Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

The Cross and the Lynching Tree

breathless morning sky
fiery orange shades of red
light pierces darkness

Often we live and die in self-imposed darkness. Not the dark of night, but the darkness of our understanding, our motives and our ignorance.

For several weeks I’ve been reading James Cones’ latest book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. It’s a tough read. Cone challenges my white understanding of the role too many Christian churches and politicians have played in the history of lynching.

When I grew up, Jesus’ death was all about appeasing God’s anger for our sin. Dying as an innocent on an ordinary criminal’s cross was payment for our sin. Yes, we deserve to die, but Jesus died for all of us, so that God’s anger toward us wouldn’t be our undoing.

If, however, Jesus’ death was a lynching, what does that mean for Christianity in the USA?

According to our history of lynching, white Christians have managed to do to black women, men, children and unborn babies what Roman and Jewish leaders did to Jesus of Nazareth. Yes, it was death on a Roman cross/tree. Yes, it was death on a White cross/tree.

Now, in our supposedly more enlightened age, we think we’re beyond lynching. After all, Jim Crow style lynching is illegal.

Is it? Really? Look around. We’ve developed neat, more anonymous ways of doing the deed. Out of sight and out of mind, except for the occasional uproar over what’s been happening for decades.

White fear and a deeply ingrained false sense of superiority lie at the heart of our White problem. It isn’t about God’s anger at sin, so-called “Christian” values, or even our own wellbeing.

Each morning, like clockwork, we’re invited to let light pierce the darkness of our understanding. It doesn’t take much light. Just a candle here and there in a window will do. That, plus time to appreciate the light we’re offered each day, and a trustworthy guide to prick our consciences and challenge our sight.

Thanks for listening.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 November 2020
Photo found at unsplash.com

When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention | Mary Oliver

Here’s my pick for today: a lovely poem from Mary Oliver about life and death. Why today? Because it’s my 77th birthday! See my comments below.

When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention

“As long as we are able to
be extravagant we will be
hugely and damply
extravagant. Then we will drop
foil by foil to the ground. This
is our unalterable task, and we do it
joyfully.”

And they went on, “Listen,
the heart-shackles are not, as you think,
death, illness, pain,
unrequited hope, not loneliness, but

lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety,
selfishness.”

Their fragrance all the while rising
from their blind bodies, making me
spin with joy.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver, found on p. 9 of Thirst 
Published by Beacon Press 2006

Rue: regret
Lassitude: fatigue, weariness, apathy
Vainglory: excessive vanity, inordinate self-esteem

I know it isn’t spring or summer, but neither do the roses. They do their thing, then disappear until it’s time to start all over.

Death is making the rounds these days. Not just death that follows old age, but death from Covid-19, suicide, broken hearts, incurable illnesses, street fights, unleashed hatred or anger, and more. Still, death isn’t our worst enemy.

We’re not on earth to live forever. We’re here to discover and fulfill our earthly purpose as human beings. Welcoming the stranger, accepting our own strangeness, giving and receiving help, taking our personal histories seriously.

In some ways, the roses have it easier. It isn’t easy to be human. We need each other if we’re going to thrive.

Still, like roses, we’re meant to be extravagant. Giving, giving, and giving again. Not obsessively or compulsively, or because we feel guilty, or for personal gain. But as an overflow of beauty and grace.

Think about it! Fragrant roses, baby birds, clouds, sunrise and sunset, fields of tulips, new-fallen snow, and gnarled old tree trunks soaring toward the sky. All this and more with thanks to our Creator.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 November 2020
Photo found at etsy.com

squabbling sparrows

outside my window
squabbling sparrows fight for food –
silence reigns within

Onlooker. That’s what I am these days. Not when it comes to local stuff, but the other stuff. Frankly, I’d rather be a sparrow right now than a politician or public official.

Whatever this year has been on the outside, I’m grateful for time to examine my life as a white woman. All without the expectations or interruptions of ‘normal’ daily life.

Put another way, I don’t want to be out there squabbling over the 2020 Election, or suddenly find myself without a job or a sensible plan for the future.

Being a senior citizen has its drawbacks. For one, we don’t get much overt respect, especially in our modern-day young and (especially) white culture. When respect happens, it tastes really good. So far, D and I have been able to navigate this bizarre Covid-19 world. It helps that we’re both introverts with tons of books, and the desire to read and write.

Back to the standoff  and squabbling that’s playing out before our eyes. It’s deadly. No good will come of it. I’m praying justice will be done when Mr. Trump is no longer POTUS, and he can no longer evade courts of law. Still, the behavior of his extremely disaffected followers isn’t a promising sign.

While watching the sparrows squabble with each other, I heard and saw a large blue jay squawk its worst as it landed on the bird feeder and sent all the sparrows fleeing. Everything wasn’t great before the male jay arrived, but at least there was food on the table. And no big bullies in sight.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 November 2020
Photo found at thespruce.com

empty wasp nest

swaying in chill breeze
an empty wasp nest hangs
ready for nesting birds

D took this photo in September 2020. So now you must imagine the tall shrub leafless. Also imagine the virtually but not totally wild possibility that birds might make a nest in one of these.

We almost took the wasp nest down this fall. Then I found out Paper Wasps don’t return to their meticulously crafted nests. If this nest remains intact through the winter (it probably won’t), could it become a welcome bird house next Spring? Probably not, but I can dream.

The now empty nest hangs just outside my office window. When I first saw it, I freaked out. At the very least, it was an eyesore. At worst, these diligent wasps might attack me the next time I step onto the front porch!

When I’m out walking with D, we see these nests in tall trees around our neighborhood, always from a distance. Right now I could open my office window and tap this one, now abandoned, with a yard-long ruler.

You may well be wondering….

Is this a diversion from the news of the day? Probably. But I’m enjoying it immensely. Think about it! There may be more hope for the future hanging outside my office window, than there is inside the White House today.

Hoping your Wednesday is relatively peaceful, all things considered.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 November 2020
Photo taken in September 2020 by DAFraser

silent morning breaks

silent morning breaks
my refrigerator hums
one more soul departs

Each death is singular and tragic, especially as the numbers continue to climb precipitously.

This isn’t voluntary mass suicide. It’s a tragedy long in the making, now playing out minute by minute as our current POTUS refuses to face reality about the 2020 Election or Covid-19.

Then there are his very public caretakers. I’m tempted to mock them. But I can’t. For whatever reason, they, along with millions more, have latched onto DT as their hero, even though he can’t deliver on his promises. Another tragedy in the making.

In addition, death by Covid has become so ‘normal’ that I find myself more horrified by daily data updates than by singular tragic deaths.

What happens to our souls when we learn to live with nonsense? Or turn to data more quickly than to human beings and their families struggling to make sense of nonsense? I know I’m guilty. The sheer horror of what’s happening right now in our country is a nightmare gone berserk.

Today I’m praying for singular souls that depart due to Covid-19 or any other cause made more difficult because of Covid. I’m also praying for the aching souls of relatives and friends mourning their deaths.

Who knows? Any one of us or our loved ones might be next.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 November 2020
Photo of sunrise on the East Coast found at tripadvisor.com

stripped of color

stripped of color
bare branches shiver
falling leaves take flight

D and I are just back from a blustery walk. Dead leaves whipped through the air and across the road. A few trees still looked spectacular. Yet on the whole, the achy beauty of autumn colors has become torn, tattered browns of brittle leaves.

What does it take to survive late Fall and early Winter? Or the unsettling reality of climate change? Or the huge surge of Covid-19 cases in the USA, coupled with the refusal of millions to take simple precautionary measures?

As a citizen of the USA, I shiver as I watch the barometer of Covid-19. It isn’t chiefly about our health. It’s about our relationships with each other. Especially with those most affected by the pandemic. We seem to have forgotten we’re all human beings.

Many of us run away from truth about our country. We harbor persistent, deep-rooted racial ignorance, and neglect citizens and visitors who fall near or beneath the poverty level. It isn’t difficult to see this, no matter which political party we favor.

Even so, I have hope. Not because Spring always follows Winter, but because hope is for any season of any year. Someone Else with far more gracious eyes than mine is in charge. My part is to follow Someone Else (Jesus of Nazareth), and do what I’m able to do.

I’m relieved that POTUS, our Governors and politicians, the Supreme Court, Wall Street investors, and deep-pocketed billionaires are not in charge of how and whether Spring will follow Winter.

With the exception of most conifers, leaves fall freely every Autumn. Why? Maybe they know Spring follows Winter. Today their job is to step aside, and let Someone Else figure out how we’ll get from here to there. My job is to do my part, and leave the rest to my true Leader, Jesus of Nazareth.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 August 2020
Image found at merriam-webster.com

off-pitch and stumbling

off-pitch and stumbling
the first notes of a sweet song
fall on hungry ears

I spotted him just as we were finishing a quiet walk through the cottage garden display at Longwood Gardens. The young gray catbird was making an enormous amount of noise. Some on key, some petering out and falling to the ground.

From my perspective, he was practicing to become a concert catbird, struggling with new melodies and his still brand new voice.

I have a weakness for catbirds. They don’t have flashy feathers; instead, they have some of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Happily, they like our yard. Sometimes we get an extra treat: they seem to be competing with each other for the best voice of the day!

Shifting gears, here we are on the ground with a new Presidential situation. We face monumental problems for which we need monumental solutions. As a writer, I want to find a different, somewhat new voice. Not to parrot what I hear from the White House or from disgruntled or elated citizens, but to keep naming truth about myself and our situation, as I see it.

When I first started blogging, I wasn’t prepared for this kind of writing. The kind where I get to put the words out there, but have only small clues about how my audience is responding—or not. So I’m going to stay with what works for me—focusing on myself, and making connections with what’s happening in my back yard—literally and figuratively.

I don’t have what that young catbird has. I do, however, have a voice that needs exercising. I look forward to the coming months, though with trepidation.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 November 2020
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, May 2012

caverns dripping water

caverns dripping water
fall silent beneath the earth
dry wells languish

Voices we can’t afford to silence are being silenced. Our own descent will surely follow. How many of us are there? Was that before or after the latest Covid-19 numbers were released?

Things like this go through my mind. Especially on a rainy day. This morning I sat at my kitchen table watching the bird feeder. From nowhere a huge swarm of house sparrows landed—at least 40, maybe 50 of them. They squabbled and fought each other for seeds from the feeder and seeds on the ground.

Suddenly, all but one took instant flight. Why? I don’t have a clue. But the remaining sparrow looked around and decided to high-tail it out of there, too.

They say we’re in for a harsh winter. Maybe the sparrows know more than we think they know.

Life is short, full of sweetness and full of sorrow. It seems many of us have a deficit when it comes to acquaintance with sorrow and grief. Others know them all too well.

It behooves us to keep the water flowing. Not just the rivers and streams, but the flow of human connections that soften and shape us into the persons we are. We can’t afford to bolt from the feeder. It might not always taste good, but without it, we will surely languish and die.

Speaking of water, the lovely eye of water in Longwood Gardens (above) is a mirage. Recycled water becomes a loud, stunning eye of water, then a lovely quiet stream that hurries over a small yet spectacular waterfall. Then it rests in a beautiful pond before being pumped to the top and recycled over and over.

It’s mesmerizing. And also a reminder of how much we owe nature and each other for the level of sanity we still enjoy. To say nothing of what we owe the patience and longsuffering of our Creator.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 November 2020
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, May 2012

missing in action

missing
in action
full stop

The background noise of Mr. Trump and his defenders isn’t going away anytime soon.

The foreground clarity of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamal Harris isn’t going away either.

In fact, each day brings a bit of hope. Not because Biden and Harris won the election, but because the next POTUS is taking his task seriously. Not for popularity or personal gain, but for the heart and soul of this nation.

Still, I don’t wear rose-colored glasses.

Wealthy patrons of Mr. Trump and sold-out members of the Senate and Congress have a lot to lose. So do white people who feel entitled to more and better, or who refuse to look into the history and hearts of our black citizens and learn to lament and repent.

Showing up. I can’t remember when our current POTUS showed up for all of us (including his followers), much less for the rest of the world (unless it benefited him). I’m more than ready for a full stop.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 November 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com

Absence

absence eats slowly
into edges of presence
morning rises late

It isn’t just the season. It’s my life slowly diminishing one day after another.

The 2020 Election has opened a door for substantial change. I want to be part of the geriatric action. I wonder how many others raised in my generation (1940s and 50s) feel this as well. Here we are, often carrying painful bodily and emotional damage. What will this Election mean for us?

I’ve been thinking hard lately about my schedule, and how to manage daily routines without cutting into writing time. I’m not there yet, but I’m seeing a little light. Which is all I need right now. A little light of day and a little light of hope for our future as a nation.

Praying for small and large gifts of kindness, gratitude and hope to rise like the sun, against all odds.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 November 2020
Photo of November sunrise in Ashland, Oregon found at outdoorexposurephoto.com

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