Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Healing

A million distractions

A million distractions
rise daily from fertile ground
I close my eyes
trying to concentrate on Now

Now laughs at me
wonders whether I’m alive

Focus is for the birds
not for live human beings
swept up and along in
warped boats struggling
to stay afloat long enough
to be appreciated if not loved

The crowd roars its approval
begs for more showers of poison
from tongues wed to never-never land
coming your way today
unless you’d rather be
a bird

Just a few thoughts that reflect my desire to be over and done with the 2020 Election for our next POTUS. Why? Because  we have unfinished business. It isn’t about one thing. It’s about our entire history as a nation. We’re in a national ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment, invited to light a candle deep inside the hidden yet not-so-hidden history of this nation. Put another way, we’re invited yet again to stop walking over our history in Trance mode.

So yes, today I’d rather be a bird! Focused on what matters most.

This morning a couple of cardinals visited our recently-hung bird feeder. Clearly focused on food! Hoping this day offers food for our souls, and that we’re alert enough to accept it.

Happy Tuesday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 August 2020
Photo found at kaytee.com

Half truths + Half lies = Lies

From a 1950s Texas textbook for school children.

And what about real life?

Half-truths
Half-lies
Does it really matter?

Yes means ‘Yes…but’
Not now means ‘maybe
In the sweet by and by’

Mind your manners
Sweeten your voice
Remember who you are not

You do care
About your children
Don’t you?

Or your job
Or your good reputation
Or your life

Sly words
Strung like pearl
Bullets

If you flee
They will find you
In the end

Now….
What did you want
To say?

It’s difficult to convey the slyness of slavery. It happened on both sides, though for different reasons. The scales were, of course, heavily weighted in support of sly masters and mistresses.

Words are indispensable. Easily twisted by the powerful into lies. Or toned down and prettied up in American History textbooks of the 1950s and 60s. (See photo at the top)

We may say we’ve moved ‘beyond slavery,’ yet the record shows we have not. As a nation, we haven’t begun to recognize, much less take seriously its legacy in our lives today. No matter where we are or what we’re doing.

Pointing to heroes and heroines is important, yet it isn’t enough. What about exploring the unsung courage, strength and ingenuity embodied in unnumbered black lives that mattered then, and matter now? Or looking into some of those textbooks and pictures that tried to make us one happy family?

Praying for courage to face the past as part of facing our future.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 August 2020
Image found at kut.org

I’ve been weakened by the walls I’ve built | James DePreist

DePreist’s star along Portland, Oregon’s Main Street Walk of Stars

James DePreist is on my mind again, thanks to a note from a long-time friend. DePreist was a world-renowned orchestra conductor, a survivor of polio contracted while conducting the Bangkok Symphony, and a nephew of his world-renowned Aunt Marian Anderson. He was born in Philadelphia in 1936.

DePreist died in 2013. You can read about his life in The New York Times obituary or on Wikipedia. At the time of his death, he had been conductor of the Oregon Symphony in Portland, Oregon since 1980.  He had also written two volumes of poetry in his own free style.

Of all his poems, this one has challenged me most. Not just in the past, but today. Given our current situation regarding Black Lives, and Covid-19, it resonates loudly. A timely invitation to examine walls I’ve built, and deal with questions now “breeching my barricades.”

I’ve been weakened by the walls I’ve built,
robbed
of strength-drenched testing,
protected into an unprepared defense
of self.
Failing in my futile fortress to see
contentment’s numbing trap
I
answerless
must battle the questions now breeching
my barricades.

Poem written by James DePreist
©1986 and published by University of Portland Press in This Precipice Garden, p. 6

This is where I find myself today. Answerless. Not so much for my childhood upbringing in Georgia, but for my adult years when I thought I knew better.

While it’s true we never know how much good we’ve done, it’s also true we never know how much pain or damage we’ve inflicted. And then there’s always the question about now. What now? What next? How must I change, what will it cost, and what will I gain?

Thanks, as always, for visiting and reading. I pray you’re finding ways to deal with questions now breeching your barricades.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 August 2020
Image found at en.wickipedia.org

Reaping the Whirlwind

When did it begin —
This habit of being
More interested in myself
Than in the heart-rending
Realities of others?

White baby becomes
White child groomed
To be a ‘good’ Christian
And obedient little girl
Never questioning
Or fighting against
Rules upon rules
Spoken and unspoken
Shaping each day
By hook and by crook
Plus forced acceptance
And respect for all men
In authority over them

Never forget this, my daughters:

To be an adult citizen
Of the United States
With full rights and a vote
Is an uncommon honor
Not accorded every
Girl child in this nation
Only white children need apply to this
Fake Order of The Righteous Remnant
Happy to believe the sad myth that
They are the light of the world
A Great City set on a Great hill
Above this Great yet shrinking land
Still starving for ministrations of Mercy
And Justice for All

The system that became today’s USA was rigged from the beginning. As were so-called ‘history of the USA’ books for school children. Looking back, our true history is clear, as were bits and pieces of our national blindness and apathy decades ago.

I pray you and I will remain courageous and determined, no matter what comes next. It’s dangerous to be a light of any color set on a hill, especially while also attracting those determined to extinguish the light of truth.

Thanks for visiting and reading. Even a new President, should we be so blessed, won’t be able to wave a magic wand. In the end, it’s up to us. One day at a time. One heartfelt conversation, one small deed at a time. May God have mercy on us all.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 August 2020
Image found at http://www.thestar.com (Toronto)

Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters

Justice doesn’t trickle down, any more than wealth at the top trickles down. Yet church-related efforts at justice sometimes seem to try trickling down. Through the cracks and around the edges.

Why? Because this is a politically-charged issue. The stakes are high, and it seems injustice is winning. Black Lives Matter and Covid-19 have together exposed our glaring weaknesses as a nation. Especially when it comes to race.

This past week I began a 40-day “journey through America’s history of slavery, segregation, and racism.” It’s titled “An American Lament.”  You can take a look or down download it here. It was originally an exercise for Lent.

No one ever taught me to lament. Especially about my personal history with slavery, segregation, and racism.

I’ve always thought of myself as a seriously ‘with-it’ woman. In seminary, in the 1970s, I studied both sexism and racism. At university, in the 1980s, I focused my dissertation research on women’s issues. I mistakenly thought that by understanding feminism, I had an advantage when it came to understanding racism.

However, the very first day of this 40-day exercise, I listened online to a riveting, challenging address about racism and Christian churches in the USA. It was recorded in 2018, the year of mid-term elections. The full title is “Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters: Racism and our Need for Repentance.”

I highly recommend Rev. David Platt’s address for pastors, church leaders, church members, and anyone who cares about racism in the USA.

As for the rest of life these days, I’m walking every chance I get (way too hot on many days), listening to birds, helping stomp out lantern flies, talking with neighbors (outside and with a mask, of course), and learning more than I wanted to know about my history with racism.

Cheers to each of you for making it through another week!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 August 2020
Quote and image found at blockislandtimes.com

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

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 July 2020
Image found at NYTimes.com

What ‘human rights’ don’t look like

Recently a friend sent me the following list. I haven’t been able to get it off my mind. It was compiled by Dr. Valerie Bryant, a Black therapist in Brooklyn, NY. In the list she names black citizens threatened or killed in recent years while engaging in the behaviors she names.

Think of Dr. Bryant’s list as a roll call clarifying the difference between living black or brown, and living white in the USA. It’s also an invitation to reflection about ourselves, and the meaning of human rights.

…As a white person when you go out in the street, you don’t have to think twice of being murdered by a police officer or citizen acting like a police officer.

Or as a white person,

I can go birding (#ChristianCooper).
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery).
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and
#AtatianaJefferson).
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and
#RenishaMcBride).
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark).
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis).
I can sell CD’s (#AltonSterling).
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).
I can go to church (#Charleston9).
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell).
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant).
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford) .
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott).
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo).
I can run (#WalterScott).
I can breathe (#EricGarner).
I can live (#FreddieGray).
I can be arrested without the fear of being murdered. (#GeorgeFloyd)

***These are NOT human rights if only white people have them.*

With compassionate rage
Valerie Bryant, PhD
Fort Greene Bklyn 11205

How would my world change if I woke up with different colored skin than I now have? Can I remember how I was taught to think or talk about skin color?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 June 2020
Image found at stlpublicradio.com

A Prized Possession

A prized possession sits in front of me. It’s small, worn and faded. I found it years ago, when I was working at the seminary. It was sitting on a give-away table.

I’ve always had a weak spot for books, especially when they’re free. So I picked it up and couldn’t put it down—a small hymnal, pocket-book size.

The stamp on the inside cover says “Property of Trinity Church, Vineland, N.J.” Title: The Hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America 1940.

My relationship with this little book has been sporadic, though with a theme. It keeps me centered and focused when I’m going through tough times. I first appreciated it fully after I broke my jaw in April 2016. When I couldn’t find words or sleep, it offered something to calm my heart.

Now, in April 2020, I’m using it regularly. My life and death aren’t unfolding as anticipated. The hymn I read and sang today is spot on. It doesn’t offer a quick fix. It offers a joyful, realistic description for any day of the year—especially now.

Even if you aren’t overtly religious, these words might be for you, too. The sun doesn’t rise and set on orders from any human being. I find that immensely reassuring in these troubled times.

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise!
Triumph o’er the shades of night:
Day-spring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee;
Joyless is the day’s return,
‘Till thy mercy’s beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine!
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief!
Fill me, radiancy divine;
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more thyself display
Shining to the perfect day. Amen.

Words by Charles Wesley, 1740
© 1940, 1943 by The Church Pension Fund
Published in The Hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America – 1940

Praying we’ll all make time to breathe deeply today, and be grateful.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 April 2020
Photo of sunrise in Acadia National Park, Maine, found at pinterest.com

Heavy | Mary Oliver

Here’s a lovely, if difficult poem from Mary Oliver. It’s about death. It’s also about learning to be a survivor. I’m posting the poem as a tribute to Diane (Sister #3), born on this day, Easter Sunday 1949 (leap year). Diane died in February 2006 after living more than ten years with ALS. My comments follow.

Heavy

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger to admire, admire, admire
The things of this world
That are kind, and maybe

also troubled—
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

© 2006 by Mary Oliver
Thirst, pp.53-54
Published by Beacon Press

Dying isn’t for the weak; neither is surviving. Not as victims of cruel fate or the current pandemic.

In the end, we often don’t have any choice but to live with what we’ve been given. True, we might prefer to die. But Mary challenges us to welcome grief and the opportunity to let it shape our lives for the better, without destroying them.

I also hear Mary inviting us to give ourselves time. Enough time to be surprised at ourselves when laughter and joy sneak in unannounced.

In her case, Mary unexpectedly discovers herself seeing nature differently. Not just as shows of beauty, but as survivors. Like us, the roses and sea geese also live out their love of life in the midst of harsh winds or steep waves.

What could be more invitational and healing that that? Not as a pill we take, but a possibility we choose to embrace.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 April 2020
Roses in the Wind painted by Anne Costello
Found at saatchiart.com

Unwelcome truth

Sometimes truth
drops bursting
through dark layers
deep beneath
my sea of normal

What is this and
why now and am I
all washed up
flailing uselessly
in this murky sludge?

Tentacles reach out
pulling in strained
nets of strangers and
enemies I’ve never
Seen or met before

Looking around
I take stock of
unwelcome truth
long gone underground
waiting to be acknowledged

I want to rant and rave about something. Or swim in an ocean of poetic images. But the ‘something’ that keeps haunting me is Trance.

Why? Because it’s complex at every level. A reality that both attracts and puts me off.

But Trance won’t be kept waiting. What self-evident truths already swim beneath the surface of my everyday life, unacknowledged?

This might be a slow process. Nonetheless, I’d rather be a turtle making it across the road than a squirrel, possum, or crow caught in the headlights. Though there is something to be said for flaming out.

Thanks for visiting and reading!
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 March 2020
Photo found at shutterstock.com

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