Meditations Category


Questions

Questions

“Abortion is the dividing line for me as a Christian voter. A party that associates itself with infanticide can never have my vote.” Adriaan Jenkins

Why is this the one issue at which she draws the line? What about all the many ways our world supports actions that are directly or indirectly the cause of infanticide, genocide, and war crimes?

A dividing line of this sort implies there are “sins” to the right and left or above and below. What is it about this “sin” that makes it better or worse than all the rest? Is there a scale of sins of which I am unaware? If so, which transgressions are “worse” and which are “better” and where do I find this “sin scale” in the Bible?

I am well aware of the Ten Commandments but when did they become a sliding scale of offenses? And what qualifications determine the order from most sinful to least sinful?

Is Ms. Jenkins, and those who re-post her quote on their FB pages, aware of all that this limited and narrow-minded thinking implies?

Does it mean that habitual, pathological lying is okay within a political party? How about sexual assault? Is it permissible for us to elect a sexual predator as President? What about a political party that systematically dismantles environmental protections? Why is that issue not the dividing line? What can I get away with and still be voted into office? If the 2016 election is any indication, then apparently quite a bit.

“If Jesus had a gun, he’d still be alive today.” (as seen on a Bumper Sticker)

How and when did Jesus become associated with guns? Did I miss that verse in the gospels? When did Jesus become a card-carrying member of the NRA? Is the originator of this quote talking about the same Jesus that said, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” in Matthew 26:52?

Can this gun-toting Jesus be the same one that spoke these words? “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Matthew 5: 40. Isn’t this person missing the point of Jesus’s death and resurrection in the first place? I guess his or her pro-gun preference takes precedence over the redemptive message of the gospels.

When did healthy debate between opposing points of view become vilified? When did either/or thinking become preferable to and/both logic? When did we, as a nation, move from pro-humanity to pro-American? When did hating someone because of their association with a political party become acceptable? I have friends that have said, “I hate Democrats.” Why?

Oops. Wait a minute.

I just fell down “the rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures” one of which asked me, “can you stand on your head?” while his headless body was precariously balanced atop his own.

Trying to figure out or argue with insanity only makes one insane as well, thus perpetuating the insanity. I can only point towards logical and reasonable implications and inferences.

Jesus did not enter into the apparent lunacy of his day and time.

I will defer to William Barclay from his insightful book, The Mind of Jesus to explain.

“He used the reductio ad absurdum. He was accused of casting out devils by the help of the prince of devils. His answer was: ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? 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. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.’ Mark 3:23-26. With one shrewd blow Jesus reduced the charge of his opponents to an absurdity.

He used the logical dilemma. He did not break out in railing rebuke against those who brought to him the woman taken in adultery. He simply said quietly: ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ John 8:7. He silenced his opponents by impaling them on the horns of a dilemma.

He used the argument a fortiori. ‘If you then,’ he said, ‘who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?’ Matthew7:11.”

However well-intentioned the arguments of many of the current Republicans, Conservative Christians and those with similar extreme opinions are, their beliefs have originated within minds that see themselves separate from God. Until they examine the pain, hurt, prejudices, and conditioned beliefs in their hearts, very little for them will change. They will continue on a path towards an ever-hardening heart.

Do not give in to discouragement, and do not lose hope.” (Pope John Paul II) This is what I imagine Jesus saying to those who have had abortions.

Jesus did not argue an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” with a gun in his robe. Jesus, with open hands and an open heart, said “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39

To all of us he says:

“For I am telling every single one of you, through the grace that has been given to me, not to have exaggerated ideas about your own importance. Instead, develop a sober estimate of yourself based on the standard which God has given to each of you, namely, trust.” Romans 12:3

I feel better now.

Hatred

Hatred

Mr. President,

Contrary to what you or the readers of this letter and my past correspondence to you may think, I do not hate you.

I hate your words, actions, and decisions. I hate your divisive, derogatory, disrespectful, and dangerously harmful attitude towards all life forms. I hate that you are president–NOT because you are a Republican, NOT because you are supposedly conservative, and NOT because you are a white, privileged male.

I hate that you are president because of the unimaginable grief and overwhelming destruction you have caused to God’s beloveds and Her creation.

The Christian Bible you placed your hand on when you took the oath of office and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States says …

The good person produces good things from the store of good in his heart, while the evil person produces evil things from the store of evil in his heart. For his mouth speaks what overflows from his heart. Luke 6:45

… which is why I have such a difficult time understanding your supporters and fans.

Your cruel and bitter comments, tweets, and speeches are clearly indicative of an ungodly, unholy, and vile hardened heart. Obviously, you are totally unaware of your own traumas and suppressed emotions you have been projecting on the United States and the world; which is all the more reason you are to be pitied, rather than mimicked, lampooned and parodied.

Perhaps this is why your words and actions resonate with so many people because, they too, are incapable of multidimensional and mindful thinking—more’s the pity.

Prayerfully,
Susan Fridinger

This letter comes from wondering what I must look like to my friends who identify as Republicans and Conservative Christians. I know many of my posts have called into question their ideals and beliefs. I must appear to them as a left-wing, radicalized liberal when in actuality I identify more as an activist centrist, politically speaking.

One friend sent me some scripture verses to read because he saw me as “mad” at the President. I appreciate his thoughtfulness, but what is wrong with being “mad” at the President? If it was okay for him and other folks to be angry with President Obama, why is my apparent anger with President Trump wrong?

If it is acceptable for this same person to call Senator Kamala Harris a “disaster,” or for another “friend” to say “I don’t like anyone from the left,” then why is my frustration over President Trump’s extremely questionable leadership inappropriate?

But isn’t it this exact kind of thinking altogether that is the true issue?

Absolutely nothing in this world can be resolved with a “this or that” mentality especially with regards to the complicated, serious, multifaceted problems we face as a nation. Valued and respected opposing points of view can work together for good; however, everyone loses when those on seeming opposite sides demonize one another.

In all of the above, my thoughts continually returned to Jesus hanging on the cross. One of his final prayers was, “Father, forgive them, for they no not what they do.” He held no grudge toward the very people that vilified him.

I am NOT comparing myself or anyone to Jesus.

I am asking instead, shouldn’t our default position be “I don’t know what I am doing” and go from there?

Seems to me this is where we are called to mindful and considerate spaciousness.

Human being, you have already been told what is good, what Adonai (the LORD) demands of you —no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity (humility) with your God.  Micah 6:8

Radicalized

Radicalized

One definition of the word ‘radical’ as defined by Oxford Languages is “representing or supporting an extreme or progressive section of a political party.” Therefore to ‘radicalize’ someone is to “cause (that person) to adopt radical (extreme or progressive) positions on political or social issues.”

Five years ago, in an article by “The Atlantic,” Franklin Graham was quoted as saying the following with regards to Vladimir Putin’s LGBTQ+ policies:

“Putin is right on these issues,” Graham said. “He has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”

Graham’s agreement with the vile and repugnant politics of such an individual should be a huge red flag for his followers and those who identify as Conservative Christians.

The same article states that “Graham proclaimed that all Muslims should be barred from immigrating to America and treated like the Japanese and Germans during World War II” because of their potential to be radicalized.

Maybe it’s just me, but that seems racist.

In another article in “Sojourner” magazine, Graham disagreed with Pope Francis’s assessment “that all religions, including Catholicism, have ‘fundamentalist’ splinter groups that can commit violence.”

Since when did God become a ‘religion?’ God is not a religion! Religion is a man-made institution predicated on extreme beliefs in illusions of separation. Many religious people go to church and profess their love of God every Sunday and then in the same breath proclaim their hatred of ‘sinners.’

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

The more articles I read from varying perspectives about Reverend Graham, and other evangelicals like him, the more I began to ponder the term “radicalize.” While the idea that those who unwaveringly identify with the doctrines of conservative Christianity are Radicalized Christians is not a new idea, it is overwhelmingly pertinent to our current times especially with regards to our upcoming election.

Perhaps you disagree by using the following logic: “These folks have not killed innocent people in the name of Allah, like radicalized Muslims.”

Haven’t they?

What about hating and ostracizing a group of people so much that it causes individuals within that group to take their own lives due to agonizing desperation?

When discussing the theory of radicalized Christians with my son, he said:

“Then they will quote scripture at you while completely ignoring the context that shows it means the opposite of how they are using it or the fact that they are guilty of the very thing the verse is condemning. They will find the smallest reason not to like a Democrat or basically anyone Trump tells them not to like. They’ll baselessly attack Biden for being a pedophile, but the mountains of evidence that Trump is and more, will just be brushed aside.

They’ll believe the craziest conspiracies and monumental lies at the drop of a hat, but fact-based rebuttals are just the ravings of brainwashed sheeple.

The amount of projecting they do is ridiculous! But they don’t debate; they shout their peace and then plug their ears and scream ‘LALALA’ when you try to reply.

And, for as much as they’ll preach ‘love your neighbor’ and ‘stop all of this hate’ when they see attacks on Trump or Republicans, when they see BLM posts or Biden posts or Bernie posts they turn into giant f***ing hypocrites and start name calling and spewing hateful rhetoric.”

In their book, Ten Words That Will Change Everything You Know About God: Seeing God as He Really Is, Dr. Jim Richards and Chaim Bentorah say the following about Jesus:

“Jesus never made a well person sick, and He never used harm, guilt or fear to influence people to follow Him. He demonstrated the love of God. His only harsh words were to the religious leaders who distorted God’s image and led believers into captivity.”

I’m not sure this is the same Jesus radicalized Christians follow.  Personally, I think God would say to Franklin Graham, evangelicals, and their followers …

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” and “he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4: 8, 21

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/franklin-grahams-turn-toward-intolerance/398924/

https://sojo.net/articles/franklin-graham-rebuts-pope-islam-war-religion

Photography Hobby

Photography Hobby

When I am feeling down in the dumps, one of the things that brings me great peace and calm is photography. I picked up this hobby after my mother died four years ago. Hospice of the Panhandle offered a course called Grief Through the Lens of Love. This class was just what I needed to process my grief and move forward in that ongoing journey.

I am not very good photographer, just lucky. I have read a few books on the subject, but for me it is not about the end result, it is about the process. I enjoy the quiet solitude of looking, observing, and waiting–the meditative watchfulness.

This morning I was sitting on my back porch looking at the birds, when a beautiful American Goldfinch landed on one of my 15 sunflowers. I was so excited, I moved too quickly and scared him away, much to my dismay. Not a minute later a dainty hummingbird paid a visit to the same sunflower. I missed that shot too.

I did, however, get some delightful close ups of several bees pollinating my sunflowers. I was completely fascinated and enthralled with one bee in particular as he slowly and meticulously crawled around the disc florets. My patience paid off when I actually got a picture of one bee in flight—it was so cool!

Later my attention was drawn to the sparrows and Brown-headed Cowbirds gathered in the birdbath. I took a bunch of snap shots of them bathing—it was hilarious. Those images do not look like much, but I thoroughly enjoyed viewing them bathe and found myself giggling out loud at their antics.

These are difficult times in which we are living and maybe it is okay, if not absolutely necessary, for us to slow down and take pleasure in God’s creation in order to restore our heart and soul.

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets. Her book Devotions sits on my desk with many pages dog-eared and verses underlined which have deeply touched my inner being. I conclude this post with her poem entitled “Invitation.”

Oh do you have time
      to linger
          for just a little while
               out of your busy

and very important day
      for the goldfinches
          that have gathered
                in the field of thistles

for a musical battle,
      to see who can sing
           the highest note,
                or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
      or the most tender?
           Their strong, blunt beaks
                drink the air

as they strive
      melodiously
           not for your sake
                and not for mine

and nor for the sake of winning
      but for sheer delight and gratitude—
           believe us, they say,
                it is a serious thing

. . .

just to be alive
      on this fresh morning
           in this broken world.
                I beg of you,

do not walk by
      without pausing
           to attend to this
                rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
      It could mean everything.
           It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

Greatest Commandment

Greatest Commandment

During a study on the book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, my Pastor asked us to select some words of Jesus to memorize. I chose Mark 12:29-31:

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other command greater than these.”

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says everything—all the law and all the words of the prophets—hang on these two commandments.

Are these two commandments the bottom line or a lofty goal?

I accompanied my father to Home Depot very early one morning because there were a few things he wanted to purchase and some lumber he wanted to look at for a project he is working on in the basement. While inside the store, I noticed a handful of male customers who were not wearing masks even though the sign on the entrance stated quite clearly that masks were required.

Feeling very protective of my father, I became very perturbed and said rather loudly to no one in particular but to everyone within hearing distance, “I guess you think you are too macho to wear a mask.” I am afraid I embarrassed my dad.

No one said anything in return and I had no expectation of anyone “picking on” a middle-aged woman or the “old man” with her. Once inside my truck, my father and I had a humorous discussion about my behavior and what we would have done had someone retaliated in some form or fashion.

My intent here is not to make a statement for or against wearing masks, but to explore what Jesus really meant by these commandments.

I wonder if we—or maybe just me–too often take the depth and breadth of this kind of love Jesus calls up to for granted. Do I really understand it? Do I really occupy it? Did my behavior at Home Depot show the bare minimum or the highest regard for “the greatest of these” commands?

I don’t know. What I do know is that I am not afraid of the mess these kinds of questions create in my mind, heart and spirit. I am at peace, because I know God inhabits that spacious disarray with me.

Maybe Jesus knew that these two precepts were the greatest because they would challenge us to question our conditioned beliefs.

Could it be that loving the way Jesus teaches means regularly asking ourselves questions like …

“Why do I believe what I am believing?”
“Why am I feeling, what I am feeling?”
“What does that–belief, idea, or action–say about my thinking”

… in any given situation and circumstance.

As a follower of Christ, I am called “in everything do to others as I would have them do to me; for this is the law and the prophets.”

Everything in this platitude hangs on one tiny two letter word, AS. What a humbling call to remembering—remembering that …

The Lord our God, the Lord is one …

God knows no ‘otherness.’ Clearly it is only humans who incorrectly believe we are alienated or separate from God. We, not God, have imagined the labels and identities that make that which is NOT separate from us separate. Love is the Divine calling to awareness, awakening us to health, healing and wholeness.

Chaim Bentorah interprets the commandment to love this way in his word study “Honor.”

First, I do not believe we are commanded to love God. I believe that the Vav that introduces the words “And thou shalt love” is not a Vav conversive. The word love is in a Qal perfect form. If the preceding Vav had a pathah underneath it, it would be a conversive that is it would convert the perfect into an imperfect. As, I do not see this Vav as a conversive the word love remains in a perfect form or a completed action form.

Thus, it is rendered: “You do love the Lord your God.” In Deuteronomy 30:6 we learn that God will circumcise our hearts so that we will love Him. The word circumcise as described in an earlier study is the word mul which also means to scrape.

God will scrape our hearts, He will scrape that harden shell from our hearts to release the love He has put in there. But He has given us a free will and we can choose to harden our hearts so that that love for Him is never released or awakened.

We either remember until Knowing is all there is, or we don’t.

Rumi says it much more succinctly.

“Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.”

May it be so.

https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2020/08/hebrew-word-study-honor/?inf_contact_key=57cc4e20a548336d2852c4caded8f234680f8914173f9191b1c0223e68310bb1

Normal

Normal

With Dr. Fauci and other highly-regarded scientists “cautiously optimistic” about a COVID vaccine, there seems to be a lot of eagerness regarding “getting back to normal.”

Normal defined by Oxford Languages means “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.”

Didn’t our past conformance to “usual, typical or expected” conduct cause the many inequities we are so clearly seeing unmasked by the pandemic? Do we really want to follow policies and legislation that are lacking in compassion towards the severely ostracized of society? Do we really want the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer? Do we really want people living without healthcare or living with student loans they may never be able to repay in their lifetime?

If that is “normal,” I am not sure I want to go “back.”

A “new normal” makes no sense to me either because that implies bringing forward ideologies from the past that were less than ideal such as partisan politics, patriarchy, racial injustice, environmental ambivalence, systemic injustice, anti-Semitism, extremism, liberalism, and conservatism, just to name a few.

All of these “usual, typical or expected” behaviors have engendered worldwide cruelty, suffering, misery, and grief.

Oh, I know what you mean. I, too, want to gather with family and friends without worry and fear of spreading a highly contagious disease that could infect a loved one. The current state of hypervigilance is exhausting and the incredible trauma everyone is experiencing whether they realize it or not is overwhelming. A sense of ‘regularness’ would be a respite.

After thinking about my life prior to the pandemic and now, “normal” seems like an odd concept. Too much has changed.

Tears, which always flowed easily, fall in an ever-deepening consciousness of holiness for beloveds who are shunned because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs, and/or their state of poverty. Having a voice, speaking out, taking a stand are all qualities that the Holy Spirit has honed during this experience. I feel more keenly mindful of life and its preciousness.

Why would I want to go back?

Plus, the whole notion of ‘going back’ is an illusion in the belief of time. The following poem by Hafiz says it best.

Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.

Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.

Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child’s training wheels
To be laid aside
When you finally live
With veracity
And love.

Hafiz is a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a holy message upon.

My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?

What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?

Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.

This is the time
For you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace.

Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is sacred.

No, ‘normal’ is not for me.