Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Psalm 23

You prepare a table before me….

Yesterday D and I visited Longwood Gardens. The weather was beautiful–mild temperatures, a bit of sun, and plenty of clouds without rain.

D took this unlikely photo in the meadow. Oh….  A weed. Maybe; maybe not.

I’m sorry you can’t see how tiny this little ‘wild weed’ is. And I’m fairly certain some of you may not see the little insect lunching on one of the flowers. It looks like a little brown speck on a blossom to the left of the main stem.

I couldn’t help thinking about Psalm 23, and hearing this as a reference to nature’s insects. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” I’m pretty sure this little insect’s enemies would include birds and larger insects looking for lunch. But they could also include human beings. Instead of guarding them and their habitats, it seems we’re intent on destroying them.

After all, they’re tiny. A dime a dozen, Who’s going to miss them? Besides, who needs that mangy old meadow, or that weedy vacant lot anymore? They’re eyesores!

It felt odd to think of this little insect as a link in our food chain and the food chain of the meadow. One of thousands of links in distress. The news reports were full of it last night. We’re quickly ramping up our own global disaster already in the making. I couldn’t help thinking about this little speck of an insect on a common ‘weed.’

Happy Tuesday to each of you! I’m working on more LG pics for a later post.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 May 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, 6 May 2019, Longwood Gardens Meadow

Chilly nights

Chilly nights
Warmish days
Clock ticking
Daylight fading
Mind numbs
Heart beats
Seconds down
End game
Winning score
Closed door
No exit
Straight ahead
Bells chime
Midnight falls

I’m just back from another round of blood-letting. Mine, that is. Seventeen vials again. Peanuts next to what the Red Cross takes (from others, not from me)—100 vials give or take a few.

Nonetheless, after every blood draw I feel like a survivor when I stand up on my own two feet, put my jacket on and walk out the door fully conscious of who I am and where I am. Last time it was a beautiful picture in a well-lit room across the hall that kept me focused.

This time the lights were off across the hall, so I closed my eyes and reverted to my old standby—Psalm 23. I silently repeated this Psalm to myself as a child when I felt anxious or afraid.

I’m not sure what to make of the words at the top. They came dropping into my mind when I sat down to write. Nonetheless, they likely reflect my current focus on the last chapter of my life, now ticking away one minute, one short line, one day at a time.

I also hear an acknowledgement that death is inevitable. I’d rather talk about it than keep it in one of my closets. They’re already full of other stuff I can’t take with me.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 October 2018
Image found at metmuseum.org; European clock about 1735-40

Why I can’t stop staring | Psalm 23

I’ve never been here
though I know it exists
somewhere beyond
my power to make it happen
a table is ready and waiting
in the presence of my enemies
an oasis in the Sahara
awaits my arrival with
more than enough oil
to anoint my head and
water to quench my thirst

I’ve been thinking about Psalm 23 this week. Especially the part about the faithful shepherd preparing a table before me in the presence of my enemies. I usually focus on the part about my enemies (not necessarily the Shepherd’s enemies).

This time I’m thinking about the table. Maybe it’s like the oasis pictured above, Guelta d’Archei, in the Sahara Desert in Chad. If you’d like to see more photos, click on the link.

This remarkable permanent pool of water is in one of the driest places on earth, hidden and shaded beneath giant towers of sandstone. Its immediate eco-system includes a reliable source of water that serves as a convenient outhouse for camels. Green algae feasts on black dung deposited by camels, creating black water. Fish thrive in this environment by eating the algae which seems to enjoy a kind of eternal life, thanks to the camels. And then there are Nile crocodiles that love the algae-hungry fish!

What could be more inviting than this reliable table in what seems a God-forsaken desert? I can’t stop staring. Perhaps what looks strange and forbidding in my life is actually a table set by my shepherd. All I have to do is show up.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies….

©Elouise Renich Fraser,18 August 2018
Photos found at amusingplanet.com

Politics on my Mind

I woke up today with politics on my mind. Actually, with Psalm 23, Isaiah 53, Psalm 1, and Martin Luther’s theology of the cross on my mind.

It started when I went to sleep last night with a problem on my mind.

  • How am I to live as a citizen of the USA in a world that feels increasingly hostile, thanks to things happening right here in the USA, not simply ‘over there.’

Yet my problem isn’t the USA. This isn’t about my country right or wrong. It’s not even about this or that political party right or wrong. It’s about me as a follower of Jesus.

So here’s where I am this morning.

Psalm 23 reminds me that my Creator is my shepherd—one of the lowly, despised, mocked ‘lowlife’ who remains focused and loyal to the flock no matter what. Through thick and thin. Trusting. What a foolish thing to do, right? We all know the enemy is lurking.

Martin Luther’s theology of the cross reminds me that the cross is not a beautiful piece of art or jewelry. It’s real. It’s bloody. It’s lonely. It’s brutal. And it happened to the best of persons. Only by way of crucifixion do we see the cost, determination, love and steely focus of this man Jesus of Nazareth. The embodiment of a despised, loyal yet betrayed shepherd. Not simply betrayed by Judas, but by every one of his hand-picked disciples.

Isaiah 53 reminds me that all of us despised him, turned on him, esteemed him not. Especially when the going got rough. And he opened not his mouth. What a coward, some would say.

Psalm 1 reminds me that I’m not necessarily one of the trees planted by rivers of water. I’m also tempted to join up with the wicked. This isn’t a sad psalm. It’s cautionary. It lets me know my path isn’t automatically the path of the righteous. Especially if I call myself a follower of Jesus. It challenges me to stay rooted near a living stream of water. Especially but not only in times of drought.

We’re in a drought. The USA as I experience it is a strange land becoming stranger by the minute. Not because of immigrants or white supremacists, but because of deeply rooted polarization that tears people, families and communities apart.

So here’s where that leaves me, with some degree of certainty.

  • Following Trump, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Independents, the Green Party, the flag, the Constitution or any other national symbol or institution will not save us in the end. Nor will it move us forward.
  • Moving forward begins in our hearts. We need each other, battered and broken. Maybe all that means at first is learning to resolve problems in our increasingly isolated communities, families, and houses of worship.
  • And what are the problems? For me they have nothing to do with national or international politics, and everything to do with learning the hard way (by making mistakes and starting over) what it means to honor other human beings within our current circles of friends, strangers and acquaintances. Loving our neighbors doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s time for humility, not glory. Especially if we’re afraid for our reputations or even our lives. Like it or not, we’re already at risk of worse than social disapproval or being voted out of our favorite clubs.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 August 2018

In the presence of my enemies

It’s January 2006. I got to my office early, and was preparing to drive to the airport and catch a flight to Houston, Texas, to be with my sister Diane who was dying of ALS. She had opted for comfort care at home. No food and no medication. Just fluids and whatever would comfort her. This might be my last visit with her.

As I was about to leave my office, the phone rang. It was D. His premonitions were correct. The president of the university had just requested D’s resignation. So here it was, after several years of difficult personnel and budget issues.

No, D didn’t want me to cancel my flight. Instead, I flew to Houston in a stupor of spousal pain and rage, and gave D a call that evening. I continued as dean at the seminary. D was now free to follow his heart and eventually accepted a position with an international organization he’d helped birth.

Now it’s August 2008. I’m on a platform in the university gym along with other dignitaries. We’re in full regalia, ready for the fall convocation, installation of new faculty, and installation of the new chancellor of the university. The man chosen as the next provost, one of D’s friends and faculty colleagues, would be installed as the new chancellor. My job was to offer the installation prayer.

Inside, I was a mess. When the time came, I stood at the lectern facing the university faculty along with our seminary faculty. A number of university faculty had been unhappy with D’s administration. Some bitterly so.

On the outside I was a professional. On the inside I was in melt-down, shaking in my spirit and fully aware I was facing some university faculty who felt like enemies, along with many others who still grieved D’s resignation.

The newly minted chancellor stood next to me, and I invited everyone to stand with me for the prayer. It was simple and direct. And yes, it was a prayer for me and for D, not just for the new chancellor.

The prayer made use of Psalm 23. I couldn’t find the original script. It went something like this:

Because the Lord is your shepherd and knows everything about you, you will never lack for anything you need.
When you’re weary, may you find rest in green pastures, and follow your shepherd to pools of quiet waters.
When your soul is troubled, may you find restoration, and be guided in paths of right relationships that bring honor to your shepherd.

When you go through times of deepest darkness and despair, may you fear no evil;
Your shepherd will be with you, to find and comfort you no matter what happens.
When your shepherd prepares a banquet for you, and your enemies are looking on or sitting at the table, know that you are an honored guest in the Lord’s house, worthy of the best wine in the world.

Finally, remember that this goodness and mercy will be with you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord, your good shepherd, forever.

Amen

I don’t understand all the dynamics of this event. Nonetheless, when I sat down I was calm inside, ready for whatever came next.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 June 2018

Dust of the earth

This body
Like my heart
A house of Your creation
Stands ready to greet a stranger
Whose form and visage
is unexpected

Lost
Dust of the earth
Sorrowful yet not without hope
She stands
Waiting

I found this scrap of a poem in one of my old journals from two years ago. It makes more sense today than it did back then. In May 2016 the strangers were my broken heart and jaw, along with my face reflected in the mirror. A face I scarcely recognized.

I’ve been thinking about Psalm 23 this past week. Especially this line: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

I still believe the enemies are my enemies, not necessarily God’s enemies. And I still believe I’m invited to join the table with those who are my enemies, or seem enemy-like to me.

Nonetheless, last week I got thinking about aging, and the way these health and well-being strangers keep showing up at my front door. So I’ve reluctantly expanded ‘my enemies’ to include them.

This means I’m learning to receive them as strangers, and listen to what they have to say. Perhaps we can one day be friends. Or at least acquaintances?

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 May 2018
Photo found at islamforchristians.com

music to my ears

waves-washing-onshore-huff-post

I love the calm cadence of your voice
and the way you make rare
the everyday

waves rolling in on the beach
wind whispering in the willows
my husband reading to me aloud
Mendelssohn’s E major Song Without Words
J. S. Bach’s C major Prelude #1
doves cooing in the morning
robins singing in dusky evening
the overwhelming calm of Psalm 23

***

I wrote the first three lines in response to Frank Prem’s beautiful poem, “Ten Signs of Life.” The rest of the poem is my short list of voices that make rare my everyday. The image at the top was icing on the  cake.

What voices bring you joy and help keep you grounded?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 February 2017
Photo found at huffingtonpost.com

WordPress Daily Prompt: Overwhelming

In the Presence of My Enemies

hosp-thoupreparesttableiii_lg

Interpretive tapestry by Lee Porter — Hospitality, Thou Preparest a Table III

This memory still makes me smile. It also challenges me to think about my voice and how I use it now.

It was fall 1993. I’d just been promoted to full professor, and was the designated speaker for the seminary’s fall academic convocation. I worked on my address that summer in the context of angry national and local rhetoric about racial diversity. Read the rest of this entry »

Sabbath Pretense

In the presence of my enemies 2, img114df52ebfcc1f5

When I was growing up, my parents and teachers sometimes made us say we were sorry for hurting or disobeying someone. Sometimes I pretended to be sorry. That’s because the way I saw it, it didn’t really matter whether we were truly sorry, or who was really in the wrong.

What mattered most Read the rest of this entry »

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