Author: Ellen Benefield

Beautiful Things

  Last week, the high school students I teach read two poems by Pablo Neruda. The Chilean poet won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971. The students read “Ode to Salt” and “Ode to Olive Oil”. Neruda took two commonplace, everyday ingredients and turned them into something beautiful. The salt sings. The oil transforms from the “perfect capsule” (as an olive) into an essential part of the salad dressing. One of my students, before reading the poem commented, “Why would anyone write a poem about salt? We throw that on the road and drive over it.” This student...

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No Longer A Slave To Fear

  In the days since the election, one profound, debilitating emotion colors the reactions of the people I care about: fear. The origin of that fear is as diverse as my friends, relatives, and students. An undocumented friend on the road to legalization pondered what her life might become if she happened to be deported and ripped away from her American family: her legal husband and her American-born children. A black friend challenged the popular sentiment: everything will be okay. “We don’t know that. What are we basing that on? God was still in control during slavery. And lynchings....

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In Awe Of Fall

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill—several thrills?” –Anne of Green Gables   I missed nine Octobers while living in a sweltering tropical climate. The calendar might have disagreed with me, but the temperatures in the mid-nineties that dropped to mid-eighties at night paired with relative humidity rivaling those numbers certainly didn’t feel like fall. The air fell thick, heavy, and wet on my skin. Eventually the heat relinquished...

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Independence Day

Mexico’s Independence Day was September 16th. As a Spanish teacher, I wanted to share some of the history of the celebration with my students. If nothing else, I wanted them to know that Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day. To help them catch some history and culture, we watched a short video describing life in Mexico under Spanish rule. The Spaniards developed a detailed caste system based on skin color and origin. They tracked whether parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents were Spanish or indigenous in order to determine what social status and class a person should...

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Fear the Lord

Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. Proverbs 9:10   What? Why do we need to be afraid of God to be wise? What is fear of the Lord? Does that mean that if we make a foolish decision God will be ready to smite us or to squash us like a bug? I don’t think so. Fear of the Lord is a reverent awe. Fear of the Lord means acknowledging that our actions have consequences. It means admitting that there is a just judge ruling over the...

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