Spirit 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.

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.

Dancing Butterfly

Dancing Butterfly

Have you ever watched a butterfly dance?

A friend brought me a beautiful bouquet of Mexican Sunflowers and sat them on the ground near us as we began a socially distanced, outdoor chat. I had just received word about the death of dearly loved friend and was a weepy, snotty mess.

Ingrid tenderly listened while I told her all about my experiences with Cheryl’s bright and joyful energy, generous and loving heart, and selfless spirit.

In the midst of our conversation, a lovely Monarch butterfly lightly wafted through our air space and gently landed on the deep orange-hued blossoms. We were both immediately awe-struck by this sacred moment. Our delicately winged visitor was in no hurry to leave and she lingered with us in reverential silence for at least 20 minutes, gently and slowly flapping her ornamental wings.

I steadily became aware of Ingrid softly praying. When she finished, our lovely guest gleefully flitted and fluttered; playfully bobbing up and down, weaving back and forth, and looping side to side. After her holy dance, she landed daintily and dawdled a while longer. Shortly thereafter, without fanfare, she lifted skyward yawing as if to wave good-bye. We waved back thanking her for her visit.

After Ingrid left, the fullness of grief landed on me like a lead balloon immobilizing me. In a brief text exchange with my cousin, explaining I how I felt, he responded:

Even if you can find only a tiny space to do this in, ask yourself what are you believing…? Without any looking for an answer… Just the tiny space of the question…

No expectation… Nothing… Just be in that tiniest little space that is made apparent by such a simple question, a question you are inviting something else to answer, if it wishes, in its own time, or not…

You are in total not-knowing, just this question that comes and goes, leaving you in its spaciousness… Hang out there, let everything pass through you, all the feelings thoughts images memories and sensations…

So, I did and that is when I heard it, like a needle stuck in a scratch on a vinyl record, repeating the same line over and over again.

“I can’t believe she’s gone.”

Everybody acknowledges grief differently and there is no timeline for working through the heartache and pain. In the wake of deaths due to COVID, there could be, at a minimum,  anywhere from a half a million to a million or more beloveds experiencing the grief of losing a loved one—and that is just COVID deaths. That number does not include those mourning the total loss of their homes, belongings, and/or possibly business’s due to fire and flooding or other unforeseen circumstances. We are living through unprecedented times of affliction, suffering, and loss.

What is there to do? How do we move forward? Where do we go from here?

I followed my cousin’s advice and sat in the awareness of not-knowing, letting the question “what am I believing” come and go in the spaciousness, allowing all the feelings, memories and sensations to pass through. Eventually, the needle moved and fluid freedom returned.

About grief, the mystic poet Rumi says:

I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out, “It tastes sweet, does it not?” “You’ve caught me,” grief answered “and you’ve ruined my business. How can I sell sorrow when you know it’s a blessing?”

Maybe this is what David was saying in Psalm 30 verse five, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Situations and circumstances do not necessarily change for the better overnight, but maybe you will experience a dancing butterfly while you wait.

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.

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 . . .

A Thousand Words

A Thousand Words

Mr. President,

In regard to the Coronavirus Task Force, the word you were looking for during your press conference was ‘necessary.’ You “had no idea the Task Force was so necessary,” not ‘popular.’

Now before you begin a tyrannical twitter, let me say I have the highest respect for the Office of President and a deep regard for the person elected therein.

Be that as it may, I do not like you. However, when I go for a walk every day, I pray for you.

I began this ritual when you adamantly decided not to enact the Defense Production Act. To be honest, I was quite angry at your nonchalant arrogance.

Needing to do something with my pent-up frustration, I went for a walk and prayed in my Spirit language for you—English words just would not suffice. Later that evening, I heard that you had changed your mind and were moving forward with its authorization.

After that and since, as much as I do not want to pray for you, that is exactly how much God does want me to. Let me be clear, you are the last person I want to think about and pray for as I enjoy a refreshing walk–but that is not how God rolls.

First Timothy 2:1-2 says: I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Today, much to the dismay of my ego, I actually enjoyed my prayer time for you as I took a long stroll.

Therein lies the paradox . . . God holds the most seeming contradictions together–all in His gracious and infinite Love.

Respectfully,
Susan Fridinger

Fred R. Barnard is credited with the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Every historical era seems to have a myriad of iconic images that stir up emotions and feelings regarding particular events both great and small.

One such image that comes to mind is that of the sailor kissing a woman dressed in a nurse’s uniform in Times Square after the end of World War II. Or how about The Napalm Girl, as she is known, crying while running naked–fleeing for safety during the Vietnam War. Then there is the photograph called Flower Power which depicts a young woman “placing a carnation in the barrel of a rifle during a protest of the Vietnam War.”

I could go on and on.

Two such seminal images recently provoked the above letter to the President.

First was that of the male Michiganer—mouth agape with raging anger–literally roaring for his rights in the state capital while the male police officer stands at attention with what appears to be a calm demeanor in the face of the protestor not a foot away. The officer is wearing a face mask while the protestor is not.

What the heck was going on inside their heads, I wonder?

Some call the protestor a patriot; I call him a bully!

The second was that of President Trump seated at the feet of Abraham Lincoln in the memorial during a Town Hall interview. One of the most, if not the most (in my opinion), dishonest Presidents seated directly before Honest Abe?

Really? Holy mackerel!

In response to a friend’s frustration over the government shutdown last year, I wrote a meditation entitled “Radical Love.” In it I expressed the following: “Jesus was not calling into question the governmental system. Jesus was calling into question the religious system with radical love.”

While I still believe that to be a valid point, I now see a more nuanced revelation due to the contrasting perspectives in the aforementioned photos—that of the relational interplay of contradictory viewpoints. Or as Wikipedia defines it:

“In Ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.”

I would add spiritual world as well, for ALL is Spirit—the holy choreography of the triune God.

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament–chapter three verses one through eight–renders it this way:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

He continues in verse eleven of the same chapter by saying: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” We have “eternity” in our heart and yet we live one day at a time—the juxtaposition of the Eternal Now.

As I continue to follow God’s lead in prayer for President Trump, I feel oddly calm in the presence of God’s grace and goodness.