Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Prayer

I Happened To Be Standing | Mary Oliver

I haven’t been able to get Mary Oliver’s poem about prayer out of my mind. My comments follow.

I Happened To Be Standing

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver, pp 3-4
First published in the USA by Penguin Press, 2012
© 2012 by NW Orchard LLC

Dear Mary,

I happened to be sitting yesterday in the small waiting room of a physician’s office I didn’t want to visit. Well…I didn’t have an appointment with the doctor himself, but with one of his very talented assistants, both women of course. But see, I’m already off track.

While I sat for what turned into a longer than expected wait, I pulled out your small and wonderful book of poems, A Thousand Mornings.

I had at least a thousand prayers in me as I waited. Most were in the petition mode, given the nature of this first visit to a specialist I never thought I would meet. Now look at that…I’m off track yet again.

I didn’t read your poem once. I read it many times. It exposed my angst, fear, and resistance in that moment to turning my attention outward and upward, with or without a song.

It  was good I had to wait longer than I liked. I needed every second to find my way back to that small wren singing its little heart out—by way of your beautiful poem.

Gratefully,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 September 2021
Photo of Carolina Wren found at unsplash.com

Yesterday’s sorrows

A chain of prayer
Rises in midnight hours
As restless sleepers
Wake to the sound
Of yesterday’s sorrows
Rising to the surface

Perhaps one’s own trials
Or a loved one’s emergency
Or dense silence inviting
A song or a prayer to
Fill the empty void of night
Broken only by the wind

Since the beginning of Covid-19 social distancing, I sometimes find night silence distressing.

It happened again last night. Not just because of what’s going on out there, but also what’s rising to the surface in me. Sadness, sorrow, and trepidation. Names of family members who tested positive for Covid-19, now in quarantine because of contact with someone else. An urgent request for prayer from a former colleague. Or even a welcome email from a former student now living in another country, without many options.

One of the gifts of this painfully long social distancing has been a measure of quiet in the house. At night, however, silence weighs heavily when I want to get back to sleep. Hopefully unheard by D, I sometimes begin singing (very softly) favorite hymns as they pop into my mind. Not just one verse, but as many as I can recall. Think of an extended lullaby.

Other times I go down my mental list of friends and family members having more challenges than usual just now. Then I whisper (often with tears) my gratitude for D, for Smudge, for our neighbors, and for opportunities to support local and worldwide relief efforts.

Somewhere in the middle of all that it usually happens. I drift off to sleep. If I don’t, I go to my office, close the door, open my journal, and write my heart out. Thankfully, this last resort is rare. Still, it works like a charm. The tears flow freely, and then I’m back to bed and sleep.

I pray each of you finds ways to sleep well, and exercise your faith and gratitude during these strange months of Covid-19 et al, already extending into another year. Happy Wednesday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 January 2021
Image found at pinterest.com

silent morning breaks

silent morning breaks
my refrigerator hums
one more soul departs

Each death is singular and tragic, especially as the numbers continue to climb precipitously.

This isn’t voluntary mass suicide. It’s a tragedy long in the making, now playing out minute by minute as our current POTUS refuses to face reality about the 2020 Election or Covid-19.

Then there are his very public caretakers. I’m tempted to mock them. But I can’t. For whatever reason, they, along with millions more, have latched onto DT as their hero, even though he can’t deliver on his promises. Another tragedy in the making.

In addition, death by Covid has become so ‘normal’ that I find myself more horrified by daily data updates than by singular tragic deaths.

What happens to our souls when we learn to live with nonsense? Or turn to data more quickly than to human beings and their families struggling to make sense of nonsense? I know I’m guilty. The sheer horror of what’s happening right now in our country is a nightmare gone berserk.

Today I’m praying for singular souls that depart due to Covid-19 or any other cause made more difficult because of Covid. I’m also praying for the aching souls of relatives and friends mourning their deaths.

Who knows? Any one of us or our loved ones might be next.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 November 2020
Photo of sunrise on the East Coast found at tripadvisor.com

Dear Mr. Trump, | 2017 revisited

This morning I woke up wondering how much longer we can survive as one nation. Making it to November’s election feels sketchy. Here’s what I wrote in September 2017. 

Dear Mr. Trump,

I woke up today wanting you to know that I’m praying for you, and how I’m praying for you. Hence this open letter.

As I see it, we have two kinds of leaders in the USA: those elected to office, and those who elect them. Clearly, given your electoral college votes, you won the vote, and were duly sworn in last January as President of the United States.

We, as unelected citizens, are also leaders. Did we not go to the polls and exercise our guaranteed right to lead by casting our votes? No matter who wins the election, we citizens lose if we vote carelessly or not at all, assuming we’re given a fair opportunity. We also lose if we fall back into apathy or cynicism and wait things out. Or try to take things into our own hands.

As a follower of Jesus, I am exhorted to pray for you as the President of the USA. I can’t say ‘my’ President, because you serve all of us.

As our President, you have visible power and office. That means you have access to your executive pen, the bully and praise pulpit, the power to hire and fire designated people, and a stage that magnifies your voice far beyond what it would be if you were not President of the USA.

As President, you might be tempted to think you’re in control, or that you can change or ignore situations to your liking. Or at least do what you can to make things more comfortable for you and yours. You might also want people to like you. Especially the people to whom you made promises. You might even hope for some to hate and fear you.

And so I pray for you the way I pray for myself as a citizen leader. I pray you and I will let go of our desires for power and control, esteem and affection, safety and survival, and especially the desire to change situations not in our control. The most important thing you can do is lead well, as the follower of Jesus you say you are. Which would be the most important thing I can do, as well.

Right now, even though it’s stormy, you’re a mighty visible oak. Still, tree rot often begins on the inside. Then one day, often without warning, the mighty visible oak crashes to the ground, often taking with it trees close to the mighty oak.

Gone. Not with a whimper, but with a resounding earthquake that travels to the other side of the world and back, creating tsunamis and chaos in its wake.

I like to think of us citizens and residents of the USA as tiny acorns that survive. Not all of us will make it. But the future does lie with us, doesn’t it? Which is why I can’t pray for you alone.

Please know that we’re trying to make as much sense of life as we can, hoping and praying you will grow into your office one day at a time, one step at a time. No matter the cost to your personal comfort or reputation. Which is what it means to follow Jesus.

Respectfully,

Elouise Renich Fraser

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 September 2017, reposted 19 August 2020
Photo taken by DAFraser, 11 September 2017, Longwood Gardens Meadow

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

Wayward sheep and frolicking lambs

Equanimity —
They say it’s
Calm composure
Regardless

Drowning in pain
Ecstatic with joy
Beginning a journey
Relaxing into dusk
Fighting for my life
Bearing life in me

I want to stand
before You
With calm composure
Because You alone
Are my advocate
The gracious Shepherd
Of wayward sheep
And frolicking lambs

Dear Shepherd of sheep and lambs,

Is it well with You today?

It’s easy for me to experience equanimity when the sun is shining. Right now it’s gorgeous. Bright, warm and inviting.

Yesterday was a drippy mess of clouds and chilly air. Music helped. So did writing. And making a big pot of soup. Yet in the end, even this can’t last forever.

I wonder what You did when things didn’t seem to go as planned? I already know You prayed a lot. What else did You do as You approached death?

You see, I don’t want to die. I don’t think You did, either. Even before the birth of COVID-19 (such a cold name for this vicious virus), I didn’t want to die.

Before You were so rudely arrested, were Your tears a sign of calm composure? I wonder if equanimity in the face of death is overrated. Not necessarily bad, but overrated. So many people are dying ‘early’ these days.

Please advise.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2020
Photo found at edgarsmission.org.au

Sunday morning musings

Sunday morning
Sitting near the back row
In a neighborhood church
Pondering the reality
That I am now one of the
Old Folks at Home
An aging white woman
Wondering what on earth
I have to offer this generation
Drowning in possibilities
I never dreamed about

A life —
That’s all I have
A life already lived
Partially grieved and celebrated
Now halfway resting
In this odd space
Called retirement with
all the time in the world
yet no spare time to be found

So what’s left to offer?
Just one thing comes to mind —

Smiles
Free smiles and maybe a kind word
No manipulation
No smirking
No hesitation
No holding back
No looking away
No pretending not to see
the child or young person before me
carrying an invisible cup running over
too often with confusion, self-judgment or worse

Smiles
That’s all I have to offer
Smiles that say
With or without a word
I’m so happy to see you today!
Smiles that reflect our Creator’s delight
in each child or young person’s beauty
whether they get this yet or not

Simple things. That’s what I can do. No promises made. No lists of things to do after this moment. Just a smile and a silent prayer for that child or teenager already dealing with the heaviness of being in this world. Who can’t relate to that?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 February 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com

Morning Poem | Mary Oliver

No “orange sticks of the sun” this morning. Just rain, gusty wind, and the nonstop sound of water draining from the gutters. Nonetheless, Mary Oliver’s poem invites me into a world waiting with open arms. My comments follow.

Morning Poem

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches –
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries in it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead –
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging –

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted –

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

© Mary Oliver, 1992, in New and Selected Poems, Vol. One, pp 106-07
Published by Beacon Press

I don’t have to feel happy and upbeat every morning. This poem isn’t about how I feel. It’s about what I’m already being offered, and what I already need no matter how I feel.

I don’t even have to pray. The gift is already there. Ready and waiting for me to discover it. The answer to what I’ve always wanted. The world re-created overnight. Wild and beautiful. Carrying on with or without me. An answer to a prayer I never even prayed.

I’m encouraged when I think about Mary Oliver’s life. She left everything in order to make a life for herself. One day at a time. Heading upstream. One small observation at a time, plus a few words ‘thrown together.’ Mary Oliver lived what she wrote, and wrote what she lived.

No magic wand or mantra can make it all come out right. Still, each morning we’re offered the gift of another day. Plus imagination to look beyond the heaviness of today, and see that dark pond of water lilies blazing with color.

Praying you’ll have a glimpse of blazing lilies today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 October 2019
Photo found at etsy.com

To the Gardener after reading Psalm 1

Your words, so beautiful to read,
Crush me beneath the weight of
Life already lived – a great muddle
Of garden-rich vegetables plus toxic
Stew of tongue and cheek hurled
My way, often from my own mouth.

At this age I’ve little left but memories,
Plus ever-present directives from
Well-meaning people and ill intentions
From the other kind. To say nothing of
My own sometimes distressed mind
And body seeking solace and reassurance
That I matter to somebody if not
To myself.

Here, then, is my request:
I long to start over as a small tree
Planted by rivers of clear, pure water,
Guarded and pruned by Your hands
Alone. If this is not possible, I would
Also settle for a long and lovely
Winter’s nap.

From one of Your elderly fans,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 June 2019
Image found at JackMaxwellArt.com

gray clouds

gray clouds
hang overhead
ready to burst
at will

my umbrella
small and fragile
the only solace
I might carry
hangs on a doorknob
in my bedroom

unknowns pile on
one after another
an alphabet soup
of indecipherable
medicalese pointing
to things I cannot see
in this dim light

How long oh Lord?

brinkswomanship
does not become me
with so much planning
and packing to do
before that last trip
home

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 July 2018
Photo found at AccuWeather.com

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