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Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. KJV

“We are about to go into a dark winter.” Joe Biden

I do not really like Caverns or caves which is surprising since I have visited Crystal Grottoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Mammoth Cave, Indian Echo Caverns, Luray Caverns, and Smoke Hole Caverns. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the beauty, I do. As a former Science teacher, I respect the chemical processes involved in the creation of stalagmites and stalactites. I just do not enjoy being under ground in a confined space—claustrophobic. I would not make a very good coal miner as evidenced by my squeamishness during a tour of the Beckley Coal Mine in Beckley, WV.

A defining moment during a visit to the Crystal Grottoes is when the guide turns off all the lights. Since I did not want to “see” the darkness, I closed my eyes. Eventually, I did open them and was enveloped in complete and utter darkness—a darkness that could be felt.

Darkness … the absence of light … or is it really?

Was I really experiencing darkness? Is there such a thing? Why do we believe in the contrasting ideals of light and dark? Is darkness really the absence of light or is light the absence of darkness?

Maybe another way to view the absence of light I experienced in the cave was as a shadow. The sun’s light simply could not penetrate the crust of the earth and therefore what I experienced as darkness was really the shadow of the earth.

Could it be that all the beliefs and conditionings we tend to imagine we are, when seen in the Light, cast shadows of judgement, anxiety, fear, and all manner of unbelief and mistrust?

When I was growing up, one game we use to play as kids was Shadow Tag. Instead of tagging each other, the one who was ‘It’ tags your shadow by stepping on it. Nobody that I played the game with ever thought to stand in the shadow of a tree or building so as not to be tagged. Where is the fun in that?

Or perhaps you have made shadow puppets with your hands. Using a flashlight as your backdrop, you form your hand or hands into varying configurations—dog, cat, bird—the shadow of which is cast on some sort of canvas be it a wall or sheet. These examples seem to suggest that as children, we inherently know there is nothing to fear with shadows.

Curious about shadows, I did a little research and found the following. “The main reason why (a) flame has no shadow is because the flame itself is a source of light. A shadow is the surface area which is less bright than its surroundings because something is blocking light partially or fully from that area. Therefore, a shadow is nothing but a darker area with the absence of light”. (beingindian.com)

One of the first Bible passages I memorized as a child was the King James Version of the 23rd Psalm. Notice how David does not say the valley of death, but the valley of the shadow of death. Other translations use darkest valley or death-dark ravine.

The valley of the shadow of death

Truth and illusion, love and fear, light and dark, life and death, health and sickness, each denies the other, yet only one is real… Remembering here that only what is of the Source of everything – God, Goddess, Truth, Love – whatever term we might use to point towards what cannot be named as something apart or other, is actually and truly real…

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:14 … spoken from a burning bush, a flame, which cannot cast a shadow.

All seeming else is what we who are also Goddess’s child have made up… Making and Creation being totally different orders altogether… One real, the other not.. All belief, all shadow, all that is made up comes and goes, but what is real never comes, never goes, always is…

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. Revelation 1:8 … who spoke, and there was Light.

Our collective (made up) beliefs in separation, (which all belief ultimately is) is what is casting all these shadowy illusions of fear, death, sickness, separation, greed, scarcity, power-over, ‘them’ and ‘us,’ and all the rest of this believed-in divisiveness we are calling the world…

Altogether it is a great shadow we have collectively cast (projected) through all our conflicted and conflicting beliefs upon creation, earth, nature, the universe, existence… Yet none of this shadowy world can ever actually be real because what casts shadows cannot ever be real… Nothing in Truth can cast a shadow upon what is Everything…

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

All these beliefs are arising from one simple mistaken belief we all of us humans continue to mostly unconsciously agree upon, no matter how far apart all our other beliefs may seem to be, the meta belief that we could be separate from what is the Source of everything, and therefor separate from and independent of each other, life, earth, existence…

And yet all this belief, without exception, when brought into the Light of consciousness is, by the very nature of what is Everything, transformed, transfigured even, now become able to serve, reflect and reveal creation in all of the Ways Goddess intended it to be, and it never was not… JF

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers, neither what exists nor what is coming, neither powers above nor powers below, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which comes to us through the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

… that which separates us is only a shadow.

I am working on a project as a Christmas gift for my sons. I asked them to send me questions they would like me to answer about myself, my life, and my childhood. Among the four that my oldest son asked was this: What would you say about you if you were speaking at your funeral?

In part, here is my answer …

She was a life-long learner. Although she did a lot of reading on a wide variety of topics—philosophy, theology, history, science, psychology—most of her learning came, for good or bad, through making mistakes. She spent a lifetime learning that she was a bra-burning feminist, a conservative-liberal Democrat, a typical Myers-Briggs INFJ personality type, and quintessential Taurus.

While all of that mattered to her, at the same time none of it mattered to her unless she held those labels and beliefs in the Light of the Holy Spirit to see what shadows those beliefs cast. When she did so, God’s unfathomable Love enveloped her in the Light of Truth, Beauty and Love. In the end, that made all the difference.

I Love My Dad

I Love My Dad

I love my dad! He is the finest man I have ever known. His youthful looks, young-at-heart disposition, and keen intellect defy his 92 years of living. No one person, other than my mother, has had as much impact on who I am, for which I am truly grateful.

A tradition we have tried to maintain since my mother’s passing is eating breakfast together on Sunday mornings before church. The meal usually consists of Creamed Sliced Beef on Toast (or SOS for those of you who served in the Navy, like my father) or Sausage Gravy on a pancake—both of which I just recently learned to cook. Over coffee (for him) and tea (for me), we discuss family, faith, feminism, politics, economics, current events, and more. An active reader and life-long learner, he is quite knowledgeable with a fair and just perspective.

Our breakfast ritual is also a sacred space for me to share my mistakes, flaws, and concerns in a safe and loving atmosphere.

This morning was no exception.

In my anger and frustration over Mr. Mick Mulvaney’s comment “this isn’t what I signed up for” regarding Mr. Trump and the riot, I wrote a scathing, profanity laced letter and posted it on FB. My father was the first to give me a thumbs up. The majority of comments from those who know me were supportive. Courageous, a way with words, perfect, and God-loving were among the observations and responses.

Yet, the latter remark, God-loving, drew a negative statement. “How could someone who would write a letter like this be called God-loving?”

To be honest, this one comment was so disturbing to me that it shook me to my core.

When I write, I try to invite my readers to walk with me into the real world as God intended and intends for all of life; one which we can only discover as much as we discover it together. If people do not understand, it could be easy for them to believe I am inviting them into my world.

This time, it seems, my invitation was less than appealing and down-right offensive to some.

I answered my critic’s accusation with:

What do you find objectionable? My use of swear words? My characterizations of Republicans? The fact that I am a Democrat? That fact that I am deeply moved and saddened by the events at the Capitol? … I am not bitter. I am just really tired of it all.

My detractor’s allegation that my political ideologies determined my love of God or lack thereof, literally immobilized me for the rest of the day. I spent most of the day in and out of tears, stuck in a quagmire of unrelenting confusion.

What is she believing?  What am I believing?  Is the reconciliation of polarized viewpoints even possible? When did political affiliations negate or promote faith?  Have I led her and others to believe I think all Republicans are like Mulvaney?  (I know they are not.)  I have heavily criticized evangelicals in other posts, perhaps that is the origin of her offendedness.  Question after question.  Doubt after doubt.

Finally, I called two individuals whom I trust to hold me accountable. I asked them to be honest with me and they were. With their intuitive insights, they adeptly challenged some of my more unconscious beliefs and contractions, even as they also simultaneously reassured the truth of me.

Both broached my use of curse words albeit from different perspectives. John pointed to the patriarchal double standard regarding women cussing. He said my use of expletives was my way of continuing to break free of conditioned beliefs. Deep, long held and until recently mostly unconscious beliefs that have repressed, enchained and influenced my interactions with the world for most of my life.

Millie, on the other hand, said I could lose readers because they may be turned off by the use of foul language. She was quite adamant that I not use them.

Because they know and love me, neither called into question my love of God.

And with that, the storm within me began to subside.

However, it wasn’t until this morning at breakfast when discussing the whole episode with my dad, that I finally felt absolved and redeemed. That is what unconditional love does for you, it sets you aright, it reflects your inherit God-belovedness.

Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:20

P.S. My dad says (tongue in cheek) that prior to my Mr. Mulvaney letter, circumstances had not yet arisen that required such a punctuated application of profanity. Nevertheless, conditions surfaced that warranted their appropriate use, and that I am now returning to my pre-profanity status.

Dear Reverend Graham

Dear Reverend Graham

Dear Reverend Graham,

Your continued support of Mr. Trump is ungodly, immoral, unholy, dishonorable and corrupt; not to mention just plain inexcusable!

What is wrong with you? Do you really not see the truth of who and what Mr. Trump really is?  He has absolutely no sincere interest in defending the free expression of religious faith or safeguarding the rights of unborn children, whatsoever! You are of no consequence to him. He is and has been using you and the faith you profess to gain and maintain corrupt power and unscrupulous control.

You keep defending a man who has committed multiple crimes against women, treason and sedition against the federal government of the United States and genocide against the American people and the world. To say nothing of money laundering, fraud, tax evasion, and who knows what other heinous crimes he has performed.

Mr. Trump is one of the most morally bankrupt individuals in all of history. If I believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible, I would say you are the false prophet touting the wonders and accomplishments of the antichrist.

In a recent Newsweek article, you claim:

… the U.S. is entering a “dark winter” not just because of COVID-19, but because God is “turn[ing] his back” on a country with deteriorating morals.

If that is the case, you certainly share in the blame, considering your apparently unswerving subservience to a pathological liar and what appears to be a willful misunderstanding of biblical teachings as well as God.

How could God who is everything ever turn His back on Himself? It is simply not possible. Jesus maintained as such:

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. Mark 3:24-25

Jesus never turned his back on anyone, not even the pharisees, sadducees, or teachers of the law. He reserved his harshest words of criticism for them (see the book of Matthew, chapter 23) because, like you, they were all about appearances, pride, and hellfire judgement. Yet his interactions were always Truthful and Loving, all the while he reminded everyone to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” with God.

Literally speaking, who turned who’s back on whom in the Garden of Eden? Didn’t Adam and Eve turn their back on God? What was God’s response to their betrayal?

Genesis 3: 8-9 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

Where are you is a far cry from what you propose about God’s behavior. Yes, there were consequences to their choices. However, even after God sent the pair out of the garden, He spent the remainder of the Torah and Christian Old Testament wooing mankind into relationship with Himself. Over and over again God is met with resistance and duplicity.

Every sincere and thoughtful examination of the Bible reveals God as lovingly seeking shared awareness with Her creation. Always!

For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through him, the world might be saved. John 3:16-17

Where is the back turning?

Susan Fridinger


Agents of Healing Too

Agents of Healing Too

Are we here to help people? Or are we here to heal people? Or are helping and healing one and the same? If not, how are they different? Do all people want to be helped or healed? Are there some people that are beyond both helping and healing?

“May we never applaud someone’s suffering, never weaponize our religion to do harm, never grow comfortable with hearts that are only capable of anger.” John Pavlovitz

This quote was posted on a Facebook page I follow. I “liked” it and thought it was pretty self-explanatory. Apparently, someone did not share my understanding and responded in the comment section with, “Not sure what this statement means? Further discussion would be interesting.”

What is to understand? Is it ever appropriate to celebrate anyone’s hurt and pain? If you know any US or World history at all, you know how religion has been used as a weapon in a broad spectrum of ways to justify shaming, displacement, mutilation, torture and killing. Wars have been and are still being fought in the name of religious beliefs with all participants believing God was and is on their side. How is that not obvious to the commentator mentioned above? A heart only capable of anger is one that Jesus warned against time and time again. In parable after parable, Jesus alerted his followers to the hazards of a hardened heart.

Seems like a very straightforward and sincere awareness to me. Notice how this person said further discussion would be “interesting,” not helpful, not insightful, not healing—but “interesting.” This suggests that this person just wants to argue the beliefs with which he or she is identified. Arguing from the perspective of an identity in the beliefs of separation is counter-intuitive and counter-productive.

Several friends who saw this person’s comment wondered how one would approach an individual with this mindset. One friend said, “I want to help people like (this person) but I wonder what the word “help” even means as I say it? To change (this person)? To persuade (this person) to think as I think? Am I making crazy assumptions by using the word “help”?

To which I wrote, “Maybe the word you are looking for is heal. You want to be an agent of healing, which is really our purpose here on earth.”

Perhaps there are different ways of looking at “helping.” Some people want to help others so the others can be like them, think like them, act like them, believe like them. But what about the example of the Good Samaritan who helped the man on the side of the road because it was the right thing to do, without asking anything in return. In that case, helping is healing because the Samaritan walked alongside the hurt man, joining and being present with him upon his journey to wholeness.

In Matthew chapter ten, before sending his disciples out on a particular mission, Jesus gave them instructions which included the following:

When you enter someone’s household, say, ‘Shalom aleikhem!’ (Peace be unto you). If the home deserves it, let your shalom rest on it; if not, let your shalom return to you.
Matthew 10:12-14

The peace to which Jesus is referring “is more than just the absence of conflict or a state of rest. It means completeness or wholeness, and it points to the presence of something else.” (wordsoffaithhopelove.com) Shalom encompasses not only peace but also tranquility, innate safety, well-being, welfare, health, contentment, success, comfort, wholeness and integrity.

If the home deserves it simply means, are the people within the home so identified with their beliefs in separation that their hearts cannot be open to Life, Light and healing? Basically, Jesus is saying, If they are itching for a fight, get the hell out of there and take your peace with you.

His words in verse 14:

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.

Sometimes the best response to someone with such a heart is silence. By not engaging, we extend Grace and the person is forced to look inward to meet God.

In discussing a similar circumstance where my responding to a zinger would have meant re-entanglement in the situation, my cousin replied:

This person, not consciously but instinctively, the instincts of separation so to speak, knows how to try to entangle people into a continuation of some of his or her past drama they are still attached to (identified with). Our lack of response is a clear no, a no that leaves them nowhere to turn except back into their self … And that is where Goddess waits for them… When there is nowhere left for them to go except inward (because they have finally used up all outward options), they will, if they are truly willing, begin to realize (make real) their own journey with Goddess… This world of outward appearances we humans share in the beliefs of separation offers a lot of distractions, so this sort of spiritual “turning” we are speaking of now may not be for them to realize in this lifetime… No knowing…

People cannot see, cannot hear, we don’t know why they cannot see, cannot hear, and so we are disappointed… It will keep coming up for all of us who walk these paths, our many unique journeys being sort of like all the many threads of Goddess’s yarn on Goddess’s loom, that is in a sense weaving all of us who were never really apart back together in some wholly new ways…

Our disappointment in those who cannot hear, cannot see, shows us deeper into our own expectations and beliefs, around all the ways we still don’t accept and therefore still judge how things are not other than they simply are… What is, is…

Jesus spoke to those with the eyes to see, the ears to hear… He did not try to speak to those whose eyes and ears are so covered by dreams and beliefs and fears it is as if they are blind and deaf and do not even consciously know what it means to see and hear… He trusted that all was well, and that everybody awakens out of dreams and beliefs in their own time and ways, in relationship with God… This lifetime, next lifetime, some lifetime…

Nothing is, nor ever can be, left out of eternity… In the end ALL must return to Goddess… For after all, it was only ever an illusion believed, that anyone (or thing) was ever apart from what is everything…

Shalom aleikhem … or not.

Please also see Agents of Healing and Peacemaker, two essays posted here on this site.




“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

How do we make peace? Is it even possible?

Woodrow Wilson seemed to think so. After WWI, he included a peace keeping organization, to be known as the League of Nations, in his 14 points. This visionary covenant, ratified by 42 countries with the exception of the United States, was designed to solve disputes and bring long-lasting peace to Europe.

Or how about Alfred Nobel, a “Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer.” One of five prizes established in his will, The Nobel Peace Prize has “been awarded annually (with some exceptions) to those who have ‘done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.’”

One name most notably absent from the long and distinguished list of winners is Eleanor Roosevelt who worked as Chairperson on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the United Nations, “an international organization committed to maintaining international peace.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a monumental document that testifies to the Oneness of all humanity and creation. I have included a link to it below.

According to the list of Peace Prize winners, the 20th century seems to have been and is filled with inspired and creative individuals and groups, seeking to make peace. Certainly, this kind of peacemaking is worthwhile and productive. After all, just as we can have useful and engaging beliefs, we can have useful and engaging ways of constructing or maintaining peace.

Because most of us humans identify with our mental constructs, feelings, emotions, sense perceptions, memories, etc., more generally called our beliefs, and because we also identify with all the ways we tend to organize and gather our beliefs into ideologies, groupings, tribes, nations, faiths, cultures, subcultures, systems, etc., etc. we tend to see different, unfamiliar and opposing beliefs as being a denial of each other’s very existence as identities, individuals, free persons, groupings, nations, etc.

And so, it could be said that peacemaking in the ways of this world as we humans have come to believe it to be, in this 21st century since Jesus’s birth, is about solving all the many conflicts, difficulties and problems that arise out of all our myriad and so very often differing beliefs.

In other words our ways of “making” peace have become more often than not about preventing or ending all our many perceived and imagined conflicts and differences in all their various ways of appearing, including but not limited to domination, subjugation, pillage and war, by building mostly static ideological (artificial) structures in the form of agreements, contracts and understandings (more beliefs) within what is always this fluid ever-changing reality that all life on earth actually shares.

Is this the kind of peacemaking to which Jesus was referring?

Between civil unrest, the pandemic and extreme political divisiveness, 2020 has not been a peaceful year. Even if you do not profess to be a Christian, it seems fitting to begin the new year meditating on peace.

In the Christian calendar, the new year begins on the first Sunday in December with the first four Sundays prior to Christmas known as the season of Advent. Advent in Latin means “coming”—a time during which Christians prepare for the coming of the Messiah’s birth. This is a spiritual preparation rather than a secular one, focusing on four themes—Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

Many denominations of Christian faith practice the lighting of candles on an Advent wreath decorated with evergreen branches. Three of the four candles are purple or blue representing fasting and repentance. A fourth pink one symbolizes joy. Each Sunday, the candles are lit in succession culminating in the lighting of a fifth candle known as the Christ candle on Christmas Eve. This last candle is white expressing “purity, light, regeneration, and godliness.”

If you grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, as I did, you probably watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas special. In it, a confused and befuddled Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus replies, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” In the most innocent and sincerest voice, Linus quotes from the gospel of Luke chapter two:

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Verses 11-14

Just what sort of peace did the birth of the Christ child herald?

Following the verse that began this essay, Jesus goes on to say:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:9-12

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:44-45

These verses make it seem like our peacekeeping efforts will likely be in vain.

On May 1, 1992, Rodney King said, “People, I just want to say, can’t we all get along? Can’t we all get along?”

Can we get along? I don’t know. From what I have seen on social media, the answer is no.

Notice Jesus doesn’t say there will be peace on earth or peace between humanity. In fact, the verses from Mathew quoted above suggest that when you try to make peace, you will be persecuted and reviled; just because we try to make peace, it is not guaranteed. In fact, it sounds as if, things will get worse. So why try?

In Matthew 20:34-36 Jesus says:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”

… but in John 14:27 he states:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

If Jesus didn’t bring the ‘peace’ he gives us, and we can’t make it, then how can these seemingly contradictory understandings of peace be reconciled? Or perhaps they do not need to be. Perhaps what Jesus was attempting to teach us is we cannot make real peace between different beliefs.

Jesus’s words in these regards are actually pointing to how we may, if we choose, begin to realize that all our beliefs are just beliefs, that they are not what we are, and not what the real world (Creation) is.

Rupert Spira describes it as follows:

“The peace that is inherent in us—indeed that is us—is not dependent on the content of experience, the circumstances, situations or conditions we find ourselves in. It is a peace that is prior to and at the same time present in the fluctuations of the mind. As such, it is said to be the peace that passeth understanding.”

-Hazrat Inayat Khan states it in kind:

“There are two aspects of individual harmony:
the harmony between body and soul,
and the harmony between individuals.
All tragedy in the world. in the individual
and the multitude, comes from lack of harmony
And harmony is the best given by producing
…. harmony in one’s life.”

If we awaken to the Peace that is us, then we can act with kindness and compassion towards those who are identified with their beliefs. Jesus said to walk the second mile, turn the other cheek, give not only your shirt but your cloak as well, love your enemy, pray for your enemy, let your light shine, be humble, be meek, give generously, show mercy.

While Jesus was teaching and living his message, he also confronted the pharisees, sadducees, and various others who opposed him, with the Truth. He overturned tables in the Temple, he broke the “rules” by healing on the sabbath, he called out the teachers of the law as snakes and vipers.

At one point in his ministry before he sent his disciples out into the mission field, Jesus gave them these instructions, “When you enter someone’s household, say, ‘Shalom aleikhem (Peace unto you)!’” He further explained that some people will not receive the Shalom—peace, tranquility, safety, well-being, welfare, health, contentment, success, comfort, wholeness and integrity–you extend, and when this happens, “let your Shalom return to you.”

What does all of this look like here and now? How does this translate on Facebook and other social media platforms where everyone struggles to have their beliefs confirmed? I don’t know. I do know that everything we do and say must come from the peace “that is inherent in us” just as it did for Jesus. Nothing he did ever came from anywhere other than Peace.

The following hymn by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson seems a perfect place to end.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.
With God our creator, children all are we.
Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now.
With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow;
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Shalom aleikhem.

Written in tandem with John.