New Ways

hand of friendship

We are living in chaotic and uncertain times. Events in the Middle East and in North Korea are affecting the whole world and the threat of yet another war hangs over our heads. Meanwhile, the war on terrorism is going in circles. Those seeking the terrorists are begetting more terrorism in retaliation for their actions. Can this cycle ever end? Is revenge really the answer? If not, what is?

The answer is the opposite to revenge. It is God’s way of responding with understanding and love. To understand that we are all in the same boat is the first thing. We all have a dark side that gets us into trouble and needs to be faced up to and dealt with. Difficult life circumstances bring out our destructive behaviours and this is how God brings these behaviours to our attention. Anger and bitterness are the terrorists within us and, just like the terrorists outside of us, the more we fight them on our own strength the more they endure. What we resist persists.

But when we allow God’s love to heal the hurts of our past, the impulse to hurt back is quietened.  By the same token, if we were to respond to the terrorists of the world with efforts to understand the reasons for their crimes and make approaches towards them from concern for their welfare as fellow human beings, we should find that the violence abates considerably. A person needs to be listened to and heard and to allow acceptance and love to heal their hurts. This doesn’t preclude putting them behind bars to think about what they have done and for the safety of others. But we are all one human family of many colours, races, and creeds. This is illustrated in the Bible in Romans 12:4, 5:

We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different functions. In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body.

Verse 17 says:

If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.

Let’s take a new approach to solving our problems and bringing us all back together as the one body of humanity, bridging the gaps in our relationships and seeing if we can’t appreciate the wonderful diversity among us.  Everyone is in freedom to choose who they wish to be in this life so we should not judge but celebrate the magnificent variety in the body of humanity, a picture of the infinity of God. Let us be united in love for one another and look for ways to shine a light on our dark side so that healing can take place.

There is the promise of a new future for all of humanity and it is pictured in the Book of Revelation by John’s vision of a golden city coming down out of heaven. This city is now descending as we join together from all corners of the globe with love in our hearts to show the world a new way of being – a way of peace and harmony for everyone.

Jenny

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Happy New Year

worshipping

It is easy to believe that our happiness depends on things outside us – wealth, “success,” status. But is this true? When the children got their presents at Christmas, they were over the moon but that happiness did not last long. The happiness of so many married couples on their wedding day lasts only a few years. Some people have a naturally happier disposition than others.

According to one author, happiness is an inside job. In other words, it does not depend on external things but on inner ones, i.e. attitudes and beliefs.

A happy person in biblical times was Asher. He was Jacob’s seventh son. His name literally means happy or blessed. We are taught in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg that the twelve sons represent all the spiritual qualities found in a loving and wise human being. Happiness is one of them. So, yes, God’s goal for all of us is to find the happiness of heaven. Our problem is that we often suffer the illusion that happiness is an “outside” job and not an “inside” job. Asher represents happiness that comes from charity. Here charity does not mean giving to the poor but acting from a love for our neighbour.

Spiritually, our “neighbour” is what is good. This goodness is the presence of the Lord in ourselves, others, organisations and communities. If we seek to love and serve this in our work and relationships we will find the happiness of heaven growing within us. It will be quietly present despite difficult and unhappy circumstances. If we can continue to patiently and courageously love what is good then God can flow into the situation and in time will be able to bring good out of it not only for us but good for all. This is what many have found who have had to face the consequences of disability and disease. They become opportunities to find a deeper happiness.

This is in contrast to the experience of people who love themselves and material things above everything else. God’s blessedness does not exist in any way at all with those whose dominant delight is that of self-love and worldliness, for these loves are quite the opposite of it. People ruled by these loves, therefore, are not at all able to understand how any blessedness can exist apart from that of being promoted to important positions, being venerated as if they were gods, having an abundance of riches, and possessing more wealth than others.

Do notice the list of priorities for people who have self  love and worldliness as their motivating loves. This is the list which the world promotes through the media and accomplishments of many of the rich and powerful. The media also shows us the sad consequences for many of them in realising their dreams of happiness. Despite this, we human beings are still attracted to them  like moths to a candle.

The new year is a good opportunity to run our goals and ambitions for the coming year past God, the Source of all happiness. We may need to adjust and balance them before being fully committed to them. He is quite clear in his guidance to us. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

John Sutton

Our Freedom Restored

rejoicing

There was great rejoicing when Christ was born. The angels, the shepherds and the wise men joyed at his coming. People knew from the prophecies that a king would be born who was to be a saviour but they thought he would be an earthly king and would save Israel from Roman oppression. However, his kingdom, he said, was not of this world. He came to free us from slavery to our own selfishness and negative emotions and to show us the way back to innocence. This is why he was born as an innocent baby – to show us that the true essence of the infinite God is pure innocence.

According to the Writings of Swedenborg, it was the infinite God, the Creator, who had come in human form. He put on a physical body through his mother, Mary, so that he could experience life as we do and at our level. He was able then to be tempted in all respects as we are and to overcome those temptations. Each one of us is influenced at all times by good and bad spiritual spheres and we are in freedom to choose which influences we will allow to affect us. At the time of the Lord’s coming, people were no longer in spiritual freedom because the bad spiritual spheres had come to outweigh the good ones due to mankind’s fall into self-love – the love of dominating over others – and materialism. Innocent people were being possessed. God came to earth to give us a way to come back to him. Through Jesus’ life of fighting against and overcoming the influence of the hells on people, he restored freedom in the spiritual realm so that we can once again choose the right path.

When we are tempted to do harm or break any of the commandments, God gives us the opportunity to take a step towards innocence. This is the state of harmlessness and complete trust in him (pictured by a tiny baby). We all start out in a state of innocence but over the years it becomes covered over by our reactions to adversity and negativity. If we look for it we can see the innocent goodness that God planted at the heart of every person in their infancy. This is the state that God wants each of us to gradually return to, with a difference. The difference is the wisdom we gain through our life experience.

Let’s not get so caught up in the shopping, planning and partying this Christmas that we give no thought to the real reason for the season. It is a time for rejoicing. God came to our earth as a little child, a human being, in order to restore freedom to a fallen world. This is good news and certainly something to celebrate.

Jenny

Following the Star

Star of Bethlehem

The three wise men from the east followed a star until it took them to the young child, Jesus, who had been born in a lowly stable because there was no room at the inn.

We can also follow a star to find the Divine presence because a star represents the truth coming to us from heaven. The Writings of Swedenborg explain that the star the wise men followed was in fact a community of angels, whose message was clear to the men. They knew that the star signified that a saviour had been born and they were keen to find him. What we now know is that the wise men who came from the east represent characteristics within ourselves. We each have wise qualities which can know through our intuition (the inner promptings of the Spirit) the truth about the deeper meaning of the Word or Sacred Scripture. When we see a truth in the Word it is like a star lighting up in our minds and guiding us closer to heaven.

So when you see a star atop a Christmas tree, think of God’s ever present love and light shining through the angels who are with us into our minds and giving us the message that we can find him in every moment of our lives when we make room for him in our hearts.

Our hearts are like a humble stable when we allow innocence to be born there because a stable is where the gentle animals come to feed. These harmless animals picture our affections for what is good and true. They are like our love for being useful to others and being gentle in our dealings with others.

May you find peace and joy this Christmas in the promise of new life being born into human hearts as we make room for the gentleness of innocence in our busy schedules.

Jenny Keal

Reflections on the Sea

Sea

I love the sea with all its moods and mysteries and I can’t imagine living away from it.  I can sit and just look at it for hours, thinking about and imagining the life that exists beneath its surface.

Besides an interest in the fish that live in it, the sea is fascinating because of its correspondence with the literal sense of the Word.  “The sea corresponds to a knowledge of good and truth such as in the sense of the letter of the Word” (Swedenborg).

Like the sea, the Word has hidden depths within it.  In one sense it deals with the darkest and deepest aspects of our natural mind but it is also a source of food for our minds to grow in spiritual things.  Fish correspond to the living facts that sustain this life.  No wonder fish are called brain food!

When we look at the sea, we can regard it as a medium of separation between lands and people and that is often how some people regard truth.  They apply it in life in a divisive way, to condemn and judge.  However, the sea, like the Word should be seen as a medium of joining people together.  By sailing on the sea we connect to other land masses and peoples just as the Word is the means by which people are to be connected through living a good life according to it.

The storms on the sea are a reminder to us of the inner spiritual struggles we undergo as we battle to live by the Word.  Life can be reduced to chaos as the old is broken free of, but after the storm there is the calm.  Peace and stillness come from the Lord.

Living by the sea is a wonderful blessing, not just for the recreation and fun, but for the profound lessons that can be drawn from seeing it as a true symbol of the Word.  As the sea is vital for natural life on this “watery planet,” so is the Word for our spiritual life.  Therefore it says in Isaiah 12:9, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

Richard Keyworth

 

The Body of Humanity

One Humanity

It is not an accident that there is so much diversity in spiritual practice and focus in the world. In God’s eyes, humanity appears as a single body, made up of many and various parts and members. A body could not function if it were, say, just a head, or all legs! Every part has a vital unique function. In a healthy body, these parts are working together in harmony for the benefit of the whole. There are messages passing from one part to another and a sharing of resources; there is a feeling of well being and sense of purpose and fulfilment. At present the earthly body of humanity is not well. There are blockages in communication and inflammation areas, even open wounds. There is starvation and poverty for some and wealth and abundance for others. We are not listening to one another, learning from one another, nor are we sharing. We are trying to make everyone else comply to our way of thinking –be just like us. Some members have been hurt by harsh treatment and are reacting violently. As we know, if any member of our own body is hurting, our whole body is affected. Waging war on the affected parts can only result in more pain. There will never be peace in this world until we are all one.

Being all one does not mean being all the same, as I mentioned before. It means honouring the uniqueness of the individual parts. If we are to bring unity or wholeness to this world, we must bring healing to the hurting parts – embracing our dark side (the wounded emotions behind the violent outbursts), listening, learning, supporting, healing, forgiving, peeling back the layers to find the innocence within, nurturing that goodness, turning ourselves around to the light of God’s love.

Can we really make a difference to the body of humanity? Maybe not all at once on a grand scale but we can start small with the people around us. Little by little the ripples will move out and become examples for others to follow.

Jenny

City of Light

Golden City

The Bible begins in a garden but it ends in a city. Revelation 21 describes it as a holy city, coming down from God out of heaven, beautiful as a bride. The walls shine like clear glass, there are gates all around that are always open, the streets are gold, and the Tree of Life is in the centre on either side of the river of the water of life. There is no night in the city for the glory of God is the light. All the imagery in this depiction of the city add up to one thing – a picture of a beautiful future for the whole human race. It’s a picture of peace and happiness coming to earth, which will become nearer and nearer to reality as we learn to live in harmony with one another, coming together from all directions to do good in the world.

Every time we pray in the Lords’ Prayer “Thy Kingdom come,” we are praying for peace on the earth. But “the kingdom of heaven is within you,” in the world of our thoughts, feelings and intentions. We must first make ourselves an inhabitant of God’s spiritual kingdom before it can be manifested around us. Can we honestly and courageously look for ways to bring the vision of the city into reality? It is not a vision just for Christians but for all people of all races and creeds because the gates are open in all directions inviting all to enter. Only those who are searching for the truth and long to live the life that leads to heaven will find the gates. These are the people of God’s universal sheepfold, who come with God’s love in their hearts and a desire to do what is right and good.

This week, the world celebrated global oneness day, a day for all people of all faiths to unite in their love for humanity. A love for humanity is a love for God because He is the Divine Human Being and all those who unite in love for humanity are part of God’s body on the earth and in heaven. Let every day be a global oneness day so that peace may reign in our hearts and eventually throughout the world. This is the vision of the golden city coming down to earth and we are all invited to be a part of the wonderful community of love pictured by that city.

Jenny Keal

The Rainbow

rainbow

 

All of creation is a theatre representative of spiritual realities.” – Swedenborg.

According to Swedenborg, the most ancient people saw God’s messages to them in signs in the world of nature. To them, everything in nature corresponded to something spiritual. This ancient science of correspondences was how God spoke to those people before writing was invented. It was passed down by word of mouth and became the stuff of myth and legend. But it still applies to this day and can be applied to every story in the Word of God. One such story is the one about Noah and the rainbow and God’s promise to never flood the earth again on such a scale. The story goes that Noah and his family had just survived that massive flood and had been saved from destruction by taking refuge in the ark. The personal message for us is that, like Noah, we go through times when we are almost overwhelmed by floods of negative emotion and false reasoning. When we are going through those dark times in our lives, it is like the clouds overshadowing us and blocking out the sun. But that is when we see the rainbow because the sun never goes away. It reflects off the droplets of water in the clouds and a rainbow appears. We only see the rainbow when the sun is behind us and this is significant because, when we are going through bad times, we can’t see the Lord (represented by the sun) working in our lives. It feels like He has abandoned us. But then He puts a rainbow in the sky and that is His sign that He is still there, even in the bad times, working behind the scenes to bring good out of every situation.  When we see the rainbow and realise what it means, we will never again be overwhelmed by the floods of negative emotion that arise from being blamed for others’ wrongdoing or hated for doing what is right.

So, whatever befalls us, no matter how bad, we can be sure that God is watching over us with love and tender care. Next time you see a rainbow in the sky, remember that it is a sign of God’s promise to take care of you. It is God telling you that He loves you.

Jenny Keal

The Stream of Providence

Christ

From Swedenborg’s Arcana Caelestia 8478:3, 4 we learn that:

Those who trust in the Divine, though concerned about the future, are not anxious or worried. They remain even-tempered whether or not they realise desires and they do not grieve over loss. They are content with their lot. If they become wealthy they do not become infatuated with wealth. If they are promoted to important positions they do not consider themselves worthier than others. If they become poor they are  not made miserable either. They know that for those who trust in the Divine, all things are moving towards an everlasting state of happiness and that, no matter what happens at any time to them, it contributes to that state.

The Divine Providence is over all, that is, it is present within the smallest details of all, and people in the stream of providence are being carried along constantly towards happier things, whatever appearance the means may present. Those in the stream of providence are people who trust in the Divine and attribute everything to God. But those not in the stream of providence are people who trust in themselves alone and attribute everything to themselves.

The whole universe is governed by the Divine Being, who is God. God is love and this love flows out to each and every created thing, bringing joy and peace to those who receive it and allow it to flow through them into the world. With God’s love flowing into us, we need never be anxious because we know that, whatever happens to us in life, that love will sustain us and make us grow to be the person we were created to be. No one needs to fear what the future may hold because, if they trust in the Divine, they will be carried along in the stream of God’s providence, which will take them to a good end.

Jenny

A Legend Brought to Life

Earth and Sky

As this is Maori language week here in New Zealand, I thought I would offer you a different angle on the Maori legend of Ranginui and Papatuanuku and the solutions that may be drawn from it to address the problems of today.

In the beginning, Ranginui (Sky Father) and Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) were united in a firm embrace. But they were forced apart by their many offspring, who wanted space, independence and freedom from their parent. Ranginui’s light shone dimly and coldly with the warmth of his mate, Papatuanuku, who lay in darkness.

The Powerful Ones trampled Papatuanuku underfoot. They stole the cold light of truth from Ranginui and from it formed Authority over the others. They twisted it into harsh Rules and unfair Regulations. This lead to oppression, injustice, inequality, anger, bitterness, and strife among the people, some of which has lasted to this very day.

What is the answer? What can we do?

We must bring the spirits of Ranginui and Papatuanuku back together again. Let Papatuanuku’s nurturing, loving qualities warm and soften the cold light of truth, making it flexible, yielding and fair. And let Ranginui’s light brighten and give direction to Papatuanuku’s love so we can act wisely for the good of all people. May the union of their spirits give birth to new offspring – Forgiveness, Wisdom, Justice linked with Mercy, Kindness, Compassion, Equality, Peac, Harmony, and Freedom. Let us embrace these offspring and become a united people, caring for one another, and each one of us taking responsibility for the care and protection of this beautiful land.

Jenny