Category Archives: Article

Front Row or Back Seat?

Do you ever compare yourself to others? Presuming that you’re human, and that it is a human tendency to do so, you presumably have. Unfortunately it seems to be a natural weakness, a tendency we’re all inclined toward, until we overcome it.

I recently heard the story of one of my peers, recounting his life since we were in school together in eighth grade through to our mid-40s. He told of amazing accomplishments, helping people on small and large scales, locally and around the world. I was impressed! Inspired! Discouraged. After my initial reaction of genuine awe and appreciation, my hells latched onto that fleck of comparison, and I felt myself holding his marvellous good deeds on a pedestal and my puny, pathetic life in the gutter.

Once I’d processed those thoughts for a while, I managed to take a step back in an attempt to view our lives more objectively. For one thing, I only heard the good parts from my friend – he was giving a public inspirational talk, so of course he focussed on the inspirational parts. I don’t know what his home life is like, for example; he may be doing all this good stuff at the expense of the people closest to him. For another, it’s not my business to care how much more useful someone else is: I need to concern myself with myself, with my own usefulness and regeneration. If someone inspires me to be more useful than I was, great! But I’m not meant to judge others, I’m meant to evaluate whether I’m doing the best I can do. And anyway, life isn’t a contest or a race: it’s up to each of us to live our own lives according to the principles we hold dear. Continue reading Front Row or Back Seat?

OMG

If “OMG” were a spice, it would be salt. It’s in everything.

From “Oh my god, that dress looks great on you” to “Oh my god, can you believe gas prices?” people seem to throw “OMG” into just about any sentence. It’s a one-size-fits-all exclamation that is as pervasive as “um” or “like.”

And it troubles me. So much so that even writing it out gives me pause. I don’t capitalize the word “god” in these contexts because it doesn’t seem like the Lord is really any part of the subject matter. I was always taught that saying “OMG” in a casual way is taking the Lord’s name in vain—using the Lord’s name without any true, reverent thought of Him was breaking the second commandment. As an adult, after studying the Word and the Heavenly Doctrines, it seems pretty clear to me that the casual use of OMG is problematic and we shouldn’t say it carelessly (my emphasis below):

You are not to take the name of Jehovah your God in vain, for Jehovah will not hold anyone guiltless, who takes His name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

Taking the name of Jehovah God in vain means in the natural or literal sense the misuse of the name itself in all sorts of conversation, especially false statements or lies, and in swearing without good cause, or in order to avoid being blamed, in evil intentions, which are curses, and in witchcraft and spells. (True Christianity 297)

In the spiritual sense the name of God means the whole of the church’s teaching taken from the Word, and through which the Lord is invoked and worshipped. Therefore taking the same of God in vain means using anything from this source in idle talk, false statements, lies, curses, witchcraft and spells; for this too is slandering and blaspheming God, and so His name. (True Christianity 298)

I guess what I’m focusing on here is the “idle talk” referred to in True Christianity 298. I’m not talking about deliberately disrespecting the Lord’s name. That’s more obviously wrong. I’m more concerned with the way people throw OMG around in an unintentional and thoughtless manner.

After some Googling on the subject, I found that other Christian groups are troubled by the OMG phenomenon, so this isn’t just a New Church thing. On the other hand, some people seem to think that “OMG” just doesn’t mean what it used to, so we shouldn’t worry about it. Sort of how “literally” used to be mean the opposite of “figuratively” and now they are considered synonyms. Language does crazy things over time. To many people, “OMG” is just another way of saying “Wow!” or “Are you kidding me?” and we shouldn’t give it a second thought.

Well I have given it much more than a second thought. I flinch every time I hear someone utter OMG in a way that seems irreverent. But that’s part of the problem—it seems irreverent. How do I know? Sure, I know plenty of atheists who use OMG regularly and I wonder what it is they think they’re saying. But I don’t think they intend to be irreverent. Maybe they say it just because it’s something that people say. It might be thoughtless and a misuse of the Lord’s name, but I don’t think it is typically an intentional slight to God or to those who believe in Him.

But what about people who believe in and love God? Who am I to say that someone doesn’t enjoy a very chummy kind of relationship with the Lord (as they understand Him) and that they really do think of the Lord whenever they slip OMG into conversation? It’s possible. Maybe I shouldn’t flinch as reflexively as I do.

I guess what troubles me the most is being uncertain of what to do about this phenomenon where the “G” in “OMG” seems essentially meaningless to most speakers. Since I can’t judge another person’s relationship to the Lord, it is hard for me to speak up about my discomfort even when close (non-New Church) friends use OMG in everyday conversation. It feels wrong to stay silent, but it also feels wrong to speak up when I can’t know a person’s mind or heart.

I’m not sure what there is to do besides live by example and not use the Lord’s name in this way. That’s better than nothing, but it does little to ease my concern about how this excessive use of OMG came to be socially acceptable and how this trend might affect people’s ability to connect with the Lord. After all, when we call someone by name, we’re referring to the whole person and not just a label. Saying someone’s name is fundamentally an effort to make contact with that person. And knowing how to connect with God is the greatest gift there is.

Do phrases like OMG trouble you? Why or why not? Have any of you had any breakthroughs in navigating our OMG culture in your relationships with people who may or may not be a part of the New Church? How do you handle the use of OMG in your home or workplace? How do you establish boundaries about this phrase being used in your presence? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Seeking Inner Calm

About a year ago, I was not myself. It was a paradoxical time. Having just married the love of my life and celebrated a wonderful wedding with our loved ones, my heart was full. I had been showered with love and surrounded by blessings which truly humbled me. It was an incredibly special time.

On the other hand, I had been through a year of intense stress and was also coming down from a major high. Being a perfectionist, allowing my wedding day to be anything less than perfect was not an option. I wanted to execute my vision perfectly and was acutely aware that this was a once off event – the most meaningful and important of all the days I would have on this Earth. I promised myself that as long as I did every single thing I could ahead of time to ensure that the day would be as faultless as I had the power to ensure, I would “let go” on the day itself. This would make certain that I could be present in the moment with peace of mind, knowing that the rest was out of my control. Being naturally future orientated, living in the present is very difficult for me, but I knew that on this day, being present was the most important thing I could do. I am grateful that I can look back on our wedding day and see, feel, hear and experience it again in my memory. I was able to “let go” and be as present as I could be, and that is largely thanks to extreme planning. It was a beautiful day and even my inner perfectionistic critic is overjoyed with how it turned out. Continue reading Seeking Inner Calm

Owning My Identity

When I sat down to write this article after weeks of thinking and making notes to myself I couldn’t compress my ideas into one article. I wrote one draft explaining the sort of identity crisis I have experienced in the last few months and resulting conflict and existential questions I have about where I fit into the world. Then I wrote another draft from a more doctrinal, intellectual perspective using teachings from the Writings about the intentional infinite variety that the Lord created resulting in the unending distinction of individual identities. I wrote another about the contentment and security in my own identity that has grown and developed in my years of being a stay-at-home mom and the peace that has come in that process.

Each draft held significant portions of my thoughts, each shared some of the profound realizations I have had in the weeks of thinking about this article. But I couldn’t get any one version to hold them all.

In talking through my article yesterday with some friends something was pointed out to me – part of my dissatisfaction was that all of these versions of reflections on identity are true and existing inside of me, even as they are in conflict and harmony with each other. Each version of my article felt true on its own, but still somehow lacked the punch I wanted. I think that was because, on their own, each one was too simple to hold the complete complexity of my reflections. Here’s my attempt to bring together those three drafts.

Over the last few months I have run into a boundary of what is required of my children (and therefore our whole family) by the school that they go to. I didn’t anticipate it, and it has thrown my sense of self into a spiral. It has brought on what I’ve decided to hold as something of an identity crisis for myself and my family. Questions about my goals in parenting and decisions for my children have all come crashing in on me. In particular, the purpose of education and extra activities both for my children and even myself, and how those things are developing and changing as my older children grow out of the small children phase.  My brain exploded. Now it feels like a flood of new and tense conversations need to happen between my husband and I. I need to seek out perspective from other people whose choices in these areas I respect. Now. Because the reality of my brain and anxiety means that I’m aware of these questions and that they will affect every. single. daily. decision.
Continue reading Owning My Identity