Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Relationships

Are you a pioneer?

Starting from scratch
And working her butt off
Dreaming of something
From ashes or nothing at all
She listens and suggests

From behind
From the back row
Occasionally from the podium
Often without a map
Or a mentor

Doing what needs to be done
Bringing people together
Focusing on the end game
Encouraging without pretending
All is well when it is not

Searching endlessly
For ways around roadblocks
Listening calmly to contrarians
Then opting for creativity
Rather than neat outlines

Taking risks small and large
Living with consequences
Finding a way forward
Through next steps
All this and more

Who is this woman?
Do I recognize her?
Try looking in the mirror.

Several days ago a friend of many years challenged me to do two things.

  • First, read a letter I received in the 1960s. It was from Erwin N. Griswold, former Dean of Harvard Law School. He left to serve as Solicitor General of the USA under President Lyndon Johnson. Mr. Griswold sent the letter on the occasion of my retiring as a secretary in the Dean’s Office. He couldn’t be there for the party. I still weep when I read it. You can read it here.
  • Second, make a list of all the ways I’ve been a pioneer. I was flabbergasted. I’ve sometimes thought of myself as ‘the first’ this or that. I’ve never thought of myself as a pioneer. Yet, as my friend pointed out, I’ve been in a wilderness often, which is precisely where the food is.

Yesterday I spent all morning working on the meaning of ‘pioneer’ and making a list. Four things are clear to me today.

  1. I was and still am a pioneer. Not just in my family, but in churches, in classrooms, in positions of leadership, and in my volunteer work with Dawn’s Place.
  2. Ever since I was born I’ve gone against the flow, internally if not externally.
  3. A recent serendipitous encounter with a Black woman in Georgia is important, not just ‘happenstance.’
  4. This is what I’m to focus on in this last part of my life. Not being a pioneer, but doing what I can to support the next generation of pioneers.

How do you think about yourself? Are you a pioneer? The short clip at the top is outstanding. Especially if you aren’t sure what a pioneer looks like.

Happy Tuesday, and a huge Thank You for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 September 2020
Video found on YouTube

A Prayer of Lament | Pastor Leah Wenger

Reverend Leah Wenger has served for nine years as Pastor at The Vineyard Church of Central Illinois. Her prayer of lament (below) can be found with others on the Mennonite Church USA website. Each lament responds to the violence of racism in the USA.

Most churches aren’t accustomed to prayers of lament. A Psalter I own has changed many Psalms of lament into something else. Is that because we don’t like negativity?

Here is Rev. Leah Wenger’s prayer of lament, followed by a few comments.

Battered, Broken, Betrayed.
I stand Before you
Between the lines
Breathe on me Breath of God

Because I have Betrayed
My Brother and sister
By my silence
Breathe on me Breath of God

But what is Breath
when it is stolen
Humanity Beyond recognition
Buried in Blood

Bring us transformation
Beauty for Brokenness
Expose me for my blindness
Breathe on me the breath to see

Be Brave and Bold
Beyond what others can see
So when I can’t Breathe
God Breathe on me

When I cannot see my Betrayal
Bring me to the light
I Beg for the wisdom to Be Better
Bless me with the strength
to never stop Becoming

Beyond the patience to listen
Bring me into action
I can’t Breathe
So God, Breathe through me

Prayer from Pastor Leah Wenger,
Urbana Executive Pastor of the Vineyard Church of Central Illinois
Prayer found at the Mennonite Church USA website

Can an entire nation lament the ongoing violence of racism in the USA? Perhaps not.

Nonetheless, it would be most appropriate for white churches in the USA (and their members) to lament. Not for a day or an hour, but for a lifetime of being major players in this sick drama. Sometimes we’ve joined the enemy outright. Other times we’ve looked the other way, or called what we see anything but ‘racist.’

We’re at a crossroad. We are not, however, out of options. Pastor Leah’s prayer is good place to start. It breathes life. The life of our Creator who understands and knows us inside out. Today is a good time to stop, lament, look around, and get moving in a different direction.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 September 2020
Image found at mem.intervarsity.com

Is Mr. Trump the Problem?

Or is he a convenient and problematic distraction?

After working on An American Lament and reading Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, I can’t in good conscience say Mr. Trump is The Problem. Nor is he the Solution.

Our Problem began the moment white people arrived on these shores, proclaimed this “our” country, and wedded politics with religion.

Yes, we can say this was ‘allowed by law’ back then to explorers of so-called ‘undiscovered’ lands (a figment of the imagination). However, it stretches my imagination to say this means we’re legally a White Country run by and for White People with the occasional Great Exception.

Jesus, like all children of Israel, was one of the Disinherited. He was a man without a country and without the protection of the reigning monarch. When they came for him, he endured a mock trial and was hung on a ‘tree’ with other convicted men. This scenario has been played out over and over in the history of slavery in the USA.

Today, many white citizens claim to be following Jesus and following Mr. Trump. Yet choosing to serve both is not an option.

Nor is it about which party we choose to follow. We can no more ‘follow’ a party than we can ‘follow’ Mr. Trump or any other POTUS. Not if we say we’re following Jesus of Nazareth. Though we vote, we aren’t pledging allegiance to the winner. Our allegiance is already clear.

Unfortunately, the white Christian church has too often chosen to follow and actively support those with Presidential Power. Though there are remarkable exceptions, they haven’t become the rule. Instead, many white churches have retained the name “Christian” while marching to the drumbeat of politicians, big donors, and fat endowments.

Howard Thurman argues that each Christian church (of any color or ethnicity) must be the one place in life where privileged and underprivileged persons work together. Not on great projects, but to ensure an environment that supports fellowship between the so-called privileged and the underprivileged. Not a program here and there, but the kind of everyday fellowship that produces “a sense of mutual worth and value.” On both sides.

I can’t help thinking about programs such as AA or AlAnon. Places where each member is considered worthy and valuable. Not because each member is herded through a process, but because, in Thurman’s words, it’s “a real situation, natural, free” (p. 88).

A tall order for any church, regardless of its membership.

Happy Monday, and thanks for reading!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 September 2020
Photo found at theviresvision.wordpress.com

Considering Loss on the Eve of Our Wedding Anniversary 2020

Wedding Day, 11 September 1965
11 September 1965

Fear of loneliness
Drifts in and out unbidden

Heavy eyelids droop
Head hangs low over keyboard

Tangled thoughts intrude
Try to distract me as though
I were the intruder

I am not.

Pulling myself together
I rouse myself to the occasion
Reaching for stars and light
I do not own.

What if he dies first?
What if I die first?

I don’t know.

So what do I know?
Only this –
That if he dies first, I will grieve.

And what will be the shape of that grief?
A hole that stretches from here to eternity
An unreachable planet long ago and faraway
A place I can no longer visit
An ocean of heaving sobs
Seaweeds of bitter regret and sweet longing
Washing up on the shore of each long day and night

Tomorrow David and I will celebrate our 52nd (now 55th) wedding anniversary. I thought I knew a thing or two about love the day we married. I did not. Nor will I know all about love the day one of us dies.

The older I get, the more precious each day becomes. I remember dreading retirement. Not simply because I would miss my colleagues and students, but because I would be spending much more time with D. More than I’d spent with him most of our married life.

Could we live with each other in the same house, including the same kitchen, every day? Would we get bored out of our gourds without deadlines and meetings and endless reports? Would one of us decide to find a part-time job just to get away from it all?

Happily, we’ve survived so far, including Kitchen Wars. But that would be another story.

I’ve had death on my mind in the last weeks, given events here and around the world. Death is about more than statistics, more than a moving memorial service, more than a huge display of candles and flowers. More than a gut-wrenching news story of the moment.

Somewhere, each moment of every day, someone is grieving. I want to honor the value of just one person’s life and the value of grief. The kind that can soften us, making us more human than we were before.

It looks like Monday, our anniversary day, will be a beautiful Longwood Garden day. Maybe another walk in the Meadow? We’ll see.

Thanks for reading!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 September 2017, reposted for our 55th Anniversary, 11 September 2020
Photo taken at our wedding reception, 11 September 1965

55th Wedding Anniversary | Scotland Photos

This Friday, September 11, D and I celebrate 55 years of marriage. Five years ago we flew to Scotland to celebrate our 50th anniversary (and visit the Fraser Castle of course). No travels this year, so I’m posting Scotland photos instead. All photos in this post were taken by D, and approved by me.

On our way from Edinburgh to Glasgow, we spent a day at the The Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. The top photo was taken along the way. If this is what it’s like to be put out to pasture, I’m all for it! When we got to the Park we selected one of their four hiking trails. The Lodge offered food and rest-stop facilities (not housing). Then we got going on the trail.

This lovely female Mallard was floating at the base of the trail,
surrounded by graceful greenery. Picture perfect!

We saw several wood carvings along the way, and spooky stumps.
Then there was that weirdo mirror in the forest. Aren’t we beautiful?

Here’s one of the rest stops that popped up here and there.
This one came with its own live canopy and ceiling decorations!

Beautiful vistas, the sound of running water, plus
tumbled rocks lining the creek.

More whimsy with tree stumps and trunks,
with doors and windows to die for!

Finally, several beautiful forest birds. An English Robin,
a Great Tit, and one young European Robin.

OK. So it’s only a shadow of the real thing. However, all things considered, I’d rather do this than get on a plane and go anywhere right now. Thanks for coming along!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 September 2020
Photos taken by DAFraser, September 2015 at the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in Scotland.

Bitter fruit of ignorance

Weariness and
Overload conspire
Eyes numb
Mind on go
Finds a mess
In everything

Neat and tidy lists
Stare at nothing
Wondering
If I’m lost
And whether
I’ll ever return

Feelings of
Futility wash over
Heart and brain

I want to cram
A lifetime of
Undigested history
Into my heart and mind
Even though
There isn’t time
Or space
To accommodate
The bitter fruit
Of ignorance
Looking the other way
Making false assumptions
Keeping secrets
And smiling
In weak attempts
To make all things
Come out right

Sounds pretty gruesome. And yet…

I wouldn’t change for a second the opportunity to examine the history of racism in the USA, the way it shaped me from the day I was born, and what needs to happen now, not later. Yes, it would be nice to have a President who cared about this as well.

Unfortunately, this buck doesn’t stop with POTUS. It stops with me. I owe it to myself, my neighbors, strangers, and my Higher Power who weaves all things well. Even though I don’t always get it, I’m committed to muddling through as needed.

Right now, the muddling is about what this 76-year old retired theologian, educator, administrator, writer might do. All things considered.

Thanks for stopping by today. Check out this link to read about W.E.B. Du Bois.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 September 2020
Quotation found at azquotes.com

A lesson in humility

Great Blue Heron by John James Audubon

Aging waterfowl
Gaze into moving mirrors
Searching for treasure

This morning I watched
As daylight faded quickly
Into today’s tasks

Life slips into dreams
Grown old before their time
Bowing to reality

Growing old is a lesson in humility. Not so much about who I am, but about what I can do in the space of one day. Upkeep is a harsh taskmaster. Not to be ignored. And yet…

Life keeps slipping by, whether I’m ready or not.

This week I’m working through the sixth (of seven) sections in An American Lament. I’m also thinking about how to participate in ways that require more than my everyday bravery or courage.

What I most want to do is listen to the untold, under-appreciated stories of at least one traveler in a life and time I thought I knew, but didn’t. One story at a time. Unfiltered.

I wonder…How do you hope to spend your one precious life?

Happy Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 August 2020
John James Audubon’s Great Blue Heron print found at http://altoonsultan.blogspot.com/

Jesus and the Disinherited | Howard Thurman

His days were nurtured in great hostilities
Focused upon his kind, the sons of Israel.
There was no moment in all his years
When he was free.

Poem fragment quoted on p. 34 of Jesus and the Disinherited. From Thurman’s privately published volume of poems, The Greatest of These, p. 3.

This summer I’ve been reading Howard Thurman’s relatively short book (less than 100 pages), Jesus and the Disinherited. It’s more relevant today than ever before. A sad commentary on our nation’s untenable situation, past and present.

Thurman’s book describes

  • What happens inside the disinherited
  • What their most difficult struggles are about, daily
  • And why Jesus (not Paul) is the person to whom they are drawn when it comes to real life as they know it.

Like the disinherited of today, Jesus faced fear, deception, hate, and the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself. This didn’t happen one challenge at a time, but every day, no matter the circumstances. In addition, Jesus was one of the disinherited. He was not a Roman citizen, or an official religious leader of Judaism.

It’s one thing to study our history as a nation (which we must), or the history of slavery in this country (which we must), or our individual backgrounds that led to the prejudices and blindness that shape our lives today. All of this is important.

Still, one thing has eluded me. I’m finding it in Howard Thurman’s book, even though he didn’t write the book for me or other white people. He’s clear about this: This book is for people who are black and disinherited, every day of their lives. What white people will do or think when it comes to the disinherited of today is up to them.

I highly recommend Thurman’s book as a way of recognizing everyday racial realities from the inside out. For me, it makes crystal clear what I’ve lived with all my life. This isn’t just about different approaches to life. It’s about the disinherited, and what it takes for them to survive in this country.

I hope you’ll consider reading it. It won’t change everything overnight. It can, however, strengthen our understanding of what our black and brown citizens and church members are up against every day of their lives. It also shows the importance of listening. Silently. Without attempts to explain or justify ourselves.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 August 2020
Photo of book cover found at amazon.com

Memories and Old Photos Revisited

1974 May Sherry's 4th Birthday in Altadena

before my eyes
they swim
in salt water

old photos
fresh with memories

I blink
reluctant to move
my eyes

tears water
my face

 ***

Christmas stockings in Altadena

1974 Christmas Altadena Stocking stuffers Sherry and Scott
Peanut butter sandwiches and milk on the lawn

1974 Feb Scott and Sherry eating on the front lawn Altadena house

Picking cherries in California

 1974 Aug Sherry Cherry picking in California

 Thinking deep thoughts with Rosey Grier

FRASER_S_0099

Not sure what to do with all this snow above Altadena!

1975 Jan Sherry and Scott in the snow San Gabriel Mountains

Shopping with Mom – Note boa (?) on daughter’s arm

1975 Elouise with Sherry and Scott shopping ND
Posing with Mom and Dad on a hot day in Arizona

1975 Sep Family portrait in Arizona

Those were the days!
Beauty and memories captured on camera
Reminders of what endures from generation to generation

Have a happy weekend!
And don’t forget to take a few photos.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 March 2016, reposted 23 August 2020
Photo credit: DAFraser, except last photo — taken by D’s mother

By hook or by crook

No river runs through it
No sounds of mercy or grace
Pierce neglect and screaming injustice
Writ deep and wide through the heart
Of God bless America

Look the other way my children
Fence it in and hold your tongues
There is no sweet by and by
When the clock strikes twelve
And one more soul is taken

Now open your textbooks and read
With me the unbeatable story of
America’s Great Success
Betrayal heaped on betrayal
By hook or by crook

No, I haven’t given up hope. However, unless I examine the sad and sorry facts of our history with slavery, so-called post-slavery, lynching, and mass incarceration, I won’t get it. Ever.

Even though I’d rather live in my supposedly safe small world, I can’t. It doesn’t help when I avoid hard data. Especially the kind that shows the systemic costs of our nation’s failed approach to slavery and its perpetually reinvented substitutes.

We NEVER got rid of slavery. We just changed the way we thought about it–especially the costs of being black or brown in the USA. Worse, if we have white skin we might even get away with not thinking about it at all. Not my problem?

For the last two weeks I’ve been working in An American Lament about Slavery and so-called ‘Post-Slavery’ in the USA. Not fun. Depressing sometimes. Even tempting me to despair. But facts are facts, especially when they’re in my face.

Check out the 2010 graph at the top. Right now we’re in the midst of a ten-year census count. I wonder how the 2010 chart at the top will change?

Praying for courage to do what I’m able to do, one day at a time. Especially when it comes to changing my well-worn ways of coping in a nation built on too many lies.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 August 2022
Graphic image found at prisonpolicy.org

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