Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Death and Dying

Sursum Corda | G. A. Studdert Kennedy

What kind of day did you have so far? Mine was productive, though not the way I thought it would be. Here’s one of my favorite Studdert Kennedy poems. It seemed appropriate, given the state of things today.

*Sursum Corda

There are cowslips in the clearing,
With God’s green and gold ablaze,
And the distant hills are nearing,
Through a sun-kissed sea of haze.

There’s a lilt of silver laughter
In the brook upon its way,
With the sunbeams stumbling after
Like the children at their play.

There’s a distant cuckoo calling
To the lark up in the sky
As his song comes falling, falling
To his nest—a happy sigh.

Sursum Corda! How the song swells
From the woods that smile and nod.
Sursum Corda! Ring the bluebells
Lift ye up your hearts to God.

From The Unutterable Beauty: The Collected Poetry of G. A. Studdert Kennedy, pp. 95-96
First published by Hodder and Stoughton Limited (London, 1927)
Published in 2017 by Pendlebury Press (Manchester, U.K., August 2017)

*Sursum Corda -“Lift up your hearts.” The opening phrase of a traditional Christian liturgy dating back to the 3rd century. Normally used before celebrating the Eucharist.

Can there be beauty in a warzone? Especially with people dying all around, often in prolonged agony.

Studdert Kennedy, also known as Woodbine Willie, wrote this poem during World War I. He served as a chaplain, witnessing and participating in the laments, loneliness, pain and deaths of British soldiers. He dealt with the horror of war by writing poetry.

Many of his poems are heartbreaking. They deal with harsh realities of early 20th century warfare on the ground, and the daily struggles of human beings separated from their families. They also include some reality talk with God. This poem, like a number of others, found something to celebrate. A reason to hope, despite the daily suffering and dying that surrounded everyone.

Even though nature can’t solve all our problems, it’s there for the taking. A gift. Just look around. Lift up the eyes of your heart! In your memory, listen to the birds and admire the bluebells. They’re sending us an invitation to look and listen to the larger picture of nature, not just to our own small worlds.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 August 2020
Image of cowslips found at first-nature.com

weak as water

weak as water
the old woman bends
bowing to the floor
intent on finding
her lost coin

so quickly ages
drift just beyond sight
daring us to recall
or recoil from truth
about the past

Two sides warring with each other. Wanting to know and not wanting to know. Looking and looking away. Betrothed to truth and living in half-truth which is falsehood.

I don’t know any other way to describe what’s happening in me as I work through An American Lament. Yes I knew and I didn’t know about the history of slavery and racism in this country. Yes I want to know more, and please clear the table now. I’ve had enough.

Do I regret beginning this journey? No. Yet the internal duel shines a spotlight on what’s at stake, and challenges me. Not as a reader or leader, but as a white follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, a Jew, son of Mary and Joseph, on his way to die as a criminal would die.

Is this really what I want (with all my heart) to do with my one precious life?

Prayers for wisdom, courage and grace in these troubled times,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 August 2020
Image found at freebibleimages.org

I’ve been weakened by the walls I’ve built | James DePreist

DePreist’s star along Portland, Oregon’s Main Street Walk of Stars

James DePreist is on my mind again, thanks to a note from a long-time friend. DePreist was a world-renowned orchestra conductor, a survivor of polio contracted while conducting the Bangkok Symphony, and a nephew of his world-renowned Aunt Marian Anderson. He was born in Philadelphia in 1936.

DePreist died in 2013. You can read about his life in The New York Times obituary or on Wikipedia. At the time of his death, he had been conductor of the Oregon Symphony in Portland, Oregon since 1980.  He had also written two volumes of poetry in his own free style.

Of all his poems, this one has challenged me most. Not just in the past, but today. Given our current situation regarding Black Lives, and Covid-19, it resonates loudly. A timely invitation to examine walls I’ve built, and deal with questions now “breeching my barricades.”

I’ve been weakened by the walls I’ve built,
robbed
of strength-drenched testing,
protected into an unprepared defense
of self.
Failing in my futile fortress to see
contentment’s numbing trap
I
answerless
must battle the questions now breeching
my barricades.

Poem written by James DePreist
©1986 and published by University of Portland Press in This Precipice Garden, p. 6

This is where I find myself today. Answerless. Not so much for my childhood upbringing in Georgia, but for my adult years when I thought I knew better.

While it’s true we never know how much good we’ve done, it’s also true we never know how much pain or damage we’ve inflicted. And then there’s always the question about now. What now? What next? How must I change, what will it cost, and what will I gain?

Thanks, as always, for visiting and reading. I pray you’re finding ways to deal with questions now breeching your barricades.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 August 2020
Image found at en.wickipedia.org

The dam has been leaking for years

In honor of Covid-19 victims in the USA, from NBC News

The dam has been leaking for years
Giving up secrets great and small
Holding back others for fear
They’ll be rejected or tossed into
Another bin of bankrupt fake news
Now delivered daily from the top down
Burnished with self-righteous contempt
For humanity and all self-evident
Truths now being exposed as lies

The so-called mighty are falling
Taken down by the truth of a virus
Delivered daily without fanfare
And without so much as a knock
On the door or nod to fake protocols
Of a society already drowning in
A flood of its own making

One day at a time
One human being at a time
One lust for wealth at a time
One unanswered call for help at a time
One refusal to repent at a time

***

I don’t feel defeated. I feel lost. And challenged to change, thanks to Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter.

I’m relieved to be one of many citizens immersing themselves in the untold, untaught, neglected history of how we in the USA got to this point. How can it be that we still don’t honor and practice equal rights for each citizen of this nation?

So yes, I’m feeling lost in my own backyard, though not without hope. The kind that feeds on truth, and grows a bit stronger each day.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 August 2020
Image found at abcnews.go.com

It’s not just the Corona virus — bad theology is killing us

During the last few months I’ve been listening to/reading what Black church leaders are saying. It isn’t pretty. We here in the great USA have made our bed. Now we’re sleeping and dying in it (especially if you happen to be black or brown) whether we like it or not.

I’m a theologian and a follower of Jesus Christ. I care about the so-called guiding principles of government, AND the guiding heart of our government and its citizens. Especially, though not only those citizens who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.

The current disaster has been building ever since our forefathers and foremothers arrived or were forcibly brought to this country. Bad theology didn’t cause the Corona virus. Rather, the reality of living and dying in the USA with the Corona virus makes clear what’s been at stake from the very beginning. White supremacy. And, in particular, well-to-do white wealth and access to healthcare, housing, jobs…. This didn’t happen overnight.

The title at the top is from a statement by Reverend William H. Lamar IV, Pastor of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. Whether you’re a follower of Jesus Christ or not, please read his clear, bold statement. Well worth the few minutes it will take to read it. Just click on his opening line:

There comes a time when being nice is the worst kind of violence.

Praying you’ll have a fruitful day with moments of peace, plus strength to do what’s right.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 July 2020
Photo of Rev. William H. Lamar IV found at nbcnews.com

strange and stranger

The last two weeks have been strange and stranger. This morning I set aside time to review instructions for an appointment to get yet another unhealthy bit of my skin removed. The amount of paperwork I just tried to wade through was ridiculous. Legalese from beginning to end.

It reminded me yet again that our health-care system has become a bastion of data (often not correctly entered). It has also become a frighteningly verbose machine responsible for staving off legal challenges that might properly be brought against medical facilities or personnel.

If it’s so dysfunctional for me, it must be totally dysfunctional for thousands of citizens or visitors in this so-called “land of the free and home of the brave.” I say the brave people are those who, against all odds, just keep going. Health care or no health care.

We’re not the nation we’ve been told we are. Nor is our data safe in so-called ‘secure’ records that could be highjacked in a heartbeat. Sadly,  many informal health-giving personal connections we used to have are fraying, some beyond repair.

In the midst of this, POTUS is showing up again behind his Covid-19 pulpit in the White House. His latest campaign strategy. I’d rather hear from Governors of states dealing with tough facts and truth about Covid-19, whether their citizens agree or not. It’s sad when a disbeliever in Covid dies of Covid. Yet it happens every day, and too many still think this is much ado about nothing. Fake Covid-19.

D is driving me into downtown Philly on Friday to get this bit of skin removed and analyzed further. Am I apprehensive? Yes and no. I’m not happy about having this procedure yet again. Still, I know and trust this doctor. My worst apprehensions are about navigating the medical center in downtown Philly–getting in and getting out. As quickly as possible. With my trusty chauffeur at the wheel!

Right now I’m going to get my disgustingly healthy smoothie lunch together, and think about doing a proper (or improper!) post for tomorrow.

Cheers for showing up and reading!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 July 2020
Photo of Love Park in Philadelphia found at flickr.com

Thank you, John Lewis

Today has been more than a bit somber. My most recent burning memory of Representative John Lewis is his sterling leadership during last fall’s Congressional impeachment investigation of Donald Trump. The 5-minute video above shows him supporting further impeachment investigation.

And now Mr. Lewis is gone. He was the last Black leader living who participated in the 1963 March on Washington, shortly before the 1963 Civil Rights Act became the law of the land. In his speech (below) he clarifies his opposition to the legislation.

The young Lewis is speaking to citizens gathered in Washington to demand racial justice. John Kennedy was President. As you can hear, John Lewis wasn’t one to tone things down. He speaks without apology, and without pretending the proposed legislation was what Black people needed. He was correct.

This nation has lost one of its true patriots. If you’d like to read and hear more, Vox has posted six speeches (including the two above) that capture John Lewis’ remarkable service to this country. You can find them here.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 July 2018
Videos found on YouTube 

Lost in a maze of hallways

In August 2015 I wrote and never posted this poem. Prompted by a dream, it describes my inner sense of disorientation as a new blogger. I wanted and needed to tell the truth. Still, I was uncertain how to proceed, how to find my way home to myself.

Today, as a citizen of the USA, I’m in another maze of hallways. I’m not in a dream. I’m disoriented. Wondering where the exit might be. Not just for me, but for all of us. Our nation is in turmoil, anguish and pain. Denial won’t work. Neither will a constant diet of diversionary tactics, or fake promises about tomorrow.

I’m wide awake lost in a maze of hallways
filled with small shops and out-of-sight
merchandise if only I will give up my
determination to find the exit and go home.

The young man with me seems happy to
be there smiling at me while dragging
his feet and holding me back with his
nonchalant air of everything’s fine just fine.

It is not fine. I know it. I feel it. I keep
looking around searching for the way out
I know this mall. I’ve been here before.
What happened to all the old landmarks?

Doors are locked. Other doors open onto
new hallways filled with glittering shops
and female shopkeepers smiling and asking
for my attention and presence. Won’t I stay?

I seek help from a woman standing in the
doorway of a small shop. She assures me
I’m not lost and will find the exit if I keep going
Her words soothe but fail to help me.

I wake up troubled not anxious yet
eager to know the meaning of this
frustratingly endless dream lost
in a maze of diversions going nowhere

So what about today? In my real world? So far: A walk with D through the neighborhood, writing, pondering challenging material about white racism in USA churches, along with a Psalm of Lament. On the whole I’m feeling grounded, and grateful for friends and family members. Which includes Smudge, of course!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 August 2015; posted on 15 July 2020
Image found at pinterest.com

Living and Dying in Fake History

Lift up your eyes,
not your voices—
Weep with those who weep

Open your ears
to strangers

Resuscitate your heart
grown still and cold from neglect

Or have we already sold our souls
for greenbacks, glory
and false faith in firearms?

Listen

Hear the voice of our Creator
lamenting loudly over
distant hearts
grown accustomed to
the way we thought things were
yet will never be
in this life or the next

I’m in the process of reading several accounts of national history, including church history. Each study corrects fake history written to silence victims, and glorify victors who were as human as we are, and less than pure in their motives. They raise the obvious question: How did we get here centuries and decades later? And what must we do next if we want something better?

Reading won’t magically change the way I am in the world. Hopefully I’ll think more clearly and act with greater intent.

In addition, my soul won’t be in it if I haven’t also lamented loudly, listened silently, asked questions, meditated on what I see and hear, and make changes in my lifestyle.

What’s happening today isn’t just a matter of historical data or who we want to be the next POTUS. It’s about the content of our character, beginning with me and with you. How willing are we to stand up before friend and foe alike, on behalf of new friends and strangers?

Easier said (or written about) than done. But as they say rather glibly these days, “We’re all in this together.” Aren’t we?

Happy Monday, despite the lopsided agonies of Covid-19, the struggle against Black Lives Matter, and the failure of POTUS to lead by example. Which doesn’t let us off the hook.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 July 2020
Quote found at azitanahai.com

haunted streets and swollen cathedrals

The Conversion of Saint Augustine of Hippo
by Fra Angelico, between 1430 and 1435

signs and symbols
of wealth and poverty
thrown together
in a mixed stew
of pride and prejudice
haunt the streets
and swollen cathedrals
of life and death

take your pick
it’s free or
at least as painless
as possible
this habit of
indulging while
looking elsewhere
as though this
just happened
out of the blue

yes sir
no sir
thank you ma’am
and excuse me
for a moment if
I digress
to point out
obvious trinkets
decorating the outside
contaminating the inside
sick unto death

false pride and bankrupt prejudice
bursting now on streets
and in back alleys
everywhere

This is a comment on public or private displays of spite and outrage over what isn’t working well in this nation. And yet….so much needs to change. What’s a body to do? Yes to pointed protests. And what about our inner lives?

Augustine of Hippo leaves no space for disinterested onlookers or commentators on world or local history. In City of God, he suggests that every war ‘out there’ is at least an invitation, if not a mirror in which we are to discern our personal (invisible) wars. To his credit, he was at least as hard on himself as he was on anyone else.

This means my past as a white woman matters. Somewhere in me I still have unresolved warfare, some raging since my childhood. Other pieces were stirred up along the way. Life isn’t simply a gift to unwrap and enjoy in a personal orgy of bliss. It’s also an invitation to face hard truths about myself and my relationships.

Do I like this? Not necessarily. It’s difficult and time-consuming. The work of a lifetime. Right now the focus is on my inherited ‘whiteness,’ and how I’ve dealt with it (or not), and what comes next. What does it mean to tell the truth about that?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 July 2020
Image found at wickipedia.com

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