Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Writing

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

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

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

What I’m thinking about | 2020 Election

How are you doing today?

I’ve been better. This week is still a roller coaster, though I’ve kept busy with other things than the election. Here’s what I’m thinking about today. (No, the photo above is not a mistake! Read on.)

First, the drama playing out right now is sobering. Am I paying attention? Or am I caught up in the number of votes tallied so far. No matter who is named the next POTUS, this election is as much about us as it is about the candidates. What will that mean for our efforts post-election?

Second, I can’t remember another election in which citizens had to wait in long lines for so many hours to cast their votes. Why weren’t their regular voting places made available? Voter suppression is real. It’s about who’s in power, where you live, the color of your skin, the size of your income and more. All those long lines weren’t just unfortunate realities. Will we ever correct this?

Third, Trump has shown and will keep showing his true colors. Unfortunately, so have many churches that seem wed to Mr. Trump no matter what he does. The slow roll-out of votes and tallies has opened a window to realities I’d rather not hear or see. One of them is the church. What is the church these days? When is a ‘church’ not a church, but a political player with a political agenda?

On Monday of this week I had a routine appointment with my cardiologist. As it happened, he and his associates had just moved out of a wonderful suite of offices in a large hospital. They’re now near the hospital, in what was the chapel for the seminary I served for 28 years. (See above.)

Walking into the front doors was a shock. The beautiful, graceful chapel now had a set of small offices dropped into it. I could see parts of the soaring ceiling, and the top third of the soaring windows that graced each side of the chapel. I couldn’t help tearing up. Nothing was the same.

That night I woke up at about 2am and had a good cry for what was and will never again be. Today, my hope for this election is that we’ll find a way to finally care about who we say we are. One nation under God, with liberty and justice for ALL.

Watching for whatever comes next,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 November 2020
Photo found at hippostcard.com

sweet hush of silence

sweet hush of silence
fills the old woman’s ear
lulling her to sleep

I wrote this haiku just before I went to bed last night. Not because it’s fun (though it is!), but because the process requires focus on the present moment. Letting go of everything. Beginning to ‘see’ what’s staring me in the face. A gift, waiting for me to acknowledge its presence and then capture the moment on paper.

On 1 December 2017 I wrote my first haiku. It’s in my first haiku mini-notebook with about 100 others. Here’s what I wrote that day.

silence descends
over dismal swamp —
a child weeps

Though I haven’t written one a day for many months, I’m drawn to them during our current upheavals: Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, Climate Change, Loss of Protected Habitat, Building the “Wall” and Divide and Conquer moves having babies.

Gail Sher wrote one of the most helpful books I’ve read about writing. It’s called One Continuous Mistake. Actually, the title is about life and writing. Without mistakes, how will we learn? How will we discover and accept our humanity?

Haiku opens up insights and connections I wouldn’t otherwise notice. I’m not an expert. Still, I’m fascinated by the way writing haiku helps me see deeply into what’s in front of me, especially in nature and in human nature.

These days, writing haiku beats the TV screen, ubiquitous radio news feeds, and photos used to create shock, if not awe. It also reminds me that this is not my final home. I’m coming to feel more comfortable about being a wayfaring stranger passing through this life. Haiku helps me look for more than meets my eye.

Hanging in there with all of you. I can’t wait until this election is over, if not done with. Then the real work can begin, no matter who becomes the next POTUS.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 November 2020
Book cover image found at amazon.com

How do we vote for this earth?

This gorgeous photo is a tiny reminder of how much our climate is changing. Whether you’re a climate change believer or not, one thing is clear. Fire with a mind and life of its own is taking us down.

I’m not a climate scientist. I’ve been on this earth for nearly 77 years. Yet I’ve never seen so many apocalyptic-like fires ravaging the West Coast and middle states. To say nothing of drought, flooding, and the invasion of insects and pesticides that suck the life out of trees, crops and human beings.

This election isn’t just about who our leaders will be. It’s about this earth, and what we’re leaving to children and young adults.

We’re not Adam and Eve. We are, however, the current keepers of this earth, whether we like it or not. The next generations are already reaping the whirlwind we’ve unleashed on this planet. Do we know how to vote for this earth?

This topic wasn’t on my mind when I got up this morning. But being faced with Word Press’s latest surprise (no more automatic classic editor), I decided to face the music and see what I could do. I like simple. I like uncomplicated. Neither of those seems true of the Grand New WP Plan for my writing life!

Hoping your day is chugging along without unexpected reminders of how old and retro you are! Actually, I remember when retro was cool….

Elouise♥

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 October 2020
Image found at unsplash.com

 

What it looks like to be brave

This is my first attempt to clarify what it looks like for me to be brave today.

Being brave means

  • Not second-guessing myself or my language.
  • Not wondering whether people will like or believe what I say or write.

Given my age and health, bravery is chiefly about spoken and written speech.

  • How willing am I to be blunt, no matter who is listening/reading?
  • How willing am I to become a learner, not just by reading books, but by listening to what others say about me as a white citizen of the USA?

Signs I’m being brave:

  • Giving up more rules for good white girls and women, enforced directly and indirectly since the day I was born
  • Engaging in conversation or not, as I choose
  • Taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually
  • Speaking my mind and engaging in conversations that matter
  • Feeling both clear and out of control

Being brave isn’t measured by

  • What my father would say or think
  • What my church friends, pastor, or former colleagues and students would say or think
  • What my readers think about what I write

So what’s at stake?

  • It isn’t whether we can get along.
  • It’s whether white citizens of the USA are willing to look into our long history of racism without making excuses or trying to explain things away.
  • It’s also whether churches and religious institutions will take racism seriously, no matter whether they supported it directly or indirectly.

It’s also about

  • What I do or write in response to what I’m learning and seeing daily.
  • Being clear about what I need to hear about from the pulpit regarding racism.

In the final analysis, the goal isn’t to change other people. It’s to change me.

Thanks for visiting, reading, and commenting if you’d like!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 October 2020
Quotation found at pinterest.com

This uncivil war

Up and down
All over the map
Ecstatic one moment
Discouraged the next
Willing myself
To get up in the morning
And begin yet again

So many opportunities
So little time
So little access
To things I think I need

How will it all turn out?
Does it really matter?
Is my small loaf without fish
Enough for today?

A million questions
Race through my mind
As life falls apart
And trash piles up
Just outside my
Window on the world

Deep inside I know
Only a brutal housecleaning
Will tame this deadly nightmare
Of consequences we now
Live to regret
One day at a time

Is the American Dream dead? Can we survive this uncivil war? Actually, we’ve been fighting it from the beginning. Today we can watch the latest episodes unfold right before our eyes, thanks to ever-present news media, and unnumbered sources of information and dis-information.

If you’ve visited my blog during the last several years, you know I’m not a fan of Mr. Trump. Tragically, what we see today is in keeping with everything we already knew about him.

Yet in the middle of it all, there are opportunities for people of good will to work together on issues that have scarred our hearts and souls from the beginning. The evidence is clear. White citizens like you and like me disenfranchised and brutally murdered American Indians, exploited and terrorized slaves night and day, and serially mistreated every ethnic minority that has set foot in this country willingly or unwillingly.

Surely we can come up with another way of going at this. One day at a time. One risk at a time. Pondering our next moves. Not alone, but with others hungry for change. Giving up something of value in order to receive something much better.

After all, white people and their black and brown neighbors also have a history of resisting evil. Even in the most tragic circumstances. What might we learn from and with each other?

Praying for courage to change the things I can. No more and no less.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 September 2020
Azar Nafisi quote found at http://www.idlehearts.com

Are you a pioneer?

Starting from scratch
And working her butt off
Dreaming of something
From ashes or nothing at all
She listens and suggests

From behind
From the back row
Occasionally from the podium
Often without a map
Or a mentor

Doing what needs to be done
Bringing people together
Focusing on the end game
Encouraging without pretending
All is well when it is not

Searching endlessly
For ways around roadblocks
Listening calmly to contrarians
Then opting for creativity
Rather than neat outlines

Taking risks small and large
Living with consequences
Finding a way forward
Through next steps
All this and more

Who is this woman?
Do I recognize her?
Try looking in the mirror.

Several days ago a friend of many years challenged me to do two things.

  • First, read a letter I received in the 1960s. It was from Erwin N. Griswold, former Dean of Harvard Law School. He left to serve as Solicitor General of the USA under President Lyndon Johnson. Mr. Griswold sent the letter on the occasion of my retiring as a secretary in the Dean’s Office. He couldn’t be there for the party. I still weep when I read it. You can read it here.
  • Second, make a list of all the ways I’ve been a pioneer. I was flabbergasted. I’ve sometimes thought of myself as ‘the first’ this or that. I’ve never thought of myself as a pioneer. Yet, as my friend pointed out, I’ve been in a wilderness often, which is precisely where the food is.

Yesterday I spent all morning working on the meaning of ‘pioneer’ and making a list. Four things are clear to me today.

  1. I was and still am a pioneer. Not just in my family, but in churches, in classrooms, in positions of leadership, and in my volunteer work with Dawn’s Place.
  2. Ever since I was born I’ve gone against the flow, internally if not externally.
  3. A recent serendipitous encounter with a Black woman in Georgia is important, not just ‘happenstance.’
  4. This is what I’m to focus on in this last part of my life. Not being a pioneer, but doing what I can to support the next generation of pioneers.

How do you think about yourself? Are you a pioneer? The short clip at the top is outstanding. Especially if you aren’t sure what a pioneer looks like.

Happy Tuesday, and a huge Thank You for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 September 2020
Video found on YouTube

On the death of many things

It’s the day after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death, and centuries after our founders declared themselves the owners of what did not belong to them.

troubled in her soul
the old woman weighs options
floating through her head

the clock ticks and chimes
outside cars rush by on wheels
today’s news falls heavy

even this poem
doesn’t know where to begin
or end

The arrival of Covid-19 turned the world into a tinder box. It also put on display the arrogance and ignorance of POTUS. Sadly, we’ve become accustomed to daily lies and innuendos, spread by all means possible.

Due to Covid-19 realities, I‘m in a boat with many senior citizens. Will there be a reliable, affordable vaccination before I die? In the meantime, writing has become my link to myself and to the world.

Late last week I had a particularly teary day, and went to bed feeling powerless. Even though reading books, writing, and working on An American Lament are important, I still felt restless and discouraged, especially in light of Black Lives Matter.

The next morning I checked my blogsite and found a comment. The commenter had been doing research on a slave market in her town, and stumbled on Haunted, an old photo and poem I published in August 2019. I teared up. Not because she left a comment, but because of what she said about herself and about the connection she felt with me. She lives in Deep South Georgia. The old slave market has become an issue. Will it remain in the center of town?

We talked on the phone this week. As a consequence, I’m turning another corner in my life. I spent most of my childhood and youth in the Deep South. I was, and still am determined to be my own person. I want to do what I can before I die. This unexpected connection is talking to me, pushing me. Some things can’t wait.

Besides, what better way to honor the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, along with the courage of Black citizens standing up for what’s right for all of us.

Thanks for visiting.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 September 2020
Image of the road ahead found at airstream.com

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