Thursday, April 28, 2016

chaos and footnotes.

A third death. In less than four days.

And I can't say it was all alright just because they were elders. Death is still shocking. Still painful.

Death is NOT "a part of life." Death is the end of life. As we know it. Over. Out. Done.

And all the rest. It is faith. Hope.

Yesterday, Sister came over for dinner and talk. She had just been home to bury her father. And all of a sudden, she begins to read to us something Joel had sent her --a paper I had written in 2002. In seminary.... "One Death."

I hadn't thought of that paper in.... years.

I remember writing it. I wrote it during the second year of seminary --the time during which, God willing, most folks enter a crisis of formation... having to give away so many closely held assumptions about all that one has learned of faith, of hope, of charity, of love, of God... and most especially, of Jesus. And begin again....

I remember consciously deciding that I would write it in a way that might express that inner chaos. I used three voices. One voice was what I was doing/thinking, while struggling to translate the lofty theologians in to the bloody messy real world. I wrote this voice in single-spaced regular text. Another voice was the echo of what I had heard--been told... pieces of conversation run through my mind's eye... a remembering of family. I wrote this voice indented, in italic. Another voice was the scholar--the textually nuanced and cleaned up discussion of faith. These were footnotes.

It was as close as I could come to un-throttled disintegration and re-integration.

And now... I read it... knowing I am still very much the same... my voice, crisp, loud, questioning, observing... the echo giving rise to my questions of what is real, what really matters... the scholars like base notes, or rocks --touchstones... rhythm. And, so very different.

I began the paper, "One Death, May 2002"

I am writing this in the immediate context of the death of my sister-in-law. In the context of my studies, my standard words and ideas about my faith have dried up withered, blown away. I find myself barely able to scrape together an academic approach to all that I am learning. And I have found this a very rich place, a very disorderly, fearful, colorful and imaginative place.

Central to my studies here at CDSP has been the Eucharist, the idea of sacrifice and trying to make sense of atonement teachings. This paper is a small window into that chaos. So my way, my method into this chaos, has been to engage three writers, [Sallie McFague, Karl Barth and Jurgen Moltmann] and tradition [liturgy and the Scriptures, {the Letter of Paul to the Romans, The Gospel According to Mark}] as literal and figurative footnotes in an approach to my immediate situation. I am trying to create a practical lived experienced theology addressing the death of my sister-in-law. And all this in a culture which glosses death over, makes it tidy or heroic.

I have chosen to present this single-spaced, in the spirit of Sallie McFague by using less paper.

--and so I began... (Footnotes are double-indented in their own paragraphs)

Death. We hate to deal with the issue of death in our culture. Hide from it. Hide it. Or worship it. But we don't deal with it. (1)
(1) Philippe Aries. Western Attitudes Toward Death. See also Earnest Beck, The Denial of Death, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973). Both of these books discuss the social/cultural implications of western attitudes toward death, especially in America. While Becker examines a potential human response to the face of death --heroism, Aries discusses the trend in western cultures to hide the fact that death happens, the reduction of ritual mourning and the removal of death from everyday life by creating institutions like nursing homes to warehouse the dying and "invalids." Both of these books study growing trends in American life to hide from the face of death, which is reflected even in contemporary Christian liturgy in that bodies, once central in funeral rites, are cleanly dispatched and rarely present in most contemporary funerals. Most contemporary death liturgies in America are merely memorial liturgies without any human remains to mark the death. So burial in itself has become "disembodied," in clear conflict with incarnational theology and traditional Christian ritual. This is the "issue" and event I am using to engage tradition and theology in this final paper.
My sister-in-law. She's dead. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Of pneumonia.

I put the phone down and looked around the room. It wouldn't take me long to get ready. I needed to go home. I packed my bag and books, made a few calls and left.

My husband's sister, C. Born after the Great Depression, and raised in Canada, speaking French, studying music. As a young woman, talented musician, wanting to be a veterinarian doctor, she moved back to the States with her parents and an infant brother. She was a stranger to America. Within two years, she eloped with a guy from the next town. She phoned home, "Daddy, can we come home?" They did, moved in with her parents. And nine months to the day, they had a daughter, named after herself. Her husband found a job as a car salesman. C found a weekend job as a church organist. It helped make ends meet. it kept the music alive in her.

But she lost the French and her other dreams, and acquired the accent of the streets of her new home. C had two more children, sons. The eldest was named BD, straight from her heart. The youngest son became the family name bearer, LM, VI. She raised her children in her mother's house until her mother died. Then C and her husband bought the town-doctor's big house and moved in proud, with her daddy, so she could take care of him.

It took me six hours to drive the 400 miles home. I thought about her all the way home. Dredged up those moments, her voice on the phone. I also thought about the theology course at school, the paper I had to write. The suffering and death of Jesus on the cross. Atonement. His death relieving our sin. The ironic twist that puts me six hours in a car thinking about her death and Jesus.

I turned the car radio up, loud. The only station I could get was playing Jesus music. "Halleluja!" he sang to buoyant rock and roll. "Hallelujah for the cross where Jesus died for us." (2)
(2) The station was 88.7 It was 8:43pm. The announcer said the song was "Jesus Died for Me."
The air was warm in the valley and all the bugs had bloomed right along with the rest of Spring. I had enough bugs splattered on my windshield that I had to rinse it with the wipers, twice. Enough bugs to feed a couple of birds. I wondered if my ride had robbed some bird of its supper, if some bird was going to starve and die because of my ride. "Died for us." (3)
(3) A fully relational view of creation, where no action or event is separate from another. This view is discussed in Chaos theory, and is definitely part of my context and methodology.
And things got bad for C. Rampant alcoholism. The owner of the car lot where her husband worked was busted for shady business deals, which because of her husband's intimate involvement, tainted the reputation of C's family as well. Her husband lost his job. C suffered this. Each of her children got married and divorced numerous times. C suffered this. The grandchildren stayed more at her house than their own. C suffered this. Her daddy died, taking with him her main financial support. C suffered this. Their house began to shed plaster from the ceiling and walls and leak rainwater through the roof and bust its furnace. The plumbing burst and flushed waste into the basement. But they didn't fix any of it; instead, piling plaster, wasted clothes and broken furniture into the corners of rooms until filled, they shut doors, eventually living in only two rooms in the back of the house. C suffered this. Her husband found work as a used car salesman, bought himself a recliner and drank volumes of beer. At the end of each day he would drink himself into a stupor in front of the TV.   C. suffered this. Finally, C's hips wore thin and she retreated to her bed, crippled, nursing bottles of vodka. For months she was unable to rise and her husband abandoned her in her own filth.  C suffered this.

I stopped for gas. I wondered how much I was contributing to the hole in the ozone with my ride. I wondered whose life I was spending because of my ride. "Died for us."

Enter L, BD's fourth wife. She placed C in the hospital where she went through detox and two hip replacements. But her feet were so twisted from those months in bed, from the weight of blankets, she never again moved without aid of wheelchair or walker. C rejected the pleading of her husband to come home, and L found a nursing home for her. After five years of life in the nursing home, five years of her husband begging her to come home, five years of sobriety, five years of music through her daughter's hands, five years of family making pilgrimage to see her, C died. The doctors thought it was allergies. It was sudden. Unexpected. Pneumonia.

"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son...." I wonder to myself if there is any real difference in the deaths of C and Jesus. C and Jesus. (4)  C, too, lived, suffered and died. Given by God. For her parents, her husband, children. For the doctors.
(4) Womanist theology [Sisters in the Wilderness] encourages me to see Christ in C. While C was not fully a "Hagar," there were certainly social constructions and expectations in her life which prevented her having a true freedom of choice.  
C suffered and died on the cross of the nursing home bed, betrayed by her Judas alcoholic family, tended to by her faithful family.

Oh God. The suffering. The death. How can her suffering and death redeem her husband, her children? God, how can your suffering and death redeem us, buy us life?

What good does it do? (5)
(5) In standard doctrines of atonement, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus redeems us. Scriptural references, both in the letters of Paul and the Gospels (such as Romans 4 and 6, and Mark 10), set the stage for us. Patristic interpretation/writings focus on the Jesus' death as a ransom paid to the devil. The Medieval interpretations/writings of Anselm introduced the concept of the satisfaction of a debt owed God. [Adrian Hastings, The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought (Oxford University Press, New Yor, 2000), 51-52. Alister E. McCrath, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought (Blackwell Publishers, Malden, MA 1993), 20.] The protestant interpretation is exemplified by Karl Barth, discussed in note 14 below. In this paper, I try to examine how the life and death of Jesus saves us, and therefore, in turn through the lens of womanist theology that strives to see the Christ in those around us, how the life and death of C saves us.
I drift in my thoughts as the road takes me into the mountains. I see whole square miles of clear-cut barrenness. Ragged remnants of trees stripped of life look like crosses.

Even the land is suffering.

I am reminded, so much of Christianity is filled with exuberance today. Our confidence in the goodness of God is rampant, to the extent that we fail to honor, truly know and recognize suffering and pain. (6) God is with you, we say. God knows your pain.
(6) Jurgen Moltmann touches on the subject in his book, The Spirit of Life, trying to amplify and then abolish the rampant idea that "for us healing means only 'health'" emphasizing that Jesus' healing power is not found in power over sickness. Moltmann points to the idea that "Jesus' healing power is not to be found in his supreme power over sickness and disease. His power to heal is the power of his suffering." [Moltmann, The Spirit of Life (Minneapolis: Frotress Press, 1992, 191. The emphasis in italics is his.] In and through the Passion of Jesus, God makes the "sicknesses and the grief his suffering and his grief."  [ibid., 191] This is pretty standard Christian doctrine, to have God participate in suffering, sanctifying it. Moltmann may also be reflected here in a "mutual in-dwelling." I understood this to be his take on the idea of deification. [Moltmann, 195.]
And this is troublesome, seems shallow. Especially if you are the one suffering (or even grieving), there is hardly relief in the idea of God's participation because in the end, we are not freed from bearing it --the pain is still very much there. I heard the words a lot when I was undergoing cancer treatment --"God is with you." Internally, silently, I always responded, "Where? Then let God have cancer and take the next chemo treatment." It seems as though the blanket statement that God participates in our suffering is a denial of the reality of suffering, a false mantle placed on the shoulders of those who are suffering by those who are not. (7)
(7) This returns to Becker's thesis that we create heroes of the dying to lessen the horror, to save us from the idea of death. There is also an excellent book, Living in the Shadow of Death (Rothman). Her thesis is that those who are not dying place certain behavioral expectations upon the dying.
Perhaps this, the land outside my car window, C --this unwilling suffering, is indeed affliction, not suffering. (8) is there truly a difference?
(8) Simone Weil and other contemporary theologians, especially liberation theologians, differentiate between surfing and affliction: suffering is willing participation, affliction is imposed. I believe this to be a false and rhetorical construct, a dualism which is dependent merely upon the intent of the one who is suffering/afflicted. This totally dismisses the reality that so-called affliction cannot lead to the realization of God's Grace because it is unwillingly endured. Please understand that I am not endorsing abusive relationships; if I could, I would abolish all forms of it! But by separating the concepts of suffering and affliction, suffering itself is denigrated and falsely sanctified by the veil of "choice." This totally glosses over the real pain of those who suffer. I know I am constructing a view here which puts the "outcome" into the hands of the "onlookers," who either remain uninvolved or become passionate, involved "witnesses." This too has its problems, and left alone is as vacant for me as the suffering/afflicted model. It seems there must be that third place (which is infinite) between motive and perception, between the body in pain and the perceiver. And in any place, the body in pain, the perceiver and the infinite place between them, one may know and see God, or not.
I say, no. The idea that Jesus willingly took on death hardly demonstrates any motive to value life. And if one follows the logic of some Christian writers, it sure seems as though God imposed death on Jesus. And C hardly had the freedom of choosing between affliction and suffering. So much of what she did, what happened to her, good and bad, was both willingly taken on, motives flying in the air like flags; and much was imposed by others.

Jesus, too, perhaps he was afflicted in the end, on the cross, wondering where in the world God was in his suffering, more than ready to give up the ghost. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me." Motive doesn't change the pain or the outcome. Pain is pain. Dead is dead. The road to hell is paved with motives. Especially good ones. Perhaps it is only the onlookers who may change. Guards watched his gasping. Mostly they remained uninvolved, unseeing, except of that one. His mother and the other women, laboring each breath with him, in anguish. They become a witness.

But to the one suffering or afflicted, the body in pain... --in the end, there is no difference. (9) Motive. Choice. The speechless guttural moans, the veil of descending darkness icy hot, witness each. Every body in pain is afflicted and suffers. C. Jesus, too.
(9) Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, Kentucky, 1994), 119. Barth states "the suffering of man may be deserved or undeserved, voluntary or involuntary, heroic or not heroic, important for others or not important for others. But even if it is only the whimper of a sick child, it has in it as such something which in its own way is infinitely outstanding and moving and in its human form and its more or less recognizable or even its hidden divine basis something which we can even describe as shattering. This is true of the passion of Jesus." But Barth concludes that we cannot remain in the "human story" as that was not the intent of the Gospel proclamation. The Gospel proclamation is that it is God upon the cross, not merely a man. In light of incarnation theology, I cannot see the difference. See note 12 below on McFague and Moltmann.
Out the window, snow begins to cover the scarred landscape. A multitude of sins, blanketed with a great whiteness which is nothing like the landscape it covers. Which melts, and feeds the soil. Becoming water, indistinguishable from the life it sustains.

Oh God. I see.

Because I am water like that. C was water like that.

God incarnates suffering like that. Like water becomes soil. And soil becomes tree. God becomes suffering. And we witness. We see it. Not that God makes this particular suffering his suffering. But that particular body in pain is already God's suffering. Willing or not willing. Because it all belongs to God. All of it --foolish and ghastly, chosen or imposed. All of it.

God is not just in exuberant goodness, not in painful suffering.
God is goodness. God is suffering.
God is all beingness. All of it. (10)

So, how might suffering redeem?
(10) Sally McFague, Life Abundant (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2001), 136. McFague states that "everything is from God... even our experience of God's love." "There is no place....that is not a possible route to God." However, McFague implies from this that God is still and absolutely other, hence the "everything from God" and the "route" to God. It seems I like to hold both McFague and Moltmann together, with McFague's ultimate 'other' and Moltmann's 'mutual indwelling' at one and the same time. The creation is from God, is totally imbued with God, but is not God.

The paper continues... the next section I titled "Redemption."

I am amazed at how much of this struggle --incarnation, suffering, death-- is the still the work before me. Still chaotic. Still striving to strip it all of its heroism. To make it and keep it raw. Seeking to find the face of God in it all.

We talked more last night. I was asked, Do I feel the presence of spirits sometimes? --especially around dying or dead people? Yes, I responded. And yes, I feel the presence of my mother dead these 8 years now. And, no, except for right after his death, I do not feel the presence of my father. And, I can only imagine that when I die, I cease to be. Entirely. Absolutely. And all that is "me" returns to the One Life we share. And I feel the presence of my mother, well, because that is the One Life with a familiar face....

Oh, I don't know. I cannot write the footnotes, double indented, on death. On Incarnation. On suffering or affliction. On the presence of God. Or not. There are only the braided strands of the voices. I see and know the voices around me. I hear, see and know my own voice --still scrambling to 'translate' the infinite in-between. The mystery.

And, I think this is the present disaster in the death of the elders here. The "footnotes" --the treasure troves of knowledge and wisdom --the language, songs and stories... they are disappearing.

And I grieve. Too.

At prayer (Matthew 6:25-34)

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Yes. Enough for today.

Oh --and the "Redemption" part of my paper.... hmmm.... maybe I should share it... But in this, there is a vast expanse of wilderness.... Just sayin'.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

dreading spring and early summer

I realized I had been dreading it a couple of weeks ago --dreading spring and early summer. And I have been dreading it because for the past four summers, spring and early summer bring an increase in teen and youth suicide.

One might think it would be the middle of winter when most attempts take place... but, it's not. It's now. And the next 10 weeks. When soon to be or recent graduates ponder their future and find it hopeless. When the social and multi-faceted support systems of school come to a close.

There were two attempts at suicide this week (that I know of). Not the first attempt for either of them. Both of them were not "successful" --a strange definition of "success."

--and my soul and body always gasp for air at news such this....

--and there are three old ladies on hospice... all of them hanging on... families gathered, prayers said, the vigils on-going for more than a week now. Would that the wisdom, desire, love and grasping for life they exhibit be bottled like medicine for those who despair of life.

And, you know... it's not just here, on the Reservation, where the suicide rates are increasing. Self violence, in a society where violence and isolation abound --where the grind and gaw of profit are above human beings, above life itself -- is it any wonder....

Suicide continues to be a mostly white male phenomenon in the U.S.; white men made up 83 percent of the 33,113 male suicide deaths in 2014. But breaking down suicide rates by race revealed that the American Indian and Alaskan Native population had the largest percentage of increases. AIAN women’s suicide rates increased 89 percent from 1999 to 2014, while rates for AIAN men increased by 38 percent.

This article says that it is the stigma and non-treatment of mental illness that causes suicide. I don't know. But from where I sit, it is worse than that... treating the symptoms of mental illness instead of the causes....

The poverty. The oppression. The violence to body, mind and soul. Those things are not healed nor cured in insightful conversation. Nor satisfactorily medicated.

We ALL must change.... because we live in a very sick society.

The status quo is not working. And is devolving. And this time, it is not just an empire that will fail --our mother earth --our source is ailing --is being destroyed, polluted beyond repair. And no amount of money thrown at it will help.

We MUST change the way we live.

And I think the young folk and the vulnerable are like canaries in the mine --the first to go for lack of oxygen. And we aren't paying attention. Or we think we can medicate and moderate the despair.


And here is where I turn, and turn again.... Last night, I went out to call the dogs in. It was soooo windy it was hard to face the wind and breathe. And the moon. The full moon. Reminded me. I have no light in myself. We are all only reflections of the light. And we wax and wane. But can fill a dark night with the hope of the brightest light. Cause shadows. Fill the windows of the soul.

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song of the Heavenly City, Revelation 21:22-26, 22:1-4)

I saw no temple in the city, *
for its temple is the God of surpassing strength and the Lamb.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to light it, *
for the glory of God shines on it, and its lamp is the Lamb.
By its light the nations shall walk, *
and the rulers of the world lay their honor and glory there.
Its gates shall never be shut by day, nor shall there be any night; *
into it they will bring the honor and glory of nations.
I saw the clean river of the water of life, bright as crystal, *
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
The tree of life spanned the river, giving fruit every month, *
and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
All curses cease where the throne of God and the Lamb stands,
and all servants give worship there; *
there they will see God’s face, whose Name shall be on their foreheads.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

And this (Matthew 5:38-48)

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Meeting violence with violence doesn't work. To love your enemy is to love yourself. For we are all our own worst enemy.

And when we love ourselves, we can love others. And see God's face in them. And fulfill (to perfect) our baptismal covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and strive for justice and peace.

Off I go. God help me. Please pray for us.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Perfect, just perfect

--not only was I clean as a whistle...

--but, I am clean as a whistle! No polyps. No nothing. Clean. Clean.

That's a first, for me. There's usually something. Dear mom and dad --thank you so very much for my gut genes!

As my husband said, see --you ARE a "perfect ass." Yeah. Thanks m'love.

And I swear --I cannot imagine really liking white bread. Or things without substance. Eating bland white stuff for nearly a week nearly killed me. White bread. White rice. No fruit. No vegetables. White tuna. White chicken. Eggs. Blech......

I could have had bacon... but since I don't usually indulge in that --and having no gall bladder to break down the fat, forget about it already.

So, now it's Joel to the surgeon for his continued wound care...

And me to prayer (Matthew 5:21-26)
Jesus said,

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’

But I say to you
--that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment;
--and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council;
--and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember
--that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
--Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”

We cannot be reconciled to God if we are not reconciled one to each other. That is our 'job' as Christians, to love one another. To reconcile each other and all of creation to God. Judgment belongs only to God. And those who judge, who put limits or criteria on another... well, they just don't get it.

Does that mean, then, that any one of us can just go and do what we want whenever, wherever, whatever?

Asking that question also means we just don't get it....

--oh all preachy preachy.... must be because I am a PERFECT ass!!!

Off I go.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

hovering 'round about that "throne"

How does it happen... a whole week before I can sit and write and breathe....

--not entirely sure....

But, here I am this morning. Getting "clean" --for a colonoscopy --in celebration of my 60th birthday some weeks ago. And I decided I would get "clean" in Rapid where I would not have to feel guilty for not answering the phone or door.

--but, I feel guilty any way.... So much of what I do, I can't really "DO" anything at all any way. But, I am present to the suffering, to the joy --a witness to and for Godlifeitself and the People. Being present does matter --we are an incarnational people as a way of knowing and seeing and living and being alive.

--like the witnesses at the foot of the cross...

And, this week, there are two families in the critical care/hospice area of the Indian hospital in Eagle Butte. I have been visiting there, anointing, praying, singing --being there. And now, at this most critical time, I am not there.

I am here.

I am here. Taking care of myself in a way that seems ludicrous and unnecessary. But... at the same time, I know that is not true. Screening does save lives.

If it were not for a mammogram 19 years ago, I wouldn't be here. But, in that instance, I knew something was wrong... I was ineligible for the screening, and had to wait, and wait, and wait --and push and push and push for the doctor to believe me. And by that time, it was Stage III and had infiltrated my lymph nodes.

In this instance --the colonoscopy-- I have no hints that anything is wrong... so...

--it just seems like a lot of poopy bother.

BUT --I am writing about it here and now, because if you haven't tended to your health and you should do but haven't done those screening tests --please do. Because...

--life is such an incredible mystery, and none of us should miss a day of this gift because of laziness or embarrassment --or even health insurance. I know there are programs out there to help. Please do it.

Just sayin'.

At prayer this morning (ending with Matthew 5:16)

[Jesus said] “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Off I go... hovering 'round about that "throne" of sorts....

Heheh... spellcheck wants to turn "colonoscopy" in to "kaleidoscope"  heh!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

bearing the slings and arrows of grief and oppression

--this week....

Please keep in your prayers:

R, who was sent to Rapid from the Indian Health Services hospital. The IHS said she had a pulmonary embolism. Well, I knew that probably wasn't true when I was called to the ER --because pulmonary embolisms don't wait to kill you. When she got to Rapid, she had emergency surgery to remove her appendix. She is doing okay.

This event joins the very long list of improbable diagnoses from IHS --including my own. Sent home from the ER twice with a diagnosis of constipation and two weeks later had emergency gall bladder surgery (four years ago). But the doctors at IHS --a Federal institution, hires doctors that are trained in schools that issue medical degrees that are not recognized by our usual licensing procedures. They are not considered qualified to work in any other hospital system in the States. But the Feds hire such folks to work on Reservations.

Is it part of the continued pattern of the historic policies of genocide?

And please keep in your prayers B and C. Arrested for assaulting a police officer. And because Reservations are under Federal jurisdiction, most crimes which might put an offender in a State system end up putting young men in Federal prison. A far harsher and ruthless system from which it is nearly impossible to recover. Spiritually. Emotionally. Financially. And politically disenfranchised.

Please keep R in your prayers. On the run from arrest.
Please keep S, L, and T in your prayers. Addicted to meth and hiding from those they owe money to... remembering we had more than a handful of meth related murders in the last year.

Please keep P in your prayers. Attempted suicide.
Please keep those who knock on my door almost hourly in your prayers.

Please keep the young people who against all odds are struggling to attend college --I,T,T,T, &B.
Please keep our youth who are attending a youth conference in DC in your prayers. For most, this is the first time they have left the State, or flown on an airplane!
Please keep C and M in your prayers --just kids who are doing well learning the language of music and pianos. So proud of them.
Please keep R in your prayers --a toddler who was born with meth in system, and is still crying through most of the night. Please pray for the dedicated parents.

Please pray for our high school graduates. For many, their entire support system will now be gone.

Please pray for all the grandparents taking care of the children.

Please pray for S,C, &T who might be losing their jobs.

Please pray for us as we plan the Convocation. Really intensive work in the next 8 weeks. Pray that tempers don't flare, and that we all remember the joy. Pray for us as we bear the slings and arrows of grief and oppression in living flesh and blood.

Please pray for continued healing for my beloved Joel. Still cleaning and packing his wound twice a day. But it is much, much smaller!

Please pray for the wellbeing of those wonderful kids that laugh and joke with me as they walk down the path by my fence. They all laugh at Paeha's attempts to be a Rez dog.

Please pray for all of us... the only liquor store in town was closed down. It was owned by the City (a separate jurisdiction from the Tribe). It was the major source of revenue for the City (of Eagle Butte). Now, the City has raised our water bill to over $65 a month, minimum payment, in retaliation.

Personally --We live on land that the church owns, but is under Tribal jurisdiction, but are required to purchase water from the City... a double whammy of disenfranchisement. We can't vote in City elections because we do not live in the City, so we have no say in who runs the City or how we are taxed. We can't vote in Tribal elections because we are not enrolled members of the Tribe. And a long time ago, the City ran water and sewer across Tribal land without permission... And a long time ago, the City land was taken from the Tribe by the Feds, claiming it was "un-used" and therefor open for settlement. And a long time ago, the River was dammed for the benefit of white farmers downstream, and the Tribal headquarters were forced to move here. And, the Tribe was talked out of and sold its water rights....

And two years ago, the City handed the church a $2,000 water bill... and we had no leaks, no nothing... and no recourse. And this winter, the City handed us a $500 water bill for the second rectory which stands empty --and has no leaks, no running toilet, nothing wrong... except we are an "Indian" church in a place where those who run the City seem to hate Indians... and say atrocious things publicly. And we have no recourse except to pay....

Oh gee....

And, please pray for the six-year-old child participating in a sports event, subjected to racist comments.... please pray for the strength and courage of his family. And for all those who are subjected to overt racism....

And please pray for the veterans, especially those suffering from war trauma. Young and old.

Please pray for the dying --especially TRB and WB.

At prayer 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.

Off I go....

Thursday, April 7, 2016

what staying in bed does....

Well... I went to the first night of the clergy retreat. Good to be with folks. Heard some good stuff. Was ready... and woke up Tuesday morning sicker than sick.


And I stayed in bed Wednesday too. Sound like a frog. Throat burns. Chest burns. Chills.

And I had so looked forward to it.


Taking it easy today, too.

What I haven't been doing is giving too much credence to the mud slinging in the political race. What I have been studying is the social and cultural trends that encourage folks to vote for their own oppressors... such as, why do the poor and middle class vote Republican? And I have wondered why Democrats expect a sugar-coated election process... the 'just be nice' syndrome. Liberalism.

For more than a decade, Chris Hedges has been debunking liberalism --the 'oh why can't we just all get along' attitude, leading, he believes, to fascism --when liberals forget or compromise away their main core political values. It is liberals, forgetting and not standing up, that have led to the likes of Cruz and Trump.

--and, lest we forget... he's been writing and speaking about the rise of American fascism for more than a decade, too. And now that we have had a full frontal load of it, some folks are still surprised.

What we don't need is more liberalism... it will only feed the monster of fascism. And, Chris Hedges criticizes Sanders for running as a Democrat --mostly because Hedges earnestly believes that party has become so entrenched in supporting liberalism, that it can't see its way clear of it. And is, therefor, dead. And deadly.

So... what do we do?

I don't know. Except I do know I can't run. I can't hide. I can't cop out. And I must never think that voting alone is the answer.

And those that are tired of the he said-she said Clinton vs. Sanders --please don't forget it was Clinton's campaign that published this:

Clinton's smear campaign, 2008

No one is above the fray. No one ever runs clean. So, instead of griping about who said what --let's change the way we do primaries. Let's do a single day, open primary. Let's forget about the invented role of super delegates. Let's allow a third or fourth party to our two-party system. Certainly we are more politically diverse than just Republican or Democrat --but our system, as it is, will not allow for a third or fourth party to emerge or remain viable. Which means, we have no alternative to the current stranglehold on government... which means a continued spiral in to chaos, divisiveness, anger, despair and a very narrow (and therefor deadly) political spectrum. A continued devolution in to corporations owning and running our Nation. Which is the definition of fascism.

--and if Clinton Democrats continue to slam Sanders supporters as they do, they will lose the young and marginalized voters he has attracted... the very ones who initiated the Occupy Movement... or have we forgotten so soon the glimmer of hope that provided...

House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi said she supports the growing nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement. Pelosi said she includes herself in the group of Americans dissatisfied with Congress and stated, "I support the message to the establishment, whether it's Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen. We cannot continue in a way (that) is not relevant to their lives."

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democratic Party, appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and supported the protests saying, "We desperately need a coming together of working people to stand up to Wall Street. We need to rebuild the middle-class in this country and you guys can't have it all."
--is criticizing Wall Street then (2011) not as valid as criticizing someone who now continues to take funds from Wall Street? Or foreign governments? That couldn't see through the hyperbole of war lust?

I am, for lack of other words, also "dissatisfied" with our government... but, hey--I live in one of the "ground zero" places where capitalism and government have run amok....

If we continue as we are, being concerned with how things look or sound instead of the substance... well....

At prayer this morning (John 15:12-27)

Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.”

Off I go.

Monday, April 4, 2016

the wind, chips, chili, small children and the gates of hell

It was so windy, it nearly took the bowl of chili right out of my hands. It bent the paper bowl into a V-shape, causing the chili to pour out one end, and without the weight of the chili, the bowl became the perfect sail... and forget the chips. The dogs loved them. So did one of the children....

We could only find four forks between the 25 of us. Forks. To eat chili and jello. So, I knew I had a spoon and fork in the car, and I carried my plate out with me to get them, because everything was chaos inside, and if I put my plate and bowl down, something would happen. Some. Thing.

By the time I reached the end of the ramp by the door, I knew it was worse to bring it with me than to leave it to Some. Thing. At the end of the ramp, a small boy was trying to shove a screw driver in to the lock of a car door. 'Oh, no!' I said. 'Oh, honey, don't do it that way!' And he immediately gave the screwdriver to me. 'Go inside and get something to eat. Your grandma's got it all ready.' I said this as my chips flew off my plate and hit him on his chest and fell to the ground. It took me three tries to get the car door open and throw the screwdriver inside.

He picked up one of the chips from the ground and ate it as he followed me to my car. This boy was old enough to play outside with the bigger kids, but not yet old enough to string more than a few words together at a time. I didn't bother telling him not to eat it... the wind was shoving us around, and I was well in to battling the bowl at this point... and I knew he would just turn and walk the other way. He looked at me as I struggled to get my car door open against the wind, and kindly offered me a bite of his prize chip.

I got the car door open, found the fork and spoon without spilling or letting go of the chili, closed the car door, and that's when the chili took off... like a kite. The bowl, even though I was holding it, flew right out of my hands.

The small boy giggled. I looked at him, made a face and shrugged my shoulders. He mimicked me. We laughed. The large dogs sauntered over and helped themselves. I sheltered my face with my elbow, took the small boy's hand, and we hunched our way back to the parish house.

The older children were all playing by the door, using the porch railing as a balance beam to test their skills against the wind. The porch itself was only about two feet above the ground. But the railing was a good three feet --it would be a hard fall if they made a mistake... and the wind added another layer of terror and challenge.

The grandmas knew the children were doing this high-risk balancing act. They had commented and laughed about it earlier. Reminiscing about the crazy things they used to do. Remember when... and then laughed and laughed. So, as I trudged up the ramp to the porch, seeking the shelter from the wind, they were all calling out chorus, 'Look! Mother, look!' And I could only nod and say, 'oh, that's so scary! Please be careful! You are so brave...' The small boy let go of my hand. This balancing act show was much more enticing than more chips....

As I went inside, I held up my fork and spoon, and pretended to begin an auction --hey, here's a spoon, spoon here, here's a spoon, $5 spoon here do I have a bid, $5, $6 spoon here-- and they all laughed...

--and I contemplated the questions about sin that had been asked during the sermon --what about these murderers and child molesters... if all sin is forgiven, does that mean they are going to heaven too? And not knowing what the source of the anxiety was, I only said, 'Trust God. Trust God.' The conversation began again as I sat down with a new bowl of chili... Does this mean there is no hell? And the elder brother said, 'In the Lakota way, there is no hell. So, I don't believe in hell.'

And he is correct --in the old way, there was no concept of sin or hell. But if you did something horrid, you were banished by your family group --word would spread and you would not be welcome any where, at any hearth or home. And no one can really survive by themselves... easy prey to wild animals and enemies... no longer worthy to be considered a human being.

That was hell enough. A living hell.

So, over chili and chips, I said --there is an old story.... I talked about the work Jesus did in death, quoting the old creeds --he descended in to hell --or the dead-- and talked about how, in the resurrection, the gates of hell were thrown open in such a way that they broke and could never be closed again, and Adam and Eve held on to the heel of Jesus as he was raised from the dead --and they went with him... and even more people held on to their heels, and their heels, and their heels, and so on... until the only people left in hell were the ones choosing to be there.

the gates of hell, broken

And words were racing in to my head like wind-- what to say to open the flood gates of love and forgiveness --open the doors of mercy and grace... that there is no one, no one, no one who stands outside of God's reach... no one. Not even the devil.... One day... even the embodiment of evil....

the devil, all alone in hell, moping....

At prayer this morning (Canticle: The Song of Mary, Luke 1:46-55)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in you, O God my Savior, *
for you have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
and holy is your Name.
You have mercy on those who fear you *
from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm, *
and scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones, *
and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things, *
and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel, *
for you have remembered your promise of mercy,
The promise made to our forebears, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Off I go. To clergy conference/retreat.

And I am looking forward to it.
Amen. Alleluia!

Friday, April 1, 2016

against all reason

It's almost funny.... on the Huffpost page... three headlines across my screen: "The Difference Between Complicated Grief and Normal Grief"; "Data Shows Trump Rallies Are Getting More Violent By The Week"; Disney Is Making A Movie About The Sister You Never Knew Snow White Had".

--not to mention the one on climate change....

It's amusing to me that the popularity algorithms have set these so close in proximity. Ahhhh.... the human condition....


But, I have a sadly weird sense of humor. Now, when I read aloud this headline (thankfully with a fairly decent poker face), Joel nearly went crashing through his chair and the floor....

I could see his whole world coming apart at the seams, quickly going through the theological index cards in his brain searching for any foundation, any support  --until I reminded him it was April Fools Day.

Good joke.

And, so it goes.

This afternoon, about 2:30 my time, I will travel east to the part of the Reservation that works on "Fast Time" (Central instead of Mountain), and begin the prayers to receive the body of a beloved husband- uncle-brother-father and mark our steps to the grave's edge and, God willing, back again. To sanctify the process of grief --complicated and normal. To upend the violence of this world with love. And to embrace Resurrection as something other than a fairy tale, as our Presiding Bishop said. To embrace Resurrection NOT as resuscitation, to know Resurrection as "defiance."
The resurrection is not an argument, still less a philosophical argument. That’s why rational scepticism about the empty tomb just bounces off the surface. As Jonathan Swift was right to say, you can’t reason people out of something they weren’t reasoned into. The resurrection is more an identity than an argument. That’s why we turn it into participatory theatre, with incense and candles. It is who we are – our word for how we go on in the face of overwhelming odds.

It’s the Christian term for defiance.

Mine can be a tough parish. Stuff is always going on. After Easter mass, a car screeched into our car park and crashed into a brick wall, knocking it down. Four guys got out and had a fight. Then they got back in the car and drove off. Stuff like this happens all the time – indeed I called the Brixton police three times on Easter Sunday.

And its not just the daily round of hassle. The church itself was destroyed by Hitler’s incendiary bombs, leaving only a crumbling Victorian tower that locals have used more as a toilet than a place of prayer. We have no money, a heating system that doesn’t work, a church hall that was recently burned out by bored teenagers and, most challenging of all, a community that is not really a community, but often a place people simply pass through. Even the old flats of the notorious Heygate estate have now been demolished and their long-term residents pushed further out of town to make way for the younger and the wealthier. Change and decay in all around I see.

All this sounds pretty miserable. But the resurrection is the name we give to the multiple ways we push back against the darkness.
This Easter rising is not just some fancy intellectual idea, it’s a form of praxis.

There are only a few words I would have to change, and Frasier could have been describing this place --no money, broken stuff every where, fights, garbage, folks passing through, the cash matrix that make some folks rich, some poor.

Resurrection is what we do. What we live. Our identity. And the darkness cannot overcome it.

Because 'LIGHT' is the word God spoke at the very beginning.
And that LIGHT is Christ.
And that LIGHT became human flesh and blood and moved in to the neighborhood.
And lights The Way. For us. By us. Among us. With us. Through us.

And even death has no hold on us.

At prayer this morning (Luke 24:1-11)
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.

While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.

But these words seemed to the apostles an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

An idle tale...

--to the apostles themselves.

Against all reason.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

both Mary and the soldiers run their course through the streets

I had waited for the full moon. It seemed like it took forever to get here... and, now, it is already nearly half gone. Not that I could tell. I mean, see it, any way. What with the wind and icy rain. I can't see it. But I can feel it. And my moon gadget tells me it is waning gibbous. 60% full.

And, for some reason, the hints that St. Paul anticipated the arrival of Jesus... at any moment. Certainly before he died. Those who died lacked faith. Surround me this morning. Perhaps because it is the exhausting joy of Easter Day, so fleet of foot, it has run on before me. And ordinary life is pooling at my ankles.

The past two days. A whirlwind of doctor appointments. Scheduling. Open wounds. His of the body. Mine of the spirit. Giving body and soul. And what difference does it make... . The suffering is constant. Amplified.

Easter angst.

My intellect and my body tell me this is the normal and expected aftermath of Holy Week and Easter. On Monday, I was still riding the crest of the wave of joy. But the wave broke sometime yesterday, Tuesday. Hit the beach with that sand and gravel hissing sound. I caught my breath, filling out the papers for the colonoscopy I decided was due with my 60th birthday....

I. Will. Care.
I. Will. Take. Care.
I. Choose. To. Care.

And I remember the words of a friend --that the Good News that Mary went with joy to proclaim to the brethren still gathered in fear --that same news was not good news at all to the soldiers who had stood guard at the tomb, and they had run the same streets as Mary, in great fear to proclaim to the powers that be that things were not as they thought they were....

And already, the world has moved on. In violence. In fear. In greed. In power. Demanding satisfaction. The moon slips away.

So it is. And I wonder. What did Paul think as he died? Did he surrender, finally, in joy... willing to let go of his dear anticipation?

And, as it is, perhaps, my descent in to Good Friday, finally, on this Tuesday, that today, I can surrender... letting both Mary and the soldiers run their course through the streets, and give even my care away....

At prayer this morning (Matthew 28:1-16)

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

Monday, March 28, 2016

And a bull named Lamb

I knew I had to slow waaaaaaay down to turn the corner. The freezing and un-freezing of the gravel road had caused drifts of loose rocks that would certainly put me in the ditch if I tried to hit the turn at more than 15mph.

And, I am glad I did. Slow way down. Because as soon as I had made the corner, I noticed the bull standing in the middle of the road. His butt and twitching tail and proof he was a bull.... he was not facing me. Bigger than my car. Seriously. I did not want to startle him. Spook him. He could do me serious damage.

And he filled the road --the road narrowed just before the bridge. A car and a truck would have trouble passing each other there. Two trucks--forget it. And he was as big as a truck. Standing in the middle of the road. He would HAVE to move so that I could get by him.

I was crawling down the road... the speedometer barely twitching. He didn't hear me coming. I was afraid to honk the horn. For fear of making him mad.... It's one thing to be moving toward a 3 ton bull in a two ton pickup. It's quite another to be moving toward a 3 ton bull in a little gas-saving vehicle made of snap together plastic pieces.

You know.... the engine of my car is designed to fall out and hit the pavement to mitigate injury to the passengers in the case of a collision. I could just see this bull hitting me, and the engine of the car falling out.... and it was ten miles back to the closest house.

I was now within 20 feet of him... and he still hadn't heard me. I decided a softer noise might alert him to my presence... I put the car in neutral and revved the engine. He spun as fast as a cat might, leaping... and faced me, looking at me, right through the window shield. Eyes rolled back. Bull snot flying.

Dang. I startled him. Dang.

He stood his ground.... I inched closer, talking to him --hey bull, hey mister, just gotta get by you, let me go by you, move just a little, will ya.... He flared his nostrils, kept rolling his eyes. The muscles of his legs rippled.... I noticed the tag on his ear. Usually there are numbers and the owner's brand or mark. His tag had a name scrawled across it. "Lamb."

I started to giggle, and sing to him. Hey, Lamb of God, let me move on down, move on down, move on down the road.... my mind filled with the images of the faces of the children helping me pretend-paint the doors with the blood of the Passover Lamb --the toothless grin of the boy who stood next to me at the altar as I looked at him at the fraction and said, 'Christ, our Passover,' and it was like seeing someone who recognized a starry constellation on their own, for the first time....

Lamb backed up, two steps. Just enough to let me slip by....

And so the day had gone. The last 30 hours, actually. Beginning with the precarious melting snow and ice covered road to Cherry Creek. The voice of God through the mouths of children bringing all things in to being. The ceremony of fire, water and oil. The shocked look of the grown woman as the water of baptism ran down her face and on to her shirt. The grand mothers, pleased, arms folded over their bellies. The toddlers reaching for the flames of their candles.

And I didn't notice the moon as we knelt and peered through the dark, trying to start the fire. The boys trying to block the wind with their bodies for the sake of the infant flame, which finally mastered the dry grass, twigs and small cottonwood branches. Processing through the dark, pierced by tiny flames and illuminated faces.

And then the rising sun. The chunks of ice floating in the River. The girls in their flouncy frills. The boys with shirts with collars, and dirty hands. The ham. Roasted turkey. Potato salad. Glory rice (fruit and sweet syrup usually mixed with Cool Whip over rice). Fruit in jello. Fresh bread. Hot dogs and beans. Menudo for the elders. I don't remember right now the name for gut soup in Lakota --the word is too much like the Lakota word for 'ghost' --and with a lot of gutturals....

Beginning at 10am on Saturday. Ending at 8pm on Sunday. Three lay readers (not folks who read the scriptures, but folks trained to lead liturgy) carrying communion out to churches in other distant parts of the Reservation. 26 baptisms. Or was it 28. I don't remember right now.  It is all a blur of water and flame and delightfully scented oil and human flesh and blood.

And a bull named Lamb.

At prayer this morning (Christ Our Passover, 1 Cor. 5:7-8; Rom. 6:9-11; 1 Cor. 15:20-22)

Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; *
therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, *
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; *
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; *
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin, *
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

Christ has been raised from the dead, *
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death, *
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, *
so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.
I had asked folks what Resurrection means... there was always someone in the crowd that would say, 'coming back from the dead.' So, I would give the visual--- I would walk across the front of the church, and stop suddenly and say, 'boom, I'm dead!' --and then turn around and walk like a zombie or go woooooooo like a ghost. The kids loved it. And I would say, 'that's coming back from the dead. But this is what Resurrection means....' And I would start in the same place and walk across the front of the church, stop suddenly and say, 'boom, I'm dead!' And then I would say, 'And then God continues the work of Creation and gives new life --life on the other side of death...' and I would keep walking across the front of the church...

'--and in baptism, we start life over here,' I would say.... 'all of us sharing in Christ's eternal priesthood... Resurrection life is not something we wait for after death, not something we earn by being 'good' --it is ours. Right here. Right now.... '

And the other words I didn't say kept floating around my head --that time is not linear. Not at all. So, every moment is Resurrection. Every moment is the way to the Cross. Every moment is the empty tomb. Every moment is seeing only the gardener. Every moment is healing and reconciliation. Every moment is betrayal. Every moment is bread and wine. Every moment is sacred fire and holy water. Every moment Christ is present again. And again. And again. Every moment.

And a sure sign that God is good --Easter is longer than Lent. Fifty days to party!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

the torn curtain of the Holy of Holies placed on the floor for the babies to sleep on

Wake up. Dogs out. Coffee. Call my beloved. The sun peers through the thick horizon. New snow.

Dogs in. Cookies. Check the headlines. On line. We have no TV. The world is the same. Violence. Despair. Abusive sex. Addiction. And then there is that one person who quit their job to feed their neighborhood.... And those that rescue abandoned and abused animals....


Confronting the gore of Good Friday has done nothing, really. Not for the world. Not here --where the Feds have come in and done massive drug busts. Rounded up a bunch of Indians.... The "war on drugs" has not changed here.

And the work ahead... the 'production' of Easter looms before me. I don't regret a minute of it, really. Because I remember the tangible force some Easter services turned over in me, and I hope --if only one person... once in my life... if only one.

But the physical reality of preparing for twenty or more baptisms... probably more. I have 50 certificates printed up --but only 36 candles. So, I have found a box of altar candles that don't fit any of the candle sticks we have, and I will use those. Too.

And I despair for the Church... quickly perusing posts and seeing the expense and weight of flower arrangements, the gilded vestments all in a line, the pageant.

I have tried to search that feeling --why do I even care if well-off urban churches go to such lengths --even extremes.... I am enough of a Franciscan not to regret a lavish blow-out party every now and then....

But, between the headlines of the world and the Church at large, I wonder what we are doing... and it smarts this week in particular because I opened three boxes of gifts that arrived --one of them containing stumps of well used Advent wreath candles, and another with broken, used, dirty Paschal candles nearly a decade old.

Well-meaning gifts.

Here, we will pull out and dust off our "forever lilies" that we store next to our "forever poinsettias".... They are the same as those flowers we use on the graves here. It is appropriate. It is what we have. What we can afford. And there are no greens or shrubs or anything else out here.... Especially in a late-March Easter.

Well... we will do that in two of the churches I serve. The other churches --we don't even have running water. Why would we worry about flowers or candles of any sort....

And I just received the call --telling me that the roads are not "too bad" to Cherry Creek, and that the grandson has gone to build the fire. Wood heat only there. No water --an outhouse that blows over with the 50-mph winds. I will do the first Easter baptisms there this morning, the first celebration. In the poorest place I know. In the richest place I know--rich, because they know.

And, perhaps that is good. People aching and braving the cold of the 11 degrees (F) it is here this morning --to be baptized.

Perhaps this is the Easter gift we can give the rest of the Church --we start now because tomorrow I will be 200 miles to the east, by the frozen Missouri... and we will proclaim Resurrection from death, and claim the New Creation as our own --in the midst of a place so Rez'd out that the rest of the Reservation laughs it to scorn....

Yes. There. It will begin there.

Enter the Holy of Holies.
The torn curtain placed on the floor for the babies to sleep on.
No sitting in rows.
But a pandemonium of running children, sleeping infants and bored teenagers.
And elders, to break the ice, build the fire.

Yes. There.

At prayer this morning (Hebrews 4, ending with verse 16)

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Amen. Amen. Off I go.

Friday, March 25, 2016

very Good

Good Friday....

What is so "good" about it? Remembering again the awful betrayal and death... how can that possibly be "good"?

It is Good.

It is Good because sin and death are exposed, revealed.
We can't face what we can't name or see.
And if you can't name or see it today...  --well....

The betrayals we all commit. God bless you, Judas.
The lies we all tell. God bless you, Peter.
The treachery of the religious authorities. God bless you, Annas.
The corruption of the governmental authorities. God bless you, Herod.
The denial of responsibility. God bless you Pilate.
The fraudulency of the crowd, first hailing him as 'King' and then yelling, 'Kill him.'
The force and power of the soldiers. God bless you, you who hammered the nails and threw the dice.
The despair and spineless terror of those who ran. God bless you, you disciples.

The damnable horror of it all.

It IS Good to see these things. The human condition.
We must see who we are.

And it is Good to see those other things.

Even the coerced struggle. God bless you, Simon, for carrying the cross.
Even the powerlessness of it. God bless you, women weeping at the side of the road.
Even the stamina of witnessing it all. God bless you, all you who didn't run, but risked standing at the foot of the cross.
Even the change of heart. God bless you thief on the cross, amidst the mockery.
Even the frightful recognition. God bless you, soldier, who saw.

Even the human being who suffered and died. It is Good to see him. To know and see the full potential of what it means to be a human being.

It is Good.
Today is the day to name and see. To know.

Today is Good because it is all revealed. All of it.

At prayer today (John 13:36-38,  Good News Translation)

“Where are you going, Lord?” Simon Peter asked him.

“You cannot follow me now where I am going,” answered Jesus; “but later you will follow me.”

“Lord, why can't I follow you now?” asked Peter. “I am ready to die for you!”

Jesus answered, “Are you really ready to die for me? I am telling you the truth: before the rooster crows you will say three times that you do not know me.

--and all of us say we do not know him, at least three times a day, in thought, word and deed....
--and if you think you don't or you won't... you stand with Peter already.

It is good, very Good, to have it revealed to us.
It is Good Friday.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

what else would I do....

It is always holy/awesome/fearsome to bury someone.

All of that is underscored during Holy Week.

The focus.
Of betrayal, death, resurrection.
How many times a day do any of us do that...
--in so many little ways.

And tomorrow.
I will gather with the children.
We will hear about the Passover.
We will get up, and walk and walk, carrying our knapsacks.
And all those heavy burdens. Of what we fear.
What we carry.
Until our feet are tired.
Until we need rest.

And, then we will wash feet.
Because we have walked so far.
And God will feed us.
Food for the journey.
And give us rest.

We will walk from downtown.
Carrying the cross.
And enter the dark day that is Good.
And my soul shall rest, tomb-like.
For a little while.
Just hours.

And then it's back to the water.
How many will it be this year?
Twenty? Thirty?
Passing through the water.
Anointed to shine with the light.
To be a light in this broken world.
Made for love.

A love we refuse.
A love we betray.
A love we kill.

Love that left transcendence to enter into the stuff of this life.
Of this place.
Even the rocks will shout.

Surrendering to us.
For us.

And in a week, filled with bombs and death.
In a place that spouts contempt.
For the poor.
For the oppressed.
For the outsider.
For the weak.

Even our earth, our source, our mother, savaged by greed.

How does one speak of hope?
When even the daffodils pushing through snow are at risk....

But, I must speak of the hope that is within me.

What else would I do?

At prayer this morning (Psalm 55)

Hear my prayer, O God; *
do not hide yourself from my petition.
Listen to me and answer me; *
I have no peace, because of my cares.
I am shaken by the noise of the enemy *
and by the pressure of the wicked;
For they have cast an evil spell upon me *
and are set against me in fury.
My heart quakes within me, *
and the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling have come over me, *
and horror overwhelms me.

And I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! *
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee to a far-off place *
and make my lodging in the wilderness.
I would hasten to escape *
from the stormy wind and tempest.”
Swallow them up, O Lord;
confound their speech; *
for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
Day and night the watchmen make their rounds upon its walls, *
but trouble and misery are in the midst of it.
There is corruption at its heart; *
its streets are never free of oppression and deceit.
For had it been an adversary who taunted me,
then I could have borne it; *
or had it been enemies who vaunted themselves against me,
then I could have hidden from them.

But it was you, my companion, *
my own familiar friend, dear to my own heart.
We took sweet counsel together, *
and walked with the throng in the house of God.
Let death come upon them suddenly;
let them go down alive into the grave; *
for wickedness is in their dwellings, in their very midst.
But I will call upon God, *
and the LORD will deliver me.

In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday,
I will complain and lament, *
and the LORD will hear my voice.
God will bring me safely back from the battle waged against me; *
for there are many who fight me.
God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me and bring them down; *
they never change; they do not fear God.
My companion stretched forth a hand against a comrade; *
and broke a covenant.
The speech of my companion is softer than butter, *
but with war at heart.
The words of my comrade are smoother than oil, *
but they are drawn swords.

Cast your burden upon the LORD,
who will sustain you; *
the LORD will never let the righteous stumble.
For you will bring the bloodthirsty and deceitful *
down to the pit of destruction, O God.
They shall not live out half their days, *
but I will put my trust in you.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

God forbid, I should ever become comfortably numb....

Off I go.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

despite our categories and judgements

We went out together for a meal to celebrate my birthday. I had been wanting the spice and delicacy of Indian food for a while. So, I googled for an Indian restaurant in Rapid... and found one. It was one of those tiny restaurants --maybe ten tables. It was lunch. A buffet.

And --oh-- it was perfect. The lentils. The chicken. The chickpeas. Perfect. I skipped dessert --Joel had the rice pudding. The guy asked me, 'Where did you learn to eat this food?' So, I told him I was brought up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and ate all kinds of foods --but really loved Indian foods.

I think it had been a Mexican restaurant once... the booths were all carved with flowers and painted up in desert colors. There were murals on the heavy stucco walls, with the Hindu images of Ganesha and others of Buddha framed and hung over the murals in an unfamiliar aesthetic.

'Do you live here now, or are you visiting?' one of the hosts asked. They were two young men. I took them to be co-owners... just a hunch.

'We live here now,' I said. 'Where are you from?'

'I'm from India,' one said. The other said, 'I'm from Nepal.' Joel began to ask them questions about Sanskrit... about a particular word that meant something other than dualism. They shook their heads. Never heard of it. One looked almost fearful... like it was an interrogation of his faith....

There was a cluster of young men --Asian, Indian, in the corner of the restaurant. They were eating resolutely. They kept looking at me, in certain unbelief.... I get those stares sometimes. Very tall. Short hair. No boobs. Face and voice of a woman. Wearing men's pants and coat. Oh well....

I remembered the sudden inward fear while in Thailand... in an elevator with the North Korean wrestling team, giving me those looks. And laughing with the trans-community there because someone told me I could really 'pass' well --was I there for my boob-job? --and my having to say, no, I was really a cisgender female and a cancer survivor....

--and Joel and I laughing the other day.... I have no boobs. And this recent surgery removed all traces of a belly-button from him... so, between us we have no evidence that we are mammals. At all.

The cluster of young men moved together to the cash register to pay for their meals. I wondered how many white Americans might look at them and just see 'terrorist.' I wondered if they were here as students... I listened for traces of accents as they paid for their meals.

--and thought again of how I felt with them giving me the once-over, and looked back at my plate. How easily any of us can fall in to that pit.

'You ate so fast,' Joel said... 'Yeah,' I said. 'That's one of the symptoms of the eating disorder.' And I looked at the Buddha looking at me from the lotus blossom, wondering about peace, about spiritual surrender (in the best sense--not a giving up, but a giving in/over), and saying a prayer... one of those wordless prayers that is more a sigh and a groan... an offering of the human condition....

At prayer this morning (2 Corinthians 2:14 – 3:6)

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

In sincerity and insincerity, with hearts of flesh and stone, competence or incompetence, in life and death... we do not belong to ourselves, but to God alone....

--the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.... despite our categories and judgments...
Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

the hope of spring

I had hoped to get outside and do a little cement work and tote some dirt around... getting ready for spring and all. Because things are beginning to bust at the seams --the lilac has begun to green up, as have a couple of the trees. And it's only the Ides of March....

But, today is overcast and cold... and my body is... well... reeling, I guess. Two funerals in the last three days, Sunday services --all of which my heart and soul love to do --well that's a strange word to use, but I can't think of another right now. Mostly, I think it was changing the clock forward, and then doing the wake and funeral in "Fast Time."

The eastern half of the Reservation goes by "Fast Time" --Central Time, while the western half and the half where I live go by "Slow Time" --Mountain Time. So, setting the clocks ahead one hour, and then doing a funeral in "Fast Time" --well.... yes, reeling.

Usually the time changes only faze me for the first day. Usually accompanied by some excitement --the change of seasons. It's a physicality that must be met for the very real changes occurring around us. I love it. But, then, I've always enjoyed physical prayer.

Or, perhaps better said, prayer has always been physical for me. As opposed to being intellectual, or mental or emotional. Prayer has always included motion --sensate, tangible.

Funny that.

I drove to Rapid to be with Joel --hadn't seen him in a week... had left him in Rapid for all the doctor care while I returned to Eagle Butte to a busy schedule. And late in the evening, we had visitors. Just drop by. It was a God-send. A gift.

A tangible prayer.

And, today... errands, shopping, doctor..... Perhaps this afternoon, if it warms up, or maybe even if it doesn't, I shall go outside and move dirt around.... Plan how many yards of gravel for the next projects --a garden path, and a barrier around the house and under the porches.... Breathe deeply.

And pray in the solace of working the earth, looking at rocks... while remembering that April, historically, is always the snowiest month in South Dakota. Not a lasting snow. Not bitter snow. But snow.

And now I am watching a cardinal in the greening lilac. Bright red. The sign of the Spirit.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all... (Emily Dickinson)

At prayer this morning (Psalm 121)

I lift up my eyes to the hills; *
from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the LORD, *
the maker of heaven and earth.

The LORD will not let your foot be moved *
and the One who watches over you will not fall asleep.
Behold, the One who keeps watch over Israel *
shall neither slumber nor sleep;
It is the LORD who watches over you; *
the LORD is your shade at your right hand,
So that the sun shall not strike you by day, *
nor the moon by night.

The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; *
the LORD shall keep you safe.
The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, *
from this time forth for evermore.

Pray for the birds. The greening lilac and trees. The hope of Spring.