Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Christian Faith

Baby birds

Baby birds
Wrenched by snakes
From precarious nests
Flutter to the ground
Dead and dying

My first memory of daily life
On this lush planet
Teeming with death by
a thousand lashes of
whipping swords and
razor-sharp tongues
small and large –

Have mercy on us.

Lord, is it I?
The question haunts me

Silence and apathy pile on
Proliferating odds
Of global violence perpetrated
By ourselves against ourselves
Despite Your image
Carried within our fragile human
Bodies and aching souls

Have mercy on us.

It was the early 1950s. I’ll never forget the evening we heard a racket outside a window in the dining room. I was about 8 or 9 years old. A pair of cardinals had built a nest in a shrub outside and just below a dining room window. A first-class seat for the whole  family, as bird eggs hatched and little peeps began their regular cries for food! More food!

On this evening, however, the racket was huge. Way more than babies screaming for food. We looked out and saw a small yard snake attacking the nest. The cardinal mom and dad were raising a ruckus, going at the snake. Too late. Babies were already falling out of the nest.

By the time Dad got there, all 3 or 4 babies were on the ground. Still very young, and unable to make their way back to the nest. Dad got a shoebox, lined it with a towel, put on his gloves, and went out to see if he could help. Just before depositing them in the nest, he let us take a look from a safe distance.

That night we went to bed hoping all would be well in the morning. It was not. The babies were gone.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 May 2019
Photo of baby cardinals found at intothedeep.net

Teach me to number my days

I inhabit moments
One after the other,
Not without hope

I witness resurrection partially
In passing seasons of my life
And repeated seasons of nature

Seasons of life
are once and over
living on in aging memory
and dusty memorabilia

Though my spirit revives
From time to time,
The clock ticks on
Without reverting to zero

I hope for what I cannot see
And choose to let go of certainty,
Falling instead into something
I’ve never seen or known

There’s sadness and agony
In daily and final death;
I’m invited to accept this
Not deny or sublimate it
As though it didn’t exist

Is hesitation to own
The agony of death
A denial of life as it is
On this side of
Whatever comes next?

In this life I’m called
To face fears, regrets, sorrows,
And the anguish of saying goodbye
Not once but many times over

Whatever comes next
It isn’t about denial or
We’ll cross that bridge
When we come to it

It’s about preparing for death
Every day of my life
Because it matters to me
and to those I leave behind

So teach me to number my days….

This is my attempt to put a few personal thoughts into words. I’m convinced this part of my life is about learning to die and learning to talk and write about it. Not the moment of death itself, but how I’m doing (or not doing) at living this last chapter of my life.

So this is where I am as of today. Thanks for reading, and for any comments you care to leave. I’m most grateful!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 May 2019
Photo of Masai Mara National Park Sunset found at brettstephens.com

Born to Die


Teach us to number our days;
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12, New International Version

I can’t help thinking these days about a theme in the gospels. Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. Not for political fame or religious adulation, but to die. He seemed to know what it meant to number his days.

Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem
Stubborn and determined
Abrasive and unconventional
Observant and angry
Weary and compassionate
Single-minded and welcoming
With his face set toward Jerusalem
From the beginning
Born to die sooner not later

I’m used to celebrating Jesus’ life and all the good and challenging things he said. I’m not so accustomed to celebrating his dogged, stubborn, insistent daily orientation toward death.

Jesus of Nazareth didn’t just happen to fall into the hands of his political and religious enemies. He knew who would betray him, yet didn’t try to stop him. Instead, he sent his betrayer out to do the deed. He met death straight on. Just as he was. Without machines of warfare, without fame or fortune, and without an army of loyal supporters.

“Teach us to number our days.” It’s a tough standard. I’d rather add to my days. Pretend it won’t happen to me today. Or that I’ll die in the best of circumstances.

We live in a time of global and local upheaval. Everywhere. What does it mean to set our faces toward death? I think it would mean setting our faces differently toward each other and toward nature.

I could sit back and say what will be, will be. The future isn’t mine to see. Still, what does it mean to number my days? And how does this change the way I live in the present, no matter how long it is before I die?

Writing about death (instead of ignoring it) is comforting. It’s also challenging. My hope is that the challenging part will bring more joy, gratitude, empathy and compassion into my life. Not just for myself, but for family members, friends, neighbors and strangers. We’re all in this together, though strangely alone in our deaths.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 April 2019
Photo found at nateholdridge.com

An Easter Lament and Question

Nothing comes easy these days
Small deaths and large
Gaping holes
Clutter the landscape

Rain falls sideways
Streaking over my back yard
Daring me to will it
To the ground

Out of control and out of time
Bombs tick silently
Within this fragile planet of creatures
And plant life whipped
By gales of political
And personal expediency

So many deaths
Not enough tombs
Or people with vision
And voices to help us
Find our way home

‘Come to me
All who labor
And I will give you rest’
Yet even You were hung
On a tree whiplashed
And left to die

How will Easter
Arrive on this good earth
Not just for the flowers
But for all of us?

Is dying our only option?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 April 2019
Photo found at pixabay.com

Thinking about death

A stranger to myself
Thoughts of this and that
Invade my mind —
One insight after another
Offering a panacea
to this earthly body
Plodding on despite
Resurrection of hope
And flashes of insight about
Who I am and why this
Right now instead of that

Yet like a sick rollercoaster
Moments of brilliance
Collide with weary batteries
Unable to keep up with
This ever more distant
Dream called normalcy
That sputters weak as
Watered-down tea in
Tasteless cups of vintage wine
Gone sour hidden in
Abandoned corners now
Littered with the debris
Of forgotten loves and
Laundry not hung out to dry

I’m dying
One breath at a time
Aided by living
One breath at a time
Do I understand this?
Somewhat
Do I like this?
No
Do I accept this?
Sometimes

And there’s this as well –
The daily rescue of my entire being
From the despair of not knowing
Whose or why I am in this world
And why the beauty of staying battles daily
With the beautiful lure of leaving

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 April 2019
Image found at bestwallpapers.in

heaviness of years past

It’s Monday morning
I’m still trying to
Find myself

Not lost
Perhaps misplaced
Somewhere back there?

Yesterday in church
I wept for the heaviness
Of years past

Wounds and scars
From a thousand misfired
Bullets

Invisible reminders
Deep within of tales not told
Or understood

The most difficult thing I’ve done as a follower of Jesus is to step out of my hiding places. Not primarily to face my friends or foes, but to face myself. In my family of origin, hiding was the best way I could cope and survive as a child and teenager.

As a young adult and later as a professional, I carried a weight of fear in my guts. Fear that some grand tribunal would subpoena me to testify against myself.

Sadly, I thought this process would be about my small and large transgressions, as determined by their eyes. In my worst fears, I would be shamed and punished before an audience of my peers plus strangers. They would make an example of me, much as my father tried to make an example of me as the eldest of four daughters.

Instead, as a 40-something, I found myself in Al-Anon groups of women and men struggling as I was. Listening to them helped me listen to my story. Maybe I didn’t need to fear some unknown grand tribunal.

These new friends didn’t absolve me, and they didn’t try to fix me. Instead, they listened, and showed me how they worked on their own wounds and scars. By honoring themselves, they honored me.

So there I was in church yesterday, weeping. Realizing that no matter what I do, I will be welcomed with open arms when I die.

Where will I go? I don’t know. Nonetheless, I believe I will be in the presence of The Only One who understands me fully and loves me from the inside out. I’ll also be free of wounds and scars. Free to be the beautiful woman I am.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 March 2019
Photo found at fromthegrapevine.com, Flowers on a tombstone, Czech Republic

One inch short of war

Howling winds
Rattle doors and windows

Random bursts
Of unseemly fury
Hurled through air
Turn lashing trees
To toppled dreams
Caught off guard
By one lone ranger
Unleashing havoc
One inch short of war

Pointing out the faults of others, especially those of POTUS, is dangerous business. Some say we should cut him a break. After all, doesn’t our own uncontrolled behavior make us as guilty as the next party?

Perhaps it does. Nonetheless, national leaders are held to higher standards because of the number of people who depend daily on their decisions and actions. Especially, but not only in situations of national emergency. A wall on our southern border is not cause to declare a national emergency. Hurricane Maria was. A test of our readiness to do the right thing. Together.

So yes, POTUS is rightly held to higher standards. And yes, my ability to see fault-lines in POTUS likely means I’m all too familiar with this set of behaviors. In myself and in others.

It brings to mind my history with self-confident men and women who believed themselves ordained by God to keep me in line. In my place. Voiceless and without power. One inch short of being used and abused in a subterranean war fueled by abuse of power.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 February 2019
Photo of Hurricane Maria damage in San Juan, Puerto Rico; found at nbcnews.com

The coming storm

Silent as snow
Trees stand motionless
At attention
Scarcely breathing
Gray chill air
Of the coming storm

These days it’s difficult to read or listen to the news without descending one step deeper into the eye of a coming storm.

Nature’s weather events regularly point to the chaos and destruction of large, uncontrollable storms. Especially those that enter lashing out in one direction, and exit lashing out in another direction.

As it happens, today we’re in the leading edge of a large weather event coming at us from the south and west. The signs are all there, just outside my kitchen window and on countless weather updates .

So what’s it all about?

I can’t help thinking about  our nation. Especially the rapid deterioration of discipline, trust and good will we witness daily, beginning at the top and flowing out and down. As a young nation among older nations, we don’t seem ready to weather future storms that grow larger and more inevitable each day.

When I looked out my kitchen window this morning, I saw the trees. They were standing at attention, calm, silent, waiting to see what this storm will bring. For some it may spell disaster. For others, it will blow over and life will go on as usual.

Right now snow plows are going up and down the road outside our house. The snow is beautiful and heavy with moisture. Sleet and freezing rain will come later.

In the end, what I saw outside my kitchen window challenged me to be what I’ve often longed to be — a poem lovely as a tree. Vulnerable, strong, graceful, able to weather storms, and willing to die. No matter what happens next for me or our nation, and no matter who happens to be in the White House.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 February 2019
Photo found at elizabethatkinson.com

An evening prayer

Today I got a little lost
Until You found me
In the hymns I played
At the end of the day

I’m weary and it’s late

Last night I had a hard time
Getting to sleep which
Made this entire day feel
Off-balance –
already behind and unable
to catch up with myself

This night – sing me to sleep
And wake me with joy
Alive and ready for another
Day – found and grateful

From my journal yesterday evening.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 January 2019
Photo found at unsplash.com

Gifts of old age

Gifts of old age
Come slowly sifting
Decades of memories
Through a heart
Converted to truth

Soft and pliable
It weighs the years
Discarding self-contempt
For self-acceptance
And understanding
Of what and why
And wherefore these
Shadows are nothing
In the end but
The reverse side of
Life interrupted and
Redeemed at great cost

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 January 2019
Photo found at artistsnetwork.com

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