Happy New Year to each and everyone of you wonderful people out there take care God bless
I’d like to wish all you wonderful people out there
social media family friends
and also throughout the world and some
a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
take care of yourselves and stay safe
may God bless
My daughter Bridget died 21 months old. She had never walked or crawled but could sit propped up. She couldn’t see. She was born three months premature, the first of twins. Her brother was stillborn.
She was a much-loved sister to my three grown-up stepsons. She gave so much joy in her short life.
After the shock of her death one of my first thoughts was that now she would be able to walk and skip and run and move about like other children – and see! She would be able to see other children and play with them.
What a surprise it must have been to her to ‘wake up’ and see people. What a strange experience for her, never having seen anyone before. I wonder if an angel mother held her while she moved from our world to the next. She had been used to the sense of touch, of being held, and that would be comforting. Seeing would be a strange new dimension in a whole new world.
That she could run and see I had no doubt. Her frailties of this life belonged here. She had, so to speak, emerged from her frail body like a butterfly from a chrysalis, leaving behind all the infirmities associated with it. This was the image I had of her – a young child running and skipping and seeing. A loss to us, but such a gain for her – wholeness in body and health.
She had hydrocephalus and was in hospital because of a blocked shunt preventing the water draining from her brain. My last real memory is of holding her in my arms in the ambulance as she was transferred from the local to the specialist hospital.
Bridget was in hospital. I was at home when she died. I wasn’t there with her.
I can imagine her being held by an angel mother as she left this life; just held in the comfort of those strong, loving arms for as long as it took to be ready to ‘waken up’ in her new life.
She would be bathed and clothed and fed by her angel mother and cared for in her home. The body she now has is in every way like the physical body she had in this world except that it is of spiritual substance, not material. She has a head, body and limbs, eyes, ears, nose and mouth and senses.
I wonder if her angel mother held her hands while she took her first steps. Did she crawl first of all, trying out her new-found strength in her arms and legs, and pull herself to her feet? What an adventure! What a brave new world opened up to her!
I wonder how many other children her new mother had? How many new brothers and sisters for Bridget to play and grow up with? For grow up she would eventually. She would grow and develop in her new home with her new family.
Initially resting in their loving sphere and tender care she would come to know them and they to know her. Her mother would know her needs. All in the next life are aware of each other’s thoughts and feelings. Nothing is hidden. They are who they are. No dissembling.
As Bridget got used to the new strength in her body, what freedom she would find moving about, exploring! Before, she had only been able to be where she was placed, unable to move around. I imagine there would be lovely gardens to play in, water to splash about in, sand and clay to build and mould.
I’m sure she would learn by imbibing things from others and doing as they did. She would learn to speak the soft-sounding language of heaven and watch dramatic presentations – a great way of learning.
In her young innocence she would grow up nourished by the love of those around her. She would gain knowledge and understanding, learning that, all she has, is given her by her Heavenly Father. She has no good of her own but receives it as she learns to live a useful life loving her Heavenly Father and her brothers and sisters – all God’s children. She will grow in wisdom.
She will be ‘naughty’ like all children, going her own way until she feels the sadness this causes others.
I wonder if she has a partner, a husband? She would have been 33 years old by now – no longer my little Bridget! I shall have to think of her now as a wise and loving angel!
Is she caring for other children newly-arrived from this world? IS she teaching them as they grow up? She won’t have the joy of children of her own but she will have the joy of sharing her happiness, innocence and love – these will be her children.
How I look forward to being with her again one day!
“All children, no matter where they are born, within the Church or outside it, of devout parents or otherwise, are received by the Lord when they die and educated in heaven.” (Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell section 329)
Copyright 2012 Mary E Duckworth
Posted on29th August 2012
InJuly of 2009 we found out that my husband Garry had stage-four lung cancer. It had metastasized to his hip, there were twenty spots in his lungs, and it was also in his lymph system—a very grim picture.
Around the same time that we started chemotherapy for Garry, health problems for my eight-year-old twin children came to the surface. My daughter was diagnosed with asthma and my son was diagnosed as failing to thrive. My world was being totally flipped upside down.
I was determined to find some way to deal with the cancer, to fight it. That summer I happened to go to a lecture about a natural health center called the Well of Life Center. I was blown away by what I learned. It confirmed everything I had thought to be true about health, that God designed our bodies to be self-regulating and self-healing. God brought us to the Well of Life and gave me something to hold on to. It was a ray of hope for me.
We started our journey working against all odds. Lung cancer has a no cure prognosis. All four of us started going to the Well of Life and we changed our diets in many ways. I set up nutritional supplements for four people every day, different ones for each person, morning, noon, dinner, and night, but every time I did I said, “Thank you, God!” I felt like God was there in a tangible way, helping me by giving me something useful to do in my day to day life. He gave me a clear path. It was a lot of work, it was not easy, but I had direction, I believed in it, and I did it from love. That’s how I survived.
It worked! We had two years of incredible progress. My daughter’s asthma was healed and my son has gained fifteen pounds in three years. Even with Garry—for an entire year, even till he died, his lungs were clear, his hip was clear, and his lymph system was clear, and he had a good quality of life. We got so close to healing him and he did not suffer the death of someone with cancer in their lungs.
But they never scanned his brain. Lung cancer commonly spreads to the brain, but we did not know.
Near the end of the second year, Garry’s thirty-year-old daughter, Eva, was killed in a head-on car crash. Six days later, he started having a headache. Garry was always prone to headaches and he was grieving so we thought it was grief.
He went on with his headache for awhile. He didn’t tell me how bad it was. He got more and more tired and we kept thinking it was grief. Finally I said, “You need a break.” I told him, “You’re getting a scan in ten days. Your doctor talked about giving you a break from the chemotherapy. Why don’t we start the break now when we are on vacation?” He agreed and went off the chemo. We went to Virginia for a vacation and he started having problems. He looked to me to have Lyme symptoms and I gave him supplements to help with that.
Down in Virginia, we ended up having to take him to the ER on day six of our vacation. They did a CAT scan and found what looked to be brain cancer. They helicoptered him to another hospital for further diagnosis. There I was, watching my husband be flown away and I had to take the kids back to where we were staying, prepare for an overnight, and drive across the Skyline Drive to the hospital, not knowing what to expect when we got there. We got to the hospital and Garry was sitting in the ER waiting to be seen. They did an MRI but wouldn’t have the results soon. It was late and I had to get the kids to bed, so we sadly had to leave Garry a second time late at night. We drove to the condo (an hour and a half away). On that drive, I looked for God anywhere I could find him. We were crossing the Skyline Drive and there was the full moon. I felt like God was pouring his light on us in this dark moment.
The next morning we packed up the condo for leaving and went back to the hospital. It all seemed surreal. They gave us the results of the MRI and said, “You can take him home. We think he’ll be okay for the car ride, but if you have a problem go immediately to an ER.” By the time they could release him it was late for the five-hour drive home. So there I am, crossing the Skyline Drive again in the middle of a July night and there’s that full moon. Garry was lying in the back of the van sleeping and the kids eventually fell asleep as well. It was just me and the moon, and I felt like God came in and touched me. I looked at that moon the whole way back. It kept me going and it kept me focused. With two little kids and my husband in so much pain, I felt like I was all I had. The one place I could turn was to God. He brought me home that night. He also sent us two angels: our close friends and neighbors Lisa and Chris Knight were waiting for us to help us unpack in the middle of the night.
After we got back, the doctors said to him, “There’s nothing we can do for you, so we want to give you palliative treatment and do whole brain radiation.” The doctors would not listen to my concerns about Lyme disease and no biopsy was done that summer. At that point, I went to a really bad place for two days, a place of absolute despair, a place with no hope. After those two days, I said, “I can’t live my life in this state. I have to have hope.” I chose to live in hope and walked away from that dark state.
The radiation didn’t help but rather started damaging his brain. We were not allowed to go to Well of Life during radiation. Garry suffered tremendously. Then the third and last time we admitted Garry into the hospital they said, “He’s got more spots that are wrapped around his spinal cord. We can do whole back radiation, but we don’t think it’s worth it.” They said he only had a few weeks left. He actually only had about six days.
I realize now that I was dealing with circumstances I couldn’t change. His brain was deteriorating. But instead of giving up I kept trying to help in any way I could, even if that meant simply staying by his side, caring for him and loving him. God’s love also reached us through the many caring people that surrounded us.
Despite how hard it was, the love that we experienced together during that time was powerful. We were in a heavenly sphere even as we were going through all this hell. Just as God gave me the gift of the moon, he gave me this sphere during those last few weeks. I look back and I feel like God was there. During that time, I’d say, “I love you Garry,” and I’d go to kiss him and he’d kiss me back, even though he couldn’t say anything. He knew I was there with him. Our love transcended the moment, as it does to this day.
That last night, a family member was taking a turn staying by Garry’s side. I had a sense about it and said, “I need to sleep here tonight.” (A brother of Garry’s, Robin, had spelled for me one night so I could get some sleep.) The kids said, “If you’re going to be down here, we’re going to be down here!” So we went up and dragged another twin bed downstairs, and the three of us slept down with Garry. He was in his hospital bed. We said the Lord’s prayer and then the kids said, “I love you daddy,” and the one standing next to him said that at that moment he smiled. He could hear that. He didn’t respond to anything by that point, but he heard them and smiled. He died the next day.
It is a gift to have the belief that death is about the person transitioning to the next world. We knew he was being released from his body. He wasn’t just dying, he was going to the other world and we had this precious time to love him before he left.
I learned in the recent Journey program that you need to store up good things to help you with the bad, and I finally understand how those good things help sustain you so that you can handle all the hardship. The spiritual level, that heavenly sphere, was sustaining me through all the other struggles and challenges. Mentally I was frazzled, emotionally I was devastated, physically I was deteriorating, but spiritually I was thriving.
I realize now how this life is all about the other world. For a while Garry had resisted our dietary changes. Later, after attending a men’s gathering in Bryn Athyn, PA, a light switched on for him and he said, “I didn’t get it before. I’m totally committed now.” He made more changes in his lifestyle, and I thought to myself, “We have had more than six months of clean scans”—at that point—“He’s gotten so much healthier. He’s going to survive this!” And then all of sudden, he’s dead. I realize now that I thought his changing was to help his physical body live. Instead, it was a spiritual transformation he needed to go through on this earth, in preparation for his work in the other world. Only when you look at things from a spiritual perspective do they really make sense.
Ours is a journey for heaven, not for this earth. And mine has taught me that God is with us, taking care of us, and will sustain us even through the darkest times—and this he does through love.
Garry and Lisa are both 1972 Academy of the New Church graduates. Garry died Sept. 25, 2011, also father of: Norah (36), Amanda (30), and Adam (28). Lisa lives in Bryn Athyn with her twins, Ryan and Abigail who are currently in fifth grade. Lisa does part-time publication and marketing work for New Church organizations as she navigates the roles of being a single parent and leading her family through grief.
“We are, because God is.”
Divine Providence 46
Discovering inner health and transformation
We are each conscious of our own sensations, thoughts and feelings. My thoughts are my own thoughts and yours are yours. Having this sense of individual consciousness we each feel separate from others. I live from and for myself and you live from and for yourself. It has been suggested that this sense of individuality naturally results in self-orientation, and a consequent risk of falling into an illusion of self-sufficiency. The argument goes that the trouble with relying on oneself is this can result in egoism and a lack of social responsibility. But is this true?
Lack of social responsibility
I’m reminded of a story about a young man who left his family and friends to travel abroad alone. He asked his father for what he felt he deserved and thought he could be happy spending this money only on himself. He used up all his cash wasting it on trivia, mistakenly assuming this would make him happy.
He made himself destitute and suffered hardship. Only then did he realise his mistake in assuming one can be independent of other people in one’s life. He took this lesson on the chin and went home with his tail between his legs. Those familiar with the Gospels will recognise this parable about repentance and forgiveness. But is it not also about the need for community and a sense of social responsibility?
Personal rights and social responsibility
The young man in the story insisted on what he regarded as his rights and only later realised he had duties of social responsibility. This insight is echoed in the words of an American President.
” We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defence.” (Barack Obama)
Difficulty exercising social responsibility
Obama’s sentiments are those with which most of us can readily agree. But how do we put them into action?
Many non-religious people see the importance of altruism and mutual interdependence rather than egoism and selfishness. Many atheists and agnostics value compassion and forgiveness.
“Be kind to people on the way up – you’ll meet them again on your way down.” (Jimmy Durante)
Nevertheless putting such principles into practice can be very hard. It is one thing to be interested in others and their needs when one can benefit oneself from any formed relationship. It is another thing to be genuinely caring when there is no chance of meeting someone again and no chance of getting anything back for oneself.
Religion and social responsibility
Being a member of many types of group such as one’s family, offers a sense of identity and encourages conformity to ethical conduct. This is also true for example for sports, professional, and political groups: I’m thinking of the ethics of sportsmanship and professional confidentiality. However, it might be argued that none of these groups provide the feeling of belonging & social responsibility one can gain through membership of a religious group. Such an association can provide its members with a notion of eternal group membership, and promote the highest principles of integrity and compassion.
Arguably it is religion – through its provision of community support and moral teachings – that has the best claim to encourage us to learn about genuine care for others. It is Christian scripture that talks about ‘love to the neighbour’. And this idea of ‘neighbour’ is taken as more than the person who happens to reside next door. We are invited to sympathetically consider the needs not just of a person with whom we have daily contact but also those of our community, country and for that matter the whole human race.
Religious groups provide a distinctive world-view. They do this through fostering transcendent experience linked to moral education & encouragement for forgiveness, self-control and service to others. I have been to several Christian churches which I have felt have succeeded to a large extent in fostering an atmosphere of friendly care and social responsibility. It doesn’t always happen, and small congregational numbers can greatly reduce a church’s community presence. However, when a congregation is spiritually alive and strong, it is able to address the needs of lonely individuals as well those needing comfort and relief from distress. It also offers hope in a God who is the source of love.
Conclusion about social responsibility
All good people, whatever their beliefs are united because there is an infinite creative force for all that is humane in the world. I believe this force is the underlying God of Love and Wisdom at work in the world who inspires mutual help and the spirit of care.
We all can have a connection with this Divine Humanity through connecting well with other people.
Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands
Posted on3rd September 2015
Happy Mothers Day
To say that each of us has an internal “self” and an external “self” is not particularly revolutionary. We all have a natural sense that our thoughts and feelings are “inside” us and our bodies and actions are on the “outside” of us.
As Swedenborg describes it, though, “internal” and “external” are a little more nuanced: He divides our thoughts and feelings themselves into internal and external, with internal thoughts and feelings being those about spiritual things and concern for other people, and external thoughts and feelings being those that are about external concerns in the physical world.
So let’s say you’re cooking your family’s favorite dinner. When you’re measuring ingredients, setting the oven temperature, thinking about when to start cooking something to be done at a particular time, that’s all external thinking. When you’re imagining how happy your spouse and children will be, how nice it will be to sit down to eat together, feeling a sense of joy in doing something nice for people, that’s internal thinking and feeling.
So which is more important? Ultimately, our place in heaven (or hell) will be determined by what we love, what makes us happy. So it’s clear that ultimately internal things are more important. That makes sense because they feel “higher,” like they come from a part of us that is more “us.”
But externals are important too. For one, they give us the opportunity to express our internals. If you only think about that meal but don’t actually cook it, you won’t be sharing your love with your family in a very complete way. For another, our externals give us the chance to change. We can make ourselves do what’s right in externals even if we don’t really want to, and if we keep at it and ask the Lord to help He will ultimately change us so that we love to do good things.
Swedenborg makes one other key point about internals and externals, which is that while internals can “compel” externals (your deeper thoughts and feelings can control what you do on the outside), your externals cannot “compel” your internals (what you’re forced to do on the outside cannot control your thoughts and feelings on the inside). We see this all the time when one nation tries to rule over another, or when a repressive regime tries to control its own people. Ultimately hearts and minds cannot be controlled.
This is key when we are trying to help others: You might be able to force someone (your child, say, or your student, or someone who works for you) to do what you think is right, but unless you can appeal to his or her internals, you’re not really changing anything significant.
It’s also key when guiding ourselves in our own lives: Forcing ourselves to do the right thing is meaningless unless we also start an internal dialog about what we truly want and truly think, and start opening up inside to the Lord.
Many working mothers feel torn between staying at home to look after the children and going out to work to earn needed money. With the high cost of housing in the UK, being ‘a stay-at-home mum’ is often not an option.
Yet such working mothers may feel guilty about not being around for their children to give them sufficient needed love and support. So when can mothers go back to work and what more can fathers do to help? Different family circumstances obviously influence what parents feel about these questions. Nevertheless there is usually some scope for personal choice. Here are some questions that might guide the judgment.
After child-care costs and extra travel are taken into account, is the extra income worth the candle?
Even a small candle might make a huge difference when money is extremely tight. Could the father earn more money by taking on over-time or extra responsibilities at work? Or even trying to find a better paid position? For exactly what are the extra earnings thought to be needed? Is the money required to pay vital bills like food, and house rent? Or is it wanted to keep up the same standard of nice things bought before the children came along, like fashionable clothes, good mobile phone, stylish car. Could some lifestyle aspirations like wanting a better house be postponed?
In addition to financial reason does the mother want work partly because of boredom?
Many a mother longs for a change from nappies, toys, stories, and crying kids to an interest outside the home. Variety is the spice of life and personal fulfillment is something that is multifaceted.
Does social pressure play a role?
‘Stay at home mums’ are widely thought to be ‘old-fashioned’ whereas working mothers more with it. I get the impression the message from government is ‘go back to work’ and for young children to go to nursery, often full time.
Would a job and contacts made at work stimulate the mother?
This might result in a energised state of mind at home. Or is the job likely to make her so tired that she has less get-up-and-go for doing things with the children and less patience with their ordinary demands, noise and untidiness? If so, can the father help compensate by say doing more housework, taking the children places, and re-organising his own work to create time for looking after them. Could the couple afford a cleaner if there is extra income?
To what extent could others provide caring love?
At unpredicatable times children need attentive listening, kind words, physical expressions of love, family fun times. With both parents working, there would be less shared meals for the whole family to come together in harmony. Could this be offset by more contact from family friends and relatives invited to visit the home?
Do the parents feel it is their role to be around to show the children what is right and wrong?
Choice of a suitable child-minder with values shared by the parents may be an acceptable alternative. On the other hand a succession of child-carers, with none of whom the child able to form an attachment, might mean to some extent loss of a good role model with whom the child identifies. The legal responsibility of being in locus parentis does not necessarily imply exercising all parental responsibility for administering discipline and instruction.
Are the children old enough to learn some measure of self-resourcefulness by experiencing being on their own more?
Children might benefit by being obliged to get their own tea, to take responsibility for securing the home, and to get on with self-planned activities. It is also potentially useful to learn to be a bit street-wise. However, depending on where one lives, this might lead to getting into mischief if easily led. The age and maturity of the child dealing with independence comes into play. Are they ready to look after themselves until an adult is around? I understand that loneliness, boredom and anxiety are more likely to occur in children when left in the house alone if younger than 10 years of age.
Is it necessary for a parent’s career to be put on hold for several years until it is possible for it to be resumed with full-time working when the children are old enough?
If so, re-training will probably be expected. And the worker may need to accept a drop in position due to interrupted experience. Is the parent in question prepared to accept this sacrifice?
How is putting under-three olds into a full-time nursery being considered?
What is the attitude of working mothers to the psychological theory that children need to form a secure attachment to at least one special person if they are to thrive and that if mother and child are separated too soon, this attachment is undermined and health and well-being can be impaired. An alternative view holds that infants can receive good child-care outside the home and that the attachment to the mother is not broken but merely put under strain as contact is resumed each day after work.
Is it thought that women on the whole are no better than men looking after small children?
If so, then whichever parent would earn the less might be the one chosen to stay at home. What attitude is there about working mothers replacing working fathers?
Spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg suggests that women are more suited for this role. He writes that women tend to be more in touch with their emotional side and that there is a spirit of tender affection for children that they more readily receive into their hearts than do men. He attempts to explains this in terms of a spiritual sphere of innocence and peace from heaven which he says directly affects infants and is expressed in them. More about possible gender differences.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Many a parent wonders how good they are at the job. According to the Chief Inspector of Schools, David Bell, many parents fail to impose proper discipline in the home and simply put children in front of the television rather than talk and play with them.
Many studies have described a bad parent as being neglectful or over-controlling. For example, professor Dieter Wolke at the University of Warwick found that such negative parenting is linked to a moderate increase in the risk of being a bully and a small increase in the risk of being a victim of bullying.
None of this may be true for your children. Nevertheless, perhaps as a parent with a conscience you fear you are not giving them enough of your time, or haven’t found the right way to balance being both warm and firm with them in a consistent way. Here are some questions that can help you assess just how good you are in the role of mother or father.
Are you too scared to let them do their own thing?
There is probably a natural urge for any parent to want to jump in to protect the child at the slightest hint of danger. Pamela Druckerman, an American mother living in Paris, said that her heart would regularly jump when walking around her neighbourhood because a French parent often lets small kids race ahead of them on the pavement. They trust their children will stop at the corner and wait for them. “ Watching this is particularly terrifying when the kids are on scooters.”
It is hard to get right when to allow children to learn from their mistakes. Too lax, and you might have a serious injury or worse on your hands. But too protective and your child never experiences sufficient sense of autonomy and does not learn to be street-wise with the self-confidence that goes along with this. The key I feel is self-reflection. What is your inner attitude? Do you construct worst-case parent scenarios or are you able to calmly assess the realistic risks?
Do you get too angry about their failures?
It is surely only natural to feel disappointed from time to time with children’s conduct and performance. Feeling cross for any parent is understandable when we see them being naughty. However, does this anger last? Are we furious when they do poorly on the playing field, or at school tests? For example the aggression and foul-mouthed behaviour of some fathers watching their sons play football. I would argue that such anger expresses an attitude that the children are there to fulfil the parents own frustrated ambitions. Something similar can be heard in the conversation between mothers who politely vie with each other to boast about their own children’s accomplishments.
Do you resent the inconveniences they cause you?
Baby’s cry loudly if uncomfortable and hungry and mothers quickly respond with selfless affection making things better. However, as they get older children also make their demands. And often for their own good they will need you to drop what you are doing to talk with them. How willing are you to spend time with your child doing an activity he or she enjoys even when you are tired or want some time to yourself? It is often personally inconvenient to have to attend to someone else rather than what had been occupying you.
Have you the patience to try to understand how they feel
Focusing on what children are saying and doing is necessary if a parent is to show empathy whilst firmly defining boundaries around right and wrong. If you treat your children with understanding then they will likely treat others the same way. Only your patient communication can help them gain appreciation of what is deeply important and learn to deal with their negative emotions in the context of your loving concern. But trying to talk with kids along such lines may mean a great mental effort and can be emotionally taxing.
Is it too painful for you to let them fly the nest?
A parent who clings to older offspring, failing to provide the slight nudge when it is needed for them to start to live away from the parental home, is doing them no favours. Such a parent seems not to realise that it isn’t about releasing kids into the wild and abandoning them. It is just recognising that a young person is someone in his or her own right, — a separate being with their own life style choices, need for privacy and individual ambition and thus the need to live their own life.
Do you envy them?
Carol Ryff, a psychologist at University of Winsconin found that parents, who thought their kids were better-adjusted than they themselves had been in their twenties, weren’t all that pleased. In fact, thinking their kids were faring better than they had made them downright grumpy. Grown children may evoke envy in some parents and the sense of missed opportunities.
The spiritually-minded or materially-minded parent
According to one point of view, parents who are inwardly self-centred and materialistically minded are more likely to be negative parents. Emanuel Swedenborg wrote that these parents — who he termed ‘naturally-minded’ — feel affection for their small children “kissing and embracing them, carrying them and hugging them to their breasts and make a quite excessive fuss of them.” However, with the growth into adolescence these same parents :
“Pay little or hardly any attention to their inward affections, …but only to the outward features which they find attractive. It is to these their love is attached, fixed and clings. This makes them also close their eyes to their faults, making excuses for these and favouring them. The reason is that in their case the love of their offspring is also a love of themselves” (Emanuel Swedenborg CL 4645)
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on15th May 2013
Discovering inner health and transformation
Stella is known as a winner of BBC tv’s The Apprentice
Her childhood was a painful one. “It was quite a lonely hard time for me.” Her father had abandoned her at a young age, leaving her mother Drusilla unable to care for her due to psychological ill-health. It wasn’t deliberate neglect. Her mother couldn’t look after herself let alone a daughter.
Stella was able to do more or less what she wanted and she didn’t know right from wrong. She says she didn’t go to school much because of being bullied there due to her appearance.
She also spent time in children’s care homes and was taken in by her great aunt, Mrs Brockman, (also called Stella) who raised her in loco parentis. However she missed her real mother and moved back with her when aged 14 – only to find her lifestyle was more chaotic. At 15 she was living alone in a run-down bedsit.
Thamesmead a place Stella once called home. It is a social housing development built in the 1960s on former marshland with a population of some 50,000 people. It has graffiti-lined avenues known for their high crime levels and grey concrete buildings.
It has had the worst record for credit card fraud of any postal address in the country. In the 1990’s teenage gangs intimitated people on the streets. The area was then known to be associated with poverty, gang violence and race wars. There were racially motivated murders although these days there is better racial co-existence in sharp contrast with the not so distant past.
Stella mixed with some hard people, is street-wise and knows how to look after herself. She drank in one of London’s roughest pubs, The Wildflower, in the heart of Thamesmead where gangs with knives and clubs would fight after hours.
Stella however has made something of her life. She studied a one-year business course before adding City firms such as Merrill Lynch, Nomura and Daiwa Securities to her CV.
She won the prestigious BBC business Apprentice contest. She lives in St Albans with her partner and 2 sons.
Stella has bettered herself. If she can do it, anyone can. As she says ‘You are in charge of your own destiny’. She has shown a lot of determination.
Stella was cared for by great-aunt then aged 72. Stella says ‘Her fostering me was life-changing. “She was very strict. I went from having no rules – or if there were any, ignoring them – to having lots of rules”. “She made me do 3 hours of homework a night.”
Stella now wants to help find foster homes for the thousands of youngsters in the care
system. A report to mark the start of Barnardo’s Fostering and Adoption week now reveals at least 8,750 new foster families are urgently needed.
Posted on11th January 2012
How to be happy in your marriage
Often on television today weddings are portrayed as joyful events while marriages look like a burden. Carry the contentment and joy of your wedding day on into your life together.
We live in a world that is saturated with images of happiness. I can be driving along contentedly when I see a billboard that instantly convinces me that I would be happier if I stopped and bought fries and a cola. But wait! I don’t even like soda! Other commercials convince me that happiness comes with a new car. Without my paying attention, that message takes root in my brain. Ideas of what happiness looks like are imposed on me from the outside all the time. But, I can also choose to take the lead. I can promote feelings of contentment with what I already have.
I heard of a man who loved and missed his wife deeply after she died. One way he nourished that love was to take her framed picture with him wherever he traveled, unpack it first and put it up in plain view. Another couple I know say their wedding vows on the first day of every month, to strengthen their commitment. Sometimes they are not feeling especially happy when they start, but we can lead our feelings with greater intention than comes from glancing at a billboard.
My own dear husband has a new motto. He says “You are my highest priority.” Sometimes it is completely heartfelt, and other times I wonder if he is reminding himself. I, too, have been known to forget. Often in our marriage support groups we start by inviting couples to tell the story of how they fell in love. It is delightful to see the change in them as they speak, taking out memories and dusting them off.
I have never played football. But I have watched movies of people who do. I have seen teams that were discouraged slump in at halftime and hear a pep talk that rejuvenates their resolve and sends them tearing back onto the field. They have learned ways to shift from hopelessness to cheering with abandon.
Recently, there were people who went to great lengths to get tickets to the World Series games in Philadelphia. In a depressed economy they were still highly motivated to spend a month’s mortgage to be at a game in the pouring rain that they could have watched from their cozy living rooms. Imagine if we put a similar amount of effort and commitment into creating happiness in our marriages!
We can choose good things for our marriages. We can look at pictures of our ideals instead of advertising for fast food and cars. We can recite the words that once came so easily, and so invite those feelings to return. We can tell our own stories and hear them anew. We can find a coach or mentor who can cheer us on at halftime. We can choose to attend a conference that surrounds us with a community of love for marriage. And maybe we will find ourselves in the midst of a jubilant parade, celebrating the victory of marriage.
Lori Odhner is the Director of the Caring for Marriage program. Learn more at www.caringformarriage.org
“When truth is used in life, it becomes good.”
Apocalypse Revealed 17
Our early impressions of God are strongly intertwined with our early impressions of our parents. After all, when we are young children, our parents are the ones who clothe us, feed us, teach us, and sustain us—they act in some ways as surrogates for God. It’s no surprise that so many religious traditions, including Christianity, refer to God as a divine parent.
If it’s true that our ideas about parenthood shape our ideas about God, it’s also true that our understanding of God shapes how we raise our children. If we think of God as stern and dictatorial, we’re likely to be stern and dictatorial as parents. If we think of God as gentle and warm, we’re likely to act gently and warmly as parents (or at least try to!).
The Swedenborgian understanding of God comes from reading the Bible with the firm conviction that God is love and that Jesus is God. The picture of God that emerges in this reading is one of a God who loves each and every person in creation, who protects human freedom as the apple of his eye, and who always acts for the eternal welfare of all. Looking at those attributes, we can draw insights into how we might better imitate God in our parenting.
Here are three ideas that have been particularly valuable to me as a father of two young kids:
1. Loving your child means loving everyone else’s children, too.
There are passages in the Bible that explicitly suggest acting in imitation of God. Several of them have to do with loving as God loves. This means loving not only ourselves, our own families, or people who agree with us, but loving even our enemies:
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44–45)
What does this mean for parenting? Because we know our children’s hearts, we can be tempted to assume that in any conflict, they are in the right. But if we’re called to love as God loves, then we’re called to extend love to other people as much as we extend love to our own kids. Obviously, we will feel a stronger affection for our own children, but we are called to act as lovingly even toward strangers and those who seem to be our enemies.
This doesn’t mean we have to choose between loving our children with all our hearts and loving everyone else. One of my favorite Swedenborgian concepts is that in the long run, caring for an individual and caring for the good of all make for one and the same thing. For example, if we teach a child to care for the less privileged, we’re serving the less privileged and our child by creating the foundation for a life—an eternal life!—of joyful service. It’s not an either/or situation, so it’s a useful exercise to ask in any situation whether there is a course of action that will be best both for our children and for everyone with whom they are interacting.
2. Protect your child’s freedom and sense of self—even if it’s easier not to.
My personality is such that I find it much easier to just do things myself than to try to help others do them. In some situations, this is a useful trait; in many others, though, it’s a failing. This is particularly true in parenting: it is much easier to pick up after my kids than it is to coax them to pick up after themselves. It is much easier to wrangle over my son’s head whatever shirt I choose than it is to patiently wait while he tries to choose between dinosaurs and robots.
It is significantly harder to offer a child freedom and a sense of self than it is to do everything for them. It takes much more work, but I remind myself often that the work is worth it. We do have to set limits, of course. But within those limits, it is vital that children be free to make choices and to have a sense that they are acting from themselves.
The book Divine Providence expresses just how much the Lord cares about human freedom. One of the Lord’s greatest gifts to us is heavenly freedom: the sense that we act from ourselves and that from this we have the ability to act with free will. According to Swedenborg:
The Lord protects our freedom the way we protect the pupil of our eye. The Lord . . . is constantly using our freedom to lead us away from our evils, and to the extent that he can do so through our freedom, he uses that freedom to plant good things within us. In this way, step by step he gives us heavenly freedom in place of hellish freedom. (Divine Providence §97)
It’s not easy to watch my kids make choices I don’t want them to make. But I remember that it’s not easy for the Lord to watch me make choices he’d rather I didn’t make—and yet, he keeps giving me the freedom to make those choices. I think it’s important that I offer the same gift to my kids.
3. Discipline with a purpose.
I firmly believe that there is no inherent value in punishment—it must always be for a purpose and never simply for payback. The prophet Ezekiel records God as saying, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 33:11). If God allows punishment, it is never for its own sake; it is always so that the person may “turn and live”:
People have charity and mercy . . . when they exercise justice and judgment, punishing the evil and rewarding the good. Charity is present in the punishment they inflict, because zeal moves them to reform the wrongdoer and to protect others from the harm such a person might do. In the process they are looking out for the best interests of the wrongdoer, their enemy, and are wishing that person well. At the same time they are looking out for and wishing well to others, and to their country itself. (Secrets of Heaven §2417)
As parents, we are required to instill discipline in our kids. While discipline is much broader than consequences or punishments—involving other such things as establishing routines—it does still have to include these kinds of corrective actions. With all our choices in this area, we need to be asking ourselves the following questions:
- How will this disciplinary action help my child make a better choice next time?
- How will it help protect the child herself and the people around her?
So we should keep some things in mind:
- Encourage our children to think about what they might have done wrong and what other choices they could have made.
- Help them come to those conclusions themselves; but if they are unable to do so, always be very clear with them.
- Demonstrate, when possible, a clear connection between consequence and behavior (e.g., “I am going to take away the baseball bat for a week because you had trouble stopping yourself from hitting the walls with it, and that hurts the walls.”)
- Let them know they are still loved, and let them know you believe they can make a better choice next time.
There are thousands of different perspectives on exactly the right way to set up discipline. Find what works best for you and your family, but make sure it follows these guidelines: it will work to help the child in the long run, and it will work to keep the child and others safe. Remember the first principle mentioned above: from the eternal perspective, loving our children well and loving our neighbor well make for one and the same thing. This is the perspective of God, who desires what is best for all of his children.
Coleman Glenn is an author and a New Church minister currently working with General Church Outreach in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania.