Friday, October 31, 2014

the veil between the quick and the dead, between the holy and profane, has been torn....

I had received the call that she had died --the older lady that sometimes comes to church in her wheelchair. I prayed a small litany with the news, one with angels and open arms, courage and strength for the family. And then three other calls --nothing to do with the death. I was looking forward to nightfall. Some quiet time. Maybe even time enough to brush the dogs.

As the wind abated and the shadows stretched out in solemn parade, the phone rang again. I looked at the number and it was the hospital. I folded up my hopes for a quiet evening like one folds a fitted sheet --roughly approximate, and tried to open my heart. 'Mother,' he said. 'Someone wants a comfort service. I can't go --a commitment for my daughter, every one else can't go. Would you please go for me.'

You could have pushed me over. It was one of the guys who sings at the drum, one who follows the Traditional Lakota road. How could he possibly think I could fill his shoes --how could my presence instead of his ever satisfy a grieving family? He had gone through the list of the others who had been called and either didn't answer or couldn't go. They were all Lakota. All spoke the language. The family, in their grief, in their hour of need, wanted the comfort of nationhood, familiarity, solidarity. Not me.

And I understand. I fully understand. 'Of course I'll go,' I said. 'But if they want you, how can I help them?' I was hoping my inflection, emphasizing HELP not 'I', would carry the weight it needed to carry.

'You know how to pray, Mother,' he said, laughing, teasing. And then he said, 'Oh, hey, there's a wacipi (powwow) tomorrow night, you should come --our Halloween wacipi. Wear a costume, come for dinner.'

'Oh, that sounds like fun,' I said. 'I don't know about a costume, though.'  I haven't lived in a place for years where costumes on a priest would be acceptable.  'You could come as a heathen,' he said. And we laughed and laughed.

So, Joel fed me soup. I took a shower. I went off in to the dark night, preparing myself to step aside if someone else came to lead the family in prayer... acknowledging quietly to myself that it was time here as much as race that mattered --and I had neither.

At some point during the whirlwind visit of M and P, we had discussed tenure and broken models of ministry. That priests were the seemingly expendable cog in the machinations of current parish life. Bishops bending to please congregations, because bishops need congregations. Congregations pressured inside and out to define who they are, confused on what it means to be Christian in an age of fundamentalism; unsure of what it means to be the Body of Christ; unsure of lines between politics and gospel --or resolute in a particular interpretation; shrinking pocketbooks and numbers as the instability and pressure grow. Priests convinced that congregations must change to survive... and they must, in so many ways. So, the easiest thing to do is throw the priest away, or pressure them until they leave... dysfunction becoming ingrained, all the way around.

Which is why the average tenure (if there is such a word any more) for priests in congregations ranges between five to eight years. And bishops about seven to ten years. While congregations still suffer or die. Yes, there are some who are thriving. No doubt about it. But that is certainly not the norm.

What happened, we asked, to the idea of a priest being embedded in community?

In this place, the tenure is between three and five years....

I left all these thoughts in the car. Brushed myself off as I stepped out in to the gravel of the parking lot at the funeral home. Walked in the door --saw the trays full of bologna sandwiches, smelled the coffee, started to shake hands all around wondering who was going to be making the decisions in this family group, the children running to hold me.

We waited for other family members to arrive. And then waited some more. 'Indian time.' When I was given the okay to begin the service, I began with a prayer in Lakota. The affirmation 'oh-hunh' followed --not amen. I felt a sense of gratitude. The elder who had first given me the encouragement to pray in Lakota, who had laughed fewer and fewer times each time I practiced it with her, who has gone on before us with all the saints, all the ancestors --she came and stood by my side. 'You will learn, don't stop, don't be discouraged, don't be afraid or ashamed,' she had said. And on this night, she cleared the path for me to pray, again.

When, after I gave the invitation for any one to speak, and I had waited a white eternity--a Lakota pause, and two had come forward, but no one else --I stood and admitted in a joking way that I was never sure how long to wait --that I came from a very fast, very white world... 'In fact,' I said to the gathered family, 'someone tried to sell me a watch the other day. Gee, I said to that person, it took you guys a year to get me to take my watch off --and now you want to sell me one?' And we laughed and laughed. And finished our prayer. Together.

At prayer today (Luke 12:13-31)

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”

But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, 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, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
See... there it is again... do not be afraid... quit striving... God knows.

As I say my prayers this morning, I offer to Our Creator the dark recesses of my heart --and the dark recesses of other hearts shared with me in an offering of brokenness.... things done, things left undone... knowing full well that although I did not cause the suffering here, all my life and the lives of my ancestors have benefited from it... and I pray for a vision of reconciliation and healing... I pray for all those who suffer in racial, ethnic and economic oppression... I pray for the children who suffer neglect and abuse and abandonment... I pray for those stuck in addiction... I pray for the grandmas who keep on... I pray for those unwilling to talk about the past or the present... I pray for the rich... for the cold-hearted... for those unmoved, waiting... for those who hope someone else will do 'it'.... I pray for the Church in her dysfunction... I thank God for those who serve selflessly --giving their lives so that the people might live....

Off I go. Maybe I will go as a heathen to the wacipi tonight...

--just for a laugh... and to remember that the veil between the quick and the dead, between the holy and profane, has been torn....

thanks be to God.

A blessed All Hallow's Eve to all. All is hallow... All are hallowed. Be holy, because you are made in the image of God, and God is holy.

amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

do not be afraid

We arrived in Cherry Creek just before sun down. The road there had been very difficult to drive --well, it is never an easy road --the potholes run to meet your car-- but the sun being just above the horizon kept crashing in to my eyes, causing a glare that prevented me from seeing even out the side window. More than once I had to put on the brake until I could find my bearings --usually by faith.

Which is the way it always is in Cherry Creek. Or the way to Cherry Creek. One must go by faith. The coyotes sharing their blessing as they crossed the road. In faith.

As we pulled up to the church, some kids were being lifted to pull on the rope and ring the bell. The doors were opening and closing, children running in and out. We were greeted enthusiastically, led in a funny jumping-running type of procession in to the building where the fire burned in the wood stove at one end of the building. It was warm inside.

The pews had all been moved, theater style, in rows facing the same direction. They usually are pushed up against the wall with an open space in the center of the room --an open space where the children play before the altar and we pray facing each other. A holy open space. I do not know why the pews are moved whenever we have a guest... perhaps to make the outsider feel more welcome... thinking that church is always supposed to be in rows facing the same direction.

P was with us --from the Diocese, instead of the Bishop who was busy caring for the Diocese because of the death of a former Bishop. And M was with us, from the Church headquarters, to help us make connections, to help us network, to draw us out of isolation which can happen inadvertently... such an easy trap.

We set the altar. Bread. Wine. Water. We prepared the paperwork for the baptisms. Set up all the necessary things for baptism. Water. Fire. Oil. A dangerous combination. The singers and the drum sat over by the door --the young men happy and unanxious. We waited for one of the grandmas to come, the grandma who had been cooking all day. The van finally arrived with the heavy pots of potatoes, meat, salads, fry bread, cakes. And we moved in to prayer, calling down the Spirit, the lumber in our souls rearranged suddenly in to a temple. The ancestors gathered all around.

One baby cried. The other stirred in her blissful milk-soaked sleep. Then anointing, shining. Little stars. The pictures were taken. The children gathered around. So many hands. Shooting stars. Somewhere in the chaos we asked for the blessing and shared bread and wine, laughing, the children always wanting more. Seamless with the plates loaded with the hot food. The bounty.

The singers sang with the drum, the heartbeat of the people. The children danced. The old ladies kept telling me to dance. And even though the dance courses through every fiber of my body, I tell them I can't, I shouldn't. And, yes, I would dance Traditional style if I could. Of course.

On the way home we stopped, pulled over. Got out of the car. Looked up at the stars. Spilling out. The quarter moon unstarved for light. 'The moon is too bright,' said P, desiring the full and usually overwhelming night sky to take her breath away. M and I agreed; but quietly in my head I heard the consonants of the stars rhyming with our hearts' desires, saying, 'But who needs to see with eyes --look with your soul, and you will see what you must see.' And the harps of the blades of grass, singing, filled the air.

This morning, coffee and sweet pumpkin bread. 'I called the Pharisees and Sadducees gangs in my sermon last night,' I said to Joel. 'I think they heard me --I think they got it,' I said... 'And when I asked who was greater, Sitting Bull or his descendant, they said Sitting Bull, of course --and I think they got it when I said that Jesus turned it all upside down when he said that the one who gives his life for the people was greater --that God plays no favorites --I don't know, but I think...' and we continued to laugh and talk and shake our heads, all of us.

And for some reason, I remembered processions behind a coffin in to church, stopping short of the steps up to the altar and the chairs all around, like the altar was some great judgment seat. The tears. The unspoken fears. The person who was, now in the coffin, awaiting final judgment.

And, now, I'm thinking well, that's exactly what it is --the great judgment seat, where the gifts of this world are offered, received, blessed and broken --sacrificed... so that we might have life. Share life. That is the only judgment. Life.

At prayer this morning (from Luke 12, I think....)
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted.

Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Little stars.
Little birds.
Pray for us.

That is always the message: do not be afraid.

Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

as good a place

The door bell rang at about 3am --I think.... That would have been the night between Sunday and Monday. The lady wanted money... gas money to follow her baby they had just flown out in an emergency lift. I told her I didn't have any money. And I didn't. The wind was howling so hard I could hardly hear her.

I found it hard to sleep and I tossed and turned after I sent her away. I helped her out during the summer, just after her baby was born --and then again the other night just after her baby had been released from the hospital and she needed to stay in town for the night --to be close to the hospital just in case. Doctor's orders.

I usually don't help a third time. I tell folks right up front. One or two emergencies. That's it. But the situations are usually so unrelenting... and it breaks my heart... to meet face to face with the reality of my limited resources.

But, it wasn't the hardest part of the weekend. I knew already I had to do a difficult wake and funeral --36 year old young man who died of a rare cancer.

And then, Sunday, at church, we prayed for the girl friend of a parishioner who had been in a car accident and died. At the Green Grass bridge --drove off of it and in to the water. She was enrolled in a Tribe up in North Dakota, and had just received a big oil check. Bought the car. Had a party. Tragic.

And then, Sunday night, at the wake, I heard that a young mother, who had just had a baby, died of seizures. And another young woman who had been born with challenges --she died too.

And then we stood out on a windy bluff above the Moreau River in Iron Lightening and buried a young man.

There had been laughter interspersed in it all. The funeral procession had been met by those who would lead the final mile on horseback. There were at least 40 horses --some with saddles, some mounted bareback. I thought Mr. Paeha was going to die in his exhilaration. He was trembling --no, shaking with excitement to be so close to something he loves to bark at. We asked one of the guys to take him and have him meet one of the horses face to face... and we all laughed at the thought of Mr. Paeha realizing the horses lips were bigger than his whole body and tail, combined....

--and it was with silent awe, that as we finished the burial rite according to the custom of the family, a very large hawk appeared overhead and then flew off north. A white-tailed hawk, I think.

That is so humbling to witness... to see...

And now I am in a different world --truly, a different world. Another difficult night of sleep in a hotel while Joel endured a sleep-study overnight. Mr. Paeha was troubled with every noise, and woke me up... so a second night without much sleep.

I feel drunk...

And the Bishop called in the midst of all this --our Missioner is coming, but he himself cannot. The former Bishop, Creighton Robertson, died unexpectedly this weekend too.

And a note to the community --one of the guys in a mission group from Michigan is ailing.... probably doesn't have long in this world.

In the midst of all this... how does one pray for a holy death? How does one build a theology of death at all?

At prayer (a portion of Psalm 66)

Bless our God, you peoples; *
make the voice of praise to be heard.
God holds our souls in life, *
and will not allow our feet to slip.
For you, O God, have proved us; *
you have tried us just as silver is tried.
You brought us into the snare; *
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water; *
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.

....no theology of death... only a theology of hope... restoration....

--and this (beginning at Ephesians 4:1)

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
--one life...

Perhaps that is as good a place to begin as any...

Off I go.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

(Do you see it?)

The stars are really thick and deep this morning. The Missioner on Poverty from NYC will arrive in South Dakota on Monday, and then come here with the Bishop on Tuesday and stay until Thursday. I hope the sky will be clear one night or morning ---for him... so that he can see the stars as our ancestors saw the stars. It is nearly overwhelming --the quantity and clarity....

I remember the first time I blithely stopped the car to get out and look at the stars. Turned the car motor off. Back road. Looked up. The intensity, the rush from within and all around was so immense I became --well-- the best word I can find is 'frightened', although it wasn't fright at all. My knees became weak, I couldn't breathe... I fumbled for the car door, got in, slammed the door shut and screamed for Joel to get in, get in, get in.

--and shame isn't the word either, although I was deeply embarrassed that I had stepped out of the car thinking I could find my familiar Orion, Seven Sisters, Milky Way --and in some way, like a well worn path in a garden, think I knew them...

--because I didn't. I mean, I did see them... but, the majesty.... the power.... my ancestors rushing to my side, to my being, crushing me with the remembrance that I know nothing at all, that I should never forget to walk with humility --any where --any time....

We stopped again the other night because Joel wanted to see the stars. I didn't get out --I had nothing for an offering... --I had no tangible thing I could offer as a thank you... so I didn't get out. Joel did, while I sat in the dark in the car and made the mental note to pack something in the car so that I would always have an offering ready. Always.

Joel bought a book a while back, on Lakota Star Knowledge. And, no, one cannot even come close to understanding what "Is" by reading a book. But it does help fill in the unspoken. The texture, the depth....

Sometimes --again, I forget to make an offering, just for being... being alive. At those moments when one remembers what it is to be fully alive. And then something always comes to remind me.... Like, the other day, the color of the sun in the tree full of yellow leaves was so thoroughly unimaginable, that I grabbed the camera and tried to capture it --which, of course, cannot be done. Perhaps some could do it, but I cannot. But, I did make a small offering of sage. Thank you, I said.

So, I posted the picture at the top of the blog --the autumn tree which stands over our house. Then, when I was looking at the picture, day before yesterday, the grin popped out at me --the reminder. The something that always comes to remind me that we are at all times surrounded by that which we cannot truly know. The grin....


The spirit in our tree --an opaque triangle topped by a face--
Do you see it?

There is a ghostly figure there --I see it... about 1/4 of the way down the picture --at the bottom of the opening where the leaves clear away and the trunk become visible --there is a gray face, two eyes, a nose... a mouth... even a chin, and an opaque shadow-body beneath it....

Joel couldn't see it.... perhaps it is just for me....

But, it sure made me laugh, seeing it peer out of the tree like that....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Revelation 10:1)

And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He held a little scroll open in his hand. Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, he gave a great shout, like a lion roaring. And when he shouted, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: “There will be no more delay, but in the days when the seventh angel is to blow his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, as he announced to his servants the prophets.”

Well.... as far as I know, this one does not hold a little scroll --not that I can see... and no legs like pillars of fire --just a perch in the tree --like a funny bird of sorts --to remind me... that all around me, at all times, there is more....

Perhaps that is the star that dwells in that tree...



And Joel was gifted with a story and stick to remember it with --how in the beginning the Star People had come to earth for a visit and loved it here, but then the creator gave them their job and they had to go to the sky. But one of the Star People really missed the laughter and talk of The People and asked the Creator if it could return to earth so as not to be lonely any more. But, the Creator said it would be too hard on the people, too confusing --he would be too bright and the people would get distracted and not be doing what they are supposed to be doing --hunting, cooking, playing, laughing and the music --especially the music --the voices of all The People. But the Star Person said he really wanted to be close to The People, and he promised he would hide some place where he would not be noticed --and he kept asking and asking --so finally the Creator said, find a way to hide and you can do it. So the Star Person came down and found a perfect hiding place --in the cotton wood tree. And if you don't believe it, all you have to do is cut a branch off the tree --or pick up what the tree has thrown down --and you will see... the Star Person is still hiding there --wanting to be close to The People.
That's all.
That's enough.

(Do you see it?)

Friday, October 24, 2014

for this, too, I give thanks

"It's just not done," I said to Paeha. He was stretched out on the sofa, his back pressed against Joel's thigh, his little head hanging partway over the front of the cushion --ear pointing to the floor. He had heard a distant bark or yell or something, and responded with a half-hearted warning 'woof' without even lifting his head or caring to listen more deeply.

"If you are going to bark, do the whole ceremony, the whole ritual," I said to the dog. "It's demeaning to the whole endeavor if you just do something less than halfway." Paeha rolled his eye at me and looked at me showing the white of his eye without even lifting his head, demonstrating his scorn, as though to say 'what do you know about it any way.'

Then Joel announced he was going back to bed, took his book and went down the hall. Paeha jumped up and followed him, glancing at me and lowering his ears as if to say, 'well, you didn't expect me to stay after a comment like that, did you?'


One of Paeha's other 'looks' while showing off his Dr. Seuss hairdo

And I am left with the sun pouring in the windows. Mr. Witty is under my feet. The smell of coffee still permeates the air. My prayer is heavy on me, settling on my legs, leaning against my chest like an oversized child still demanding a place in my lap. I think of P, who came to the door last night just as Joel and I lifted our forks to our mouths. It was after seven, dark out --he wanted a ride for him and his woman over to Grandma M's house --they have a tent pitched in her backyard. 'She's hurting tonight, really working her cane,' he said. In the car on the way over to their tent, I asked what happened to their house right behind our house. Family stuff, they said... Family stuff.

On the way home, I passed the skateboard park, and the young folk were gathered between the ramps and gullies in the moonless green light of the distant gas station. There were a few skateboards among them. I had seen a new skateboard just earlier --at the pancake supper fund raiser. A young man had a skateboard that consisted of two lily-pad platforms set at each end of a flexible rod. He had held on to the bell stanchion outside the double doors, practicing tossing each end of the skateboard with his heels. I said, "wow" to him, and he showed me that there were only two main wheels underneath, and sets of wheels at each tip.

So, this morning, I give thanks to the folks who built the skatepark, even though, at the time I was talking to the young lily pad skateboarder, and at the time I passed by the park in the dark, all I could think about was having missed the eclipse --the evening sky was too littered with clouds. And all I could think about was how T had walked the two miles in to town on her gimp leg, but couldn't walk back, and dragged me from my supper table out in to the dim green light....

So, this morning, I give thanks to T and P who dragged me out from my supper table to see the teens at the park in the dim green light, and give me dreams about two more skate parks, and perhaps basketball courts in two other communities, because even as I went out to take T and P home, the basketball court behind our house was crowded and noisy with a game... last year those kids even played in below freezing temperatures, running and shouting.

So, this morning, I give thanks to the folks who built the basketball court, and the kids who venture out to play their vigorous games.

So, this morning, I give thanks for the sun pouring in the windows.
--for the mighty eight pound dog who thinks he can rule with a lazy bark
--for the solemn eighteen pound dog who sits devotedly at my feet
--for the man who reads me a Jesuit document from 1658 on theories of Christian enculturation
--for Grandma M who invites T and P to live in her yard, and because of who she is, she won't let them stay outside all winter although P has lived like that for many winters
--for T and P's family
--for the young people at the skatepark
--for the folks who built the skatepark
--for those who organized and cooked at the fundraiser
--for the young man with the lily pad skateboard
--for the one who gave him the skateboard
--for the eclipse, even though I didn't see it
--for the clouds in the evening sky
--for T and P who survive and which way they can
--for the comfortable feeling I had as I sat down to eat last night
--for the uncomfortable feeling I had as I left my dinner
--for the kids who play basketball
--for the folks who built the basketball court
--for all those who dream and pray for this place
--for the families who loved little J
--for the lost and ungrown kids at my door yesterday morning, and for their kids
--for all the children here....

At prayer this morning (from Ecclesiasticus 11)

There are those who work and struggle and hurry,
but are so much the more in want.
There are others who are unhurried and need help,
who lack strength and abound in poverty;
but the eyes of the Lord look kindly upon them;
he lifts them out of their lowly condition
and raises up their heads
to the amazement of the many.
Good things and bad, life and death,
poverty and wealth, come from the Lord.
...
Stand by your agreement and attend to it,
and grow old in your work.

--and this (Luke 10:38-42)

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.

But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

I know this for sure --that if I didn't do this little Mary bit every morning, there is no way in hell I could even begin the unending Martha bit the rest of the day... so, for this, too, I give thanks.

Amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

a terrible history

Had several rings at the door bell late yesterday. The last one moved me to put on my shoes and carry them to the hospital. One just had surgery, the had a portable IV pump still in the neck, which was bleeding and leaking. Poor kid was so down and out the blood and leakage didn't seem all that important. The State had removed the children from the home... surgery was to repair the arm, if you know what I mean....  It's not like the kids weren't loved, just is there was no heat or running water --not enough food.

At the hospital I saw someone I knew, and heard tragic, gut wrenching news. A twenty-month old toddler died of sustained injuries. The grandson of a member of the clergy with whom I frequently work. Both parents are in jail. The mom had, at birth, given the babe to a couple I know, then changed her mind --demanded the infant back about two months ago. Hoping for a fruitful conclusion for the child and reconciliation, the adoptive couple conceded to the birth mother's demands. Especially because there was the factor of race --the foster/adoptive couple was white... --and now they have been caught up, too, not through their own wrong doing, but in a terrible history...




--because there is an awful, terrible, oppressive history of white people adopting Indian babies... which continues even to this day.

Pennington County [around Rapid City] has been taking Native American parents’ children just as predecessors in government took Indian children from their families: “under color of law.” From the late-19th through the mid-20th century, thousands of Indian children were taken from their homes for “assimilation.” Some were funneled into boarding schools designed to strip them of individual and cultural identity (cutting hair, mandating uniforms, prohibiting Indian languages), while others were placed with non-Indian families. Until the late 1970s, states moved one-quarter to one-third of Indian children to different families, often with federal support.

Congress passed the Indian Children Welfare Act (ICWA) in 1978 to end overzealous removal practices and establish new, special protections. The legislation established criteria for removing Indian children, enshrined protections for Indian parental rights, and determined that in cases of foster care and adoption, Indian children should be offered first to family members, then tribe members, then other Indians, before being made eligible for adoption by non-Indian families.
...
No one seems to know exactly why Pennington County began rushing Indian child removal and custody proceedings. B.J. Jones, who runs the Tribal Justice Institute at the University of North Dakota and sits on multiple tribal courts, thinks officials probably had good intentions, wanting to protect children.

Author Ian Frazier, who wrote about one of the tribes affected, the Oglala Sioux, in On the Rez, says of their reservation, Pine Ridge, “there’s so much chaos there.” He calls the problem of alcoholism on the reservation “swirling hell.” When I ask what he recalls of children on the reservation, Frazier tells me that he remembers seeing “woebegone kids trailing after parents.” Eighty-five percent of families on Pine Ridge are affected by alcohol abuse, and a quarter of children are born with fetal alcohol disorder.

Against this woeful backdrop, known to South Dakotans but perhaps not the rest of the country, one might imagine social services workers, attorneys, and judges swayed by a mix of legitimate and exaggerated concerns. Perhaps some thought the informal hearing and multi-month delay would be a lifeline for parents with substance abuse issues, keeping them out of the system and their children safe until they could get clean. Maybe officials wanted more time to gather information.

But even the most charitable interpretations of Pennington County’s actions fall short: If this “informal” process was meant to help parents afflicted by addiction, why has it been applied so indiscriminately? Whatever ends the officials sought, the means by which they’ve attempted to reach them are spurious at best, and largely indefensible.

Yes. Spurious at best. Here's more from NPR:
State officials say they have to do what's in the best interest of the child, but the state does have a financial incentive to remove the children. The state receives thousands of dollars from the federal government for every child it takes from a family, and in some cases the state gets even more money if the child is Native American. The result is that South Dakota is now removing children at a rate higher than the vast majority of other states in the country.
...
Critics say foster care in South Dakota has become a powerhouse for private group home providers who bring in millions of dollars in state contracts to care for kids. Among them is Children's Home Society, the state's largest foster care provider, which has close ties with top government officials. It used to be run by South Dakota's Gov. Dennis Daugard. An NPR investigation has found that Daugard was on the group's payroll while he was lieutenant governor — and while the group received tens of millions of dollars in no-bid state contracts. It's an unusual relationship highlighting the powerful role money and politics play in South Dakota's foster care system.

From private group homes for children to private jails.... Have I said recently that I HATE capitalism...  (Mr. Daugard is running for governor here. Again.)

And yet, Mr. Ian Frazier who writes (above) that there is "chaos" on the Reservations is not wrong. But... which came first --the chicken or the egg-- --the oppression or the dysfunction-- ??

I would say the oppression came first. And we can't, simply can't, keep doing what doesn't work.

There is no easy resolution. But this I know: It must come from the People themselves, not from outside agencies. And the Federal money given to the State which pulls children away from family, culture --everything-- should be given to the Tribes for a local solution.

But, when has the US Government ever shied away from meddling in the affairs of other sovereign Nations, especially when they "own" the land and the budget...

--sigh--

In the meantime... when I carried the young folk to the hospital last night, I said --you know, in the ancient way, the women owned the tipis --they were responsible for everything about the tipi --setting it up, pulling it down, hauling it, building the fire --all that. And if something happened they didn't like, they could kick the men out....

I had their attention.... I told them how strong and beautiful they are, that they will live through this and be stronger for it. They will figure it out.

This morning, they rang the bell at 7:30am. They wanted me to solve their problem, again. I told them in a good way (I hope) that they really could figure it out --I realized that they wanted me to be their fix-it lady --their 'mother' in so many ways. So, I told them they really could fly, and pushed them off the edge of my nest, so to speak....

Children. With children. In a broken place. With an unresolved history of oppression and deceit. Weighting them all down before they begin. Bearing the sins of the world.

And the little voice in the back of my head says, --they come from a very long line of survivors. For now, just help them survive. Healing and restoration are coming.

And that is my prayer this morning (from the readings for the Eucharist, beginning at about Acts 15:12)
After they finished speaking, James replied, "My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,

`After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen;
from its ruins I will rebuild it...'

---and I will rebuild the dwelling of the People...

Hear the cry of your people, Grandfather, Grandmother. Hear the cry.

And Father, send the angels and all the ancestors to carry home this little one who has died. Comfort and succor him in your arms of mercy and gentle rest. Give all those who loved him strength and courage for the hours, days and weeks ahead, that their grief may not be overwhelming. And may that peace which passes all understanding abide with them.




Well... I've tried several different recordings, but it's been blocked from embedding... do go listen.
Libera, "Rest in Peace."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

mildly dys-something or other

I went in the Family Dollar store here in Eagle Butte on Monday --when I knew I was getting sick, but before I was really sick. I went in to buy some Halloween stuff for a teenager who is stuck in lockdown in the hospital here (which means there is a cop outside the door...). I didn't go in the room, but I bought some cool stuff --and checked with the nurses before I included the fake blood and all that....

And, I saw the first Christmas stuff up... --sigh--

Then, on a friend's post on FB, I saw conversation about the same --Christmas in October routine. There was a post to this --the Silent Night of the Living Dead...





--a zombie cresche set....

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately --depending upon your pov, this project didn't get funded... but I thought it was perfectly irreverent... which, feeling the way I do right now, is perfect.

It goes right along with the new Barbie and Ken stuff....






--and, just sos ya know that there is not any religious discrimination....





There was a FB page with these images, which appears to have been taken down... so, here is another article about them. My understanding was they were made for an art exhibit... and are not desecrating items like a crucifix in a glass of waste water etc.... but sure do bring to mind the idols we erect around holidays, acceptable toys for children, and all that kind of thing.

And, I suppose I feel that way this morning because whenever I cough it brings a whole new meaning to that childhood song about gopher guts.... And, poor Joel upchucked all night long.... Our household is quite the deal. Quite. The. Deal.

So.... I think I shall sit and do some ridiculous marathon of Star Trek or Merlin --something silly and so unreal that I will feel grounded and relevant, even in our current state of being.

At prayer this morning (portions of Psalm 38)

O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger; *
do not punish me in your wrath.
For your arrows have already pierced me, *
and your hand presses hard upon me.

There is no health in my flesh,
because of your indignation; *
there is no soundness in my body, because of my sin.
For my iniquities overwhelm me; *
like a heavy burden they are too much for me to bear.
My wounds stink and fester *
by reason of my foolishness.
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; *
I go about in mourning all the day long.
Searing pain fills my innards; *
there is no health in my body.

O Lord, you know all my desires, *
and my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart is pounding, my strength has failed me, *
and the brightness of my eyes is gone from me.
My friends and companions draw back from my affliction; *
my neighbors stand afar off.

Best psalm ever when one is sick.... I nearly tattooed it on my arm when I was sick with breast cancer... At the time, I read it every morning at prayer, including the other required psalms...

Which reminds me --it's October. If you haven't yet, please get checked with a little tease and squeeze. --P.L.E.A.S.E.-- And gentlemen readers --breast cancer is not just a women's disease --if you have any lumps or bumps, please don't ignore them. Men have less than a 1% chance --but, still, I only had a 3% chance when I was finally diagnosed (I had found a small lump, the doctors insisted it was just pre-menopausal breast tissue stuff. So, I had to wait a year until I was age 40 to qualify for a mammogram... by then, the lump was as big as my thumb and the cancer had infiltrated my lymph nodes).

I can hear the drum leading the cancer awareness walk from the park downtown to the culture center right now.... I was supposed to be there, but... here I am...

--hack hack hack---

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

exactly what it feels like

I was supposed to go to Pierre for a Reservation clergy meeting today --first time they've ever had one. I really wanted to go. But I woke up sick. Head congestion. Feverish feeling. Hit in the head feeling. Burning in the chest.

Dangit.

So. After calling and emailing, I fell back asleep. Now, I'm waiting for a call from the doctor while I'm sitting in the sun in the living room. Drinking lotsa water. The sun feels good.

Dangit.

I don't even feel good enough for that sit-down-busy work...

Dangit.

so I will try to nap....

--after I pray (from Luke 10)

See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.

that's exactly what it feels like....

Remembering the folks gathering in Pierre. Remembering the family of D as they meet at the funeral home today. Remembering.

Monday, October 20, 2014

grass-feathered crest of the plain

The teenaged boys really didn't want to be there, but the grandmothers had brought them, and then made them read. The smaller children squirmed, but listened, because the story was coming out of their mouths. Their voices.

We had begun the service by hauling the pews up, front and center. Sweeping. Killing the wasps. Chasing out the flies. Strange flies, with zebra wings. One of the windows had been shot out again, but someone had already cleaned up the glass before I even got there.

Such preparation is a liturgy all its own. It was late afternoon. The sun slanted in the windows. The candles on the altar were the only other light. Except in the eyes of the children. The prophet came alive and the great waters and danger and comfort of a powerful God lapped against the walls of the building, especially where the unmown grasses stood so tall. The grandmothers and mothers looked away from their own hands when Paul's letter was read --that part when he acknowledged how much they had suffered. And then the coin. Jesus and the coin.

Someone had a coin in their pocket. All the children saw the face on the coin. How did Jesus know there was a face on this coin... a face that belongs with the history of the Nation. So the coin belongs to the Nation; give it to the Nation. When I made the other older boy stand up, the one not quite old enough to read, I asked who owned this face... who owned this heart... who... . So, the coin we can spend on food, electricity (except there was none here), taxes... --all that kind of stuff. What shall we 'spend' our God-given lives on?

The children answered with all those things they find so difficult to do --be nice, share, give up your place in line.... The adults didn't answer. Not with words, anyway. But with those longing looks of absence. Lips parted with those unspoken things, the ghosts of remembrance.

On the way home, while we were still on the gravel road and we could see the highway a few miles off, we saw the flashing lights of the police car racing west. 'That's not good,' Joel said. 'Never good,' I said. After we had turned on to the highway ourselves, heading east back to town, we pulled on to the shoulder of the road as the ambulance passed. 'That's not good,' I said. 'Never good, and Sunday night, too,' Joel said. And we prayed silently.

It's so different on the highway. Joel had never been the 'back way' from Thunder Butte to Bear Creek. It's a road that turns from gravel, to dirt, to tracks along fence lines separating fields. Then you suddenly find yourself perched on the grass-feathered crest of the plains before dropping in to the hidden ravine of Bear Creek.

And now the steady stromm of the tires on the asphalt played the tune of enticing promises of false security, of the advances of civilization... of a coin with a face that looked nothing like their faces --a face carved in to their sacred mountain, a face desecrating their Holy of Holies. And the evening took its foothold in the growing shadows, covering the carcasses of the wild things on the edge of the asphalt with a deep darkness --so different from the crest of the plain.

'How shall we spend our lives?' I had asked, and was answered in the playful yet seriously earnest movements of the three children who had stood right in front of the altar, mimicking my every gesture, calling down the Holy Spirit.

At prayer this morning (beginning at Ecclesiasticus 4:20)

Watch for the opportune time, and beware of evil,
and do not be ashamed to be yourself.
For there is shame that leads to sin,
and there is shame that is glory and favor.

Do not show partiality to your own harm,
or deference to your downfall.

Do not refrain from speaking at the proper moment,
and do not hide your wisdom.
For wisdom becomes known through speech,
and education through the words of the tongue.

Never speak against the truth,
but be ashamed of your ignorance.

Do not be ashamed to confess your sins,
and do not try to stop the current of a river.
Or... (In a different translation... same scripture but called Sirach 4:20)
Take advantage of opportunities,
but guard yourself against evil.

Don't underrate yourself.
Humbleness deserves honor and respect,
but a low opinion of yourself leads to sin.

Do not let others have their way at your expense;
do not bring on your own ruin by giving up your own self.

Never hesitate to speak out when the occasion calls for it.
Don't hide your wisdom.
Your wisdom and what you know can be known only by what you say.

Do not, however, go against the truth,
and remember that you do not know everything.

Don't be ashamed to confess your sins;
there's no point in trying to stop a river from flowing.
There we are.
....
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
(The Summer Day, Mary Oliver)

--how shall we spend our lives.... ?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

shield the joyous

The moon is like a thin silver cup turned on its side, spilling the desire of the cosmos through the heavens of this early morning. It is hours before the sun comes up. The moon still rules.

There was no light of the moon as Joel and I stumbled through the rough grass and sod last night. The sidewalk was broken and missing. The young man with young kids and wife had died; we had been praying for him for months --a rare cancer had taken hold of his body. His family had gathered for a meal and prayer.

The young cousins filled the yard. Stumbling over one another in some rough shoving game. In the dark. Scant light peering through the windows covered with sheets for drapes on the inside. 'Shield the joyous,' Joel prayed as we walked through the gate. It was not one of those gates that could swing open and closed --it remained solidly ajar with the grass woven up through the lattice work of wire and boards.

Not all the family could be here --some were still on the road, but prayer and food and companionship, holding the newest babies --this is life. The great great grandma got the big easy chair, hot soup and fry bread on the metal table before her. Coffee --always coffee. The young cousins ran in and out, out of breath, invariably grabbing a roll or fry bread. Those with glasses had to take them off --they steamed up the minute they ran inside.

They were all called inside when it was time to pray. The prayers of children interrupted with having to sit still, inside. The tears always come then.

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 103)

For as the heavens are high above the earth, *
so is the LORD’s mercy great upon the God-fearing.
As far as the east is from the west, *
so far has the LORD removed our sins from us.
As a father cares for his children, *
so does the LORD care for the God-fearing.

For the LORD knows whereof we are made *
and remembers that we are but dust.
Our days are like the grass; *
we flourish like a flower of the field;
When the wind goes over it, it is gone, *
and its place shall know it no more.
But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on the God-fearing, *
and the righteousness of the LORD on children’s children;

Bless the LORD, you holy angels,
you mighty ones who do God’s bidding, *
and hearken to the voice of God’s word.
Bless the LORD, all you holy hosts, *
you holy ministers who do God’s will.
Bless the LORD, all you works of God,
in all places of God’s dominion; *
bless the LORD, O my soul.

Off I go, into the morning before it is light with many miles to go. Pray for the children. Pray for the family (this is their second major loss this year).

Father, shield the joyous.
Amen.

Friday, October 17, 2014

fusion

Joel's back went out again yesterday. So I moved the twin bed mattress back in the living room and forbade him to move. The dogs love it --able to curl up with him in the big 'pillow' --except, because I then serve Joel his coffee and breakfast on a low table by the bedside, Paeha stole half his toast before any one noticed it... bad dog. Bad dog.

And, now, thankfully... Joel is eating yogurt with Ottmar Liebert at his ear.





It's worth a listen --I guess some would call it "fusion." Some don't like it at all... and reject all "cross-over" music, but he does have his moments of genius. His father is Chinese-German, his mother Hungarian. He lives in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

Some would prefer the "purer" variety of Paco de Lucia...





--but he also pushed himself to combine jazz and thrust himself into the more hard-core rock elements.

I love that kind of stuff. When it is done well. With passion.

At prayer this morning (Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10 or thereabouts)

All wisdom is from the Lord,
and with him it remains forever.
The sand of the sea, the drops of rain,
and the days of eternity—who can count them?
The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth,
the abyss, and wisdom—who can search them out?
Wisdom was created before all other things,
and prudent understanding from eternity.
The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed?
Her subtleties—who knows them?
There is but one who is wise, greatly to be feared,
seated upon his throne—the Lord.
It is he who created her;
he saw her and took her measure;
he poured her out upon all his works,
upon all the living according to his gift;
he lavished her upon those who love him.

The fear of the Lord is the crown of wisdom,
making peace and perfect health to flourish.
She rained down knowledge and discerning comprehension,
and she heightened the glory of those who held her fast.
To fear the Lord is the root of wisdom,
and her branches are long life.

Unjust anger cannot be justified,
for anger tips the scale to one’s ruin.
Those who are patient stay calm until the right moment,
and then cheerfulness comes back to them.
They hold back their words until the right moment;
then the lips of many tell of their good sense.

Gonna be working with an elder who wants help writing down his stories. He wants the stories to sound like he said them --no big words. --no long sentences, he says.

Would our working together also be "fusion" ?!

I just pray for wisdom....

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nectar of the gods

The wind. It shook the windows. Made the siding of the house groan and screech. The sun had not yet made its way through the brilliant red of the horizon. There was no thrill to being run indoors to escape the flying branches and leaves, calling the dogs after me; no thought of comfort in taking refuge, wrapping fingers and palms around a mug of hot coffee and watching the storm from the security of the old chair. There was only a sense of foreboding, danger, a crashing end to this pre-dawn storm.

I prayed for the young nurses now sick with Ebola. This must be what it is like for them --this storm. Unexpected. Unpredicted. No comforting refuge. No safety net.

Last night it had kind of been the same. Gathered together in that room. The recklessness of scholarly assumptions. The words before us, telling the tale of multiple spiritual ancestors --that the past was not uniform, not seamless. The factions spring to life before us. The ages fold one over the other.

'We were taught not to ask questions --that it was unfaithful to question anything in the Bible,' she said. 'We were all taught that,' another said.

'Who taught you that?' I asked. But, I knew already. I knew that the tragic and deadly fundamentalism which offered unbending criticism and condemnation of anything that didn't fit its own doctrine of absolutism, its own rigid superlatives of modernism, reeking of binary only this or that --I knew that poisonous fruit had been tasted here. I had to press on. I had to cut the sky wide open. Let the stars in. The chaos of the Milky Way to pour in over us.

Why --when we decide to teach, do we always start with the Bible? Why don't we --when we decide to teach, start with the Gospels instead of Genesis? Why don't we --a people free of dogma, start with the mysteries? --the sacraments? --the liberty of Christ?

Last night, too, the story was told --that it was obvious that Joel was a holy man, that he carried the old ways with him, that his understanding was so very deep. I agreed. Without hesitation. And, they said, we can see that what you know, what you carry, you learned from him. I agreed. Without hesitation.

The wind has thrown the screen door open, making the dogs jump and bark, thinking someone is at the door.

Someone is always at the door. Not always in flesh in blood. But, someone is always at the door. So, when I return from pulling the door closed, I tell him. I tell him how grateful I am that he never let me rest in those places where I thought I was comfortable. Those places to which I tenaciously clung, even while I despised them, even while I knew those places were not for me... and would rest only in denial.

Joel laughs. 'You are the one who pushes me,' he says. And our laughter is as good as the dregs in our mugs, that thick dark stuff that reminds me of coffee in Greece, of that bittersweet stuff worthy of licking off the rim....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Luke 9:18)

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.”

He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

The Son of Man....

The New Testament features the indefinite "a son of man" in Hebrews 2:6 (citing psalm 8:4), and "one like a son of man" in Revelation 1:13 and 4:14 (referencing Daniel 7:13's "one like a son of man"). The four gospels introduce a totally new definite form, the awkward and ambiguous "ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου", literally "the man's son." In all four it is used only by Jesus (except once in the gospel of John, when the crowd asks what Jesus means by it), and functions as an emphatic equivalent of the first-person pronoun, I/me/my. Modern scholarship increasingly sees the phrase not as one genuinely used by Jesus but as a one put in his mouth by the early Church.
--one put in his mouth by the early Church (yeah, yeah --I get it), except once in the gospel of John? (Really? Then there must have been something.... something about it....)

And, yes, there is a world of difference between THE theology of the Church, and A theology of the Church.

--damn feminists, so full of scholarly humility.... gotta love 'em... like that dark stuff that reminds me of coffee in Greece... can't stir it with a spoon. Best stuff. Ever. Nectar of the gods.

How long will this storm blow like this? --no threat of rain.... just the wind....

--the man's son must suffer and be rejected.... .

Off I go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

the coyote crossing the road with the dark pressing in on all sides

The young coyote turned and looked at us before it vanished in to the ditch and dark alongside the road. The shining yellow and white lines gleaming in the deep prairie dark looked absurd, stretched, floating in the light of the headlights. The radio was turned up loud --the music was a strange disconnect --the trumpet sounding like a person screaming an exotic and mystical revelation of some kind. Wynton Marsalis and a Santeria priest at Lincoln Center. The priest's voice intoned a prayer to the gods, to the sun, to the moon.

I pushed myself to try to feel what it must be like to think of the sun and moon and stars as unconnected separate beings instead of the relational communion that is at the center of what I call 'me'. I couldn't do it. I ranted suddenly, 'I can't imagine not being a mono-theist.'

'What?' said Joel. 'I am certainly NOT a mono-theist.' He had been going on and on all day about the tragedy of creative religious thought stopping with the Cappadocians... that they were the last ones to truly push at the fringe of Christian thought, striving to create the necessary language to speak of their visions of communion before the deadly platonic, Aristotelian and Augustinian magisteriums throttled the throat of the Church. He had been going on and on about the tragedy of science not pushing in to the language of 'beingness' instead of observable 'stuff.' The scientists cannot speak of 'who' only 'what' he ranted. He had gone on and on about the tragedy of binary-ness --about the false world view of either/or --and even the false world view given 'by new-age gurus' of either-or/both-and. 'It's still binary,' he grunts, disgusted.

I don't see or understand where he wants to go with what he is striving to say. We argue at length, using the so-called Columbus Day holiday as an example. I say it is a good thing for the First People to snag the day and turn it on its head as Native American Day. 'If Italians want to celebrate the so-called achievements of Columbus, let them have at his birthday or death day --but not the day he so-called "discovered" this continent,' I say vehemently. 'It's imperialism --pure and simple, and we need to repent of that crap.'

Joel keeps pushing at something, and I didn't get it. He is not an imperialist. He is not one to celebrate Columbus. I didn't get it. All day long he had been pushing at something --and now he's saying he's not a mono-theist. In the wake of seeing a coyote. And Santeria prayers.

Perhaps it was because it was the curtain of dark. Perhaps it was because I turned the radio down. Perhaps it was the coyote. 'I cannot imagine not sharing in the One Life,' I said. 'That's why I have no truck with re-incarnation --no desire to be a soul or some other entity for all eternity. I cannot imagine not becoming one with...' I said.

'Precisely,' he said, hitting the dashboard of the car with his palm, making the dogs in the back seat jump up in fright and look out the windows. 'SHARE and WITH are the key words you just spoke. Christians are not mono-theists because we are Trinitarians. Love is not possible when there is only One. That is why it is that Christians speak of God's love. You cannot speak of the love of God if there is only God --if there is only union --one thing. We are in Co-union, communion. Freakin' protestants made Jesus in to God --made him a man that was God in flesh. Jesus is not the Father. Jesus is not the Spirit. Don't get me going on what's been done with the Spirit....' He didn't stop. For a hundred miles. He focused on a few of his favorite rants --especially about reducing the Trinity to verbs... which always leads him to deeds instead of grace.

I only barely heard him. The words he had said --love is not possible when there is only One... they were still battering against my chest, my forehead. The divine 'otherness'.... The longing. The desire. It is not to be one. It is to be one-with.

This morning, he got up first and made the coffee. That's not the way it usually goes. I watch my dogs dream after their breakfast, their little paws running, tails wagging, eyes rolling around. I wonder if the deep-seated joy I feel receiving the hot cup of coffee, of watching silly dogs, resembles in any way the joy of the 'Who' of creation, saying 'That is Good,' at every new turn.

Perhaps that is another hair of the coyote --those who see the world as filled with evil, as a test --instead of those who see the goodness, the love, the willing suffering for the sake of other... Joel had stood at the wake the other night, and said, 'Grief is love.'

--because all is love....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Acts 26:24)

While he was making this defense, Festus exclaimed, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!”

But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. Indeed the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am certain that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.”

Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?”

Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am – except for these chains.”

My beloved... see? You are not crazy. But, I don't think we have to return to the Cappadocians to get the thought and language we need...

--I think all we have to do is share bread and wine --it's as simple as all that. (Except now we've put too many words all around it...)

--I think all we have to do is pour water on some one's head to wash away sin --to turn hearts to seek the other --it's as simple as all that. (Except now we've put too many words all around it...)

--it's not more words we need, more language we need....

....Perhaps it is silence we need for communion... to behold.

Perhaps it is the dance we need....

Perhaps it is the coyote crossing the road with the dark pressing in on all sides....

Perhaps it is only coffee, dogs and all the other 'others'....

--because you right... love is not possible without other --without more than one.

....thanks be to God.

Monday, October 13, 2014

in these times

--the leaves are falling. Actually, because of the winds the other day, whole branches are coming down. Alongside the path that leads to our door, the leaves are beginning to be three and four deep.

Every one who has taken my hand in a greeting in the last week has exclaimed --your hands are so cold! I don't notice until they say that... but it is so very true. Their hands are so warm.

So, I guess it is time to put away the sandals... time to wear socks... and be more mindful of the cold.

I love autumn. I love the way the air loses itself to a brittleness, a sharp edge, a nakedness. A loneliness permeates everything, that pushes us inside, together. Not a howling, dolefulness. But, the promise of abundance that is in the spring air --the weight of life --is now like a mindful teacher, calling us back, each leaf turning color and falling, like a church bell ringing us to our senses, telling us the time.

Somebody decorated the church with pumpkins yesterday. And yellow leaves. An offering, like bread and wine, which comes from God's own creation. Funny how we do that. Offer to the Creator that which already belongs to the Creator. But we do it, over and over again.

I talked with the old ladies yesterday. One from Rapid was exclaiming how they had lost all the families with young people to the big churches with programs --the big churches that hosted powwows in the parish halls, that supported the children that way. But, she thought it was wrong to have "anything Indian" in worship. 'You know,' I said. 'The Roman church has even brought a Pipe in to their worship.' And she was horrified. But the lady sitting next to her (it was her party, celebrating her 95th birthday) nodded and said, 'We should at least be talking about it, and listening to the young people.'

I couldn't help thinking about leaves, and wondering... which leaves gladly fall, which leaves cling....

At prayer this morning (from Acts 26)

[Paul said,] “Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.

”With this in mind, I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’"

Conversion is never easy.

It is a fearful thing.

It is a wondrous time... like winter. Like the wilderness. Sometimes we can feel the change happening, and we resist, striving to stick to the way we have always done it --bowing here, doing this, that, then.... Telling ourselves this must never happen....

I remember taking a friend from Africa up to Crater Lake in Oregon --in June, so that she could see snow. And the snow was still piled up in banks as tall as the buildings. And she took off her shoes and climbed up on the snow, laughing and grimacing at the cold between her toes.

God, help us all, in these times. Thank you.

Amen.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

as true today as ever....

He ran up to me, eyes all bright. 'I missed you,' he said. He buried and snuzzled his face in the sweater around my waist. 'Oh, you have grown soooooo tall,' I said. I ran my fingers through his hair, the way grandmas can do. Lots of the kids think I am their grandma because their parents and grandparents call me 'mother.'

'How old are you now?' I asked. It had only been maybe six months since I had last seen him, but to many of the kids, that could be three homes and a birthday --a life time since they had last grabbed me and held on. 'I'm not four any more, I'm five!' he said. 'Oh! And are you in Head Start or Kindergarten this year?' I asked. He shook his head no. 'What? First grade?' I asked.

He shook his head, pouted his lips and said, 'I've got bugs. I can't go to school...' I resisted the urge to withdraw my hands --it was too late, any way.... 'That's okay,' I said. I looked him in eye. 'That's not a forever thing. You will get to school soon.' I drew the sign of the cross on his head; he closed his eyes like he was letting the blessings fill him. Then he nodded, and ran away to play again.

There's other kids in town --their heads remain shaved all the time --boys and girls, to make looking for head lice, or proof of their absence, easier. Truth be told --we've now been infested three times, most recently we discovered them again about two weeks ago. Bed bugs.

The shame has left me. It's just a part of life here. And I'm not going to not hug a kid, hold a baby, or sit and have coffee when invited to some one's house. The bugs come and go. That's all. We work hard to keep them away. We saturate the crevices of the mattresses with rubbing alcohol, put all the bedding --pillows, blankets --everything, through the hot dryer, wash all the sheets and towels in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer for more than an hour. We were nearly bug free for six months this last time through --now a whole new batch.

I've wondered if freezing would work too... putting the mattresses and bedding outside on one of those mid-winter nights when it dips below zero.... actually, it would take several nights....

Or --maybe the head lice and the bedbugs could have a war... ?!

In the mean time.... We vacuum and clean and run things through the dryer and spray alcohol every six days, trying to break the egg cycle.... We came up clean this week --no evidence of bugs... so we will do that two more times --two more weeks.... And then some more.

University of Wisconsin has a policy for their dorms, explained:
I'm embarrassed to say I might have bed bugs in my room: Don't be. Bed bugs have nothing to do with whether or not a person is clean, neat, or hygienic. There should be nothing more embarrassing about bed bugs than about being bitten by mosquitoes.
So... there we are. Mosquitoes are a fact of life. Along with other bugs. And don't tell me about chemical treatment and hiring a professional. There isn't one that will drive the 180 miles... besides, many bedbugs have a resistance to the chemicals now... and I'm pretty sure I don't. But frequent douses of rubbing alcohol and high heat are effective.

I think of St. Francis hugging folks no one else would hug... and put the rest in God's hands.

At prayer this morning (beginning at Luke 8:16)
Jesus said, “No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”
--nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed...  Sounds like they knew about bed bugs too. And to those who have, more will be given....

--heheheheheh....

Actually, that's quite a radical economic statement, isn't it... the rich will get richer, and the poor --even what they seem to have will be taken away....

That's truth. Yeppa. As true today as ever, if not more so. Ding bust it.

Off I go.

Willingly. Joyfully.

And going in to inipi (sweat lodge prayer) this afternoon, after the burial. Thanks be to God.