Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Things fall apart

A Moral Obligation | Chinua Achebe

When things fall apart it isn’t an accident. Especially when religion or so-called patriotism is involved.

I don’t find the long view very encouraging these days. The temptation to rewrite history has routinely injected politics into the picture, particularly as presented in or omitted from school textbooks. Usually this favors those in positions of political power over against those with the least power, beginning with Native American Indians.

This need to make things fall apart from time to time has not served the best interests of the powerless, no matter where they live in these so-called United States. Or in Africa, as Chinua Achebe relates in his masterpiece, Thing Fall Apart.

Here’s how Achebe describes the problem–a description in which I hear echoes of our own dysfunctional situation in the USA. Near the end of Things Fall Apart, a disputed piece of land has been given (by the white man’s court) to an African family that had given money to the white man’s messengers and interpreter. Okonkwo, Achebe’s main character throughout the book, responds with the following question and answer (p. 176, emphasis mine).

Does the white man understand our custom about land?

How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad, and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he was won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we are fallen apart.

As I see it, we must be crystal clear about those we elect to serve the common good, not their own good. The stakes are high not just for this generation, but for those yet to come. As Achebe puts it at the top, this is a moral obligation. And yes, it will cost dearly. Not so much in money, as in humility and determination against all odds.

Thanks for visiting and reading. These are troubling days filled with expected and unexpected challenges. Praying for clarity and for the ability to do what we can where we are, no matter which way the wind seems to be blowing.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 August 2021
Quotation at the top found at

This morning’s walk

Heat rises quickly
in this tinderbox of grief
a blue jay screams

green grass and tree leaves
offer distraction in vain
sorrow boils over

turning toward home
we pass the cemetery
open arms waiting

How many more unscheduled deaths will there be? How much bone-dry drought can we endure? How many unkept promises and lies are we willing to overlook?

No answers, just questions. Plus recommitment to doing what I can within my small world of family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. It isn’t about saving the world. It’s about making connections that matter. The kind that make our humanity visible in all its flaws and glory, while getting on with the work of becoming human. Together.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 June 2021
Hot summer sun photo found at

The Unreality Show

The Unreality Show
Continues unscripted
Relentless and determined
One labored breath at a time
Inhaled then exhaled
Wincing and fidgeting
Drifting and struggling
To keep it all together
As things fall apart

Mr. Trump returned to the White House. Not quietly in the middle of the night, but with a show of defiance that reveals his weaknesses. All caught on camera and in tweets to the world. It seems he decided he had to get Covid-19 in order to demonstrate how important it is not to give in to it.

Surrender to the realities of Covid-19, and to experienced Covid-19 experts? Forget it. That might look like defeat. Yet how else is a body to heal? Much less a soul and a heart well practiced in the proud clamor of unpredictable, destructive behavior now vainly turned to his own vain advantage.

I grieve what Mr. Trump has done to and against this country. We’re not perfect, and never will be. Not by a long shot. Today, however, we’re farther than ever from what we might have become in the last four years. This is true even though the past four years have clarified fault lines we would rather not (yet must) examine.

As a follower of Jesus, I’m instructed to pray for leaders of this nation. Today my prayer joins others, beseeching God for mercy. Not by sending a special healing miracle for Mr. Trump, but by mercifully removing him from his current position of seemingly limitless power. Power Mr. Trump does not now, and has never had.

May God have mercy on us all.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 October 2020
Photo of POTUS returning to the White House found at


Aching for a day of rest
Quiet time. Down time.

I’m lost. Uncentered and
Unfocused. Getting through
Each day as I’m able without
Much structure or sense of
Movement. The world feels
Heavy tonight. I want to
Shut it out yet cannot.

Weather. Politics. Disasters
In the making. Addictions to
Addictions. Things falling
Apart display the seamy
Side of life and how little we
Understand where, how or
Why we’re going or not

Blatant. It’s not hidden
Anymore. No filters to drown
Out today’s terror or tomorrow’s
Warring madness. Caught
Without a plan or the humility
Of guidance or signs of care
For real people not on the
Power grid.

Then again, it isn’t new or
All that different than my
Post-WWII childhood. Just more
Open. Unapologetic. In my face
Like that horror movie I never
Paid to see.

They say we should hope.
I say hope is hopeless minus
Action. Yet here I am. Old.
Not sure I have it in me to
Resist injustice no matter
Where and when it’s found.
Help me find my way home.
I think I’m lost.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2019
Image found at

Perhaps on a rare day

Things fall apart
Perhaps on a rare day
They will fall together

Shadows sift through memories
Find her wandering alone
Lost in a forest of horrors
Body parts scattered around
Remains of anonymous whisperers
Still echoing through trees

There’s more than one way
To take a body apart in darkness
Her heart pounds in her chest
She wonders where this will end
All is not necessarily well that ends

Resisting the urge to run
She faces accusers now residing
Within her body of rearranged parts
That don’t remember where they belong
Or where they were going
Before tongues began wagging
Slicing their way through air
Intent on silencing her voice forever

This happened in the early 1990s. I was a tenured full professor. The course was required for all MDiv (Master of Divinity) students. It was the first course I’d taught in which women, men of color, and international students outnumbered white men.

I never saw it coming. The day after I turned in all grades for fall term, the dean asked to see me. At the meeting he gave me the news. During the semester, about half the students from this course had lodged serious concerns with him and with the president about me. More than once.

The seminary president wanted a meeting with me and with the dean to talk about these concerns. No, I could not meet with these students before or after this meeting. No, I could not have a list of names because the students feared retribution. Nor could I have a list of their concerns. Most students who signed the formal complaint were white men; some were men of color; some were women.

I agreed to the meeting only if I had time to review the list of complaints, and only if I could bring a senior colleague—an African American woman of great wisdom and experience.

My requests were resisted. Nonetheless, I persisted, and the meeting took place. It lasted one and a half hours. I felt trapped in someone else’s muck and mire.

Before the meeting, I’d studied the three pages of typed, detailed notes the dean had taken during meetings with students. According to the students, I was sadly deficient in three areas: my theology, my teaching style, and my character. Each area included excruciating detail. I did not recognize myself.

The dean and president denied my request for a meeting with at least some of the students. I was never told who they were. With the exception of a brave few, they remained nameless. Some were doubtless in my later courses.

I wasn’t disciplined. I was, however, broken in spirit, and grateful for my upcoming spring term sabbatical. I was also grateful for my female college who met with me following the meeting to talk about what had just happened and what I’d learned that would help me in the future.

My recent nightmare stirred all this up. The poem is about me. It’s sent out with prayers for all children, young people, adult women and men who endure daily dismemberment and humiliation, seen and unseen.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 November 2017
Photo of Deep Forest found at

Daily Prompt: Sludge

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 Renich Fraser, 19 August 2017
Photo found at

Don’t lose heart!

Renewal: urban renewal, spiritual renewal, book renewals (from the library), renewed vision, renewed strength, and renewed energy.

A-ha! Renewed energy! I long for it, yet experience it these days in tantalizing bits that often dissipate overnight.

From the day I was born in 1943, I began dying. Stranger still, everyone around me thought I was just revving up. Maturing. Developing. Becoming a mature, responsible adult woman.

Which means on my way to death. Right?

No one lasts on this earth forever. How dismal can it get? I’m not a pessimist, but I’m also not a gung-ho optimist, so finding my balance from day to day is dicey.

My tock is ticking down. Relentlessly.

Yet I feel more myself than ever before. More at peace with who I am, if not at peace with everything that happens to me. And yes, I want to be renewed. Who doesn’t?

Renewal hurts. Something has to go. Or be altered. Even then, renewal isn’t guaranteed. Especially if I think I’ll get back what I just lost. So that my life can go on ‘as usual.’

Things falling apart is usual. Making do is usual. Total restoration of all bits and pieces of me is neither usual nor guaranteed in this life.

This past year, things fell apart. Unexpected visitors (heart problems, broken jaw, Lucy pacemaker) moved in to stay. When I’m willing to stop, accept, and listen to them, they free my spirit and my writing voice in ways I don’t understand.

So I haven’t lost heart, and I pray you haven’t either. For me, renewal is happening alongside things falling apart internally and externally. Especially renewal of my inner-woman voice that leaps out of my fingers when I sit down at my computer.

Thanks for reading and listening!


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 December 2016
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Renewal

%d bloggers like this: