Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Christian Faith

Are you willing to be condemned? | Lent, Holy Week and Life

I learned condemnation from my father. When I was very young I heard and felt it in his voice and punishments. Or was it the day I was born female? I wasn’t the son my father hoped for.

If only you would keep your mouth shut and play the piano more often! I really like it when you play the piano. It makes everybody happy and proud. And don’t forget to listen to the men. I like that, too!

No, sweetheart, you don’t need to read all those books. Though we’re proud when you make the honor roll. Still, I don’t think you’ll find what you’re looking for at a big university.

You want to be what???? A theologian? A professor? But you’re married aren’t you? Well….if your husband approves of it, who am I to stand in your way?

How dare you cut your parents off until you’re willing to talk with us again? You need to wake up and remember who you are! You were always rebellious and angry. Too bad you couldn’t be more like your sisters.

Am I willing to be condemned? It’s the question I’ve lived with for years. Not because I live in the past, but because I’m always in the present.

Condemnation can arrive cloaked as something else: being overlooked, underestimated, disbelieved, targeted for harassment.

So…For what am I willing to be condemned? For being the woman I am, fully accepted and loved by our Creator. Not always right; not always wrong. Always one of our Creator’s beloved daughters.

In the meantime, my goal is to keep True North in view, and put one foot, one word, one poem, one truth in front of another.

Thanks for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 April 2020
Image found at kissclipart.com

I wonder if when Years have piled | Emily Dickinson

Here’s an older post that’s relevant to our current situation. When the pandemic is over, what will we do with all that Grief and Pain?

I don’t wear a crucifix around my neck, yet I find myself in the company of those who, like Emily Dickinson, can’t escape Grief. It doesn’t matter how many years have lapsed. My comments follow her poem.

I wonder if when Years have piled –
Some Thousands – on the Harm –
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love –

The Grieved – are many – I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death – is but one –and comes but once –
And only nails the eyes –

There’s Grief of Want – and Grief of Cold –
A sort they call “Despair’ –
There’s Banishment from native Eyes –
In sight of Native Air –

And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –

To note the fashions – of the Cross –
And how they’re mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like My Own –

c. 1862

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Emily begins by wondering whether Harm that has Years “piled on” it might be like a Balm. Perhaps like piling ice or heat on an injury? Some would say time heals all wounds.

Does it? Perhaps the passing of Time simply multiplies the Pain of this Harm. Especially in contrast to Love lost, withheld or betrayed.

Emily does a brief roll call of various kinds of Grief. She names Death first, yet doesn’t dwell on it since once it arrives, it simply “nails the eyes” shut. She may have in mind the person who dies, not the survivors.

She then points to other forms of Grief. They’re examples of the barely recognized yet obvious Grief humans carry every day. She names Grief of Want, of Cold, and of Despair. This is the kind of Grief that doesn’t nail the eyes shut. It’s the Grief of being invisible, shunned, ignored, banished from sight in full view of others. Not allowed to breathe air that supposedly belongs to everyone. Native Air that makes one a ‘real’ person.

In the last two stanzas, Emily imagines Grief as a crucifix, a fashion item. Something like a personal Calvary. She observes an assortment of styles and ways of wearing them.

I imagine some are barely obvious; others weigh the bearer down like a heavy wooden cross. Some are flaunted like medals of honor; others hidden beneath bravado or bullying. Yet each is real, whether acknowledged or not.

Emily finds ‘a piercing Comfort’ in her observations. Perhaps she isn’t as alone as she sometimes feels. Perhaps some Crosses are like her own.

When I was growing up, no one told me that grief could be an asset. It was something I would eventually get over. Not a strange gift that could connect me with others.

I don’t want to know everything about each person I meet. I do, however, need to take into account the reality of human grief. There’s nothing so isolating as having one’s grief overlooked or ignored. Or making it a personal problem to solve or get over–as quickly as possible.

Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. Surely as his followers we can do a bit of this for each other, if not for ourselves.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 August 2017
Image found at wallcrossesandmore.com

Wayward sheep and frolicking lambs

Equanimity —
They say it’s
Calm composure
Regardless

Drowning in pain
Ecstatic with joy
Beginning a journey
Relaxing into dusk
Fighting for my life
Bearing life in me

I want to stand
before You
With calm composure
Because You alone
Are my advocate
The gracious Shepherd
Of wayward sheep
And frolicking lambs

Dear Shepherd of sheep and lambs,

Is it well with You today?

It’s easy for me to experience equanimity when the sun is shining. Right now it’s gorgeous. Bright, warm and inviting.

Yesterday was a drippy mess of clouds and chilly air. Music helped. So did writing. And making a big pot of soup. Yet in the end, even this can’t last forever.

I wonder what You did when things didn’t seem to go as planned? I already know You prayed a lot. What else did You do as You approached death?

You see, I don’t want to die. I don’t think You did, either. Even before the birth of COVID-19 (such a cold name for this vicious virus), I didn’t want to die.

Before You were so rudely arrested, were Your tears a sign of calm composure? I wonder if equanimity in the face of death is overrated. Not necessarily bad, but overrated. So many people are dying ‘early’ these days.

Please advise.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2020
Photo found at edgarsmission.org.au

dispensable? | today’s thoughts

Yesterday I wrote about the dilemma of being a senior citizen during this pandemic. The issue is about ending lives in order to focus more care on younger people. As much as I despise pitting older people against younger people, the dilemma is real. A reader left a comment based on her own experience. Here’s a slightly revised version of my response.

Thanks for this comment. I hear your dilemmas, some of which are my own as well. I’m fairly clear about end of life decisions when we’re in our ‘normal’ mode (whatever that is!). If the issue is about doing “everything we can to extend life,” without meaningful markers to let us know what we’re after, or when we’ve arrived, I have no desire to extend my life.

I watched one of my sisters die of ALS — according to her own clear markers. They had nothing to do with the ventilator that helped keep her alive for ten years. They had to do with a simple question only she could answer. Am I still able to communicate (by any means possible) with my family and friends? If not, give me comfort care and fluids, but no meds or liquid food through my feeding tube.

Nonetheless, this coronavirus pandemic has shaken my confidence in nearly all my carefully worded directives. Right now I’m thinking that, with regard to the current pandemic, the marker might be the need for a ventilator. Then again, I haven’t put this in writing, or communicated it to those who will need to speak with and for me. I don’t believe that fighting death at all costs is helpful or fair to others. As a Christian, I believe Jesus died ‘voluntarily.’ I do not, however, believe that his decision was without angst or fear.

Your last line is so important: “However, we need to keep asking the questions to stay in the moment and on the right path with our faith in our Creator.” To that I can only say Amen! Not an easy path. I pray you’ll find some clarity for the present moment in history.

Please feel free to add your voice to this conversation.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 March 2020
Image of social distancing found at nytimes.com

another free concert

Feeling my way
down unexplored paths
nature surprises me
with unexpected glory

Songbirds clear their throats
early in the morning
tuning up for a day-long
cacophony of competing trills

Trees once bare lift up
spring’s new growth
reaching for the sun
to warm chilled bones

Here and there
early-bird trees burst
into bloom eager to be
the first with the most

Unorchestrated beauty
combines its collective throat
to offer another free concert
no tickets required

There’s much to be said for living in the moment. There’s also much to be said for the orderly parade of seasons. Not because they’ll always be with us, but because they remind us we’re in the hands of a Power greater than ourselves. A Power already present whether we see or feel it right now.

Nature’s annual spring gala invites me to take deep breaths and exhale. I’m not responsible for holding everything together, or changing the course of world history, or what other people do or don’t do, no matter how distressed I feel about it.

Praying each of you has a day filled with unexpected beauty.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 March 2020
Photo of Spring in Bucks County, Pennsylvania found at wallcoo.net.

without a flight plan

Disoriented
Suspended in space and time
Where are we going?

Calm and mindful
In a holding pattern
Waiting to land

Circling landmarks
Every twenty-four hours
Drones in the sky

Specks of dust
In an ocean of dismay
Looking for home

I woke up to the sun shining brightly, and these words from one of my daily meditation resources.

Psalm 21:8-9 and 12, rewritten by the author as a prayer for today

….You root out my fears; standing
firm beside me as I face
the shadows within.

Like a blazing sun your light shines.
My fears flee from your sight;
your fire consumes them.

….For You put fears to flight, that
love and justice might reign….

1996 by Nan C. Merrill
Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness
Published in 2003 by Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc. (New York)

So here I am, “sheltering in place” in Pennsylvania. Alone with D, Smudge and myself. Taking walks outside as the weather permits. Doing what we can to be ready for anything.

Even though we don’t live on the edge, fear weighs on me. This isn’t the way I want to die. Followed, of course, by a thousand unanswerable questions.

But the prayer above isn’t about answering my questions. It’s about our Creator putting my fears to flight, making room for love and justice. Especially now, when the mandate to shelter in place already isolates us, and leaves many more vulnerable than I am.

Praying my fears will be sent packing, clearing the air bit by bit for something new to happen.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2020
Photo of Snow Geese flying near Mount Baker in Washington State found at correre.org

uncertainty

silence tiptoes
through the valley
searches for truth
hidden beneath
veiled madness
reverberating
through airwaves
relentless and
undisciplined
first one thing
and then another
without rhyme
or reason
torn into pieces
lives and hearts
skip beats waiting
for the next
moment to fall
redefining
everything

That’s how I’m feeling today. Listening to POTUS talk about the corona virus, it seems he’s making it up as he goes along from one day to the next. Picking and choosing what he thinks someone out there wants to hear? Wanting to show he’s in charge?

I’m reminded again that my life isn’t defined by POTUS. Yes, his behavior and undisciplined mind and feelings matter. Yes, he makes what’s already difficult even more difficult.

Still, he doesn’t have the power to define who I am. Today is Sunday. A day to be wise, truthful and happy as I learn to enter the fray one fiery sunrise after another.

Parts of Psalm 23 come to mind, reworded a bit.

Because You alone are leading me,
I have more than enough
to walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
especially when I fear I don’t have
what I need to get from here
to the end of my earthly journey.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 March 2020
Photo found at churchofthemessiah.com

stripped bare

stripped bare
of unnecessary baggage,
boney fingers
and crooked limbs
exposed,
scarred and worn,
awkward grace awaits
rebirth

Dare I believe that death is like the reiteration of the four seasons? I don’t know the answer to my question. Nonetheless, I identify painfully with this photo and the words I’ve written above.

I often hear that life is a great adventure. It’s also a great misadventure of lows mixed in with highs. Things I would give anything to experience again, and things I’m glad to leave behind.

Today I’m grateful for photos. Simple photos that reach out with whispers of beauty, strength, and faith. Enough faith to keep standing through all kinds of weather. Believing and trusting. Doing only what the skeleton of a bush can do. Taking it one moment, one season, one joy and sorrow at a time.

When the time is right, the gardener will appear to usher in the next season.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 March 2020
Photo taken by DAFraser in March 2016 at Longwood Gardens

That time of year again

I didn’t grow up in a church tradition that paid much attention to Lent. A few childhood friends, usually Roman Catholic, talked about giving up things like cake, ice cream or cookies. They almost always fell off the wagon within a week or so. So why bother in the first place?

Nearly three years ago I revisited Lent. The short litany below challenged me to give up several things I greatly desire.

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)

Several weeks ago I attended a Sunday morning worship service at a nearby African American church. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I was warmly welcomed, and also felt somewhat lost. The pastor had invited me to hear a guest speaker/preacher.

I was happy to be there. Most attendees were African Americans. They didn’t worship according to spoken or unspoken rules and traditions of churches I’ve been in most of my life. I was out of my comfort zone, not always sure what to do next.

I’d like to believe I’m not part of racial tension in the USA today. Yet I know this isn’t true. In some ways, it chose me; I didn’t choose it. Still, I’m aware of my resistance to changing the comfortable routine I enjoy, especially on Sundays.

So I’ve been asking what I can do to get out of one of my favorite comfort zones, churches that worship the way I worship. It matters where and with whom I worship, and according to whose traditions. It also has the potential to change me yet again, from the inside out.

I don’t know how this will play out. Nonetheless, I’m beginning again with the prayer above, and another visit to this church.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 February 2020
Image found at bonhoefferblog.wordpress.com

I believe in god | Dorothee Soelle

Here’s one of the most compelling personal credos (statements of belief) I’ve ever read. Soelle wrote it after World War II and during the Vietnamese War. Even if you’re not an outwardly religious person, I hope you’ll give it a read. It’s down to earth and challenging no matter what your beliefs might be.

Credo

I believe in god
who did not create an immutable world
a thing incapable of change
who does not govern according to eternal laws
that remain inviolate
or according to a natural order
of rich and poor
of the expert and the ignorant
of rulers and subjects
I believe in god
who willed conflict in life
and wanted us to change the status quo
through our work
through our politics

I believe in jesus christ
who was right when he
like each of us
just another individual who couldn’t beat city hall
worked to change the status quo
and was destroyed
looking at him I see
how our intelligence is crippled
our imagination stifled
our efforts wasted
because we do not live as he did
every day I am afraid
that he died in vain
because he is buried in our churches
because we have betrayed his revolution
in our obedience to authority
and our fear of it
I believe in jesus christ
who rises again and again in our lives
so that we will be free
from prejudice and arrogance
from fear and hate
and carry on his revolution
and make way for his kingdom

I believe in the spirit
that jesus brought into the world
in the brotherhood of all nations
I believe it is up to us
what our earth becomes
a vale of tears starvation and tyranny
or a city of god
I believe in a just peace
that can be achieved
in the possibility of a meaningful life
for all people
I believe this world of god’s
has a future
amen

Dorothee Soelle, Revolutionary Patience, pp 22-23, 3rd printing May 1984
English translation © 1977 by Orbis Books
Published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY

Wishing each of you a thoughtful, challenging day.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 February 2020
Image found at cia.gov

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