Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Spiritual Formation

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

The Fist | Mary Oliver

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for yet another challenging poem. I imagine you watching us, willing us to do better. My comments follow your poem.

The Fist

There are days
when the sun goes down
like a fist,
though of course

if you see anything
in the heavens
in this way
you had better get

your eyes checked
or, better still,
your diminished spirit.
The heavens

have no fist,
or wouldn’t they have been
shaking it
for a thousand years now,

and even
longer than that,
at the dull, brutish
ways of mankind—

heaven’s own
creation?
Instead: such patience!
Such willingness

to let us continue!
To hear,
little by little,
the voices—

only, so far, in
pockets of the world—
suggesting
the possibilities

of peace?
Keep looking.
Behold, how the fist opens
with invitation.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver, poem found on pp. 46-47 of Thirst,
Published by Beacon Press

Dear Mary Oliver,

I don’t know where to begin. Things are such a mess down here since you left. And still the sun goes down, often in blazes of glory that fade and then, right on time, return the next day.

Never resting, really. Just moving on to circle this war-weary earth every 24 hours so everyone knows we haven’t been left to our own devices, or shut down due to human failure.

As if it weren’t amazing enough to see the sun setting, songbirds join in the morning sunrise chorus. Especially in spring when their hormones seem to go wild with passion. Or at least the urge to procreate.

This morning I watched with disbelief as a fat red robin jumped into a pan of freezing cold water and splashed away before running off to pursue a female robin. Just two minutes later, a small gray junco did the same thing even though, as you know, they don’t procreate here in Pennsylvania. Are they crazy? Do they know something I don’t know, sitting behind my kitchen window, shivering?

There’s so much we don’t know right now. Why did this person got Covid and die while that person didn’t? Or why did my friend die who didn’t have Covid at all?

When I was growing up, they said most brutish behaviors were about lack of self-control. Today I’d say most of our crazy choices seem to be about fear. Not fear of Covid, but fear of having our “rights” taken away. I’m sorry to say we don’t seem to be softening as a nation, cleaning up our brutish ways, or finding our places in this strange world.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all accept the sun’s invitation? I imagine us jumping into the cold water together to clean our tired bodies and revive our aching souls.

I hope you’re doing well today. And please, pray for us as you’re able.

Your admirer,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 March 2021
Sun setting over a city found at wallpaperaccess.com

 

 

Who am I now?

My computer screen
Is as blank as my mind
Weary and disoriented

Even the weather
Can’t decide whether
It’s mid-winter or early spring

Days pass in a chaotic
Parade of not knowing the
End from the beginning

Inviting me to look beyond
Myself and my small world
To the dead and the dying

Since early March 2020, I’ve taken Covid-19 restrictions seriously. I’ve also had both shots, so I’m now in a relatively safe category. Plus I’m white, have a retirement income, and live in a relatively safe neighborhood.

So how do I assess what’s good and right for me to do with regard to Covid-19? Are we at a turning point for the better? Or are we on the verge of yet another spike in deaths and confirmed cases? What about the majority of citizens who haven’t received a vaccination?

Or from another angle, have we begun an undeclared war in this country? A war in which Covid-19 attitudes and behaviors stand in for Us against Them? A war in which winning is defined by overt defiance, fake bravado, and making the headlines?

Nation-wide, I wonder what our churches and religious organizations are doing today to push back against the kind of thinking that helped get us into this mess in the first place.

Yes, we had a POTUS who failed the test of leadership when we most needed it. Now we have President Biden and a new team. However, it takes an entire country to meet a pandemic crisis head on. This includes churches and church leaders with guts and vision to do what still needs to be done.

To our chagrin, we are not a country that offers liberty and justice for all. Strangely, we have Covid-19 to thank for making this unwelcome truth painfully visible. So what can we do about this as individuals?

Just some of what’s going through my mind these days. More questions than answers. How about you?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 March 2021
Illustration by Brian Stauffer for foreignpolicy.com

Thirst

This August 2017 post caught my heart today. Perhaps it will catch yours. We seem to be running out of our hoarded resources. 

Thirst
consumes me
parches my soul
throttles energy
makes me wary
cautious
lest I lose
one precious drop

Hoarding
sets in like drought
grows and multiplies
invades every
vein in my body
sucks me dry
prepares me
for death

Gasping
I refuse
to relinquish
what is mine
by right and law
wrung from
this earth by
my own hands

Heedless
I rush headlong
into a desert
of my making

No one
looks my way
or offers
one precious drop

***

Here’s another option from the prophet Isaiah:

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,
your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me,
and eat what is good,

and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Isaiah 55:1-2 (New International Version)

I’ve been thinking about the way we seem to be turning inward. Supposedly protecting ourselves and our own, lest something terrible happens and we’re left high, dry and more vulnerable than ever. But I wonder.

Ironically, the best way to ensure disaster may well be to shut down our hearts and hang onto our assets, however meager they may be.

This isn’t about political parties, racial identity or religious beliefs. It’s about our common humanity. The capacity in each of us that’s capable of welcoming and providing hospitality to strangers. And the capacity to receive hospitality from others.

It isn’t easy. We’re never promised success, safety or survival for ourselves or others. We are, however, promised the satisfaction of receiving and passing on small bits of grace and gratitude. Some of those tiny drought-proof seeds that grow only when they’re given away.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 August 2017; reposted on 15 March 2021
Image found at feelgrafix.com

Third Sunday in Lent | Teresa of Avila

Yesterday an email from a friend sent me looking for prayers by Teresa of Avila. The prayer below is for anyone who’s growing older. Especially those of us closer to the senior citizen bracket.

Even if you’re not yet a senior, I urge you to read on. Without being morbid, the prayer below lays bare in a delightful way (is this possible?) the challenges and difficulties of being a senior citizen.

On Growing Older – a prayer from Teresa of Avila

Lord, You know better than I myself
that I am growing older and will someday be old.
Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking
I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to
straighten out everybody’s affairs.
Make me thoughtful but not moody;
helpful but not bossy.

With my vast store of wisdom,
it seems a pity not to use it all;
but You know, Lord,
that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details;
give me wings to get to the point.

Seal my lips on my aches and pains;
they are increasing, and love of rehearsing them
is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

I dare not ask for improved memory,
but for a growing humility and a lessening cock-sureness
when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet, for a sour old person
is one of the crowning works of the devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places
and talents in unexpected people;
and give, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.

To read this online, click here.

Recently I posted a prayer for Lent. This prayer from Teresa of Avila fills out in painful detail what that prayer means.

May God grant each of us grace to age well. And for those already well along in years, grace to offer the next generations the kind of attention we longed for when we were very young.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 March 2021
Peter Paul Rubens’ painting of Teresa Avila found at wikimedia.org

when life goes south

when life goes south
as they love to say
the weary get up
and get going

anywhere
it doesn’t matter
just so there’s
a sunrise tomorrow

and stars above
when evening calls
to carry me away
beyond these hollows

seeking to prepare
I don my travel clothes
now old and worn
from years of waiting

in the distance
a lone owl sings
its screeching song
chilling my weary bones

Time is short no matter when it began.

Signs of old age are incontrovertible. Also not to be argued: I’m in the exit line. How close to the last moment of the last day or night? I don’t know. But I’m feeling it. Partly due to pandemic unknowns. But more because of a year of not being the ordinary human being I think I was in February 2020.

It’s never too early or late to prepare for the end. In fact, I’d argue that something like preparation begins the moment we’re born into this world, whether we realize it or not.

Today the sun is out, still melting mounds of stubborn snow in our back yard. Our resident pigeon pair is already hoping for an early-bird hatching. A male red-wing blackbird has been visiting our feeder along with all the other regulars. A good day for an afternoon walk. Time is short, and I love life.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 March 2021
Image found at forbes.com

misaligned | Int’l Women’s Day

Claude Monet, Poppy Fields near Argenteuil

I posted this three years ago. Sadly, things haven’t changed for the better. If anything, Covid-19 and four years of growing neglect, abuse, and animosity toward women have made things worse. Not just in the USA, but worldwide. This is for women everywhere, and the men who support and care about them:

in the waiting room
perfectly aligned paintings
greet the misaligned

I’m back at the physical therapy center, sitting in the waiting room. Directly across from me, above a row of chairs, hang two huge paintings. Doubtless chosen for their ability to calm and reassure patients bearing all kinds of physical misalignments. Most patients are women.

The paintings are meticulously hung and feature lovely outdoor scenes. Expansive, bucolic and natural without being overly sentimental. Unobtrusive  gentle colors and bright sunshiny days.

Nothing to rattle our nerves or make us wonder about untold stories or what might happen next. No storms brewing in the background. No signs of aging structures or broken-down bridges. All is serene.

The haiku, written several weeks ago, came to mind this morning as I scrolled through photos celebrating International Women’s Day. If even a few of these photos were hung on walls in our public spaces, what would happen? Here are three that caught my eye.

Bhubaneswar, India – Sand Sculpture by Manas Sahoo

Thane, India – Fashion Show by Acid Attack Survivors

Dhaka, Bangladesh – March in support of Int’l Women’s Day 

Never underestimate the power of women. Especially when we’re in one accord on just one thing we need. Equal status as human beings.

This means equal status in a society that honors each woman and girl as a full human being, regardless of color, country of origin, economic or social class, religion, or marital status. Not a fraction of a human being, but 100 percent human. Welcomed into every room in the house without having to wear masks, special clothes, smiles or makeup on our faces, or anything that signals we are less valued than men or boys.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2018, reposted 8 March 2021
Monet painting found at quadrosetelas.com.br
International Women’s Day photos found at Getty Images

Living with loss

It’s always in my face
until it isn’t anymore
With a smirk and a sigh
energy slides to the floor
of my waning ambitions

Time races by
without much effort
as I sit watching birds
and freezing rain
drift through the air

It’s time for lavender crocus
to push their sweet petals
through layers of packed snow
now coating the back yard
like a fake movie set

I sit at the kitchen table
reluctant to move
taking in the calm of
a day just begun
despite my growing lassitude

I must admit to a case of weariness. Physical, mental, emotional weariness.

I don’t mind messes. In fact, I’m challenged by them. I used to enjoy sorting things out into neat piles. Not for my own pleasure, but because things go better when they’re arranged in a sensible way. So we know who’s who and where things are and how to access truth.

We seem to have less sense than usual about us these days. Not as individuals, but as citizens of these weary, mostly disunited states. It isn’t too much to say we’re in a hunkered down war-like posture. We’ve been there for decades, growing wearier by the day.

No one has declared open warfare, though we’ve come close. On a regular day, those who feel the heat most often are our best barometers. Women, children, the unemployed, prisoners, immigrants, and sometimes anyone who lingers too long to watch the sunset.

It feels as though our government has become the new war zone that guarantees we’ll not cross over to the ‘enemy.’

And yet, for this and much more, Jesus of Nazareth turned his face toward his enemies and toward death. One wearying day after another.

I pray we’ll find reason to hope not in ourselves, but in a power greater than we are. Even though it means learning to die.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 March 2021
Photo found at gardeningknowhow.com

Human rights and Women’s rights

Days of disorientation verging on despair
Parade in and out of my life
Uninvited

Meanwhile Trumpian unrealities
Sink ever deeper roots
into the great swamp of male privilege

I don’t know how to document this. I’m sure there’s a way, and that it’s already being done. I just want to know why all the uproar about human rights seems blind to the rights of all women in the USA.

This isn’t just about color. It isn’t even about income or educational status.

It’s about backbreaking expectations that women of all colors can and will do all things all the time with or without children, with or without a fair, steady income, and with or without adequate representation in every branch of our government and our judicial system. Yes, it feels like a run-on sentence because it’s already a run-on recipe for disaster.

The laundry list of virtual slaps in the faces of women and girls continues to grow. Comments and so-called jokes; growing numbers of men feeding the MeToo movement; the rapid disappearance of adequate medical support for women and girls; unequal pay for women doing the same work men do.

None of this is new. What’s distressing is the obvious, in-your-face deconstruction of equal support for females of any color.

Yes, we have a huge race issue here in the USA. And yes, the color of our female skin matters wherever we go, whether we like it or not.

Still, women living in poverty or hand-to-mouth are as likely to be white as black or brown. The current argument over our non-living wage (in most states) is disheartening, though being female in the USA is about more than a living wage.

We deserve politicians and judges that include women and men of all colors, fully representative of females as well as males, united by their opposition to outrages committed against women and girls every day of the week. Is this too much to expect?

This is also an issue for our churches and neighborhoods. Yes, people might get tired of hearing about the same thing over and over. Then again, perhaps our silence is asking women and girls of all colors to get used to living with the same thing over and over.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 March 2021
Photo found at pewresearch.org

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