Author Archives: Cheryl Petersen

The union of meditative prayer and active prayer

Meditative prayer involves thoughtfulness, introspection, and reflection; usually a lot of sitting around.

Active prayer involves action. Looking, feeding, cleaning, traveling, knocking, etc.

Marrying the two allows us to better experience what Christ Jesus talked about in his Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5-7

Both prayer types must be treated equal.

If meditative prayer dominates the consciousness, harmony and expression shrivel. If active prayer rules the roost, substantial mindfulness wavers and weakens.

In reviewing Christ Jesus Sermon on the Mount, we find concerted effort given to meditative and active prayers.

Jesus began his sermon with what we know as the “Beatitudes,” mini-proverbs packed with blessing and meaning; each deserving of thorough study.

Then he said, “You are the salt of the earth,” coaxing the mind to move.

We are warned to guard against insincere prayers that make us look pious or busy.

helping handsChrist Jesus flops back and forth between meditative prayer and active prayer, showing that one or the other doesn’t take precedence. There is no hierarchy in prayer. It is a mistake to assume we must pray meditatively first before active prayer kicks in. They work simultaneously and are invoked by love and truth. They are equal.

Although we are given the Lord’s Prayer to repeat and contemplate, the Sermon on the Mount continues on to overflow with verbs: serve one master, be faithful, be reconciled, look at the birds, see the lilies, keep your pearls from pigs, knock, give fish, watch out for false prophets, put good words into practice, and even, gouge out your eye if it causes you to sin.

I try not to confuse meditative and active prayers, just like I try not to confuse a meditative prayer with repeating words, or an active prayer with going through motions.

The other day, I took a plastic bag on my walk through the woods. I picked up litter, thanking God for all the beauty. I also responded to the idea to drop in on a neighbor. Her husband recently died and she was delighted to have a visitor.

A meditative prayer is quiet time with God, Truth. An active prayer is our Godlikeness in action. We know they are true when they bear blessings seen and felt, not only by our self, but also by others.

walk in woods

The woman with insight

A blip in time chronicled an account that is notably relevant in its implications and deeply momentous in its conclusion. The story is of a woman who by all modern standards would be considered brazenly excessive. Ridiculous. Yet Christ Jesus said she did a beautiful thing.

The story involves Christ Jesus and his disciples. They were visiting Simon the leper, of Bethany. The group was sitting around the table, probably eating and talking about God. A nameless woman came into the room with a jar of very expensive ointment. The oil has been referred to as precious, fragrant, a costly perfume, pure nard.

The unadulterated ointment was stored in a vessel made of alabaster to preserve its purity. But unafraid of corrupting the ointment, the woman opened the vessel and poured it out onto Jesus’ head.

The disciples didn’t ask the woman why. They didn’t ask her name. They seethed in their perception of the woman’s misuse of that which they deemed valuable.

Since then, scholars have tried to give the woman a name, but it misses the point. The point is the woman’s Christ-like insight, which goes on forever.

Annointing-Jesus-headAt the supper table, the nameless woman became the object of the disciple’s scorn. They whispered among themselves with disgust, figuring the oil could have been sold for a high price and the great sum of money given to the poor.

But, Jesus asked them, “Why do you trouble the woman?” (ESV)

He continued, “For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

The woman honored Jesus. Her respect toward his life and work was appreciated by Jesus. The woman wasn’t preserving a human body. Her actions exalted Truth, Christ.

The slack thoughts of the disciples, on the other hand, clogged their thinking with self-righteousness and they censored the woman. They blamed her for not helping the poor. They criticized her for not allowing them to help the poor. They assumed her action was all a big waste; completely unnecessary. Why be inspired to anoint Jesus’ body when his body appeared fine?

Thankfully, the woman’s insight into the eternal Christ precluded her from being deterred by the disciples bad manners and myopic stance. She was prepared for his death and woman would be prepared for the birth of a new idea.

The disciples lacked bravery and spirituality and could not see beyond the superficial appearance. Their reality was human status-quo, familiarity, and money.

The woman saw the eternal divine Spirit ready to take on a new form. She was motivated by heavenly inspiration to acknowledge Jesus’ manifestation of God, for what it was then and what it would be a few days later. Her insight advanced truth, life, and love.

The disciples, probably even unknown to them,  were bent on preserving the superficial. Apparently, the idea of the woman expressing Christ in her own way, added to their irritation and confusion, or rather added to their love of the world. For very soon after the woman anointed Jesus, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and all of the privileged disciples ran from Jesus when he was arrested to be crucified. Peter denied knowing Jesus until after the resurrection.

The human body of Jesus, poor people, and all other material symbols come and go, but Christ always remains with humanity and deserves utmost attention and care. The underlying impetus of the Holy Spirit must not be neglected.

Jesus, other spiritual leaders, language, and symbols are a means to the end of knowing Spirit, God, not the end in itself. To confuse the two is dangerous.

The disciples failed to keep a line of distinction between means and ends.

There is nothing wrong with selling things and giving the money to the poor. It is a means to an end. but not the end.

The tragedy is letting the end get swallowed up in the means. The more money given to the poor, the more poor people. The more rich people. Time must be spent enriching oneself, the poor, and the rich intellectually and spiritually.

The indignant minds of the disciples were closed to the insight of the woman which honored that which was about to die.

The disciples believed they could live and grow in their little self-centered world. They could not see the woman was following God, not them.

Although nameless, the Christ woman imaged forth a love of Truth and purity that caused her to go down in history as one who depended on God for her guidance.

What to bring to the table

During the 19th century, healing was divided as religion took on the task of healing sin, while science took on the healing of body.

But during the 20th century, healing took on a new look. Interest in spirituality seeped into religion and science and healing began to encompass mind/body/spirit.

Being a student of Christian Science in the 21st century can be challenging.

I wonder, What can I bring to the table?

I don’t want to bring fundamentalism to the table. Religious doctrines need to be modified to reflect inclusiveness rather than division.

I don’t want to bring false promises. The hard and soft sciences still include guessing.

I don’t particularly want to bring to the table a mix of religion and the sciences, but I can bring to the table a metaphysical view of both.

I can appreciate both religion and science, while keeping spirituality the primary focus. I can incorporate into my practice of religion and science the spiritual qualities Paul spoke about in the Bible.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV)



Every single second, listen to Principle

When the people of Israel camped outside Moab, the local leader became alarmed. Balak, the King of Moab didn’t welcome the Israelites, or even bother to go out and say, “Hi, so, ya, uh, where did you come from and what are you all up to?”

Instead, King Balak has a knee jerk reaction. Suspicion and fear create a disturbing reality in Balak’s imagination and he sends his messengers to another nearby leader, Balaam. The message decodes into, “Balaam, dude, you have to help me. There are a zillion Israelites camping outside out town. They are a terrible influence and need to be cursed.”

Balaam looks past the knee jerk reaction and tries to take in a bigger picture. He may even have learned in his life that cursing others doesn’t ever reap the kind of rewards that make life worthwhile. Balaam, looking past the human reaction to something higher, he explains to the messengers that he needs to talk to God.

donkeySure enough, Balaam’s intuition about the cursing tactic comes through as a voice and he feels God is telling him to go ahead and return with the messengers to Balak. But, God reminds him to pay attention because God will be giving minute by minute directions.

The next morning, Balaam gets on his donkey and they all head to Moab. The angel of God comes before Balaam to tell him what to do next but Balaam is not paying attention.

The donkey is attentive though.

The donkey tries three times to get Balaam to wake up and pay attention to the angel. The donkey walks off the road, then walks close to a wall so Balaam’s leg gets squished, then the donkey just sits down. Balaam meanwhile is getting pissed. Balaam starts yelling at the donkey, who finally just talks to Balaam, saying, “Wake up you numbskull. The angel is speaking and you don’t even see the angel.”

Groggy Balaam had to shake himself awake. First he realized he not only was ignoring the angel but he didn’t even trust his donkey, the donkey that had proven a lifetime of devotion to him.

Balaam was probably ashamed, but he straightened out and went to Balak to tell him blessings are in order, not cursing. Numbers 22 tells the whole story. Listening to God is great, but spiritual instructions don’t come in a one-time-shot. Spiritual guidance is continual.

Four seasons remind me of higher goal

Living in an area where the four seasons are sharp and clear, I am reminded not to believe a physical object is everlasting.

4 seasonsSpring, summer, fall, and winter retells the story of human life. Birth, growth, decline, and death. This is the way it goes for anything temporal, physical, or human.

Two facts counter the 4 season lesson:

1. Some places don’t ever have a winter.

2. A strong abiding intuition searches for an everlasting presence.

Inquiring into the everlasting, we utilize time, meditation, books, and religion to aid in our discovery of that which is perpetual. But as I look at the weather, I’m reminded not to make time, meditation, books, or religion an everlasting agent. They aren’t. They are only temporal tools.

The 4 seasons reminds me of the higher goal–to become less attached to temporal things and more attached to permanent spiritual truths.

Interestingly, I meet people who aren’t even religious, yet exhibit an enduring life of love and principle, no matter whether they are planting seeds, mowing a prosperous crop of grass, raking fallen leaves, or shoveling snow, they shine with love and truth.



Don’t twist metaphors

???????????????????????????????Metaphors use a blend of realistic narrative and imagistic poetry to address the deepest concerns of humanity. Metaphors evolve within a language and can profoundly influence perception, speech, even decision making.

We use metaphors all the time in order to say something about things we know little about. “It was a hairy situation.”

Metaphors are utilized because it’s impossible to express ideas that can’t be stated in plain language without a loss of meaning.

Conventional wisdom meshes with rhetoric to produce metaphors that give us something to identify with. “God is father.”

Metaphors have proven their worth for millenniums although they are risky and open-ended. The child with an abusive horrible father doesn’t want to hear about a God who is father. So, other metaphors enter the scene, “God is mother, energy, the universe, a river that never stops…”

One must live with the risk of metaphors since there is no way to get at the principal subject of that which can’t be regulated to our limited language. The unlimited God can never be described in full with the human language.

The down-side of metaphors is when theological reflection is replaced with human conviction. It’s when the reader attempts to wed the two subjects of ordinary life and the transcendent. It’s when the ordinary becomes the principal focus and God becomes the subsidiary awareness.

For example, in the study of Christian Science, I read Mary Baker Eddy’s exegesis of the book Revelation, a book replete with metaphors.

In Revelation of the New International Version, chapter 10, the metaphor of an angel “holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand,” is considered. The question is asked, “Did this scroll contain the revelation of divine Science?” (21st Century Science and Health)

This question maintains the metaphorical stance. It’s metaphysical. It doesn’t reverse the ordinary and the transcendent and ask, “Is this scroll, or book in the angels hand the physical book titled, Science and Health?”

There is nothing wrong with identifying a physical book with the book in the angels hand, but to make a decision based on this literal interpretation will lead to flawed circumstances and disappointment because the decision attempted to reduce a revelation to a physical thing, it attempted to make the infinite into something finite.

We can steer clear of the traps of trying to close the open-endedness of a metaphor. And, experience revelations.For example, the common metaphor depicting God as father produces images of horror to a child who was abused by their human father. Or it can be confusing to a child. Therefore we have mothers who see through metaphors and make sure not to interpret them literally.

For example, the other day, my cousin told me about her husband and I felt a touch of revealed divine knowledge.

Her husband is one of 6 children who grew up with a war-bride mom and an alcoholic father. The father drank himself to death when the children were younger. Their mom told them, “You are not your father. You are you. You make your own choices.” All six children grew into responsible, family oriented, successful individuals. What a nice revelation to know we are individuals, separable from human history and capable of wonderful goodness.

The revelation of divine Science is spiritual, a spiritual force, alive and well. It’ a spiritual knowledge that can be applied in the human experience to align our thoughts to divine Spirit, Truth, and Love.


Gotta have experience

Israel mapMy cousin and his wife have been living and working in Israel. At the recent family reunion, they showed us pictures. Clean. Comfortable. “Don’t believe what you read in the media,” they said. “The people are normal, they go to the beach, have families, and farm just like we do here in America.”

Experience is a powerful tool, when experienced in broad terms. My cousin and his wife didn’t just visit Israel and make a conclusion based on first appearances. They didn’t just live there to be served. They worked and participated in the society.

They could not help but find similarities. People helping people. Love.

Life experiences reveal a love we can share in.


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