life stage.

That even though the world has gone mad, God keeps her full of Grace on every occasion. He does not finance her life in a deficit.

That it’s not too late. It’s never too late!

Do the things, Daughter! Do them with joy.

I have come that you have life to the FULL.

Once upon a time there was a woman approaching 50 years of age, and God gave her a little extra time to figure out who she really is.

In this new season, she is grateful for that.

 

Time is finite. Lord Jesus, help me to make my portion count. Let me use up everything you give me, every bit of talent.

AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

Acceptance, afterlife, Christianity, God, Heaven, Jesus, Ministry, serving God, Spirituality

God’s Property – Why Zero is More than Enough

A seat for everyone

By: Jana Greene

If I were privy to the secret of living forever (and given coping mechanisms to live this life to the fullest) but withheld that secret from other people, I would be a pretty sh*tty individual.

But that’s all ministry is.

I once asked a very candid question to a pastor who I respect a great deal.

“Okay,” I said. “To live victoriously, what percent of my sh*t do I have to have together? Ten percent? Fifty? Ninety-nine?”

“Zero,” he replied. “Exactly zero percent.”

“Yeah, but...” I continued.

But I swear some. I think unkind thoughts at times. I yell at people who drive slow in the passing lane. I get frustrated with people on ‘the wrong side’ of political debate. I struggle with food mightily, and a plethora of other issues….

The pastor remained adamant. It’s GRACE, he said. It is finished.

Jesus never once said that in order to serve, we have to have it all together. His disciples were quite a mess, and He CHOSE them. He could have chosen the “holy men” of the day, but he steered clear of those others deemed pious and righteous.

He can use me. He can use you, right where you are. Most days, I AM the ‘one percent’ at having it together…..yet sitting on all the wealth of Christ.

I’m done telling myself I cannot be in “ministry” until I get a certain percent of my sh*t together. Because just when I gain a percentage point for NOT going on a cookie bender, I lose a point for swearing. It’s exhausting, that theology…and the numbers don’t ever crunch just the right way.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, people are desperate for a God who loves them beyond imagination.

A God who isn’t into percentage math.

A God who isn’t looking to cut me a commission, but who considers we messy ones THE Great Commission.

A God so big that human rules cannot contain Him.

It isn’t being perfect or trying to deceive people. It isn’t about striving to “get it right” or about judging others.

It’s being given the key to overcome even death and being willing to make copies of that precious unlocking device so others can get in on what God desires for them.

And being willing to show the property to people who don’t even desire a key. Ministry is showing the property, so to speak.

How else will folks know there is a venue for a love so full?

The Kingdom of God is within us. Literally.

He is CHOOSING you right now.

And you don’t have to have one single iota of your sh*t together before following Him.

I’m grateful for that.

Anniversary, Christian Marriage, Love, Marriage, Relationships, Spiritual

“Whatever Life Looks Like” – An 8th Wedding Anniversary Letter

October 27, 2007 The day I became Mrs. Greene
October 27, 2007
The day I became Mrs. Greene

By: Jana Greene

I don’t remember what life was like before you.

I know the first 37 years of my life existed, obviously. But I was always alone, even when in relationship with others. And I know that I was a complete person then, before I knew you. I wasn’t always a complete person, you know. God had to do a work in me when I was all on my own in order for that to happen.

I’m glad for that because it enabled me to bring a whole person into your world at just the right time.
You changed everything, and for the better.

I can recall the first time our eyes locked in church. I was trying really hard not to look your way. Focus on Jesus, I kept thinking. But I could feel your eyes on me.

I was SO DONE with dating at that point. I’d made up my mind to be single forever, for simplicity’s sake. My mangled-up heart was too raw to consider anything else. But still, it skipped so many beats when you smiled at me.

After church, you asked me to lunch and I said yes, and it changed the trajectory of both of our lives forever. It was (at the risk of sounding completely inane) as if I’d known you my whole life. There was a distinct lack of awkward in our gait together.

After that one event, I was hooked. You were in my bloodstream. You were implanted into my heart. A year later we placed rings on one another’s fingers and pledged our lives to each other, mindful of keeping God at the top of our “relationship triangle” – where he still reigns.

We have needed Him to be at the top of our lives. Loving you has always been effortless, but day-to-day life hasn’t always been easy.

Do you remember a conversation we had when we were dating, in which I offhandedly said, “Things are perfect right now. I hope they never change!” We were in a season of glowy illusion then, everything misty watercolors and cupid’s arrows. (Science says that when we are in love, the same areas of the brain ‘light up’ as do with delusional mental illness. My brain was alight, alright!)

And you said, “Well, of course they’re going to change. Things change all the time, that’s the way life is. But we are in it together no matter what that looks like.”

Life has looked like a lot of things since then!

We were both single parents when we wed. Single parents to teen girls. There were times I wanted to run away from home (but even then, I wanted to take you with me.)

“In sickness and in health” kicked in at starting gate. Richer or poorer, for better or for worse. CHECK.

But we’re still standing.

Eight years ago, life happened, and kept happening. In times of upheaval, we lean into each other harder, and look to God at the top of the triangle to keep us on an even keel so that we don’t fall overboard, and somehow, he keeps showing up and showing off with His love for us.

He really is showing off in our marriage, you know. In a big way.

And the rewards of staying on board are so incredible. You ‘get’ me, and I ‘get’ you, and it’s positively supernatural the way we love one another. Not because it’s easy, but because it is and was always a “God Thing.”

It tickles me that the man I met in church who distracted me from Jesus that day would help me focus on Jesus for the rest of my life in a way I had never done before.

Our wedding vows were not pie-in-the-sky, movie-romance, sugary words spoken as a crime of passion, but as a passionate preamble to a lifetime of “whatever life looks like.”

I’ve got you and you’ve got me, no matter what.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. So much of it looks like laughter, comfort, ease, and passion. It looks like just being ourselves, together.

Our daughters grew up beautifully, with an actual idea of what a good marriage can look like. We are grandparents now. All of the ‘things’ work out and we grow stronger.

I still can’t take my eyes off of you.

My brain has never gone back to ‘normal’ (as if it ever was!) It is still lit up like crazy for you.

Of course things change. Things change all the time, that’s the way life is. We are in it together, whatever that looks like.
Misty water-colors, cupid’s arrows, challenges and trials – all. All of it, I get to do with you.

I cannot remember life before you and I’m glad I don’t have to. God blessed the broken roads that led me straight to you.

Eight years ago, life happened to me at just the right time. You happened to me, My Beloved.
I’m so grateful.

Happy anniversary!

Abba, Christianity, Jesus, Love

Love and the Fluid Flow of Grace

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By: Jana Greene

I was thinking today about love; how it is a hardship. Even when it is the most wonderful thing on the planet. It really is. If you love someone enough, you risk heart damage and an emotional pummeling. Parenthood is a great example of this. Nothing will pummel your heart like a teenager (but take heart….they DO come ‘back around.’) Relationships are hard.

The hardship is in the risk.

No, this is not just another post reminding you that Jesus loves you, or that he endured ultimate hardship in manifesting that love. Although both of those are absolutely true.

It’s about the trustworthiness of an invisible God. That’s what it really comes down to, isn’t it? Is there a Supreme Creator and does He really give two craps about me as a person? Because I struggle, folks. Sometimes I struggle mightily.

My whole life, I’ve believed in the core of my being that I was not ‘enough.’ I confirmed it to myself a thousand times a day in fault-finding, in re-living childhood trauma. Thinking disparaging thoughts about myself – physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually – were my default.

Why would God love me when I can hardly stomach myself? When I feel like a colossal screw-up 90% of the time?

I’m working on that…..listening to what God Almighty says about me vs. all of the bullshit I feed myself about how screwed up I am. It’s all lies, the latter.

And love is winning.

Love is a hardship, by its very nature.
But grace? It’s an easy flow of forgiveness so fluid and so complete, we would sink in it if we weren’t so buoyed by the love. The only hard thing about grace is accepting it.

Grace says I see you.

Grace says I’ve been searching for you!

Grace says I know you – all of the hidden places, each skeleton in the closet, every tear you shed in the agony of loss.

Yeah, I see it and so what? I  just want you near to me. I just want to be close to you.

Please be near to me, God is saying. My grace is not in short supply!

If you cannot accept that God is real and loves you right exactly where you are, that’s okay. Pray that He will reveal Himself to you, and then wait expectantly for Him to REALLY do so. Don’t ask Him to be an intimate part of your life without even believing it’s possible.

If you cannot find one lovable thing about yourself because all of your life people have put conditions on that love and you simply cannot measure up, that’s okay, too. Loving and being loved by humans is risky business, and that’s usually all we ever know.

But there’s more.

Loving and being loved by God carries no risk. Even though He is invisible to our human eyes, He is all around. Isn’t that ironic? If you call out to God, He will NOT strand you. There is no risk that he will drop you and forget about you.

He will come through for you…..In the kind words of a friend. In ministering to the quietest places in your spirit that (if you let them) will echo with the sound of His love in every cell of your being. His love will echo in all of the empty chambers of your heart that you keep barren just in case truth shows up one day.

Truth just showed up. Make room.

He shows up – in a hug from someone you cherish. In nature. In tiny molecules bound together and endless space. It was all created for you to feel His love.

What if the love that created a perfect universe culminated in your very essence? What if accepting grace for what it is – a gift – were the vehicle for bringing that love into your reality?

Make room for Love not bound by human condition. Human love, in its hardship, is risk.

But love from your Father in Heaven is the opposite, full of antonyms that describe Grace as well: Blessing. Boon. Comfort. Consolation. Good fortune. Gratification. Happiness. Joy. Pleasure. Prosperity. Relief Success. And best of all – TRIUMPH.

But there is no risk in letting God love you.

He is trustworthy. And oh so complete is his love for you.

Inspirational, Jesus, Jesus is Love, Love, Radical Love, Recovery

The Main Thing – Jesus and His Crazy Radical Love

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“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. ” – John 3:16

By: Jana Greene

If you know me even casually, you know that God has propelled me into a radical spiritual journey over the past couple of years. I use the word “propelled” because that’s what it feels like….like being ejected from a plane that has been shot down. You know it’s for your own good, that the ‘eject seat’ saved your life, but you are still zooming into the stratosphere at a million miles an hour and the G-Force is a bitch.

Still, I asked him to intervene. I asked God to reveal Himself to me. I just have to trust that He has packed my parachute.

And these times are just so incredibly weird. So RADICAL. It’s easy to become unfocused, with all the brouhaha going on in the world. It’s too easy to become divided into camps in the Christian community.

Pro-gay-marriage. Anti gay-marriage.

Pro-abortion. Anti abortion.

Pro/Anti-Feminist, Immigration, Gun Control….

The list is endless, inducing stridency and resentment in even the most pure-hearted. I feel so strongly about some issues that it literally makes my heart hurt.

The unintentional message we often relay to a world when we shut them out is this:

If you are pro-(fill in the blank) – you are separated from God and also you are making me SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE. So, knock it off already. I will be over here with the Good Christians feeling smug about my superiority if you change your mind about your lifestyle. I will be over here ready to help when you get with the program.

Except for there is EVERY hope for whomsoever believes, if you a sinner. While we were still sinners, Jesus came. And hung out with some of the most disreputable folks of the day, loving them where they are.

I was so sure I had it all figured out, before I asked God to take me deeper. I was so sure I knew all of the main things. I knew where the right side to stand was on every issue. The Biblical stand. The 10 Commandment Stand. I expected God to basically confirm that all the things I was focused on were the “correct” things.

And I was right and you were wrong, and sorry. Just sorry, but there is not hope for you if you don’t tow the line, Buddy.

Just tow the line.

Instead, Abba wrecked my heart with compassion for the people and groups I previously considered unreachable. Just wrecked it, I tell you.

Much like a game of Red Rover, society requires us to pick a side or be picked by a side. And link arms with similarly-minded bretheren, sisteren (or gender-neutral-‘ren) so that when the opposing side sends someone to run up against the chain, no one gets through.

Except that when we do that as believers, NO ONE GETS THROUGH.

No one gets to change sides to the team that is destined to win.

Grace gets lost to the object of the game. And that is not what Christ overcame the world for…..to be elusive to people who don’t think or behave the way we think or behave.

It isn’t that these things aren’t important.

It’s not that some of these things are not sin.

It’s just that none of them are The Main Thing.

“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” Romans 5:8 (MSG)

This crazy world, the one that pushes through our chains of solidarity? Jesus died for THAT world, not the neat and tidy one we like to disenfranchise from. The world is begging to know The Main Thing.

He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves readyBeing weak and rebellious isn’t The Main Thing either.

Jesus. He is the Main Thing.

Do I have it all figured out? No. I have zero superiority over ANY OTHER PERSON ON THIS PLANET and I know it. I’ve figured out that much.

Am I willing to be uncomfortable? Because my comfort isn’t The Main Thing. That was hard to let go of. Comfort is so COMFORTABLE.

Do I risk having other Christians consider me a heretic? What people think about me isn’t The Main Thing either. (That G-Force is a bitch.)

In these radical times, what is The Main Thing?

Jesus is.

That’s all I have to know and that’s all I have to tell YOU.

So, I’m telling you. Christ came to set you FREE!

Red Rover, Red Rover, let WHOMSOEVER come over.

Amen.

This is an interview with a Pastor I have followed for about the past year. I love her message. I love the rawness of it, the energy she brings. I pray that it might bless you today, as you perhaps try to figure out less, and love more.

Just click the link under her picture.

God bless us, every one.

Nadia Bolz-Weber
Nadia Bolz-Weber

Lutheran Minister Preaches A Gospel Of Love To Junkies, Drag Queens And Outsiders

internet, Love, Spiritual

Love in a Strident Age

StridentBy: Jana Greene
If you have a computer, watch the news on TV, hold casual conversations around the water cooler at work, or simply do not live under a rock, you may be noticing the obtrusive, piercing, and jarring way people interact with one another nowadays.

Everybody seems so strident, so harsh and self-righteous and RIGHT about everything, all the time. Worse, from causal conversation to message boards online to Facebook posts and letters to the editor, those same folks lord their views over the rest of us peons who may believe differently. Where does that come from?

If it is not coming from a place of love and compassion, it isn’t of God.

I think the stridency has something to do with the determination that neither God nor devil exists. We make our own rules, and in doing so, have no rules about how to treat one another. The current vernacular seems to be “And in the off chance they do exist (and not just the Almighty Science), they are not the boss of me!”

But as Bob Dylan reminded us in a song released during another strident age, “You may serve the devil, and you may serve the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” When you are your own Higher Power, you are not accountable for hurting others.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

We were all born with natures that desperately wish to be right about everything. Never before have people been so keen on using their own personal opinions to belittle those of others. The explosion of the internet age seems to have renewed our license to do so 100-fold.

Is it wrong to be a man who feels trapped in a woman’s body?

Speaking of a woman’s body, should the life in her womb be considered part and parcel of her alone, or a soul developing separate from her own?

Are you a bigot if you believe in equality for all, rather than special privileges for some?

What about race riots? Am I unsympathetic to consider rioting a crime in itself?

And is it unrealistic to expect that taking guns from a law-abiding people will result in those non-law abiding throwing theirs to the ground?

We all have opinions on all of these issues, some of us very strong ones. You can probably tell how I feel from the way the sentences were worded.

But remember the old adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?” It was a ‘thing’ back before folks found offense in absolutely everything EXCEPT offending one another by means of disrespecting them. Disrespect is ALWAYS offensive.

In asserting our oh-so-surely-right opinions about every conceivable subject, we spew vitriol at even people we purport to love. That’s when we lose everything. That’s when it doesn’t even matter if you are right or wrong. You are bankrupt.

In an internet age, it is helpful to refer to an antiquated (but still living) document that gives advice for how not to leave this world in worse shape than when you entered it. In such a strident age – where everything seems topsy turvy – checking the list can be a helpful way to determine who is influencing you when you engage with others.

(I have to check it myself in order not to wreck myself frequently.)

Love never gives up.
This doesn’t mean fight about it until you are right! This means always remain hopeful for resolution and hope.

Love cares more for others than for self.
Holy moly, this is a biggie. We are only on number two on the checklist and already, I’m squirmy. If I love you more than myself, the nature of my need to be right all the time becomes much less jarring.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
In this case, “what it doesn’t have” is the illusion of being right all of the time. I’ve been guilty of ignoring this one in my quest to best the opinion of one I deemed wrong.

Love doesn’t strut.
“Strutting” proudly in Facebook comments or in real actual life is not an act of love. The enemy loves to see you strut.

Doesn’t have a swelled head.
Our heads are just so crammed with ‘knowledge’ in this explosion of information, we forget to leave room for plain old love.

Doesn’t force itself on others.
OUCH.
I’ll venture to bet that in the entire history of the interwebs, nobody has ever said, ‘gee…..I DID see it this way, but now that you’ve forced it down my throat, I now see it THAT way.”

Isn’t always “Me First”.
This is where it gets the stickiest. Because we are born with ‘me first’ natures and then conditioned to groom that ‘me first’ attitude in all of our affairs. The fastest train to true unhappiness is the Me First Express.

Doesn’t fly off the handle.
Flying off the handle includes putting hurtful thoughts directed toward others to keyboard and on a computer screen.

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.
Another tricky one because, by damn….we LOVE to keep score, don’t we? We are really good at it! If you have determined that I am a terrible human being because of something I believe, you will be sure to keep a scorecard every time I screw up so that you can prove to yourself I am that terrible human being.
Doesn’t revel when others grovel.
If someone offends you and disrespects you, and apologizes, you should especially throw that scorecard away. Keeping no record of wrongs means forgiving.

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.
We all do reap what we sow, of that there is no doubt. Think about that the next time you are tempted to engage with a person who you perceive as ‘goading’ you. Your response will plant a seed. You can plant a seed of your truth without pulling up their whole garden. You can say what you need to say in love. It is a lost art, that.

Puts up with anything.
Short of abuse, of course. If you love someone and their opinions differ from yours (no matter HOW wrong they are!) be patient with them. Love is patient and kind. Not a doormat, but a welcome mat.

Trusts God always.
Choose this day whom you will serve. Because (and this will come as a shock to some of you….) you are not the Highest Power in the universe. If you choose not to serve God, who IS Himself LOVE, you are still making a choice. Serving and trusting go hand-in-hand. He is trustworthy, I promise.

Always looks for the best.
Looking for the worst in people is the path of least resistance, and it is SO easy. But Jesus rolled out the red carpet for the worst sinners, He saw them for who they truly were to His father – royalty. He saw beyond their ideologies and wrong-thinking.

Never looks back.
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” C.S. Lewis knew it. I know it, too.

But keeps going to the end.
It’s a process, to be sure. But until I breathe my last, I will keep striving to be less strident and more full of Love. To be rich in it, you know? Not bankrupt of respect for others. Because we all have to live on this big blue marble together by God’s design.

Love never dies.
And at the end…..what end?

The thing about love is that you take it with you. Every kindness, every positive word you give others in place of disrespect, every encouragement – it all lasts forever. It is the only thing that lasts forever. Harsh words sting and rot the flesh until death. But words said in love? They flower and you carry the scent into heaven with you.

When you manifest hatred toward someone because of their beliefs, you too are a bigot. When you manifest disrespect toward another human being, you are bankrupt. You have nothing to draw from to prove yourself either wrong or right – your account is already empty.

Whom are you serving? The obtrusive, piercing, and jarring way people interact with one another nowadays comes from somewhere. God is not at its source.

Now, see….if God is Love itself, there is hope. This is what I love about Jesus. While we were still sinners – obnoxious, self-righteous, strident and rude sinners –  (who perhaps denied his very existence) he died for us. He manifested love. He simply IS LOVE.

Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled….

And this absolute truth –

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

So, how to conduct ourselves until we see clearly? It starts with recognizing that loving others is more important that “being right” about everything. That includes loving the ones who simply don’t care that they are not acting in love toward others.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.

*Scripture referenced found in 1 Corinthians 13:3-13 (The Message)

12 Steps, AA, Addiction, alcoholism, Brokenness, Celebrate Recovery, Creation, Devotional, Faith, God, Grace, Healing, Health, Hitting the bottom, Holy Spirit, Inspirational, Jesus, Recovery, rehab, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality, substance abuse

STEP TWO – Taking off the God Pants

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STEP TWO
 We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Biblical comparison: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13 
There is a God out there. And I am not Him.
Seems a reasonable enough, right? I’m pretty sure YOU know that I am not God, that I didn’t mastermind the universe and place the heavenly bodies in orbit.
But at one point in my life as an active alcoholic – on some really deeply corroded level – I behaved as if I were perhaps God.
No, I didn’t create the universe, but I believed I was able to control my consumption from a liquid in a bottle.
Yet, over and over again, I made hollow promises to myself that tomorrow I would not drink. Period. After a period of thousands of ‘tomorrows’ and repeating the same behavior, I began to question my sanity. Isn’t the definition of ‘insanity’ doing the same thing the very same way over and over, expecting a different result?”
 Time, Higher Power, and that pesky Sanity
Step Two is an action step, in that it takes movement and time on your part.
It doesn’t say “We believe that a power grater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
It states “We came to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Another way of saying “I came to believe” is that I have faith. How do you ‘get’ faith? We have long heard that you either have faith or you don’t, that you can exercise your ‘faith muscle’, and even that faith is ‘blind.’ I believe none of those things, actually. Because each and every one of those misconceptions places the glory of your faith squarely on you. Faith is not earned, it is a gift that our Father wants us all to know we have. Ask God to help you trust in the faith he has already planted in you – trusting Him to do what you cannot do for yourself – and your faith will grow.

He is a good father. If you ask for bread, He will not give you a stone.

“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 11:11 (MSG)

In Luke 17, the apostles came up and said to the Master, “Give us more faith.”  But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy-seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it.”

Wouldn’t you like to tell your addiction to go jump in a lake?

Understanding that and really embracing it is a process. It’s a faith thing, not a ‘knowing’ thing, so I cannot open a text book and show you it’s true. It takes time to allow what you are wrapping around your mind to melt down into your heart and get gooey love into the deepest crevices of your spirit and what you believe.

What is the catalyst for making that happen in Step Two? Higher Power, of course. My Highest Power (and personal friend, and counselor, and Creator who masterminded the universe and placed the Heavenly bodies in orbit…yeah, that one) is Jesus Christ. I know that in many 12 Step programs, many different applications of a Higher Power are utilized – and in some, none is recognized at all. All I can tell you is what works for me, and Jesus is the ONLY way I’ve maintained sobriety for over fourteen years now (still, one day at a time.)

He is as real as can be – even more so than you or I. Ask Him for help every single day, and he will never forsake you. He loves the brokenhearted, the addicted, the desperate. And He is a Restoration Specialist, especially when it comes to Sanity. We are all a little crazy, right? I think that’s fair to say.

The sanity referred to in Step Two is not addressing our quirks and individual weirdness. It is speaking to rebuke the insane behaviors that we engage in as active alcoholics and addicts.

The insanity that spurs you to place your drug of choice above your children and family.

The insanity that manifests when you tell yourself, “never again” (and really MEAN it each time,) only to drink and use the next chance you get.

The insanity that keeps you down, telling you that you will NEVER be well. You will NEVER get clean.

The insanity that makes you a person that you detest, who does things you know are wrong and destructive.

There is a better way, and Step Two puts it at your fingertips. Take off the God Pants (they are an awful fit, anyway) and ask your Higher Power to restore you to sanity, to really living.  Ask Him to take that poppy-seed sized grain of faith you have and activate it so that it can expand and you can apply it to your recovery. He is the Restoration Specialist, and He loves you more than you can ever understand.

Prayer: Father God, fill us with Holy Spirit in all the spaces chemicals used to reside. Don’t let our faith lie dormant, but help us understand the power we carry that makes all things – sobriety among them – possible through you! We’ve done it our way….Jesus, do it your way now, and help us to trust you through every step. – Amen

Dogs, Faith, God, Heaven, Hope, Jesus, Spirituality, trust

All About the Ride – A Doggie’s Guide to Truly Living

Emmie Greene
Emmie Greene

For the last post in this series of “Seven Little Action Words,” I have resurrected this piece about my dog, Emmie. I simply cannot think of anyone who embraced life (and trust, for that matter) with such unconditional zeal. She is in Heaven now (yep, I am 100% sure that animals go to Heaven when they pass on) but she has left this world with the legacy of her “rally-ability.” She was a trooper, and really…so am I. I pray this peek into her spirit blesses you today and helps you channel YOUR inner Golden Retriever.

By: Jana Greene

Living.

I took Emmie the Elderly Golden Retriever to the vet this morning. It’s only for a nail-trim, I told her when she balked a bit about getting into the back-seat. It was cold outside, and her old bones don’t like the cold. Finally she did her best to jump into the car, her posterior getting a little boost from me.

Along the way,  I rolled down the window so that my rear view mirror was filled with the vision of Emmie’s face behind me – full splendor, tufts of golden fur and a wide smile of teeth and gums (okay, mostly gums) and eyes squinting in the cold sunlight. She had forgotten that there was a destination involved. She was all about the ride.

When we arrived at the vet’s office, she remembered, of course. The last time we’d been here, she was extremely sick. She had suddenly developed a violent gastrointestinal issue and fever, and lost an alarming amount of weight as a result. At fifty-two pounds, she seemed all ribs and misery and the vet was not hopeful for her recovery. She was tested for all manner of parasites and disease, only to come up empty.

“She is nearly fourteen years old,” the Vet had said. As this that explained everything.

“I know,” I said in return, trying not to bawl. I know that some day, it will explain everything. But not that day.

Some people think it’s ridiculous to pray for dogs, but I disagree. As it happened, Emmie’s illness went away as suddenly as it had begun, and she rallied mystifying vigor. Within days of special food and treats, extra rubbing and loving, she perked right up. Once again, she was my shadow, following me around from room to room as I worked around the house even though it meant constant motion and achy joints. That girl is a trooper.

So, the last time we were at the vet’s office, Emmie had been poked and prodded, her old bones jostled about. She has a pretty good memory for an old lady. I had to coax her out of the car with extra-syrupy sweet talk and skritches behind the ears. She walked slowly to the door, like I’m not buying it, Mom, but I’ll follow you because I love you.

We went into the Dog Door, because our vet has a Cat Section and a Dog Section and ideally, never the twain should meet. Emmie has two brothers that just happen to be cats, cool characters the total opposite of her loopy, goofy, people-pleasingness. Two feline brothers who she is still adjusting to after five years of grafting into the family. So I think she especially appreciates the Dog Door. I know I do.

Upon setting paw inside, she developed the shakes – all over. Nervy, full-body shakes that shiver her bones (which I am pleased to report, are getting some meat on them finally). I’m too old for this crap, she is thinking.

I whispered comforts to her. But she doesn’t speak the King’s English, so she’s still not buying it.

A very nice lady in scrubs covered with a collage of cats came out to gather her. She took her leash and gently encouraged Emmie to follow. Emmie declined by digging her dragon-lady nails into the tile until ever so slowly, she disappeared into the grooming room. She turned around before the door was closed and looked at me with giant, chocolate drop eyes slightly milky with age to say, “You’re giving me to a stranger wearing cat-covered scrubs?”

But one of the amazing things about Emmie is her rally-ability. Within minutes, she was finished, neatly tapping her new mani-pedi on the same tiles she had tried digging into and with the same semi-toothless grin she displays with her head out the window.  Emmie the Elderly Golden Retriever inspires me with her trust.

She just wants to be wherever I am. When I shut the door and she happens to be on the other side of it, she lays against the crack like a live draft-catcher, just to be as close as possible to her master – no matter what.

Emmie the Elderly Dog reminds me about trust and unconditional love a lot these days. I have a tendency to dig in when having to face an old obstacle; I have a pretty good memory, too.  Oh, no. I’ve been here before! Or simply, I’m too old for this crap.

But do I want to be as close as possible to The Master, no matter what? He always takes me gently by the lead. That’s the only way to keep rallying, in my experience. To live.

Okay, Father. I’m not seeing the point in this, but I’ll follow you because I love you. And God whispers comforts, too, when I listen.

I want so badly to be loopy and goofy with God-pleasingness, following Him around even though it requires constant motion (and achy-ness of the soul, on occasion) – a Trooper. Sometimes I try to have my own way – to be a cool character grafted awkwardly into a family that takes some adjusting to. But other times, I can channel my inner Golden Retriever, with the Father’s help. Those are the best times, spiritually.

All about the ride.

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)

Creation, Grace, Holy, Inspirational, Jesus, Recovery

Agape for Amateurs: a love letter from God

Only love to lose

Oh Dear Created One,

Do you know who you are to me?
I am Love….only ever good.

And you are my handiwork.
By avoiding me, you have only love to lose. And love is everything.

I am not angry with you. In Jesus, I gave myself to you, for you – redemption in one fail swoop. When you have a misstep, I am saddened because you are hurting. But I will never leave you. I am with you to the ends of the earth and in the deepest crevices of your spirit.

Your hurting places don’t scare me away.
When you deny me, curse me, hide from me – I do not shy away, nor do I condemn you. The finished work of my Son ensures you that I keep no records of your wrongs, but are  courting you all along.
Where there is love, I am.

This fallen world – where hope seems in deficit – does not merit your trust. But I do.

I am trustworthy.

All the things you’ve been foolish for have torn you down, yet you are so afraid to be a “fool” for me?
Enough of the fallen. Enough of the foolish self-dependency. Walk with me – I long to raise you up!

That small, still voice? It’s me nudging you. Can you feel it? Let yourself consider that I am never more than a nudge away. That roaring storm of emotion that pulls at you? Called by 1,000 different names, the emotion is my urging , too. You were created to feel.

Without relationship with me, you have only love to lose. But love is everything.
I delight in you – created to love, created for love.

Your quirks and your passions make you one of a kind, in a world of billions. I see you.
I see you!

And you matter to me.

“This life is hard,” you say – and I know that it’s true. You see, I am human, too. The friend I left to you – the Holy Spirit – is available to you, in you.

The Spirit rejoices with you in times of celebration, and in times of sorrow, she brings great and all-encompassing comfort.

Cut through what others have told you about me. Throw away the ritualistic, legalistic, egotistic religion. Cut through the culture of shame. Have your own relationship with me – I dare you to seek me for who I truly am…

Not a figment of imagination in stories from dusty texts, but a force of creation, life, and love to be reckoned with.

Nothing is happenstance. Believe in me, and you have all the love to gain!
In your hurting places.
In your hiding places.

There is no deficit of hope, Dear One. Only the great gulf between us that you’ve erected in the name of self-preservation. I would love to close that gap and draw you so near that you feel my breath in your ear as we embrace. I do so long to embrace you!

When you seek me, I am there waiting – with wild, reckless love.
I delight in you.
Seek my face, and I shall never hide from you. There is no other like you – You are my BELOVED!

With love,

Your Papa God

“Hallelujah! Sing to God a brand-new song, praise him in the company of all who love him. Let all Israel celebrate their Sovereign Creator, Zion’s children exult in their King. Let them praise his name in dance; strike up the band and make great music! And why? Because God delights in his people, festoons plain folk with salvation garlands!” – Psalm149:1-4 (The Message)

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Addiction, Recovery

When Recovery Means Saying Goodbye

REEL

Goodbyes are hard.

They are hard enough when made seamlessly – a  Bon Voyage before a long trip, planned and executed with love and attention to detail.

Goodbye is difficult, even under the best of circumstances, but there is closure to a well-rounded farewell – an “Until we meet again.”

When I got sober, I said goodbye to alcohol in all it’s forms. It was a very hard break-up, because the connection was so intimate. We snuck around, alcohol and I. We had memories, a history. Goodbye to tart Chardonnay and mellow brew. Goodbye to neon beach drinks with little umbrellas. Goodbye Nyquil.

The parting was long-wrought but swift. Abstinence – unlike mere absence – does not make the heart grow fonder. The further I separated from my lover alcohol, the clearer it became that I was better off without it. Good riddance.

But a funny thing happened during our breakup. Not unlike the separation of any two coupled entities, our friends took sides. But instead of Team Alcohol and Team Jana, my loved ones seemed to belly up to one of two bars: Team Drunk Jana and Team Sober Jana. And I wasn’t expecting that development, honestly. I had naturally assumed that the people who loved me would rally behind Team Sober, but that is not what happened.

My whole world changed, one tenuous moment at a time. Every single nerve in my being was on high alert, but everyone else just kept living as though nothing was happening. As if nothing had changed. It was at this juncture that I had to erect those pesky boundaries. But boundaries with others are only good when they are respected, and as we know – people in the throes of addiction themselves are not great respecter of boundaries.

Sometimes, that means saying goodbye to people we love.

In truth, “everyone else” did not become more dysfunctional as I grew in recovery. The dysfunction just became clearer to me. It is a testament to my level of disease that I had not realized it before. I developed a mental allergy to high drama, and an emotional allergy to the abusive drinking and using of others.

The sad truth is that there are people I’ve known my whole life that will always prefer Team Drunk. They found me more laid-back, easier to manipulate, and less confident when I was active in my addiction. But the problem with the former me is that I was a dumbed-down, numbed-down version of myself before I got sober. I am a new creation in recovery.

Where does healthy acceptance of others meet healthy self-care? I don’t purport to know.

Is “you make me want to drink” enough of a reason to cut ties? I think it can be.

Is “you hurt me” enough of a reason to distance? Team Sober says unequivocally, yes.

My heart still longs for a connection for some of the people to whom I have said ‘goodbye.’ It is  a very hard break-up, because the connection was so intimate. We had a history. I love them dearly, dearly.

What to do with the jagged, messy edges of goodbye in recovery when the amends I’ve tried to make with others don’t match up with the edges of self-care in a nice, neat seam? When the closure has no well-rounded farewell – an “Until we meet again?”

Team Sober says to approach it just like every other recovery issue – this Bon Voyage before the longest, best journey of recovery – planned and executed with love and attention to detail for the sake of my life.

One single day at a time.

 

Fathers, Love, Marriage, Parenting

Valor, quietly: What “Father-ness” really looks like

“Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too.”

– John Mayer, “Daughters”

I used to be a big fan of greeting cards – Instagram-esque images on the front, the oh-so-eloquent sappiness that makes up the text inside. But these days, I’m finding that Hallmark doesn’t always capture the essence of occasions. Here in my sepia years (not near ‘golden’, mind you) mass-generated greetings don’t cut it.

Looking for a Father’s Day card to recognize my husband, I hovered over a card on the rack that pictured the quintessential daddy-daughter image: A black-and-white picture of dancing feet – a little girl’s bare feet perched upon her father’s leather Oxfords. I love that image.

Isn’t that what father-ness looks like?

What does it look like, as a reel – instead of a snapshot? It is a no guts, no glory endeavor. Father-ness also looks like a million other little acts of devotion.

It looks like canceling long-awaited plans to attend a chorus concert/band performance/theatrical production that a child forgot to mention until the day of.

It looks like children whom he has advised can “tell him anything” will, in fact, tell him anything.

It looks like forgoing something he wants – or even needs – so that the girls can have what they want and need.

It looks like giving 100% in the little things, like positive reinforcement for clean dishes and put-away laundry.

It looks like giving 100% with little or no notice for big things – like weddings. Moves. Driver’s licenses.

It looks like unselfishness.

It looks like knowing a child’s favorite birthday cake flavor, and going to all the grocery stores in town until you find it.

It looks like making taking the time to hear their points-of-view of his kids  (even when they make no sense, even when they are “wrong”.)

It looks like insisting that they treat their mother/step-mother with respect, even in the sassiest teen years (such a mouthy time!)

It looks like openly loving God, while respecting the truth that each daughter is on her own the journey to discover that God is real.

It looks like praying on behalf of each one of them, every day.

It looks like midnight runs to the skating rink, and dropping four other loud, yapping, excitable teens off at their own houses, so their parents don’t have to make a midnight run. Sometimes, it looks like four or five loud, yapping, excitable teens having a sleepover at his house.

It means rolling with the punches, constantly – without harboring resentment, or bestowing guilt on the children.

It looks like valor, quietly.

It looks like giving away his life’s treasure to her new husband on her wedding day, and making that day as memorable as possible for her.

It looks like buying class rings that he knows will be worn once, and then sit in a drawer. And it means never mention a word of the expense again.

It looks like treading the fine line to deal with a daughter’s choice to date the over-cologned, greasy haired, lip ring-wearing, juvenile delinquent, junior Bad Ass (completely unworthy of her,) without being overbearing (thus increasing the boy’s appeal ten-fold.)

It looks like buying feminine hygiene products when necessary – without embarrassment. Without missing a beat.

It looks like stick-to-it-ness when going through the drudgery of parenting, honestly – the day-in, day-out homework inquiries.

It looks like having stunt-man like ability to roll off the drama.

It looks like learning – and accepting – that all three daughters respond differently to different situations, that “one size” rules, privileges, and relating does not fit “all.”

It looks like honoring our daughters, even when their behavior is not honor-worthy.

It looks like standing in a darkened window with a notepad in-hand to write down the license plate number of a boy who has picked up a daughter for a date. (Date my daughter? Be ready to be properly vetted. ) Note to daughters: Yes, he did this – and with enough forethought to make sure the dining room lights were off before you left. Better visibility.

It looks like shuttling kids to doctor appointments, play practices, sleep-overs, and SAT tests. And back again.

It looks like listening to Christina Aguilera, when he’s in a Robert Cray kind of mood.

It looks like being the practical parent; not always getting to be the fun parent. It looks like school supplies instead of frivolities, in leaner times.

It looks like treating your wife exactly the way you want your daughters to be treated by their husbands.

My Beloved’s flesh-and-blood daughter was born with the privilege of calling him “Dad.” He has raised her most of her life. She is a married now, still Daddy’s Girl at 22 years old.

“Most people experience just having a mom raise you – or even both parents if you’re lucky – but I always just had my dad,” she recently told me. “He is the one person who told me what he thought and then let me make my own decisions without judgment…always dropping everything to help me, and giving me the biggest hugs, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye. He has given me a life to be proud of, always giving me the best advice and showing me how to better my future. “

For my own two daughters, My Beloved came on the scene when they were 10 and 13; the first and only man I dated as a single mom that my daughters immediately gave the stamp of approval (I only dated a couple, I swear!)

“Mom didn’t really have any boyfriends before my step-father, but she did go on dates occasionally,” my youngest, now 18,  says. “Being the grumpy child that I was, I did not like any of them, but something about him was different. He didn’t just care about mom; he cared about my sister and I – and he went out of his way to show it. A few weeks into his relationship with my mother, he surprised me with a necklace of my favorite animal – a penguin. It had a gold chain and crystal eyes, and came in a penguin-shaped case. It wasn’t my birthday or anything … he just wanted to show me that he cared. I hoped that he would be my stepfather, and I am so grateful that it happened!”

My eldest, also now 22,  came to appreciate that he put in the time with parental grunt work: “A lot of things stick out to me when I think about my step-father,” she says. “He took time to come to all my school events and basically ‘owned’ us all from the get-go. One of my favorite memories is recent – just last month – when he came and sat with you during my tonsillectomy even though he didn’t have to….even though I was pretty out-of-it, and wouldn’t have known if he had skipped it. Waking up and seeing that he was there, that meant a lot to me. That’s just who he is. He is really that person.”

What does Father-ness look like, really look like?
So much better than a Hallmark card; so much deeper than Instagram-esque imagry and sappy sentiment. Off the rack; a reel of a million little acts of devotion. And some really big ones.

It looks like love.

Footnote from My Beloved’s daughter, Lynzee, who is leaving to be with her husband stationed in Japan in just a few days:

“Dad…
I’m not a very adventurous person. But you always told me, ‘You’re never going to see what the world has to offer you unless you put yourself out there and try new things.’
So now that I’m an ‘old married lady’; I have a chance to go to Japan for three years. Even though I haven’t left yet, I already miss you.
Thank you for working so hard. You’re always my secure place to call home. You are an awesome dad, and I love you.”