Category Archives: Article

Being Mary

Last year Jenn shared with you an article about Rebekah which had been presented at one of her Australian New Church Women’s Weekends. This November, in preparation for Christmas, they looked at Mary, Jesus’ mother. Below is a condensation of what was presented; it’s still long, but hopefully informative and enjoyable. It might be helpful to read the gospels to familiarise yourself with the different parts of the story as it is presented in the Bible. 

Mary is a well-known character from the Bible, because she was the earthly mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ – the cornerstone of our entire religion. Although she’s referred to earlier, in the prophecies about the virgin birth, she is named for the first time in the genealogy of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew where we read that “Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah”. All we really learn about Mary from the Bible pertains to the conception and life of Jesus, in which she is mostly on the periphery – except for in the Annunciation, when the angel tells her and she accepts that she will bear a son. Little known to people in the New Church, however, there are books that deal more with the pre-Jesus Mary and tell more about her life during His, and afterward. These are the apocrypha, biblical books received by the early church as part of the Greek version of the Old Testament, but which were not included in the Hebrew Bible that we use. They are not considered divinely inspired but are regarded by some as worthy of study by the faithful as ‘useful for instruction’ – although by others as ‘quite unreliable, sometimes childish and fantastic’.

In these writings we learn about Mary’s parents and her own immaculate conception (meaning that she was conceived in the usual way but without any sin whatsoever; in fact, many believe that she was perpetually a virgin and completely without sin, throughout her life), about the fourteen steps she took at the age of only six months, her presentation at the temple as a young girl, her betrothal to Joseph as a young woman, additional details about the Annunciation and the birth of Jesus in a cave (at which midwives confirmed her virginity), and intriguing particulars about her reactions to each of these extraordinary events in her life – plus more, about her years after Jesus’ death and her assumption into heaven.

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Wiggling My Toes

I’ve had braces for the last two years and I had upper jaw surgery a few months ago as part of the process.  This week I had the bottom brackets removed – I’m getting so close to the end of what’s been a long and often painful process. One of the things I’ve reflected on in these years is the power there is in focussing my attention.  

On Monday at the orthodontist I used a tool I learned as a small child – wiggling my toes.  I had a lot of dental work as a kid and for almost every appointment my Dad would be there, squeezing my hand, rubbing my leg, reminding me to breathe, and sometimes he would tell me to wiggle my toes.  I followed his coaching and while I don’t think I realised it at the time, it almost certainly made a huge difference in the moment of my experiences.  It calmed me to hear him and feel his soothing touch.  And to wiggle my toes drew my attention away from the pain in my mouth and helped me to notice that there were more parts of my body.

So earlier this week at the orthodontist, when there was a sense of building discomfort and I was starting to worry that I wasn’t going to be able to keep still and calm, I wiggled my toes.  Only after I wiggled my toes did I remember that I wasn’t really breathing and I took some good, deep and steadying breaths.  And quickly the hyper-focused feeling of hating having to squish my tongue at the back of my mouth was replaced with feeling my chest move up and down and laughing inwardly at my toes wiggling ridiculously at the end of the chair.  And my body could be calm a while longer.

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What Exactly IS Conjugial Love?

 Let’s say you are driving a kid somewhere in the car, or you are teaching Sunday school, or you find yourself in a late-night conversation with a young relative, and you get hit between the eyes with this question – what exactly IS conjugial love?  If a teenager asked you this question, what would you say?  I would love to hear other people’s thoughts. Here’s what I have come up with so far. 

As I have thought about this question, I keep coming back to the idea that we are spiritual people inhabiting physical bodies.  So I might begin by saying that it’s a love the Lord can give that unites a man and woman at the most inner level of their real selves, the selves that will last forever, as well as their outward level that they show to the world.  I might say, I think you can start by considering the truth that you are a spiritual person, temporarily inhabiting a physical body while you live in the physical world. If you aren’t sure what you think about that idea, try asking yourself whether there’s more to you than your physical body and its workings.  I expect most people instinctively realize that there is more.  After all, you started life in a baby’s body, and your body has changed drastically, but you are still you.  When your body starts to wear out as you age, you will still be yourself.  Old people are sometimes surprised when they look in the mirror, because they have forgotten for a moment that their body is old – they don’t feel different inside from the person they have always been.  And when your body dies, you will still be yourself.  You yourself are something much more alive and more enduring than a physical body.

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Lately I’ve been reflecting on what makes a place feel like home. Our family moved from Toronto to Pittsburgh this summer and I’ve found that the act of “settling in” is made up of a myriad pile of puzzle pieces. They come in a jumble of shapes and sizes and when painstakingly put together (in any order), they somehow make “home” happen. The big ones that spring to mind are these:

Bringing my family with me
How lucky am I that I get to bring my husband and children with me wherever I go? They say home is where the heart is and it’s true. Making memories with my family in our new home makes it feel like we all belong there. 

Annoying bureaucratic “grown up” chores
In my humble opinion, this is the worst (but necessary) part of moving. New driver’s licenses, finding a new bank, new doctor, new dentist, school paperwork, transferring information from the last place you lived to another, letting EVERYONE know your new address…does just reading this stress you out? It sure has that effect on me so let’s move on to the next category.

Figuring out where staple places are located
The grocery store (not to mention how to navigate said grocery store), the library, the best spots for buying clothes and shoes for your family, a hair dresser…all the essential “will visit regularly” places. This is Step 1 of this piece of the puzzle. Step 2 is that glorious moment when you go out to run an errand and don’t need a GPS. 

Discovering local treasures
Local parks, restaurants, date night destinations, zoos, museums, theatres, eating any signature foods that your new area is famous for (Fries on salad, anyone?). Soaking up local culture and charm always makes a place feel more like home to me, as if by sampling the treasures, I get properly adopted by my new city. 

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