Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

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.

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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

The Church Universal   Leave a comment

When I took a tour of diverse churches recently, I was blessed in ways I did not expect.

I didn’t set out to complete this outing, but when my home church renovated the sanctuary and the chemical odors coming off the new carpet and chairs were enough to flatten me, I decided on the spot that now would be a good time to worship with friends.  I’d promised I’d attend with them someday, and now was the time.

So, over the course of four Sundays, which I figured would be enough to let the fumes dissipate, I went with friends or family to an Eastern Orthodox service, a Catholic mass, a Lutheran service and a United Methodist one.  I thought it would be fun, for lack of a better word, to enjoy the liturgy, the music and the beauty of the churches, as well as giving my body a break.

But I also got these outcomes.

I learned to trust that the smallest of prayers is heard.

And I learned that we are not alone.

Yes, it was really neat to worship in other buildings, to let the beauty of the art in the Orthodox Church and the smell of the incense speak peace to my heart.  It was wonderful to see the carving in the Catholic cathedral and to study the stained glass in the Methodist church.  And the candles everywhere, reminding me of the light of the world!  The liturgy in all four, but especially the Lutheran church, made me feel that I had approached God and met with him, and that I had fully participated in that meeting.

And that was good.

But what struck me were the prayers for specific needs, specific people, specific outcomes, especially at the Orthodox church.  They prayed at length for leaders of the church and the world.  And I thought, these aren’t in vain.  People are praying for these people all over the world, every single Sunday, and probably more often.  God hears every single one and he upholds life all over the universe.  The faithful prayers of his people are an essential part of his goodness and his plan.

And the prayers and the refrains after prayer were much more similar in these churches than they were dissimilar.  Everywhere it was, “Lord, hear our prayer.”  To think.  All around the planet as we, spinning, make our daily journey, people are praying as the light touches them.  We are united in faith, in hope, in baptism.  One church; we’re not alone.

Posted October 6, 2018 by swanatbagend in reflections, the church

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Unsettling   1 comment

My reading over the past several months has brought me to a question.  I read about the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit that legally defends those who have been sentenced to prison without the benefit of a just trial.  Most of them are minorities, many have disabilities, and some are children.  See more on their work here: https://eji.org, or read Just Mercy, written by the founder, Bryan Stephenson.

My reading has also included coverage of world news in The Economist.  Over time, the catalog of acts of injustice, of persecution of minority groups within countries, of country after country led by immoral strongmen adds up.

Then I picked up Generous Justice by Tim Keller.  It’s an exploration of what the Bible teaches and what the Christian church’s understanding should be about the relationship between mercy and justice.  In the course of the book, Keller explores the church’s lack of understanding of what situations individuals face in difficult environments.

For example, Keller describes a situation where a young woman who lived in a housing project was being harassed by a local gang to become a prostitute for suburban white men.  The believer who was meeting with her didn’t comprehend the full situation until she explained that her father was beaten in order to get her compliance.  When he asked why she didn’t involve the police, she responded that the police were those wealthy suburban white males.  She perceived that she was unlikely to get justice from that quarter.

These are just a few specific books I have read recently that have caused me to think new and uncomfortable ideas.

I’ve had a really good life.  I’m not saying nothing bad or unjust has ever happened to me–it has, because that is the nature of life in this world.  But I look at the sheer volume of despair out there that is endured by those who don’t have power, and I wonder.

What if some of the circumstances of my life that I have taken to be answered prayer are just class or race privilege?

Posted August 14, 2018 by swanatbagend in justice, reflections

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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.

 

 

 

Posted May 15, 2018 by swanatbagend in reality, reflections

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