Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Sabbath rest

The heaviness of being

Dear Friends,

Early yesterday morning D and I drove into downtown Philadelphia. Not the governmental center of the city, but a huge medical center of towering buildings. We parked in a huge garage and walked to the building where I had an appointment with a skin doctor. He removed some of my precious skin. Hopefully it will be the last visit for now.

What used to be a somewhat routine visit was now a Corona-Virus Visit writ large. For two weeks prior to my visit, I received multiple phone calls with instructions about what to do and not do before the visit, and what to expect when I arrived.

The streets and sidewalks were full of masked citizens coming and going, carefully avoiding close contact, perhaps smiling from time to time behind their masks. On the whole, however, most seemed grim and determined to get where they were going as quickly and safely as possible.

The heaviness of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter underscores the heaviness of being I’m feeling these days. I had an interesting conversation with a masked woman sitting near me in the waiting room. The procedure was fairly straight-forward. Masked D was relieved to see masked me coming down the escalator. Still, it all felt disembodied. Regimented though considerate, with an edge of danger in the air.

No matter what Mr. Trump or anyone else says, there is no going back to Normal. Instead, I’m treating each day as a challenge to be met, with small daily goals to keep me on-track in a trackless world without a clear finishing line.

I grieve what we’ve lost, and what we thought we had but did not. I don’t, however, grieve the call to self-reflection. How did we come to this unholy disaster? Will we be wiser if and when this pandemic is over? How will we then live?

Praying your Sabbath is filled with rest and a nagging restlessness to “hear the sound of the genuine in you.”

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 July 2020
Quote from Howard Thurman found at pinterest.com

An everyday lament

For dying orchids, catbirds
and other occupants —

Paper-thin creamy petals
of an orchid blossom fold
and bow in death

Scattered feathers and small entrails
of a gray catbird litter the road this morning

Prisoners in and out of cells hang on
by spider-thin threads of hope

Children lost and abandoned
have no get-out-of-jail cards

Women and men found wandering
find few if any life-sustaining options

And that little mouse is now gone
except for its small helpless head

Written after my morning walk, and after discovering the first orchid blossom expired in my kitchen during the night. Likewise the little mouse a few days ago, set upon by a determined predator. You’ll find the rest in the news and in our neighborhoods any day or night of the week.

Not very likable, I admit. Yet our tears for losses great and small are invaluable connections to ourselves, to others, and to our Creator. We are, after all, living on borrowed time within a growing breakdown of human kindness and decency. We don’t have to be persons of a certain faith or even age to see, understand and grieve these daily realities.

Sabbath rest gives time to think not simply about the glories of creation, but about how much we’ve lost and how sad it all is. Our Creator honors our tears and, I believe, weeps with us. Tears of lament aren’t signs of weakness, but signs and sometimes celebrations of small connections we must renew if we want to thrive together.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 July 2018
Image found at blogs.covchurch.org

My basket full of gems

Friday. The end of a week of reading through a large basket full of notes, cards, programs and other bits and pieces of my life as an academic. So many gems, and I have more to go.

There’s a relentlessness about being a professor or an administrator. Especially the latter. Rarely enough time to appreciate what’s happening in the moment.

The bad stuff can fly away with the setting sun, as far as I’m concerned. But it’s those little stars that shine through the glaring darkness during the day that I didn’t have time to appreciate fully back then.

I know this for sure: In academic life it’s never just about me or just about you. It’s about all of us. It’s about the shaping of a generation that will hopefully do, say and change the way we do business with each other. For the better, of course.

Sadly, there’s also a sense of time running out. Not just because of relentlessly evil and despicable deadlines, but because we all have just so much energy to burn before it’s downhill all the way.

And so there I sat on the small sofa in my office, already on the downhill, picking bits of my past out of the basket. Surprise by surprise. Memory by memory. Tear by tear. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad.

It was a very good week. I haven’t quite known how to write about what happened during my seminary years. Going through my basket, I’m finally beginning to see a way of doing this piece by piece, keeping the focus on myself.

This morning I read an editorial about women who’ve earned a PhD. It described the writer’s sad experience of being dissed because she had earned a PhD, and because using her title (Dr.) on social media was somehow being a braggart, even though men do this without the same repercussions.

In a strange way, this helps me frame my basket of memories. I’m the proud owner of a Ph.D. which I earned all by myself (with the help, of course, of professors and colleagues). I don’t hide this reality. Yet having this degree meant everything and nothing when it came to negotiating the deep waters of seminary life.

It was important to lead with clarity in the classroom and in the dean’s office. It was even more important, however, to lead with my heart. The PhD was my calling card; my heart, however, walked in the door every day. Sometimes heavy, sometimes light.

This morning I was out early for a walk before the heat and humidity became unbearable. It’s a joy to be retired and able to walk outdoors, though I sorely miss the camaraderie of being with fellow pilgrims on a journey into the unknown.

Hoping your weekend includes Sabbath rest and time to enjoy being outside or at a window taking in our Creator’s great outdoor sanctuary!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 June 2018
Photo found at chaumierelesiris.com

fake smoke and cold mush

fake smoke
wafting from a thousand fires
signifies nothing

yesterday’s hot memo
is today’s cold mush
tasteless

Is this speaking truth to power? I don’t know. I do know it’s a reminder to myself that my voice matters. Especially now. Not as a way of manipulating reality, but as a way of staying honest and getting on with life at the same time.

Granted, this is life in a strange key. Academics and analysts who study patterns say we in the USA have been moving toward this social/political stand-off for a while. Still, current events are disconcerting. Sometimes it feels like a slow-motion, high-impact train wreck.

Hence my verses above. Spoken because for me, silence won’t do in this climate of intimidation tactics, fake smoke, hot memos and cold, tasteless mush.

Have I given up? Only if I fail to use my voice and cast my vote. And only if I act as though I or some other human being were God or even God’s Special Agent as defined by me.

Sabbath rest sounds like a good idea. Time to acknowledge I’m not in control, and that my voice matters. As does yours. Or, put another way, it’s time to let our lights shine.

Thanks for reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 February 2018
Photo found at nilemuse.blogspot.com

Advent haiku and more

a day
unlike all others
wakes unannounced

During this Advent season I’m participating in an on-line retreat. An opportunity to slow down, listen with my heart, notice what’s happening in my body, and rest in the person I’ve become after all these years.

Writing haiku is an exercise in listening. Slowly. Without preconceptions. Without urgency. Without wondering when the alarm will go off to jolt me into action.

I readily admit that being retired is an advantage. Yet my internal life doesn’t always remember what it means to be retired. Much less where to focus long, patient listening that does more than take me in circles.

The on-line retreat invites me to write one haiku a day not just during Advent, but for the next six months. As a daily exercise it puts the brakes on my urge to do something. It turns my attention toward nature and our Creator, and invites me to make connections.

The haiku above suggests life is a daily gift from my Creator. A page-turner. An open, still-being-written adventure lived one day at a time. A puzzler without answers or clues at the back of the book. One of a kind.

Today I’m enjoying Sabbath rest at home—taking care of a head cold that began Thanksgiving Day. Wishing for each of you quiet time to listen with your heart and rest in the one-of-a-kind person you are.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 December 2017
Photo found at pinterest.com, Sunrise in North Dakota

Monday Sabbath

Subdued
I pull comfort clothes
Close around my chilled body

Raindrops
Fall steady on the roof
Wind gusts whip through trees

Outside
Tires beat damp paths
From somewhere to somewhere else

Inside
My heart beats tired
Ready for Monday Sabbath

Or
Was it yesterday
I don’t recall for sure

But
Just in case
I’m not taking any chances

Today
Is Sabbath Rest
My body already believes
And I follow
Now

Yes, friends, in need of another day of rest. The best kind ever—rainy, damp, cool and windy. It didn’t take much to convince me….back tomorrow.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 October 2017
Photo found at Pixabay

Daily Prompt: Believe

Leave your shoes at the door

Please, leave your shoes right here at the door—

  • Worn shreds of poverty and thrift
  • No-nonsense purveyors of roomy comfort
  • Ubiquitous symbols of status or station
  • Spiky towers of fashionable daring
  • Flashy billboards of wealthy pride
  • Rugged boots of ill-fated warfare
  • Proud symbols of ill-gotten gains
  • Hole-riddled soles of life gone sour
  • Toe-pinching restrictions of freedom and joy

Leave them all at the door just for today
and come, rest your aching and world-weary feet
on this dusty shared ground we call Mother Earth

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 September 2017
Photo of artwork found at etsy.com

Emily Dickinson meets Mary Oliver

Last year a friend gave me a volume of poems by Mary Oliver. It’s safe to say I’m as mesmerized by Mary’s poetry as I am by Emily’s. Both are keen observers of nature, both external nature and human nature.

Which brings me to the reason for this post.

For the last few weeks I’ve been tantalized by a small poem of Emily’s. Cryptic as always, but not totally mysterious. Even so, I’ve wondered what to say about it. Then a few weeks ago I was reading Mary’s poems and was caught by a stanza in one of her longer poems.

First, Emily Dickinson’s poem:

To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie –
True Poems flee –

c. 1879

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Now the third stanza of Mary Oliver’s poem:

The deer came into the field.
I saw her peaceful face and heard the shuffle of her breath.
She was sweetened by merriment and not afraid,
but bold to say
whose field she was crossing: spoke the tap of her foot:
“It is God’s, and mine.”

But only that she was born into the poem that God made, and
called the world.

Mary Oliver, Thirst, stanza 3 from “More Beautiful than the Honey Locust Tree Are the Words of the Lord,” Beacon Press 2006

Mary’s words helped me think about Emily’s poem. So here’s what I’m suggesting as one way to interpret them together.

  • No mortal words of poetry will ever do justice to this world, God’s poem. Nor do we understand ourselves unless we give up all efforts to capture in our words the reality of what God created and invited us to inhabit as caretakers. We can look and point; we cannot replicate.
  • Furthermore, no poetic words of ours will ever improve upon God’s great poem. Still, as humans we’re at our best when we reflect in our lives the grandeur of  creation.
  • Surely the summer sky, the deer, and all parts of God’s creation are dignified not because of what each does, understands or even writes in flowing poetry. Rather, we owe our dignity to being part of “the poem that God made, and called the world.”

Have a wonderful Sabbath rest.
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 August 2017
Image found at smartpress.com

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Dignify

An aching void

An aching void
stretches the length of a canyon
through my heart

What would it mean
to inhabit this land
waiting breathless
to learn its fate?

Bones of natives
and explorers
lie dormant
beneath
dead dreams
and living nightmares

Who are the settlers of today –
willing to inhabit the aching truth
of our collective past?

Truth about this country lies in yesterday’s buried news–told and untold. As a nation, we didn’t get here because of an ‘accident’ of history. We got here on the backs, shoulders, hopes, dreams, half-truths, lies and ignored truths of generations before us.

I’m grateful for the true settlers of today–courageous children, women and men unwilling to settle for half-truths, lies or apathy.

I’m also grateful for the weekend. Not as a diversion, but as an opportunity to focus on Sabbath rest. I don’t inhabit this land. I inhabit a tiny corner  of this world God created for sheer love of beauty. This Sabbath I want to rest in some of God’s beauty and truth.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 August 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Inhabit

beggars all

St. John's Abbey Church Interior

feet shuffle
down multiple aisles
approach the altar
sacraments of life
and death remembered

the sound of shoes
resonates against concrete
moves us to receive
hope for life and death
a crumb and a drop
spiritual food for body and soul

It’s 1980-something. I’m sitting in a long pew just beneath the balcony in St. John’s Abbey Church. The sanctuary is full of visitors, members, and local residents of Collegeville, Minnesota. We’ve begun moving forward to multiple stations where we’ll receive the sacraments. This is an ecumenical Eucharist; all are welcome.

It isn’t far to the stations set up near the center of the sanctuary. Architect Marcel Breuer collaborated with Benedictine monks to design this space. They ensured no one would be more than 85 feet from the altar. They also excluded columns, drapes and sound baffles.

No ecumenical Eucharist has moved me to tears as this did. It was the sound. It wasn’t the readings or the homily, or even the hymns. It was the inescapable sound of feet shuffling along the concrete. Beggars all, slowly making our way forward and then back to our seats. Like the thief on the cross. The one who didn’t stay sitting in his seat, but got up and led the first procession to the cross on which Jesus lived and died for us.

***
I first posted this on 30 September 2015. Yesterday I noticed someone had read it. So I checked it out.

I couldn’t help making a connection with recent events here in the USA. No one event captures everything. Instead we’re faced daily with more evidence that things fall apart, and that nothing we do can put them back together.

Yet we have every reason to hope. Not because we’re people of good will, love everyone, exercise deeds of kindness and mercy, or anything else we might find praiseworthy. Rather, it’s because of what God offers us through Jesus Christ.

All we need to do is get up out of our seats and get in line behind the thief on the cross. Offering ourselves just as we are, and counting only on God’s great mercy.

Praying you find rest for whatever is wearying you this Sabbath.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 August 2017
Photo found at thecatholicspirit.com

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