Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Most everyone knows this beatitude; what with the promise of inheriting the earth and all. I love the way The Message translation breaks it down:
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (MSG)
Who else has felt like they are never enough? I don’t mean the self-depreciation that comes with not meeting individual expectations. I mean, who else struggles with core low self-esteem? Just feeling less-than?
At times, I feel I can do no right. I wish I were more organized, more punctual. More reliable. Steadier. It’s easy to get swept up in self loathing as a vehicle for ‘meekness,’ at least for me. Once the spiral gets going, it’s easy to believe all of your own negative press. Our self-esteem can ride on our hormonal fluctuations, our bruised egos, our moods.
Before I got sober, I was a very guarded person. I had few friends and because I was operating out of a place of near-complete fear, I reasoned that I wouldn’t say boo to a goose because I was ‘meek.’
I watched every word I said (sometimes that was good) for fear I might incriminate myself. I watched every thought because I just knew that God was displeased with my carnal nature. It was a stifling existence, fighting my voice in order to please everyone else, especially the Almighty.
It wasn’t a lifetime of meekness. It was a lifetime of being afraid. God isn’t afraid of my thoughts – He know them all already. Oh how I wish I had known that the Almighty was already okay with the real me!
Meekness is defined as (trigger warning) “submissiveness.” Why is being submissive considered such a societal ill? Because we are defining submission in terms of how humans treat each other, not how God treats His creation. If someone always has your best interest at heart and never fails at sweeping you off your feet, being submissive is easy. Most of the time.
It isn’t a watering-down, but a building-up!
Four years into sobriety, I met my husband. In an instant I fell in love and took the great risk of being myself with him. Through step work, I started loving people and letting them in, and in return, received a great deal of love. And I was amazed – I am STILL amazed 12 years later – that he actually encourages my quirkiness.
Had I not met him, I doubt very much that I would be writing this blog – or anything else – because I would be too afraid of what you (the reader) are thinking right now.
Sometimes we just need someone to give us permission to see ourselves in a positive light.
God is giving you permission! Blessedness is not a mood, but a state of being. Praise be for THAT!
It took a little longer for me to trust that God encourages our quirkiness, but I’m here to tell you, He does. He really does get tickled by the things that make us US.
It’s okay to have a voice.
In researching the subject of meekness, I came across a wonderful quote (and one that is, as far as I can tell, anonymous): “Meekness is not weakness, just strength under control.”
Meekness is not low self-esteem. To be meek is to know who you are, and not try to be more than that or less than that. But being who God says we are is so much better than who we could paint ourselves to be.
Human being < human doing.
And it is in the ‘being’ that we become content with who we are and find ourselves the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought…
Love among one another.
Strength under control – God’s control.
Intimacy with the Living God. If we are bestowed that, we have gained the whole world.
Hi, friends. This week and the next, I will be writing with a focus on the biblical Beatitudes. I’ll try to convey my heart on the subject and – as always – welcome YOUR take on each post. Blessed be, dear readers.
Many of you know that I am involved in a Christ centered 12 Step program. At tonight’s meeting, the leader made an amazing point about being blessed, and I can’t sleep until I share it with you. It was an AHA! moment; an epiphany, if you will. So simple, yet so profound.
We were discussing the Beatitudes – those biblical ‘blessed be’s. I’ve read them a thousand times. I’ve delved into studying them. I thought I understood them. But one single sentence he shared struck a chord, and I am thinking of it still.
You see, My Beloved and I recently returned from a trip to the mountains. We stayed in a tiny cabin and read books all day, and listened to the birdsong on the porch swing, and Van Morrison in the evenings, and went fishing in a little stocked pond multiple times. It was super EASY being happy there.
Alas, the realities back home were waiting for us upon our return. It wasn’t that I was unhappy to be back in real life; it’s just that comparatively, I’d rather sit in a cabin in the woods and read all day every day. Evidently that’s a lot to ask for.
But I’m richly blessed to the point of overflow. And not because of things or lack of things.
Happiness and blessedness are not the same thing.
Happiness is circumstantial. I can be full of mirth one moment, and in another moment become sad or angry. Oh how we love to chase the Happy!
Happiness is what we worship, isn’t it? I just want to be happy.
If I had all of my bills paid, I’d be happy. If my children were serving God, I’d be happy. If I lose 30 pounds, I’ll be happy. When I get that dream job / house / recognition / improved health … THEN I’ll be happy. And then eventually I won’t, because LIFE keeps happening.
We catch it sometimes in celebration and laughter (which, according to my favorite author Anne Lamott, is ‘carbonated holiness.’ It’s an awful lot of chasing for something so fickle.
Blessed is a state. It is your natural state of being, because of whose you are. Even if you don’t know or believe, you are bestowed with the blessing of being invited to partake in the divine dance of the Trinity. Blessedness surpasses time or emotion or circumstance.
To live in a state of blessing awareness is to live the transcendent life. It’s a lot harder than it sounds! I’m preaching to myself here, too, because I am emotionally driven and get high on the Happy. There is no reality crash on blessedness.
There is only one qualifier to living the blessed life – if you know who you are and who you were created to be, you reap the benefits from the One who loves you.
So that’s what I’ll be writing about in this series; taking each beatitude one by one and hashing it out a bit. I’ll be referencing The Message translation of scripture.
Tomorrow the subject will be “Blessed are the poor in spirit” Please come along for the ride!
And note that my opinions are just that – my take on this very hard thing called Life. I’d love to hear your perspective as well.
Blessed be, friends.
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. – Matthew 5:1-12 (MSG)
As I wrestle with many changes in this time, I’ve been posting pieces to invite you along the journey. The good, the bad, the ugly. All of it. I believe the late, great George Carlin refereed to such drivel as ‘brain droppings,’ and as crude as it sounds, that is a pretty accurate assessment of the life and work of a blogger in cyberspace. So follow the trail, and maybe we will learn from each other along the way. I strongly invite you to leave comments and / or share your personal experiences, as you feel comfortable. And as always, thank you for your readership. ❤
By: Jana Greene
“How do you love an invisible God?”
The question hung in the air at the Celebrate Recovery meeting I was leading in 2012. A woman who was struggling to stay clean from the soul-sucking heroin asked me after the meeting (or, as we say in the Rooms, ‘the meeting after the meeting.’)
It was a very good question; and one so primal, it threw me. God was an old friend of mine. I thought I had spiritually evolved past that question. But in times of deep duress, I’ve found it to be a legitimate inquisition.
The answer I’ve found? You love each other. Any place there is love, be it by squeaky-clean Christian or ‘heathen’ who has never uttered the name of the Lord, there is God.
There you go. That’s how you get to know and love the ‘invisible’ God. TA DA!
It’s just that easy! Except for sometimes, it isn’t. Shifting all of our focus onto worry, can make him seem less visible; less tangible.
And like any relationship, the more time you spend seeking the face of God, the more intimate the relationship becomes – and the more full his reality reveals itself.
I used to think that the only love that counted for Team God was that fostered under the umbrella of a corporate, official, Jesus-brand ministry with a Bible to beat people up with (or worse, cause call to shun them) and a Federal tax ID number.
But that simply isn’t so.
It’s hard to dis-believe in someone you know personally, so that is not my struggle so much these days.
But I do have other struggles, and maybe you do too. Maybe you are worried about your future as well. Maybe every decision you make feels like filling out a voting card that is missing several candidate choices.
So today’s post is about TRUST.
Is God in charge of the future, or are we just scraping by like the children in Lord of the Flies, trying to carve out survival while our God watches the wretched, gladiator-style event?
Because I cannot believe he is love, and believe he created us to watch us implode.
It’s easier to love an invisible God, whose love physically manifests in nature and through his people, than it is to make peace with the unknown. And right now – above all else – my struggle is with having no idea what is coming next. Which, of course, is a struggle with TRUSTING God.
So, I’ve been a Christian most of my life, yet still – in times like these – wrangle with trusting him when every shred of physical evidence points to certain doom.
He is not the god of Certain Doom. He is the God of orchestration, working behind the scenes to arrange things for our own good. I’ve seen it play out 1,000 times. Why do I still struggle with trusting completely in uncertain seasons of life?
There is grace for the blessed seasons – written clearly to us and in bold font, and in Sharpie. We see it. It spills off the page and stains our fingers so that we can rub it off on an unbelieving world.
But there is also grace for seasons of struggle – in seemingly invisible ink. Even when we hold it up to the light, we cannot see it written. We cannot decipher it even when we do get a glimpse. It reveals itself in due time, but while we wait, we are flummoxed.
As the Apostle Paul wrote, “I believe. Help me in my unbelief,” I implore: “I trust you, God. Help me in my distrust.
And God bless us, every single one.
God, help me to keep seeking your face. Thank you for your endless mercy, spilled off the page and into my heart. Thank you for making your love so easy to find. Lord, my fears are primal, and I cannot face them without trusting you. Hook a sister up with an extra measure of faith. And God? Thanks in advance.
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’d like to dedicate today’s piece to all of the doctors and health care workers who take the time to treat the WHOLE patient. Not all heroes wear capes. You know who you are ❤
By: Jana Greene
Here’s what today’s blog post is not going to be about: Snapping Out of It.
Snapping Out of It is the ugly cousin of Just Get Over It, who is a third cousin twice removed to This Too Shall Pass. There would be no point in snapping out of or getting over something that isn’t going to pass. Know what I mean?
I am not only a recipient of these sentiments, I have – at various times – been the advisor. I never meant to be curt with anyone, but from where I was sitting in my own woe-is-me-pod, some other depressed people had it pretty cushy, honestly.
You went to Disney World twice last year. You drive a car with working air conditioning. You are physically healthy. Your children are little full-ride scholarship, carved-out-of-cream-cheese, ministry workers who worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Oh my God, what more do you WANT!? Why are so SAD!? STOP IT. JUST STOP BEING SAD.
Except that depression is the very definition of subjective-ness. (I once was the lady who went to Disney World twice every year, and eventually nearly drank myself to death anyway.)
Here’s what this blog piece IS about: What depression feels like. I am SO hoping that many of you respond with how it effects YOUR life so that we can interact. It’s such an important subject.
You are already whole in Christ!
Yes. But I feel like a whole lot of hurt. And that’s just the truth. Maybe if I had normal brain chemistry, I would grasp this wholeness in a more useful and fulfilling way!
That I struggle doesn’t mean my faith is janky. It might mean my chemicals keep me from realizing the beautiful truths that seem to come so easily to others.
I’ve recently become more proactive in improving my mental state. I am currently in therapy to try to slay old, fermented demons from childhood forward, because you cannot slay and deny the demons simultaneously. Oh, and it would be nice not to have nightmares nearly every night.
I’m doing self-care. It’s a work in progress.
I know a perfectly lovely woman with cerebral palsy. To watch her worship is how I totally envision perfect praise. Her movements may be jerky, she may stumble at times, but I have NEVER seen more genuine worship than that by my friend.
Is she a child of a lesser god because she isn’t in perfect health? Oh COURSE NOT.
Mental illness is no different.
Depression can be *&%^$#@! organic and I have the lab results to prove it! I’m virtually out of stock with the serotonin. This is why God created geniuses in billowy, white lab coats (coincidence that they dress like angels? You decide) to whip up concoctions to help our bodies heal. Better living through chemistry. Yes, I would rather take some St. John’s Wort (although anything with ‘wort’ in it kind of turns me off) or slather on Snake (Essential) Oil) or chaw on some magical, organic hay that has been regurgitated by free range cows, but I don’t have time for that dangerous gamble.
I come from a long line of depressed people. And honey, I mean a LONG line. In the past four generations, many of us have started with the Gerber baby food of antidepressants (Prozac or equivalent) around 13, when hormones make us crazy. Deep despondency requires our brains get a little help.
We are almost ALL ridiculously creatively gifted. We are painters, and artists, and sculptors, and writers, and poets, musicians. (What’s the nice way to describe someone loony? Oh, “eccentric.”)
We fight hard, we love hard – there is no moderation. If you are in my family and are not on at LEAST three medications to regulate your brain chemistry, thyroid, migraines, blood pressure, and cholesterol, step down, son. You can’t even play in the majors.
You see, we also have this quirk in which our brains do not manufacture dopamine and serotonin sufficiently. It’s hard to call it a curse, as it is directly correlated to our creativity. But it’s impossible to call it a blessing.
Depression feels dark. I’ve been sitting here trying to visualize what depression would look like if it were a person, and an image came to mind. Depression would be a coal miner. A hard-working, hard-scrabble, soot-covered man with the weight of the world (or its resources) on his shoulders.
He is in danger every single day, never sure if this will be the day a shaft collapses or any of 1,000 other mishaps might take his life. That’s the anxiety component.
He wears a helmet like some kind of gag gift – as if it could stop boulders and shaft supports from crushing him. On the helmet is a head light, but it, too, is covered in so much soot. It’s glow is minimal.
You see, there is soot everywhere. Blackness. All of his workday (and much of his life outside) he is blackened head to toe. When he goes to eat his wax-papered lunch sandwich, there are remnants of coal in his lunchbox. When he takes every breath, coal wisps into his lungs. By day’s end, only the whites of his eyes are not blackened by thick, powdery coal.
Had he any other choice, he would have a different occupation, but like so many families dealing with chemical genetic depression, it seems a simple given.
Like fighting depressive feelings, he gives his all every single day. It exhausts him, but he will get up and do it again the next day.
Cavernous darkness and a sinking feeling. That’s what it feels like to me. Depression manifests with thoughts of certain doom, ridiculously high anxiety, and in losing complete interest in anything that has ever brought me joy. Heavy-hearted, short on hope. Praying to be delivered from the mine, and getting really pissed off at God for not rescuing me. So I cry. I do a lot of crying, but that only makes the soot sticky.
But there are those times in the hole, the black, black vortex, that I sense a miner just like me. His presence is the Comfort. That’s where faith comes in. For what I lack in serotonin, I more than make up for in camaraderie. Eventually I will take hold of the hand – also covered in soot – and allow myself to be lifted up and out. I can try to pull up others with my own sooty hands.
It isn’t that we are truly out of hope, it’s just that it’s hard to find in the darkness.
Please feel free to share your own experience with spirituality in regards to depression.