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History

History

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

The wall built in 1961, separating Easter Berlin from West Berlin, served to further prevent the mass exodus of East Germans seeking democracy’s freedom in West Germany. The barbed wire barricade stood in history as a symbol of the Cold War between the US and USSR. Republican President Ronald Regan commanding General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to tear down the Berlin Wall is a pivotal moment in history.

Should this obstruction have remained standing? After all, it was history.

There are a number of concentration camps in Europe open to the public—among them are Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau—that serve as memorials for one of the most horrific events in our world’s history. After visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC when it first opened, I could not begin to imagine the emotional impact of walking on what one might say is consecrated ground.

These sacred spaces remain as a narrative which we dare not repeat.

The United States of America and its capitol, Washington, DC, are full of memorials—placards, statues, buildings, walls, paintings, museums full of historical artifacts, icons and images—of a seeming contradictory and enigmatic history full of paradox. Some events to be celebrated and others to be forgotten—but which is which?

What makes one historical symbol more valuable to celebrate than another? What are we believing and is it helpful?

Some additional questions to ask ourselves regarding monuments and memorials as we watch statues being toppled and portraits being removed, or perhaps before doing so, are these:

What is its message, and how is it received…?

Does it attempt to avoid the real or full history and outcomes of the person(s), action(s) or event(s) it seeks to memorialize…? Does it attempt to rewrite that history or gloss over it…?

Does it include or imply a message in regards to the truth of what it is about…? In other words is the message helpful to all, that is pro-life (in the large sense of this term), or is it harmful and anti-life, anti-human, arising out of and/or supporting extreme beliefs in separation and alienation…?

Is the monument or memorial honest and helpful in its attempts to reveal the truth behind what it attempts to memorialize, whether it be person(s), actions(s)or event(s) that it is about…? And if the event(s) and/or actions(s) represented were anti-life, anti-human, and arising out of extreme beliefs in separation, does the monument help people see that it must not ever happen again…?

Do not some monuments, for instance memorials to the holocaust, and recently constructed monuments to slavery and lynchings, seem to score high grades in response to such questions…? And for that matter, though maybe to a lesser degree, are not monuments to Lincoln, Washington, Ganhdi, and Martin Luther King, Jr similar, in the sense of pointing and remembering in positive life-affirming ways…?

George Santayana, “philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist” is credited with saying “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I have mixed feelings about the progress we, as a human race, have made in these regards.

This morning I was reading about Joshua from the book of Joshua in the Old Testament. The story begins after the death of Moses who had led the Israelites out of the land of Egypt where they had been enslaved for hundreds of years. Prior to entering the land that God had promised them and before his death, Moses laid his hands on his apprentice conferring leadership to him, and Joshua was filled with the “spirit of wisdom.”

Preparing Joshua for the challenges ahead, God tells him three times to be “strong and courageous” before leading the Israelites across the Jordan River, which was at flood stage. God told Joshua to tell the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant into the river. As soon as their feet touched the water, the river stopped flowing and the priests stood on dry ground while the water flowing down stream “piled” high like a wall just upstream from them.

Approximately 40,000 Israelites crossed from one side of the river to the other on dry ground. Prior to this monumental move, God had instructed that twelves stones be collected from the middle of the river, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. After the priests, being the last to cross, set foot on the promised land shore, the river returned to flood level flowing.

Those twelve stones, which they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal, saying to the Israelites, ‘When your children ask their parents in time to come, “what do these stones mean?” then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, and so that you may fear (be in awe of) the Lord your God forever. Joshua 4:21-24

Joshua had a very clear-cut answer to the question “what do these stones mean?” Do we as a nation have such unequivocal and precise answers for our children? Is it really enough to say “it’s history” and leave it at that as we decide to keep or remove our nation’s “stones?”

In light of what is currently happening worldwide and in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, we as a nation and as a human race are being given a wonderful opportunity to examine the above questions and our motivations.

We may not see eye to eye, but that is okay as long as our discourse is done so within genuine and sincere respect for one another as children of God.

… this is my hope.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_National_Memorial_for_Peace_and_Justice

Labels, Beliefs and Judgement

Labels, Beliefs and Judgement

Of all the many things that bother me about the times in which we are living and of the President himself is the utter disdain for and ignominious labeling of opposing points of view.

Pro-life? You must be right wing, a republican, a Christian, a fundamentalist . . . Pro-choice? You must be radical, a liberal, a democrat, a socialist . . .

What about this statement from the ‘Cowboys for Trump’ leader, “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” and then his trying to explain it away within the context of perceived notions about, and judgements of, democracy? Shall we argue that the reverse of this sentiment is true instead? What is the purpose of such rampant and gross mischaracterizations, other than to distort with willful contempt and scorn the precept that all “men” are created equal?

I can’t help but believe this destructive factionalism is what George Washington foresaw when he warned against a two-party system in part with these words:

“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.” George Washington (Farewell Address)

Has President Trump ever written or tweeted anything even remotely comparable to the above intelligent and thoughtful prose? Would he even be able to understand such brilliant elegance? A link to George Washington’s full Farewell Address is included below and, if read, will sadly further reveal, among other things, the abject stupidity and ignorance of President Trump.

Recently a friend posted on FB his frustration over the statement ‘defunding the police’ being described in the news cycle as a liberal idea. Why liberal? Can we not take the time to figure out what a statement means before we label it as right or wrong according to our beliefs and judgements? That is the problem, is it not? The root of all evil? Judgement? My judgement? Your judgement?

“Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. For the way you judge others is how you will be judged — the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

This is not a suggestion; it is a command!

No wonder Jesus frequently said, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Or as the saying goes, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Seemingly, President Abraham Lincoln followed similar wisdom as Jesus’s when he selected political opponents as some of his cabinet members. Only a self-less ego is willing to listen for the truth in all apparent contradictory positions, so that she or he might determine a wise course of action.

We are all being called in these challenging times to self-examine, in other words question our own motives and beliefs, first of all, and then to begin to make some new value judgements very different from the ones our pasts have taught us. This is so because we as humans have now collectively come up against some very large scale, planet-wide human made contradictions that are destroying our very planet, as well as all our human and non-human societies. We are being asked by these large circumstances to make some very huge collective (and inclusive of all life) decisions about ALL of our actions, beliefs and judgements.

At the same time, all new judgements and decisions and even our understandable and sometimes empowering anger need to be understood as being about our own and each other’s circumstances and beliefs and actions, and not about people, otherwise known at least by some of us as Children of God. Whatever our beliefs may be, we are all equally human, and all creatures including humans are equally part of life on planet earth.

Along with the above bible quote we must not forget Jesus in the temple with the money lenders (bankers). He turned over their tables, but he did not pass judgement on the ones sitting behind the tables. He passed judgement on their beliefs and actions. In other words, it is judgements about each other (and all of life), judgements made in our beliefs of separation, that Jesus is talking about not making.

We are immersed in such judgements on a planet-wide scale now, and it is past time to begin to make new and different judgements, ones that allow for more spaciousness, almost like pathways, through which we may begin to free ourselves and each other of all of our deeply conflicted and destructive judgements founded in beliefs in separation.

For this to happen we must collectively begin to change what we believe.

I have in this and other writings judged and labeled that which I find offensive. Let me say that by doing so I have also sometimes separated myself from the truth of these and other beloveds. The truth of anyone and everyone (including President Trump) is they are a Child of God. Any ideology whether it calls itself liberal, conservative, or anything else, that makes or uses threats of violence or promotes conflicts of alienation (separation) is always and only a part of the problems we are now all collectively facing.

Rather than being so quick to defend our own identity, perhaps we should begin to join within a kind of synergistic energy that calls forth our collective and profound passion for healing and wholeness.

https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=15&page=transcript

Written with an assist by John Fridinger

Agents of Healing

Agents of Healing

I had a favorite aunt who, up until the day she died six years ago, believed we were living in the “last days.” I find myself wondering the same; especially when I read the book of Matthew in the New Testament, chapters 24 through 26, and compare it to the current world circumstances.

In different translations of the Bible, the headings of these particular chapters are titled “Signs of the End of the Age,” “The Coming of the Son of Man,” and “No One Knows That Day and Hour.” I have read these and other similar chapters in both the Old and New Testaments. I do not have a clearer understanding now of “the end times” then when I read these scriptures the first time.

Could it be that . . .

“the end times” as Jesus might have been pointing to is always ongoing timeless here and now? And yet, recognizing that the destructive nature of human beliefs in separation no longer just affect regions but is now destroying the whole planet wide web of nature, balance and life we truly are not separate from… And so for those who identify with form and bodies it does seem like the end, so to speak… Yet as always the opportunity is to see more and more clearly what we are not, and in that seeing realize what we are, more and more…

What gives me hope, though, is that with every ending is a new beginning. The process of transformation and renewal is continual and ongoing—from everlasting to everlasting, from Alpha to Omega.

My present ponderings have been aroused by the deeply troubling events on Monday, June 1. I watched peaceful protestors incur violence at the hands of law enforcement officers, in order for the president to have a photo opportunity in front of St. John’s church in Washington, DC.

I concur with Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde . . . “I am outraged.” She also said, “The president did not pray when he came to St. John’s nor did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now.”

She went on to say:

“One of the responsibilities of people of faith is to know the context of superficial acts. When I say superficial, I don’t mean insignificant, but the ones that are right on the surface. We need to understand the deep-rooted causes of these things . . . If we don’t understand the context, we miss the opportunity to be agents of healing.”

My pastor frequently quotes NT scholar Ben Witherington III who says, “A Scripture without context is nothing more than a pretext for whatever we want it to mean.”

‘Context’ made me think of the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10: 25-37. I include it here in its entirety.

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Certainly, this parable quite clearly answers the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

The Jews and Samaritans hated each other; it was a hatred rooted in Israel’s history 700 plus years before Jesus ever told this story. Sounds relatable to our own history, does it not?

I find the actions of the Samaritan man remarkable! He did not ask “the man” his political, cultural, sociological or theological views before rendering aid. He treated and bandaged the man’s wounds, put the man on his own animal, took him to an inn where he continued to take care of him, gave money to the innkeeper so the man could continue to rest and recover, AND promised to repay the motel owner for any other expenses incurred in the care of the man.

In spite of their differences, the Samaritan loved him. He was an “Agent of Healing.”

Within and through the limitlessness of this healing, transformation and renewal abound because we are all “agents of healing.” This is our calling! This is our purpose!

I do not expect you to agree with me on politics or anything else for that matter, but I do hope you will love me as I love you. Disagreeing with one another and blatantly ending any conversation gets us nowhere. But disagreeing within the framework of love, mercy, and compassion . . . this is where real listening, sharing, problem-solving, and consensus can occur . . . if only we will “go and do likewise.”

Prayer

Prayer

Mr. President,

Wow! After almost four years in office, you finally said something that is true and that I agree with: “We need to pray.”

Before you begin a temper-tantrum twitter to what you may perceive as an insult, keep in mind, I am a 61-year-old white, protestant woman—one of the key demographics in your bid for re-election. For this reason, it is in your best interest to continue reading.

Your uninformed determination to open churches for worship and prayer is nearsighted. You incorrectly assume that closed church doors are stopping the life and mission of the church. That, Mr. President, could not be farther from the truth!

In Matthew 18: 20 Jesus says:

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Of the 7.8 billion people now alive on this planet, I think it is safe to conclude that there are many groups of at least two or three gathered together somewhere in His name. These assemblies may not be taking place in the traditional ways you are perhaps familiar with, but they are taking place!

The church where I am a congregant has been worshipping on-line since Bishop LaTrelle Easterling of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church made the decision “to honor local government directives” and not meet “on site until it is safe to do so.” This kind of technology is connecting billions of people worldwide in reverential awe of God and Her creation.

Jesus did not say “go build a mortar and brick structure, gather weekly, and then forget about me for the rest of the week.” He said, among other things, to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “love others as I have loved you,” “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned,” “take care of widows and orphans,” “where possible live at peace with one another,” and “pray for your enemies.”

None of these pursuits necessarily take place within the confines of a steepled edifice and can sometimes be more effective when they don’t!

This active mindfulness, or Christ consciousness, transcends the barriers of space, time and the labels of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, economic status, political affiliation and otherwise.

Unfortunately, I doubt you will understand any of this due to your white privileged, patriarchal psychopathic personality which only serves to exacerbate your misogyny, bigotry, narcissistic heartlessness and greed.

Be that as it may, I am praying . . .

. . . for you and for all those in authority and leadership positions all over the world to make knowledgeable and wise decisions.

. . . for Scientists to find a safe and effective vaccine/cure/treatment for Covid-19.

. . . for doctors, nurses, medical professionals, front-line workers and essential personnel to have a tangible sense of how very much they are loved and appreciated so they will not get discouraged.

. . . for those who are sick, grieving, homeless, unemployed, in prison, the abused and abusers, alcoholics and addicts, all those who are suffering and feeling hopeless—that they would trust that God is with them—loving them, helping them—even if it does not feel like it and even when the evidence seems to point to the contrary.

I am praying.

Take care and please wear a mask.

Sincerely,
Susan Fridinger

P.S. Will I be voting for you in November? I will let one of my favorite actors, Will Smith, answer for me via this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=im_5QdHp04E

Post Script to those of you still reading . . .

As the US death total due to Covid-19 approaches nearly 100,000 people, I was (and still am) deeply troubled by President Trump’s lack of remorse over this traumatic loss of life. Additionally, his flippant attitude toward prayer only makes light of dire circumstances. These thoughts, coupled with my own discouragement at how sometimes situations seem to get worse before they get better while praying, prompted the above letter.

I know there are those among you who will be offended by what I have written about our President . . . I understand.

I hope you will take the energy that creates and join me in prayer. While we may not see eye to eye about President Trump, hopefully there is at least one thing on my prayer list above on which we can agree.

Please take care.

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2020/05/24/nytfrontpage/scan.pdf

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/24/us/us-coronavirus-deaths-100000.html

Immanuel

Immanuel

Whew! The holidays are over; I made it.

Since my mother died three years ago, celebrations and festivities are not the same. My emotions become so stirred up that I have difficulty hearing myself . . . I lose my way. I enjoy and dearly love my family and friends, but the additional “noise” and flurry of activity makes remembering the peace in my soul arduous if not impossible.

There were moments of temporary calm amidst the commotion . . . a remembrance service with a friend where those who have lost loved ones gathered in candle light to share love and memories . . . or a midnight church communion service on Christmas Eve that celebrated what I feel is the true essence of the Holy Day . . . or a conversation with a neighbor.

The doorbell rang rather late. My neighbor, who had been playing catch with her dog in her yard, came over to retrieve the ball which had accidentally landed in our backyard. We exchanged pleasantries about the holidays and from her response I could tell that even though she said everything went well, she was still dissatisfied.

A single mom, with three children—one in high school, one in middle school and one in kindergarten—with a little prompting, she shared her frustration over the commercialism of the times. While describing herself as spiritual she said she identifies most with Christianity, but was puzzled by the importance placed on Christmas to the seeming neglect of Easter—“that’s the real holiday, isn’t it? A dead tree and gifts have little to do with why he was born in the first place.”

I really could not disagree. But rather than add to what she was saying, I sensed my purpose was to listen, which I did.

We shared a hug before she returned home, and though I said little during our conversation, I felt right then that I had truly experienced Christmas—Immanuel, God with us.

“For wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them.” Matthew 18:20

Leviticus 26:11-12 says it this way . . .

“I will put my tabernacle among you, and I will not reject you, but I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”

My pastor pointed out in a recent message that the two most repeated commandments from God in the Bible are “Do not fear” (or “be not afraid”) and “I am with you.”

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

. . . any sacred or holy moment that reminds us that we are not separate . . .

Immanuel!

Why Me

Why Me

Why me?

Do you ever ask yourself this question?

I do. I did, just yesterday, as I was driving to pick up my grandchildren from the bus stop. I was in full-on pity party mode which, fortunately, passed quickly once in the comforting presence of my grandson and granddaughter.

This morning, in the bathroom, I asked myself the same question. However, this time my blessings had overwhelmingly grabbed my heart and I was feeling profoundly grateful.

There is no answer to that question in either context except possibly, “why not me?”

This may have been what Paul was talking about in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where he says:

In everything give thanks, for this is what God wants from you who are united with the Messiah Yeshua.

Jeffrey, 40ish—a homeless man and food pantry regular, has the most cheerful disposition. Being around him is like watching birds bathe in a bird bath or puddle of water. There is just something so whimsical and joyful about the way birds splash, shake and flutter as they clean their feathers.

Abused, abandoned—he has experienced his share of physical, mental and emotional health issues and near-death experiences which he freely shares with anyone willing to listen. Yet this man inhabits gratitude and thankfulness as playfully as birds immersed in bathing.

Freely occupying a space of awakened Trust, this beautiful soul does not feel sorry for himself and graciously praises God with every breath.

I hear your doubts, “it’s just an act to get you to feel sorry for him;”he’s in denial,” or “he’s just crazy.”

No. While driving around town, unbeknownst to him, I have seen him walking and there is a spring in his step and a genuine expression of peace and contentment on his face.

Is he a sunny side optimist?  I do not think so.  My impression is that he makes the choice to be thankful in all his life’s circumstances and only he knows how difficult that decision is from one moment to the next.

“In everything give thanks . . . “

Simple, to the point . . .

. . . thank you, Jeffrey—your example is what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.