All posts by Katya Gordon

About Katya Gordon

Katya Goodenough Gordon lives in Two Harbors, Minnesota, just a block from the north shore of Lake Superior. She has lived in this picturesque setting since 2008 when she and her family completed their first yearlong voyage living aboard a sailboat. Aside from home, marriage, and family, she is an author and reporter, a radio show host, a climate activist, and an active member of the United Church of Two Harbors. Born and bred in Bryn Athyn, PA, she is increasingly aware of and grateful for the ideas instilled in her childhood from Swedenborg's Writings, and always looking for ways to spread these life-giving truths in her community and beyond.

Child Soldiers

Struggling with the eternal hells….

How can hell be eternal? In an earlier post I discussed the beliefs that had “worked” for me in my life. Today I bring up a doctrine that I have always struggled with. I know I’m not alone. It’s one of the hardest things to understand, and that is the eternity of the hells.

Here’s how my thinking goes. I understand that evils, confirmed in action, life, and with delight, are much harder to route out. I observe that, in our world, confirming and delighting in evils without civil or cultural checks, does take on a life of its own and does not naturally “right” itself. I also get that, if C.S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce” is to be believed, that you cannot have it both ways. “You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys,” he writes. “Evil can be undone, but it cannot “develop” into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound bit by bit ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’–or else not.” 

But my life experience shows me how much good can be found in even a relatively short amount of time (years, months, even days) by imperfect human souls and organizations. Working with legal offenders of various stripes through an organization that was dedicated to their reintegration as I did for several years, I was struck repeatedly with the myriads of ways that life is turned into lessons for anyone who is ready to change, and when things get really tough, that’s often the best time.

My worst fears are for child soldiers. How can these children, who are systematically trained to do terrible acts, and to love them, long before their minds and brains are developed and rational, have a shot at heaven? Also, I read in Swedenborg that parents can “close heaven” to their children, and I think, “Really?How can this be!” even as I see how it could happen. 

Continue reading Child Soldiers

Teachings Instilled and Brought to Life

For my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, I gave them a conversation. I knew they had no interest in receiving a physical gift. But I figured they would love to do a little reminiscing and discussing their favorite topic–New Church teachings and how they have “worked” for me.  So, I told them.

It helped me to think ahead. With some reflection, I felt newly grateful for certain teachings that were instilled so deeply that I didn’t even feel them leading my life except at critical moments. These include:

Knowing that evil must be put away before one can receive good, but also knowing that it’s never too late. 

Knowing that our job is to focus on being useful. 

Knowing that the Lord reaches everyone. When I hear a truth spoken outside of a church teaching, it is just as true as when it’s written in the Writings. 

Knowing about life after death. This gets bigger the older I get. The New Church has always “done death” very well in my opinion–grieving, mourning, celebrating, anticipation of the future. It is a deep well to draw upon at the passing of a loved one, and I notice it most when I’m surrounded by people who have only the vaguest notion of the afterlife. What a lot they are missing!

Nowhere was I more grateful for my past than in the realm of marriage, though much of it was not on my mind until I met Mark at age 30, at which time I thought, “Now I know what all the fuss is about!” I felt I’d been given an instructor manual, with some idea of how to proceed and what to expect..  

For instance, I didn’t expect the thrills and chills to last forever; it was almost a relief when we got past that first phase and could get on with our (mutual) life.  

Knowing about colds in a marriage. When colds come, I recognize them for what they are.  I once heard a Lutheran minister lament all the challenges to a marriage. He mentioned difficult children, financial stress, career challenges.  “Wow,” I thought. He really missed the boat. He never even mentioned the real (internal) cause that derails marriage: colds towards each other. Colds that can appear to come from myriads of external circumstances, but whose source is always hell. External factors are not going to kill a marriage; but hellish spirits will do it every time we give them the chance.

Finally, knowing that life is messy, and thank goodness it’s not my job to figure it out for everyone else! When things get crazy and I’m not sure how to think/speak/act, I try to remember that with the entire power of the heavens brought to bear on this situation, finding an entrance wherever possible, any good that can be found, will be.

This does not mean every teaching has “worked” in my life! But that is the topic for another article.

My parents, as you can guess, were delighted! It was fun for them to hear that some important teachings have really made a difference for me. My mom brought out a bookmark I had cross-stitched for her decades ago. On one side it says “Trust in the Lord and Do Good” and on the other, “Do not fret because of evildoers.” I smiled; it is perfect for her! So I guess we’ve helped each other through the years.

Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Psalm 37

Prayer: Always More to Think About

In the Theta Alpha Journal I read about praying for the Ukrainians. In our local church we pray for good outcomes from surgery. Frequently I hear comments like, “I’ll be praying for you today; hope it goes well!”

I am not criticizing this. I think wishing well of people, and thinking of them empathetically, is a good thing. But I think that prayer can be much more.

What God wants is our eternal happiness. Shouldn’t that be what we pray for as well? Nadine Rogers, in the Theta Alpha Journal, reminds us that those who lived in Jesus’ time were the first to expect Jesus to solve their earthly problem. It happened to be Roman oppression. We find this so obvious–those simple Jews, expecting God to solve their worldly problems!–then we pray for earthly things ourselves.

My friend Susie’s ex-husband had an affair, lied about it, initiated a divorce, and never expressed remorse. Susie once told me that in the depths of her shock, she still had a tiny inkling of clarity about the situation. “I knew I was actually okay,” she said, “but that he was in deep trouble.” He was the one to pray for, she said, not herself. She knew she was going to be okay. But him? She wasn’t sure at all.

Continue reading Prayer: Always More to Think About

How Does the Lord Speak to Everyone Today?

Sometimes it amazes me how unceasingly the Lord’s truths filter down into our world.  For me, the natural sun helps me to understand it better than anything else I know.  The  sun reaches everywhere in a universal way–with light rays–but depending on the receptacle, it appears to have almost infinite variety.  Light on a table at dusk in the tropics vs. light dancing in the trees in a northern winter–same light, but such a different picture!  And of course, without it we would die instantly.

It is comforting for me to observe that one can avoid light completely–by never going outside during the day, or by going into a cave or a basement, for instance–but it’s pretty hard to do consistently.  Virtually everyone is exposed to light, regularly.  

Which is why I’m always thrilled when I hear a shaft of light–a thought, a line from a song, a comment–that seems (to me) to express a pure truth.  It reminds me how infinite are the Lord’s ways–and I admire the person for figuring it out, probably without the Writings like I have. 

Recently our (Methodist) pastor said, in the pulpit, “I don’t know about you, but I think heaven is a pretty busy place.”  I was awash with admiration.  How did she figure that out?

Continue reading How Does the Lord Speak to Everyone Today?