Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Pandemic

Beautiful Music Monday

Conductor Emeritus Kenneth Jennings (1925-2015) leads over 900 choir alumni during the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the St. Olaf Choir in June of 2011.

Most of you probably know this hymn as “Fairest Lord Jesus.” It was my father’s favorite hymn, known to him by its older name, “Beautiful Savior.”

When I’m dying, I want music to carry me away. Then I want to join the choir. I want to sing music like this. Music that makes all things and all voices beautiful. I want tears to flow. Mine. The way they did this morning when I listened to this on You Tube.

I don’t understand why hymns like this reach so deeply into me. But there it is. And here we are today, surrounded by deaths of many kinds. Bodily and spiritual death. Death of hope and trust. Never easy, especially when it seems to be piling on without mercy.

I hope you enjoy listening to this amazing choir following the lead of their beloved conductor Emeritus, Kenneth Jennings. Like angels, they’re singing together on key, accompanied only by each other, following their leader. A force together that they could never be on their own.

Here are the lyrics as sung by the choir, following their opening wordless rendition of the tune.

Fair are the meadows, Fairer the woodlands,
Robed in flow’rs of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer;
He makes our sorr’wing spirit sing.

Beautiful Savior, Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be Thine!

I pray you’ll find beauty and music in the week ahead.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 April 2020
St. Olaf Choir Alumni’s rendition of Beautiful Savior found at YouTube.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

Subdued Monday

Subdued
I close my eyes
And wonder
Where and who
I really am

One day comes
And another goes
Only to begin
The same story
Yet again

The sun
Teases me with
Rays evoking
Dreams of
Carefree days

The apples
At the market
This week were
Less than I’d
Hoped for

Voices
Of commentators
And politicians
Drone on
And on

Is there is
A theme in
All this waiting
For the next shoe
to drop?

A pandemic is bad enough, all by itself. In a presidential election year, however, it’s poison. Especially when the current POTUS keeps feeding frenzies alive and well. As if COVID-19 weren’t bad enough, we now have an uncivil war on our hands, stoked and encouraged by POTUS.

Today I’m praying for responsible public servants of any political persuasion, medical personnel, organizations, businesses and citizens doing their part to support us. IF, as POTUS says, this is a “war” and he is a “wartime President,” he has a most disconcerting, disruptive, disastrous way of leading the troops. Sadly, those would be his core of faithful followers, NOT those actually on the front lines serving the public good.

Thanks for listening and doing what you can to make a difference, no matter what your political preferences are.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 April 2020
Photo of Sunny Spring Morning found at dezinerwallz.com

Fighting Voter Suppression in the USA

One of you kindly sent me three articles in response to yesterday’s post. Even if you don’t live here in the USA, please take a look at any of them. They tell the truth about our nation’s current crisis in governance.

League of Women Voters: Fighting Voter Suppression

Common Dreams: How Advocates Are Fighting Voter Suppression

Brennan Center for Justice: How to Fight Voter Suppression Nationwide

Our nation has many visible and invisible problems to resolve. It seems only fair that we begin with the most egregious problem of all: the right of each citizen to cast and have counted his or her vote in local and national elections. Mail-in ballots for all is an option. If it’s good enough for POTUS, it’s good enough for us!

What just happened in Wisconsin was deplorable, thanks to last-minute political wrangling. Nonetheless, those who were able and willing to vote in person were uncommonly brave. Do we have the same courage?

The stakes are high. We say we’re “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” It’s time to step up and be counted on the side of freedom, courage, and justice for each qualified voter.

Yes, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. All the more reason to be alert and active on behalf of our citizen rights.

Thanks for reading, and for finding opportunities to make a difference wherever you live on our shared planet.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 April 2020
Photo of Wisconsin Primary voters found at hawaiitribune-herald.com

The Beautiful, Striped Sparrow | Mary Oliver

Here’s a thought-provoking poem from Mary Oliver about loneliness. My comments follow.

In the afternoons,
in the almost empty fields,
I hum the hymns
I used to sing

in church.
They could not tame me,
so they would not keep me,
alas,

and how that feels,
the weight of it,
I will not tell
any of you,

not ever.
Still, as they promised,
God, once he is in your heart,
is everywhere—

so even here
among the weeds
and the brisk trees.
How long does it take

to hum a hymn? Strolling
one or two acres
of the sweetness
of the world,

not counting
a lapse, now and again,
of sheer emptiness.
Once a deer

stood quietly at my side.
And sometimes the wind
has touched my cheek
like a spirit.

Am I lonely?
The beautiful, striped sparrow,
serenely, on the tallest weed in his kingdom,
also sings without words.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver
Thirst, pp.29-30
Published by Beacon Press

I don’t mind being alone. I do mind the loneliness that sometimes comes with this pandemic. Instead of “almost empty fields” to roam, I have a smallish neighborhood full of children, parents, and senior citizens. Quite wonderful, actually.

It’s a short walk from our house to temporarily quiet spaces. The soccer field and playground area behind the elementary school is almost deserted. As is the church parking lot and cemetery directly across the street.

Then there’s our small, beautiful village park full of large old trees. The little kid playground and big kid tennis courts have been closed for now. But the softball/soccer field is wide open. A few families are out with their children and/or dogs burning off energy. And best of all, the trees and shrubs are sending out new growth and bright blossoms.

I’ve not had a deer stand “quietly at my side.” Still, I’ve felt the wind and bits of rain on my face, and heard the music of robins, woodpeckers and Carolina wrens welcoming spring. All topped off by relatively quiet air space, with a small trickle of commercial flights passing over to land at the Philly airport.

Wishing you a not-so-lonely Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 April 2020
Photo of Baird’s Sparrow found at birdsoftheworld.org

Nature unmasked

nature unmasked
greets me at every new fork
in this mapless trail

nodding and smiling
she waves to me through windows
in my starving eyes

bowing and bending
a small crack opens skyward
through white dogwood trees

A little haiku for each of you, whether you celebrate Easter or not. When I think about what makes a difference in my mood these days, visiting trees is high on my list. Wishing each of you a weekend full of little things that mean a lot!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 April 2020
Photo of white dogwood blossoms found at pixabay.com

Wandering thoughts on 31 March 2020

heaviness hangs in the air
relieved by brief moments
of sunshine or the smile
of a neighbor

relief and angst meet
on the corner of
truth-telling and fear
that it would be like this

now we know what
we don’t know
a step more than we knew
yesterday

solace comes slowly
if at all to people
used to being used
forgotten or despised

unthinkable thoughts
emerge such as
is this a plot to
reshape our country

I wait
For the shoe to drop
In our vast midlands
And wonder

what will the election
look like if we survive
to participate much less
hear about it

Most of the time my mind is focused on everyday realities, and staying in touch with myself and people I love. Still, every now and then the big picture presents itself. Not the big health picture, but the Big Government picture. The drama we never wanted to see or hear.

Praying for internal peace today for you and for me.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 March 2020
Image found at mydayswelllived.com

“From us, for you.”

Have you seen and heard this gift from the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra?

Even if you have, watch it again! As often as needed. I had tears streaming down my face by the end. Kudos to the wonderful artists who put this together for all of us. And to Beethoven for making it all possible.

Today is make-a-creative-soup day. That means a great big pot that will last for several days. It’s also laundry day for all towels and washcloths. Plus make a veggie smoothie for today and tomorrow. With music in the background — the best part of all.

Praying for peace and health in this country. Peace of heart, mind, soul and body, plus sanity and clear vision for medical personnel who oversee this pandemic day after day.

Elouise

©  Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 March 2020
“From us, for you” was found on YouTube

dispensable

stripped bare
windblown leaves
fall where they will
cascading quickly
descending
into darkness

let them rest
in peace
unidentified remnants
of another age
when we were
very young

my eyes blur over
stung by truth
too bitter to ignore
despite the cost
to our humanity
some are dispensable

Recent discussions about triaging elderly coronavirus patients are on my mind. Given my admirable age, it seems I’m in the endangered species category.

I don’t know what to make of this. I just reviewed my Living Will. No help there. It never heard of a pandemic like this.

Nor do I relish the idea of being involuntarily hooked to life support at the expense of someone who hasn’t lived as long as I.

Regardless of what I decide for myself, I’m troubled by the stark naked truth these conversations make painfully visible. Old age isn’t necessarily honored in this country, except in ethnic groups or tribes that actively honor their seniors. Not once a year, but daily. Whether they’re ill or not.

That’s what’s on my mind today. Meanwhile, identified coronavirus patient numbers skyrocket, and limited medical resources diminish daily.

Have you thought about your own wishes? What would you do/not do?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 March 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com

another free concert

Feeling my way
down unexplored paths
nature surprises me
with unexpected glory

Songbirds clear their throats
early in the morning
tuning up for a day-long
cacophony of competing trills

Trees once bare lift up
spring’s new growth
reaching for the sun
to warm chilled bones

Here and there
early-bird trees burst
into bloom eager to be
the first with the most

Unorchestrated beauty
combines its collective throat
to offer another free concert
no tickets required

There’s much to be said for living in the moment. There’s also much to be said for the orderly parade of seasons. Not because they’ll always be with us, but because they remind us we’re in the hands of a Power greater than ourselves. A Power already present whether we see or feel it right now.

Nature’s annual spring gala invites me to take deep breaths and exhale. I’m not responsible for holding everything together, or changing the course of world history, or what other people do or don’t do, no matter how distressed I feel about it.

Praying each of you has a day filled with unexpected beauty.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 March 2020
Photo of Spring in Bucks County, Pennsylvania found at wallcoo.net.

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