Thursday, December 18, 2014

(Is it alright to say I hate fundamentalism... ?)

It had largely been a fundamentalist crowd. Someone had set very large speakers on substantial eight-foot tall tripods on either side of the altar, amplifiers and all the wires to and from the guitar in heaps right in front of the altar, and a chair, guitar stand, microphone and a fan all around the Paschal candle. There were poster boards covered with photos standing on tables at the sanctuary step --the altar was totally obscured.

It all happened before I got there --while I was still out at the cemetery with the other burial. There would be no undoing it without making a scene.


And, I was not surprised when at the funeral the invited "speakers" got up and spoke conversion speeches and testimonials. Frantic readings from the bible. It went on for more than an hour... and we hadn't even yet closed the coffin --which is the apex of the funeral at most protestant funerals here.

So, when we closed the coffin, and then I read from the gospel and began to speak, I felt the stirring and confusion in the congregation... --what, we weren't done? I spoke... about the Tradition beyond scripture --of the outward and visible signs --about lighting the sacred fire after days of no fires, no food --of water --of sharing bread and wine, gifts of the earth and the cosmic Christ who holds all things in being --of not praying TO Christ but THROUGH Christ --of 400 years of Christian worship and life before the "bible" came to be.

Earth. Fire. Water. And Christ, and Christ alone is the Word of God... not scripture (which until the most recent prayer book, always had just a small-case 'w')... and that Word lives and breathes and dwells among us. There is no 'God out there' --God is with us. Among us.

Christ is that Word. That breath of God.

Earth. Fire. Water. Air.

--and that the elder we were going to bury was hid with Christ in God. Among us.

Afterwards, as we were eating, one of the kids came running up to me. 'Do you remember me?' she asked, tilting her head, her eyes watching some distant prize beyond me. 'Of course I remember you,' I said. And then she began with her questions. Do the animals really speak Lakota? Would I teach her to sing in Lakota? Did I know that God was going to judge us and send us to heaven or hell?

I knew her mother... so, I said, yes, the animals really do speak Lakota. And we went in the church and sat down. I pulled out a hymnal and began to sing 'Silent Night' in Lakota. Her eyes got really big. I helped her sing it. And then I told her that all the animals speak on Christmas Eve --right out loud while we are at church or after we had gone to bed. It was because they were there to see Jesus born --they were the first creatures to know him. I loved telling her that. She swallowed it whole.

To top it off, I asked her if God was every where. She said yes, of course. 'So,' I said, 'You say there is absolutely no place, ever, at all, that is without God?' She nodded, strenuously. 'Do you know what that means?' I asked. She looked at me... she was ready to grab whatever answer I gave. 'It means that if God is every where, God is even in hell... and that even in hell, God will be with us and help us out. So, don't worry about hell any more.'

She looked at me... and I could see a whole new horizon opening inside her.

Later, at the graveside, I spoke with the mother. I told her what I had said. She was thrilled. Delighted. 'At last,' she said. 'At last we have a response. I keep telling her that faith is like a flower, not like a scary nightmare. Will you baptize her, next Easter?'

'Of course,' I said. Of course.

At prayer this morning (From Isaiah 10)

Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees,
who write oppressive statutes,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be your spoil,
and that you may make the orphans your prey!
What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the calamity that will come from far away?
To whom will you flee for help,
and where will you leave your wealth,
so as not to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain?

For all this his anger has not turned away;
his hand is stretched out still.

Canticle: A Song of True Motherhood, by Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)

God chose to be our mother in all things *
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure, in the Virgin’s womb.

God, the perfect wisdom of all, *
arrayed himself in this humble place.
Christ came in our poor flesh *
to share a mother’s care.

Our mothers bear us for pain and for death; *
our true mother, Jesus, bears us for joy and endless life.
Christ carried us within him in love and travail, *
until the full time of his passion.

And when all was completed and he had carried us so for joy, *
still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.
All that we owe is redeemed in truly loving God, *
for the love of Christ works in us;
Christ is the one whom we love.
In living flesh and blood. Because we cannot love something that is not flesh and blood --any more than God can be absent from any where or any place...

(Is it alright to say I hate fundamentalism... ?)

Off I go.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

from the very beginning

Three days. Four funerals. Some of the folks here are related to at least two of the deceased. They are exhausted with grief. The lay readers are helping out even after they said --I can't, mother, I am grieving on this one... but, they did any way. Even in the midst of their own tears.

I am deeply inspired by their perseverance, their willingness, their faith.... They inspire me, feed me.

So, now I return to the work at hand, having slept well but still feeling the tiredness in my bones.

Death does that to me. And I haven't had the chance to stop and work these ones through, knead them in to soul-bread and make a proper offering.

Maybe next week....

At prayer this morning (Mark 1:1-8)

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

I love the gospel of Mark. So plain. So earthy. Gutsy. I love that it starts with a grown-up Jesus. I love that the Resurrection stories at the end are marginal scribblings. I love the images of wild animals and angels and the oh-so-obvious actions and the descriptions of the disciples.

Yeah. I am ready for the gritty gospel.

--and folks who think that there was ever a unified church without division have never considered the Bible... the arguments described in Acts ought to be enough... but the fact that there are four gospels also ought to be a clue.

Some folks are afraid of difference....

But it is God-given. From the beginning. The very beginning... male and female God created us in God's own likeness --different.

Off I go.

Oh gee..... what am I going to say at this funeral?! God help me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I don't know what else to do

The roads were too icy yesterday to drive the ninety miles east to the cemetery. So, we couldn't bury him... there will be three burials today. One way out on the bluff overlooking the River; one on the 'flats' by one of the 1910 railroad towns created when the Feds practiced another land grab and opened the Reservation to white settlers without the Tribe's permission; one down along the Creek where it meets the Cheyenne River --an old, remote and wild place that kept the old songs and Traditions alive even when it was illegal to do so.

I can only do two... and I can't find someone to do the third out on the bluff. It grieves me. But that is just the way it is. Last night, three lay readers took the wake here in Eagle Butte while I went west and covered the other wake. I am so grateful for their presence, their willingness, their work in the community. I know the People are too.

Today, I will do the funeral here in Eagle Butte, and then lead folks to the burial on the flats. Then I will go and join the other funeral, and lead folks to the burial down where the Creek meets the River.

Then, I will come back to Eagle Butte, and lead a wake tonight. The funeral and burial tomorrow.

God willing.

There are good and holy deaths, sometimes. The wake tonight and funeral tomorrow are for a ninety-something great-great grandma. That is a good and holy death. Full of the stories we carry that make us all who we hope to be.

But the other three... have filled the people with shock and dread... combustible tears. The despair is a new setting of the generations-old oppression transposed. One grandma sat by me last night --she kept saying, 'it is something we have done, it is something we did, God is punishing us.'

'No,' I said. 'It's the wasicu poison.' She knew I meant the alcohol, the drugs.

'Why does the white man always want to kill us?' she asked. 'They always try to kill us.'

She speaks with the lilting accent --English is her second language. She remembers wearing moccasins when she was a child; she remembers not seeing a white person until she was five or six and had to go to school. I know she is right --the white man has always tried to kill the Lakota. In every generation, there has been genocide --cultural and bodily genocide --purposeful, practiced, planned --policies and laws enacted to crush them, to make them conform to white culture --to give up their religion, their songs, their foods, their clothes, their family life... and then when they did strive to conform, treated them as way-less-than because they weren't white.

'They always try to kill us,' she said again, crying.

It is insanity to deny or defend. 'Yes,' I said. 'And it's been that way since we first got here. I don't understand it, either.' And we enter in to that holy silence together, trying to see a way forward for the sake of the children, for the sake of the mothers, for the sake of all the People...

--and I know in my heart that it is the overwhelming generosity and hospitality of the People that makes it possible for me to stay here. So that I may witness the continued suffering. To walk with them. To be present. To pray.

Because there is nothing else I can do or un-do. Except pray. Listen. And know. And gather the grief and the suffering as an offering, carry them like fragile wild flowers to the altar, and give it all to God. Along with my tears, my frustration, my anger... light the incense ...and surrender. Empty myself.

To make myself as empty and hollow as that cold, rock tomb...

--because it is there that God will work in that mysterious way... and not return me to my old life, but unbind me and fill me with new life.

And then I return. To share the hope that is in me.

For the joy of it.

I don't know what else to do...

At prayer this morning (from Isaiah 9)

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Oh yeah, preach it Isaiah.

And then, there's this (beginning at 2 Peter 1:12)

Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Now, there's a meditation on the Trinity for ya.
Off I go.

Monday, December 15, 2014

even if they come to see me....

Right now, the snow is blowing sideways outside --but it's only supposed to last until about 11am or noon... and then we will head east along the ridge of the prairie, then north along the River to a bluff where the church was hauled from the valley below as the flooding began --from the dam, the Oahe Dam. They had to dig up every body they could find, and re-establish the cemetery and church --move camp.

That's where we will go. I filled up with gas for the journey in the car last night. It's never good to venture out without a full tank... and I carry two blankets, food, water... just in case. And, it's time to remember --to dredge up what I've learned in winter driving living here.

But, this is kinda funny --although it really makes me wonder... not necessarily from the puns involved, but why in the world would those creating the info-mercial here in South Dakota have it narrated with an English accent?!

Unfortunately for the South Dakota office of Highway Safety, some people think their new safe-driving campaign around the slogan "don't jerk and drive" was a bad idea.

The ad campaign, intended to keep people from over correcting and jerking their steering wheels in icy conditions, struck some as offensive because of its allusion to masturbation.

Oh my dear.... Well... it certainly would make new, young drivers remember... perhaps others as well....

There we are.

I forgot to say --on my way back from Rapid the other day, I saw a massive flash of white along the road. I thought it was some prong horn out in the field along the highway --but that didn't really work --it couldn't be -it would have been the strangest prong horn ever.... And then, just as my car was beyond that field, I realized it was three massive eagles. --talk about jerking while driving... I could hardly believe my eyes.

So, I turned around and went back. The eagles didn't much like that, so they flew way off up the hill...

three eagle --you can tell from the fence posts how massive they are

two eagles are sitting center-left, this is the view after they flew away from the road
what--can't you see them? get some prairie eyes...

the close-up of above

I have been saturated with prairie visions such as these... and I have been changed by them. Who could not be?

And the doorbell just rang... I know the guy --one of God's holy people --he has no running water or power in his house. One of many. He lives the "old-fashioned" way, as he puts it. But he needed some propane. Thank you to everyone who has given for just that purpose. He was also shivering --so, sorry Watson, I gave him our/your big black hoody.... Yes, I checked the pockets first... just dog cookie crumbs. It was either that or my jacket... and I had no sword to cut my jacket in two... ya know?!

And I kept smelling something vaguely sweet last night at the wake service... it turned out to be me --saturated with the wood smoke smell. Church yesterday --Cherry Creek-- where, yes, we have electricity, but it is minimal... They had built a fire in the wood stove early in the morning --we began our prayers at just after 1pm... warm enough. And so everything smelled like sweet smoke.

And the powers that be in the church are proposing that we cut the budget of "aided" Dioceses --which, in effect they have already done because they are showing funding only at present levels in the current rendition of the budget proposal for General Convention next spring... I believe "aided" Dioceses, which receive money from the general budget of the whole church, are largely Dioceses which have a preponderance of Native American churches --like South Dakota, North Dakota and Navajo Land. If you are so moved, please write the Budget Feedback a few comments here --AND, inform your Diocesan delegates not to accept a cutback to the historic and necessary work here.

Because, if the church is all about mission... why would they cut true, local mission work?

So --off I go.

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 41_

Happy are they who consider the poor and needy! *
the LORD will deliver them in the time of trouble.
The LORD preserves them and keeps them alive,
so that they may be happy in the land; *
the LORD does not hand them over to the will of their enemies.

The LORD sustains them on their sickbed *
and ministers to them in their illness.
I said, “LORD, be merciful to me; *
heal me, for I have sinned against you.”
My enemies are saying wicked things about me: *
asking when I will die, and when my name will perish.
Even if they come to see me, they speak empty words; *
their heart collects false rumors;
they go outside and spread them."

Hmmmmmm.... Yes. I suppose even if those who propose cut backs come and visit, they might not see... they might continue speaking empty words.... perhaps they need to be here long enough to see the eagles....

Funeral this morning; two wakes tonight, two funerals tomorrow --no, I can't be in two places at once --thank God for Lay Readers... and another wake tomorrow night and funeral on Wednesday....

Please keep us in your prayers.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

only ever through grace

Sorting through the images in my mind's eye from yesterday... --and, all I can say is I am grateful that burial is literally a dirty business. Somehow it seems right to come home from having buried someone and be covered in dirt, head to toe, in every seam, between the teeth, under the fingernails. It is holy, some how. And, cleaning up is like the beginning of healing, the beginning... . And it is physical. It can be seen and known.

Trouble is --next week... I will have four funerals.... There will be no time to turn from one grave to the other with time to wash in-between. Sunday night wake, Monday burial. Monday night a wake by a Lay Reader in one town, and a funeral mass by me in another. On Tuesday, there will be two burials.... On Tuesday night, another wake with a funeral and burial on Wednesday. Three days. Four burials....

And, then, I think I will soak.... in a deep tub of hot water....


So, today I organize everything --work ahead... God willing. So that I can focus and be present in all that I have been called to do in the hours and days ahead.


At prayer this morning (Luke 22:31-38)
Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!”

Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.” He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?”

They said, “No, not a thing.”

He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me,
‘And he was counted among the lawless';
and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.”

They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”

He replied, “It is enough.”
Right now, I know I am just like Simon Peter --saying, hey Jesus, I can go with you all the way! --and that at some point between Sunday and Wednesday I will fail... and that, right now, I am like the disciples who stupidly look around the room while Jesus says 'pack your bags--get ready,' and find two swords and say looky here! missing the point entirely --being so freakin' literal as to miss the big picture....

So, I can only hope and pray that the People will forgive me my mistakes and presumptions... I can only hope and pray for the humility and quietness of spirit that will sustain me... because it is not through strength --not through "swords" and a packed bag that any of us ever endure and persevere...

It is only ever through grace.

Off I go.

Friday, December 12, 2014

seamless in our being

We bury a baby today. One who never breathed the delicious air of the prairies. Who never put her fingers in the dirt and then tasted it. Who never looked up and recognized her mother. Or the skies. Or the stars.

She was an athlete who ran around inside the womb. She was getting ready to settle down for delivery when she turned too many times and twisted the umbilical cord around her neck.... And left her family to grieve the loss of the hope they had nurtured, the dreams they had dreamed.

So, we will bury her today, among her ancestors and all her relatives. In the river valley, just before it descends to meet the Cheyenne swath of trees and wind. And pray she will be enfolded in the loving care of the One Who Created All.

--and I wonder at the prayers in all the books, wonder if they will be adequate to express the un-explicit groans of the broken hearts, the churning devastating of the guts that suddenly find a hole that opens to a greater darkness than can be fully known....

--what words can be said...? --what ceremonial signs and gestures can ever comprehend...?

I know I cannot prepare for the shock of that high keening wail of the grandmothers, the solemn tears of the grandfathers, the desperation of the mother, the soul-stupor of the father...

It will be the children who will save us all, turn our faces to the events of living --food, air, drink, enough clothes to stave off the cold. The sister-brother-cousins who will run and find the thing they should not throw, and throw it.

And trust that someday the Great Mystery will be seamless in our being...

At prayer this morning (Luke 22:14-30)

When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!”

Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

“You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

I am so done with thought of judgment. Who cares? We have tried Kingdoms before... thrones and Kingdoms... Judgment is a seam-maker. Where right and wrong are mended together. Stitched as though to fabricate a whole.

And I am so not interested.

Come Lord Jesus.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

it is not what WE think of the torture report... we should ask those who suffer/ed

Whew. I am in Eagle Butte. My beloved is in Rapid --he has doctor appointments --I have funerals. There we are....

On the way home yesterday, I listened to the NPR discussions of the torture report. I was struck by the questions that kept coming... 'Putting what you think of the morals and ethics aside, what do you think yadda yadda....' Which of course, left folks answering the questions only with the lawfulness or effectiveness of it all.


One of the things I have learned to respect here is one's freedom to say 'That's not our way.' Which means the weight of Tradition, the weight of difference is known.

One of the things I have learned in the Church is that we don't call out un-Christian behavior. We don't even discern what IS Christian behavior --unless, of course, it's our more conservative sisters and brothers who draw lines --mostly around sex... never around the things that truly matter... like the things Jesus talked about --money and forgiveness, knowing --being aware, and putting our swords away... those kind of things.

Here, there is a list of virtues, or ways of being and doing. Doing them is to 'walk the good road.' They are mixed, matched and numbered in many different ways, depending upon your Band (family group/Tribe). These are: fortitude; courage/bravery; integrity; honesty; humility; generosity. Values are also named --Respect; Wisdom; Compassion; Tolerance; Humility; Forgiveness; Thankfulness. And a constant state of Prayerfulness.

I suppose we might have similar lists in our Tradition... the 'list' of the Beatitudes... which is hardly a list of virtues/ways that most might strive to incorporate in to their daily life... to be poor, to mourn, to be meek, to be hungry and thirsty, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted...

We list some in our Baptismal Covenant: to continue in the teachings, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer, resisting evil, repenting (turning around), living the Good News, serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor, striving for justice and peace and respecting the dignity of every human being...

The Romans list them out differently: Human Virtues (temperance and prudence, justice, and courage); Theological Virtues (faith, hope, charity); Gifts of the Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord); Fruits of the Spirit (charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity).

I suppose... I suppose I would keep the Beatitudes first on my list... because... they make the most sense to me in the practice of everyday life... because... even our Baptismal Covenant comes from a place of... of... privilege is the only word I can think of.... There are assumptions.... of... I can't think of the word.... Because, even my mother, helpless, bedridden, without her mind or any other capacity, could be a sign for me... she could be all those things.... Christ.

So... I guess... in the end, it is not what WE think of the torture report... we should ask those who suffered what they think... what should be done...

Hmmmmm.... yeah.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 37:1-18)

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; *
do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
For they shall soon wither like the grass, *
and like the green grass fade away.
Put your trust in the LORD and do good; *
dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
Take delight in the LORD, *
who shall give you your heart’s desire.
Commit your way to the LORD; put your trust in the LORD, *
who will bring it to pass.
The LORD will make your righteousness as clear as the light *
and your just dealing as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD; *
wait patiently for the LORD.

Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; *
do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.
For evildoers shall be cut off, *
but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.
In a little while the wicked shall be no more; *
you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.
But the lowly shall possess the land; *
they will delight in abundance of peace.
The wicked plot against the righteous *
and gnash at them with their teeth.

The Lord laughs at the wicked, *
knowing that their day will come.
The wicked draw their sword and bend their bow
to strike down the poor and needy, *
to slaughter those who are upright in their ways.
Their sword shall go through their own heart, *
and their bow shall be broken.

The little that the righteous has *
is better than the great riches of the wicked.
For the power of the wicked shall be broken, *
but the LORD upholds the righteous.

And this.... (Wisdom 10:15-19,20b-21)

Wisdom freed from a nation of oppressors *
a holy people and a blameless race.
She entered the soul of a servant of the Lord, *
withstood dread rulers with wonders and signs.
To the saints she gave the reward of their labors, *
and led them by a marvelous way;
She was their shelter by day *
and a blaze of stars by night.
She brought them across the Red Sea, *
she led them through mighty waters;
But their enemies she swallowed in the waves *
and spewed them out from the depths of the abyss.
And then, Lord, the righteous sang hymns to your Name, *
and praised with one voice your protecting hand;
For Wisdom opened the mouths of the mute, *
and gave speech to the tongues of a new-born people.

And this (Canticle: A Song of True Motherhood, by Julian of Norwich)

God chose to be our mother in all things *
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure, in the Virgin’s womb.
God, the perfect wisdom of all, *
arrayed himself in this humble place.
Christ came in our poor flesh *
to share a mother’s care.
Our mothers bear us for pain and for death; *
our true mother, Jesus, bears us for joy and endless life.
Christ carried us within him in love and travail, *
until the full time of his passion.
And when all was completed and he had carried us so for joy, *
still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.
All that we owe is redeemed in truly loving God, *
for the love of Christ works in us;
Christ is the one whom we love.

Okay... off I go.

Today, in Michigan, they bury a much loved man who spent many summers here, working with and for the People. The weight of his death is felt here. My thoughts and prayers are with all who grieve.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

beginning the hard work of Advent

So.... There we are. As a Nation, we have tortured, detained, hidden and lied. And we will flaunt international law that requires us to prosecute the perpetrators. And the only person that has been sent to prison in the whole scenario is the ex-CIA agent who first revealed the torture program.

I share Jon Stewart's reaction --projectile vomiting... (thank you Monty Python).

Some say we won't prosecute those involved in the torture because of the politics involved.

I disagree in part. That is only some of it. I say we won't prosecute because we are in denial... in much the same way that an alcoholic or drug addict says to themselves '--see, yeah I used, but I'm not dependent upon (name the substance). I've been without it for a whole five weeks and I'm just fine.' It is not the ability to go without a substance for a time or a while... it is the whole set of factors and patterns of behavior that lead to the self-medication and addiction that need to be addressed.

And, until we, as a Nation, deal with our addiction to violence, we won't get off the torture train, no matter how many Senate reports are written.

Our addiction to violence includes police tactics that lead to shooting deaths (as in Ferguson and all the others recently come to light), militarization of community police, our love of making war without declaring war by sending our armed forces around the globe, our insistence on the "right" to carry weapons --and, of course, the approval of "enhanced interrogation techniques" at the highest level of government.

Prosecuting and punishing those involved in the torture won't solve the truly soul-wise problem we have. That is why I was glad to read this, a public health doctor who says that violence is truly a public health problem.

Gary Slutkin, M.D., left a comfortable life as a physician practicing in San Francisco to spend 10 years in Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda and other African countries fighting TB, cholera, and HIV/AIDS. He was an infectious disease doctor. He knew how to detect a communicable disease, interrupt its transmission, prevent its future spread, and work to change the culture and behaviors of a community to confer immunity against its deadly return. Having done his share of God's work, he returned to the States, imagining a different professional life.

But Dr. Slutkin was far too expert a public health doctor to not apply his medical knowledge to the violence that infests our cities. He saw teenagers killing other teenagers. He saw how the patterns of violence transmission replicated those of infectious diseases, and the utterly ineffective approaches employed to stopping its deadly contagion, especially punishment or trying to "fix everything." His work as a public health doctor would resume, only with a different pathogen -- namely thoughts and expectations of others instead of bacteria and viruses.

So... does it work?

Dr. Slutkin, in New York City for the premiere of A Most Violent Year, remarks that ending urban violence requires: identifying the sources (people and locations) of its transmission; using community workers (locals, natives if you will, who know their neighbors and their culture) to interrupt the transmission of violence; and changing the culture, the norms of a community -- replacing "prisons with parks." Cure Violence, is now working in 25 cities (over 50 communities), including Chicago, Baltimore, seven New York cities (including NYC, Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo), as well as in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, and South Africa. Reductions in violence of over 30 percent in year one of a program, and up to 70 percent in time, have been replicated 20 times and independently validated again and again.
Identify source.
Interrupt transmission.
Change the norms of expectations and interaction.

We can't completely lay the blame for torture upon the Bush/Cheney regime. They are merely part of the symptoms --the expression of our disease. They are not the only "people and locations" we must identify --not the only "source."

And, I can't help but think of the communities I serve... with the historic violence perpetrated upon them, and the known inter-generational inheritance --the passing on to the next generation the effects of the violence. The Cure Violence site cites the health problems associated... chronic disease, stress, anxiety, depression, lower quality of life, increased risk of perpetrating violence --including violence to self.

So.... I am thinking of a Lenten program... and needing to find out more about Cure Violence... and all that.

--here in Advent... as we prepare.... I thank God that God has already interrupted the "transmission" of our disease of sin... that we do not live under the John the Baptist regime of repent first and then God will come... but that God comes in to our midst and dwells among us whether we repent first or not....

So... Advent... having already acknowledged the depth of sin and depravity, having had such sin and depravity interrupted --Advent is about truly changing our expectations... about changing our cultural norms.

Would that it were so....

At prayer this morning (from Isaiah 6)

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” And he said, “Go and say to this people:

"Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.’
Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”

And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is utterly desolate;
until the LORD sends everyone far away,
and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.
Even if a tenth part remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak
whose stump remains standing
when it is felled.”

Oh geeee..... On a little more hopeful note:

(John 7:53—8:11)

Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She said, “No one, sir.”

And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

See... forgiveness first. And perhaps that is what we must do in the revelation of the torture we have perpetrated --torture that has been done in our name and presumably on our behalf. Pardon first. Interrupt it first.

And then we can begin the hard work.
Yes, forever. Or at least until that day....

Advent is truly about changing our cultural expectations --our norms....

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Be afraid. Don't be afraid. Be ready. In the night.

7:30 last evening. It had been dark for hours already. It felt like midnight as we wended our way through the dark, weaving shadow to shadow as the moon rose in our wake.

There is no dark quite as deep as the prairie. No stirring of awe splintered with fear. A fearsome comfort. No place to hide from God out here... not even in the dark of night.

Joel said, 'It's an old road --it reminds me --it's like we are on the old road to Jamestown.' He meant in Virginia, between the cotton and tobacco fields along the James River, which even hours upstream from where it empties in to the great ocean, the tides can be felt, measured, tasted.

I laughed in to the dark of the cab of the car. 'Yeah-maybe,' I said. 'Except for the fact that there are no trees.' The forests can grow so thick and fast in Virginia... one can be blinded, blinking and shielding your eyes as you drive from forest in to open field... like instant night and day. But it is a close darkness there. A crowded darkness. Not like the vast deepness of the dark prairie.

Joel gasped. 'Until you said that about the trees, I could see them along the road,' he said, shaking his head. I laughed again. Knowing that place of visions, the mind's eye.

We went through the crossroads where the reflectors on posts outline and congest the shoulder of the highway. Fifty-one miles to the next cluster of houses. Another hour of extreme vulnerability. We will see maybe six other vehicles during that time.

There is a pick-up truck alongside the road, lights on, pulled over in to a farm access. 'Was that an accident?' Joel asked. 'I don't think so,' I said. 'Potty stop.' And we laughed. We have had to do that, too. Watching for snakes. And all else that hides. All else that exposes how vulnerable we are. Out here.

We could see the town ahead, across the prairie, a line of yellow and orange lights still twenty or more miles away. I think to myself that such lights from a town in the middle of the prairie reminds me of watching water go down a drain... the absolute gravity of the darkness...

As we pull in to town, there are two diners, three large metal commercial buildings, and four gas stations --one at each corner of the intersection of the highways that make this town. We pull in to the open gas station. There are no credit card readers on the pumps here --that would be an investment in something few would use any way... and they often freeze and don't work. The young woman inside comes out of the office in the back of the store where we pay, watches us choose the nuts and a sandwich, the bottled drinks. We use the restrooms. She laughs and talks with us. She has a rough, country way. I look at her hands. They are not inside hands --they have branded, cut, pulled, tied, delivered... this is just her winter work to make those extra dollars. Her sweatshirt advertises some chew or snuff or something else I don't recognize.

As we pull away in to the dark --another fifty miles to go before we come to the dashing, swift white-and-red-headlight energy of the interstate, Joel says, 'It must be dangerous for her to work there all alone.' I laugh, thinking of the gun that is probably within reach just behind the counter, and I say, 'Are you kidding? Nobody would mess with her --everybody knows her daddy is head of the Klan. They don't dare mess with her.'

'Oh, that's right,' says Joel... 'I get that feeling in all these little towns....' And we pull off silently in to the dark highway.

I remember the time I entered a similar little gas station store with an elder from the Reservation. The guy behind the counter was so rude, wouldn't make eye contact, shoved the change of our purchase back at us across the counter without speaking. And we laughed and laughed in a sick way in the car. 'He must of thought I was your iyeska [half white] grand-daughter,' I said.... There is nothing to do but laugh while you weep. Laughing while you weep keeps your heart from growing cold and hard like theirs.

On in to the night. The radio stations only rub static sound in to the air on this stretch of road. We travel only to the sing-song rhythm of the tires hitting the joints and tracks of the asphalt highway.

The night. The night. The presence of the Great Mystery. Don't be afraid. Be afraid. Don't be afraid. Be ready. In the night. In the darkest. Night.

At prayer this morning (beginning at Luke 21:29)

Then Jesus told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with the worries of this life.... -like a trap.

Grandfather, have pity.
Thank you.
For health, thank you.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Stand up. Raise up your heads.

I arrived in Dupree on Saturday morning for the funeral... and was shocked at the news. The deceased's sister-cousin had a heart attack in the kitchen and had died at the hospital in the middle of the night.

The gathered relatives and friends were all still in a state of shock. Accompanied by an undercurrent of fear. Because when something like this happens, one wonders what the spirits are doing, why they are doing this... how much more can the people carry....

The rumors of who did what to cause such a thing --to anger the spirits --to cause them to run rampant. It is cultural imperialism to scoff at such an understanding --I make no claim to know how things unseen work (and remember, we lay claim to things "seen and unseen" all the time in our own Tradition). --I make no claim to understand whether or not such things are true or not true.

I have come to understand that I can assure folks of God's unrelenting love... --of God unrelenting mysterious being... of God's goodness....

But it is also not easy to find a way to say those things and be heard rightly in the face of such bitter loss. At a funeral. It is much easier to say those things that make a story.... such as, she was doing things a Traditional Lakota woman should do --feeding the people, taking care of her family.... And I heard another --she went with her brother so he would not have to walk alone, they had always been so close. That is remembered as comfort.

I am reminded, again, of why Jesus spoke in story....

So... I must begin an already difficult funeral service with the added dimension of another circumstance of startling and disorienting grief. I strive to acknowledge all this with an opening prayer, and then a re-focus on the immediate work at hand.

One death at a time.

So... today I say my prayers, for the unending grief here.... And as I finish those prayers, I receive another phone call... this time a greatly loved and admired man who had been coming here for years with his church group. An 'adopted' brother... which is as good as blood here. The grief will be neck deep, all over again.

And, I think about the sunrise I saw early today --with the nearly full moon setting in the west, the sun rising in the east.

--and I strive to think of a story that would speak to that...

--but, today... there are no words coming. And there is much work to do ahead....

At prayer this morning (Luke 21:20-28)

Jesus said, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Signs in the sun, the moon and the stars... Stand up. Raise up your heads. Your redemption is drawing near.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

caught up together in the clouds.

The moon...  flooded the prairie with that soft, cool light. Making each blade of grass a whole universe manifest, solitary witnesses in a sea of witnesses that disappear in to the dark.

Solitude. Yes. The moon speaks of solitude.

Under the moon. The grass is taller. The voices softer. The sound of the singing more mysterious and distant. I stood for a moment outside the double doors that face west. All hint of the sunlight that had spilled upwards with a cascade of brilliance, of glory, of breathtaking radiance --all of that was gone, settled in to the heavy line of horizon between heaven and earth. Now, under the moon, the streaks of clouds were cast about the heavens like old fish bones discarded on a strange dark beach.

There was no comfort here. No solace. An abrupt unexpected ending. And a crowd of witnesses, like the grasses, gathered in solitude to witness the path made by a journey we comprehend only a little. How can we know where you are going when we don't know the way? Doubting Thomas says these words once again. A million times. And That Man responds with the words that have crushed and excluded, words used as sharp weapons, 'I am the way, truth, and life....' And the back of the crowd whispers, 'But who are you?' And That Man speaks only of relationships... of the Father.

Here. In a sea, in an ocean of solitude, we look for relationships. Without knowing what or who it is we look for. Without really knowing the fullness, the completeness, the perfection.

And the thought comes up out of the darkness out of the earth, the cacophony of stars singing in the light that hides them, in the heavy lines between heaven and earth --that it is about relationships just like the sun and moon... the stark winter grass and the edge of the road... the directions... and we do know, deep inside... and we don't know... at all.

At prayer this morning (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

'Why do you pray in someone else's name,' the man asked me. 'Why not pray in your own name?'

'The only way I can think of it,' I say, looking down at my feet,'is to say that it is a humble way to pray --an acknowledgment that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, part of a mystery that is not unity but union...'

--like the sun and moon, like all of it...

--like the living and the dead... caught up together in the clouds...

...encourage one another...


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Can't we see

Can we see yet? Can we see....

The law is not blind. The law is not impartial. The law favors those who wield it. The law favors those who have or own the seats of power.

The law sustains the status quo.

Obviously, even video of a man screaming that he can't breathe while an enforcer of the law chokes him, cannot, will not open the eyes of those who choose not to see.

The Sadducees, the Pharisees --they were those who upheld the law. The governors, the elders of the court, the local seats of power held the seats of power. The soldiers were their enforcers.

The law does not bring justice....

And we live in and under the rule of law.

Can't we see?

Canticle: A Song of Wisdom
Wisdom 10:15-19,20b-21
Wisdom freed from a nation of oppressors *
a holy people and a blameless race.
She entered the soul of a servant of the Lord, *
withstood dread rulers with wonders and signs.
To the saints she gave the reward of their labors, *
and led them by a marvelous way;
She was their shelter by day *
and a blaze of stars by night.
She brought them across the Red Sea, *
she led them through mighty waters;
But their enemies she swallowed in the waves *
and spewed them out from the depths of the abyss.
And then, Lord, the righteous sang hymns to your Name, *
and praised with one voice your protecting hand;
For Wisdom opened the mouths of the mute, *
and gave speech to the tongues of a new-born people.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

we need to dig in

Race relations.

I will risk exposing my own ignorance and biases... why not? (How else does one learn, even if it is painful...).

But, sitting where I am sitting, it seems the whole race relations conversation in our nation follows a pecking order. Black. Hispanic. Asian... and then the conversation drifts off in to a muttering that never seems to include the First Peoples.

Perhaps it has to do with numbers. Perhaps... it is all those unspeakable circumstances.... But graphics speak volumes:

I looked and looked... by far and away, in nearly every graphic on racial/ethnic demographics Native Americans aren't even named. They are merely "Other".

But, that is just the beginning.

Racial profiling and racist structures, comments, attitudes are being highlighted by current discussions as a result of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. It is not as though these things haven't been noticed, cataloged, categorized, examined before. But, I would be a fool not to say that there is a new pressure in the awareness --in the so-called "conversation."

And, I say, thanks be to God for that new pressure. Tragic, yes. But sooooo necessary. And it has hardly begun.

But, there is a nagging in the back of my head... I see differences in the racist attitudes directed towards the Black population and those directed at Native Americans. There are points of commonality --a patronage of music and dance, to the point of cultural rip-off --a skulking admiration of athletics, and --yes-- Soul... you know, that kind of thing.

So, where I keep landing in the differences in the racial profiling is --for lack of a better word, in the racist "myths". The "myths" about the "Indians". Noble. Close to nature. Wisdom. Brave. A profound depth of spirituality. And as with most myth, it is grounded in truth.

And... then... the bitter lies... of so-called "thieving" Indians.... (I laugh at myself now. Once at Sun Dance about eighteen years ago, as I was packing to leave the ceremony, I stacked my unopened water bottles, some other food stuff and an extra tent by a tree and went to get my brother to give these things to him. When we got back to the tree, all the stuff was gone. I was horrified that someone had 'stolen' my stuff. My brother laughed at me... and explained that it was obvious I didn't need all that stuff and had actually put it out to give it away...).

A cultural gulf I stumbled in to... a familiar path for me, now. Learning how to "read" the landscape of actions and intentions.

"Ownership" is a very big cultural gulf...

I could go on and on... but perhaps it will begin to suffice to say that the Lakota culture was unscathed by the so-called "Enlightenment." Unscathed by scientific reasoning and methodology. All of which most of the western world is so steeped in it can't see it. Like a fish can't see water. (Probably. Mostly. Like we can't "see" air.) All of which are also cultural constructs --cultural gulfs.

And it is 'here' --at this very point, that I keep wandering down tangential paths in my thoughts and prayers about the circumstances of pandemic racism in our nation. But even as we learn and lean in to the exposure and revelation of racism, I know there is a huge chunk that is missing... that we don't even name. As is made obvious in the majority charts about race and ethnicity....

That the racism towards Blacks differs in part from the racism towards Hispanics, which differs in part from the racism towards Asians, which differs in part if not completely from the racism towards Native Americans.

The language alone in describing people leaves me bereft of a footing --some based in skin color, some based in geographic location... all of it void of vast differences within these so-called descriptors of race.

But the backdrop in each seems to remain constant. This paragraph from a Huffpost article laid it out plainly:

How can anyone with functioning gray matter possibly believe that a categorically more powerful majority doesn't deserve a categorically more powerful share of the responsibility when it comes to violence and unrest?

If you were subjected to injustice every day of your life, as were your parents and their parents before them, how is it possibly your fault when you reach your tipping point?

When your city is abandoned by industry and rigged to fail by politicians and the power elite who almost solely invest in white suburban communities, you'll quickly learn that "lifting yourself up by the bootstraps" is a cruel joke. Throughout the history of this country, and, yes, even during the Obama era, white communities have been offered most of the money and nearly every societal advantage. Strip out the money, jobs and upward mobility of any community and watch what happens next.

Someone is to blame for the stripping and abandonment, and we're supposed to believe it's the side without any power?

It's the classic "she was just asking for it wearing that perverse mini-skirt" excuse.

Yesterday, after the funeral... let me back up --in the midst of the funeral I found myself intervening in a cultural circumstance of which I should have had no part. Eagle feathers are given when one receives a name, when one has accomplished a great feat, at a turning point in one's life. At a funeral, these feathers are laid on the body until the time comes to close the coffin. And then there is a ceremony to give the feather(s) to the ones the family decides will hold them and hand them down, properly. Eagle feathers are NEVER buried with the person.

So... it's time to close the coffin, and I ask the family who they have decided to do the ceremony --and they look at me with great confusion. They ask me to give the feathers to so and so. I tell them I can't. I mean I shouldn't. I mean, I won't. The pressure builds. The funeral director is standing there, wanting to close. There are no singers, no drum --I would rely upon them instantly to help me.

So, then I recognize one of the pall bearers as a Sun Dancer, and I go to him and explain the situation. He silently nods and agrees to help....

So, after the funeral... he comes up and we talk. I thank him. I know I don't know. But I know enough to know that I don't want to offend, assume... or bury a feather. And we talk some more. About what it means to be a warrior in today's world. About star quilts. About Christianity.

In the midst of our conversation, I say that I hope I am mindful, that I don't want to cause more harm, that I know Christians have done great harm to the People, Christianity has been used as a horrific weapon, and I don't know what to do about the past except put it down and move on.

He smiles. Says, 'No. Don't put it down. We all need to work it through.'

And that brings me to an interview linked to by the article above, found here... Chris Rock. I do love him... and he has said the very thing that I think needs to be said:

Here's the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it's all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they're not as crazy.
you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

Q. It’s about white people adjusting to a new reality?

Owning their actions. Not even their actions. The actions of your dad. Yeah, it’s unfair that you can get judged by something you didn’t do, but it’s also unfair that you can inherit money that you didn’t work for.
But the thing is, we treat racism in this country like it’s a style that America went through. Like flared legs and lava lamps. Oh, that crazy thing we did. We were hanging black people. We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people. You’ve got to get it at a lab, and study it, and see its origins, and see what it’s immune to and what breaks it down.

Yeah. We need to dig in. All of us. Sometimes together. Sometimes not. And break it down.

At prayer (Luke 20:19-26)
When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.

So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?”

They said, “The emperor’s.”

He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.


--and the emperor has no clothes....

So much work to do.

Off I go.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

taking time when there is no time

I squeezed in the time to run to the post office before the marathon of funerals begins this week.... and the postmaster stuck her head out of the door as she saw me loading our mail in to a bag and said, 'just pull your car around to the back --there's more for you!'

I laughed because I thought she was joking.... but she wasn't. So, I pulled around back. The thick ice made the car slip sideways a little as I tried to back in to the crammed space.... and then I had to navigate the rest on foot... the back door of the post office was ajar. 'Hellloooooo?' I said, putting my face up to the crack in the door... and she came, laughing and nodding....

There was a CART full of boxes, stacked... 'There,' she said, pointing at it. I was floored. Could hardly believe it. I carried the boxes one by one over the ice... until they filled the back of my little car....

The Baptist pastor pulled up there too, just one big box... 'Geeeeee!' I said. 'It looks like Christmas!' And we laughed. He always calls me 'Sister.' The name runs funnier on my insides than 'Mother' does... He said, 'That's because it IS Christmas!'

'Well, don't get me in trouble with my boss!' I said, laughing. 'For us, it's Advent --and we have a long journey to go before Christmas!'

'Yes, it's Advent,' said the post master. And the Baptist pastor rolled his eyes heavenward....

At home again, I stacked the boxes in the front room.... it's like a stack of tangible prayer busting out all over... And then I went through the mail.... more tangible prayer.... It is so deeply humbling. And exciting.

Then I began to go get ready for the wake... to set up, prepare to receive the body, clean the air with incense. The families began to arrive. The soup. The salads. The sandwiches. The give-away blankets and quilts and goodies.

We received the body. Said the opening prayers. Brought in the flowers --some of the perishable variety, some of the 'forever' variety. The young girl, who is learning sign language and Lakota at the same time, began to ask the questions --how do I make the sign of the cross --what do I pray when I do it? --why do we light candles --can I light the candles? --what happened to the green star quilt on the altar --why is that one blue?

I want to hug her, to open the top of my head and pour what I know into her.... Her grandpa touches her shoulder --'not all at once,' he said, and his eyes sparkled with gratitude.

Yes. There is the hope, I think to myself. And remembered that the Lakota way of teaching is to experience it all first.... Experience. Prayer. And then, with time, explanation. If the gifts are discerned....

Trust God. Give it time. It will unfold.

So, this morning. We have the rest of the funeral to do. To give to God a young man, full of hope, full of potential, a healer among the People. Gone.

And that is why, it seems, I want to open my head and heart and pour it out.... There seems to be So. Little. Time.

And I know that even that is a false construct. A temptation.

So. Off I go.

In time.

At prayer (from 1 Thessalonians 2)

As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Please pray for 'I' --the mother of the deceased. She is having a really rough time. And will for quite some time... such is the way of grief.


Monday, December 1, 2014

what do you have that you did not receive?

It's 2 degrees... windchill factor of minus twenty, or something like that....

In other words, cold enough to hurt in hurry.

I remember living someplace warm once... and I remember watching the news and seeing the awful weather and thinking to myself --why would any body live there???!!!

Sometimes I get an inkling of why --and a lot of it has to do with the land itself. Belonging to the land. Feeling that land in your bones, running in your blood. It is a centered feeling.

I felt that way about areas in California --because I am 5th generation --Berkeley Californian. Not bad for a white girl.... I knew the smell of the oak trees, the touch of the bark, the texture of the dirt, the angle of the sun, the light.... I could sense the place and distance of the ocean and the mountains. I knew who and where I was because of the earth itself.

The first time I lived on the east coast, the physical disorientation was, at times, so overwhelming as to make me want to vomit. I would get dizzy, drunk... the unknowingness of it. I did adjust --but it took real work to know where my left hand was....

Here, I still feel the oceans, like homing beams, even though they are so very distant. Actually, we couldn't live much further from an ocean if we tried --I think the closest salt water from here is Hudson Bay --about 1,200 miles. But that body of water is not what calls to me....

And, here, the angle of the sun, the light, the color of the sky --I know I am in the west... and I can see where I am going.... forty, fifty miles... that, too, is important. In some ways, I miss the ocean less, if at all, because of the vista --the horizon. So distant. Like standing on a beach.

One could feel like this was the top of the world here.... So, it is the weather that reminds us, that lets us know that we are not in charge. It is the weather that shows us all our dependence upon one another and because of that, our total dependence upon God.

So, even on mornings like this, particularly on mornings like this, with the sound of the wind whipping around the house and the bitter, deadly chill, I can understand why folks stay --yes, there is suffering because of this cold --and even death.... but, when the earth runs in your blood, and the sound, the touch, the taste is who you are....

--I understand....

At prayer this morning (from 1 Corinthians 4)

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?

.... To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.

Hmmmmmm..... yes. All is a gift. All.

Peace comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere. It is within each of us. Black Elk

Off I go.

Wake tonight, funeral tomorrow. Please keep the family and friends of D in your prayers. A young man, early forties, a healer, gone too soon.