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Beauty   Leave a comment

Humans instinctively pursue beauty.  We recognize it from our earliest days.  We want what is lovely and attractive.  It’s an innate desire in every person.  What exactly we find most beautiful and worthy of our attention varies from person to person, but there is always something lovely that we want.  And everyone respects the artistry of athletes, artists, dancers, musicians, painters, sculptors, architects.  We respond to the amazing artistry of nature.  It’s just plain beautiful.

But what do we do when we can’t get there?

For example, only a certain number of girls who study ballet will dance Clara in any given year. There will be several others to complete with in any dance studio at the minimum, perhaps many more in large cities where there are hundreds auditioning for the role.  But only one person in any city can dance Clara.  You have to work really, really hard.  You have to be pretty much perfect.  And you have to be attractive.  And when you dance Clara, hundreds of girls littler than you are drinking your perfect beauty in.  The poses, the moves, the dress, the way your face and hair reflect perfect beauty.

But most of us can’t get there.

Seeing and seeking beauty lead to demanding perfection of ourselves.  It’s as if we think that if we can be beautiful, if we can get there to that place of lovely perfection, we will have what we need.  Advertising is just one long presentation of beauty, attractive people, places and activities.  When it succeeds, we think we will possess what we long for when we possess what the ad sold us.

We long to reach beauty because we instinctively believe that it is good.  We want to be that beauty.

But, if you are less than beautiful, where do you fit in?  What is the value of your life in a world that longs for beauty, and so overlooks you?

We don’t see beauty as God sees it.

God has given each of us who we are and what we are to do while we’re here.  There’s beauty in that no matter how we appear to others.


Posted January 15, 2020 by swanatbagend in reflections

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The Roof of My World   Leave a comment

God peeled off the roof of my world two years ago when my husband lost his job unexpectedly.

Sure, you know this happens to people.  But before it happens to you, it hasn’t yet happened to you.

He got a new job three and a half weeks after the day he lost the old one.  This was a quick turnaround and meant we were only without income for seven weeks, while we waited for the monthly paycheck from the new job to arrive.  People said, and rightly so, that it was wonderful my husband had found a new job so quickly.  It was quick.  Talk about relief!

The relief of knowing God had provided for us did not however relieve the sadness and trauma of losing a job he had been told he did well the most recent time he asked his supervisor about it.  It didn’t relieve the disconnect that existed because he had been told the same thing every other time the question had ever been put.  The disbelief of close co-workers on hearing the news eased the sting…a bit.

Being turned back out on the street without your laptop, with the work cell phone loaned to you for a few more days so you can get your personal photos off of it, without an opportunity to say goodbye to the co-workers you’ve known and partnered with for twelve years, as if you’re some sort of objectionable criminal–that is trauma.

So, as I said, the roof peeled off our world.  We can negotiate this fact by criticizing ourselves for being naive to start out with, or say we’re discounting the providence of our father.  These statements are true.  But they only go so far.

You have to feel the pain, and you will.

The fear will resonate for a long time to come.  The fear colors your future interactions in your new job, although you remind yourself that it’s not likely to happen again.

I lived through this traumatic loss with my husband.  We’ve been a team for a long time, and we’ve experienced chronic issues in our lives that brought their own challenges.  But this one was so abrupt, it changed things for us.  As much as we acknowledge that God has it all, and that he will bottom line care for us as he sees fit, and bring us to himself in this life and the life to come, it still has changed us.  Despite our faith, this event in our lives has made challenges more difficult to face without fear.  That’s the reality.

Things happen and then you finally know the scary things can become real.

Posted January 9, 2020 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

From Weakness   Leave a comment

Have you ever noticed that the Christian church culture promotes a certain definition of service?

It usually involves helping a needy person, which is great.  I like many of the ideas I’ve seen, the days where churches open their buildings for a medical clinic, clothes, glasses, winter coats, vaccinations.  The food pantry is a solid way to serve.  Habitat for Humanity and Heifer Project are fantastic ministries.

You can help in the nursery or kids’ programs at your church, and I’m pretty sure, when it comes to kids’ programming, you are desperately needed.  You can package and load shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse before Christmas.  You can volunteer with the Salvation Army, or with Dare to Care.  Your local state or city park could use people on trash patrol or trail maintenance.

Over the years, I’ve heard of many other ways to serve that I’m not even remembering at this point.  You’ve all heard the calls from various ministries that need volunteers.

Volunteering, service, looking outward–that’s how it should be.

The problem is the implication that the volunteer doesn’t have any needs.  He doesn’t have problems, disease, or suffering.  After all, he’s the one helping “the least of these.”

The logical conclusion from the context of these assumptions is that people who are well can do works of service.  Furthermore, they are strong.  The next step is then believing that if you don’t have strength, there is no place for you to serve.  If you can’t fit the model put forth, you can’t serve.  You aren’t qualified.  What you have to offer isn’t enough.


Should we assume that health, strength and power are a prerequisite?

Must one always be young, energetic, and passionate about a cause to make a difference?

Does service always have to be what is understood to be volunteering?

What if each person, led by God, chose his path to helping others ?

Do the poor in spirit have something to give?

Can one lead from a place of weakness?

Posted December 17, 2019 by swanatbagend in servanthood

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Not the Well   Leave a comment

In the four gospels, we see Jesus spending time with all sorts of people.  He healed, he blessed, he talked about the kingdom of God and mostly, he loved them.  As many have noted, these people were not the beautiful, healthy, powerful or impressive.  They were often the least of society, the outcasts–drunks, addicts, tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes, you name it.

It’s understandable, I think, that these were the people who were drawn to Jesus and the ones he was drawn to.  As he said, he came for the sick, not the well.  He came for the ones who really needed him.

But the twist to this story is that if we don’t see that we too are the sick, we won’t see the need.  If we don’t realize that we are the weak and the helpless, despite all the actions we can take, the projects we complete, the service we offer, we will miss it.

The thing is that we all ultimately stand in need.  If our lives now are in order, that’s great.  If we are successful and happy, that’s wonderful.  If we haven’t had any problems yet, fantastic!

But even if you don’t have a miserable life now, if God is real and if Jesus if working and alive, it makes sense to pursue him.  And the good news is that He’s already pursuing you.

For sure, those who suffer have a better sense of their need.  The door to the rest of eternity is wide open–and when the pleasures and joys of this life are thin, it’s a lot easier to see it.





Posted October 24, 2019 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

Best Syrup Ever   Leave a comment

I never knew before last week that you can make syrup out of buttermilk and sugar.  I found a recipe for it when I was looking for buttermilk pancake recipes and then for ways to use up the rest of the half gallon of buttermilk that I had.  I decided to try to syrup with the pancakes and I’m here to tell you, Aunt Jemima this is not.  It is so good.  It’s sweet, but not too sweet, buttery, rich and delicious.

It’s good on any breakfast bread, pancakes, waffles, French toast, etc.

Here’s the recipe.

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking soda

Melt the butter and add the sugar and buttermilk, stirring together.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Then stir in the baking soda thoroughly.  Serve warm over pancakes.

I’ve saved the extra in a jar at room temperature and reheated it; still delicious.



Posted October 3, 2019 by swanatbagend in food, recipes

Faithfully   Leave a comment

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions about ten years ago.  While I know they can be a useful motivational tool for some, they mostly seem like a source of jokes for pastors around the end of January.

When I was younger, I did have lists of goals I wished to achieve, personal goals that is, ways to make myself better.

And, there are areas in which I’ve matured.

I’m making some progress being more patient with other people and myself.

I’m making some progress with keeping control of my temper when pushed to my limit.

I’ve become a really good cook over the last thirty years of cooking!

But there are quite a few other worthy goals that I haven’t been able to achieve.

I also have found that no matter what area I improve, flaws pop up in other areas.  If I work on being better organized, some other aspect of home life begins to suffer.  If I combine errands to town, which include paying for the car tags and going to the butcher shop, I realize the next week that I was supposed to renew my driver’s license and I should have done that when I was there for the car tags.  I’m not a calm, capable parent when things are going crazy.  I haven’t written that book yet.  And no matter how hard I try to remember it all, I’m starting to lose bits of information from my mind and forget things that affect other people.  It’s quite embarrassing.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot I can do about these imperfections, because no matter how hard I try, there’s always some way I fall short of my goals.

I have realized that I must learn to be content to live faithfully–as a failure.

It does matter that I am faithful.

But it also means my worth isn’t based on my progress, my efforts or my performance.

Posted September 25, 2019 by swanatbagend in identity

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Crazy Cats   Leave a comment

We brought home new kittens in June, little adorable male litter-mates, one a grey tabby and the other a golden brown tabby with an unusual pattern.  I had a few hesitations about having two male cats in the house, but I didn’t spend that much time on it, because my experience has been that males are more personable, and also because I like large cats, the bigger the better.

They took about a week to get acclimated to the house and were timid at first about areas that our older cat was in.  Of course they hated the vacuum.  But by the end of the week they were roaming everywhere and playing with whatever they could find.

Now, three and a half months later, we’re learning just how much energy two young tomcats can have.

I had lived with a total of seven cats before they came along, including three who were kittens when I met them, and (I thought our previous male cat was a busybody!) these guys are into just about everything.  They haven’t tried climbing the curtains in the front room yet, but that’s about it.  They definitely don’t spend most of the day sleeping.

They destroyed a topiary of dried flowers I’d had for twenty five years.

They knock glasses off the table and break them.

They try to get in the fridge.

They try to get in the garage.

They try to get outside.

They eat ribbons.

They tear the cardboard off the cat climbing tower.

They play with and lose the seashells I used to have on my dresser.

They get on the kitchen counter, despite being sprayed with water.

They nibble on their cardboard scratcher boxes.

They open cabinet doors and crawl around inside.

They lose their crinkle ball toys within fifteen minutes of my getting them out from under the couch.

They nibble on any dried flowers they can find, including a wreath that’s on the wall in the bathroom.

They pee in the recycle bin or laundry basket, if the litter box nearby isn’t kept clean enough for their preferences.

When they were neutered it did not slow them down.  We were told to keep them in their crates for another half hour when we got home.  The tan one bonked his head against the door the entire time he was waiting to get out.

They played for over an hour with a toy mouse suspended from an elastic cord today.  I had to put it away to get them to rest; their sides were heaving.

Yea, it’s been pretty crazy for me to adjust to….and that isn’t counting the potty problems we’ve had.  I thought once my youngest child was potty trained that I was done with poo.  Apparently not.

All that said–they are personable, just like I hoped.  They are extremely soft.  They purr almost every time you approach and pet them.  They are sweet boys.  The tan one runs to meet my husband when he comes in the door.

So yeah, we’re glad God created the cat, because we have the pleasure of caressing the tiger.

Posted September 21, 2019 by swanatbagend in cats

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