Wednesday, April 1, 2015

in to the thick of it

That I took a day off during Holy Week is a miracle in itself.... But, it had been a while, more than ten days, so... I knew I must do so.

And, now, I will begin the final organization of bulletins, objects, schedule that is always Easter. Usually, this task is monumental and exhausting. Ask me again on Monday, but somehow, this year... there is so much that is so 'very much' and seemingly impossible, that the glory of Easter in so many places and with so many services seems like --well-- do-able.

But, only if I start now. Now.

So, if I don't have the time to stop and reflect and write, please know that I am praying as I run from one thing to another, and that the joy and confidence and holy hope is busting out from within me.

At prayer this morning (Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17)

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed Lost are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the LORD.
They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed are those who trust in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it?
I the LORD test the mind
and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings.

Heal me, O LORD,
and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved;
for you are my praise.
See how they say to me,
“Where is the word of the LORD?
Let it come!”
But I have not run away from being a shepherd in your service,
nor have I desired the fatal day.
You know what came from my lips;
it was before your face.
Do not become a terror to me;
you are my refuge in the day of disaster.

Off I go. Not running away, but in to the thick of it. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

this Holy Week

In Rapid. At the cottage. The lilacs are in bloom -- well, they've leafed out. And I was mourning the loss of the tiger lilies along the east side of the house, when all of a sudden I discover dozens of them pushing up (against all odds ) through some compacted gravel and other construction trash by the garage....

So unexpected. So wondrous.

I will hold these images, the smell of the awakened earth, the feel of the lilac leaf against my face as I raked the rotten leaves of last year out from around the overgrown roots. This. This. This.

This Holy Week.

I gather the rocks strewn about. Flat sandstone kind of rocks liberated from a hill close by, by a gardener who worked here before me. All their work of wild flowers and directing surface run-off to a pond and and other naturalistic features were trashed by the testosterone filled zombie in an earth moving machine who leveled the yard during construction. These rocks might be trash to any one else. I give them new use. I make a patio in the back. I make the square cement slab in to a circle. Of sorts. Not really. I will grow creeping oregano or something like that, between the stones.

One of the rocks I moved must have weighed a hundred pounds or more. I spent much of the afternoon shoving it across the yard. Hoping. And I would stop and rest and look around. Taking the flat stretch of mud and clay and transforming it in my mind's eye.

I see it. In my mind's eye. Where I will put the pond. A sort of pond. A basin really, to catch the runoff from the hill behind us. So that it doesn't flood the house or the yard. And there, the curly willow tree. And there, the silly narrow path in a "Z" up the hill to the level place behind the tree. From there, you can see the whole neighborhood. A little level place for two chairs. It will be as good as a tree fort. A grown up tree fort.

Joel and I built a tree fort --about forty years ago. In the hills of Sonoma at The Bishop's Ranch. Overlooking the vineyards and oaks of northern California. But, then, we could climb a tree, twenty feet up, building a platform that rested on the branches of the ancient and holy oak. We put no nails in to its flesh. We just rested the beams of the platform in its elbows. Even the ladder up to the platform was a series of resting spots in its own branches.

We were so much in love. Between the two us, neither of us had the courage to drive a nail. It was just that way. He the monk. Me the wildflower. Thinking if he didn't leave the monastery, perhaps I should go join a nunnery.

Look at us now. Still so much in love. Still chaste, poor and obedient. Still wild-ish. As wild as one can be looking 60 down the throat. And him at 70. It will be a path, a silly path, that is not too steep, that will take us to an earthen perch by a crook in a tree. And we will sit there, looking out, then glance at each other out of the corner of our eye. Knowing fully the thoughts of the other. Still shy about that.

And we will laugh. And then cry because we are laughing. And cry because we can't climb trees any more. And then laugh because I will have built us this perch. High up. On the hill. Behind a little house that has cost us everything.

I see it. In my mind's eye. With lilacs that I must work around. Salvaging lilies and rocks. As though lilies and rocks need salvaging.

I think it is Spring.

I know it is Holy Week.

When our sin is before us. Killing life and driving nails in to a holy tree.

Hoping. That the landscape of our lives will be transformed by moving a rock too great for us.

Hoping.

At prayer this morning (ending with Philippians 3:21)

...their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

Oh Paul. I am not so Greek that I think heaven is someplace else. His Body is here. Always erupting unexpectedly from the earth. Heaven is here. Alongside us. Among us. His Body is formed out of seed and sun and water and earth, crushed and thrown in to the fire to make bread. His Blood quickens in the vine, made of fruit. Made of this earth. Heaven is here.

Let us make it so. It is so.

(From John 12 --the gospel reading for the day)

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.

Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

the way through death

After the funeral, I went further off the gravel road a mile or so, going back to the river banks east of Thunder Butte. Two years ago, the red willow grew thick along the banks. Last year, the spring floods carved away the banks and much of the red willow with them. I went to see how much they had recovered.

Red willow is harvested in very early spring, before the Thunder Beings call out the buds on the stems and quicken the blood of all living things. The inner layer of bark (cambium) is stripped away from the stalk and outer layer, dried and cut in to small pieces to be smoked in The Pipe. Cansasa. (Chanshasha)

I drove over the spillway that provides a crossing, turned the car around on the next wide place in the road, and parked. Cautiously. The earth is very sandy--almost like volcanic ash. It would be way too easy to get stuck. And I know I wouldn't get help without walking more than ten miles or more. And, even then, would have to wait for them to come home. At first glance, the red willow had recovered but was not at all as thick as I had imagined it would be. I would take only a few stems, I thought to myself. I wanted to harvest at least some--it was for a gift.

I pulled the small emergency pocket knife out of the place it is stored in the dashboard. It would be difficult to cut cheese with this two-inch blade. I laughed at myself. But stepped in to the sand to cut a few stems.

I said my prayers before I began. I thanked the Creator for all life. I thanked the Creator for the gift of red willow and said why I was there, and that I meant to be doing it in a good way. I apologized to the willow, and thanked it for its many gifts and asked it to carry in a good way the prayers that would be said. I prayed for holiness. Turned to honor all my relatives, as I have been taught to do. And then let the Spirit draw my blade....

I took a step towards the shrub. And stopped. I realized that I had stepped on a red willow stick, already cut and laying abandoned in the dirt. I looked around. And gasped. The paucity of red willow along these banks was not because it hadn't yet recovered from the floods... someone had been here before me --and done an "industrial" harvest --so quick, so ferocious, so callous they hadn't even bothered to pick up the sticks that slipped their grasp.

My first thought was to pray for those who had done this awful thing. Something sacred. Trashed. And then I wondered if it was okay just to go pick up all that they had left behind --if it was okay to invite that unholy energy in to something I was gathering for prayer.

I stood still. My silly knife in my hand. Grieving. Recovering from the shock. Feeling the air. Grieving. Breathing. --and asked heaven and earth if it would be right to salvage... --is it okay to gather these sticks that had been treated in such an unholy way... and use them in prayer?

I don't know.

And I waited. Images passed before my open eyes --of holy people abandoned, misused, slaughtered... and the sticks became like the People, faces, lives... strewn about, viciously cut off, uprooted in their own native soil.

An unconfident affirmation began, first in my knees as I bent over to pick them up... I could not even push them back in the earth, hoping and praying the lowest buds would morph and take root... the cut was not clean enough --the bark was stretched and ragged and torn and cracked.

The unconfident affirmation pulsed through my fingers as I grasped each stick and looked at it --is it okay? --and then, like each stick had a soul, are you willing? Is it alright? May I?

The unconfident affirmation fixed in my elbow as I kept stooping and grasping, until the bundle of sticks poked my face and shoulder and arm. Choosing the abandoned leftovers. Picking up after unholiness. The bundle of broken, misused sticks. The Body.

It is not our actions or prayers that make something holy. Those creatures and things made by our Creator are already holy. Our prayer only focuses our limited sight, helping us recognize the holiness all around.

I cradled the sticks in my hand, the sticks whose body has been broken. Whose broken body will be transformed, will enter and fill us... --the sticks that will die and carry our prayer. Their holiness is not lost. It seems this is always what we do.... Always.

It is our own souls that get lost.

At prayer this morning (John 11:28-44)

When Martha had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.

Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep.

So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.

Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus the un-binder. Jesus the Redeemer. Also bound. Also put in to the earth behind a great stone.

But, he didn't just come "back to life." He went right through death, mortifying it... out the other side. Torn, trashed, ripped, pierced. Holy.

Nothing is lost.

Holiness and goodness belong to God alone.

And we share in it. Picking up the broken bits and pieces, the torn and shredded life....

--until, we, too, are planted like seeds... dying...

And the Lord of Life will come humbly... right through our misconceptions and pretenses of holiness... not calling us "back to life" but showing us the way through death.

Thanks be to God.
Amen.

Friday, March 27, 2015

hearing our many voices

Episcopal News Service posted the following:
Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society reports $2.4 million annual surplus: A presentation by Barnes on the meeting’s first day showed a preliminary net result (income less expenses) of $2.4 million in the churchwide budget for fiscal year 2014, the middle year of the 2013-2015 triennial budget.

The surplus, which appears in budget lines overseen by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society management, represents “a better result than budgeted” for 2014, according to Barnes. “The strong financial position of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society comes through taking advantage of opportunities for revenue generation, as well substantial savings in operating expenses,” he said.

(For those who don't speak our Churchy language, The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the fancy name for the Episcopal Church in the US and its overseas affiliates --affiliates being the wrong term entirely, but the only un-churchy term I could think of.)

A surplus.... Hmmmm..... The article continues on how that surplus was achieved. But other sources have told me that this surplus is offset by a $3 million (give or take) draw-down on the endowment funds of the Church.

Geeeeeeeee..... So... it's not really a surplus at all?!!!

--sigh--

So.... is the headline or article content to be trusted at all? Or is it hype? Spin? A rah-rah rally? What?

My initial reaction was one of despair, because of all of the above --and, knowing that our funding from the up-coming budget has been proposed to be frozen at the level that was allocated three years ago --with an eye to elimination, eventually. I despair...

Why am I feeling and reacting thus? With frustration. Despair. Irony. And, yes, anger. Am I falling in to the pastoral danger zone of not differentiating?

And, I have continued to wrestle with my reaction. Punching in to it.... I have publicly asked:
--why is our line item for SD frozen at the level it was three years ago?
--why is the church even thinking of defunding this work?
--I know, not necessarily in the very near future, but surely way too soon to do any of the work that needs to be done here.
--why are we already so DRASTICALLY underfunded?

And, I have heard many responses.... And, in pondering those responses and wrestling with them, I have come to the following conclusion: Any, any answer to those questions, in all honesty, that focuses on the "bottom line" --the almighty dollar, instead of plainly saying "Sin" --is merely 'spin.'

Yes. Sin.

Sin I can deal with. Sort of. It's painful. But liberating. Nobody much likes it.

It's revelatory, too. Which can make it frightening.... and awash with grace.

But to begin to deal with it, let us say it plainly and out loud. S.I.N. Let us, as an institution, name it, confess and repent of it. Let us commit to reconciliation.

What might that look like?

--let's not move too quickly down that path or reconciliation.... Let us give the People who have suffered the effects and affects of this sin name the same and chart the path of reconciliation.

I return to the idea of Han....
Han or Haan is a concept in Korean culture attributed as a unique Korean cultural trait which has resulted from Korea's more frequent exposure to invasions by overwhelming foreign powers. Han denotes a collective feeling of oppression and isolation in the face of insurmountable odds (the overcoming of which is beyond the nation's capabilities on its own). It connotes aspects of lament and unavenged injustice.

The minjung theologian Suh Nam-dong describes han as a "feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one's guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong—all these combined."
Yeppa.

I see the same here. The oppression--economic and cultural. Isolation. Insurmountable odds. Lament. Unavenged injustice. Helplessness. Acute pain. An obstinate urge to take revenge. The overcoming of which is beyond the People's overstretched or scarce resources.

Sin.
And the results of sin.

When we confess sin, liturgically, on Sunday --forgiveness is a given. It's right there in print. Even in personal confession, absolution is a given. Forgiven-ness is foundational to our Faith as Christians. It is promised in Baptism.

What is not spoken of in the Church is making amends. Addressing the results and consequences of sin --the han --individual and systemic. And, in that, the one/s bearing the consequences of the sin need to chart the path to justice. For the sake of all.

And making amends is NOT penance. Penance is most often a dualistic process between sinner and God. Perhaps living in to a Trinitarian spiritual life, it is time, with sin, to make it a 3-way street.

Or something like that. The unknown curve.

So.... still struggling.

Knowing anew and with greater conviction that the People have so many gifts to give --not only the world, but the Church....

At prayer (Psalm 22)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? *
and are so far from my cry
and from the words of my distress?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; *
by night as well, but I find no rest.

Yet you are the Holy One, *
enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
Our ancestors put their trust in you; *
they trusted, and you delivered them.
They cried out to you and were delivered; *
they trusted in you and were not put to shame.

But as for me, I am a worm and not a man, *
scorned by all and despised by the people.
All who see me laugh me to scorn; *
they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
“He trusted in the LORD; let him deliver him; *
let him rescue him, if he delights in him.”

Yet you are the one who took me out of the womb, *
and kept me safe upon my mother’s breast.
I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; *
you were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.

Be not far from me, for trouble is near, *
and there is none to help.
Many young bulls encircle me; *
strong bulls of Bashan surround me.
They open wide their jaws at me, *
like a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water;
all my bones are out of joint; *
my heart within my breast is melting wax.
My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; *
and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.
Packs of dogs close me in,
and gangs of evildoers circle around me; *
they pierce my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me; *
they divide my garments among them;
they cast lots for my clothing.

Be not far away, O LORD; *
you are my strength; hasten to help me.
Save me from the sword, *
my life from the power of the dog.
Save me from the lion’s mouth, *
my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.
I will declare your Name to the community; *
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

Praise the LORD, you that are God-fearing; *
stand in awe of the LORD, O offspring of Israel;
all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

For the LORD does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither is the LORD’s face hidden from them; *
but when they cry out, the LORD hears them.

My praise is of God in the great assembly; *
I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship the LORD.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the LORD shall give praise: *
“May your heart live for ever!”

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to God, *
and all the families of the nations bow before the LORD.
For sovereignty belongs to the LORD, *
who rules over the nations.
To the LORD alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; *
all who go down to the dust fall before the LORD.

My soul shall live for God;
my descendants shall serve the LORD; *
they shall be known as the LORD’s for ever.

They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *
the saving deeds that God has done.

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.

Ooooo---- that's good enough to dance to.... where's my drum... !

Off I go.
Struggling with it all.
(Heh, there's a bible story about that... right?!)

A blessed struggle.
Thanks be to God.

(I remember being told once, a very long time ago, that one of the charisms of the Episcopal Church is that we fight out-loud... I am hoping and praying we never lose that. I am hoping and praying that the generous move towards less rancorous interactions, less legalistic meetings, is not also a move to lose the gift of hearing our many voices.... especially those that come from those places bearing the results of sin....)
Amen.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

what are the issues, the real deep issues?

Dispassionate... .

I think that is a strange word, thought, feeling, concept for a Christian.

Except... sometimes I think it is a temporary and necessary stance in order to see/act with a little more clarity. For oh so many reasons I am reading up on bullying and triangulation. Hardly a prayer topic, one might think... but it is a thick rope in my current prayer life. And, yes, bullying and triangulation are intimately related.

The slick presentations on-line with regard to bullying rarely get beyond the recognition and naming of the cycles. Most end with the discussion of not taking on the system and leaving the work/school/wherever for health reasons.

Most state that more than half of all folks have suffered bullying in the workplace.

Let me be clear --I am reading and thinking and praying about this stuff for the well-being of others. I am not suffering bullying from my "boss"; but bullying is a HUGE problem here on the Reservation. And, yes, it is named and recognized, but the organizational process of confronting the bullying is not well established.

I have found helpful the descriptions of response/process patterns to bullying, found here. It describes "triangulation" and responses to such (--because triangulation is indeed a type of bullying). Naming things helps direct to dispassionate clarity. Yes?

So. They are, in short:

Absorption: The absorption triangle is one in which the middleman, “the absorber,” keeps all the information and/or emotional content to himself. This person has tendencies or desires to be the strong silent type and sees his role of absorption as vital to keeping the company running.

Deflection: The second type of triangle is “the deflection” in which the focal person deflects the issues to others thereby avoiding the problem. The focal person protects both other parties by deflecting the emotional content of the other two to others. A typical deflecting behavior is for the focal person to tell one party to complain to someone else or to vent his frustration elsewhere. The deflection becomes, in essence, a switchboard operator who connects the two other parties to the wrong connection avoiding a short-term conflict.

Filter: The third type is the “filter triangle” in which the focal person selectively filters information to protect or attack one of the other triangle members. Managers in the middle often protect a subordinate by filtering orders, so a task for which the superior is responsible is not done. The focal person uses filtering as a means to gain power for himself. The filter is usually selective and the triangle only operates when the focal person is sure it will work to his advantage.

Interpretation: In the “interpretation” triangle, the focal person interprets information for the others. He is a translator who slowly becomes indispensable to the other two parties. A typical interpretation triangle occurs between two departments that are very dissimilar with specialists in each who have their own distinct jargon and thinking patterns. The specialists become dependent upon the focal person and lose their ability to communicate with anyone else. They then lose much of their usefulness to the company because they can only communicate to a translator or, at best, to a selected few, and, as with all translation, something is lost in the process.

Blocking: Here the focal person becomes an impermeable boundary between the other two parties. Only a trickle of information gets through the focal person who effectively prevents any real exchange of information. The blocker usually does not pass on information because he sees no need for the information to be passed on. Frequently, he feels he needs to do whatever the information requires, forcing him to work longer and harder. The other two parties do not understand why he is working so hard because they are uninformed. Instead, they usually think he works longer and harder than everyone else because he chooses to or because he is avoiding a personal problem.

Ignoring: In this last type of triangle, the focal person is ignored. The two other parties ignore the focal person speaking directly to each other. The problem in this case is the focal person needs to be in the middle. This triangle is exemplified by skipping the chain of command where a worker or manager will skip his immediate superior and speak to the manager at the next higher level. This type also works in reverse where a manager will skip a subordinate to speak to an employee.

The Temple authorities and Pharisees, Pilate, Jesus --the ultimate biblical "Triangulation" if you will. Perfect meditation for Holy Week, heh?

But where my reading, contemplation and the practiced "dispassionate" discipline of meditation keeps leading me --is to the disruption of the system itself. But. Whistle blowers. Rarely fare well.

And, disruption is not something that is done according to the systemic "rules" that every one "plays" by. Disruption, like the Gospel, interrupts. Dislodges. Refocuses. Turns around or turns over.

Sell everything. Follow me.
Get up. Follow me.
Stop it. Follow me.

Jesus. The systemic whistle blower.
Jesus. The disrupter.
Jesus. Says "repent" (turn around).
Jesus. Turns the tables.

I know that I, myself, most often follow the pattern of the "Absorber" when it comes to patterns of bullying and triangulation. It can also be called co-dependent.

And, I think of the church... it's systems of bullying and triangulation. 815. Bishops. Clergy. Laity. Dioceses. Councils and committees. And... I think of those who are striving to set before all of us a systemic restructuring.

(Some of it is already being played out in the proposed budget....)

And I am not at all sure we, as a church system, have named and identified those things that truly need addressing and restructuring.

The above article continues, saying,

Triangles hide organizationally based problems from managers. Triangles are the organizational equivalent of military camouflage. Camouflage makes one object look like a different object hiding the real object from view. Triangulation behavior looks as if it is all individually based behavior while in reality it is organizationally induced behavior.

Triangles are contagious. They spread by example and by word of mouth. Managers and employees alike spread triangles. The existence of one or two triangles leads employees and managers to focus only on individual problems, to assume organizational problems are nonexistent, inconsolable, irritating facts of life, or even desirable. Once any of these assumptions are accepted, organizationally based problems spread, and in their wake come triangles quickly covering the problem while announcing its presence.

Triangles are very experiential and therefore difficult to identify, accept, and dispel. Most managers can understand triangles when they are identified but would never know they existed otherwise. Managers who become aware of triangles and begin to defuse them need to expect a great deal of initial disbelief.

All in all. I am excited and hopeful our church has begun to address systemic issues. And it will be an imperfect process, because we cannot "see" it all. Obviously.

Perhaps the "whistle blowers" are those who have withdrawn $$$ or have chosen to no longer participate. I don't know. Whistle blowers are also those who continue to speak out --on our responsibilities to the poor, the oppressed, the earth...

Joel and I were talking this morning.... One of the greatest sins we can participate in is telling the folks here that they are poverty-stricken --that they are poor. Because it is only by the measure that the wealthy give us that any one can be called poor.

And, yet, in talking church budget, I have done such a thing....

What, in God's name, are the real issues at hand?

At prayer this morning (John 10:19-42)

Again the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?” Others were saying, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”

The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”

Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled—can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

Works? Law? Words? Authority? Grace?

What are the issues, the real deep issues?
Can we name them?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

no, I won't sit with it

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 85)

Show us your mercy, O LORD, *
and grant us your salvation.
I will listen, O LORD God, to what you are saying, *
for you are speaking peace to your faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to you.
Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you, *
that your glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
O LORD, you will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness shall go before you, *
and peace shall be a pathway for your feet.

Mercy and truth have met....
righteousness and peace have kissed....
truth shall spring up from the earth....

Love that.
I think I will sit with that today.
Let it seep in to my bones.
No, I won't sit with it.
I shall drink it.
Cool and clear.
Taste it with the tip of my tongue.





and, oh yeah, Mina... sing it, Mina. With guts.





Please keep the B family in your prayers. Wake tonight. Funeral tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

in your heart. all around. pressing in to the wounds.

It's never a good day to bury a baby.

Today, particularly so. The warmer weather has warmed the roads. And last night rain spit down on the dry earth. The long gravel road to Thunder Butte will be difficult. The road in to the cemetery problematic. At best.

And, it's not just getting there and back that makes it all so difficult. It's the smashed hope. Again. The dream taken away. Again. The longing. The love.

It hurts to love. And, yet... that's all there is. The rest is craven. And deadly. It's so easy to fall in to something twisted, and call it love.

And we have such little minds and hearts. Such broken hearts. Broken minds.

And burying a baby brings it all in to such clarity. I think I shall read the Gospel of John, the part about Doubting Thomas after the Resurrection. How easy it is to want to touch and grasp, and all that, to believe in love. To possess love.

It's always the wounds we press in to. Only the wounds.

We can't possess love. We can't hold on to love. It's the other way around --love possesses us. Love holds us. Like a fish in water. We can't see it. We must breathe it.

It holds us in being. Love.

What I can see is that the clouds are still low. Close to the ground. The hills here do not interrupt the sky or the vastness of the prairie. (It is the un-seen river valleys that do that. But one must happen unexpectedly upon those.) These are winter clouds at best. Clouds that bring even the blue sky too close. And that, too, is love.

Like bread is love. And the fruit of the earth. Love.

And love brings on this awful grief. From the pit of the stomach. That terrible pain in the gut. Because that feeling, that awful feeling is not the absence of love. It is love itself that hurts.

Perhaps because Holy Week is right before us, I know in a new way that when love itself hurts, we share in the Great Passion.

But none of this "preaches" at the burial of an infant. Neither love nor hope "preach" at this awful time. There is no more to do but stand with those who weep, touching the wounds with them. Sharing it. The Great Com-Passion. To say that the whole company of heaven and earth stands with them. Without getting all schmaltzy about it.

Because in the depth of this kind of grief, insincerity --schmaltziness of any kind-- is the cruelest blow of all. Fakitude. Is living hell. Part of the Great Lie. Here, said the snake. This is sweet. Eat it. And we were off and running in Fakitude. False goals. False hope.

And there is already more than enough of that to go around.

More than enough.

Today, I hope to remember.

Perhaps, I shall also go to that place along the River up there, where the cansasa (the holy tobacco used in ceremony) grows. I will look up at the sky, look down at the earth. Turn to greet all that is around me. Say some prayers and harvest some of these winter twigs. For the Pipe of my friend. A gift. To remind myself of the Circle of all things --that things come out of the mud, and with and through prayer burn hot, and leave us as smoke in the air. Earth. Water. Fire. Air. And we share in it.

Like bread. It's holy like that. Complete. And we share in it.

And remember that love is like that. Complete. Nothing added or subtracted. And we share in it.

Back to the clouds. Searching the heavens for that sign that they will lift. And announce summer.

Soon, and soon enough.

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.

(Psalm 123)

To you I lift up my eyes, *
to you enthroned in the heavens.
As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, *
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to you, O LORD our God, *
until you show us your mercy.
Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy, *
for we have had more than enough of contempt,
Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, *
and of the derision of the proud.

(and from Romans 10)

For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?
“The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)....

The word is near you... on your lips. In your heart. All around. We need not search for it.

And that word is Love.

Pressing in to the wounds.

Monday, March 23, 2015

don't be like those who guard the tomb

The geese looked like strange up-wellings of fresh unfrozen dirt in the shorn field beyond the cow pasture. I noticed them, hundreds of them, at the same time I noticed it wasn't raining --it was sleeting and snowing, collecting in the grooves and ruts alongside the road and under the windshield wipers. Out the passenger-side window, the view was of the ice from the river collected alongside the shore. Mostly, the ice has disappeared, suddenly. In the same way the blades of green grass appeared. And the first shoots from the flowering bulbs. Suddenly. Quietly, this year.

There had been trouble. It had gotten mean. Back-biting, back-stabbing, destructive mean. It was all hush-hush. Without public discussion, some were going to try to sabotage a meeting or something or someone, hit people over the head with it, in a way so that no retort or reply could be made. Just someone crushed. But tendrils had reached my ears... and, everyone was going to get hurt... Everyone. So, I had to act. It made me soul-weary. It made me weep. It made me angry.

As I navigated the gravel road, I kept going over the situation, rehearsing what I wish I could say and do --which would not be at all helpful. I kept seeing the whip and turned over tables as an appealing scenario.... but I knew that would not be at all helpful, either.

There is a story told often here, about a pot full of crabs with a fire underneath it. And when one crab makes a run for it or finds a way out, all the other crabs grab it and pull it back in to the boiling water. That's what life is like here, they say. That's what we are like.

I've heard this story told about Reservation life since before I arrived here. I've heard this story a million times, like it's a mantra....

It's no different any where else, I always want to say. It's the human condition. Red. White. Yellow Brown. It's no different. But saying that is not helpful. Pointing out that it looks like some stories in the Bible is not helpful either. That would seem only to give it some strange credibility... some justification....

I had to slow down as the road turned from gravel to asphalt --the asphalt would be slick. I noticed that the calves which had been born and discovered early this morning were already tagged through the ear. One still had its umbilical cord dangling from its belly. Out of a warm womb in to a storm. Pierced through the ear. Not born free... but cultivated.

It hurt... to see that....

The strangeness of life. The darkness of life. The hard edge of the cold stone that is rolled over the carved hole in the rock. The bleakness and severity of the bindings with which we tie each other up --with which we tie up all life, bind it with fences, sheer it with machines... so that the wildness, like the geese and the ice and storm are the things that seem out of place... a hindrance....

Or, we can perish by getting caught by our own wrong move in storm like this... in a moment of distraction....

I turn on the radio. It's Lake Wobegone. The Wailin' Jennys performing this....






"Storm Comin’"
When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
Don’t run from the comin’ storm cause there ain’t no use in runnin’

When that rain falls
Let it wash away
When that rain falls
Let it wash away
When that rain falls
Let it wash away
Let it wash away, that falling rain, the tears and the trouble

When those lights flash
Then you’ll hear that thunder roar
When those lights flash
You’ll hear that thunder roar
When those lights flash
You’ll hear that thunder roar
Will you listen to that thunder roar and let your spirit soar

When that love calls
Will you open up your door
When that love calls
Will you open up your door
When that love calls
Will you open up your door
You gotta stand on up and let it in, you gotta let love through your door

When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
Don’t run from the comin’ storm
Cause you cant keep a storm from comin’

You gotta let love through your door. Yes. I feel my eyes lift from the dangers of the road, seeking the horizon. The weight is lifted, even if momentarily. My own unhelpful mantra, my own rehearsal of all that I want to do and say is lifted off my shoulders, off my lips, out of my mind --I can see it for what it is... and remember-- It is love and only love which moves the hard edge of stone away from the cave of death which is my heart. I remind myself... don't be like those who guard the tomb and fall asleep. Don't be like those who guard the tomb and run away --terrified, disgusted...
When that love calls
Will you open up your door
You gotta stand on up and let it in, you gotta let love through your door
When that storm comes
Don't run for cover....

Strange how it is a song from the radio recorded so long ago... Strange.... God, you are so funny.

At prayer this morning (Romans 9:19-33)

You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they shall be called children of the living God.” And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.” And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us, we would have fared like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah.”

What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Stumbling, falling over that rock. In spring time.

Thanking God for Geese. And storms. And penned calves. And the radio. And the People.
Amen.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We drove in the dark, and now it's morning... still singing




--and this seems to be my Lenten theme:








--and, because it's March....




At prayer this morning (Isaiah 63:7-16)

I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD,
the praiseworthy acts of the LORD,
because of all that the LORD has done for us,
and the great favor to the house of Israel
that he has shown them according to his mercy,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely”;
and he became their savior
in all their distress.
It was no messenger or angel
but his presence that saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

But they rebelled
and grieved his holy spirit;
therefore he became their enemy;
he himself fought against them.
Then they remembered the days of old,
of Moses his servant.
Where is the one who brought them up out of the sea
with the shepherds of his flock?
Where is the one who put within them
his holy spirit,
who caused his glorious arm
to march at the right hand of Moses,
who divided the waters before them
to make for himself an everlasting name,
who led them through the depths?
Like a horse in the desert,
they did not stumble.
Like cattle that go down into the valley,
the spirit of the LORD gave them rest.
Thus you led your people,
to make for yourself a glorious name.
Look down from heaven and see,
from your glorious and holy habitation.
Where are your zeal and your might?
The yearning of your heart and your compassion?
They are withheld from me.
For you are our father,
though Abraham does not know us
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O LORD, are our father;
our Redeemer from of old is your name.

Hey --Daily Office --thank you! Thank you for the gift for the People of the Cheyenne River. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

listen to the nudge, the discomfort... and walk together

Just finished reading some blog posts from the House of Bishops meeting that concluded recently. Those posts can be found here. I found comments from one on "inclusive" language to be of particular interest... mostly, because as I struggle with wrapping my mind around Lakota and realize that there is no such thing as wrapping my mind around Lakota, I think of all translations of spiritual and especially liturgical language, and know that they are exceedingly problematic.

This is the quote that caught me:
The Eucharist was at 10am, with John Tarrant, the Bishop of South Dakota, presiding. Once again, the Theodicy Jazz Collective led the music with great energy, skill, and sensitivity--they are really good--though I still remain unpersuaded that jazz as a genre plays well with eucharistic liturgy.

Now, I don't want to sound whiny, but I can't not mention the level to which I was upset by the liturgy itself--ostensibly Rite II from the Prayer Book, but with the text generously emended to exclude masculine pronouns for God, which is the ideological hobgoblin of today's liturgical elite. I can usually take this somewhat in stride on such occasions--ideologues gonna be ideologues--but I had my own little meltdown when we sang Thomas Ken's Psalm paraphrase, the concluding verse of which is the ubiquitous 'Doxology,' and the text of that verse was altered to exclude "him" in the first three lines, and render the Holy Trinity as "Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit" in the last one. I can tolerate a little ideology, but heresy is a tougher pill to swallow, and any evocation of the Trinity that eschews "Father" and "Son" is most likely just that--heresy. I will probably absent myself from the Eucharist tomorrow and Tuesday. It's just not a spiritually safe place for me.
Hmmmmm....

I remember being a young woman and receiving Communion from the hands of a woman for the very first time --and I remember the distinct question that ran through me convulsively --is this real? Because it felt as though it were not. And, no, it was not realness of receiving from a woman that I was questioning. I was wondering if the woman invalidated the whole kit and caboodle.

Yeah. I felt that.

And I had to hold that question and that feeling and that discomfort against my own psychic reaction upon hearing about the ordination of women --validation-- I am a real person, even as a woman --at last, thank God almighty, at last... and it was like being struck by lightening. Electrifying. Wholeness.

So, there I was. Finally receiving Communion from a woman. Full of discomfort. And unreality. And great trepidation. Although it might not be the same --I can't help but feel sympathy, compassion, a great understanding for what this Bishop is feeling. I, too, have felt a sense of danger, a disconnect, a wrongness during the Eucharist....

--and it leaves a hollow, bitter feeling....

I have come to understand that discomfort, that 'on-edge' or even 'off-the-edge' feeling as a nudge of the Holy Spirit. Something I need to engage, sit with, ponder, experience and re-experience. But never, that I can recall, have I purposefully walked away from such discomfort... .

Frankly... I cannot understand a Bishop who would absent themselves from Communion... for oh so many reasons. I don't get it. Especially over words.... Words which change and lose meaning. Which impact. Words. Because language is subjective. Even if it forms our horizons and the way which we experience the world. And I know and experience this anew and daily because of my struggle with Lakota.

(Imagine what has been lost, and what is being lost when a language disappears. A whole other perspective and imagining of creation, of God, of everything --lost. (And here, it was beat out of children... 'for God's sake.'))

I believe this Bishop offers his own solution to the conundrum of language about the Trinity by saying (with regard to marriage)...
Now, with this task force, we are beginning to deal with it theologically. This is not in itself a bad thing, but it's risky, because it will present us with the temptation to be too clear, too precise. As Anglicans, precision in doctrinal formulations has never been our thing. And that lack of precision is precisely what has very often enabled us to stay together through some very serious disagreements. I am able to be in and serve in this church because of that lack of clarity. Even though many of you do things I think are a little crazy, I can always point to the Prayer Book and say, "This is what my church teaches." But if we opt for excessive clarity at this point in our history, people like me might not have a place left in which to stand. Do not those who want to move the ball down the field in terms of sexuality and marriage already have the tools with which to do that? Might we not perhaps be better served, at this moment, by simply doing nothing? By letting the issue work itself out organically rather than legislatively? Who knows? We may be able to "muddle through" once again. But if we opt for excessive clarity, we are cutting ourselves off from that opportunity.

(Emphasis in bold is mine.) I agree in form. As Anglicans, I truly believe one of our charisms is to sit with muddle-ness. Not indecision, but allowing for imprecision, especially when it comes to grappling with The Great Mysteries. And the Trinity is one of The Great Mysteries. So... isn't being hard-line about the language chosen to experience and express the Trinity wandering over into the "excessive clarity" column?

I have said before:
The theological defeat of the doctrine of the Trinity by the pre-occupation with the structure of God's inner life meant also its political defeat. A unitarian, patriarchal, monarchical, hierarchical theism gradually replaced a Trinitarian monotheism, with disastrous political results. Christian theologians justified every kind of hierarchy, exclusion and pattern of domination, whether religious, sexual, political, clerical, racial, as "natural' and divinely intended.
(Catherine LaCugna, God For Us: the Trinity and Christian Life, Harper, SF p17 Joel's copy is old enough to be acid-browned....)

--and I couldn't get the quote out of my mind... because in my radical little self, I think the Church and Mr. Jensen have a lot in common.

But, there I go again.

--a Trinitarian monotheism... when the Church went pedaling uniformity, papa knows best, a crown and a hierarchy based in power and ultimately control rather than the common good, it also had begun down the road of a dogmatic definition of God.

--a Trinitarian monotheism... is not three gods with an underlying unity. We got kicked out of Judaism for Trinitarian monotheism, among other things. And rejected by the Muslims at tri-theistic.

All my adult life --perhaps because I have known Joel --God has had less to do with theism than personhood. The cosmos is a 'who', not a 'what,' sighs Joel every chance he gets. And Trinitarianism has to do with three persons, not three distinct revelations of God.

And when we talk about 'person' we tread in to deep grass --so deep, we cannot see over it. Because to define 'person' is what --according to law? --according to self-will? --according to relationships? --being human? --according to what? Because it was not too long ago this Nation did not recognize the personhood of slaves or women or children... . And the Church didn't fare much better in that regard.

So... . Trinitarianism... is not easy, but it is Christian. And, it would seem from the quote, it is to be expected that Trinitarian monotheism would help inoculate against fundamentalism --would help inoculate against sexual, political, clerical, racial and every other type of rigid dogmatism that leads away from the Great Mystery. Perhaps it does --but it doesn't inoculate us against being human, and being sinful.

The Great Mystery. We need new language about God. Because even the best thoughts about Trinitarian monotheism are hide-bound in decrepit institutions and cob-webbed in cultures.

The Great Mystery --no matter what we think or say, about any of it, it will be enfleshed in the human condition.

But, the very least we can do is strive to not become dogmatic.

--and, when the hair of the coyote got in the way, I said:
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.

What I do know... is that it has been, at times, very difficult to sit through language that bars and denigrates my humanity --and at times that has been through the insistence of the use of gender-biased language.

And, yet, in this very place I now serve, gender-based and gender-biased language is the norm... but that does not mean I have walked away from either my discomfort nor the people I serve. Nor insisted, ever, on Gender neutral words. Because, in the end, it is not about language, it is about love.

On an aside --I think we have become too narrow in our descriptive language of God... the dangers of anthropomorphism as being normative... the pitfalls of language being patriarchal... without our even seeing or knowing such norms and pitfalls.... I like the idea of God as a Pillar of Fire, or a Burning Bush, or a Small Still Voice, or a Rock, or a Pillar of Cloud, or even a Wrestling Angel, or how about Three Angels... I like thinking of God as such.

And with regard to Jesus --yes, his humanity, his maleness... but how about the Vine, the Word (which we use, but it has unfortunately become confused with Holy Scripture), the Living Water, the Bread for the Word...

And if we must be totally word-frenetic, let's be absolutely correct and speak of the Spirit in her biblical gender-based language....

If we avoid thinking of any other words other than Father and Son for the first two Persons of the Trinity for fear of heresy, then we must correct our language about the Spirit... just sayin'....

Or... we can delve in to our discomfort. And sit there. Together. Trusting God. Remembering the Tower of Babel....

And all that.

At prayer this morning (from John 6 ending with verse 40)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

And, here... thinking of the words themselves...

In Greek every noun and pronoun is assigned a specific gender. Even nouns that do not refer to humans may be masculine or feminine. For example, ἄρτος (the Greek word for “bread”) is masculine, even though the object to which it refers is neither male nor female.

Similarly, some words that do refer to humans are assigned neuter gender. For example παιδίον (a Greek word for “child”) is neuter, even though any given child is either male or female. The word κοράσιον (“girl”) is neuter even though it always refers to a female. Gender in Greek is a matter of grammar, not biological sex.

So.... Father.... is beyond biology... beyond culture... maybe even beyond gender... yet meaning a pervasive, formative and intimate relationship, yes even a dependent relationship....

--and the word "Father" is abba --more closely translated as "Daddy".... in the familiar...

--and "Believe" is better as "Trust"....

Ahhhhh..... words.

What shall we do? Become slaves in thought, word and deed to them? Get lost in translation?

Or.... listen to the nudge, the discomfort.... and walk, together. For Love's sake.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

zombie or lover....

'What's that book,' Joel said. 'With the rabbit? It become real.'

I knew he wasn't thinking about Peter Cottontail, so I said, 'The Velveteen Rabbit. I think it becomes real because the child loves all the fur off of it... but then the kid gets sick, and everything the kid touched has to be burned, including the rabbit....'

'Oh,' he said.... 'That's what this book is about.... becoming real and love....' (He's reading --I can just catch the title, Person and Eros, by Christos Yannaras.) He continues, 'So, I guess you can read this, or the Velveteen Rabbit....'

'The difference being,' I said, 'That there is no transliterated Greek to moan about.'

'And no footnotes at the END,' he says. He hates it when footnotes are not at the bottom of the page. I do too.

So, I look up Yannaras on Google.... and it comes up with "Relational Ontology." He says,
What, this does, then, for the understanding of God is that God becomes an object of the mind, rather, than a personal reality. God becomes “the product or result of a cognitive self-sufficiency, guaranteed for the subject by ratio, outside or beyond the experience of reality or life, where everything is the experience of relationship.” Nietzsche realized what Descartes had accomplished: “logical proof for the existence of God refutes God as an objective, real presence."
When I first fell in love with Joel, a long, long, time ago, he told me that he could prove that God does NOT exist. He said:   1. God created all that exists.   2. God did not create God's self.   3. Therefore, God does not exist.

It was just what I needed to become a full-fledged teen (yes, we've known each other more than 40 years... how is that possible?! --I'm not even 29!), and move through that crisis of letting go of the 'magical' God of my childhood, into the my first fling into agnosticism --into the abyss of the free-fall that is adulthood.

I suppose it is almost like the line we heard last night while watching our Korean drama, Healer. The young people are striving to correct a wrong that caused the death of their fathers, and they call the 'bad guys' --the striving, conniving, manipulating crooked adults "zombies." And, the young people are afraid of becoming like them --like the zombies, who have set many traps to confound and ensnare them --to make the young people pawns in their own machinations of control.

Zombies.... Oh my. But, yes. We either become 'real' persons and able to love and respond to love, and become worn out with love... or we become pawns in the machinations of the zombies.

There we are. No matter how we frame it. Agnostic. Atheistic. "True" believer. A lover or a zombie... take your pick.

And, according to the Gospel, when you become a lover, the zombies will try to kill you...

And, frankly, many who would be lovers become zombies and spout condemnation in the name of love.... Just sayin'.

At prayer this morning (Romans 7:13-25)

Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

Paul... fighting the zombie that strives to dwell in his flesh... as we all do, heh?!

And, pondering the Gospel... Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life...."

Yes.... disowning the 'magical God,' --and it takes us a life time to become true lovers... and not lust after the food that does not fill anything but the zombie craving for more...

--or, so it seems, this morning.

Off I go. More a lover than a zombie... I hope and pray.

Monday, March 16, 2015

presumptions.... and data....

Bwaaaahahahaha! This makes me laugh. According to "Truity" --an online "company that offers personality and career tests," South Dakota ranks among the top five States in our Nation in four "Dimensions of Personality."

South Dakota is:
--Engaging with the World (Introversion or Extroversion): Third in "Introversion"
--Getting along with Others: Doesn't rank in the top five in either the "Competitive" or "Cooperative" columns.
--Responding to Stress (Resilient or Neurotic): First in "Neurotic"
--Using your Mind (Concrete or Abstract): Fourth in "Concrete"
--Organizing your Life (Flexible or Focused): First in "Focused"

I suppose "Focused" is the euphemistic way of saying "Inflexible..." heh?! Which is why South Dakotans can be both "Neurotic" and "Focused."And some of it is explained by saying "People in Delaware and South Dakota tend to be incredibly neurotic, likely due to harsh weather."

Really? Our weather is not even half as harsh as those who suffer from Lake effect snows... not half as cold and bitter as up-state New York, or even Maine... how about Alaska? And I've lived in Delaware... harsh weather??? Hardly.

I suppose "Introversion" is a result or a necessity --perhaps even a survival skill in a place that has fewer than 10 people in every square mile (about 800,000 for the entire State --remember, my "parish" is the size of the State of Connecticut....).

--and I truly wonder at the presumed "personality traits" and measuring such when dealing with other cultures... because the population of South Dakota is more than 10% Native American....

--and, how does one measure "Stress" in an area with 80% unemployment? And constant factors of unresolved grief? And racism? And constant present and historic trauma....?

Geeeeeee....

Well... I know that articles such as the one featuring Truity are really just clever advertising campaigns, but it also means that some one, some where, has gathered data, and against a backdrop of presumptions has deciphered the data and given it presumed meaning.

--sigh--

All too often, popular culture goes for scientific fact.... And it's as damaging as the campaign against understanding global warming....

Who know? I say and mentally shrug my shoulders.... Maybe we'll have beach front property again here....

I know. That's not funny.

But, yesterday it was 80 degrees. The ground is so dry, it's begging me to spit. I sat out in a t-shirt. The night was warm too --which meant police activity every where.... unmarked FBI and police cars driving through the footpath behind our house with their search lights glaring. (Get away from the windows, Joel says. No, I'm watching, I say. And later, when I go to put the dogs out, our front gate is wagging in the wind....)

(I am remembering the time when the SWAT team surrounded our house in Richmond, Virginia, intent on arresting our son, Juan. Those circumstances caused great alarm in the congregation I served --embarrassing and alarming "drama" it was called.... Couldn't have a priest with such embarrassing and alarming "drama".... Here, every mother has suffered such. Every mother knows. Every mother knows the circumstances that got them into that corner, surrounded by the guns of authority... pleading for help for their child who is getting ground up in the machinations of the system. And those who don't know are wrong about sin, wrong about righteousness, wrong about judgement....)

Introverted. Neurotic. Concrete. Focused.

Yeppa.

At prayer this morning (John 6:1-15)

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.

Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”

So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

--we lust after the power of Jesus for all the wrong reasons, too.... He is charted and graphed and judged... and misunderstood... misapprehended.... He doesn't make everything 'nice' --but challenges those with the authority and the power.... He messes everything up. And the SWAT team comes and surrounds him and carries him away, right in front of his mother....

Yeppa....

--Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us....

Saturday, March 14, 2015

the hope of the love that will be my end.

It's supposed to be 70 degrees today --78 tomorrow... and I found the first bits of tulips breaking up the dirt in the yard... --and a snake skin, which must have been discarded last summer, but I just found it. Well, Mr. Witty found it, really... and I caught him trying to eat it... he'll snarf down anything, it seems.

By some miracle or another, there are green blades of grass too... and I know it's not uncommon, but we are soooooooo dry. My weather app keeps flashing "Fire Danger". No snow cover. Winds. Last summer's dry grass exposed.

Geese galore.

On Wednesday night, a transformer exploded on the north side of town. At least, we think it was a transformer. The explosion was such that it filled the Dairy Queen with smoke. Folks thought there was a fire. Sirens and fire trucks. Power outages. Very exciting. Lots of wind.

And between the warm weather and wind and explosions, the open sewage evaporation ponds have melted, filling the town with an unbelievable stench. With prevailing winds most commonly from the west, why they put those ponds close to town and west of town right along the highway is beyond me.... Maybe 50 years ago it seemed far, far away.

And, it's Pi Day. --3.1415-- Perhaps little meringues all the way 'round will do us fine. Little meringues to eat while we sit in the sun, getting our winter's worth of all that is past-due. Pondering the ides of March....

Meringues because one of my earliest memories is my grandfather and I walking to the bakery --I clasped his finger, his hand was too big-- and picking up a big lemon meringue pie because I said it was my favorite and so it became my favorite. Always. Tangy and sweet. If it's not tangy, forget it.

Meringues because lemon meringue is my favorite, and it is my birthday today --at least, that is what I've always been told by those who should know.... And I shall prepare today for tomorrow. For the Feast of the Resurrection. And we can sit back, and let our spiritual hair down --so to speak.

Just for the day. Just for the day.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 90)

Lord, you have been our refuge *
from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born, *
from age to age you are God.

You turn us back to the dust and say, *
“Go back, O child of earth.”
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past *
and like a watch in the night.
You sweep us away like a dream; *
we fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
in the evening it is dried up and withered.

For we consume away in your displeasure; *
we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.
Our iniquities you have set before you, *
and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone; *
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

The span of our life is seventy years,
perhaps in strength even eighty; *
yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
for they pass away quickly and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath? *
who rightly fears your indignation?
So teach us to number our days *
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

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

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.



I can see the stars, the spirits, whispering and rejoicing... I can see the redeemed dragons which my namesake conquered from the inside out, shaking their muscular tails... even while they choke on her robe....

--and I give thanks to God for the love that created me, the love that sustains me and holds me in being, and the hope of the love that will be my end.

Peace out!

Friday, March 13, 2015

this hit me in the face....

I used to work in the museum field.... Once, while I was in training in graduate school at the University of Delaware's program in conjunction with the Winterthur Museum, I was giving a tour... and I made comments on some maps hanging on the wall (because I had just finished writing a scholarly type paper on them) --how they were cultural depictions of landscapes, revealing what was important in the cultural milieu of those who read them. Some had deep-sea monsters; others depicted various types of trees on hills --in the first maps that tried to express contours and elevations.

So, on this tour, after I said all that about maps, these two guys came up and asked me if they could use my idea in a project they were working on. They didn't say what it was they were working on... but I said, yah, sure.

Turned out, they were curators from the Met in New York City. And using MY idea, they created a block-buster exhibit. I heard them interviewed on the radio about a year later, using MY idea like it was theirs. They could have at least been generous and given a shout out to the origin of the idea, an honorable mention. Or offered me a job. Or, something. It's called "intellectual property." And they stole it from me without attribution. Really ticked me off. I thought about going up there and confronting them, but I had told them they could use it --without condition.

They knew what they were doing. I didn't know what they were doing. They ripped me off.

In the 1990s, in Oregon, where I had landed a job, I worked behind the scenes on a project called NAGPRA --Native American Grave RePatriation Act --a Federal mandate to return sacred, ceremonial and grave objects to the People of their origin. Museums got all twisted up in knots over this mandate, claiming that the People didn't have the means to properly care for the objects. In Oregon, at least, I got to say (as President, appointed by the Governor, of the State Historic/Cultural Resources Review Committee)  '--these objects were taken without proper consent, they must be returned.'

The 'without the proper consent' felt good, really good. Those two guys on a tour ripped me off, but gave me a gift --in a very, very small way, I knew what it felt like to be ripped off of something that came from ME.

Objects are still being returned --to this very day. Here, some are immediately buried in land set aside just for that purpose. Some are stored until they figure out what to do --but they are not displayed like art. Because they are not art.

I have been in museums where stoles and chalices are on display, and out and about where church buildings themselves are open like architectural museums --some actually charging to get in the doors, because we have this curious bent in the delight of objects for themselves. And we can "de-sacrilize" them --de-commission them... they are just objects with a holy purpose which can be taken away.

Here... that kind of idea is abhorrent. Not just foreign, but gross. When things are made for sacred purposes, they are imbued with spirit. Heck --when things are made --fashioned by human hands, they have a life of their own. And to take that spirit --to take that life and admire it as art is pornography.

--Pornography-- its Greek root means 'twisted' --twisted writing, or to write it twisted --to take that life and admire it as art is pornography.

A friend posted something on my FB wall --regarding an exhibit at the Met. In good faith, knowing I was a museum geek, and that I live here, she thought of me. And she has given me the gift of much food for thought. It was a link to an article which reviewed said exhibit called, "The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky."

Her gift, given with a good and innocent heart, took me places I don't think she knows. My skin crawled. My brain caught on fire. My bones ached. Not in a good way. My question --how could they have held on to this stuff --how come they weren't required to return it? was answered in the first paragraph.

Some of the earliest surviving art by native North Americans left America long ago. Soldiers, traders and priests, with magpie eyes for brilliance, bundled it up and shipped it across the sea to Europe. Painted robes, embroidered slippers and feathered headdresses tinkling with chimes found their way into cupboards in 18th-century London and Paris, and lay there half-forgotten. Now, in “The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, some of those wondrous things have come home.

No. They haven't 'come home.' They are still far, far, far from home. A gulf far deeper and more dangerous than the Atlantic Ocean still remains between these objects and their home. Even the language makes me want to throw up. "Headdresses tinkling with chimes." O BARF.

Oh behalf of the People, I grieve... mixed with anger. And I am distant from it --even though I can feel it in my bones. For those here who know it more intimately, it can lead to living hell. Others have the courage to adapt and survive --knowing that what goes around, comes around --knowing that if you do unholy things around holy things, it's going to bite you in the butt.

Read this with your heart:
So is an image, carved in wood some 30 or 40 years later by a Hunkpapa Lakota artist of a horse apparently dying in battle. Now in the collection of the South Dakota State Historical Association, the figure was conceived as a tribute to a beloved animal killed under fire. Streaked with blood-red and stretched out as if strained beyond endurance, it has the pathos of a crucified Christ. In a history of great sculpture, past and present, from the North American continent, it has a place in the highest pantheon.

By around 1880, when this piece was carved, mourning was becoming a way of life on the Great Plains and its native populations needed whatever protection they could find. The United States government, with the Army and frontier settlers as its enforcer, stripped Native Americans of their land and contributed to all but wiping out the natural resources that sustained them. Reduced to the status of hostile aliens, American Indians battled one another over whatever scraps were left.

There are few saints in any history, and even fewer in a history of warrior culture, which is what American history, Native and otherwise, is built on.

At the same time, martyrdom exists, and the fate of native populations in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is just that. It remains a nation’s self-inflicted and unhealing wound. And to some extent, the show can’t help but be a memorial to it.

In the 1880s, a millennial spiritual movement arose among Plains Indians, expressed in a ceremony called the Ghost Dance. In a fit of hopeful miraculous thinking, its adherents envisioned the return of a precontact lost world, where the buffalo would be plentiful, the beloved dead restored to life, and the Plains would be American Indian lands again.

Material associated with the Ghost Dance comes toward the end of the exhibition: a woman’s dance dress, flame red, and painted with avian spirits — magpies, eagles, crows — and a shield with an image of a thunderbird divebombing from the heavens. More personal is a little dream-drawing owned by the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. Done in pencil and ink on lined ledger-book paper, it depicts an avenging horned deity on a half-eagle, half-bison mount that could come straight from Revelations. It was drawn by the artist named Black Hawk, a traditional medicine man who may have died with other Ghost Dance followers at Wounded Knee. The exhibition’s curator, Gaylord Torrence of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, assisted in New York by Judith Ostrowitz, could have ended the show there, on a tragic vanishing-people note. But wisely, and realistically, they did not. Instead, they bring the story into the present with work by inspired artists who carry Plains traditions into the 21st century.
Yes. There are Native artists now --who create things specifically for the market. But these "historic" objects...

And... it still goes on. Folks with the best of intentions come... and continue to treat cultural and sacred 'stuff' --objects, ceremony, tradition-- as art... or something they can borrow or use or purchase or collect or experience for their own... not realizing....

Not realizing that they, themselves, are falling in to this long and rotten history.... Beyond misunderstandings.... A cultural and spiritual rip-off.

At prayer this morning (John 8:33-47)

They answered Jesus, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.”

They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.”
--Resting on the presumed traditions and merits of their fathers before them, "they" claimed a godly inheritance.

And Jesus kept trying to get them to see... and know... and hear... that they had no idea of sin or truth or faith....

---and we have no idea... until it hits us in the face....

It's Lent. The sacred time the church gives us to get hit in the face....

And this hit me in the face.

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

my enemies mock me to my face

Senator Michael Rounds, South Dakota
Senator John Thune, South Dakota

Dear Senators,

I don't understand. Please explain to me what you thought you were doing in signing the Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

You have violated the foundation of trust and respect of elected leadership to do what is best for the American people by:

--Continuously and purposefully undermining the diplomacy of our government, not only in this letter, but in condoning the invitation of PM Netanyahu to address Congress.

--Refusing to allow affordable health care for the citizens of this State.

--Perpetuating systems of racism and discrimination by not drafting new legislation restoring voting rights and not addressing the systemic ills all over our Nation recently revealed in Ferguson (not to mention Oakland and Detroit).

--Ignoring the economic plight of ordinary workaday folk by threatening to undo Social Security without offering a glimpse of an alternate solution for health and retirement.

--Not providing social services for those caught in the destructive web of poverty and unemployment.

--Crushing any attempts to improve education and access to education for our citizens, especially with regard to student loans.

--Playing games with the health and well-being of the environment by not doing everything possible to support renewable energy policies, and refusing Keystone.

--Sending us careening to oblivion by ignoring infrastructure improvements.

--Demonstrating your cold heart, ignorance and inability to govern by threats of another shut down and linking the budget for national security with immigration policy.

--Legislating through the courts by perpetually suing the President instead of actually governing through reform and revision.

--Wantonly putting PROFIT and your own wealth and well-being before the health and well-being of the People.

Please explain. I do not understand. You have been elected to serve the People. And you gain nothing by undermining diplomacy, and pretending to 'school' a hard-line government already under U.S.and U.N. sanctions for its development of nuclear power and uranium enrichment programs.

There is enough work to do (see above list in case you don't know) to improve the lives and well-being of the citizens of this Nation, and yet you fool around messing with things outside your job descriptions. If you were ordinary employees, I have no doubt you would have been fired for your unwillingness to do the job you have been given to do and so blatantly undermining the job of another.

And don't bring up the visit of Senator Pelosi to Syria --that was a bi-partisan visit with at least some limited support and presence of Bush's Administration, and was not at a time when our government was in delicate negotiations with five other nations with the same.

Perhaps a recall of your election is in order here. Unless, of course, you can explain your action in the letter, and your inaction/action in all the others.

A Very Concerned Citizen,

The Rev. Margaret Watson
Priest in Charge
Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission
Eagle Butte, South Dakota
57625

PS: Senator Thune, please note that last time I wrote your office with regard to the government shut down (how dare you) and sequestration cuts (we are still hurting here, but the poor expect to be cut first and hurt the most, always, just sayin'), you never even responded. I can only assume it is because of the zip-code --that I live and work on a Reservation? Or perhaps you could explain you un-response then, too....

At prayer this morning (Psalm 42)

As the deer longs for the water-brooks, *
so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; *
when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?

My tears have been my food day and night, *
while all day long they say to me,
“Where now is your God?”

I pour out my soul when I think on these things: *
how I went with the multitude and led them into the house of God,
With the voice of praise and thanksgiving *
among those who keep holy-day.

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God; *
for I will yet give thanks to the One
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

My soul is heavy within me; *
therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan,
and from the peak of Mizar among the heights of Hermon.
One deep calls out to another in the noise of your cataracts; *
all your rapids and floods have gone over me.
The LORD grants loving-kindness in the daytime; *
in the night season the song of the LORD is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.

I will say to the God of my strength,
“Why have you forgotten me? *
and why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?”
While my bones are being broken, *
my enemies mock me to my face;
All day long they mock me *
and say to me, “Where now is your God?”
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God; *
for I will yet give thanks to the One
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

I will and I do put my trust in God. I have learned how to do that more completely through the People I love and serve.

But that doesn't mean I won't speak out when injustice and wrong-doing are rampant.

--and all that....

Amen.