Archive for the ‘reality’ Category

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.

 

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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

Humble   Leave a comment

If there is one word that goes with broken, it is humble.

(See my last blog here at https://swanatbagend.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/broken.)

One leads to the other, as surely as night follows day and water flows downhill.  It could be humble first, leading to a willingness to be broken and to see what’s broken.

Often, it is broken first.  This leads naturally to humility because if you are broken and acknowledge that you are, you realize that you don’t have the power to fix it.  You realize while there are many steps you can take to bring healing, to ask forgiveness, to renew what has been damaged, you don’t have the ultimate power or authority to make renewal come to pass.

It makes you humble.

This is your new reality.  Not a sense of self-flagellation or an endless reviewing of past trespasses.

Humble is just being in touch with reality–the reality of who you are and what you can and cannot do.

Humble is, I think, actually quite freeing.

Posted February 12, 2017 by swanatbagend in character, reality

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Broken   Leave a comment

What’s one of the most distressing events that can happen to a child?

That’s right.

Something they love gets broken.

And mom and dad cannot fix it.

I have memories of something lovely getting irreparably damaged, and how distressed and grieved that made me as a child.  We had Christmas ornaments of blown glass, colored globes surrounded by extremely thin spiraled wires.  Even the bracket at the top of the ornament was a work of art, all fine silver made of tiny detailed patterns.  When one of those broke, because they were already old by the time I was old enough to love them, it was painful.

That’s an ornament, a thing of beauty, but nonetheless just some heated and blown sand.

How much more distressing it is when things of more importance are broken.  And how distressing it is to find that one continues to break things on a regular basis.

It seems to be inescapable.  I once thought that if I just tried hard enough, I would always and only be a force for good in the world.  I thought that somehow I would have the ability and the will and the power to always do the right thing.  Knowledge was power, and I knew what was right.  It was my goal in life when I graduated from high school to love and be loved and be happy.  I had no idea how truly difficult that would be.

Despite my best efforts, I damage and destroy what is good.  How is it possible to be aware of the beauty, of the import, of the good in people and the world, and still be the cause of damage?

I realize that I too am broken, and that my brokenness damages others on a regular basis.

I’m not saying that I never do anything right.  Like you, I work hard to be a good friend, a good parent, a person whose heart is attuned to God so that I can spread the love around.  I want to love others well.  Most of the time, I do a pretty decent job.

But, some of the time my brokenness rises to the top, and that is what other people get from me.

Thank God that he has made peace with me and covered me with his righteousness.  I was far away from him.  I am still farther than I want to be.  However, my distance and brokenness does not stop him from pulling me closer.  Because of Christ, he has brought me into his presence and I stand before him redeemed.  He is transforming me.

He is transforming me, and it starts right here, from the point of my acknowledgement that I am broken.

Posted February 8, 2017 by swanatbagend in reality, reflections, relationships

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Chronic   Leave a comment

Do you have anything in your life like this?

If you’re like me, I’m sure you do.  No matter what it may be, it is something that does not diminish with time.  It’s something that does not seem to have a packaged, straightforward treatment.  It does not go to the doctor, come home with medication for pain and an antibiotic, then three days later go back to school/work.

It might be a disease.  It might be a habit you have wrestled with for years.  It may be a person you’re connected to who is difficult but whom you can’t abandon.  It might be money worries.  It might be the mess in your garage, or the yard work that never really gets done, or the pile of dirty laundry that completely covers your cracked cement basement floor.

Whatever it is, it’s chronic.  It’s not fixable today or this week.

You know what I mean?

Reflecting on my own life at the beginning of a new year, and wondering what will become of the chronic situations in my life during the course of the months to come, something else came to mind.

There’s all of this stuff, but, whatever else may be chronic, thank God that He is chronically good.

Posted January 7, 2017 by swanatbagend in gratitude, reality

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