Thoughts On Grief

I took a little time to read some passages about grief. This isn’t a dissertation or in-depth collection, just some passages and observations. 

“For there is a moment in His anger, But life is in His good pleasure; In the evening, weeping may pass the ​night, But in the morning there is singing aloud.” Psalm 30:5

  People experience grief in a huge range. There is sadness in a loss of something or someone. Sometimes the sadness or grief does not feel logical, just there, existing in us. 

Little children might experience grief. What might seem like a profound loss to them, might seem like a very small issue to the adults or other people around them. I think this can be true for anyone and their own experience. Something can feel like a catastrophe while in the moment or span of dealing with something, but to the people not invested, the issue can seem small. Even the people dealing with the problem, after the fact can think back on the issue as being insignificant. 

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Thy Will Be Done

It’s a strange world we live in, growing stranger by the day. It’s a skewed world too, skewed by tweets, soap operas and reality shows where melodrama and charisma count for more than truth and integrity. And in this overheated milieu, where our blurred perceptions become our realities, we are obliged to vote for leaders, to invoke the vital power of the secret ballot. I believe it to be a privilege and a sacred, prayerful duty.

To judge by the outcome, we often miss the mark. Increasingly, I feel that leaders far and wide are chosen for their entertainment value over their gravitas and their ability to exercise sound judgment. The ultimate absurdity occurred in the Ukraine where the populace voted for a clown – a real one – to tackle rampant corruption and the sinister stranglehold of the oligarchs. Here, in South Africa, we suffered for ten years under the kleptocracy of a man who was a loss to the stage – who danced and sang ‘bring me my machine gun’ with gay abandon, to the delight of his tribe and followers. The older democracies, too, make unexpected choices. Join the dots.

It could all be so different. If we looked to the Word for guidance we would find it in abundance. In Psalm 15 there is a vivid description of the character of those suitable for leadership:

Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?

He who walks uprightly, 
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbour…

He who does these things shall never be moved.

It is all perfectly clear; though I hesitate to add ‘and simple’, for humankind is so easily corrupted or misled.

In The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine, Emanuel Swedenborg has the following to say about leadership:

Order cannot be kept in the world without having governors…to keep human societies in order. They must be learned in the law, wise and God-fearing. There must also be order among governors, to prevent anyone out of a whim or ignorance permitting evils contrary to order, thus destroying it. [312 & 313]

One, however, who regards himself as above the laws, attributes royalty to himself and either believes himself to be the law or the law which is justice to be from himself. Thus he claims for himself what is God’s, when he ought to be subject to it. [322]

We are reminded of Plato, writing The Republic in the 5th century BCE, when he wryly asks, ‘But who will guard the guardians?’ And over the centuries we, the governed, are still required to answer, ‘We will’.  

In A Higher Loyalty, published this year, James Comey, previously head of the FBI in the USA, is forthright in his appraisal of leadership based on integrity:    

…ethical leaders lead by seeing beyond the short-term, beyond the urgent, and take every action with a view toward lasting values. … Those values – like truth, integrity, and respect for others – serve as external reference points for ethical leaders to make decisions, especially hard decisions in which there is no easy or good option.  Those values are more important than what may pass for prevailing wisdom or the groupthink of a tribe. Without a fundamental commitment to the truth – especially in our public institutions and those who lead them – we are lost.

So, time and time again we are enjoined by the wise to submit our leaders to the truth-and-integrity test in our minds. Then, and only then, can we discount mere appeal and make powerful choices as we pray, ‘Thy will be done.’

A Spiritual Growth Plan Straight from Him

My husband drew my attention to this gem of a number a few months ago and I was delighted to find such a thorough and orderly layout of the steps on the path to regeneration. From Apocalypse Explained 803:

1. Let him read the Word every day, one or two chapters, and learn from a master and from sermons the dogmas of his religion; and especially let him learn that God is one, and that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, that the Word is holy, that there is a heaven and a hell, and that there is a life after death.

2. Let him learn from the Word, from a master, and from sermons, what works are sins, and that they are especially adulteries, thefts, murders, false witness, and the others mentioned in the Decalogue; likewise that lascivious and obscene thoughts are also adulteries, that frauds and illicit gains are also thefts, that hatred and revenge are also murders, and that lies and blasphemies are also false witness; and so on. Let him learn all these things from childhood to youth.

3. When man begins to think for himself, which is the case after he has grown up, it must be to him the first and chief thing to refrain from doing evils for the reason that they are sins against the Word, thus against God, and for the reason that if he does them he will gain, not life eternal, but hell; and afterwards as he grows up and becomes old he must shun them as damned, and must turn away from them in thought and intention. But in order to so refrain from them and shun and turn away from them, he must pray to the Lord for help. The sins he must refrain from and must shun and turn away from are chiefly adulteries, frauds, illicit gains, hatreds, revenges, lies, blasphemies, and elation of mind.

4. So far as man detests these evils because they are opposed to the Word, and thence opposed to God, so far there is granted him communication with the Lord, and conjunction is effected with heaven. For the Lord enters, and with the Lord heaven enters, as sins are removed; since these and their falsities are the sole hindrances. The reason is because man has been placed in the midst between heaven and hell, wherefore hell acts from the one side, and heaven from the other; therefore so far as evils that are from hell are removed, so far goods from heaven enter; for the Lord says:

“Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hear and open the door, I will come in to him (Revelation 3:20)…”

5. So far, then, as man detests these sins so far good affections enter. Then so far as he detests adulteries so far chastity enters; so far as he detests frauds and unlawful gains so far sincerity and justice enter; so far as he detests hatred and revenge so far charity enters; so far as he detests lies and blasphemies so far truth enters; and so far as he detests elation of mind so far humility before God and love of the neighbor as oneself enter; and so on. From this it follows that to shun evils is to do goods.

6. So far as a man is in these good affections he is led by the Lord and not by self; and so far as he acts from them so far he does what is good, because he does this from the Lord and not from self; and then he acts from chastity, from sincerity and justice, from charity, from truth, in humility before God; and from these no one can act from self.

7. The spiritual affections that are granted by the Lord to him who is in them and who acts from them, are the affection of knowing and understanding the truths and goods of heaven and the church, together with the affection of willing and doing them; also the affection of combating with zeal against falsities and evils and dispersing them, both with himself and with others. From this man has faith and love, and from this he has intelligence and wisdom.

8. Thus and in no other way is man reformed; and so far as he knows and believes truths, and wills and does them, so far is he regenerated, and from natural becomes spiritual.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

I spent several years of my life teaching young children, and one of the topics I got to teach was the Bible. The curriculum for my class covered Exodus through Judges, with readings from the New Testament scattered throughout the year. The children frequently laughed at the Children of Israels’ antics, wondering how they could keep disobeying the Lord and getting themselves into trouble when the Lord’s rules were so simple! And as an adult, I’d have my own private laugh because, of course, like the Children of Israel we make the same mistakes again and again…. Why don’t we learn? In revisiting a couple of my favorite OT passages a few months ago, I realized they were linked by the common thread of captivity, and I thought I’d briefly share my musings on the topic.

Captivity

On the brink of entering the Land of Canaan after a 40-year “wander,” Moses gave a long final speech. Toward the end of that talk, he outlined the Lord’s law, and the choice between life and death: following the Lord’s law and living a blessed life, or turning away from Him, worshiping other gods, and living a cursed life, which he predicts will ultimately lead to captivity. But the story doesn’t end in captivity. Moses says that when the Children of Israel return to the Lord, He will gather them and bring them back to a fruitful, prosperous life in the Land of Canaan. Then comes my favorite part:

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.

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