Sometimes when I pray, I’m not even sure what to pray for anymore. But when God brings someone to my mind, that’s the impetus to pray for them.
I don’t mean giving God “instructions” on how to help someone, which I used to call “praying with specificity.” I replaced elaborate prayers with simple trust in God, because the most eloquent prayers are “help help help” and “thank you thank you thank you” (as my favorite author Anne Lamott opines.)
Reconstructing my faith has evolved how I speak with God.
I ask and then I try to listen. Because there is no wrong way to pray, and prayer is designed to be communication from one sentient being to a supreme being, no holds barred.
Once I saw a movie that recommended having a “War Room” – a physical place to go to pray where the reception is clearest to God and where mighty battles are fought in the heavenlies, waiting for our next words to change the outcome in supernatural realms.
So of course I decorated my closet with scripture and crosses aplenty. But all I managed to do was feel guilty that I wasn’t praying more (or right?) every damn time I had to grab a pair of shoes out of the closet.
Was I praying enough? What if I don’t and when I get to Heaven, God informs me that he really wanted to do this magnificent thing, but I was two beggings short of getting the outcome I desired.
See, that puts the onus on me. And the onus is not on me – it is on Love.
I don’t make a big show for myself now, prostrate in my literal prayer “closet,” striving, striving, striving to be the person “God created me to be.” Building a tower of Babylon with my puny, pleading words (which are beautiful to him, by the way, but his love is not dependent upon them.)
No. I mean that if you come to my mind during the course of my day, I am simply asking God to love on you in a way that’s tangible. God loves n us through one another, nature, laughter, and hugs from friends.
If you have a need or a heartbreak, I focus my intention on your hurt as best I can, and believe in advance that he is walking alongside you, no matter what event is anguishing you. Being a very visual person, I picture you in a cloud of love, total acceptance, resolution, and peace. I can’t describe it any better than that, but trust me, it’s better than that.
Just like us, the Holy Spirit craves connection. That’s all prayer really is.
And I ask him to increase your awareness of him in and around us. Because he is always at work in and around us, even when we aren’t begging for his favor. I pray he uses me in any capacity he sees fit to convey his great love.
“Broken lines, broken strings, Broken threads, broken springs, Broken idols, broken heads, People sleeping in broken beds Ain’t no use jiving Ain’t no use joking Everything is broken” –
-The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Our microwave finally pooped out. After 18+ years, it’s dead. Our stove isn’t heating up like it should. I have to be SO careful about what I eat and this makes food preparation that much more difficult.
We have had to replace our fridge / washer / dryer in just the past couple of years because they all died at once. We have three cars, only one with working A/C, and she had 200,000+ miles on it. We love that car. She’s a real trooper.
And I get the feeling like that’s ALL of us right now: Look at us all – an army of badasses. Damn if we aren’t all freaking troopers for making it through whatever shitshow the word is currently.
And all of that wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t broken too. Because today I am feeling very, very broken. Like literally all of my joints feel especially loose and painful. If my Earth Suit did it’s JOB to keep things stable and in place, that would be amazing.
I dislocated my thumb again today opening a Topo Chico, for example. What a stupid injury. My injuries are never, “She jumped out of a plane and survived!,” or “she went water skiing and now she is a human pretzel.” No. More like… the time I stepped out of the bed to go pee in the middle of the night and just torqued my right ankle, which snapped the bone. Then I walked around on that broken ankle for 11 days, too stubborn to get it checked out. By the time I got an X-ray, it was broken in TWO places, and surgical pins, plates, and rods were out in. But I digress.
The POINT is I can injure myself in the most asinine ways. Most things in life are made up of broken parts, and I’m eternally trying to learn how to process that reality.
We are all just walking eachother home,” is my new favorite observation.
Now whether we get “home” in a rust bucket (aka my actual body), or a well-appointed, nice and reliable sedan – a nice, tidy life that turned out great because you did “all the right things,” well, that’s for serendipity to hash out.
And that’s the cosmic irony, isn’t it? If our lives were neat and tidy, we’d have no real need for each other. We are only really here to learn how to love and accept love in return.
We need doctors who will help us manage our pain. We need microwave manufacturers. And we need friends, because there are 7 billion people on this planet and not one of us knows what we are doing. Not ONE. But maybe a few can show you the route home, and you can – in kind – do the same.
So, lean on to eachother like your life depends on it, because it does. Let’s spiritually exit the machinery that cranks out unrealistic expectations, and walk arm-in-arm, until we’re “home.”
My gastroperesis is flaring so hard I’m barely able to keep any food down. This throws other medical issues into a hellish spiral.
My chronic pain has been ridiculous.
We have very difficult things to deal with in the family right now. Really hard things.
I’ve cried several times today, which is no small feat when you’re on antidepressants. It felt awful to cry, and then really good…cleansing.
And it seems a counter-intuitive measure to wallow around in pain and sadness, but every once in a while, you need a good wallow.
Today I will cry, and rest, and bitch about my woes to my ever-patient husband.
I will likely beat myself up for having to cancel plans with friends, and hate myself for feeling melancholy.
I will feel like I am not handling life well AT ALL. (While reminding myself that despite it all, knowing I’m doing my very best.)
At some point, to be transparent, I will feel guilty for even having this little nervy-B, guilty for unloading on my husband, and guilty for having the audacity to complain about this life, when I am truly blessed in so many ways.
I’m pretty sure I’m not done crying today. God, I hope not. There’s a long line of tears queued up in my spirit that need to be purged.
I hope that tomorrow, by some measured miracle, the world on fire won’t seem quite so much like utter doom.
Today I will wallow. I’ll sleep and watch Schitt’s Creek (it’s a balm to my soul), and talk with God about WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. And I’ll look forward to better days.
Because they are always on the way, you know – better ones.
This is one of those pieces that originated as pure pent-up anxiety that would only be assuaged by writing. It’s a little rambly!
By: JANA GREENE
On the way to the dentist, I passed a gentleman whose entire existence was contained in a shopping cart. My heart lurched heavy in my chest. I gave him what cash I had, which wasn’t much. “God bless you,” I said. But it rang hollow in my throat.
The rest of the drive, I thought about how many thousands of times I’ve told people that.
If God could bless him, he wouldn’t be living out of a shopping cart, would seem evidential, so I told God so, as if maybe he forgot this one straggler, and PLEASE COULD YOU GET ON THIS?
Like I can tell God about mercy.
See…this is where the deconstructing of religion has given me a great gift. A really wonky, welcome, serendipitous gift.
If for no other reason than it gave me permission to give voice to the GIANT chasm of inequity, I increasingly became aware of. I cared; I really did. But the sheer inequality didn’t shred my spirit.
My God is only ever Good, I believed on the surface. But I couldn’t reckon that with all the pain – personally and globally.
God will rescue you from suffering, is easy to say. But I kept getting sicker.
God has a PLAN. (Which is totally true, but not always helpful.)
His ways are not our ways. (No SHIT!)
You know those HGTV shows where they find a property and deem it worthy of saving even though it looks like a straight-up dumpster fire? My Spirit was a real fixer-upper. The rebuilding of my faith stripped away the pretty stucco facade of a neat and tidy belief system and turned it into a real shitshow. Wrecking balls. Bulldozers. Hard hats required. Flattened it into the ground. I was sure that was a wrap on my relationship with a Higher Power.
But SPOILER ALERT: I can’t do that. I’ve seen things. I’ve felt things. My heart of hearts knows things. I suspect yours does too.
It’s a gift to be able to question existence without feeling damned to Hell for it (eternal conscious torment is a topic for another day.) It stands to reason that the innate ability to question God is a gift he alone gives. If we don’t feel comfortable enough to approach the throne without fear, where’s the relationship?
Unfortunately, my “healthy fear” of God kept me from God, because deferring to somebody you’re terrified of is not a good model. Fear was the theme of my entire childhood, and a “healthy fear” of God kept me from some degree of meaningful spiritual growth. That’s just me.
So, it’s a work in progress. But as we say in the Program: “Progress, not Perfection.”
My soul is on a state-of-the-art foundation now…though there is still scaffolding all the way around (which I’m hoping is permanent, to hold my structure in ongoing work.) But the house is solid. Good bones, as they say. There’s still a bit of debris, which makes excellent confetti with which to celebrate LIFE and all the chaos that is part and parcel. The interior is shaping up, too; although it feels like it’s taking forever, it’s right on the Designer’s schedule. Open floor concept – very spacious.
I have no answer as to why some of us are born into one station or another. Why some of us are healthy and some will always be sick. Sickness is my sticky wicket. I don’t know why I’m having this whole, soul-lurching, discombobulating, radical spirit reckoning the past few years.
But I know it’s got me thinking things like: That gentleman living out of the shopping cart? He could BE God, for all I know…can you imagine if we ALL treated one another with the reverence we allow only God? What if we really saw God in every person. Oy vey, so much to think about.
I can only explain it as: God is only Love. When our souls’ sense that benevolent drenching in experience nature, that is God.
God + Love…there ya go. That’s my whole entire theology:
Shit happens, but God is Love.
(Now the rest of the blog will be me hashing out what that looks like; pull up a chair.)
When we are bothered for people less fortunate (whether we deem them at “fault” for it or not)…
When we declare grace over people (who we have decided are pushing their luck in the grace department.)
When we are enjoying the purely divine gift of music and the chords hit so hard that you hit repeat for a solid half-hour…
When babies smile at us in the grocery store checkout lines…
When a friend sends a heart emoji for no reason…
When your husband kisses you on the top of your head…
When are we allowed to get angry with God and ask him the hard questions without fear?
WHEN WE ARE HUMAN….
God is there. God is love.
WE ARE the mercy.
You are not a wayward straggler, but a sturdy and essential journeyman, who is going to get through this pandemic – and a million other very hard things – and come out laughing.
We don’t have to hustle for our worthiness. There is genuine GOD in you.
This time of year makes me reflect on the mind-blowing kindness and generosity that me and my little family were shown back in the day.
You see, this picture brings back SO many memories…some of them heart-wrenching.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but for me, this one is worth a million. I hadn’t seen it in forever, but I remember taking it like it was yesterday!
I had just left the girls’ father and we were legally separated. The girls and I had nowhere to go, so a dear friend gave me a reduced rate to stay temporarily in Atlantic Towers (such a blessing.)
This photo was taken there. I loved that it had bright pink walls. I told the girls it was because we were so full of GIRL POWER, they painted them pink special for us.
At the time, I had a restraining order out on my ex (so you KNOW that added stress) and no money. I was receiving NO help. And I mean, NO help. Not even from my own family members. That was a brutal learning curve.
I went from one part time job to four jobs to feed my kids. I wrote freelance, worked for a realtor, became the receptionist at another company, and cleaned motel rooms on the weekends. When I was with my babies I worried how I would take care of them myself. When I was at work, I missed them terribly. Mommy guilt was only eclipsed by pure fear.
I had a new sobriety that was only three or four years old, and I was DESPERATELY trying to keep it and not start drinking again. (I did keep my date of sobriety which is Jan. 3, 2001.)
I’d left everything behind but a few sticks of furniture, the clothes on our backs, and the kids’ Barbie toys. Not much else.
I was truly starting over after 14 years in a bad marriage and struggling not to drink, after nearly killing myself with alcohol only a few short years prior.
My girls look happy in this picture, but it was a rough time for them too. My goal was to shield them from my own grown-up problems, and make it an adventure of sorts. They were the lights of my life then. (And they still are.)
At the time, I could not imagine how I would get through that difficult season. I lost 80 pounds from stress. I had been a stay at home mom all my daughters lives, and had ZERO IDEA what would happen to all of us.
But then a miracle happened…and the venue for said miracle was the Carolina and Kure Beach communities, whose members rallied around us that year in the early 2000’s.
And I mean they rallied!
It was Christmas time, which made everything harder, but the local fire station gifted my girls with toys from Santa. A dear friend bought them bicycles!. One friend kept my girls in donated clothes for a year. One amazing friend invited us over for Thanksgiving and Christmas and welcomed us as if we were all true family. Another helped us out with food for a while. One watched my girls for me when I worked. And another helped me keep the heat on one particularly cold month.) One practically adopted me and treated me like a daughter, and does still.
I did nothing to deserve any of that, but the magnitude of blessing still floors me.
I wasn’t FROM there, you see. I wasn’t a “local;” But they MADE me a local through kindness. Dozens of (then) strangers came out of the woodwork. I could do nothing for any of them, nothing. They just poured forth things we needed, acts of friendship, and so much support, and love. I’m happy to report I cherish them still today.
Meanwhile, I learned how to work my ass off and provide for my kids. I worked on my own issues. I put up strong, necessary boundaries. I learned how to forgive myself. And I managed to stay sober, all glory to God!)
So from one old snapshot for TBT came a tidal wave of gratitude today,, and with that, this very wordy, rambling post.
Now when I look at these 9 and 12 year old faces in the photo, I can rest easy knowing that these two grew up to be beautiful, funny, kind-hearted people. They grew up awesome, and the dark times only grew us closer.
They are 26 and 29 now. My world.
Boy, I wish I had truly trusted God when I was going through it! But my points are twofold:
When at your absolute darkest, keep going kiddo. You CAN do hard things, I promise. You can, and you will. And if you lean into Source, you’ll FLOURISH.
Community is so important. We are all made designed to need each other. Every single member of every community is precious.
And all you single mamas going through the midst of a nightmare like this, I promise it’s true for YOU and your babies, too!
These days I have new struggles, but I try to pay forward any and every kindness shown to me. I try to diversify my kindness portfolio, as it were. Love on everyone, I’m every circumstance. I fall short a LOT, but oh the joy in paying kindness forward!
But it seems important to remind you, if you’re hurting:
The kids really WILL be ok. You ARE stronger than you think. It’s OKAY to ask for help. It’s EVEN OKAY to accept help! God has not abandoned you There are wonderful, amazing things awaiting you in the other side of the mess you’re going through.
Love is the singular thing, and absolutely everything, all at once. All are in it and of it, imbued with this remedy. It is the answer to whatever ails your heart. Love is all that lives on after our Earth Suits fail. It is fed and starved by a thousand moods, yet always nourishes. Love lands in its feet. It’s the only thing we were legit created to experience. Love is like sacred oil – fragrant and dousing and scandalously generous. It leaves a film on you all of your days, and everyone in your world gets a little “oily” when you touch their lives. (Touch them lots!) Love pisses people off when it is believed undeserved, when really people are under-served by it. It breaks the economy of deficit, as its endless. But even though it’s free, people seem to like hoarding it. Many enjoy rationing it, as if there was a finite supply. As if it originated for us, by us. As if we weren’t given it in order to pass it on. Love is a Being. And a Doing. It’s an action and a sacrifice. The feet of Love can walk through fire to get to another hurting soul, and strike up a dance to celebrate itself. Love has wings to fly us to a place of acceptance, and roller skates with which to flee from hate in all its forms. It’s the only thing that will ever make a dent in suffering, and the ultimate remedy for pain. Love is all we take with us. Spread that stuff around copiously. God loves you and so do I. ❤️
I bought three little flowering plants for the steps of our front porch several months ago. I cannot tell you the name of the flowers – I’m just winging it with the plant thing. I love that plants are a big deal again, harkening back to the ’70s, when having flora and fauna (and keeping it alive,) was popular.
“You may want to throw those out,” suggested my husband one day, who – upon seeing the three little withering plants – suggested logic. And it was logical. All three looked brown and barren. He is excellent at logic, whereas I consider it largely a nuisance.
“I don’t know,” said I. “I feel like maybe they have some life left in them.”
So I moved the little plants up onto the front porch, where they sat disintegrating for weeks before my eyes. Every day, when I walk out to the mailbox, there they are – sad little things trying to beat the odds. I typically say hello to them, and I always feel silly when I do.
“Wassup?” I ask them.
“Well, we are dying here, soooo…..” I imagine they’d say. Or, “Oy vey! This heat!”
So I got them out of the direct sun, because it’s too intense. Life itself has been ridiculously intense over the past couple of years. The summer heat makes life unfit for man, beast, and – apparently – plants. There they sit on the porch, looking like a lost cause. (Even when I water them, which happens when I remember they exist.)
Bless their hearts.
Today I went out to the mailbox and saw this poignant little sign not to give up. One lone, pink flower found its way to life again somehow. Just the one little plant, scrappy and determined.
I know it’s crazy to have your day made by a flower, but it made me a little giddy to see new life. I could use some new life. One little bud gave me hope today. It spurred what – in my evangelical days – I would call a “God wink.” God LOVES winking at us, sending little reminders that he is willing and able to make life bearable – wonderful, even.
I forget that a lot. Things seem to be getting worse by the day in this crazy world. Everything seems browner, lifeless, and bleak. It’s enough to make you believe that we are goners.
But the truth is:
We get buried, and we rise.
Our spirits get scorched, but not incinerated.
We feel dead, but God…
THIS (*gestures wildly*) is quite the season we are having, ya’ll. We all feel brown and crispy. Dry and done-for.
We feel like sad little things trying to beat the odds, because we are.
But we are also magnificently resilient beings, fully capable of blooming again.
Here’s to blossoming against the odds, friends.
Here’s to blooming where we’re planted, scrappy and determined.
Take one lifetime of Old Time Religion. Stir in two cups of Fear-Based Theology. Sprinkle in 2 tbsp of unintentional judginess, three tbsp of Obviously I’m Right, work through dough. Add additional The Bible CLEARLY Says! to taste.
While religious “dough” is trying to rise, but just kind of petering out, prepare in a shofar – I mean BOWL:
Two cups each of Chronic Pain and Debilitating Illness powder that has been sifted through a “name it and claim it” sieve for 40 years, but it’s still lumpy.
Add 4 tbsp frustration, and a dash of Must Not Be Worthy of Healing. Stir in a packet of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think. Cry about this step for approximately three more years.
Check ingredients in first bowl to make sure dough is indeed rising. But nope. It’s just sitting there in a big glop.
In yet another bowl, add one adult child who has come out as bisexual, which was NOT in the original recipe, so sayeth the Expectations Set Forth by the Church. Add a smidge of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think (if you have any left, which is doubtful. We go through it like gangbusters around here!)
Decide to add many dollups of Mother Love anyway (heck, dump in however much you have,) and set the kitchen timer to two more years on the “acceptance” setting. This is a wet ingredient, so thinning it out will just make it easier to spread. Use liberally.
Open up the pantry and see what else you have that might somehow make it more palatable.
Aww, shucks. All you have is a Costco-sized box a bag of Everything Else Life Can Throw At You. That stuff is SPICY. Always check the label…let’s see…it contains Mental Health Challenges, Losing Mobility, Family Estrangements, Crippling Anxiety, Bouts of Financial Struggle, Alcoholism, Codependency, Childhood Trauma, and 1000 grams of pure Shame Concentrate.
Going back to the bowl, taste the batter. See that it is bad. Mix all ingredients. See that it is WORSE.
While waiting for the timer, it’s important to assume that the Master Chef is angry and frustrated with you. Kind of like an astral Gordon Ramsey or something.
Assure yourself the whole Universe is against you, as is everyone you know and love who is following directions from a 2,000 year old book of recipes that several hundred fallible human people contributed to. Kind of like Gramma’s recipe box that had a hundred food-stained index recipe cards from her friends shoved into between the pages. Make sure to take everything out of context for best results.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and when timer sounds, decide on how much savory Self-Doubt to use. Seasonings come in “I’m a Worthless Sinner,” and “Searing Disappointment” flavors.
Ask yourself WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Am I just a shitty cook, or so I just have so few ingredients to work with, I’m having a hard time accepting the result?
And what if I’ve been forgetting the Main Ingredient all along?
Next (scary) step:
Decide you’re tired of fear-based faith, dust off your hands, open your heart, ask the Universe to help you see what is Truth, battle-weary, heavy-hearted, and feeling raw inside like dough that won’t rise.
Decide to put all judgement and Christian-ese down the garbage disposal. The Expectations of Other People went bad a long time ago and is really stinking up the place.
Decide to fold Unconditional Love into every single recipe. Never run out! Keep it on the top of every list so you always have enough.
Follow the example set by Jesus always…He is always cooking up something GOOD.
Next, march all three containers used previously out your back door. Gently set down all three, and leave them outside to think about what they’ve done.
Now – this is important – turn off the oven. Nobody is burning on my new watch!
You are not alone, Chef Self.
So join a “cooking” club – one that is comprised of other Seekers with open hearts who want to get at the meat of the Truth, and offer you endless sugar.
Flip the script. Read the instructions anew.
Take one bowl – the most chipped and beat up one you got, and butter it with kindness.
Then invite all your friends over to help you create a masterpiece.
All you will need is:
8 cups HOPE – brimming. Five tbsp of self-forgiveness. A heaping scoop of Studying what the Cookbook Really Calls For – reading between the lines. A tbsp of of Learning to Love Yourself Too will hold it all together when you want to throw in the towel.
And last, but MOST importantly, add All the Jesus You Have, all day every day. All of it. Tip it over and smack the bottom of the box for every molecule of Jesus it’s got. Really pile it in on. Study his ways in the context given, and leave room for Holy Spirit in every dish.
Oh, and tell your friends that All the Jesus is just another measurement of LOVE. Get to know HIS way around the kitchen together.
These few ingredients are all you need, Junior Chef, to mix up a reconstruction of faith for the ages. And keep in mind:
If you feel like you have to keep Fear on hand “just in case,” know that God is not the store where you purchased Fear. That stuff is very in-organic.
If you’re grieving the losses of this hard life, pull up a chair and come sit by me. There is always plenty of room at Christ’s table. And mine. *Pulls out chair and pats the seat in a welcoming invitation.*
If you’re ambling around aimlesssly, your chef hat askew, join me. I’ll be celebrating that I finally understand, “It is for freedom you were set free.”
And if you’re deconstructing your faith, and If you’re being called “deceived,” “fallen” – or (and I’m okay with this one) – “ex-evangelical,” remind yourself that the Word of God is an actual person. As Master Chef, he wants to see you succeed.
Yesterday, I celebrated my 20th Sober-versary and huns let me tell you … it feels so GOOD. I will write about it soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share some pictures from the day with my blogosphere buddies.
Thank you for being such an important part of my journey. If God can help me stay alcohol-free, the reality is that he can help YOU atop. There’s a beautiful life waiting for you.
I fell asleep easy enough, but a few hours later I woke up to pee (we keep it real here, right?) like I do every other night at least three times, and was assaulted by hip pain when I stood up. Soon after, when I crawled back into bed, I felt the familiar dull headache begin stirring behind my eyes.
I tried to go back to sleep. I really did. But although I was desperately tired, I hurt. Hurting in the middle of the night is a lonely endeavor. Whereas I normally might complain to my long-suffering but incredibly supportive husband, he was fast asleep.
Soon, my mind got in on the action.
Suddenly – at 4 a.m. – I had this primal wave of worry wash over me. As if pain was tag-teaming anxiety. I tossed and turned, and asked God for a little help here, please. We are going through such a weird and wild season right now.
At 4 a.m., I wanted assurances.
I wanted to call my adult child and make sure she was okay. And then I wanted her to make promises to do what I cannot even manage myself – to get my sh*t together. I wanted God to guarantee her safety. To guarantee all of us safety.
Then, the spiraled from there….
I wanted to log into my email and find five job offers in my in-box. Even though I’m really not healthy enough to work right now.
I wanted to will myself well and get on with life already.
I wanted to lift all of my husband’s worries off of his sleeping chest, so that when he wakes in the morning, his burdens are lifted.
I wanted to know that the world is not imploding, contrary to the evidence all around us.
I wanted to fast-track my therapy to purge my closet of skeletons in one fail swoop.
I wanted to stop feeling so crappy about myself.
I wanted a magic pill to calm my nerves so I could sleep.
I wanted – no, I NEEDED to tangibly feel God’s presence RIGHT NOW. Isn’t that the real craving? Without it, no amount of ‘fixed’ satisfies.
Instead, the more I panicked, the more it felt as though my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling.
A little voice in my spirit tapped me gently on the shoulder as if to say, “Excuse me….I hate to interrupt your anxiety attack and throbbing headache, but – um…..Pslams.”
I took a deep breath.
In another lifetime (fifteen years to be exact) I was a single mother of two pre-teen daughters. I was juggling four jobs after having been a stay at home mom all their lives. I became estranged from unhealthy relationships to safeguard my recovery. My health problems kicked in, aided by the stress. My car window didn’t roll up – a hefty bag and duct tape was all that kept me dry. We lived in a bad neighborhood. It felt like loss, loss, loss.
Since the separation from my girls’ father, it had just been one thing after another after another – big life issues – the kind of things that threatened by then-newish (four years) sobriety. That I survived that season in life sober is a walking-on-water caliber miracle.
All on my own and responsible for the lives of two beautiful girls, I’d never felt so alone. I lived on coffee, Diet Coke and cigarettes, and the only other reliable staple I had was my Bible and prayer life.
I made it a habit each morning to rise before my children, grab my Virginia Slim menthols and a cup of coffee, and sit outside on my porch with my Bible, looking for answers. Looking for assurances between drags on cigarettes.
Psalms are assurances. If you read them aloud, they are even promises.
There is no magic pill for me. I’m an alcoholic. I am wise enough to not trust myself to substances.
But there are Psalms.
So this morning, I’m sharing this little love letter that God led me to just now. The words were written by a man who just couldn’t get his sh*t together either – the biblical David. I love David because he is desperate and wildly in love with God, all at once.
I hope these verses speak to you, too. God pretty much drug me out of bed to come write this post. Maybe somebody out there somewhere can feel a little less alone.
Read the Psalms aloud – they are meant for those whose worlds are imploding. Savor every word.
At 4 a.m., I wanted assurances. Thanks Papa God for showing up. You always do.
(I would also love to know what your favorite Psalms are, too.)
Need a Psalm? Take a Psalm.
Have a Psalm? Leave a Psalm.
And God bless us, every one.
“I run to you, God; I run for dear life. Don’t let me down! Take me seriously this time! Get down on my level and listen, and please—no procrastination!
Your granite cave a hiding place, your high cliff aerie a place of safety.
You’re my cave to hide in, my cliff to climb.
Be my safe leader, be my true mountain guide. Free me from hidden traps; I want to hide in you.
I’ve put my life in your hands. You won’t drop me, you’ll never let me down.
I hate all this silly religion, but you, God, I trust.
I’m leaping and singing in the circle of your love; you saw my pain, you disarmed my tormentors,
You didn’t leave me in their clutches but gave me room to breathe. Be kind to me, God— I’m in deep, deep trouble again.
I’ve cried my eyes out; I feel hollow inside. My life leaks away, groan by groan; my years fade out in sighs.
My troubles have worn me out, turned my bones to powder. To my enemies I’m a monster; I’m ridiculed by the neighbors….
Desperate, I throw myself on you: you are my God! Hour by hour I place my days in your hand, safe from the hands out to get me.
Warm me, your servant, with a smile; save me because you love me. Don’t embarrass me by not showing up; I’ve given you plenty of notice…..
What a stack of blessing you have piled up for those who worship you, Ready and waiting for all who run to you to escape an unkind world.
You hide them safely away from the opposition. As you slam the door on those oily, mocking faces, you silence the poisonous gossip.
Blessed God! His love is the wonder of the world. Trapped by a siege, I panicked. “Out of sight, out of mind,” I said. But you heard me say it, you heard and listened.
Love God, all you saints; God takes care of all who stay close to him, But he pays back in full those arrogant enough to go it alone.
Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect God to get here soon.” – Psalms 31 (MSG)
I just came across a post on my Facebook news feed by a friend who just lost someone she loved to the ravages of addiction. He OD’ed on heroin.
It started like so many, many posts I come across – RIP. Rest in peace.
I’m so tired of people resting in peace before their lives are lived to completion.
I never knew this friend of my friend’s. I’ve never heard his name prior to this event – but my spirit knows his spirit, and I pray his is at peace.
It’s easy to become numb to the loss of life from addiction. We are in the midst of opiate saturation and fatal / ‘functioning’ alcoholism, because the human condition is so confoundedly painful. It just really is.
Behind every story of death via substance abuse, there is a son or daughter. A mother, a father. A friend. A person of great and precious worth.
How does society deal with loss on such a grand scale?
Too often, by accepting the undercurrent of judgement as truth, and denying that addiction is a freaking brain disease.
Another day, another RIP memorial page on Facebook.
One more overdose victim. I guess he had it coming.
One more person who drank herself to death. She asked for it.
Nobody says it out loud, but the sense of exasperation is tangible.
Hey world-at-large – IT’S A DISEASE.
Meanwhile, the rest of us cannot afford to rest.
I’m glad that there are programs that allow participants the luxury of anonymity (and I certainly respect the anonymity of others) but I’m not sure how long we can afford to hide our faces. The faces of addiction, but more importantly – the faces of RECOVERY.
Because not all of us will RIP before our time, but surely stigma enables keeping the disease alive and kicking.
Every overdose should shock the shit out our systems. It should worry us when we start thinking of a lost life ‘just another.’ It should break our hearts.
Karl Marx is quoted as saying ‘religion is the opiate of the masses,’ and I think there is truth in that. But religion as we know it often carries the same numbing properties as any other opiate. Relationship with the living God is what the masses are really craving.
We are all just really jonesing for relationship.
If you can’t justify being compassionate because you believe addiction is solely a moral peril, I challenge you to consider it an act of compassion from one fellow human being in confounding pain to another.
One spirit to another.
The gentleman who died of a heroin overdose, he brought to mind tonight the parable of the lost sheep in the biblical book of Luke.
“…By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”
Jesus gets it. He didn’t go after that one sheep to feed it opiates. He went after it because He couldn’t bear missing out on relationship with one who had so much worth.
It’s my honor to show my face and be non-anonymous. I am an alcoholic who did not die of my disease, but who still asks God for help in my recovery journey every single day.
The Temptations got it right with this song….I hope we can get it right, too.
“The sale of pills is at an all time high, young folks walkin’ ’round with their heads in the sky, Cities aflame in the summer time,
and the beat goes on. Eve of destruction, tax deduction, City inspectors, bill collectors, Evolution, revolution, gun control, the sound of soul, Shootin’ rockets to the moon, kids growin’ up too soon. Politicians say more taxes will solve ev’rything, and the band played on. Round and round and around we go, where the world’s headed nobody knows.
A long time ago, when I had retrospectively minimalist problems, I used to read the Psalms out loud in my morning devotion time. Until recently, I’d forgotten how much power is invoked in reading them aloud.
It’s 4 a.m. right now. And it’s me, it’s me, it’s me, Oh Lord…..standing in the need of prayer. I’ve been up all night with gargantuan aches, pains, and the like – that seem hellbent of keeping me awake.
The Bible says that biblical David was a man after God’s own heart, but if you read the scripture, it seems that David was a bit of a whiner at best, and a real drama queen at worst. I mucked up a lot, made a lot of mistakes, and STILL God knew his deep and abiding love for him. I absolutely love Kind David. He GETS me.
Yesterday, I got some medical news that I suspected was coming. I’d warned my mind and body about it (as the symptoms had already revealed themselves to said mind and body), but my Spirit put up quite a fit upon learning what’s going on. Renal issues. Enlarged Liver issues. Chronic pain and more migraines to expect. Fatigue as the order of the day forthcoming. And leg and foot cramps that make you want to cry uncle at the top of your lungs at 2 a.m. (My poor, poor husband, I KNOW he is losing sleep…..)
Oh, and did I mention mental health issues arising from dealing with the stress of all of the above PLUS childhood trauma that has never been dealt with, and a whole lifetime of untreated depression? As I lurch forward in treatment for mental health issues, I’m feeling black-and-blue, my heart beat up badly, and bones and soul, too.
Which brings me back to the biblical David, bitcher of circumstance, beloved man after God’s own heart (is it possible to be both? I’m kind of counting on it….) Like David, I am on the cusp of digging deeper in my faith. Like David, I’m getting ready to clean out my closet and make room for fresh hope.
The Psalms are best read aloud because you can better capture biblical David’s desperation aloud. He is one of my favorite biblical characters because he can slay giants, become a mighty king, loves God with all of his heart, and seemingly and impulsively throw it away for a hot chick in a bathtub. Hey, who am I to judge?
Here is a man who knows frustration. Here is a man who gave us authentic prayer of the highest order.
Pray it aloud when you are at the end of your proverbial rope:
1-2 Please, God, no more yelling, no more trips to the woodshed. Treat me nice for a change; I’m so starved for affection.
2-3 Can’t you see I’m black-and-blue, beat up badly in bones and soul? God, how long will it take for you to let up?
4-5 Break in, God, and break up this fight; if you love me at all, get me out of here. I’m no good to you dead, am I? I can’t sing in your choir if I’m buried in some tomb!
6-7 I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed has been floating forty days and nights On the flood of my tears. My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears. The sockets of my eyes are black holes; nearly blind, I squint and grope.
8-9 Get out of here, you Devil’s crew: at last God has heard my sobs. My requests have all been granted, my prayers are answered.10 Cowards, my enemies disappear. Disgraced, they turn tail and run. Pslam 6:1-10 (MSG
Read this aloud when imploring the Lord, perhaps in times you feel forgotten:
13-14 Be kind to me, God; I’ve been kicked around long enough. Once you’ve pulled me back from the gates of death, I’ll write the book on Hallelujahs; on the corner of Main and First I’ll hold a street meeting; I’ll be the song leader; we’ll fill the air with salvation songs.” Psalm 9:1-10 (MSG)
And then this. Pray it out loud. Pray it so that the devil can hear you. Pray it so that the cells wrapped in pain in your body can know it’s true. If we don’t get healing this side of the kingdom, we get it eventually and in full, and forever! In the meantime, pray it LOUD:
And this after-God’s-own-heart, keeping it 100, plea from an authentic David to God:
“Oh, God, my Lord, step in; work a miracle for me—you can do it! Get me out of here—your love is so great!— I’m at the end of my rope, my life in ruins. I’m fading away to nothing, passing away, my youth gone, old before my time. I’m weak from hunger and can hardly stand up, my body a rack of skin and bones. I’m a joke in poor taste to those who see me; they take one look and shake their heads.
26-29 Help me, oh help me, God, my God, save me through your wonderful love; Then they’ll know that your hand is in this, that you, God, have been at work. Let them curse all they want; you do the blessing. Let them be jeered by the crowd when they stand up, followed by cheers for me, your servant. Dress my accusers in clothes dirty with shame, discarded and humiliating old ragbag clothes.
30-31 My mouth’s full of great praise for God, I’m singing his hallelujahs surrounded by crowds, For he’s always at hand to take the side of the needy, to rescue a life from the unjust judge.(Psalm 109:25-31)
And here, finally, we see the AHA moment in which David sees the light, so to speak. He is at that pivotal place we all need to find ourselves in, in order to keep running that most challenging race set before us:
“Don’t put your life in the hands of experts who know nothing of life, of salvation life. Mere humans don’t have what it takes; when they die, their projects die with them. Instead, get help from the God of Jacob, put your hope in God and know real blessing! God made sky and soil, sea and all the fish in it. He always does what he says— he defends the wronged, he feeds the hungry. God frees prisoners— he gives sight to the blind, he lifts up the fallen. God loves good people, protects strangers, takes the side of orphans and widows, but makes short work of the wicked.
10 God’s in charge—always. Zion’s God is God for good! Hallelujah!” Psalm 146:3-10
Lift up us fallen ones, Abba. We are so tired.
But even in our sickness and sadness and end-of-our-rope-ness, we are are a people after your own Heart!
Let me preface this piece by saying that I’m going through a bit of a depression. And yes, I know that depression is “not of God” and that if I had mustard seed-sized faith, I could declare to this mountain MOVE, and verily I say unto thee, it shall be done as it is written.
But I’m kind of a regular Joe, who navigates the terrain in fits and starts, wholeheartedly loving my Jesus, but not always making the grade.
So this morning, I found myself in the ice cream aisle of our local grocery store, crying, and in doing so, made the stock boy feel kind of awkward. I’m sure I’m not the first menopausal lady to cry in the ice cream aisle but who knows. At least I’m not crying in the liquor store, which is – in all honesty – where I’d end up in days of yore. I’m 15 years into sobriety from alcohol, praise Jesus. I’ve cried in liquor stores many times.
I came home and put my ice cream(s) in the freezer, and sat down on the hardwood floor because my energy was gone right that very minute and I had no auxiliary source in which to plug. I’m kind of slow-burn crying, and my amazing and very codependent tuxedo cat, Catsby, threw all 20 pounds of himself against me in purry solidarity. Oh my God, I love that little guy.
“Ugh,” I told God. “I’m so tired of being SAD. Why won’t you just come pluck me out of this Sad?”
And then God – who was sitting on the floor with Catsby and I, his arms around me – gave me the craziest vision. I feel I should make the distinction right now that my depression is rather garden variety, and not psychotic, and my the vision was not an apparition. I don’t hear audible voices. It is more like a vivid and comforting thought visual. But whatever, I’ll take communication from God any way I can get it.
And it looked like this:
I’m sitting in the forest, wearing climbing gear. All around me are beautiful mountainous peaks and lush valleys, and I have NO IDEA where I am. None. I’ve gone missing in perilous terrain and I radio for help. A chopper appears from nowhere, lowers a rope, and whisks me away from all danger. I am plopped into familiar territory and the helicopter leaves, having done it’s job. And I’m alone.
In an instant, I understood what Abba was trying to tell me.
Do I want a God who will be my Genie in a bottle and pluck me out of every precarious situation, and then be on His merry way? (Although that sounds good sometimes, it’s not the deity I crave.)
I felt Abba say, “How deep would our relationship be, if I were only ever your rescue party?” In my mind’s eye, I imagine Him sitting with me and my big fat cat, and in my imaginings, God is also wearing climbing gear.
That’s the thing. (Warning: Cornball mountain / valley analogy ahead:)
Our Father longs to hike the tough peaks and deep valleys alongside us. That’s where the relationship grows. When we don’t have the strength to command the mountains to move, Jesus treks with us. He knows the way out, He has all the right tools and equipment, and most of all, He has a passionate love for me that will not allow Him to leave me behind.
Valleys are depressions in rock formations. Depressions. He could easily pluck me from the midst of my circumstance, and sometimes He does. But other times, He is my mountain guide, walking with me every step, talking with me, laughing and joking, picking flowers, climbing seemingly insurmountable peaks. He is my Spotter, my Safety Net, the Director of my Steps. He holds on to me and refuses to let go. He CARES about the little stuff along the journey. We are BONDED, man. We have a bond. It’s deep and rich and personal.
A bond we would never have if I only depended on him to pluck me from danger and depression every time I asked. It’s such a comfort to know that He will never leave me behind!
I kept sitting on the floor with my cat and my God. I sat til I stopped crying (for now.) Catsby got up and stretched, and so did I. And I thought I’d better write this down before I forget it. So here it is, I’m sharing it with you in the hopes that your Sad might be lessened if you’re reminded that Jesus treks with you, too. It’s not instant wisdom or bottled Genie wish-granting, but reassurance that you aren’t climbing alone and you were never meant to.
Today, I’m still sad, but that’s okay. Everything isn’t coming up sunshine and rainbows and unicorn farts because I have the best mountain guide ever. It just doesn’t work that way. And I’m pretty sure Jesus GETS that.
I’m still going to eat my ice cream to make myself feel better, and that’s okay too. I’ll share it with Jesus, if he wants. I don’t have any Mustard Seed flavored ice cream, but I do have Belgian chocolate, and that’s got to count for something.
He will be sitting right next to me just like always, in this perilous terrain. I’m never alone.
“What’s going to happen further along down the road?”
“I’m sorry, that’s on a need-to-know basis. Just trust me.”
“Trust me, love. Whatever comes further, I’m already there with you.”
I’m always badgering God about what’s next, even though I know that I couldn’t even handle it if I knew. Seriously, I COULD NOT EVEN. But in some convoluted way, I ask God to reveal to me the outcome of certain things, but the gift of prophesy is not my strong suit.
I am considering this today as I’m struggling with my health issues. I have a rare-ish condition that causes chronic fatigue, migraines, intermittent system pain, and recurrent infections. It’s not going to kill me, but some days I feel like it would kill me if it were more merciful.
Here’s the thing, though: If God had revealed to me that I would do battle with this for the rest of my life, I don’t know that I would have stayed sober. I don’t know if I’d handle it well at all, so I’m grateful for the not knowing.
While I was busy NOT knowing, He went further down the road with me when I wasn’t even looking. The manifestations of His mighty hand over this struggle were being constructed long before I was even symptomatic.
If God had revealed that I would carry this thorn, maybe it would have gone down like this:
“Child, enough badgering! Come sit with me, and I will indulge your curiosity….
“As you grow older, you will feel like your mind and body are falling apart, because they will be – sort of – and you will be scared and tired and frustrated. But I’m working on an infrastructure for your life so that you will be able to carry this yoke…..
“I will bring you a spouse who adores you, and believes you when you are telling the truth about your pain. He will never give up on you, even when you are really sick….
“I will drop friends into your life with EXACTLY this same disease that you suffer from, and they will seemingly drop from the clear blue sky. You will marvel that I took such care to place those perfect people in your life at just the right moments. Lean on them and let them lean into you. They are sent directly from me….
“When you are having a bad day and hurting inside and out, I will scootch right up next to you so close that you can feel my love for you, even through the pain. My Holy Spirit will be IN you, giving you fresh hope, even through the tears…..
“I will give you the gift to write about your experience, so that you can pay this Love forward to others….the ones who are gravely sick but look well, the ones whose labs and tests all come back normal and they feel like they are losing their minds, and that nobody believes them. YOU will comfort and believe them, just as you have been comforted….
“I will give you humor in copious quantities, so that you can not just survive, but THRIVE….
“Whatever comes further, I am already there with you.”
Life is crazy, and blogging about it such a crazy process. Yesterday, I spent hours writing a fanciful and spiritual fairy tale. Today, I’m writing about death and chaos and the ever-widening chasm between us as members of society.
I hardly slept at all last night. I know many of you probably didn’t either. The happenings in Dallas did a number on my already-over active ‘fight or flight’ response. Anxiety was the order of the night, all night. I pulled out every anxiety-quelling practice I’ve ever learned (it’s a very big toolbox.)
The word “Anathema” kept popping up in my head.
Here’s how the dictionary defines it: “An abomination, an outrage, an abhorrence, a disgrace, an evil, a bane. Abhorrent, hateful, repugnant, odious, repellant, and offensive. And what example did the good people of Google use in the definition? “Racial hatred was anathema to her.”
After a fitful three hour sleep full of nightmares, I woke up and posted this to my personal Facebook wall, and I meant every word:
If you are trying to somehow justify what happened in Dallas, go ahead and unfriend me now. Do us both a favor. Hate begets hate. Those officers were picked off by sniper fire as they are protecting citizenry. No, I cannot justify what happened to the innocent black men killed, but here’s the rub:
Not ONE of the Dallas cops was responsible for what happened in MN or LA. Not a single one. An officer is killed every 58 hours, on average in this country.
If we are going to be outraged about murder, let’s be outraged about murder. Period.
The sad state of affairs we find ourselves in as a nation is making my heart so heavy.
I am sad that “All Lives Matter” even has to be a thing. It should be a given.
I am sad for the slaughter of peoples everywhere, including the unborn. Violent acts against another human being can never inherently bring PEACE.
I am sad that portions of our citizenry consider justice and vengeance interchangeable terms.
I am sad that we are a nation more divided today than ever. (And I’m mad that the current administration seems to have perpetuated a lot of that division among Americans instead of uniting them.)
I am sad that my young adult children are already bitter about the state of the world, instead of hopeful.
I am sad that my granddaughter has to grow up in such a time as this.
I am sad because the undercurrent of hatred is rising to the mainstream, and people are dying as a result.
And I’m just just sad, but scared. I talked to God at length in the wee hours of the morning about being scared. And wouldn’t you know, He comforted me quite a bit – and didn’t even chastise me for my ‘lack of faith.’
You see, to my mind, the chaos and injustice in the world is indeed socioeconomic and racial and political , but it is fundamentally a SPIRITUAL problem at the root. The skin is only, well…skin deep.
But the spirit? We are all connected.
I’m going to go out in a limb here, but I’ve got to say it, perhaps at the risk of over-simplifying. I mean no harm in what I’m saying. I have friends of all races and creeds, and I love them all so dearly.
It’s a spiritual problem, and ain’t no way to fix that except Jesus. What we are seeing is the human race operating as its own Higher Power. If you’re not already, please pray for our nation.
It’s the devil’s game to divide us all. He is the author of confusion and the father of lies. It seems obvious that he is gaining a foothold.
Division is NOT the way of the Father. My Jesus is your Jesus. We NEED the intervention of a good and inclusive God, and we need it desperately.
I hated to pull the ‘unfriend’ card on my Facebook account, as it seems on the surface as a divisive action itself. But for the sake of my adrenals and blood pressure, I can’t. I just cannot even, ya’ll.
I see a sick pattern emerging on social media: Are you “Team Black Lives Matter?” or “Team Thin Blue Line?”
I don’t know how this will all pan out. But I am imploring those in my itty bitty blog sphere of influence to consider that what we are doing is clearly not working, and to call on the Almighty to hook us up with some supernatural Shalom here. STAT.
In my flesh, I am not optimistic. There is so much strife and pain and rage.
But in my Spirit? I know ALL things are possible through Christ Jesus.
It’s going to take a miracle. Hearts have to change, not just minds or views or laws. HEARTS.
I’m going to close this out with one of my favorite Mother Teresa quotes: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
“One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”– Matthew 19:14 (MSG)
By: Jana Greene
In her book “Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith,” Anne Lamott wrote a chapter entitled “A Man who was Mean to His Dog.” She wrote about witnessing a guy being mean to his Golden Retriever at her local beach, and her incredulousness that anyone could be unkind to a dog of that breed. Goldens are the most people-pleasing dogs in the world, just so full of goofy and abundant love. They just want to win your approval.
I witnessed something this morning at the grocery store that may have been the human equivalent, which is even worse.
I live in a coastal town, and here’s one of the Rules of Living at the Beach on any 4th of July weekend: DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE. And if you must leave the house, do it at 7 a.m. in the morning before the tourist craziness reaches fever pitch, usually around 9:30 a.m on a holiday.
But I had to leave the house, because I needed some things from the grocery store, so I trekked out early and thankfully there were few people out and about yet. Unfortunately, one of those people was a really upsetting presence. A harried-looking mom (or grandmother? Could have been either) with a darling little tow-headed 3 or 4 year-old girl.
The first time she opened a tirade on the wee one was in Bakery.
“Put that down!” the mom shouted, when the girl reached for a free cookie. “Can’t you just ever do anything right?”
To which the tiny, blonde adorable human being who has the inalienable right to enjoy a free grocery store cookie (it’s in the Constitution) responded with a muted “Sorry.”
I blew it off as a frustrated albeit really cranky mom, and made a note to try to avoid her for the rest of my shopping, which of course resulted in her passing me in almost EVERY AISLE.
In Bread, the girl skipped around the cart while her mother scanned the shelves.
“STOP IT!” the mom commanded.
“I’m just being silly….”
“Well, knock it off. You’re always silly. Its getting really old.”
Ok, now I’m getting angry. Who the hell reprimands a child for silliness? I catch the mother’s eye and give her a mid-grade stink-eye in return. She looks mean. MEAN, I tell you. But I thought she might think twice about berating her daughter if someone gave her the stink-eye.
In Pasta / Rice / Soup, I met them again. This time, the girl was trying to put a tiny stuffed animal she had brought into her mom’s purse.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She snapped loudly. “Carry it! If you didn’t want to hold on to it, you shouldn’t of brought it. If you put it in my bag, I’m throwing it away.”
Let me stop right here and assure you that my mothering skills are completely imperfect and always have been. I try really hard and always have, but I make mistakes. I snapped at my daughters plenty as they were growing up, I know I did. We all have bad mommy days. Snapping at your child occasionally isn’t what I’m talking about. I don’t mean to judge this woman harshly, but as she systematically tore down her child in such a nasty way, I started judging aplenty. Every word she directed at her daughter was full of scorn. I can only describe it as venomous. (The sad thing is that if this is mom at 7 a.m., I cannot imagine how she might treat the kid at 5 p.m. when exhaustion really kicks in, or at 8 p.m. when putting her child to bed.)
I started praying for the girl, who wasn’t even misbehaving in the least – just being a kid. Even on the aisles we didn’t mutually cross, I could hear the mom yelling at her.
When we met up in Frozen Foods, the little girl told her mom “You look pretty.” Anyone could see that this child was trying to win approval, and it was freaking heartbreaking, because her mother responded with “Yeah, whatever.”
Finally, at the checkout, who should queue up behind me but this woman and her daughter. The girl touched a candy bar and her mother loudly said in a seething tone: “You got a hundred dollars? No, you got nothing. Don’t even touch that.”
She didn’t get physical with the girl, but I wanted to scoop the child up and get her away for a while. I wanted to offer to babysit, and invite the girl to come skip around my dining room table and eat candy. I would take her to feed the ducks at the pond near our house, and I would put flowers in her hair and assure her that she IS doing everything RIGHT, and that silliness is a character attribute of the very highest order.
Instead, I smiled and winked at her. She was just precious beyond all description and she smiled back at me – as sweet and happy as a Golden Retriever whose owner had mistreated it. What I’d witnessed wasn’t cruel enough to be reported to the authorities, but it was definitely cruel enough to chip away at the spirit of a beautiful little girl.
Four year-olds are full of glee and “why?” and skipping around. Quite frankly, that age is often the most lovable of the childhood years, the most people-pleasing age, just so full of goofy and abundant love. I continued praying for the girl as I checked out my groceries and put them in the cart. By this point, I’m beyond angry. I am rolling away to my car, imploring God to protect and comfort that child’s wounded little spirit.
And then I had a thought invade my pleadings: Pray for the mother.
Hurumph! I shut that thought down quick, dismissing it on the grounds of righteous anger.
I’m loading my groceries, and again – like an annoying internet pop-up ad, it comes again: Pray for the mother.
What do you want me to pray, God? Forgive her, for she knows not what she does? She knows damn well what she’s doing! But still, as I started the car, God really just wouldn’t get off my back about it, so I prayed an honest prayer:
God, I’m just so mad. I’m mad but I’m asking you to somehow work in the heart and mind of that mother. I don’t know what she is going through, but you do. That meanie is your little girl. Forgive me for praying for her very last, and with trepidation. You were pretty clear about praying for our enemies, and I ask for you to pour your supernatural, unconditional love on her. Show her grace, Lord. And show me grace and mercy too, please. I need it just as much.
Praying for thine enemies is very, very difficult. That’s why Jesus was the only person ever to do it perfectly. It’s especially hard when the aggressor is mean to a child or a dog. I’m working on learning to petition God on the behalf of the jerks in the world, because I’ve been a jerk before too in other ways, so maybe someone was praying for me.
God bless us, every one. Please, God. We need it so.
So, I just wrote a positively genius Facebook rant about the horrific Orlando mass shooting at a gay club. It had all the components of TRUTH and WORD WEAVERY that I strive so hard to include in all my posts. It was witty. It was hard-driving. It was fact-filled. There was A LOT OF SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS, but without compromising the integrity of the message. I even included a quote by the very liberal Thom Friedman to back up my case, and add the last GOTCHA!
I’m tempted to paste the content RIGHT HERE so that even MORE people can read it and change their minds about Islam being a religion of peace, and why GUNS aren’t the problem, EVIL is the problem. Hate is the problem.
A Muslim extremist calls 911 and declares alliance with ISIS before killing 50 gay people, but yeah, sure….its a GUN problem.
Before I posted my genius post, there was a teensey spiritual nudging.
Are you sure you want to post that? I felt God ask my spirit.
OF COURSE I’M SURE, I told him. I’m RIGHT.
How many people have been convinced of truth as a result of a torrid Facebook post? He says.
You’re really throwing off my groove, God. I say in essence. Have you even READ it? (He had.)
So I post it. So vehement was I in my convictions, I even invited friends to UNFRIEND me if they didn’t see my point of view.
And wait for the ‘amen’ chorus, but nothing happens.
Then one friend messages me that there are 1 billion Muslims on Earth, and only 1 % are terrorists, and I answer back with “Well, 10 million terrorists is a LOT of terror” (and yes, I had to Google what 1% of 1 billion was. I’m not a math girl.)
And then I do something I should have done 30 minutes prior. I prayed and actually listened. It started as more of a “back me up, Father!” prayer, but ended in complete contrition.
So God….I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t have posted that…..
God: Gee, I wish I’d told you that (I’ve found the Almighty to have quite the deadpan style at times)
So, before further damage and unfriending, I delete the post on Facebook.
But I just don’t delete it, because I want to keep it handy in case another horrible tragedy happens and I was right about something I’d written. (Hey, I’m being super transparent here!) Instead of totally deleting it, I cut and pasted it into a Word document. So it was out of the public eye, but I still had in close in hand because I still felt completely justified in feeling the feelings that precipitated it.
See? I deleted it, Lord.
And my Abba Father, in his infinite wisdom, reminds me that I didn’t delete it at all. I’m still holding on to it. And then he says to my spirit in the gentlest and most distinct way –
“You do the same thing with resentments all the time.”
Oh, I DO.
There is someone who has hurt me deeply and I still – many years later – resent her terribly. My mind has compiled a “The Best Of” anthology of all the ways she has hurt me. All the ways she has hurt me that NOBODY even KNOWS about. Spread lies and manipulations. Really, the world should KNOW what rotten things she did / said, because if people knew just how diabolical she can be, maybe she will feel hurt compatible to the way she made me hurt.
And is making me hurt STILL.
And the truth is, if she ever pulls that shit on me again, I can whip out that positively genius rant I’ve been saving, in all the TRUTH and WORD WEAVERY-ness that only 10 freaking years of crafting such a diatribe can render. It is witty. It’s hard-driving, and fact-filled. It’s out of the public eye, but still had in close in my heart because I still feel completely justified in feeling the feelings that precipitated it. All this time, I’ve saved it more surely than any Word document.
Is that what Jesus would do?
I wonder what the world would have looked like if Jesus had spent 10 years crafting a list of wrongs, instead of three years in ministry of only love?
My friend who reminded me of the 1% terror-driven adherents to Islam (I still say that’s a LOT) is also Recovery Warrior. He invited me to remember what we learned in Recovery Coach Academy – all 20 of us from all different walks and races and creeds – sitting in a circle. We didn’t sing Kumbaya or anything. But we DID all find common ground. We all found consensus.
Would I have read that genius Facebook post aloud in that room, if I’d have known one of those people was a non-terrorist Muslim?
No, I would not.
And I am not suggesting ‘letting go’ when it comes to terrorism. Aw, HELL no. I AM suggesting than spending all of my convincing the world that Islam is evil, I should be more concerned with convincing them that Jesus is LOVE.
Some things DO need letting go of.
I have boxes of old letters from people who used to love me, and I can’t throw them away because that might somehow cement that they don’t love me anymore.
I hide hurts in my heart that nobody knows, because they are just that awful.
I’ve had thoughts that are so bad – as the venerable Anne Lamott says – “they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
I may say I forgive you but keep a little kernel of righteous indignation to plant in my heart and water every time you present me with another infraction.
I hate those things about me, I so badly want to be like Jesus.
To which I feel God say GOTCHA!
And, in all caps (shouting intended!) he says, I LOVE YOU, KIDDO.
CLEAR ALL FILES, SAVE FOR LOVE.
Queue chorus of “AMEN!”
And God bless us, every one.
Help me to use my words to build up, and not tear down. Help me to use my talents to your glory, and not for my own agenda.
How do we love our enemies? You were pretty clear about showing us how, but I’m still struggling with it.
Be present in the darkness of our current mess on this planet, even as you entered into darkness for each of us on the cross.
Forgive me my pesky trespasses, and help me to LET GO of the trespasses of others.
“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” – Anne Lamott
By: Jana Greene
This planet is a scary place to be stationed for the duration of our earthly lives, isn’t it? It is full of manifest proof that people are completely whack. Especially in this political season, so rife with corruption and spite and division. I quite fancy the bumper sticker I saw the other day that simply says, “GIANT METEOR 2016” and in small print “Just end it already.”
In my flesh, I’m pretty sure that a giant meteor is the best contender, if for no other reason that it would at least be a quick death, and not a slow-burn of horror that might be a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump presidency.
Surely God is avoiding those two candidates like the plague. Surely, God is a nice libertarian, right?
Be a light, I keep telling myself. Enough people are bitching about the election. Bitching about the state of the world is kind of a specialty of mine, because I feel so STRONGLY about things that I often work myself into a Chicken Little-style frenzy of running in circles yelling THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!
In my flesh, I’m pretty sure we are politically doomed. Yet even as bits of sky are raining down, my supernatural spirit knows God will work all things to the good.
(God can even use Hillary and Trump somehow. THAT’S how powerful our God is, people.)
God is in this place, in this time. He isn’t in hiding. Contrary to many believers’ cries that God is so fed up with this country, he has left ‘Murica altogether. If that were true, indeed all hope would be lost.
But hope isn’t lost. Not all of it, anyway.
Christians especially love to put demographics of people into little boxes, so that we can give ‘those people’ wide berth. There are many, many believers who think that God would never be present in unholy places – the back alleys. The venues of ill repute.
The campaign trail (*shudder*)
But that’s just not true. I know this because Jesus entered into darkness when he signed up for this Earth gig. He never said, “Ew, I can’t go THERE with THEM.”
He entered into darkness so that every one of us has the opportunity to walk in the light. Because of that, I don’t have to fear the dark (I don’t HAVE to, but sometimes I still do…its a work in progress!)
One tiny light vanquishes darkness; it doesn’t have to be a torch or an incandescent bulb. It just has to be willing to be lit – accepting Christ and trusting that he is still on the throne no matter who is in the White House.
What to DO when you feel like you are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea? Stand there and be a lighthouse, of course.
Here is what I believe:
God is in me, and he is in you.
He is faithful and steadfast (no meteor required).
He has a plan, even when all evidence points to the contrary.
Plot twists are kind of his specialty.
He is not deterred by people, places and things.
He is only ever good at heart.
Because God is love, anywhere there is love, there God is.
God bless America. And may he bless us, every one.
Hello, dear readers. I will soon resume completion of The Seismic Seven Series, but an unforeseen distraction took place over the past few days, and I’m sharing it with you so that you also might be encouraged. I had an opportunity to run away with My Beloved to a little cabin in the woods, and here is what my spirit pondered there:
During the days of my steeped-in-nature trip, my spirit experienced such peace that my busy mind became willingly submissive to it.
Worries fell off before they had a chance to stick, like Teflon coated the surface of my soul. Anxiety tried to get in, of course. It’s ruthless that way. But my spirit would not allow it. “Sorry'” I felt it say. “There is no room for you thieves of joy.”
The cacophony of rushing waters, birdsong, and buzzing bees drowned out all else. I felt Holy Ghost in every breeze and rustle, and in me – manifested as Peace.
It occurred to me that this is the way God intended us to feel back in the garden. We’ve lost it through the falling, and through trying to convince The Father that we know a better way.
If only I can find a way to replicate this Great Shalom, back in the ‘real’ world where the cacophony seems only to be struggles and bills and drama.
Lord Jesus, please keep my spirit coated with the Teflon coating of trusting you. Help me reign in the ruthless anxiety. Holy Spirit, manifest in and around me even in the Land of the Lost. And hey, thank you for this glorious respite of rushing water, birdsong, and buzzing bees. Block the thieves of joy so that I might find this shalom even in the mundane.
Amen and amen.