Struck Down but Not Destroyed

wave

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.

 

 

Getting Past the Breakers

11904022_10204792590566969_5504121508774011898_n
The Happiest Place on Earth

By: Jana Greene

As some of you know, I’ve recently had major surgery. Before my post-op appointment with the surgeon, I formulated a list of questions to ask him.  At the top of that list was when I was cleared to visit the beach and swim in the ocean. To my delight, he advised me that it would be just fine to do so now, just as long as I am careful not to get hit in the chest with a full-on wave. I went to the beach the very next day.

The waters are calm, except for the roll of waves near the shore passing over an underwater sand bar. Those waves, known as ‘breakers’ for breaking over sand, can be quite high and strong, even as they form in otherwise calm waters. Still, my need to be suspended in the ocean is great.

It’s been that way since I got sober nearly 15 years ago. The ocean was my church in some of the more difficult early times of recovery. My daughters and I lived in a tiny garage apartment across the street from the beach for some of that time. In periods of great stress, I would venture to the waters and swim until I exhausted myself and my means of anxiety. In times of pain – physical and emotional –  swimming became therapy. I’d swim out so far that the houses on the shore appeared like tiny, colorful boxes instead of million-dollar homes. My problems shrunk much the same way. It gave me perspective. Seawater had an almost tranquilizing effect on my spirit. And that I could commune with God on a whole other uncomplicated level out there in the water. A passer-by walking on the beach may have just seen a little head bobbing around out in deep water, a crazy person talking to herself. But God always meets me there in the water. Sometimes the crazy person talking to herself is just pouring her heart out to The Father in prayer.

When my children would suffer a scraped knee or a bout with eczema, my answer was the same. “You just need to get salt water on it.”

Salt water heals everything.

But today – in order to reach that place of suspension – I have to get through the rough breakers without disobeying doctor’s orders. I have to get to the good place by going through the bad place (where oh where have I experienced this phenomenon before?)

Donning my standard-issue, middle-age woman black one-piece bathing suit, I approach the edge of the sea. At the edge, the water is ebbing and flowing in calm and clear. My toes rejoice at the familiar chill and I cannot wait to go deeper. Ankle-deep now I stand, watching the sand gently sucked out around my feet at each tidal recession. It is a warm day, and the coolness of the water is beyond refreshing. At knee-depth, the waves start to get a little rougher, I am only several feet from the sand bar that is causing their swelling.  I reconsider this foray into the ocean, shrinking back a bit from the prospect of the breakers and their impact on my still-tender surgical wounds.

But I can see the waters on the other side, and they are resplendently lake-like! They are smooth and perfect. I wish I could just jump over the harsh breakers like a dolphin, skip over the rough and powerful waves. Or walk through them careless of the consequences, all que sera sera-like. I try to will them to calm, angry that they might send me home without my satisfying swim before I ever get the chance to have it.

I just need to get salt water on it, on my spirit. (Oh, and my surgical wounds too, salt water heals everything.)

Nirvana is just past this sand bar!

I cannot see the sand bar under the waves that is causing the ocean commotion, but I know it is there because of what I see manifest. High waves, churning waters. I’m afraid to move forward in case a wave slams me and afraid to go back and miss a great thing.

Eventually, the desire to move past the crashing breakers is greater than the desire to be afraid to go through them. I turn my back to the ocean to take the waves to the least painful part of my body, but I press on, walking backwards. I can hear them forming behind me, a great sizzling – the sound of water stacking more of itself on high.

Slam!

Up against my backside. I feel the bar of sand rise as the water gets shallower. Move faster now, I tell myself. The longer you hang out on the bar, the more opportunities the waves have to knock you down. I keep walking backward.

SLAM!

More water, nearly knocking me over. I balance myself the best I can, and keep going. The last wave over the breakers is powerful, nearly taking me with it toward shore, losing all that ground. But then, one more step backward and I float back into complete calm. It is as if I had fallen into a brand new fluid venue. The breakers are still breaking, but they are none of my concern now! Every muscle in my body un-kinks and oxygen fills my lungs. Ah, I just needed to get salt water on it.

I lie back and float, enjoying the weightlessness of both my body and soul. The only sound I hear is the a gentle water moving over my body. Like a band of angels playing the triangles. This is the only place for me that quiets my mind long enough to hear angels play triangles. My mind hardly ever shuts up.

On this day, I’m not able to swim like I am accustomed to yet – making great arcs with my arms and wide kicks with my legs, and actually getting from one spot to another. My body is still healing, so I make only little motions. A head bobbing about awkwardly in the Atlantic Ocean, making little velociraptor-like arm movements and talking to herself. No matter. The healing is the same.

And right on schedule, God meets me there. He had been with me in the breakers, too. Otherwise I wouldn’t have ever made it to the other side! He is ALWAYS in the breakers with me.  But in this place of having come through, I could feel His presence fully.

The beach is my big, messy prayer closet. I can try to talk to God in my living room, and I often do, with mixed results (thanks, ADD.) But covered in sand and swimming in the sea? I can tune into the frequency of The Creator. My noisy spirit communing with God on a whole other uncomplicated level out there in the water. Truth be told, it is one place where I am not finding fault with myself. I’m weightless, floating in an amniotic sac of what feels like pure love. The sun is warming my face, kissing new freckles to the surface. I am not finding fault with myself, I am too busy loving God.

There are a million breakers we all must somehow overcome. Addiction, divorce, abuse, depression. Perhaps you cannot see your own private “sand bar” under the waves that is causing the instability, the commotion. You only know it there because of what it manifests in your spirit.

Looking at the shore from my new Heavenly vantage point  –  the colorful boxes – I am considering the importance of occasionally distancing  oneself from the usual. I think about The Breakers in life, the rolling and smashing seasons that every single one of us has to move through. Try as we might, we cannot casually leap over them, or barreled through them on our own terms and come out in one piece. These times when we feel we are getting sucked under and smashed? Giving up and turning back isn’t always an option, nor should it be.

Do you feel that pull on your spirit? The desire to move past the crashing breakers steadily getting stronger than the fear of going through them?  Guard your most painful parts, but press on. You may get knocked down. Get back up. God is not just waiting for you in the calm waters but accompanying you in those crazy, awful waves that take you from one place to another. He doesn’t expect you to do it all by yourself.

Can see the other side. Isn’t it resplendent?

For each of the million waves trying to knock you down, there is a place that your spirit lets down it’s guard. It’s where your body un-kinks and oxygen fills your lungs. You will know you are there when you are too busy loving God to find fault in yourself.

It is the place or activity that brings you peace! You will only know where that space is by going through the breakers.

Perhaps gardening in soft, warm dirt, if that’s your thing. Or working with animal rescues, or in creating needlework. Or perhaps while wearing hiking boots, or picking up pen and paper. Find that sweet spot and go there every chance you get. GOD DELIGHTS IN YOU.

 

To be Big-Souled (and Beachfront)

By:  Jana Greene

There is a scene in the Movie, “The Bucket List” in which Jack Nicholson‘s character, Edward, and Morgan Freeman’s character, Carter, are flying in a private plane over the polar ice cap.  Both terminally ill, they engage in a conversation in which Carter waxes about the beauty of the night sky and the ice and ocean below, giving God credit for its splendor.

“It’s indescribably beautiful,” he says.  “Really one of God’s good ones.”

And Edward, dry and skeptical, barely glances out of the window from above his bifocals.  He describes the same starry landscape as “desolation”.

“I envy people who have faith,” he says.  “I just can’t get my head around it.”

Carter’s reply:  “Maybe because your heads’ in the way.”

I love this scene, because it is relatable.  I can certainly relate to Carter’s appreciation for what is Creation.  But I’ve also felt like Edward –although he was a very wealthy and intelligent businessman – in that  faith seems the single luxury he cannot afford.  He wants to believe, but he has absorbed too much of what the world has to offer, and what the world says makes sense. 

There are things so beautiful in this world that they make no sense at all.

My “polar ice cap” is the beach.  Having lived within 15 minutes of the shore for a dozen years now, setting my eyes on the sea is still exhilarating for me, and searching the sand for treasures is still a Zen-like experience to my spirit.  Scanning the edge where the water meets the land, I watch carefully as the waves deliver shells with every flow and suck them back out with every ebb.  It is an endlessly different place every time I visit, and I like suprises.

Years ago, I was fascinated with the process of the tides.  Why does the moon pull and push at the seas?  How did the ancients know enough to produce charts in advance of tides and navigate dangerous waters?

The science was fascinating to learn, but it didn’t help me to enjoy the beach.  The more I researched, the less I reveled in the mystic marriage of water and earth.  Believing that if I could understand something, I would  appreciate it even more is exactly opposite  tenant of faith.  I appreciate the One who made it in order to understand His nature, not nature in general.  It was missing the point entirely.

He is my Father.  I know Him personally.  The world tells us not to be “small minded”.  I try to remind myself not to be “small-souled”.  It isn’t that what can be proven is unimportant; it’s just that He is so much BIGGER than that.

Look at a single sea shell… Is the intricate design a happy evolutionary accident, or one of the millions of ways God pays attention to detail?

A pearl may have started as an errant grain of sand, but who decided that it would not remain a grain of sand?  (As an errant child of God’s, I especially appreciate that His penchant for making beauty out of randomness and mistakes.)

Google and Wikipedia can tell you what makes a sunset over the river red, pink and orange…but there is no textbook answer for why the colors just happen to be so pleasing to us.

Human beings can break down the chemical make-up of the oceans, but the depths of it are still more mysterious than known.  Do we even make the correlation between the vastness of the seas and diversity of the life living in it to a Supreme Creator, or do our heads get in the way?

Sometimes, my head gets in the way, too.

It’s easy for me to remember that God is present in the creation when stroll by the seaside admiring His handiwork. I know that without Him, the greatest majesty on this planet is only desolation.  Sometimes, that I go to the seaside to remind myself that God is present in the creation that is my life, too. That He is still in charge…that He is, indeed, ‘in the details.’

I forget that I am “indescribably beautiful” to Him.  And you are, too.

Really one of God’s good ones; you can afford to have faith in that.