Category Archives: Article

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.

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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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Ponderings On the Passing Of 50 Years

“…And I thought about years
How they take so long
And they go so fast…”
Beth Nielsen Chapman, Years

The Bryn Athyn high school Class of ’69 has started planning for its 50th reunion in October. A committee of former classmates now living in the area is sending out emails seeking volunteers, ideas, entertainment etc. Replies are trickling back from across the globe – we (100 at our peak) are a widely–scattered bunch. 

Fifty years is a long time. It’s been half a century since our graduation; since the original Woodstock Festival; since the first humans walked on the moon. The internet has been invented, as well as phones you can keep in a pocket, transforming the means of communication around the world. Is that communication any better, for being faster? Sometimes, yes. Other times, no. It depends on the people involved.

I’m looking forward to getting to know who the people, my classmates, are now, with an additional 50 years of life under their belts than when we shared those Benade Hall classrooms. We have all ‘grown up’, most have reached retirement age, many have had children and grandchildren, some have moved on to the next world. I’ve kept up with a few once in a while; most others I have neither seen nor spoken to for at least 20 years (since our 30th reunion or before).

Some people won’t be able to come. Some probably won’t want to come. I suspect that most of our paths turned out differently than we had planned or hoped for, and presented us with choices and options we had not anticipated. Did we always make good choices? Most unlikely! But did we learn and grow from making them? Most probably. 

“Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like ****.”   (from The Color Purple, Alice Walker)

We are allowed to see Divine Providence from behind but not face to face [i.e. after the fact but not before], and when we are in a spiritual state, not in a materialistic state [i.e. seeing it from heaven and not from this world]. (Divine Providence 187.4)

For how many is the New Church still central to their thinking? Have any shifted to other faiths, or away from any belief? If they’ve drifted away from religion, why have they? And even if they have, are any of the things they learned from the New Church still important to them? Do they still have dreams or goals to fulfill? Have they reached a place of mental peace? 

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. (Secrets of Heaven 8455)

Time and space are very real in this world, but in the next world they are states of mind rather than physical realities (still absolutely real, but not in the same way). Having moved far from my original home, I’ve come to believe that if a bond exists, our souls can subtly communicate, regardless of physical distance (even between this world and the next). Of course, in this world the internet helps!

None of us can truly know what path the Lord is leading someone else along – indeed, we often don’t know the path WE are being led along. This reunion will be a chance to learn about our different paths through life, about others’ particular choices along the way. I hope everyone who comes will be open to sharing some of this process, and be accepting of each other’s decisions. We are getting older – such an opportunity to really talk about how our lives have developed, with those we shared those important teenage years with, is unlikely to be repeated. Our bodies are aging; despite that, we are (hopefully) getting a little wiser. Looking back over our lives, can we see Providence in action? How far have we got with the command in Ezekiel 18.31 to ‘Make [ourselves] a new heart and a new spirit’? 

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)

Those who are guided by kindness … hardly even notice evil in another but pay attention instead to everything good and true in the person. When they do find anything bad or false, they put a good interpretation on it. This is a characteristic of all angels — one they acquire from the Lord, who bends everything bad toward good. (Secrets of Heaven 1079)

However our reunion turns out, I hope my old classmates are well on their way to finding acceptance of themselves and others, and that they feel confidence for their own futures. I firmly believe that the Lord – kind and wise father that He is – guides every one of us in the ways that suit us best, whether we acknowledge Him or not.