Meditations Category


What Do You Think God Looks Like

What Do You Think God Looks Like

In fact, the personal name of God, Yahweh, which is revealed to Moses in Exodus 3, is a remarkable combination of both female and male grammatical endings. The first part of God’s name in Hebrew, “Yah,” is feminine, and the last part, “weh,” is masculine.
theconversation.com

What do you think God looks like?

He has brown hair and green eyes. What do you think God looks like?

I think God looks like love.

What does love look like?

That’s a good question. There are different kinds of love like the romantic love between your parents. There is the love a Nana has for her grandchildren. There is the love between siblings and the love between friends.

I think love looks like rainbows.

Good one.

I think God has rainbow hair and rainbow eyes.

Cool! Is God male or female?

I think God is transgendered.

Wow, I think that’s amazing.

When my sons were young, I found the best place to have conversations with them was in the car because they were a captive audience. Our talks weren’t always serious; there was a mixture of fun shenanigans such as burping contests, making artificial fart noises with their arm pits and deciding whose song was playing on the radio as well as discussions ranging from sex to religion to … anything. Our minivan was a conversational confab group on wheels.

Seems this holds true now with my grandchildren as the above repartee between me and my granddaughter demonstrates. Her astute insight was cut short by our arriving at our destination. I did not get to ask her, for example, if she knows the meaning of the word transgendered.

Having taken a page out of his mother’s book, my son and daughter-in-law have been open in sharing about the topic of sex with her—age appropriately of course—so it is quite possible she knows exactly what she means. Either way, her acute evaluation of God’s gender identity shows a sharper awareness of God beyond the labels that many adults impose upon God. This will come in handy for her now and into adulthood as she navigates loving others the way Jesus teaches us to love.

Having been a follower of Jesus for most of my life, I have often wondered about his physical appearance. I use to believe that I needed to know what he looked like in order to fulfill a deep longing for an intimate and loving relationship with him as his follower.

In the Jewish Bible, Isaiah describes him as having “no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” The author of Hebrews from the Christian New Testament says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature …”

Clearly his character is far more important than his features.

I would still like to know what he looked like when he was here in form, yet I am content to seek and see his temperament, disposition, uprightness—God’s Christ consciousness–within my fellow human beings.

I was waiting on a client to bring her car around to load her groceries from the food pantry. The sun was in my eyes and I guess it must have looked like I was scowling. David—himself a client/volunteer–asked if there was a smile under my mask. Seeing Christ in his eyes and peace in his countenance, I removed my mask and smiled, thankful for the reminder.

Not feeling particularly happy with what I was wearing one morning as I entered JCCM, an older gentleman client told me I looked nice. Seated on a bench outside the building, his appearance was disheveled and gaunt yet with an inward strength of Presence. Christ was in his eyes as well and I knew his out-of-the-blue compliment was not a come on, but a sincere, encouraging word. I thanked him and complimented him on the lovely cross hanging from his neck.

Debra, with bedraggled clothing and rumpled hair, helped me unload a cart of free breads and pastries onto a table in the front of JCCM. I do not remember what we talked about as we worked together, all I know is I felt a calm reassurance emanating from her as we did.

I was recently diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma, and I am just so grateful. Do not misunderstand me, I am not grateful for the cancer, but for the ways I have seen and am seeing Christ …

… in the care and concern of my doctors,
… in the love and affection of my family and friends,
… in the joy and playfulness of my dog, Polly,
… in the beauty of nature,
… in the serenity of mundane tasks,
… in acts of compassion and mercy and kindness of strangers …

Have you ever felt so grateful that you simply cry? I have. I do. I am now.

Christ is everywhere in everyone and everything. In Christ we—all of us, each and every human being ever and always–live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

We are here to help each other heal as St. Francis of Assisi makes clear in his “Peace Prayer.”

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Being awakened to Christ is to die now because eternal life is being an instrument of Peace now!

I think this is what Indian poet and mystic, Kabir Das meant when he wrote the following:

” I have
learned
from Him how
to walk
without feet,
to see
without eyes,
to hear
without ears,
to drink
without mouth,
to fly
without wings;
I have
brought my love
and my
meditation into
the land
where there is
no sun and moon
and without
eating,
I have tasted
of the sweetness
of nectar;
and without water,
I have quenched
… my thirst. ” …

( from: Songs of Kabir )

In peace and gratitude …

Ode

Ode

What follows is an ode to my dad.

My father has fulfilled many roles in his lifetime.

Third son born to William Henry and Hazel Taylor Fridinger on July 17, 1928, he was sibling to brothers Jack and Bill and later his closest sibling, a younger sister, Jeanne. Upon graduating from high school, he joined the Navy at the age of 17 and eventually became a Fireman 1st class. Taking advantage of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, he graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.

As a mechanical engineer for the Naval Ordinance Laboratory, later known as the Naval Surface Weapons Center, in White Oak, Maryland, he received many awards including the US Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1963.

In 1954, in what he calls his “best move,” he married his “West Virginia girl,” and became husband to Josephine Virginia Miller. Five years later, he became a father to his only child, a daughter.

He became a grandfather in 1984—Granddad or Gdad as he is known to Christopher, Matthew and Michael and in 2001 a great grandfather—also known as GGDad to Taylor, Ryder, Brooks, Annalise, and Hazel.

At Memorial United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, and New Street United Methodist Church in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, he held every office imaginable except for Finance Chair.

He retired at the age of 55, but this did not stop him from accepting other roles.

He and Josephine joined the National Association of Retired Federal Employees in 1984 and became Life Members in 1987. He held nearly all offices in the local chapter and held every office in the State Federation of Chapters except Treasurer. He was president for three years. He started a new chapter in Charles Town when he was 1st VP and Membership Chair and four more Chapters (Pt Pleasant, Berkeley Springs, Keyser, and Elkins) when he was president. He served on the Berkeley County Council of Aging (now known as Berkeley Senior Services) for many years and was President for three and half years while the New Center was being designed, contracted and built. He was a sub chair for the senior sector fundraising. He received the “Bob Jackson Advocate for Seniors Award” in 2000 from Berkley Senior Services.

He was also an active member and office holder in the Charles Town, West Virginia chapter of AARP.

He is a self-espoused Socialist Democrat, Ford owner and United Methodist–for most of his adult life.

As the result of an upsetting incident between his parents that he witnessed as a child, he is extremely uncomfortable with confrontations. Having been raised in a patriarchal authoritarian household further contributed to his quiet, reserved nature.

Yet, it was Great Depression that was one of his saving graces—in his own words:

The depression was hard on the family. Dad was laid off from H.L. Mills and had no regular work until 1936. During those years we moved to Frederick – and back to Hagerstown – and lived mostly on money borrowed on the home that was acquired during better times. That money soon ran out; the home was lost; and we moved into an old log house in the country and along the Conococheague Creek. The house had belonged to my father’s cousin and had been empty a loooong time. The move to a house without electricity, running water and indoor plumbing was traumatic to my mother, but we boys thought it was the best and longest camping trip ever. Dad got work in a local lumber yard and gradually fixed up the house, built some boats and developed a “swimming hole” that was used by people all over the area. It was called Nickel Hole.

We learned to swim (it was mandatory), boat, and fish. We lived for a while with an Ice Box for food and a gas lantern for light. He organized the neighbors to lobby for electricity and it was brought to the area by the Rural Electrification Program – one of the depression projects. He then bought one of the first Fluorescent Lights for the dining area “for the kids to do their homework”. It took about ten seconds before it stopped blinking. We eventually got a phone – an eight-home party line – and our ring was four shorts. Good luck at making a private call! Summer baths in the creek and winter baths (occasionally) in the galvanized tub. We never got indoor plumbing or running water until we moved back to a town in 1946 after WW2.

He had first-hand experience with how instrumental government can be in improving people’s lives. FDR and the New Deal impressed upon my father the idea of service in helping others. This also explains why he has voted for every Democratic Presidential candidate since 1948. To this day he finds Ronald Regan’s quote, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem” repugnant—to say the least.

He was sixteen when he became an uncle for the first time to John Morris Fridinger, son of his eldest brother, Jack. Other nieces and nephews were born in the following years. Eleven years later he was the last of his siblings to marry, something his grandmother worried would not happen.

When he enlisted in the Navy, he fully expected to drive a landing craft onto Japanese beaches. However, the atomic bomb and later Japanese surrender changed that and he spent the next 18 months aboard the USS Sitkin, cleaning up leftover ammunition from both World Wars, and transferring ammunition at sea in preparation for the next war. In his words, “It was not a happy ship.”

When I was a child, he fixed all my broken toys. In fact, he had a workbench in the basement that I thought of as magical. I could place anything on that counter and within a day or two, it was repaired. Cars, lawn mowers, TV sets, bicycles … you name it, he can fix it; although computer technology has made some repairs more difficult in these latter years.

He is intrigued with how things work which is why he was patient answering all my questions when I was growing up. Like, “why do car tires look like they are spinning backwards, when a car is moving forward” or “why does it look like there is water in the road on a hot, summer day?” The way he responded to my many inquiries may be partially responsible for why I really enjoyed teaching Middle School science—particularly physics.

Even now, whether it is fixing football helmets to prevent head injuries or solutions to global warming and climate change, he can be heard saying to the TV news anchor, “that would be so easy to fix,” while outlining how it could be accomplished.

As an adult, I know he did not always approve of my life choices, but he was and still is extremely generous, not only financially but also graciously. He has always had my back even when I failed to realize it or take him for granted.

Unwilling to complain, he is stoic during the midst of the most difficult and trying circumstances and discerning in all of his choices throughout his life. He has said he has never met anyone that he hates and he believes in the innate goodness of ALL people.

This resume, if you will, may give you the impression of a mainstream, straight, middle class, active pillar of his community. This is true of course. However, because he lives his life through gratitude, abundance and grace, he shows a profound willingness to be inclusive of diversity more than a whole lot of people maybe even know.

This is because my father has a very simple and humble faith.

He believes in knowing Jesus and doing his best to follow His example.

Mission accomplished!

Christ

Christ

I saw Christ today.

She was sitting at a table by herself in the fellowship hall of the church I attend.

I purchased the altar flowers in remembrance of my parent’s wedding anniversary—what would have been 67 years. Bright yellow Zinnias, deep red Carnations with lavender Asters completed the lovely arrangement which was a perfect blend of mine and my mother’s favorite colors.

Christ spoke to me as she was finishing her microwaved beef stew meal. She said her daughter’s favorite color was yellow and that she had died in the last year.

I could tell in her longing expression, she wanted one of the Zinnia’s but did not want to ask. I was going to give her one anyway. When I handed her the flower, I told her the bouquet was for my mom who had died. She asked how long ago my mother had passed and I said five years.

Thinking the moment had passed, I began to walk away. Christ was not finished with me, however. She called me back, “come here.” I did. She reached for my hand and I accepted hers.

Care-worn wrinkles adorned her face and hands, dirty fingernails and a weathered sweatshirt graced her frame along with garlands of bedraggled hair—I wondered about the life she had lived and was living.

Once our hands were clasped, she closed her eyes and began praying. Because I did not want to miss a moment of this sacred awareness, I kept mine open, watching and listening.

There was no “Gracious God” or “Heavenly Father” beginning. Her prayer was not punctuated with any “thee” or “thou.” No “we just ask,” no promises were made, no sin was mentioned nor forgiveness requested. In fact, the only thing she asked for was for God to bless me and that she, herself, had lost her mother in 2007. Some of her softly spoken words sounded like reverential mumbling. There wasn’t even an “amen” at the end; just a very gentle shake of my hand and her eyes opened.

A good-bye, a thank you—as I was leaving, I glanced back, she seemed lost in sweet memories staring at her flower.

No sermon, no invocation, no hymn that I heard that Sunday morning touched me as deeply as Christ did in that very brief, yet timeless instance.

I cried most of the way home—not sad tears, or happy tears—just tears of realization at how holy beautiful is Christ and how precious is all of Life.

Fertile Soil

Fertile Soil

“Mommy, I think my arm is broken.”

In my early thirties, I was single parenting three boys ages three, six and seven. We had just finished dinner, I may have had a load of laundry in the washer and one in the dryer, and I was washing dishes while my sons were playing on the slide in the side yard. After I finished the dishes, under “normal” conditions, the boys would have come in for baths while I folded laundry and prepped for bedtime. We might have played a video game or watched TV, then to bed with possibly a bedtime story, definitely prayers, followed by hugs and kisses and me singing the chorus of “Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight” by The Spaniels.

I ran a tight ship in order to keep things running like clockwork between daycare, school, working full-time, and the day-to-day challenges of raising three beautiful souls.

There was no window in the kitchen to see what happened prior to my middle son entering it with the monkey-wrenching news.

How it happened and what happened next, reads like a well-loved book in the annals of our family story telling over the last 30 years. Even now there is still some warmhearted debate regarding whether Matthew fell off the slide on his own, “by accident,” or whether his older brother, Christopher, pushed him.

To this day, I don’t know for sure who did what to whom, all I know is my frazzled brain in those moments did not know how to respond.

My gray matter literally went dark. I had nothing. Blank. Zilch. Nada.

After what felt like an eternity, I finally said, “well, just sit still on the couch for a minute …”

After that lackluster response, I went into the kitchen to evaluate just how much dinner mess was left on the table and take stock of the dishes remaining in the sink (I did not have an automatic dishwasher).

My mind is still not clear on what or how I got all three little boys into the van heading for the hospital. Nor do I remember the drive or going through the intake process in the emergency room with three little munchkins by my side.

The next detail I do recall is standing with the physician looking at the x-ray of Matthew’s arm—it was either the radius or the ulna which had a hairline fracture. While the doctor was in the middle of explaining his diagnosis and treatment, an extremely loud and obnoxious alarm sounded throughout the entire emergency room. Every. Single. Person. Heard it.

I frantically looked around for my other two sons. I think, but I am not entirely certain, that my oldest son was standing next to me but definitely not my youngest. Panic-stricken, I began searching for Michael. My outward appearance, while worried looking, did not convey the hair-on-fire, wildly-freaking-out, crazy bug-eyed mother on the inside.

I found him. In the bathroom. Door wide open. For everyone to see. One hand on his penis. The other hand on the emergency call string. He looked at me with a pouting lower lip and innocent three-year-old eyes and said, “I didn’t know what it was for Mommy.”

Was I patient with him? Did I scold him? Did I have him wash his hands? Did Matthew get a soft cast on his arm? Did we leave the ER casually or in a flurry? What was Christopher doing during all of this?

As the only driver’s-licensed person in our merry quartet, I know I must have driven home. Did they take baths? Did I finish washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen? Did the laundry get folded? Did I sing to them? Did I reassure Matthew that he would be fine? I have not the foggiest idea or remembrance.

Somehow, life went on.

Recently at my grandson’s little league baseball game, Matthew and I were talking about what the future holds and he said, “if you don’t mind some gentle ribbing …” and he preceded to retell his broken arm narrative.

I hanged my head whilst shaking it backing and forth.

Both of us laughing and smiling, yet with me still awash in regret I said, “I’m sorry.”

“You don’t need to apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Well, I want it on the record that I apologized.”

“So noted. You were a single mom with three boys.”

More laughing.

And later at home, happy tears.

What a beautiful moment for this loving son to sow seeds of redemptive healing into his mother’s heavy heart by truly seeing her in that instant all those years ago.

Days later I was telling all of this to my cousin, John. I told him that the only metaphor I can think to compare my single parenting experience to is being at bat staring down dozens of pitchers all throwing 100-mph fast balls at me at the same time and not knowing which pitch to hit first.

I feel this way now as I watch the Republican lawmakers and governors behaving like middle school children. Governors Abbott and DeSantis must have failed General Science in sixth grade and never caught up; this is the only explanation I can comprehend to explain the ridiculous legislation they propose and sign into law concerning mask mandates, vaccines and abortion. And I am absolutely certain that Mitch McConnell and the radicalized Republicans must have failed Social Studies and Civics. Otherwise, why would they be holding Uncle Sam hostage?

I taught Middle School for 16 years. I am very familiar with the chaotic and nonsensical behavior of tweens and teens desperately trying to come to terms with their identity. They can be very sweet, kind and generous. Other times, and sometimes more often than not, they are snotty-nosed brats that could care less about anybody else but themselves, with blindingly selfish and arrogant thoughts, words and deeds. Here is where Mitch and his cohorts remain stuck.

Mixed into the chaos of our current political conundrum is climate change, with our magnificent planet in what seems like its final death throes. Not to mention the pandemonium of the pandemic, the unbridled greed of pretentious billionaires, unscrupulous power-hungry world leaders such as Putin, FORMER President Trump, and Xi Jinping, and the immeasurable and incomprehensible grief, pain and loss everywhere …

… somehow life goes on.

Yes, indeed! I tell you that unless a grain of wheat that falls to the ground dies, it stays just a grain; but if it dies, it produces a big harvest. John 12:24

Is Jesus pointing only to his own death and resurrection in this verse, or could there be something deeper? Literally speaking, how does a single grain of wheat produce a big harvest?

If our hearts are like soil (think the parable of the sower/soils), then maybe we are all planting seeds by how we respond to our circumstances.

Emotions can be chaotic, particularly pain, loss, grief, mourning, freaking out, feeling overwhelmed, but those feelings are not the ‘end of the world’ if I use the energy inherent within the chaos in a seed-sowing way. That may mean asking myself ‘what am I believing’, or sitting with the emotions and allowing them to be, breathing through, and/or acting on them to help others. Whatever it is, it is my choice. Succumbing to the malevolence (getting stuck or caught) is simply missing the mark. Yet, even missing the mark can compost the soil which is the beauty of free will.

I do not know when or how my son came to the life-giving realization that he did, or how long the seed had been sown before our conversation, but the soil was fertile and the harvest was produced.

All the chaos and craziness? It is just a bunch of manure to nurture what comes next.

I know this sounds rather harsh, but as we come closer to the end, or rather the beginning, the more resistant insanity and illusion will be to Truth.  This world will become even more lost and delusional.

“… For the present form of this world is passing away.”  1 Corinthians 7:31

Stupid

Stupid

Masked, I was sitting in a local diner with my Dad, waiting for our breakfast when I overheard the gentleman at the next table.  Late seventies or early eighties, this man was expressing his dismay at the current occupant of the White House telling him what to do.  Going so far as to compare President Biden to Hitler.    He further described to his friend how he doesn’t watch the News and he will not go to WalMart because they are now, once again, requiring employees and customers to wear masks.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Miriam-Webster.com defines stupid as: slow of mind, given to unintelligent decisions or acts, acting in an unintelligent or careless manner, lacking intelligence or reason, dulled in feeling or sensation, marked by or resulting from unreasoned thinking or acting.

Careless manner … dulled in feeling or sensation … marked by or resulting from unreasoned thinking …

I would say these definitions explain the thoughts, words and actions of DeSantis, Abbott, other Republican lawmakers/leaders, and anybody that voted for, votes for or supports them in any way, shape or form.

Angry? You bet!

A great many people are sick and dying because of the actions or lack thereof of stupid people. A great many people will not get vaccinated or wear masks because of the self-absorbed and maladroit leadership of stupid people.

I am constantly confounded by the absurd diatribe that erupts from the mouths of DeSantis, Abbott, McConnell, Greene, Cruz, Carlson, Graham, Hawley, et al, like volcanic vomit. My mind reels wondering how seemingly well-educated individuals can be so mind-boggling, idiotically stupid.

Threatening to defund school systems and not pay school superintendents over mask mandates?  My God, DeSantis, how ludicrous, not to mention stupid!

The health and safety of children are at stake; and so these kinds of mindless and unreasonable decisions break my heart.

I have five grandchildren, two of whom will be headed back to school in three weeks—one in sixth grade and one in second grade—and I am highly distraught and concerned for their health and welfare; for all the children’s health and well-being. My grandchildren will be masked—their parents are not stupid—it is the stupid parents and stupid leaders that concern me.

You know the ones … those like the parents in Idaho that had a mask burning party in March of this year. Or those who say it takes away their freedom and civil rights, or that it is discriminatory, or those who believe the outright, bold face, blatant, sinister lies of the aforementioned bigwigs.

What is it going to take, before people wake up and realize how stupid they have been to remain unmasked?

Stupid people did not wear masks when the elderly got sick and died due to COVID-19. They did not wear masks when the middle-aged began to die. They are not wearing masks now that young folks are dying, with 615,000+ and counting now dead here in the US. Are they waiting for children to get sick and die in greater numbers before they wear masks and get vaccinated?

According to the CDC, “unintentional injuries—such as those caused by burns, drowning, falls, poisoning and road traffic—are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children in the United States.”

Let’s be clear, children’s deaths due to COVID are occurring as a result of people’s intentional behavior, due to the folks who are stubbornly and intentionally continuing to remain unmasked.

This, among other things in this insane world that is deeply lost in so many extreme beliefs in separation, makes me absolutely sick at heart.

Please do not waste your breath telling me about my lack of faith or that I am not a Christian or that I should just pray.  I trust God, I am a follower of the Way, and I do pray.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if a person does not love his brother, whom he has seen, then he cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20

The fact of the matter is every time you look into someone’s eyes, you are seeing God whether you believe it or not. Or if you prefer:

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

To be fair, I have done and do stupid things–more than I would care to profess. If we are honest with ourselves and will humbly admit it, the vast majority of us do stupid stuff. If we didn’t, our human world would not be in the predicament it is in— dying in so many ways now.

This stupidity is a result of believing the BIG LIE. No, not the lie that Trump won the 2020 election. I’m talking about the lie in Genesis 3:4-5 …

The serpent said to the woman, “It is not true that you will surely die; because God knows that on the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

… THAT big lie.

We took the bait—hook, line, and sinker—and have been believing ever since in the illusion that we are separate from Eternal Love. Even though later in the same chapter, God proved the illusion false by asking, “where are you?”

Until and as we stop seeing and acting out of unconscious belief, we cannot know how our action and activity can become different; or to borrow some of Albert Einstein’s words, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

For more on this, please read Charles Eisenstein’s article;  but be prepared for the ‘twisties.’

I know some people have legitimate reasons for not wearing masks, such as claustrophobia, anxiety, Legionnaire’s disease, interactions with lip readers (WebMD).

I also know that getting the vaccine is a personal choice and that there are some various mitigating factors. I hate needles and the possible side effects of the vaccine did frighten me. Ultimately, I decided the reasons for getting the vaccine far outweighed the reasons not to.

That being said, the very least all of us can do is wear the stupid mask …

… and make sure it covers your nose!

Least of These

Least of These

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40

The verse above comes from Jesus’s final discourse in the book of Matthew seemingly about end times. The Son of Man, Jesus’s preferred reference to himself, has come in his glory to separate the sheep from the goats among all the nations. The qualifying factors for sheep appear to be:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Matthew 25:35-36

To which the sheep respond, when did we do this? And Jesus answers when you did it to the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me. Apparently, the goats did not do these things and are separated to go away to eternal punishment.

This parable or metaphor raises several questions for me and an observation.

Who are the members of his family? Aren’t we, as the human race, all members of his family? Am I even qualified to determine who is a member of his family? Are only the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and imprisoned members of his family? I am none of those things, wouldn’t that disqualify me? How can I possibly have faith in a god that claims to be Love yet would damn beloveds to eternal punishment?

And the observation? In the end, it is the King who does the judging; not me and not you.

As a youngster when I would go downstairs for breakfast in the mornings, my mother always had the radio on in the kitchen tuned to a local AM news station. One of the broadcasts we listened to was Paul Harvey and his ‘The Rest of the Story’ segment. Thirteen years have passed since he was last on the air—he died in 2009—but I can still hear his distinct voice and cadence.

In this writing of Henri J.M. Nouwen I hear the voice of Paul Harvey say:

“If you would ask the Desert Fathers why solitude gives birth to compassion, they would say, ‘Because it makes us die to our neighbor.’ At first this answer seems quite disturbing to a modern mind. But when we give it a closer look, we can see that in order to be of service to others we have to die to them; that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others. To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, that prevents us from really being with the other.” The Way of the Heart

Doesn’t this seem like a more reasonable conclusion to the meaning of the parable in question, especially considering Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself?

Therein lies the problem. We are unwilling to die to our neighbor. Thus, we become unwilling to bake a birthday cake for a transgendered person. We refuse voting rights to people of color; we mock and terrorize LGBTQIA+ beloveds. We judge people based on a label rather than connecting to their hearts.

I can’t think of any eternal punishment worse than the delusional belief that I could be separate from Eternal Love.

According to treehugger.com the main difference between sheep and goats “is how they forage. Sheep are grazers; they ramble slowly eating short plants close to the ground. Goats are browsers; they look for leaves, twigs, vines, and shrubs.”

… close to the ground …

The parable of the sheep and goats is a call to humility.

At the last supper with his twelve apostles, Jesus took off his robe, tied a towel around his waist and washed the feet of his friends.

Humility keeps us close to the ground where we can wash the feet of our neighbors.

May we follow his example.