Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: the human condition

For the Women and Girls

No matter who you are,
No matter how you came to be
where you are,
No matter what you look like
or how many times you’ve said
‘I am a Full Human Being’,
I have old news, though not of great joy.

The fight makes us who we are,
Punches land on our guts,
Especially when we think we’ve
finally arrived in Paradise
rather than make-believe
pie in the sky, someday-soon status
that never arrives on time.

I’m disheartened though not surprised by our lack-luster pursuit of women’s equality in these so-called United States. We’re addicted to finding ways of turning back the tide of women’s rights. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about abortion, equal pay, or who will be the church pastor.

Too many people of ‘good will’ are unwilling to admit girls and women into the ranks of full human beings. Or they don’t know how to do it so everyone has equal rights in the workplace. It’s easier to hire tokens here and there, than to do the right thing for everyone.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, I thought we would get there in my lifetime. Today I’m not so hopeful. At the same time, if you’re a younger woman, and you’re looking for something worth fighting about, join up! It can make you a better, stronger woman, no matter what happens in the unknown future.

Why this post? D and I have been looking through old files from the 1970s. They were related to D’s first teaching job at a Christian college in the South. While he taught and attended endless faculty meeting, I was finding out what it means to be a stay-at-home mom (and so-called “faculty wife”) changing diapers and trying to maintain a semblance of normality.

You can read about my last straw breaking point in Faculty Wife: Part 17.

Despite everything, I’m grateful that those four years shaped me into one of those beautifully irritating women who can’t stop promoting full rights for all human beings.

Happy Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 April 2012
Photo found at theeverygirl.com

Weariness

Cape May Warbler

Weariness
Floods my body

Lethargy tells
Me to stop now
Before I collapse
Without anything
Coherent on this
Page of my life
Waiting to be
Lived

I hear birds
Outside the window
Their insistent beautiful
Songs float through
Early morning air
Searching for a
Place to land

Half asleep
My mind floats at will
Reassuring me
That all will be well
That is well

I want to believe
Yet cannot stop pondering
The fate of all that
Is not well now
And forever

I don’t think I’m hitting rock bottom. I am, however, weary in body and spirit. Sometimes I’m standing still. Going nowhere. Other times I’m on a roller coaster swinging wildly between slow, difficult climbs uphill, and furious descents to whatever awaits me.

My mind tries naming things I’ve accomplished this day, this week, this month, this year. Yet the litany of things done doesn’t relieve the anguish of this heavy, relentless tug at my body and spirit.

We here in the USA are in a mess. We don’t know how to get out of it. Whether we like it or not, it colors every day of our lives.

Nonetheless, I believe our Creator and Redeemer understands the big picture, and invites me to trust that all will be well. One day, one breath, one weariness and one joy at a time.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 April 2021
Photo found at birdsandblooms.com

For Horace O. Russell

National Bird of Jamaica – the ‘Doctor Bird’ found only in Jamaica

Grief arrived last night
on the other end of a phone call
from a dear friend

Grief not just for us and the family
but for the world our friend knew and loved
from the bottom of his generous heart

Colleague, Brother, Church Historian
Master of all things Jamaican
Wise and Eternally Optimistic

I hang up the phone
and weep for us and for this world
made better by your faithful presence

It’s impossible to capture in words the worldwide reach of our colleague’s life.

Horace O. Russell served the seminary as Dean of the Chapel, and Professor of Historical Theology. I worked with him as a teaching colleague and as an administrator. He was also the retired Senior Pastor of Saints Memorial Baptist Church in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Dr. Russell was Jamaican by birth, and world citizen by choice. He and his gifted British wife made their mark not just on the seminary, but on the church worldwide. Thankfully, his wife and another family member were with him when he left this world.

Today I’ve been thinking about Dr. Russell’s generous, optimistic support for me, and about the senior seminar we co-led more than once.

During these seminars, Dr. Russell sometimes shared case histories he’d written about his pastoral work in Jamaica. They sometimes made life in these United States seem a bit dull.

The actual outcome of each case wasn’t revealed until each student worked with it and shared what she or he would do next, and why. Never a dull moment, and always plenty of surprises at the end. His ability to enlarge our vision was one of his many gifts to the seminary.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Dr. Russell carried a small camera at all times (so it seemed to me). Usually he didn’t wait for people to pose. Informal was the way to go. No matter what we looked like in the photos, he was generous with prints of these historical records. Here’s where we were on this date; this is what we were doing; and this is what we looked like.

Today I’ve been going through my collection of his photos, torn between gratitude and grief. Grateful to know his suffering has ended, and that he was not and is not now alone.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 April 2021
Photo of Jamaica’s national bird found at jamaicanconsulate.rs

Life on whose terms?

Falling asleep,
my body cries
for attention
and the comfort
of doing nothing
while awaiting new life
and energy that endures
forever and ever

Listening to the news,
I hear the beginning
of the end in post-Easter air—
especially if Jesus of Nazareth
isn’t allowed to rise from his
unseemly death and confront
our lackluster attempts
to live life on our own terms

I’m struck by how busy things become each year as Easter Sunday approaches. Part of the busyness is about special church services for those able and willing to attend.

But that isn’t what catches my eye. Instead, we have the tug of Easter egg hunts, Easter dinner arrangements, fancy Easter clothes or even mini-vacations that can suck the life blood out of Easter.

I like to enjoy life on my terms. However, Easter challenges me to look beyond myself and my limited resources. I wonder what it would look like for me to keep up with Jesus instead of the current idols of this world?

Thanks for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 April 2021
Image found at anona.com

Gethsemane | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver places this poem just after The Poet Thinks about the Donkey. Clearly an invitation to compare them. My comments follow.

Gethsemane

The grass never sleeps.
Or the roses.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.

Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.

The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,
and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,
and heaven knows if it ever sleeps.

Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe
the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move,
maybe
the lake far away, where once he walked as on a
blue pavement,
lay still and waited, wild awake.

Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not
keep that vigil, how they must have wept,
so utterly human, knowing this too
must be a part of the story.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver, published by Beacon Press in Thirst, p. 45

This one stings. How many vigils have I slept through? Or how often do I look the other way when injustices are playing out before my eyes.

When I was growing up, I had nothing but scorn for those three sleepy, self-absorbed disciples who couldn’t stay awake and keep watch for their friend Jesus. Surely they believed him. They’d already shown themselves capable of going to extreme lengths on his behalf.

Mark 14:32-42 doesn’t say Peter, James and John were reluctant to stay with him and keep watch. It says they couldn’t keep watch as Jesus asked them to do not once, but three times. Meanwhile, Jesus is left alone to face his coming betrayal.

In contrast, all nature (except human nature) was wide (wild!) awake that night. The only witnesses to Jesus’ agony, betrayal, trial, and eventually death on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem. The same city that welcomed him on the little donkey not a week earlier.

Mary suggests the stars and moon, trees and insects all kept watch that night. I like to think they offered some peace, perhaps even solace as he prayed, weeping and agonizing for all of us and for himself.

In the final stanza Mary offers grace to them, to herself and to us. The three disciples were “dear bodies” and “utterly human.” They weren’t deadly co-conspirators. They were human, just as we are. Weary.

Praying we’ll be as understanding about Jesus’ three companions as we are about ourselves, even as we lament Jesus’ coming betrayal by Judas, also one of his chosen disciples.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2021
Painting found at touchstonemag.com

The Poet Thinks about the Donkey | Mary Oliver

Here’s a thought-provoking Palm Sunday poem from Mary Oliver. My comments follow.

~~~~~

The Poet Thinks about the Donkey

On the outskirts of Jerusalem
the donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
he stood and waited.

How horses, turned out into the meadows,
    leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
    clatter away, splashed with sunlight!

But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.

Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.

I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,
as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver, published by Beacon Press in Thirst, p. 44

~~~~~

I love Mary Oliver’s focus on the donkey. He isn’t just a convenient prop, needed for this so-called ‘triumphal’ march into Jerusalem. Nor is he a famous, beautiful or even clean donkey. He likely has no idea how to race around meadows with horses, leaping with sheer joy. Nor does he know how to fly into the sunlight alongside released doves.

All he knows is how to stand, wait, and do what needs to be done. Which, on this day, means carrying on his small back the hope of all Jerusalem. Well…almost all Jerusalem. Cheers and jeers sometimes sound all too similar.

Was he brave? Probably not. Nor could he have been all cleaned up, given the inevitable dust of the earth hanging in the air. To say nothing of noise and pushing and shoving to get a look at this strange parade.

No problem. His calling on that day was to walk forward without coaxing or threatening, carrying the hope of all the world on his small, dark obedient back. Bravely he moved forward through a noisy crowd, one dusty hoof after the other, without turning back, running away, or refusing to move at all.

Where does Mary Oliver’s poem find you on this Palm Sunday? And what does it mean to be brave in the face of tragedy and undeclared war rolling out in front of all our eyes?

Thanks for your visit today. I pray each of us will find courage to do what we’re made to do: love our Maker with all our hearts, and our neighbors as ourselves.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 March 2021
Image found at threadreaderapp.com

What’s a senior citizen to do?

Wheels rush downhill
Splashing through
Early Spring water

My mind travels
Backward through time
Now gone forever

Last night our cat
Conquered and ate
Yet another mouse

All except his head
And tail and a few entrails
Yet to be identified

It’s downhill all the way
No chance to return
To the beginning

I thought I would fear
This end of life scenario
Hurtling toward me

And yet…

I’m caught between the joys and agonies of this life.
Right now the agonies seem to be outpacing the joys.
Even so, I want to live forever, joys and sorrows included.

So what’s a senior citizen to do?

Keep my head above water and my eyes wide open; support the next generations; and have my pen ready to capture truth in words I didn’t know were in me.

On balance, after removing D from the equation, blogging saved my life. It gave me a life I never dreamed I would have, and friends I never thought I would meet.

Thanks for stopping by. Your visits and comments give me hope for this tired old world. The same world for which Jesus of Nazareth lived and died.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 March 2021
Image found at steemit.com

Peace | Dorothee Soelle

Last night we lost yet more citizens to a so-called ‘lone gunman.’ This time in Boulder, Colorado. Today I woke up thinking about one of Dorothee Soelle’s poems from the Vietnam War era. The war lasted officially from 1 November 1955 to 30 April 1975. My comments follow.

Peace

1

Asked to write a poem about peace
I feel shame for those who ask
do they live on a different planet
what are their hopes
and for whom

Gases meant for rice farmers
have been tested
they can be harmless
if the humidity and the wind
are right

So I’d suggest
we talk about the wind

2

Speaking of the wind
it can be lenient
rice plants can be merciful
sometimes
how friendly the jungle rain is
it delays attacks
and the twenty-fourth of december
lowers the casualty count
all these things provide cover
for st sebastian
for peace

3

He’s leaning against a tree
the wood has been sold
the land leased
the water poisoned
the rain kills birds
somebody takes aim at him
he raises his arms against the black wood
it is not finished

Dorothee Soelle, Revolutionary Patience, pp. 33-34
English translation © 1977 by Orbis Books

Sometime during the night yet another citizen of the USA walked into yet another public business and committed mayhem. This time in Boulder, Colorado. We miss the point if we think this was a lone male. No matter what prompted his actions, he is one of millions of men and women in the USA outfitted for killing with firearms, without warning.

And here we are in Lent. How ironic. Dorothee Soelle is correct: The death of one man (in this case, St. Sebastian) did not end the killing. Nor did the death of Jesus of Nazareth end the enmity burning like fire in the veins of many who see no way out except to take aim and fire.

“Surely he has born our griefs, and carried our sorrows….” (Isaiah 53:4, King James Version)

May God have mercy on us all.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 March 2021
Image of painting by Roger Wagner found at mutualart.com

The Fist | Mary Oliver

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for yet another challenging poem. I imagine you watching us, willing us to do better. My comments follow your poem.

The Fist

There are days
when the sun goes down
like a fist,
though of course

if you see anything
in the heavens
in this way
you had better get

your eyes checked
or, better still,
your diminished spirit.
The heavens

have no fist,
or wouldn’t they have been
shaking it
for a thousand years now,

and even
longer than that,
at the dull, brutish
ways of mankind—

heaven’s own
creation?
Instead: such patience!
Such willingness

to let us continue!
To hear,
little by little,
the voices—

only, so far, in
pockets of the world—
suggesting
the possibilities

of peace?
Keep looking.
Behold, how the fist opens
with invitation.

© 2006 by Mary Oliver, poem found on pp. 46-47 of Thirst,
Published by Beacon Press

Dear Mary Oliver,

I don’t know where to begin. Things are such a mess down here since you left. And still the sun goes down, often in blazes of glory that fade and then, right on time, return the next day.

Never resting, really. Just moving on to circle this war-weary earth every 24 hours so everyone knows we haven’t been left to our own devices, or shut down due to human failure.

As if it weren’t amazing enough to see the sun setting, songbirds join in the morning sunrise chorus. Especially in spring when their hormones seem to go wild with passion. Or at least the urge to procreate.

This morning I watched with disbelief as a fat red robin jumped into a pan of freezing cold water and splashed away before running off to pursue a female robin. Just two minutes later, a small gray junco did the same thing even though, as you know, they don’t procreate here in Pennsylvania. Are they crazy? Do they know something I don’t know, sitting behind my kitchen window, shivering?

There’s so much we don’t know right now. Why did this person got Covid and die while that person didn’t? Or why did my friend die who didn’t have Covid at all?

When I was growing up, they said most brutish behaviors were about lack of self-control. Today I’d say most of our crazy choices seem to be about fear. Not fear of Covid, but fear of having our “rights” taken away. I’m sorry to say we don’t seem to be softening as a nation, cleaning up our brutish ways, or finding our places in this strange world.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all accept the sun’s invitation? I imagine us jumping into the cold water together to clean our tired bodies and revive our aching souls.

I hope you’re doing well today. And please, pray for us as you’re able.

Your admirer,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 March 2021
Sun setting over a city found at wallpaperaccess.com

 

 

Haunted by fear

Forcing my eyes away
From today’s headlines
I catch myself also avoiding
What’s already captured
In our history and multi-media

It begs me not to forget
And not to believe the lie
That by solving this one
Crime we will solve all
Crimes against humanity
Or prove ourselves more
Committed to human rights
Than other countries that
Never seem to get it right
In our self-righteous eyes

Daily distractions
Continue unabated
Headlines and reports
boldly steal attention
from what’s happening
in our back yards and streets
now haunted by fear
of unannounced annihilation

Is this our pro-USA reflex action kicking in? The one that doesn’t want to acknowledge the truth about our nation? Many news reports seem determined to focus on the perpetrator at the expense of victims. Especially when the so-called ‘lone’ perpetrator is a white male.

The most recent killing targeted mainly Asian women. Much news coverage went into various profiles of the perpetrator, though not the significance of his victims’ race and gender. I applaud news organizations that chose to investigate connections between our nation’s history, and our past and current treatment of Asian citizens and immigrants.

Another lone white male gunman? I don’t believe it. I see it in large part as the result of coddling white boys and men of all ages and ranks in life when they ‘misbehave.’ And then, adding insult to injury, refusing to pursue justice for their victims.

On top of that, there’s this. Many life-denying behaviors have deep roots in family histories and wartime experiences. We haven’t dealt adequately with this reality. It seems we prefer looking the other way because it’s easier than facing reality, and our own unintended collusion.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 March 2021
Photo found at democracynow.org

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