Category Archives: Faith

Stolen voices

“Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals.”
— Mary Baker Eddy

The other night, Ron and I bought a copy of The Exorcist and watched it for the first time in 12 or 13 years. Something about it reminds me of The Little Mermaid.

Stay with me.

In The Exorcist, a hideous demon takes over the body of a young girl named Regan. In its confrontation with the priests brought in to cast it out, the demon pulls out all the stops: It snarls. It growls. It shakes Regan’s bed. It induces her to commit all sorts of repulsive acts. And perhaps most unsettlingly of all, it addresses one of the priests in the voice of his recently deceased mother.

In The Little Mermaid, a mermaid falls in love with a human prince and trades her voice to a conniving witch for the temporary use of a human body. If she can win the prince’s heart, she becomes human permanently; if she can’t, she becomes the witch’s prisoner. Predictably, the witch disguises herself as a human and uses the mermaid’s voice in an attempt to trick the prince into marrying her.

In both films, error speaks with a stolen voice, and its opponents can’t defeat it until they recognize the deception.

This is one of error’s favorite tricks. It might seduce you with an attractive voice. It might use a relative’s voice to paralyze you with guilt. Or it might commandeer a trusted mentor’s voice in an attempt to manipulate you.

Error does not care whose voice it steals. It has no shame, and it has no compunction about turning whatever (or whoever) happens to be handy into a weapon it can use to hurt you.

Both The Exorcist and The Little Mermaid make profound statements about the power of discernment. If the priests can’t see through the illusions that seem to be controlling Regan, she is lost — and humanity, perhaps, with her. Similarly, if the prince can’t see through the illusion that seems to be controlling the mermaid’s voice, then she, and he, and all of the ocean are lost.

In the real world, discernment is often the key to healing. It isn’t always easy to distinguish between a person and the error that seems to be gripping him, but it’s got to be done, or the patient is lost — and perhaps all of us with him.

Emily

One month and counting

So … today marks a month since I stopped eating animal products (aside from honey and the eggs my own chickens produce, of course).

It isn’t a permanent change. I’m just doing it as part of a marathon training program. But it’s going really well — much better than any of my previous forays into vegetarianism — and I think I know why.

In the past, I’ve focused all my attention on what I wasn’t eating, then tried to come up with synthetic substitutes. This time around, I’m enjoying vegetables on their own terms and having fun developing recipes that highlight their natural flavor. In other words, instead of focusing on what I can’t eat, I’m enjoying what I can eat.

There’s a good metaphysical reason this approach is working. (You knew that was coming, right?)

When you focus on what you don’t have, you feel a sense of lack. It’s hard to appreciate things when you’re busy wishing you had something else. But gratitude breeds contentment. As Mary Baker Eddy put it:

Are we truly grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of it, and thus be fitted to receive more.

What better way to show gratitude for food than to “avail ourselves of it” by enjoying it as-is instead of wishing it tasted like something else?

I’m not saying there’s nothing I miss. You know how I love a good cappuccino, and it’s downright painful to pass a taco truck without stopping for barbacoa. But I don’t dwell on that. Instead, I concentrate on gratitude and enjoyment of what I have. Oreo cookies, for instance, are 100 percent vegan. The Lebanese restaurant right across the street from my office serves terrific falafel. And in recent years, there’s been a proliferation of great restaurants whose entire focus is made-to-order meals, which means you can order a wholly vegan meal without tying up the line or causing a hassle for the kitchen.

All of those things are reasons for gratitude — and gratitude, regardless of your dietary choices, is the best seasoning there is.

Emily

Whatever blesses one

September 2007. I’m driving along, minding my own business, when a question flashes across my thought, in second person, as if it’s coming from somewhere outside my own consciousness: What would you say if I told you I wanted you back in the classroom?

“Let me get back to you on that,” I choke, and for three days, I wrestle with the idea, remembering how rough my first year was and why I swore I’d never teach again.

I finally come up with a less-than-reverent response: “I don’t know how you think you’re going to pull this off, but you’re the omnipotent one. I’m not helping you with this, but if you’re bound and determined to do it, you just knock yourself out.”

Never, ever dare God to do anything.

March 2008. I get pink-slipped from the best job I’ve ever had.

September 2008. After a series of job changes, chance encounters, and offhand conversations, I find myself back in a sophomore English classroom. This time around, I’m ready for it, and I love it more than I ever imagined possible.

November 2011. I still love teaching, and I adore my students, but the constant demands of the job are wearing me down, and I can feel myself starting to burn out.

February 2012. Once again, I’m driving along, minding my own business, when another thought flashes across my consciousness:

You’ve done what I needed you to do. You don’t have to teach next year if you don’t want to.

Lovely thought, but I don’t trust it. I don’t have to teach next year if I don’t want to? What the hell is that supposed to mean? This is not how I understand God to work. People do not just get permission to make completely selfish decisions because they are tired. I shrug it off.

April 2012. We get word that our building will lose four teaching positions due to funding cuts.

I do the math. I’ve got enough seniority to be safe. But the most vulnerable person in my department also happens to be one of the best teachers in the building. He’s gotten through to kids I couldn’t reach, and he’s pushed kids past their own self-imposed limitations and demanded that they reach the potential most of them don’t even realize they have. We can’t lose him to budget cuts! My kids need him!

You don’t have to teach again next year if you don’t want to.

Suddenly it makes sense. I don’t have permission to make a selfish decision. I have permission to make the right decision. I need a break, and my kids need my colleague. It’s a no-brainer. I turn in my resignation, effective at the close of the school year.

Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, “Whatever blesses one blesses all, … Spirit not matter, being the source of supply.”

She was right.

I will miss my kids, but I’ve already lined up an interesting new job, so in the end, I get a graceful exit from the classroom, a friend gets to keep a job he loves, and my kids get the teacher they need next year.

We are all blessed indeed.

Emily

Folk Thursday: Walela

I’m not right
You’re not wrong
We both know what this love of ours is built upon…
Each one thinks he
Has the answer
Each one believes
He can see the way, the only one
Truth lies waiting
Was always waiting
Like a love
A peaceful dove
Right there inside your soul
From another
Place and time
Moving into the circle of light

— Walela

I was driving the old alignment of Route 66 between San Jon and Glenrio the other day, praying to see healing in a situation involving a damaged friendship, when this song came floating out of my speakers and brought me to a halt.

I pulled over, turning the lyrics over in my thought, and stood on the terra cotta highway, inhaling the cool, clean breeze that rustled the desert sage along the shoulders of the road and basking in a sense of peace I haven’t felt in ages.

I can’t say that things are 100 percent normal between my friend and me just now. But they will be. The Father’s work is done, and we are cautiously but steadily “moving into the circle of light.”

Emily

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