New Year, Spiritual

A Better New Year in 10 (somewhat manageable) Steps

2019

By: Jana Greene

Well, well, well….

It seems I just got used to writing “2018” on my checks (yes…I still use checks) when BOOM! – it’s a brand new year.

I’ve never been big on New Year’s Eve, even when I was a drinker. It was not my style to do the party circuit; I was more of a “lock myself in the bathroom with a whole bottle of wine” person.

Alas, it has been 18 incredible years since I’ve had a drop of alcohol. And that, my friends, is a miracle of such magnitude that Moses parting the Red Seas pales in comparison. I had all the emotional fixins’ to prime me for alcoholism, and an alcoholic I was.

Am, actually. I won’t graduate from alcoholism.

This year, I will try to intentionally pour emotional resources and time into my recovery. Meetings with my 12 Step tribe and self-care strategies will become more of a priority; one that I have not been as vigilant about in 2018 (and struggled as a result.)

I would very much like to say – or at least pretend – that I am past it now, the drinking – and that I am a wise and sage maven of serenity. That I have my shit together and have written books about ultra spirituality, and meditate regularly. Although I HAVE written books, I assure you that I don’t have all the answers and never will, and have exactly 0% of my shit together.

I CAN however make some realistic resolutions (a.k.a. “goals”) and so can you. These are just a bunch of ideas for actions that are both little and incidental, and huge and profound. They are things that I can control – unlike every other dang thing in the universe, which is chaotic and unresponsive to my control-freakness (damn it.)

In 2019…

1. I will give myself credit for doing things right.

In today’s world, the focus is on what we DON’T accomplish, and that kind of self-flagellation is right up my alley. As a person with chronic and painful health conditions, I never get nearly enough done.

At the end of the day, I may have cleaned two rooms, which means I will obsess about the other six that didn’t get touched and look like three cats have thrown cat parties in them. Because we have three cats, and every day is literally a party for them.

It is not, however, a party for ME most days. Most days, I have a certain amount of physical and mental energy and have to ration it out little by little, prioritizing while knowing full well the things low on the list WILL NOT GET DONE.

Here’s to a kinder, gentler to-do list in 2019. An era in which I ask myself if I completed a task, and focus on THAT.

Did I put on pants today? BRAVO, world-slayer!

2. I will be less harsh on (physical) self.

Hooooboy. This year, I turn 50 years old, and Father time is walking across my face. It would appear that he is wearing soccer cleats whilst doing so! Two-thousand-eighteen has been the Year of the Carb. And the funny thing is that last year, NO CARBS was #1 on my internal resolution list. Do anything, Jana….EXCEPT CONSUME CARBS. As Dr. Phil would say, “How is that working for me?”

I’ll tell you how. I gained 20 pounds in a year. The reasons why are legion – lowered mobility, pain when moving, and FOOD. Because I did the exact thing I promised myself I would not do, and I did it TO THE EXTREME.

I hate mirrors; hate them. And that’s kind of a shame because I am now as young as I will ever be, and my husband is not complaining about the way I look. I don’t want to be that woman that fights ageing with panic, honing in on every new wrinkle or fat cell.

Life is simply too short.

3. I will put away the bat in general.

In recovery circles, there is an expression: “It’s time to put away the bat.” The phrase gives a nice visual representing the way we beat ourselves up. Not just about missing goals or gaining weight, but about how we stack up in comparison to other people. We beat ourselves to a bloody pulp with a virtual baseball bat because others clearly are “getting it,” and we perceive that we are not.

Comparison is a thief of joy! I’m going to work on letting it go, and putting away the weapon of emotional torture.

4. I will try to say “thank you.” Just “thank you.”

If you tell me that you like my blouse, it’s likely that I will vomit forth details about it, such as how I got it at Goodwill and it was only $3.99, and it had a frayed hem but I fixed it, and unfortunately I had to go up two sizes.

If you tell me you enjoy my blog, it is my instinct to convince you why you really shouldn’t. I don’t know why, but this kind of minimizing can be cured with two simple words: THANK YOU.

Just “thank you.” And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

5. I will catch myself when I’m exhibiting co-dependent behavior and lovingly steer myself from it without chiding.

I have no right to be happy if you’re not happy. Crazy, right? But this principal manifests all the time. Especially with my children and husband. When they are sad / mad, I am sad / mad. Because maybe I can “fix” their problems if I get sad, too. Or something like that.

I think it has something to do with being an empath. We absorb the moods of others, particularly of those we love deeply. It literally feels frivolous to be happy if someone I love is not.

This has got to go.

Hey, I’m really sorry your horribly grouchy – that sucks. But I’m TEFLON, man. You can try to rub your grumpiness on me, but I’m not owning it.

That’s the kind of thought process I aspire to. And speaking of thought processes…

I will make time for therapy!

6. I will make time for laughter.

God, I love the internet, unapologetically and 100%. And do you know why? Partially because if I’m not up to wearing pants, I can still communicate with friends on Facebook. Just kidding (not really!)

But my favorite thing about the interwebs are memes. I’m a grown-ass woman and I love me some cats pictured with snarky comments and eat-shit-and-die expressions. I was embarrassed about this for a long time, until I starting posting these squares of silliness to my social media page, and other people started laughing, too.

OMG, if there is anything better than heart-lightening laughter, it’s making OTHER PEOPLE laugh!

Oh, and videos. Ditto prior embarrassment. But then my kids introduced me to ‘Vines’ and life has never been the same.

There are days – especially when I’m struggling and depressed – YouTube videos of Jon Crist have saved my sanity.  If you’ve never watched “Juggling the Jenkins” by YouTuber Tiffany Jenkins, you are missing out big-time.

7. I will make time for music.

MUSIC. IS. LIFE. And I don’t listen to enough of it.

My musical tastes range from Bach and Beethoven to “please don’t judge me.” I love Al Green. And Eminem. And Don Williams. And The Black Crows. I listened to very little music in 2018, on account of I was so seldom “in the mood,” which is a damn shame, because music is a mood changer.

I’m not sure if this is it’s own distinct mental illness, or just a sub-group of my several, but I can almost SEE music. Playing a song sweeps me up and carries me off. Music is color and light and carbonated joy.

Music is therapy. Need a good cry but can’t get it started? Coldplay’s “Parachutes” album. Just do it, and for extra expedition, lean your head against a window whilst it’s gently raining outside or something. You will cry, and it will be cleansing.  Earth, Wind, and Fire cannot be usurped when it comes to getting jiggy with it. It is literally impossible to wallow in the funk if the funkiest tunes are blasting. Worship music can shift the whole atmosphere, and I’m not exaggerating. It can pour a salve into all the hurting places in my soul.

Krunk that stuff UP.

8.  I will try to do 10 kind things for other people each week without telling a soul.

I used to write gratitude cards every single week. Just little note cards sent to friends to remind them specifically why they are so incredibly fabulous. I don’t do that anymore. At some point, it became more of a chore than a kind endeavor, and I hate that.

May 2019 be a year of less selfishness and more kindness. Ten itty-bitty things can make a huge difference.

Holding a door open. Paying for the coffee of the person behind me in the drive through. Phone calls or texts to say I’m thinking of you and I love you.

It’s something I learned in The Rooms (a recovery term for 12 Step groups): You keep it by giving it away. Your hope, experience, strength.

One of the kindest things we can do for someone is express gratitude. We each have something within us that not a single other person on earth can give. I generally do much better if I express gratitude with kind words to others.

I want to work on that.

9. I will invest in my relationships like there’s no tomorrow. Because there may not be.

We once attended a church where the co-pastor was an elderly gentleman. He was a real salt and light kinda guy….always smiling, quick with a joke, and charmingly honest. For instance, he stood at the pulpit one Sunday morning and opened with this zinger: “We’re all terminal.”

He was right.

Notice how time goes much faster with every passing year? I’m going to try to savor it instead of wishing it away. And to savor it, I need relationships. Not acquaintances; real, rich, messy, intimate bondings.

And no….not that kind of intimate! The kind where you bring your raw, honest self in communion to another human being, (and they bring their real, honest self to you,) and you appreciate them for exactly who they are. God created each of our friends with the intention we invest in that person. He has had each friendship in mind since before we were born!

Enjoy it, he is saying. You aren’t meant to do this hard life alone.

10.  I will keep an open(ish) mind.

At some point, Christians have given all our mysticism over to the pagans and such. Please trust me when I say that there is NOTHING more mystical than the Triune God.

It’s the trippiest, man. That a Cosmic Creator inhabited flesh to draw us near. DUDE.

Considering alternate points-of-view is not turning my back on Jesus. Pretty much everyone has something to say worth hearing. Recently, I’ve been reading “There’s Nothing Wrong With You” by Cheri Huber. It is positively incredible.

It is not a “Christian” book. I’m pretty sure she is not a “Christian” writer. But she has some very Jesusy things to say.

“If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…”
And…
“All of life’s conflicts are between letting go or holding on, opening into the present or clinging to the past, expansion or contraction.”
Those are Biblical principals.
In 2019, I will work on my spiritual expansion and contractions. I will adsorb light and love, and embrace who Jesus Himself is, and not what 2,000 years of man-made doctrine and musing has made him.
LOVE.
And, HEY…if you read my blog?
THANK YOU.
Dear readers, I wish you the very best in this new year.
May you laugh, and dance, and give yourself credit for the things you do right.
I hope you be happy, even if no one around you is happy.

Hold on to your joy!  It’s yours!

I pray that in 2019, you will put the bat away, and see yourself for
who and Whose you are – perfectly BEAUTIFUL.
May you have a party in your soul the likes of which my three cats enjoy
on the daily. They have not a worry in the world.
And most of all, I pray that God blesses you in overflowing measure
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Faith, Spiritual

Seasons (that suck) are followed by Seasons (that ROCK!)

fall

By: Jana Greene

This whole post could easily be about hating summer.  Because I really hate summer, and frankly don’t understand why any temperature over 90 degrees exists. That’s what I want to talk about today – hating summer because it’s hot.

In the literal heat of the moment, I can decide the whole damn season just sucks.

Heat is oppressive. My body doesn’t like it. Easily eighty percent of my health woes are directly impacted by temperature, although I hate admitting that because it’s such an old lady complaint. (Spoiler alert: You really CAN feel the storm coming in your bones!)

Something about sweating really brings out my flair for the dramatic. In the foyer of my house – as I am exiting my home – I am woman, hear me RAWR! And I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me! I’m having a great hair day!

Two seconds later, I’m walking to the driveway awash in the oven-like conditions of the great outdoors (yes, the stretch between my front door and driveway IS considered the ‘great outdoors,’ especially in the summer.) Within moments, I have dissolved into a sweaty, ruddy, giant two year old who needs a nap. The air feels too damp to breathe. Ew.

When I get over-heated, all of the sudden, I feel fat and ugly.

All of the sudden, my inflammation levels rise.

All of the sudden, I hate everything about living on planet Earth.

Oh my goodness, what first world problems! But during the experience of segueing between Hearth and Home and Habitat Hell, I become extremely grumpy. What possible purpose could 100 degree weather serve? I mean, sorry about the Ozone, God, but could you hook a sister up with some nice 80 degree days between May and September?

To everything, turn turn turn,

Season, turn turn turn,

And a time for every purpose

Under Heaven.

Purpose. Hmmmm.

The inevitable truth is that summer is only a season – one season – and as such, will turn into Fall. Things turn; it’s the nature of things to turn.

Now, I LOVE everything about Fall, ya’ll. The whole shebang!

Autumn leaves changing colors, and hot apple cider. Snuggly sweaters and crisp, cool air. October is my favorite color, and I can’t wait for it to come around! At the slightest whiff of cool air, my attitude changes. Witnessing the falling of one orange leaf means all of the bounty of my favorite season is in view. It’s coming! It really is!

That seasons change is a fact. Better times are coming. After this season comes another, better one. I will not need gills to breathe outside then. I will be able to exhale, and inhale again, with little to no drama about leaving the house.

So I suppose this whole post is kind of all about hating summer. But even this wretched season has it’s charms – like going to the beach. And….going to the beach. (I got nothin’ else here.)

No matter what we are hating right now – it will change. Seasons always do. Whatever is stifling us and strangling us, making us grumpy.  Knowing that it’s nearly September and October inevitably follows is a great comfort to me right now!

If you are going through some awful season right now, I pray you will just be encouraged. I’m not going to feed you a line about everything happening for a reason; that’s not helpful at all. But I am reminding you that it is temporary.

It helps to remember that in all of the other seasons, too – the ones that make heat strokes look like a walk in the park. Like the Big Three – health, money, and relationships. There’s a season for everything, including huge life changes.

Take heart – your “October” is coming!

Mine is, too.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

 

Depression, Spiritual

The Thing about Ruts

By: Jana Greene

Greetings, readers. Tonight I wrote about getting out of the negativity rut. So here is the brain purge of the day (and a heart purge, too.)  God bless us, every one.

We live about a mile from the Atlantic ocean, as the crow flies. Even though it’s super close, to get there, you have to drive around a while. There is a monumental body of water called the Intracoastal Waterway that you must cross via bridge. Our town is one of the few places left on the East coast that you can actually drive your 4-wheel drive vehicles right onto the beach. The stretch of coast is simply called “The North End.”

During the summer, we locals lay low and stay away, because the strip of beach you can drive on is a huge cluster-bleep. Trucks and other utility vehicles crammed into every square foot of beach. Thousands of tourists. No thank you very much.

But in the Fall and Spring – and even in Winter – riding in a jeep on the sand is a blast.

Until it isn’t.

The beach – like the ocean – is never the same place twice. As you drive down to the southern-most tip of the island, the dunes are on your left. Lush with sea oats and grass, they are roped off from traffic. To your right, the majesty of the sea. Sometimes it is blue and foamy, and other times a vast ocean of green. It looks brown, too, when the sediment below gets riled by a hurricane  or tropical storm; choppy and angry and dangerous.

I have ridden on the beach many times in our old jeep. Just 10 years ago, it was great fun. I loved going there with My Beloved and unzipping the clear, plastic windows so that we could smell the sea as we jostled about.

It isn’t as much fun anymore. It makes my hurting body hurt badly.

There are times when the drive-able sand is flat as an asphalt highway, and times the sand is mountainous and soft. A different landscape every visit.

One of the risks you undertake by driving on the North End is getting your vehicle stuck in the deep sand. Nearly every time we are there, someone gets standed.

For reasons that I do not understand, men take getting stuck / unstuck VERY seriously. And they take a hit right in the pride if they are unable to work themselves out of the ruts. It causes extreme embarrassment when they are the stuck-ee.

The opposite of getting stuck is being a hero. This designation occurs when you help another driver out of a rut. So far as I can tell, the Man Rules for this scenario looks like this:

You happen upon some poor sap stuck in the sand. His wheels are spinning and spinning, but cannot get any traction. This is not a deterrent. He keeps spinning.

You watch him for a while, perhaps a little smugly.  Not only did you NOT get stuck in the rut yourself, but you might get the opportunity to pull someone else OUT of one.

Pulling alongside the dude whose tires are knee-deep in tightly packed tread, you offer your standard greeting (‘Sup?’) and ask if you may help him, all whilst assuring him that it’s “no problem,” and that you have been stuck on the North End yourself. Several times.

You drive your jeep just ahead of his truck, pull out some chains from the back of your own car (beach-driving men always have chains in their vehicles, for just such an occasion,) hook his front bumper to your rear trailer hitch, and engage all four wheels  slowly and deliberately. You have to be careful not to slip the clutch. Sand flies up behind your tires like crazy, but within minutes, your new buddy is being towed out of the rut. Once he is free, you get out of your car and ask him if he needs any further assistance, and he says “no,” thanking you repeatedly.  Assure him that you were glad to help

Here comes the inevitable analogy: I’ve been in a rut. Not in sand, but in spirit. My chronic health issues and pain have hijacked my whole life. I am almost never well, and this has been going on for nearly a decade, slowly worsening. Most of the time, I feel like I am either getting a migraine, having a migraine, or getting over a migraine. I have very little collagen and thus many of my joints sound like gravel with every step I take. Many of my issues will not resolve (thanks, genetics….) and that’s just the facts, and I don’t like it. This is the new normal. I’m thankfully married to an amazing man who looks after me and takes good care of me, but I imagine it wears on him as well. This – as they say – is not what he “signed up for.” Except that it IS, because he signed up for me, whatever that looks like.

God bless him.

This situation, combined with other circumstances in the past few years, have made me a little negative. Okay, a lot negative. Dealing with pain, and life drama – one thing after another – it takes a toll.

So excuuuuse me if I’ve allowed my ills to affect my attitude. Unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes (which I know many of you dear readers have similarly done) you just don’t know how taxing chronic illness is.

Some days I feel like I handle it like a superhero, and other days, I’m quite the whiny little bitch about it. I wake up every day expecting the worst, because otherwise I’m disappointed with the day’s challenges. Expecting the other shoe to drop continually will give you grade-A anxiety of the highest order. It’s a deep rut, and I feel like I’m just spinning tires.

That’s the thing about ruts. The same old, same old.

I genuinely want to be a positive person, and sometimes I am. I love my life, and am blessed beyond my wildest dreams, compliments of 17 years recovery from alcoholism. I have great faith in Father God, and a twisted sense of gallows humor to cope whenever my faith falls short. God is my chain-maker and chain-breaker. It’s pretty amazing to know that the Creator of the universe has got my back, no matter how deep of a rut I’m buried in. He is glad to help.

I think it’s time I pull out the chains and start making a concerted effort to be less negative. And I am reminded again of the Serenity Prayer:

…”God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Hmm. The “wisdom to know the difference” is key here. What amongst the litany of complaints and struggles is under my control?

Genetics I cannot change.

The shitty state of the world, I cannot change.

The co-dependency cycle, in which I agonize over the choices of those I love until I work myself into a frenzy?

I can’t change the actions of others, but I can change my reaction to them.

In the interest of self-care, here are some things I can have the courage to change, God willing:

Engage all four wheels, and pull somebody else out of a rut.

Start physical therapy for my wonky joints, and stay the course rather than give up.

Cut myself a damn break every once in a while and be less self-critical.

Make healthier food and exercise choices, insofar as my joints allow the strain.

And I can wake up in the morning and have the name of Jesus on my lips first thing; instead of expecting the worst.

I may not be able to bounce along in the jeep on the North End anymore, but I sure as heck can pack a beach chair, a picnic, and a book, and park my butt on the beach – one mile away, as the crow flies.

I’m tired of being the “stuck-ee” and ready to pull up my hero pants.

Who’s with me?

Motherhood, Poetry, Spiritual

Don’t Blink, Mama. It Goes too Fast.

don't blink mama

By: Jana Greene

So you’ve joined the club of Motherhood,

You have a sweet baby at last.

Your body still groaning from birthing your child,

Don’t blink mama, it goes too fast.

When you wake for midnight feeds,

Bleary-eyed yourself,

Savor the world where only you two

Are the world, there’s  nobody else.

To every coo and cry and smile

You quickly become attuned.

Memorize those dimpled hands,

They’ll be holding a crayon too soon.

Before you have the time to think

Your baby’s a ‘terrible two.’

Hold tight, Mama, this too shall pass,

The trials always do.

Tantrums in the grocery store,

And before you can blink,

The Tooth Fairy is coming to call

It goes by faster than you think.

Milestones come rapid-fire,

Kindergarten’s here,

Drop her off at school and then

Go home and shed a tear.

The early years go by so fast

You scarcely have time to know

That your baby isn’t a baby now,

Who told you how fast she would grow?

Before you know it, she’s a tween

“Who IS this child?” you’ll say.

Buckle up, Mama, you’ll get through,

Tomorrow’s another day.

The next thing you know, she’s a teenager,

Full of angst and woe,

It will harken the days of the “terrible twos,”

Take heart, she has time to grow.

The early days of dimpled hands

And nursing by moonlight,

Those memories will see you through,

When parenting feels like a fight.

Oh to watch her find herself,

The pride in who she’s become!

Members of the Motherhood Club,

You’ve officially come undone.

The secret that nobody says

But I’ve found is very true,

Is that your baby is her very own person,

And not a extension of you.

You’ve nurtured, taught, and guided,

And now it’s her own turn,

To figure out this thing called life,

On her own (and very different) terms.

Now you’re a veteran parent,

Battle-scarred and rife

With sweet assurance that she still needs you

In her grown-up life.

Dynamics change, my friend, you see,

The stages never last,

But one day you’ll call your child ‘friend,’

Don’t blink, Mama. It goes so fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual, The Beggar's Bakery

The Beggar’s Bakery is Six Years Old!

six

By: Jana Greene

Holy cow! It just dawned on me that this blog is six years old today. I remember the first week I started writing, 45 people (all friends and family) followed it. I was positively astounded that 45 people would care to read what I had to say. Even though some of them were related to me. 😉

Six years later, I’m astounded that nearly 2,000 people follow this blog. I finally feel like the training wheels are coming off, and it’s a beautiful feeling of gratitude and adventure.

From the (now) cringe-worthy first posts, to the gut-spilling TMI special editions, one thing is responsible for keeping it going:

YOU.

I cannot thank you enough for your readership, your comments, your sweet messages. I’m grateful and humbled by it all.

There are some really, really big changes and news in the coming weeks, and I can’t wait to share it with each of you! I have to keep a lid on it for right now, but stay tuned!

To celebrate the birthday of the blog, I welcome your input going forward.

What content do you most enjoy reading? The main categories are:

Spirituality

Addiction recovery

Marriage / family

Humor

Grace

Feel free to comment and let me know!

And again, thank you for following me.

You guys are the BEST.

Billy Graham, Spiritual

Goodnight, Billy Graham. And Thank You.

  • Billy-Graham-Praying
    By: Jana Greene

     

    It was in the Fall of 1981. Rice Stadium in Houston was packed to the gills. I’d been invited by a dear friend (who is still a good friend) to attend a Billy Graham. crusade. The whole youth group piled onto an activity bus for the shuttle ride.

    The cool kids congregated in the back of the bus. I sat right behind the bus driver.

    Two months shy of my 13th birthday, I was just old enough to join youth group. I remember so many little details about that evening, which is odd because a lot of my childhood I’d just as soon as forget.

    I honestly cannot tell you what I had lunch yesterday, but I can recall every nuance of that evening in 1981. It is as though all of my senses were tingling – there was charge in the air.

    I remember the loud grumble of the bus, and the smell of diesel fuel (mingled with Love’s Baby Soft perfume, which we girls regularly doused ourselves with.)

    The brightness of the stadium lights.

    The cold hardness of the bleachers.

    The scent of buttery popcorn from the concession stand.

    The itchiness of the sweater I’d worn, because it because the weather in Houston was actually cool for a change.

    At the stadium, I remember that there was an electric buzz in the atmosphere  – a kind of spirit-hum that kind of vibrated in all of us. It seemed to resonate in the whole stadium, in every soul. I’d never felt anything like it, and rarely have I ever experienced again. We took our seats and settled in, most of us just as interested in the cutest boys in youth than on Rev. Graham’s message. The stadium lights were nearly blinding,  but as he spoke, I forgot about the cute boy in youth (his name was Rick, and he only listened to the band “Rush,” alas, a story for another time.)

    In his booming yet gentle voice and North Carolina lilting accent that I would so come to love as a North Carolinian myself later in life, Billy Graham distracted us all from or wriggling, twittering, self-absorbed teenage selves by introducing us to this revolutionary concept of absolute GRACE.

    Many of us had never heard about true grace, even in the Southern Baptist churches we’d been reared in. Hellfire and brimstone – that we knew.

    I listened and was overcome with a peace that passed all of my young understanding. I was a broken kid, from a broken home.

    So confident was Rev. Graham in his message, that I became confident in God, too. Not the god I’d prayed to for years, but the real and tangible God.

    The Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end.

    After the service that evening, the Reverend invited all those who wanted partake in the grace of God to come down the bleachers and pray with members of his prayer team. It was like an altar call on steroids – more of the people in attendance made their way down to accept this crazy anointing as did not.

    Grace – ours for the taking, all we had to do was accept it, to take what seemed to me an impossible risk: Believing on the basis of the stirrings of my spirit, and nothing else. Risky. Scandalously risky. But I made my way down in a sort of floating transport. I don’t remember navigating the steep stadium steps; only that I positively knew Jesus Himself was fidgeting with anticipation to love on me through the prayers of strangers.

    There was a song playing in a continuous loop as I approached a prayer volunteer. I didn’t mind hearing the refrain a hundred times. As thousands of voices joined in from all around, I wished it would never end.

    “Just as I am – and waiting not
    To rid my soul of one dark blot,
    To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
    -O Lamb of God, I come!

    Just as I am – though toss’d about
    With many a conflict, many a doubt,
    Fightings and fears within, without,
    -O Lamb of God, I come!”

    I was never the same after that experience. I knew that I knew that I knew it was Truth.

    I was never the same, but unfortunately,  still completely human.

    I still kissed boys on church mission trips.

    I still grew up to be an alcoholic. In my drinking years I did some awful things.

    Life happened, and parenthood happened, and marriage happened. Chronic illness, battles with anxiety and depression. And now I’m nearly 50, and still don’t have my sh*t together.

    But had I not accepted Christ at a Billy Graham crusade in 1981,  I might never know that even for prodigal daughters, the arms of Jesus are always and ever open to embrace this broken girl. I might never have known He would make me whole a million times and with a smile on his radiant face.

    A couple of years ago, I was fortunate to attend a Christian blogger conference in Asheville, North Carolina – not far from Reverend Graham’s birthplace. The facility – run by Billy Graham Ministries – that hosted the event is called “The Cove.” In the multi-building complex, there are mementos of the Reverend where everywhere.

    In one of the buildings, there was a museum of sorts. Included in the displays were personal artifacts of the Graham family – a family that I (and so many others) felt a part of.  There was an odd but wonderful ambiance of peace. It kind of made me feel like I’d come home.

    Billy Graham passed away today. Alas, he really is home. I’ve no doubt Jesus is hugging him tight, but the rest of us left here have suffered a loss.

    He was one man, on one mission. Humble and empowered by the Holy Spirit. But what a difference he made in this world!

    If I could tell him one thing, it would be this: Thank you.

    Thank you, Reverend Graham… for making it okay for me to come to the throne of God just exactly as I am.

    Even with many a conflict and many a doubt.

    Thanks for being the messenger that delivered the concept of boundless grace to my young heart. Fighting and fears within, without  – because that’s how God rolls, infinite in his mercy.

    And tell Jesus ‘thank you’ as well, for lending you to us.

    Rest in well-deserved peace.

     


Recovery, Spiritual

Happy New Year! And Happy 17 Truly – and I cannot stress this enough – TRULY Miraculous Continuous Sobriety Years to Me!

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By: Jana Greene

Happy New Year, dear Readers! I hope your 2017 was awesome, but for me it was a virtual cascade of sh*t storm after sh*t storm. So SEE YA, 2017. And welcome 2018. Please Lord Jesus, make it better!

Last night, I picked up my 17 year recovery chip. THIS IS A MIRACLE. I’m not sure anyone outside of the program understands the significance and representation of a simple coin with no value outside of recovery circles. Anyway….

At tonight’s 12 Step Meeting,  I got to say a few words to the crowd – what an honor- and I didn’t sugarcoat a thing. It went a little something like this:

How did i do it? Stay over 17 years?

Even a year ago, I would have said it’s only Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

But this year my answer is different.

God’s grace is always, always available to us, but let’s face it. Most of us are here because our natural default is to numb out. Grace or no grace, obliterating can be our inclination. I don’t care how long you’ve been sober, and that’s the truth.

As a matter of fact, this past year year was the hardest to maintain recovery ever. Shit hit the fan repeatedly and with endless supply. Yes, it is Jesus, Jesus,Jesus that’s kept me hanging on by the skin of my teeth, but I play a part in it too.

I learned I have to supply the willingness to surrender DAILY. Because there ain’t no graduation day for this. That’s my responsibility. I have to keep up with self care. I have to surrender my will. I have to remember what a sick drunk I was and how many people I hurt.

The rigorous honesty truth of the matter is that recently, I’ve gotten lazy about working the steps as I should. Last year kicked my ass, y’all. But I never survived any of it alone.

Holy Ghost is a gentleman in that his teaching is gentle. But he has also given us another way to ensure we are never alone. We have each other. I need you; you need me. We need our tribe, because we all GET it. We get how difficult surrender is.

No one ever woke up after a relapse grateful. But I’m grateful to have this place and so glad to be here.

Those things that kick your butt and make you doubt your recovery will always happen.

But they always pass.

Keep your recovery. It’s your choice to make it priority. Minute by minite if necessarily.

Helping each other keeps us well.

Thank you for letting me share

Beatitudes, Social Justice, Spiritual

Blessed are Those who Hunger for Social Justice and Spit out the Subterfuge (Part IIII of The Beatitude Series)

Justice.jpg

By: Jana Greene

I gave birth to liberal children.

There, it’s out now (Haha! Whew! What a relief to just SAY it, and put it out there into the UNIVERSE!)

I’m kidding of course. I am very, VERY proud of the strong, young women grew up to be. Nearly everyone in the world could be labeled ‘liberal,’ some ‘conservative,’ but most fall in the spectrum in between.

Labels. Labels. Labels. Oh how we just LOVE labeling people. And the act of doing so is SO not of God.

For the record (and all labeling purposes) I am a moderate – and a moderate with libertarian leanings at that. I apologize to no one. Let’s just get those nasty ‘ol labels out of the way and God bless America and all that.

It bothers me less and less that my kids’ lean to the left, because the older I get, the more I understand how social justice matters to GOD.

Here are the complicated instructions I gave my kids growing up: “Form your own ideas based on what you know, and grow up to CARE about people are treated.”

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they did.

Here’s my honest account of social justice (and those who supposedly hunger and thirst for righteousness):

To this white, middle-aged woman, I used to think of social justice as a phase of American history in which there were blatant abuses and  involuntary segregation and horrible injustices done to people for no other reason than they had more melanin in their skin tone than others. But thank GOD, a man named Martin Luther King came and was the fairest, true-ist man in all the land, and he and his brave and peaceful soldiers of equality rid the world of social injustice so that we could all live in a world where everyone was equal and valued as such. The end.

(I didn’t say it was accurate, I said it was what we were taught. At my particular high school, the black kids were the popular kids, so I had no other perspective to view it from. It was certainly not applicable to every black child in America.

Here’s the thing: We all believe fundamentally that we are right. But statistically, we cannot POSSIBLY all be right all the time. Where are you wrong? I’m wrong about a lot of things.

And as I said, it was the history through the eyes of a white, middle-aged white woman who was educated in ’80’s era Texas and who then – and now – have multitudes of dear friends of every race, color, and creed.

As evidenced by our current political and socioeconomic climate, it ain’t over, obviously. And there is no way of getting around it – liberally or conservatively – it is an issue important to our fully-just Father.  I cannot fathom a subject more near and dear to his heart than how his children treat eachother.

It’s easy to resort to quoting the Bible verses we’ve all come to know (and be kind of confused by:) “Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness,  because it is they who will be satisfied!” Matthew 5:6 (NIV)

or, as The Message translates the verse: You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”

Oh, THIS. Yes, the eating and drinking  analogy. Now , THAT’ll preach!

True justice is the best meal you’ll ever eat?  That goes right alongside drinking of the water that will make you never thirst again. That’s satiation. That’s fullness. That’s true and just satisfaction.

So as I’ve been trying to figure out for weeks how to write this piece, God has given me the word “truth’ over and over.

“Yeah, I get it, God. Truth is part and parcel to justice, and there can be no justice without there being absolute truth. But you see, we here are sorely lacking in thine ultimate truth-o-meter, as we have only our senses with which to mitigate it. Think about it. Most of we humans determine justice by perspective.

The hard part here is determining how we understand justice:

Our own sense of right and wrong (which is subjective).

And our physical senses – what we see here with our gelatinous eyeballs and selective hearing. What we touch, which may vary from person to person. What we taste, which is literally a matter of personal taste; and by what we feel – physically or emotionally.

All these weeks that God has been telling me “write about truth in justice and the blessing therein” I couldn’t complete  writing this piece because I felt something was missing.

I’d been missing the second word he’d told me to write about this morning out of a dead sleep  (and at 2 a.m., thanks, God – your ways are not our ways nor is your timing ours!)

SUBTERFUGE. The key to understanding true just ice is cutting through all of the crap that is subterfuge.

sub·ter·fuge
ˈsəbtərˌfyo͞oj/
noun
noun: subterfuge; plural noun: subterfuges
  1. deceit used in order to achieve one’s goal.
    synonyms: trickery, intrigue, deviousness, deceit, deception, dishonesty, cheating, duplicity, guile, cunning, craftiness, chicanery, pretense, fraud, fraudulence

    “the use of subterfuge by journalists”
    trick, hoax, ruse, wile, ploy, stratagem, artifice, dodge, bluff, pretense, deception, fraud, blind, smokescreen;
    informational, scam
    “a disreputable subterfuge”

There is truth and justice. And then there is subterfuge.  Everything else that is not God’s righteousness is subterfuge. 

The problem being that subterfuge is also highly subjective. What may offend you may not offend me.

But what offends God should offend us all. That’s the hard part because we’ve had so many things chiseled into our minds that God HATES. But God, by his very nature, LOVES.

(Hey, I didn’t claim to answer all the world’s problems, I’m just saying God gave me a word at 2 a.m. and told me to share it, so if ONE single reader has an epiphany through this piece, my work here is done!)

Blessed are those who truly hunger for righteousness; whatever that righteousness looks like to Almighty God, fair in all of his dealings and loving in all of his ways. I think Martin Luther King understood that.

Care about how people are treated, and you cannot go wrong.

Blessed – that state of BEING, not state of FEELING – are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are we who grow up to be people who CARE about other people.

Only God knows every truth that constitutes every justice. But BLESSED are we who work up a good appetite for the Giver of those Truths – God. He truly satisfies.

It’s not necessarily the “figuring out” what is just and un-just (although we should certainly strive to) but the thirsting for truth and justice that releases His power like no other sense we can manufacture on our own. Maybe we can all start by admitting  “hey, this was my perception growing up.” Maybe it’s really important to listen to one another.

Subterfuge would love to keep us all silent.

Let us selah on this, God.

For a day, and for a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Family, Spiritual

Letter to my Sister – I love you forever

sister
KK, you drew this for me when you were four years old, and titled it “Big Sister, Little Sister.” You explained that we were playing ball together. It still hangs in my house to this day. It means the world to me.

By: Jana Greene

Good day, Readers.

I know I am smack-dab in the middle of writing about the Beatitudes, and taking my sweet time about contrary to what I promised because I’ve had a procedure in my head, neck, and shoulders in which 200 ccs (14 very necessary injections) had to be placed in the muscles and over the skull to prevent my migraines, and while seemingly barbaric, it helps my headaches immensely. I’ve been in a lot of pain; pain that is not conducive to creativity. That is why I have not continued the Beatitude Series (I am still working on #4 – the sense of justice – but I had this dream last night and when I woke, I knew I had to write it. So I interrupt this Beatitude Series to write about the dream I just had. It may cause a family shit-storm (if any of my estranged family reads my work), and I sincerely hope not. That is not my intent.

My intent is to tell my sister, who was born when I was 16, that I love her.

KK,

I had a dream about you last night. It isn’t the first that I’ve had about you, but it was by all means the most vivid, I need to share it with you because I felt your actual spirit while in my dream-state.

I’m going to start by telling you the beginning of the dream, because that is the natural set-up to the last scene is the normal way to write it. But we’ve never been normal, and why start now? Besides, the last scene was the one I woke up crying to.

I snuck in the house because my name is officially mud forever and ever amen to that side of the family, for telling the truth.

But you took a risk, although you were angry about it. You’d been crying and I could tell you were equal parts happy to see me and supremely pissed, I could tell because your eyes become particularly green when you are in this state, and the contrast to your gorgeous red hair becomes even more striking.

There was an urgency for me to tell you what I came to say, because other family members were on their way to kick me out, so I took that beautiful face of yours that I’ve been in love with since you were a baby and held it in my hands.

I told you I still love you and think of you every day, even after six or seven years. I told you I was SO proud of the successes you’ve achieved – which are extraordinary by anyone’s estimation. I told you I’m sorry that you don’t like to be hugged anymore and I hope that’s not because of our split – you had graduated from high school, and you loved hugs until then. I explained that I was just trying to stay sober and help other people stay sober by writing honest, not cause a rift. But rifts are sometimes a by-product of honesty.

I told you I’m sorry that my honesty splintered the family, but mostly because the splintering from you and your brother broke my heart anew every day I wake up.

Before that scene, the dream was a mix of Clockwork Orange surrealism and Freudian saturation, as usual.

It ended with our mom saying you got a tattoo, and it was my fault. It was a portrait of someone I didn’t know, and the person in the tattoo had a third eye, the all-seeing eye. She made you have a cover up of that third eye, because it somehow threatened your safety.  She was very upset about it.

And I was very upset by her presence because I know my own mother pretty much deplores me, and I didn’t want to make thing harder on you. I never meant to make things harder on you.

She chased me away and said to never come back. That I was upsetting everyone in the household.

But I got to hold your face in my hand even though you disliked being touch, so it was all worth it.

Earlier in the dream, you avoided me and I followed you room to room. The rooms were all a mess full of naked mannequins and old cell phones (take THAT, Dr. Frued) and I couldn’t find my phone but I kept trying. I needed to tell Bob where I was.

My sister, my first baby,

I know you think that some secrets are better left unsaid. It left you in an unenviable position to choose loyalty between your father and I. After my story came out, I remember you posting that some secrets should remain unsaid. Then you unfriended me, and I couldn’t really blame you. Although in your line of work, I was surprised to hear you give voice to that sentiment, but I understand it was primal.  You don’t get any more primal than that.

And for that, I’m very sorry. But I’m not sorry for writing true (and, truth be told, the extreme sanitized version of events.) I’m only sorry for hurting you and losing you in the process.

But my truth is my truth, and my childhood is part of what made me who I am – anxiety-ridden, feeling responsible for the adults in the house, worrying that my issues were swept under the rug in the name of keeping things nice-nice. I grew up feeling like a mistake that everyone was just trying to make the best of, and I’ve got scars, too. You were a much-wanted baby, I don’t expect you to understand.

Because you were my first baby, my girl, another truth be told.

When you were born, mom went through a hard time, and I hoisted you up on my hip and took you every where I went with my new-found driver’s license. There were rumors that you were mine, and I didn’t discourage them, because to my mind, you were the love of my life and every single thing you did was cause celeb. I simply could not get enough of you, dear one. I’d never known love like that before. So….

I’d love to hold your face in my hands one more time and tell you I’m sorry how all of this has effected you and your brother. I don’t feel that I can safely do that because others would insert themselves in the process and that would be more damaging than healing – on both our parts.

I would tell you I was sorry. I would tell you that I love you, and never stopped, and that I’m so freaking proud of you, but not just for your career accomplishments….for your strength, too.

I love you, always.

Christianity, Spiritual

The Beatitude Series – Blessed vs. Happy, an Introduction

blessed

By: Jana Greene

Hi, friends. This week and the next, I will be writing with a focus on the biblical Beatitudes. I’ll try to convey my heart on the subject and – as always – welcome YOUR take on each post. Blessed be, dear readers.

Many of you know that I am involved in a Christ centered 12 Step program. At tonight’s meeting, the leader made an amazing point about being blessed, and I can’t sleep until I share it with you. It was an AHA! moment; an epiphany, if you will. So simple, yet so profound.

We were discussing the Beatitudes – those biblical ‘blessed be’s. I’ve read them a thousand times. I’ve delved into studying them. I thought I understood them. But one single sentence he shared struck a chord, and I am thinking of it still.

You see, My Beloved and I recently returned from a trip to the mountains. We stayed in a tiny cabin and read books all day, and listened to the birdsong on the porch swing, and Van Morrison in the evenings, and went fishing in a little stocked pond multiple times. It was super EASY being happy there.

Alas, the realities back home were waiting for us upon our return. It wasn’t that I was unhappy to be back in real life; it’s just that comparatively, I’d rather sit in a cabin in the woods and read all day every day. Evidently that’s a lot to ask for.

But I’m richly blessed to the point of overflow. And not because of things or lack of things.

Happiness and blessedness are not the same thing.

Happiness is circumstantial. I can be full of mirth one moment, and in another moment become sad or angry. Oh how we love to chase the Happy!

Happiness is what we worship, isn’t it? I just want to be happy.

If I had all of my bills paid, I’d be happy. If my children were serving God, I’d be happy. If I lose 30 pounds, I’ll be happy. When I get that dream job / house / recognition / improved health … THEN  I’ll be happy. And then eventually I won’t, because LIFE keeps happening.

We catch it sometimes in celebration and laughter (which, according to my favorite author Anne Lamott, is ‘carbonated holiness.’ It’s an awful lot of chasing for something so fickle.

Blessed is a state. It is your natural state of being, because of whose you are. Even if you don’t know or believe, you are bestowed with the blessing of being invited to partake in the divine dance of the Trinity. Blessedness surpasses time or emotion or circumstance.

To live in a state of blessing awareness is to live the transcendent life. It’s a lot harder than it sounds! I’m preaching to myself here, too, because I am emotionally driven and get high on the Happy. There is no reality crash on blessedness.

There is only one qualifier to living the blessed life – if you know who you are and who you were created to be, you reap the benefits from the One who loves you.

So that’s what I’ll be writing about in this series; taking each beatitude one by one and hashing it out a bit. I’ll be referencing The Message translation of scripture.

Tomorrow the subject will be “Blessed are the poor in spirit” Please come along for the ride!

And note that my opinions are just that – my take on this very hard thing called Life. I’d love to hear your perspective as well.

Blessed be, friends.

The Beatitudes:

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. – Matthew 5:1-12 (MSG)

 

Spirituality

Filling in the Cracks with Trust

anne lamott

As I wrestle with many changes in this time, I’ve been posting pieces to invite you along the journey. The good, the bad, the ugly. All of it.  I believe the late, great George Carlin refereed to such drivel as ‘brain droppings,’ and as crude as it sounds, that is a pretty accurate assessment of the life and work of a blogger in cyberspace. So follow the trail, and maybe we will learn from each other along the way. I strongly invite you to leave comments and / or share your personal experiences, as you feel comfortable. And as always, thank you for your readership. ❤

By: Jana Greene

“How do you love an invisible God?”

The question hung in the air at the Celebrate Recovery meeting I was leading in 2012. A woman who was struggling to stay clean from the soul-sucking heroin asked me after the meeting (or, as we say in the Rooms, ‘the meeting after the meeting.’)

It was a very good question; and one so primal, it threw me. God was an old friend of mine. I thought I had spiritually evolved past that question. But in times of deep duress, I’ve found it to be a legitimate inquisition.

The answer I’ve found? You love each other. Any place there is love, be it by squeaky-clean Christian or ‘heathen’ who has never uttered the name of the Lord, there is God.

There you go. That’s how you get to know and love the ‘invisible’ God. TA DA!

It’s just that easy! Except for sometimes, it isn’t. Shifting all of our focus onto worry, can make him seem less visible; less tangible.

And like any relationship, the more time you spend seeking the face of God, the more intimate the relationship becomes – and the more full his reality reveals itself.

I used to think that the only love that counted for Team God was that fostered under the umbrella of a corporate, official, Jesus-brand ministry with a Bible to beat people up with (or worse, cause call to shun them) and a Federal tax ID number.

But that simply isn’t so.

It’s hard to dis-believe in someone you know personally, so that is not my struggle so much these days.

But I do have other struggles, and maybe you do too. Maybe you are worried about your future as well. Maybe every decision you make feels like filling out a voting card that is missing several candidate choices.

So today’s post is about TRUST.

Is God in charge of the future, or are we just scraping by like the children in Lord of the Flies, trying to carve out survival while our God watches the wretched, gladiator-style event?

Because I cannot believe he is love, and believe he created us to watch us implode.

It’s easier to love an invisible God, whose love physically manifests in nature and through his people, than it is to make peace with the unknown. And right now – above all else – my struggle is with having no idea what is coming next. Which, of course, is a struggle with TRUSTING God.

So, I’ve been a Christian most of my life, yet still – in times like these – wrangle with trusting him when every shred of physical evidence points to certain doom.

He is not the god of Certain Doom. He is the God of orchestration, working behind the scenes to arrange things for our own good. I’ve seen it play out 1,000 times. Why do I still struggle with trusting completely in uncertain seasons of life?

There is grace for the blessed seasons – written clearly to us and in bold font, and in Sharpie. We see it. It spills off the page and stains our fingers so that we can rub it off on an unbelieving world.

But there is also grace for seasons of struggle – in seemingly invisible ink. Even when we hold it up to the light, we cannot see it written. We cannot decipher it even when we do get a glimpse. It reveals itself in due time, but while we wait, we are flummoxed.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “I believe. Help me in my unbelief,” I implore: “I trust you, God. Help me in my distrust.

And God bless us, every single one.

God, help me to keep seeking your face. Thank you for your endless mercy, spilled off the page and into my heart. Thank you for making your love so easy to find. Lord, my fears are primal, and I cannot face them without trusting you. Hook a sister up with an extra measure of faith. And God? Thanks in advance.

Spiritual, Spirituality

Cruelty – the Worst Disability of All

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By: Jana Greene

Hi, Readers.

I was all set out to write a pithy little piece in tribute to the Great Shel Silverstein, if for no other reason that he taught me to love words and even sometimes love the WORLD, janky as it may be. It was a little ‘wherever you go, there you are’ piece, except my keyboard jammed, taking me to a magical, mystery land of four-letter words and sucked the whimsicalness right out of me visa my aft end, and then -right that minute – I got a brrrrrring notice from my iPhone alerting me that someone very special to my life was possibly having an existential crisis right that very moment, so heads-up. In her text was a lovely family reunion picture, my friend’s hand rested on her little baby bunp (the child they’d prayed and hoped for and long awaited. My dear friend has survived a LOT of bullshit in her young life and has come out with faith intact (miraculously) and I am so stinking proud of her. She has battled and overcome Anorexia and a host of other chronic, debilitating maladies – things that would make a lesser woman (me) not even want to get out of bed in the morning. AND she takes awesome care of her hubby and service dog, and loves on EVERYONE, working hard for those facing even more difficulties than her own. She is my hero.

So after I enjoyed the lovely picture for a minute or two, I scrolled down to read what someone had posted in response to the picture. Presumably someone else in the picture.

It said, “Well, stop faking your fake disability and keep your fingers out of your throat.”

And then I stopped to read it again because SURELY NOT.

Surely there are not people who are Lex Luthor/ Bob Cratchet/Lucifer/Any and all evil parts in movies played by Jack Nicholson/Wicked Witch of the West/Scarface/Hannibal Lechter  HYBRID of villains.

But there it was, for God and all creation to see.

“Well, stop faking your fake disability and keep your fingers out of your throat.”

More hurtful words I cannot imagine coming out of the mouth of a demon. I know God loves this nasty person and loves her dearly. I, on the other hand, think she’s a real asshole. Hey, I’m working on it, but I ain’t yet arrived, as we say in the South.

And to my sweet, brave, amazing, mama-to-be friend? You have always always brought to mind the song by “Nice & Wild” – Diamond Girl. It was written long (long, long) before you were born, but you’ve always made me think of it.  Youtube it, or download it, or do whatever you young people do these days to listen to music, but just take a listen.

Shine on, Diamond girl. You sure do shine. Kick off them haters – don’t pay them no mind.

(That last line is compliments of yours truly, but I think Shel Silverstein would approve.)

I love you.

 

 

 

Spiritual, trust

Playing the Fool (or When Trust Goes Terribly Wrong)

fool

By: Jana Greene

Well hello, dear Readers.

Today I’d like to talk about something that happened to me several months ago. I’m hoping writing about it will help clear my head, because its been a good while now and it still smarts. Sometimes, putting an issue out into the universe by means of keystrokes helps me process and deal with things.

File this blog post under “no good deed goes unpunished.”

The gist of it is that I had a friend who was also in recovery. After a stay in rehab, she was released back into her natural habitat with all intentions of staying sober. Or so I believed.

We had mutual friends at the time, and someone suggested she reach out to me because maybe I can hook her up with some meeting resources, and just generally be her friend. As a result of her past choices, she relied on others to get her around town, and I was all too happy to be her recovery buddy and take her to meetings with me.

And become her friend, I did.

Not only did she confide in me, but I in her; and regularly. Looking back now, I cringe at the uber-vulnerability I felt comfortable engaging in with her. I wasn’t her sponsor, but I was her friend, and I have a propensity for letting it all hang out anyway.

She had close ties with people who used to be an intimate part of my life – family even – but I trusted her (mostly.) She seemed to trust me, too.

What I should have caught on to, but missed by a mile was that her wildly elaborate and passionate stories about recovery. How could I not have seen them as overkill? I have had teenage daughters before – I should KNOW that when someone clearly sells past the close with oversharing.

Sample conversation with (insert name of teen daughter…)

Me: “Where do go last night?”

Teenager: “Emily needed help with her homework, so I went over because we are learning the square root of infinity and she doesn’t really get it, but I’m good at math and….”

Me: “And you did this by sneaking out at 2 a.m.?”

Teenager: “Well, her dog had passed out, so I went over to show Emily how to give it CPR, and then a group of bandits broke in to her house and held us hostage, so I couldn’t come home, and when I finally did, a clown driving an ice cream truck followed me and I freaked out, and then Britney called and…..”

Ok, I exaggerate. But not terribly.

On our rides together,  she was super animated and would often even quote from my own blog to me. I would sometimes think, ‘okay…THAT was weird,’ but most of my friends – and certainly me – are weird. Some of the personal stories she told suspended belief!

Eventually, this friend needed witnesses who ‘knew’  her pretty well, and as her meeting buddy, I felt confident about testifying for her.  “You’ve worked so hard on your recovery,” I said. “I would be honored to help.”

The funny thing is that while all of this meeting hopping was going on, I mentioned to My Beloved, “Hey, wouldn’t it suck if  ****  was just a mole placed strategically to report back to my estranged family about how I feel about them?” We had a good laugh. That was  PREPOSTEROUS.

What wasn’t so preposterous was that I came to later find out that the whole shebang – including the two years of her sobriety – was an elaborate ruse designed to soften my heart toward this person. It worked.

I don’t know if she was ever a mole and I really don’t care – but she was definitely a user. A user who is still drinking and – as all evidence now proves – likely may have been all along, and I’m a SUCKER. I staked my name and reputation in the recovery community on my belief that she had been truthful.

The Oscar for Best Actress goes to ….

This gal.

After I was a character witness for her, I never saw or heard from her again. She fell off the face of the Earth. It’s hard for me to imagine that degree of deception, and over the course of a YEAR, no less.

I kind of pride myself on this mission statement: I don’t have relationships with people I don’t trust. That assumes I know untrustworthy people and can tell when they are lying. I thought I had decent discernment. Maybe that pride needs to go the way of ALL pridefulness. In the sh*tter, where it belongs.

The question I keep posing to myself is thus – HOW could I be so stupid and gullible? I honest to God just didn’t see it.

Deception. So much deception. Looking back, I’m not sure ANY of what she had tearfully told me was true. Like I said, I am a SUCKER. I lost a friend who I prayed  and hugged and laughed with.

There’s no way to wrap up this post all clean and tidy, because life is just so messy. I don’t think I’ll hear from her again; she got what she had befriended me for. I’m angry and hurt and feel like a complete idiot.

What I experienced ain’t terribly original. Active addicts lie. It’s kind of what they do. They deceive, minimize, maximize, lie, cheat, steal, and all to protect their best friend – the drug of choice. I myself used to strategically hide BOXES of wine all over the house (although I’m not sure why, as those in my life at the time didn’t seem to mind if I drank myself to death.) But once I got into a program, I learned to call myself out on these behaviors and stop lying to myself.  Because calling yourself out keeps you sober, frankly. “Rigorous honesty.”

Yeah, that old chestnut.

As with most things about recovery, I’ve learned tons about myself during this time. Had I to do it again, what would I change? Even if I knew she was using me and lying about her addiction?

I would still offer to take her to meetings with me. I would still give her a safe place to vent. I probably wouldn’t have shared as much of my personal life with her, and I surely wouldn’t have vouched for her. Like I said, it sometimes seems that no good deed goes unpunished.

Although the deception happened TO me, it is not ABOUT me. It’s not about me in the least. But it stings all the same –  I’m just being honest about how this whole debacle made me feel.

Still, God calls me to be grace-full, and I’m trying. He never called me to be a sucker.  I have forgiven this lady (although she never asked for it) after wasting precious hours and hours on trying to figure out what clues I missed.

But forgiving someone doesn’t mean you want to break bread with them. You can forgive, walk away, and be wiser for the trouble.

I still pray for my friend.  I hope she gets honest with herself and gets well. I hope she is safe and that others are safe around her. I ask God to give me discernment, but at the end of the day, I’m going to try to love people anyway. That’s the messy part.

The rest is on her.

Spiritual, The Beggar's Bakery

The Beggar’s Bakery and Big, Fat Changes

By: Jana Greene

Big, fat changes are on the horizon. I can just feel it. Do you ever sense that change is afoot, yet have no earthly or Heavenly idea what that change may be? It’s 20% exciting and 80% frightening.

When I really trust God, those stats blessedly flip.

Hey, Papa? Help me to trust you ever more.

One of those things is this: I think it may be time to change the name of this blog / ministry from “The Beggar’s Bakery” to something else….I’m not sure what just yet.

The blog has been my ‘home’ for five years now; it’s my ‘baby.’ But it may be time to change the baby’s name.

The Grace Gospel has got me thinking (and un-thinking about religiosity both.) It’s ruined me, really. In the best possible way.

I no longer relate to the beggar I was the hour I first I believed. I don’t have to beg for God to love me – Jesus sealed the deal and it is finished.

I’m learning to operate in the finished work of the cross. It’s a journey, admittedly. It just seems too good to be true!

But it IS good.

It IS true.

As I prayerfully consider what to re-name it (the content will stay the same, unless / until God tells me different) I welcome suggestions and ideas from you Readers. Even keywords might prove helpful.

Big, fat changes can be scary, but they can also be the catalyst for some really awesome things. I just have to trust.

Thanks, friends.

Addiction, Spiritual

Moral Failing or Disease? Substance Abuse and the People we Love

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By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear Readers.

Earlier today, a friend whom I respect very much asked if I believed addiction was really 100% a legitimate disease.

I do.

In much the same way that the medical establishment used to consider homosexuality a mental disorder and have learned otherwise, I think we will come to understand substance abuse a disease, rather than a moral failure. The science is there.

Today, I hope to write about this subject, which can bring up volatile reactions. I hope to open a respectful dialogue between the addicts AND the people who love them.

Before you read on, I encourage you to visit YouTube and watch this little video. It is simple and profound, and might help us all to understand the nature of addiction a little better:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

 

In addition to being an alcoholic myself, I do battle with several other diseases on the daily. Through no ‘fault’ of my own, I suffer chronic pain from one disorder and a plethora of horrible symptoms from others – lots of others.

I also struggle with depression, anxiety, and ADD/OCD. There’s no point in presenting a picture of myself to you that has been polished up – this is the plain truth.

I’m pretty sure that everyone these days is on board with believing that mental illness is just that – illness.

Disease.

But for many people, addiction is a moral failing;  a matter of “Don’t you know right from wrong?” Calling it a disease seems like a really convenient cop-out. It can be highly offensive to people to people who do battle with recognized physical diseases such as cancer – innocent of being an accessory to their own illness.

I felt as helpless to recover from my alcoholism 16 years ago as I feel now to recover from my painful migraines or treat my connective tissue disorder.

The difference between addiction and cancer or diabetes is that addiction is so brutal on others who love the addict. Often, a trail of destruction is left for others to clean up. The user may actively choose the drug rather than the loved one. And that, my friend, hurts like crazy for those around him.

I believe that is why there is such a knee-jerk reaction to calling substance abuse a ‘disease.’ I used to get bent out of shape when people inferred that my drinking was all ‘choice’ and poor decision making, but now I feel more compassion for them. Many are thrust into the darkness through no fault of their own.

For those of you who are hurting from the behaviors of an addict or alcoholic you love, let me first say that I am so sorry. I am so incredibly sorry that you are going through what you are. And if I had only my laundry list of physical health issues to deal with, and someone tried to convince me that an alcoholic was suffering from a disease, I’d probably be pretty ticked off, too.

But shaming the addict only makes them feel more hopeless about seeking treatment.

I promise you that your family member did not aspire to be a user before she got addicted. She is undoubtedly ashamed beyond reason.

Before I got sober, of course I knew that my drinking was wrong. My life had clearly become unmanageable. I knew right from wrong and I knew I was hurting people I loved while killing myself. Every morning I would swear not to touch a drop, and every evening, I would get blind drunk. The very definition of insanity.

From the very first drink I ever had, I needed more. There was no segue into addiction for me. Something in my brain that had been genetically present all my life was activated in that moment. I felt like it was what I was born to do. A switch flipped.

How many people do you know who have never tried a drop of alcohol? What if a portion of people who tried a drink came to crave the high compulsively and became convinced that they must indulge just to feel ‘normal?’ With other drugs, the switch can flip even faster and harder.

It was as if I was possessed. My mind felt hijacked. Eventually, I’d convinced myself I’d be a better mother if I had my nightly glass of wine (which, by the way, was NEVER a single glass.) I’m naturally so keyed up and worrisome, I’m doing everyone a big, fat favor by having a drink. You can tell yourself a lot of things and eventually believe them. Before you know it, your life revolves around getting/keeping/using more – it’s an obsession.

We cling on to our ‘best friend’ –  who we thought would numb our hurts and lift our spirits and make us better – and defend it rabidly. At its core, addiction is a spiritual disease that branches out into the mind and body. It’s all intertwined and it’s all very difficult to stop once it has taken root. Without direct intervention from my Higher Power, I am doomed to do things my way, which didn’t work and never will.

If you are the addict or alcoholic in this scenario, let me also say this – I am so sorry you are going through this. I’m so sorry the monster has taken over and you feel helpless to stop it.

Nobody WANTS to get to that point. Most of us don’t realize it too late – we are already caught in the spiral. Do we have the choice to quit and get it together? We do! Do we know HOW to make that happen while in the throes of addiction?

Most of us do not.

In much the same way a diabetic who eats an entire cake in one sitting is giving in to his disease and soothing himself,  we might drink or use for the same reason. It is ultimately up to us to choose to take action and get sober.

So then, are we addicts and alcoholics off the hook because it’s a legitimate medical illness?  We are not.  Addiction is a TREATABLE disease. There are resources to help and vibrant recovery communities in many places. There are proven methods of assistance and reliable support groups to help. You need never feel alone.

We can and DO recover! And when we do, the whole family experiences healing.

If you are concerned about your use, you can start to seek help by talking to your medical doctor.

Because, you know…it’s a disease.

And lastly, this:

The National Center for Addiction and Substance abuse published nifty information on why substance abuse is a legitimate disease. For more information, check it out here:

How Substance Use Changes the Brain

God bless us, EVERY one.

 

 

 

 

 

Addiction, Spiritual

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By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear Readers.

Earlier today, a friend whom I respect very much asked if I believed addiction was really 100% a legitimate disease.

I do.

In much the same way that the medical establishment used to consider homosexuality a mental disorder and have learned otherwise, I think we will come to understand substance as a disease, rather than a moral failure. The science is there.

Today, I hope to write about this subject, which can bring up volatile reactions. I hope to open a respectful dialogue between the addicts AND the people who love them.

Before you read on, I encourage you to visit YouTube and watch this little video. It is simple and profound, and might help us all to understand the nature of addiction a little better:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

 

In addition to being an alcoholic myself, I do battle with several other diseases on the daily. Through no ‘fault’ of my own, I suffer chronic pain from one disorder and a plethora of horrible symptoms from others – lots of others. Life is not a bed of roses for me, as it is no doubt also NOT for you.

I also struggle with depression, anxiety, and ADD/OCD. There’s no point in presenting a picture of myself to you that has been polished up – this is the plain truth.

I’m pretty sure that everyone these days is on board with believing that mental illness is just that – illness.

Disease.

But for many people, addiction is a moral failing;  a matter of “Don’t you know right from wrong?” Calling it a disease seems like a really convenient cop-out. It can be highly offensive to people to people who do battle with ‘real’ diseases such as cancer – innocent of being an accessory to their own illness.

The difference between addiction and cancer or diabetes is that addiction is so brutal on others who love the addict. Often, a trail of destruction is left for others to clean up. The user may actively choose the drug rather than the loved one. And that, my friend, hurts like crazy for those around him.

I believe that is why there is such a knee-jerk reaction to calling substance abuse a ‘disease.’ I used to get bent out of shape when people inferred that my drinking was all ‘choice’ and poor decision making, but now I feel more compassion for them. Many are thrust into the darkness through no fault of their own.

For those of you who are hurting from the behaviors of an addict or alcoholic you love, let me first say that I am so sorry. I am so incredibly sorry that you are going through what you are. And if I had only my laundry list of physical health issues do deal with, and someone tried to convince me that an alcoholic was suffering from a disease, I’d probably be pretty ticked off, too.

But shaming the addict only makes them feel more hopeless about seeking treatment.

I promise you that your family member did not aspire to be a user before she got addicted. She is undoubtedly ashamed beyond reason.

I felt as helpless to get better from my alcoholism as I feel these days to get better from my painful migraines or connective tissue disorder.

Before I got sober, of course I knew that my drinking was wrong. My life had clearly become unmanageable. I knew right from wrong and I knew I was hurting people I loved while killing myself. Every morning I would swear not to touch a drop, and every evening, I would get blind drunk. The very definition of insanity.

From the very first drink I ever had, I needed more. There was no segue into addiction for me. Something in my brain that had been genetically present all my life was activated in that moment. I felt like it was what I was born to do. A switch flipped.

How many people do you know who have never had a drop of alcohol? What if a portion of people who tried a drink came to crave the high compulsively and became convinced that they must indulge just to feel ‘normal?’ With other drugs, the switch can flip even faster and harder.

It was as if I was possessed. My mind felt hijacked. Eventually, I’d convinced myself I’d be a better mother if I had my nightly glass of wine (which, by the way, was NEVER a single glass.) I’m naturally so keyed up and worrisome, I’m doing everyone a big, fat favor by having a drink. You can tell yourself a lot of things and eventually believe them. Before you know it, your life revolves around getting/keeping/using more – it’s an obsession.

We cling on to our ‘best friend’ –  who we thought would numb our hurts and lift our spirits and make us better – and defend it rabidly. At its core, addiction is a spiritual disease that branches out into the mind and body. It’s all intertwined and it’s all very difficult to stop once it has taken root. Without direct intervention from my Higher Power, I am doomed to do things my way, which didn’t work and never will.

If you are the addict or alcoholic in this scenario, let me also say this – I am so sorry you are going through this. I’m so sorry the monster has taken over and you feel helpless to stop it.

Nobody WANTS to get to that point. Most of us don’t realize that too late – we are already caught in the spiral. Do we have the choice to quit and get it together? We do! Do we know HOW to make that happen while in the throes of addiction?

Most of us do not.

In much the same way a diabetic who eats an entire cake in one sitting is giving in to his disease and soothing himself,  we might drink or use for the same reason. It is ultimately up to us to choose to take action and get sober.

So then, are we addicts and alcoholics off the hook because it’s a legitimate medical illness?  We are not.  Addiction is a TREATABLE disease. There are resources to help and vibrant recovery communities in many places. There are proven methods of assistance and reliable support groups to help. You need never alone.

We can and DO recover! And when we do, the whole family experiences healing.

If you are concerned about your use, you can start to seek help by talking to your medical doctor.

Because, you know…it’s a disease.

And lastly, this:

The National Center for Addiction and Substance abuse published nifty information on why substance abuse is a legitimate disease. For more information, check it out here:

How Substance Use Changes the Brain

God bless us, EVERY one.

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual

The Good Natured Father (Part II)

A seat for everyone

 

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

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

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

God bless us, Every One, and Happy Sunday.

By: Jana Greene

What if God’s nature is really only good?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is joyful! He is not somber.

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

― John Crowder, Seven Spirits Burning

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless us, every one.

Agape for Amateurs: a love letter from God

Oh Dear Created One,

Do you know who you are to me?

Who am I, you ask?

I am Love….only ever good.

And you are my handiwork.

I am not angry with you.

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

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

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

Your hurting places don’t scare me away.

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

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

But have been courting you all along.

Where there is love, I am.

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

I am trustworthy.

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

Enough of the fallen.

Enough of the foolish self-dependency.

Walk with me – I long to raise you up!

That small, still voice?

It’s me nudging you.

Can you feel it?

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

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

The emotion is my urging, too.

You were created to feel.

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

I see you.

I see you!

And you matter to me.

 

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

You see, I am human, too.

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

The Spirit rejoices with you in times of celebration,

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

Cut through what others have told you about me.

Throw away the ritualistic, legalistic, egotistic religion.

Cut through the culture of shame.

Have your own relationship with me.

Not a figment of imagination in stories from dusty texts,

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

Nothing is happenstance.

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

In your hurting places.

In your hiding places.

There is no deficit of hope, Dear One.

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

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

I am embracing you now.

I delight in you.

Seek my face.

I shall never hide from you.

There is no other like you.

You are my BELOVED!

With boundless grace and endless love,

  • Papa
Homelessness, Spiritual

A Rose, a Homeless Man, and 10 Measly Dollars

how

homeless man
St John’s
Photo by swissrolli on Flickr

By: Jana Greene

I’ve always had a love / hate relationship with the saying “There but for the grace of God go I.” I love it because it’s a handy-dandy way to explain how some of my alcoholic friends might have died of their disease but I’m still sober. I hate it because it makes blessings and cursings result from a God who plays “Heads Up 7-UP” while we all have our heads down not paying attention and goes around choosing who’ll be graced by random thumb-touch (if aren’t familiar with Heads-up 7-UP, I’m not sure I can explain it. Google might be able to help.)

At any rate, the implication is that God somehow graced me with a circumstance that he has flatly refused to grace another human being with. Which seems cruel and rings of “favorite-ness,” as if he loves me better than you because I have a home but he loves you better than me because you can enjoy a nice bottle of red wine without drinking the whole bottle (or box) of wine without killing myself. That just really doesn’t seem fair to me at all. Guess what’s MORE unfair? Some people have no homes or food or family. Or one of a million other variables that would indicate God is in fact NOT gracing them at all. In fact, he is withholding his grace. And that’s something I do NOT believe in the least.

We see through a glass so darkly. What looks graceful here in the moment or disgraceful in the next are not manifestations of what we ‘deserve’ or ‘earn.’ I believe that God is ALWAYS full of grace. I don’t believe he is a sadist. There was a time I believed his modus operandi was punishing, scolding, and good old fashioned smiting. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT ANY MORE. I believe that we live in a fallen world and that we don’t understand God’s ways, but I know his ways are GOOD.

So here’s a poem about a gentleman I met. I will not say ‘there but for the grace of God go I” and not because I could EASILY have become this man (which is true,)  but because I’m fairly certain life has been extremely difficult for him – such difficulty I cannot even IMAGINE – but because he MATTERS to God more than I can even fathom.

The whole experience left me feeling terribly inadequate. This man’s need is so great.

Maybe he isn’t a ‘bum’ on the street. Maybe he is an incredible survivor who has overcome incredible odds to be alive today. Maybe he himself is an angel. They don’t have wings, you know. Or maybe he just absolutely SLAYS survival like a freaking world champion. I have a feeling he does.

A Rose, A Homeless Man, and 10 Measly Dollars

On this past Mother’s Day

The pastor gave me a rose.

“Red or white?” He’d offered me

From the box, a white one I chose.

All the moms in attendance

Received a rose that day

As a token of appreciation

And the honor it conveyed.

After church, I went to leave

As soon as service was done,

And saw a homeless gentleman

On the sidewalk in the sun.

Dreadlocks fell to his shoulders,

But several spots were bare

Where mange had stolen unkempt tufts,

I tried hard not to stare.

His eyes were a milky shade of white

In contrast to dark skin,

He carried all that he possessed,

A streetwise Bedouin.

I thought of walking past him,

I am ashamed to say.

Not because I didn’t care

But didn’t know what to say.

So I dug around in my purse

And finding a ten dollar bill,

Decided to give the man money

So that he could buy a meal.

I approached him gently

So that he could easily see

I didn’t come to harm him

But in solidarity.

I saw the depth of suffering

When finally his eyes met mine.

I saw not sadness but indifference,

Empty and benign.

“HI,” I said in greeting

But he did not say a word.

His glance was only fleeting

As if he hadn’t heard.

I held out the ten dollar bill

But he shied away.

I smiled at him and whispered

“I promise. It’s okay.”

His eyes met mine and in that moment

Their whitish tint compelled

My heart to think of the milky petals

Of the very rose I held.

So with the one hand I offered him money

And with the other I offered the rose.

“I want to honor you,” I explained.

And for a while we froze.

He stared a hole right through my face

And for the longest time.

I thought time somehow had stopped,

Transcendentally sublime.

Scanning for patronizing glare.

He looked right through my privileged soul

And laid all of my intentions bare,

Not in part but on the whole.

In that raw second I realized

How worthy this man is.

Jesus himself resides in him,

A rose is the least that I can give!

“Okay then,” the man finally replied,

Taking the $10 bill.

It took him longer to accept the flower

But when he did, it gave me a chill.

He brought the white rose to his face

And let it touch his cheek,

Then brought it to his nose

And inhaled the fragrance sweet.

I almost saw him smile then

A fleeting, warm, and wary grin.

I hugged him before I left his side,

Would I ever see his face again?

My drive home from church was quiet

Fraught with tears and silent pleas,

And musings of honoring those who have nothing;

Thoughts of loving “the least of these.”

My homeless friend didn’t smell nice,

What clothes he had were all threadbare,

But oh how often do we entertain

Those angels unaware?

God bless this homeless gentleman,

I wish I’d asked his name.

I wish I’d invited him back to church

Because inside we are all the same.

If I see him again someday,

I’ll ask him to come worship inside.

I’ll tell him “I promise, it’s okay!”

I hope “Okay, then” will be his reply.

Until then, I pray he will know his worth

That’s he’s precious to God above.

And that he will finally understand

He is worthy of honor and love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serenity, Spiritual

A Case for Reasonable Happiness (or: God Grant me the Serenity, please oh please!)

serenitybutterfly

By: Jana Greene

Well, kids – here’s the bad news: At the end of the day, bad things are going to happen and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. That’s the truth.

You can march. You can holler. But morality refuses to be legislated and the planet is still a broken place.

If Jesus wasn’t spared suffering, we aren’t getting out of it either. I’m not here to feed you a line about everything happening for a reason, and God opening a window when you could really use an actual open DOOR, etc. etc. Every time someone says “When God closes a door, He opens a window” I want to punch that person in the face. Because what if the window is on the 21st floor?

Then I remember something important – my God is not a sadist. If you ask Him for bread, He will not give you a stone, because He is a good, good Father – it’s who He is. (Everybody sing along!)

A lot of bad things happen this side of the Kingdom that I don’t understand.

Nothing irks me more than Christians who talk of God as if he easily figured out. As if he is Russian gymnast coach, watching your every stance to make sure you stay perfectly aligned on the balance beam, or a lottery god who increases the odds of your winning the jackpot if you buy more prayer tickets.

Stop glossing over the sovereignty of the Almighty God in order to try to understand why the world isn’t a fair place. Of what use is a god your mind can figure out? A god so small you can understand him?

Ah, but that’s where this gets interesting.

I’m in seminary school right now, and loving every minute of it. It is a grace-based teaching, which takes into consideration the original Greek and Hebrew meanings and examines the context of scripture. It is blowing my mind, which is kind of mushy from 48 years of desperately trying to figure everything out.

Here is the GOOD NEWS, and my takeaway so far: Stop trying to manipulate the God of the Universe by suggesting ‘better’ ways of making things happen. Start believing – really believing – that the message of the simple Gospel isn’t trying to trip you up, control you, be a thief of joy.

It is LOVE. A love like none other. The God that spun the cosmos wants you to know that He is madly, passionately in love with Little Old You. And Little Old Me.

I love the Serenity Prayer. But hardly anyone reads it the whole way through – and that’s where the gold is hidden.

God Jehovah, grant me serenity!

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

The wisdom to know the difference is key here. I struggle at times. I have a void, maybe you do, too. I was born with mine, like a birth defect – a life defect. A character defect, as they say in The Rooms. The void is a greedy and cavernous hole. Sometimes it is lined with depression or anxiety, sometimes frustrations and disappointments. I have, at various times, tried to pour alcohol in the hole, over eating, self-pity, various forms of people-pleasing … you name it. It eats the lining away for about five minutes (or until I finish the 12th brownie) and then just ends up being a bigger hole.

God heals it up every time. He tells me it isn’t a defect. He tells me the scar is beautiful. But sometimes I pick at it until it bleeds again.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;

I want the world around me to be a calm place, steeped in a lavender vibe, full of shalom.

I want to fall asleep easily at the end of each day, to feel the sweet cream of drowsiness anoint my spastic mind and soak into my every fiber until I can really finally, you know, rest.

I want people to be excellent to each other. And if not excellent, just shoot for not being a total jerk, for crying out loud.

But instead I have to be mindful in the moment, one moment at a time. And as I get better at mindfulness, I can appreciate the ‘now.’

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

I used to think this meant praising God for my infirmaries, as some churches had touted. As a person who has a number of chronic health conditions, let me just say, it is NOT HELPFUL to tell a hurting person to praise God for their migraine or bankruptcy. Holy cow, just stop it people, please. There is a difference between “Hey, Jesus, thanks for allowing me to go through this hardship” – and acceptance that Jesus walks the pathway with you, even through the hardships.

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;

Not as I would have it. Not as I would have it. Not all lavender sweet cream and shalom. Not when the GOP and the Democrats align views and sing Kumbaya together. Not when people stop cutting me off in traffic. Not when I lose 20 pounds, become a legit writer, balance perfectly on the beam. Or win the lottery…..


Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;


I surrender all. God grant me the serenity – not the complacency – to surrender all.

That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely 
happy with Him forever in the next.

Reasonable happiness, what a concept! The joy endowed by Holy Spirit in us cannot be misinterpreted as ‘happiness.’ I may be happy AND unhappy a thousand times a day (menopause, what a ride!) but I’m promised supreme happiness with God eternally!

Bad things will happen and this world is a mess. We don’t have to understand why it isn’t a fair place, we just have to carry a message of love to the broken world.

Maybe we should agree with the world that YES, terrible things that make no sense happen and there is no denying it. But there is a Force of Life called Divine Love, and in the end, LOVE always wins. That’s all I know.

God, grant me the serenity. At the end of the day, help me to trust your sovereignty in this world…this messed-up world that you SO loved that you sent your only begotten son. Take the space in my void and fill it with Holy Spirit so that some of that sweet insatiable unconditional love spills out of me and into the world. And keep pouring. 

Amen

(The Serenity Prayer)

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God, Spiritual

Music from Remnants – a Father / Daughter Story

 

 

By: Jana Greene

This evening, before my husband came home from work, I was making a casserole and listening to Jesus music. Let me be perfectly clear here – my musical tastes span nearly EVERY genre.

I don’t ONLY listen to Christian music.

I love Eminem.

Jack White is boss.

I also like some of the Jesus-y music, too.

I like to think that deep, deep down, under the smile lines and cellulite and freckles, I have an inner groupie who is wild and free and would love to follow The Grateful Dead all over Creation or something. But then, reality.

Always reality, right? Such a joy suck.

I love music…all kinds. I see God everywhere and in everyone. In the arts. In the science.  I don’t like using the terms ‘secular’ and ‘religious.’ Honestly, both of those words stick in my throat. Ick! Who the heck do we think we are to deem each person, place, or thing either ‘secular’ or ‘religious.’

The God of the Universe need is not subject to our licensing laws. O.M.G.

Anyway…the chicken. Yes. As I’m putting the casserole into the oven, Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father” comes on Pandora and I stop dead in my tracks. I don’t know what it is about this song – it’s catchy and repetitive, as are many, many contemporary Christian tunes. But Good, Good Father?  It is the Official Anthem for Those Afflicted with Daddy Issues.

The lyrics, oh…the lyrics slay me! Tears spring up every time, every single time – and instantly. I am silly in my oven mitts, dancing circles around my kitchen by myself, but I don’t care. The song has so much depth to me.

Growing up, I didn’t know my dad. As a matter of fact, I’d met him only a smattering of times, even though we lived in the same town. He was a musician – a guitar player. I think my surprise birth threw him a curve ball. He was in the band that became ZZ Top, you see. He could have been a contender, as they say. He was a 19 year old kid when he became a father.

His first love was always music. He was obsessed with it. All my life, I’ve never allowed myself to consider that I got my adoration and encyclopedic knowledge of bands and music from my daddy. Couldn’t be. He was simply not around to influence me. But ah – in the nature vs. nurture debate,, nature is stronger than you’d think. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

But just two years ago – nearly 40 years from the last time I’d seen him – I reconnected with my biological father. We enjoyed Mexican food with my half-sister when I visited Houston.

It should have been awkward, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t awkward at all.

These people, my people!  OMG, I HAVE PEOPLE!

I fell in love with my sister anew, too. At the table, I marveled that she, my father and I all  have the same hands! It tickled me to no end to compare them. Puzzle pieces snapping into place neatly and flush with every other piece. Why did I ever doubt God would allow such a reunion in my lifetime?

Ah, I remember. Because I was afraid to be disappointed. That old chestnut.

Fear is a terrible bully, squashing hope to a pulp. Pulpy hope is worse than no hope at all.

Somehow, all through the years,  God had caulked all of my cracks with grace, and I got to hold my earthly father’s hand, so similar to my own.  I think there was a Mariachi band there, but that may just be fantasy on my part. It was a super festive evening.

One dad, two daughters. Just for that night. No pie-in-the-sky expectations of making up for lost time, but instead a tender rekindling of hope for the future.

I had the honor of telling my father that I loved him, and I MEANT it. I also had the honor of telling him that I forgive him, because my Jesus extends so much grace and forgiveness and love my way. I got to call my father “Dad” for the first time in my entire life. I had always called him by his first name “Bob” even as an infant. And you know what? My Daddy says he loves me, too.

And we’re cool, my dad and I.

I’m typing this through literal tears right now. Not because everything wrapped up in a nice, tidy package and VOILA! INSTANT RELATIONSHIP! That’s not what happened at all.

I’m crying because my good, good Heavenly Daddy saw fit to bring some family remnants together. And because my Abba was with me all along, delighting in me, his daughter so wild and free.

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like

But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only you provide
‘Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word.

My love of music? I got it from my dad.

Reality, RIGHT?

Sometimes it’s so sweet.

Here’s the audio for Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father” Enjoy!

CLICK HERE

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