Category Archives: Faith

On the nature of healing

Still waiting on that baby to show up. My sister is understandably scared, so please keep lifting her up with your prayers and good thoughts.

While we wait, I have a story to share about a wonderful healing I experienced recently.

As a Christian Scientist, I don’t take medicine when I feel unwell; instead, I turn to prayer to overcome the problem. If my own work doesn’t bring quick healing, I call a practitioner to help me adjust my thoughts about the situation and focus my prayers in a more productive way.

On a recent afternoon, I was dealing with a vicious migraine headache that seemed to be intruding on my consciousness. I felt too sick to get up or read or work or even think clearly, so I picked up the phone and dialed a practitioner who often helps me in such situations.

After I talked with him, I decided to let go of the problem and just try to get some sleep. (At that point, I felt too rotten to do much of anything else anyway.)

I rested for a couple of hours, but after a little while, the thought came to me to call and check on someone who had requested prayer about a difficult situation a few days earlier.

I balked. I couldn’t possibly make that call right then. I was too sick! How could I be any help at all to this person when I felt too ill to hold my head up? I didn’t need to make a phone call. I needed to sleep!

The thought came to me again: Make the call. I tried to ignore it, but it just wouldn’t leave me alone, so I finally gave up, grabbed the phone, and made the call.

As soon as I called, the conversation commanded my full attention, and we wound up talking for the better end of 45 minutes. I felt so much love for the person I was helping — and I was so focused on trying to be helpful — that I didn’t even realize at first that I’d been up and wandering around the house the whole time we were talking. I have no idea when the headache left, but by the time we hung up, it had vanished without a trace.

I think that’s the aspect of healing that amazes me the most: We can work on our own problems and find healing, but the work goes much faster when we take a break and help somebody else in the meantime.

I think maybe it’s like math. I always thought I was terrible at math, but when I taught high school a few years ago, I supervised one section of study hall, during which I was allowed to hand out only two hall passes at a time. If three students needed to ask other teachers about their classwork, one of them would have to wait until someone returned with the pass.

In moments of desperation, the kids would bring their math books up to my desk and ask me to help them. I would joke that there was a reason I’d gotten my degree in English, but invariably, I found that in trying to help my kids, I would gain a much deeper understanding of whatever they were learning. A time or two, I found myself explaining algebra or trig concepts that had always eluded my grasp in the past.

I think metaphysical concepts are the same way: I can struggle with a problem for hours, days, or even months. I can work with an idea and work with it and work with it and get absolutely nowhere. And then, quite unexpectedly, an opportunity will arise to help someone else, and the situation will require me to understand the very idea I’ve been struggling with, and somehow — often without really thinking about it at all — I understand, and both of us are healed.

Emily

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My little sister is in the hospital at the moment, getting ready to have her baby. Her doctor is supposed to induce labor first thing in the morning. Stay tuned … and please join me in praying to see a harmonious experience full of wonderful blessings for Grace, her baby, and everyone involved.

Emily

Ice and snow

It got COLD today. The pouring rain turned to sleet, and I woke up this morning to find my car covered in ice. I had to chisel it out with the scraper so I could get to work.

The sleet kept coming down all day. My boss finally told us to go home around 3:30 p.m. so we wouldn’t have to fight traffic along with the ice. By that time, it had started to snow, and it’s been snowing ever since. We’re supposed to get three to five inches by morning. I think we’ve already hit the low end of that estimate.

I got a couple of pictures of the dogs playing in the snow this evening. It was starting to get dark, and we were all getting cold, so I didn’t get anything really artsy, but I thought they were awfully cute playing out there. Here’s Songdog pestering Jason (as usual):

Jason and Song

And here’s Scout, hurrying toward the door. I don’t think she likes the snow as much as the boys do.

Scout in the snow

Since it’s too cold and slippery to go out and do anything, I’ve spent most of my evening building a new desk (really just a glorified shelf) for my office and moving the computer from the old desk to the new one. Here’s the new setup:

Desk

It’s not the prettiest desk in the world, but it makes my office much neater (or will, once I finish picking up the junk I had to pile on the floor while I was moving stuff around) and is a better use of the space in this room.

Something nice happened to me this morning.

I was getting ready for work, and I smacked my head really hard as I was picking something up off the floor in the bathroom. It was a sharp blow against a sharp corner, and if I hadn’t been thinking clearly at the time, it probably would have left me with a headache and a nasty goose egg, if not worse. But I didn’t have time for that this morning, and despite the fact that it was early and I was sleepy, I thought quickly enough to meet the claim with a quote from Science and Health:

Accidents are unknown to God.

And that was that — no pain, no headache, no bump, no evidence that anything had happened.

Every now and then, I get one right without having to call a practitioner. 🙂

I thought of that quote again this morning as I was driving to work in potentially treacherous road conditions, and as I was coming home in even scarier conditions. I really spent a lot of time working with the idea that there are no accidents and that I am “cared for, watched over, loved, and protected,” as one of my favorite hymns says.

I’m glad to be back home, and I’m even more glad that the weather is supposed to warm up tomorrow so this stuff will melt off, but I guess the cold and ice are good once in a while if they remind me that I am blessed and protected and loved.

Besides … the snow is kind of pretty, and I like the strange silence that comes with it.

Emily

The camaraderie of the long-distance runner

Sorry I haven’t posted a lot in the last couple of days. It was an interesting weekend. This is going to be a really long post, but I’m making up for lost time, and I stayed up for 36 consecutive hours on Saturday and Sunday, so I’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

I got an e-mail last week saying that Dan, a guy I’d met a couple of times on long runs with Fleet Feet last year, was in need of pacers to help him in the Mother Road 100, a 100-mile footrace down Route 66 from Arcadia to Sapulpa. Basically, what pacers do is take turns running with an ultramarathoner for a few miles at a time to keep his spirits up. This is very important in the later miles of the race, when the runner is tired and ready to quit.

My friend Terriann and I signed up to run with him for an hour apiece. We wound up meeting him in Stroud around 6:30 p.m. Saturday and pacing him for a little while. That was a really cool experience, for several reasons. First, Dan is a really sweet, really upbeat guy who is a LOT of fun to run with. Second, it was an excuse to run down Route 66 in the dark, which I have done only once before, and which is a singularly weird and beautiful experience. And third, as I was jogging with Dan, I heard the familiar “beep-beep!” of a Volkswagen horn. I glanced up to see none other than Bob Waldmire — the award-winning Route 66 artist and unofficial inspiration for the character of Fillmore in the movie Cars — cruising down 66 toward us in his Microbus. He was headed for the Rock Cafe, where Terriann was waiting for my hour to end so she could drive out to drop off the car and start running with Dan herself. When she arrived, I drove back to the Rock to get her some dinner and visit with Bob. I got to the restaurant just in time to find Bob holding court with Michael Bates, a Tulsa blogger who gives me a shout-out now and then when I post a picture he likes. I’d never met him in person but recognized him from a picture I’d seen. He and Bob and I had an amusing conversation about the merits of the Type 2 Volkswagen in its various incarnations.

That would have been cool enough by itself, but it was not the coolest thing that happened on Route 66 that night.

On Thursday night, I’d fired off an e-mail to the race organizers, asking if it would be helpful if I took a cooler full of Gatorade and Carb-Boom up and down the course after we finished helping Dan. I thought I might serve as a sort of aid station on wheels, dispensing encouragement and nourishment to any runners who might need it.

On Friday morning, I got an e-mail back saying that the aid station in Kellyville was unmanned, and they really needed volunteers to put something together. Kellyville was 84 miles into the race. That’s awfully late in the game to come to an aid station and find nothing but a portapotti.

Having been a journalist since I was 9 years old, I tend to work well under deadline pressure, so I called up Terriann, sent out a few e-mails, and then made a Wal-Mart run on my way home from work Friday. (Yeah, I know, but it was for a good cause. I used to cheat and eat meat once in a while when I was a vegetarian, too. So I’m not a purist. Sue me.)

Less than 24 hours later, Terriann, her mom and I were running an aid station. It was frightfully cold, and although we didn’t have anything warm to offer the runners to drink (we couldn’t come up with a way to keep stuff hot on such short notice), we did keep our cars running, so everybody had a safe, warm place to thaw out if they needed it.

Early in the evening, an idea came to me to run out and meet any lone runners and pace them in. It wasn’t far, but at least it might lift their spirits to have someone come and run with them a little way. Some of them REALLY appreciated it. Terriann’s mom, Margaret, watched me a few times and then decided to join me. When the last runner came through Sunday morning, we decided to pace her for a while. I ran with her for maybe a mile and a half or two miles, and then I left for church, and Margaret took over. Terriann reported later that Margaret had gone about five miles with the girl — not bad for a non-runner, eh?

Margaret really had no idea what she was in for when she agreed to come along with Terriann, and I’d assumed she and Terriann would stay for a few hours and then head home (I certainly wouldn’t have blamed them if they had), but once they saw the need, they absolutely refused to leave me out there by myself, and the two of them worked tirelessly throughout the night to help these runners meet their goals.

The organizers had told us to plan for 30 people. We had four times that many come through our station, not counting the pacers who were tagging along with some of the competitors, so we either seriously overestimated the amount of food those folks would eat, or else we had some serious loaves and fishes action going on.

I think it was maybe a little of both: I’d bought way more animal crackers and pretzels than we needed, but I only brought one loaf of bread, and one thing I learned was that ultramarathoners will eat a LOT of PBJs. Somehow that one loaf of bread fed 120 people. I shouldn’t be surprised — I’ve seen over and over how “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need,” as Mrs. Eddy says — but it still blows my mind every time I see a demonstration like that.

Before the race, I’d e-mailed a few friends from church and asked them to pray specifically for the runners’ strength and safety as they faced this grueling challenge. They must have done a fine job, because I didn’t see anybody show up with serious injuries, and I didn’t hear any reports of injuries. Most of the runners seemed to be in good spirits, and those who were down when they arrived seemed to be much happier by the time they left. The worst claim we dealt with was a handful of runners who were experiencing symptoms of hypothermia. We let them sit in our cars and warm up if they needed it, and they all seemed to recover nicely.

At some point in the middle of the night, it came to me to write down all the quotes I could think of that had ever inspired me while I was running and hand them to the runners to tuck into their packs for when they were feeling discouraged. Kind of cheesy, but sometimes stuff like that helps; it’s kind of like opening your lunchbox and finding a note from your mom telling you she loves you. I had quotes from Mrs. Eddy (“We are all capable of more than we do,” for instance, which is one of my favorites), Bible verses, quotes from Richard Bach novels, and even a Chinese proverb often attributed to Confucius.

After each quote, I added a little note that said, “We’re behind you! God is with you! The finish line is ahead of you! You will make it!”

Some of the runners looked a little perplexed when I handed them their notes, but some of them were really appreciative. One guy asked me to write my e-mail address on there so he could e-mail me later. I got a very sweet note from him tonight. It seems he got one of the Richard Bach quotes, because he mentioned in his note that he loves Richard Bach — especially the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which I personally think ought to be required reading for distance runners.

During the night, there were several times when I thought of the lateness of the hour and started to be afraid I would run out of energy, but I kept reminding myself that God always supplies us with all the energy we need to take action to help somebody else. That’s not lip service; I really believe that with all my heart and have proven it more times than I can count.

As I was running through the darkness to meet a runner, I looked up at the stars — which were magnificent on such a clear, cold night — and suddenly thought about how blessed I was to be part of a historic event on my beloved Route 66, and how blessed I was to have the strength and the opportunity to express Love to a few of God’s children out there on that old highway. The thought was so beautiful that I almost cried. I felt strong and happy and didn’t get tired again all night.

Out of the 167 runners who actually started the race, 118 finished, and another 40 passed the 50-mile mark before they dropped out. That’s a 70.66 percent finish rate, and 94.61 percent of the runners made it to 50 miles. That’s not unheard-of in ultramarathoning (some of the really elite races have just a few runners, and they’ll end up with a 90 percent finish rate), but based on some online research I did, the average finish rate for a 100-mile race is somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 percent, and I know there were quite a few inexperienced ultramarathoners running this one, so a 70 percent finish rate is pretty spectacular.

I met some really intriguing people (including one girl who was running her fourth 100-mile ultra in as many weeks) and had a lot of fun.

I don’t know whether that was the most amazing weekend of my entire life, but if it wasn’t, it didn’t miss it by much.

I hope your weekend was full of amazing blessings, too.

Emily

Laying aside every weight

Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.

— Heb. 12:1

I had every intention of running in the inaugural Route 66 Marathon this year, but for a variety of reasons, I was not able to make time in my schedule to train properly. I’ve run before on very little training, but I just haven’t been able to get into the right frame of mind this season … and as every marathoner knows, distance running is about the mind, not the body.

I personally believe that everything is about the mind, not the body (that’s pretty much the upshot of my faith as a Christian Scientist), but running makes that fact particularly clear.

I was having a hard time deciding what to do. I don’t believe in limitations, but at the same time, there’s a big difference between overcoming limitation and hurling yourself off a building. Increasingly, a marathon attempt this fall was feeling more and more like the latter.

I thought it over and prayed it over and waited for my answer.

It came this week, when my friend Lynda e-mailed me the other day to say that she had just completed a nine-mile training run. She wanted to know whether I thought she had enough training under her belt to finish a half-marathon in a couple of weeks. I assured her that she could certainly do it, and I told her I was thinking about scrapping the full marathon in favor of the half; if I did, I would certainly be happy to run with her to help keep her spirits up when she got out into uncharted waters.

A few hours later, I got an e-mail from another friend, who told me that Dan, a real sweetheart of a guy who ran with the Fleet Feet crew a couple of times last fall, is planning to run the Mother Road 100, a 100-mile ultramarathon down Route 66 commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Mother Road, and he needs pacers to run with him for an hour or two and keep his spirits up as he gets into the later miles.

My coach would have kittens if I told him I planned to do the Tulsa Run (a 15K) in the morning, run four to eight miles in the evening, and then attempt a marathon a week later. It’s just not considered wise to do so much in such a short frame of time, especially when you haven’t been running well all season.

But I got to thinking.

I thought about Dan. I thought about Lynda. I thought about why I run. I thought about why I wanted to run this particular race. And I realized something important:

When I run, my goal is to express good spiritual qualities, such as grace, strength, joy, and power. Hobbling across a finish line in tears or quitting in the middle won’t express any of that.

Up to this point, I’d thought that giving up and settling for a half-marathon instead of finishing a full wouldn’t express any of that, either … but I was mistaken.

This really is about my quality of thought. I know that if I really wanted to, I could complete all 26.2 miles through sheer stubbornness. After all, my pedigree includes Scottish, Irish, and German bloodlines … which makes me the human equivalent of a pit bull-rat terrier-English bulldog mix. Being hard-headed is my birthright.

But I already know how to be stubborn and willful. As a matter of fact, I have spent the past year or so trying to unlearn those traits.

Every marathon teaches a lesson, and this time around, I am supposed to be learning humility and selflessness. If I cast off pride and self-will and choose instead to let go of my own foolish goal, humble myself, and drop down from the full marathon to the half, I can help two dear people (both of whom have been very kind to me in the past) achieve their goals in the process.

And in doing that, I will have expressed grace, strength, joy, and power — which is why I run in the first place.

I don’t know what the next two weeks hold, but I know I am making the right decision, and there’s a blessing for me somewhere between here and the finish line. Probably lots of them.