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A Living Understanding

Like most mothers, I spend a lot of time thinking about my children and how to best equip them for life in this world and the next. And some of the biggest questions I spend time on are: how do you raise children to love the Lord? To trust Him? To maintain faith in the face of an increasingly secular world? To seek the Lord’s help in times of trouble?

In my reading for a doctrinal class I came across this passage:

“God flows into what everyone knows about God, bringing about an acknowledgement of God, and at the same time imparting His love for mankind… if a person receives both the first and the second, the inflow reaches his will and comes from there into his understanding, so occupying his whole mind. Then he makes an inward acknowledgement of God, which bring to life what he knows about God, so that his condition resembles a garden in springtime.” True Christian Religion 457:2

And there is it! A perfect, compact answer to how to attain faith in the Lord. That “inward acknowledgement” that brings the Lord to life in our understanding; that is what I want for my children more than anything. And of course, the Lord has a perfect system for how this happens. And it starts with “what everyone knows about God.”

By teaching children about the Lord, about heaven, and spiritual life, they can develop an understanding of the Lord that eventually goes so far beyond knowledge. It’s so beautifully simple. But maybe what always trips me up is that it doesn’t feel like enough. It doesn’t feel like you’re accomplishing much as you hold your writhing two-year-old through church, or say the prayer, pausing for the 10th time to remind children to close their eyes and not giggle. And so it’s so good to be reminded that that’s the only part I/we can do. Of course it is the Lord who does the real work, the Lord who flows into “what everyone knows about God.” My job is to teach. (And equally importantly, my job is to trust that the Lord will do His part.)

But giving children knowledge about the Lord is a HUGE topic. There is so much to teach, an eternity of knowledge to impart. And as a parent, I find this both inspiring and daunting. What we teach to young children really does matter, and it is no small thing to be in a role where you have a great deal of influence over a young child’s mind, be it as a mother, aunt, sister, cousin, or family friend.

And this has brought me to wondering what otherfocus on. This all feels a little more obvious with school-aged children, at that age they can really begin to learn Bible stories and understand larger concepts about the Lord. I’m particularly wondering about very young children whose comprehension is so simple still, but their hearts the most open. I loved the conversations with my two year old around Easter about the how everyone thought the Lord was gone, and how they were sad, but so happy to find Him again. My daughter would then pipe up at odd moments with “Where da Wword? All gone! Not here. Find Him inn da gawden.” Moments like this are pure gold. And it made me want to hear more. So I wanted to open up a space for others to share their sacred moments. And also to share thoughts on how you approach imparting knowledge to young ones. What rituals do you follow? What conversations do you initiate? What has been particularly well received? What have you found hardest?

Coming across the passage from True Christian Religion was a timely reminder of the power I have to lay a foundation for a connection with the Lord. That it is at least partially up to me to offer my children the knowledge that can one day lead to this “inward acknowledgement of God”, what I understand to mean belief and trust deeper than argument and rational reasoning: a living understanding of our Lord and God. It’s no small charge, and at times I’m sure it will hold many challenges, but also so many moments of heaven. And I know I’m not alone. I would love to hear your stories and your thoughts.

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 19:14)

FEAR – What Are You Afraid Of?

My parents never seemed to go anywhere, seemingly content with the quiet life they lead at home. Or so I thought. As it turns out my mother would love to have travelled to Canada to see her cousin or to Australia to visit family there. She dreamed of being able to travel to many beautiful places in the world just to be able to breathe it all in.  But year by year goes by and still they don’t travel beyond the borders of their home country.  

The reason was quite simple: fear. They seem scared of lots of things –spending too much money, the cat left behind at home, going somewhere they don’t speak the language and not being able to communicate, getting sick abroad, etc. Now, sadly, they wont travel anywhere. My father can no longer walk and is confined to a wheelchair due to Brain Cancer and my mother is at home caring for him, unable to go out for too long just in case he needs something. My mother is content, but I know she feels some hidden regrets that they didn’t do more.

Far too many of our own dreams die because of fear. Too many of us let fear stop us from pursuing something the Lord may be leading us to do. I have started to look at my life and at those around me to understand what it is that I’m afraid of…

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Blessings In Disguise

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It enables us to see and understand so much more about our lives than we might otherwise! It is through hindsight – perhaps much further down the road, but eventually – that we can appreciate that the ‘curses’ in our lives really did have resulting good come out of them. The Lord teaches us that He’s got our backs: His Providence, although invisible to our eyes, surrounds everything we do in order to protect us from ourselves, to help us through our lives and onward to heaven. 

We are allowed to see Divine Providence from behind but not face to face, and when we are in a spiritual state, not in a materialistic state. Seeing Divine Providence from behind but not face to face is seeing it after the fact but not before; and seeing it when we are in a spiritual state and not in a materialistic state is seeing it from heaven and not from this world. Everyone who accepts inflow from heaven and recognizes Divine Providence (and especially people who have become spiritual by virtue of their reformation), on seeing events in their amazing kind of sequence, virtually sees Providence from a deep recognition and confesses it. Such people do not want to see it face to face, that is, before things happen, because they are afraid their own volition would interfere with some element of its orderly sequence. (Divine Providence 187.4)

I offer three examples from my own life to demonstrate this phenomenon. The first is my bicycle accident: I fell from my bike at the age of 20, broke my kneecap, and although it ‘messed up’ my plans for the coming year, two huge side-effects were courting the man who is now my husband and confirming my faith in the New Church.

Fast-forward twenty years to the second incident which involved moving our son from one primary school to another: we loved his first Montessori school, but in the course of time the administration underwent major changes and we were compelled to pull him out, even though he only had another 18 months of primary schooling left before he’d have to change schools again. We considered our options and decided to move him to another Montessori school. Despite the angst my husband and I felt at the time, and the undoubtable apprehension and fear our son experienced, he quickly acclimated to his new environment, made two great friends and had most of his class later join him at his out-of-area high school – where he previously would have known no-one.

My third example is more of an ongoing one, something which began before the birth of our son and still affects us to this day: infertility. I’d always thought we’d have a gaggle of kids, but, despite our best efforts, we don’t. This affected me deeply, for many years – it can still elicit a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. In retrospect, though, we can appreciate all the more that we are blessed to have the one child we have, we are able to travel so much more and with so much more logistical ease than we would have otherwise, and we’ve learned to relax our own planning and follow the Lord a little more willingly – we’re fond of saying, ‘we make plans and God laughs’.

Challenges are just part and parcel of life: they can really sting at the time, and they can keep stinging for a long time after they happen. As the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus wisely said, “It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.” We will all encounter traumas and hard times; believing that these are blessings in disguise and trusting that it will all work out in the end will help us endure them, and ease our mental burden.

Peace has in it confidence in the Lord, that He directs all things, and provides all things, and that He leads to a good end. When a man is in this faith, he is in peace, for he then fears nothing, and no solicitude about things to come disquiets him. (Arcana Coelestia 8455)

The Space In-Between

What becomes of the feelings that manifest in between the sifting and sorting of decisions? I wonder about the activity and energies inside our brains when decisions particularly emotional ones are being processed and ultimately filtered down into the right one at that particular time. Not to dive deep into psychology; There comes a time in our lives when we’ve elevated ourselves enough to be granted opportunities. The one side of the opportunity can be success; while the other side can be failure or fear. The power to choose one way or the other rests solely with us. This article is focusing on that middle ground—the space between the unknown or not yet discovered success, and the overwhelming fear of failure presented by that opportunity. 

We know this because our emotions communicates this dilemma explicitly; when we explore the upside of the opportunity it feels amazing, inspiring and joyful. However; when we explore the downside of the opportunity, if we have the guts to go there, it feels terrible. Surely there are lobbying elements, beyond us (both physically and spiritually) that present us with emotions and thoughts for one way or the other when we exercise critical thinking in decision making. 

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