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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.”

Thanksgiving, tater-tots, and laughter

Posted in 2012:

A ludicrous series of incidents played out the “blind leading the blind” a few years ago.

Nothing was planned, it just happened, and to no one particular reason.

Thanksgiving was coming up and we didn’t have any plans. The foster child who had been living with us for over a year had just moved forward in her life and that took precedence of our time and energy.

School was out for our daughters and we were home taking a breather. Finally it was suggested we go to the cabin. My parents had a small cabin in the Blue Mountains. No telephone. Fire crackling in the woodstove. We acted on the idea. We threw some clothes in a bag and headed to the car for the hour and half drive.

Someone finally asked, What about food?

None of us expected the others to whip up a Thanksgiving feast. So, we stopped at the grocery store and laughed our way through the isles picking up things like chicken nuggets, heat-n-serve tater-tots, and fresh fruit.

Once in the Mountains, we parked the car and prepared to carry all the stuff down the snowy hill to the cabin. The driveway is closed when there is snow.

Car lights kept us going, or rather I should say, kept us in the dark because we were oblivious to the fact that it was pitch black outside with no light whatsoever. Our delight in the snow blinded us further. Once all the lights were off, we stood there unable to see one another. No moon. No stars. No flashlight. We forgot the flashlights.

Stumbling and bumbling down the hill we eventually arrived at the cabin. It was freezing cold inside but within a few hours, after starting up the fire, it warmed up. We cooked our Thanksgiving dinner in a toaster oven and ate in the light of candles. A peace ran strong through our giving of thanks.

We spent the night and went home ready for the world. Ironically a few weeks later we were again able to go to the cabin. But, we remembered flashlights this time. The result was getting a good laugh at ourselves—again. We definitely were impressed with the pitch black dark of our last trip, but acting on brain imprints was a joke. The moon was so bright it felt like daytime.

Following brain imprints is the blind leading the blind. What worked yesterday is not meant for today usually. But, following the spirit of thanksgiving is love leading love.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

From 21st Century Science and Health: For victory over a single sin, we give thanks and magnify the Lord of Hosts. What will we say of the mighty conquest over all that is unspiritual? A louder song, sweeter than has ever before reached high heaven, now rises clearer and nearer to the great heart of Christ; for the accuser is not there, and Love expresses Her primal and everlasting symphony.”

Being Faithful to Yourself: A rendering of Mary Baker Eddy’s, Fidelity, from her book, Miscellaneous Writings

An updated version from 2013

If we didn’t think and talk about worthless topics, we would be prone to more epiphanies, naturally expanding into experiences that make us feel a secret victory.

Experience is the winner, not the crushed.

In the battle of life, good and goodness, becomes more hearty and persistent, and reduces the activity of evil. Though the threats of evil rivet our attention and actions, we can reverse this and secure the good. We can become “faithful over a few things,” and be prepared to be “put in charge of many things.” (Matt. 25:23)

Are you a child learning not to worry your parents or care takers? Are you a husband or wife learning not to demand unrealistic expectations? Are you a partner learning not to take one another for granted? Are you an employee or employer learning to serve humankind with honesty?

Remember, for all the days you forget to take a stand for good, you alone will make amends.

Mistakes must be remedied with wisdom, not more mistakes.

Progress requires work, mental and physical work, and the time to work is now. Only with straightforward effort, undistracted by self-righteousness or self-pity, will you win.

Do not blame others if your spiritual progress is shallow and vague. To follow faithfully is to practice what the teacher teaches and not expect the teacher to do your work for you.

Every great woman and man can be found on the trajectory of patience and perseverance. Faithfulness is entered by first purifying your thought and then putting thought into words and words into deeds. These steps will be slippery or mucky, however your sincerity and humility will find reward and strength in exalted purpose.

Human hopes deceive. Human philosophy, ethics, and scholastic theology mislead. Physics and quantum energy fields are insufficient to enlighten. Having one God and an undivided affection for spiritual reality will draw you to that which is worthy and worthwhile.

Being faithful to God is being faithful to your spiritual light. Spending too much time on the cares of the world or on manipulating the pains and pleasures of the flesh will diminish your wealth of spirituality.

Truth will cost you your fears, false beliefs and devotions, and lame formalities. Be willing to pay the price of Truth so you can be move forward with God and feel the exclamation, job well done.

Fixing past mistakes

I make mistakes. Sometimes, I don’t know I make mistakes until much later in life.

Mistakes are blunders, gaffes, misprints, or errors. They can also be misunderstandings, over-estimations or underestimations. I’ve made the mistake of simply failing to appreciate true values as expressed by people around me.

From 21st Century Science and Health: If mortals are not progressive, past failures will be repeated until all wrong work is erased or corrected.

Some mistakes can be fixed. I can fix a misprint on a webpage.

But some mistakes can’t be tangibly fixed. I can’t return to the past and appreciate the true values as expressed by people around me. To doggedly try to fix that past behavior is vain. It leads to guilt and shame. But, to pretend my mistake didn’t happen also leads to guilt and shame. And guilt and shame clog our thinking. This is when it’s time to live in the now.

From 21st Century Science and Health: Take the time to look past the fading, sensational pictures. Gain the true sense of life. Rest your gaze on the unsearchable realm of Mind. Look ahead and act as possessing all power from Truth and Love in whom you have your being.

Thankfully, we are driven to seek something greater.

I want to yield to something greater than a humanlike power. And this requires unclogged thinking.

The humanlike God is presented oftentimes in the Bible. Paul recorded in the book of Acts:  “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.  In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.  For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17: 29-31, NIV)

But this wording doesn’t make God humanlike. Just like my past failures to appreciate truth don’t reduce God to being unable to lift me up out of a past mistake.

God is Godlike, Spirit, Love, Truth and powerful to lift up. And Paul, along with millions of other spiritually minded, stretched their minds to be Godlike.

Paul distinguished between humanlike gods and Godlike God, between mistakable humans and us as understanding individuals. We read in Acts: When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”  Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker.  The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.  But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting:  “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.  In the past, he let all nations go their own way.  Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”  Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. (Acts 14: 11-18, NIV)

It’s a struggle between the human ego and the desire to stand with the divine Ego, or God. But I can live in the now and appreciate the good around me, carry that appreciation to the past and the future. I can because God is divine Mind, all-knowing Mind.

From 21st Century Science and Health: It is the prerogative of the ever-present divine Mind, and of thought which is in alignment with this Mind, to know the past, the present, and the future.

 

Gotta love the guinea fowl

My husband and I rescued a couple of Guinea fowl, after their tribe of twenty was picked off by predators or hit by cars on the road. Needless to say, they are fairly wild.

Fortunately, we have three chickens that welcomed the guineas.

Two issues I’m dealing with:

They roost in the tall trees behind the house, which is sort of safe, but it’d be safer if they slept in the hen house.

Also, we have a 500’ foot-long driveway and the guineas want to walk down and stand in the road. Probably because they lived near a major road in the past and were familiar to the traffic noise.

Our neighbors drive slowly but when I see the guineas down by the road, I tromp down with a couple of long sticks. I hold the sticks out to each side and herd them back. No rushing. I observe the tree leaves turning bright oranges, reds, and yellows. I watch the guineas. I think. I wish the guineas would break their habit.

Why do habits seem universal? Animals and humans alike are challenged by habits that place us in danger or shame us. I don’t know why, but I do know that I definitely see habits improve when I work with patience and encouragement rather than human will-power or threats.

It requires me to look past my own expectations and see what tiny step I can take that the guineas understand. So far, I’ve removed obstacles and I leave feed corn near the hen house. They are becoming more comfortable, more receptive.

But a key element to success is to call upon a higher source of patience and encouragement since my human reserves are rather puny. When I lose my patience, its gone. I have to look to God, an unlimited source of goodness, to re-coop my patience.

The patience of God flows freely and is available to us all.

It’s no wonder Paul told the Hebrews, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”—Hebrews 10

gineas.jpg

gineas and chickens.jpg

 

 

 

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