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New Church Perspective
is an online magazine with essays and other content published weekly. Our features are from a variety of writers dealing with a variety of topics, all celebrating the understanding and application of New Church ideas. For a list of past features by category or title, visit our archive.

Friday
Apr112014

What Harmony Is (Or: If You Can Sing, You’re Way Better At Math Than You Think You Are)

Using the physics behind music, Jeremy discusses why the world is a better, more interesting place because everyone is different. He also explains powerful ways to work to find common ground among all the different people in an amazing and beautiful way. This article was originally given as a talk to launch a spiritual growth group series on Living in Harmony at the Virginia St. Church in St. Paul, MN. -Editor.

“I was shown that angels cannot live together in blessedness unless they are the kind that can speak and act together. Blessedness consists in unanimity and harmony, whereby many, even very many, consider themselves to be a one. For from many agreeing together, or a harmony of many, comes a oneness, which results in blessedness and happiness and, from a shared feeling of happiness, a doubled and tripled happiness. (Emanuel Swedenborg, Spiritual Experiences, 289)

Swedenborg makes clear in many places that living in harmony is an essential feature of heaven and eternal life1. It is also a fundamental feature of his philosophy that we can learn much about the spiritual world by examining the natural world. So I would like to explore what we can learn about spiritual harmony (which to me implies getting along with others, and also living in a state of integrity where your deeds match your words and beliefs) from looking at the physical nature of musical harmony. In fact, I would not be alone in saying that musical harmony is such a profoundly delightful experience that it bridges the gap between the natural and the spiritual. Everyone knows that a beautiful choir can be a sublime experience, and I’m here to explore the physics of why that is.

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Friday
Apr042014

Having Fun with Snow and Mud

Managing the mud. Wystan uses very tangible images and experiences of early spring to raise larger reflections on the way life unfolds - often in messy ways. Each phase of season comes with a mixed blessing and a lingering resistance to moving into the challenges of the next. Wystan helps us see this in a broader context through a playful exploration of mud. -Editor.

I am thinking about snow and mud. On the one hand, three plus months of grey skies and wet to icy precipitation falling out of it leave us longing for the sunshine, gardens, outdoor games, and morning walks without a parka that are coming. And warmer temperatures means mud.

During every warming trend this long winter I was reminded of this fact. Every weather shift brought two simultaneous and conflicting emotion: “YES!” and “ohhh noooooo.” Muddy footprints cover the floors, muddy eggs fill the nesting boxes, mud-caked shoes pile up on the porch and are strewn through the hall, muddy drying doggie legs shed dusty sandy stuff in piles all night long.

This morning, as I plowed through my reading for Arcana class, the natural phenomenon of mud banged into a spiritual thought as I read

“A life of faith without love is like sunlight without warmth – the kind of light that occurs in winter, when nothing grows and everything droops and dies.” Arcana Coelestia 34(2)
In winter we have light, sometimes glorious sparkling light, and even some heat from the sun - snow melts even in very cold air temperatures when the sun’s angle is right. But all plant life dies or at least is at stasis. Things don’t grow.

And yet, it strikes me powerfully (as I stare at the floors of my house) how handy it is to have everything frozen up solid, compared to the mud of kinder weather!

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Friday
Mar282014

Meditate | Shoveling

Meditate is a monthly column in which insights gained from meditating on the Word are shared. We welcome your insights, too, in the form of comments or even your own article. Contact us if you'd like to write a submission for this column. -Editor

"Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity;
Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood.
He made a pit and dug it out,
And has fallen into the ditch which he made" (Psalms 7:14-15).

"The Lord witnessed the outer self at its most beautiful, when united with the inner self. He also witnessed what it is like when not united to the inner self (verses 10, 11, 12, 13 [quoted as follows])" (Secrets of Heaven 1538).

"And Lot raised his eyes and saw the whole plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered (before Jehovah had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah), like the garden of Jehovah, like the land of Egypt as you come to Zoar.
And Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan; and Lot set out from the east, and they separated, a man from his brother.
Abram lived in the land of Canaan, and Lot lived in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent as far as Sodom.
And the men of Sodom were very evil and sinful against Jehovah" (Genesis 13:10-13).

Lately I’ve had ample opportunity to witness what my outer self is like when not united to the inner self. It’s painful to witness the outer self chugging along in all its falsity and compulsion. What’s worse though is the stretch of time when I’m falling for it,

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Friday
Mar212014

Repentance: Incomparable Process of Life Change and Spiritual Transformation

This week Mark introduces the Begin A New Life program - a process using the steps of repentance as a means of self examination. He offers personal testimony as to the amazing, deep, and life changing process that is repentance. -Editor

On January 25th, a one-day seminar/workshop was held at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania (USA). Twenty-four people—college age and up—were there. The subject was the New Church’s “steps of repentance” as a disciplined spiritual practice1. The title of the seminar was Begin a New Life: Four Universal Steps of Life Change and Spiritual Transformation.

Begin a New Life is a universal, faith based process of life change and spiritual transformation. It involves a formatting of the steps of repentance into a set of worksheets which allows people to go through the process in journalizing fashion. It also borrows on Swedenborg’s full explanations of the Ten Commandments at two different points in the process—recognition and living a new life.

The purpose of this article is to give a testimony to the value of this process in my own life.

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Friday
Mar142014

Feeling the Lord's Love in Repentance 

This week Abby takes a fresh look at the concept of repentance in her life—a concept that once made her feel heavy and stuck now genuinely lightens her load. She finds that this welcomed, new perspective on repentance aligns more convincingly with her understanding of God's true nature—one of love and forgiveness. -Editor

By nature I am a person who tends towards negative, victimized ways of looking at my life. It has taken me years to nurture a more empowered and positive outlook. I feel like for the first time in my life I “get it” in a way that I never have before. Up until recently I think that any time I read the Writings or the Bible or really most any religious or spiritual work, I had the victim lens in front of my eyes. I understood the ideas, but they felt hard, depressing, and not particularly helpful in developing the happy, secure life I longed for. They didn’t feel like the evidence of an all loving and supportive God I hoped to have a meaningful relationship with. Everything felt sort of on the edges of application and realization in my life. But in the last 6 months things have changed for me, and I recently had a very uplifting and hopeful experience reading a passage I’ve probably heard many times before.

Being raised in a minister’s family, I have known the major ideas and teachings of the New Church for as long as I can remember. I don’t remember thinking about or hearing the word repentance for the first time, so obviously it’s been an idea that I’ve had in mind for years. I was recently reading the Seven Practices of Peace spiritual growth program produced by General Church Outreach and came across this sequence of quotes over a few pages (40-41). As I was reading them the idea of repentance struck me in a new way.

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Friday
Mar072014

The Power Of Positive Thinking

God has equipped us with many tools to give us a happy life. This week Mary describes the difference it makes in everyday life when we use our mental tools to choose trust, to work to understand, and to choose to see the peace and beauty in each moment. -Editor

Have you ever noticed that doing the same action can be changed drastically by your own attitude and expectations? For example, let’s say you have to drive 50 miles to get somewhere today. If you are on your way to a job interview, you probably left early, gave yourself lots of extra time, planned your route and spent the drive rehearsing what you will say. If you are on your way to see a loved one that you haven’t seen in a long time, you might be singing happily to yourself, noticing the sunshine or bluebirds and wishing you could just get there faster. But if you are running late to get to a meeting that you are dreading because you don’t feel prepared and you don’t like the people who will be there, you might be feeling very differently. It might seem like everyone is cutting you off in traffic, it is taking a very long time to get there, the sun is glaring in your eyes and you just spilled your coffee on your new outfit.

The Lord has been showing me that often the most important thing I have a part in is my reaction to what is happening. He might still ask me to do something for which I feel terribly unprepared. He might show me some frightening giants that I need to conquer in my spiritual life. I might feel like I’ve been captured and taken away into captivity at times. And I do still have to take responsibility to do the next right thing each day. But what if I had choices that could make all of it better? What if it could actually work out more smoothly and with less suffering because of something that I have been given the power to do?

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