In my life, there have been many dreary days when the sun did not shine and it was too wet to go out and too cold to play ball. On those days I could read and travel around the globe with books. Sometimes I went to places that were real and sometimes I traveled into Narnia or Wonderland. In my travels, I discovered that from there to here, from there to there, funny things are everywhere.
When I grew up I became a teacher and had students who would rather eat green eggs and ham than read. They wouldn’t read in a box or with a fox, in a house or with a mouse, but with some work most discovered that they liked reading everywhere.
March is celebrated as Reading Month by schools and families across the country. Special days and contests are designed to help students discover the joys of reading. We celebrate reading in March because March 2, is the birthday of Ted Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Geisel did much to expand the library of children’s literature by creating high-interest stories as an author-illustrator as well as the editor of Beginner Books. He worked with P.D. Eastman and Stan and Jan Berenstain to create a library of titles that would motivate children to read including Go, Dog, Go and Old Hat New Hat. One of his requirements was that the illustration on the page had to match the words to help struggling readers self-correct.
This year, the day is being swallowed up by controversy about the work of Dr. Seuss. I’ve seen more posts about the controversy than I have about reading month! So here’s my plan of action - I’m going to move forward without heeding any of the articles because they don’t affect me and I doubt they affect you. One story states that a school district in Virginia is dropping Dr. Seuss and another states that six books will no longer be published. Although I have opinions about these issues, neither announcement has any immediate effect on my life. I don’t live in Virginia and I already own a copy of And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.
Andy Warhol predicted a world where everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. I’ve seen people achieve those minutes in a variety of ways but it seems like a current popular method is to cancel something. People start sharing their approval or disapproval and soon it’s all anyone can talk about. But what happens then? We aren’t talking about the benefits of reading, rather we are arguing and fighting for something that really has no impact on us. I’ve seen many shares of the anti-Seuss campaign with great consternation and while this is understandable it has to stop. Social media gives you a positive feedback loop so the majority of what you see affirms your own viewpoints. This gets us nowhere. I strongly encourage you to read “The Zax.” It’s only a few pages long and can be found in The Sneetches and Other Stories. (That whole book is incredibly relatable right now. In “The Sneetches,” Sylvester McMonkey McBean takes advantage of the Sneetches by exploiting their desires and encouraging divisiveness.) In “The Zax,” a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax run into each other while walking across an open plain. Neither would deviate from their course and so they stayed butting heads for a couple of years until the growing world grew around them. Arguing with people on social media feels like that. I can argue and refuse to deviate course but what will that accomplish?
So today, I’m asking you to join me. Don’t be a Zax. Don’t let Sylvester McMonkey McBean manipulate you. Pick up a book and read. If you can, read a Dr. Seuss book aloud today. Luke (age 2) was delighted by Green Eggs and Ham this afternoon and I plan on reading and discussing some of The Sneetches and Other Stories with Logan this evening. Read The Lorax and discuss conservation or read The Butter Battle Book and discuss nuclear proliferation. For a taste of what it feels like to age read You’re Only Old Once, but follow it up with something positive and inspiring like Horton Hatches an Egg.
I know it’s upsetting to read about things “getting canceled” but you don’t have to participate. No one is coming for my books (yet) so I’m going to fight back against cancel culture by going around the “other Zax” and sharing my love for reading and learning with others. At night, don’t spend time fretting over what others are doing or refusing to do, rather inspire those whom you have the ability to influence then lay your head down saying, “Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. Every day, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”
It was few days into the New Year and I found myself sobbing while sitting on the floor amid a mess of Christmas decorations, storage boxes, and semi-decorated trees. Every year I like to take the ornaments off the trees while watching the Rose Parade. Jason and Logan wish the decorations would stay up a little longer but I like starting January 1 off by putting Christmas away. Our little debate has become a tradition and one that I didn’t know how much I loved until it was gone. No Rose Parade, no decorations taken down and, suddenly, everything was just “off” about this new year.
I knew there wouldn’t be drastic differences between December 31 and January 1, yet there’s always that hope ushered in by a new year and it was already dashed. Everyone had so loudly protested that 2020 was the worst year ever and the idea that its end would bring a promise of change. Now 2021 was only a few days old and the virus was still here, political tension reigned in the land, and 2021 was proving that hope in this new year would provide disappointment.
Eventually, all the Christmas decorations did come down and the house is now back in order, or at least our version of it, but I’ve been thinking a lot about hope. Not the hope that hopes I find my lost keys or the hopes that I have for Logan’s future, but rather the hope that my heart looks to when it is in trouble, the thing that anchors my soul. The song lyrics, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,” have been stuck in my mind and I’ve been thinking a lot about Hebrews 6:19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Today’s Word: Hope
One syllable. Pronounced [hohp]. Verb. Defined on Dictionary.com as “to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to believe, desire, or trust”
As Biden was sworn in as President of the United States people around our area began shooting off fireworks. Of course this sent Samoa scrambling upstairs convinced that we were under attack and that it was every man, or dog, for themselves. Today my social media feeds are full of celebration and hope for the future. People are happy that their daughters have hope in Kamala Harris becoming VP. People are looking forward to so much and it makes me sad. I’m not sad because I hate the elected officials or because I disagre with their idology. I’m sad because I see people building on the wrong foundation.
In Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus tells the story of two builders. One builder built his house on the sand. I’m sure it was a great house with a great view, but when the storm came the house fell flat. Its foundation was unstable and provided no protection. The other builder built his house on the rock. Maybe this house had a great view as well or maybe it didn’t, but what matters is that when the storm came, the house stood firm. It didn’t fall down or suffer damage. My favorite image to illustrate Psalm 46 is that of a lighthouse pelted by giant waves. God is our refuge and strength and so because of that we can be still and know that he is God. The quality of the building materials isn’t the point here. This isn’t the story of the three little pigs. This is about foundations. What is your house built on?
My literal house is built on a solid foundation that includes a basement. My spiritual house is also built on a solid foundation, the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that I have a created purpose so I seek to fufill that purpose with confidence in a future hope. Please understand I am not being critical of those who are hoping in VP Harris. I don’t know if she will meet their expectations for her or if she will fail to meet them, but I know she is human and that in this era of cancel culture we have seen so many people fall from the favor of those who once supported them. Today, people who once cheered for and supported VP Pence are calling him all sorts of names including traitor. The point is that people dissapoint.
In this era of the mind-bending convergence of cancel culture and “don’t judge me” attitudes, it is radical to say that one thing is sure and trust worthy. We are in an era when nothing and no one seem trust worthy and yet I choose to trust God. I have seen Him working in my life over and over and I will follow him. I don’t do this because I’m a wonderful person. I am a person who really wants that beach front house built on my own fabulous ideas, but I’ve seen the damage done by storms that have destroyed my attempts to build anything off a solid foundation.
So where is your hope? Is it in someone or something that might disappoint or is it in the unmovable and unchanging God? I’m currently reading through the Bible using the R. M. M’Cheyne reading plan which will take me through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. I’m not doing this because I want to check a box everyday but because I want to know the God that I serve. I want to live in the knowledge of him so that I can honestly say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I’m not certian of anthing this 2021 except for knowing that God is the unchanging and unmovable rock I upon which I will build my life.
We are in the midst of a polarizing political season. Facebook and Twitter are full of very angry people trying to convince others to agree with them, or more often crititizing those who don't agree with them. People shout and yell then they feel good when they get likes and shares which bolsters their viewpoint. They forget that the platforms’ algorithms show users what they want to see which causes further polarization. I make a habit of following others whom I do not agree with in order to get a broader perspective of the issues. I constantly go back to God’s Word as my foundational belief before proceeding with any belief.
Although this has been a long time concern, I have been noticing it growing increasingly worse. Individuals who may agree with a group on an issue are being attacked for not being zealous enough or for deviating from the party line. The concern is that these people who feel marganilized and attacked will fail to participate in the voting process at all.
Based on the conversations I’ve had with many people lately I’ve compiled a list of things that make me say, “You lost me,” when I see your political post. These are things that make my respect for people’s viewpoints diminish and weakens future ideas you promote. Please read these and share if you agree. I don’t think I’m alone here. You lost me when . . .
So what can you do to persuade others to agree with you? Well, in all honesty, in some cases, nothing. Some people, despite your best efforts and the best arguments, will never agree with you. So don’t waste your time arguing with them. Move on. If you have to get along with them because they are a co-worker, neighbor, family member, etc. find common ground and meet them there. However, there are people searching for answers and looking for direction. Here are some ways that you can influence them.
So, there it is. I have been purposefully vague regarding specific candidates. My purpose in discussing politics isn’t to debate the 2020 election but to encourage others, particularly believers in Christ to do so with compassion and critical thinking. Now more than ever it is important to be a light in the darkness of this fallen world.
Last year I began to research the history of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. My first discovery was that it was impossible to learn about the suffrage movement without studying the women’s rights movement. My second discovery was that this topic makes most people very uncomfortable. I read many books and still have many more on my to-read list. I think that Elaine Weiss best described why women gaining the right to vote is so hard to sum up quickly in the introduction to her book The Women’s Hour. “Winning the vote required seventy-two years of ceaseless agitation by three generations of dedicated, fearless, suffragists, who sought to overturn centuries of law and millennia of tradition concerning gender roles. The women who launched the movement were dead by the time it was completed; the women who secured its final success weren’t born when it began. It took more than nine hundred local, state, and national campaigns, involving tens of thousands of grassroots volunteers, financed by millions of dollars of mostly small (and a few large) donations by women across the country.”
Discovery 1: It is impossible to learn about the suffrage movement without studying the women’s rights movement.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucrecia Mott were discussing the lack of women’s rights with some other Quaker ladies at a tea party. There they decided to host a women’s convention in Seneca Falls, New York. They wrote up a Women’s Rights Declaration. After discussing and reviewing the document Stanton added one more desired right, the right to vote. This shocked some women who thought this was too far. Susan B. Anthony did not attend this convention but she and Stanton joined forces later after being introduced by Amelia Bloomer. Stanton was unable to travel as extensively as Anthony so she primarily wrote Anthony’s speeches. Stanton said of Anthony, “I forged the firebolts and she fired them.”
It is important to note that the rights these women were fighting for are the very rights we so often take for granted today. The rights to serve our communities as employees, leaders, and elected officials. The rights to hold men accountable for their actions through a divorce, separation, or legal repercussions. The right to vote was added as a last and final thought. Many convention attendees believed asking for this right was too ambitious but eventually, suffrage became the main battle. Because the issue of suffrage was originally part of the greater women’s rights struggle it is impossible to study one without the other.
Discovery 2: The topic of women’s rights makes most people very uncomfortable.
One cause of this is the fact that women’s rights issues are very broad. In the Declaration of Sentiments, Stanton laid out grievances in social, political, and religious spheres. The broad nature of these topics makes it possible for a large range of opinions. It is hard to give examples and explain while also remaining on topic. You might read the above statement and assume I am only talking about certain groups. I am not. I went into this research with a very open mind and was very disappointed to discover very few people who I could hold up as wonderful examples. Stanton and Anthony were admirable for beginning the movement but they were livid when Fredrick Douglas prioritized helping black men gain the vote over helping the women’s suffrage movement. Douglas tried to make the women see that he agreed with the cause of women’s suffrage but to black men, suffrage was a matter of life and death.
Racism was a key theme on both sides of the suffrage issue. When Ida B. Wells, a prominent writer who spoke out against lynching, attempted to march with the suffragists she was turned away because she was black. Although the exact wording is debated, Sojourner Truth’s plea of, “Ain’t I a woman?” still echos through history. She was begging for the rights that white women were trying to secure for only themselves. They were unwilling to share their rights with Truth because of the color of her skin.
Another aspect of the women’s rights issue involves the Bible and the Church. I could fill volumes discussing this but today I will limit myself to saying this: Women of the Church are called to the Great Commission just as our brothers in Christ are. In the New Testament, the Bible lays out very specific parameters for how women should behave IN THE CHURCH. Too many times these have been misused to silence women in their communities. Mott, Anthony, and Stanton’s main reason for joining together was that all three had been silenced in groups speaking for abolition and temperance. Women of God MUST take the time to gain a biblical understanding of womanhood before accepting the cultural role of women of any given time including our own.
In the end, I came up with seven names that I wear today with the understanding that they are flawed humans but their work and sacrifices made it possible for me to enjoy the freedoms I so often take for granted.
Mott: Lucretia Mott was a Quaker known for speaking out about temperance and abolition. She attended the tea party during which the Women’s Convention was first discussed. Mott loved people and fought for the rights of others.
Stanton: Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a writer and advocate for women’s rights as well as an organizer of the first Women’s Rights Convention. Stanton fought with fervor and grit despite setbacks and discouragements.
Anthony: Susan B. Anthony is the name best known for women’s suffrage and it is her name that is associated with the 19th Amendment. She fought tirelessly for the cause for the majority of her life.
Truth: Sojourner Truth was enslaved in New York but after gaining her freedom she spent her life speaking out against slavery and in favor of women’s rights. She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth to testify to the hope that was in her.
Douglas: Frederick Douglas was maligned and mistreated for his stance on suffrage by Stanton and Anthony yet he remained faithful to the cause. They chose to distance themselves from him because of the color of his skin but he remained a defender of women’s rights. He didn’t let evil from leaders blind his mind to the justness of the cause.
Wells: Ida B. Wells was a teacher, journalist, and a leader in the civil rights movement. She was born into slavery but became one of the most well-known women in America. She spoke out against lynching despite the danger to herself. She faced discrimination for both her color and gender but never backed down.
Catt: Carrie Chapman Catt was Susan B. Anthony’s handpicked successor to lead the suffrage cause. She fought with grace and dignity. She did not adhere to the ideals of Alice Paul and the militant suffs but rather fought through lobbying, letter writing, and campaigning.
Me: I am still figuring out where I belong in all this. I am dedicated to studying where my role in the world is and discovering God’s plan for my life. As a teacher, I want girls to know that they are loved and they have an exciting role to play in society and the church. I want to celebrate the efforts of the women (and men) who came before me to fight for what I so thoroughly enjoy today.
Here are some of the titles I've read as I've been researching this topic. I still have many more on my to-read list. Do you have any favorite books about women or women's issues?
Women and God: Hard Questions, Beautiful Truth by Kathleen Nielson
What Is a Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics by Rachael Denhollander
Eve in Exile and the Restoration of Femininity by Rebekah Merkle
Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible, and What He Wants to Do with You by John F. MacArthur Jr.
Young Radicals: In the War for American Ideals by Jeremy McCarter
Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote by Susan
100 Extraordinary Stories for Courageous Girls: Unforgettable Tales of Women of Faith by Jean
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
When You Grow Up to Vote: How Our Government Works for You by Eleanor Roosevelt
The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine F. Weiss
Wild Women of Michigan: A History of Spunk and Tenacity by Norma Lewis
Act Natural: A Cultural History of Misadventures in Parenting by Jennifer Traig
Uppity Women of Medieval Times by Vicki León
Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein
Freedom Heroines (Profiles #4) by Frieda Wishinsky
Heroes for My Daughter & Heroes for My Son by Brad Meltzer
Ladies First: 40 Daring Woman Who Were Second to None by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
In just a few days Hamilton: An American Musical will be debuting on Disney+. When I first heard this news I was elated. I’ve seen the stage production in Chicago twice and listened to the original cast recording many times. I wanted to take the time today to tell you a little about it before it airs on a streaming service with so much content for children.
If you have Disney+, you know it’s great. The vault has been opened and users have access to (almost) all the movies Disney has created. That said, it is important to keep in mind that not all movies on the service are appropriate for children. Some, like superhero movies, are violent and not appropriate for small children.
Which brings us back to Hamilton. As I said before, I thoroughly enjoy the musical but always shudder when I see young kids listening or attending. Here’s why. There are several objectionable elements that make the musical inappropriate for young kids.
He concludes that he wrote his own successes in the past and decides to do it again. This time his writing exposes his family to shame and he finds that he can not write himself out of every situation. Later in the song “It’s Quiet Uptown” Hamilton receives forgiveness from his wife and we see a beautiful example of redemption. I’ve heard immature listeners quote “Hurricane” as a type of mantra but that lacks the understanding of its place in the story.
So, there are the negatives. With all that you may be saying, “Um, Edy, why are you a fan of this show?” Yes, there are negatives. But there are many parts of this musical that lead me to rank it up with my favorites including The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.
We just finished school last Friday. Normally, I’d be posting our summer bucket list and sharing a list of places we planned to visit as well as lists of activities we planned to accomplish. I would have done this in early May but this year is going to look very different. Our governor extended the stay at home order for our area until June 12. Whether or not we agree with that choice, it has a major impact on our plans. Museums, zoos, etc., may not be open so this year there is no point in adding them to a bucket list. Many of these places offer virtual tours, but we haven’t been able to embrace those in the same way we can get excited about visiting in person.
In past years we’ve had the Summer of Go and Grow, the Summer of Adventure, the Summer of Exploring, and so on. How do I create a summer bucket list when there is no chance of adventure, exploring, or going? Well, after listening to our pastor’s sermon about Psalm 34 I decided to plan the Summer of Radiance. Psalm 34:5 says that those who look to the Lord are radiant. Radiant is defined as “(1) emitting rays of light; shining; bright: (2) bright with joy, hope, etc.: Jesus said he is the light of the world. When I try to be the light of the world I fail miserably. My lights power source quickly grows dim and I burn out quickly. But Jesus IS the light of the world. When I radiate His light I don’t grow weary because I’m no longer responsible to be the source of the light.
This summer our goal will be to radiate God’s love to the world. It feels like now more than ever we need to be a light in the darkness. Murder, violence, hatred are all too common. Although we all need a break now and then, the culture of entertainment is not healthy. Our days are not just about entertaining ourselves but we were created to fulfill a beautiful purpose. That purpose, what we call God’s will for our lives, cannot be accomplished if we focus on making ourselves happy. This summer we want Logan to see that there is satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy to be found in serving God by learning to care for the things God has provided for us and by learning to care for others.
So here’s our list:
Study logical fallacies critical thinking skills
Write letters to family and friends
Learn to plan and cook a dinner
Watch the Cosby Show
Build a river in the yard
Read the 100 Cupboards series
Learn how to wash the car by hand
Go for a hike
Build a bat house
Ride bikes to Rochester
Build a squirrel picnic table
Perform 5 random acts of kindness
Build a stand for Mikhail Gorbachev (the betta fish)
Finish Big Life Journal
Go (alone) to Ace Hardware
Learn to tie a tie
Plant a forest garden
As you may have heard, we are living in unprecedented times. Just kidding - I’m sure you’ve heard this 1,000 times. It’s mentioned at least five times during each press conference and at least twice during each news broadcast. These unprecedented times have us all scrambling and doing new things. I’ve tried at least 10 new recipes (several of which are winners). Kids are trying new home science and craft projects they didn’t have time to do before. Parents are realizing just how hard teachers work to educate their children.
Many of us are getting frustrated and antsy to get back to life while others navigate the phases of reopening. To some, staying home feels like a waste of time and every day begins to look like the day before it. Our days seem like anything but unprecedented. It’s all been done before. Sun goes up, the sun goes down. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time. Our frustrations begin to sound like Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
How depressing! At the beginning of Ecclesiastes, Solomon sounds like he could sit and commiserate with Macbeth. I imagine them sitting languidly staring into a fire.
Macbeth: “All our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.”
Solomon: “All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”
By the end of his pondering though, Solomon has moved on and left Macbeth behind. He concludes, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.”
So that is it. As followers of Christ we are not promised freedom from trouble. In fact, Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) You will have trouble - not great words to put on a recruitment poster, but praise God the promise doesn't end there. Christ overcame the world and through him we are more than conquerors. There is so much debate about masks, reopening, social distancing, etc. We must research, ask questions, seek out reputable sources for answers, and responsibly share with our people. Our first priority should be raidating Christ's message to the world so we should be very cautious about alienating people with charged political statements.
Fear God and keep his commandments. Not exactly the easiest conclusion to execute, but that's what we've been given. Even if the days are looking the same and things become monotonous God is there. God is good and His way is perfect.
The baby that I nanny for has reached an important stage of development that is both challenging and fun - he’s acting independently. As babies leave the newborn stage and grow they are carried around and interact with the environments they are provided with. Slowly they realize they can do things even if they know they are being told no. I will NEVER forget the moment Logan realized he could act independently of me. He was crawling across my in-laws’ family room floor and he reached for their DVD player. I said, “No. No touch.” He looked at me, looked back at the DVD, touched it, then looked back at me. I could see him reasoning out, “Mom says not to but I really want to touch it. Ha! That was so satisfying. Uh-oh, look cute! She’s looking upset.”
Today, Luke climbed to the top of our pool slide. I was right beside him the whole time. I know it’s good exercise and the view from the top is beautiful so I let him climb and protected him from any harm. Then came the trouble. He knows slides. He has a little slide in his playroom at home. Slides are exhilarating and there is ground at the bottom. He KNEW that slide would be so fun. He’s a slide expert. But here’s the problem. He was wrong. At the end of this slide was a pool with 52° water. It was only 45° outside. He was wearing a coat, hat, shoes, along with all his clothes. I knew that him going down that slide would end in misery and could keep him from enjoying the pool when it was warmer and much more enjoyable. So back down the ladder we went. He screamed at me. He was mad. I hugged him and told him, “No slide.” Logan came out and he ran to Logan babbling and pointing at me and the slide. I imagine he told Logan that I was crazy. I was ruining all the fun he could have had.
I was immediately struck with the thought that just a few minutes before I had been contemplating our current circumstances. I was thinking about fall school plans and friends who were saying that their schools are already preparing for online learning to continue. I was saying, “No, no, no! I can’t do this. This won’t work! Things are just not going to work like this.” I wasn’t trying to problem solve as much as fight the circumstances around me. I was like Luke sitting at the top of that slide. I know what needs to be done. I KNOW what is best. I have experience as a teacher. I have experience as a parent. God was trying to lead me in the way that is best for me and yet I was kicking and screaming, “I know better!!!”
So now I’m back on the ground, but what do I do now? Bury my head in the sand or say, “No worries! Noting to fret about here,” with a maniacal smile while I slowly lose my mind? Hardly. I should bring my concerns to God. Pray for ideas that will help me help my son and the others who need help through the storms ahead. This could be a wonderful opportunity for the church to share the gospel with lonely, hurting people.
I don’t know what the future holds, but right now, I’m going to rest in the knowledge that God knows what’s at the bottom of the slide even better than I do.
I'm currently reading a book called Oh, Ranger! It is a collection of stories and essays written by National Park Rangers. I was moved by an essay written by Shelton Johnson, an African-American National Park Service ranger. While looking through photographs at Yosemite's research library he found a photograph of 25 African-Amerian soldiers who had protected the land from ranchers who were grazing their animals on park land. Their names are not recorded but these soldiers protected Yosemite until they were relieved by another regiment who noted their excellent service. Often African-American men would choose to serve in the military because it was one of the few jobs that provided a pension available to them. That said, they still failed to receive proper respect. Ranger Johanson wrote them a letter thanking them for their service and for allowing himself to be caught up in their story. I found the ending particularly poignant:
"Thank you for clearing the trail that I followed 100 years later. You cannot imagine how your passage has made my journey infinitely easier, as I hope mine will be for those who follow."
My heart hurts when I read stories about violence against others because of how they look. These stories go back for hundreds of years and involve all sorts of people. They are sad, dark, and full of hate. Do you hate these stories too? Perhaps, like those soldiers who protected Yosemite, we can do some things to make the journey of those who follow us a bit easier.
If you ran yesterday and posted about in on social media, good for you. Now keep running. Keep moving. Call someone in an elected office. Create a petition. Volunteer to help others. Look each person you meet in the eyes and see them as a life created for a purpose.
One of my favorite preschool memories is Jay asking Maddie what color her new baby was going to be, brown or white. Maddie, whose mom was very pregnant, was the only fair-skinned child out of my 10 students. She looked around the room and said, “I don’t know, probably brown.” They honestly didn’t know why our skin looks the way it does. It appeared to be about statistics to them and asking about it was as casual as asking a friend to pass the playdough.
Aging robs us of the innocence of youth but it doesn’t have to rob us of our curiosity. Below I’ve provided a list of books that have helped me get into the lives and experiences of those whose heritage I do not share. True these are fiction, but the experiences of the characters are very real. I, like Ranger Johnson, thank those who have come before me. I come from a line of curious and compassionate people. My wish is that my life will pave the way for future generations to share God’s love with the world as I try, yet often fail, to do.
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1968 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick
Chains by Laurie Hase Anderson
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacquline Woodson
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Underground by Jean Ferris
Today's Word: Symbiotic
Four syllables. Pronounced [sim-bahy-ot-ik]. adjective. Defined on Dictionary.com as “living in symbiosis, or having an interdependent relationship.”
I’m currently reading a book called Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers, and Why They Matter. After telling some friends that I was reading this book they consoled me and offered some ideas about how to relieve my boredom. Undaunted, I told them I wasn’t bored. This is just the kind of book I find interesting.
Did you know that beavers could reduce wildfires and help stop the droughts that plague the west? I didn’t, but I do now. My family and friends know what’s coming when I’m pulling up photos to show them - “Look! Look here at Susie Creek. Notice the changes that have occurred since the introduction of beavers! Where are you going? This is fascinating!” They’ve grown accustomed to hearing about whatever book I’m reading at the time.
“Caffeine had a crazy impact on the French Revolution.”
“King Leopold . . . what a terrible human he was.”
“So people are wary of AI but what we really need to monitor are algorithms.”
From Eager, I learned about the symbiotic relationship between beavers, elk, wolves, and salmon. When humans alter one or more of the parts of an ecosystem, the system falls out of balance. Repairing that imbalance is usually possible, but often costly. For example, since 2006 bats have been combating diseases including White-Nose Syndrome. It is really easy to say, “Bats are gross. They freak me out. Who cares if they all die.” BUT Bats save farmers billions of dollars each year by eliminating pests. Farmers would spend significantly more on pesticides if bats were eliminated. (Not to mention the impact of increased pesticides on the food system.) Bats also feast on bugs which controls the insect population and act as pollinators. So why should you care about bats? Because they fix a problem (insects/pollination) that you didn’t know you needed fixing.
Generally, I thought of the word symbiotic in a scientific manner - organisms need each other to survive - but after spending over a month in quarantine I’ve realized that symbiotic is much more. As an introvert, I am perfectly happy to stay home and spend time alone. My biggest struggle at the beginning of quarantine wasn’t being apart from people. It was that Logan and Jason were both home and I couldn’t be more alone. Now we are settling into a pattern of me spending time reading while Jason and Logan connect with friends via technology. I stay connected with people via texts, emails, phone calls, and Zoom. Then we come back together for cooking and games. Something that has become painfully obvious to our household, as well as the rest of the world, is the symbiotic relationships we are part of that are currently missing from our lives. Logan worked out a lot of his angst at school while chasing friends, messing around in the halls, and moving around the school with his people. Walking alone outside during “forced outside time” doesn’t provide the same kind of effect. We’re seeing a similar breakdown of relationships causing fallout in the economic sector.
We have a symbiotic relationship with each other that so many of us, including me, took for granted. Until now. If you are sad and tired of being alone, that’s okay. It’s okay to be sad that you feel alone. In fact, being alone was the first thing that God said wasn’t good about His creation. Check out this passage from Genesis 2.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
As a child, I wondered how long it took for Adam to feel alone. I thought it must have been a very long time because he had all of Eden to explore, he named the animals, he talked to God, but then when I saw that God made Adam AND Eve on day six I realized that Adam had been lonely after less than ONE day. I’ll save any comments about men needing women and just point out that we weren’t supposed to be alone. When Adam is introduced to Eve he breaks out in verse and gives us the first lines of poetry ever spoken. If you are looking forward to celebrating with others when this is over that is exactly the way God created you to feel. Connected.
I hope that this time of quarantine has helped you focus more on those with whom you have a symbiotic relationship. I know I have realized how much I like sitting around people even if I don’t like being at loud parties. I’ve realized how much encouragement I get from seeing my kids laugh and talk together. I’ve realized the great pleasure I took in deep conversations over coffee or dinner with friends. This too shall pass but I hope the lessons I’ve learned don’t.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."