Manger Painting

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. . . And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was from the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed wife, being great with child.
And it came to pass, that while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should bring forth; and she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him in the manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. ” (Luke 2:1-7)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not one thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
And the Light appears in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. . . . He was the true Light, which enlightens every man who comes into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.
He came to His own, and His own took Him not in. . . .And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt in a tabernacle among us, and we observed His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-14)

I love how the deeper you go into the Lord’s Word, the more you find that it’s a continuous garment underneath, that can’t be divided or torn apart, even when the text is purposely obscure to protect against profanation. Over all the glory there is a covering, but for those who seek it earnestly, the glory shines through. I love how Nazareth and Galilee get mentioned with Zebulun and Naphtali, presaging the Lord’s ministry on earth. It’s also neat to see the progression between kings and governors riding on white donkeys, to Jesus prior to His glorification riding on a colt the son of a donkey (e.g. a mule), to riding on a white horse in His second coming.

Continue reading Manger Painting

But With God, All Things Are Possible

The holiday season is upon us, and it seems like a good time to ponder our readiness to accept the Lord in our lives. Christmas sparks celebration of the coming of the Lord into the world and into our hearts, but in the details of the Christmas story, many people were unprepared for this change: Joseph, Mary, and Herod, to name a few. This was surely not their original plan. Consider Mary’s response to the news of the Lord’s coming. 

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” 
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
(Luke 1:34-38

In my experience, opportunities to accept the Lord into my life are a whole lot easier when I’m prepared and looking for them. Here was a promise of something good, all tangled up in uncertainties. Yet Mary gracefully accepted: “let it be to me according to your word.” Joseph stood steadily by her when he could have walked away. The shepherds picked up and hastened to where Jesus lay. The wisemen diligently followed the star that led to Him. They all moved forward toward the call of the Lord without certainty or clarity of vision. 

Continue reading But With God, All Things Are Possible

Child Soldiers

Struggling with the eternal hells….

How can hell be eternal? In an earlier post I discussed the beliefs that had “worked” for me in my life. Today I bring up a doctrine that I have always struggled with. I know I’m not alone. It’s one of the hardest things to understand, and that is the eternity of the hells.

Here’s how my thinking goes. I understand that evils, confirmed in action, life, and with delight, are much harder to route out. I observe that, in our world, confirming and delighting in evils without civil or cultural checks, does take on a life of its own and does not naturally “right” itself. I also get that, if C.S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce” is to be believed, that you cannot have it both ways. “You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys,” he writes. “Evil can be undone, but it cannot “develop” into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound bit by bit ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’–or else not.” 

But my life experience shows me how much good can be found in even a relatively short amount of time (years, months, even days) by imperfect human souls and organizations. Working with legal offenders of various stripes through an organization that was dedicated to their reintegration as I did for several years, I was struck repeatedly with the myriads of ways that life is turned into lessons for anyone who is ready to change, and when things get really tough, that’s often the best time.

My worst fears are for child soldiers. How can these children, who are systematically trained to do terrible acts, and to love them, long before their minds and brains are developed and rational, have a shot at heaven? Also, I read in Swedenborg that parents can “close heaven” to their children, and I think, “Really?How can this be!” even as I see how it could happen. 

Continue reading Child Soldiers

Walking in the Light

I take my dog for a walk just about every morning. It’s good exercise for both of us, it gets us outside and into the fresh air. The sun has officially risen by the time we set out, during the wintertime, although it’s just peeking over the tops of buildings on the last stretch of our walk – heading toward the east, it’s shining right into my eyes, when there aren’t clouds obstructing it.

As I walk that last stretch along the sidewalk in our residential neighbourhood, I love to feel the sun shining down on me. Since it’s quite bright, sometimes I close my eyes, but I keep walking – it started out as a bit of a game, counting how many steps I could take along the [very straight] sidewalk before running into the grass on either side. First it was about 10 steps, then 20, then even 30 and a bit more – chuckling to myself all the while, thinking about how I must look like a bit of a ninny to any who witness me walking like a drunkard down the street at 7:30 in the morning!

More recently, though, I’ve chosen to let go of some of the stress that I noticed I’d begun to feel as I did that – worrying about walking off the path, tripping, counting steps, besting my previous accomplishment. I choose to just go, just be, to trust that I’ll be fine (and anyway, it doesn’t matter how many steps I take). To enjoy the sunshine on my face and closed eyelids. As I do that, I can’t help but think of the Lord, bathing me in His wisdom and love.

“….Wow,” I thought – “That’s a great comparison to how we ought to live our lives!” How many times have we been advised to ‘Let go & let God’, to trust in His Providence? Feeling the warmth of the Lord’s love, seeing – understanding – the Lord’s truths, really trusting that, with Him – turning to Him for guidance and living a life of love as He longs for us to do – all will be well. Amen to that!

In the spiritual world there is a sun. The Lord is in the center of that sun. From it He flows, through heat and light, into the whole spiritual world and into all the people there. All the light and heat there come from that sun. The Lord also flows from that sun, with the same heat and light, into the souls and minds of people [in the material world]. That heat, in its essence, is the Lord’s divine love; that light, in its essence, is the Lord’s divine wisdom. (True Christianity 641.2)

They who trust in the Lord continually receive good from Him; for whatsoever happens to them, whether it appears to be prosperous or not prosperous, is still good, because it conduces as a means to their eternal happiness.  (Arcana Coelestia 8480.3)

[As a bit of a post-script, I’ll add that, when the clouds do cover the sky and block any view of the sun, it’s fun to remember that the sun is still there – it hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s as close as ever! – just like how the Lord is a-l-w-a-y-s there for us; even when we can’t see or feel Him – well, we aren’t truly without light nor heat on such a day, similar to how we are never truly without His love & truth – even when it seems to us that He isn’t there, He really is, there are just some things in the way to our perceiving Him fully. These obstructions come from us, from our faulty natural inclinations,…. but that’s a story for another day!]