Friendship, Spiritual

Things I want to Say Before Dying (while I’m still very much alive…)

adult affection beads blur
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

If there is one thing chronic pain and illness remind you of, it’s that we are all dying. Or as my former pastor used to chide, “We are all terminal.” (And yes, I’m fine – not going anywhere anytime soon. Just in a very reflective mood.)

So, why then do we put all of those spoken things on the back burner? Not all of us will have the opportunity to take them out of layaway.

Too often, our “famous last words” turn out to be neither famous nor last, and precious things often hang in the air unsaid. And life is too short for that.

Something that my mother used to say has taken on new meaning to me lately: “Flowers are for the living.” Why wait for funerals to give flowers or kind words?

So I’m telling you now – yes, you who are reading this. I don’t talk to you enough. Worse, I don’t listen to you enough. But I want you to know you are always on my heart.  I care about every word you ever said, and its woven its way into the tapestry of our friendship. Because at the risk of sounding hippy-dippy, we are all connected.

When things you told me – profound and trivial – come to my mind like random thoughts are apt to do, my face breaks out in a little state of happy.

When all the struggles you shared met my ears, my heart filed them away and brings a poignant pang to my soul when I remember even still.

Nothing you have ever confided in me ceases to exist. Nothing ever goes to waste.

All of the weaving becomes who we all are: The smiles, the jokes, the lessons we painfully teach each other and ourselves. The music we share, the memes we post.

All of it.

Perhaps if you’ve known me long enough, you remember when we were teenagers, and we would cut pictures out of magazines and make collages of our “futures” – page after page of handsome men we hoped to marry, sporty cars we dreamed to drive, trappings of all the careers we were going to excel at, picture-perfect children we were sure we’d raise. We made vision boards before there were vision boards, and we went through untold numbers of glue sticks in our quests to summon perfect futures.

Thank you for sticking through when nothing turned out as we’d hoped. Thank you for staying by my side when things turned out more difficult than our 13 year old minds could conceive, and more wonderful than any of our dreams we could have imagined.

When we bore our babies and did the “Mom Circuit’ together – lazy days of trips to Gymboree, the park, McDonald’s ball pits, endless breastfeeding sessions and diaper changes, co-rejoicing with one another over each ad every milestones our babies reached?

Remember always feeling like we were missing the mark somehow? But still, we never  did allow each other to entertain the idea that we were less-than stellar mommies. Encouragement was the order of our tired mommy days, every day.

And as the kids grew, we somehow lost ourselves. All didn’t go according to plan after all. But you were there for me, always. I never felt like I was going it alone. Thank you. It’s impossible to put a value on always feeling understood.

Little did we know that those were the easy times. Ah, but they were, by FAR. Because by the time I had a chance to catch my breath, I had to figure out who I was – apart from “MOM” – all over again. So did you.

And as we reached middle age, friendships took on new importance. No longer were they relationships to be sandwiched in between the chaos of parenting and busy marriages, but tantamount to every aspect of our lives, our very selves.

Thank you, life-giving friends.

Thank you for mourning my losses with me. Thank you for understanding when I feel like I don’t measure up, and assuring me I do anyway. Thank you for finding the humor in all the things that could otherwise easily take me down if I didn’t learn remember to laugh about them. Thanks for inside jokes, and finding joy in chocolate, and getting pissed off with me about all the stupid stuff. Thanks for reminding me that faith isn’t a lofty ideal and goal to shoot for, but a resting place and a safety net.

Remember that time I reached out to you in desperation, all full of despair and tears, snot and hopelessness? You swore I’d make it through to the other side, and my darling? You are one of the direct reasons I did.

The times I swore I would pick up a drink, but didn’t…

The times I was so lonely I thought I’d die…

the times I felt life’s greatest losses so keenly I was sure I would not survive another day…

Thanks for believing that I wouldn’t die from the pain.

That I’d survive,

That the gains and blessings in my life would outnumber those losses.

From this day forward, I want to cultivate a lifestyle of giving voice to things big and small. I don’t want opportunities to show gratitude to pass us by. I don’t want to miss a chance to laugh over something ridiculously silly, or a chance to forgive something hurtful.

I want to say I’m sorry when I am (but learn not to apologize for things that aren’t my fault.) I want YOU to know that you mean the world to me. Whether I know you well or just barely, you bring something to my life you cannot imagine bringing – just by being you.

if I never get the formal opportunity to thank you, friends….please know who grateful I am for each and every one of you. There are more reasons to be grateful than I could ever count.

Flowers are for the living, you see.

Here’s one to you from me.

 

Depression, Spiritual

When Depression Makes Landfall

grayscale photo of woman covering her mouth using her hands
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Hi, Dear Readers.

Can I keep it real today?

I was going to title this piece, “When it’s too much,” but then I asked myself to be more specific….WHAT is “too much?” What exactly is it that is TOO MUCH for me to handle right now? The answer is simply YES.

Everything.

I’m feeling so defeated and sad today. I was doing pretty well with water aerobics, which I’ve been enjoying since February – it’s the only exercise my joints can handle. A week ago in class, I tore a muscle in my right hip doing underwater side kicks.

By the way, not one single 80 + year old woman in the whole class had trouble with that maneuver. Yet such a simple movement took me down. I’m looking at yet MORE physical therapy now and I can’t do the class for the foreseeable future.

This injury is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, er….hip.

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, along with a half dozen other debilitating, exhausting, painful conditions. And it’s driving my depression into this hurricane-force thing that is spiraling in my spirit. The outer bands are making landfall today, and I can feel the intensity whipping up.

EDS is a progressive thing, meaning all of the cells in my body have mutated collagen, and I’m not going to get better.I do not – can not – take narcotics for my chronic pain because I’m an alcoholic in recovery 18 years and I still don’t trust myself to go that route.

I am literally wearing out. It’s getting to where I can hardly move my body some days, and when I do, each movement sounds like a bone cracking. In addition to being annoying, it’s painful. And embarrasing.

It’s TOO MUCH.

Yes, I know by the Stripes of Jesus, I am healed. I have had every deliverance ministry method prayed over me. People have told me that if I ‘just believe more’, I’d be healed.

To which I say, STOP TELLING SICK PEOPLE THESE THINGS. When they don’t get healed Binny Hinn-style, it adds insult to injury. Not only are you in sick and experiencing chronic pain, but NOW you doubt your faith and feel inferior and less-than a “good Christian.”

My genes are still mutated. God knows about it. He and I are square, after many years of me being bitter and angry. He knew my joints would held together with bubble gum instead of gorilla glue, so to speak. He isn’t angry with me. He isn’t punishing me. It just falls under the header of “shit happens,” and it happens to everyone in one capacity or another.

Better to just encourage and love on the chronically ill. That’s what we need.

Because I have anxiety and depression under normal circumstances, but there have been several times in my life when I couldn’t push through it…when I went from being sad and low-grade anxious, to I CANNOT GET OUT OF BED.

Not “I really FEEL like staying in bed” … no. I literally – as the Millennials say – I CAN NOT EVEN.

Can not even laugh.

Can not even cry.

Can not even do the things I love – like create art, and even just BLOG.

But I know if I don’t get it out in writing and share it with others who might be able to relate, it will only gather strength. So here is a blog post. The one thing I have gotten done today.

I’m tired. I am so tired. There are too many things going on in my home life and (lack of) professional life. Too much change. Too much pain. Just too much.

Most days, I try to be positive, and some days I can even find the humor in things, but when every joint in my body is hurting – and the hip is almost unbearable – it makes it difficult. This is approximately the tenth injury in the last few months. From small rib subluxations to finger dislocations, a sprained wrist, to all the crappy, debilitating POTs symptoms, and constant illness from having a horrible immune system….

I’m TOAST. Ever feel that way?

I know Jesus walks with me. I know he crouches down with me in the dark places. And yes, I know “this too will pass.” But it’s sure as hell not yet in the process of passing right now.

It’s the most frustrating thing in the world to realize all of your blessings, but still not be able to pull yourself up out of the sadness.

Hey, thanks for reading my work, ya’ll. In joviality and in sorrow. In celebration and in grieving. Knowing I have so many precious readers who take the time to read my innermost thoughts is both mind-blowing and comforting. We are never, NEVER alone in what we go through!

I hope when this blows over, I can get back to business being snarky and ultra-spiritual (that’s a joke, ha.) But I’m of the mind that when we are in low places, it doesn’t mean we are less-than spiritual. It just means our spirits need a little more help.

God bless us, every one.

Christianity, Spiritual

Immigration Consideration – one Christian’s thoughts on loving strangers

By: Jana Greene

Hello, Dear Reader.

I hesitated to write this blog post; not because I don’t feel passionate about the subject matter, but because I’m allergic to conflict – it makes me break out in insecurity.

The nastiest comment I have received in the six years of writing The Beggar’s Bakery was from a Christian woman (go figure) who reamed me a new one because I didn’t care for Trump. “He is sent by GOD!” She wrote. “As according to PROPHESY!!!!” There were many expletives in the comment as well, basically assuring me of my place in Hell because I didn’t like the president.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I responded. But what I wanted to say was, “LADY? YOU JUST PROVED MY ENTIRE POINT.”

That being said, I feel like the time is now to say my piece on this – my little corner of the internet. I’m not posting this as a Republican or a Democrat. I’m posting it as a human, as a mother, as a Christian, because I’m sick and tired of watching what’s going on be defended by people who purport to love Christ. I know this is a wide swath of my friend base, and I love you all. But please hear me out.

I don’t care what your political leanings are, it shouldn’t matter which side you lean toward. Children being treated like animals should piss you off. Parents separated from their kids should piss you off. SHOULD. We are all so busy being elephants and donkeys that we forgot how to be human.

If you want to defend the actions of our president, please leave God out of it. I used to be conservative (and still am on some fronts,) but there is no way to justify what he is letting happen. And I’m just gonna spit this out here, because it’s been bugging me and I’m trying to play nice-nice with everyone, but what with children in cages, I think it’s time for a nice-nice reprieve.

How in the name of Davy Jones do you reckon Trump is getting so much of the evangelical support? Because he prays publicly sometimes in office? Because he is pro-life and claims to believe “all life is sacred”? I’m calling bullshit. I’m pro-life, but that means, um…pro-LIFE. That means being just as bothered by human beings being washed up on shores as being ripped from there womb. I’m pretty sure Christ was more concerned with children suffering than national security. Of ALL demographics of people, WHY is Trump getting the “Christian” support? The phenomenon makes no sense.

Jesus is not looking to exclusively bless just the white, middle-class, church-going, law-abiding demographic, which is essentially – if we are honest – what many of us have come to expect. Neither big on law OR homogenized populations, Jesus made it exceedingly clear that he values compassion over all else. He loved the refugee, the orphan, the widow, the marginalized, the disadvantaged just as much. Do you think he is up there cheering when another Mexican drowns in the Rio Grande? Or when those from war-torn countries are turned away from our ridiculously blessed nation? Do you think he thinks it’s okay to rip parents away from little children, and deprive those children of basic necessities?

Jesus was about INCLUSION, not SEPARATION. He was very clear about the “us vs. them” mentality having no place in the Kingdom or God. But boy, we humans LOVE that shit. It allows some of us to feel superior to others and we just eat that right up!

How can you tell one is a Christian? Nope, not by their bumper stickers or angelic demeanor. Not by the KLOVE blasting from their car radios. Not by their instant recall of scripture, or their political stance. By their LOVE, manifested in the fruits of the spirit.

“You will know they are mine by their ‘fruit,” said Jesus. Fruits of the spirit are often recognized as joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and so on. WTF is up with Trump’s fruit? Is anyone inspecting it? (Ew.) Because upon closer inspection, that low hanging “fruit”appears to be pretty wormy.

Another Jesus-ism? “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Since when did it become “Christian” to treat other human beings the way he is treating immigrants? Peeps, YOUR ancestors were immigrants. If you need to justify what’s happening as it relates to YOU personally, there’s your fact.

I won’t go as far as to say that trump uses faith-talk to manipulate people…(if the toupee fits…) but his fruit stinks and he treats women and foreigners like crap – basically anyone who isn’t just like him. All for what? A WALL?!

How do you justify the following with being a disciple of Christ and leading in a Christ-like way? Tweeting a thousand immature and inane nasty words to the people on the opposite side of his politics (will someone PLEASE take The Twitter away from The Donald? ) His history of treating women like objects (at best) shouldn’t be brushed under the rug either.

He is un-apologetically polarizing. But children being treated sub-human should NOT be polarizing and frankly, I’m having a hard time understanding WHY it is so for anyone.

Jesus was a unifier.

Jesus was a radical.

Jesus tore down walls.

Jesus loves the underdog.

How a billionaire who spent a lifetime haughtily thinking he is superior to everyone else and talked about women in such nasty ways on the regular (50% of voters are women, roughly; so riddle me that…) came to run the most powerful nation on earth, I will never understand.

If you read this far, thanks. And please continue to pray for our nation. We desperately need divine help. If you still need proof via scripture, please see below. Thanks so much for your readership.

“I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” – Jesus. Matt 25:35

“You shall love the Lord God with all of your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

“Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers.” Romans 12:13

“In that renewal, there is no longer Greek and Jew…barbarian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” Colossians 3:11

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels unaware. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortutured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13:1-3

“…therefore we must support such people, so that they may become co-workers with the truth.” 3 John 1:5

 

Poetry, Spiritual

The Grace Commodity

 

grace commodity

BY: JANA GREENE

Grace is a funny thing.

It delights us when granted when we screw up.

And it pisses us off when applied to someone we feel is undeserving of it.

It slips out of the cuffs of condemnation,

It rises above the rules we think it should follow.

It holds accountable only itself.

It is pure.

Grace is golden when get extend it,

And humbling when we receive it.

It runs ram-shod over rules, and laws,

It cares not for protecting secrets,

Or making others pay.

It isn’t “fair” to us,

And thank God for that.

Grace is a thousand points of light,

A thousand Tiffany lamps,

Shining, bold, brightly colored.

It is a “do over,” for what is done,

And a fresh start for what is coming.

Grace is the Bail Bondsman who leaves the door open.

It is the Father who forgets that you tripped up at all.

It is free, but not cheap.

When all other avenues have been exhausted,

Grace chases shame out of the neighborhood.

The only commodity we are commanded to spend,

Grace builds up,

Shores up,

Holds up.

The byproduct of love,

Grace has unfathomable value,

Just like those for whom it is poured out.

Grace can be scandalous and offensive,

But it always makes it’s mark,

Washing the Spirit clean.

Trade it, give it, spend it,

Let it set you free.

It is for freedom we are set free by it,

Spread that stuff around.

 

kindness, Spiritual

The Kindness Quotient

 

By: Jana Greene

Kindness.

It heals generational divides.

It is the remedy for “toxic masculinity” and “strident, militant feminism.”

It takes the wind out of pre-conceived, racist ideals, and makes people reconsider their positions. It makes generational differences a moot point.

it costs nothing, but adds value to everything.

When someone is kind – and another in return – the atmosphere shifts. You can feel it in and around you. It’s The Great Diffuser.

Kindness powers up our ability to see a person past their agendas.

When it is expressed in spite of our moods or convictions, kindness does our souls a great and generous favor.

It’s difficult to harbor hate in the same container which pours forth kindness.

All of the things that seek to divide us, whether by ideologies and orientations, class and politics, are tempered by common, ordinary kindness.

It helps us to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves, if you will.

Or wreck someone else.

The truth is that everyone is going through a really hard thing. And nobody’s mind was ever changed by righteous indignation.

In the same way, nobody’s heart has been touched by angry militantism.

We cannot afford to leave kindness by the wayside. We can’t afford to dismiss the radical ways it changes us and others.

Our hard shells and defensive coping mechanisms belie the truth that we all have soft, gooey centers, created to be molded by love alone.

And made manifest by kindness.

Spread that stuff around like soul balm.

Pass it on. ❤️

Beatitudes, Spiritual

Blessed are the Meek (Part III of The Beatitude Series)

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

By: Jana Greene

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.
Just 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.

 

 

 

Christianity, Spiritual

The Beatitude Series – Blessed vs. Happy, an Introduction

blessed

By: Jana Greene

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.

The Beatitudes:

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)

 

Spirituality

Filling in the Cracks with Trust

anne lamott

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.

Anxiety, Spiritual

Assurances at 4 a.m. (It’s a Psalms Thing)

lavender
Photo credit: Jana Greene (“Lavender Moon-rise”)

By: Jana Greene

It’s been a long night.

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.

Terrific.

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)

Depression, Spiritual

Occupation: Depression – Thoughts on Faith and Mental Illness

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Photo credit: Denver Post

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.

And God bless us, every one.

 

Spiritual, Spirituality

Settling the Cosmos – Calling out Hopelessness

Hi, dear Readers.

The past few weeks has been WOW. And not “WOW! SO GREAT!” either.

Just wow.  It’s superfluously wacky, this life season.I wonder if Mars got out alignment with Venus, or Pluto is pouting  for being excommunicated, or the stars are staging a great rebellion.

I used to believe in astrology many, many years ago. I still get my direction from the Heavenlies – just not the heavenly bodies.

It’s tempting to seek out what God seems reticent to tell us in tangible, chart-able ways.

But it isn’t he fault in our stars or the heavy hand of Karma trying to set us straight. The less-glamorous truth is that a lot of crap happens, and keeps happening. It’s so largely out of control, it makes you wonder if anyone is supervising this planet, which seems to be spiraling into a Lord of then Flies level madness.

The truth is often, before our stars ‘align,’ we have to somehow make it through this experience, hurling through the chaotic cosmos sight-unseen (and violently so, on occasion.)

Several things have happened in my life lately – all of them emotionally loaded – in a short span of time, and an old, sickening vibe in my stomach resonates a foreboding  sense of doom.

Ah, I remember you, you dirty rat. You’re Hopelessness. Don’t even THINK about getting settled in here. I’ve renovated the space you used to rent, I think you will find it most uncomfortable. I’ll chase you out a million times if need be, and bring  the Landlord with me. Go on, now, GIT!

Hopelessness is, excuse the expression, an attention monster.  It thrives where it is welcome. It grows where you allow it to feed.  I know all of its favorite foods! Self-pity, alienation, wallowing.  I am currently trying to starve my old nemesis, but like the monster in the movie” Alien” that also resided in the pit of a stomach,  it’s not leaving neatly and politely.

You have to knock Hopelessness on its keister; it won’t go willingly.

Don’t despair,  my friends, and I’ll try not to despair too. God is here for us.

Take despair breaks to practice self-care…the two cannot inhabit the same space for long.

What soothes your raw and ragged soul? Are you denying it’s cry for attention? Are you being 100 % real with God about how you are feeling? Tell Him. Yell it if you need to. It’s okay to do so.

Does nature soothe your soul? Or music?

Go for the car ride and blast your music with the windows down.

Eat the chocolate and/or cheese.

Call your friends, the ones who ‘get’ you.

Take the nap.

Go to the meeting.

Hug someone you love for five minutes solid.

Talk to the God.

You won’t get empty platitudes here at The Beggar’s Bakery about how when God closes a door, he opens a window. I always hated that saying. What does hat even mean? It’s Hell in the hallway!

But soon – and very soon – in God’s perfect timing, there comes a shift. There always is. Eventually, crappy things will un-happen, and some really good stuff will happen that will make you forget all about hurdling though the vortex.

Things like belly laughs, birthday cake, time with friends, sand between our toes, hugs, family, romance, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…

Those really good things include participating in life so that we can look forward to the future with hope.

If you are struggling today, I get it.

Remind yourself that its not an endless black hole;  just a black moment. I’ll remind myself, too.

We are not unsupervised, as it may feel,  but always carry the Navigator with us. This by no means minimizes the crap-storm of challenges you are experiencing right now. Sometimes things just suck.

But Heavenly Papa is with you. You’re not alone.

This too – whatever this is – shall pass to make room for the belly laughs and happy experiences yet to come.

I’m not preaching to you, but at myself! Hang on tight and so will I.

God bless us, every one.

 

Spiritual

The Good Natured Father (Part II)

A seat for everyone

 

Today, we pick back up where we left off yesterday (June 24th, Part I posting) with a further exploration of the Nature of God.

Can we ever really know this Almighty Being we call “God”?

We look to Jesus to see His heart. It’s so simple, yet so profound. He looks like Jesus.

God bless us, Every One, and Happy Sunday.

By: Jana Greene

What if God’s nature is really only good?

A few weeks ago, I camped out in the lesson presented by Francois Du Toit, “Celebrating His Initiative.” Webster’s Dictionary defines “initiate” as ‘to begin, set going, or originate: to introduce into the knowledge of some art or subject. And to propose (a measure) by initiative procedure.

Initiate is a verb! It is an action. There is nothing passive about it. Jesus has issued a proposal on bended knee and bloodied cross. This voluntary decision by God of God is a thing to be celebrated!

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

Religion taught me that God swoops down and saves me from myself a thousand times a day, and that’s what grace looks like. But I’m learning that Abba is pulling me away from the idol of religion and into Himself. My weaponry of thin, papery religiousness is powerless against His embrace of Truth.

Bradley Jersak’s book on the subject sharpened my focus on divine grace vs. rhetoric.

“Setting Jesus as the standard for perfect theology, many of our current Christian beliefs and practices would obviously face indictment. Even significant swaths of biblical literature don’t line up well with the Christ of the Gospels. Claiming that God is revealed perfectly in Jesus triggers tough questions about the God I once conceived and preached. Jesus’ life and character challenges my religious clichés and standby slogans—especially the rhetoric of supreme power and irresistible force.”

― Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel

In the segment “Who is the Father,” presented by Mike Zenker, the truth of Abba’s consistency is highlighted in Matthew 11:27, which says “All things have been handed over to Me by the Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

Or, as The Message translation reads: “Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor does the Father the way the Son. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.”

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is joyful! He is not somber.

“A Papa with a sense of humor: “Christ’s humor is always redemptive, never mocking the individual. But He is sharp and sarcastic in His derision of those institutions such as Pharisaism, which posture in their self-made self-importance. Wisdom”

― John Crowder, Seven Spirits Burning

Another epiphany? God has a sense of humor! What a blessing for us all.

Of all the lectures in Course II, “The Dynamic, Artistic, Creative Being of God” by Andre Rabe struck a chord in my soul.  As a messy, creative person, it’s lovely to know that I inherited one of my attributes – writing – from my Papa.

The arts are a pulpit for the Muse, divinely given. The amazing thing is that as the Triune God is our Muse, we are His as well.

In nature, we see His artistry all around us. I’ve often lifted a sea shell from the beach and marveled at the fine details adorning it. I’ve wondered at the Blue Ridge mountain range in their ancient perfection. Animal, mineral, vegetable – everything in creation attests to the existence of our creative God. His nature is in nature.

One of the ways I like to celebrate God’s initiative and parlay his creativity is through writing poetry. In concluding this essay, I would like to leave you with a work that God ‘downloaded’ (for lack of a better term) in my spirit a while ago. I believe He gave the words to me as I wrote, as it came to me impromptu and with fierce passion. I believe He was sharing His very nature with me.

Everything I’m learning at Global Grace Seminary lends credence to what I wrote that day.

God bless us, every one.

Agape for Amateurs: a love letter from God

Oh Dear Created One,

Do you know who you are to me?

Who am I, you ask?

I am Love….only ever good.

And you are my handiwork.

I am not angry with you.

In Jesus, I gave myself to you, for you – redemption in one fail swoop.

When you have a misstep, I am saddened because you are hurting. But I will never leave you.

I am with you to the ends of the earth and in the deepest crevices of your spirit.

Your hurting places don’t scare me away.

When you deny me, curse me, hide from me – I do not shy away, nor do I condemn you.

The finished work of my Son ensures you that I keep no records of your wrongs,

But have been courting you all along.

Where there is love, I am.

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

I am trustworthy.

All the things you’ve been foolish for have torn you down, yet you are so afraid to be a “fool” for me?

Enough of the fallen.

Enough of the foolish self-dependency.

Walk with me – I long to raise you up!

That small, still voice?

It’s me nudging you.

Can you feel it?

Let yourself consider that I am never more than a nudge away.

That roaring storm of emotion that pulls at you? Called by 1,000 different names?

The emotion is my urging, too.

You were created to feel.

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

I see you.

I see you!

And you matter to me.

 

“This life is hard,” you say – and I know that it’s true.

You see, I am human, too.

The friend I left to you – the Holy Spirit – is available to you, in you.

The Spirit rejoices with you in times of celebration,

And in times of sorrow, she brings great and all-encompassing comfort.

Cut through what others have told you about me.

Throw away the ritualistic, legalistic, egotistic religion.

Cut through the culture of shame.

Have your own relationship with me.

Not a figment of imagination in stories from dusty texts,

But a force of creation, life, and love to be reckoned with.

Nothing is happenstance.

Believe in me, and you have all the love to gain!

In your hurting places.

In your hiding places.

There is no deficit of hope, Dear One.

Only the great gulf between us that you’ve erected in the name of self-preservation.

I would love to close that gap and draw you so near that you feel my breath in your ear as we embrace.

I am embracing you now.

I delight in you.

Seek my face.

I shall never hide from you.

There is no other like you.

You are my BELOVED!

With boundless grace and endless love,

  • Papa
Spiritual, Spirituality

The Good Natured Father (Part I)

FullSizeRender-9

 

Good day, Dear Readers.

Today I would like to share Part I of an article I recently wrote for seminary class. 

I will post Part II – the second half – tomorrow.

As always, I welcome comments and conversations, and shares if you so choose 🙂

God bless us, every one!

 

By: Jana Greene

“What is your most dominant image of God? What does that say about your own belief system? Your own temperament? Your own faith community?” ― Bradley Jersak, A More Christ like God: a  More Beautiful Gospel

I’ve been having a wee bit of an identity crisis over the past several years. Nothing too wild and reckless, but a low-grade churning in my spirit. This identity crisis burbled up from the primordial ooze I’d always been so careful not to fall into. Step on the stones, only on the stones. Jesus is your rock, etc. and so on, more stone / rock / foundation analogies; anything to keep from falling into the ooze, because if I fall off a rock and into the ooze, God is really going to be angry with me for taking my eyes off of the Prize – Him.

But what about Him?

Never before had I been compelled to systematically dismantle (oh how Religion loves things done systematically) all I had learned from birth, but now? Now I am forming a brand new construct out of what crumbled down in the destruct, and it changes everything.

This nature of God.

When considering the nature of the Almighty, I have the tendency to cling to one of two hard-line descriptions:

God is Love incarnate. He is full of mercy, overflowing with grace. There is only GOOD in His being, and wants to captivate us with his adoration.

Or….

God often has to punish and crush, as a means to the end of making man righteous. He smiles on us when we remind him of Jesus (maybe once or twice a day) but is filled with grief and fury when we remind him of the very humans he created. He gives us a whoopin’ because He loves us, and it really does hurt Him more than it does us, as parents are apt to say.  He gets tired, you know, with so many naughty children to keep in line. This would explain why natural phenomenon can be so destructive. This would explain the grumpiness of the Old Testament Lord. We like to think it explains a bible-ed up version of Karma. You’ve got whatever’s coming your way, buddy. Too bad you didn’t tow the line.

Except here’s the rub: God’s nature is scandalously lousy with Grace. And I so enjoyed learning about His true nature in my education at Global Grace Seminary.

Of all the excellent materials, Steve McVey’s way with words pierced me. I would read his work and stop to ponder it, and read it again. There was so many practical presentations of grace, I found myself re-reading each line in order to soak in the truth.

“You have been set in the place of a child who is loved and accepted by the Father just as surely as Jesus Himself knows that love and acceptance. Your place is in the triune circle dance is as safe and secure as the place of Jesus for the staggering reason that you are in Him.”

― Steve McVey, Beyond an Angry God: You Can’t Imagine How Much He Loves You

As Kay Fairchild explored in the module “Our God is One,” not only is there One True God, but He is three-fold – each facet of his Being sentient and in perfect, permanent synchronization. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three distinct individual entities, each one supreme and whole, and wholly loving.

I am learning truths that explore scripture in context. In all honesty, one of my biggest challenges is that small, still voice saying, “Yes, but why then is there still so much evil in the world?” I wish I had a better understanding of that fundamental question. I am trusting that God will reveal truths ever more as I chug along. If we ask Him for bread, He will not give us a stone; that much I know.

For thousands of years, humankind has tried to explain God. We’ve placed Him in boxes to keep Him out of (or in) trouble. We’ve elaborated on his life story and we’ve left the context of his Word out far too often. The Word is a person, and that person is Jesus.

When considering this, I’m reminded of the fun house mirrors that appear to be endless images – mirror inside another mirror, inside another – an endless tunnel of reflection. There is so much more depth in the Trinity than I’d ever considered. The Triune God layer upon layer of Love, grace, and inclusion. And we are the very mirror image of those three beings of love! We sell ourselves so short.

Will the real Nature of God Please Stand Up?

With nearly 17 years of recovery time from alcoholism, I’ve come to love the legendary 12 Steps.  Before I happened across the Christ-based recovery step meetings I attend now, AA was the initial safe zone to explore the nature of God as His grace pertains to sobriety.  The program’s third step proclaims that “we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” In this model, you hire and employ your own Higher Power. It could be a floor lamp. Or a door knob. Anything, really. And that deeply offended me! You cannot just go making up gods as your puny mind perceives them, all willy-nilly.

Now I so clearly see that I was so grace-less. So self-righteous. Anything less than recognizing the One True God – my Jesus – was blasphemy. What I didn’t understand was that these folks didn’t want to hear that they were going to hell, because they’d already been. And the “God of our understanding” is a great place to begin the Seeker journey. I sat in the meetings with angry arms folded, shut down and petulant. What a way to represent Christ!

“If you have seen your God through the lens of legalistic religion, you most likely have believed that God was warning them [Adam and Eve] that He would punish them if they ate from the tree. Nothing could be further from the heart or intent of God. He wouldn’t kill them – sin would kill them. God wasn’t warning them about what He would do but about what sin would do to them.”

― Steve McVey, Beyond an Angry God: You Can’t Imagine How Much He Loves You

What if God’s nature is really only good?

Part II to be published Sunday, June 25th

Depression, Spiritual

Sufficient Grace in a Season of Suffering

suffering

By: Jana Greene

Good morning, God.

I woke up in a panic today. Sick and tired, and tired of being sick. I have basically been ill since I had shoulder surgery 3 1/2 months ago, and I’m so over it. Feeling like crap for nearly 4 months straight would depress dang near anybody.

I’m really fighting the emotional funk, and I know I’m not alone – so I’m posting my prayer here. I know several of my friends are fighting (or have fought) the same funk. Depression and anxiety are real bugaboos, even for believers. I’m so tired of the stigma that gets perpetuated in churches. Jesus People should be the LEAST stigmatizing, for crying out loud. (No, really, I have cried out loud a few times this week.) Being of good cheer seems out of the question. Getting dressed today might be doable.

Every day in February, I have declared that THIS is the day I shall get it TOGETHER already! Mind over matter, right? (Wrong.)

I tell myself that TODAY, I shall work on taxes, get caught up on seminary, write another chapter for the book (AND get busy on some other projects) and lose 10 lbs and basically be a better version of me – the me in her PJs 24/7 this week, the me bingeing on Munchos. The me that feels so weak, she can hardly sit upright for more than 30 minutes.

Everything seems to be beyond my control right now, and I need Your comfort. I am asking for more faith, which comes from You. Help me with that, please.

Weakness…..Hmmmm.
There’s a scripture for that….

Your Grace is sufficient, I seem to recall. Praise Jesus for that sweet, amazing GRACE!

In your Word, you tell me that radical weakness is not a character flaw, but an opportunity for You to really bring home the razzle dazzle. You know how you do. Paul said it best:

“…Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (MSG)

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Spiritual

Letting Go of the “God of the Heavy Hand” (a little poem about His acceptance of you)

 

By: Jana Greene

When we perceive God’s heavy hand,

See? He’s showing his disdain!

For the common core of man,

Those so doubtful of His reign.

But what if we misperceive

Our own egos as his voice,

The thunder, ire, and condemnation

In response to our own choice?

 Or does God come softer still?

His love not found in angry roar,

But like a city on a hill,

Whose light beckons as an open door.

 He, with mercy, looks below

With radical, offensive grace

By leaps and bounds we rise and grow,

And learn to seek his loving face.

It’s not by punishment we learn

The vastness of his love and care,

But by accepting that where we find ourselves,

He’s already there.

 

 

Health, Mental Illness, Psalms, Spiritual

Hurts, Psalms, and Healing Balms

japanese

By: Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless us, every one.

 

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Depression, Spiritual

Mountain Climbing with Jesus

Mountain

By: Jana Greene

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.

 

 

 

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All Lives Matter, Spiritual

Bitter Strife and Loss of Life – American Anathema

Strife

By:  Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michelle Malkin: A cop is killed every 58 hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the spirit? We are all connected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God please….please bless us. Every one.

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Christianity, Spiritual

Kismet’s Blanket – A Faithy Fairy Tale

kismet

To say this piece is a departure from my usual blogging material is a major understatement. Still, Abba gave it to me in a dream, so I’m doing the only thing I know to do with it – sharing it with you.

 

By: Jana Greene

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Kismet who loved a blanket. It was a very special quilt, a gift from The King himself. Every child born into the Kingdom received one, but Kismet cherished hers more than most. It was made from snowy white fabric. In the finest thread of spun gold, the King had commissioned that every good decree and promise be embroidered into the fabric. Kismet took her blanket everywhere, wrapping herself in those promises.

Each morning, she would take the short walk to a green pasture between the woods and the hillside, and spread her blanket over the velvety grass. Laying on her back, hands clasped behind her head, she spent hours watching the clouds morph into shapes and patterns against the endless blue sky; and at night, she watched the infinite array of stars as they rolled across the Heavens.

One day, while she was cloud-gazing, a mighty wind kicked up and caught her off guard. She sat up suddenly just as a gust blew big clods of dirt onto the quilt, and when she stood to shake it off, another wind nearly blew the blanket away. She caught it by the corner and held on to it for dear life until the wind passed. Then she dusted off as much debris as she could and tried to get comfortable, but it wasn’t the same. It was dirty and itchy, and distracted her from her peaceful sky gazing.

That night, while she was admiring at the great, dark sky, she felt a sudden and violent tug on the top corner of her blanket. Startled, she gasped and sat up straight, only to catch sight of an enormous dragon’s tail as it lumbered into the woods. Kismet was terrified,  and ran home, dragging the ripped blanket behind her.

The next day, she ventured to the pasture again – this time keeping an eye out for dragons. She spread out her blanket, now grungy and dragon-nipped. All the same, it was still a gift from the King, and the little girl loved it so.

As she’d settled down to watch the sky and marvel at creation, she felt the ground give a sudden rumble, shaking her bones and rattling the hillside. For several moments, the ground shook. She was afraid the earth would open up and swallow her whole! In fact, the earth did not swallow her, but did upset several stones on the hillside, which tumbled down and landed on the quilt, missing her by only inches.

It was then that a scared and shaking Kismet decided to run away. Nothing was going right and she feared that the King might be angry if he found out that she’d let his precious gift get ruined.

Far away, she might have a better view of the clouds and stars. Far away, she might find her wonderment again.

She placed the stones in the center of the blanket, and gathered the three good corners of the quilt and the one torn edge, and tied them together. She then found a stick and fashioned a knapsack. It was far too heavy for a little girl such as herself,  what with it being full of stones, but she feared she might encounter another windstorm in her travels and the stones might be needed to hold the blanket down. She dragged the sack across the rugged ground for much of the day-long journey.

She finally came upon a small pasture by a river, and – exhausted – unloaded her pack. Stones and debris took up most of the space, but she found a little space in the center of the quilt, and pulled her knees to her chest. She didn’t look upward. She was sad and certain the sky would be empty. She cried and cried until evening settled over this strange land and she fell into a fitful sleep. When she awoke, a voice surprised her.

“What troubles you, little one?”

Kismet tilted her head up to see the King himself, sitting on the corner of the quilt. She could scarcely believe her eyes!

Slowly sitting up, she saw that the blanket was good as new! The torn corner had been  mended. The heavy stones had been thrown into the river. The fabric was white as snow again. The gold-stitched embroidery twinkled in the evening moonlight.

The King smiled at her and reached for her hand. She took it and he pulled her into a fatherly embrace. For the rest of the evening, they both lay back and played dot-to-dot with the constellations before falling into a safe and cozy slumber.

And when they returned to the Kingdom the next day, there was a great party to welcome them.

Was everything happily ever after? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Kismet’s blanket got dirty on occasion. She even lost it a few times. But that’s what happens when you take something everywhere you go.

She learned that the promises embroidered in golden thread were eternal, and ensured by the King. She learned that the blanket itself was not magical, but the bestower of it most certainly was. And she stayed in His presence all of of her days.

Because the King and his subjects are eternal, there is no “The End” to this tale. Instead, I invite you to consider this:

You and I? We are Kismet, too.

Your blanket is your faith. It was custom-made for you. Take it everywhere you go. Cling to it, even when the winds kick up. Catch it by the corner and hold on for dear life.

Even when the dragon tries to steal it from you. (Remember, it is his life’s work to steal it from you.)

Even when the ground shakes beneath your feet.

The King’s decrees are no less true because of the quaking.

The embroidery is scripture – the King’s Decree over you.

Don’t carry the things meant for your destruction to ensure your future comfort.

If you pick up the heavy stones of fear, doubt, and hatred on your travels, ask the King to help you let go of them. You were never meant keep them for holding down your faith.

Look upward! Even as you are surrounded by chaos.

There is no need to run away, for wherever you go, there you are.

Wrap up in your faith, all nice and cozy. Don’t keep it in a box.  Share it with others.

Don’t let your sense of wonder get away! Chase that thing down and never let it go!

And, Little One, if you do happen to lose your faith on occasion? The King will go a great distance to find you and restore your faith to its former glory.

Everywhere you take your faith, the Good King is with you.

Always.

 

 

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Christianity, Parenting, Spiritual

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

Friends.jpg
“Friends” by Liz Lemon Swindle

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“STOP IT!” the mom commanded.

“I’m just being silly….”

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

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

But no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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