Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

How I’m praying about Mr. Trump

Gingerly. Yet with more conviction than ever.

Everything I see ‘out there’ is a microcosm of my heart. Not always in the same form, but always about the same kinds of issues. My desire to change situations. My need for affirmation and affection. My love of power and control. My constant preoccupation with security and survival. And, I might add, my Greatness.

“Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” was never so difficult to pray as it is right now, given what we see and hear every day. This includes what I see and hear in my own thoughts and feelings.

Whether I look into my heart or see it on TV or on my iPad news feed, I’m reminded daily that I have limited power, control, security, and hope for survival.

My prayers don’t guarantee that justice will be done immediately. They do, however, help me stay focused on what really matters to the Most High God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who chose to become one of us. To show us how true leaders lead, and how true followers follow.

Below is a Psalm that clarifies exactly what is both needed and woefully rare in politics today. It also clarifies the outcome for leaders who fail to deliver the itemized goods.

In the Psalm, I take the term ‘god’ to mean rulers and leaders who must answer to the Most High God. I strongly suggest you read it out loud, with anger/distress/disbelief or whatever emotion you are able to draw upon from your own experience of injustice and wickedness.

Whatever you do, don’t try to dress it up all pretty and nice. Or explain it away. It’s truth, not fiction or a make-believe game about another time and place. It’s about now. With plenty of comfort and hard words for each of us.

Psalm 82, A psalm of Asaph. (NRSV, small edits by me)

The Most High God presides in the great assembly;
Rendering judgment among the ‘gods’:

“How long will you defend the unjust
And show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the parentless;
Uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
Deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing,
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are shaken.

“I said, ‘You are ‘gods’;
You are all children of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
You will fall like every other ruler.”

Rise up, Most High, judge the earth,
For all the nations are your inheritance.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 February 2018
Image found at www.provencio.com

hanging out

morning sun
hangs out behind a curtain
of glowing fog

Yesterday was glorious. Foggy and gray at first, before turning into a bright sunshiny day that included tea with a friend in the afternoon.

Hanging out doesn’t come naturally to me. From very early, my parents programmed me to keep my little hands busy because the devil might find work for idle hands to do. In addition, my later commitment to running away on the inside discouraged me from doing ‘nothing.’ The enemy was always just one step or one breath behind me.

So race on I did. One step after the other. With time out only when forced to take it.

The year after I left the dean’s office I had a full year sabbatical. Glorious! I decided early that I wanted to write more. So I began working through Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Fortunately, most of her assignments required that I write.

Unfortunately, one did not. It stuck its ugly neck up at the end of the first chapter, in a list of tasks to accomplish.

Task #1 was to write morning pages first thing every morning. Stream-of-consciousness. No problem. I was like a duck playing in water. Next came

Task #2.
Take yourself on an artist date.
You will do this every week for the duration of the course.

Fortunately, Cameron lists several sample ‘dates’ for the socially challenged who prefer to stay in our little dens. All these ‘dates’ will be fun, silly or even outrageous. If we had to learn how to do this, so be it! I felt awkward and more than silly at first. But then I got into it—for a while.

Big sigh. So yesterday morning I decided to resume weekly artist dates with myself. I inaugurated this by spending the entire day with no agenda except fun things I wanted to do strictly for myself. Which included tea in the afternoon with my friend.

The day was beyond wonderful. I know the sun won’t come out every day. Yet the freedom my body and spirit felt was remarkable.

Finally, for those out there who don’t quite see what the problem is, I’m positive you’ll read this and feel nothing but good-will for the rest of us. If not more understanding or empathy. For which we are grateful.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 February 2018
Image found at trekearth.com – a park in Poland

Am I ready?

Hesitating
My fingers languish
On the keys

Life
Flashes before me
Inviting my company

My heart
Skips a beat
Am I ready?

Dear Friends,

This past week was wonderful. Going through old files and notebooks told me more about my past than I’d remembered. And I didn’t get through everything yet.

Thankfully, my home office is about half transformed! I focused on files and piles, not books and drawers. Breaking my jaw nearly two years ago brought ‘normal’ life to a sudden halt. And the piles began getting larger and larger….

Hidden in all the files and piles, I found several gems. Things I hadn’t read for years. I even read one piece out loud to myself. It was the Sunday morning ‘sermon’ I gave at our last Renich family reunion in 2012. I wrote it so young children in the room would know exactly what I was talking about.

That was the first time I’d ever talked to my extended family about my troubled relationship with my parents. The room was full of family members from at least four generations. I was a trembling wreck after I finished and sat down. I hadn’t yet begun blogging. I just knew I it was time to do this.

Now I’m at another milestone—still blogging, and with the end of my life approaching more visibly than before. ‘The last chapter’ sounds ominous. However, I see an opportunity to write about things I’ve not written about before. Some new, some old. None of it easy.

During the past week I wrote a haiku on most days. I don’t plan to stop that discipline, or writing poetry. I want to let my heart speak to other hearts. I believe that’s what drove Jesus of Nazareth, though some of his words were difficult to hear.

What I practiced giving up for Lent last year is still relevant. This year I’m thinking about it in terms of my writing voice and my desire to let my heart speak to other hearts. I’m using the same litany as my guide:

I let go my desire for security and survival.
I let go my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go my desire for power and control.
I let go my desire to change the situation.

Quoted by Cynthia Bourgeault in Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, p. 147 (Cowley Publications 2004)

As always, thanks for listening.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 February 2018
Image found at twing.com – Living Words

Taking a break to dream

Dear Friends,

I need a break. Not from you, but to listen to my heart and body. I’m serious about being in the last chapter of my life, and want my writing to reflect this without being morose, and without chasing after things that don’t matter that much on any given day.

For several years I’ve wanted to reorganize my home office to make it user-friendly for me as a writer. Today it still reflects my past as an academic and volunteer against human trafficking. Too much stuff hanging around!

So this week, with D’s good help, I’ll get going on that. Most of all, I want to dream about where I’m headed with my writing in the next months and years.

Here’s the bottom line:
I’m not closing down my blog
However, I won’t post anything for at least this coming week

In the meantime I pray that Lent, which begins on Valentine’s Day, will draw us closer to ourselves, to each other and to our amazing Creator who still chooses to walk with and among us daily. Incognito.

Thanks for being here, and for your encouragement.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 February 2018
Image found at barbarabenedettelli.it

Dethroned

The winter Olympics are upon us! So just for today, here are a couple of old photos from my past that tell a bit of a story about my family of one father, one mother and four sisters. Nothing profound, unless you’ve been there and understand the dynamics of being dethroned.

First: I’m the oldest, 10 years old judging by the shape of my body parts. An early bloomer as they said back then. Sister #2 is 8 1/2 years old, and Sister #3 (Diane) is 4 years old. Sister #4 is still a baby. And yes, my hair is in rubber-hive curlers. An attempt to make my hair look pretty.

It’s bad enough to be the first-born dethroned three times by the arrival of baby sisters who suddenly grab all the attention. But to be forced to give up my rightful seat on my brand new adult-size bike when I was 10 years old got my goat. Not that I let it show very much in the photo, but I guarantee you, I’m not happy in photo #2.

Nor is Diane, Sister #3, the youngest in the photo. She has totally checked out of the happy sisters mode and is enduring the shame of having been booted from her larger wheels to this ridiculously tiny baby tricycle. I love her for her honesty. She has her hands defiantly clasped in her lap–not on the handlebars as requested by my father. Sister #2 is being as cooperative as possible, having given up her two wheels for three.

And there I am, boiling with indignation on the inside (yes, I remember this well) but ‘calm’ on the outside, while my mother poses for my father on MY new bike! I wonder what was going through her mind?

Small stuff, you say? Not to me. Which is already more than enough said.

For now, Happy Friday and Happy Winter Olympics! May the best women and men win, and those dethroned be gracious and appropriately distressed.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 February 2018
Photos taken by my father, Fall 1953, in our front yard near Savannah, Georgia

There is a pain — so utter —

Emily Dickinson suggests there’s a pain that’s better left lying, almost forgotten. Else it would destroy the victim, one painful piece at a time. My comments follow her poem.

There is a pain – so utter –
It swallows substance up –
Then covers the Abyss with Trance –
So Memory can step
Around – across – upon it –
As one within a Swoon –
Goes safely – where an open eye –
Would drop Him – Bone by Bone.

c. 1862

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Emily suggests that in spite of extreme pain, we get by thanks to Trance. Like a bandage, Trance covers the wound and the depth of our pain so that Memory can walk safely around or over it. Our eyes are spared the full extent of our pain.

Emily likely has her own pain in mind. In fact, this poem raises again the possibility that someone victimized her when she was a young woman. If so, perhaps her poem is one way of dealing with the horror of seeing (feeling, remembering, reliving) what happened to her. Bone by Bone. One terrifying moment after another. The slow-motion dismemberment of a human spirit, a human being.

Yet this pain is also generic. Not simply something that happened to Emily, but what happens to each of us and all of us. Individually and together. In a thousand permutations.

Perhaps we’re in a Swoon, awake just enough to navigate each day without being brought down by our pain, living in Trance mode. Semi-reality. Semi-truth. Which amounts to untruth, and thus unreality.

I think of the USA and our preference for letting pain lie deep underground while we make our way across and around it. As though it never happened or weren’t that important. Slavery has caused unrecorded, unheard pain to millions. Yet here we are in African American History Month, still unable as a nation, beginning with our leaders, to face this history face-on, with eyes wide open.

We find ways to get by without acknowledging the depth and horror of this and other examples of our national pain. Yet it’s right beneath our feet. Beneath the surface history of our current state of disunion. It seems we’re living in a national epidemic of Trance. We get  by, or so we think, without acknowledging the depth and horror of our pain.

Emily seems to have personal pain in mind. Yet personal pain feeds on and adds to our collective pain. As a nation we like to think we’ve come a long way, and are now beyond the worst. Nonetheless, I see us living the sad and sorry outcomes of unexamined pain lying just beneath the surface of Trance.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 February 2018
Image found at pinterest.com

Living and Loving the Last Chapter

No more unlived history for me. I’m in the last chapter of my life. Which means my last opportunity to live a full life instead of the half-life I’ve often pursued as a good girl/woman.

First, in honor of my mother, I owe myself at least two changes:

  • I must fall in love with myself. For better and for worse; in sickness and in health; for as long as my life shall last; honoring and respecting myself; cherishing my body and honoring my spirit.

I think of it as marrying myself. Loving myself the way God loves me—just as I am. And the way D promised to love me—just as I am. If I can’t do this, my ability to love my neighbors as I love myself is greatly impaired if not dealt the kiss of death.

  • I must relentlessly pursue my dream of being a writer. Not past dreams, but my dream for right now. For this last chapter of my life.

All my adult l life I believed in my skills to help others attain their dreams. I did not believe in my ability to go for large dreams of my own. I was ‘too busy.’ Especially when it came to writing. I was busy giving in to fear, disbelief, and the call of tasks needing to be done.

My mother’s later years included several strange episodes during which she lashed out against my father with language I didn’t know she possessed. To my shock, he backed down. I’m hanging onto those few brilliant moments when I believe my mother put her own well-being and her own wishes first and communicated this in no uncertain terms.

I don’t foresee a fight like this with D. I do, however, foresee standoffs with myself for which I’ll need grit and guts.

Second, I must do for myself what I did for all those 15 boys and men I wanted to impress.

For years, beginning as early as 5th grade, I offered them a list of invaluable services. No cost and no contracts. Why? Because I desperately wanted to feel needed, alive, appreciated, attractive (at least not repulsive), and less lonely.

So what did that look like?

  • A listening ear, empathy and feedback
  • A sounding board for men’s ideas
  • Interest in their lives and their dreams
  • Affection and emotional support
  • Admiration and affirmation of their importance
  • New ideas—mine—free of charge!
  • Proofreading and editing skills
  • Feedback on how to improve their arguments, their writing, their sermons
  • Uncounted smiles and nods of agreement and understanding

In other words, like millions of other women, I gave away what I desperately needed for myself.

Ironically, even though these men affirmed me, I didn’t believe them. Not because they weren’t telling the truth, but because I didn’t believe that in the long-run, what I had to say or write really mattered that much.

Today I’m offering and making available to myself the same tangible and intangible services. Yes, I still have D. His love and loyalty are in place. The missing person in this picture isn’t D. It’s Elouise.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 February 2018
Image found at njculibrary.wordpress.com

Loving the last chapter


Loving the last chapter
Short or long it’s upon me
An uneasy wedding of
For better and for worse

Heavy world-weariness
Creeps in when not looking
Though my heart insists
There’s still love to live

Not yesterday’s love
But today’s and tomorrow’s
My mind leaps up and
Out of bed each morning

Though my body won’t
Go there my heart races
Ahead into undreamed dreams
As unwritten words pile up

A strange sensation this
Knowing but not knowing where
Or how the rest of my life
Will play in this shrinking world

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 February 2018
Image found at shitijbagga.net

the artist’s dream

the artist’s dream
takes an unlikely turn
into the desert

I’ve loved this painting ever since I first saw a version of it. I was shopping for discounted Christmas cards, and found a box full of blank Christmas cards with the sphinx, Mary and the Christ child. It’s still the most beautiful Christmas card I’ve ever seen.

I also love the larger painting. Joseph sprawls exhausted on the ground, head pillowed by a stone. His faithful donkey nibbles at blades of grass, and a small fire burns steady into the clear night air.

Perhaps Joseph is the artist dreaming this vision of unexpected beauty. Or perhaps Mary is dreaming it. Or even the Christ child–for whose life these young parents are fleeing their hometown. Refugees in the desert. Alone but not alone. On the way to Egypt. Taking nothing but themselves. Watched over by a power greater than themselves.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 February 2017
Image of artwork found at wickipedia.com – Rest on the Flight into Egypt 1879, by Luc-Olivier Merson

fake smoke and cold mush

fake smoke
wafting from a thousand fires
signifies nothing

yesterday’s hot memo
is today’s cold mush
tasteless

Is this speaking truth to power? I don’t know. I do know it’s a reminder to myself that my voice matters. Especially now. Not as a way of manipulating reality, but as a way of staying honest and getting on with life at the same time.

Granted, this is life in a strange key. Academics and analysts who study patterns say we in the USA have been moving toward this social/political stand-off for a while. Still, current events are disconcerting. Sometimes it feels like a slow-motion, high-impact train wreck.

Hence my verses above. Spoken because for me, silence won’t do in this climate of intimidation tactics, fake smoke, hot memos and cold, tasteless mush.

Have I given up? Only if I fail to use my voice and cast my vote. And only if I act as though I or some other human being were God or even God’s Special Agent as defined by me.

Sabbath rest sounds like a good idea. Time to acknowledge I’m not in control, and that my voice matters. As does yours. Or, put another way, it’s time to let our lights shine.

Thanks for reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 February 2018
Photo found at nilemuse.blogspot.com

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