Spiritually Speaking

Question: When our two daughters were young we did everything we could to make Christmas special. We taught them that it wasn’t just about gift giving and receiving, but about kindness and compassion to others. We also were then, and still now, active in a local Christian church. Our daughters were often in Christmas plays. Our family spent many Christmases first serving Christmas dinner to those less fortunate before we began our own celebration.

Now, as young adults, we have a difficult time getting these girls to church. We’re baffled because that’s not how they were raised. They are busy with college and living at home but still – we would like to see them attend church with us, even if infrequently. Please help us say the right things to help put them on what we consider the right track. ~ Unsure Parents


Dear Unsure Parents,

As a parent of three teenagers in high school, I certainly empathize with your concerns for your children to be in church. But as loving and good as that desire is that needs to be the result not the goal.

Let me explain what I mean by way of mini-testimony. Much like your children, I was raised with Christianity as my cultural heritage. For much of my young adult life I thought church was probably a good thing to do, but I had a long list of things I would rather be doing on any given Sunday. Going to church only became a desire of mine after I had a change in faith and believed in God.

My recommendation to you is to ask your children about faith, engage them in spiritual conversations and find out what they think and believe about spirituality and God. You may be surprised at how much things in social media have shaped your children’s thinking over your time in church.

To help you with this, I recommend a short article “How to Talk to Your Family about Christ, Spiritual Conversations with Loved Ones Do Not Have to Be Intimidating” at www.cru.org (http://www.cru.org/) (just Google it). I would also recommend you take the Alpha Course, which will help give you a simple, clear presentation of “Mere Christianity,” meaning the universal basics of the faith and not some denominational emphasis. I know Lake Avenue Church and Vintage Church, both in Pasadena, offer them regularly.

Finally, make sure you pray for your children’s faith. All good things are birthed in prayer!

May your Christmastide be blessed!

Fr. Rob Holman


Dear Unsure Parents,

I wouldn’t say your daughters are on the wrong track. You certainly gave your children a good beginning and that will follow them throughout their lives. Now they have busy lives studying for college classes so going to church isn’t a priority anymore. I went to church every Sunday growing up but when I went to college, I stopped. It didn’t mean that I had abandoned my faith; I just didn’t have time. But once I graduated, got married and had a baby, I returned with my child so he could go to Sunday school. And I’m still going.

Don’t pressure your girls to go to church with you. You don’t want to alienate them. Just be glad they had those years in church. I am now a senior citizen and just last weekend I was telling someone how much those early years in Sunday school meant to me.

Carolyn Young, LCSW


Question: I know this is a difficult question but I have to ask: Why do people do the things they do? Our neighbors have three beautiful young children. Both parents work and provide a nice home for their kids. The mom recently told me she was so happy to get much of her Christmas shopping done online.

Well, guess what? Even though the other neighbors and I have been vigilant about porch pirate thieves, four out of five packages were stolen from our neighbor’s front porch. We do have surveillance cameras and even though we have provided the information to law enforcement the thieves have not been found and arrested.

Many of us are retired and comfortable financially so we pooled our funds and anonymously sent gift cards to the neighbors who, at this time of the year and with the loss of gifts, can probably use the help. Were we wrong to help them financially? ~ Alarmed Neighbors


Dear Alarmed Neighbors,

First of all, that is very thoughtful and generous of you and your friends/neighbors to send the gift cards. No doubt they appreciate the kindness. And what you have done will return to you multifold at some point. It’s a matter of re-circulating the energy in whatever form it takes.

Your question of why do people do the things they do is a challenging one, for sure. And there is no clear-cut answer … because it involves humans and how we think and behave. Society has gone quite mad; values have changed, times are difficult, people are living in fear and lack … what the heck has happened to us?

And it’s people like you and your neighbors who are turning the tide, bit by bit, with kindness and generosity, love and support, positivity and good will that will overcome the world’s negativity and fear. Have faith in that. I do. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel … that’s where we ultimately will be.

There are no accidents in life. There is Divine Order and Divine Right Action always taking place, regardless of the appearances. I always try to look for the blessings in a situation, especially if it’s challenging. What happened to your neighbors may cause them to rethink things and have a shift in attitude and certainly they reaped the reward of receiving the kindness and generosity from others. And in turn they will pass their “reward” on to others.

I had my wallet stolen from right behind my back while shopping last Christmas. Oh gosh, such an intrusion and violation to my soul! After I quit asking, “Why me? I’m a good person, I didn’t deserve that,” I then told myself that I guess I made someone a nice Christmas with the gift cards, charges and cash that they took. It released my anger. And now I always watch my purse. “Trust God and tie up your camel,” it says in the Bible.

The Universe is so abundant. There really is no lack and limitation in God’s world; only humans believe that. That’s why they take from others. I believe it’s all energy, circulating, giving and taking and returning to us what we give out. And when a violation happens to us it’s time to step into love and forgiveness in the situation. This may sound crazy but it’s a healthy way to deal with humans who we may never understand.

Many blessings to you and your neighbors. May the good you do keep the ripples of love and light in the world moving toward peace.

Laney Clevenger White, RScP Emeritus laneycl@ca.rr.com


Dear Alarmed Neighbors,

Response: You have two questions. The first is basically, “Why is there evil in this world?” It is a legitimate question and deserves an answer. Unfortunately, I am only allowed 500 words for this article, which I continually exceed anyway. A clear and concise response would take a couple of pages and well beyond the scope of this column. However, for your own mental exploration, I will briefly say we live in what appears to be a divided and dualistic world of light and dark with every possibility in between. When the mental passions of fear and desire (which we are all subject to as human beings) are combined with ignorance, there is always a chance for the possible appearance of what we consider evil.

Your second question is basically, “Was it okay to give them the money?” As one would expect, living in a seemingly dualistic world, we have mixed views on giving. On the one hand, in the Christian religious tradition selfless giving to assist another is a virtue. On the other hand, there are strong political beliefs in this country that any giving, especially of money, is wrong and ultimately harmful to the recipient. So what is the truth?

There is a wonderful line in the old hymn “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing,” which is “Streams of Mercy (aka Grace), never ceasing.”

I am of the opinion that we all live a life of Divine Grace. Grace is that which is given. Everything we receive, no matter from whose hand it comes, is an act of Divine Giving and continuing example of Divine Grace and Mercy. If we could see with the “single eye” that Jesus talks about, we would recognize the underlying unity that sustains the multiplicity of creation. In other words, we would see the primacy of the “Kingdom of God” throughout the world. We would see that all we need is already there for us. The receipt only awaits our asking and/or our acceptance of the Divine gift. As a brief aside, I am amazed at how many of God’s gifts we turn away because we do not feel worthy or entitled to them. I once knew a young man who turned away the love of a woman who was his heart’s desire. He did not feel worthy of her because she came from a higher social/economic class. They were both heartbroken. A good example of evil brought about by fear, desire and ignorance.

While God is the giver, we are not only the receivers but also God’s agents for His gifts in this world. God does for us what He does through us. He uses our individual hands and our individual agency to help, to bless and to raise up one another. Often we are not even aware of the gifts and life lessons we give to others, but God is … streams of mercy, of grace and blessings, ever flowing and never ceasing. In the selfless and compassionate gift to your neighbor, you were an agent of, and a channel for, God’s grace in this world to bless humanity. No regal crown, no order of esteemed knighthood, no human honor is greater than being chosen as His servant to give to and bless others.

As to your concern whether or not they needed the money, I am certain you saved Christmas for one family. But even if the money was not needed, perhaps what was needed for them in your gift was a manifestation of, and a renewed faith or reaffirmation in, the Divine goodness and love that sustains this world especially when that whole notion was being challenged by the theft.

You may never receive a thank you from the family for your anonymous gift. But that doesn’t matter. The thanks is ultimately always due Him anyway.

In my opinion, your selfless act of service was your own return thanks and a gift to the father of us all on Christmas. God bless you for that.

Anthony Kelson, RScP