Food and God

A deer near our home

A deer near our home

On a whole, I eat fairly healthy. But, evidence shows that food isn’t all it claims to be.

I live in upstate New York, where weather is hovering around zero degrees lately. Deer are a natural part of our environment. You can’t help but take pictures of them. Currently, they are so fuzzy, I stop the car, dig out my camera and take a shot.

I wonder, how can the deer stay healthy, strong, and warm during these winters? They eat bark, leaves, no meat, and dry grass.

I’m not going to stop eating healthy, and I’m not going to stop eating, but my mind can move past thinking food has more power than God. I can grasp better what I read about food in the modern Science and Health, first written by Mary Baker Eddy. We read in 21st Century Science and Health, “Semi-starvation or anorexia is not acceptable to wisdom and it is equally far from Science in which being is sustained by God, Mind. Food has less power to help or to hurt us after thought has transformed to the spiritual. Without the consent of human mind, food and the stomach can’t make you suffer. This new-born understanding brings with it another lesson, that self-indulgence, gluttony, or bulimia, are sensual illusions and can’t give you satisfaction. It is a human deception to believe you have to eat if you feel hungry. It is another deception to believe purging food will help you stay thin. As human deceptions disappear we better understand our spiritual existence and ascend the mountain of a balanced life.

“Food affects the body only as fleshly mind has its material methods of working. One method is to believe that proper food supplies nutriment and strength to the human system. The human mind’s recipe for health never gets it right, whereas Truth regenerates this fleshly mind and feeds thought with the bread of Life.”

Visiting the Tenement Museum in NYC

At the Tenement Guided Tour in NYC

At the Tenement Guided Tour in NYC

As my friend, Matt, says, “The stars aligned.”

Not that we depend on the stars to determine an outcome, but sometimes, when everything falls into place, we use the phrase as a funny expression of gratitude.

Upstate New York winter weather this year has kept the snow shovels and plows in high demand. But, when Bryan came to visit us from Washington State last week, the temperatures relaxed. We got to travel to New York City and walk around comfortably. It was a long, but fun day.


???????????????????????????????We visited the Tenement Museum, which I highly recommend. A guided tour took us through a Tenement housing where thousands of American immigrants lived. My appreciation for the energy and strength of people who overcome many odds to succeed and expand their perceptions increased.

From 21st Century Science and Health, “The calm, strong forces of true spirituality are manifest as health, purity, and a magnanimous self. Spiritual mindedness must expand the human experience until the beliefs of temporal being are clearly exposed as impositions. Confusion, danger, and disorder will then give everlasting place to the scientific demonstration of divine Spirit and to God’s perfect child.”







Overview of Chicago meeting

Below you will find comments and thoughts collected from two meetings in Chicago, February 18 & 19, 2014, while a group of truth seekers and students of Christian Science considered updating Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy.

  • Why is there a decline in church membership when Christian Science can’t decline?
  • The purpose of Christian Science is to heal humankind but it must be presented usefully.
  • Science and Health needs to be easier to read for people unfamiliar with 19th century language.
  • References in Science and Health need to be relatable.
  • Footnotes are necessary so the book doesn’t look like plagiarism.
  • There is a difference between Christian Science and Church. Christian Science doesn’t revolve around church but church should revolve around divine Science.
  • Give people credit for being able to understand Science and Health and make their own translations when reading the book.
  • The Christian Science Publishing Society is already updating foreign texts in Science and Health.
  • Updating Science and Health protects the books integrity and progress.
  • The phrase, “if you read this book you will be healed,” is misleading.
  • We are students of Christian Science, rather than Christian Scientists.
  • Fear of change is based on the culture of a judging church.
  • Methods of communication have changed over the last century.
  • Old language turns readers away.
  • A revision of Science and Health isn’t for people who like Eddy’s version, but for other truth seekers.
  • Being afraid that Mary Baker Eddy will be displaced in status actually stops progress and can also build her up as an idol.
  • Word definitions change over time and actually change the meaning of Science and Health.
  • The Board of Directors at The First Church of Christ, Scientist, can appoint a committee to update Science and Health.
  • Can “church officials” reliably translate Eddy’s explanation of Christian Science without pushing an agenda?
  • Any update should contain the author, or authors, names. Never act as though we are speaking for Mrs. Eddy.
  • Look in the mirror to see what the problem is facing Christian Science today.
  • A huge decline in readership of Science and Health exists in the 21st century.
  • Be real, be honest, connect, love
  • Overcome fear.
  • Choose love.

Click here and you can make a comment on a blog post discussing a modern version of Science and Health.

Cheryl Petersen listens as truth seekers consider updating Science and Health

Cheryl Petersen listens as truth seekers consider updating Science and Health

Tweaking the approach to healing

uncooked rice in fieldAfter getting married, I began teaching myself how to cook. I made cookies when I was a kid, however, as much as I’d like to, I figured my husband and I couldn’t live off cookies. So, out came the rice.

Looked simple enough. I filled a pot with water, threw in rice kernels and brought it to a boil. I boiled it until it was done. Always turned out rather mushy, but my husband knew better than to complain.

Then one day, we had dinner with my brother and sister-in-law. I watched them make rice. After bringing the water to a boil, they turned the burner to simmer. Thinking this was a waste of time, I mentioned my technique of keeping the water at a rolling boil.

cooked riceMy brother showed me the directions on the back of the bag. Hmmmm. Yes, indeed, the recommendation was to lower the heat to a simmer and leave on the stove for 30 minutes.

The rice turned out better than I’d made. So, I took up this method of cooking rice in the future. The end result is not nearly as mushy.

It’s amazing what a little change in technique can do.

When I’m praying for healing, I refer often to something Christ Jesus was credited to saying, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

Logic has it that if God is perfect and God made me in His likeness, then I too must have access to this perfection.

But all too often I pray with the intent to be perfect now, rather than aim for perfection, which impacts the effect of my prayers differently.

If I try to be perfect, pray to be perfect, I become discouraged, for the mere fact that there is no perfect human being or human existence. So, I tweak my prayers.

I can feel a sense of perfection when I am aiming for perfection.

The success of a willingness to exist amid uncertainty

arbor of vine Science and Health encourages readers to be obedient to God, and also to be observant, flexible, and intuitive. Because Christian Science, as explained in Science and Health, is a living thing, there are no hard and fast rules for its management. Success in the practice of Christian Science demands a certain amount of negative capability—a willingness to exist amid uncertainty.

The unwillingness to exist amid uncertainty, by default, assumes it can use Christian Science to define and dictate the human circumstances. It falsely reads into Science and Health a precise set of instructions on a trajectory toward fundamentalism. It over-processes certain guidelines and spiritual truths in such a way as to actually render them detrimental to their practice; similar to over-processing flour to make it pure white, but ending up with a product void of all nutrients.

Christian Science is a metaphysical system of divine healing, grounded on one God, Spirit.

Science and Health offers a fairly open-ended set of guidelines, along with specific knowledge of God and us. While making a full statement of Christian Science, the narrative leaves a lot up in the air, with ample allowance for the vagaries of human circumstances, backgrounds, economics, and even one’s personal schedule.

The reader can identify, not with conforming human beings, but with a God that loves us all and blesses us no matter what situation we find ourselves in. We can discover a divine Truth that can set us free whether we are plastering a wall, praying, traveling in a car, or typing information into a computer.

Meeting in Chicago

you are invited

To renew together our endeavor to make clear the meaning of religion, rather than debate religious jargon or words.

This event will open with a talk, titled, “The evolving language of timeless divine Science.” Reference will be given to the religious textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. The same talk is given both days.


Edgewater Beach Apartments

5555 North Sheridan Road

(Corner of Sheridan and BrynMawr at 5600 N.*)

  Tues., in the Scarborough Room                 OR                          Wed., on the Pool Balcony

       February 18, 2014                                                                                 February 19, 2014

                 7 p.m.                                                                                                             10 a.m.

Guest speaker: Cheryl Petersen, lifelong Christian Scientist, will speak for 20 minutes before the forum will be opened to an interactive discussion.

Bio: Cheryl Petersen is a freelance writer living in New York, currently writing for three newspapers and magazines. She reports on local events, religions, politics, social services, education, and more. Cheryl has revised and updated Mary Baker Eddy’s book, producing 21st Century Science and Health, now in its 4th edition. She is an annual guest speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Oneonta, NY.

*Parking available at south end of the building, follow ramp to lower garage

Prayer specialist gets too comfortable

Comfort zones can be large or small. With the arrival of “specialization,” comfort zones began shrinking noticeably. A specialist in food preparation might starve in the woods if they have no survival skills.

Specialized jobs limit opportunities. Foreign Service Specialist can work at one of over 265 posts overseas and in Washington D.C. and other parts of the United States. That’s not a lot of opportunity for 7 billion people.

change-flat-tire-medium-newSpecialization is undeniably a powerful social and economic tool, but it has its drawbacks. When I started studying Christian Science and learning how to ply the tool of prayer, I began devoting more and more time to the practice. After recognizing and experiencing its powerful healing force, it occurred to me that to specialize, or focus solely on one goal, could be very debilitating. Specialization breeds helplessness, dependence, and ignorance. It can eventually undermine any sense of responsibility when we stop doing other things for ourselves.

I took back my skills. Thankfully, I had a non-male-chauvinist dad and he taught me how to operate heavy equipment, change the oil, and perform basic mechanical exercises. My mom taught me that I could learn how to cook and sew and take care of children.

Although I love praying for myself, the family, or others from the public who requested prayer, I still need to get off the prayer chair.

If a tire needed changing, I’ll change it. If a neighbor needed help putting up a wall, I’ll grab a hammer. If the bathroom needs cleaning, I’ll get the cleaner and scrub.

The human mind is a fickle agent. It thinks limitedly and remembers limitedly. Christ Jesus is referred to so often as the healer and teacher, we may forget he knew how to build a house.

Yes, dedicated prayer is useful and valuable and I won’t quite it, but it can’t take over my life, my thought, and my career. To pray all day is to shrink that comfort zone down to an incapacitating size that squeezes inspiration out.

If you feel like prayer isn’t working as fast as you’d like, re-evaluate your skills. To be able to pray a long time, and for many people, may have weakened the effect of your prayer because you stopped doing things for yourself. And, those people who you are praying for, may not be responding as quickly because they are so busy cooking for you, feeding you, and cleaning up after you.

But do you like her?

Dictionary definition of Like

Like. \’līk\

:to enjoy (something): to get pleasure from (something)

:to regard in a favorable way

:to feel affection for (someone): to enjoy being with (someone)

There is a classic scene in the 1965 movie Shenandoah, where Charlie Anderson, played by Jimmy Stewart, has a conversation with his daughter’s suitor, Lieutenant Sam. In the film, Sam approaches Charlie Anderson to ask for his daughters hand in marriage. The conversation goes like this:

Sam: I want to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.
Charlie: Why? Why do you want to marry her?
Sam: Well, I love her.
Charlie: That’s not good enough. Do you like her?
Sam: I just said I….
Charlie: No, no. You said you loved her. There is some difference between love and like. You see, Sam, when you love a woman without likin’ her, the night can be long and cold, and contempt comes up with the sun.

With love can come hate, as the divorce rate shows.

like-hashtagThis advice from the Shenandoah film impacted me years ago. For all the effort I put into being a loving person and loving unconditionally, I put forth as much effort “to like.” When we love a person, a book, a church, a religion, so much so, we may forget to like them. And, this can lead to hate.

But stop. And like.

Liking isn’t so apt to become obsessed. Liking isn’t so quick to hold false expectations. Liking is more open-minded, has a sense of humor, and can move past faults while yet aiming for the higher ideal.

Reframing the God debate

I have no desire to disbelieve God, partly because doing so might drive me bonkers. And I agree with those who call attention to the dangers of authoritarianism and want to encourage people to resist relying on religious authorities or ever changing science for their answers to life.

Nonetheless, I have come to believe that we should depolarize the stigmas attached to our views on God.

stigmaThe debate we need is not between the existence of a God, or not, but between stigmatizing and destigmatizing.

Nick Wing posted on Huffington Post: 11 Things Atheists Couldn’t Do Because They Didn’t Believe in God.

We read:

“While the Establishment Clause of the Constitution is supposed to ensure a clear separation of church and state, the two frequently intermix, much to the disapproval of nonbelievers.

“This manifests itself in a variety of ways, from the inclusion of the word “God” in various mandatory pledges and on the face of U.S. currency, to compulsory religious-based sessions that atheists have been unconstitutionally forced to take part in.”

Granted this is a tough situation for atheists, living in a country where God is woven into the fabric of laws and pledges. Court cases never really solve the issue. But, I’ve seen hints of progress in my own Town where officials say the Pledge of Allegiance while granting respect to those who sit quietly or repeat the pledge and become silent during the “under God,” portion. There is nothing wrong with getting along.

The point is not to stigmatize one another.

Even when reading more of Nick Wing’s post, we find stigmatization in the reverse—nonbelievers pigeonholing believers. We read:

“Atheists in 13 countries face execution under the law if they openly express their beliefs or reject the official state religion — Islam in all of these cases.

“This one’s pretty straightforward. The Boy Scouts of America still prohibits atheists from joining its ranks. Scouts must pledge to “do my duty to God and my country,” and the BSA has resisted calls to remove religion from the oath.”

Muslims and Boy Scouts are being stigmatized as cruel and intolerant. Instead, let’s let public sentiment move toward change. Let’s reframe the issue.

Steer away from stigmatizing atheists as untrustworthy, but also steer away from stigmatizing believers as provincial or delusional.

Arguing over whether God is real or not is not worth the effort. It brings diminishing returns to society.

Again we read Nick Wing’s post an area that can be corrected:

“Groups of atheists have regularly been denied the opportunity to form recognized clubs at public schools around the nation.”

Our society and government is designed to allow atheists the opportunity to form recognized clubs and organizations. Let’s not deter this.

Reframing our debates, to ensure stigmatization is held at bay, ironically reveals that stigmatization is found within supposedly similar veins. Within the realm of God believers, we even stigmatize one another.

It’s not a matter of everyone being buddy/buddy however the spiritual law of respecting one another opens the door to brighter promises.