Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Conversations that matter

What we need to stop doing

This morning I read a hilarious and sobering opinion piece from Damon Young in the NYTimes. It’s titled “Yeah, Let’s Not Talk About Race.” Damon Young offers a strangely funny lament (my choice of words, not his) about what happens when he’s out on his evening walk around the neighborhood.

If you can access this piece, here’s the link. 

Here’s why his piece struck a chord with me. It’s a cry for honesty and for justice. In a nutshell, he’s tired of being expected to listen to uninvited comments from white people who aren’t willing to pay for his time or do their own homework. Especially when he’s out walking at the end of the day.

No, he isn’t mean. He’s just suggesting we might want to back off. Put another way, he’s letting us know we can’t atone for our sins of commission or omission by talking with him. Nor can we receive absolution from him. It doesn’t matter how much we care about him and other black and brown people. Or how eager we are for him to answer our questions for free. Not that he’s looking for our money. He isn’t.

You might say this behavior toward him is the price of being a celebrity. I don’t think so.

Furthermore, we don’t have time to try atoning for our white color by interrupting persons of other colors just to signal  or prove to ourselves (?) that we’re one of the good guys or gals. Or that now we’ve got it, when we don’t.

Seriously, the problem of presumed or arrogated white superiority has been our problem since the founding of this nation. It’s high time we white citizens began addressing it with each other.

I’m not saying a conversation with a black or brown friend or colleague is out of bounds. Still, I want to know I’m having the conversation because I’m a learner, and my friend of any color isn’t afraid to tell me the truth about myself as a white woman.

Happy reading and talking about things that matter!


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 July 2020
Image found at

Living in the purple zone

Living in the purple zone*
Unconstrained by party loyalties yet
Uneasy about befriending strangers
Or talking about tough issues –
What has happened to me?

How many times have I caved
To the lowest common denominator
Or looked the other way
Or changed the subject
To avoid tough conversations?

Why do I hear few references
To injustices of yesterday
That might help me understand
Currents and tides now miring us
In the swamp of us versus them?

Perhaps there already lurks within
A deep longing for this disquietude
To disappear into the bowels
Of our churches, cities and towns
Afraid to stir up what won’t go away

Meanwhile we mere mortals living
In the purple zone or not go about
Our daily lives minus truth or
Justice or even a quick look into
The mirror of our own demise

*The purple zone: neither red nor blue, the two major political party colors in the USA

Here’s my dilemma:

I have a handful of friends willing to talk openly about social/political realities that are in plain view every day. These realities drive our politics, social lives, economics, and increasingly our church preferences. They also impact us differently depending on things like race, gender, age, immigration status, color of skin and dialect.

These and a host of other ‘sorting out’ categories lie just beneath the surface of every social interaction and social avoidance technique.

For the most part, we here in the USA seem to have deeply ingrained avoidance habits. We like being with birds of our feather. Especially in spaces where we might have conversations that matter. Places like churches or other religious institutions, small study groups and classrooms of all kinds.

Though I’d like this to be my dilemma alone, I fear it is not. Any and all feedback will be gratefully received.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 September 2019

Coded language

Coded language
Covers fear lurking
Within contours of life
Under scrutiny
And the ungodly weight
Of being right and
Righteously unrighteous

Does this not become us?
Or are we becoming
The deepest fears
Haunting our dreams

Look in the mirror
Listen to your precious life
It doesn’t last forever
Lay aside childhood fear
Of not fitting in

Sit down and then
Stand up and speak out
On behalf of strangers

Our lives are the test
Not our coded words
Or the colors on flags
We wear and hide behind
In a desperate bid
For approval from our
Latest false gods

I wrote this last week after a particularly unspectacular news cycle filled with rage and vendettas. It isn’t ‘their’ problem. It’s our problem, born of lack of faith and lack of courage.

I applaud public figures who stand up and speak out on behalf of all of us. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could change the atmosphere of our public discourse? However, even if we end up with leaders able to do this, I’m not counting on them.

I’m counting on the little people. People like you and like me. Everyday human beings who aren’t afraid to welcome strangers into their lives. Especially ‘political’ strangers who may include former friends, or family members.

When I look at the life of Jesus of Nazareth, I don’t see a human being who hid behind coded words or political and religious party lines. Nor do I see someone on a great campaign to win votes. After all, in the end all that didn’t matter.

What mattered was his life of truth-telling, compassion and fierce determination to be human, pointing beyond himself to the One who matters above all others. The only One to whom he owed supreme allegiance.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 July 2019

Swimming together upriver

Swimming together
Against tide and time
Searching for clues
Who am I?
Who are you?

Life dives deep
Takes us to depths
Time runs short
Patience grows weary

A wise woman once told me
The best pearls
Are discovered
At the bottom
Of the river
Hidden and waiting
Eager to be found
Small gems worthy
Of a lifetime of
Living and dying

Reading and thinking about death has made me acutely aware that each day matters. Not that each day didn’t already matter. Still, I’m now more focused on each day than on each week, month or year. Especially when it comes to life with D. And, indirectly, with our children and their families.

When I look around at friends and family members, I see how many have lost spouses to death. We have time some of them didn’t have. So for right now, life is fiercely about the two of us. It isn’t about what might happen at the end, or how long we might have before death. Instead, it’s about the difference it makes today in our relationship when we read and talk together about death.

I grew up in a family that didn’t talk easily about death. The focus was always on the here and now–especially how to be a good girl and make the family proud. It was also usually about ‘them.’ That would be whoever just died, what she or he died of, how shocked or not shocked we are about this, and when the funeral will be held.

Of course these and other things are important. Yet I’m finding this discipline of reading and talking about death more encouraging than I expected. It isn’t always easy. Still, it’s a relief and an unexpected adventure.

So far we’ve barely scratched the surface. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to find a friend or family member and give it a try.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 June 2019
Double exposure taken accidentally the day we became engaged; Tybee Island Beach, Savannah, Georgia

A fool’s paradise

We live in a fool’s paradise
Breathing toxic air and
promises of a better
tomorrow arriving daily
at our front doors from
gluttony and avarice —
smiles pasted on faces
covered with guile taking
us down without a whimper

I love silly pranks that do no harm. Sort of. That’s because I’ve rarely been on the other end of a silly prank and felt no harm done. There’s something demeaning about being taken for a fool, or watching someone else be taken for a fool.

On another level, what would it take to make us wise as a nation? Or how about treating ourselves and each other as human beings capable of weighing evidence or even telling the truth about how things are for us right now? Or listening to us without interrupting to tell us about some pie-in-the-sky grand fix for everything?

No, I’m not down on the democratic process. However, we’re already getting into presidential campaign rhetoric and it’s only April 2019. So I’m staking out my position now.

Here it is: I don’t want to waste time listening to reassuring promises, sure-fire fixes or negative rants against ‘the other side.’ Perhaps we could get right to the heart of the matter—listening and responding thoughtfully to the voices of the people. All of us. Even those we call foolish.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2019
Quote found at

Why it matters so much

Late last night I received a thought-provoking comment on yesterday’s post, Conversations that matter. Here’s the heart of my reply, edited for clarity.

Sometimes people assume seminarians have just finished college, then moved on to seminary, and will then become pastors of a church. My response begins with this assumption.

The demographics of the seminary I served were decidedly different from those you describe. Young, usually white men right out of college were a distinct minority during the 28 years I was at the seminary.

Much more prevalent were working adults, some already retired. Many were the first members of their families to pursue a seminary degree. They wanted to make a difference in their churches and organizations. They weren’t wealthy.

Many worked night shifts to survive, keep food on the table for their children, and pursue a seminary degree. Most were mature, wise and exceedingly persistent. Commencement was always a moment of pride, gratitude and tears before a packed-out house of families, friends, church members, colleagues, professors, seminary administrators and staff members.

Many entering students were already serving in churches. However, they too needed help. It’s no picnic to be a pastor or ministry leader in a church of any size or denomination.

The challenges and opportunities of teaching in an unusually diverse seminary were many. We lived and worked with age differences, racial and ethnic differences, inner city, suburban, and occasional rural differences, denominational differences, social and economic classes. You name it; we had it. Not just in the student body, but in our increasingly diverse faculty.

The hope many seminarians bring is that this educational experience will be heaven on earth. It isn’t! For some it’s hellish, full of pain, anguish, hard work and feedback they weren’t expecting.

As difficult as my up-bringing was, I still had and have the so-called advantage of being white. This is huge. Not just where I now live, but across the USA.

Yet it’s also a huge disadvantage given the isolation this brings in the form of housing patterns, church membership patterns, and the daily reality of white skin versus almost any other color of skin. It doesn’t matter what country you came from. If your skin isn’t white, you pay for it. White female privilege means I don’t even have to think about 1000 things others must think about daily.

As part of the older generation, we have the duty and privilege of paying forward what we’ve received. Not just because of or in spite of the color of our skin or our gender, but because someone invested in us. More times than we probably remember. Yes, we must keep an eye on the children, including young adults and even older adults we see from time to time.

They and we need these connections. Without them, we’re already dead.

Without them, we’re already dead? Yes. Dead in the water that’s meant to keep flowing upstream, against all odds.

Many thanks for listening and doing what you can to pay forward what you’ve received.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 October 2018

Conversations that matter

On 21 April 2016, I broke my jaw and my wings were clipped. Not just by the broken jaw, but by a string of unanticipated health events that followed. Today it takes time to attend to my aging body.

So I often wonder what the meaning of my life is now. Why am I here? I know I’m going to die. So what about the meantime, in whatever time I have left on this earth? Is blogging it? I love blogging, but….

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a friend and former colleague at the seminary. Would I be willing to interview a seminarian working on her MA degree? The answer was Yes! Of course! Big smiles and happiness! A high point in my life!

So this last week I spent time on the phone with her. Lots of time. We didn’t talk about the fine points of my life as a pastor (which I am not). Instead, we talked about the not-so-fine points of my life as a survivor of childhood abuse. Especially what it took in my late 40s to begin the long process of healing while I was professor and then dean at the seminary.

Why was this conversation a high point for me? Because it let me know I still have something to say. Especially, but not only to women and men preparing for ministry in churches, or for leadership in religious organizations.

Blogging about my experience has been and still is part of my healing. Yet nothing beats a one-on-one conversation, or a small group discussion in which I’m able to talk about what it took for me to begin healing.

We’re all dealt cards we didn’t ask for, even before the moment we’re born. Going into a professional position or a new job doesn’t magically make all that disappear. In fact, it often triggers it. Understanding how trauma shaped and still shapes us is worthy of our best efforts. Not alone, but together.

I don’t know how this will play out. Nonetheless, I’m hoping for more informal opportunities in which my personal and professional experiences come together in surprising ways.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 October 2018

Is it my imagination?

Competing headlines
Fly through air
Thick with alternative voices
Screaming for my attention–
Concentration on things that matter
Forced to wait breathless
As the next raw-meat morsel
Is bandied before my eyes
Each tasty morsel bait
For the lioness in me
That loves to roar
Calling further attention
To the next high drama
As precious minutes slip away
Never to be repeated

Part of me wants to know what’s happening. Now! After all, I don’t want to be an ostrich with my head in the sand. Things aren’t going well. We seem to have hit more than a rough patch for the foreseeable future. There’s a lot to think about. Now!

Another part of me warns that time spent attending to news reports quickly becomes, for me, a colossal waste of precious time.

When I give away time I lose investment opportunities. The kind that don’t arrive via headlines or monetary gain. Rather, they’re hidden in the faces, comments and stories of family, friends, neighbors and strangers.

The graphics at the top help me make choices about what I’ll spend time reading. I appreciate it. Yet in the end, I still have to choose how much time I’ll spend looking at this ‘big picture.’

The big picture that matters most for me is discerned slowly, piece by piece. One person and one conversation at a time, beginning with those closest to me—family, friends, neighbors, people I meet in the blogosphere, and strangers who live just around the corner.

My life and yours are real, not imaginary. They aren’t measured or summed up by polling information or by our participation in protest, resistance, governmental or even charitable movements.

Rather, they become real to us within the safety of face-to-face, or one-on-one listening. That’s what fires my imagination as a follower of Jesus Christ who first listened to me—long before I knew anyone cared.

I’m no Pollyanna. Not everyone wants to be noticed. But those who do, including myself, are the women, men and children I want to get to know. It can’t hurt to begin by looking up, smiling, and asking, “How are you doing today? Would you like to tell me about it?”

So how are you doing today?


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 June 2017
Image sent to me by DAFraser, source unknown
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Imaginary

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