Category Archives: Article

Sports – Blessing or Curse?

This past winter our family went to a college hockey game. It was a blast. Lots of noise, crazy cheering, some unsportsmanlike booing, and a lot of social chatter. And, we got to watch twelve hockey players perform their always (to me) stunning combination of grace, speed, synergy, and tussle. One of the players’ mothers is a friend of mine, so we even had a team to root for.

I’ve loved sports all my life. In fact when Covid first hit in March 2020, it did not register with me until I heard that the University of Minnesota had canceled its entire spring sports season. My jaw dropped and I actually felt shaky.  For the first time I imagined the immensity of a problem that would generate this level of response. But even aside from that: how could we possibly live without sports? Our neighbor Jessie, who became a pride of the town placing first as a national discus thrower, never got to throw the disc her crowning senior year.

Just like in theater, where we happily “suspend our disbelief”  that the world being acted out in front of us is real, in sports we temporarily and eagerly engage ourselves in the belief that it DOES matter who wins. And how thrilling that is for those of us with that competitive gene. 

We know there are competitions in the spiritual world, and sometimes I think what I see here begins to mirror those events. With daughters who run and ski, we have become fixtures at cross country, nordic ski, and track meets. It’s amazing to watch runners mutually improve as they pit themselves against each other in practice, rising and rising to new heights of strength and endurance as they prepare to face the opponents from other teams. Around here, when two runners sprint for the finish line and cross close together they never check the scoreboard first. It’s the parents who try to figure out who won; the athletes simply embrace. 

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I’ve been thinking about gratitude lately. I often think of it as something to strive for and practice, but recently I’ve had some moments of gratitude sweep over me unexpectedly. It happens in the quieter, focused moments. A reminder to slow down, perhaps. To pay attention. In one particular moment, gratitude swept my heart off its feet a little and I was quickly aware how impossible it is for that to have come from me. It reminded me that the point of striving for gratitude in our lives isn’t just about being humble, but about actually letting the Lord into our lives and our hearts. The practice of gratitude is a calling, the feeling of gratitude is a gift.

Gratitude is so easily aimed outward – we identify things to be grateful for, and look for the Lord’s hand in our situations and good fortunes. It is good practice to attribute the good things in our outward lives to the Lord, but if we simply stop there perhaps we stumble into too external a picture of where the Lord is. After all, providence is about the good that’s allowed, that’s findable in any situation. It’s the ability to be grateful, turn to the Lord, and to live a good life regardless of whether our external situations are fortunate or not. So while I fully support being grateful for the good things in our worldly lives, I’ve lately been noticing more of how the Lord works within. I’ve been appreciating the great inward gifts that are the opportunity to see good and the push in my heart toward gratitude, which seem to come more deeply from the Lord, and sit more deeply in providence.

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Unwintery Winter

What if our winter is not wintery?

Toasty though it may be for those of you in the northern hemisphere, right now, the months of June, July and August are technically ‘winter’, down here in Australia. Winters in Sydney, where I live now, though, are nothing like winters in Montreal and Toronto, where I grew up, or even Philadelphia, where I spent my early adulthood. Those winters – ‘real’ winters! – were quite cold and, if we were lucky (unlucky?), lush with snow. Temperatures in Sydney have apparently never, in recorded history, dropped below freezing, although they’ve gotten awfully close, in my decade here! At any rate, we don’t get any snow – for better and for worse.

There are definitely perks to having such relatively mild winters. On a nice, sunny winter’s day, it can be warm enough to wear shorts and t-shirts, especially while engaged in physical activity in the sunshine. It tends to be chilly in the shade, but I can eat lunch outdoors, if I’m sitting in the sun, out of the wind. 

Nice though that is, I sometimes wonder whether we’re missing out on something – not just in regards to the aesthetics of snow or the fun we can have with it, but extending into the correspondence realm. Earlier this year I wrote about our individual perception of environmental stimuli, like heat & cold, and their correspondences to love and the lack thereof. I’ve since come across an article in a New Church Canadian from a few years back which extolled the benefits of winter, the hush and beauty of the pure, new snow. In it Rev. Jared Buss observed that

“Winter is a time for waiting, and for stillness; it represents a state of spiritual cold, a state of darkness, but it also illustrates for us how the mercy of the Lord is with us even in these states. He is with us, waiting for us to wake up, to warm up to His life. ‘Snow signifies natural truth, which is like snow when it is in the memory only; but it is made spiritual by love, as snow is made rainwater by heat.’ (Apocalypse Explained 644.13)”
(Jared Buss article in New Church Canadian, Issue 183, Jan/Feb 2018)

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Book Review: As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord

Rev. Brad Heinrichs’s latest book will be a useful addition to any New Church parent’s reading list. I was especially drawn to the subtitle: “Parenting Principles from the Word: Passing Your Faith to Your Children.” As a mother of four young children growing up quickly, this is something I think about often. Am I doing enough to introduce my kids to the habits and practices which will serve as a spiritual foundation in adulthood? 

Rev. Heinrichs, a husband and father of a large family, says people often ask him what the secret is to raising children who grow to love the Lord and His Word. As he sets out to answer this question, he notes that the first state of the church as described in Coronis is the appearance of the Lord and then a calling and covenanting. Instruction and introduction to the church make up the second state (47-52). With this in mind, he encourages parents to repeatedly call their children to the church and to remind them of the Lord’s covenant, just as the Lord called Abram, Moses and Joshua.

To this end, Rev. Heinrichs offers twenty principles drawn from the Word. Some are simple: remember the Sabbath, teach the Commandments, and work together as a family. Others are more challenging or less obvious: help children decide who they want to be, challenge “wild asses” to compel themselves, and encourage them to persevere. He elaborates on each point and offers supporting passages from the Word.

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