Archive for the ‘identity’ Category

More   Leave a comment

At many points throughout my life, I have wanted to do more.

Whether I was genuinely motivated by a wish of my own or an original idea, or just looking on at what other amazing people had accomplished, the emotional results were the same.  I read about a five year old who started her own non-profit to bring hot lunch to the other children in her school.  I observed the faithful and amazing way a woman I knew wisely and lovingly parented her children.  I admired local entrepreneurs who started their own brewery in an abandoned church.  I saw a doctor friend both parent her children and further her career.   I scratched my head in amazement at the knowledge and skill required to found and run a company like Google or Tesla.  I gathered from the vibe in my culture that I was supposed to have a paid career and that my at-home-ness was an odd aberration that better childcare options would make unnecessary.

At times, the observations I made about what other people were doing left me with the sense that there was something wrong with me, that the work I found joy in was too little of a contribution, that I should somehow be doing something more or something better.

Should.

Be doing more.

Be doing better.

Then I saw an ant.  It was doing what ants do best.  She was seeking food for her sisters.  She was removing obstacles from the doorway to her nest.  She was cleaning her antennae.  She was sprinting along the sidewalk.  She was crunchy, streamlined, tiny, formed of amazing minuscule parts, but perfect.  She was beautifully pursuing who she was made to be.

She wasn’t trying to pollinate flowers.  She wasn’t feeling disappointed because she couldn’t get her abdomen to light up every night.  She wasn’t attempting to migrate to Mexico.  She wasn’t sunk into despair because she could not stride rapidly past into the upper distance like those giants who shake the earth.

My conclusion is not that challenging aspirations should not be pursued because they are too difficult, or that there is an underclass of people who aren’t good enough to deserve meaningful work, or that a specific gender is responsible for all childcare and it’s immoral if they escape their homes.

Rather, there is no need to think we must do something better or something more or something else that someone outside us says we should be doing.  We can move forward following the leadings we’re given.  We can trust that who we are is enough.

 

 

 

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Posted December 1, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity

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Helpless   Leave a comment

Life is supposed to be ever onward and upward.  Our culture, as you’ve probably already been told by other bloggers, developed from the American dream, which all started when someone had the audacity to decide our country would be based upon people having the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Somehow, since then, our raison d’être has ballooned to include not just the pursuit of happiness, but the thing itself.

Advertising and media envelop us in images of how it is supposed to be.  Life is full of sunshine, with healthy athletic attractive families prancing across fields.  If you just see the right doctors and buy the right car, take the right medication, get your kid into the right college, your existence will travel forward on this pleasant upward trajectory–forever.

It is true that we do learn skills and competences, and move toward being more independent as we grow and develop from a helpless infant to an adult.  We are responsible to do what we can with what we’re given and not sit around waiting for someone else to do the work.

However, our care of our bodies cannot stop unexpected events from happening.  Our work doesn’t guarantee that we will have a meaningful career, grow older with a loving spouse, and have a pleasant retirement, despite our culture relentlessly pushing this model as what to expect, what should be.

While our skills are valuable and meaningful, they can’t save us from old age and death.

I’d like to think they could, but all I have to do is look around me.  I look at my own life.  Despite doing what is in me with the strength I’ve been given to live a good life, so many of the big things that make the most difference long-term, I don’t control.

I like to think I am in control of them.  I work hard to make things be the best they can be.  And I know how I think things should be.

I make choices all the time.  I work.  I respond.  I choose.  It’s not that I have no power.

But my power is limited.  I don’t control the forces that have the most influence on me–what happens to me and who is by my side when it happens.  I cannot by sheer will command the ocean to roar and another human being to do what I think is right and my heart, mind, soul and strength to be what I think they ought to be.

I am hemmed in on every side by my impotence.

 

Posted November 21, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity, reality

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Grace Alone   Leave a comment

I’ve been the recipient of a really wonderful sermon, so I’m just going to paraphrase what I got today, and thank my pastor for it, and thank the 500th anniversary of the Reformation for it.  So without further ado, here’s Ephesians 2:1-9.

Sin is not just in our actions, it’s in us.  It is our nature.  We don’t want God.  Original sin is the Christian doctrine that is empirically verifiable.  You can see that death and sin are at work in the world.

As to your rescue, you are a drowning swimmer, not one calling out for help.  You don’t need reform; you need resurrection.  You’re sunk.

BUT because of his love, God has made you alive by his grace, ongoing from beginning to end.  The reason you are a Christian is not because I–but because God is rich in mercy.

Martin Luther states this more fully: “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.”  It’s not because of something we did, or because we did enough good deeds to show that we deserved his love, that God loves us.

“Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”

We see that we can become more attractive as God redeems us, but we don’t need to be attractive to be loved by him.  The only criteria for salvation is our neediness and brokenness.

Lisle’s four questions to reflect on as you ask if you are beginning to grasp grace.

  1. Are you growing in humor, joy and laughter?  Because grace.
  2. Are you growing in holiness?  A grace filled life is not a sin-filled life.
  3. Are you growing in humility?
  4. Are you growing in honesty with God?  You can, because it’s not about your performance.

 

Posted November 12, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity, reality

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Vulnerable   4 comments

When the standard parameters of your life are removed, you instantly realize just how vulnerable you are to the rest of reality, how vulnerable you are to the problems that those other people out there face.

The job my husband had and the income it generated were like the sun and moon to me, predictable, normal, usual, a relied upon framework for the rest of our business and our lives.  It did not occur to either one of us, for a variety of reasons which we now realize were a bit naive, that he would ever be laid off.  He was.  He was one of the people let go in a RIF last month.  If you had asked me six weeks ago what problem we might face next, being laid off would not have been on any potential list.

Getting that phone call from my husband at 8:30 on a Monday morning changed my framework.

All of a sudden we were the ones who did not have an income.  We were the ones who did not have ongoing medical coverage.  He was the one who did not have an office to go to and a routine to follow, nor a cell phone nor a laptop to transact business on.

I have had problems before, but they were other kinds of problems, chronic issues that I’d gotten used to dealing with.  When a big life stress like this one comes along, besides realizing that you are not invulnerable, you see that whatever you said you believed about the faithfulness of God suddenly becomes immensely more urgent and more practical.

We had a really great job for over twelve years.  It provided for our needs in amazing ways all that time.  It was wonderful.

But it was never guaranteed.  It didn’t belong to us any more than any thing ethereal or material belongs to us, nor could we make it keep happening.

We belong to God not the other way round.

We belong to God, and he can do what he wants with our plans and our money and our lives.  He made us and not we ourselves.

We belong to God, and he is good, and he is faithful.

Posted October 14, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity

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Still Full of Surprises   Leave a comment

You think you know yourself when you’ve reached middle age, but I learned there are things about me that I could not have imagined, even a few years ago.

Generally I think I know what my preferences are, my problems, my besetting sins, my interests, my ambitions–when you have lived more than half your life, you feel pretty set.

But, I’ve found that I’m not.

I am actually willing to try new things (sometimes).  Or visit attractions that aren’t anything up my alley.

Last year my husband and I went on two different distillery tours when we got away for our anniversary.  I wasn’t that interested, but he was, and a getaway’s a getaway, right? I’m up for anything that he wants to do, for a few hours at least.

Maker’s Mark tour was fascinating!

Then this year we took in the Corvette museum.  Yes, that’s the one that had a sinkhole open up in the floor of the main showroom.  I am definitely not a sports car person.  Not even a car person.  But I said sure, since we were in the area and it was something different.

It was interesting too.

The first thing I realized while there, that I then realized also applied to the bourbon tours, was that just about every type of museum or attraction you can go to (except maybe a plain old amusement park) has these components 1) history and 2) science.  And if I can get a history component, I’m good to go.  So, a Corvette is a car that is very fast.  It was originally created in 1953 and has been through seven different iterations.  In 1983 they were working on redesigning the body style, and they ended up only making a few, most of which ended up being re-done as 1984 Corvettes, so there is only one remaining actual 1983 Corvette.  We saw it.  So don’t let anyone catch you out with a trick question about how many 1983 Corvettes there are.  There’s only one.

But see, there’s history already, and so I’m happy.

However, weirder still was what happened when I saw one of the four Corvettes available by drawing.  In the rotunda room, the same one with the sinkhole lines marked on the floor (very cool), there was one model for each generation of Corvette.  The newest generation’s representative is a black 2017 Stingray Convertible.

Remember, I’m not a car person.  My interests run more to history, which I already mentioned, art and literature.  And food.

When I stood in front of that beautiful car, I felt a thrill.  I could feel my adrenaline rushing and my blood pressure going up.  I wanted that car.  I wanted to win in and drive away in it, very fast.

And I thought I knew myself.

Posted August 26, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity

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A Skeptical Christian   Leave a comment

I’ve discovered the purpose a skeptical Christian can serve.

You wouldn’t think there could be such a thing based on the image Christian subculture delivers.  Christians are cheerful, squeaky clean, devotion-doing, volunteering, doubt-free, perky people, right?

And God does model for us to be people of faith, to do justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.  In that description I don’t know if there is room for skepticism, negativity or disbelief.  Maybe if I followed Micah 6:8 more faithfully, I would be living so fully in the center of God’s purposes that I wouldn’t have time or reason to be skeptical in the first place.

However, there are plenty of places in the Bible where we see anger, disgust, despair, doubt, and dare I say it, even skepticism and cynicism.

So–yes, there is room and to spare for skeptical Christians in the kingdom of God.

But a purpose for a skeptical Christian?  I wasn’t sure about that until recently.

I had been praying for years for someone.  Let me explain what I mean.  I had been praying for years–but had prayed for years just to be praying, not really believing things would change.  In other words, I was a skeptic.

But when a transformation occurred in the person, and he stated that God had changed him, and nobody around him could contradict this, and when the evidence of a huge change was right in front of my face–I couldn’t deny that God had done it.

There’s no way it could have just happened.

I didn’t think anything could change.

I was wrong.

And now I can’t stop talking about it.

Posted July 26, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity

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Mine   Leave a comment

I find many of the greatest frustrations I face involve projects or meetings or relationships which don’t turn out the way I have in mind.  When I have a project, I want it done right.  I have a vested interest in making it work well after all, because my name’s on it.

Maybe you’re a gardener.  Perhaps you’re having a real problem this year with Japanese beetles destroying your roses and blackberries. You’re doing everything you can to get those pests off the plants.  But the outcome is iffy because there are so many of them!  Your yard doesn’t look like you want it to and you’re the one who has to figure out a solution.

You may be walking your child through some new era in his life–getting ready for the college application process, learning to drive, overcoming a mental health issue or navigating hurdles at a job.  You’ve put uncounted months and years into helping your child.  You have a major interest in the outcome.  And you want that outcome to be one that is good.  Bottom line is, you feel responsible.  After all, this is your child.

Here’s where I think the English language falls short.

 

Can you think of a word to replace “my” in any of these phrases?

My house

My garden

My project

My ambition

My work

My child

My career

My health

My life

 

I haven’t been able to think of one yet.

What other word should there be, though, when I am the one doing the work to maintain the health, well-being and success of any of the above?

 

The problem is that I have confused responsibility with ownership.

I’m not the owner–I’m just the steward.

 

Posted July 18, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity, reality

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