Category Archives: Healings

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?



“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.


Chalking it up

My Algebra I kids are learning to graph inequalities on a number line. To teach them effectively, I needed a tool that would allow them to graph several problems in rapid succession, with answers big enough that I could see them from halfway across the room. After some thought, I came up with a number line written on a yardstick that had been coated on one side with chalkboard paint. I used the inch markings — which were stamped into the wood — as guides to keep the spacing even. They were cheap (less than $30 worth of materials for the whole project) and worked really well.

The picture above shows one of the number lines and another little tool I made for the classroom: I took cardboard cutouts of robots (available from Michael’s for $1.99 a dozen) and sprayed them with the chalkboard paint. The kids will use them to show me their answers to problems they work in class.

Here are some closeups of my handiwork:

I like the robots. They’re kind of like those dry-erase paddles you get at teachers’ stores, except they’re a lot cheaper ($5 for a class set instead of $105) and a lot cuter. I’m hoping they’ll overcome some of the kids’ shyness about sharing answers in class. Calling out an answer is scary, but holding up a cardboard robot with the answer written on it is just funny.

The other cool thing about using homemade items in class is that they make the kids feel loved. My kids always get really excited when they find out I made something for them myself: “You made that? Really? How long did that take? I can’t believe you spent all that time making that just for us!”

Handmade means something to them. My mentor/saboteur at my first teaching job understood that. She had her faults, but her classroom was a very warm, inviting space, with handmade valances at the windows and little craft-show decorations everywhere. It felt more like a friend’s kitchen than a gritty urban classroom, and that really resonated with the kids.

It occurs to me that I have spent 12 years hoarding my bad experiences with this woman and dismissing the good. Until this minute, I don’t think it ever occurred to me to acknowledge what she was doing right or to consider that she might have loved her kids as much as I love mine. There’s another blog entry in that, but I’ll save it for tomorrow, as it’s getting late tonight.

For now, I’ll just bask in the knowledge that I am healing, be it ever so slowly.


Home run

I’m heading to Southern Illinois first thing tomorrow morning. I’d initially planned to make one last New Mexico trip before school starts, just to get my Tucumcari fix, but then something unexpected happened: I felt a vague pang of homesickness for Southern Illinois.

That’s never happened before. Not once since I moved have I actually missed my home area.

I never felt really comfortable in Southern Illinois. Grew up there, spent the better end of 30 years of my life there, but never felt like I really fit in there. Oklahoma, on the other hand, felt like home from the minute I arrived.

Then I had my brush with fame at the ballpark last week, and I came back to Tulsa bubbling over with excitement, telling everybody who’d listen about how I’d met Ryne Sandberg … to which they replied: “Who’s Ryne Sandberg?”

For the first time in my life, I caught myself starting a sentence with: “Where I grew up…” and for the first time in my life, I caught myself feeling just a little bit smug about where I grew up.

For the first time in my life, I was proud to say that I come from Herrin, Illinois, where we grew up listening to Harry Caray on WGN or Jack Buck on KMOX. I come from Herrin, where the high-school softball team went to state so many times that the boys finally had to stop saying, “You play ball like a girl!” for fear it would be mistaken for a compliment. I come from Herrin, where for the latter half of the ’80s and well into the ’90s, you could not drive two blocks without passing a handmade plywood cutout advertising the owner’s baseball allegiance. I come from Herrin, where we damn well know who Ryne Sandberg is and aren’t likely to forget him — or anybody else from the 1989 Cubs’ starting lineup — anytime soon.

I come from Herrin, and tomorrow morning, I will rise with the dawn, get in my car, and drive back to Herrin to spend a few days looking at my hometown with fresh eyes.

Maybe I’ll play a little catch with my goddaughter and her older sister. Maybe teach Jamie where his strike zone is. Maybe rent “Field of Dreams” and watch it with Daddy and try not to cry. Maybe go out to the ballpark and run the bases when nobody’s looking.

Maybe slide headfirst into home.


When the coast is clear

When I think of Jimmy Buffett, I don’t usually think of spiritual growth or renewal. This is, after all, the man who gave us such spiritually uplifting lyrics as “Why don’t we get drunk and screw?” and “wastin’ away again in Margaritaville.” But this evening, a televised benefit concert for the Gulf Coast provided the answer to prayer.

It hadn’t occurred to me until tonight, but the Deep Horizon oil spill is a pretty accurate metaphor for the disaster that my spiritual life has become this summer.┬áLike BP, I’ve been sloppy about maintaining the safeguards that protect my thought from the dark, messy contamination that invariably spews forth when mortal mind is allowed to operate unchecked, and like the sea creatures in the path of the spill, I’ve found myself mired in error, struggling to stay afloat.

This evening, as I was frantically trying to sort out a difficult calculus assignment, Ron turned on the TV, and out floated the Coral Reefers’ soothing steel drums.

All day, I’d been praying to remember how to let go of the fear, anger, and frustration that have been clouding my thought all summer, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when Buffett sang a set of revised lyrics to “When the Coast Is Clear” that included this line:

“We’re gonna have to work to see that the coast is clear.”

Work to see? That sounds like something that would come out of a practitioner’s mouth, I thought. I scribbled the line on the edge of my math assignment.

A moment later, he reinforced the lesson:

“Anger makes us doubtful, while fear can cloud the view.”

Heh, I thought. That’s got Mrs. Eddy’s fingerprints all over it:

“Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of life harmonious–as Life eternally is–can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Life is not.”
Mary Baker Eddy

Apparently the voice of God sounds like Jimmy Buffett. Who knew?


Iocane powder

“They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.”
— Westley, The Princess Bride

At one point in the movie The Princess Bride, the hero, Westley, faces — and defeats — a vicious but rather ridiculous opponent named Vizzini. Westley and Vizzini play a guessing game involving a poisoned cup, and Westley’s victory hinges on the fact that both men’s cups are poisoned, but Westley is immune to the poison.

Twelve years ago, a rather Vizzini-like character stabbed me in the back out of petty jealousy.

I was devastated. Her actions cost me my job and put my teaching career on hold for a decade.

Today, I became aware that an acquaintance has been trying to pull a similar stunt. But her actions have little effect on me, because — like Westley — I have spent the last few years building up a resistance to the “iocane powder” she’s trying to pour down my throat.

She might manage to create an inconvenience or two, but her venom can’t cause┬áme any real harm, because I know something she does not know:

“Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you.”
— Mary Baker Eddy

We don’t have to be afraid of human hatred. Hatred is error, and error is nothing.

We don’t even have to spend years building up an immunity to it.


A glimpse of heaven

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
— Luke 17:21

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. The reign of harmony….
— Mary Baker Eddy

When I was in high school, I had a little daydream that I cherished.

It began at a scholar bowl tournament somewhere in southern Illinois. I can’t remember the exact location, but I was standing outside a classroom somewhere, waiting for a game to start, when my thought was suddenly filled by a vision of a much older me, teaching high-school English and coaching a scholar bowl team of my own.

The image brought with it such a glorious sense of peace and joy that I took special care to file it neatly in my consciousness so I could find it again if I needed it.

I kept that dream close at hand for the next few years, working toward it throughout college, taking it out and looking at it when life seemed too challenging, and savoring the feeling of rightness and comfort and delight that always seemed to accompany it.

Then I spent a year teaching in north St. Louis County, and the experience was so miserable that it deflated the dream and left it languishing silently in a dustbin somewhere in the back of my thought.

The dream crept back into my thought so quietly this weekend that I scarcely noticed it at first.

Our scholar bowl team had a tournament Saturday. I’ve been helping the coach all semester, so she invited me to come along and help supervise the kids.

I expected to enjoy the tournament. But I didn’t expect what happened next.

The moderator for our first game was young and bright and knew the game backwards and forwards. I knew, even before I asked, that he had spent a lot of time behind a buzzer himself, and I thought of the happy hours some of my friends and I had spent moderating tournaments to help out our old coaches after we graduated.

I didn’t catch on at first, but as I watched the game, a flicker of familiar joy slipped across my consciousness like a smile from a long-lost friend.

During our second game, we had the opportunity to play in a classroom where the teacher’s love for the profession, the kids, and life in general seemed to radiate from every surface.

That classroom — and, really, the entire school — expressed such joy and enthusiasm that it made me happy just to be there. And although I still didn’t grasp what was happening, as I sat in that room, I felt that old, familiar happiness spreading through my system.

If I’m understanding Jesus’ words correctly, the “kingdom of heaven” isn’t a location in space or time. It’s a location in consciousness — a place within us where we are aware of nothing except peace, joy, and love.

I’ve not yet reached the point of dwelling perpetually in the kingdom of heaven. But every now and then, I catch a glimpse of it.

I caught a glimpse this weekend.

If I can hang onto it, work should be very, very different next week. But even if I can’t, I’ll know it’s there, waiting for me to find it again.


Irreverent prayer

I’m not sure what happened, but for the past two weeks, it’s seemed as if everybody who could possibly call a meeting or place a demand on my time has done so — and many of them simultaneously. Progress reports were due last week. Kids got into silly squabbles. The phone rang off the wall with people asking me to stop and write passes to send kids here and there for various reasons. Before-school meetings chewed up 10 consecutive mornings. Scheduling conflicts multiplied like rabbits. And to top it all off, I got a flat tire on the way home from school one afternoon.

By the time I opened an e-mail Thursday night to find yet another demand from yet another well-intentioned but time-consuming program meant to help my students, I was so frustrated and exhausted that it took all my energy to keep from curling up under my desk and dissolving into a puddle of tears.

At such a moment, Mary Baker Eddy probably would have stopped, prayed it through, and reminded herself that everything was “harmonious, as Life eternally is.”

Mrs. Eddy might have done that, but Mrs. Eddy never taught in an urban high school. The Red Fork Hippie does — and the best the Red Fork Hippie could come up with was a decidedly less-than-reverent prayer that went something like this:

All right, Pal. You got me into this. Remember? I was perfectly happy where I was. You’re the one who handed me a pink slip and a roomful of sophomores. This is your project, not mine, which means that all this crap on my plate is not my problem. It’s yours — so you sort it out. I’m going to bed.

And with that, I dropped the whole mess squarely into the Father’s lap, brushed my teeth, and went to bed.

The efficacy of a prayer does not hinge on its reverence, grace, or eloquence. Effective prayer requires only an understanding of Truth — and my artless little rant met that requirement. Frustrated as I was, at the end of the day, I knew that this really was the Father’s problem, and I really could trust Him to work it out if I said, “Here — you fix this, because I don’t know how.”

Which, of course, He did. By the time I got to school Friday morning, most of the conflicts I’d been worried about the night before had been resolved, and when I was tapped to sub for an absent colleague (something I normally hate doing), I found myself organizing a spirited battle-of-the-sexes review game that helped the kids learn their vocabulary words and left us all laughing. By the end of the day, an idea had even come to me for an innovative program to solve a longstanding problem with one of my most challenging students.

Reverence and gratitude have their place. But it’s nice to know that in a pinch, we can dispense with the formalities and just have a frank conversation with our Father.


That’s why she came

The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares.

— Mary Baker Eddy

The quote above arrived in my inbox Friday morning as the Daily Thought from

I’d forgotten about it until Ron and I went out for a late dinner tonight after he got off work. As we were finishing up our dessert, I overheard two ladies talking in the booth behind me. I don’t make a habit of eavesdropping on strangers’ conversations, but the word “Lord” kept coming up, and something told me I needed to pay attention.

One of the ladies was basically admonishing the other to stay positive and look for the blessings in a bad situation.

“Don’t keep talking about what you can’t,” she advised. “You have to just think about what you can. You have to give all the glory to the Lord, and when you start saying, ‘But I can’t,’ that’s giving the devil an opening.”

In other words: Don’t get so mired in your “suffering sense” that you overlook the angel.

Suddenly willing to acknowledge my blessings, I thought about all the ways Scout had enriched my life.

Over the course of nearly 11 years, she taught me about patience, unconditional love, patience, tolerance, patience, persistence, patience, not taking things personally, patience, pack order, patience, assertiveness, patience, balancing praise with correction, patience … and, um, patience.

My kids have a much better teacher because of her. All those things she taught me are things that come up every day in my classroom.

I’d thought the timing of her illness was a little strange: She came to me immediately after I quit teaching in 1998, and here she was, leaving just after I wandered back into the classroom.

Well, of course she left. Her work was done. She didn’t come so I’d have soft fur to nuzzle or a feisty little friend to entertain me. She was sent to prepare me for a trip back into the classroom. Once it was clear she’d accomplished her mission, there was no reason for her to stay.

I still hurt. But in understanding the reason for Scout’s life, I was able to make just a little sense of her passing, and I found just a little peace through the pain.