Beliefnet
Everyday Spirituality

Most of the 8.5 million registered motorcycles in the United States belong to men. If women are involved, they usually sit behind the men drivers and go along for the ride. To be honest, I support these women riders/sitters. Although I operate my own bike, I’d never tell another woman to do the same. If, however, you do want to operate a motorcycle, I’m also a supporter. With bullets:

  • Participate in a motorcycle safety class.
  • Purchase quality gear.
  • Ride an appropriate sized bike. A bike on which you can straddle the seat and plant both your feet solid on the ground.

Motorcycles get good gas mileage and when I don’t have a boatload of kids and crap to haul around, why not swing my leg over my C50 Suzuki and cruise the curving hilly roads? Why not smell the woodlands and wildflowers?

I’ll tell you in one word why not. Danger. Sure, only 19 states and the District of Columbia require motorcyclists to wear helmets by law, but, along with armored gear, I wear a helmet 100% of the time. In every state.

Head gear doesn’t get in the way of my paying attention, because that is what we riders have to do every second we’re on the road. There is no wiggle room for distractions. We are on alert to keep our bikes upright and in a zone where the oblivious vehicle drivers can’t hit us.

Without a helmet, I won’t get on a motorcycle for a ride. Without a helmet, I would be terribly uncomfortable. Without a helmet, I would feel naked. Call it training, call it attitude, or call it willfulness, it doesn’t matter, I only ride when wearing proper head gear.

Oddly, this attitude of mine came into play when Islamophobia increased in our region. It started when a local Muslim community was getting ragged on. Why? Well, because they dressed differently. Otherwise, the Muslims are the same as the rest of us. They are Americans. They have families, they work in town, they strive to better themselves, they eat food. Okay, so they pray a lot too, but as a contemporary Christian myself, I can deal with prayer.

It was their head gear that freaked people out.

Undaunted by head gear, I went to visit my neighbors. I even asked if I could join one of their prayer/dinners. “Of course,” they said.

The women were separated from the men. We ate and prayed in a different room, but the men did all the cooking and serving of food.

The head gear on the women are called hijabs. They are worn as an expression of modesty before God. They would feel naked without their heads covered.

At the prayer meeting, I met Ipek. I’ve since returned to the Community a couple of times to hang with Ipek. She’s given me a tour of the farm. We both took pictures of one another with the animals, however, she requested that her face not be in a picture. I obliged. Ipek though, highly amused, took picture after picture of me, face and all, as the goats rushed at me to eat some paper I was carrying.

We differ yet we are the same. Ipek is fully clothed, quiet, graceful, smart, supportive, smiling. She asks permission from her husband before doing certain things.

I will peel off my clothes according to rising temperatures I’m bossy and a tomboy. Asking my husband for permission of any kind would make him double over in laughter because he knows I’ll do what I feel is right no matter what he says.

Ipek may seem submissive, but get to know her and your mind changes. Born and raised in Turkey, Ipek was taught Islam. She was 33-years old when she decided on her own to cover her head with a hijab. She was a single mother, probably scared out of her wits for her daughter.

This is where Ipek and I meld. She has a daughter and I have two daughters. We want with our whole hearts for our girls to live in peace. We aren’t whimsical. We know the girls will encounter trials and tribulations throughout their lives, but the desire for our daughters to learn with a sense of equality and respect is so powerful, we will set aside our own personal desires and prejudices to let the universal desire happen. The difficult part is doing so without the added impositions of feeling attacked by outsiders. And, with Islamophobia on the rise, this was an issue with Ipek.

I wanted Ipek to be brave, but I had to remind myself, that deep down, Ipek is brave. When she was living in Turkey, she met a Sufi Muslim leader who knew of a single man in America. This man is my neighbor. Unknown to me, my neighbor and Ipek video chatted together a few times and agreed to marry. She emigrated to New York with her 7-year old daughter in 2012 and got married. Ipek has since made a new life for herself so her daughter will have a family.

Ipek can’t afford to fly back to Turkey and visit family. She makes the best of her situation, uncomplainingly. She even calls me sister. In return, I do what I can to be a sister. For example, I wrote an op/ed to increase understanding and reduce the fears surrounding Islam. It was printed in a regional newspaper.

Ipek read the article, looked at me and said, “You are a better Muslim than me.”

I never before considered myself a Muslim, and probably never will, however I knew what she meant. Sisterhood is potent.

Bio: Cheryl Petersen lives in New York with her husband. She is author of, “From science & religion to God: A briefer narrative of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health.” Her website is www.HealingScienceToday.com Twitter: @CherylPetersen 

 

 

It took three times in a row for me to hear, “It’s okay, Cheryl, I’m in control,” for it to stick. A freak explosion of fire in the heavy equipment I was operating, distracted me. Clothes on fire, I escaped from an open window in the cab.

I have no recollection of jumping and crashing onto the ground before finding myself in the emergency room, going in and out of the consciousness that God is my life. X-rays were taken. The doctor went to find a surgeon to fix my bleeding liver, “because they can be fatal,” he said.

The surgeon arrived and sat watching the monitors I was hooked to. “You’re stabilizing,” he said contemplatively. The liver surgery wasn’t performed, it wasn’t necessary, and that was twenty-years ago.

But something else happened during the three days I was in the hospital. Gratitude escaped my cliché definition of looking on the bright side. Gratitude welled, permeated, and saturated my being as power and presence. Gratitude so profound, like none other I’ve known before or since, yet blesses me every day.

Vowing not to be those parents who hang onto the family farm with the hope that the children return to continue the tradition, my husband and I put our farm up for sale after our girls were out of college and told us they had no interest in farming. The property sold in five days. Stunned, my husband and I stared at one another and said at the same time, “Now what do we do?”

I believe that question was the beginning of a premature midlife crisis. It led to a year of colossal upheaval. The disruption in our life, however, bashed the typical definition of midlife crisis referred to by the public.

Boston psychologist, Lynn Margolies, PhD, wrote, “A sure sign you may be in a midlife crisis is if you are feeling trapped and very tempted to act out in ways that will blow up your life.” Margolies likened this phenomenon to a rebellious teenager and warned against jolting loved ones or pursuing unrealistic, hurtful goals.

A midlife crisis can be boiled down to a person discovering or rediscovering their identity and self-confidence.

Discovery is not a bad thing when taken by the horns and wrangled to our benefit rather than bane. Four fundamentals to motivating a positive crisis comes to mind when recalling my midlife predicament:

Family can be separated from the job. Family and farming were my identity or so I believed. We raised our children on the farm and fostered children, all of whom thrived, surrounded by nature, animals, and fresh fruits and vegetables. When the day came in which welled up inside me a storm infused wave of desire to escape the farm, I was able to see that I could escape the farm without leaving family.

Realistic goals are priority. My husband and I were unable to retire, financially and mentally. We needed to remember when making decisions that we were unemployed empty-nesters who needed to be practical. To start a new career meant starting at the bottom.

Stuff had to go, but not good memories. With no children in the house, there were less material demands. We also no longer needed a lot of the stuff we had. Getting rid of stuff made it easier to start at the bottom. Because my good memories are not attached to the stuff, I still have them today. This freedom made it easier to discover. It also made it easier to move across the United States, for the fun of it.

Take on a challenge. We decided to move to a whole different community. Mapping out a strategy, we met fears head on and it left me with a feeling of accomplishment. Piling it on, my husband said to me, “Let’s ride our motorcycles from Washington State to New York.” My brain could barely process his comment, but it did sound motivating. I agreed only to almost back out at the last minute. The idea of riding my motorcycle 3,000 miles was daunting, until I realized if I only made it to Montana, fine, I’ll sell the bike and fly in an airplane the rest of the way.

The motorcycle trip across America is indelibly marked in my mental databank as the best two-weeks in the history of trips and vacations. We rode Highway 2, a northern route that took us through Glacier National Park, over the Bitterroot Mountains where Lewis and Clark traversed 200 years previous, on foot.

I learned that I could ride in rain, wind, over snowy roads, and under blasted hot sunshine. I spent $9 to fill my gas tank at the station, while a camper owner at the nearby gas pump spent $232 to fill his tank.

I watched terrain change from desert to woodland. I felt a spiritual parallel as I changed from wishy-washy to “I can do this.” We rode into our new upstate New York hometown on our 25th wedding anniversary. We’ll be celebrating our thirty-third anniversary in a few weeks.

Bio: Cheryl Petersen’s book is, from science & religion to God: A briefer narrative of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health. Her website is www.HealingScienceToday.com and you can follow on Twitter @CherylPetersen

More than 30,000 Christian denominations exist worldwide, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia.

Thirty thousand. That’s an enormous number.

A 2018 Barna Research study reports that, “Churches of all stripes practice their own flavor of ministry in cities across the United States, all based on particular interpretations of scripture and style.”

Arguably, there is no lack of interpretations and style, although it’s unfortunate when they provoke confusion or havoc. However, the surplus of understandings and style can promote spirituality and peace of mind.

In my memoir, I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter, I talk about the mental confusion experienced as a child when I was sexually abused. I talk about learning to say no to someone using me for their own self-satisfaction.

I also talk about the power to say yes to life instead of to death.

Saying yes to life stirred me to survive a fiery terrible accident. Moreover, it eventually helped me prioritize divine rules before church rules, probably because my church was dying.

The church was founded by Mary Baker Eddy in the 19th century and grew like wildflowers until mid-20th century. In Binghamton, a branch church was located at 17 Front Street from 1939 until 2006.

A unique feature of these churches is the idea of an objective Pastor, communicated during services by lay-readers reading from the Bible and Eddy’s book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. But, what worked in the past wasn’t working in the future.

Multiple reasons are found for the demise of my church and its pastor, however, I discovered that even if church was gone, I still have the religion, Christian Science, simply defined as the law of divine Spirit interpreting harmony to the universe.

It was curious to learn that my religion wasn’t dependent on church.

If I learned anything else through my religion, it is the value of not acting as if other people solve my problems for me. Sure, I can watch and follow quality examples, but I need to be accountable to the divine.

Pew Research reported that about half of United States adults switch churches sometime in their lives. The Pew study found that, “Fully 83% of Americans who have looked for a new place of worship say the quality of preaching played an important role in their choice of congregation.”

I think the choice isn’t so much between 30,000, or more, denominations, as it is choosing the collective enormous divine Spirit as alive and well.

Bio: Cheryl Petersen is a freelance writer and author of, 21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and from science & religion to God.