Mark and I read recently in Divine Providence about how the door to heaven opens and closes in our minds, and if the door is closed to heaven, you just can’t see what is true. I find this a very helpful way of thinking. I like to envision doors opening, and also closing, below me, into hell. If I can shut my eyes and decisively shut the door under me, it quiets the vindictive, revengeful voices telling me what a bad card I was dealt or how hopeless it all is or whatever thought is plaguing or paralyzing me.
We all have our blind spots, our closed doors. For me, my 50s have been great for opening doors I didn’t know existed. Consciously deciding to be curious has helped. Wanting to be an angel someday has helped. Watching what happens when large swaths of people believe their causes are right, impenetrable, and that other voices should be squashed, has also helped.
In a related way, I have recently felt doors opening while listening to podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to get out of our echo chambers (groups of people who think exactly the way we do). You get to hear real people talking in a public yet frank way to people whom they trust about the issues that matter to them. Curiosity has led me to many thoughtful conversations that have subtly changed my perspective. One of these is the “Family Life Today” podcast, which is produced by a delightfully frank, open, die-hard Christian couple who are not afraid to discuss the topics where most people in their tribe daren’t tread. Doubting God. Blended families. Teenagers leaving the path. Introverts: does everyone have to be an evangelist? Perimenopause! One of my favorites. They interview authors frequently, and it was Sherri Lynn who wrote a book entitled “I want to punch you in the face but I love Jesus: the Ultimate PMS Companion.” She was a riot!
Continue reading The Doors of Our Minds
This past winter our family went to a college hockey game. It was a blast. Lots of noise, crazy cheering, some unsportsmanlike booing, and a lot of social chatter. And, we got to watch twelve hockey players perform their always (to me) stunning combination of grace, speed, synergy, and tussle. One of the players’ mothers is a friend of mine, so we even had a team to root for.
I’ve loved sports all my life. In fact when Covid first hit in March 2020, it did not register with me until I heard that the University of Minnesota had canceled its entire spring sports season. My jaw dropped and I actually felt shaky. For the first time I imagined the immensity of a problem that would generate this level of response. But even aside from that: how could we possibly live without sports? Our neighbor Jessie, who became a pride of the town placing first as a national discus thrower, never got to throw the disc her crowning senior year.
Just like in theater, where we happily “suspend our disbelief” that the world being acted out in front of us is real, in sports we temporarily and eagerly engage ourselves in the belief that it DOES matter who wins. And how thrilling that is for those of us with that competitive gene.
We know there are competitions in the spiritual world, and sometimes I think what I see here begins to mirror those events. With daughters who run and ski, we have become fixtures at cross country, nordic ski, and track meets. It’s amazing to watch runners mutually improve as they pit themselves against each other in practice, rising and rising to new heights of strength and endurance as they prepare to face the opponents from other teams. Around here, when two runners sprint for the finish line and cross close together they never check the scoreboard first. It’s the parents who try to figure out who won; the athletes simply embrace.
Continue reading Sports – Blessing or Curse?
Flowing, or stuck? In the stream of Providence
When my brother Danny died the summer after his senior year, the next senior class dedicated the Academy yearbook to him, inserting this quote on the dedication page: “When the Lord is with anyone He leads him, and provides that all things that happen, whether sad or joyful, befall him for good. This is Divine Providence.” (Arcana Coelestia 6303)
At different times in life I have found this to be an astonishing statement. Still more jaw-dropping to me are the references to the “stream” of Providence, such as this one: “Insofar as anyone is in the stream of Providence, so far he is in a state of peace.” (Arcana Coelestia 8478)
Can this really be true? Could it be that all our states of life other than peace come from our resistance to this stream? The smallest moments come to mind: Irritation when my husband smokes up the kitchen from heating the pan too hot. Annoyance when an event is postponed, forcing us to adjust, or a phone call interrupts my work. To the biggest ones: Fear when a wildfire threatens nearby or a child gets seriously ill. Sadness when a loved one seems bent on a path of destruction. Anger when a mishandled medical situation leads to death. Could it be that these feelings and thoughts, especially when acted out, are simply ways that we have of turning upstream, or even just leaning sideways a bit so that we feel the pressure of the current? How many days or years have we spent clinging to a rock, insisting that we stay in the same place, exhausting and painful as it is to be resisting the current?
Continue reading Providence, Peace, and Cooking
Today after church about a dozen of us gathered in the back of the church basement to assemble small solar lights for Ukrainians who were living without reliable electricity. Dave, from our church, was heading to Moldova in a few weeks. His plan is to send a bunch of needed items, including these solar lights, to the Ukrainians across the border, via a church organization he has worked for there.
These solar lights were brilliantly and simply made. A small board with three LED light strings attached. Behind, a battery stores enough electricity for the nightlight, the smallest of the three strings, to run for 2 weeks if necessary. The battery attaches a regular electric socket, but also to a screen-sized solar panel.
In Ukraine, the power lines have been destroyed in many places. Without electricity, obviously, people can’t see at night. Light is safety. But they also can’t use their i-phones, which in today’s world allow them to communicate, to work, to shop, and to survive. We talked to a man once from Puerto Rico who had lived through Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. He was without reliable power for 18 months. (Today, he has solar panels, which represent security.) His mother died during that time, and his memories left him feeling bitter and abandoned by his own, and our, governments. That was when I came to understand how important electricity is in our world today.
So the solar lights we assembled also had an i-phone cord to the battery. In the hands of a Ukrainian family, this transportable light could move with them, allow them to function at night, and travel with reliable electricity.
Continue reading Solar Energy–Heat and Light Reaching Ukrainians