Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Following Jesus

What will we sing at our funeral?

After the post-election fight
(There will surely be one)
After things said and done
(Never to be taken back)
Who are we?
Who are you?
Who are ‘they’?
Who am I?
Do we know how to live together?
Do we know ourselves?

The election pales before
Post-election realities
We can’t turn the clock back
The ticking never stops
Hours chime down
And then ahead despite
Agonies of loss and outrage
From either side of this drama

This country simmers
On the brink of boiling over
Into a million public and private
Wars of attrition and retribution
Burning to the ground every sign of
National good will or peace on earth

“My country, ‘tis of Thee sweet land of liberty?”
What will we sing at our funeral?

I pray I’m wrong. Yet there are already signs of kick-back. White Power individuals and groups are moving to take things into their own hands. Meanwhile, POTUS looks the other way, or acknowledges them publicly in ways that encourage them.

Who will be our true leaders in this unmapped territory? What are my values? What does it mean to follow Jesus no matter where this path takes me?

If my preferred candidates don’t win, will my values or direction suddenly change? Or am I willing to join and keep learning from children, women and men who live all their lives, as Jesus did, without the assumption of good will or peace on earth?

Praying we’ll find our way together,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 October 2020
Map found at pinterest.com

Chains

Chains of fearful submission
Rattle through the nighttime
Terrorizing citizens caught
In the act of looking the other way

This simple act caught on screen and
Controlled by centuries of false freedom
Binds tongues and stokes the proud
In these days of wine and funerals

Whiteness permeates communal air
Contaminating the atmosphere
Dripping with the stench of refuse
From centuries of proud fear

Sunday church comes just in time
For another needle of painkiller
Soothing hard hearts and closed minds
Ready for another week of denial

This is my personal statement, based on a lifetime of church service and membership. Both conservative and not so conservative.  

Ever since this nation’s founding, independent and denominational white churches in the USA have enabled the war against full citizenship for people of color, American Indians, and many immigrants. How did churches do this? Chiefly by staying within so-called safe “non-political’ bounds, and practicing forms of charity that required sacrifice without causing a political ruckus.

Denial has a way of becoming deadly. It’s a downward slope leading to disaster. Many white churches in the USA are in denial. Some may talk about change. Others who care deeply about these things read books and get involved personally.

Rarely, however, is there difficult institutional change. The kind that’s visible, that stirs up uncomfortable controversy and leads to even more difficult change. Yet that’s what it means to follow Jesus the Jew on his way to death. He was crucified (hung on a cross/tree) for living the Good News for All and telling it like it is. Not with rancor, yet without mincing words or minimizing the cost to him or to his followers.

I’m praying for visible changes of heart and habits of life. We’re in this for the long haul, no matter how the upcoming election plays out. 

Thanks for visiting, and for doing what you can where you are. As for me, I’m reading James Cones’ book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 October 2020
Book cover image from amazon.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

Lost in an internal maze

Brilliant winter sun-rays
Filter through frigid air
Endangering darkroom eyes
Unaccustomed to light

Blinking he looks away
Unwilling to sacrifice
Hazy unclear sight for clarity
Or the fine details of truth

Better the sweet comfort
Of blurred lines mixing
Facts with fiction or
Reducing them to nothing

Stumbling blindly
From pillar to post
He makes his lonely way
Lost in an internal maze

I didn’t set out to write about Mr. Trump, yet it seems I have. So now I’m sitting here wondering what’s going on in me. Have I given up on his presidency? Disengaged myself from caring anymore?

That might happen if I believed that whatever he does, I will likely weather the storm. Yet I don’t believe that. His actions put us and others at risk every day.

More likely, I wrote this because I lack visible power over what’s happening in Washington. I voted. Now it seems there’s no more I can do to make a visible difference.

Nor can I say I hope for something better from Mr. Trump. I don’t. I’m an aging citizen, with limited time and energy. I want to know how to make my voice and my concerns heard.

Though I could perhaps feel sorry for Mr. Trump, that isn’t an option. He has openly chosen his way of doing business, and is following it regardless of intended or unintended outcomes for our nation or our allies.

What now? If I remember right, Jesus rebuked those who paraded their supposed righteousness before everyone’s eyes. Instead, he recognized with gratitude and admiration the widow who, almost unnoticed, gave from her heart the bit she had.

I want to find my bit, and offer it from my heart. Not to Mr. Trump, but to this world God already loves — the same world I’m learning to love in spite of our differences and blurred visions of reality.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 January 2019
Photo found at freepik.com

life takes the long road

life takes the long road
through majestic terrain
gleaming and foreboding

daylight falls quickly
below horizons
of narrow vision
ablaze with dying day

This photo, taken in Scotland, is breathtaking. As breathtaking as a single life that burns out boldly before fading into darkness.

It reminds me that what’s happening in and behind the “news” is often not good news, and easily becomes a distraction from the larger picture. The long view doesn’t promise me an eternity. It does, however, invite me to keep my perspective clear.

One of my readers left a wonderful comment in response to yesterday’s post. In it she shared a comment from a friend of hers in India. Here it is–a way of putting things into proper perspective:

WORLD: How could you stay in the Church after all the scandal?
ME: You don’t leave Jesus because of Judas.

Here’s to a thoughtful Tuesday.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 September 2018
Photo found at pixabay.com

cool midsummer breeze

cool midsummer breeze
reminder of things to come
balm for my body

Out this morning for a walk with D. Taking advantage of an unexpected change in the air. Thinking about what’s going on here in the USA and abroad. Especially in churches and religious communities.

Recent revelations of clergy sex abuse of more than 1000 minors in Pennsylvania have sent our state and religious communities reeling. Not a moment too soon, yet decades too late for victims robbed of their childhood, adolescence, and sense of worth as children of God.

This time it’s about priests, bishops and the highest governing bodies of the Roman Catholic Church. It could easily have been about ordained leaders in conservative and liberal churches of all Christian denominations, including those that claim not to be denominations.

Abuse of power has no boundaries.

In the meantime, thousands upon thousands of children, young people and adults wonder when and how this madness will end. Everything in us cries out for freedom, though many of us have believed the lies of our perpetrators:

  • This is for your own good.
  • You made me do it.
  • God told me to do it.
  • I can’t help myself.
  • This will bring you closer to God.
  • No one will ever find out.
  • This is our little secret.
  • You should be ashamed of yourself.
  • I can help you with your career.
  • If you tell anyone, I’ll kill your brother.
    …..

Our lives are precious. We’re here for a purpose. What’s yours?

Today mine is to spotlight the reality of this rampant non-secret that’s eating away at families, communities, religious and secular institutions. To think these things don’t matter in public life is to live on another planet. These aren’t private matters. They are public and private relations disasters at every level.

No, I haven’t given up on following Jesus. I have, however, given up the notion that what happened to me in my youth and childhood should be over and done by now. It’s never over and done. Especially when there are millions of other victims out there. Overlooked, uncounted, discounted and left to their own devices. From the outside, some get along better than others. Yet deep inside, competing voices vie for everlasting attention.

I know, because I’m still doing battle, though not without hope. My purpose today is to tell the truth, without loss of hope and with the most powerful voice I have–my writing.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 August 2018
Photo found at kalynskitchen.com

A vexing situation – Sexuality 5

I’m tired of dancing around the politics of sexuality, whether proclaimed by the church and church-related institutions, or by political parties on both sides of all aisles.

All my life I’ve lived by other people’s agendas. Toed the line (most of the time). Made sure I didn’t cause a problem for the powers that be (even though I did).

For a change, this is my agenda: As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am to

  1. love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and mind
  2. love my neighbor as I love myself
  3. love myself

It couldn’t be simpler or more terrifying than that. Those three, taken together, are my bottom lines. Any attempt to gain my loyalty or affirmation falls short if it requires me to add or subtract from this list.

If I were applying to teach at a seminary and made the first cut of candidates, I might say something like this to the search committee.

  • I would like to hear from each of you about your personal journey, including things you’ve struggled with in your life, and how this affects the way you relate to seminarians, particularly regarding sexuality. In return, I’m committed to sharing the same thing with you about my struggles, and the way this has affected my work with seminarians, both male and female.

Perhaps this is unrealistic or unfair. In any case, I don’t think I would get many takers.

I am now and have always been an outlier about sexuality. Partly due to my troubled past with my father. But also because of multiple friendships with gay men and lesbian women, my own troubled past, and fear of being drummed out if people don’t believe me or, more likely, find me unworthy.

When it comes to sexuality, no one has an undamaged mind, heart or body. In addition to relentless private victimization, the advent of ritualized, commercialized pornographic images and social media voyeurism makes a mockery of our felt need to root out those who flagrantly (publicly or privately) violate their own sexuality or the sexuality of others. We have been sinned against, and we have knowingly and unknowingly passed along our anguish.

Finally, though this post is about men as well as women, we women have more to lose when it comes to sexuality.

Nonetheless, if we women keep arguing and distancing ourselves from each other, we’ve lost even more. It doesn’t matter whether we’re homosexual, heterosexual, transgendered or bisexual. It doesn’t matter what color we are or how many husbands or partners we’ve had, or what we have or haven’t done in our pasts. What matters are areas of common concern, and taking initiative to meet each other around those issues, even though it may mean meeting some sisters for the first time.

I’m a dreamer. So was Jesus Christ. As one of his followers, how can I refuse to go where he went? Yes, it’s a kind of death. But the kind that passes life along to our daughters and sons, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, neighbors, and even to ourselves.

As always, many thanks for listening.
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 April 2018

The Afflicted

~~~Simone Weil in Marseilles, early 1940s

This quote from Simone Weil got my attention this morning. Especially in these days when we’re exhorted to reach out to each other. It all depends….

The capacity to pay attention to an afflicted person is something very rare, very difficult; it is nearly a miracle. It is a miracle. Nearly all those who believe they have this capacity do not. Warmth, movements of the heart, and pity are not sufficient.

Simone Weil, Waiting for God

Are we ready for affliction? Ready to experience it? Prepared to live and die with it?

I’m talking primarily, but not only about we the white people of the USA, narrowly defined by political and religious affiliations. Are we ready?

Or are we still hanging onto our bootstraps mentality. Proud, tall and lily-white. Still finding it difficult if not impossible to attend to the afflictions of strangers or even acquaintances.

Perhaps we’re afraid we’ll look into the mirror of their afflictions and discover our own afflictions. Or worse–the source of their afflictions, carried in us like a deadly live virus all dressed up in fancy clothes.

During this period of Lent, the afflictions of Jesus show us the truth about ourselves. He was afflicted, and though we may have felt sorry for him, we wrote him off.

Isaiah 53:3 (New Revised Standard Version)

He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted
with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide
their faces
he was despised, and we held him of
no account.

Perhaps the true leaders of tomorrow will be the afflicted. Those of no account. Even though they have experience, skills and knowledge we’ve discounted for generations. Strangers who have survived among us for decades with affliction as their constant companion. Even in so-called safe spaces.

As a follower of Jesus, I have one Savior. I am also, however, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses I haven’t heeded. Virtual strangers. Women, men and children whose everyday lives are layered with affliction.

What does it mean to give an afflicted person my full attention? Have I ever done this?

Questions like these are on my mind as we witness the painful removal of legal requirements, funding sources, and small islands of hope and trust that helped level the playing field for the last several decades.

This strange never-never land may not end well. Nonetheless, I want to end with a bang, not a whimper.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 March 2018
Photo found at http://www.nybooks.com

A letter to our Creator

Dear Creator of this World, though not the creator of its craziness,

I have a dilemma, so I’m bringing it to You. Hoping for a little light, as one of many followers of Your Son Jesus of Nazareth.

I’m to pray for those in official authority over me. In particular, those who have responsibility for governing this nation. Important people such as the President of the United Sates, the governor of Pennsylvania, Senators and those who serve in Congress at state and national levels.

The easiest way to pray is that they will rule wisely, with special consideration for the poor, widows, orphans, refugees and others who struggle to make it from one day to the next.

This way of praying has always worked for me before. Yet today I feel compelled to pray in a different way, and for different leaders in our country and abroad.

For example, I feel compelled to pray daily for officials who run nonprofit organizations. The kind that help pick up the pieces and make ends meet. It seems our current government has abdicated too much of its responsibility toward those with the least resources, while also lining the pockets of the wealthy who already have way more than enough.

Here’s something else. I’m also tempted to pray against some of the officials I’m exhorted to pray for. In fact, it seems that the only way to pray for some of them is to pray against them. If the goal is to have wise decisions that serve us well, perhaps it’s time to pray that certain plans will fail. Or that those who create these plans will get caught in the traps they set for others.

Finally, as You already know, our President has dismissed, mocked and denigrated women who come forward to tell the truth about powerful men who made their lives nightmares. He also seems to get away with his loose talk and loose living, and with abdicating his responsibility to lead this nation.

Tomorrow is Sunday, and I’ll probably be in church. We always pray for those who govern us. I know good national leadership is good for all of us, to say nothing about the rest of the world. Still, I feel the need to pray against some who govern us, and to pray for those who have the courage to stand up and be counted on the side of truth.

One more thing. I don’t see or hear Jesus of Nazareth holding back in his assessment of political and religious leaders of his day. And, as noted above, I want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Please advise.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 January 2018
Image found at englishforschools.wordpress.com

mountain of sorrow

mountain of sorrow
strewn with graves of the slaughtered
cannot forget

I wrote this after watching a special report last night on the PBS News Hour. It included video of hastily dug stone-marked graves for men and boys slaughtered on Sinjar Mountain during genocidal war against Yazidis in Sinjar District, Iraq.

It caught my attention because it happened in the last several years, just ‘yesterday,’ right before our eyes. Genocide is an attempt by some human beings to disappear other human beings from the face of the earth. Uncounted numbers of men, boys, women and girls were found unworthy of belonging to the human race. Their crime: being Yazidis.

Advent has its dark side. A Jewish baby born to a young unmarried Jewish woman will one day be judged by his own people and others, and declared unworthy to belong to the human race.

His crime? Speaking the truth about people who populated his world. Sometimes it was unwelcome truth, delivered in unconventional ways. He didn’t hold back or grease the hands and reputations of religious leaders, politicians, or everyday human beings like you and like I.

Nor did he hold back in showing us how to live, speak, and die for truth. Especially when other human beings are being disappeared.

This challenges me. I don’t want to be among the disappeared. Nor do I want to collude in the disappearance of others. What does this mean for me, looking ahead?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 December 2017
Photo found at thestar.com

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