May 2020 Archives


Trust

Trust

The following is an excerpt of a letter I received from one of my sons for Mother’s Day.

. . . Maybe I’ve said some of this stuff before, and if I have let’s just chalk it up to that fact it bears repeating.

First, thank you for being my mom. Its cliche to say you’re the best mom in the world, and you’d argue you aren’t, but I am tremendously grateful for you, and I can’t imagine having any mother but you. A recurring theme in your letters to us boys seems to be apologies for not doing things better/differently, and who knows how things would have turned out if you had. I do know that I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it weren’t for you. I wouldn’t be the father I am today without my memories of how you parented us. I wouldn’t be the husband I am today without the guidance you’ve given me.

You say “you don’t mean that, but that’s ok” when I say “I miss you too,” and to an extent you are right. I return the sentiment partly because I’m never sure how to respond. I don’t miss you often. Not the same way I miss Honey, or Gran and PaPa, or old friends from school, or old pets. That’s because, as cliche as it sounds, I rarely feel like you aren’t with me.

Beyond being able to pick up the phone and call, text, video chat, email, or contact you in numerous possible ways, you are with me when I go about my day to day life. You are with me when I watch the kids playing and just enjoy their presence. You are with me when they ask why I’m staring at them and I say I’m just enjoying watching them and smile the smile I’ve seen you give so many times; the smile that is mixed with the sadness of knowing the moment won’t last forever. You are with me when I’m consoling hurt feelings or breaking up fights or trying to give advice because everything I say and do is informed by times you did those things for me. You are with me even during little things like: -vacuuming when I like to get the carpet in a specific pattern like you did,
-cleaning bathrooms when I clean spots (not easily cleaned) because that’s how you taught me,
-when I’m driving with the windows down and the AC on because I remember you having the revelation you don’t have to roll the windows up just because H&G did it that way
-when I’m making the bed and I could make a hospital corner fold. I don’t because I followed your example and realized I don’t have to do it that way just because you did, but I could if I wanted to because you taught me how.

So, thank you for being my mom. Thank you for shaping who I am and instilling me with so many values, skills, and memories. Thank you for allowing me not to miss you as much as you miss me specifically because of those values, skills, and memories. Thank you.

I have read it over and over again, crying each time—happy tears, healing tears, grateful tears.

Have you ever said or thought that you just do not feel like God is with you, that She is far away? Have you ever asked for “God with skin on?” Or what about the question “Where are you God?” when going through difficult trials.

How can I be as aware of God’s presence with me as my son is about my presence with him?

Isn’t this what the apostle Thomas was expressing in the Upper Room? After Christ appeared to the disciples in Thomas’s absence, he says “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20: 24-29)

Was Thomas really expressing doubt or was he just wanting what all of us want, the comfort of a deep consciousness of His presence, that we are not alone, that God is with us?

A week later, Jesus reappears to the disciples gathered once again in the Upper Room this time with Thomas present. Remarkably, Jesus does not chastise Thomas. Instead He says: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

The last part of verse 27 in the Complete Jewish Bible reads: “Don’t be lacking in trust, but have trust!”

Thomas was not wavering, hesitating or having misgivings. He had just been through a harrowing and traumatic experience. He was given and accepted the opportunity to deepen his trust.

The decision to trust God is not just a once in a lifetime experience. Trusting God is a daily devotion. Given our current worldly circumstances, trusting God may need to be a moment to moment remembering.

Jesus responded to Thomas by saying: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe (trust).” I know many people use this verse to develop a theology about faith. Perhaps there is another angle upon which to meditate . . .

. . . what if Jesus is saying “There may be times when you will feel like I am not around, but trust me anyway.”

This morning while appreciating the perfection of Her creation, I became saddened over humanity’s mismanagement and destruction of our glorious home. Just as tears were beginning to roll down my cheeks, five Finches swooped and flew in a formation better than anything I have ever seen performed by the Blue Angels. They soared in concert, shifting flight positions with ease and grace. Their aerial tactics lasted little more than a minute, but left me astonishingly awed.

What a beautiful, God-given opportunity for me to place my hands in Her side and see and feel Her nail-scarred hands and feet . . . “Trust me.”

If we are alert and watchful, these experiences—“values, skills and memories”–to deepen our trust are all around us, and we can begin to be as awakened to God’s presence with us as my son is of mine with him.

Psalm 139 verses seven through twelve says:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

Or perhaps a poem by Hafiz is more to your liking:

God courts us with the beauty
of this world.

The Beloved courts us with music,
and any touch that quiets,

or can excite a heart
to such an extent
it will look like a radiant applause.

. . . thank you, son . . .

A Thousand Words

A Thousand Words

Mr. President,

In regard to the Coronavirus Task Force, the word you were looking for during your press conference was ‘necessary.’ You “had no idea the Task Force was so necessary,” not ‘popular.’

Now before you begin a tyrannical twitter, let me say I have the highest respect for the Office of President and a deep regard for the person elected therein.

Be that as it may, I do not like you. However, when I go for a walk every day, I pray for you.

I began this ritual when you adamantly decided not to enact the Defense Production Act. To be honest, I was quite angry at your nonchalant arrogance.

Needing to do something with my pent-up frustration, I went for a walk and prayed in my Spirit language for you—English words just would not suffice. Later that evening, I heard that you had changed your mind and were moving forward with its authorization.

After that and since, as much as I do not want to pray for you, that is exactly how much God does want me to. Let me be clear, you are the last person I want to think about and pray for as I enjoy a refreshing walk–but that is not how God rolls.

First Timothy 2:1-2 says: I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Today, much to the dismay of my ego, I actually enjoyed my prayer time for you as I took a long stroll.

Therein lies the paradox . . . God holds the most seeming contradictions together–all in His gracious and infinite Love.

Respectfully,
Susan Fridinger

Fred R. Barnard is credited with the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Every historical era seems to have a myriad of iconic images that stir up emotions and feelings regarding particular events both great and small.

One such image that comes to mind is that of the sailor kissing a woman dressed in a nurse’s uniform in Times Square after the end of World War II. Or how about The Napalm Girl, as she is known, crying while running naked–fleeing for safety during the Vietnam War. Then there is the photograph called Flower Power which depicts a young woman “placing a carnation in the barrel of a rifle during a protest of the Vietnam War.”

I could go on and on.

Two such seminal images recently provoked the above letter to the President.

First was that of the male Michiganer—mouth agape with raging anger–literally roaring for his rights in the state capital while the male police officer stands at attention with what appears to be a calm demeanor in the face of the protestor not a foot away. The officer is wearing a face mask while the protestor is not.

What the heck was going on inside their heads, I wonder?

Some call the protestor a patriot; I call him a bully!

The second was that of President Trump seated at the feet of Abraham Lincoln in the memorial during a Town Hall interview. One of the most, if not the most (in my opinion), dishonest Presidents seated directly before Honest Abe?

Really? Holy mackerel!

In response to a friend’s frustration over the government shutdown last year, I wrote a meditation entitled “Radical Love.” In it I expressed the following: “Jesus was not calling into question the governmental system. Jesus was calling into question the religious system with radical love.”

While I still believe that to be a valid point, I now see a more nuanced revelation due to the contrasting perspectives in the aforementioned photos—that of the relational interplay of contradictory viewpoints. Or as Wikipedia defines it:

“In Ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.”

I would add spiritual world as well, for ALL is Spirit—the holy choreography of the triune God.

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament–chapter three verses one through eight–renders it this way:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

He continues in verse eleven of the same chapter by saying: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” We have “eternity” in our heart and yet we live one day at a time—the juxtaposition of the Eternal Now.

As I continue to follow God’s lead in prayer for President Trump, I feel oddly calm in the presence of God’s grace and goodness.

Birds

Birds

Since Easter, it has become my habit to spend my early morning with the birds. While I am NOT a morning person, this new routine has become the best part of my day.

Most of the time, I am still in my pj’s-–coat, hat and boots, if it is chilly–when I join my feathered friends on the deck with my mug of hot tea. Their twittering calls make me feel as though they do not care what I look like; they are just glad I joined them.

In grateful solitude I watch and listen as the scene before me unfolds. Sometimes a squirrel or two will playfully scamper around the trees, a rooster will crow, or my neighbor’s chickens will scratch around their enclosure looking for a treat. I watch with fascination the way the birdies fly and land—remarkable! Enthralled, I close my eyes and listen to the enrapturing melodic harmonies.

Spending time in the presence of these acrobatic aviators brings peace to my soul and joy to my heart.

Yesterday morning, since it was raining, I sat under the deck in an area where I have a swing. As I made my way to my cozy corner, a Robin–who has built her nest in the rafters of the porch–flew away. She sat in the yard squawking for a bit. Once seated, I stayed as still as possible. Wary of her safety, she carefully made her way back to her home.

Socially distancing ourselves, we sat staring at each other having reached a cautious truce. She, imagining stranger danger hazards and I, visualizing a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

After a long silence, I dipped my head ever so slightly to take a sip of tea, and she once again flitted away. Not wanting to inconvenience her any further, I calmly left.

Jesus said: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27

Let’s face it, there is much that one could worry about these days; but hasn’t that been true of every historical era? Even without a pandemic, cares and concerns can consume us; the only thing that changes is the object of our fears.

Jesus is telling us to turn our center of attention from that which is temporary to that which is eternal—God’s never ending, ever faithful, all-encompassing Love for you, for me, for everyone and everything!

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

The phrase above, “turn our center of attention,” made me think serendipitously of the song by The Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn”–a beautiful video link is provided below.

I will close with a poem entitled “My Psalm” by Mary Binstead which I found in one of my mother’s journal.

The Lord is my Friend;
He leads me into sweet gardens of contentment;
He bathes my feet in dew,
Fills my ears with the songs of birds—
My nostrils with the fragrance of flowers.

The Lord protects me;
He shades my head with the greenery of trees.
Gives the bright sun to warm me;
And He causes the rain to fall
That I might drink my full water.

The Lord has mercy.
He comforts me when my days
Are filled with sorrow.
He dries my tears with tenderness,
Until my sadness is gone.
My soul is filled with peace.

So with thanks unto my Lord,
Who guides my steps from birth to death,
I lift my eyes to Heaven;
And my heart is filled with love and joy,
Knowing that never will I stand alone.

Take care and be well . . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKP4cfU28vM

Weak

Weak

I try to watch or read as little news as I can. In other words, I take in only as much as I need to stay informed, yet not enough to disrupt my sense of well-being. Admittedly this is a very challenging and fine line to walk these days; but I cannot avoid nor do I want to circumvent that which breaks God’s heart.

Just last week it took only one caption on a protester’s sign to deeply sadden my soul–“Sacrifice the weak/Reopen T(enneessee).”

Many questions and thoughts went through my mind and many more emotions flooded my heart as I pondered this sentiment.

Does this person and those in agreement with him or her, really understand what they are espousing? Have they never truly endured the agony of seemingly unending grief? Have their lives been so blessed that they do not know the torment of addiction, the agony of real hunger, the utter hopelessness of homelessness, or the gut-wrenching misery of believing they are useless due to unemployment and/or other issues?

Are they really that callous or are they just frustrated and overwhelmed with their own sense of desperation? Perhaps they are just tired of being inconvenienced. I do not know . . .

Nor I do think the Founding “Fathers” (sic) would agree with this demonstrator’s thoughts.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all “men” (sic) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I know there has been and is much controversy concerning what these patriarchal white (euro-centered) men really meant by this statement so I may play free and loose in my interpretation here, much to the chagrin of some of the more right-wing conservative readers of this post.

Be that as it may, this “holy” tenet properly extended implies that ALL life is interdependent; it infers, dare I say it, a socialistic understanding of representative governments. When one part of Life suffers, all aspects of Life suffer. In order for ALL to have the rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, ALL must be concerned for the welfare of ALL Life.

When someone believes the lie that his or her rights trump the rights of someone else, then we have the current chaos that is now our world. A world that has a top-down mentality–a seeming pyramid of power progression where those at the top have the most power, gradually lessening to the base, who are then perceived as powerless or weak.

Lincoln’s final words in the Gettysburg Address do not support this principal. A Republican, one who in no way resembled the upside down standards of today’s GOP, reiterates the relational kinship of ALL Life, especially as it relates to governing bodies—“of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Neither does my cousin agree with the current worldview held by many . . .

“People such as they are totally lost in insane and ignorant identities of separation… There is a whole world of people who desperately, angrily, fearfully and aggressively believe in the ‘survival of the fittest,’ and that everything of this world they do not identify with (possess, control) is either prey, resource, potential food, toys their entertainment or pleasure, or valueless… Such identities are constantly being shaped and formed by a lot of different circumstances that are themselves being shaped and formed by similarly lost individuals, on and on for countless centuries now… “

My primary concern, however, is not political; it is spiritual.

Psalm 82 verses three and four state:

Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

More than four hundred years later, Jesus echoes this same point of view:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

Not only do these verses reiterate my political approach above, they also appear to infer that “There is no such thing as weak because there is no such thing as powerful. All power is God’s, and there is nothing other than God.” (John Fridinger)

“God is love . . . ” (1 John 4:16) or “God continually exists, being love.” If all power is God’s and God is love, then the fullness and completeness of power is manifested in and through that which is and can only be Love.

Therefore, all of the craziness, all of the goodness, all of the brokenness, all of the courage, in which we now find ourselves living, ALL is being held in the Heart of Her intimate, passionate, consuming Love of All Creation.

This gives me hope!

Visit www.chaimbentorah.com/2018/08/hebrew-word-study-power/ for further insights of the word ‘power.’