Prayers for the Snake Guy

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By: Jana Greene

Four months into seminary (or, as I like to call it snarkily ‘Holy Roller School,’ after an acquaintance referred to it as such) and I am starting to see things in a whole new light. I hope more and more light seeps in and around me, as I continue on this trepidation journey to fire my old god and fully embrace the God of Love. Accepting pure love is harder than you’d think.

Today our community lost a local celebrity – and venomous snake aficionado – to a domestic violence incident. The man was missing fingers from messing with the most dangerous snakes in the world, and yet he died from a gunshot, presumably fired by his wife.

If you met him, you’d never forget him. He was so un-vanilla; a very colorful character.

As these things go, my little web of Facebook friends started posting the in-credulousness of his death,  and before you know it, information is spreading like wildfire.

The murder happened in a little apartment over the Cape Fear Serpentarium – owned and operated by the victim. So the first hints of what had happened were…

I wonder if it was the snake guy?

The serpent dude is dead!

Half of the street has blocked off around the serpentarium!

Speculation runs amok. Did his wife shoot him in self defense? Where was his toddler at the time of the shooting? All kinds of scenarios play out in an epic display of what the great George Carlin often referred to as ‘brain droppings” – thoughts that used to clang around in our skulls and peter out are now open fodder for theorists – conspiracy or otherwise. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker…everyone has a platform in the interwebs, myself included. Within a page of feed, he was either a wife-beating monster or a national treasure, victimized by his spouse. In reality, nobody knows exactly what happened at this juncture.

I have felt convicted of the ‘Proper Prayer Reproach” lately. It goes something like this:

I need the facts to pray. What if he was a vile monster who provoked his wife to violence? As a Christian, I should hope he is in ‘hell’ facing eternity skinny dipping in a lake of fire! Right?

But what if he was just a little quirky – a genius with serpents but not so much marriages? Then we should pray that he is standing at the Pearly Gates.

Who gets top billing in this prayer thing?

When did Christians – of ALL people – earn the right to cherry pick who is deserving of what fate? What if we ‘accidentally’ pray a blessing on someone who is guilty? God forbid.

Sometimes, we use Proper Prayer Reproach as a way to gossip, as in “I need more information on Suzie Q. so that I can pray for her better….”

Other times, it’s even a little malevolent – manipulation sandwiched between two slices of self-righteousness. “Lord,  do your Karma thing because so-and-so really deserves it.”

I can assure you as a Holy Roller student, God is the only judge of who deserves what. And that no matter who/what/when/where there is a need for prayer, Jesus gets top billing. When we think we have to know who the Bad Guy is in order to pray, we are making the praying all about ourselves, our power.

I’m learning this as I go. Parts of me really want to get all the facts on a given situation so that I can ‘pray properly.’ But prayer can’t – and shouldn’t – wait. And we will never in a million years have an understanding of every nuance and action that all parties involved have experienced.

So here is my prayer for the gentleman and his family. I ask that you join me in prayer – whatever that looks like to you.

Jesus.

I pray for the deceased, that he is at your feet right now as we speak, and that his heart is whole and his spirit at peace. I don’t know if he knew you in life, but you’ve known him before he was in his mother’s womb. I pray he recognizes your face as the countenance of an old friend. I pray that you welcome him.

I also don’t know what his wife believed, and right now she needs you more than ever. She may not even believe in you, but you believed in her since before time. Tonight she is in a cell, likely terrified and shattered. Sit on the jailhouse bench with her, so close that she knows you are tangible. Pour your love out on her.

Jesus, there is a three year old child whose whole life as he knew it was changed forever today. He is an innocent victim, an instant orphan. He is perfectly adorable – when I saw this little boy’s picture, I immediately thought, ‘this must be how Papa sees his kids,’ mischievous twinkle in his eye and cherubic smile. Oh, sweet Jesus. Wrap your arms around that child and minister to his little spirit in a powerful way. I don’t know anything about him, but I know you desire him to grow up and walk alongside you. That’s what good Papas want for their little ones.

I don’t need the facts to ask God to intercede. Prayer is urgent! It brings God into the darkness, banishing it. Lord, help me to see more light.

That’s seminary progress, from a lifetime student of the Proper Prayer Reproach.

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

Comfort. Move. Surround. Inhabit. Assure. Draw near.

LOVE.

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Tiaras and Mudpies (excerpt from “The Beggar Princess”)

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Good day, lovely readers!

I will likely be on hiatus for a while, as I am having shoulder surgery tomorrow morning (all prayers and warm fuzzy wishes welcome!)

But I did want to write a little post for you today (I don’t want you to forget me altogether!)

It is an excerpt from the book I am currently working on.

The book will explore our true identities as women who walk with Christ. Are you just a beggar, desperate for Him? Or are you legit royalty – the Daughter of the Most High King…..that sort of thing. This little snippet is from the 1st chapter. I hope you enjoy it, and I will be back writing the blog as soon as I’m able.

God bless us, every one!

As always, THANK YOU for your readership ❤

….Years after the damage of fatherlessness left me feeling unworthy, God healed my heart. Actually, if I am honest, He  is still healing my heart, which has a tendency to hold on to things because they are familiar; and not because they are in my best interest.  I trust my Father daily, but it is an ongoing process to give up the hurt.

Very soon after I seriously entertained the concept of being a daughter of the King, I had a really vivid dream.

 I was a little girl in full Ren Fair, Princess garb –  Tiara, sparkly pink plastic shoes, a dress with layers upon layers of taffeta and satin. I was indeed a princess! Anyone could see I was royalty.

And all around me is the perfection of nature I’ve loved all my life – clear, flowing waters, flowers surrounding me, lush, greenery and this incredible feeling of peace. It was the Garden of Eden!

I make my way to water’s edge to admire the tinkling creek,  taking care not to muss my gown or dirty my sparkly shoes. 

But oh, OH! MUD!

The mud by the river is so delightfully squishy. I cannot resist stepping in a puddle of it. And before I know it,  I’m making elaborate mud pies – all shapes and sizes, decorated with flowers from Eden’s own garden.

I was just lost in the muck, icing my cakes with more squishy mud, adding silken grass leaves and smooth pebbles as garnishes. Soon, I had enough mud pies to open a bakery.

“Look, Papa!” I remember saying.

And then – in one sick moment –  I realized that I was a mess. Nobody could tell I was a Princess, so caked in mud was I.  Mud encrusted my shoes, and my dress was filthy.  I’d dropped my tiara somewhere in the grasses while looking for cake decorations.

Shame and self-loathing started sinking in. The more I focused on my muck, the more everything around me started fading darker and dimmer.

It was then that I started to cry, avoiding the glare of the King, but when I peeped through my muddy fingers, King Jesus smiled widely at me! He scooped me up in wild embrace and held me there until I stopped crying.

He wasn’t about to let a little mud get in between Him and His Daughter!

I can still conjure the feelings I experienced in that amazing, tangible dream. It really made me consider if I believed (deep, deep down) that I am just a little more royal when I get things right and please the father; and a muddy beggar urchin, when I make a big mess. And the truth is – Papa sees through the mud and muck. It is I who focuses too much on the dirt and not enough on the divine.

Do you ever feel unworthy? Have you ever made a mess of your life?

The mud doesn’t get in the way of His love for you, either.

Anyone can see you are Royalty, Daughter.

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Whatever Comes Further, God is already There

 

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By: Jana Greene

“Hey, God…..”

“Yes?”

“What’s going to happen further along down the road?”

“I’m sorry, that’s on a need-to-know basis. Just trust me.”

“But….”

“Trust me, love. Whatever comes further, I’m already there with you.”

I’m always badgering God about what’s next, even though I know that I couldn’t even handle it if I knew. Seriously, I COULD NOT EVEN. But in some convoluted way, I ask God to reveal to me the outcome of certain things, but the gift of prophesy is not my strong suit.

I am considering this today as I’m struggling with my health issues. I have a rare-ish condition that causes chronic fatigue, migraines, intermittent system pain, and recurrent infections. It’s not going to kill me, but some days I feel like it would kill me if it were more merciful.

Here’s the thing, though: If God had revealed to me that I would do battle with this for the rest of my life, I don’t know that I would have stayed sober. I don’t know if I’d handle it well at all, so I’m grateful for the not knowing.

While I was busy NOT knowing, He went further down the road with me when I wasn’t even looking. The manifestations of His mighty hand over this struggle were being constructed long before I was even symptomatic.

If God had revealed that I would carry this thorn, maybe it would have gone down like this:

“Child, enough badgering! Come sit with me, and I will indulge your curiosity….

“As you grow older, you will feel like your mind and body are falling apart, because they will be – sort of – and you will be scared and tired and frustrated. But I’m working on an infrastructure for your life so that you will be able to carry this yoke…..

“I will bring you a spouse who adores you, and believes you when you are telling the truth about your pain. He will never give up on you, even when you are really sick….

“I will drop friends into your life with EXACTLY this same disease that you suffer from, and they will seemingly drop from the clear blue sky. You will marvel that I took such care to place those perfect people in your life at just the right moments. Lean on them and let them lean into you. They are sent directly from me….

“When you are having a bad day and hurting inside and out, I will scootch right up next to you so close that you can feel my love  for you, even through the pain. My Holy Spirit will be IN you, giving you fresh hope, even through the tears…..

“I will give you the gift to write about your experience, so that you can pay this Love forward to others….the ones who are gravely sick but look well, the ones whose labs and tests all come back normal and they feel like they are losing their minds, and that nobody believes them. YOU will comfort and believe them, just as you have been comforted….

“I will give you humor in copious quantities, so that you can not just survive, but THRIVE….

“Whatever comes further, I am already there with you.”

I get by with a LOT of help from my friends.

God bless us, every one.

 

 

 

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Wanted: Black Sheep

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By: Jana Greene

Part 6 of The Seismic Seven Series

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

Good readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are included.

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

 

 

 

Back to Nurture

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By: Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and God bless us every one.

A God Most Intimate

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Part 5 of The Seismic Seven Series

By: Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stone Throwing for Sinners

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Part 3 of The Seismic Seven Series

It (trying to keep the law) grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainly out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse. ” – Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

By: Jana Greene

Oy vey, this world is a mess. Right thinking has become wrong thinking, and vice versa. The climate of this country is chaos, and I could go on and on about all the ways society is courting the title of Most Sinful this side of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I could, but I won’t. Because even as the world’s brand is chaos, God is changing my brand to love. I asked him to do a work of compassion in my heart, and boy howdy is he ever.

It’s a tall order. I have my perceptions and holy prejudices in place and there are certain behaviors or lifestyles that really upset my self-righteous apple cart.

But there is this radical thing called Grace that I just cannot shut up about.

As one of the speakers at last week’s conference said: “Sanctification is not a sin-management program.”

Some of my friends are having a hard time figuring this out. They think I am placating the sinful, losing my convictions. Sin is a very big deal; I get that. It’s just not the biggest deal.

We humans love to relegate the sins of ‘those people.’ We take great pride in choosing the stones to throw, as if the perfection of the stone gives us superiority. The weight of the stone in our hand feels good, doesn’t it? Go ahead and throw it, as soon as you are sin-free.

I joke that my heart breaks for the people society casts off – the heroin addicts and the drunks (having struggled with alcoholism myself)  etc. – but if you don’t use proper grammar, I just judge the crap out of you. And using improper grammar isn’t a sin at all, but for some reason it offends me. What’s up with that?

I suspect it’s because grammar comes easy to me. The predisposition NOT to sin in a particular fashion makes it easier to judge the ones to sin in just that manner.

If you do not struggle with homosexuality, heterosexuality comes easy to you – making the lifestyle of a gay person super offensive –  even though every sin is equal to every other. If you are a teetotaler, drunkenness may rate higher on the Sin Scale to you. If you don’t gamble, the pitiful sight of a man dropping token after token in a slot machine for hours on end may not illicit compassion.

There is black and white, right and wrong, by damn! Yet  none of us – lo not even ONE – is going to get it all right in this life.

So much of the Christian faith has become about pointing out the wrongdoings of others,  and driving home the message of how wrongdoing separates one from God.

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

Nothing can separate you from the love of God. If you are the wickedest person alive, God loves you beyond your capacity to understand.

This is a revelation to me. I didn’t like entertaining the thought because IT’S NOT FAIR. We like things to be fair, right? Our human nature says we must withhold the expression of love when someone displeases us. But God is not bound by our behavior to love us.

Here’s a newsflash: The world already knows what Christ-followers know as ‘sin.’ What they maybe don’t know is the crazy, radical love of Jesus. I don’t need to be Holy Spirit Junior, and that’s incredibly liberating.

I love the way The Mirror Bible translation delves into the subject with commentary…(Romans 7:18-25)

“The total extent and ugliness of sin that inhabits me, reduced my life to good intentions that cannot be followed through. Willpower has failed me; this is how embarrassing it is, the most diligent decision that I make to do good, disappoints; the very evil I try to avoid, is what I do.” Commentary: If mere quality decisions could rescue man, the law would have been enough. Good intentions cannot save man. The revelation of what happened to us in Christ’s death is what brings faith into motion to liberate from within. Faith is not a decision we make to give God a chance, faith is realizing our inclusion in what happened on the Cross and in the resurrection of Christ!

 “If I do the things I do not want to do, then it is clear that I am not evil, but that I host sin in my body against my will….

The situation is absolutely desperate for humankind; is there anyone who can deliver me from this death trap?

… Thank God, this is exactly what he has done through Jesus Christ our Leader; he has come to our rescue! I am finally freed from this conflict between the law of my mind and the law of sin in my body.” Commentary:  If I was left to myself, the best I could do was to try and serve the law of God with my mind, but at the same time continue to be enslaved to the law of sin in my body. Compromise could never suffice.

I can strive and strive and strive, and, like the Apostle Paul, still miss the mark. My striving to live a sinless life does not impress God into loving me harder.

Because His love is already perfect.

If Jesus took care of it to draw us near, why are we still making sin The Biggest Deal? Love people and Holy Spirit will convict them, just as he convicts us holy rollers.

There is this radical thing called Grace that I just cannot shut up about. It is unabashedly, gloriously NOT FAIR, thanks be to God.

May he bless us, every one.