Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

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 Gap Between Faith and Practice   1 comment

In the gap between my faith and my practice is–what?  In the past, the answer has been, try harder.

Today what stands in the gap between my faith and my practice is repentance.

I will turn away from my sins and failures and turn toward Jesus, who provides the power to be different.  No matter how many times I’ve vowed to do better, it hasn’t worked.  I’m sure there are people for whom self help books do it, and there are those who are good at pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.

If you haven’t found those paths to be successful, perhaps a turning will suffice?

I’m to turn from my sins, which are as follows: impatience, pride, greed, being a controller, selfishness, self absorption, envy and busyness for its own sake.

Instead of attempting to find a way to be good enough to overcome these on my own, I can deal with my gap now by giving them up.  I can step away from my idol–the illusion of power that I think will fix my problems.

Instead of attempting to put sin away by sheer force of will, I will turn to Jesus Christ and receive his power, love and mercy.  He’s the one who stands in the gap for me.

 

 

Posted September 18, 2019 by swanatbagend in reflections

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How Normal People Are   Leave a comment

As I waltzed through a three and a half week period of feeling really great during my healing from depression process, I was so happy.  I was just so thankful to finally (I thought) be through with the pit of despair, any change was welcome and this was a truly wonderful change.

I had the energy to do projects I hadn’t had energy for.  I had the get up and go to clean the Florida room and sell and give away items nobody was using.  I did a lot.

And mentally, I enjoyed it.  Life was purposeful and I felt hopeful about various potential future plans.  I wasn’t overthinking the future either; it was just there and I thought about it occasionally and it seemed like a good thing.

It only occurred to me later that it’s possible that what I experienced for those three and a half weeks is what other people live all the time.

I don’t mean every person, all the time, because obviously some people have more issues than I do, some have fewer.   Some people’s lives are filled with material and spiritual difficulties so far beyond what I experience that clearly they aren’t living the dream.  Life is rarely that simple for anyone.

I just mean that feeling good, having lots of energy, having hope for the future might be other people’s normal.

My normal has usually been more subdued and less optimistic than that.  And I thought that was normal.  Maybe there’s a way to be in hopefulness and make it more of a stay than an occasional vacation.  It can’t be the goal of my life to get there, because I don’t have the power to guarantee that outcome.

But what that knowledge does is show me my variables: I regularly have to overcome them.  If I have to get myself to the front edge of motivation every day, that’s an obstacle.  If I have to sweep together enough energy for the to-do list every day, that’s an obstacle.  Those are real challenges.  This knowledge dispenses mercy, mercy on me and on every other person who doesn’t have a full load of energy, motivation and hope.

He came not for those who are well, but for those who know they are sick.  So if you need the physician–take heart.  He is for you.

Posted August 27, 2019 by swanatbagend in mental health, reflections

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Why Candles?   Leave a comment

I recently thanked a friend again for a lovely scented candle she had given me, vanilla nutmeg cardamom (I have no idea where she found such a unique scent).  She said, “You know, you like candles more than anyone else I know.”

This is why I really like candles and enjoy having them on my mantelpiece or on top of my desk.

1. I love the bright or soft colors of the wax.

2. I love the scent of a good quality candle–floral, foresty, fruity–but it does have to be good quality.  What I don’t like are candles that smell like cheap fabric softener.

3. I like the glow and flicker of the flame.

Put those three factors together, and I don’t know why everyone doesn’t love candles.

A candle flame is bright, warm, cheerful, and it lights up a room.  At the same time it is frail, feeble and small.  It flickers.  It moves in a magical way.  The color, the scent and the flame unify to speak to my heart about eternity.  The candle flame is both fragile and ethereal, and strong.  I can focus on a candle and think clearly.  The candle flame brings me to the center and calms me down.

A candle is my statement of faith.

That’s why the candle my friend gave me is almost gone.

Posted May 14, 2019 by swanatbagend in reflections

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Forward   Leave a comment

One walks through any day of life one step at a time, but there are some times when the steps are harder to take.  I made upward progress throughout the winter while recovering from a six month long depression and rejoiced in every moment of normalcy.  However, the progress is definitely a process, and I’m not quite out of the valley yet.

When fighting anxiety and depression, the advice to live one day at a time can be helpful, or not so helpful.  You may feel like what you really need is some outside power that will walk with you hour by hour, minute by minute or maybe second by second, breath by breath.  It’s a fight to respond to the tiredness with “I will just do the next thing.”  It’s a fight to replace the idea that it won’t be possible to get the projects or work done with the truth that all you have to do is the next thing.  It’s a fight to remind yourself that the reason you don’t have many loving feelings for others is because of the depression, not because of you.  It’s a fight to replace the inner condemnation, guilt and shame for just being like this in the first place, with the truth that you are a dearly loved child of God.

It’s a struggle to remember the truths you knew and believed when you were yourself, when you weren’t covered by the cloud.  The mind comprehends truths that you know apply to every person you know, but depression makes it harder to believe they apply to you.

Depression blocks your view of what God has done in the past, and what you’ve done right.  We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses and so we run with endurance the race set before us.  When you’re feeling well, this seems like a glorious thing.  But when you’re in the cloud of depression and anxiety it just seems an impossible thing.

It’s a good thing that the final results of any battle aren’t in the hands of the fallible human who is going through the battle.  I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but I do believe that at some point in the future, I will see the light at the end of the tunnel, and eventually, I will come out of the tunnel and be on the other side.

One thing about depression and anxiety–or about any valley–is it sure keeps you humble.  You experience your weakness; you admit to others where you are.  To admit to others that I am broken in this way is humiliating, and it should be.  Not in the sense of depression being an unacceptable crime, but simply because being broken IS humiliating.  I don’t like it.  I want to be self-sufficient.  I want to be together.  I want to be the best at what I am.  I want to be some sort of encouragement or example or something.  Not this.

But that’s not where I am right now.

I’m looking forward to being on the other side of this.  I’m told that He who began a good work in me will bring it to the day of completion.  I’m looking toward that promise.

Posted May 1, 2019 by swanatbagend in mental health, reflections

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At the End of Your Rope   Leave a comment

You know what they say. “When you’re at the end of your rope–tie a knot and hang on.”

When I was a teenager posters were definitely in and I still have a mental image of a stock photo of an extremely cute kitten hanging on to the end of a rope.  Maybe I even had this poster in my room.

I hope not because that image really bothers me.  I know something about sliding off the end of the rope, and if you’re like me, at that moment you either don’t have the strength to tie the knot as you’re sliding downward, or knot tying is the farthest thing from your mind.

Good news: if you can’t tie knots, all is not lost.

You can even fall from the rope, and you will be caught.

Posted March 27, 2019 by swanatbagend in mental health, reflections