Swamp Blogger

By:  Jana Greene

The Mister and I went for a car ride last Sunday afternoon, deep into wilderness of Pender County, North Carolina.  I was grumpy and fretful with the busy thoughts, and he doesn’t seem to mind being in an enclosed area with me when I’m like that, God bless him.

So, off we went with a half-tank of gas and our trusty camera.

The further we drive away from named communities with neat, rowed housing, the more interesting the scenery.   My mind slips slowly out of busy-ness and eventually relaxes somewhere between the first blueberry field and the fifth “No Trespassing” sign.  By the time we get to the old river roads, find something to worry about becomes find something beautiful.

Beauty is everywhere.

Pender County is locally famous for being a filming site for the Discovery Channel show, Swamp Loggers.  The Cape Fear River winds black and lazy through the land, in such a vascular way that the ground never feels quite solid enough to walk on.   Water, water everywhere, and everywhere you sink.

On the river, it seems that everything in sight was, is or will be some shade of green in its existence.  Animal, mineral, vegetable…covered in either water or algae or moss, and wild.

We stop at a “boat access”, although it is only wide enough to put in a John boat, or a couple of kayaks.  I take pictures of a family of ducks, an old hollow stump and some moss in a tree.

We get back in the car and ride around for several minutes without saying a word.   I see a bunch of insanely yellow flowers blooming by the roadside and stop to capture the visual Prozac on film.  Later that day, we snap photos of a tree that seems to have a goiter in its trunk, and a random puppy flopping through some tall grass with his family at another boat access.   Anything anomalous, anything strange and wonderful……*click*.   The transmission has completely slipped at the crossroads of my grumpiness and fret, like a rusty old pickup truck resting like sculpture in a field by the riverside.

But, it is also the quiet that disarms me most there; humid, comforting silence.  Quiet from modern life…quiet from myself.

I don’t have a lot of that in my mind.  I’ve always been a worrier, and although I know it is the least useful (and faithful) venue for my brain to seek out, it knows the way so well it sometimes gets there before me.  Half of the battle is getting out from the worn ruts.  Driving into the swampy country in Pender County, North Carolina is like taking my spirit off-roading in the best way possible.

Find something beautiful.

Beauty is everywhere, messy and wild.

Wet and green.

Blogging by the seat of my pants!

Hi, readers 🙂  A big ‘thank you’ for following this blog….and just a little fyi…changed my settings to NOT automatically publish comments, as I want to respect privacies.  Please send your email addy to me @  jana.greene@yahoo.com  if you’d like so that i can reply in private when necessary.  Sorry about the confusion…I’m STILL learning the ropes here!

First Do No Harm

By:  Jana Greene

I’d written the post I’d set out to write for the blog, but hesitated to hit “publish”.

It was a pretty raw piece about addiction and motherhood; two things I have experience with that often end up awkward bedfellows in my writing.  Addiction and motherhood don’t belong in a single story, but long ago they had an affair, and the resulting lovechild was a story about my grieving choices I had made but reveling in the grace of Christ.

Still staring at the glow of the laptop screen.  Perhaps I shouldn’t put this ‘out there’, I thought, finger hovering over the enter button.

Some Christians will be offended.  They will judge me twice; once for being the person I was, and again for admitting to being that person.  They might think I am playing fast and loose with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a poor representation of a Christian.  I would never want to do that.

And – far more importantly – what about those who don’t know Jesus yet?

Still, I can’t shake the urgency to write about these things, to ‘put them out there’.  So I pray….

”God, first let me do no harm.”  A spiritual Hippocratic Oath of sorts –“ let me do no harm to Your name”.

Be the beggar, I feel Him saying.  Stop trying to “bake”…..

Sometimes, writing, I feel like a rebel deserter of my formerl self;  a New Creation counting on Christ to do the jousting because I am rusty from old war injuries.  A grateful and humble flawed veteran…not measuring up to what the world thinks a Christian should always be, but gratefully not of this world.

Old war stories sometimes need to be told, and telling half-truths distorts history.

I press the Enter button to Publish.  And revel in the grace of Christ.

 

One Ridiculously Important Thing

By:  Jana Greene

Jesus replied:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All of the Law and Prophets hang on to these two commandments. – Matthew 22:36-40. (NIV)

Recently, the “weird and ridiculous” advertisements are all over the internet.  I cannot seem to surf a news site, weather channel blog or Facebook page without being promised “a ridiculously easy trick to stop smoking for good!”  Or, “one old, weird tip for cutting belly fat!”

Although I quit smoking in 2006, I am still tempted to click on the links.  Who doesn’t want to know a ridiculously easy trick?   And a singular old and weird tip for cutting belly fat?  Sign me up!  I’m oldish, definitely weird, and a big fan of the ridiculous.

And marketers know:  The word “one” appeals to us.  If it only takes ONE step, most of us figure we can handle that.  One-step solutions promise us the same results as those requiring work, but without as much of it.  And tricks?  We all like magical resolution– “trick” implies that NO effort on our part to take even the One Easy Step.

Jesus said there really is One Thing.  Love your God with all of your heart, all your soul, all your mind.  Everything else will fall into place if you do that One Thing, in regards to what really matters (which turns out not to be belly fat).  Certainly not ridiculous or weird, and with no trickery involved:

He never said it would be easy; most things worth with permanent results are not.

God’s advertisement strategy for His love is not proclaimed in internet pop-ups or one-click promises.  His advertising is the word of mouth and love in action of His people.  He isn’t seeking a quick sale…He wants a relationship.

I imagine that’s why it’s so important we remember The One Thing, so we can keep loving people the way He loved us while we were still sinners.  The wonder of grace is that it promises forgiveness, but through relationship and acceptance instead of work.  There is no trickery to it; our only effort to receive is to seek Him and ask for it.

No sleight of hand, just willingness of heart.   The One Thing:  Love.

How to Accept a Magnolia Blossom

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were out riding around in the car. I don’t remember where we were headed, if anywhere. Sometimes we just ride a few blocks together to get away and be alone, decompressing from the estrogen-laden drama factory that is our home with three teen daughters.

Our conversation turned to trees, somehow, and what we might like to plant in the front yard someday.  It was a short topic of discussion, as neither he nor I can name more than five different kinds of trees.  We like things in our outdoor space to be more green than brown on the color wheel, but are not otherwise yard-workers.

“Magnolia trees,” I said offhandedly, “I love Magnolias; I think they are my favorite.”

We quickly decided that a Magnolia probably wouldn’t work in the space available in the yard, and that was that.  Besides, I am not contributing to the family income right now. Until money grows on trees, we shouldn’t be buying any.

Several days later, my man came home from work with a huge Magnolia bloom. The flower was still tightly compacted around itself.

He remembered I had mentioned liking Magnolias.

It’s the little things that drive you crazy in a household.  It’s also the little things that keep you afloat.

I placed the flower in a bowl of water, arranging the big, dark, waxy leaves around the bud just so. The flower would open in time, but it wouldn’t be rushed.

“Thank you, Baby,” I said, kissing my husband, not knowing what else to say.

That particular day, I had been in my PJs all day long and never managed to get dressed.  I wrote and wrote and wrote, yet managed to produce nothing publishable.  The house was messy and dinner hadn’t been started.   I felt a little embarrassed receiving the flower because I hadn’t accomplished much at all.

I am in a season of accepting things right now, but earning was easier.

Earning was easier, because I felt like I had contributed to the outcome of things. But the best things in my life have all been undeserved and given to me through grace, not ability. Certainly not through my earning them.

It’s humbling, really. It is a mental holdover of self-condemnation.  From impromptu flowers from my husband to the miracle of God’s grace, I am learning how to be a gracious accepter who doesn’t have to feel she has to earn every good thing.

For the next few days, the Magnolia blossom lived on a table behind my writing desk…it’s big, soft pillowy white petals opening a little more each day.  And every time I passed by it, the bloom opened just a little more. ..rusting  around the edges as a Magnolia blossom does.  Just a little more….just a little more…..until it was open completely. It would not be rushed.

The entire house was filled with Magnolia perfume. It blessed everyone who lives in the estrogen –laden drama factory as it opened.  Isn’t that just like a simple, thoughtful gift unearned to spread like Magnolia petals?

Gracefully.

Open Arms

By:  Jana Greene

Happy Sunday, day of Worship and Rest!

I just wanted to share a very short devotional with you today.  Mercifully short, in comparison to my usual blog posts, you might say!

This morning, I opened my Bible to Romans 14:1 and read about how love and spiritual hospitality meet in a place of tolerance and acceptance.  I’ve been trying to read scripture lately with an “amnesia of the preconceived”.  Praying that my  blinders will be removed (while being scared that they actually WILL!)  just soaking in what the Word says without my personal moral preferences auto-correcting everything I read.

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do.  And don’t jump over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with – even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department.  Remember, they have their own history to deal with.  Treat them gently.

Hmmm.  Whether I “know” I’m “right” or not?
Would I rather be strong in my opinions or strong in the faith department?
I’m learning that its hard to be both!

Dear God,

 Forgive me for judging those who have their own history to deal with, and help me to show them YOUR love, uncontaminated by my own point of view.  Oh, and Lord?  As you remove my blinders, please treat me gently, too.   Thank you, Jesus.

Self-Condemnation Deflation

By:  Jana Greene

A dear friend and I were having a discussion about self-condemnation the other day; about how it is a struggle for both she and I to avoid condemnation of ourselves.  When I put myself down, I am believing what the enemy says about me is correct.    That with my past actions –I am worthy of condemnation.   I get stopped in my tracks, stopped from moving forward.  Whatever holy and good things I was hoping to do today to pass along the love of God, gets buried like tires stuck from driving on deep sand.  The more I try to move forward out of a self-condemnation mindset, the more my wheels spin.

I am no Theologian.  I am un-schooled in psychology.  But I am a sinner, and I have taken putting myself down to an art form.  I’m working on breaking out of self-condemnation; working on learning not to self-condemn.

In my life, condemnation usually happens in one or two ways.  Half the battle (if not more) is remembering who is the perpetrator of this oppression is – satan.  If he can keep me stuck like tires in the sand, I can’t go anywhere forward-moving.

My self-condemnation says:  The things I have done in my past determine my feelings of worthfulness to God now. 

Confirmation by the Enemy:  Who are you to tell other beggars where you found bread?  You made every mistake in the book, and now you want to spread the Gospel.  If you want to help God, don’t drag His name into your mess.   Who is going to listen to you? 

My self-condemnation says:  I can’t do anything right…I am my own worst enemy.  If you compliment me, I will find a way to point out something negative about myself so fast I don’t even have to think about it.  I just keep messing up, even though I love God with all of my heart, with all of my soul, with my entire mind. 

Confirmation by the Enemy:  I am your worst enemy, but thanks for listening to what I have to say.

One stream of thinking applies to my past, and one to my present and future.  But both of them show a lack of trust in the one who pulls me out of the ruts of my own making.  I don’t need self-esteem, I need my esteemed Savior, Jesus Christ, who can and will do for me (as much of a mess as I am) for you, for anyone.

I researched a little bit the word “condemn”, hoping to find an accurate definition, and learned these things about the word.  Those of us who apply condemnation to ourselves are, in essence:

1.       Declaring ourselves to be reprehensible, wrong or evil without reservation, usually after we weigh “evidence” that we decide is obvious.

2.       Associating ourselves with the following synonyms:  Damned, denounced, denied, and pronounced guilty and unfit.  Oh, and convicted, sentenced and DOOMED.

Those are big-ticket items, Spiritually.  Self-condemnation is really an act of sentencing ourselves to doom.

Interestingly, there is only one antonym- one opposite – given for the word in Webster’s online dictionary:

BLESSED

That’s pretty powerful. There is a battle going on to determine how we view ourselves.  We can’t always get to the  self-loathing feelings before they get to us, but we can be lifted up out of them.  As a matter of fact, we have already been lifted out….

Romans 8:1-5:  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.  The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.  So God did what the law could NOT do.  He sent his own SON in a body like the bodies we sinners have.  And in that body God declared and end to the sin’s control over us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for  us., who no longer follow our sinful natures but instead follow the Spirit.” – (NLT)

There is no fine-print disclaimer to this verse.  It doesn’t say, “some” or “a tad” or “a smidgen” of condemnation of those who belong to Christ Jesus.  It says there is NO condemnation.

On my own, I am totally condemnable.  But with Christ as my salvation, I am just  BLESSED.

Blessed to know that negative self-talk is NOT of God, and that I have the authority to rebuke it.

Blessed to know that the Lord is infinitely patient, and doesn’t expect me to change overnight.  I’ve honed some really effective self-condemnation techniques over a lifetime, and it will take His supernatural help to reprogram the way I think.

Blessed to know that I cannot “out-mess” His love for me…I am His daughter.  Like a good father, He has already done for me what I could not do for myself.

Blessed to know the sound of my Father’s voice, whose words never tear me down, but build me up in love.

Blessed to know that the enemy of God is referred to in the Bible as ” The Author of Lies”, unable to tell the truth.

Blessed that, as Romans 8 reminds me, “And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”  That leads to doom.

No Condemnation at all, for those in Christ Jesus!
AMEN!