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Chronic or Acute   Leave a comment

Chronic struggles bring with them a dual challenge.  Acute situations naturally call out for support and practical help.  And they should.  But a chronic situation is just as challenging.

The first reason why it’s challenging is it’s dealing with whatever it is, disease, physical disability,  pain, learning challenges, mental health issues, all of the above.  You have issues that either aren’t curable or that you haven’t yet found a cure for.  You remediate as best you can if there is no cure.  You have ways to cope, or you sure enough are seeking them.

And there’s no particular end in sight.

People in this situation have to find a way to face the non-endingness of it.  It’s a cruel thing to face, and I believe this is especially true in our culture, where health and wholeness is worshiped.  Beauty and prowess are it.  If you were to believe the images we are saturated with, you’d think it is possible–if you just do enough.

The second reason is that difficulties are not and cannot be supported in the way they would if they were acute.  If the thing had an end, it would be more obvious to know what to do to help it get to that end.  You’d see the steps that could be taken and how a community could help.  But if it’s always there, it’s harder to be supportive.  There comes a time when it’s hard to know what to say or do, because the struggle still goes on.

For those with chronic problems, it goes on.

So it’s a gift when love also goes on.

Posted February 20, 2020 by swanatbagend in health, mental health, waiting

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Pie in the Sky or a Great Hope?   Leave a comment

There’s a general feeling among many thoughtful believers that there’s been far too much time and effort put into trying to make people feel better on earth by telling them about the world to come, when there are problems that need fixing.  Throughout history, the church and other established authorities have used theological statements in order to control the destinies of the masses, instead of dismantling power systems that cause cruelty.

Utilizing your power to tell people that they will get what they need, finally, in the “glorious land above the sky,” while simultaneously treating them as objects and destroying them through slave labor, abuse or injustice is despicable.  Ignoring practical problems and suffering isn’t much better.

It barely needs to be stated that if assuming eternal life means that nothing done on earth matters, another error has been fallen into.  Of course it matters what we do here.  Of course it matters how we treat other people and our world.  It’s our job to take care of the people and the world, as hard as we can, in whatever way God leads us.

A valid concern that humankind respond to injustice now and live useful lives now has unfortunately led to the idea that there’s nothing to live for eternally.

I think there is something worth looking forward to.  The promise of God in Jesus and the reality of that promise existed before his church ever existed.  It says you’re not forgotten and you’re never alone.  And when you suffer, you’re still not alone.  Furthermore, you have the promise that it will get better.  There will be an end.  There is a place for you.  And there will be more glory than you can imagine.

I think of a friend who lives with Parkinson’s.  I think of two friends who have children with severe disabilities.  Neither of the children can communicate in speech, although they are no longer small.  These people can know, and can tell their children, “You are loved and you are not forgotten.”  These dear people can be sustained by the reality that this is not all there is.

And what of you?

You too can know that there is more to come.  You will be released.  The burdens will fall away, gone forever.

They will drop away from our bodies, hearts and minds, as we are finally able to run freely straight toward the prize, the joy and the glory ahead.











Posted February 12, 2020 by swanatbagend in justice, reality, reflections, the church

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