Meditations Category


It Is Finished

It Is Finished

I have been thinking about you a great deal recently, given that it is Eastertide. In particular I was wondering what it was like for you after you spoke the words, “It is finished” and then bowed your head and “gave up your spirit.”

What did that feel like?

I picture you with your arms outstretched, simply falling backwards, much like someone collapsing inversely into a body of water but without the splash, jolt or sting. Instead of water, I imagine you perfectly suspended in brilliant light, your arms still effortlessly extended. No darkness, no pain, no anxiety, no worry, no fear, no shame; just gleaming radiance bearing you with tender ease.

On one of my early morning walks with Polly, I noticed something I hadn’t discerned before. Because Polly zigzags across my path as we walk, I have to look down and slightly ahead so as not to trip over her. In so doing, I found myself listening more intently. What I heard can best be described as seeing the space around the birds’ chirps and twitters.

That positive space was teeming with expectancy; pregnant with poetry. The quietude spoke through and cradled the birdsongs simultaneously; as if it was conversing with itself as the birds were singing to each other.

Could this also be part of what you experienced?

I have read the story of your crucifixion, death and resurrection many times and have heard countless sermons about salvation, but this Easter was different. I felt and sensed you in a new and unexpected way.

The word ‘faith’ is often understood as accepting something you can’t understand. People often say: “Such and such can’t be explained, you simply have to believe it.” However, when Jesus talks about faith, he means first of all to trust unreservedly that you are loved, so that you can abandon every false way of obtaining love … It’s a question here of trusting in God’s love. The Greek word for faith is ‘pistis,’ which means, literally, “trust.” Whenever Jesus says to people he has healed; “your faith has saved you,” he is saying that they have found new life because they have surrendered in complete trust to the love of God revealed in him. Henri J.M. Nouwen

That’s it, isn’t it? That is what you did when you “gave up your spirit.” You surrendered in complete trust to Love.

Yes, Susan, that’s it. You can trust me, I love you … the more you trust me, the more intimate we become. I know you and nothing you ever do or say will make me love you less for we are one.

It Is Finished

Golden Calf

From the moment the golden Trump statue arrived at CPAC in Orlando, Florida, social media was inundated with its comparison to the golden calf that Aaron, brother of Moses, made in the desert on the Sinai Peninsula.

Moses had climbed Mount Sinai to receive the terms that would define the covenant relationship between God and God’s people. He was gone so long that the people of Israel feared he would not come back. In their supposed abandonment, they asked Aaron to make a god for them to worship.

Considering that the Israelites had watched God defeat the Egyptian gods with plague after plague, walked through the Red Sea on firm ground–walls of water on both sides, witnessed the Red Sea enclose their pursuers in a watery tomb, were being guided by supernatural fire by night and cloud by day, were supplied drinking water from a rock, it is difficult for me to believe they would choose to worship a golden calf.

But after a quick internet search on “oxen worship” I found cattle worship was fairly common in some ancient cultures, one of which was Egypt, the country where the once enslaved Hebrews were held captive for generations.

Another example of idolatry and perhaps a more appropriate juxtaposition to the golden Trump might be the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to worship the golden Nebuchadnezzar statue in Daniel chapter three verses 1 through 7.

King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. He set it up in a recessed area in the wall in the province of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar sent messengers to assemble the satraps, governors, mayors, military advisers, treasurers, judges, officers, and all the other provincial officials to dedicate the statue he had set up. Then the satraps, governors, mayors, military advisers, treasurers, judges, officers, and all the other provincial officials assembled to dedicate the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They stood in front of the statue.

The herald called out loudly, “People of every province, nation, and language! When you hear the sound of rams’ horns, flutes, lyres, harps, and three-stringed harps playing at the same time with all other kinds of instruments, bow down and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever doesn’t bow down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” As soon as they heard the sound of rams’ horns, flutes, lyres, harps, and three-stringed harps with all other kinds of instruments, all the people from every province, nation, and language bowed down and worshiped the gold statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Because they declined to venerate Nebuchadnezzar’s golden monolith, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace stoked “seven times hotter than usual” due to the King’s prideful rage.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

Since the book of Daniel combines “a prophecy of history with an eschatology (a portrayal of end times) both cosmic in scope and political in focus,” it could be easy for one to imagine—due to his pride, arrogance, avarice, self-indulgence, and insolence–the gleaming graven Trump image in this scenario. Just as easy to conceptualize is Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mitch McConnell, Franklin Graham, Lindsey Graham, et al. obsequiously genuflecting to the resplendent effigy of emptiness.

What has Trump and his cohorts failed to perceive? What did the faithful trio know that King Nebuchadnezzar and his advisors didn’t know? What did Moses and Joshua remember that Aaron and the Israelites forgot?

As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it. Exodus 20:19-20

Did he really make them drink the gold-powdered water? The following link gives a thorough explanation of this figure of speech. Moses did not force them to do anything, he was merely asking them, what are you believing?

https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2018/10/hebrew-word-study-drinking-gold/

When you are worried, what are you believing? When you are facing trials and tribulations, what are you believing? When the world around you appears to be going to hell in a hand basket, what are you believing? A simple question, one that gently reminds us that we are not separate from our Creator; that we are only lost in some form of “ignorance, deception (or) illusion.”

I read the following in a recent Richard Rohr daily meditation:

“… we don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. We see the things we want to see, the things that confirm our assumptions and our preferred way of looking at the world … People can’t see what they can’t see. Their biases get in the way, surrounding them like a high wall, trapping them in ignorance, deception, and illusion.” —Brian McLaren

We see things the way we are believing.

He (King Nebuchadnezzar) said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” Daniel 3:25-29

King Nebuchadnezzar’s mixed response demonstrates that asking oneself “what am I believing” is an on-going process; that we can still see something “other,” separate.

This is why when Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment, he answered:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

There is nothing other than God. To revere any mere object or idol as a representation of what is everything is to remove one’s own very self from this knowing that is everything. ‘I Am’ is not anything or something other than what we and all seeming others always and already ARE. To fully grasp the first commandment is to make all the other commandments completely unnecessary. Until and as this knowing is fully embraced and integrated, the rest of the commandments are offered to God’s people as a temporary abode, refuge and/or pathway.

Rupert Spira puts it this way:

Nothing has its own existence, but rather everything borrows its apparent existence from God’s being, the only being there is. There is only one reality, and that reality stands alone, indivisible, indestructible, whole, perfect and complete.

This does not imply any disparagement of people or things. On the contrary, we are elevating people and things to their proper status. We are relieving the world of its status as an object to be exploited, and we are liberating people from the projection of ‘other’ to be oppressed, thus alleviating both from the inevitable consequences that attend such beliefs.

In other words, we are removing the filter of beliefs through which the universe has been fragmented into an apparent multiplicity of objects and others.

Solely by asking ourselves one question—what am I believing—and then waiting in apparent spaciousness for the revelation of God’s presence.

This is what Moses and Joshua knew. This was the awareness of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Me? I am still working on it, walking in “trust, not by what (I) see.”

Lessons from a Dog

Lessons from a Dog

Two weeks ago, I adopted a dog.

Ten-years-old, she is a tri-color Tree Hound/Beagle mix. Found as a stray in Lewisburg, WV, she was brought to Hagerstown, MD, by an organization called For Otis Sake. The adoption agency felt she would have a better chance of finding a permanent home farther north where hounds are not “a dime a dozen.”

It has been over forty years since I owned a dog, Dolly, and seven plus years since I last had a pet—Mooch, a 26-pound ginger tabby cat, love blob. Both easily stole my heart and left me a broken mess when they made the journey across the ‘rainbow bridge.’

Polly is her name or at least the name given to her by her foster parents. I have asked Polly what her true name is—the one given to her at birth–but she has yet to confide in me.

She is super sweet, very gentle, a real cuddle bug; and oh, my goodness, she has the softest ears!

Oh, I have tried to teach her a few commands, but at 70 some in human years, she is pretty set in her ways—the quintessential “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” dog. In fact, I think I am learning way more from her than she is from me.

A heightened sense of smell makes life an adventure for her. As soon as we step outside for a walk, her nose immediately goes to ground, sniffing away. Tail wagging, butt waddling, she meanders back and forth across my path as we walk. Stubbornly stopping from time to time to do a nasal appraisal of what must be an intoxicating odor or determinedly tugging me forward because her snout caught a delicious distant scent; she is the walker and I the walkee.

I thought I lived in a relatively quiet neighborhood … that is until Polly moved in. Due to her keen hearing, I am now regularly alerted to apparent sounds and activities to which I either did not pay attention, took for granted or simply did not hear.

These notifications come in the form of howling, barking and baying. With hair literally standing on edge, head back, nose up, and craning neck, her warbles send me into hysterical fits of laughter. Once the perceived “danger” has passed, she puts her paws on my lap or at my waist and I tell her what a good girl she is as I gently and calmly stroke her ears and sides. Her wagging tail lets me know she is happy she protected me. She seized the moment—carpe diem!

Some of my favorite moments are when she is seated in my lap and leans back exposing her belly for a rub; or when I am crying, she is patiently and peacefully present with me. She is utter awareness.

What have I learned from her?

“… for in him we live and move and have our being …“ Acts 17:28

Of this mindfulness, she is my daily reminder

Whatever I do, wherever I go, all that I am, is IN awareness. At least I do the best I can to remain mindful of this most important precept because it is where everything begins and ends. There is no separation, only belief that I could be separate; that we could be separate.

Spending time with family or friends or in solitude; reading a book, baking cookies, doing chores; walking the dog, exercising, practicing yoga; watching the news, staying abreast of politics, social media; caring for the least, the last, the lost and the lonely; church activities, work, hobbies/sports; traveling, conversing, writing, praying, meditating … there isn’t anything we do that isn’t IN the Divine.

“Lo, I am with you always.”

Shadows

Shadows

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.

It Is Finished

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?

Sincerely,
Susan Fridinger

https://www.newsweek.com/trump-supporter-franklin-graham-says-dark-winter-due-moral-decline-not-just-covid-1558436