Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Just as I am

My unquiet mind
Spins out of control
Restless and uneasy

Unvoiced conversations
Saturate space yearning
For calm silence

When did it begin?
When will it end?

An old habit from childhood,
I explain myself to myself
As though minus these many words
I would not exist or be believed
Or convince myself or others
Of my worthiness

Like comfortable old clothes
I pull them close
Trying to assure myself
That I am worthy
Just as I am

The older I get, the more likely it is that ‘just as I am’ can’t possibly be good enough. Too much water down the river and over the dam. Too many roads not taken. Too many opportunities turned down because I was too busy, or afraid. And too many mistakes and unhappy chapters already written into my life.

I want to believe that the older I become, the less I need to prove my worth as a human being. I want to say without hesitation, “It doesn’t matter what you (or I) think about my life.”

I also want to accept the daily invitation to be who I am today in the eyes of my Creator. Not who I wish I were. And not who I might have been in the eyes of my father, my worst boss, or any other human being who has tried to make me into their image of me.

Surely the Judge of all the earth will do right. Not just by me, but by each of us.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 April 2021
Photo found at medium.com

Too good to be true

It sounds too good to be true
because it isn’t true and never was.
Standing before hungry investors
Moving in for the kill
Smiling at every attempt
to fathom or unmask truth,
The Great Con comes crashing
down sooner instead of later.

Smiling at restless investors
itching for more money in the bank,
The Great Con reaches its apex:
“This is a no-brainer my friends.
We’re going to Make America
Great again! And I’ve chosen you
As my favored investment partners!
Believe me, you’ll never be sorry.”

By hook and by crook
the cons continue unabated
from one generation to the next
playing on our worst nightmares
and fears of being left behind
or hung out to dry and missing in action—
With thanks to the party of
Take All Prisoners of Their Own Greed and Discontent

It’s easy to get all worked up and even self-righteous about Bernie Madoff.

Yes, what he did was horrific. Yet he wasn’t and will never be the only Great Con in the history of the USA. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, now back in the public eye because of his death, invites me to ponder recent history.

Make America Great Again was and still is a con. Invest your vote in Me and reap the rewards! I know how to get the job done! Your job is to vote for Me and send me a nice check! I can give you everything you’ve been longing for, starting with that wall and a stacked Supreme Court. What better future could there be?

Unfortunately, we haven’t yet woken up from this dream. And the con artist hasn’t abandoned his lonely ship. If it weren’t so tragic, I’d be applauding. But I can’t. Ponzi schemes aren’t known for success. Sadly, the fall of a large Ponzi scheme can be the downfall of us all. Here’s to the success of President Biden. Though it won’t be easy, it’s already worth the effort.

Full disclosure: The seminary I served for 28 years was one of many victims in a local Ponzi scheme. It decimated scores of educational, religious and historic institutions in Philadelphia and beyond. Worst of all, it made life more difficult for those who could least afford it.

Happy Thursday greetings to each of you. I hear the birds outside and am hoping for a lovely walk with D this afternoon.
Elouise

Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 April 2021
Cartoon found at IndianMoney.com

For the Women and Girls

No matter who you are,
No matter how you came to be
where you are,
No matter what you look like
or how many times you’ve said
‘I am a Full Human Being’,
I have old news, though not of great joy.

The fight makes us who we are,
Punches land on our guts,
Especially when we think we’ve
finally arrived in Paradise
rather than make-believe
pie in the sky, someday-soon status
that never arrives on time.

I’m disheartened though not surprised by our lack-luster pursuit of women’s equality in these so-called United States. We’re addicted to finding ways of turning back the tide of women’s rights. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about abortion, equal pay, or who will be the church pastor.

Too many people of ‘good will’ are unwilling to admit girls and women into the ranks of full human beings. Or they don’t know how to do it so everyone has equal rights in the workplace. It’s easier to hire tokens here and there, than to do the right thing for everyone.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, I thought we would get there in my lifetime. Today I’m not so hopeful. At the same time, if you’re a younger woman, and you’re looking for something worth fighting about, join up! It can make you a better, stronger woman, no matter what happens in the unknown future.

Why this post? D and I have been looking through old files from the 1970s. They were related to D’s first teaching job at a Christian college in the South. While he taught and attended endless faculty meeting, I was finding out what it means to be a stay-at-home mom (and so-called “faculty wife”) changing diapers and trying to maintain a semblance of normality.

You can read about my last straw breaking point in Faculty Wife: Part 17.

Despite everything, I’m grateful that those four years shaped me into one of those beautifully irritating women who can’t stop promoting full rights for all human beings.

Happy Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 April 2012
Photo found at theeverygirl.com

Early Spring at Longwood | Photos 1

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Rosebud popping out and a vacant bird nest for rent near Longwood’s large lake

Here’s a repost of some favorite photos. They’re about new life and new growth emerging from what often looks like death or the end of the world as we’ve know it. Signs of hope and beauty. Not forever, but for a season.

Yesterday was gorgeous! Cloudy, breezy, mild. Perfect for visiting Longwood Gardens. Here are some favorites taken, as always, by D. All I did was point my finger now and then if he hadn’t already clicked the camera!

We’re at the front end of the flower walk, near the main entrance.
These perky blossoms were in the cacti and succulent area,
popping up out of the gravel.
They look like they’re crafted from crepe paper.

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Nearby were more sedate, formal stonecrop
in different shapes and patterns.
This one wasn’t as uptight as some of the others!

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The following are from the flower walk itself–
a formal promenade between ever-changing seasonal plants and flowers.
Yesterday only the early signs of spring were out.
Even so, it was spectacular, and had me in tears a few times.
There’s something healing about seeing life
spring from the still-cold ground.

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Here we have early spring tulips,
followed by daffodils against a stone wall
and another variety of tulip.

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This is one of Longwood’s magnificent Japanese cherry trees in full bloom.
We’re just over halfway through the flower walk.
You can see scores of tulips and other bulbs not yet in bloom.
Three views of the cherry tree–

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P1120793 P1120803
Finally, a few more early tulips in creamy white,
and dainty snowdrops.
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I wish I could have taken all of you with me in person!
I have more photos, though, and will share some of them later.
Happy weekend, everybody!
Smell a flower today and smile at someone you don’t even know.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2016, reposted 8 April 2021
Photo credit: DAFraser, March 2016
Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania

Weariness

Cape May Warbler

Weariness
Floods my body

Lethargy tells
Me to stop now
Before I collapse
Without anything
Coherent on this
Page of my life
Waiting to be
Lived

I hear birds
Outside the window
Their insistent beautiful
Songs float through
Early morning air
Searching for a
Place to land

Half asleep
My mind floats at will
Reassuring me
That all will be well
That is well

I want to believe
Yet cannot stop pondering
The fate of all that
Is not well now
And forever

I don’t think I’m hitting rock bottom. I am, however, weary in body and spirit. Sometimes I’m standing still. Going nowhere. Other times I’m on a roller coaster swinging wildly between slow, difficult climbs uphill, and furious descents to whatever awaits me.

My mind tries naming things I’ve accomplished this day, this week, this month, this year. Yet the litany of things done doesn’t relieve the anguish of this heavy, relentless tug at my body and spirit.

We here in the USA are in a mess. We don’t know how to get out of it. Whether we like it or not, it colors every day of our lives.

Nonetheless, I believe our Creator and Redeemer understands the big picture, and invites me to trust that all will be well. One day, one breath, one weariness and one joy at a time.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 April 2021
Photo found at birdsandblooms.com

For Horace O. Russell

National Bird of Jamaica – the ‘Doctor Bird’ found only in Jamaica

Grief arrived last night
on the other end of a phone call
from a dear friend

Grief not just for us and the family
but for the world our friend knew and loved
from the bottom of his generous heart

Colleague, Brother, Church Historian
Master of all things Jamaican
Wise and Eternally Optimistic

I hang up the phone
and weep for us and for this world
made better by your faithful presence

It’s impossible to capture in words the worldwide reach of our colleague’s life.

Horace O. Russell served the seminary as Dean of the Chapel, and Professor of Historical Theology. I worked with him as a teaching colleague and as an administrator. He was also the retired Senior Pastor of Saints Memorial Baptist Church in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Dr. Russell was Jamaican by birth, and world citizen by choice. He and his gifted British wife made their mark not just on the seminary, but on the church worldwide. Thankfully, his wife and another family member were with him when he left this world.

Today I’ve been thinking about Dr. Russell’s generous, optimistic support for me, and about the senior seminar we co-led more than once.

During these seminars, Dr. Russell sometimes shared case histories he’d written about his pastoral work in Jamaica. They sometimes made life in these United States seem a bit dull.

The actual outcome of each case wasn’t revealed until each student worked with it and shared what she or he would do next, and why. Never a dull moment, and always plenty of surprises at the end. His ability to enlarge our vision was one of his many gifts to the seminary.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Dr. Russell carried a small camera at all times (so it seemed to me). Usually he didn’t wait for people to pose. Informal was the way to go. No matter what we looked like in the photos, he was generous with prints of these historical records. Here’s where we were on this date; this is what we were doing; and this is what we looked like.

Today I’ve been going through my collection of his photos, torn between gratitude and grief. Grateful to know his suffering has ended, and that he was not and is not now alone.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 April 2021
Photo of Jamaica’s national bird found at jamaicanconsulate.rs

Life on whose terms?

Falling asleep,
my body cries
for attention
and the comfort
of doing nothing
while awaiting new life
and energy that endures
forever and ever

Listening to the news,
I hear the beginning
of the end in post-Easter air—
especially if Jesus of Nazareth
isn’t allowed to rise from his
unseemly death and confront
our lackluster attempts
to live life on our own terms

I’m struck by how busy things become each year as Easter Sunday approaches. Part of the busyness is about special church services for those able and willing to attend.

But that isn’t what catches my eye. Instead, we have the tug of Easter egg hunts, Easter dinner arrangements, fancy Easter clothes or even mini-vacations that can suck the life blood out of Easter.

I like to enjoy life on my terms. However, Easter challenges me to look beyond myself and my limited resources. I wonder what it would look like for me to keep up with Jesus instead of the current idols of this world?

Thanks for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 April 2021
Image found at anona.com

Easter Lilies and Justice

Easter Lilies

This story still makes me teary. As a nation, we haven’t figured out how to ensure justice for today’s children. Easter offers an opportunity to ponder this tragedy and ask ourselves what we’re doing on behalf of our children. All of them. Diane is Sister #3 in our family. She was born on Easter Sunday in 1949, and died of ALS in February 2006.

Dear Diane,

Easter Sunday always reminds me of you. Not just because you were born on Easter Sunday in 1949, but because the Easter lilies at church always take me back to your funeral service and heaps of Easter lilies around the casket at the front of the church.

Today was no different. I walked in, saw the Easter lilies and tulips, and dissolved into tears as we sang the first hymn. It all came flooding back, along with a story Dad told me when he was in hospice care.

The story was about you and his flower garden in our back yard. Maybe you remember it. That was when we lived on the river. The flower garden had tons of flowers, including Easter lilies and Dianthus, all planted by Dad. He used to say the Dianthus were there because they reminded him of you.

Dianthus

One day Dad noticed that some of his special Easter lilies were missing from his flower garden. When he went back into the house he found them–in flower vases and glass jars here and there!

It didn’t take long to find out you had done this dastardly deed. He said you listened quietly without tears. Then as you turned to walk away you asked, “Where are the flowers for the children?” Cut him to the quick, he said. And I have to admit, he had tears in his eyes as he told the story.

Do you remember that square patch of flowers near the rear of the back yard? It wasn’t very large. Maybe 5 feet wide. It had posts with twine supports for some of the flowers. Most were bright zinnias.

Dad told me, with tears in his eyes, that he planted that flower garden just for the children. We could pick them anytime, as many as we wished. All because you had the guts to ask the most important question of all. “Where are the flowers for the children?”

Today I wonder the same thing. Sadly, we’ve gone downhill when it comes to things for the children. Flowers for the children tend to show up after children or teenagers are killed with guns. Survivors are asking all of us so-called grownups, “Where are the safe places for the children?”

That’s another subject, except for this: It takes guts to stand up and fight for the rights of children and young people. I’m rooting for the children and young people.

Love and hugs, plus Happy Easter and Happy April Birthday—not that you’re counting anymore!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2018, adapted from an earlier post, reposted 2 April 2021
Photo credit: wallpapersup.net (Easter Lilies); robsplants.com (Dianthus)

Gethsemane | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver places this poem just after The Poet Thinks about the Donkey. Clearly an invitation to compare them. My comments follow.

Gethsemane

The grass never sleeps.
Or the roses.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.

Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.

The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,
and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,
and heaven knows if it ever sleeps.

Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe
the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move,
maybe
the lake far away, where once he walked as on a
blue pavement,
lay still and waited, wild awake.

Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not
keep that vigil, how they must have wept,
so utterly human, knowing this too
must be a part of the story.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver, published by Beacon Press in Thirst, p. 45

This one stings. How many vigils have I slept through? Or how often do I look the other way when injustices are playing out before my eyes.

When I was growing up, I had nothing but scorn for those three sleepy, self-absorbed disciples who couldn’t stay awake and keep watch for their friend Jesus. Surely they believed him. They’d already shown themselves capable of going to extreme lengths on his behalf.

Mark 14:32-42 doesn’t say Peter, James and John were reluctant to stay with him and keep watch. It says they couldn’t keep watch as Jesus asked them to do not once, but three times. Meanwhile, Jesus is left alone to face his coming betrayal.

In contrast, all nature (except human nature) was wide (wild!) awake that night. The only witnesses to Jesus’ agony, betrayal, trial, and eventually death on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem. The same city that welcomed him on the little donkey not a week earlier.

Mary suggests the stars and moon, trees and insects all kept watch that night. I like to think they offered some peace, perhaps even solace as he prayed, weeping and agonizing for all of us and for himself.

In the final stanza Mary offers grace to them, to herself and to us. The three disciples were “dear bodies” and “utterly human.” They weren’t deadly co-conspirators. They were human, just as we are. Weary.

Praying we’ll be as understanding about Jesus’ three companions as we are about ourselves, even as we lament Jesus’ coming betrayal by Judas, also one of his chosen disciples.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2021
Painting found at touchstonemag.com

About my book of poems

Dear Friends,

The last few weeks have been hectic. Not with busy work, but with my book of poetry! It’s not yet out there, but forthcoming. Title: Without a Flight Plan.

What I’ve learned:

  1. Writing poetry is easy, compared with preparing it for publication.
  2. Though self-publishing through Lulu is a blessing, it’s also a hassle. Not with them, but with back and forth electronic clarification or correction of anything at all. After proof-reading and fiddling with four trial copies, I’m ready to let it go. But see #3!
  3. Before I sign off on the book, I must supply (for outlets that offer the book) a brief description of what the reader can expect to find in my poetry. Expletive deleted.

Several years ago I decided I would not try to publish a book of my poetry. It felt like a huge interruption and a hassle I didn’t want to invite into my life.

That was then; this is now; and yes, I’ve changed my mind.

Why? Partly due to choices made and not made by our former POTUS. His lack-luster response to Covid-19 will haunt us for years. As will his unprofessional behavior in front of cameras eager to catch every glimmer of the Trump circus.

Still, the bottom line isn’t Trump, it’s how I experienced life during 2020. A great mish-mash of ups and downs, disappointments and unexpected gifts.

When I was teaching seminarians in the 1990s, I had two books published. One (coauthored) was called Making Friends with the Bible. The other, Confessions of a Beginning Theologian, was about how I became and was still becoming a theologian. Both books drew on personal experience and observations. In addition, each was judiciously worded. I didn’t want to upset my father or anyone in authority over me.

In this collection of poems, I don’t hold back or try to dress up what I wish I could say out loud. Even better, I no longer wonder what my father would say if he ever read these poems. Nor do I worry about what family, friends or strangers might think of me. So yes, it’s time to get one more book out there!

Thanks again for visiting, and listening not just to me but to your own heart.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 March 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, March 2016

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