Archive for the ‘reality’ Category

What is Born Again and Why is it so Scary?   Leave a comment

Why is “born again” so scary?  In some circles, it’s the thing to be, but in others, it’s anathema.

I didn’t grow up comfortably with this expression, and there are certain risks to be taken when defining it.  The phrase has gotten a bad rap because of televangelists, bigots and hateful people.  Words that have been tarnished by misuse may be disliked, but that doesn’t mean they have lost their power.

Jesus used this phrase to explain a change the Spirit makes happen.

It is about accepting something you don’t understand and can’t control.  The wind blows where it wishes.  You don’t know where it comes from or where it is going, but you hear it and you decide you are going with it.

Being born again is what God starts doing in you when you acknowledge that you are not aligned with him, but that you want to be.

Born again is aligning yourself with his reality.  It is acknowledging that you are not with him and not where he is, and telling him that you want that to be different.

Born again simply starts with acknowledgment.  It’s what the son said to the prodigal father, who never stopped loving the son and longing for the day when he would come back home: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

The father immediately brings the son in, clothes him in the best robe, applies the jewels, slips the sandals on, and starts the preparations for the biggest feast ever.  There’s no ritual washing.  There’s no list of promises the son must make to be allowed admittance.  As far as I can tell, this gracious father doesn’t even take time to reply to the son’s apology!

Notice the prodigal nature of the love that the father has.  Imagine what power the love of that father has in the life of the son.  Imagine what power the love of that father has in your life.

Born again is seeing what will happen.

 

 

 

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Posted May 15, 2018 by swanatbagend in reality, reflections

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Stranger Things   Leave a comment

I read in a news magazine that Netflix streaming has taken over the media world.  I also learned that I wasn’t the only person binge watching Stranger Things.

I think I know why it is so gripping.

Other shows about aliens feature a creature from outside the world.  But Stranger Things is terrifying because the evil awful thing is here, in this world.  It’s there, just on the other side, and we know it could take us in.  I think this is our greatest fear as individuals and probably as a culture as well.

And why can we not vanquish this monster with a shotgun and some shells?  I admire Will Byers’ courage.  But as viewers know, it didn’t work.  He got sucked into the Upside Down.

I found myself thinking at the moment when Mike, Nancy and Jonathan set it on fire, that it can’t be killed on the up side.  You have to go where it dwells.

At the end of season one, catch the reference to David and Goliath as Will’s friend Lucas fires a rock at the monster.  I was hoping that would somehow be exactly what it needed to get it killed.  Like how the aliens in Signs were injured by water, maybe this one could be vanquished by a rock?  Nope, it was only a temporary blow.  Eleven realized at that point that as much as she would like a new life with Mike’s family, she was the only one who could take the thing down and remove it from this world and protect her first and only friends.

We need a messiah who can enter the Upside Down and slay our foe–someone who while of this world, is also not of this world.

Posted May 1, 2018 by swanatbagend in reality

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Entitlement   Leave a comment

Do you have entitlement issues?

Think of King Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel.  He looked out at his kingdom and empire.  Everything had gone swimmingly so far.  He had no reason to think things would change.  He had no reason to revise his world view.  He was completely unaware that everything he believed about himself was wrong.

Daniel’s initial warning that he must turn away from his pride and arrogance was no more than the buzzing of a fly in the throne room.  It wasn’t comprehended as something significant.  How could it be?  Nebuchadnezzar had never known anything other than his own wealth and power, as natural as the sun rising and the river flowing downhill.  What could possibly divert the flow of the river or stop the sun from powering the earth?  How incomprehensible is a change of fortune!

He was the king, placed there by fortune, and confident in his own right to rule and reign.

And yet, everything he knew was overthrown.

So, entitlement issues.

I’d heard of the younger generation having those.  I’d heard that the demanding, muling, puking, younger generation thought it deserved an easy life, a fun life.  They say Generation X and Y have no tolerance for waiting and hard work.  I gathered some people think that benefits in life that are earned should be handed to them.  I’ve observed people who are inconsiderate of others in the pursuit of their own comfort.  I’ve seen adults behave in childish ways when things don’t go as they planned.

Of course, I am not one of those people.

I got aggravated when my grocery store somehow deleted our alternate ID so that when my husband did $200 of grocery shopping for me but forgot his discount card, he couldn’t get the discount.  That’s crazy they can’t keep their computer systems functioning normally so I can get the discounts I depend on.

I got aggravated when colds, flu and other fatiguing health issues plagued our family over the last six weeks.  Honestly, when it is going to end?  It’s not like I haven’t been washing my hands like crazy and feeding everyone really healthy food.

I got aggravated at the colleges who admitted my daughter, the ones who keep sending her and us recruiting letters telling us how fantastic their programs are.  You could paper a wall with them.  One even sent her a pair of socks–she’s supposed to go watch an online video to understand that one.  I can’t believe that while they claim she deserves their glorious educational programs, they aren’t funding the bottom line.

I’ve been the one who finds the words, “So, are we having fun yet?” coming out of my mouth.

So.

I read about Nebuchadnezzar, and instead of thinking what a moron the guy is, I am starting to identify with him.

 

Posted April 5, 2018 by swanatbagend in identity, reality

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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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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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Now   Leave a comment

For the past year, I’ve been telling myself I would have time to research and do advocacy about _fill in the blank_ when I’m done with the work I have to do today.

For the past five years, I’ve been telling myself my vision would get better when I got my thyroid medication regulated.

For the past ten years, I’ve been telling myself that after we are done with our school year, it will be summer, and summer will be totally and completely relaxing and things will be much less busy.

For the past fifteen years, I’ve been telling myself that if I just invested a bit more in the relationship or found the magic key to the person’s heart, that the relationship would be different.

For the past twenty years, I’ve been telling myself my fatigue would be resolved once I found the right combination of medication/diet/exercise/reduced busyness and stress.

 

I’m going to be turning fifty this Saturday.  I think I need to adjust my expectations.

 

I think what is really going on is that…

The sheer number of hours in a day is not going to expand nor will the problems people have decrease.

My vision is not going to get better.

Summer will continue to be busier than expected for the foreseeable future.

The relationship is not going to change.

I am not going to find a therapy or treatment that will completely solve my fatigue.  Some factors will get better, some will get worse, some won’t change.

And what I know now is

this is reality.

And–this is OK.

 

 

 

Posted July 13, 2017 by swanatbagend in reality