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Who am I praising?

In Psalms 65 I read about giving praise to God.

I wondered, do I give praise to God? Or to a recipe?

Do I praise Spirit, or rituals?

Do I give praise to divine Mind, or human minds?

Verses 1 through 4 of Psalms 65 reads as follows:

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
    and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hear prayer,
    to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me,
    you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple!

I keep reading and discover promises of wonderful results when praising God:

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
    O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
    being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
    the roaring of their waves,
    the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.

 

 

Dressing up in gladness

With freezing cold temperatures, I wear warm clothes. It can be a bit bothersome to bundle up. So, it was fun to read Psalms 30 and be reminded that God clothes us with gladness. I’ll post verses 11 and 12:

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

2014-snow-at-entrancesmall

What to eat on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is the second busiest holiday for restaurants, after Mother’s Day. The optimist in me sees happy couples lingering in the candlelight of love. The realist in me sees people eating. Love may make life worthwhile, but we eat food to survive.

And, the farmer in me knows that food doesn’t come from the grocery store.

Let’s take a quick look at fruit.

Fruit trees are planted. The trees require 5–8-years of growth before a commercial crop is produced. All the while, the trees and soil require care. Then, to harvest successfully, the fruit must be picked at a specific time of maturity, before being taken out of the field to be washed, packaged, and shipped to grocery stores.

Furthermore, if we expect to eat fruit in the winter, the produce is preserved either by means of canning or freezing.

Basically, a colossal amount of work, time, and thought goes into food availability. The elements of weather and the market are accounted for. And it’s the same for love.

When needing, or even wanting, love, I remind myself there is more to it than romance and eating chocolate. Many attributes and elements are involved.

To find elements associated with love, I plodded through the Bible and read this verse from Galatians, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

In other words, I read, don’t try to cultivate only love. The fruit of Spirit isn’t only love, but love, joy, peace, patience, yadda yadda.

Seemed acceptable. I couldn’t argue with the fact that the attributes on that list were things that I, well, like to experience. So, they all must be important.

However, I got a bit stymied by the word “Spirit.” I mean come on, what is Spirit? It’s unseen, indescribable, immeasurable, pretty complicated.

Added to the complication is bad timing. Just like on the farm, if fruit was picked before it ripened, it was sour. And, if we waited too long to pick, the fruit was rotten.

Sour or rotten love, is the pits.

Screeeeeech, that is where I applied the mental brakes to stop myself from going in circles around only love.

I broadened my diet, so to speak. I made, and still make, efforts to eat up joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

For example, while negotiating today’s societal culture of women working outside the home and men working inside the home, I exercised faithfulness and stayed married after telling my husband, “Please don’t ever wash my blouse in the same laundry load with the mudroom rugs ever again. Stuff doesn’t just come out of the machine, clean. The mud from the rugs got in my blouse and ruined it.”

Okay, I confess to selective memory and probably told my husband, “Start helping around the house better or we’re getting a divorce,” but we’re still happily together after 33-years.

As for the element of patience, this is very interesting.

For certain: I am not a source of patience.

And because of my bossy gene, I can’t help but admit that the source of my husband’s patience with me must be infinite.

The source of patience must be unending, why not call it Spirit.

I may not be able to see or measure Spirit, but I can know Spirit. I can know Spirit as source. The fruit source. Said in another way, when I stop believing and acting as though other people, or I, am a source of love, I’m in line to reap success in love.

We can reap success in love because love isn’t dependent on dinner or a personal relationship. Love is internalized along with peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, all of which we can get our teeth into this Valentine’s Day, or now.

 

Bio: Cheryl Petersen lives in Delhi. Her books are: “from science & religion to God,” and, “Zen Kitty: and other meows”, available on Amazon.com

Women’s March in nation’s capital

A Women’s March is scheduled for January 21 at Washington D.C. One day after the presidential inauguration.

It all started when a grandmother in Hawaii created a Facebook page on last November’s presidential election night. In other words, it got started by a regular person, not some famous activist or organization.

However, activists and organizations are jumping on board to either meet in D.C. or host a local event. More than 100 events are being staged around the nation.

The media predicts everything from solidarity to failure as a result of the march.

But, as with any thought or event, it will evolve or devolve and I’m chipping in for the event to evolve with integrity, honesty, and justice.

It’s happened before, it can happen again.

Women, and others who join them, can be aware, be empathic, wise, and productive.

We can laugh, cry, support one another, and keep warm together as we unite for the sake of uniting. As we evolve in goodness.

 

 

Walking the loop

Today is especially warm. So, I walked the loop, a 4-mile jaunt that starts at our house and ends at our house. I cover a gravel road. The few passer-byers slow down and wave. They slow down because they want to make sure I’m really on a walk, and not needing to be picked up and taken home.

Until today’s warmer weather, the roads have been treacherously dangerous. Solid ice. We had rain and water, then cold air moved in and froze the water solid.

It was nice to walk without pending peril. I thought about the times when my mind gets caught up in gossip about our country. It feels perilous, until I settle my mind down and reflect on a loving, peaceful, in control God.

 

 

A sermon I gave at UUSO

Let’s talk about warmth and sincerity. Where they come from and how they bring us along to where they are going.

I believe warmth and sincerity come from a unified force. And they have an unstoppable momentum that brings us to its greater self-expansion. They bring us along, because they are inescapable.

We can’t escape warmth and sincerity.

Yes, I will admit, as soon as I walk out that door back there, all my surreal c onvictions here will appear contradicted. The holiday frenzies and dreadful circumstances will contradict my fancy inner thoughts.

But I’ve learned, whereas I can’t escape warmth and sincerity, I can escape their contradictions.

The first memorable contradiction I escaped, was that warmth and sincerity come from things or stuff.

When I was probably in the fourth grade. It was Christmas time and I was excited. The whole family was. Mom and Dad had built an addition onto our house and its size went from puny to not so puny.

Instead of us five kids sharing a bedroom, we now had a boy’s room and a girl’s room. The middle sister and I each had our own bed.

Near the Christmas tree, my sister and I unwrapped identical looking gifts. We unwrapped bedspreads.

Now, try to picture this: 2 bright, deep purple bedspreads with long shag textile.

I know. It’s hard to picture. I bet you never heard of such a thing, because I’ve never seen shag bedspreads on the market since 1970. These bedspreads were crazy. Shag this long. Longer than the 1970s shag carpet on our floors, but the exact same idea.

All we could think to say, was, “Thanks Mom and Dad.”

But I could see that stuff didn’t give, or take away, warmth and sincerity. I could feel a presence of warmth and sincerity. I grew up in a good family and was a happy child.

What’s more noteworthy is that about ten years later, that warmth and sincerity were given motion.

I’ll tell you how.

When in my twenties, I’d become a full-fledged holiday fan. I made lists. I went to different shopping malls. I compared and contrasted gift ideas. I cooked, I baked. I was busy.

But after a few years, I noticed that it was becoming more difficult to feel warm and sincere.

To remedy this, as is my habit, I prayed. I gave myself what I call, a mental treatment. I didn’t treat myself with disdain for falling prey to the stress that came with all the hustle and bustle.

I treated myself with warmth and sincerity.

Then I noticed something.

That hustle and bustle taught me about motion.

At the time, I’d gotten caught up in the momentum of commercialism, so to speak. The commercialism wasn’t the point, it was the movement that had my attention.

So, I experimented in my mind.

I detached the momentum from commercialism, threw out the commercialism, and attached the momentum to warmth and sincerity.

“You can’t do that,” I heard in my mind.

But I could. I could acknowledge warmth and sincerity in motion.

This new consciousness was interesting. It confirmed that I didn’t create warmth and sincerity. I didn’t turn them on in my brain. I didn’t run alongside and jump on board with warmth and sincerity. They were already moving and bringing me along.

After that, my holidays have been touched with more inclusive warmth and sincerity.

But what about those times when the momentum of contradictions is out of control? We can’t seem to stop the contradictions, let alone detach movement from them and attach the momentum to goodness?

This is where we connect dots between definite experiences of warmth and sincerity. We take it a step at a time. Every single step with warmth and sincerity.

I want to tell you about my cousin, Darry. He is an artist and lives further upstate.

Darry and his wife recently returned home after living in Israel for four years.

The country Israel is an ancient enclave for not only cultural and religious diversity, but also for conflict and harshness.

Even interfaith relationships are like fresh eggs in a basket, high in nutrients, yet fragile and easily broken.

Darry told me that Israel “Does feel like a different world in some ways. The Israelites are dealing with centuries of distrust, and generation after generation of retaliations.”

Darry is a Christian. When in Israel, he worked a few days at a local school, with a Jewish lady and an Arab woman.

I know, this sounds like a bad joke in the making, but it’s not. This group became friends, or as Darry said, “We were friendly toward one another. But we subconsciously played down the friendliness, and hoped nothing would ruin it.”

You see, the Jewish woman’s nephew had been killed in a hostility against Muslims. Trying to escape that which contradicts friendliness, the Jewish and Arab women came together in a conversation with the idea of having Darry draw a portrait of the nephew.

Due to language barriers, this conversation required translation.

The Arab woman spoke enough English to explain to Darry, that the two women had pooled together 400 shekels to pay him to draw the portrait.

Darry would never have taken money from the women for such a project, but in all sincerity, he explained that his style of art would not be appropriate for a portrait.

Just as human beings have differing lifestyles and religions, we also have differing styles of art.

But, styles aren’t the issue. They don’t influence warmth and sincerity. It’s the other way around.

Warmth and sincerity influence our styles and traditions. They influence our actions and communications, which it what happened in my cousin’s situation.

The Arab translated tactfully to the Jewish woman what Darry had said. Warmth and sincerity prevailed all around. But even better, a respect grew, between them.

They began eating lunch together, asking one another questions, getting to know one another and themselves better. Darry said it all reminded him of what he heard his mom say; there is no separation in divine Mind.

Divine Mind is another word for the unified force, or God.

I’ll read from my latest book, from science and religion to God, a briefer narrative of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health. “Connectivity exists in divine Mind.”

Mary Baker Eddy wrote about this idea of the connectivity of goodness, between warmth, sincerity, and us, in her Science and Health, back in the 19th century.

I’ll read the sentence again.

“Connectivity exists in divine Mind.”

This idea guides me to look past the separable things, past the legends, past the divisible human minds and bodies, to the one divine Mind where warmth and sincerity are bringing us along.

There’s a Bible story that shows this in action. In the Book, Ruth.

The storyline starts with a Judahite family that emigrates from Bethlehem to Moab. Back then, the Judahites and Moabites, didn’t necessarily get along. But the Judahite parents raised their two sons and they grew up to marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.

The story took a turn for the worse and all three men died. I’m sure this wasn’t an easy time for the women, but efforts were made to move with ongoing warmth and sincerity.

The mother, Naomi, decided to return to Bethlehem. Orpah stayed in Moab, but Ruth wanted to go with Naomi. Ruth told Naomi, I like your God.

So, Naomi and Ruth move back. Now in Bethlehem, Ruth is the foreigner, generally looked down upon. But they needed to eat so Ruth went to work in a wheat field. The land owner was Boaz and he was able to look past ethnicity, look past her losses, and see, Ruth manifest goodness. Boaz married Ruth and she became the great-grandmother of King David, an iconic figure in the history of Christianity.

Not everyone is as quick as Boaz, to accept the silent heart that unites us. But enough of us are and we can keep strong in the reality of warmth and sincerity in motion bringing us along, even when we don’t feel it right away, because there are definite intersections in life where the movement is confirmed.

A Pew Research Study, titled 5 facts about Christmas in America, discusses different data related to Christmas.

One fact recorded that: “Among Americans overall, about half (51%) say they celebrate Christmas as more of a religious holiday, while roughly a third (32%) say it is more of a cultural holiday to them personally.”

That’s 83% celebrating Christmas. Even though they may not agree why, they still unite at the level of a holiday. Most of us like a holiday.

But (and this is important), we don’t want to overlook the other 17%. They confirm that the holidays aren’t what keep warmth and sincerity alive.

This lesson has expanded for me.

I’ve learned, what seems like the hard way, that human relationships also aren’t what keep warmth and sincerity alive and moving.

My oldest brother and I, grew up very close. We were like this. We talked all the time, about everything. We thought alike. We acted alike. We worked together. We trusted one another.

Until ten years ago, when I modernized and published Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health. (Snap) Like that, I was shunned by my brother and the church members who believe they have to read Mary Baker Eddy’s words. Only her words are acceptable. Period.

My feeling of being rejected and demoted in the eyes of people who I trusted and loved, was excruciatingly painful. It was a sore contradiction to warmth and sincerity. Very difficult to escape.

Thankfully, I didn’t say anything horrible to my brother, even though I sometimes wanted to.

I think he was protecting his church job. It was his income. His way of making a living and providing for his family, which he did with warmth and sincerity.

For these ten years, I tromped on. And to my confidence, I’ve never regretted my decision. The revision work has been an amazing journey.

Well…a few months ago, my brother’s daughter got married. Last August. We were invited to the wedding. That wedding served as an intersection of warmth and sincerity. It was a dot connected, you could say.

I went to the wedding out of love for my niece. When my brother noticed me in the room, he walked straight to me and directly told me, that he retired from his church position.

He talked to me without the suspicion and censuring I’d previously felt. I talked to him with cautious hope.

It was a definite experience…  it was as if time stood still…no hurt, no past, no future. There was only the reality of ongoing warmth and sincerity bringing us along to greater expression.

Have a great season everyone.

National Adoption Month was November

Published by The Daily Star in Oneonta, NY

November is National Adoption Month

By Cheryl Petersen

The 40th anniversary of National Adoption Month highlights the power to adopt new ideas; to celebrate adults and children alike, who bravely adopt new thoughts, new dreams, and new positions to bring stability to homes and communities.

In 1986, the initiative to increase awareness for the need of permanent families for children and youth in the foster care system, was put into effect in the state of Massachusetts.

The program soon expanded to include the United States. November was deemed National Adoption Month. And with the advent of internet came a national photolisting service. You can find, children and youth, available for adoption, continuously posted online.

Aside from the mechanics of adoption, however, also comes the essence of fostering and adoption. We need to consider the spirit of individuals, families, and communities. It can be a sensitive, complex, and confusing process.

From East Branch, Nikolas Bowker,18-years old, said, “When I first entered a foster home, I was confused. I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

Today, Nikolas is unafraid to tell other children in state care, “It gets better.”

The “better” came about with the help of many hands and hearts. It came about through efforts made to overcome snags and slip-ups.

Nikolas admitted to acting out at first, and said, “I got into fights in school. I felt as though I was being treated differently from other kids who had parents.” But he and his sister, Briana, went on to be fostered by the Bowker family, who later adopted the siblings. On Nikolas’ birthday.

Today, Nikolas is finishing high school, with the goal to continue caring for his own family.

The support from family members, teachers, coaches and so on is appreciated. “It’s nice having a family that cares for us,” he said.

Braina Bowker, 13-years old, is homeschooled and uses an online program managed by Liberty University Academy.

“Each Friday, I get to meet with other homeschoolers my age and from around the area. We play games,” said Briana, who also takes piano lessons.

Briana is tickled with the idea of having a big family. She remarked, “I never thought I’d have so many brothers and sisters.”

Their parents are Jennifer and Health Bowker, also parents to 11-year old Heath, 10-year old Caeden, 8-year old Wyatt, 6-year old Tessa, and “We adopted 2-year old Finnegan last year,” said Jennifer.

Jennifer and Heath felt so blessed to have four biological children that they wanted to do something for children who didn’t start with a loving family. They live on a small farm and give each child morning and evening chores to teach them self-worth and responsibility.

“It’s God’s overwhelming love poured on us that compels us to share that love,” said Jennifer.

However, in this brief article, justice to her statement can’t be accomplished. Nor to the children. Their backgrounds are diverse, even dramatic. They are pitted with trials, yet acquitted with profound perseverance and empathy.

Sometimes it’s difficult to come up with the words to explain, but Jennifer summed her thoughts with a quote from the Gospel Matthew: “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.”

The Bowker family worked closely with Delaware County Department of Social Services, in charge of public foster care and adoptions.

Concurrent plans are established within the Department to reach the goals of: keeping children in a safe environment; returning the children to birth family members; and if that doesn’t work, freeing the children, legally and emotionally, to be adopted.

“The Social Services Department takes great pains to match children and families,” said Rebecca Hoyt, Director of Services.

Working with the Department since 1999, Hoyt has seen trends come and go, but one thing stays the same. “We try to get families back on track and keep the children in homes with a sense of normalcy,” she said.

When the trendy drug epidemic poked its ugly face out, the County instituted a Family Treatment Court to deal with cases through the Department of Social Services.

“The parents agree to be in the treatment program,” explained Hoyt. “It’s a step that assists their progress in sobriety, or if the parents can’t get it together, it allows the children to move on to adoption.”

Hoyt works with many case workers along with Dana Scuderi-Hunter, Commissioner, on the job 2 years. Training programs are in place for case workers and parents.

The top reasons children are placed in state care are parental substance dependence, child neglect, and domestic violence. Knowing this, the department puts into place apt prevention services for families and children.

Scuderi-Hunter said, “It’s about making the children feel welcomed and integrating them into families and the community. We don’t try to erase their past, but work with who they are and where they are from to move on in a life of normalcy.”

Awareness and education are also used to remove the stigma that comes with being a foster child. Rather than fall through the cracks, they are encouraged to attend higher education.

“When we all embrace a healthy image of the children, they gain confidence,” said Scuderi-Hunter.

The Department assists foster children with higher education.

Scuderi-Hunter has also noticed the confidence also allows the children to feel more secure to return to care after they turn 18-years old. “It’s the youth’s personal choice until they are 21-years old,” she said.

With this active synergy of state regulations, trainings, preventive services, treatment programs, and education, the number of foster children has been decreasing in Delaware County.

“Many factors are involved, but in 2015 there were 97 children in foster care. As of September 2016, there were 68,” said Scuderi-Hunter.

Data also shows that year 2014, recorded 15 adoptions. Year 2015, recorded 17 adoptions. “This year to date, 15 children have been adopted with an anticipation of 4 more,” said Scuderi-Hunter.

To make it special for the children and families, Adoption Days are scheduled throughout the year. Scuderi-Hunter said, “I love going to adoption days. I love seeing the permanency. Because, when we make a positive difference in the life of all children, it affects the future.”

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