Everyday Spirituality

Terrlyn L. Curry Avery, Ph.D., MDiv wounded by religionRespect for thoughtfulness grew as I listened to Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery* speak at Hartford Seminary last month. Wounded by Religion, was her subject of conversation, and converse she did as she questions and remarks were fielded from our audience.

Religion is part of human life, whether we want to admit it or not. And I’m saying, it’s human life, more than religion that wounds. The belief in a mortal life, with good and bad always at war, wounds the spirit.

So, it’s spirit that needs nourishing, and this in turn can nourish religion. In other words, it does little good to condemn religion.

Dr. Avery exemplified the loving approach to healing. She is a psychologist and ordained minister, who seems to me, acts on logic and inspiration rather than reactive human passions.

From 21st Century Science and Health:

“It is physical emotionalism, and not Soul, that triggers a nervous passion for God. Allow spiritual sense to guide your higher experiences, because fanaticism and self-satisfied devotion do not promote spirituality. God is not influenced by human beings. The divine ear is not an auditory nerve. The Divine is all-hearing and all-knowing Mind, recognizing and supplying our every need.

Prayer can be dangerous if it tempts us to voice desires that aren’t real or to assume we are more spiritual than we really are. We become involuntary hypocrites when we use prayer to console ourselves without making genuine efforts to break out of illusory mindsets. Prayer is hazardous when we stay in deceptive mindsets and think we can pray for forgiveness later. Hypocrisy is fatal to religion.

Wordy prayers and long prayer sessions may give us a quiet sense of self-justification, but they only feed hypocrisy. We don’t need to despair of an honest heart, but there is little hope for the phony prayers of people who randomly face their faults only to try to hide those character flaws. The deceit holds secret fellowship with sin but can’t ultimately be hidden as Jesus noted, they are, “like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”[1]

If someone appears to be passionate and prayerful, but is also impure and insincere, what can we say? There is nothing to say if that person actually puts into practice his or her prayer. If we feel the aspiration, humility, gratitude, and love which our words express, God accepts this.”

*Terrlyn L. Curry Avery, Ph.D., MDiv, Founder, Sacred Intelligence, LLC, Coaching, speaking, workshops, and retreats. TEDx Speaker: Wounded By Religion

[1] Matt. 23:27

Forget matches or BBQ lighters, at our traditional July 4 celebration, Louie ignited the Bernzomatic torch to light fireworks. There were six children between our farm families and we each had about 20 sparklers to light and run around the farm yard with.

We kids would hold the sparkler wand to the hissing torch flame which in turn made our sparklers flare and sparkle.

It’s okay to celebrate with gusto, no one got hurt and we kids got so bored with sparklers that we haven’t run around with one since passing into adulthood.

To out grow the old into the new, I reflect with gusto to glimpse realities of divine Mind. They sparkle.

From 21st Century Science and Health:

“Truth encourages the elements of freedom. The Soul-inspired headline reads, “Terrorism Eliminated.” The power of God brings deliverance. No power can withstand divine Love. What or who is it that makes the rules of exploitation and depression? What is it that draws us away from Spirit? How do we become saddled by wants and whims? What is it that holds human beings in the clutches of sin, sickness, and loss? Truth makes us free.

“At first, Truth leads the few and faithful free thoughts of Truth. As time marches on, those unrestricted thoughts move forward with the motto of freedom. The powers of this world will react and the old-guard will try to stop truth, will try to make it submit to their human standards and systems, but Science is not distracted by threats or assaults, and continues to unfold. There is always some chaos; however, a mobilization to truth’s standard is inevitable.

“Improvement and progress come as mindsets improve. World history illustrates the might of Mind and shows human power to be proportionate to its embodiment of right thinking or spiritual clarity. Words and actions breathing the omnipotence of divine justice and wisdom, are powerful to break the barriers of human ideologies, fear, and caustic practices. Terrorism and oppression won’t go down in blood, and the breath of freedom doesn’t come from the mouth of a Patriot missile-launch battery. Love is the liberator.”

If you’ve escaped a toxic relationship, keep moving forward.

If you got a better job, keep at it.

If you joined a better church, stay worshipful at it.

If you miss the friends you’ve outgrown, make new friends. Don’t fraternize with or try to control outgrown friendships.

From 21st Century Science and Health, “The caterpillar transformed into a beautiful butterfly is no longer a worm. The butterfly doesn’t return to fraternize with or control the worm. Such a retrograde transformation is impossible in Science.”

We live in spiritual transformation.

You can say I’m in denial, but I don’t think the cancer killed my Dad. He is still alive to me. And, I think of Dad more often than on Father’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong. My experience is not always pleasant. But it is thought provoking.

Dad could be intimidating when I was growing up in the 1960-1970s. He fulfilled the model of breadwinner-who-never-helped-with-housework.

A 2017 Pew Research poll reported, “Fatherhood in America is changing in important and sometimes surprising ways. Today, fathers who live with their children are taking a more active role in caring for them and helping out around the house.”

Dad and I added to those changes. Directly and indirectly.

After I married in the 1980s, I made sure my husband helped in the house, because Dad indirectly taught me that not to help was unsustainable.

My husband grew up lacking the knowledge so my strategy took time and a mountain of patience. I only made myself angry when I expected my husband to remember not to wash the red shirt with whites.

I had to remind myself he was inexperienced and remind him not to wash the red shirt with whites. We may be adults, but some things still need practice. And practice is needed to change for the better.

But one thing remained unchanged from my childhood. Dad’s tradition of weekly church attendance. Therefore, my husband and I took our children to church. It gave me a reference, to rectify fatherhood with, when I was a teen.

Fatherhood isn’t only about providing the sperm or bringing home the paycheck or cleaning the potty. It’s about growing compassion, strength, and courage. It’s about teamwork and respect.

My dad overbalanced his lack of helping in the house with respect for me. Despite the fact I was a girl, he taught me how to operate and maintain machinery on the family farm. He taught me to nurture the crops of awareness and perseverance.

Speaking of children as “little ones” Christ Jesus told his disciples, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

In the Greek, despise is defined as, to think down upon or against anyone.

I never felt despised by Dad because he despised anything that would set me back. He despised self-centeredness, idleness, and dishonesty. He despised the ideology of blaming others for failure.

If something needed to be done for success, do it.

I believe Dad’s attitude contributed to the social changes being made today even if he didn’t contribute to the housework. Dad showed us children we were valuable.

The Pew report mentioned above said, “Dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is extremely important to their identity.”

Today, fatherhood is being cultivated at many levels.

Fatherhood programs are initiated and developed at federal, state and local levels to support children and families.

Weeklong or weekend Fatherhood Retreats are popular, many of them faith based.

Books are found and studied to improve fatherhood.

And, what are some of the results when we cherish the spirit of fatherhood?

The Child and Family Research Center at the LBJ School in Texas reports that children who grow up with involved fathers are 60% less likely to be suspended or expelled from school, 75% less likely to have teen birth, and two-times as likely to go to college and find stable employment after high school.”


Bio: Cheryl Petersen is the Everyday Spirituality Columnist. Her books are, 21st Century Science and Health, from science & religion to God, I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter.