Do Children Have An Innate Spiritual Intelligence?

I recently saw the movie Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Adapted from a hugely popular 1970s novel by Judy Blume the film tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl just on the cusp of puberty whose family moves to a new city.

Margaret is anxious and worried about this move as well as about lots of other things. Will she find new friends? Will she ever have a big enough chest to get a bra? When will she get her period?

The role of Margaret in the film is played brilliantly by Abby Ryder Fortson

Margaret starts confiding in God, talking to God almost every night about her worries and concerns and asking God for help.

Margaret’s loving and caring parents played by Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie

Interestingly however Margaret has had no religious upbringing of any kind. Her father comes from a Jewish family and her mother’s Christian parents disowned Margaret’s mother because she chose to marry a Jewish man.

Because of that Margaret’s parents have brought their daughter up without teaching her about either faith or introducing her to any religion of any kind.

Still………when Margaret finds life overwhelming she turns to God. Where does she get her idea of God? She has never seen her parents pray. Why would she pray? Does she possess a kind of innate spiritual intelligence?

Margaret Sinetar in her book Spiritual Intelligence: What We Can Learn From the Early Awakening Child says that all children show signs of spiritual intelligence whether or not they come from families where they have been taught about religion.

Thomas H. Groome, a professor of theology and religious education at Boston College and author of Educating for Life: A Spiritual Vision for Every Teacher and Parent agrees that children are born with a sort of innate sense of awe and reverence and creativity and an openness to the mystery of the spiritual.

He feels it is important to ground children in a specific religious faith so they have a way to express their innate spiritual intelligence.

Margaret’s grandmother in the film is played by Kathy Bates

For a school project, Margaret does explore various religious faiths, going to a Jewish temple service with her grandmother, to a Presbyterian church service with one friend, and to a Methodist Christmas Eve celebration with another friend. She even pops into a Catholic confessional while following a school classmate. But she doesn’t find what she’s looking for in the institutional church.

At one point pressured by both sets of her grandparents to choose their religion, she declares she doesn’t believe in God anymore.

But…….. by the end of the film when her life has taken a more positive turn she can’t help but send up a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

While writing Anabaptist curriculums for children’s religious education in the 1990s I was introduced to the concept of Godly Play, conceived by Jerome Berryman. It was a unique way of relating stories of faith that encouraged children to question and react and respond to them in their own way without didactic interpretation or instruction from adults.

Godly Play was a method that allowed children to use their imaginations and curiosity to experience the mystery of the divine. It respected children’s innate spirituality.

It was interesting for me to see that idea of children’s innate spirituality highlighted and respected again in the film Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

It is an excellent movie by the way and one I would highly recommend.

Other posts………

Lesson Not Required

Do I Stay Christian? No!

A World of Faith

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Filed under Childhood, Religion

Stitching Beauty

Last weekend my husband and granddaughter and I went to a quilt show at the Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship Church.

The show and sale was a fundraiser for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) an aid organization that has been helping vulnerable people around the world for over a hundred years.

My husband and granddaughter look at a quilt made with old ties

The quilts are made by a group that meets regularly year-round to create them. The quilters volunteer their time and much of the material they use to make the quilts is also donated.

I loved this quilt at the show called Going Home.

There were so many beautiful quilted pieces to see at the show and I marvelled at the thousands of hours of work they represented.

My friend Marge with a quilt she made during the pandemic

I went to the quilt show last weekend to support my friend Marge who is one of the quilters who donates their time to make the quilts that were on display.

This is a photo of Marge with a quilt she made several years ago. She’s a true artist with her quilting needle.

My mother-in-law stitching a special quilt for me to use in workshops I presented

My mother-in-law Anne was a beautiful quilter.

Our older son holds his infant baby brother. The yellow quilt around the baby was made by my mother-in-law Anne.

From infancy to adulthood our sons both slept under the various quilts their Oma made for them.

Grace Mennonite Quilt by Linda Klassen

I attended Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach for most of my life and when we celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2011 Linda Klassen, a member of the congregation, made this quilt filled with symbols related to the church’s history.

More quilts from the MCC show – photo by Teresa Rempel from her Facebook page

Quilts are truly works of art. They can tell a story, inspire emotion, please the eye, stir the heart and elicit memories.

And at the quilt show for MCC last weekend they also raised funds to help the vulnerable. How great is that?

Other posts……….

My Talented Friends

A Utah Massacre Remembered

Going On A Field Trip


Filed under Art

An Unexpected Art Gallery

I had to be downtown for an early physio appointment yesterday and when I arrived at the clinic at the corner of Graham and Edmonton the door was locked. I was a little annoyed at having to wait but it gave me time to survey my surroundings.

Right in front of me was something that looked like a picnic table but as I examined it more closely I realized it was really interesting in both design and shape. It zigged and zagged and was long and narrow and it was looped together with these deep forest green railings.

I noticed a plaque on the table so I went over to take a look. The sign said the table was actually a work of art by Nicole Marion and Chris Wiebe and had been installed in 2020.

It was called PIICNIIC and had been made to look like a picnic table sliced in half and overlapped. The artists wanted it to be not only a piece of art but also a place for people to sit and rest or eat their lunch.

I had probably walked by that bench a hundred times in the past since it is right on the route I often use to walk to and from work but I’d never really noticed it before yesterday.

My eye travelled down PIICNIIC and there at the end of it was another artistic piece! I went over to take a look. Some kind of steel box had been painted in a modern and colourful way.

I did a little research when I got home and found out it was actually a transit box. It had been painted by an artist named Sarah Collard and she called it Bus Stop because it was right beside the bus shelter.

Sarah said she had painted actual people she saw on Graham Avenue walking by the bus stop or waiting to take the bus. She made blind contour drawings of them, which means she looked only at them and not at what she was drawing on the box till she had finished their outlines. It made them seem a little strange and abstract.

I took a couple of photos of the colourful box myself and then snagged a couple from the wonderful Murals of Winnipeg website.

After discovering these two art pieces I went over and tried the clinic door again. Still locked.

That’s when I spied ANOTHER piece of art on the wall of the clinic building right beside the door.

A plaque beside it said the work was called cloth, quill ghost worlds and was created by an Anishinaabe artist named Scott Benesiinaabandan. It had a deep black background and eight photographs of these colourful bits of cloth stuck together with porcupine quills.

There was a barcode on the plaque so you could listen to Anishinaabe songs while looking at cloth, quill ghost worlds.

While I was getting ready to do that the receptionist came to open the door to the physio clinic so I hurried inside.

I had been annoyed about not being able to get into the clinic but realized that had actually been a good thing because it had made me stop and really look at my surroundings.

Here I was in a kind of mini art gallery on a Winnipeg street corner and if the clinic door had been open I wouldn’t even have noticed.

It made me wonder what other beautiful little things about my city had gone unobserved because I was too busy thinking, or listening to a podcast to actually notice things around me as I walked.

It made me realize I needed to be more observant!

Other posts……..

Ten Historic Winnipeg Buildings

Living in an Art Gallery

Who is Dr. Rizal and What Is He Doing In Winnipeg?

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Winnipeg

How Did Your Blog Get Its Name?

Someone asked me the other day how my blog got its name What Next?

Farewell party for us thrown by our friends when we left Hong Kong in 2011 after living and working there for six years.

I wrote the first post for What Next in July of 2011. Dave and I had just moved back to Canada from Hong Kong and had both retired from teaching

During our years in Hong Kong we sold our Steinbach house and bought a condo in Winnipeg

We had sold our house in Steinbach where we had lived for nearly four decades prior to moving to Hong Kong and had bought a condo in Winnipeg which our son lived in while we were overseas.

I had promised my husband Dave that for the first year of our retirement I wouldn’t look for employment and we would have a year of what he called at the time ‘living aimlessly.’

So I thought of calling this blog A Year of Living Aimlessly.

My daughter-in-law gave me some sound advice when I was naming this blog

When I told my daughter-in-law about that name suggestion she wisely discouraged me. She was pretty sure I’d keep writing this blog for more than one year, and knowing me she said she doubted I could ever live without an aim.

I thought of calling the blog Living Spontaneously since I’m the kind of person who likes to plan ahead, make lists and keep to a schedule.

A photo I took a few years ago of my calendar and lists

In my retirement I wanted to be more open to being surprised by life and what might happen if I didn’t always plot things out ahead of time.

I wanted to try lots of new things.

Zip Lining in Costa Rica is one of the new things I’ve tried since starting this blog

It was my husband Dave who suggested I call this blog What Next? and I liked it immediately.

I wasn’t sure what the next stage of my life would look like.

Would I start some new career?

Would I study new things?

How would our family change?

Would we make Winnipeg our permanent home?

Would we continue to travel extensively like we had during our six years in Hong Kong?

What would be next?

Photo of me doing art with children on the Winnipeg Art Gallery site

I have started a couple new careers as a novelist and art gallery tour guide.

With a group of my student teachers and the staff members who supported them

I also worked as a faculty supervisor for education students at the University of Winnipeg for almost ten years.

With my friends taking a course about chocolate in McNally’s community classroom

I have studied new things taking courses in art and writing and history both online and in person. I’ve taught some courses too.

With my friends in my writing group

Winnipeg has become our permanent home and I have made lots of new friends here- at the places I volunteer, at the church we go to, with the people in my writing group and with our neighbours.

Marie is one of my Steinbach friends who has moved to Winnipeg.

Quite a number of our Steinbach friends have moved to Winnipeg as well which is lovely.

Meeting our first granddaughter for the first time in 2019

Our families have changed with the death and illness of parents and siblings, the birth of grandchildren and the marriages of nieces and nephews.

With my sister and her husband on Glacier Vik in Iceland

Save for the pandemic we have continued to travel extensively and have been to a plethora of places since I started this blog in 2011.

Our latest adventure- a trip to Tanzania. Here we try dancing with Maasai warriors.

And I think What Next is still a good name for this blog.

Things in my life continue to change and grow more interesting and challenging and adventuresome.

This blog has changed too.

When I started in 2011 I had no subscribers. Now I have 720 who get a blog post from me everyday. And usually several hundred more access it through social media.

I am not sure how long I will continue to write this blog but I hope that for many years yet to come I will still be saying about my life…….. “What next?”

Other posts…….

Hiking a Glacier in Iceland

Dancing with the Maasai

I Live in A Piece of Winnipeg History


Filed under Writing

It’s My Grandmother’s Birthday

Today is my grandmother’s birthday.

Margareta Sawatsky Peters was born on May 17th 1900 in Gnadenthal, a village in the Mennonite colony of Baratov- Schlactin in Ukraine.

In this 1908 photo taken in the yard of Grandma’s school, she is second from the left.

Grandma loved school and was very sad when she had to quit attending after finishing grade six. She was an excellent student who loved to read. She had an amazing memory.

Well into her 90s she could still recite long German poems with flair. Before I went to visit her in her retirement years I would often go to a German bookstore to pick up a new novel for her.

She never lost her love of books although while she was raising her six children and helping run a large farming operation there was seldom time to read.

Grandma played the guitar for us at Christmas when we sang carols

Grandma was very musical. In her childhood home, they had a guitar, an accordion, a mandolin and a balalaika. My grandmother and her three sisters as well as their mother, could all play all of the instruments competently. Grandma also enjoyed singing in the village choir.

My grandmother’s parents Franz Sawatzky (1869-1936) and Margaretha Schellenberg Sawatzky (1873-1943)

Grandma didn’t talk much to her grandchildren about how she survived during the Russian Revolution but in taped conversations with one of her daughters, she described that tragic time.

So we know about the devastating famine her family experienced, the nights she and her sisters hid in the hayloft when the bandits would descend on their village as Grandma said, ‘like a plague of locusts’ and the way the bandits led by a man named Makhno once put a gun to her father’s head. She and her sisters peeping out from the bedroom door were sure their father would be shot.

Grandma’s family immigrated to Canada in August of 1923 and Grandma got a job as a nanny for the A.D. Friesen family in Altona, Manitoba.

My grandparents were married in 1925 in the southern Manitoba village of Gnadenthal where they lived most of their married life.

You wouldn’t know it from Grandma’s serious demeanour in her wedding photo but she loved to laugh and had a marvellous sense of humour. She could come up with these witty one-liners in almost any situation.

She made friends easily and one of my aunts noted that her friendships often included people on the ‘fringe’ who others might not have made time for.

My grandparents with their children and grandchildren in the early 1950s. I am to the far left in the first row.

Her grandchildren loved spending time at their grandmother’s house. We had so much fun there with all our cousins. Grandma made us feel special and was proud of us.

Two of my aunts lived out of the province and her regular letters to them were full of glowing reports about her grandchildren’s accomplishments.

My grandparents with their children and grandchildren I think around 1970. I am on the far left in the back row.

At her funeral in 1999 four of my cousins and I talked about our grandmother and how she had been the one to draw our family together.

One way she did that was around the table where we enjoyed her wonderful food – her chicken noodle soup, pickles, plumi moos, klops, homemade bread and white cookies.

At my wedding, I am with from left to right my paternal grandmother Margareta Sawatsky Peters, my husband’s grandmother Margaretha Friesen Driedger and my maternal grandmother Annie Jantz Schmidt. All very special women who played important roles in their grandchildren’s lives.

Another way my grandmother Margareta drew her family together was through her dedicated daily prayers for our well-being, through her music, through the afghans she knit for each of us, through our birthday cards which always arrived in the mail with a one-dollar bill tucked inside, through the Easter baskets filled with treats she prepared for each of us, and through her delight in seeing us together.

Grandma holding my son- her great-grandchild.

Because my grandmother lived to be nearly a hundred years old she also had a warm relationship with many of her great-grandchildren.

My grandmother’s gravestone in Winkler Manitoba.

Today is my grandmother’s birthday and I’ve been thinking about her a lot in the last while. She provided me with a wonderful role model to look up to as I grandparent.

Interestingly today two of her great-great grandsons, including one of my grandsons, are celebrating their birthdays too.

One great-great-grandson is turning three and the other seven.

They were both born on their great-great-grandmother’s birthday.

She would have loved that!

Other posts…………

My Grandmother’s Childhood

My Grandmother’s Epitaph

My Grandmother’s Guitar


Filed under Family

Lost and Found Thanks to Social Media

The Toronto Star ran this incredible story yesterday about a heavy equipment operator from Alberta named Keith Bratt who was swimming with sea turtles in Mexico on May 1 when he spotted a gold ring in the ocean. Retrieving the ring he saw it had a man’s name and the date April 24th, 2023 on it.

Wedding rings of the Italian couple

Keith put a photo of the ring on social media, where it was shared 20,000 times and was seen by a woman from Cassano, Italy visiting her relatives in Quebec.

The ring belonged to her new husband and he had lost it when they were snorkelling on their honeymoon in Mexico! The newlyweds were overjoyed the ring had been found.

Dave and I are just behind the bride and groom at the Minneapolis wedding

Something similar once happened to me. I left a camera in a hotel room after we had been in Minneapolis for a wedding. A cleaning woman at the hotel was told by her boss she could take it home.

The wedding program that helped me get my camera back

Almost a year later the cleaning woman’s son Dan was going on a trip and she offered the camera to him to take pictures on his holiday. Dan looked at the photos on the camera which included a snapshot of the Minnesota wedding program with the bride and groom’s names on it.

Dan felt strongly that he should try to return the camera to its rightful owners.

He found the bride on social media, contacted her and she sent a message to all her wedding guests. Had anyone lost a camera?

My camera that was lost and found

When I told her I had, she gave me Dan’s contact information and he sent my camera back to me.

Sometimes social media and the internet can be used for good purposes, like returning things that are lost.

Other posts………..

It’s A Small World

Wild Flowers and a Lost Camera

Marbles Lost and Found


Filed under Media

Miriam and Me

My high school bestie Deb Fast was at the launch of my novel Sixties Girl and it was her idea I take a photo with Miriam Toews.

Deb and I both grew up in Steinbach just like Miriam Toews did. Miriam has become one of Canada’s most well-known and celebrated writers.

I would never have thought to take a picture that included the large photo of Miriam on the wall above the door at McNally Robinson Booksellers where my launch was held. Thanks, Deb for the idea!

And while I’m at it I want to add some more photos from my launch that didn’t make it into the initial post I did about the event.

Here I am at my launch with three dear friends, all former teaching colleagues of mine. We’ve been getting together on a regular basis for over a decade and call ourselves the T-4s. How lucky I am to have them in my corner for all of life’s ups and downs. And how lucky I was to have them at my launch.

There were quite a few people at the launch from my family at Bethel Mennonite Church. Helen who is in the photo with me was probably the most senior. Helen was a friend of my parents and I was so appreciative that she and her daughter attended the launch of Sixties Girl.

I was delighted that Jane came to the launch with her Grandma Marie who is a good friend of mine. Jane had sent me a lovely letter about how much she had enjoyed Lost on the Prairie my first novel. So it was great to have her at the launch of my second novel.

Harriet Zaidman who is the latest winner of the Geoffrey Bilson Award for historical fiction for her book Second Chances interviewed me at the launch of my first book Lost on the Prairie. It was so nice of her to come to wish me well at the launch of my second novel.

So many people have commented since my launch about what a wonderful job Colleen Nelson did interviewing me. I agree. I can’t thank her enough for her part in the evening.

Colleen told me that she didn’t know when she’d had so much fun at a launch. I had fun too thanks to her great questions and genuine interest in my book.

When I look at photos like this that show a cross-section of some of the crowd that filled the seats at McNally’s for the launch I realize there were many people there that I never had a chance to talk to or thank for coming.

I am so grateful for everyone who came and hope you know how much I appreciated your support even if I didn’t have a chance to express my gratitude in person to you.

If you haven’t already had a chance to watch my launch you can do that here.

If you’d like to buy Sixties Girl you can do that at McNally Robinson Booksellers, The Steinbach Heritage Museum Gift Shop, on Amazon, at Indigo and on Barnes and Noble.

Interestingly Steinbach author Andrew Unger has just written a piece about Steinbach authors that includes mention of both Miriam Toews and me. It includes an interesting list of authors who have roots in my hometown.

Other posts………..

Listening to a Talented Woman Talk About Women Talking

A Miriam Toews Sighting in Costa Rica

Elvira’s Mantra


Filed under Sixties Girl

Mothers in Art and Life

An Inuit mother teaching her daughter to throat sing in the sculpture The Gift by Goota Ashoona. Photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Son of our tour guide and his mother. Photographed in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

A Young Mother by Bessie Potter Vonnoh -1896. Photographed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

A mother elephant and her child. Photographed in the Serengeti in Tanzania.

Mothers in the Park by Francisco Zuniga – 1986- Photographed in the Mayan World Museum in Merida Mexico

Mother and daughter making chocolate. Photographed in Ubud Bali.

Mother and Child by Pablo Picasso – 1921 – Photographed at the Chicago Art Institute

Mother bison and calf. Photographed at Fort Whyte Manitoba.

War Dread of Mothers by George Roualt. Photographed at The St. Louis Art Museum.

dee dee snorkel guide in boracay philippines

Dee Dee our snorkelling guide with her children. Photographed in Boracay in the Philippines.

Together by Nirite Takele -1985. Photographed in the Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town South Africa.

Mother and child in a home we visited in Shangri-La. Photographed in Yunnan province China.

Other posts…………

Mothers in Our Family

Mothers at the Met

A Hat For Mother’s Day


Filed under Art, Holidays

Banning Books Is Always A Bad Idea

I watched the video recording of the budget presentations made to the Winnipeg City Council by concerned citizens in March.

emptyful a sculpture in the Winnipeg Millennium Library Courtyard

Two different presenters (at 1:27 and 3:22) spoke regarding the inclusion of certain books on the shelves of the city’s public libraries. Both presenters claimed there were books in the public libraries in Winnipeg that could be labelled pornographic and that violated the criminal code of Canada.

One presenter suggested the city freeze funding to the libraries till these books were removed or the library entered into meaningful dialogue with those who wanted them removed.

At one point when a presenter was talking about a book with LGBTQ content councillor Sherri Rollins who sits on the Winnipeg Library Board warned that the presenter’s references, in her opinion, were coming dangerously close to hate speech.

Photo I took of the Winkler Public Library

The city councils in Winkler and Altona have had a similar request with regard to the books in the South Central Regional Library and just a few days ago the Brandon School Board heard a presentation by parents wanting certain books removed from school libraries in their city.

Image created by Leah Weeland for The Baker Orange student media site for Baker University in Baldwin City Kansas

In my opinion, banning books is always a bad idea. Of course, parents should be able to decide what their children read but they should not be allowed to decide what other people’s children read.

What will be left on library shelves if every special interest group is allowed to have a say in what kind of books should or should not be in libraries?

People who serve as head librarians are highly trained individuals most with degrees in library science. They are hired to do a job and we need to let them do it. Part of that job is selecting the books that will be in the library.

I have served on many different library boards and committees in the past and know all libraries have selection policies in place to provide a guide for determining what kinds of books go into their library collections. These selection policies are created in a reasoned way with input from stakeholders.

Here in Manitoba, we need to be very cautious and thoughtful about how we handle requests for banning books lest we go in the direction of our American neighbours.

Image from the American Library Association

Requests for book banns and restrictions reached a record high in 2022 in the United States and what is even more scary is the American Library Association is getting reports of librarians receiving threats to their personal safety and being threatened with legal actions by those who don’t agree with their book selections.

Judy Blume a children’s author whose books were often banned in the 1960s has become a spokeswoman for the current effort in the United States to stop book banning.

She says…….”It’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

Banning books is a political act. It is harmful to authors, readers and the intellectual integrity and freedom of society as a whole.

I hope we are able to put a stop to any attempt to have it happen here in Manitoba.

Other posts……….

Banning Books For Kids

Librarian on Horseback

What a Library!


Filed under Books, manitoba, Politics

Ten Thoughts on Play

Our son playing Monopoly with his Dad

Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning. – Diane Ackerman

Playing dress up with my cousins on my grandparents’ farmyard.

It is the things we play with and the people who help us play that make the greatest difference in our lives.- Fred Rogers

My grandchildren playing in the water centre at Winnipeg’s Children’s Museum

Play is the highest form of research- Einstein

My sister and I play with building bricks with my Dad

Play is the way to childhood happiness and adult brilliance. – Anonymous

My mother and her sisters having a tea party with their toy dishes

It is a happy talent to know how to play. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My husband, our niece and her Dad dressed up to play in a fun family golf tournament

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. – Plato

Our son playing with a telescope he built when he was five

Necessity may be the mother of invention but play is certainly the father. – Roger van Oech

My Mom and her sisters with their dolls, probably around 1929.

Play is the work of the child. – Maria Montessori

Playing with my grandson

The best toy a child can have is an adult who gets down and the floor and plays with them. -Anonymous

Our son reading in a fort he built

Children have always learned and created places for themselves through play. – Donna Barnes

Other posts………..

Have You Played Ladder Ball?

Playing Church

Grandma and Grandpa Are Being Children


Filed under Childhood, Family