Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Vulnerability

Too good to be true

It sounds too good to be true
because it isn’t true and never was.
Standing before hungry investors
Moving in for the kill
Smiling at every attempt
to fathom or unmask truth,
The Great Con comes crashing
down sooner instead of later.

Smiling at restless investors
itching for more money in the bank,
The Great Con reaches its apex:
“This is a no-brainer my friends.
We’re going to Make America
Great again! And I’ve chosen you
As my favored investment partners!
Believe me, you’ll never be sorry.”

By hook and by crook
the cons continue unabated
from one generation to the next
playing on our worst nightmares
and fears of being left behind
or hung out to dry and missing in action—
With thanks to the party of
Take All Prisoners of Their Own Greed and Discontent

It’s easy to get all worked up and even self-righteous about Bernie Madoff.

Yes, what he did was horrific. Yet he wasn’t and will never be the only Great Con in the history of the USA. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, now back in the public eye because of his death, invites me to ponder recent history.

Make America Great Again was and still is a con. Invest your vote in Me and reap the rewards! I know how to get the job done! Your job is to vote for Me and send me a nice check! I can give you everything you’ve been longing for, starting with that wall and a stacked Supreme Court. What better future could there be?

Unfortunately, we haven’t yet woken up from this dream. And the con artist hasn’t abandoned his lonely ship. If it weren’t so tragic, I’d be applauding. But I can’t. Ponzi schemes aren’t known for success. Sadly, the fall of a large Ponzi scheme can be the downfall of us all. Here’s to the success of President Biden. Though it won’t be easy, it’s already worth the effort.

Full disclosure: The seminary I served for 28 years was one of many victims in a local Ponzi scheme. It decimated scores of educational, religious and historic institutions in Philadelphia and beyond. Worst of all, it made life more difficult for those who could least afford it.

Happy Thursday greetings to each of you. I hear the birds outside and am hoping for a lovely walk with D this afternoon.
Elouise

Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 April 2021
Cartoon found at IndianMoney.com

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

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

Thirst

This August 2017 post caught my heart today. Perhaps it will catch yours. We seem to be running out of our hoarded resources. 

Thirst
consumes me
parches my soul
throttles energy
makes me wary
cautious
lest I lose
one precious drop

Hoarding
sets in like drought
grows and multiplies
invades every
vein in my body
sucks me dry
prepares me
for death

Gasping
I refuse
to relinquish
what is mine
by right and law
wrung from
this earth by
my own hands

Heedless
I rush headlong
into a desert
of my making

No one
looks my way
or offers
one precious drop

***

Here’s another option from the prophet Isaiah:

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,
your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me,
and eat what is good,

and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Isaiah 55:1-2 (New International Version)

I’ve been thinking about the way we seem to be turning inward. Supposedly protecting ourselves and our own, lest something terrible happens and we’re left high, dry and more vulnerable than ever. But I wonder.

Ironically, the best way to ensure disaster may well be to shut down our hearts and hang onto our assets, however meager they may be.

This isn’t about political parties, racial identity or religious beliefs. It’s about our common humanity. The capacity in each of us that’s capable of welcoming and providing hospitality to strangers. And the capacity to receive hospitality from others.

It isn’t easy. We’re never promised success, safety or survival for ourselves or others. We are, however, promised the satisfaction of receiving and passing on small bits of grace and gratitude. Some of those tiny drought-proof seeds that grow only when they’re given away.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 August 2017; reposted on 15 March 2021
Image found at feelgrafix.com

misaligned | Int’l Women’s Day

Claude Monet, Poppy Fields near Argenteuil

I posted this three years ago. Sadly, things haven’t changed for the better. If anything, Covid-19 and four years of growing neglect, abuse, and animosity toward women have made things worse. Not just in the USA, but worldwide. This is for women everywhere, and the men who support and care about them:

in the waiting room
perfectly aligned paintings
greet the misaligned

I’m back at the physical therapy center, sitting in the waiting room. Directly across from me, above a row of chairs, hang two huge paintings. Doubtless chosen for their ability to calm and reassure patients bearing all kinds of physical misalignments. Most patients are women.

The paintings are meticulously hung and feature lovely outdoor scenes. Expansive, bucolic and natural without being overly sentimental. Unobtrusive  gentle colors and bright sunshiny days.

Nothing to rattle our nerves or make us wonder about untold stories or what might happen next. No storms brewing in the background. No signs of aging structures or broken-down bridges. All is serene.

The haiku, written several weeks ago, came to mind this morning as I scrolled through photos celebrating International Women’s Day. If even a few of these photos were hung on walls in our public spaces, what would happen? Here are three that caught my eye.

Bhubaneswar, India – Sand Sculpture by Manas Sahoo

Thane, India – Fashion Show by Acid Attack Survivors

Dhaka, Bangladesh – March in support of Int’l Women’s Day 

Never underestimate the power of women. Especially when we’re in one accord on just one thing we need. Equal status as human beings.

This means equal status in a society that honors each woman and girl as a full human being, regardless of color, country of origin, economic or social class, religion, or marital status. Not a fraction of a human being, but 100 percent human. Welcomed into every room in the house without having to wear masks, special clothes, smiles or makeup on our faces, or anything that signals we are less valued than men or boys.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2018, reposted 8 March 2021
Monet painting found at quadrosetelas.com.br
International Women’s Day photos found at Getty Images

Living with loss

It’s always in my face
until it isn’t anymore
With a smirk and a sigh
energy slides to the floor
of my waning ambitions

Time races by
without much effort
as I sit watching birds
and freezing rain
drift through the air

It’s time for lavender crocus
to push their sweet petals
through layers of packed snow
now coating the back yard
like a fake movie set

I sit at the kitchen table
reluctant to move
taking in the calm of
a day just begun
despite my growing lassitude

I must admit to a case of weariness. Physical, mental, emotional weariness.

I don’t mind messes. In fact, I’m challenged by them. I used to enjoy sorting things out into neat piles. Not for my own pleasure, but because things go better when they’re arranged in a sensible way. So we know who’s who and where things are and how to access truth.

We seem to have less sense than usual about us these days. Not as individuals, but as citizens of these weary, mostly disunited states. It isn’t too much to say we’re in a hunkered down war-like posture. We’ve been there for decades, growing wearier by the day.

No one has declared open warfare, though we’ve come close. On a regular day, those who feel the heat most often are our best barometers. Women, children, the unemployed, prisoners, immigrants, and sometimes anyone who lingers too long to watch the sunset.

It feels as though our government has become the new war zone that guarantees we’ll not cross over to the ‘enemy.’

And yet, for this and much more, Jesus of Nazareth turned his face toward his enemies and toward death. One wearying day after another.

I pray we’ll find reason to hope not in ourselves, but in a power greater than we are. Even though it means learning to die.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 March 2021
Photo found at gardeningknowhow.com

Human rights and Women’s rights

Days of disorientation verging on despair
Parade in and out of my life
Uninvited

Meanwhile Trumpian unrealities
Sink ever deeper roots
into the great swamp of male privilege

I don’t know how to document this. I’m sure there’s a way, and that it’s already being done. I just want to know why all the uproar about human rights seems blind to the rights of all women in the USA.

This isn’t just about color. It isn’t even about income or educational status.

It’s about backbreaking expectations that women of all colors can and will do all things all the time with or without children, with or without a fair, steady income, and with or without adequate representation in every branch of our government and our judicial system. Yes, it feels like a run-on sentence because it’s already a run-on recipe for disaster.

The laundry list of virtual slaps in the faces of women and girls continues to grow. Comments and so-called jokes; growing numbers of men feeding the MeToo movement; the rapid disappearance of adequate medical support for women and girls; unequal pay for women doing the same work men do.

None of this is new. What’s distressing is the obvious, in-your-face deconstruction of equal support for females of any color.

Yes, we have a huge race issue here in the USA. And yes, the color of our female skin matters wherever we go, whether we like it or not.

Still, women living in poverty or hand-to-mouth are as likely to be white as black or brown. The current argument over our non-living wage (in most states) is disheartening, though being female in the USA is about more than a living wage.

We deserve politicians and judges that include women and men of all colors, fully representative of females as well as males, united by their opposition to outrages committed against women and girls every day of the week. Is this too much to expect?

This is also an issue for our churches and neighborhoods. Yes, people might get tired of hearing about the same thing over and over. Then again, perhaps our silence is asking women and girls of all colors to get used to living with the same thing over and over.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 March 2021
Photo found at pewresearch.org

I want to go back

They say memories are
what really matter
But I want to go back

to classrooms shaped by
women and men from afar
Places I’ve never visited

How narrow we’ve become today
in our virtually segregated schools and
neighborhoods overflowing

with unfamiliar cuisines or clothes
and customs that give us away as strangers
not friends or even neighbors

Years of serving seminarians in
multinational multiethnic classrooms
turned my small world upside down

You helped make me the woman
I now am sitting here at home
wishing for just one more class

So you can show up and teach me
What I need to know today
Before it’s too late to dream

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic these days. Also heavy-hearted about what we’re becoming as a nation. It seems curiosity about the world and about people who don’t look, act or vote the way we do isn’t as interesting as it used to be. In fact, it seems easier to ignore each other. Look the other way.

When I was still teaching at seminary, diversity made everything more exciting. Granted, it wasn’t always easy for any of us.

Nonetheless, it opened up opportunities to re-examine our assumptions and broaden our knowledge. Not just about the subject matter, but about the way we dealt with each other.

Are we losing touch with our humanity? Is that possible?

I don’t want to be a robot, or a puppet on strings controlled by other human beings. Or by the ups and downs of the stock market, or the latest headlines in scandal magazines.  Nor do I want to be locked into my own small world because of fear or unexamined assumptions.

This morning I received my second Covid-19 shot. The room was filled with people who didn’t look or act like me. I wonder. Would they be interested in an informal discussion group? There’s so much I wish I understood better…..

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 March 2021
Image found at ceu.edu

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