Meditations Category


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 Two

Prayer Two

Mr. President,

Where are you?

In the past when our nation was in crisis and turmoil, sitting presidents gave stirring speeches meant to unite our nation. They evoked compassion and grit, and sought to comfort us in our troubles, and fill us with hope.

Consider George W. Bush’s “Bullhorn Speech” given at Ground Zero after the terrorist attack of 9/11. What about John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech delivered during the Cold War with Russia? Yesterday’s historic SpaceX launch is a direct result of his inspirational words.

You are too young to remember the fireside chats Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered between 1933 and 1944 when our nation was struggling through the Great Depression and WWII. My 91-year-young father remembers! He vividly recalls sitting in front of the radio listening intently to President Roosevelt deliver words of condolence and consolation.

Finally, I dare say no words of a presidential speech are more hallowed than Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Words that ring true now more than ever!

I have read your tweets and Facebook posts. Almost always you seem to choose words that incite hate, violence and division. Your re-election ads on television embrace a self-centered campaign rhetoric espousing only your own ego as the man who does things his way.

. . . “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom  . . .  and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” . . . is NOT about you! Being president is about being in service to the people, NOT to your wallet!

Your words, “I’m not a schmuck. Even if the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, I won’t lose a penny.”, do not sound like someone who is donating his presidential salary. Considering the world’s current circumstances, you would realize you sound almost prophetic–that is if you were capable of even the slightest bit of insight, which clearly you are not.

So, I ask again, where are you? Are you really that out of touch with what is happening all around you?

Yes, I am still praying . . .

. . . for your heart to be softened and for you to control your tongue.

James 3: 5-6 says:

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.

. . . for the families and loved ones of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and all those grieving to feel the warmth of love and peace being sent their way.

. . . for those people refusing to distance or wear masks—that the eyes of their hearts will be open to the pain and grief being endured by so many who have lost loved ones due to Covid-19; that they will see wearing a mask as truly THE MOST loving, kind, and humane act of compassion and protection for their fellow human beings.

. . . and for our nation, that we may awaken in healing and wholeness together.

With all due respect to the office you presently hold,

Susan Fridinger

 

John 15

John 15

John 15:10. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

Take a few minutes to meditate on this verse . . .

This scripture takes place within the context of the Last Supper before Jesus is betrayed and eventually crucified. Jesus and his disciples are gathered together in the Upper Room. He has washed their feet, shared a Passover meal, and is explaining to them about his death and resurrection. Before they leave to go to the Garden of Gethsemane, he prays for his disciples and “for those who will believe in (him) through their message.”

The first part of the verse seems fairly straightforward.

His disciples, as devout Jews, would have known the 613 laws that comprise the Torah—“the first five books of Moses.”

At the start of his teaching ministry, Jesus explicates the moral intricacies of this Jewish code in his Sermon on the Mount, found in chapters five through seven of the New Testament book of Matthew.

For example, Matthew 5:21-26:
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister (without cause) you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult (abuse) a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell (Gehenna) of fire.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

The three chapters that comprise the Sermon on the Mount, elucidate the “honorable dispositions of humility, mournfulness, meekness, passion for justice, mercy and peace” at the heart of God’s commandments.

Coming to the end of his teaching in verse 12 of chapter seven, he summarizes the core commandment that encompasses the old and new.

Therefore, in everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. (NSRV)

The Complete Jewish Bible translates it this way:

Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that sums up the teaching of the Torah and the Prophets.

What piqued my curiosity with intense fascination, however, was the latter half John 15:10 . . .

. . . just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

Jesus could have been talking about these same Pentateuch instructions, but I sense something more profound in the mix.

What were the commands God the Father, gave God the Son? In other words, what were the commands that God gave Himself?

God Herself gave Himself divine instructions through which to be—to exist.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing made had being. John 1:1-3

In other words, what is the Heart of Consciousness?

I have been reading through John’s gospel and I think I found the answer. During his last Seder with his beloved friends Jesus says:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. John 13:34

Love.

Sounds easy, does it not?

No.

This is not an “I love chocolate” declaration or a Hallmark love story movie that stirs the emotions of infatuation, lust, passion, tenderness, sentimentality or desire. The heart of this Love is much more significant than what I feel for my sons, grandchildren, family and other beloveds—as much as I dearly love them!

This Love is THE conscious awareness IN which all thought, feeling and sensation arises in one’s lifetime.

Now more than ever, we should be regularly asking ourselves, “what is this Loving Heart of all experience enjoining me to do?”

Why now more than ever? Because all of life’s existence literally hangs in the balance due primarily to human caused pandemic, environmental destruction, political, social and economic conflicts, climate change among many other related and catastrophic traumas now deeply embodied in the human experience.

I confess this examination of conscious was engendered by recent events in the news.

The first was people’s reactions to wearing face masks in response to preventing the spread of the Coronavirus. I am appalled by the lack of compassion, empathy and ignorance regarding this very simple act of kindness and love. Even our own President (yes, I am picking on him again), who should know that he leads by example, refuses to wear a mask.

Second, the heart wrenching and horrifying deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia; killed simply because of the color of their skin.

And last, the attempt of a Caucasion woman to “weaponize the police” against an African-American man who was bird watching. He merely asked the woman to leash her dog in accordance with the park directives.

How am I to respond to such virulent hatred? What should I do with the angst this creates? How does one manage the pain these loathsome deeds generate?

If I hold all my anxiousness, anger, sadness, and other emotions in the spaciousness of Her Love, the Peace that passes all understanding envelopes me. Then I can release it all through prayer, writing, singing, meditating, activism or some other constructive and loving pursuit.

It is not easy! It takes time, practice and patience. I fail and fall short more often than not . . .

. . . and so the practice continues.

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

https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2020/05/hebrew-word-study-to-know/

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

Water

Water

One of the highlights of my week, pre-pandemic, was choir practice every Wednesday night. Not only did I enjoy singing with these beloveds, but also sharing our lives with one another through prayer, laughter, and familiar communing.

Thanks to the technical expertise of our choir director, Jeff, we have continued to meet on-line via Zoom and other social media platforms every week since stay-at-home guidelines were enacted. While we do not sing, we have continued to pray, laugh and fellowship. Seeing the faces and hearing the voices of my dear friends buoys my heart.

Recently, Jeff gave us the following “assignment” for our next virtual gathering:

“I want you to share a story, experience, or anything about how nature past or present that moved you or drew you closer to God. For example: Was there a time in your life when nature or something in nature spoke to you, moved you or ministered to you in some new way? Have you read something about nature recently that spoke to you? Is there a Bible verse or song about nature that speaks to you?”

Here is my response . . .

. . . water . . . more specifically bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, ponds, pools, and oceans.

From the time I was an infant and into adulthood swimming, playing, wading in these liquid lounges has immersed me in God’s presence.

Swimming for me feels like gliding through flowing sunshine where I feel the deepest sense of peace, calm and at-one-ment.

. . . my mother’s brother-in-law and sister—my favorite Aunt Bun–had a small trailer along the Shenandoah River near Charles Town, West Virginia, where family and friends gathered to enjoy the water and each other’s company.

. . . swimming lessons at the YMCA. During one lesson, the lifeguard/instructor jumped in to save me because I came very close to going under.

. . . my paternal grandfather poling a flat-bottomed fishing boat filled with his brood into the middle of the Potomac River near Williamsport, Maryland where we enjoyed cavorting in the cool flowing ripples. On one such occasion, as the story goes, my grandfather dropped me into the river and said, “Swim, you’re a Fridinger.”

. . . paternal family reunions at my Aunt’s house. Being a farmer, my Uncle had huge tractor inner tubes he placed in his relatively large pond. Standing and balancing on the slippery serpents proved to have hilarious results as one after another of my kin (and myself) awkwardly flopped into the water.

It was here that I learned how to squeeze my fists in such a way that water would spurt through like a jet stream.  This eventually led to contests to see who could squirt water the farthest. Granddad usually won.

. . . many, many trips to Ocean City, Maryland and near by Rehoboth, Delaware with my church youth group, parents, and in due course my own sons—well into their adulthood—a beach-going tradition they now carry on with their own families.

I could not and still cannot leave the sandy shores without standing at the ocean’s edge in the early morning stillness, reveling in awe at the vastness of the sea lapping at my feet.

. . . my father teaching his three grandsons how to swim in the Potomac River above Damn Number 5 outside of Shepherdstown, West Virginia where he had bought a retirement home with river front property. A carpenter at heart, my father built a small dock which he ingeniously roped to the bank along with a short ramp from the shore to the jetty. Endless summer days were spent lazily frolicking, jumping, splashing, wading and floating.

I can still hear my sons saying, “Throw me off your shoulders, Granddad.” Taking turns, they would climb on his shoulders—my father would bounce up and down—going under water himself to get the necessary momentum—and releasing them in flight to their cannonball and belly-flop reentries.

Literally drenched and waterlogged, my memories are a fountain of God’s eternal presence wooing me into a deeper and ever-growing awareness of Her Truth, Beauty and Love.

In writing this, I was reminded of the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10: 38-42.

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

“There is need of only one thing,” or, the doing will take care of itself; just be . . .

Present . . . aware . . .

Awake.

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 . . .