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Everyday Spirituality

Everyday Spirituality

Celebrating Black History

posted by Cheryl Petersen

Black History is nearing an end. Our community newspaper has printed a series of profiles celebrating the milestones and individuals in American black history. Here are a few:

James Weldon Johnson. Born 1871, the second of three children, James Weldon went on to become a future teacher, poet, songwriter, and civil rights activist  While still serving as a public school principal, Johnson studied law and became the first African American to pass the bar exam in Florida. Johnson—displeased with the racial stereotypes propagated by popular music—enrolled at Columbia University in 1903 to expand his literary horizons. In 1916, Weldon was offered the post of field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He went on to assemble three ground-breaking anthologies: The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922), The Book of American Negro Spirituals (1925), and The Second Book of Negro Spirituals (1926).

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Lucy Stanton Sessions (1831-1910) Lucy Stanton was born as a freed inhabitant of Cleveland, Ohio. She is believed to be the first African American woman to graduate from college, attaining a degree from Oberlin College in 1850. After college she moved to Columbus, Ohio, and became a Principal to a school. Life entailed more moving during a time when she taught fugitive slaves. Later in life, after a divorce, she remarried and the family moved to Tennessee where Lucy Sessions continued her philanthropic work, including serving as president of the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She and her husband later moved to Los Angeles, California before her death in 1910.

Charlotte E. Ray was one of seven children. She was born in 1850 in New York City. She was raised by a father who was a minister and active in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad. Charlotte Ray received her education at the institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington D.C. and went on to teach at Howard University. She earned a law degree in 1872 and became one of the first black women to be admitted to the District of Columbia Bar and argue cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. She became involved in the women’s suffrage movement and joined the National Association of Colored Women., inspiring many to transcend the strictures of racism and misogyny.

“Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9, ESV)

 

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Oat Grass for Cats in the Winter

posted by Cheryl Petersen

Our spiritual journeys can feel like one step forward and two steps back sometimes however quite often the one step forward is a magnanimous leap that adds to our spirituality.

I’m pleasantly amazed to see how non-intrusive answers come to my mind enforcing my conviction there is a Mind greater than my human mind. A few months ago, an image of my cats eating grass during the summer flashed through memory. We’ve had a cold snowy winter and therefore I went to town and bought some oat grass seed along with some potting soil.

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After arriving home, the cats and I planted oat seeds and began watching them grow in the house. No eating lessons were required. The cats go to the grass every morning and sometime in the evening and snack on the grass.

I’ve since learned a few theories as to why cats like eating grass.

  • Grass contains folic acid, an essential vitamin for bodily functions that also assists in the production of a protein that moves oxygen in the blood.
  • Because cats are carnivores and clean themselves, thus accumulating quite a build-up of hair in the digestive tract, they will eat the grass to assist in regurgitation thus helping them eliminate indigestible matter making them feel better.
  • Another theory is that grass acts as a natural laxative.

In line with the laws of nature, we don’t yet understand how we eat and live without agriculture. From 21st Century Science and Health, “Scriptures inform us that sin, or error, first caused the condemnation of humankind to till the ground.” But religion can also teach us that, “Scriptures indicate that obedience to [Mind] will remove the necessity to rely on material food, air, or technology.” The key is obedience to God, not trying to get rid of agriculture.

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Les Miserables in a new light

posted by Cheryl Petersen

Reviews of Director Tom Hooper’s big screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s book, Les Misérables are almost as entertaining as the film. The reviews exhibit barbed, bazaar, candid opinions that human beings are vulnerable to express.

Last weekend, my husband and I ventured out for our quadrennial date and actually got in a vehicle and drove to the Walton Theater to watch Les Misérables.

For a little background, I read Les Misérables decades ago. Loved it. But clearly, I didn’t remember every detail therefore whenever I’m drawn back to the ideas in Les Misérables, through other movies or renditions, I learn something new about broken dreams, religious values, unrequited love, sacrifice, and redemption. The many versions of the book add to the scope of Victor Hugo’s donation to the advancement of humanity.

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I haven’t found a reviewer yet who echoes my impression of the 2012 musical rendition of Les Misérables.  I don’t lean toward the passionate exclamation, “Nothing short of breathtaking, triumphant and beautiful!” I also don’t lean toward the review quipped by Alistair Harkness who commented, and I’m abridging here, “Bombastic, overblown, overlong, needlessly convoluted…” His remark seems backward. The French to English language version of the book, Les Misérables, contains 530,982 words. The 2012 film, scripted by William Nicholson, Herbert Kretzmer, Alain Boublil, and Claude-Michel Schönberg, managed to effectively garner at least 250 pages into a 3 minute song. Bravo.

The 2012 Les Misérables impressed me with the fact that time/space and the human language are surmounted with the use of lyrics, music, acting, and visuals. All these layers together produced a grand effect that are provoking the human mind to grow out of its own codes, expectations, assumptions, and flawed views.

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Ash Wednesday and Traditions

posted by Cheryl Petersen

Ash Wednesday brought me to a Taizé church service this year. Surrounded by candlelight, the pastor welcomed us all and explained Taizé is little village in the south of Burgundy, France. In this village, over 60 years ago, Brother Roger founded a community committed to prayer and reunion within the church and the human family. Taizé interjects short melodies in between Scriptural readings. Music laces together harmony with the intent to promote focus on God.

A cantor, violinist, flutist, and pianist centered our prayers. Although the beginning of Lent, we were reminded it is okay to cherish our joys while diminishing our backwardness.

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The Taizé style service is rather modern in context, started in the 20th century. Oddly, the popular Ash Wednesday took many centuries to develop and didn’t become formal until the 12th century.

Knowing the background of traditions keeps our brains from believing certain traditions are laws. We can break traditions or start new ones, it’s just best to remember the goal, to praise God.

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