Spiritual

Announcing Poetry Jam Week

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Greetings, Dear Reader.

The year 2020….amirite? What a crazy time to be alive in this mixed up, muddled up, shook up world. I find myself at a place of un-creativity, if there is such a word. I haven’t painted in weeks. I have written only minimally. I’ve fallen into the trap of believing my own press, which is that I’m past my prime as a writer and creator.

But I’m telling that press to hush.

The other day, I came across a folder titled “Poetry” in a box of mementos. It is full of poetry I’ve written over the span of about 30 years. I (literally) blew the dust off and started reading.

And soon, tears were rolling. And I was laughing (not necessarily in that order,) and I remembered why I love words so much. Words can destroy, but they can also heal, and do so mightily. What if I publish a poem every day for a week, I thought.

I’ve got everything from teenage angst to proper breakdowns; praises and wonder, to pain and sorrow. The craft is very versatile.

Poetry is a niche market within a niche market, if one gets paid to creative it and is a any good at it. I am not the paid poet, but I am a big fan of the poem. Because you see, writing poetry for poetry’s sake is pure. When I share it, I know full well that most people won’t read my work, and if they do…

WHAT IF THEY HATE IT?

What if I’ve made myself vulnerable to no earthly reward, and I suck at it?

What if nobody reads it at all? It’s not exactly a popular genre.

I decided I can live with one or all of these repercussions. Because words can destroy (and oh what a year, what with most of the words being negative in nature and destructive in intent.)

So what if one reader walks away with one morsel of soul-gleaning or relate-ability? That makes it worth the sharing.

(This one-woman poetry jam is a representation of my gooey emotional insides; please be gentle.)

I hope I don’t make a fool of myself, but isn’t that what writing from the soul requires? I cannot make a fool of myself if I keep all the words bottled up inside where it’s safe from ridicule or worse, indifference. But where is the adventure in that? Art is a sharing from a private world. Poetry can be the vehicle that transports others in to enjoy and/or suffer alongside the writer.

So check back in the coming days for a Beggar’s Bakery Poetry Jam. Thirty years is a long time to keep musings in a folder.

God bless us, everyone. And I hope you enjoy the offerings.

Poetry, Spiritual

Why Should the Sky Appear Royal Blue?

This is the sky above our little cabin tonight.

Why should the sky appear royal blue

On this wild and wondrous eve?

The stars,

Diamonds against it,

A smattering of cosmic light

Against the rich, deep backdrop

Of endless, cerulean sky.

They so vividly spackle

The masterpiece

To which no man

Can assign value.

Upward look!

The ring of trees are framing it

In muted, hushed and mellow greens,

As if meticulously painted with soft cotton,

By the hand of a master artisan.

Gazing upon it,

It becomes clear

Why the sky should appear to be

Royal blue.

The sky is royal blue tonight

Because It is the canvas of the King.

– Jana Greene

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.

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.

Spiritual, Spirituality

The Good Natured Father (Part I)

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Good day, Dear Readers.

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

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

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

God bless us, every one!

 

By: Jana Greene

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

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

But what about Him?

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

This nature of God.

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

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

Or….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the real Nature of God Please Stand Up?

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

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

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

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

What if God’s nature is really only good?

Part II to be published Sunday, June 25th

12 Steps, Addiction, alcoholism, blogging, Spiritual

STEP THREE – A Time to Turn

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STEP THREE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And don’t look back, my friend.

 

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

To Everything Turn Turn Turn

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

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

A time to turn.

 

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

Amen.

blogging, Christian writers, Going Viral, viral blog posts, Writing

Viral Spiral: A dozen thoughts on ‘going viral’

long-spiral-staircase

By: Jana Greene

In 2014, I received a totally unexpected gift. In February, I wrote a blog post that truly went “viral.” My blog had been up and running two years at that point, and I wasn’t expecting it.

I’d written the piece (“Skewer the Stigma“) on the fly in a 20-minute span. It somehow took flight across the world and ultimately ended up landing in the hands of a quarter of a million people. No one is more surprised about that than me.

I had written it, posted it, and left it alone. But within a few hours, I started receiving email notifications that readers were leaving comments. Like 100 of them – surpassing my normal total daily readership and confounding the mess out of me.

Naturally, I assumed someone had passed out on her keyboard whilst looking at addiction recovery sites, and the multitude of visits were caused by her forehead landing on the “refresh” button repeatedly. It was the only logical explanation.

At 15,000 hits, I was convinced it was a cruel joke of some sort. Those pesky hackers.

But no, for some reason, the article  was truly going ‘viral.’ Something about it resonated with people enough to pass it along. And as a writer, that is really the most you can hope for – to hit the note that resonates with others.

I had wondered what it would feel like to have so many visitors…to have a blog post go viral. Strangely, the experience taught me more about myself than my readers.

Through the experience of going viral, I learned:

1) To pray for favor.

In many ways it was a post like every other. It wasn’t – in my estimation –  better or worse than anything else in the previous 180 blog posts on The Beggar’s Bakery. But I did specifically ask God for favor when I posted it. Now this is where it gets tricky, because while God’s favor is everything, I would subsequently pray favor over all of my posts and gleaned a little pearl of wisdom. I became willing to accept that God’s favor does not “look like” ours. He may favor you with two readers whose lives are forever changed by your words. His favor may look like 1,000,000 hits. Or He may favor you by revealing something to YOU in your own words that you never would have recognized any other way, even in a post that never makes it online. Prospering spiritually is so much richer than prospering in numbers. Speaking of numbers…..

2)  That numbers do not validate me.

I’m not really a “numbers girl” normally. I’m a Words Girl. I have this crazy, innate aversion to numbers, whether they be accessorized with mathematical symbols or dollar signs. But there is nothing like obsessively checking the stats of a blog post to muddy the blogging waters with numbers. 250,000 hits? That’s crazy talk. I must be legit now, right? Numbers that climb ever-higher may feel validating, but they really whip up insecurities. In many ways, blog stats are like alcoholic beverages to me: One is too many and a thousand not enough. When have I “arrived?” The stats and numbers do not hold that answer. Higher numbers often equal higher anxiety. Not a good thing for folks like me whose OCD feeds off of getting “one more hit.”

3) To stake my claim.

People are going to think you are crazy, or wrong. Or crazy wrong. The same vulnerability that makes your writing authentic opens you up to all kinds of criticism. I will never forget the first really negative comment that posted as a comment. The reader was very angry, taking exception with my statement that alcoholics and addicts get well with help from God. “What about atheists? What about them, huh? You must recant! You can’t make blanket statements like that!”  To which I replied, “Oh but I can. And I did. And I will.” At first, it hurt my feelings, but then it gave me an opportunity to learn how to stand firm.

My blog is my reality; my point of view. It is what works for me. I’m not going for a PC award, and I refuse to water down my message to appease readers. You can be both kind and firm. The experience taught me to strike my own authentic stance, and hold it. With hundreds of thousands of blogs out there, any reader who insists I change the content can, well … move along, little doggy.

4) To consider my work realistically.

Even when I write something I’m sure will get tons of traffic, very few posts actually do. I am neither the best nor the worst blogger out there is cyberspace. Going viral taught me to ride the wave without expecting a medal for surfing. Just enjoy the ride.

5) To pray for my readers.

This one should have been a foregone conclusion, but I had to learn to do it. Prayer takes a normal, natural article into a supernatural force to be reckoned with. I will never know where my messages ripple. Asking God to use it for his purposes assures me that even if a post only makes one person smile, or say “Aye carumba! I totally know how this feels!” it was worth writing and posting.

6) To blog honest or not blog at all.

When the post first started going viral, I fought the urge to go back in to WordPress and “perfect” it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have admitted this. Maybe I could take that out. But I try not to censor myself a whole bunch. I usually edit a piece several times before it goes up, but I try to keep the editing to grammar and spelling, and leave the truth raw and bare. It’s the only way, really, to share experience, strength and hope authentically.

7) Confidence to (self) publish my first book.

How many times did I say to myself, “I have a book in me”? Before this experience, I didn’t honestly think it would ever come out. But we all have books ‘in’ us – several. God spurred me to actually write that book – and self-publish it – in a two-week span after “Skewer the Stigma” went viral. God had told my spirit several months before: “Before you walked with me, your story was your story. When it became your testimony, it belongs to others, too.” I pray that the book falls supernaturally into the hands of those who might need some hope regarding addiction recovery. Going viral helped boost me in the direction to share it, just because I felt more confident. That was the only variable that had changed. I didn’t write the book to make money (which is a good thing, since I didn’t) but to share a story. You have one, too.

8) To expect viral posts to spread like … a virus.

It kind of picks up a life of it’s own. It becomes – as it should – more about the message and less about the author. It becomes out of your control in an epic way, in a manner that makes it impossible to track. I discovered that no, I really don’t crave fame. I’m proud of the piece and grateful to Abba for allowing me to share it in such a huge way. But getting my name “out there” was strangely anti-climatic. I became very ‘meh’ about it, very quickly. It just doesn’t satisfy the way you imagine it would. Only God can satisfy that wholly, that perfectly.

9) That I may have peaked, cyber-wise.

I may never go this way again. The heady, surreal nature of going viral is so fleeting. How to recreate it? That’s where faith comes in. God will give me the words he wants me to spread, and hopefully he will help me filter the words I shouldn’t spread. I cannot ‘recreate it’ nor should I try.

There are far, far better things ahead than what we leave behind, as C.S. Lewis said.

Or as is written in Ecclesiastes… to everything there is a season (turn, turn, turn…)

10) Not to bastardize my craft.

When I began blogging, I felt like such an amateur writer. Then a post went viral and I felt legit. And then after things calmed down, I worried after my worth as a writer again. I was causing myself so much drama in figuring out my place in the blogosphere! Nothing I’ve written since has gone bananas, and it may never happen again. And I’m okay with that. Now, I still sometimes wonder how it would feel to be a legitimate writer, for real and for true. And then God reminds me that it’s my job to write, and to skip the labeling, and get over myself. To just write already, and let the flow happen. A real, legitimate writer would just keep writing. It’s that simple.

11) Nifty stats are not my friend.

Oh my heavens, the detail available! There are numbers, and even color-coded maps of the countries whose residents read it!  India. Saudi Arabia. France? Ooo la LA! Such neat accoutrements – they must be tools for success, no?

No. Stats take a creative, open, spiritual soul out of the lush garden, and make her a neurotic, over-analyzing, nut-job in the dry desert. And that about sums up my experience with fancy statistics.

12) Going viral is kind of neato-keen for a while, but not essential.

Our Father in Heaven is not interested in the numbers games, but we humans love to count pats on the back. Pair numbers with technology and you have the virtual world in your fingertips and a real world that hasn’t been touched at all. Algorithms and marketing (I did absolutely none with the one post that went viral) do not determine the “success” of a blog post.

Sometimes I post a blog that gets hit ten times. I am so grateful for my readership, no matter the size. Sometimes I will just be having a day that sucks, and I’m not feeling spiritual at all, and my feelings need a place to go –  so I jot my grumpy words down. And once in a while, a reader will comment that they, too, are having a sucky day and not feeling spiritual at all, but it was a comfort to know that their circumstances were not sucking in a vacuum – that we are all intertwined, somehow. Chin up! You are never alone!

Because we are all intertwined, somehow. And no one is more surprised about that than me – every time it happens. As a writer, that is really the most you can hope for – to hit the note that resonates with others.

God controls the ripples, the currents, and who consumes the words. In all of the great Cyberland, we share our words as experience, and it comes back to us joy. And that is something to get infectiously viral about.

A real gift.

Addiction, Inspirational, Recovery

EDGWISE for Kindle Free through June 28

Okay, folks….I am running a promotion for EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God.

It is a FREE Kindle download, via Amazon for the next few days. I pray my story will bless someone out there!

Just click on the link below, and choose “Read it for free.”

God bless us, everyone.

FREE KINDLE COPY

EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God
EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God

Addiction, Inspirational, Recovery, Writing

EDGEWISE book giveaway time!

EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God
EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God

It’s book giveaway time again! I am happy to announce that two copies of my recovery memoir, “EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God” will go to winners in the http://www.goodreads.com giveaway event. The deadline to enter the contest is July 20.

It’s easy to enter, and there is no obligation whatsoever.

To enter, CLICK HERE.

God bless you!

 

humor, Inspirational, Spiritual

Christians and Swearing – mercy, mercy, mercy

"God, put your arm around my shoulder, and a hand over my mouth" - Anonymous
“God, put your arm around my shoulder, and a hand over my mouth” – Anonymous

By: Jana Greene

The office was silent, except for the gentle clicking of keys and an occasional throat clearing. I  took a bite of the carrot I’d brought for a snack.

CRRHHRUNCH. The sound echoed through the open space filled with short-walled cubicles. I had no choice but to finish chewing, each bite resonating.

“This is one crunchy-ass carrot,” I said awkwardly, without thinking – and to no-one in particular.

And then I felt guilty. The whole office knows I’m a Christian, and Christians don’t curse, right? Real Christians don’t.

It’s difficult to exist in a work environment 40 hours per week without saying a naughty word. And….is “ass” a naughty word?  Any fourth-grader can tell you that the words “ass” and “hell” are in the Bible. I suppose it depends on the context, since carrots don’t have asses, per se.

I’m a wordsmith. Sometimes, when I weave words, a strand of metallic thread makes its way into the fabric of a story. It can get pretty shiny, what with all those threads.

Sometimes, it is just pure laziness when I resort to the four-letter-genre. The societal standard for what constitutes a curse word is always changing.

Curse words are fuzzy territory to me, as a Christian – I know they shouldn’t be fuzzy. We aren’t supposed to say offensive words, period. But what is offensive, and to whom? The Bible also warns against saying, “by heaven or earth….,” but every translation of this verse is slightly different.

I have a slightly salty tounge, which I try to tame on occasion. Hey, I’m working on it.

Once, while trying to reign in my language, I tried substitute a particularly virulent word (said mostly in frustrating situations) with “mercy.”  For a two-week period, I refrained from said Big Daddy Curse Word, and instead, said “mercy. …until my husband remarked that I sounded a lot like his aunt, whose most favorite word in the universe is “mercy.”  This aunt  is a lovely Christian woman,  80 years old, and I’m sure she has never said either “ass” or “hell,” even in passing, unless reading scripture.  (If “by heaven and earth” is not biblically acceptable, what about “mercy?” I mean, if we are going to be legalistic.)

But I am not a lovely 80-year old Christian. I am a 40-something recovering alcoholic with three daughters, a full-time job, a passion for Jesus and recovery, a red-headed temper, and an occasionally salty tongue.

All of this wondering about potty words reminded me of a post I’d read by favorite blogger, Jon Acuff, about the subject. He is much more astute in his observations (and much funnier, I might add.)

“Christians occasionally swear. They don’t do it a lot. I’m not talking about thirty-second tirades laced with profanity. I just mean that every few days they’ll say a swear in the middle of a conversation. Why do we do it? I think we want you to know that we know those words exist. We want you to be aware that we are aware they are out there and we know what they mean. Plus, everyone knows that swears are nineteen times more powerful coming out of the mouth of a Christian. That’s a scientific fact right there. If you’re a nonbeliever and swear a ton, it’s just not that big of a deal. If you’re a Christian though and you swear, birds fall out of the sky. Trees shake to their roots. Magma gets fourteen degrees cooler under the crust of the Earth. Wielding that kind of power is too tempting to ignore.”

Mercy!  Jon Acuff is one funny-ass writer.

And I mean that with the utmost respect.

Addiction, Hitting the bottom, Motherhood, Recovery

A Tree Grows in Prison – addiction and the harvest of God-seeds

TREE

By: Jana Greene, thebeggarsbakery.net

Hebrews 13:3

“Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.” – Hebrews 13:3  (MSG)

 

God,

I’m thinking today of all the saints in the early church who prayed to you from the cells of prisons. Wrongly persecuted, they mustered their faith and lifted it to you, because they had been stripped of everything else they owned.

I know you’ve gotten your fair share of letters from prisoners.

Jails and prisons are often the venue in which lost souls lift their last remaining possession to you – faith – but the truth is that many have been stripped of that possession, too. Many, before even arriving for intake to be processed by a legal system, were already processed by another captor – Addiction – before ever setting foot in jail.  Addiction is a thief of hope.

Today, I have a broken heart for a dear friend and Sister in you, whose adult son is both literally, and figuratively, a prisoner. He is addicted to drugs, God. He has reached the end of himself. Right now, he seems a shell of himself.

But a long time ago, this friend raised this man up by filling him with God- seeds. She took him to church, and youth group; she talked out her active faith in you….all the way forming rows as she raised him, and planting  seeds in the soft soil of youth.

He is familiar with you. But he has made some bad choices, covering that fertile, planted ground with all the world has to offer, including substances that distract him from You. He has filled his life with all the plastic distraction that keeps the sunlight from getting in; that keeps the water of life from reaching the seeds.

Society sometimes has very little compassion for those who bring woes on themselves. Society forgets that it is only made up of infinite units of just the same kinds of people – sinners.  It’s easy for them to open their bibles to the letters that Paul wrote as a prisoner, and feel compassion.
But you don’t forget to be compassionate, because you never forget that we are infinite units of people who sin, but whom you love dearly.  All people must come to you from their knees on the floor of a prison cell, its only a matter of what four-walls constrain us.

Today, this man – this addict – is on the floor of a cell. I like to think he is calling out to you right this minute, but I know how stubborn addicts can be (being one myself) – I know how insane the cycle is, and how hard it is to let go of that tarp of denial we keep covering ourselves in.

But I am asking you – right now, in Your Holy Name, to crouch down on that prison floor with this man. Scrootch up so close to him that You feel familiar, that the seeds planted in his spirit in his growing-up-years feel like beads under his skin. Crack them open, and as they are opened, let him feel surrounded by love.

The supernatural feeling all addicts crave, that many addicts are willing to go to prison for – to die for – is only just a craving for you, Lord.

This young man is feeling the pain of the chemicals leaving his body, as we speak. Let the suffering he is experiencing  be for the cause of one little Seed of Faith germinating. Fill up the space left by the chemicals, the hurt, the loneliness, the shame and pain. I’m sure he will remember you, God.

Be with his family, who is suffering beyond comprehension. Fill them up, too.

Since this precious son of my Sister in You is currently  in no position to “write letters” in your name, and lift prayers from his broken spirit, mind and body, today I am interceding on his behalf. I ask that everyone who reads this to pray along with me.

For the addicts, the prisoners. The broken, the sinners. For my friend’s son.

Remind them that they are full of seeds of Truth, let them receive water and light, in their own personal prisons, and let those seeds grow healthy and strong and take root in You. So they can go out and tell other prisoners that there is life waiting to be lived.

Give them HOPE, Jesus.

In the name of the Father God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

AMEN

Addiction, Recovery, Spiritual

Stinking Thinking: The Soundtrack

Shut up the squawking, already!
Shut up the squawking, already!

By: Jana Greene

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

Too much noise.

The world is just full of too much noise. The past few months have simply overwhelmed me, good things and bad things, both.  Graduations, illnesses, a new job, family issues, children leaving the nest, new pets entering the nest….a reorganization of priorities made necessary because of that creeping, wonderful, awful thing called “change.”

Getting used to the “new normal” is hard when “normal” won’t stay static long enough to catch my breath. I’m really struggling with a bit of depression lately, low-level sadness and a feeling of being overwhelmed.

You know what used to really help me unwind? A glass of wine. It’s hard to believe its been nearly thirteen years since I’ve had a glass of wine. Of course, its been twenty since a drink actually relaxed me; there, toward the end, it nearly killed me. I am glad it doesn’t control me anymore.

But still, after all this time – and a life so blessed it is virtually unrecognizable from pre-sobriety days – my mind still sometimes thinks that “one glass of wine” would do the trick!  It parrots the same garbage that made me so sick years ago.

I’m on to it, though. In the recovery world, it is the soundtrack of “Stinking Thinking” (or stinkin’ thinkin’, if you are from the South.) I know what it looks,  feels, smells and tastes like. And this is it.

1)      That one drink would just help me unwind….

Never, ever have I had one drink. Or one of anything else, for that matter; unless it is one pint of  Häagen-Dazs ice cream*. Because eating more than one pint at one sitting is just gluttony!

Sometimes, and I’m just being honest, I just want all the noise and anxiety to stop. For five minutes. The five minutes a drink afforded me cost me hours and days of spiraling, and the occasional blackout. The parroting stinking thinking soundtrack forgets about that little detail. Hardly worth it.

2)      Its been over a dozen years! Maybe I’m  cured ….

This is a sneaky one because it adds pride to the already-convoluted mix, as if the length of my sobriety insures against future alcohol abuse. Danger! Danger!

I have known people with extraordinary “”time” relapse, and instantly be transported back to the depths of despair afforded by addiction, or worse. There is no cure for alcoholism. Not taking the first drink is the best insurance there is.

There was a time I could not imagine going 24 hours without a drink. It is not ‘living in the past’ to remember what that was like. It is essential that I remember that.

The fact that I still – when really struggling with life on life’s terms – obsess about drinking as a relaxation technique, confirms that I am, in fact, an alcoholic. I will never be able to drink normally. And to try could very likely be the death of me (and very nearly was.)

3)    It wasn’t that bad, my drinking…

Except that it was; it was awful. Again, remembering the reality is key. I did not have a fun, rosy, Nicolas Sparks-type romance with alcohol. I had a dysfunctional, co-dependent, Stephen King-type relationship with alcohol.

It’s best to remember that it made me a person I really don’t like at all. Not to mention I turned yellow and became very sick. The self-loathing was worse than any other symptom.

4)      I shouldn’t have admitted to the world that I am an alcoholic…

Well, the proverbial cat is out of the bag now! It jumped out of the bag back on January 3rd of 2001.

At my lowest – when my thinking is the most stinking, I have actually wished that  I’d never told a soul about my secret, because if nobody knew – I could just resume having the “one” glass of wine or random margarita and be like everybody else. See? Doesn’t that make perfect sense?

Lather, rinse, repeat…(see # 1) This is why it is called the “Cycle of Addiction.”

5)    I REALLY shouldn’t have blogged about it…

Ah, the blogosphere. Nobody forces anyone to blog, of course.  But having a passion for writing and recovery, I found that a Force was compelling me to do it anyway.

With the miracle of technology via The Blog, not only is the cat out of the bag, but it is circling the globe on a uni-cycle.

In the beginning, writing a recovery blog was very difficult, because it required such rigorous honesty. I wanted to become involved in recovery ministry and share my experience, faith and hope openly. And because living life in open-book format makes for vulnerability.

Ironically,  vulnerability contributes to accountability. More than once, that accountability has kept me from relapsing.

6) I will never “get there”…

This one is true. I will never have it all together, because then I would have nothing to learn. And this recovery thing is all about learning. Boy howdy….is it ever about learning. When I’ve learned all that God intends for me to learn, He will take me home.

Until then, I will depend on Him to help me navigate the noise. When I’m overwhelmed, I will go ahead and feel it, and acknowledge that change is inevitable. Sometimes, my mind is wrong about things, squawking when it should be listening. I’m going to try extra-hard to take that into consideration when depression creeps in.

I’ll write about that wonderful, awful thing called “change” when it happens (which is constantly), spending every thought generously on paper. You know, since its already out there. I’ll own my crazy, ask for Divine help with my anxiety,  and let the guilt of the past go.

Change is what brings the good stuff, too…the stuff I don’t want to be too numbed out to feel. Because stinking thinking kept under wraps only rots and festers. Change is what brings all that is good and acceptable and perfect.

And a life so blessed deserves to be truly lived, transformed by the renewal of my mind…noise and all.

*I would totally eat more than one pint of  Häagen-Dazs in one sitting if nobody were watching and it wasn’t so expensive.

Recovery, Spiritual

In the Twelfth Year of Recovery, My Father Gave to me….

sun

By: Jana Greene

There is something cool about the number twelve. It makes me think of the famous recovery“steps”,  fresh, hot doughnuts – and the beloved disciples of Jesus – not necessarily in that order.  It also brings to mind the song about the twelve Days of Christmas that just passed; the lyrics of the song I never really understood, having little appreciation for Lords a’ Leaping or partridges in pear trees.

But I have all the appreciation in the world for addiction recovery, so in honor of God and His making the past 12 years possible (joy-filled, even!) I wrote a little redux. I pray it blesses you, and I look forward to living sober for my lifetime with the Father’s graceone single day at a time.

In the first year of recovery, My Father gave to me – a helping of humility.

Step 1: I admitted that I was powerless over alcohol and compulsive behaviors, that my life had become unmanageable. It was hard to admit I had zero power over a silly substance, really humiliating, actually…but in the best way possible. I had to learn how to bite off one without drinking day as it came, and then another and another – in complete surrender to God. I still approach sobriety that way.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

In the second year of recovery, My Father gave to me – reckless, steady love, and a helping of humility.

If you don’t think you deserve to be loved, it is a hard thing to accept. But true love doesn’t come because we deserve it at all; it comes when we can’t possibly deserve it. God’s love is reckless in nature, and He wants us to learn how to love one another similarly.

“In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” – John 12:26

In the third year of recovery, My Father gave to me –hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Oh, the mess I’d made of things. Surely I’d used up all of the favor I could reasonably be shown. Blessedly, God is not reasonable in promising hope and favor for the faithful!

“I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” – Jeremiah 29:11

In the fourth year of recovery, My father gave to me – grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Now I had some major decisions to make about my life. Some of my choices were good and healthy at this stage, and some were not good at all. Through trial and error, and floundering effort – I just didn’t drink. And I tried really trusting in the Highest Power instead of my own barometer.

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.” – Lamentations 3:22

In the fifth year of recovery, My father gave to me – fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes, hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Life keeps happening, and without a numbing agent. Not everything that light is cast upon shows up in a rosy light. Acknowledging character defects became a priority, and remains one. By necessity. The learning curve is constant, but God loves me right where I am today. He is so awesome that way.

“But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.” – Romans 2:1-2

In the sixth year of recovery, My Father gave to me – mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

 Grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

When I humbly request that God remove my shortcomings, the space gets filled up with much better stuff. Love, grace, joy and mercy. (Step 7, for those who are wondering). This was a time that God stormed the shores of my life with people to love me (think the beaches of Normandy!) It still amazes me that He sends just the right people into your life with such care and mercy.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” – John 13:34

 

In the seventh year of recovery, My Father gave to me – coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Not easy living, mind you….but complete life. That is how I cope: bring it to the Highest Power. He is always available when help is needed. When I struggle to stay sober, he goes to the mat to fight for and with me.

God is a safe place to hide,
ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
courageous in sea storm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
the tremors that shift mountains.

Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.” – Psalm 46:1

In the eighth year of recovery, My Father gave to mepermission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

I love the Serenity Prayer, especially the little-known end of the Reinhold Niebuhr poem because it helps me differentiate between having joy and being happy. We all are on a quest for happiness, but sometimes reasonably happy is enough.

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen. And AMEN!

In the ninth year of recovery, My Father gave to me – comfort in His Presence, permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

 Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

And what of the “joy” thing? It comes only from His presence, which is the most tangible when I am still and quiet; when I stop trying so hard to anticipate what He is communicating to me before my heart has a chance to have a good listen. This is sincerely a work in progress! Recovery itself is work, in progress. But there is nothing sweeter than His presence.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

In the tenth year of recovery, My Father gave to me – acceptance through surrender; comfort in His Presence; permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

The only formula I know that works is:  constant, daily surrender to God + hard work you often don’t feel like doing + helping others = forward moving recovery. Sometimes it inches and sometimes it races, but giving it all to the Father is key. I am still one drink away from repeating my old, self-destructive patterns. Accountability in a group is important. Step 10: We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”– 1 Corinthians 10:12

In the eleventh day of recovery, My Father gave to me – a better perspective. comfort in His Presence; permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

 Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

The human condition: assuming victory over one area of struggle only to have temptation rear its ugly head or have another struggle knock me down. It seems to happen when I least expect it and nothing I do seems right; I have a long way to go, and so much yet to learn. But when I let God pick me up, I can see a little better than when I’m wallowing around in the pit. The view just isn’t that good from there. His righteousness makes up for my weaknesses.

“God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.” – Romans 3:26

In the twelfth year of recovery, My Father is giving me – a way to pay it forward. a better perspective. Comfort in His Presence; permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

When I was active in my disease, everything revolved around drinking. Hiding my secret was my first priority. Now – a dozen years after starting this journey – I cannot keep quiet about addiction recovery because I was lost, you see. And now I’m found.

What drinking left room for are peace, comfort, healthy relationships. A second chance to be the mother my daughters deserve and the wife my husband should have. I have to write about it, talk about it and  tell other broken people with secrets that I am broken too, but that God actually prefers to use broken people over the ones who think they have it all together. Or….as Step 12 states: Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

“That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

I am so grateful to God, because He is the Author and Finisher of my faith and my recovery. Without Him, I never would have made it a day without alcohol (and for many years didn’t.) With Him, I have hope for the future renewed every day, because it is fresh every morning and comes like my sobriety – one day at a time in full measure as I need it.

In the (first) 12 years of recovery, My Father gave to me:

A way to pay it forward

Better perspective

Acceptance through surrender

Comfort in His Presence

Permission to be happy

Coping skills for living

Mercy overflowing…

FINE CLARITY!

Grace through massive changes

Hope for the future

Reckless, steady love

And

A helping of humility.

Devotional

Merry-go-Prophesy: Mayans will be Mayans, but no man knows

Merry

By: Jana Greene

My seventeen-year-old daughter made an interesting comment about the supposed Mayan Doomsday prophesy:  “If the Mayans were so smart, why didn’t they see the Spaniards coming?”

When I was her age, the Social Studies teacher made our class watch a 1983 movie about post-nuclear war life called “The Day After”. I had my first anxiety attack that same afternoon, because sooner or later this is very likely to happen and how can everybody just carry on living normally after KNOWING that this was likely to happen? I wanted to stand under a street lamp with a sign warning everyone that THE END IS NEAR! I had nightmares for years, and my walk with the Lord suffered from neglect because I was too busy wringing my hands to fold them in prayer.

But the world kept spinning like a crazy merry-go-round anyway, and I had to learn to hold on.

Oh how we humans like to believe that SOMEBODY on earth has a clue about our future! Maybe not the crazy Hale-Bopp Comet chasers (remember them?) or Pat Robertson or the paranoid Doomsday Preppers, but SOMEBODY.

If the world really ended this month, I would mostly carry on as I am now.The priorities are getting to know the God that I will spend eternity with, loving people to the best of my ability and letting them know that this planet we call home is NOT ‘all there is’.

I would probably eat more chocolate if I knew the end was near – a LOT more chocolate, watch the sunset from the North End more often, finish the My Name is Earl collection I (selfishly) got my husband for Christmas last year. I would spend more time laughing in general, because so much of life is absurd.

Ironically, it has always been on the bottom-end of my bucket list to learn all of the words to REM’s “It’s the End of the World as we Know it” and not just sing out the words “that’s great, it starts with an earthquake”, “Lenny Bruce”  and “Leonard Bernstein”. (Who IS ‘Lenny Bruce’, anyway?) But really, if we only have eight days to live, I could die without knowing the lyrics and be okay with it.

The truth is that life on this planet will end one day, that life as we know it is already over because it changes every day. The only future I am secured is life in Christ, but really – that’s the only life that matters. The merry-go-round will stop and let us off where we are meant to be.

The Bible says that nobody knows when that will occur. We really can’t see the “Spaniards” coming in advance, we just have to learn how to hold on.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[fbut only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” – Matthew 24:36-44 (NIV)

Buckle up – its a wild ride!

Spiritual, Writing

Life is Gathering Material – Writers and (a little bit of) Madness

By: Jana Greene

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-CANF3z4LY

This morning, I stumbled across a movie trailer for a film that came out last April. It’s kind of a funny story, how I came across it on youtube.com, since I wasn’t really looking for movie trailers – or videos at all.

A good friend of mine is a Writer (with a capital “w”) and mentioned recently that we share an “urge” to write that is impossible to be ignored. This friend is a legit writer, with all kinds of publishing credits to her name, but she still reads my stuff. I love that about her – that she treats me like a Capital W writer.

So I am having a cup of coffee this morning and it is delicious, because it has real cream in it that was leftover in the carton from a pie I’d made on Thanksgiving. If you ask me, good coffee is all about the dairy. You could brew the crappiest coffee beans in the world and if you add real cream to it, it all tastes like Starbucks. But I digress in a big way.

I am enjoying the coffee and thinking about writers and their compulsion to write about everything (see above paragraph as Exhibit A) and how it is probably really some form of Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder.  There is an reel running in a  writer’s mind at all times; a kind of narrative about people we meet and what makes them tick, and the deeper meaning in every life experience, including people who cut you off in traffic…and about what makes coffee taste good. We are forever gathering information and formulating a way to present it to the world from our points of view. Not that everyone necessarily wants to hear our points of view. I didn’t even want to hear my own  point of view for many years, which is why I drank heavily and became an alcoholic. Tons of creative people become addicts because of that dang reel of thoughts. But I digress yet again.

The crafting of words can be healing, too. If you are very authentic with your words and ask God to help you parlay his sentiments on occasion, you might even help other people. But you have to be very brave, and a little wacky.

Acting, like writing, is highly subjective. There are a few actors who I would pay good money to hear read a phone book, so convincing are they in presenting their characters. Christopher Walken is one for me – I’ve no idea why. Morgan Freeman, for obvious reason.  Another is Robert De Niro, who just happens to star in the movie I’m referencing here.

See? It all ties together (albeit loosely). Follow the bouncing ball.

The film is titled “Being Flynn”. De Niro is Jonathan Flynn, who writes brilliantly but leads a troubled life wrought with relational disaster. From the movie trailer, several things are clear. First, Flynn sees himself as a Capital W but his son feels only his absence. And second, I must see this movie.

I hesitated to write about this film about writing until I had seen it, which would make logical sense. People who live with the incessant urge to write emotionally are spontaneous creatures, and only employ logic when absolutely necessary.  We often cannot wait to record our thoughts and deeds, as writing about moment becomes obsolete after the moment passes.  And also, I found it through googling quotes about writers, which led me to watch the trailer in which De Niro’s character – who is homeless at this point – says this:

“Of course, writers – especially  poets – are particularly prone to madness.”

They are, indeed. Or are they just more honest about their inner workings, sharing the deeper meanings of each experience in such a non-refundable way? They give of themselves what can never belong exclusively to them again. Most of the time, they don’t find validation or wealth or recognition of their craft. Most of the time, what they give to the reader never pays off Capital W style.

By further researching “Being Flynn”, I found that it is a true story based on a novel entitled, “Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City: A Memior.” It is written by the  son of De Niro’s character, Nick Flynn. That’s a crazy title – and I nearly didn’t include it in this piece because I am a Christian and not supposed to endorse profanity( I’m not really supposed to use profanity in everyday life either, but sometimes I slip and I thank God that He extends grace) but I actually appreciate the author’s honesty. In keeping it real, he keeps as sane as possible and writes a story in which human kindness and goodness prevails.

Writing itself is madness in some ways, because it makes the artist most vulnerable. But it is also the antidote to madness. Because recording experience through the written word is reaching out to reality instead of losing touch with it. Everyone is a little bit mad. I’m only really afraid of people who claim to be completely sane.

“We were put on this life to help other people, Nicholas,” Flynn finally tells his son. “It’s a wonderful life. It’s a masterpiece.”

A wonderful, spiritual, maddening masterpiece.

Holiday

Carols for the Saturday of Awkwardness – Sing Along!

Santa says, “I’m still at the beach! Don’t rush me!”

I ought to be excited about this day.
Thanksgiving is over, but there are still plenty of leftovers. And the ominous Black Friday is finished, giving way to the Saturday of Awkwardness.

For me, every year, The Saturday of Awkwardness opens up the first weekend after Thanksgiving. There are still dishes from the feast in the sink, soaking and re-soaking – but nobody is really in the mood do finish scrubbing off the residue, much less start decorate for Christmas yet. Awkward Saturday is a 24-hour period in which nobody really knows what to do with themselves, and as a result – a sort of funk can settle over us. Our bellies are still too round to carry in boxes of ornaments from the garage; we light the short wicks on the leftover pumpkin-scented candles and hope they burn down in time for the Frazer fir candles to come out. We aren’t ready for real Christmas music quite yet. We are in full-fledged holiday-flux.

Speaking personally, The Saturday of Awkwardness can even be a little depressing. I am still tired from being on my feet preparing and cooking twelve meal items, but antsy about the upcoming holidays, which are looming ever closer like a bumbling turkey float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on a windy morning.

How will we afford Christmas this year, without my income? Writing about my experiences may be fulfilling in some very important ways, but Santa’s workshop does not accept blog posts as payment…not even on Pay Pal! I thought that by now I would have a paying job; it has been seven months since my last employment. Seven months since I broke my ankle that resulted in the surgery that kept me down for more time.

Write, God had said. Clearer than I’d ever heard His voice. And down for the proverbial count, I did. Now, we are approaching the commemoration of the blessed birth of His Son, and I’ve written enough to fill a horn-a-plenty, but have not even generated enough income to fill a mouse’s Christmas stocking. This does not seem to be a problem to God, although I’ve tried making Him understand that the numbers just don’t work.

And then there is the whole family angle.  How will the drama play out this year? Family and Drama go together like the pilgrims and Indians who’s coming together we replicated just a couple of days ago for Thanksgiving: two very different Peoples exchanging niceties and delicious food.  But just underneath the request to pass the maize pie, someone is plotting the scalping of another before the day’s end.

The Saturday of Awkwardness makes me tired; because I know that the holidays are coming like a tsunami and I do not have the energy to dodge it. So, as I poke around the house as slow as a sloth that has participated in a competitive eating event (and won): without purpose to clean, cook, wrap, and shop or decorate the thought occurs to me: The awkward Saturday may the perfect time for resting, and maybe a little songwriting.

During the holidays, we love our festive Christmas music, and Thanksgiving has it’s oven tunes about going to Grandmother’s house (and figgy pudding…you know the one).  So I decided to write a couple of little carols the about Awkward Saturday time. They go a little like this:

(to the tune of O’Tannenbaum)

Oh Saturday

Oh Saturday

Thanksgiving dishes in sink still lay.

Oh Saturday,

Oh Saturday,

Black Friday stole my joy away.

The reds and greens of Christmastime,

Shant’ prematurely hang in mine.

Oh Saturday

Oh Saturday

Make me a turkey sandwich.

 Or….

Joy to the world,

For crying out loud,

We just had Thanksgiving meal!

For Black Friday, You’re a fan of all

The sales, like a crazed animal,

Shopping til’ you dropped

And now your cash flow’s stopped.

And it’s still just November

Awkward Saturday.

God bless us…one and all!

Spiritual

The Flu or Something Like It

By: Jana Greene

It wasn’t the flu.

It couldn’t have been, because my husband had gotten a flu shot and he got  sick before me. The flu shot, heralded as viral kryptonite, was supposed to prevent just such an incidence as this….this plague upon the Greene Residence.

Of course there are two schools of thought on the flu shot.

Team Flu Shot, which consists of people wearing lab coats and the government (completely trustworthy, right?) insists that you MUST have the flu shot. If you don’t, you are a biological renegade, careless with your own health but worse, a phlem-ridden public nuisance volunteering to spread disease.

Team Never Been Sicker is comprised of people who have had the shot and soon thereafter became gravely ill. These folks complete every sentence pertaining to the shot with, “No, really….I’ve never been sicker!” People in this category will also tell you (with a far-away look in the eye, remembering the horror) that they will  never get another shot.. Because if you have every symptom of the legit flu, it is The Flu to you whether or not you’ve been immunized against it.

So, maybe it wasn’t the flu that my husband and I had, but it was a relative, at least. If it approached a talent agency about becoming a Flu Impersonator, it would get hired on the spot and paid top-dollar. It was a dead-ringer.

My Beloved and I lay next to each other for a week – two people madly in love with one another in bed – barely touching and saying things like, “please don’t touch me, even my hair hurts” through stuffed, red noses.

Hours became days. Bedside tables became crowded with wadded up tissues and cups sticky with Thera-flu residue. The days became a solid week, and then ten days of Imposter Flu…misery. And then, a tiny ray of hope in the form of a lapse in the constant headache.

We are starting to crawl out from under it, this monster bug.  A few days ago, I logged onto this blog and realized that I have not written since October!  What? How can that be? But there it was – bigger than Dallas – the calendar on the right-hand side of this page that chronicles blog entries with November empty.  Time flies when you are incapacitated.

So, I’m sending apologies to the blogosphere for missing out on the entire month of November (so far) and looking forward to doing some writing in earnest to make up the difference. God snuck in some inspiration for new articles in between bouts of fever and nausea, and I’m looking forward to digging in to His Word and His work, and venturing out into the world again.  Mister and Mrs. Never Been Sicker were down for a count, but not out of the game!

The plague is lifted, may the words soon follow!

Inspirational

Grace Train Sounding Louder – thoughts on writing the tough chapters

By: Jana Greene

“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,  A sight to take your breath away!  Grand processions of people  telling all the good things of God!  But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.” – Romans 10:14-17 (The Message)

When I first read this scripture,  I thought about a locomotive. The image came to my mind of a train making stops in all kinds of places and picking up wayward people of all walks of life before continuing down the track.  I don’t know why.  Writers are a peculiar bunch when it comes to thinking (and everything else).

Another  line of thought  kept me active in my alcoholism for many years:  Nobody knows how I feel.  As long as I fed that train on the black coals of Terminal Uniqueness, the faster it gained speed for the inevitable train wreck.  Since no one else has had the exact  same life experiences that I have, I felt justified in drinking – and so I drank more and felt sorrier for myself and entered a tunnel of dark denial, and well….enough of the locomotive metaphors.  The result was disaster that I might not have survived.

I might not have.  But I did, because God is real and because surrender is an option.

The book I’m working on writing is about the ways that I’m not unique, which is most ways.  It is about life happening to a person who lost control; about that loss of control being the best thing that ever happened to her because it set the trajectory for letting go and letting God do His work.  There are elements of comedy, because so much in life is absurd, and musings about getting older, raising kids, and the like. Also along the storyline, there are many dark tunnels,  experiences that may speak to others who have lost control, these are the the parts that are difficult to write. Painful to write.  I would rather not include some experiences in the book  because they are embarrassing and shameful.

But they are the very same things that made me feel as though nobody knew how I felt when I first tried to get sober. They are universal, really – just as much as getting older and raising kids. Everyone hurts.  I think it’s important that others know they are not alone, not “too bad” for God to love, not a train wreck waiting to happen. Unless there is a Grand Procession of Christ-followers willing to be honest, who will help? God has given me a beautiful, awful, honorable burden to write about my recovery so that maybe someone with similar uniqueness will know that God can be trusted.

Or as Isaiah said in scripture, “Does anyone care? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?”

I care. I believe.

As I relinquish the engine to God and ride in the boxcar, barefoot and vulnerable with my legs dangling over the passing tracks – watching the world and enjoying the view, and grabbing ahold of other wayward sinners on the way, pulling them up to ride along side me. There are bumps in the track and the car rattles at times, and we are not certain where it is headed.  But it’s okay because we are confident that the Engineer knows what He’s doing.

It is a sight to take your breath away.  And breathe life into your soul.

Poetry

Your Words and the Strength to Bleed Them – a poem

“CUTTY SARK” painting by Paul M. Kruemcke (my beloved grandfather “Papa”)

circa 1966

By:  Jana Greene

“And I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding
Right before the Lord
All the words are gonna bleed from me
And I will think no more
” –  The White Stripes, Seven Nation Army

Words

like the ocean when you are standing at the end of the world

right about to fall off the edge.

Just when you think you’ve run out of sea

the world becomes round and look! 

Endless more!

More to say.

More to think.

More to write.

Units of communication,

Words,

transfused into us by our Creator.

On the waters of written language

The world takes passage in order to think.

Thought-provoking words inspire

ignite and set into motion

Kingdoms, governments and laws.

I write in order to unthink.

Unable (unwilling)  to tourniquet the thoughts

with substance or busy-ness or logic,

the flow commences with a single prayer,

“Lord, give me the words.

And lend me Your strength to bleed them.”

Words, woven together

one pitifully weak and thin thread at a time.

One narrow thread of thought,

 meaningless by itself,

white with a memory of bliss until it bleeds from the loom pink,

and then red with heartache.

Keep weaving until the thread changes to the blues of struggle

and the yellows of rejoicing,

and a million shades in between.

My history

thread by thread

word by word

becomes a sail.

Patched when torn

woven with those glorious words

for which God gives us with generous abundance.

Which God reminds us to use carefully.

To choose carefully.

To bleed wisely and weave gloriously.

Under the wind of His grace…

To sail upon.

Inspirational, Spiritual

Big Fish in a Little Pond

By:  Jana Greene / thebeggarsbakery.net

You might be a big fish
In a little pond Doesn’t mean you’ve won
‘Cause along may come
A bigger one –  Coldplay, Lost

Fill in the blank:  When I finally achieve ______________, I will be_____________.

Accomplishment…it is a slippery little sucker.  Once you catch it, it tends to wriggle free.  I think I know what success is, but the definition keeps changing. But I’m learning not to compare myself to others.  If God doesn’t compare us to one another, why do I?

My “fill-in-the-blanks” have changed many times:

When I finally achieve career success, I will  fit in.

In the business world, while others were striving to reach the next rung on the ladder, I was just trying to keep from tripping over myself on the ground.  The message at the office is: the work world is how you measure your success – and a large portion of society  confirms that it must be true.  But there is very little requirement in corporate America for creativity.  While others were making money and enjoying the fruits of their labor, I felt like my fruits were dying on the vine. I was such a square peg forced into a round hole even my successes weren’t really mine.  They were the achievements of a round-shaped square peg, whittled down to conformity in order to fit.

When I finally achieve my ideal weight, I will be happy with myself.

This is a biggie (no pun intended) with most women I know.  At different stages of my life, I have been heavy and I have been thin.  Here in the middle (and middle-aged) is not where consider my body ideal, but I have to be honest with myself.  In the skinny years, I found a myriad of other ways to be unhappy with my body.  Fitting into size six jeans was nice, but all the while I was thinking, “Another gray hair!” while hating this feature or another.  Those goals I set for myself that seem so important often fail to satisfy.

When I finally achieve organization, I will be a better writer.

Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I’ve decided that I will one day become an organized person.  I will sit at my desk, which will have all of my resources handy (dictionary, thesaurus, extra printer paper, highlighters) and utilize Microsoft Outlook’s calendar and scheduling features.  My desk would not appear to be the workplace of a mad scientist who decided to take up writing Haiku…..half-drunk cups of coffee, sharpies missing lids, a random cat wandering across the keyboard.  But as it is, my desk is never clean and orderly.  It is covered in yellow post-it notes that proclaim messages like “Next Tuesday” and “Why snails have strong faith” or “7”…things that I am sure will later jog a writing idea but usually don’t, because I’ve forgotten why I wrote them down in the first place.  I’m not even sure my computer has Outlook.

So, I keep asking God, what can I achieve for you?  What can I accomplish as Your child? 

After all, he knows me best.  He knows that I am no businesswoman.  He knows that I carry a little fluff around, that I am messy and disorganized.  He is ok with these and a million other personality and character attributes belonging only to me, and the defects?  He is helping me work through those.

He always finds me, even under the striving to please others – even in my most vain and selfish pursuits.  I sense my Creator saying often to my spirit, “Little fish….how did you get in there?  No wonder you are miserable – you are in the wrong pond!”

He created me.  He should know!  The definition of the true measure of success in Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

When I achieve surrender to God I will be successful.  Accomplished. And most likely, covered in yellow sticky notes.