Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Denial

Wild Beauty

Springing from remains
Of a spent hot lava flow
Coating burnt bare horror
With living tendrils
Of naked fragile life
The sea of green moves
Slowly without fanfare
Across acres of ground
Determined to recover
Wild beauty we thought
Would last forever

Right now the Amazon forest is burning in South America, and North America is moving into another season of wild fires. To say nothing of the coming hurricane season and rising tides. And that’s not all. Every day we hear about the latest human atrocities that suck energy from attempts to address the relentless cycle of human destruction.

When I was young, I thought I lived in the best nation ever. It didn’t take long to become disabused of this notion. We’re as vulnerable as any nation, thanks to attempts to cover things up and deny what’s right in front of us.

Wild beauty never lasts forever, and we don’t have the first or last word about life on this planet. Still, I’d rather die trying than give up all hope. Wouldn’t you? We never know what our words, deeds or prayers might do to foster life rather than death.

Praying this coming week offers unexpected opportunities for life to take root from death.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 August 2019
Photo of Mount St. Helens’ rebirth following its eruption several years earlier; found at twofargone.com

Thank you, Mr. Trump

I don’t really want to say those words to you. Yet I must. It seems the abuse of power has more educational value than all the well-intended lectures and lessons of this world.

Just think about it for a half-minute. Who would have thought we could all so quickly know the meaning and the impact of things that are ‘systemic.’ Evil is systemic.

Simply put: What happens in one corner of the world has tentacles that reach to every other corner of the world, sooner or later.

Good is also systemic. Ultimately, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe good will triumph, though at an exceeding high cost. Perhaps we’re paying it now?

In the meantime, systemic evil seems to be our sad and sorry tutor these days. As I see it, thanks to your moves and counter-moves and flourishes of your pen, we now recognize and feel the impact of systemic evil.

Soy farmers get it; steel manufacturers get it; those without a living wage get it; people who live on the streets get it; human beings from the wrong side of our southern border get it; people with skin that isn’t your color get it; people in mansions get it; and so do people in power. All this and more.

Of course some ‘get it’ more than others. And some are happy to get it at great cost to others. This becomes crystal clear as the consequences of evil multiply and hive off faster than ants or bees. Though even the bees are feeling systemic neglect as well.

Perhaps the word evil is bothering you. No problem. I can use another word. How about systemic lying? Systemic cheating? Systemic abuse? Systemic violence? Systemic greed? Systemic robbery? Systemic inhumanity? Systemic distrust of scientific research? Systemic neglect of those most in need of help? Just to name a few.

We don’t live in air-tight surroundings. We live in complex webs of connections, even when we think we’re living disconnected. Or off the grid. Which is, in itself, another form of denial.

No President of the United States has made the word ‘systemic’ so clear in so little time as you have, Mr. Trump. As a theology professor who struggled often to explain how systemic evil works in the world, I have to hand it to you. You’ve done a masterful job in very short order.

There’s just one hitch. You give every sign that you believe you’re an island unto yourself. Able to push and shove the world around at will or by hook and crook, hiding beneath your POTUS status and your highly proclaimed ability to practice the art of the deal.

Sadly, your relentless pushing and shoving is painfully and abusively open to inspection every moment of every day, whether you attempt to hide it or not. I wish I could feel sad for you. Instead, I’m mourning what’s happening to my friends, my neighbors, my family, our country and our integrity as one nation among many.

Not that we were perfect before you became POTUS. We were not. Nor will we ever be. Still, it seems that what we’ve become as of today or even tomorrow will never, ever be called ‘great.’

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 June 2018

Taming my bad beast

Two beasts roam around in me. A good beast and a bad beast. They want to direct my life. Sort of like Aslan, and sort of like the White Queen in The Chronicles of Narnia.

So here’s the trap I face regularly–to do or not to do something, plus my deep wish to say yes, and be part of the show. Normal! Not sitting somewhere on the sidelines, feeling left out, unappreciated or unacknowledged.

Sometimes the good beast in me roars, ‘No, I will not go with you on that wild goose chase! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!’ And though I often agree reluctantly, it’s most often the best thing for me not to do. Even though it’s costly.

The bad beast, unfortunately, knows how to look like a good beast, especially when it’s about whatever seems true, healthy, and of good report. It doesn’t always roar. It’s more likely to whisper in my ear reminding me that I can do just about anything if I put my mind to it.

And there’s the rub. It takes a lot more than my mind to do most things. Which gets me into self-defeating cycles of madness. Nothing you’d call 9-1-1 about. Unless I collapse on the race-track—not entirely impossible.

So, charging right ahead, about 6 or 8 weeks ago I noticed my Fitbit was urging me on to new heights of fitness. Nothing wrong with that, I thought, as I pondered my last year of slow-walk, slow-go, plenty of time outs for rest pace.

Fitbit is not a monster. Or a beast. It just knows how to get the attention of my beast—the one that wants to be right up there with everyone else. You know, that community of friends and sometimes family who are equally mad about Fitbit and determined to make their all goals each day and earn those lime-green flashy lights at the end of the day! Maybe even make it to the top of the Leader Board!

Heavy duty adrenalin rushes through my veins even as I write the words. Bad sign….

So I went for it. For nearly two months. At first it was wonderful. The weather cooperated. My body cooperated. I slept great and woke up without a whimper.

And then it wasn’t so wonderful. Little things began nagging at me. Feet hurting more than usual, aches here and there, falling asleep before I got to bed. Nothing huge, but a cloud of little gnats constantly getting in my way.

I was trying to walk a marathon and burn a gazillion calories each day, when all I needed to do was walk 2 miles a day or not, and burn just enough calories or not.

Yesterday I took an extra day of rest. Total delight and relief. I’m still wearing my Fitbit, but as a check—not as a dare-you-to-top-yesterday red flag waving in front of me all day.

Hoping your day is filled with serenity, sanity and gratitude for the one-of-a-kind person you are.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 October 2017
Image of The White Queen found at pinterest

Daily Prompt: Tame

The Shape of Forgiveness | Part 3

“Forgiving does not remove our scars any more than a funeral takes away all of our grief.”
“We cannot forgive a wrong unless we first blame the person who wronged us.”
Lewis Smedes, in The Art of Forgiving, Moorings 1996

Denial. I lived with it daily. Not simply denial about my father, but about precisely what he had done to me. In a dark room in my mind I still, in knee-jerk fashion, hadn’t given up bearing ‘my’ share of responsibility for the nature of our relationship.

I experienced it as unrelenting warfare. Yet if you’d asked me about this even three years ago, I would have protected my father by denying the truth. All it took was an add-on phrase or two like these:

  • I wasn’t always an easy child.
  • Sometimes I deserved what I got.
  • Sometimes I asked for it by being stubborn.
  • I know I’m not entirely guilt-free.

All intended to soften the truth and point away from my father as the responsible adult party. If I didn’t, I feared no one would listen to me. I had to remind them that I know I’m not perfect, either.

One of the most difficult exercises of my adult life was to blame my father. Not generally, but specifically, and in writing. With clear reasons, and naming the reality for what it was. I worked on this during the summer of 2014, using Lewis Smedes’ book, The Art of Forgiving, as a guide to rethinking my relationship to Daddy (the term my father required us to use when addressing him).

According to Smedes, I couldn’t forgive unless I first blamed my father for what he had done–concretely, specifically, and with reasons that held water. I had never blamed him in that way. I’d spent all my life trying to share the blame. That had to go.

Forgiveness has a shape. It isn’t a feel-good exercise driven by required words or even attitudes of reconciliation. Nor is it intended to deflect my attention from the Big Stuff truth. What happened to me changed my life in negative ways that are not outweighed by any positives I might name as ‘balancing’ factors.

What, then, do I mean when I say, ‘I blame Daddy’? My denial was so deep that it took several weeks to clarify this. Here it is in short form. You can read more here and here.

I blame you, Daddy, for

  • Willfully, intentionally and without coercion from anyone, using your power in ways that abused my body, my spirit, my mind, my emotions, my developing sexuality, and my overall identity/sense of self
  • Abusing your power as my father, as an adult male, and as an ordained clergyman
  • Not knowing or loving me as I was and am, beginning from early childhood and continuing throughout my adult years
  • Creating an atmosphere of intimidation at home, not an atmosphere of safety

Thanks for listening!

To be continued (one more post) . . . .

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 April 2017
Daily Prompt: Denial

Lassitude percolates

Lassitude

percolates

pore by pore

disarms

body spirit

induces

slumber

of denial

***

I know this feeling. The desire to escape into dreamland–literally and figuratively. I thought I’d tamed this beast. I have my short list of things to do today. They’re small, I admit it. Yet they’re forward-looking and constructive. Not in the world’s eyes, but for me personally.

Still, I find myself fighting it again. Putting things off until later. Pretending my days aren’t numbered, or that my contributions don’t matter. Allowing this way of thinking to seep into every pore of my body and spirit. . . . . . . . . .a life-numbing, bitter, death-dealing brew.

This is my wake-up call.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 November 2016
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Percolate

I have more than enough

unsorted-used-clothing-1

Unsorted Used Clothing

It’s Thanksgiving time here in the USA. Last Sunday I heard a sermon about generosity. I always squirm a bit, knowing my family and I Read the rest of this entry »

upper level atmospheric disturbances

Upper Atmosphere, Vadas-JA020280_main_Web-800x600

Upper level atmospheric disturbances
Pound my body invade my dreams
Mess with my heart beat
Vision
Balance

Read the rest of this entry »

My heart still pounds | Part 2 of 3

My heart still pounds when I relive this event.
Here’s what I read to my male colleagues, lightly edited for clarity.
_____

I want to let you know why I’ve chosen not to attend these faculty fellowship gatherings.  It’s about me.  In particular, it’s about my almost intolerable level of personal discomfort, accompanied by my sense of a being in a highly charged atmosphere in which I am now supposed to be ‘spiritual.’

  • I don’t know when to laugh.  The sign of this is that I sometimes want to cry when others are laughing.
  • I want to lament when others are praising.
  • I feel strange when those around me give every sign of feeling at home.

At my university, there was virtually no community spirituality.  This was uncomfortable and strange to me.  Here at the seminary, there’s much excitement and fervor about community spirituality.  This, too, I find strange and uncomfortable.

  • I want to name and give voice to my spirituality.  It’s deeply rooted in my Christian feminism and history with my sisters [other women].  It’s also rooted in my theology, and has the capacity for being as disturbing and controversial as any theological position might be.
  • I need to name this spirituality because of what seems to be an unspoken assumption that if my spirituality is different from the reigning spirituality, then I have no spirituality.
  • I must name this spirituality because I can no longer keep silent.

First, two statements about what spirituality is not:

  • Spirituality is not a human capacity whereby we ‘get in touch’ with God by means of various so-called spiritual disciplines.
  • Spirituality is not something we do—except insofar as we respond to something.

Put positively,

  • Spirituality is the event of the Holy Spirit in our midst.  It’s a happening in which God comes to us not in familiar, comfortable ways, but as a disturbing reality that challenges us at the point of our concrete need.

Here’s a more descriptive statement.  For me, spirituality is about the following:

  • Being awakened, coming to life, and purposefully incorporating all of human life into a shared vision of God and the world
  • Having my eyes open to human life, to what’s going on around me
  • Being awakened by God who comes to me in the form of my least favorite neighbor
  • Being introduced to a world of pain and suffering to which I cannot close my eyes
  • Striving with God, giving vocal expression to my outrage, my frustration, my despair
  • Being willing to give this vocal expression not just in the presence of God, but in the presence of my sisters and my brothers
  • Allowing the pain and anger to be there, without quick and easy resolutions
  • Being willing to live for a long time out of a vision of reality that is daily called into question

Spirituality is more than the event of the Holy Spirit opening our eyes.  It’s also a language that we speak.  However, I find myself surrounded by language that doesn’t reflect my spirituality.  This is what I hear:

  • Language about retreat from the world
  • Language that suggests life is a distraction – something we need to shut out
  • Language that denies expression to feelings of pain and suffering, but calls instead for talk of joy and unity that I don’t always see
  • Language that suggests our academic work could ever be anything but an expression who we are before God and before each other
  • Language that sets ‘us’ apart from ‘them’— from people out there in the real world
  • Language preoccupied with the inner self, in seeming isolation from concrete relationships 

This language disturbs me, largely because I feel no freedom to challenge it openly.

When we’re dealing with theological positions, we seem to do better at inviting dialogue.  But when we’re dealing with spirituality, I sense that the shape of spirituality has been precut.  Those who don’t fit the garment are at best misfits, at worst not ‘in the Spirit.’

In the end, my spirituality has to do with becoming acutely aware of the humanity of others and of myself—and of God in all of this.  It’s an awareness born of involvement in life, not an awareness that leads to involvement.

My goal, then, is to stay exactly what I already am–human, within the real world like everyone else, not separated out into a ‘more spiritual’ world.

_____

In a last post, I’ll comment about what happened next and what I’ve learned from this experience.  Stay tuned!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 January 2015

Coded Language

Powerful, Moving
Ambiguous, Interpretive
Heard, Hidden

Stripped, Caged
Imprisoned, Locked
Unheard, Unknown
Screaming, Silent Read the rest of this entry »

Yes, it hurt – Part 2 | Dear Diane

Continued from Part 1.  “…I do need to express, however, a part of my experience as a woman in ministry about which I have remained silent.” Read the rest of this entry »

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