A marriage saved from the green-eyed monster

by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

In my early married days, I often struggled with bouts of extreme sadness and anger as well as paranoia and fear. Unbeknownst to my dear husband — and myself, actually — I was suffering from a bite by the green-eyed monster. Jealousy is a nasty beast. And its wounds, if left undetected and untreated, can devastate a relationship. I was yet to learn that jealousy is not the same as love. Sometimes people equate feeling jealous about someone with loving them. I’m here to tell you that jealousy is not love but rather the fear of losing love.

Sadly, jealousy is all too familiar in human relationships. In fact, it has been reported wherever researchers have looked, in every culture, taking a variety of forms. Indeed, jealousy is an enduring topic of interest for scientists, songwriters, romance novelists and theologians.

Of the human emotions, sociologists say jealousy is one of the most powerful and painful. And it is deadly. Statistical studies rank jealousy as the third most common motive for murder. Jealousy certainly seemed to be Cain’s motivation for killing his brother, Abel (Genesis 4:1-8). It seemed to be what impelled Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery (Genesis, Chapter 37). And it probably was part of the reason the Pharisees hated Jesus.

But — is jealousy normal, natural and unavoidable?

Without a doubt, it is impossible to think clearly when you are jealous. Truth gets distorted, reason becomes clouded and emotion turns irrational.

For me, jealousy could have been defined as the emotional reaction to a scenario in my mind that was not true. I often perceived situations and people as threats. I also had a deep fear of loss or betrayal, although this belief was completely unfounded. While I sensed my insecurities were without basis, I didn’t know how to make a change.

Overcoming jealousy is like changing any emotional reaction or behavior. It begins with awareness.

In my search for help, I read Mary Baker Eddy’s writings on marriage and wedlock. The first statement that grabbed my attention was “Jealousy is the grave of the affections.” She wrote of the “narrowness and jealousy” that seeks to confine a wife or a husband. And she emphasized that home “should be the centre, though not the boundary, of the affections.”

I was beginning to understand that living by the “Golden Rule” was imperative in marriage, as in all walks of life. As Jesus put it, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). I certainly would not have liked my husband restricting my time spent with my friends or family. And I would not have liked being made to feel guilty about the time I did spend. But my husband was never the one who did these things — only me.

I knew my husband loved me and wanted me to be happy. He endeavored to do whatever he could to make me happy. He was a good friend to his many friends and a faithful and loving son to his parents. Should such admirable qualities and actions be punished by his wife?

So where did my unwarranted fear of losing his love come from?

It seems I needed to learn more about God’s infinite and unconditional love for me. And I needed to become more aware of my spiritual identity as the woman God created — a whole-souled woman who, too, loves unconditionally.

Such a woman knows well the spiritual strength and fortitude her Father endowed her with. And she knows well how to live love, as Paul defined in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13. This love “cares more for others than for herself; doesn’t want what it doesn’t have; doesn’t have a swelled head; isn’t always ‘me’ first; doesn’t keep score of the mistakes of others; doesn’t revel when others grovel; always looks for the best; never looks back.”

She has great patience and sees and appreciates goodness in everyone. With a congenial temperament, she is not easily agitated. Her love is expansive enough to neutralize any friction. And she is determined not to be offended when no wrong is meant.

It turns out God had given me the antidote for bites from the green-eyed monster. It was my whole-souled womanhood. Putting these qualities into practice in my marriage healed my jealousy wounds and built a permanent and powerful defense, enabling me to ward off any future approaches of this nasty beast. And my romance and marriage with my husband is 28 years strong in love.

You can be a miracle worker!

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

For many, the holiday season inspires hope and reassures faith in miracles. But belief in miracles is not limited to a particular time of year. A recent 2007 Harris poll found that 82 percent of Americans believe in God and 79 percent believe in miracles, even though only 25 percent said they attend religious services once a week or more often. It seems that trust that the impossible is possible and faith in divine help are not confined to churchgoers.

Belief in miracles exists in all cultures and almost all religions. Of course, people in different faith traditions have substantially varied definitions of a “miracle,” and even within a specific religion, the term can have different meanings. But I love knowing that many people have an unbounded and hope-filled expectation for a future of unlimited possibilities. At least, that’s part of what believing in miracles means to me.

The word “miracle” is derived from the old Latin word miraculum, meaning “something wonderful.” And in the New Testament of the Bible, “marvel” is the simple meaning of the Greek word for miracle. So it’s no surprise that words such as “signs,” “wonders,” “marvels” and “miracles” are often used interchangeably. Indeed, in the biblical sense, miracles are signs and wonders — the extraordinary events that inspire awe and open the world of the divine.

Proponents of miracles generally agree that miracles actually restore the natural and normal order of things in accord with the divine. Some say it’s the habits of our skeptical human mind that prevent us from believing in the extraordinary and that cause us to view miracles as the mysterious, unusual and unlikely. In the same light, some don’t expect miracles from ordinary folks, especially from themselves.

Who’s one of the most renowned miracle workers? Many might say Jesus, although he wasn’t seeking such fame. Jesus lived a life of love — healing and helping others — and taught us we could and should do the same. He said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also” (John 14:12). He assured, ” … for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). And he also encouraged, ” … love one another” (John 13:34) Perhaps the greatest miracle humanity could ever experience is everyone loving each other in the way Jesus practiced and advocated.

Mark Twain dubbed Anne Sullivan a miracle worker for her successful heroic efforts in the 1880s teaching Helen Keller — who could not see, hear or speak — the existence and purpose of language.

Maybe you’re thinking, “People like Jesus or even Annie Sullivan were extraordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things. Don’t look at me. I’m no miracle worker!” But what if I said you could be? What if anyone could be a miracle worker? What if workers of miracles are not a chosen few?

What if your smile, your embrace, your kind words and encouragement, your thoughtful and helpful actions, your prayers, may be just the healing touch that brightens someone’s day, lifts someone’s spirits or even dramatically changes someone’s life? I suspect that many times in our lives we have not realized the difference we make or could make in the life of another.

I still remember the teacher who saw my potential, the friend who was always there when I needed her, and the stranger who listened when I was alone or yet another stranger who stopped to help when I was in great need.

And I will always be grateful to my mother for her unconditional love and unending faith in my abilities, my brothers for making me feel like the most special and important person in the world, my husband for making me feel beautiful, loved and wanted, and my daughter for caring, listening and sharing her love, inspirations and honesty. My list continues with more family, friends and strangers who have at one time or another impacted my life in some miraculous, wonderful, transforming way.

So I say, don’t belittle the effect you have on those around you. It’s not some small miracle that our paths cross. I have no doubt that you will be someone’s miracle worker today or tomorrow or in the years to come. Maybe you’ll be mine!

A Christmas love note …

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

I asked some friends to join me in writing a Christmas love note to you. Whether you’re surrounded by family or alone this Christmas, we hope you know you’re never completely alone, because your Father-Mother God is ever by your side — ready to help, guide and give you strength, support and wisdom. He has an endless supply of healing balm for wounded and weary hearts. And you, my friends, are so very loved and precious in His sight.

Perhaps you’re feeling like Charlie Brown when he lamented, “I just don’t understand Christmas. Instead of feeling happy, I feel sort of let down.”

We don’t know why Charlie Brown had these feelings. He might have lost a parent or had a friend who moved far away or maybe a brother deployed overseas or perhaps he was snubbed once again by the little redheaded girl. Like Charlie Brown, some people find the holiday season to be a difficult time — one of sadness and loneliness, self-evaluation and reflection about the past, or anxiety about the future.

For someone grieving over a loss or struggling with memories of holidays past and loved ones no longer present, Christmas may not feel very merry. A dear friend of mine emailed me recently to say her precious mother had passed on. And I’m trying to find some words of comfort to share when I call her.

Mostly, I want her to know how much I love and cherish her friendship, and I want to tell her I’m here if she needs me in any way. I hope she and everyone will find some encouraging and strengthening words in the love notes that follow:

— — —

Christmas is so much more than a time, word, gift or season … it’s a power. And it’s found right where you are — this moment. Christmas blooms as we step aside and let Love shine. Love’s light is here for all of us. Feel it, dear heart. Feel it in quiet, and find it in loving.

Your friend,

— — —

This Christmas all three of my daughters will be with their birth mothers. You may think this would leave me feeling sad or empty, but it is the greatest gift that anyone could have given me. It means that I have learned to let go and have taught my daughters how to love expansively. Each of their birth mothers is a young woman I believe in and am so grateful to. Each of them gave me the greatest gifts of my life — my daughters to love and cherish. Sharing them this Christmas is a special joy. May each of your readers find joy in expanding their definition of family through the spirit of adoption.

With Love,

— — —

The holidays are a time of great joy — and sometimes of a sweet sadness, too, for those who have transitioned on. I’m grateful for all the feelings, because that’s what makes us feel truly alive.


— — —

The thing I realize most about Christmas is that it isn’t once a year — it’s every day. Every day has opportunities for giving and receiving, loving and cherishing. I try to open my consciousness to receive the Christ and see the Christ in everyone I meet. Sure, the annual celebration is a huge event, and sometimes it seems too much, but celebrating it each day helps us cancel out the overwhelmingness of it all. And each day you receive a present — God’s love.

Much love,

— — —

Our family celebration has changed over the years as our children have started their own families and traditions. For the past five or so years, John and I have invited our friends or friends of friends who have no family in the area, or who are single or alone for one reason or another, to spend Christmas with us. We call it our Christmas of giving. We have had anywhere from one to five or six people sitting down with us on Christmas Day. John and I love this holiday tradition as much as our friends do.


— — —

“Christmas Love” is an everlasting love. It’s really with us every day as we shine forth God’s Love. You will see it and feel it around you. Your loved ones become nearer and dearer than ever, as you see the glory of God expressed in simple ways, even with the sunrise. The love of the Christ is loving you, and you are basking in that Christly Love as you watch Christmas candles and lights glow. So let the Christ light shine through you, dear one. Nothing can stop the Christ from lighting the way for you.

With Christly Love,

— — —

I heard someone mention that when we need healing, we can place our thought in the manger of Christ. There we find Joseph’s strength and protection, Mary’s love and peace, and the Christ’s promise of healing and salvation for all. So this message of love is for all mankind to feel that peaceful and blessed place.


— — —

All of these tender messages remind me that friends are one of the greatest of God’s gifts to his children. We may have never met before, but we are friends embraced together by a loving and caring God.

Imagine a world where we know that we are all friends, and we treat each other as such — with love, with peace and with good will.

Merry Christmas, friend!

Always in good company

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

I have to admit, the fall season hasn’t always been my favorite time of year. Oh, I enjoyed the cooler temperatures and lovely colors of the season, but I never relished spending ten days alone at home while my husband took his annual sporting trip to Colorado. In fact, I dreaded the arrival of the days! Even if I had friends or family with me, I still struggled with loneliness when my husband was away.

One year after my husband left on his trip, I found myself having to face up to this completely on my own. Our daughter had gone off to college and I was alone in our house for the first time. I was miserable. I managed to get through the first day by staying busy with various things, but as night fell I became increasingly despondent and lonely.

I knew it was just me and God, and I needed a prayerful resolution to make it through the night.

Having been a student of Christian Science for several years, I knew that as a child of God the companionship of my divine Parent and Friend was forever with me—ready, willing, and able to help. In fact, the Psalmist assured me that God was my “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” This passage reminded me of other difficult times in my life when I’d witnessed the presence and help of my Father-Mother God with me. This was comforting, but I still couldn’t stop feeling very much alone without my husband.

Like Jacob in the Bible, wrestling with his limited, material view of life, I found myself wrestling that night with the extreme loneliness I felt. I knew I needed a prayerful resolution to make it through the night.

I perused Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, looking for words of comfort to capture my attention. As I read, statements that always helped me when I prayed about physical difficulties were suddenly speaking to me in a fresh, healing way.

I decided to stand up for myself and contradict the isolating thoughts that had encroached on my peace of mind.

One of these statements read, “Mortal mind alone sentences itself…. Mentally contradict every complaint from the body.” I’d always used this idea to dispute symptoms of discomfort and illness. But now this familiar statement took on even greater meaning. It meant not just giving up and accepting the verdict that I was bound to feeling isolated.

Mrs. Eddy pointed out that fear is at the root of most difficulties. And she wrote about how to go about mastering fear: “Take antagonistic grounds against all that is opposed to the health, holiness and harmony of man, God’s image.”

Imagining myself as a lawyer on the case for my defense, I decided to stand up for myself and contradict the isolating thoughts that had encroached on my peace of mind. I replaced them with the spiritual facts of my identity as God’s child, expressing dominion, poise, and confidence. As I did this, I could sense my thoughts changing, moment by moment, to a more uplifted outlook.

Love knows no boundaries and is not confined by time and space.

Through prayer I gained a clearer view of my Father-Mother’s ever-presence, and the fear began to subside. It was a talking with God time—aloud actually—pondering the expanse of His love for me, my husband, and everyone. I couldn’t help but feel united with my husband as I thought about the all-inclusive nature of divine Love.

I realized that the tender, patient, joy-filled relationship my husband and I share is simply a natural expression of God’s love for each of us. And Love knows no boundaries and is not confined by time and space. So I couldn’t be living with a deficiency of love for ten weeks, ten days, or even ten minutes.

During that night of consecrated prayer I found a lasting sense of wholeness in my relationship with God. And the sense of incompleteness I felt without my spouse just disappeared. I was able to glimpse that I am indeed, a “whole-souled woman,” of God’s creating (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p.224).

Time alone in spiritual reflection can help bring balance and perspective to our lives.

Do I miss my husband when we’re apart? Sure. But these days loneliness no longer consumes my thought. And it certainly no longer confuses and distorts my perception of myself. Now, I cherish my moments of solitude. It may mean sipping a cup of hot tea while studying my Bible Lesson, taking a walk, writing in my journal, or relaxing on the sofa with a book. But it doesn’t include fretting about loneliness.

Time alone in spiritual reflection can help bring balance and perspective to our lives. And such holy moments can refresh a troubled heart with reasons for hope and point toward solutions. These alone-with-God moments are a wonderful gift to ourselves. They’re moments that enable us to feel the embrace of our Father-Mother God, reminding us that we’re loved and wanted.

Yes, a good dose of “heavenly inspiration” that leads to solid convictions about our true, spiritual nature is the only lasting solution I’ve found for overcoming feelings of loneliness—or anything else. And I get my best inspiration when I’m alone with God.

As you take your stand against loneliness and despair, rest assured, “…the God of love and peace shall be with you” always!

Why can’t we live together?

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

“Why Can’t We Live Together” was the title of the hit song by Timmy Thomas in 1972. The song’s title and lyrics ask a poignant question today for schools, communities and even nations that continue to struggle with mistrust, misunderstanding and deep-seated hatred as well as resentment and envy.

So, why can’t we live together? A question I asked myself as I watched the recent news reports from Jena, La. Perhaps it’s also an important question to reflect upon with this month being the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock school integration. It was September 1957 when Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., became the battleground for a showdown over integration, as nine black students enrolled at the “all white” school.

For me, it was 35 years ago when integration began at my school. I was 14 years old, in the ninth grade and participating in the junior high’s drill team. I don’t recall having any particular opinion about my new fellow students other than feeling sorry that they had to wake up so much earlier than I did in order to make the long bus ride across town to attend school.

But some students did have opinions. Or perhaps they were merely asserting viewpoints they learned from their parents. Many of my new fellow students seemed unhappy to be forced to go to a new school. All in all, there was tension and conflict, and eventually there was violence.

Divisive and abusive speech became daily occurrences. I can’t say “who” said “what” “first” on any particular day. It didn’t seem to matter, actually. The animosity and hostility appeared to be mutual. But that said, I do want to be clear that the ill will that ruled my school days was not harbored by the majority of white or black students. As often seems to be the case, a few became the voice for the many. This reminds me of words by Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, “We will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

And, unfortunately, the voice of the few among the white students was coming from some football players, cheerleaders and drill team members. For me, this culminated one day when I entered the gym in the middle of an argument between some white drill team members and black female students. My entrance was what some would call being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As I walked into the gym, a tennis racket was in midair, with my nose soon to be its target.

My response to the incident was the same as when I heard recently about black students in Jena feeling they must ask permission to sit under the so-called white students’ tree or three nooses hanging from that tree or six students beating up on one student: Why, please tell me, why can’t we live together? Will it ever be possible to have good will for others, regardless of the color of our skin, our religious beliefs, our sex, our age, our wealth, our political viewpoints?

Should I have been angry that day in the gym when I was caught in the middle of an argument not my own? Was it fair that I suffered for the actions of others? Who should have gotten the blame for my injury? I wasn’t angry at anyone, though. I was sad, at the time, that such pointless tensions continued to plague the peace and harmony of my school days. And I wasn’t about to allow myself to get sucked into what I saw as a disposition that served no good purpose.

Jesus is the ultimate role model of how to respond to discrimination and injustice — both in his actions and in his teachings. It was certainly unfair that he was arrested and treated like a criminal. Some could say his disciples were justified in fighting the guards who came to arrest him, and some would have praised the disciple who cut off the ear of one of the guards. But not Jesus. He rebuked the violent actions and healed the guard’s ear.

Even on the cross — being an innocent man wrongfully sentenced — Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34).

His teachings give us specific instruction for our response to others’ treatment of us. He said, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: Don’t hit back at all. If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift-wrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.”

And regarding those whom we think of as enemies or those who mistreat us, Jesus taught: “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish — to everyone, regardless: the good and the bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you” (The Message, Matthew 5:38-48).

It’s quite clear that we will never live together peacefully, in friendship, with mutual respect, until we agree to disagree if need be, replace ill will with good will, hold no grudges or hard feelings, and release resentment, bitterness, rivalry, jealousy — and all feelings that truly serve no good purpose and will never have a good outcome.

We must endeavor to understand one another. Understanding will impel respect and dispel fear. And we must love in the way Jesus taught. “Love, love, love — everyone — no exceptions!” Then we can live together!