Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Christian Faith

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

Thank you, Marian Anderson

 

Today is the anniversary of Marian Anderson’s birth in 1897. You may remember that James DePreist, musician and poet, was her nephew. Some might even remember that she was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ms. Anderson died on  April 8, 1993.

This morning I watched and listened to a number of YouTube videos. Most focused on Anderson’s amazing voice. After listening to more than one recording of “They Crucified My Lord,” I chose the one you see above. It isn’t dressed up, and we don’t hear or see the audience. Instead, we’re invited to hear and feel the full weight of Anderson’s interpretation. One tragic note at a time.

I hear connections between Anderson’s interpretation of this song and James Cone’s book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree.  Not just in the music itself, but in her subdued yet determined delivery of the song. Often followed by silence from the audience.

I wonder. How many white people felt pierced in their hearts, as I do now, when they heard and saw her interpretation of it? We’ll never know. However, the fact that this song was often met with silence instead of enthusiastic hand-clapping suggests the message was clear to all.

Jesus of Nazareth didn’t say a ‘mumbling word’ and was known to be innocent of charges brought against him. It follows that we dare not applaud this travesty (lynching in its changing costumes) that continues to haunt us in the USA.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 February 2021
Image and song thanks to YouTube.com

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When Death Comes | Mary Oliver

Death is on my mind. Not just because we’re in the season of Lent, but because it’s impossible to escape death. Here’s Mary Oliver’s take on death. My brief comments follow.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

© 1992 by Mary Oliver, published by Beacon Press
From New and Selected Poems, Volume One (pub. 1992), pp. 10-11

It’s impossible to get through Lent without pondering death. Not just the death of Jesus of Nazareth, but my own death. How do I prepare to die?

Writing about death helps. So does revisiting deaths of family members and friends. Also, acknowledging holes in my life that will never be filled. And my own fear of dying before I think I’m ready.

So what does it mean to live each day as potentially my last day on this earth? Mary suggests I pay attention to the now of this world. Become more than a visitor. Become amazed at this world and its inhabitants. Especially those flowers of the field that have put up with the likes of us from the very beginning.

As for going through what Mary calls the “the door” of death, yes, I’m curious. Though not as curious as Mary. Still, the focus is today, the only way to prepare for tomorrow.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 February 2021
Image found at wwwreligionlac.net

Life shrinks daily | Lent 2021

Is it not enough
That I have survived?
That You have never
Turned away from me?

Life shrinks daily
A wrenching letting go
Of many things

Masks and pandemic protocols
Shroud me in a deathlike dream
From which I cannot wake
Before the next stanza
Takes me down

The sun is out today, though the air is still below freezing. White mounds of snow look like small mountain tops invading the back yard. The birds are basking in chilly sun, taking their turns at the birdfeeder.

I sit in my kitchen, an onlooker to life, wondering how and when things went sour.

Then again, this is the first Sunday in Lent. My heart tells me it’s time review what I’m giving up yet again for Lent. No, it hasn’t gotten any easier to say this prayer. Especially the last line.

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)

I wonder what Jesus of Nazareth felt and thought as he approached his coming death?

Praying for an accepting heart and a grateful spirit.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 February 2021
Image found on Facebook via Google search

A great reckoning

Covid-19 Memorial

A great reckoning is upon us
With or without our approval

Hundreds of thousands
Lie cold in the earth
From which they came
Tiny bits of joy and wonder

Beautiful even when
Deemed worthless
By those who prize
Color or male genitalia
over heart and soul
Wealth over a fair income
Red lining over fair access
Gerrymandering over truth
Control over empowerment

Now cold in the ground
Or present with the Creator
The dead cry out for justice
Which will surely come
At great loss to the living
Rich or poor or in-between
Democrat or Republican
Independent or Green Party
Or no party at all

As we keep saying,
We’re all in this together–
the high cost of living in the USA
whether we like it or not

I’m always taken aback by the fate of some prophets in Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Though some survive the ordeal of telling the truth to kings and religious leaders, others share the fate of their nation. Like Jesus of Nazareth, they, too end up being killed.

I’m not a champion of martyrdom. Nor do I believe everything will necessarily turn out ‘right.’ At the same time, I believe our smallest actions, seen or unseen, tell the truth about us. Individually and together.

Right now we seem to be sending mixed messages to ourselves and to the world. Messages not just from some of our politicians, but from our churches and religious institutions. Especially, but not only, those filled with or supported by white patrons.

We the people aren’t up for sale to the highest bidder. Not now, not ever. And yes, there’s a cost involved.

Praying each of us will find a way to make a truth-filled difference in this pain-ridden country dying of grief.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 February 2021
Photo of Covid-19 memorial flags found at news.harvard.edu

Psalm 1 | Zephania Kameeta

Bishop Zephania Kameeta wrote this version of Psalm 1 during Namibia’s struggle for human rights. Born in 1945, Bishop Kameeta’s life work has revolved around the fight to end apartheid in Namibia.

It seems we here in the USA are still trapped in our own USA-style apartheid system, with no end in sight.

Psalm 1 introduces the entire collection of 150 Hebrew Psalms. It describes two ways we can live. The way of wisdom, or the way of folly. Which will we individually, and as a nation, choose to take? Here’s how Reverend Kameeta saw these two ways or paths of life playing out in Namibia.

Psalm 1

Happy are those who reject the evil advice of tyrants,
who do not follow the example of sell-outs
and are not resigned to live as slaves.

Instead they find joy to be in God’s commission
for the liberation of the oppressed,
and they work day and night without rest.

They are like trees that grow beside a stream,
that bear fruit at the right time,
and whose leaves do not dry up.
They succeed in everything they do.

But the traitors of the liberation cause are not
like this;
they are like straw that the wind blows away.
Puppets in the hands of the oppressors
will be condemned by God.
They will have no share in the blessings of the Lord.

Those in God’s service for the liberation of the downtrodden
are guided and protected by God.
But those who are instruments in the hands of the oppressors
are on the way to their doom.

Psalm 1 interpreted by Zephania Kameeta
Published in Why O Lord? Psalms and sermons from Namibia, p. 24
No. 28 in The Risk Book Series, pub. by World Council Publications
In collaboration with the Lutheran World Federation of Churches
© 1986 World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland

Psalm 1 offers us two choices. God’s way of wisdom and truth, or the oppressor’s way of folly. Each Psalm is about one or both of these ways. Over and over, they show us what it looks like to take one way or the other.

I’m caught by the third line: “Happy are those who…are not resigned to live as slaves.” Though I’ve never been called a slave, I know how easy it is to hunker down and make myself small or silent, when I should be speaking up or raising a ruckus. No matter what color my skin is.

Then again, if I’m living as a slave to the evil advice of tyrants, perhaps I need to listen more and make less ruckus.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 January 2021
Photo of Bishop Zephania Kameeta found on Facebook

Clouds hang heavy

Clouds hang heavy
with moisture waiting
for release into
an atmosphere of
winter snow and ice

My heart beats heavy
with tears for those
who know not what they do
even though I’m also in
the same sinking boat

Is it this person or that
who will point us home
somewhere or anywhere
within the space of this
world trembling on the brink

What a strange season this is. We live in the aftermath of a contentious election. At the same time, we’re charged with the task of helping inhibit Covid-19’s still inflating whirlwind of death, destruction and denial. It seems attacking this sickness unto death is more than we’re able or prepared to accomplish on our own.

Will we make it as a nation? In the meantime, people are hungry, thirsty, living and dying on the streets, in mansions, or in temporary shelters. Do they have hope? Do you? Do I?

One thing I know for certain. Praying might not change things overnight. It can, however, force me to be truthful not so much about ‘them’ as about myself. I don’t have a clue how to point the way home in our present catastrophe.

All I can do is follow the example of my leader, Jesus of Nazareth, for whom nothing was impossible. The secret? One faithful step after another, no matter how I feel about it. Plus prayer for our new POTUS and his team, charged with addressing the death that is upon us if we fail to find common ground and a reason to work together.

Happy Tuesday to each of you, and a prayer that each of us will find our way one faithful step after another.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 January 2021
Image found at youtube.jpg

How are you doing today?

Our pastor asked this at the beginning of today’s online sermon. It caught me by surprise. It’s also better than a thousand other things we might talk about. So I’m going to begin, and invite you to respond about yourself.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being Great, I’m scoring about 6 or 7 on most days. Why?

~Sometimes winter weather is harsh, meaning no outdoor walk with D
~My health, which requires constant attention 24/7
~The sudden unraveling last March of regular social life (Covid-19)
~Reverberations from chaos recently unleashed on Capitol Hill
~No in-person visits with family members or friends
~Grief that comes with acknowledging I won’t be here forever, which will come sooner, not later

Grief, disappointment, sadness, weariness, uncertainty, loneliness, heartache, fear. I could pretend they don’t bother me. But that wouldn’t be telling the truth.

Thankfully, things like the following bring me joy or gratitude.

~Having enough food (most of it prepared by me)
~Walking outside with David when the weather is decent
~Seeing neighbors and chatting a bit on the street
~Phone calls and email from family members and friends
~Playing with Smudge or holding him on my lap while he sleeps
~Watching birds on our backyard feeders
~Reading a good book and playing the piano
~Listening to music any time of day

Still, good times won’t cancel out down times. Nor do they answer all my questions about life and the world as we know it today. Each day is different. Making plans is difficult. At the same time, Christian faith gives me a foundation I sorely need every day. Scripture, music, devotional reading and journaling.

What about you? How are you getting through this long passage of time, including loss of people you know and love?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 January 2021
Image found at makeameme.org

The nature of our souls

Slow motion rollout
of a white horror show

Surreal white choices
(one would be too many)
to humor or ignore POTUS

A white-washed sense
of entitlement plus

White-washed decisions
to treat white-washed intruders
with white-kid gloves

Meanwhile, white POTUS cowers in the White House

Congressional Building guards caught
off-guard without a plan of attack
to restrain white-washed white folk

no game plan
no war-like riot gear
no immediate shooting
from the hip

just bald-faced white anger
sending a white message to
the world from white intruders
and white ‘defenders’ alike

Beyond this patch-up of verses, I don’t have a quick solution to our deadly, death-dealing disease that keeps strangers at a distance.

The challenge to President-Elect Joe Biden and to us as a nation is clear. It isn’t how did this happen, as though a better plan would have held back this surge. It’s about why this happened, and what we can learn from our own responses to it.

Yes, Mr. Trump incited this riot. On the other hand, it couldn’t have happened  without the collusion of white America.

Distancing ourselves from our own national mess, ignoring it, or gasping in horror and then looking the other way isn’t an option. Especially for those who claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth. This isn’t about politics. It’s about the nature of our souls, measured by our willingness to begin at the very beginning. As strangers in need of each other.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 January 2021
Image found at patheos.com

Yesterday’s sorrows

A chain of prayer
Rises in midnight hours
As restless sleepers
Wake to the sound
Of yesterday’s sorrows
Rising to the surface

Perhaps one’s own trials
Or a loved one’s emergency
Or dense silence inviting
A song or a prayer to
Fill the empty void of night
Broken only by the wind

Since the beginning of Covid-19 social distancing, I sometimes find night silence distressing.

It happened again last night. Not just because of what’s going on out there, but also what’s rising to the surface in me. Sadness, sorrow, and trepidation. Names of family members who tested positive for Covid-19, now in quarantine because of contact with someone else. An urgent request for prayer from a former colleague. Or even a welcome email from a former student now living in another country, without many options.

One of the gifts of this painfully long social distancing has been a measure of quiet in the house. At night, however, silence weighs heavily when I want to get back to sleep. Hopefully unheard by D, I sometimes begin singing (very softly) favorite hymns as they pop into my mind. Not just one verse, but as many as I can recall. Think of an extended lullaby.

Other times I go down my mental list of friends and family members having more challenges than usual just now. Then I whisper (often with tears) my gratitude for D, for Smudge, for our neighbors, and for opportunities to support local and worldwide relief efforts.

Somewhere in the middle of all that it usually happens. I drift off to sleep. If I don’t, I go to my office, close the door, open my journal, and write my heart out. Thankfully, this last resort is rare. Still, it works like a charm. The tears flow freely, and then I’m back to bed and sleep.

I pray each of you finds ways to sleep well, and exercise your faith and gratitude during these strange months of Covid-19 et al, already extending into another year. Happy Wednesday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 January 2021
Image found at pinterest.com

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