Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Following Jesus

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

I was just a beginner…

I was just a beginner when it happened. In a supposedly safe place. I had a title and stature within an academic community.

From my childhood I’d experienced worse. Regularly. In ways that raised deep shame and self-blame in me. Bad girl.

But this was different. I was an adult. A colleague among adults who were followers of Jesus Christ.

It happened in a crowded hallway between classes. Without a whisper of warning. Just walking to my next class, in conversation with an adult man.

He wasn’t a stranger and he wasn’t my father. He professed to be a supporter of women’s full humanity, and our right to fair and equal access to theological education as students and as professors.

Perhaps he wasn’t thinking? I could give a thousand questions you might have asked me. None would have erased the sudden chill and shame of feeling an uninvited hand patting me on my butt.

I switched my briefcase to my right hand, moved over slightly and kept walking through the hallway as though nothing had happened. Indeed, it never happened again. I maintained my distance, without giving up my friendly demeanor.

My friend touched my body in a way I wouldn’t dream of touching his. It wasn’t a hand on my arm, but my butt. I believed that any attempt to draw attention to this would have made things worse. I felt trapped.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not my big #MeToo story. I’ve already told that in earlier posts—not just about the Shopkeeper, but about my father’s attempts to subdue me, and my first employer’s determination to humiliate me as a young woman just out of high school.

So why tell it? After all, it happened in the blink of an eye.

I’m telling it because we need to attend to the daily impertinences and seemingly small ways in which women, girls, boys and men who aren’t considered manly are reminded of their place and who has power over them.

I’m also telling it because there are millions of everyday people aching to let someone know what happened or is now happening to them. Are we able and willing to listen from our hearts? Without offering solutions or trying to re-write the stories we hear?

Sometimes silence and listening without judgment are the best gifts we give each other. In fact, to listen well is to follow well. The way I imagine Jesus Christ following us and being there when we’re ready for help.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…. (from Psalm 23)

I’m grateful for the women, men, young people and even children who have listened to my story, and shared with me their own experiences. In some ways, this is the table God has set before me in the presence of my enemies—who are more like I am than I could ever guess.

Praying you have a wonderful Sabbath rest.
Elouise 

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 November 2017
Photo found at theanvilnewsletter.blogspot.com
Daily Prompt:Neophyte

No, I will not give up!

The mood in our country is ever more divisive, thanks to the old divide and conquer strategy. It seems Mr. Trump is a mastermind at this. Not just at getting us to quarrel with each other, but at maintaining his position as the Man in Charge, trickling glory down or withholding it, at his time and in his way.

My readings in the Psalms this past week were encouraging, yet troubling. They were all about what happens to the wicked. In particular, those whose god has become great wealth, who take delight in the adulation of adoring publics, and who seem to believe God is made in their image and thus on their side.

Mr. Trump, already a follower and lover of great wealth, displays leadership traits that are confusing at best, willfully destructive at worst.

Most troubling is his habit of changing the subject strategically so that it’s not about him, but about someone else or somewhere else or the flag or patriotism or immigrants. It seems his happy moments are fleeting. Never enough to fill the deep hole in his heart.

I serve but one God. Is it possible to do this without confessing my personal failings? Of course not. Nonetheless, I don’t buy the argument that everyone has their weak spots or failings. As though we should give others a free pass, particularly our leaders.

Hebrew and Christian Scriptures have somber warnings to religious and political leaders about the way they govern. This includes strategies such as pitting the strong against the weak, rich against poor, social class against social class, women against men, immigrants against residents. The possibilities are endless.

The strategy of muddying and distorting reality keeps us riled up and at each other’s throats. So distracted that we cannot effectively call out leaders for failure to lead on behalf of everyone. We’re too busy jumping on the us-versus-them bandwagon.

I don’t know how to engage mammoth power. Or perhaps I don’t appreciate the power I do have. Which would be my one brief life, a pen and my prayers.

This feels like less than two small loaves and a small fish. Barely enough for me; not nearly enough for those who gather each day wanting to hear truth and hope. Especially in times of political, social and geographic upheaval.

Being a faithful Christian citizen has rarely felt so heavy. The bottom line is simple: Whom do I serve? And am I ready to do this at any cost? My spirit is willing; my flesh is weak. Which is why I depend on others like you, regardless of your political or religious persuasion.

As a follower of Jesus, I’m in this for the long haul. Today I’m grateful for the company of others learning to live each day without giving up the fight for justice, or hope for today and tomorrow.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 October 2017
Image found at flicker.com/photos/nicola
Daily Prompt: Succumb

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