Category Archives: Faith

Seasons of Love

I’ve had this song stuck in my head since a friend mentioned it on Facebook the other day. She was marking the occasion of her son’s first birthday, but as I relax in one of the most peaceful places on Route 66, awaiting the start of another year, I find myself captivated by the metaphysical implications of the lyrics, which ask, in part:

How do you measure a year?
In daylights? In sunsets?
In midnights? In cups of coffee?
In inches? In miles?
In laughter and strife?
In five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes?
How do you measure a year in the life? …

In the truths that she learned
Or the times that he cried?
In the bridges he burned
Or the way that she died? …

How about love?
How about love?

Facebook is buzzing tonight with chatter about New Year’s resolutions, most of them involving things like eating less or exercising more or breaking this or that habit. Longtime readers of this blog know I’m not generally a fan of New Year’s resolutions, because they tend to be unrealistic and stressful at best and shallow and self-serving at worst.

That being said, as I stand on the cusp of a new year, it strikes me that the best way to spend the coming 525,600 527,040 minutes (Leap Year, remember?) is to measure my life — consciously and consistently — in expressions of Love.

In the end, time spent on any other purpose is time wasted.

How about Love?

Emily

Saying goodbye

“Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”
— Richard Bach

A few hours ago, I got word that a former student had been killed in a car accident.

My heart is breaking — for myself, for his family, and for my students, who are much too young to be dealing with so much sadness. I wish I could spread my arms wide enough to pull all of my kids into a giant mama-bear hug, hold them tight, and keep them safe forever and ever. But I can’t. All I can do is love them, listen to them, and support them with all my heart.

When I lose someone I love, I draw comfort from thinking about the spiritual qualities I saw in that person, then searching for those qualities in others. Tonight, I am thinking of Mitchell’s quick wit, mischievous smile, and deep sense of justice, and I am working to know that the intelligence, humor, and integrity he expressed can neither die nor disappear. Those qualities are eternal, and wherever we find them, we will find him.

I am blessed to have known Mitchell.

I am blessed to know all of my kids. I love you guys, and I always will.

— Ms. P.

Kevlar and angora

At all times and in all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you.
Mary Baker Eddy

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself drawn into a circumstance that threatened to rip open old wounds, even as it presented an opportunity to heal them permanently.

It wasn’t as excruciating as one might expect, but the situation was a little unsettling, so I handled it the way I handle everything else that presumes to threaten my happiness: I called a practitioner, dropped the problem in his lap, and went out for coffee.

Later that evening, as I checked my text messages from the comfort of a battered old chair in a fashionable late-night coffeehouse, it struck me that if peace could be experienced through the material senses, it would probably taste like a macchiato, sound like a familiar song floating through the espresso-scented air in a shabby-chic cafe, and look like a text message from a confidant whose steadfast support is made of something like Kevlar lined with angora.

That last thought buoyed me as I finished my coffee and my grading and stepped into the chilly autumn night, drawing my friend’s words around my shoulders for warmth and knowing beyond a doubt that I was, indeed, “clad in the panoply of Love.”

Emily

Unexpected blessing

From the “I really need to pay more attention” files: I didn’t realize this until I was sitting in church this morning and heard it announced from the desk, but my fellow blogger Evan is giving a lecture this afternoon in Edmond.

(If you haven’t read Evan’s blog, do yourself a favor and click that link above for a quick dose of uplifting thought.)

Chance to meet an online friend in person and a good excuse to blow off my responsibilities for the afternoon in favor of spending a pretty afternoon driving a nice stretch of Route 66? Wrap it up; I’ll take it — especially after getting a Tweet this morning from a new Twitter follower recommending a link to some advice Mary Baker Eddy gave a student about the value of taking time to pray for himself even when he felt overwhelmed with responsibilities and demands.

I put the iPod on shuffle and drove straight over after church, enjoying the dazzling sunshine and an incredible sense of peace and joy all the way from Tulsa.

I got here with time to spare, had a chance to visit with Evan a little bit, and am looking forward to hearing his lecture in a couple of minutes. God doesn’t usually rearrange my schedule without a good reason, so this should be good. 🙂

Emily

Apple presents …

Reality is spiritual, harmonious, immutable, immortal, divine, eternal.
Mary Baker Eddy 

I never met Steve Jobs, but his work has been a part of my life for many, many years. He was part of my first encounter with journalism — we used an Apple IIe to produce the school paper when I was in fourth grade — and 27 years later, I’m laying out pages on a souped-up 2009 MacBook. It is not an exaggeration to say that the tools he created radically altered the course of my life. Without the Mac, I might never have discovered my fondness for page design — an affinity that ultimately led me into a career as a copy editor, introduced me to my husband, got us to Tulsa, led me to my current job, and introduced me to many dear, dear friends along the way. Indirectly, I can trace most of the good things in my life to this man’s work, and for that, I owe him a debt of gratitude I can never repay. There are those who claim Apple products are too expensive. Given their impact on my life, I’d consider them a bargain at twice the price.

With that in mind, you can imagine my sadness when I picked up my iPad this evening and read of his passing.

In Christian Science, we learn that man is a reflection of God — an expression of divine nature. We define this nature in many ways. God, Mrs. Eddy says in her writings, is divine Life, Truth, Love, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle.

I’ve always appreciated Steve Jobs as an expression of Mind. His creativity, intelligence, and refusal to tolerate artificial limits allowed him to turn sci-fi daydreams into everyday realities and show us possibilities we might never have considered. We may no longer see his familiar smile behind wire-rimmed glasses, but we will feel his presence wherever we find imagination, innovation, and practicality.

Travel well, Mr. Jobs — and thanks for the memories.

Emily

P.S.: Steve Jobs’ passing was actually the second tragedy to visit my world today. This afternoon, Ron and I said goodbye to Ms. Pushy Galore, the buff Orpington hen whose outgoing demeanor and insatiable curiosity made her a great favorite in our garden. Ron found her little body next to the feeder in the backyard. We saw no signs of trauma and assume she passed away peacefully. Her antics will be missed.

 

Shepherd, show me …

“Home is the dearest spot on earth, and it should be the centre, though not the boundary, of the affections.”
— Mary Baker Eddy

When Riggy went missing Thursday morning, my first instinct was to call a Christian Science practitioner. She assured me she would take up the work and asked me to keep her updated.

In between calls, Ron and I took the appropriate human footsteps: talking with neighbors; putting up posters; contacting Rig’s microchip company; posting online; calling vets; checking shelters; and even taking Songdog out for walks all over the neighborhood so Rig would have a familiar scent to follow if he’d simply lost his way.

I woke up this morning thinking of a few lines from one of Mrs. Eddy’s hymns:

Shepherd, show me how to go
O’er the hillside steep …

I will listen for thy voice,
Lest my footsteps stray.
I will follow and rejoice
All the rugged way.

When I called the practitioner this morning, she mentioned that hymn — and seemed delighted to learn I’d been humming it all morning.

Rig is coming home, I thought.

When we walked Song this afternoon, I felt drawn to an industrial area surrounded by vacant, overgrown land. To human sense, it might seem dull and empty, but to a hungry little dog who was bred to hunt rodents, it would look like a game preserve.

As we walked, Ron took note of the thick vegetation and commented that our bees probably foraged there.

It clicked: Our bees have seen Riggy. I took comfort from the realization that if he were within two miles of the house, at least a few of our 200,000 honeybees would encounter him in their daily travels. He wasn’t lost. Our girls knew where he was.

I turned that thought over and over as we walked home. I’d been awfully angry earlier this summer, when the city ordered us to move our hives. My anger was a function of fear: Conventional wisdom says if you move a hive more than two feet but less than two miles, the bees won’t realize they’ve moved, and they’ll get lost trying to find their way home the next day.

We moved the hives a week ago. The girls are fine.

I thought about that. I thought about bees. And I thought about the fact that thousands of tiny creatures manage to explore the entire neighborhood and find their way back to our yard every single day.

Is anyone really surprised that when Song came in from his evening constitutional, Riggy came sauntering in with him, as if nothing had happened?

Emily

Righteousness’ sake

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Christ Jesus

A longtime acquaintance recently “unfriended” several people — including me — on Facebook as part of an apparent effort to insulate himself from criticism where his political views are concerned.

This individual had developed an unfortunate habit of posting ill-researched political screeds and incendiary comments which could be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of violence. If anyone questioned his statements, one of his supporters would immediately respond by assuring him that he was merely being persecuted for “taking a stand for Christ.”

This kind of nonsense is obnoxious and offensive, but it’s not particularly unusual. There is a species of error that loves to go around calling names, inciting arguments, and preaching hatred and division in the name of Jesus.

I’ve often wondered why a self-professed Christian would want to act like that. In considering the question, I think I’ve found the answer in the fifth chapter of Matthew.

Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with some pretty sound spiritual advice: Look to God for inspiration when you’re feeling down; know that heartaches can’t last forever; don’t get too full of yourself; try to do the right thing; cut people some slack; keep your mind out of the gutter; be nice to each other.

It’s pretty straightforward until we get to Matt. 10-11, where Jesus starts talking about being “persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”

Righteousness is, in essence, a tendency to obey the rules. Thanks to our Constitution, precious few people in this country can honestly claim to have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake. And I think that worries some people. If we’re not being persecuted, maybe that means we’re not being righteous enough — so we panic and try to provoke some kind of confrontation that will allow us to feel persecuted (and, thus, assured of our own salvation).

There’s a difference between being persecuted for righteousness’ sake and being persecuted for self-righteousness’ sake. Jesus promised us blessings if we endure the former. He didn’t say anything about the latter. Do we understand the difference?

Emily

More vacation pix

Sorry it took me so long to post the rest of the photos from our vacation. I’ve been harvesting honey, consolidating broodchambers, rendering beeswax, cleaning the house, and steaming the carpets all week and haven’t had a hand free to blog. Mea culpa.

Here are a few shots from Allentown itself. (And you thought I wasn’t looking at anything that wasn’t standing near the third-base line at Coca-Cola Park. Shows what you know.)

You know on any road trip, proper road food takes a high, high priority, so we took some advice from the Noise Nation guys and headed to Yocco’s for a chili dog. Tulsa is proud of its Coneys, but Yocco’s … wow. It didn’t quite dethrone Albuquerque’s Dog House for the coveted Best Chili Dog Emily Has Eaten on a Road Trip title, but it’s definitely the best I’ve had anywhere east of Albuquerque. Bonus: It’s a gritty little joint in a gritty little neighborhood, with local guys coming in to buy 40-ounce beers out of the cooler in the dining area while you eat. Awesome.

Love that map with pins in it to show where Yocco dogs have gone over the years.
They don't look like much, but those chili dogs were fantastic.

Allentown is also home to a spectacular farmers’ market. I won’t go so far as to say it’s better than the Soulard Farmers’ Market in St. Louis, but it’s probably as good. Behold:

While we were in the area, we slipped over to Easton in hopes of seeing the Crayola factory. They don’t give tours any more, though; instead, they’ve set up a “discovery center” or something like that in the middle of town. It would probably be a fun place to take kids, but based on the description we got from a girl working there, I think we would have paid $10 a head to color with 4-year-olds. I can color with Jamie for free, so we skipped the tour. I did, however, get a sign of the excellent sculpture on the front of the building:

Here was maybe the best discovery of the trip:

As I was taking this picture, a resident of this mission — which is about a block from a jail — stopped to tell me about the building and the sign. I asked him whether the neon still worked. He said it certainly did and that it stays on all night, so of course we had to come back after the ballgame:

The guy told me a story about the sign above. The mission is about a block from the jail, and the guy said he used to be an inmate over there and would see this sign from the window of his cell every night. He said he never dreamed he might end up having to live at the mission when he got out, but the sign inspired him and gave him hope. “It’s amazing how something as simple as a neon sign can change lives,” he said.

Next post: Photos from the coolest diner I’ve ever seen.

Emily

Ageless

It’s no secret that I think Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg may be the most gorgeous creature God ever set on this earth. My students carry me pretty high about that, mostly because they find it hilarious that anyone would consider a middle-aged man attractive. Meanwhile, I find it incomprehensible that anyone wouldn’t consider Sandberg attractive. Who cares how long it’s been since he turned his last double play? Dude is hot.

That probably doesn’t sound like the lead-in to a riff on spirituality, but bear with me.

A couple of weeks ago, while teasing me about Ryno, a student expressed horror at the thought of getting “old,” which she defined as anything past 30. Several of her classmates nodded in agreement, so I asked the kids what bothered them about the prospect of aging. Their primary concerns? Gray hair, wrinkles, and a deeply held suspicion that boredom is directly proportional to age.

By my students’ standards, I’m old. I’ve got lines around my eyes and a gray streak above my right temple. I also look better and have more freedom, more disposable income, and fewer hangups than I had at 16. But there’s a multibillion-dollar industry that depends on convincing the public that age is ugly at best and hazardous to one’s health at worst, so it’s no wonder my kids are terrified of losing their looks or their happiness in a few years.

Mary Baker Eddy once wrote:

“Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise. Man, governed by immortal Mind, is always beautiful and grand. Each succeeding year unfolds wisdom, beauty, and holiness.”

I’m Madison Avenue’s worst nightmare. I refuse to buy into society’s carefully cultivated obsession with youth, and I’ve always had a thing for silver hair and laugh lines (which might explain why I find Sandberg more attractive now than when People magazine was fawning over him in 1990).

I don’t mind that my kids think I’m old. But I wish they knew that lines come from laughing too hard, and gray comes from caring too much about too many things. Maybe then they’d realize the signs of aging that scare them so much are merely the visual evidence of a life well lived, and they wouldn’t be afraid any more.

Emily

Circles

“Sorrow has its reward. It never leaves us where it found us.”
Mary Baker Eddy

Three years ago today, my journalism career unceremoniously ended with the announcement that my section of the newspaper had been eliminated, taking my job with it.

Earlier this week, history repeated itself, with the same company doing the same thing to a different group of journalists.

I am going to be fragile today, I thought as I dragged myself out of bed this morning.

But I wasn’t. March 4 had been my own personal Day the Music Died for three years, and as I stumbled toward the shower, the Father whispered into my thought:

Reclaim this day.

That pink slip three years ago wasn’t the first March morning I’d seen explode into heartbreak with the loss of a job.

On March 13, 1998, my then-principal informed me that my contract was not being renewed. Her words and tone led me to believe I wasn’t worthy to stand at the front of a classroom, so I left the profession, vowing never to return.

Longtime readers of this blog know how my layoff from the paper set in motion a series of events that led me back into a sophomore English classroom.

That process also put me in touch with a former colleague I hadn’t seen in years. I contacted her for a reference when I applied for my current job, and we quickly renewed our friendship.

I came home this afternoon to find a Facebook message from her.

My friend’s daughter is a teacher, and a callous administrator had just chosen this, of all days, to tell her that her contract wasn’t being renewed. Could I give her a pep talk?

Twice in one week — just as I was settling in for a good pout and some righteous indignation over a pair of outdated grudges — history has repeated itself, and I can either whine about the unfairness of it all, or I can get off my duff and use my experiences to help victims turn into survivors.

March 4 has officially been reclaimed.

Emily