Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: God

I don’t think I like your religion

I’ve included a few comments below about the context for Morton’s lyrics.

Religion

I don’t think I like your religion
Don’t always make the best decisions
Not sayin’ you don’t have good intentions
I know that you are only human

But you blame your God when it’s your own fault
Where is the love that your God spoke of?
Your God has nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them

That’s what you were told, let’s just be honest
You didn’t even take the time to find it yourself
You just took their words to be true
You don’t even know why you believe what you do

But you blame your God when it’s all your fault
Where is the love that your God spoke of?
Your God has nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them

Your God has nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them (repeated twice)

P. J. Morton lyrics to Religion, recorded on his Grammy-nominated hip-hop album, Gumbo

This past weekend I listened to a public radio interview with hip-hop artist P. J. Morton. His father, also a musician, is an ordained clergyman. Morton talked about his commitment to hip-hop, his religious upbringing, and the way it influences his music. I didn’t make notes, but here’s part of what I heard during the interview.

The religious language of white evangelical Christians who supported Trump for president reminds Morton of the way white slavers kept Black slaves in their place. Thus, “I don’t think I like your religion.” This kind of religion became a vehicle for inhumane political ends during slavery. Today, this kind of religion is still a vehicle for inhumane political ends. It’s supported now as then by unexamined, faulty assumptions about the God of Christianity.

Morton’s response is simple: Don’t blame God “when it’s all your fault.” Don’t expect God to bless your decisions. They’re based on faulty, unexamined notions about God. What you call God’s will, supposedly being worked out through Trump, is your own uninformed will dressed up in religious language. God is not your puppet. And Trump is not God’s agent sent to do your faulty bidding.

You are, after all, “only human.” Even though you may have good intentions.

Too bad the Grammys chose to overlook Morton’s prophetic music.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 January 2018
Studio-recorded video found here on YouTube
Interview excerpt found here, plus a link to an audio of the full interview with Michel Martin on NPR’s All Things Considered

Sabbath Rest Memories | Photos

One year ago D and I, with our daughter and son-in-law were enjoying a huge once-in-a-lifetime cruise down the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers. Here are random favorites that depict the heart, if not the full reality of Sabbath rest. The ducks at the top are showing how it’s done. We spotted them at Kinderdijk. The photos below were taken on the way to Cologne and in one of the parks there.

For starters, here’s a photo of me sound asleep, doing Nothing.
Just looking at this makes me go all limp.
And what about those snazzy socks!

Here are some rather limp cattle we passed along the way.
They didn’t even look up or ask what we were doing!
Just kept napping, chewing their cud, and chilling out.

Not to be outdone by cattle,
this water fowl family is getting into the spirit of things, too.
Doing mostly nothing but enjoying an outing together.

And here’s a young couple also doing nothing
but resting and enjoying this beautiful view of the river.
I wonder who they are?

Here they are again!
We saw them quite often during the cruise.
They smiled a lot. Definitely a sign of Sabbath joy.

Well look at that!
This Sabbath rest thing seems to be popular with everyone.
Especially when it means enjoying nature.

Here’s our trusty photographer, aka D,
taking a picture of himself in front of a reflective screen.
He’s enjoying relaxed time in his very relaxed outfit!
You don’t have to dress up for Sabbath rest, you know.

Nearby was this calm bunny taking great joy in a favorite snack!

There’s that good-looking couple again!
They look like they’re enjoying each other and nature and
a complete break from their normal busy, creative lives.
Just as I’m trying to do right now.

You might say nature enjoys Sabbath every day.
But sometimes it outdoes itself with beauty. Natural beauty.
This looks like Sabbath-day best to me.

And this little bee is having the feast of a lifetime.
You might say its cup is running over with joy and delight.

Back on the cruise ship, D got this evening shot of
the Cologne Cathedral, spires pointing upwards.
A silent reminder of the source of our life, our rest and our joy.

Blessings of peace and rest to each of you.
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 July 2017
Photos taken by DAFraser, Summer 2016 Viking Cruise

hanging on for dear life

P1040831

hanging on for dear life
gnarled roots exposed
soil sifts away with
each new flash flood
no rock bottom in sight
turbulence guaranteed
in more than the air
reeking with harbingers
of hard times ahead
soil ill-prepared
for these upheavals
brittle dry sinews of our
vulnerability on display
slow motion relentless
yesterday disappearing
before our eyes can adjust
in this foreboding present

Every day my eyes are pulled to headlines and news articles that sometimes offer more than they can deliver. Instead, they leave me without comfort or enlightenment. Sometimes they destroy any iota of clarity I thought I’d achieved. It isn’t laughable; it’s tragic. Not because of the news industry, but because of what passes these days as news.

So here’s the news I’m counting on these days–good for me, good for you and good for the animals and mother earth!

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
Your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
You give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
In your light we see light.

Psalm 36: 5-9 (New International Version)

Psalm 36 was written during politically troubled times filled with those who flattered themselves “too much to detect or hate their sin.” So-called leaders were failing to “act wisely or do good” and did not reject what was wrong.

The only antidote to evil and falsehood is truth. Speaking it, yes. Even more potent, living it. Daring to live each day in the light of our Maker—the only light in which we see light, whether we live and whether we die. The unseen source and goal of our dear lives.

Praying this day will bring moments of deep calm and clarity.

Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 July 2017
Photo credit: DAFraser, October 2012, Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, Oregon
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Shallow

Something about prayer….

My history with prayer is all over the map. I’ve probably heard more prayers than I’ve heard sermons. Too many to count. On the other hand, I’ve always struggled with prayer. Here are two posts talking about my childhood struggles with prayer: here and here.

Last year a friend gave me a slim volume of poems by Mary Oliver, a winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. The volume I’m reading is Thirst.

What caught my eye this week was the first stanza of a longer poem titled “Six Recognitions of the Lord.” I’m still taking in the first stanza.

I know a lot of fancy words.
I tear them from my heart and my tongue.
Then I pray.

When I read these simple words, I feel lighter. I grew up hearing and trying to replicate, in my way, prayers that would be polite and proper. Yes, I spoke from my heart no matter when I prayed. Yet I also felt unbearably self-conscious about my prayers, especially about the words I used.

It didn’t matter whether I was praying privately or publicly, I feared my words wouldn’t live up to what God expected to hear from me. Or that they would be used by others to judge my spiritual formation.

Looking back, I know my family upbringing contributed to some of this. Whether by design or not, my prayers to God felt like baring my soul to whomever was listening. I feared someone was grading, judging or scrutinizing me. Would I pass the test?

Mary Oliver’s words are to the point and liberating. They’re also primarily about personal prayer, not public prayer. Though they may apply there as well.

The best analogy I can think of would be a child talking to a trusted parent or caregiver. Freely, without shame or hiding. With no need to impress anyone. Not calculating or careful about choice of words or what the other person might think about what I’m saying.

God just wants me to show up, talk and listen. Listen and talk. Using my own words. No matter how I feel today about God or myself.

First, Mary Oliver invites me to tear all fancy words from my heart and my tongue.

Praying your Sabbath is filled with childlike joy and delight.

Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 July 2017
Artwork found on Google at http://www.royaldoors.net

The Soul selects her own Society —

house-door-1860s

I wish Emily Dickinson had left a note about this poem. It seems maddeningly ambiguous about her context and meaning. What do you think it’s about? My comments follow.

The Soul selects her own Society –
Then – shuts the Door –
To her divine Majority –
Present no more –

Unmoved – she notes the Chariots – pausing –
At her low Gate —
Unmoved – an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat –

I’ve known her – from an ample nation –
Choose One –
Then – close the Valves of her attention –
Like Stone –

c. 1862

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

Here are my thoughts as of today—informed by my experience as a woman and by social, national and international realities.

  • Is this a riddle? I don’t think so. Riddles can have more than one true answer, but only when all clues in the riddle line up with each possible solution.
  • The subject of the poem is named immediately – “the Soul.” Everything that follows describes choices of the Soul, personified as a woman.
  • The action in the poem is simple. The Soul makes her own choice about whom she will or will not receive. She then shuts the Door, cutting off access to all others and ensuring her own Majority (of one). This isn’t a decision made by consultation or by popular vote. It’s a one-way decision of the Soul.

If this is about a human being, I celebrate our ability to choose whom we will or will not allow through the Door – into our lives. That doesn’t mean each choice we make will be wise. It means the choice is ours, for good and for ill.

On the other hand, I think Emily is suggesting more than this.

Notice these words: The Soul ‘shuts the Door’ – is ‘Unmoved’ – is ‘Unmoved’ – is ‘Like Stone.’ This suggests a one-time decision such as how the Soul choses to live her life. These words might also suggest this Soul is a snob or merciless.

Yet I see no evidence of this. She doesn’t seem to come from high Society or live in a magnificent palace (note her low Gate). She simply makes her choice and doesn’t look back. Her nay is nay, and her yes is yes. No use trying to change her mind.

It’s possible the supplicants are trying to help this Soul in some way. Or perhaps use her? They may want her vote or her support. They might promise her one thing and deliver something else. Whether the Soul knows this or not, I still applaud her courage when she shuts the Door, Unmoved.

Emily’s poem challenges me to be wise and clear about opening the door of my soul. Some bargains and sure-things end up being disastrous. Not just in our private lives, but in our national and global life.

In the end it doesn’t matter whether someone thinks I’m a snob or blind to reality (which I sometimes am). My choices aren’t always wise. Still, I believe God gave me the capacity to learn wisdom and discernment, if I’m willing to practice it. This means, as Emily’s poem implies, going against popular wishes or expectations from time to time. Especially as a woman, though also as a family member, friend, neighbor and citizen.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 February 2017
Image  found at remodelingnewburyport.com

Dancing

Wallflower at a dance

Yesterday morning I stepped into D’s office, heard Anne Murray singing, and began weeping. “Could I have this dance for the rest of my life…?” The song kept coming back to me all day—reminding me of what’s really important, and why I’m talking with family members about death. Read the rest of this entry »

In my dead moments | From an Old Soul

Do you recognize this tactic? I do. My comments follow.

July 24

My soul this sermon hence for itself prepares:–
“Then is there nothing vile thou mayst not do,
Buffeted in a tumult of low cares,
And treacheries of the old man ‘gainst the new.”—
Lord, in my spirit let thy spirit move,
Warning, that it may not have to reprove:–
In my dead moments, master, stir the prayers.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994

What’s on MacDonald’s mind as he begins this sonnet?

Restlessness. He doesn’t like the stillness, the apparent absence of God. Read the rest of this entry »

The soul’s nest | From an Old Soul

July 22 – 23, Diary of an Old Soul

Sometimes, perhaps, the spiritual blood runs slow,
And soft along the veins of will doth flow,
Seeking God’s arteries from which it came.
Or does the ethereal, creative flame
Turn back upon itself, and latent grow?—
It matters not what figure or what name,
If thou art in me, and I am not to blame.

In such God-silence, the soul’s nest, so long
As all is still, no flutter and no song,
Is safe. But if my soul begin to act
Without some waking to the eternal fact
That my dear life is hid with Christ in God—
I think and move a creature of earth’s clod,
Stand on the finite, act upon the wrong.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994

Soul-weariness. I know it well. A kind of spiritual torpor. Listlessness. Is it sloth? Maybe. I’m not sure. It creates hunger in me. Hunger to trace down the source of this lassitude, this inability to move within my spirit for or against anything.

Sometimes I try to ‘make it happen.’ Searching for anything that will jolt my connection with God and with others. Wake me up. Give me a reason to live, a reason to write, a sense of contentment or even happiness.

I know my life is ‘hid with Christ in God,’ but it’s hidden so well that I can’t seem to find it right now. Is this depression? World-weariness? Older age seeping into my veins? Molasses running cool instead of warm?

Where’s the fire I long to feel? Am I burning out? Are my best days behind me? Is it going to be like this forever?

I can think of a thousand ways of describing it. But none of it takes me anywhere.

All I know is that God dwells in me no matter how I feel right now. I don’t blame God, and I can’t blame myself. This is just the way it is right now. Like it or not.

In fact, this is a pretty restful place. “God-silence.” A bit like Sabbath rest. Is God resting too? I like the idea of being a little bird in God’s nest. I like being here, not worrying about where the worms are coming from for my next meal, or what I’ll do today. God seems to be taking care of that…so far. I think I’ll take a little nap.

On the other hand, I wonder what it would be like to leave the nest.

I have an idea! I could practice my flutters for a few days, and learn to sing a little bird song! I’m sure God wouldn’t mind if I take a tiny solo flight to spread cheer and good will. It would really perk me up to know I’m making a difference!

What did you just say? I shouldn’t do this? I don’t belong to myself? My life isn’t my own? And if I do something impulsive like this, I’m just “a creature of earth’s clod?” Made out of a lifeless lump of clay? About to crash-land?

What do you know about it? Who do you think you are? God?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 November 2015

Terror and Faith | 9/11/2001

Today I couldn’t stop thinking about this piece I wrote in response to the 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center. I still believe every word I wrote back then, and find them both comforting and challenging given our current world situation. Thanks for reading and commenting if you’d like. Elouise

Telling the Truth

It’s difficult to focus.
Voices and images
clamor for my attention,
my response,
my analysis of what is beyond all reason.

I force myself to stay close to the bone,

View original post 498 more words

When my heart sinks | From an Old Soul

When your heart sinks, how do you think about yourself in relation to God? Things aren’t always as they seem. Read the rest of this entry »

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