Author Archives: Cheryl Petersen

Tribute to Billy Graham

The death of American Christian evangelist Billy Graham deserves homage. I’ve only heard Graham speak a few times, over the radio or on the television. He didn’t really hold my attention. I have read books about Graham, they were nice. I’ve also read about his wife, Ruth Graham, because behind every great man is a great woman.

Graham is known for repeating, “The Bible says…” and, to be honest, those words don’t appeal to my thinking because the Bible is open to interpretation. Words in the Bible can say many things to many people and I have yet to meet someone who gets it always right. And words in and of themselves don’t have power.

So, Graham’s words didn’t enlighten or inspire me, but his integrity, perseverance, and dedication did and still will enlighten or inspire me. What motivated Graham? I suppose it was his love of God, family, and the Bible. And I suppose that is about all I have in common with this, which is plenty.

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Article in Times Union, Albany, NY

Read below, my article on sexual misconduct, printed in Times Union, Albany, NY yesterday.

Finding the Power to say NO

While not excusing sexual misconduct in the name of religion, I dare say religion arms me in the fight against it, even when changes come slowly.

I welcome new policies targeting sexual harassment, even if it comes way too late for me.

In 1970s, I was sexually abused on the farm by a cousin, eight years older than me. I was clueless. I didn’t know to stand up for myself when he manipulated me to perform and endure oral sex.

Fortunately, I had religion to go to with questions.

I asked God, “What did you create?”

“Not a sex object.”

That answer gave me the courage to know myself and to say “No,” to my cousin. The sexual misconduct stopped. He and I worked together on the farm many more years.

Before MeToo took off, I told my story in my memoir, to expose this abuse of power with the hope that it will be replaced with judgment and integrity.

Power comes in many forms. In my case, the culprit was older and stronger than me.

I also encountered power in the form of church authorities.

By that point in my life, however, I’d found a decent man to marry and we were raising children and foster children, not without challenges but successfully. I felt my religion, Christian Science, provided guidance and built character. So I began revising a century-old book by the churches founder, Mary Baker Eddy, who pioneered the study of the human mind and the divine mind.

Word got around, as it always does, and I received a phone call from officials of my church. They threatened me with my church position if I published my writing.

I was torn. Do I follow the rules of human beings or of God? Well, what worked for me?

I had given power to the divine rules of spiritual courage and progress and found peace of mind with my history. I also found that God did not create or allow selfishness or futility but gave common sense and inspiration.

I published what I wrote. I’m a believer in rules. Human rules need to mirror divine rules. It’s not easy. Because human beings love the familiar, we follow what was said and done yesterday, without asking today whether it has been said or done well.

What was said and done yesterday about sexual conduct must change for the better.

A recent Barna Group survey led it to recommend that leaders in churches, entertainment, politics and the marketplace “wrestle” with the problem of sexual harassment.

I recommend we wage this fight with divine rules to bring dignity to humanity and strength to spirituality.

Cheryl Petersen lives in upstate New York and is the author of “21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: A revision of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health.” Her memoir is “I Am my Father-Mother’s Daughter.”

Come on by the Women’s Expo

I will be one of many vendors at the 9th annual New York Women’s Expo in Albany, February 24 & 25th.

The Expo is designed for women.

I see us expanding the definition of woman and women. We reflect compassion, insight, strength, wisdom, bravery, and integrity, equal to all people and increasingly.

I’ll be selling my books, in which you will find strong female characters:

I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir tells about life as a girl working on the family farm, operating machinery and learning not to back down to authoritarians. $10

Zen Kitty and Other Meows is a booklet containing blogs and articles I’ve written in the past. Many topics are covered. You can read about the time I interviewed a monk who wanted to sit on my motorcycle. $5

Zen Dogs and Other Woofs is another booklet containing more blogs and articles, covering many subjects along with dogs. $5

from science & religion to God: A Narrative of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health is a briefer version of a spiritual book written in the 19th century about healing and divine Mind. $10

21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: A Version of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health is a full-text version of Eddy’s book on spirituality and self-determination. $15

A Foster Child Comes to Stay with Josie and Brooke is a children’s book, a true story about inspiration and the power of family love. $5

Magenta’s Family Christmas is a book written by Carly Hilios (my daughter) for young adults. Magenta is a foster teenager who learns more about the true meaning of family. $5

Location of Women’s Expo: Siena College Marcell Athletic Complex, Albany, NY

February 24 & 25, 2018

Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 10am-4pm

All books price list

 

Caring for Religion, Commentary in The Daily Star newspaper in NY

My article printed in The Daily Star February 10, 2018

Reading in The Daily Star about closure of First Baptist Church in Oneonta provoked flashback. I don’t know their circumstances, but my church community folded about fifteen years ago, and I now offer one piece of advice. Care for religion.

This is not to say religion hasn’t been cared for, but there is a difference between caring for religion and taking care of sacred centers or defending religious policies.

To care for religion isn’t to worry about religion. It isn’t to get distracted by thinking religion is dying. It’s not dying. Pew Research Center reports that 84% of the world’s population is religious-minded and it’s on the increase.

Religion is part of human life, like dirt. And, it is the religious-minded who provide the best care for religion. In other words, pointing fingers at the nonreligious-minded is silly. We don’t expect people who don’t own pets, to care for our pets.

So, how do we care for religion?

I started pondering that mystery when a teenager. I had plenty of time. I spent a gazillion hours operating tractors on the family farm, working the dirt. Plowing, planting, harvesting.

In between listening to Elton John on the AM radio, I’d think over narratives from the Bible, such as the parable of the sower, reportedly given by Christ Jesus. The storyline starts with a sower, throwing seed everywhere. Seeds on the road, on rocky places, in shallow soil, in thorns, and, yep, “on good soil.”

Despite my inclination to debate the waste and inefficiency of randomly throwing seeds everywhere—we used precision planters on the farm—I still was able to grasp the possibility of seed bringing “forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” (Matthew 13:8)

Arguably, religion has brought forth the fruits of spiritual texts, guidance, relief, wellbeing, and meaningful lives. But, the farmer in me knows that growing fruit depletes nutrients in the ground, big time, and diminishes soil.

That’s why farmers fertilize or amend soil, alternate crops, or leave the land fallow.

Nevertheless, it was that very strategy of caring for soil that moved my mind to care more for religion than for the soil depleting religious practices and policies. I’ll give an example.

When a child, my parents introduced me to Christian Science, defined as an infinite force of divine spirit interpreting harmony to the universe.

As a religion however, it was established by Mary Baker Eddy late 19th century. Early records show churches prospering and members enjoying noteworthy healing and advancements in the study of both human mind and divine mind.

I, myself, experienced tangible benefits from the religion. These fruits, so-to-speak, were self-satisfying until the 1980s when I was first surprised, then grieved, to see churches headed toward their deathbeds.

To be honest, it took me years to stop reminiscing or trying to relive the glory days even if they were in my imagination. It took me years to stop advocating for a human ideology and start advocating for improved religion or convictions.

In my situation, I carried an unfounded conviction that Christian Science required radical reliance on prayer for healing. Why did I have such a conviction?

Good question, and I didn’t get good answers. So, I confronted language used by both admirers and critics of Christian Science, either excusing or condemning going to doctors or not. I traced the language to a sentence in Eddy’s textbook on Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She wrote, “Only through radical reliance of Truth can scientific healing power be realized.”

A 19th-century dictionary showed me that the word “radical” has, well, radically changed in meaning during the last one-hundred years. It meant, pertaining to the root or origin, and didn’t carry todays weight of extremism.

But the regrettable notion of “extreme prayer,” paled next to the mistake of grossly confusing reliance on Truth with reliance on prayer.

Sure, prayer is a big component of Christian Science, but prayer is not synonymous with truth. And this new conviction sprouted. I could see it and hear it.

More accurate language was used to discuss and write about religion, teaching me indirectly that spiritual texts also aren’t synonymous with truth, but are interpretations. The conviction multiplied.

Religion is not synonymous with truth. Science, politics, and the media are not synonymous with truth. These institutions aren’t even sources of truth but are methods to discover and share.

Unfortunately, these methods can be used to notice and share information that does little or no good, even harm, to humanity. That is why we should be careful before repeating information. That is why our institutions need continual care.

Historically, proper care doesn’t come from anger, complacency or arrogance. Care comes from insight, education, and an openness to take the time to listen to others to learn where they started from and how they got to where they are. It comes with courage to outgrow the old and wear the new.

Posted online January 9, 2018, Barna Research reported that, “In a post-truth climate, the challenge, particularly for faith leaders, may be to find that balance between encouraging positive signs of introspection while confronting wholly subjective approaches—whether in interpreting facts, discerning truth or practicing faith.”

After reflecting on the bygone Baptist Church, I felt positive respect for its 185 years of singing praises and serving the community. I also was urged to confront and rethink that parable about the sower.

Remember that sower mentioned above, sowing seed willy-nilly? Is it telling me that my religion, or religion in and of itself, isn’t the only place where seed was sown? I’m feeling a growing conviction that seed is everywhere, ready to bear fruit. Let’s get the soil ready.

Bio: Cheryl Petersen lives in Delhi. Her books are “21st Century Science and Health,” “from science & religion to God: A narrative of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health,” and “I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter.”

Unobstructed

Have you ever felt as though you were obstructed? Or had an obstruction that kept you from breathing, swallowing, or moving?

In a perfect world, there is no obstruction. But we don’t know a perfect world. Obstructions are in the imperfect. Therefore, they can only obstruct that which is imperfect such as arrogance, hate, and inequality.

Now, return to the perfect world. It’s unobstructed, flowing, moving, fluent, affluent in equality, love, and humility.

Can we know this so well that we feel it manifested?

With Christ.

Quoting from science & religion to God:

With the light of Love, let’s now review a spiritual interpretation of Psalm 23.

[Divine Love] is my shepherd; I shall not want.
[Love] makes me lie down in green pastures.
[Love] leads me beside still waters.
[Love] restores my soul.
[Love] leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for [Love is] with me; [Love’s] rod and [Love’s] staff, they comfort me.

[Love will] prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [Love] forever.

Tips on joy

As defined by the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is a common but serious mood disorder.

The website reports that “Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.”

Medications, psychotherapy, and brain stimulation are discussed as options to treat depression. Other tips include staying active and exercising, setting realistic goals, continue to education yourself about depression.

I’d like to add my own tip: educate yourself about joy, motivation, and spiritual worth.

Even if these attributes feel distant, they do exist. We see joy in other people. We feel the earth constantly motivated by renewing springs. We hear about the spiritual worth of finding peace and confidence within.

What if joy, motivation, and worth were created before us? What if joy, motivation, and worth didn’t need human beings, human personalities, or money to exist? What if joy, motivation, and worth were sustained by an unseen force that exists everywhere? What if we didn’t “get” joy, or own joy? Could it mean that we can’t lose it?

Is joy helping others? Is motivation the drive to share goodness? Is worth estimated by spiritual qualities of honesty, modesty, and letting go of materialism?

Quoting from science & religion to God

We must spiritually think for ourselves and image forth divine knowledge; otherwise, indifferent, self-destructive, and depressed behavior is believed to be our own thinking and it will be exhibited. We also need to encourage in others their right and responsibility to know and act on divine thoughts.

Don’t build up evil.

This human way of life can be awful to contemplate. Mortal existence can be the drudgery of pro-creating without love or building up false images rather than being an image of Spirit. Though mortal existence can be fun sometimes, it’s the blind leading the blind. Our passions and appetites end in pain. Superficial joys cheat us. Our gratifications get prickly. Then we die.

What do we gain through toil, struggle, and sorrow? We can gain the strength to bury our beliefs of perishable life and happiness, and reach for the immortal.

Truth causes us to be honest and care for ourselves and the environment. Love causes us to better ourselves, to fight for and share in a practical, meaningful life. We eventually realize that the consciousness of love is the only asset worth taking with us whether we move, change our image, or die.

Silent prayer, spiritual awareness, and obedience come with the grace of Love. We are worthy of Love’s grace. We can be patient with ourselves and with others, because in this complicated world most of us are rookies at internalizing the divine character.

Divine knowledge exists, is in force, and has ultimate power. Divine thoughts are intelligent, fruitful, unified; they belong to us.

 

 

 

New book now available

My new book, Zen Dogs and other Woofs, is now available at www.Amazon.com

Here is one essay from my book, Zen Dogs:Venus grassbrightercropped

A Christian Learns from a Jewish Community

Printed in the Daily Star, Oneonta, New York, 2014

The human proclivity to classify coffee as rich, dark, light, bitter, smooth, also classifies religion: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, the list goes on. Moreover, within each of those denominations we find factions: orthodox, modern, non-denominational, even inter-denominational.

Aside from the dirty laundry of religion that gets aired frequently—as it should—we can look into the face of faith and discover many layers, giving it a depth that shows no end.

With faith, not agenda, at the helm, the future of religion shows adaptability. At the time of this writing, First Baptist Church in Oneonta is continuing its mission locally and throughout the world in a new church building.

Established in 1834, First Baptist Church served faith from the corner of Chestnut and Academy streets for eighty years. “We moved 30 yards away, to a smaller place at 73 Chestnut Street,” said Philip, a church deacon at First Baptist Church. “Our tradition of focusing on a spiritual mission, along with making the building available to the community will continue with the time and resources we have today.”

The larger original edifice is currently in the process of being sold to Chabad of Oneonta, a Jewish organization. Once the legal process is complete, the building will again be a vibrant part of faith. As for symbols of sacredness, Philip said, “First Baptist members selected items and brought them to the new edifice.”

More interested in sharing spirituality than symbols, he added, “First Baptist Church welcomes people of all faith. Church services are at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, with a concurrent Sunday School.”

The art of embracing people of many faiths is also seen in the Chabad organization, which welcome interested minds no matter what their background.

As for the Chabad, it’s managed by husband and wife team, Rabbi Meir and Fraidy, who both depict an orthodox appearance, along with respect for a diverse range of how Jewish laws are observed. “We don’t cater to any group. We are all God created, to be loved and cared for,” said Rabbi Meir. “The Chabad Center has a unique founding principle that all persons offer something good and that all can be leaders.”

Accommodating the Jewish Student population, Chabad Oneonta adjusts to the college schedule. It began nearly three years ago when the couple and their children moved to Oneonta from Brooklyn, New York. College students have found family away from family at the Chabad Center.

“We have three young children and have fully invested ourselves in the center,” said Rabbi Meir. “The number of visitors to the center has grown so dramatically, it was natural to find and work with First Baptist Church members to purchase the historic building.”

Rabbi Meir, 28-years old, came with a background in Yeshiva education, “It was discussion style learning,” he said. “As I got older, studies became intense and focused on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study.”

Meir grew up in the Midwest and attended rabbinical schooling in Canada and New Jersey. He brought to Oneonta a compelling, upfront, alive, attitude. “The students know I’ll open the door if they knock at 2 in the morning,” said Meir.

The students also know they can contact the Rabbi and his wife through Facebook. “We use technology for good. We are not separate from the world but make the distinction between heaven and earth with the goal to infuse spirituality into earthliness,” said Meir.

Resounding in the Chabad newsletter is a quote from Maimonides (Jewish philosopher, 1135 – 1204): “One good thought, one kind word, one good deed, can change the world.”

The term Chabad covers a wide definition today, from a philosophy to an organization. In mid-20th century, Menachem M. Schneerson, the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe turned Chabad into a dynamic and geographically diverse religious movement in Jewish life. “We don’t need to lessen our religious convictions in the modern world,” said Meir. “We encourage participation in good deeds and observance of God’s commandments.”

When non-Jews think of Jewish traditions, Hanukkah comes to mind. But, “Hanukkah is a minor festivity,” said Fraidy, raised in a home grounded in the Chabad philosophy. “Hanukkah is misunderstood because it falls near Christmas, which is an important holiday for Christians.”

The major holy days on the Jewish Calendar are: the Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), Passover, Shavuot (The Festival of Weeks) and Sukkot (The Festival of Booths).

 

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