Flotsam, Jetsam, and Faith

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By: Jana Greene

Ever been through a dry spiritual season? Without exception, we all have. Some of us are there now.

The place where God’s voice seems muffled under the din of mind noise. Oh my Lord, such mind noise!

Faith made stale by either struggle or monotony…because let’s be honest, both can really make us feel small and lost.

Swimming is a great therapy for me. It soothes my janky joints and relaxes my tense muscles. One of my favorite places in the world is the beach, and we are fortunate to live minutes away from the Atlantic ocean. When I go to the coast and scan the vast horizon, it reminds me how tiny we humans are.

But when I get in the water and swim, I’m in another world. It is a soft, enveloping womb – the ocean. I get immersed, letting the gentle current carry my floating form. I like to swim out past where my feet can feel the bottom. When I go with my adult kids, they are forever telling me, “Mom! That’s deep enough!” It’s funny how the roles have somehow reversed.

One of the most fabulous things about a faith walk is that even when you trip up, you still always know where true North lies. Navigating by the Heavens is tried and true, predictable and concise. Sometimes when I trip, I stay down on the ground and have a little spiritual tantrum, refusing to get up for a bit.

But when I come back from a dark place, my worship is fresh and welcome to my Papa God. Just like dipping into the cool waters of the sea, I’m not small but significant. I’m part of the water, and it’s part of me.

That’s all it takes to get my mind right – worship. And worship isn’t always about flashy church worship bands, or getting the lyrics right. It can be about seeking Him in nature. It can be about a long conversation with him – trusting Him to hear us is an act of worship. Noticing the tiny things that are beautiful and miraculous. Because the miraculous surrounds us every day, if we take time to look for it.

I have offered up some of my best worship while floating on the surface of the salty sea. Words fail me at times. But He is as close as my breath as I admire His handiwork.

When I am spiritually dry, He isn’t waiting on me to get it right to respond. He is in that dark place beside me, within me as Holy Spirit.  I am not small and lost, but infinitely valuable to my Creator, and so are you. So much so, that He is in us and around us, guiding our flotsam and steering our jetsam. Interestingly, the definition of “jetsam” is: “unwanted material or goods that have been thrown overboard from a ship and washed ashore, especially material that has been discarded to lighten the vessel.” He wants to lighten our burdens! What a God we serve.

Immerse yourself in Pure Love and be reminded that you were not designed to admire the vast love from a safe place. You were born to learn that trust makes us weightless.

That’s how I think about God – He desires that I don’t stay on the shore, but dive in and trust Him fully, even when our “feet” don’t touch the bottom.

God bless us, every one.

 

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

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By: Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of the sudden, my inflammation levels rise.

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

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

To everything, turn turn turn,

Season, turn turn turn,

And a time for every purpose

Under Heaven.

Purpose. Hmmmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take heart – your “October” is coming!

Mine is, too.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

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

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

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

 

A Prayer for the Hallway – Faith in the in-between

 

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By: Jana Greene

Lots of people say that starting a thing is the hardest part, but I beg to differ. To me, the hardest part is when you’ve done all the things to put yourself on the right track, but it seems forces are conspiring against you.

Paranoid? Maybe. True? Certainly.

When you’ve changed your lifestyle to a healthy one, but have hardly lost an ounce over the course of weeks. I don’t know about you, but it was my intention to have a window opened to me when I said goodbye to pleasures like sugar and carbs. When I’m stuck in limbo, my Inner Jana really just wants to say, “Well, screw it! I tried! Back to the Haagen Dazs!”

And in matters much more important…

When you’ve chosen to step out in faith but doors are not exactly opening up to you.

When you are expecting God to part the Red Sea but He isn’t making a way for you like you’d trusted. He is doing it some other way – even though you clearly instructed Him to please come through.

Getting started isn’t always the hardest thing. Sometimes the hardest thing is to KEEP going.

Here’s another thing a lot of people say:

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.” To which I’d like to add – “but it’s HELL in the hallway!”

The hallway is the perfect place for giver-uppers to give up; trust me, I know.

In the hallway, the light is often busted. You cannot see a way out, no matter where you turn. Where’s that window again, God?

In the hallway, our hearts hurt. It’s a lonely, unforgiving place. It can easily feel like no one even knows you’re missing.

In the hallway, you feel vulnerable, like Eve when she discovered she was naked. Just you and your Maker in this strange place of neither here-nor-there.

It seems like the long hallway will never end at times. You walk and walk, and the hall just stretches ahead like a mirage. I mean, sometimes it REALLY just goes on and on.

The hallway seems like a TERRIBLE place to rest! Right beyond a locked door and with no other exits clearly marked. But “rest” is what we are supposed to do in the damn Hallway, I think.

The hallway can be a purgatory-esque place of extreme anxiety building and extreme faith building, in that order.

Here’s the thing about hallways, though. They always lead to somewhere.

Some of the longest, darkest hallways I’ve had to camp in on have been great places to wait it out and wait on God. Not COMFORTABLE places, mind you. But pretty good incubators for learning to truly trust, even when you cannot imagine what the future holds.

When I went through a divorce in the early 2000’s, I experienced a stint in one of the loneliest hallways of all time. Formerly a mom who worked from home, I had to go out and get four part-time jobs to care and feed for my kids. We had nobody else. For a period of a couple of years, I stayed in “fight or flight” mode, to the extent that I’m pretty sure I crashed my spiritual hard drive. I had shut a door that badly needed shutting, only to find that my circumstances got more difficult before they got any better (and they did.)

When I quit drinking, deciding to quit was not the hardest part. The hardest part was on Day 11 and 105 – random times when I’m just minding my own sober business and the shit hits the fan and I’m caught unaware by the drama. The only thing that got me through sober was the faith result of spending untold time in the hallway.

And now, with my janky health problems and chronic “I’m not sure what I want to do when I grow up” (I’m nearly 50…) state, I find myself in yet another corridor, waiting for God to open my window and trusting that when He does, it won’t be on the 21st floor.

I’m preaching to myself as well as anyone else! I’m struggling, ya’ll. That’s why I’m writing about this phenomenon, hoping to pull myself AND you up with the hope that God is indeed working on things, even when nothing changes on the surface.

Had I not sat in that lonely place of in-between for so long, I wouldn’t have known how to survive life on life’s terms. The Hallway isn’t really a Hell, but a changing room.

A portal to accepting GRACE.

I will keep pressing through the hallway if you will!

Until we come out the other side, please join me in this prayer. ❤

Dear Papa God,

I feel like I’m in between. In between things and people and places. I’m ready for the glorious answers to prayer, but I know that you ONLY have my best interest at heart and have wonderful things stored up for me just beyond the open window. Thank you for changing things in your perfect time, instead of my time – which is seen through such a limited scope. Help us to be patient in the hallways, when we feel lonely, lost, scared, or anxious. Thanks for camping out in the hallways WITH us. What a wonderful thing for a Father to do. Holy Spirit, instill in me the faith to keep on keepin’ on, every day, with assurance that YOU are faithful.

Amen.

 

Politics, the Devil, and the Deep Blue Sea

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“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” – Anne Lamott

By: Jana Greene

This planet is a scary place to be stationed for the duration of our earthly lives, isn’t it? It is full of manifest proof that people are completely whack. Especially in this political season, so rife with corruption and spite and division. I quite fancy the bumper sticker I saw the other day that simply says, “GIANT METEOR 2016” and in small print “Just end it already.”

In my flesh, I’m pretty sure that a giant meteor is the best contender, if for no other reason that it would at least be a quick death, and not a slow-burn of horror that might be a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump presidency.

Surely God is avoiding those two candidates like the plague. Surely, God is a nice libertarian, right?

Right?

Be a light, I keep telling myself. Enough people are bitching about the election. Bitching about the state of the world is kind of a specialty of mine, because I feel so STRONGLY about things that I often work myself into a Chicken Little-style frenzy of running in circles yelling THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!

In my flesh, I’m pretty sure we are politically doomed. Yet even as bits of sky are raining down, my supernatural spirit knows God will work all things to the good.

(God can even use Hillary and Trump somehow. THAT’S how powerful our God is, people.)

God is in this place, in this time. He isn’t in hiding. Contrary to many believers’ cries that God is so fed up with this country, he has left ‘Murica altogether. If that were true, indeed all hope would be lost.

But hope isn’t lost. Not all of it, anyway.

Christians especially love to put demographics of people into little boxes, so that we can give ‘those people’ wide berth.  There are many, many believers who think that God would never be present in unholy places – the back alleys. The venues of ill repute.

The campaign trail (*shudder*)

But that’s just not true. I know this because Jesus entered into darkness when he signed up for this Earth gig. He never said, “Ew, I can’t go THERE with THEM.”

He entered into darkness so that every one of us has the opportunity to walk in the light. Because of that, I don’t have to fear the dark (I don’t HAVE to, but sometimes I still do…its a work in progress!)

One tiny light vanquishes darkness; it doesn’t have to be a torch or an incandescent bulb. It just has to be willing to be lit – accepting Christ and trusting that he is still on the throne no matter who is in the White House.

What to DO when you feel like you are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea? Stand there and be a lighthouse, of course.

Here is what I believe:

God is in me, and he is in you.

He is faithful and steadfast (no meteor required).

He has a plan, even when all evidence points to the contrary.

Plot twists are kind of his specialty.

He is not deterred by people, places and things.

He is only ever good at heart.

Because God is love, anywhere there is love, there God is.

 

God bless America. And may he bless us, every one.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweeping up Eggshells – Life in the New Covenant

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By: Jana Greene

“When people form their opinion about God from what they hear from contemporary legalistic religion, it’s no wonder they conclude that God is a cranky, old, bookkeeping, judgmental, demanding deity who is more interested in people’s behavior than anything else. It would be easy to see how a god like that would be angry much of the time. Sadly, people who hold that view of God impose it on the Bible and interpret the Bible to present a God like that. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not saying that our God is a milquetoast, a mild-mannered god who can be managed. He’s no kitten, that for sure.”  —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

Part 4 of The Seismic Seven Series

When I was a little girl, my father would often go into rages. I learned early how to walk on eggshells, as you never knew what mood he would be in when he walked through the door. We all braced for the worst, but sometimes he would arrive with gifts or candy. Just when you came to expect gifts and candy, the raging and violent alter-ego would walk through the door. When that happened, I learned to flee. But when I didn’t have time to flee, I’d hide behind my mom’s legs as my parents fought. Ugly, hostile, screaming fights were the norm when I was growing up.

I hid behind my mom’s legs because if she were the barrier, perhaps he would not ‘see’ me and I could avoid getting the brunt of his fury. Sometimes this worked, other times, my mother and I both got the wrath.

At The Open Table Conference, Steve McVey likened this very thing to how we perceive God. We want to go to Heaven, but we imagine meeting God and hiding behind the legs of Jesus, so maybe God won’t ‘see’ us and smite us on the spot. Because – judging by many Old Testament Bible stories – God might send a plague upon me.

The God of the Old Testament would surely smite me! I’d better stand over here behind Jesus just to be safe.

One theological thorn I’ve learned to work around is this: If God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow….how do I justify that seemingly angry God with the God of love I know and adore? Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know that I don’t have to ‘work around’ my questions. It’s okay to ask them.

“It’s important to remember that the verses in the Old Testament were addressed to the people of that covenant, and not to you.” — Steve McVey (UNLOCK YOUR BIBLE: The Key to Understanding and Applying the Scriptures in Your Life)

It’s all about New Covenant – the solution of new promise through the Messiah that the New Testament details. It’s all about Jesus. It’s the difference between legalism and relationship; between stone tablets of commandments and a flesh-and-blood living God.

“God’s covenant with Israel, known as ‘the Old Testament’ or ‘Old Covenant,’ called upon the people to do their part. God repeatedly told them that if they would fulfill their end of the covenant, they would be blessed, and if they didn’t, they would experience all kind of curses.”—  Steve McVey  (UNLOCK YOUR BIBLE: The Key to Understanding and Applying the Scriptures in Your Life)

I won’t have to hide behind Jesus’s legs when I get to the Kingdom, because God – quite literally – sees me through Christ. Through his redemption of me. No need to walk on eggshells. No need to flee. Everything God ever did – Old Testament or New – was a gesture to invite people to Him. Even the things we percieve as horrible because we don’t see the big picture. We are reconciled to God through Christ, who made sure of it.

But although God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, the New Covenant with His people was a game-changer.

“The heart of our Creator is to bless you. Dead religion presents a freakish caricature, a pseudo-god who is reluctant to bless his creatures unless they toe the line of impeccable moral behavior and tireless service to him. But the authentic God of the Bible blessed Adam and Eve immediately [Genesis 1:27-28] – before they worshipped, before they served, before they prayed, before they displayed any kind of action at all. The first divine act toward humanity tells us so very much about Him.” —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

I don’t need that old work-around any more.

God is not a cranky, old, bookkeeping, judgmental, demanding deity who is more interested in people’s behavior than anything else.

His love is too passionate for you to be mild-mannered. He cannot be managed, no kitten, to be sure. But you are His favorite interest. Jesus wants to make sure you know that.

I’ll close with this musing by Paul Young (author of The Shack):

“Religion is about having the right answers, and some of their answers are right… but i am about the process that takes you to the living answer… it will change you from the inside. there are a lot of smart people who are able to say a lot of right things from their brain because they have been told what the right answers are, but they don’t know me at all. “

It’s God’s desire that we know Him. Not because we tow the line, but because His love for  us is so great.

He does love you so.

 

 

 

 

Struck Down but Not Destroyed

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I’m pressed but not crushed
Persecuted, not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
And I am blessed beyond the curse
For His promise will endure
That His joy is going to be my strength

Though my sorrows may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

By: Jana Greene

Have you ever been at the beach playing in the ocean all frolicky-like, splashing int he cool waters, and turned to face the shore when suddenly BAM!  You get knocked down by a wave that came out of nowhere.

At first you’re just stunned. You sure hadn’t seen that coming! So you find the sand on all fours and attempt to stand back up and from behind, another wave – bigger than the last – WHOOSH! The wave knocks you face down into the water. Now your knees are scraped and your pride is bruised. In embarrassment, you look to the beach to see the reactions of your friends on the beach, who are perhaps laughing. Your determination mounts as you right yourself to  stand and walk with some measure of grace, only to get slammed in the back by the biggest wave so far, which takes you down, under the water, and tumbles you face over rear several times.As you try to navigate getting the hell out of this place of battering waves, it’s hard to tell which way is up – which way to the breathable air? Salt water stings your freshly scraped knees, abraded by the sand, and fills your lungs with a choking salinity. Any intention to get out of the water gracefully is long gone.

A LITTLE HELP, God.

Finally – exhausted –  you catch  a momentary lull  between breakers and hightail it to the shore before the ocean can pull another fast one on your landlubber ass.

Even if you’ve never been to the ocean, you probably can still relate to this experience. Because far more daunting that getting knocked down by waves is getting knocked down by circumstances. Over and over. Before you can even get your footing to accomplish the stance that might give you a fighting chance, BAM! Another  rolls in, slamming you back down to your knees.

So many of the people I love are going through this phenomenon right now – being hit with one difficult life situation or loss, one worrisome financial or health battle after another.They are quite literally drowning in sorrows and anxiety.

Has a situational  smackdown happened to you?

On the heels of losing your job, your significant other breaks up with you. You find out your child is on drugs, and you bounce a check trying to pay a “last notice” bill due. You find a lump in your breast, on the same day a dear friend loses her valiant battle with cancer. Your heart is breaking from an estrangement from a toxic family member, someone stole your identity after hacking into your computer. The transmission in your car finally dies. Your health issues, despite fervent and believing prayers, are only getting worse. The loss you’ve experienced in your life seems more than you can bear. And although you still have your faith, it is not the flotation device you always believed it would be. God seems to have turned a deaf ear to you (and that hurts worse than everything else combined.)

God, don’t you see I’m battered? I can’t tell which way is up anymore. I’m bleeding. I’m embarrassed that even though people keep praying  for me, I’m still sick / broke / unemployed / grieving. A LITTLE HELP HERE, GOD!?

I’ve been there, several times.

“I can not take ONE more thing,” I remember telling Jesus once, right after losing a job and shortly after,  getting pneumonia.

And the next day, my car konked out –  for good.

“Ok, Lord…..This time I MEAN IT! I cannot handle ONE MORE THING.” And with that, another check bounced. Back to back challenges. I could scarcely find my footing.

If you are going through a season in your life where you cannot seem to escape the battering, listen up. This perfect storm of woes and worry – of loss and ‘run of bad luck’? It is shitty and horrible, but also TEMPORARY.

I won’t even pretend to know why God allows us to go through seasons of great trial in which we experience one awful thing after another, but I will tell you HE WILL NOT LEAVE YOU IN THAT PLACE.

He will never leave you there. Hold on to that floaty faith. You cannot STAY under, and as long as it is attached to you.  You  may still be knocked down and stunned and embarrassed, but you will not perish. This too (as cliche as it sounds) WILL pass. He will set your feet on solid ground again.

When you can’t tell which way is up, Jesus rights you and brings you to shore.

Grace is for the person who has been so repetitively beat up that she comes out of the water with one boob and one ass cheek  popped out of her  bathing suit….gagging on snot and salt water. Grace kicks in when you are too winded to breathe.

There is grace in the falling. I didn’t realize it then – I thought there as only grace in the standing firm. But no, Grace in its purest form was not withheld from me in seasons of rapid-fire heartbreak.

I’m so grateful for Jesus and His propensity for delivering us from smackdown mode at just the right time. I’m grateful that He gives us the strength to hold on to faith so we may frolic another day.

God bless us, every one.

 

 

The Truthspeaker’s Daughters

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By: Jana Greene

Hey, you.

Yeah, YOU.

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

You could use a little nurturing yourself.

Am I right?

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

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

You, the one whose marriage has lost its luster.

Or suffering loneliness.

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

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

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

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

Who do you think you ARE?

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

You are THE Apple of your Father’s eye.

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

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

A good father makes sacrifices for His kids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know you’re weary, but take heart.

Lean into the assurance of two things:

Who God truly is as a good, good father.

He speaks ONLY truth.

And who YOU are as the Apple of His eye.

He’s got this.

He’s got YOU.