Category Archives: Article

Life In The Eighties

I am a New Church old woman of three score years and twenty-one, which is why this is my last contribution to the journal. There comes a time in our lives when ‘enough’ presents itself as a desirable option.

In the interests of the positive I believe that I should focus on gratitude. Our world today is not so different from the one I was born into: 1942 in Bonnie Scotland with the world at war. I could almost say that it is the same script with different players. Ego, revenge and greed continue to dominate action. But the earth is still vibrant with people of character whose principles and love of the Lord safeguard them against the most noxious evils.  Because we are all beloved children of God, we can freely choose to follow Him and fight our weaknesses with His help until we face the ultimate challenges of forgiveness and love for all. Hopefully, our aim will be to live long enough to overcome our grievances.

One of the sweet balms of old age is thankfulness. As I look at my life, I can clearly see the hand of the Lord’s agency at work.  I give thanks, too, for my children and grandchildren, whom I love and admire, and friends who have become family of choice. A happy marriage, too, is a constant source of blessing. Ken and I will celebrate our sixtieth wedding anniversary in January to mark a lifetime of comfort, support and joy. Perfection, of course, is unattainable in life, as we are fallible human beings, but eternity promises abundance.

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William Worcester’s Books

In the mid-1800s, a young man named William Loring Worcester and his father, Rev. John Worcester, took an unhurried camping trip in the valley of the Nile River and all over the Holy Land, consulting the Bible as they went.  Imagine these two, taking their time, finding and discovering the places they had only read about; and in that time period, much of what they saw would not yet have been greatly changed by the advance of modern civilization. Both men were significant figures in the early New Church movement in America.  They were particularly fascinated by and well-versed in the knowledge of correspondences, so that what they were looking at probably held unusual depths of meaning.  William must have taken copious notes and made drawings, along with taking black and white photos, as evidenced in the books he went on to write.  

The camping trip happened right after William graduated from Harvard, where he had studied science because his father advised him that a knowledge of science “was one of the best preparations for a New Church ministry,”* and William intended to enter the ministry. After the camping trip, William attended the New Church Theological School which existed at that time in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  William was then ordained and began his ministry as an assistant to Rev. Chauncey Giles in Philadelphia. (Rev. Giles is the author of the piece about the ministry of flowers which was the subject of my November 2022 post.)  

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Little and Often

Watching my two and a half year old clean up can be a painful experience. Pick up two board books, try to untangle a third from a blanket, drop one, pick it up, free the blanket one and bend to pick it up, drop the other two, pick these two up, step forward to get the third, stumble over the blanket, drop one, bend, pick up ALL three, take two steps, drop one. On and on. As an infinitely more capable adult (or big sibling) watching this process can be torture. The desire to step in and make it smooth, efficient, painless can be almost impossible to resist. But the most shocking part of the whole process is that, ultimately, it works. The books end up on the shelf, and my little girl is slightly puffed up with pleasure at a job well done. 

Why does it work? Certainly not through efficiency, speed or accuracy. It works through continual, small (sometimes futile) efforts. 

“Little and often.” I first heard this quote from my mom, which she heard from another artist about making time for creative efforts, but I’ve been thinking about how it applies to any effort—particularly spiritual effort. 

Turn to the Lord: think of Him, take a deep breath, trust Him for this moment, utter a tiny prayer. Just do it, it doesn’t have to be big and certainly not perfect. But do it often.

For years I have been trying to make gratitude a bigger part of my life. For the last year and a half that has taken the form of writing a daily gratitude for my husband. It is sometimes very brief, sometimes left undone for a few days so I have to play catch up. It sometimes feels manufactured and pointless, and I have to force myself to do it. Yet because I do it, taken all together my book of gratitudes is not so little. 

Little and often. Does this resonate with you? It certainly helps me to remember (for the eightieth time) that growth doesn’t have to (isn’t supposed to) be fast or big, it just needs to be worked at consistently. What are the little and often spiritual practices that work for you? 

I like the thought of embracing my inner two year old who is at once so maddeningly inefficient, and so impressively persistent. And if she can get the job done, maybe I can too. It’s of course not the sweeping change I want, but it is powerful. Because after all, the Lord Himself told us that this is how He will change us: “Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land.” (Exodus 23:30

Providence, Peace, and Cooking

Flowing, or stuck? In the stream of Providence

When my brother Danny died the summer after his senior year, the next senior class dedicated the Academy yearbook to him, inserting this quote on the dedication page:  “When the Lord is with anyone He leads him, and provides that all things that happen, whether sad or joyful, befall him for good. This is Divine Providence.” (Arcana Coelestia 6303

At different times in life I have found this to be an astonishing statement. Still more jaw-dropping to me are the references to the “stream” of Providence, such as this one: “Insofar as anyone is in the stream of Providence, so far he is in a state of peace.”  (Arcana Coelestia 8478

Can this really be true? Could it be that all our states of life other than peace come from our resistance to this stream? The smallest moments come to mind:  Irritation when my husband smokes up the kitchen from heating the pan too hot. Annoyance when an event is postponed, forcing us to adjust, or a phone call interrupts my work. To the biggest ones: Fear when a wildfire threatens nearby or a child gets seriously ill. Sadness when a loved one seems bent on a path of destruction. Anger when a mishandled medical situation leads to death. Could it be that these feelings and thoughts, especially when acted out, are simply ways that we have of turning upstream, or even just leaning sideways a bit so that we feel the pressure of the current? How many days or years have we spent clinging to a rock, insisting that we stay in the same place, exhausting and painful as it is to be resisting the current?

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