Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Christian Faith

What we need to hear

Maybe I’m the only one. The only white PTSD survivor who didn’t get it. Do I feel humiliated by this? No. Chagrined? Yes. Yet above all, I’m challenged to find out more.

Here’s what I didn’t and still don’t get.

I know this is hard for many enlightened and well-meaning Christians to hear, but here’s the truth: If you are white, you have no clue as to the PTSD-like realities black people in this country face every single day. —James Ellis III

It’s one thing to accept this as information. On the other hand, are we willing to let this sink into our understanding of the way things play out here in the USA? Not just in public places, but in white (often lightly colored) churches?

The quote above challenges me to learn more about “PTSD-like realities” black people face daily here in the USA. The easiest connection (for me) is to think about post-Viet Nam War veterans with PTSD who showed up in my theology classes in the 1980s. Yet even that isn’t the same as what’s happening today on our streets. Neither is my own history with childhood PTSD.

One quote doesn’t explain everything. But that isn’t James Ellis III’s point. His point is that we white, so-called “enlightened and well-meaning Christians” have a hard time hearing and accepting truth about Black Lives.

How tragic if we fail. Not because we didn’t try, but because we don’t like hearing bad or disturbing news about ourselves. It’s easier to push it off on the government, or ‘those white people’ over there, or even on Black citizens themselves.

James Ellis III’s article, from which the quote above comes, was first published in May 2020. Read it here, if you dare. It’s titled “A Lowdown, Dirty Shame: Ahmaud Arbrey’s Murder and the Unrenounced Racism of White Christians.”

Praying we’ll find our way out of this mess. Not the mess created by our government, but the mess we’ve created for ourselves.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 July 2020
Image found at pinterest.com

Poor little rich white girl

Poor little rich white girl
from everywhere
and nowhere in particular
Shrinks in horror
And confusion from
Imperious or friendly voices
Vying for her attention
Her full support
Her obedience
Her submission
Her silence

To be or not to be?

Fear wins the lottery
As she retreats into
Familiar shadows
Of false safety
Unraveling her soul
From the inside out
One stitch at a time
Drifting into slumber
Overflowing with dreams
Of what might have been
Once upon a time before
The clock struck midnight

Covid-19 has disrupted my life. Black Lives Matter has galvanized me. Not because I think we’ll overcome racism in my lifetime, but because I grew up as a poor rich white girl. I was ignorant, confused, and filled with shame about being white and female. Questions about obvious inequalities on display every day of my life went unanswered.

As a preacher’s kid I was fully immersed in the culture of conservative Christianity as interpreted by my father, plus other male preachers and Bible teachers I encountered along the way.

When I married D and left home, I chose to follow a different understanding of Christian faith. Yet even this didn’t give adequate attention to underlying disasters and sins of this country. These included treatment of native American Indians, and treatment of Black women, men and families captured and put on sale to serve as slaves to white Americans.

Being silent today is not an option. Neither is carrying on life as usual.

So I’m asking questions. What does all this mean for me at this time in my life? How will it affect my reading and writing? How will it affect my relationship to the church? What can I do, and What must I NOT do? This isn’t about my generation; it’s about our collective future. With and without me.

I’m also wondering how all this impacts your daily life.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 June 2020
Photo of me with my younger sisters; taken by JERenich in 1953; mixed rural neighborhood outside Savannah, Georgia

Just for today

Finally
After months of fighting
acceptance

Comes knowledge
That this is the way things are
and didn’t have to be

Plus willingness
to accept limitations
and whatever today offers

Ready
To give and receive small gifts
No matter the outcome

Refusing
To look the other way
While lifting my voice in prayer

Content
With what I can do this day
Unlike any other

Several times in the last few weeks I’ve heard friends and strangers talking about prayer. In particular, how we pray right now, given the current situation in the White House, in governing and non-governing bodies, and in our neighborhoods.

It’s time for lament. The kind that looks into the reality around us without trying to go back to the way things were. Lament that acknowledges our personal grief, anger, rage, and our betrayal by POTUS and others more concerned with glory than with grace. Lament that implores our Creator to have mercy on us, no matter the cost.

I’m in lament mode. I’m also beginning to understand how to get up in the morning and let the day be what it is. An opportunity to be invested in something larger than myself, without getting sidetracked by the mucky morass that wants to capture and kill my energy.

Praying you’re finding your way in this day unlike any other.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 June 2020
Photo found at m.economictimes.com

I just struck gold!

Who was Amelia Boynton Robinson, and who is that young man sitting next to her? And do you know who’s in the photo on the right? Or what year it was? To find out more, check it out right here. It’s the second entry from the top. You can read more about Amelia Boynton Robinson’s life right here.

For the last few weeks I’ve been searching for gold, interpreted by me as

  • easy to read/watch
  • lively and informative
  • brief, riveting commentary with real photos of real people
  • a semi-crash course only better
  • attention to women as well as men
  • inspiring without glib promises
  • tuned into today’s challenges
  • excellent communicator

It’s impossible to take in everything all at once. So I’m now following Chris Preitauer’s blog.

Beginning at age 7 I grew up, went to college and had my first ‘adult’ job in the Deeply Segregated South. I saw and heard a lot. Sadly, I didn’t formally or informally hear much about Black Lives. Nor was I encouraged to get curious about why. In the 1950s and 60s, Black citizens were treated differently than White citizens. Not just in the Deep South, but in the not so Deep North.

So yes, I’ve found gold! Someone from my era (sort of) who became involved.

I hope you’ll look at a few of his pieces. They’re to the point, challenging, and inspiring without pretending our current challenges will be easily resolved.

Thanks again for visiting, reading, and leaving your footprint!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 June 2020
Photos found at ChrisPreitauer.com

Alternative tv | Dorothee Soelle

Four miners in mine shaft wearing hard hats and headlamps

Dorothee Soelle wrote this poem in the 1970s, an era roiled by the Vietnamese War. I was in my 30s. How old were you? My comments follow.

Alternative tv

The old man on the screen sang
in a loud and shaky voice
and had probably never been very clean
in addition he had hardly any teeth left
a miner with black lung
of course he spoke dialect and his grammar was bad
why after all should he
show his best side to the camera

When god turns on his tv
he sees old people like that
they sing
in a loud and shaky voice
and the camera of the holy spirit
shows the dignity of these people
and makes god say
that is very beautiful

Later
when we have abolished tv as it exists
and are allowed to look at the skin of aging women
and are unafraid of eyes
that have lost their lashes in weeping
when we respect work
and the workers have become visible
and sing
in a loud and shaky voice

Then we shall see
real people
and be happy about it
like god

Dorothee Soelle, Of War and Love, p. 171
English translation of selected pieces from the German text © 1983 Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY 10545
First published as Im Hause des Menshenfressers, © 1981 by Rowohlt Tashenbuch Verlag in Hamburg, West Germany

Now that I’m in my mid to late 70s, I find this poem more truthful than ever. I don’t often see aging women or men on TV, just as they are. Maybe in a news piece or documentary. But rarely, if ever, in flashy shows or advertisements. They’re busy reflecting our captivity to spending money on ourselves, our houses, our lawns, our cars, eating out and eating in, or getting ‘fixed’ so our embarrassing flaws don’t show.

As Dorothee Soelle points out, our Creator is watching Alternative tv. The kind that accepts us just as we are when we’re willing to show up just as we are. Happy to be in the presence of one who understands and loves us in all our real flesh.

As always, thank for visiting and reading. These are hard times for all of us. I pray we’ll find ways to help bring about hope, peace, and reconciliation, and courage to show up for our Creator and each other, just as we are.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 June 2020
Photo of miners found at WestVirginiaInjuryLawyers.wordpress.com

The human shadow revisited

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                            Mature Dawn Redwood at Longwood Gardens

Five years ago I posted comments on George MacDonald’s sonnet for June 9. Today I rediscovered it, right on time. It helps me think about my actions during this tumultuous uprising through which we must go together, or die. My lightly edited comments from five years ago follow.

June 9

Faith is the human shadow of thy might.
Thou art the one self-perfect life, and we
Who trust thy life, therein join on to thee,
Taking our part in self-creating light.
To trust is to step forward out of the night—
To be—to share in the outgoing Will
That lives and is, because outgoing still.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul,
© 1994 Augsburg Fortress Press

What does MacDonald’s opening line mean? “Faith is the human shadow of thy might.”

I can’t help thinking about the grand trees I saw yesterday. It was a hot, humid day begging for shade and breezes. We found it beneath huge trees reaching toward the sky. Could their welcome shade be like faith? An earthly shadow of God’s creative reach?

I imagine myself stepping out of burning sun (MacDonald’s ‘night’), into the shade. Into faith that exists only because of ‘thee’ and ‘thy might.’ I didn’t create the shade. I can’t touch it. I feel it in every part of me. It calms the boiling molecules in my body. It gives me energy to move forward and outward.

Imagine this. Perhaps the Creator’s towering tree-like presence reaches out large limbs that support a leafy umbrella offering respite and relief. I’m not the tree. Yet by standing within the tree’s shadow, I join myself to its life. To my true home. Unlike the tree, I can’t see this with my eyes, yet I know it by faith. Faith that dwells within the shadows of the Creator’s presence.

This means stepping forward “out of the night” is like stepping into the shade of a majestic tree. It’s a way of sharing in the life of the tree, of gaining strength and energy found only within its life, its ‘will,’ its outgoing nature.

The Creator’s will, like the tree, is outgoing. Reaching away from itself to create and recreate all nature including human nature. To become part of the Creator’s life is to ‘join on’ by stepping forward ‘out of the night’ (or out of the burning heat).

Only then do I exist truly and share fully as a human participant in the life of this world with all its upheavals and joys. Not because of my own great ideas, but as a participant in this strangely beautiful and demanding partnership with our Creator.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 June 2015, lightly edited and reposted on 9 June 2020
Photo credit: DAFraser, 9 June 2015, Longwood Gardens

Resistance is Never Futile – especially now.

No predetermined outcomes, and death is always a possibility. Yet resistance is never futile. It’s about our character. Not just then, but now.

I have a theological hero. He wasn’t the most well-behaved man on the face of the earth. He was human just as I am.

Yet he’s one of my heroes. He showed me how to listen to myself, to Christian scripture, and to what’s happening around me. With a newspaper in one hand, a Bible in the other.

Actually, it’s about more than listening. It’s about looking in a mirror and discovering painful reflections of myself. Often as a collaborator, not as a member of the faithful resistance.

Karl Barth came of age during the early years of Hitler’s reign. A citizen of Switzerland, he spent most of his professional life as a professor of theology in Germany.

Barth cut his theological teeth on Hitler’s final solution for Jews and others. He was one of a small number of resisting theologians, and an influential member of the ‘confessing’ churches movement that refused to support Hitler.

His theological work is, in part, a critique of Hitler’s brutal treatment of Jews and others, plus a vision for something different. Here’s what it would cost:

  1. Total allegiance to following Jesus of Nazareth, a practicing Jew whose total allegiance lay with Yahweh.
  2. Commitment to one simple theme: Hospitality to strangers. This habit of life challenges every human interaction, including Hitler’s behavior, and the churches’ treatment of Jews and others strangers.
  3. This stranger (neighbor) is the person or group of persons you’d rather not see or meet today. Maybe they’ll give you a mortal headache. Or beat you up and leave you lying on the side of the road to die. You never know. It’s easy to wish you could banish ‘those people’ who annoy, threaten or terrify you.

Hospitality toward strangers sounds sweet, even though it’s neither sweet nor harmless. True hospitality toward strangers is a life-changer for the hostess or host, not just the stranger. It can lead to life; it can also lead to death. As it did for Jesus Christ.

During the past decades, we’ve become polarized into stranger groups. It still happens today in churches, between religions, in public and private institutions, news media and families. Many groups vet members formally and informally by political or religious tests of various kinds.

Given today’s challenges, what would it take to show hospitality toward strangers?

I’m not naïve. All strangers aren’t safe. Neither is every friend or family member. Wisdom and discernment are necessary, though they can’t guarantee a desired outcome. Nonetheless, we need each other, no matter what the cost. It’s about the content of our character.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 February 2017, edited and reposted 14 May 2020
Image found at islamforchristians.com

Crossings of No Return – revisited

Has everything changed with Covid-19? This post from January 2017 reminds me that some things never change.

Crossings….

The word resonates with finality
Hints of danger and uncertainty
Sorrow and desperation
Weary clothes and
Hungry faces

One foot in front of the other
Backs burdened with life’s necessities
Bodies and bellies heavy
With tomorrow’s children
Silently pleading

They say our world is disappearing
Melting and boiling away before our eyes
Erupting into a chaotic crisis
Unknown in modern times
Are we ready for this crossing?

What lies ahead for this world and for us as citizens of this world? Our insular, isolated, boundaried ways of life don’t work well anymore, and our ways of governing seem to have reached their own point of no return.

Years ago I crossed a line of no return. I chose to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I don’t believe there’s a magic wand answer for any of this world’s upheavals. Yet I do believe we see a direction in the life, ministry and death of Jesus Christ. Not the superstar, but the human being sent to this earth to live and to die as one of us and as God’s beloved son.

Jesus made a crossing of no return when he came to live with and among us. He wasn’t president, emperor or chief. Nor was he a privileged member of the religious or political elite, or a child of God immune to human emotions and agony.

His life was short. Yet in his short life I find a direction that hasn’t changed even with our current global upheavals. Taking my cues from Jesus, I’m to love God, my neighbors and myself. Acknowledge my human limitations and need for others. Be ready to accept and offer hospitality from and to strangers. Bear the cost and share the compassion of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Do I feel strong? Rarely. Do I feel ready? Rarely. Do I feel like giving up? Sometimes. Yet the steady, courageous, compassionate and steel-eyed clarity I see in narratives about Jesus’ life on this earth remains my True North. The one point on my compass that won’t change no matter what it takes to get from here to there.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 January 2017, lightly edited and reposted on 5 May 2020
Photo of South American immigrants found at nytimes.com

broken bodies

into dawn silence
the lone catbird signs softly
as earth holds its breath
remembr’ing bodies broken
released into waiting arms

Yesterday was communion Sunday–via virtual church on YouTube. “This is my body broken for you.”

We can’t turn the deaths of broken Covid-19 bodies into beautiful ceremonies. Still, there’s something to be said for the way this earth welcomes our broken bodies without judgment. Death can’t be glorified. It can, however, be seen as the beginning of something else. Often as release from what has become unbearable.

I hope a catbird sings soft songs for me when my time comes. I also pray this Monday finds you grateful to be alive, and ready for whatever comes next.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 May 2020
Photo found at birdatlas.bc.ca

What’s on my mind these days

Without answers, here’s what I’m wondering about these days when it comes to Mr. Trump.

  • How and why did we come to this sad bargain that turned a self-proclaimed genius loose on us and on the rest of the world?
  • Why do I find myself wishing for his demise sooner, not later?
  • How, if ever, can I forgive the folly of this self-proclaimed genius who ignores expert advice, and leads his followers down paths of destruction?
  • As a follower of Jesus, how am I to pray for or against this leader motivated by greed, contempt and self-righteousness?
  • And what does it mean to follow Jesus when many who claim to follow Jesus think this means following Mr. Trump, or at least overlooking his lies and greed?

Everything isn’t about POTUS. It’s also, in a different way, about us. However, my blood runs cold when ‘common people’ are forgotten pawns in a deadly game of Chess held together by a made-up patchwork of throw-away lies, neglect, and innuendo.

Covid-19 didn’t change things. It made them impossible to ignore.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 April 2020
Image found at pinterest.com

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