Leafing through the newspaper the other day, I came upon a food advertisement. With great big letters it read, "THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY VALUES," and in a little smaller, but still large, lettering it read 'OPEN HOLIDAY MONDAY 10:00 a.m. - 6 p.m."
I couldn't help but wonder whose holiday Monday they were thinking about. It couldn't have been the people on their own staff; they had to work on Monday to keep the store open for the public. I thought, because of the heading, that the ad was somewhat hypocritical. But this aside from the point I thought was worth pondering.
The point I want to make is the conflicting messages we get from newspapers and the world in general when it comes to making up our minds in what direction we should go with living our lives.
The two-page advertisement showed all the traditional Thanksgiving foods such as smoked hams, dinner hams, hostess hams and flat hams, as well as Grade A turkeys, Butterball turkeys, fresh and frozen turkeys. Included were of course the fresh cranberries, cranberry sauce, the good old pumpkin pie and other traditional items. Except for the heading, the display ad looked attractive and inviting.
Usually I am not very interested in food advertising, but I am inclined to readily read the columns in the newspaper. There were two small ones on either side of the large food ad which attracted my attention to the page in the first place.
The column at the left was entitled, "New Game of 'Fears' Booming." Let me quote from the content: "One of the most popular games today is terrorizing the North American household. It's fun - and profitable too.
"Among the players are the media, government, the business community, the fraternity of finance and science, and the outright exploiters. FEAR does sell! You can sell fear to anyone concerned about physical or economic well-being. If you don't think so, just take a look at the newspaper and magazine racks.
"You should fear and be worried about polluted water, dirty air, and a deranged climate, all at the same time. Other fears: How are your finances? Your financial plan should include procedures for handling the coming real estate collapse, the stock market collapse and the bank collapse. No matter what the politicians say, you should worry about higher taxes. You should worry, too, of taxes aren't raised, because then the federal budget will remain in deficit.
"Are you sure that you family isn't overdosing on vitamins? Are you consuming too many fats? Too much salt? What is your cholesterol level? Your blood pressure?
When I read these last remarks, I wondered what this column was doing next to that big food advertisement. Ironic, I thought. Would we have to worry about the Thanksgiving ham and turkey and Brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie with lots of country cream? Isn't that what it is all about: the traditional Thanksgiving dinner?
Sort of controversial, isn't it? On the one hand we love to eat our holiday dinner and are encouraged to do so, and on the other hand we are told that we should fear that potential killer of mankind. All this on the same page in the newspaper. To fear or not to fear Thanksgiving dinner: a question that puts us between a rock and a hard place, Who are we to believe? In whom shall we trust? In whose hands are we safe?
Psalm 128 begins with these words: "Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord; who walks in His ways. For you shall eat the labor of your hands: happy shall you be, and it shall be well with you."
As we are on this fear, this worry-kick anyway, are we now also to fear the Lord? Should we want to interpret the word fear in the psalm to mean fear as it was brought to us in the newspaper article, then we are really up the creek in finding some direction and peace in this world.
Or is it that if we fear the Lord, that we don't have to worry about our Thanksgiving dinner? Because it is stated that we shall be happy, and all shall be well with us when we eat the fruit of our labour, that is, if we fear the Lord.
Then again, what does it mean to fear the Lord, if we understand that the Lord loves us? Normally in this world fear and love don't go hand in hand. If we are not careful and reason from a natural point of view, we certainly add to the confusion by reading Psalm 128. That is indeed the danger of misunderstanding the word fear as used in the Bible, when we reason from our own worldly rational and intelligence.
Let us look at fear and worry feelings for a minutes in a little more detail. Worldly fear is brought about by thoughts of our own well-being in a physical world, while love is more a result of being in a spiritual freedom of choice. Actually, worldly fear is a condition that we ourselves bring about, albeit others might make us aware and strongly influence our feelings of fear.
I believe physical fear to be a very negative feeling, that we all have experienced at one time or another, and greatly detest. However, fear in a spiritual sense is to avoid, and not wish to do, those things which are offensive to God, ourselves and others. And thus the spiritual fear produces love as a result. Spiritual fear is the intentional and actual shunning of doing things detrimental to God's commandments. When the Lord says to fear Him in the Word, it means that we then love Him by turning away from self-seeking love and worldly distractions.
When we thank the Lord for the power of His love and the bounty He provides to us, our Thanksgiving dinner takes on a whole different aspect. Our Thanksgiving dinner together with family and friends will become an occasion of celebrating our trust and faith in the hands, that is in the power, of the Lord God.
The world will sell us the mental and physical fear and worry when we direct our efforts in living toward the physical and economic welfare of our being. Our natural worldly rational and intelligence cannot provide for peace of mind, when we are made aware of the worldly pitfalls that our physical and mental lives are being subjected to and challenged about in this world.
As a matter of fact, worldly reasoning and intelligence stand in the way of peace and thanksgiving. The peace of the Lord and our thanking Him for that gift are generated by our unconditional acceptance of the power of His hands. The unconditional acceptance of the Lord's love and power is nestled in our childlike innocence.
While we are living in this world, I believe it to be quite a struggle between the childlike innocence within us and the reasoning and intelligence of our natural mind. In general, we are not very appreciative of childlike behavior by so-called mature people. We are inclined to think that childlike behavior might be all right for some people who don't know any better. People who think and behave in an innocent sort of way are often called "simpletons" and we have a tendency to look down upon such people. The common thought and attitude in the adult world is that childlike innocent behavior belongs to children and should be dispenses with during the growing-up period.
The downgrading phrase, "Why don't you grow up?" is often used to voice the opinion that someone's behavior is evident of innocent thinking in the so-called mature and adult world around them. To believe in the Lord's caring hands with an innocent and unconditional acceptance, however, is the foundation on which spiritual rational is based. Spiritual rational often clashes with natural worldly rational. Worldly, mature, and adult rational thinking finds its roots in the bodily senses and pleasures. The natural thinking and behaviors grow with aging and are expanded upon during a lifetime of observations and experiences of the bodily senses and pleasures.
Physical facts cannot be denied in the physical environment we live in. Spiritual observations and experiences are abstracts in a physical world. In a physical world we are more disposed to accept what we can see and hear with our eyes and ears, than to accept the physical unseen and unheard. In many areas in our lives we do very much lean toward the idea that it is better to have "one physical bird" in the hand, than "ten spiritual birds" in the air.
Hence it makes it somewhat difficult for us to accept the Lord's words when He said, "Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never never therein." (Mark 10:14-15).
Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.
The Lord bless you from Zion. May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. May you see your children's children. Peace upon Israel!
Reading from Swedenborg:
A person's Own is mere evil, and when exhibited to view is most deformed, but when charity and innocence from the Lord are insinuated into the Own, it then appears good and beautiful. Charity and innocence not only excuse the Own (that is, what is evil and false in us), but as it were abolish it, as may be observed in little children, in whom what is evil and false is not merely concealed, but is even pleasing, so long as they love their parents and one another, and their infantile innocence shows itself. Hence it may be known why no one can be admitted into heaven unless one possess some degree of innocence; as the Lord has said:
Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter therein. And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed the (Mark 10:14-16).
Arcana Coelestia (Heavenly Secrets) #164