Wednesday, September 2, 2015

and great joy

The light has changed. Some how. I can't tell if it's because the angle is more oblique, or if it's only because the air is stained from the fires west of us.

Probably both.

But the unexpected rains of the last ten days have given most everything a sudden rush of growth. The rolled bales of hay are knee deep in the tough clover that has adorned itself with purple flowers. Even the grasses have grown.

The meadowlarks are still flashing each other, running through the air, swiftly and briefly marking the breeze with a c-curve in yellow.

It is like it is spring. But it is not. The first hints of yellow have appeared in some trees. The cottonwoods are usually the first I notice with this announcement. This year it is the locust. Which dropped its twisted pods a month early.

When we got home from Rapid, the yard was littered with the evidence of a violent storm --branches large and small, clumps of browning leaves strewn about.

Yesterday, I drove out to White Horse, my car packed with school supplies, gifts for the children here from St. Martin's in Charlotte, NC. The straight-edged rulers, calculators, compasses, binders, pencils and sharpeners, markers, crayons filled the backpacks, each with a prayer on a card attached to the pack.

'Look,' I said to one young man. 'You remember them. They've been coming here for years, right? They've been praying for you all this time, and you didn't even know it.'

His eyes never meet mine, but I can see the words hit him with surprise. He had a really rough year, this past year. In and out of the systems of law and all. But against all odds, he has kept up with school. And, God willing, and with more of his own hard work and support from a few adults --and the community of prayer far and wide, he will graduate this year.

A miracle in the rough.

I also drove up on the flats east of there, to another family. The youngest was out in front of the house, throwing a boulder into the driveway. Beside the log. Also in the driveway. I started to laugh. Who knows what he was designing... in the wide open prairie... in an odd stretch of gravel....

'Third grade,' he said, and sucked in some air and made his chest big. 'In the best school in the State,' he said, exhaling like some old man with a pipe. He stood, one leg in front of the other, his hand on a hip, hair standing straight out. So old. So young. I pointed to the box of packs I had created for the kindergarten through third grade crowd. He picked up a bright pink one that had a princess or two on it. 'I like this one,' he said.

His mother sighed his name and laughed. 'Pink is a strong color,' I said. 'Have you seen that movie?' I pointed at the princesses. He nodded. 'I really like it.'

I love this kid. He is one of those kids that says really holy things as though they are as plain as the alphabet song. And, he is still undifferentiated in holy ways when most kids have drawn strong lines of definition around this or that. Unembarrassed to throw boulders and move logs and love a princess movie. Since the first grade, he has always volunteered to read in church. Perhaps this year he will lead in the prayers. (He is the one that always claps his hands and leaps in joy at the end of the Eucharistic prayer... full throttle.)

'Why don't you try some of those packs over there,' I said, pointing to the box filled with the high school boy packs. He put the princess pack down and moved to the bright orange and blue pack. I remember I put pointed and sharp things in the high school packs, and whispered to his mother that perhaps she should review the innards of the pack because he probably would, you know... with sharp or pointed things.... And she nodded and laughed, as filled with wonder and joy at this child as I was.

On my way back down the hill in to the river valley, the sun is at the horizon. I remind myself to watch for the animals who will run or crowd the road as the day shifts to night. I am suddenly filled with a song I do not yet know, that comes to me in the tilted light. Ta ta da la, la la tata da la to the meadowlark. The deer and its fawn appear by the thrust of wild flowers. Ma la ta da da ri so ma la da.

The grass is sheathed with gold. Mother earth moves in a gentle undulating dance, lifting her skirt to her ankles by the creek. That bird, on the ragged half-undone fence, tilts his red crown. The magpie emerges in a flight she only half owns, dragging her tail. The porcupine lumbers and crouches all pin cushion-like. The prairie dogs sing in that high birdy chirp.

And I pray. For the children. For the good people of St. Martin's in that far-away place. For the man who has held my heart for so long. For the good people who have survived here, against all odds. For my little dog who has backed away from the abyss --just a little-- with a boiled chicken breast in his teeth.

This morning (Canticle: A Song of the Spirit, Revelation 22:12-17)

“Behold, I am coming soon,” says the Lord,
“and bringing my reward with me, *
to give to everyone according to their deeds.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, *
the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who do God’s commandments,
that they may have the right to the tree of life, *
and may enter the city through the gates.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to you, *
with this testimony for all the churches.
“I am the root and the offspring of David, *
I am the bright morning star.”
“Come!” say the Spirit and the Bride; *
“Come!” let each hearer reply!
Come forward, you who are thirsty, *
let those who desire take the water of life as a gift.

I am off to Pierre --the Diocesan offices have moved, to be more central and accessible.

And I am filled with gratitude. And great joy.
Amen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

house arrest

So, Mr. Witty is not well...

It began last Thursday or Friday --and he began to have some digestive issues that gave every indication of his usual pancreatic problems. So, I began the usual treatment of antibiotics and restorative digestive tract stuff --but then he developed lethargy, wouldn't eat at all, and was vomiting what he did eat --rice and all.

So, I took him to the emergency veterinarian hospital on Sunday afternoon --after I had tried everything else I knew to get him back on track --as to the hospital, we've been there many times. They know to put a muzzle on Witty --and I had even said something to the girl that came in... but when the doctor came in --and she had seen Witty before, and knew-- she walked right up and put her hand on him before I could intervene --and he moved faster than lightening and nicked her finger --not a full on vicious bite --it was "don't touch me."

He was sooooo sick. And in pain....

So I apologized profusely --and the doctor said, 'oh, it didn't break the skin, don't worry.' She continued with the exam, prepared to get blood tests and left the room.

Twenty minutes later she came back in and said, 'It did break the skin, and our protocol requires that I call Animal Control when it breaks the skin. I am so sorry.' And then she shut door. I sat there in shock. Animal Control? What?

So, then she came back in, with a muzzle, and took him off for a blood test. I could hear him screaming from the room where I remained. My heart was breaking for him. She brought him back... and I held him, stroking him, trying to get him to calm down.

She came back and said, 'The initial results are not good --it looks like his liver --it might be cancer. And, also, Animal Control doesn't work on the weekends so the police are coming.' She showed me her finger --a small bandaid... And she reported my dog....

So, then Animal Control came after all... and the officer came in the exam room the same time the doctor did. The officer looked at me --and began saying stuff like custody, euthanasia, rabies....

And I said --'Look, the doctor is about to give me news I really don't want to hear. Can we do one thing at a time?' So, the officer left, and the doctor began spewing 'I hate it when I have to report vicious dog bites --and it's my fault because his record says he needs a muzzle, but...' and then she pulled out his blood work, showed me his white blood cell count was normal but his liver was off the charts, indicating either trauma or something crowding out the liver, like maybe a tumor, and he was probably going to die, and she could euthanize him now and give him to Animal Control because when a dog bites they have to cut off his head and look for rabies.

The whole thing crashed in on me --and one of my primary thoughts --other than overwhelming grief-- was relief that Joel was not with me --an idiot vet, a waiting officer, Witty dying, cutting his head off... I would have to put Joel in the ICU....

I had to back up... I knew I could walk through the death stuff --as painful as it is-- but why cut Witty's head off? 'He has had all his shots,' I said...

'That doesn't matter --they have to quarantine the animal,' the doctor said....

Then she called the officer back in...

I left with Mr. Witty, cradled in my arms. He is quarantined, but because we could prove he had his rabies shots and that we were responsible people, and that he was so sick, he is under house arrest (so to speak). I still don't know what is making him sick, except liver dysfunction. The doctor gave me some anti-naseau drugs and more antibiotic....

He has ten days of house arrest. If he dies within that time, we have to deliver his body to Animal Control for examination. Despite having had all his shots.... At the end of ten days, we have to have him examined and have a veterinary report saying he is in good health... then he can be cleared of the suspicion of rabies....

Apparently, the doctor did admit to the officer that it was her fault, she knew better, and didn't want to "press charges"...

While waiting (two hours) between blood reports and officers and doctors, it did occur to me to run out the back door with Mr. Witty... but I knew that would only lead to worse things....

So... our plan is to nurse him... to try to keep him alive through these ten days... because everyone knows its not rabies, and this is ridiculous...

Mr. Witty's country doctor is horrified... she can't believe the city doctor would report such an incident to Animal Control, especially when the dog was up to date on all shots and was/is so sick....

And we remain horrified at the thought of his body being so mutilated for no good reason...

So --he is now refusing his regular dog food --and rice --and oatmeal --but I did get a little yogurt down him... and some of his favorite dog cookies....

So, plain yogurt and dog cookies...

And, it appears that antibiotics themselves can cause liver dysfunction in dogs... so we cut those out. And we are waiting... nursing him... praying... grieving... he doesn't seem to be in any pain, so he is not suffering... he runs in yard, happy --barks! --just can't keep his food down...

Except the yogurt...

And I am writing today to ask that city doctor for our money back... because we still don't know what is wrong with him --$279 buckaroos... for unnecessary heart break....

At prayer this morning (beginning at James 2:14)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

--and here is Mr. Witty, inside the the newly constructed fence which we (finally) did complete....


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Not bad for two wrinklies

Things I have learned or realized I already knew, again:

--if you pull your hair in to a ponytail, and then you get paint on it, you can use the ponytail as a paint brush...

--if it hasn't rained in three weeks, and rain is in the forecast, wait until the day after it rains to dig the post holes...

--learn to remember to remember different cuss words so you don't shock the neighbors...

--you don't have to clean all the paint off your arms and legs in order to go to church...

--even if you are having a real workout, don't work with your mouth open
    when you use the pick axe...
    when you paint...
    when you pull weeds...
    when it's 5pm and the bugs come out...
    when you mow the lawn or use the weed whacker...
    when you tickle the dogs...

--Joel and I can still do just about anything we want to do --it just takes more time than it used to, and levers are really helpful...

--learning to love is not linear nor circular nor anything else like that. It is more quantum stuff than anything... and each day isn't a new beginning, per se, but, on the other hand, it is...

--forgiveness is not a color of the rainbow; it is the ether we live and breathe, and that in which we move. To deny it or not participate in it is to die...

--wait until the dogs are soooo exhausted they can hardly move in order to pick or cut the burrs and stickers out of their hair...

--don't groan when you see the trees turning yellow already; think 'hot chocolate'...

--when your beloved finally starts reading a book your mom gave him twenty years ago, remember that bittersweet grief will come and sit on your shoulder, and it's okay...

--be amazed and grateful that the book (Violence Unveiled, by Gil Bailie) your mom gave your beloved twenty years ago speaks to the end of religious sacrifice; that even though religious Tradition inspired/demanded Abraham offer Isaac at the altar, Abraham was able to see, think, pray and live beyond that Tradition; and, it is a gift of the Spirit to push at the edges of any tradition that seemingly demands/exalts blood and violence...

--God didn't demand the sacrifice of Jesus. We did. When he confronted/unveiled our systems of oppression and violence and power...

--because we are all addicted to those things...

--pray in thanksgiving at all times, for all things...

At prayer this morning (from Mark 14)
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it.

He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Of course it's his body... the cosmos is his body...  and we are what we eat....

--and wine/blood seals the promise made --of the realm of God all around us... life itself... and death is not 'a part of life'... it is the end of life as we know it...  as we hold it... as we perceive it...

Alright... back to the stone terraces in the back yard... and we also built forty linear feet of fence connecting the house to the garage --defining the 'kitchen garden.' Not bad for two wrinklies. More pictures will follow...

The beginnings of the fence around the kitchen yard --in its finished state, it is only about 40" tall --we cut the posts down to size... well, I did, any way... by hand... with Joel's help as the miter box fabricator and holder-in-place.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

it will make fascinating ruins

Unplugged is great!!!! Everyone ought to try it every now and then.

I have put up fence all around the yard (nearly a quarter acre), put up a large access gate and a small gate to the utility right-of-way which runs along the back of the house between yards. Mr. Witty is more grateful than I am.

I started to paint the eaves of the house (some were raw wood from the addition part, some were still blue--the original color of the house), but I got scared up the ladder. Joel got scared for me, too, and begged me to let someone else do it. I said if he could find someone for $10/hr I would consider it. He did. So I did. And now the eaves are painted. (And we paid him more that $10/hr for the sake of justice...) Whoot!


Blue eaves
Painted eaves--I did the porch at Easter,
before the spring storms....

Which means I could begin to make structural changes in the garden. I already removed one patio, and turned the rubble remains into a retaining wall along the garage to prevent the run-off from our neighbor's yard from flooding ours --directing it to the street....


The retaining wall to the west of the garage, and the large access gate
 --yeah, the garage is still blue and tan --the original colors of the house...
maybe next spring I'll paint the garage.

The small mountain of dirt is still being worked on --using it to make low places high....

So, with the fence up, the house being painted (which meant I couldn't work in the yard around the house), I began to do something really (for me) fun. Ever since the twit that took the dirt excavated to make the basement and spread it out over the yard, and half buried the four foot fence that ran along the flat part of the yard --I have dreamed of using the hill behind the house.... Since I was going to have to remove the fence, I might as well move it to the property line.

And, Joel and I have always loved tree forts --fell in love making tree forts and rice pudding... among other things. And, since this is the place to which we hope to retire --why not a fort up the hill --an "almost" tree fort --because we surely would not be able to climb the tree any more --but a path will do...

And, this is the very hill Joel fell down while he was helping me with the fence --so I felt a certain urgency to make it more accessible. I lamented yesterday that I hadn't taken a "before" picture --but, when I downloaded the pictures on the camera this morning, I discovered Joel had taken a picture of me working... bad boy... so, it's the only "before" picture I have.


The "Hill Behind the House" --with the newly erected fence. The utility right-of-way separates our yard
from our neighbor's yard with a steep alley --their fence is the post and rail further up the hill.
Joel took this from our porch --it was raining... or so he said. I didn't notice.

I am working about five feet up the hill, making the path to "The Perch." No, not the fish, but a place to sit...

--and using the rocks that used to be the foundation of the house, I made this...


The terraces... the pry bar is marking the location of the old fence line
--with one of the old cement anchors from an old post hole.
I am not too keen on the transition from the round river rocks to the angular basalt, but, there we are.
A girl's gotta use what a girl has... Maybe I'll plant some shrubs there....

Yeah... some of these rocks weigh more than 100 pounds.... I am quite sure of it. Even my fingers ache....


The Perch, up in the trees --it's about twelve feet up from the flat elevation of the yard.


The Terraces --and my little kairn (lower right) with the spirit rock I found....


I still have more work to do to secure the precious top soil... the hill has about twelve inches of top soil before you hit hard field stone rubble.... which, if you excavate the top soil on the low side and put it above one of the terracing walls, gives me twenty-four inches of top soil --not bad for the foot hills in the Black Hills.... and it means the retaining walls are sitting on a rocky and fairly secure foundation.

In the picture of me beginning the work on the terraces, you can see the small half-round wall of field stone --there will be a patio there someday-- but, that half-round wall is made from the wild field stone found abundantly in the yard.

All of this --the fence, the wall-- all of it is from re-used and found materials...

And much of it is to help control and direct run-off... to create a low place in the back yard where the run off can collect and be re-absorped in to the earth --to help restore and maintain ground water levels.... And to prevent the sometimes wave of water from severe spring storms from charging down the hill and continuing to the house.... one small act of conservation...

I am quite certain that one day one such storm may take out these walls... but, hopefully that will be long after I am dead....

I hope, and pray.... (a portion of Psalm 144)

Blessed be the LORD my rock! *
who trains my hands to fight and my fingers to battle;
My help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, *
my shield in whom I trust,
who subdues the peoples under me.
O LORD, what are we that you should care for us? *
mere mortals that you should think of us?
We are like a puff of wind; *
our days are like a passing shadow.
Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down; *
touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.
Hurl the lightning and scatter them; *
shoot out your arrows and rout them.
Stretch out your hand from on high; *
rescue me and deliver me from the great waters...

May our barns be filled to overflowing with all manner of crops; *
may the flocks in our pastures increase by thousands and tens of thousands;
may our cattle dogs be fat and sleek.
May there be no breaching of the walls....

Oh gee... rocks and walls and water... and this from the gospel, too (beginning at Mark 13:1)

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”

Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

Yeah, yeah.... but, it will make fascinating ruins, heh?! God willing.

Off I go.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

maybe if I go sit up there...

It took me a day longer than I thought it would... fixing the fence. When the house was lifted up in the air for a new foundation, a young man with a small bulldozer moved the dirt from under the house to all over the yard... but not in a thoughtful way. He pushed it up --two feet deep against the fences, leveled drainage and run-off berms from the hillside, and compacted the clay soil and native wild flowers... much of it causing our neighbors garage/shed to flood, and putting our own house at risk, and with no where for the dogs to roam.

It took me six months to dig out the fences --remove the bent posts... and then a bad snow storm happened, and took out what little fence remained. So, I took all the fence out... all but a forty foot stretch on the east side.

I saved what pieces I could, re-wove some of the fence (chain link), unbent posts, recycled all the bolts, nuts, clamps, holders-- dug new holes --and yesterday, I finally finished the fence... it took a year to do it. Some of the parts are cobbled together --obviously two different manufacturers...

--well, it is 99% done. I still need a few bolts to secure clamps on the end posts.... and I'm not happy with the way the fence comes down the hill to our neighbor's cement wall.... but, those things can wait. In the meantime, the dogs can now officially run off-leash in the yard.

Mr. Witty ran up the path up the hill --and stood at the gate in the furthest corner of the yard. He had the whole yard (@1/4 acre), and he wanted out the back gate.... And Mr. Paeha, intimidated, and used to the small enclosure we had built temporarily by the garage, refuses to leave the 12x12 patch that had accommodated him all this time.

Sometimes I think we all resemble Mr. Paeha....

But, I am so happy! A long-term nightmare has now been defeated. Now, it seems, I can quit trying to undo the damage done by contractors etc., and begin to build something.... Now, instead of knocking out concrete, digging channels, regrading the property by hand... now, I can begin!

Except, first, I have to go talk with a supervisor at Knecht... about gutters and down spouts... that in the slightest rain don't function, but drop water right at the foundation... they've come out four times to "fix" them... and last time when I called to complain, they said they don't install downspouts any more... such is life.

At prayer this morning (from Mark 11)

Then he began to speak to them in parables.

“A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?”

When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.

Hmmmm.... maybe a vineyard.. or watchtower in the southeast corner....?! No, the perch behind trees on the hill will have to do.... maybe if I go sit up there, Paeha will leave his 12x12 patch....

Yeppa --Off I go.

Monday, August 17, 2015

--to tend to those things rooted in something else...

So.. I have been putting up fence posts --mixed and carried 500 pounds of cement --not counting the weight of the water I mixed in... and carried it up the hill in our cottage yard. Joel helped as he could with steadying the wheel barrow as I pulled or shoveled --except then he lost his footing... and he ran as much as he could to keep up with his falling body. It was the fastest I have ever seen him run. Fastest. Ever.

Poor kid... and when the rest of him finally got ahead of his feet, he landed... head first. I think he caused the 4 point something earthquake in San Francisco.... if you know what I mean. Poor kid. Belly flop on hard-pan dirt.

So, I scaled down the hill as fast as I could. And sat with him until he caught his breath. Checked for broken bones. He suffered a skinned knee, a bad welt on his forearm... and he was very shook up.

Today he is bruised all over. And sooooooo sore. And, he plain ol' hurts. Bad. But insists he is okay. I worry --last time he took a blow to the stomach, he ended up with a ruptured colon. So, I am hoping and praying that will not be repeated. No leaks, please dear God.

And now I will go out and finish putting up the head rail of the fence, and stretching it all in to place. As best as I am able.

It seems every other second is filled with prayer for the People of the place I serve. Hitch. Bend. Tie. Stretch. Hitch. Pray. Tie. Stretch. Hitch. Bend. Pray. Tie. Stretch. Hitch. Hitch. Bend. Pray.

I think this is as it should be... This kind of prayer makes holy space --allows the Spirit to mix things up in a creative way.

Of course... it doesn't always mean the fence is straight from all angles... but it is straight enough. God willing.

At prayer this morning (Mark 11:12-26)

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

It was not the season for figs, but he curse it any way...
He drove out from the Temple the sellers and cut throats.
Those in authority --those with the rule books wanted to kill him.
The tree died.
But mountains can be moved.
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.

Geeeeeeee.....

The fruit. The tree. The buyers and sellers. The Temple sacrifices.The mountain. All these things are temporal.

But, forgiveness is of something else... with its roots in love --self love and love of other.

We must not forget. To tend to those things rooted in something else. Even as we do those things temporal.

And, that is never easy...

--thanks be to God.

Friday, August 14, 2015

a scramble

A scramble.
Because I hope to "unplug" for a time. turn off the phones. not answer the door....
And to do that, I must prepare everything I can in advance... Sunday bulletins, everything....

--and I have been invited to the Sun Dance, to go pray at the Tree of Life.
I am hoping I can get everything else done, so that I can go do that....

Yes.

At prayer this morning (Canticle: Second Song of Isaiah, Isaiah 55:6-11)

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, *
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, *
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as rain and snow fall from the heavens *
and return not again, but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth, *
seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; *
it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *
and prosper in that for which I sent it.

Please pray for G --a ten year old boy, a good powwow dancer... something happened, and the bones in his foot got infected. He had emergency surgery in Rapid.

Please pray for the K family who lost a young son yesterday morning in a car accident.

Please pray for Fr. David as he picks up the funerals I usually do in the next two weeks while I take a break.

Please pray for the Sun Dancers as they offer their own flesh and blood for the sake of the People. They dance without food and water for four days --it's day three today... the day when healing prayer is offered.... and it's been near 100 degrees, and hot and humid over night....

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ten things....

Yesterday, this post was flying around the Episcopal internet.... 10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About the Episcopal Church....

It got me thinking... because there are things I wish Episcopalians knew about their church....

1. To think of England or all things English as a reference point for our beginnings--or even as a distant reference point misses a lot. Identity begins with the land, this land, its creatures, its living things --including the rocks which are fully alive, its water, its sky. And a place in that identity is known through relationships--All my relatives.

2. We are People of the Book--but, there are more creation stories, more histories of People coming to know our Creator, more spiritual ancestors than those included in those stories of distant peoples and places.

3. We are a People of the Book of Common Prayer--but, there are liturgies and ceremony far beyond the scope of any book which can only be experienced... however, coupled with that experience is a problematic challenge: too many have come here full of book knowledge, and experienced for a day, a week, maybe a week at a time for twenty years and leave thinking they know something. (They do know something, and in experience, they are as "old" as their time here.) Many collect things or ideas, leave from this place and then sell and profit from those things or ideas. At best, this is cultural and spiritual tourism --but that in itself is an act of "empire." At worst, leaving here and selling and profiting or speaking as though one has knowledge is part of a continued history of oppression and deceit.

4. Visitors are welcome here. Visitors are needed here in so many ways. But, this is a different world, a different culture. It is not really polite to ask questions--children are taught to observe, and if you need to know something, someone will tell you. If you are corrected, say 'thank you.' Take clues from what someone your age and gender is doing. If you must ask a question, make sure you offer a gift in return.

5. The Church is a fundamental resource --in body, mind and spirit. The cross-fertilization of culture and faith have only just begun --Christianity has been here for only about 150 years, and it came laden with northern European and white protestant American cultures. It will be an exciting road ahead, and a gift to the whole Church to explore the new expressions of Christian faith discovered and grown here. (And it is not something that I, as a white priest here, can forge.)

6. Poverty, death and despair are not the main stories here. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I do not know anyone who thinks they are 'poor.' Hospitality, generosity, deep spiritual wisdom --these are the 'main stories' here. The unspoken question is 'why do we suffer?' There are many obvious answers to that question--with cultural and physical genocide perpetrated here in so many gross ways --by both the government and the Church.... But, there is the deeper elemental source of that question --which has to do with the human condition....

7. While the Church here was a tool of oppression and genocide, that is not the only story. The Church here is also the story of life, love, deep relationships and grace. While stories of the Celtic experience of Christianity may or may not be known, what is known is the calling of our Creator through Christ --and it is different from the African, Asian, Roman, Orthodox and Celtic experiences of Christ.

8. Alcohol was introduced among the People as a controlling and destructive tool. Addiction is a disease that is rampant here. But, it is also part of a larger set of symptoms as a result of the diseases of capitalism, genocide and the resulting loss of hope. Denial or ignorance of all that has happened here --telling folks to 'just get over it already' is also a mirror set of symptoms in the American culture at large.

9. We are part of something bigger, much bigger --of things seen and unseen. And we meet in places without running water, without heat, without bathrooms --places that flood and freeze --and those who come from other places sustain us. We know that we are nothing without God.

10. And I, personally, have so much more to say... . All of the above is my opinion, my observation --as a white, female priest who has lived here almost four years, and have been given so many spiritual gifts in my attendance at Lakota ceremony for nearly twenty years. All in all --I truly "know" nothing --according to my own calculations, I am about "5 years old" here.... and will always be an outsider. But I am privileged to be even a perspective from the fringe, of a People who could change the whole Church, given a chance.

And, here, too, so vastly different there are hardly words for it --is the Church.

At prayer this morning (from Mark 10, ending with verse 45)

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”

And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They replied, “We are able.”

Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The People here have given their lives, their land, their everything....

To serve here is to stand at the foot of the Cross.

Amen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

keeping the Old ways

It was "Tree Day" yesterday --where the Tree for the Sun Dance at the site of the Sacred Pipe is filled with prayers and stood up in the center of the arbor (the shaded circle where the people gather to pray).

I can feel it all through my bones --it is like a homing signal in my flesh. I don't know why....

--except that it is holy. And I am grateful to know that it is going on, just over there. Holy prayers. Holy people.

Yesterday, the funeral was at the funeral home. And a little "voice" on my shoulder kept saying --keep it simple, keep it simple-- so, I did it more like a 'communion under special circumstances' with prayers for the dead from the burial service added, and offered communion from the reserve sacrament.

I know... I know... but I'm not sure anyone could understand until they have done a hundred funerals here, maybe not even then.... Recognizing a family that is merely honoring the faith of the deceased, not their own. And no one comes out and actually says that --one has to read the cues to figure it out.

--but not having the service in the church is one of the first cues, although not always....

And, tonight, I begin again... but this time the family has at least told me that there would be Native ceremony, that the deceased honored the Traditions of all of the ancestors --and so, there will also be Traditional Ute ceremony as well as Lakota and Christian....

I wish the missionaries who came here hadn't drawn such rigid lines --I wish they had seen the holiness in this place and in this People... but what was done cannot be undone... What is so confusing to so many is that the Church itself has left the camp from which it first began when it arrived here. The furor over the insights of the "new" Prayer Book have only had seepage here... so much is still of the missionary mindset of five generations ago....

--just when General Convention approved moving forward to study changes in our liturgies and the Prayer Book again...

--perhaps I should send in some of my thoughts and processes that have served me well here... and perhaps that would also serve the second priest who is to come here...

--maybe this winter....

I have had 21 funerals in eight weeks... tonight I will begin the 22nd.

At prayer this morning (Acts 21:15-26)

After these days we got ready and started to go up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea also came along and brought us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to stay.

When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard it, they praised God.

Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law. They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them, and pay for the shaving of their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law. But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.”

Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having purified himself, he entered the temple with them, making public the completion of the days of purification when the sacrifice would be made for each of them.

Paul... keeping the 'Old' ways to keep the peace... to alleviate the fears of those in Jerusalem... the center of power and Tradition....

--when in fact he had been preaching differently, living differently....

Perhaps this is the time when Paul's humility truly shows through --not just the overbearing scold, but one who is willing to do something for others... in their weaknesses and fears....

Hey, Paul....

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

in a different world

Last night, I thought I had reached the end of my rope --too tired to take the next step...

And the day ended in the ER with a death. A young woman --age thirty. Her young children stunned. Motionless.

But, this morning, the sun is up. I spoke with my beloved (video chat--he's in Rapid). Someone visited him at the cottage, did healing prayers for him. With the pipe. And ceremony.

I am so very grateful and humbled.

And, it's not because he is presenting with a particular illness at the moment --not because of pronounced, aggravating symptoms. It's because of his chronic, debilitating disease. And they didn't know --but when he told them, they wrapped him up in a buffalo robe and did prayers for him.

He said he has awakened in a different world. I said, yeah --I know what you mean.

And because of the way things work, I think I, too, awakened to a different world than the one I knew as I went to bed last night. And I, too, am renewed in prayer.

So, today --I will arise. We will give thanks for the life of a grandma and give her to God, our Creator. And then I will prepare, mentally, physically and spiritually, for two more funerals this week. Perhaps a third.

And, I will pray for the People. Who suffer and endure.

And I will give thanks for the life we share. All of it. And let the mystery of all those things I cannot understand move through me, around me, in me, by me...

At prayer this morning (from Acts 21)

--we remained silent except to say, “The Lord’s will be done.”

Yeppa. And all the world looks different if you walk putting those words before you, putting those words first.

Off I go.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

that tomorrow is today

'How are you doing?' the grandpa asked.

'I bury too many young men because of alcohol and drugs,' I said. 'So, I'm somewhere between exhausted and absolutely pissed off.'

He laughed. 'How are you doing?' I asked him.

'About the same,' he said. His twenty-one year old grandson was stretched out in the coffin in front of the altar. Handsome. Smart. Funny. Dead. His mother had died when he was little, so the grandpa had raised him in his house as a son, among the other sons of the household. So, this was more like burying a son....

'How do you let the being angry go?' he asked.

'I don't,' I said. 'It's the strongest gift from God that I have. It keeps me going when nothing else will. It gets me through. The trouble is learning how to use it wisely.' He nodded his head.

'I'd be crying all the time, if I was you,' he said.

'Oh, I cry,' I said. 'I cry a lot. That's what I do on my days off.' I smiled, pursing my lips, and looked sideways at him. He laughed. And then he laughed again. He hunched forward and his long braid fell over his shoulder.

'I don't know if I can make it through tomorrow,' he said. And we sat in silence. Our hands folded. Looking at the floor.

Yes.

That tomorrow is today.

Please keep us in your prayers.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 90)

Lord, you have been our refuge *
from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born, *
from age to age you are God.
You turn us back to the dust and say, *
“Go back, O child of earth.”
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past *
and like a watch in the night.
You sweep us away like a dream; *
we fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
in the evening it is dried up and withered.

For we consume away in your displeasure; *
we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.
Our iniquities you have set before you, *
and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone; *
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The span of our life is seventy years,
perhaps in strength even eighty; *
yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
for they pass away quickly and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath? *
who rightly fears your indignation?
So teach us to number our days *
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry? *
be gracious to your servants.
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; *
so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.
Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us *
and the years in which we suffered adversity.
Show your servants your works *
and your splendor to their children.
May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; *
prosper the work of our hands;
prosper our handiwork.

Off I go.

Friday, August 7, 2015

what else shall we do?

I noticed... it was quite sudden. Piles of leaves. In the corners of the yard. By the door. I glanced up at the tree --and there was a single shock of bright yellow.

It moved my bones.

I had noticed --was it last week or the week before, I don't really remember-- that the locust tree had thrown all its seed pods in to the yard. The twisted pods look like strange snakes in the half light of dawn or dusk. It gave me quite a start.

But all this --leaves on the ground, shocks of yellow in the tree, twisted pods on the ground... is it a sign of early winter? The trees aren't stressed --we've had good rain, and it hasn't been too hot....

I don't remember this happening in the first week of August before.... By the third week, yes... but not in the first week.

Perhaps the trees are feeling what I am feeling --too many tragedies all around, too much death...

Yesterday, coming home from Rapid, there was a motorcycle accident right in front of me --well, 50 yards in front me. I didn't see the cause of the accident --it could have just been a bee flying in to the guy's face --or something like that. But the lines of motorcycles and their accompanying trucks and trailers and motorhomes... the road was packed with travelers. When it happened, he took out other cyclists with him --there were two or three down, bikes all over the road.

I slowed down --turned on my blinkers, pumped my brakes, drove down the middle of the two lanes of the freeway --did everything I could to get the attention of the drivers behind me --did everything I could to make them slow down, because there were bodies in the road.

By the time I got there, one was convulsing, like bodies do when they can't breathe --or when they are dying without the benefit of morphine.... And the shock of that punched me in my stomach. First, that I knew. Second, that I knew I could not stop it --I was powerless. Third, the look on everyone's faces --there were only one or two composed enough to pull out their cell phones to make the calls.

They waved me through --I pulled over on to the south shoulder of the road, asked if they wanted a priest. They looked at me, through their shock, with disgust and fear. So, I kept moving on down the road.

Yeah. I wouldn't want to risk a bible-thumper at a time like that, either. Maybe I need I big pin to wear that says "Yeah, I'm a priest, but not a bible-thumper" or something like that.

And just ahead of me, there was another accident. Traffic came to a stand-still. And there was nothing to do but to inch along. For nearly an hour. By the time I got to pass the accident, the police were present, and it appeared that a trailer had flipped on its side. From the marks and gashed on the tarmac, it looked like the trailer had twisted the truck hauling it all over the road, and finally faced entirely the wrong direction.

But, because nearly an hour had passed, the ambulances were long gone --it was just firemen and police, dealing with spilled fuel and waiting for the wrecker to arrive and haul it all away.

I pulled off the freeway to take the back roads home. Even the back roads were overloaded with campers and cyclists. When I finally got to Eagle Butte, the gas station was so packed with waiting vehicles, I couldn't fill up my tank --to keep me through the funerals and weekend. The line for gas stretched out on to the highway.

If I were a tree, I'd be casting off my leaves, too.

But, I am not. A tree. Nor am I casting off my leaves. And, today, I do not have the luxury of stopping, waiting, thinking --I will put what I am feeling, the crowd of emotions, into a pocket of my inner soul, and pull it out, process its contents, sometime next week.

God willing.

It is not a burden to carry these things. It is a privilege. And not for my sake. But for the sake of the People I serve.

At prayer this morning (Canticle: Second Song of Isaiah, Isaiah 55:6-11)

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, *
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, *
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as rain and snow fall from the heavens *
and return not again, but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth, *
seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; *
it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *
and prosper in that for which I sent it.
--and, so, I shall trust God. To tend to the leaves. The seed pods. The streaks of yellow. And all the People. And I shall do the work before me, with the abundant joy that is in me.

Amen. Amen.

--because, what else shall we do?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

no weddings this time

Two funerals.
Mission group.
Friend.
Sunday church!
Another funeral.

No weddings this time....

Leaving the dogs with Joel in Rapid.

A marathon. Of grief. Of joy. Of resurrection. Of that peculiar loneliness in a crowd. Of the human condition.

Pray for us.

Saying my prayers (beginning at 2 Corinthians 4:1)

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

Yeppa. Thank you St. Paul.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

oh dear....

Some where out the open window a dog screams. It is a frequent sound... I cannot listen because I cannot bear it... I worship dogs, and here, mostly, they are left to fend for themselves... or they are eaten. Yeah. Ceremonially. Very few folks treat dogs the way they are treated in my house --as full-fledged voting members of the household.

I think --no-- I know I would rather be with those who eat dogs... then, at least, they are not precious life thrown away.

Oh dear. Some days... .

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 78)

They tested God in their hearts, *
demanding food for their craving.
They railed against God and said, *
“Can God set a table in the wilderness?
True, God struck the rock, the waters gushed out, and the gullies overflowed; *
but is God able to give bread
or to provide meat for this people?”

Hearing this, the LORD was full of wrath; *
a fire was kindled against Jacob,
the LORD’s anger mounted against Israel;
For they had no faith in God, *
nor did they put their trust in the LORD’s saving power.

So God commanded the clouds above *
and opened the doors of heaven.
God rained down manna upon them to eat *
and gave them grain from heaven.
So mortals ate the bread of angels; *
God provided for them food enough.
God caused the east wind to blow in the heavens *
and mightily led out the south wind.
God rained down flesh upon them like dust *
and wing├Ęd birds like the sand of the sea.
God let it fall in the midst of their camp *
and round about their dwellings.
So they ate and were well filled, *
for the LORD gave them what they craved.

But they did not stop their craving, *
though the food was still in their mouths.
So God’s anger mounted against them; *
God slew their strongest
and laid low the youth of Israel.

In spite of all this, they went on sinning *
and had no faith in God’s wonderful works.
So God brought their days to an end like a breath *
and their years in sudden terror.

Whenever God slew them, they would repent, *
and they would diligently search for God.
They would remember that God was their rock, *
and the Most High God their redeemer.

But they flattered God with their mouths *
and lied to God with their tongues.
Their heart was not steadfast toward God, *
and they were not faithful to the covenant.

But being so merciful, God forgave their sins
and did not destroy them; *
many times God held back anger
and did not permit divine wrath to be roused.
For the LORD remembered that they were but flesh, *
a breath that goes forth and does not return.

Oh. Well. There we are.

Hmmmm..... looking out the window --there must have been a jail bus that dropped off a whole new crew here in town... I don't recognize any of those guys standing by the tree... I am so ready to chop that tree down --I am tired of the vomit and poop and everything else... --and then burying them before they turn 45.... Yesterday, they were throwing stuff at the dogs....

Oh dear... listen to me. Cumulative crap.... Can't do that.

Life is precious... --all life  --and now that I am caught up on my sleep, it means I can "feel" stuff again... and I am tired of throw away lives --and lives being thrown away... human and otherwise.

So... time to get to work.
Off I go.

Monday, August 3, 2015

another non-rational way of being

Fires to the west, in-state and out-of-state, are making the air very murky this morning. The smell of smoke is constant...

I remember once as a child when the ridge in the Berkeley hills behind our house caught on fire. We were on stand-by for evacuation --they would use Claremont Avenue as the fire break... our house would not be on the "safe" side of that break. As they used a truck to go up and down the streets in the neighborhood, blasting out that information, my mother sat down at the kitchen table. Overwhelmed. I know she was thinking 'what to grab?'...  --and all that she had us do was put our shoes in the car.... At least we would have our shoes....

The fire never broke free from the ridge --this time, so we never had to evacuate. And we didn't live there anymore when the fire swept through much of Berkeley and Oakland, when my aunt and uncle lost their home --and all their musical instruments. (They both played for the San Francisco Symphony and Opera orchestras.)

But the image of my mother, sitting at the table, overwhelmed --with smoke in air around me... it's all up close and personal this morning...

--and it's been a while since I felt my mother's presence, so close....

Last week, I grabbed a few hours and moved dirt around at the cottage.... And there is one place west of the garage where I built a retaining wall from a cement patio I broke up --a wall to keep our neighbor's water run-off away from our house and garage. And, in the late afternoon shadows, with the weeds whacked short enough --the yard actually looked pretty --like maybe we might even recover from being a construction zone for two long, awful years.

And I said to the air, 'oh mama--do you see?' My mother loved to build things (two houses, for example --and not just regular houses...) --and garden, and move stuff around --it was one of our favorite things to do together.... I knew she would be so happy to take a patio and make a wall.... And I felt her presence in a large way... and I heard her say, 'So beautiful. I am so happy/proud of you.'

As I willed her voice to wash over me, it was with a sudden and embarrassing start that I knew she wasn't talking about anything in the yard. At all.

So. I stood in yard. Leaning on my shovel. And wept.

Finally.

And, I know I've been working in 'the hill is on fire, put your shoes in the car' mode for a while.... But, that is what it is... Sometimes I think it is the way of life here, and one has to relocate stressor points, horizons --one has to see a retaining wall in a patio-- and let one's mother speak to you from that same wall amidst the short weeds in order to let life be whole and happy.

It's not rational. I know. But the enlightenment was already on its way out when the rest of the world broke in to this place and met this People. And perhaps one the greater gifts this place and this People have to give the rest of the world is a refresher course on the pre-enlightenment era imagination.

Just sayin'.

Because who said rational was the optimum way of being, any way? (I'm not talking lucidity --I'm talking rationality and all of its wherewithal's....)

At prayer this morning (another non-rational way of being) (from Mark 8)

Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.”

They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.”

And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?”

They said to him, “Twelve.”

“And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?”

And they said to him, “Seven.”

Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
It's perfectly rational to think it is because they were without bread that Jesus talked about yeast.... Very linear. Very on track...

And it's very unrational to think one can feed five thousand with five loaves... or four thousand with seven....

But, I have seen it done....

Yes. I have.

Amen.