Category Archives: Article

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.’

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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Humbly Lord

My father is dying. He was diagnosed with an atypical meningioma (Brain Tumour) nearly 9 years ago, and after two operations to remove the tumor and one bout of radiotherapy, the tumor is now inoperable and there is nothing more to be done. He will die; no-one knows when or how long it will take or even what his deterioration will look like. So we wait. It has been a long journey. Originally one of hope, now one of acceptance of the inevitable.

We have known that he may die for some time, but when we heard the finality of the decision from the doctors, it was hard to get our heads around. We cried… we prayed… we cried some more…

My dad is now unable to do many of the things that he loved and enjoyed: gardening, mountaineering, drinking whiskey. He has gone from using a walking stick, to a walker, to a wheelchair. Now he lies in bed unable to sit up. His sight is going. He is confused and disorientated. He is in pain. We feel helpless.

The hardest part for me as a Christian, and as a convert from Church of Scotland to New Church, is that I have no idea whether my dad believes in God or not. 

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