Christianity, Spiritual

NOT Giving the Devil his ‘Due’

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Part 7 of The Seismic Seven Series

By: Jana Greene

Hi, Readers.

This series has taken me a really, really long time to write, and I think much of it is due to coming up with the 7th and final post in the series.

You see, I had planned on writing about Perichorisis for Dummies. I cannot dazzle you with my understanding of perichorisis (which the very learned C. Baxter Kruger discussed at The Open Table Conference) because this here dummy still doesn’t really understand the concept. There, I said it. I’m prayerfully working on it, but I’m not ready to write about it. (In short, the relationship of the Triune God is intensified by the relationship of perichoresis. This indwelling expresses and realizes fellowship between the Father and the Son. It is intimacy. Jesus compares the oneness of this indwelling to the oneness of the fellowship of his church from this indwelling.)

There is a thin ribbon of drool forming at the corner of my mouth and an expression of vapidness as I ponder this.

So instead, I’ve decided to write about something that was confirmed to me at the conference, something that may be the most seismic, earth-shattering thing of all: We give the devil far, far too much focus.

God gave me a little vision this morning before I was even out of bed.

“I MUST finish this series, God.” Say I. “Please O’ Holy God of the Universe, help me understand perichorises so that I can actually share these deep and abiding truths with my readers!”

To which God oh-so-customarily provides me with a completely random idea: The Wizard of Oz.

(One of the greatest misinformations in the world today is that being a Christian is boring and staid. To the contrary, God always keeps it interesting. He comes up with some far-out stuff….)

“I’m not interested in your readers thinking you’re smart, dear one.” I feel Him convey to my spirit. “I’m interested in you reminding them where to focus.”

He re-directed me to a message I’ve recently been imparted – that we spend so much time and energy talking about Spiritual Warfare that we forget it isn’t all about the devil and his demons.

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her band of assorted and very needy creatures set off on a long journey that focuses on one thing: The Wizard. The activity of the mighty, all-controlling Wizard will bring resolution. We don’t like to think we give the devil his due to this degree, but often times, we do.

Oh, the devil has got me down

The devil won’t let up on me.

The devil is causing this or that heartache.

And you are probably right about those things. There is no doubt a battle in the Heavenlies for you. Again, Spiritual Warfare is a real, important thing.

But the MOST important players in it are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (hey, I DID reference perichoresis!) They are the Focus.

Because ultimately, when we complete this crazy Earth Journey in which we learn to love God and each other, the devil has already been defeated.

The devil roars and prowls like a lion, but It is Finished, and he knows it. He is an old, devious, evil – but toothless – lion.

Remember the ending of The Wizard of Oz? This is the guy who has everyone quaking in fear:

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Dorothy and co-horts are SHOCKED to find out (thanks to scrappy little Toto)  that The Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz is really just a little guy with a lot of bluster in a bad suit hiding in a little booth. His whole persona is creating special effects that make him seem all-powerful.

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One of my best friends likes to say this about satan: “Flick that imp off your shoulder.” I just love that visual. How is it possible to do that? Focus on the Triune God and his incredibly true and real love.

Don’t give the devil his ‘due.’ He isn’t ‘due’ anything. You owe him NOTHING. Not even fear!  Don’t set off on a journey to find him out. You already know he is just a little guy pulling levers and creating special effects.

You are a child of the Most High King – walk in that favor.

(Here, in summary, is a video by another of the conference speakers, Steve McVey. Please, please watch it if you can. Spiritual warfare is a very real thing. There are angels, there are demons. I’ve really seen some sh*t, frankly. But we manifest what we focus on. Listen to his story about Palmetto bug illustration. Mind blown)

Spiritual, Spirituality

Wanted: Black Sheep

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By: Jana Greene

Part 6 of The Seismic Seven Series

“When somebody’s religious identity is being challenged, things are bound to turn nasty quickly.” —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

Good readers,

Today Abba has downloaded a blog post into my heart that makes many Christians squirmy and causes a lot of division. I know because it made me super squirmy. It’s the gospel of inclusion, and it’s pretty radical stuff.

Jesus came so that we could all be included in the love of God, not so that we could take His Gospel and divvy it up by law and procedure and methods and doctrinal argument, until it is splintered and divided. He didn’t come to provide religious identity.

At the Open Table Conference, this message was more or less hammered into us – and I couldn’t be more grateful. I could go on for days about this (and I may….) because it resonates on a base-level. It speaks to a contingent who may not even possess faith yet, and we sure do love to preach to the already-faithed.

Once upon a time, there was a Pure and Spotless White Lamb who came to a new pasture –  one much sparser and less lush than the one he called ‘home.’ He came so that he could  show all of the scattered and flaw-full black sheep the way to greener pastures and lead them to the care of a loving Shepherd.

While he was among the black sheep, he did not cloister himself up on the highest hill and look down upon them grazing on the crappy, cut-rate grasses they had chosen.

He didn’t call attention to himself and brag about his spotlessness.

He didn’t shame the less-than-perfect sheep for being spotty and lame.

He didn’t cavort around with the black sheep so that he could do the naughty things that they were doing.

He was goodness and light and mercy, something the flock had never experienced before, and they drew close to him because of those attributes – not necessarily because he appeared without blemish. Blemishes can hide far under the wool.

He included ALL of the fold, selecting NONE of them for banishment. Division was not this Sheep’s end-game. Inclusion was.

He supped with The Blackest Sheep in the Family, and hung out among the fallen, and challenged them to believe that there was a Shepherd of Love who could make them perfect. He’d left a perfect pasture to bring more sheep to the shepherd. Through this loving and acceptance of the Pure White Lamb, the wool of the others became spotless, too.

So that when the Shepherd called his flock home, he couldn’t tell one from another. All were pure and spotless in his sight.

Let me say that again: So that when the Shepherd called his flock home, he couldn’t tell one from another. All were pure and spotless in his sight.

Graze on that for a minute. When you follow the Lamb of God, you are spotless too.

I’m not saying that accepting Christ as Savior isn’t key. It’s everything. But God loved you long before you ever made that choice. His love for you is not even contingent on that choice. If it were, it would be YOU responsible for the love.

I’m not saying repentance isn’t necessary. I’m just saying God’s love for you isn’t contingent upon it. Some chose not to follow the Spotless One, but it did not diminish the Shepherd’s love for them OR his deep longing for them to experience His presence. Not one whit.

If you had to turn from all sin in order for God to love you, it would be all about you and your piousness, and I think we can all agree piousness is a bunch of crap. Otherwise the Pure and Spotless White Lamb would have hung around black sheep in white sheep’s clothing (a.k.a Pharisees / Sadducees) to save face, which is not at ALL what he did.

You cannot be responsible for the Grace God showed you before the hour you first believed. He has already included you in the love.

If the sheep don’t know there is One who will care for them right where they are, they will have no desire to leave the cut-rate pasture.

And if you are The Black Sheep of your family, take heart! The God of the cosmos loves you and longs for you to experience His presence. He has goodness, light and mercy abundant for you, right where you are.

You are included.

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

 

 

 

Spiritual, Spirituality

Back to Nurture

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Stone Mountain Falls

By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear readers. I will soon resume completion of The Seismic Seven Series, but an unforeseen distraction took place over the past few days, and I’m sharing it with you so that you also might be encouraged. I had an opportunity to run away with My Beloved to a little cabin in the woods, and here is what my spirit pondered there:

During the days of my steeped-in-nature trip, my spirit experienced such peace that my busy mind became willingly submissive to it.

Worries fell off before they had a chance to stick, like Teflon coated the surface of my soul. Anxiety tried to get in, of course. It’s ruthless that way. But my spirit would not allow it. “Sorry'” I felt it say. “There is no room for you thieves of joy.”

The cacophony of rushing waters, birdsong, and buzzing bees drowned out all else. I felt Holy Ghost in every breeze and rustle, and in me – manifested as Peace.

It occurred to me that this is the way God intended us to feel back in the garden. We’ve lost it through the falling, and through trying to convince The Father that we know a better way.

If only I can find a way to replicate this Great Shalom, back in the ‘real’ world where the cacophony seems only to be struggles and bills and drama.

Lord Jesus, please keep my spirit coated with the Teflon coating of trusting you. Help me reign in the ruthless anxiety. Holy Spirit, manifest in and around me even in the Land of the Lost. And hey, thank you for this glorious respite of rushing water, birdsong, and buzzing bees. Block the thieves of joy so that I might find this shalom even in the mundane.
Amen and amen.

and God bless us every one.

Spiritual, Spirituality

A God Most Intimate

intimacy

Part 5 of The Seismic Seven Series

By: Jana Greene

“I don’t believe in God. I know God! Once you know someone, believing is no longer a concern.” — Wm. Paul Young (Eve: A Novel)

I once wrote a blog post about the disservice atheists do to children in persuading them that there is no God. Sure enough, I received a comment from a fellow blogger and devout atheist (if you can be such a thing) chastising me for perpetuating a myth.

To read the article, click here:   Little Humans, Big Faith

“I’ve lost nothing if I’ve base my life on love. Not a single thing,” I asserted in the piece. To which he countered: “So you would consider basing your life around a lie a good use of your time?”

“Kids are the most questioning people on the planet and God wants us to come to him as little children. I think He definitely gets it. I think He knows that we are curious and that’s okay,” I wrote.

“Sounds extremely spooky but not a very reliable method of forming beliefs,” said he.

Oh, dude. You have no idea how supernatural it really is. My faith is the most reliable thing in my life, far more so than my emotions or book-sense.

Believing in God is risky business. But even that is not enough for me. I crave the intimacy of KNOWING God.

One of the most powerful talking points at The Open Table Conference was about intimacy with the Father. I just eat that up. I’m not content to walk beside Jesus anymore – I want the union whereby He is in my spirit and I am in His. The kind of relationship you simply cannot figure out with the brain, and really don’t need to.

“Some things in life you just aren’t going to be able to think your way through—so you might as well save yourself the stress by simply trusting your way through them.” – Steve McVey (The Grace Walk Devotional)

There’s that “trusting” thing again. Pesky trusting, there is no shortcut to it.

“The Christian God is interested in relationship with us, and not just relationship, but union, and not just union, but such a union that everything He is and has—all glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life—is to be shared with us and to become as much ours as it is His. The plan from the beginning, in the Christian vision, is that God would give Himself to us, and nothing less, so that we could be filled to overflowing with the divine life.” — C. Baxter Kruger (Jesus and the Undoing of Adam)

The conversation between my atheist friend and I continued in a few more comment exchanges. He asked me if I thought we had disembodied minds, and I prayed a bit before I answered:

Can I prove that to you? No, I know it in my heart of hearts. Do I need to prove it to you? No. Because you cannot prove something that is true in the Spirit to a mind that is closed off to the possibility of there even BEING a spirit. It’s like proving to you that I am having thoughts about chocolate by showing you my big toe. Yes, my mind and body are related and intertwined, but not exactly the same thing. Different parts of me.

I’ve seen supernatural things, and have not found them lacking in evidence or reality at all! Spooky? Sometimes. Glorious and ethereal? Oh, yes. (I’m a natural-born skeptic, too, believe it or not.)

Can you prove that love exists? Can you bottle it, break down its chemical make-up (yes, I know you can manufacture serotonin, etc. That’s not what I’m talking about.) No. But you can see the manifestations of it all over the place. Ditto evil. Manifested everywhere.
It’s enough to make your brain hurt. If you try to process it only with your brain.  The spirit of a person is not their disembodied mind at all.

“Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.” – C.S. Lewis.

The crazy thing about faith is that it will respect your wishes. If you wish to hold God at bay by choosing not to take the risk of knowing, you will never know. If you wish to know the Father in the most intimate parts of your spirit, He will meet you there.

Don’t take my word for it that God wants the closest relationship with you possible. Don’t even take these learned Theologians’ words for it. During the entire workshop, we participants were encouraged not only to think for ourselves, but “Ask Jesus if it’s true.”

Ask Him yourself. Approach the throne – He welcomes your curiosity. He honors your seeking of the truth. If you don’t seek, you will not find out it’s true.

“The challenge to have more faith about a specific outcome is often nothing more than a religious promotion for positive thinking.” — Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

It’s easy to call it a myth or a fairy tale, or an exercise in positive thinking. Its easy if you’ve never tasted the truth. But OH! When you know the glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life – there’s no going back.

And yes, I consider basing my life around The Truth a very good use of my time.

Christianity, Spiritual

You are God’s Favorite

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By: Jana Greene

Hi Readers,

In Part 2 of The Seismic Seven Series, I want to talk about how much you matter – how important and integral you are to the entire Cosmos.

We are all born with a primal need to MATTER. We have a longing to be a Really Big Deal to someone else, set apart and appreciated for who we are in our deepest hiding places.

I’ve always kind of hated the platitudes like “If God has a refrigerator, your picture is on it.” Or, “God carries your picture in his wallet.”

To my mind, that only means He has a enormous Frigidaire to keep Kingdom feasts fresh, and a billion pictures plastered with holy magnets on it, with no one face standing out more than another. Or carrying around a fat, honking wallet full of Benjamins and  millions of plastic photo sleeves to whip out and show the saints when He brags about his kids.

But five little words spoken to me by a pastor I respect very much changed my whole perception:

You are God’s very favorite.

What!? Um, no, I’m pretty sure I’m not.

God loves the saintly, the selfless. The cool. Mother Teresa may be His favorite. Or maybe even Lenny Kravitz. He is super cool. Oh, and people who win the lottery. Not me. That was my understanding in my deepest hiding places where fear-based unworthiness tried to get the last word.

“Do you know how janky my life is?”  I asked him. “I’m selfish and have a salty tongue. I lose my patience with people who cut me off in traffic, and soothe my feelings with food binges, and I just cannot seem to GET IT TOGETHER.”

“Yes, and you are His favorite,” he insisted.

But I could not forget that sentiment. In the following weeks and months, I let it rattle around in my mind until it found refuge in my spirit. And I found out that it’s true.

I know what you’re thinking: How arrogant to assume I’m His favorite! But here’s the rub:

YOU are his favorite too. In our puny, fallen capacity to understand love, there can only be one “favorite.” One chosen over all the others. We want so badly to be someone’s favorite, to be a Really Big Deal to someone. Each one of us being Abba’s favorite isn’t possible in our human understanding, but it’s 100% true.

We are dealing with two dimensions here – the one coming from above presides over all – while the reasoning from a mere earthly perspective is confined to communicate from an earthly point of view. The conversation realized as originating in Heaven has the final say.” – John 3:31 (Mirror Bible)

He is pursuing you…can you feel it? If you’re reading this, I know you feel the pursuit. He brings us to people and places that speak life over us. He is whispering to you, “It’s TRUE! No one else will do for the relationship I want to have with you!”

Not restrained by time or space or a limited capacity to love, God favors YOU. Like a favorite son or daughter, He adores you and longs for relationship with you, no matter how janky your life may be.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask Jesus if it’s true. He wants you to ask. Never hesitate to bring honest dialogue to the Father.

Your life and your words and deeds carry enough weight to affect the very Cosmos, and I’m not even exaggerating.

If anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will be the same again.” — Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

YOU MATTER.

C. Baxter Kruger puts it like this: “What does the understanding that we are accepted into the mutual indwelling and communion with God remove from our hearts? Fear and hiding. So because of Jesus’ knowledge of the Father’s acceptance, which he shares with us, we now are free to let go of our racial and personal prejudices, and to love and accept one another, which leads to the freedom to know and be known, which leads to fellowship and mutual indwelling.”

The freedom to know and be known, and mutual indwelling with the Creator of the Universe, who poured just as much love and favor into you as He poured stars into the sky, galaxies into the vast universe. You are set apart and appreciated for who you are in your deepest hiding places.

Abba doesn’t carry your picture in His wallet or keep it on His refrigerator.

He carries YOU in His heart of hearts.

You are a REALLY BIG DEAL to Abba.

His very favorite.

 

 

Grace, Spiritual

Your Future-Tripping Sunday Self

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Jacob’s Well in the Texas Hill Country. I was blessed to visit the locale last year. It is stunning!

By: Jana Greene

Hello, readers.

As some of you know, I was privileged to attend a forum called “The Open Table Conference” in Atlanta over the weekend. There were four speakers there – which is not unusual for a conference – but the unique thing about it as that the attendees were invited to approach the speakers open table-style. No subject too dangerous. No shame in asking what your heart is longing to know. And while I cannot say I ‘agree’ 100% with everything covered (As we say in AA, “Take what you need and leave the rest,) my spirit was incredibly blessed by these men of faith and their transparency, humor and faith. (See below for bios of each of the speakers I quote.)

For this series of seven posts (I’ll try to post one per day…emphasis on the TRY!) I will be weaving my personal experience from the event with what I learned and explored. That’s a pretty important distinction, as I am NO Theologian and can only present what I gleaned over the course of the conference as a messy, curious, and head-over-heels in-love-with-Jesus believer.

*Note that the scripture included in the series will be referenced from the “Mirror Bible,” which often breaks verses down to consider the original Greek or Aramaic meanings and nuances. They are the scriptures that corresponded with what I explored during the absolutely SEISMIC weekend, as they relate to my studying.

As Steve McVey said, “Revolutions are not started by mild-mannered people.

I just love that.

“This kind of hope does not disappoint; the gift of the Holy Spirit completes our every expectation and ignites the love of God within us like an artesian well.” – Romans 5:5

Paul Young (author of “The Shack”) was one of the presenters at the conference. I feel kind of terrible that I have not read the book yet, so lets start this off with a confession. I have not read The Shack. I may be the only person on the planet who has not. But I HAVE watched a ton of Wm. Paul Young’s videos on YouTube, and I AM currently reading The Shack right now. Young is the kind of Christian who reminds me of fellow-believers Anne Lamott and Brennan Manning, meaning – the kind of Christian who really used to piss me off earlier in my faith walk because they were so HONEST and sold out for Christ and that was threatening to me. Radicals! SHEESH.

It’s not threatening to me any more.

So, I haven’t read The Shack in its entirety yet, but I love the premise (which also would have pissed me off in my younger years….God as a middle-aged black woman!? Holy Spirit as an Asian woman!? HERETICAL! Jesus as an Israeli!? Well, okay, I guess that’s alright…) Thankfully a lifetime of grace has smoothed out my sharp edges, and I know God is SOOO much bigger than the box I liked to keep Him in (as if…)

Young’s narratives really did a number on my heart all weekend. They all did, but his especially.

One of the simplest takeaways I soaked in was this: God is not just interested in our Sunday Selves. The Self that we plop in a pew on Sunday mornings and cast off by the time we hit the K & W Cafeteria after the service. He’s just not. He is interested in each one of us in an intimate way – knowing how pointy our sharp edges and embracing us anyway. He is invested in us in the most precious way imaginable.

God gave His Son for us, yes. But here’s what we forget –  Jesus volunteered for the job, so great was his longing to draw us close, pointy edges and all.

Another mind-blower was this: Future Tripping – a term Young uses for one of my more badass companions – Worry. Worry is like a bad boyfriend you just can’t seem to break up with, even though he is bad for you all the way around, and full of drama. He’s also a stalker, that one. Like any good father, God sits on the porch with an arsenal to blast his head off, but a really dysfunctional part of me is like, “No, Papa! I LOVE him!” Ugh.

My Sunday Self wouldn’t tell you that. She’s been around awhile and knows how to plaster the Sunday Face on, all nice and shiny. She can worry about a million things at once, even though only approximately 2-3% of her worries will ever even remotely come to pass. She has adapted because she is world-weary.

I think that’s one reason we are told to become like children. Children are not world-weary. They are authentic.

Or as Young says: “We need to learn to become children again – to let go of ‘future-tripping,’ where out of fear we imagine what’s going to happen and waste today’s grace on things that don’t exist.”

Wasting today’s grace. Yeah, I want no part in that. We can also waste grace by being do-driven. Anxiety is also an Unsavory Character. There is a place for good works, but it is not the foundation of our faith.

The venerable Steve McVey also spoke at the event, and he was also amazing:

“God wants to bring us to the understanding that we weren’t saved to do something for God. We were saved so that we might know Him in intimate daily fellowship.” –  Steve McVey  (“Grace Walk: What You’ve Always Wanted in the Christian Life”)

I hope this series will embrace you, sharp edges and all. And invite you to explore the radical love of a very real Father who doesn’t want just your Sunday Self, but your messy, future-tripping, sinful, hurting Selves.

Other pieces will incorporate subjects like You Matter; Sin – Nothing can Separate You;  Hiding Behind the Legs of Jesus; Know that You Know that you Know; Inclusion; and Perichoresis for Dummies – The Triune God.

May you share in the hope that does not disappoint; and revel in the Holy Spirit that completes our every expectation and ignites the love of God within us like an artesian well.

By the way, an artesian well is simply a well that doesn’t require a pump to bring water to the surface; this occurs when there is enough pressure in the aquifer. The pressure forces the water to the surface without any sort of assistance.

You cannot fall short because it isn’t your effort that brings Holy Spirit to the surface.

I’ll leave you with this gem, also by Steve McVey: “When we focus exclusively on the love of God, when we see love as the totality of His being, are we leaving out something? To say yes is to insult Divine Agape. Love is His fundamental makeup. Everything that can be known of Him must be seen through the lens of agape, or we end up presenting a god with multiple personality. Jesus proved that God is pure love by coming into the world.” – (“Beyond an Angry God”)

God bless us, EVERY one!

 

*Wm. Paul Young, author of The Shack, Eve, Cross Roads, and The Shack Reflections, was born a Canadian and raised among a stone-age tribe by his missionary parents in the highlands of what was Netherlands New Guinea (now West Papua). He suffered great loss as a child and young adult, and now enjoys the “wastefulness of grace” with his family in the Pacific Northwest.

*Dr. C. Baxter Kruger is the Director of Perichoresis, an international ministry sharing the truth of our adoption in Christ with the world. Baxter has a degree in Political Science from the University of Mississippi, and earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree under Professor James B. Torrance at Kings College in Aberdeen, Scotland. Dr. Kruger is the author of eight books including The Great Dance, Across All Worlds, and the international bestseller, The Shack Revisited.

*Dr. Steve McVey is the founder of Grace Walk Ministries, with offices in Atlanta, GA and six other countries. He is the author of 19 books that have been translated into over 15 languages. They include the best selling, Grace Walk and his most recent book, Beyond an Angry God.

 

 

Grace, Spiritual

How do you Pray when You Cannot Focus?

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The most important thing on my cork board. No matter how unfocused I am, this is my Jesus.

By: Jana Greene

Over the weekend, one of my very dear girlfriends contacted me. Our friendship is a God Thing to the inth degree. A years ago, we became Facebook friends somehow, and then NAMASTE! – my spirit recognized her spirit the instant we talked. We have much in common health-wise, many of the same struggles. It was as if Abba said, “Hmmm….these two could really bounce things off each other.” And he was right.

She is going through a prolonged episode of ‘brain fog’ due to chronic health issues. If you are healthy (or your brain is young) the fog might be a foreign concept to you. It’s more than forgetting what you went in to the kitchen for. It’s like your thoughts are trying to gain footing on a very slippery rock.  It’s a dulling and jumbling of your mind, which can really do a number on your spirit.

“How does one keep a solid prayer/reading life with chronic illness?” She asked me.  “When you either oversleep (because you are sick and need the sleep, not because you’re lazy), or you truly can’t muster up a prayer, or read. Or your mind is all over the place, not stable like it used to be? Maybe a good blog topic?”

A very good blog topic.

I am worlds WORST with carving out quiet time/devotions. There, I said it. It’s OUT THERE now. And It isn’t because prayer isn’t important to me.

Between chronic pain, ADD (and OCD, which can be kind of severe at times)  and anxiety…there are times that the best thing I can offer is conversational prayer with God throughout the day. For a short while, I took medication for my ADD and the BIGGEST change I noticed was that I could pray like a regular Saint Augustine! HOURS. When I had to go off of it because it raised my blood pressure, I felt like somebody yanked the prayer rug from under me.

I still pray, of course. It’s a constant conversation, but often not terribly structured.

After I saw the movie “War Room,”  I was so stoked to make deliberate time in my bedroom closet. I covered one wall with cork-boards on which to pin my heartfelt prayers every day as soon as I woke up. FIRST THING. Maybe I’ll be so fervent I’ll go into the Prayer Closet several times in the middle of the night! Wow, I’ll bet I will REALLY hear from God then! My boards will resemble the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, it will be so jam-packed with my sacraments and epiphanies!

The next morning I did, in fact, enter it like the Holy of Holies. But the day after that I had a migraine and another day, my anxiety was too full-on to sit still, and other days I just forgot.

Mostly my self-crafted Prayer Closet just caused me to feel guilty EVERY single time I’d walk in to get a pair of shoes. Eventually it went like this: Enter closet for shirt, avoid eye contact with The Wall, feel massively guilty, avoid God because I can’t even hack this focus thing, emotionally self-flagellate. Vow to spend two hours solid in it the next day. Fail to do so and feel terrible. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But then I realized that I talk to God conversationally all day long. He knows my heart, he knows my pain, and my janky brain fog. In trying, trying, trying to be better, I set myself up for failure (it’s kind of a specialty of mine.)

But God, who created my brain and all the other miraculous workings of my body, is not going to withhold from me because of my limitations. That would be pretty freaking cruel. Instead, he caulks in the cracks and loves me like MAD.

My dear friend  is also frustrated with hearing from God the way she used to when she was brain fog-free. I get that, too. That’s the worst thing. But I think he – knowing our plight – compensates by speaking to us in our constant conversation with him. He is never more than a dozen thoughts from my heart, and he knows it.

When someone comes to mind, I pray for her. When I’m worried, I pray. When I see a pretty flower, praise the Creator and thank him for it. Thank him for my friends and blessings and hot coffee.

Especially, I tell him I trust that he is working on issues I don’t see evidence of yet, and ask him to help me trust when I don’t.

I ask for focus fifty times a day, at least.

But when I can’t get through the fog, here’s the cool thing: Grace!

GRACE is the caulk in the space between our best intentions and highest enlightenment. It fills in the cracks and expands in the crevices where I’m foggy or anxious, or even just lazy. We are not perfect but he holds us close to us still! No guilt required.

My sacraments and epiphanies don’t always come down from Heaven like a bolt of lightning when I’m having an Instagram-worthy moment of devotion with the perfect cup of coffee.

Sometimes they trickle in increments of A-Ha! moments that Holy Spirit doles out and pours into me. When I’m too pained or foggy to tune into his frequency, he reminds me that it’s okay.

I told my dear friend that perhaps we can meet this week and brain-dazed and janky together. Pray awkward, foggy prayers together, and trust grace to caulk in our rough spots. Listen for the bolt of lightning, but be okay with the A-Ha moments and roll with it as the Sisters in Christ that we are. Raise a War Room right where we are, where two or more are gathered.

God isn’t angry that we have unfocused seasons. He just desires that we keep the conversation going, and listen for his voice.

God bless us, every one.

 

 


 

His eye is on the sparrow, kids getting tattoos, Spiritual

More than Many Sparrows – My Daughter’s Tattoo

My daughter's tattoo, which has come to have significant spiritual meaning to me as a mother.

More than Many Sparrows

or

A Tale of My Daughter and the Audacity of Ink 

By:  Jana Greene

 

      The first thing I noticed about it was the blackness of the outline, almost as if it were drawn with bold magic marker.   My next thought was that I must absolutely write about thisthe design that now lay bare on her skin.   As if, somehow putting pen to paper would give permanence to the moment, as the needle brought it to her flesh.

My daughter’s first tattoo.

     I had known that it was coming, that she considered it a rite of passage. My girl had always danced to the beat of a different drummer; a lover of eclectic music, performance art and sculpture.  If she had a credo it would be this:  Live by Deliberate Acts of Impulsivity.

As her mother, I would surely prefer that she not bear any tattoos at all, because (and yes, I am the expert here) she is absolutely perfect the way God made her.  I am rather attached to her being, looking, sounding exactly like my daughter – the only one of her kind, anywhere.  Tattoos are just not my thing”, whereas she very much is.  

           Nineteen years ago, just after she was born, the delivery room nurses whisked her away for her first bath and returned with my infant girl swaddled very tightly.  No sooner was she in my arms than I was removing the blankets, unwrapping her like a present on Christmas morning.  As mothers have done since the dawn of time, I checked her, head to toe.  I found her birthmarks, the dimples in her plump hands, and worked my way to her tiny, peach-fuzzed back.  There, between two flawless round shoulder blades, I placed my open palm to her skin.  It was a perfect fit.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined anything marring that space.

  In her “growing up” years, there were manifestations of her free spiritof course… harmless acts of rebellion, none of them leaving a lasting mark.  She formed strong opinions before she could form complete sentences, and had no trouble expressing them.  At around age four, she developed magnetism to the camera (any camera) andmade it habit to insert herself into any and every photograph.  

Around the same time, Alexandra began displaying fashionista tendencies.  An ensemble she chosen for a summer day in the park might include: a sweater with leggings, plastic Disney princess shoes, a toboggan with ear flaps, seven necklaces and a life-vest (after all, it was July!)…all worn together and on dry land.  It soon became apparent that stares, glares and pointing in her direction by the public at large was not a deterrent to this behavior.  It was more the entire motivation.

This is when the adage “choose your battles” took on meaning for me.  And as I became a student of war, the years rolled on like a tank.

With the advent of tweenhood, there were lines drawn, of course. Not a fan of shirts that showed adolescent bellies and shorts that declared suggestive adjectives across their bottoms, those were not tolerated.  Alexandra compensated with crazy combinations of adornment, including stick-on tattoos of all kinds.  

At twelve, after spending a long day with friends at the beach boardwalk, she returned home with a henna tattoo, ecstatic.  

“Until I get a real one,” she told me.

She managed to graduate high school with only a nose ring as modification, butno sooner was the ink dry on her diploma than she was ready to display ink on her body.

“I’m ready,” she said to me one day.  “I’m getting my tattoo. A bird.”

          Okay.  A bird.

         “A Tribal Sparrow,” she added.

         “What in the world is a ‘tribal sparrow’?” My voice is more condescending than I intend.

          Eye rolling and head shaking.  Translation: Mother, you just don’t get it.

          I wonder about the subject she has chosen for the artist, and it’s tribal-ness.  Our family heritage is sort-of a homogenized breed.  We have no “tribe”. We have no “people”.  We are Scotch-Irish with German in the mix, and a little Louisiana-Cajun-French (but you have to really look for it).  No- we are very garden variety, Ellis-Island mutt American.  Perhaps that’s the attraction for her, the tribal aspect.

         “If you’re trying to belong,” I said, in an attempt to appeal to her lovingly (sometimes changing strategy can be effective)“You already do.  You don’t need a tattoo to belong here.”

She knows that, she says.  

Is a bird something you now,” I pause for effect. “And forever more want to be associated with?  Because you will.you will be ‘that girl with that tattoo. But as I am asking her, I am secretly grateful she isn’t branding herself with a map of Area 51, or the image of a pop tart, or a beer keg.  It should be something meaningful to you.”

         “It is.  It represents freedom to me, Mom.”

        “You still live at home,” I reply dryly. We pay all of your bills…..  Don’t you want to wait until you are free to commemorate freedom?”

        Heavy sigh.  “Freedom from things.  Personal things.”

        “If it’s so personal, why does it have to be permanently inked on your body for the whole world to see?”

        “Why would I not?” she counters, and I have no reply.  All their lives, my children have been told to be authentic, true to themselves.  Encouraged to be real.

Don’t be afraid to show who you are.  It’s the message I’ve tried to impart, even during the years of life-vest accessorizing.  Don’t wear the masks.

         “You know what?” I say. You don’t even know who you are yet!  You are whoyou are right now, and a mere five years from today, you will be in a completely different place.”

She says that none of us remain the same, not even for a single year. And it’s true  .I am a very, very different mother than I was when she was born, unwrapping her like apresent on Christmas morning.  The particular audacity of getting inked is that it alters your shell, the only one you will get in this life.    It is a deliberately impulsive act.

Parenting is not a sane endeavor, and complicating the matter is that she is, in fact, not a child.  Still, I have to believe she will listen to reason.

“Not everyone is going to be so accepting of your ways in the world,” I bleat wearily..   “There are people who will make value judgments about you based solely onthe fact that you have a tattoo.

But my instincts tell me to RETREAT, as I watch her body tense.

RETREAT, or there will be immediate launch into mutual hysteria, familiar territory for us.  It seems that – these days –she and I are either dissolving into tears of laughter together (our ‘inside jokes’ are legion), or hurling words of frustration at one another, rapid-fire.

If I ever care what people think of me based solely on my appearance, than I have bigger problems than having a tattoo!”

How can I not admire that statement?  Who can argue?  She is, after all, an adult.  I surrender, but silently, and with a slow refrain of “Taps” playing in my mind.  

What I want to tell her, but do not say aloud, is that she will be marked, molded, and modified, without ever setting foot into a tattoo parlor.  I look at my body, once just as perfect as hers, mapped by the story of my life.  Constellations of freckles from forgetting sunscreen a thousand times, and wrinkles from the same offense.   Smile-lines around my eyes from laughing, scars from mishaps and missteps, and from the pieces I have lost to surgeries….all part of the story.   But it’s the pink, translucent ribbons that cover my lower belly that mean the most to me.  Tributaries of skin stretched to accommodate the growing bodies of she and her sister long ago….These are my tribal marks.  

When the time arrives, Alexandra comes to tell me it is The Day.  .  She tells me the name of the artist who will do the work.  I recognize his name; he attends my church.  She is the definition of “all smiles”, luminous.

“Do you want to come with me while I have it done?” She asks.  “You can hold my hand.”  I am instantly frustrated with her for acting like a little girl – still needing my approval, and equally frustrated that she is not one anymore.

I politely decline, and her boyfriend goes with her instead.  I am considering the natural order of things, pondering the business of ‘letting go’ when she walks out the door with him.  I try not to think about ink and needles.  I’m glad he will hold her hand.

It finally occurred to me to talk to God about my qualms; it should have been my first  response.  How many times do I wrestle tiny inconsequential issues to the ground as though they are giants without asking the Almighty God to assist me on the mat?  As usual, He was already in that place I had hesitated to invite him.

The Bible has a lot to say, and the gist of the message that speaks to my life is Grace.  True, there are passages that warn about marking the body, scriptures that warn against cutting the hair.  But it is a verse about birds that God brought to my mind.  Leafing through the pages, I found it right away:

Matthew 10:29.  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Has my daughter inadvertently given flesh to the scripture I pray over her?    

Though I hate to admit it, Alexandra’s tattoo has forced me to consider the messy business of acceptance.   The “Choose-Your-Battle” cry of all parents has a different tone for each scrimmage and every life stage.  What do I gain, as a mother, if I choose not to accept my grown child’s decisions?  Am I selfishly seeking validation that I have “raised her right” if she refrains from what society might be uncomfortable with?  

The freedom she is trying to parlay is that today, she can still go anywhere from here.  This tattoo is meaningful to her.  And she is meaningful to me.

When she returns, she cannot wait to show me, walking backwards into my bedroom so that it’s the first thing I see.  There is no hiding the work; she will have none of that.  This girl, a lover of eclectic music, performance art and sculpture….Now adorned.

So that’s a Tribal Sparrow...  

A clear coat of laminate covers the wound, so that it can heal properly.  In the mental melee of preparing myself to see it, I had forgotten that it would scab and scar…that it would be a ‘no pain, no gain’ commitment, as most things that become permanent are.

“It’s lovely,” I say.  And I think I mean it.

The Tribal Sparrow is a beautiful bird.

Her outline is striking and very bold, not the least bit likely to fade, but her plumage is just the color of Alexandra’s complexion.  Centered between my daughter’s flawless and round shoulder blades, the sparrow is exactly the size of my open palm…a perfect fit.  She is in flight, but I’m not sure she knows where she is going, her two tail feathers pointed high.  Her eye appears to be a soft swirl, peering neither downward or behind, but straight ahead.  Her wings are gently drawn with a curve, as if she is gliding, not yet looking for a place to land.  A true Artist painted her right onto my daughter’s perfect body.  And every time I see it now, I am reminded that His eye is on the sparrow,and that she can go anywhere from here.  

Anywhere at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Grace, Spiritual

Splintered – a Chip of the Old Family Stone

Only love to lose

By: Jana Greene

Remember the old Sly and the Family Stone song “Everyday People?” (In case you don’t, here is a link to listen: Everyday People )

I think the modern Christian Church needs to heed the message. We’ve become so splintered by theologies, ideologies, and ego-ologies. My heart is heavy for the division, and frankly, all it manages to do is prop up the devil, who – in case you haven’t noticed – is having his heydey on this planet already.

Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in
I am everyday people.
There is a blue one
Who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one
Trying to be a skinny one
Different strokes
For different folks.

For the longest time, I operated from a place of loving God out of fear, terrified of displeasing him. And that meant shunning you if you participated in certain behaviors, so that I could not be accused of “condoning” it.

We don’t have the time to bicker among ourselves, because Rome is burning right now.

Billy Graham put it succinctly:

“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”

(And yes, I am throwing in a little Billy Graham into a piece about Sly and the Family Stone. God digs it when his kids mix it up.)

Sometimes I’m right, but I can be wrong. That STINGS, doesn’t it?

Peter is my favorite disciple, but he was far from the most perfect. His propensity for flubbing things is what endears him to my heart, he was ‘wrong’ a lot.  (Google ‘Peter’s sins’ if you are interested)  Yet Jesus told him –

“…And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” – Matthew 16:18

Peter was Everyday People. Just like me and you.

I am no better and neither are you
We are the same, whatever we do
You love me, you hate me, you know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in
I am everyday people.

There is a gay one, who won’t accept the straight one, that won’t accept the trans one for living with the  (fill-in-the-blank with your favorite deadly sin of choice.) one.  And that’s WITHIN the Church. We are sending the world the message that we love everybody all the same but stay over there so you don’t rub off on me.

Jesus wants us to go to the world and rub off on it like crazy. That was his whole modus operandi.He came to welcome everyone into the family of God. We don’t get to exclude certain groups of people because we find their choices distasteful, or even because the Bible says its wrong.

Are we to pretend then that all behaviors are acceptable to God and just ‘get over’ ourselves? The world is well aware that they are considered sinners by the Church.

What they maybe haven’t heard is the message of LOVE that is supposed to be our cornerstone.

When I’m perfect, I will pick up rocks and throw them at you. But honestly, I’m pretty sure that’s not happening.

It’s not that sin is unimportant to God.

It’s that sin became dwarfed and overcome by the power of the Cross, and LOVE is a bigger deal.

Our message of Love rests on the Cornerstone that cannot be moved by cultural trends. It’s so much bigger than that. What would the world look like if we didn’t make sin the biggest consideration in loving? We like to label the stones we throw at other people, don’t we? We feel so JUSTIFIED, righteously angered.

In essence, I guess I am saying yes – let’s get over ourselves.

Let’s loose those stones around our necks that we carry to make ourselves feel morally superior to “those” people Playing Superior is exhausting, believe me, I know. Jesus said this, and the weary world needs to hear it:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:30 (MSG)

And so on and so on
And scooby dooby dooby
Oh sha sha.

We got to live together.
I am everyday people.

Please Church, can we just get on with the business of loving one another? I believe if we do, the gates of hell itself will not prevail against us.

God bless us, every one.

 

“With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: “Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I’ll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is ‘the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.’ Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.” – Acts 4:8-12.
Faith, Spiritual

The Truthspeaker’s Daughters

IMG_0627.JPG

By: Jana Greene

Hey, you.

Yeah, YOU.

The woman trying to fake happy, always busy being the nurturer.

You could use a little nurturing yourself.

Am I right?

And you – the one worrying late into the night for her adult children who seem to running from the God you made sure they were exposed to in church as youngsters.

You, the lady who feels like writing the bills requires her to channel Jesus Himself to pull a “loaves and fishes” miracle to have enough.

You, the one whose marriage has lost its luster.

Or suffering loneliness.

The woman who looks in the mirror and sees only wrinkles and fat and lost youth; the one who is saddened about the texture settling into her face as age sets in.

The one fed so many lies, by the media, societal expectations, and worse – ourselves.

What we need is a Truthspeaker, someone to cut through all the crap and speak light and light over us.

For you, battling addiction, depression, and any of a thousand issues that the devil is trying to use to keep you down.

Who do you think you ARE?

Listen to what I am going to tell you (I’m going to try to listen to myself, as well….)

You are THE Apple of your Father’s eye.

If you didn’t have a good father in the natural, I have good news for you. You can still get an accurate picture of the perfect father from some of the names of God in the Bible:

Jehovah-Jireh – “The Lord will provide a sacrifice” (Gen. 22:13)

A good father makes sacrifices for His kids.

Jehovah-Rapha – “The Lord that heals thee.” (Exo. 15:26)

A good father kisses His daughter’s boo-boos (especially the ones deep in her heart)

Jehovah-Shalom – “The Lord is our Peace.” (Jud. 6:24)

A good father provides an environment of peace and stability for His children.

Jehovah-Raah – “The Lord is my Shepherd.” (Psalm 23)

A good father watches over His daughters and protects them from harm.

And my favorite, ABBA – which means “Daddy.”

So who do you think you are? The Bible describes you and your worth as thus:

Set free from the law of sin and death.
Holy and without blame before Him in love.
Receiver of the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, enlightened.
Not lacking.
God’s child. His workmanship. A new creation.
You are a joint heir with Christ.
More than a conqueror. An ambassador for the living God.
Part of the chosen generation.
The righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.
The temple of the Holy Spirit.
His ELECT.
Firmly rooted, healed by His stripes.
Greatly loved by God.
And so much more.

I strongly encourage you to keep this list of attributes of your true identity in Christ somewhere in your home or work, and READ IT ALOUD often so that the devil, who is trying to keep you down, can HEAR it.

I know you’re tired, worn down from worry.

I know things just keep changing, and you can scarcely get used to “the new ‘normal'” before things change again.

I know you’re weary, but take heart.

Lean into the assurance of two things:

Who God truly is as a good, good father.

He speaks ONLY truth.

And who YOU are as the Apple of His eye.

He’s got this.

He’s got YOU.

 

 

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

Once Upon a Gospel – An Invitation to Love

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By: Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, the humanity – literally!

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

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

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

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

Healing. Unselfishness. Unconditional Love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But our Counsel is Truth.

Our Judge? Love.

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

Our testimony is simply JESUS.

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

The story has a happy ending.

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

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

God bless us subjects, every one.

 

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer, Spiritual

Mind the Gap – Standing in prayer amid the roar

gappic

By: Jana Greene

One of my favorite places in the whole world are the mountains of North Carolina. They aren’t sharp and pointy like the Rockies, demanding awe of their majesty. Rather, they are vast and rolling and a thousand shades of blue and purple – those Blue Ridge Mountains. And some of our favorite places to visit are not at the tops of mountains, but in the valleys or ‘gaps.’ Surrounded on all sides by massive, ancient mountains, it always gives me pause.

Little towns named for the gaps they settled in always have the most dramatic names: Deep Gap. Windy Gap. Air Billows Gap. Smoky Gap. And my favorite, Roaring Gap.

It’s called “Roaring Gap” and not “Whispering Gap” because when the winds pick up between the mountains around it, it roars.

Today I was privileged to pray for a dear friend whom I love very much. She is in a difficult situation in which there will be no easy resolution. She is scared, of course. Her anxiety is palpable, and I don’t know what magic words to tell her that will make things instantly better.

She is encountering a ‘gap’ in her life, and she just needs someone to stand in it with her, to bridge her reality with the answered prayer on the other side.

I don’t know why so much scripture describes “peace in the valley” because in between mountains can be an anxious place. Unless, I suppose, you can rest in the gap with full faith that those mountains will move.

Many of my friends right now have fallen from ‘mountaintop’ experiences and are just hurting. They cannot see a way out of the roaring, all-encompassing gaps. I pray for them, but it doesn’t seem like enough to do.

I was raised Baptist and often heard people refer to intercessory prayer as “standing in the gap” for someone. This morning, as I prayed what I felt were insufficient prayers, God reminded me of what it means to “stand in the gap” in prayer for others by giving me a visual.

(He does that for me sometimes. It is literally as if the Almighty is saying, “Dang, girl. Do I have to DRAW YOU A PICTURE!?”

Yes, Papa. Sometimes you do.)

I saw myself in a mountainous gap, worried for a friend. But I wasn’t standing.

In the vision, I am sitting cross-legged in a beautiful mountain valley and imploring God to please help my sister in need. And then I look around me and try to find routes through the foliage. I wring my hands and close my eyes, and ask the Father again for resolution. Then I start wondering what the dimensions of this gap are. Hmmm. I wonder where God IS already?

Then I look behind me and there stands my sister-in-need. She is standing upright, but just barely. She is crying into her hands and trying to keep her balance, wavering on her feet.

She just needs me to stand with her. She needs me to stop trying to figure out how to fix her problem, and just to stand with her, help hold her up, and implore God on her behalf. She is too tired and weak to do it on her own.

I like to ‘fix’ people and situations, you see. Maybe you do too. Or maybe you feel your prayers are insufficient.

If you have a prayer language, use it. Think of your friend and her needs and her heart, and let the words flow, echo off the mountains they are facing.

(If you don’t have a prayer language, ask God to give you one. It’s not as spooky as it sounds and is incredibly intimate. He wants to fill you with those words you cannot even understand!)

If your sister is sad, hunker down and be sad with her. But prayerful always. God can fix what she is going through.

God doesn’t expect us to survey the gap…or question WHY is this gap here? Who left the gate open?

He just expects us to stand in it. He expects us to stand firm on the promise that He is still at the helm. However much we love our suffering friends, He loves them infinitely more.

Fill that gap with prayerful petition to Christ on behalf of your sister. One day, her struggle will be behind her like one of those endless and beautiful ancient ridges of blue mountains.

And just stand there, even in the roaring.

Lord God Almighty,

So many of my friends are hurting. Their spirits are wounded, and they are standing, but just barely. Help me to stand with them. Give me the words in this otherworldly language to plead their cases before you. Waste not ONE BIT of their struggle, but lend them comfort in the midst of it. Hold them, Abba. Douse them in your Love. Remind them that you are faithful.

In Jesus’ name.

AMEN.

Dreams, Middle Age, Spiritual

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

wish

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

By: Jana Greene

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

She became a mother and raised children.

She fell in love and got married.

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

She even wrote a few.

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

She served in church.

Pretty standard fare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do the things, Daughter! Do them with joy.

I have come that you have life to the FULL.

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

In this new season, she is grateful for that.

 

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

AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

Acceptance, Anxiety, Brokenness, Devotional, Mental Illness, mothering, Parenting adult children, Serenity, Spiritual, Spirituality

The Privilege of Focusing Elsewhere

sunset

By Jana Greene

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ and he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” –  Mark 4:35-41

Yesterday as a super weird day. Ever feel ‘off’? Ever feel ‘unhinged?’ That was me yesterday, all day.

I woke up upset about the state of the world – the terrorist attacks in Paris, more specifically.  Then I got more and more upset about how improperly people were responding to it.

People I love dearly, suggesting we all basically sit in a giant circle around the globe and sing Kumbaya until mean people stop being mean. Honestly, that makes no sense to me. You’d think you would catch on to the ineffectiveness of that plan already. It’s not working.

Then I wrote about it on this blog, and poised my finger over the ‘publish’ button on WordPress. It was a stellar piece, really. Full of common sense and righteous indignation, and I really wanted to post it. I wanted to post it and share it so that I could stick some facts and impassioned logic in the faces of people who are just NOT getting it. People who make me wonder where the world would be if we applied tolerance liberally to the Nazi regime. (Spoiler alert: The gentiles among us would all be speaking German and the Jews would all have been murdered years ago….)

I am related to some very dove-ish people, they are hopelessly and unrealistically optimistic. I love them dearly, even in their perceived wrongness.

Finger poised over the ‘publish’ key, I decided to shut down the computer. I was simply too sad to even post it.

Now, although I reserve the right to publish it later (and probably WILL at some point) God had other plans for my spirit yesterday, plans put into motion by My Beloved. That man is a saint in sinner’s clothing, I’m absolutely convinced of it.

“Lets take a ride,” he suggests. Understand that I am alternately glowering and crying, slamming things around. I don’t feel like a ride. I feel like crying, and can you not plainly SEE this? But I know the plans he (my husband) has for me, and they are entirely good, always. So I ride along.

While we are driving down to Southport, a quaint little harbor town nearly an hour away, I am on my phone texting madly with my adult daughters. They are not upset enough at the right people my liking about the whole Paris thing, and I am going to MAKE THEM SEE the light. I am also having an internal conversation with God, who keeps insisting that maybe it’s time to trust Him with my daughters (and, um….everything else.)

But when a woman is high on anxiety and low on estrogen, there is no reasoning with her. In a group text, I reminded my kids about 9/11 and how dangerous it can be to try to reason with terrorists, worse even then reasoning with their hormone-depleted mother. They took offense, naturally, but I could not stop. I was going to make my point, dammit, for their own good.

It went abysmally, the whole exchange. They reminded me that they are adults and have their own opinions. I sometimes forget that.

MEANWHILE, as I’m furiously texting 90 words per minute, I am SOBBING. Absolutely just losing it. My poor husband.

Why is everything so SAD? Why don’t my kids GET IT? By the time we got to Southport, I’ve blown through an entire box of Puffs Plus. Little balls of snotty tissue littered the lovely leather interior of the car.

My Beloved pulls the car over at a little ice cream stand and insists I eat some ice cream. I look like a frog from crying hysterically and you think I want ICE CREAM?

Okay, I do want ice cream. So we sit out on the patio and I eat Mint Chocolate chip whilst crying. The kid at the counter looked so confused. I fought the urge to remind him to call his mother and be nice to her.

After the treat, My Beloved drove down to the water, and when we got out of the car, this happened:

sunset 3

It took my breath away, the calmness. I didn’t welcome it at first. I still wanted to hold on to my hysteria because the world is upside down (as if that HELPS turn it right side up?)

But then I just rested my eyes on the whole scene in front of me. You would never know that the world is on fire, if you were sitting at this little spot by the sea. And then came peace.

You have to LOOK for the calmness, it won’t come to you first.

The truth is that while I am very upset about terrorism, I am also upset about everything else changing in my world. From job loss to depression to major surgery to empty nest syndrome to becoming a grandparent….things are weird and different and I’m scared of all the change.

It’s chaos, if I’m looking around me.

Today I told God that I was SO over this planet and everyone on it. And what is the DEAL with humanity being so freaking hateful and disregarding human life and Lord God, do you even SEE what is going on here!?

“Teacher, do you not CARE that we are perishing!?”

And then this happened. In the midst of being so OVER everything, because that’s where He shows up. Smack dab in the middle.

sunset1And this happened too.

Jesus

And then I say, “Okay, God. Now you’re just showing off.” But I’m not crying anymore.

My Heavenly Papa spoke to me.

“Hey you,” He said. “Get over yourself and look at this! Isn’t it incredible? I’m here, never left. Stop flailing about in worried hysteria. I’m still Me. This is to remind you where your eyes belong.”

I just love Him so much.

The world was still crazy when we drove back home. Real messed up. I tried not to watch the news at all. I was still hormonal and unhinged, but a little less weepy. I texted my children to ask them to please forgive my harsh tone and my expectation that they think like me. It’s unrealistic. If you’ve never asked your children to forgive you after a blow-up, it’s very humbling.

And they texted back that they love their mom and forgive her, just as they always do when I mess up. Just like I always do for them when they mess up. We try really hard not to let the sun set on our anger, no matter what. And this day, the sunset was absolutely spectacular (literally and figuratively.)

“Peace!” Jesus says. “Be still!'”

And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Here’s a little insight: You cannot control a SINGLE act or reaction that another person exhibits. Not even a little bit. Don’t say I never taught you anything here at The Beggar’s Bakery.

But you can refocus your eyes. Even when it feels like God is sleeping.

Although pretty sunsets and ice cream don’t ‘fix’ what’s wrong, they can be a catalyst to changing your thinking, even for a while.

You have the right to look for calm in the midst of a crazy chaotic world. You have the right to use up a whole box of tissues in one sobbing sitting if you need to, but God gives us the privilege of refocusing on Him.

It’s a privilege.

Teacher, help us to be still.

Amen.

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

God’s Property – Why Zero is More than Enough

A seat for everyone

By: Jana Greene

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

But that’s all ministry is.

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

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

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

“Yeah, but...” I continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A God who isn’t into percentage math.

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

A God so big that human rules cannot contain Him.

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

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

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

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

The Kingdom of God is within us. Literally.

He is CHOOSING you right now.

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

I’m grateful for that.

12 Steps, AA, Addiction, alcoholism, Brokenness, Celebrate Recovery, Christianity, fellowship, Grace, Hitting the bottom, Holy Spirit, Inspirational, Jesus, Recovery, Serenity, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality

Recovery Option “B” – Have Faith Anyway

bBy: Jana Greene

Very recently, I came across the prayer journal that I  kept before I got sober on January 3, 2001. That is my D.O.S. (date of sobriety) which has become far more meaningful to me than my birthday or any other anniversary.

In this particular journal, the entries began about a month before my D.O.S. (the date in which my sobriety ‘stuck’) and continues only through about six months into recovery. There are about ten entries, total. It would not seem to be a very in-depth journaling exercise if, say, I were being graded on it. But I wasn’t being graded on it, of course. The number one key to keeping a journal, in my humble opinion, is remembering that nobody is going to grade you on it. It is for the benefit of you own tender spirit, and no one else.

I sat down with a cup of coffee to read my old, cringe-worthy journal just the other day.

On an entry dated December 11, 2000 – about three weeks before I came to the end of myself in my addiction – I am hopeful at the top of the page:

Reflections/notes: “I am saving this space to write in tonight when I am tempted to drink.”

And then scrawled in the center of the page many hours later …

Drank anyway.

Even today, nearly 15 years later, I can feel the collapse of my heart as if it just happened. Oh how vividly I remember that sensation of disappointment. I hope I always remember it, it helps keep me sober today.

In between those two writings, a full-on war was going on inside of me. Picking up a drink was, for me, setting down a portion of my faith that God was in control and could handle my problems. Drinking was my way of sitting out the game. Not only did I relinquish my part in saving my own ass, but I was shaking my fist at God for not helping me save it. By continuing to pick up, I was in essence tying the hands of God. He is a gentleman, you see, and will coerce by force. There must be surrender.

I don’t know why it took so long for my sobriety to become ‘sticky,’ I only know that it took what it took. And I know that I had to do the work to put my disease in its place. Meetings. Prayers. Surrender every minute of the day. Strategy. Every war requires expert strategists or it is doomed to fail.

Part of the strategy in very early sobriety was to give myself only two choices. Any more than two were completely overwhelming.

Today will be challenging in the same old ways. It will also be challenging in some brand-new ways. You have a choice. You can …

A) Drink/use anyway.

or

B) Have faith anyway.

The latter is so much more difficult than the former. But choosing the second option saved my life.

“Having faith anyway” looks messy! It means believing that which seems completely impossible. It means accepting THIS, one day at a time, one hour at a time, one SECOND at a time, if need be.

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28 (MSG)

It’s interesting to read the journal entries that followed. They were desperate. Here is the entry from five days sober:

“I cannot drink today, not today. Maybe not ever again. Nobody knows the extent of my disease. My hands are trembling, holding this pen. I feel toxic, inside and out. The alcohol is bad for my body but worse for my soul. It’s like acid and sweet nectar of oblivion, all in one. I cannot serve two gods anymore. I can feel the hand of Jesus reaching to me, I know He is with me, even now. I used to boast that Jesus was my crutch. I used to be embittered by all that happens in life, and talked to him every day. Over the years, the wine instead became my crutch….just a ‘little something’ to relax me, and then a few more, and then I don’t even remember, until an empty bottle or box. And so here I am on this cool January morning, trembling and calling out the demon. I want God back at the helm, and it’s not because I ‘deserve’ it, but because of this amazing, impossible-to-comprehend gift of Grace. I don’t want to feel the constant shame, the uneasy and bewildering guilt anymore. I’m ready to change, with His help.”

Lots of other notes in the journal follow.

“Okay, God….what is the DEAL with my LIFE?”

and …

“Help me, God, I cannot do this!”

But I COULD choose option B…Have faith that if I surrender to the will of God, I will survive it – and thrive, even.

And so I chose Recovery Option B, no matter what.

Is everything falling apart and you can see no possible resolution? Choose faith anyway. He’s Got this, if you only surrender your will to His.

Are you hurting – mind, body, and soul?

Choose faith anyway. NOTHING has ever been healed by drinking / using the toxins.

Angry, bitter, fed-up?

Don’t pick up and HAVE FAITH ANYWAY. Have faith that your D.O.S. – that glorious, meaningful GIFT of a date – is yours to keep, but you’ve got to work to keep it.

And surround yourself in a healthy recovery community. Journal, if it helps, and remember nobody is grading you! Don’t sit out the game of your own life. Don’t tie the hands of God. He has SUCH good plans for you. He knows you far better than you know yourself. And He is madly in love with YOU. When you get tired, ask for His Spirit to help you along. It’s a messy thing, recovery. But oh how your tender spirit will rejoice on the journey, one single day at a time.

It can save your life.

It saved mine.

 

 

12 Steps, AA, Addiction, alcoholism, Brokenness, Celebrate Recovery, Devotional, Healing, Hitting the bottom, Inspirational, Recovery, rehab, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality, substance abuse, The Big Book

Step Five – The Exact Nature of our Wrongs

IMG_4392-001
STEP FIVE
We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16 

“There are some secrets I will take to my grave.”

Have you ever said the statement above? I have. It is a sentiment that keeps sickness active and recovery stunted. Step Four helped us form an inventory and delve into the wrongs done to us and done by us to others. What to do with the indiscretions laid bare by the hardscrabble work of the fourth step?

Step Five is clear about taking action.

Words have power. What you speak from your mouth can change the trajectory of your healthy recovery, even change the world around you. Speak light and life over people, and their lives change. Speak darkness and it attracts darkness. Let’s not confuse admitting the exact nature of our wrongs to another human being as speaking darkness. To the contrary, as our searching and fearless moral inventories, they can be cleanly dealt with. It’s hard to see in the dark. But whatever the light touches is seen. And can be grasped to be fully put behind you.

Some items on our inventories might be harder to admit than others. Some may seem impossible to own before God, much less a sponsor or accountability partner. But our wrongs – our sins – stay powerful unless confessed to those we trust. Confessing them deflates them so that we can step over them and move forward.

The exact nature of our wrongs, taking responsibility for those things so shameful we vowed never to admit them on this side of the dirt. You really are only as sick as your secrets.

The problem with taking secrets to your grave is that it requires you to lead a grave-tender’s life to some degree. It forces you to spend your lifetime keeping something destructive underground, making sure it stays covered up. Part of you is always tending to that, protecting it. Digging it back up to make sure it is still there so that you can flog yourself with it’s shame, reburying it twice as deep. It’s a lot of work to keep secrets.

You don’t know what I’ve done,” you might be saying.

And you’re right, I don’t. But I do know that – in order to live victoriously in recovery – you must not keep it to yourself. All the things you’ve done in active disease and otherwise are covered under the blood of Christ Jesus if you accept Him and His love.

You see,  God already knows what you’ve done, and is crazy in love with you anyway. If you are in a 12 Step program, you already know people who are equipped to help you admit the exact nature of your wrongs.

“I’ve done bad things” doesn’t cut it when working Step Five. Share your heart with someone who is trustworthy and then burn or bury your past indiscretions in the place of the secrets that have required you to tend to your grave as you are in the living.

So that you can say “Grave? What grave?”

So that you can get on with this big, juicy life you’ve been given and ask “What’s next, Papa?”

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” – Romans 8:15-17 (MSG)

12 Steps, AA, alcoholism, Celebrate Recovery, Hitting the bottom, Inspirational, Recovery, rehab, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality, substance abuse

Step Four – Sh*t Just Got Real

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By: Jana Greene
STEP FOUR
We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Biblical Comparison: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:40 
If Step Four had a tagline in the current vernacular, it would be: “Shit Just Got Real.” Apologies for the profanity, but really….there is no other way to say it to get my point across.
No longer are we just admitting that there are issues, but we are exploring what led to our active disease  in a “searching” and “fearless” (and MORAL!) way.
This one takes time, deliberate work, and a “letting it all hang out” with your sponsor or someone you trust in the program who you can be real with.
Left to my own devices, my Step Four work might be a light inventory such as one might engage in when counting boxes of cereal at the grocery store. But no, that will never do for a true Step Four experience.
Step Four calls for searching my heart and asking my spirit the really hard questions.
It requires fearlessly moving forward in taking that inventory, no matter what that looks like.
And not being intimidated by taking such moral inventory of ourselves.
There is nothing to lose but the secrets that keep us sick, after all.
Here are 7 practical tips to working on Step Four:
1) Write your Fourth Step Inventory. There are many ways to go about this. You can use columns or spreadsheets (If you are really savvy,) but I use the journaling approach, and I do so old-school with a pen and paper. When I free-style write, it flows more easily. There are no hard-and-fast-rules to tracking Step Four progress. The idea is to write a record of who has wronged you, and whom you have wronged, and to make amends to those people you have harmed, except when doing so is destructive to you or others.
2) The Big Book in AA instructs participants to inventory three “common manifestations” of self-will that often precede inventory items: Resentments, fears, and harm done to others. Working within the parameters of these categories has helped me many times. Sometimes there is an over-lap, and that’s okay too. Life is a messy endeavor, and recovery is certainly a fertile ground for that messy factor.
3) Don’t forget to list yourself as part of your inventory.  You need addressing and forgiving, too. Are you your own worst enemy? Yeah, me too. Include the self-destructive habits you engage or engaged in, and explore deep enough to expose the root cause for that behavior. Self-harm is a slippery serpent, and you must chop it off at the head. Sometimes the same harm that you inflict on others, you regularly inflict on yourself and without realizing it.
4) Pray throughout the process. Talk to the Almighty like He is your best friend. Because He is.Ask God to reveal people to your heart whom you need to make amends with. Sometimes, the Father reminds us gently, and other times people who sincerely traumatized us are brought to mind. In those times, remember that the past has no power over you when you are working the fourth step. The idea is not to dredge up pain, but to bring it to the surface enough to be dealt with.
5) Remember to list all others who have hurt you – physically, mentally, spiritually, sexually, or emotionally. Do not confuse this with taking THEIR inventory. Remember, you can only handle taking your own.
6) Remember to list all those whom you have hurt – physically, mentally, spiritually, sexually, or emotionally. Ask them for forgiveness if you can. Write a letter, if need be. You are responsible for your efforts to make amends. The OTHER person is responsible for how they respond to you. You cannot control another person’s reaction.
7) Think of your Step Four work as attending the birth of a new baby,  and not a funeral. The old ways (the ones that never worked for you anyway) are being addressed so that NEW ways can be instated. And with new ways comes new life. YOUR new life.

You are probably realizing by now that Step Four is not a “quickie” step. At all.  Seek through prayer and meditation the most honest inventory you can take. And then camp out there for a while. Step Four cannot be rushed.

Examine your ways honestly and return to the Lord.
He is waiting for you with open arms!

12 Steps, Addiction, alcoholism, blogging, Spiritual

STEP THREE – A Time to Turn

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STEP THREE

We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
Biblical Comparison: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” – Romans 12:1

Standing at the counter of the DMV among the throng of other vehicle owners  at the License Plate Tag Office, I was feeling more than a little stressed out. I’d formed an emotional attachment to the car whose tags I would be turning in today. In turning in the license plates, I was essentially saying, “She’d been a good little car, I’ve  had lots of good memories with  her. But she isn’t safe anymore. The car was no longer getting the job of getting me where I need to be reliably anymore. It was time to turn in the tags.

How do you know it’s time to turn in your way of living? Is your life unmanageable? Turning can be hard, but a life driven by peace and love under the care of God is so much better than one driven by our own devices.

Step Three assures us that God is worthy to turn to. In much the same way you would turn license plates in to the DMV after a car has stopped working for you, you can turn your life and will over to the care of a loving and redeeming God if it isn’t working.

We often form emotional attachments to things, making “letting go” difficult.

“Well, my situation may suck, but at least it’s familiar to me.”

“How do I know sobriety will ‘stick’ this time? I’ve turned my will over to God Before, and I am using again. (Answer: Put that thing down and don’t pick it up again no matter what happens…and trust Him to help you!)

Turning away from the hurts, habits, and hangups that have put you in this despondent place? Well, they just aren’t worth going back to look for and picking back up.

God is a gentleman. He will allow you to choose what you hang on to, and what you lose. He will not keep you from turning back around and resurrecting the addiction or pain you are trying to overcome. It’s your choice to turn your life over to His care.

If you desire a lifetime driven by peace and love, make the conscious decision to turn your will and life over to the care of God is yours and yours alone. Turn in those tags! The vehicle isn’t keeping you safe; in fact, it is causing you harm.

And don’t look back, my friend.

 

Musicians The Byrds had a great song, pulled from the book of Ecclesiastics about this very thing:

To Everything Turn Turn Turn

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under Heaven.

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together.

A time to turn.

 

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you know the innermost parts of our spirits, and you long for us to be free of our hurts, habits, and hangups. We cannot do this alone.  We ask humbly for your help to take our character defects, and give us beauty for ashes for each one of our issues. Thank you for always being accessible. We love you. We trust you.

Amen.

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

STEP TWO – Taking off the God Pants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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