Monday, May 4, 2015

Ticks. Dinosaurs. Babies. And so many delightfully dangerous things.

I picked the first tick off of me at the lunch and give-away. I found it on the back of my neck. Flat. Tough. It wiggled its legs as I turned it over. It used to be I would save the ticks, take them to the doctor to see if they were the ones that carried Lime's disease. Now, I just crease their body with my fingernail and throw them in the garbage; or, I keep creasing its body until it splits in two. Time will tell if it carried Lime's disease or not. And I have no mercy.

Not for ticks. Or ants. Or mice. Just sayin'.

I kept itching and scratching throughout the lunch, feeling a million more ticks. The first thing I did when I got home was to strip, ask Joel to take my clothes immediately to the washer, and check my back... I found another tick on my shin. It was just beginning to burrow. And I hadn't even felt it.

Sunday morning, everyone was talking about ticks. In their hair. In the children's hair. It must be spring. But when we sat around the table and talked about the readings, it was about Creation stories. It was about why we gathered on Sunday mornings instead of the Sabbath. It was about how the gospel used the second creation story in scripture --God as the gardener of the vine.

"What about dinosaurs," one of the teens asks.
"What about dinosaurs," I respond.
"They aren't mentioned in the bible."
"Really?" I say. "What part doesn't mention them?"
"Did they all die in the flood?"
"Well --I think the ones that could swim or fly survived," I say laughing.
"Where are they, then?"
"Look," I say, and point out the window at the turkey crossing the road.

In the late afternoon service, I get to hold all the babies. Four of them. Two have been baptized; the grandmas talk about the other two. The other children come and go. Some crying --I was pushed--  --she's being mean--  --they won't let me play--  The proper clucking noises are made by the grandmas and the 'oh no' is said with great gentleness.

We sit in a circle to talk about the readings. Big questions. About love. About how to talk about Jesus. One grandma says she is mocked at work --her co-workers don't want her to say anything about Jesus. Don't want her to play gospel music at work. When she plays the CD of her family singing the hymns, that is okay because it is in Lakota and her co-worker can't understand what is being sung... .

"But I want them to know," she said. "I want them to know the peace I feel. Am I doing wrong by not talking about it? You know, when Jesus said he would deny anyone who denies him. Am I denying him by not talking about it?"

"I don't know," I said. "But, I do know that I, too, have been offended by people trying to convert me to their way of thinking. Trying to tell me I'm not a Christian because I don't think like they do. So, I try not to shove what I believe in front of others. None of us likes to be told what we should think. So, what has been placed in my heart is patience. Patient waiting. Which is sometimes really hard. I wait for them to ask. I wait for the sign --the open place, to do something. Like, in pastoral care, I know and see something is wrong. But I don't go putting my nose in it. I wait. I pray. That is what God has put in my heart."

There is some nodding. Some chins are down. It is thoughtful. And then we say our prayers. And after I hold up the cup and the bread, after the great Amen, I stop and say that it is really wonderful to think about the fruit of the vine on this day, especially after that gospel lesson. The vine, the branches, the fruit....

And I don't remember how I finished that sentence because the sun slanted in the window and turned the world in to a soft hue of golden pink, one of the babies cried, and the grandpa by the door got up to go get all the children that had played outside while we prayed in the small building overlooking the river running dry between the cliffs. It was time. Time to eat the bread and wine. Time to eat the sun and moon and stars. Time to eat our mother earth. Time for all the children to come in and be fed. Time to be one with the cosmos. With life itself.

At prayer this morning (from Wisdom 9)

“With you is wisdom, she who knows your works
and was present when you made the world;
she understands what is pleasing in your sight
and what is right according to your commandments.
Send her forth from the holy heavens,
and from the throne of your glory send her,
that she may labor at my side,
and that I may learn what is pleasing to you.
For she knows and understands all things,
and she will guide me
and guard me with her glory.
Then my works will be acceptable...

For who can learn the counsel of God?
Or who can discern what the Lord wills?
For the reasoning of mortals is worthless,
and our designs are likely to fail;
for a perishable body weighs down the soul,
and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.
We can hardly guess at what is on earth,
and what is at hand we find with labor;
but who has traced out what is in the heavens?
Who has learned your counsel,
unless you have given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from on high?
And thus the paths of those on earth were set right,
and people were taught what pleases you,
and were saved by wisdom.”

Also (Luke 7:36-50)

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.”

“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.”

And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
So many babies.
And so many other delightfully dangerous things.

Speaking of Jesus in a world that is so full of judgment.

God the gardener. Tending it all.

Off I go.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

--it has begun

I crossed the river on my way to receive the body for the wake. The metal and concrete of the bridge interrupted the wash of green lining the road. I said my prayers. I know of two people who have died there, at that bridge. I know of one person who believes a spectre entered their body there. Possessed. It was once called the Owl River by the People. Now it has a French name, a name that isn't even carried by the People.

As I began the climb out of the valley on the other side of the River, my cell phone clicked on. Reception is so iffy out here, depending upon a high spot and proximity to a tower. The phone chimed a tone that told me I had received a text message. It read, "CHANGE OF PLANS. Going to arrive at 7." It was the funeral home.

I looked at the clock on the dashboard; it was just after 5. I had two hours --not enough time to go home; too much time to sit around. So, I turned the car around, and went back to the turnoff for On the Tree Road. I will go visit T, I thought to myself. T has recently been diagnosed with cancer. A visit will be good.

I switched to 4-wheel drive as I turned down the gravel road. This time of year, the gravel is pushed up out of the road bed by the heavy trucks that carry around most people and their gear for horses and cattle out here. The gravel forms lines which follow the traffic pattern, are dangerously soft and unpredictable, and can throw a vehicle in to a ditch. During the winter, everything is frozen in place so there is no problem. During the spring, the mud won't let go of anything. But when it is dry, like it is right now, the gravel furrows can kill. I slow waaaaaaaay down.

It gives me time. To think. To watch the meadowlarks gather the grass. To see the new calves, looking stunned, fresh from the womb. To laugh at the prairie dogs and their perky watchfulness, flicking their tails. Pzpzska... that is what they are called. (I don't know if that is the agreed upon spelling.) Because that is the noise they make. PzzPzz!

I go up over the hill by the cemetery, and then turn to T's house, go down by the turn in the river. The dogs come running, barking, hair up. The littlest dog is missing one of its hind feet--it got stuck in a rabbit trap when it was a puppy, and was sick until the foot dropped off. Now it keeps up with the best of them. There aren't any trucks around... no one comes to the door... so, I don't risk getting out of the car and making the dogs furious that I didn't listen to their warning. With no one here to call them off....

I turn the car around in the yard and go back out to the gravel road, turning east and north. The shadows are not yet long, but the west side of the hills have lost the light. The crevices and dry rivulets, where runoff from the rain and melting snow carve away the earth, gather the wind-braided grasses in deep and protective folds.

The car climbs and descends the gravel furrows like a strange wake, sliding first to the center then to the edge of the road, emerging out on to the flats where they built the railroad towns. Only pzpzskas lived up here on the flats. Pzpzskas and Tatankan, the buffalo.  But now, the railroad towns have lost the railroad and are ruled by the tarmac ribbons that stretch from here to there in as straight a line as possible.

You can tell the where the families have lived for a long time. Their yards are filled with the testimony of the tarmac --the pulp and waste of vehicles rusting out. It takes a while for the earth to reclaim them. But she will, soon enough. First they collapse in on themselves, crumpling under their own weight. The windows succumb to small boys with rocks. The hood and roof cave to the weight of the snow and wind. The older vehicles, with more metal, take much longer than the new ones. The new ones blow away to someplace else. Maybe to car heaven.

The gravel road gives way to the town hidden from the prairie in a clump of trees. I don't know where the community center is, but I look for the crowd of cars. I pull up and park. The grandmas nod in recognition; I have been called here for their benefit. The young women glance and look away, worrying if they will have to listen to too many words about Jesus --words they have dismissed. ''Son of God.' That is like Greek mythology. Who can believe such nonsense about a god mating with a woman. Who can believe that. And, yeah, right --walking on water and raising dead. If you believe that, why is my friend here dead?' All this from their eyes. I hear it. The young men remain silent, harboring their doubt and desire to know God, so that when they finally see God face to face the question can be asked directly --Why God? Why? ...Why?

At prayer this morning (Luke 7, ending with verse 35)

When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?'”

Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,

‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’

I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (And all the people who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.)

“To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon'; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

---blessed in anyone who takes no offense at me....

I begin the prayers with an apology --please forgive me if I offend.... That is the right thing to do.

--and then I leave the rest up to the Spirit....

--and the People weep....

It has begun.

Friday, May 1, 2015

--to see the heavens open....

Joel keeps interrupting my coffee/sudoku fog with quotes from Chris Hedges' book, Empire of Illusion. He read this quote...
The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital, the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to object conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

Albert Einstein, "Why Socialism?" Monthly Review, May 1949
It sits in my head alongside the voice that came over the radio yesterday as I was returning from Sturgis where we had buried a much beloved Grandma in the near sterile veterans cemetery. There was discussion about Baltimore. The stations was NPR. And an economist was talking about the stupidity of those who rioted --ruining their own neighborhood --trashing the drug store that brought jobs --trashing the beautiful mall recently built there.... They were stupid, he claimed, because they destroyed the economic opportunities that were going to sustain them.

And I was talking back to the stupid economist... yelling actually --well, there was nobody on the road for miles, so why not-- I was telling the stupid economist that the wonderful drug store and the mall were the problems, not the solution --that the drug store and mall only provide part-time low wage work... no benefits... and there was no way any of those workers could afford to purchase anything at either of those places... . And the profits were not going to be returned to the neighborhood, but enjoyed by the 1% through some off-shore, tax-sheltered multi-national corporation.

But, I don't think the stupid economist could hear me. God probably could. Way out there....

We had just buried a Grandma... one of the stories that I had heard at the funeral was a reminder --'while other folks suffered the Great Depression,' it was said, 'and jumped out of buildings on the east coast, we worried about our top soil blowing away from the drought. The Depression didn't change our lives one bit. We were already poor.'

I had to swallow the words that nearly came out of my mouth --which were 'Oh, but it did change our lives --all our lives, because it was during the depression that the great consolidation of wealth truly began --that is when the economic correctives and safeguards began to be depleted --just as they were beginning to be celebrated by the middle class and main-stream... that is when it began....'

If you can't believe that, explain the forces that pressed in on Einstein that caused him to observe what he observed... . In 1949.

But the story wasn't about economics... the story was about the Grandma. And her endurance. Her life. And a way of life so different... a way of seeing and being so different....

On the way to the cemetery, somebody saw this over the procession --they must have been way to the back of the line....

--and exclaimed, 'do you see the Angel or the Eagle over the procession!'

Here, I am reminded daily to focus on living --even in the midst of poverty, death, oppression.... I am reminded daily not to hide my head in the sand and ignore the wicked and evil forces that rebel against God --that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God --that draw us away from the love of God (from the questions in the baptismal service, Book of Common Prayer, p302)... I am reminded daily to put my whole trust in God's love and grace....

And that.... That, takes discipline. Discipleship. And always brings me to this:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

--based up Niebuhr's longer prayer:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Wiki has the references to precedents to the Serenity Prayer --this one is a Mother Goose rhyme from 1695:
For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.
It is ancient wisdom....

--and there are abundant signs of God's presence among us, if we look for them.... if we draw our heads up from the corruption and destruction... or, perhaps, if we look right at them and then through them, perhaps like one might look at the Cross... God at work in this world... not with angel armies and force and destruction of the enemy, but by pouring out life....

The Christian koan.

At prayer this morning (John 1:43-51)

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?”

Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Yesterday, in the midst of death and sorrow and grief, someone saw the heavens open and saw an angel of God ascending and descending....

This is the only remedy we can offer to the 1%.... to a corrupt and broken and oppressive government and economic system....

--to see the heavens open....

"Don't play by 'their' rules...."
"--don't funnel energy in to a 'dead' political system...."

Not my quotes... listen to him....

Thursday, April 30, 2015

bad dog

My dog stole my breakfast. Jumped up on the sofa and grabbed the piece of toast right off the plate and ran. And then successfully dodged my attempts to swat him with the sudoku book in one hand while I held the phone in the other.

Trying to plan two more funeral this week. Phone in hand. Bad dog....

I have one funeral today. Two more Saturday.

And I have the people of Baltimore in prayers. Those who applaud the mom that was filmed punching and slapping her son while chasing him from the riots... I cannot stand with them on that. I understand her fury. I understand her fear. But, it is not okay to punch and slap any one. Especially a kid. Kids grow up and do what they have learned... .

And, I cannot stand with those who condemn the rioters as thugs. Do I approve of riots? No. Not really. But, for those who have been disenfranchised, sometimes that is their only voice... and to condemn them.... is to value property and order more than their lives... I read it somewhere --the Jim Crow laws are still alive and well, just not as blatant. Until a young person is shot and killed. Or injured unto death.

I see very little difference between a lynch mob and a gun.

And, I cannot stand with those who blame the dead kid.

So... am I blaming the police? Hmmmmmm.... perhaps I am striving to "blame" no one, but merely to say there is a huge imbalance of power here --systemically. And when I look at a kid --shot or beaten or even allowed to injure themselves while in police custody-- all I see is Temple police and the crowd saying, 'He asked for it. He brought this upon himself."

Just sayin'.

At prayer this morning (Luke 6:39-49)

Jesus also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”


Off I go.

Joel fixed more toast for me.
Bd dog.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

the unseen gathered behind us. leading the way.

The smell of the dirt as the earth awakens.

At the first service, the air was still too cool. Or, perhaps it was because there was no open expanse of raw dirt around the church like there is at Promise. The area where we park in Promise used to be a meadow. It flooded last spring, and is now an expanse of silty dirt without much green in it.

And an odor. Of prehistoric fish bones. Rotted ferns. Dinosaur guts. Bird feathers. The cows upstream, new to the scene, add theirs. But that is a trace effect. This is an old smell. A smell that calls forth the ancestors from our own bowels.

So, when we gathered by the altar, the water shining in the small bowl in the old font, the place is crowded with the unseen. Hardly room to breathe. The living stood shoulder to shoulder. The infant cried. The teen girls were worried about their hair. The boys fingered the prickly stickers off their shoes and hems and dropped them on the floor.

We all laughed. And growled like wolves. Some ran away, like hired hands. Some ran away, like sheep. And everyone already knew, because they work the cattle drives, that someone who herds domestic animals leads them from behind --drives them. And their shoes and clothes and hats and lips become coated with waste and dust --nothing you want to take in the house with you. It must have been the same for shepherds. They, too, must have led from behind.

And when we teach infants to walk, we let them grab our fingers or hands, walking behind them, helping them that way.

So, the true shepherd is not out front, leading us, turning around and saying to us, 'this way'. The true shepherd is behind us, walking with us.

And everyone already knew that those who herd domestic animals are not the ones everybody in the world looks at with great esteem. They are not the ones with the big pay checks, not the ones with the weekends off, not the ones with the fancy cars and clothes and houses.

When Jesus said he was a good shepherd, that meant he got our backs, so to speak. He will lead us, teach us to walk, from behind. And, that he identified himself with those who get their hands and feet and faces dirty --those who roll up their sleeves --one of those who works one of those jobs that fancy soft people don't want. He was one of those who stood between the wolves and the sheep.

And we are supposed to be that way, too. Lead, guide, teach from behind. Roll up our sleeves. Chase away the wolves. And coyotes.

The grandpas nodded --they all knew what could go wrong in a cattle drive; they all knew what could go wrong in life. They nodded 'yes', affirming that they could imagine themselves leading this way. Not out front.

The grandmas nodded --they all knew that grandmas always worked behind the scenes, always did the jobs no one else wanted to do, always dealt with the poop and dirty faces, hands and feet, always helped the babies learn to walk by holding them from behind. 'Yes', this is the way it is.

Yes, this is the way we can imagine Jesus working among us. Like us.


And when the water poured out of my hand on top of the head of the infant, and then on the heads of the girls, messing up their hair, making them giggle --that water washed aways and exposed for what it is the desire to lead from the front of the pack, the fear of getting dirty, the greed and lust for anything except that which was already here. And the stones of the old church foundation moved, hidden in the tall weeds and scrappy shrubs on the other side of the dirty meadow filled with the smell of fish bones and dinosaur guts. And the unseen gathered behind us. Leading the way.

At prayer this morning (beginning at Colossians 1:15)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.

He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

--which is foolishness to the world.... as is this: (from Luke 6, ending with verse 26)

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man [the Human Being]. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.

“Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

Off I go.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

a different universe

We had talked of the spirits --how things here, reality here, IS different. A different universe.

And then, somebody pressed against the doorbell --we had gone to bed, long since gone to bed. I glanced at the clock as I struggled to make sense of the dark, the blankets, the dogs who now barked at the confusion and the doorbell. It was quarter after three.

There is always a cutting edge of fear that strikes me when the phone or door rings in the middle of the night. What has happened? What is the awful emergency? My heart races.... I have opened the door to women trying to hide from their abusers. I have opened the door to folks asking me to come quickly to the hospital for last rites. I have opened the door to someone asking me to call the police because there is a fight on the street. Only once have I opened the door to someone drunk who said he was hungry.

I couldn't find my shoes or slippers last night --and the doorbell kept ringing with an urgency --and then they banged on the door, so I just ran to the door in my bare feet. I pulled back the curtain on the door and looked out first --to make sure there were no waiting gangs or knives or guns on the other side.... But it was a young woman I know, who was frantically pacing the stoop.

I opened the door, asking if she was okay.

"I need a bible. Give me a bible," she said.

"Why?" I asked.

"I saw something that really scared me. I saw something I've never seen before. Just give me a bible."

"No," I said. "The bible is not a magic charm. What scared you?"

"Just give me a bible," she said, the tone in her voice loaded with fear and determination.

"No," I said. Equally determined.

"Then bless me, pray for me, protect me." And she threw her head against my shoulder, pressing in. That's when I got the whiff of alcohol --the sickly sweet putrid smell. I grieved --I didn't know she drank like this. And then I noticed the waiting car.

"What did you see?" I asked again.

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know," and she sobbed.

Part of me was alarmed. Part of me was angry for having been awakened in the middle of the night... but, then I remembered... different universe... so, I prayed for her, blessed her, and asked God's protection, guardian angels... and I told her to go quickly home.

It is not something to which I can say --don't be afraid, it's not real --because I don't know. Besides, it is all too often wasicus say 'just get over it' to just about anything --or dismiss this alternative reality. And I can't. Shouldn't. I know that there are times, in my ignorance of a situation, that I probably appear to be saying that very thing. But, I try not to. Even in the middle of the night. On my door stoop. My heart racing for an emergency I do not perceive.

'Just get over it.'

About history. About oppression. About genocide. About boarding schools. About the loss of the land. About the forcible cutting of hair and wearing of clothes. About bounty ads for Indian scalps in the newspapers. About cultural tourism. About the ripping off of their culture and sacred objects--treating them as art or collectibles. About the murdering of the buffalo.

'Just get over it.' and then, 'Why can't you find a job.'

I have heard folks sometimes say something about 'Indians playing the victim.'

I don't see victims here. I see the cross.

And, I see the angels ready at the stone. I see the perseverance. I see the fortitude and adaptation. I see hospitality and forgiveness. I see gratitude and abundance.

I see a People who know it is more important to risk losing your job for the sake of coming home to be with family at an event like a baptism or funeral. Living relationships are more important than labor. Or income.

I see a People striving not to get swept blindly up in the mainstream culture, with pressure all around to be captive to it.

I don't know what I don't see. I have glimpses of it. A different universe.

Would that Christians would strive as hard to reveal the Kingdom among us. Would that we would work as hard to build up and be known as the body of Christ --to grow in to the full stature of Christ. We, too should be as different.

At prayer this morning (from the Eucharistic lectionary for St. Mark's Day today, Ephesians 4:7-8,11-16)

Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it is said,
"When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people."
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.
It is not the doctrine and trickery and craftiness and deceitful scheming of other faiths by which we must not be tossed to and fro.

It is the compelling greed. The getting ahead. The destruction of our planet. The grasping, clutching and machinations of power.

Because if we lose our saltiness....

--well, you know....

Friday, April 24, 2015

Walk in it


The good weather must be upon us, because I saw the first van full of somebodies come here to "save the Indian." Pulled right up behind me as I drove in the parking lot and asked me if I were a "church person."

"Yes, I suppose," I said.

"Well I'm here at the invitation of SO, and I am here to make believers become strong believers so they can do righteous work here," he said.

I wouldn't have believed it unless I heard it myself.
It's not something somebody made up.
It is so.... --ummm-- imperialistic. Arrogant. Ignorant. And, unchristian.

"Do you live here?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. "Right there."
"Why do so many kids here commit suicide?" he asked.

I wanted to say something to the effect of --because of the likes of you-- but, I didn't. I held my tongue. Instead, I said, "Oppression. Poverty. Inherited grief. PTSD from the violence in their homes because of drug and alcohol addiction and all of that."

"In that order? Sounds like you have it all figured out," he said. It was a not so subtle sneer. "How long have you lived here?"

I knew he was looking for me to say that it was demons, and that the fight against good and evil in the heavens was being lost by the good, and demons were infecting the youth. How could I say to him that I knew it was demonic --and that it is all very real... But, that it wasn't something other-worldly that caused the despair-unto-death --it is was human flesh and blood that had created this situation...

How could I say to him what I really thought?

I couldn't.

But, then, who would?

Somebody will. And he would turn around and pray for them, trying to cast out their evil demon... besides, I knew I wasn't a real Christian in his eyes. Real Christians, true followers of Christ were only like him....

And he would never stand still long enough for me to ask him why he went looking for demons instead of looking for the good.... Building up the good. Pointing out the blessings.

"This was my fourth winter," I said.

"Oh, a long time," he said. Sneer again.

"No, it makes me only four years old here...." I knew he was trying to corner me, trying to figure out if I was worthy of an invitation to his prayer meeting --or if he was weighing all the strikes against me already. Damned from the beginning of time. Not one of the elect. Already.

I wanted to say something about how many times Jesus threw demons out, but that the demons understood who he was better than the Pharisees did. I wanted to say something about the many, many more times Jesus ate with folks, just sat and talked and ate with them --that it was the eating together that formed the Christian Tradition... that and the letters of Paul --a murderer, a Roman citizen, an observant Jew who was willing to put all that down for the sake of the outlaws, and all those other things that made him unworthy.

It was eating together.

The rest of it was fulfilled. Done. Over. Out. Contract finished. Now, a new order of things, and the demons have lost....   --in the big picture.... but we still wage war as if none of that were true.

I looked at him. Silent. His eyes were blue and intent. Almost on the crazy side... And I heard the voice in my head saying, 'Could you love him, too?' 'Do I have to?' 'Yeah. Kinda sorta honey.'

He was saying some other things. I didn't really listen. I was trying to draw up a bucket of love from the deep well. But, somehow I knew he would take it and either throw it at me or try to dirty it up... so, I was frozen in thought.

"---and the other guy said to me, nobody's ever prayed for Crazy D before," and he was so proud that he had stopped on the street and prayed... as though prayer here was a risk or something to be bragged about, or had never been done before.

In the white world, I would have already walked away from him, shrugged him off. He would have stood on the street corner, unrelenting, talking to the next person who came by. Fervently. Ready to save. But only this way. Not any other way. Just this way. The demons so real.

Here, in this place. I have learned here. Take it or leave it, but listen. Knowing that anyone who has anything to say doesn't blurt it out through a car window or pray it out on a street corner on the head of Crazy D where the drugs are also sold, and alcohol consumed... nickels begged.... True words, true prayer is different. Not that it can't happen in those places... but it's different. It's not a power thing.

And this was a power thing. Everything in me was repelled. By him. By his actions.

'It's snake oil --he's selling snake oil that does more harm than good,' I said to myself. 'False hopes. False dreams. False salvation. The children die because of these things... because they can see right through it all... but not to the other side.... The children die because they see the lies the grownups tell each other.'

And, so I listened. And so that I wouldn't think my falsehood --my sin --my missing the mark was any better, I let the silence win me over. I watched the branches move against the sky, like a hand writing on the wall. The grass bowed before the wind. 'This isn't surrender,' I said to myself. 'This isn't respect. This isn't patience.'  'I know. And you can't draw up love with a bucket from a deep well.'

And then I was quiet. At peace.

All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.

I should tattoo that on my flesh....

At prayer (2 John 1:13)

The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person. Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

The children of your elect sister send you their greetings.

Pontius Pilate asked 'what is truth'... and then washed his hands.

But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.


Walk in it. You can't draw up love with a bucket from a deep well. Walk in it.

There we are....

Thursday, April 23, 2015

the extraordinary ordinariness of it all

I went to the house over in the No Heart area. The kids were out front --the boy with his stick on the trampoline, his sister shyly sitting nearby, holding her backpack. 'We're locked out!' the boy said, raising the stick in the air. 'And her phone's dead!' He spoke full volume. Of course.

I made offers for her to sit in the car and plug in her phone to my car charger long enough to make a call. 'We're fine,' she said. 'He has music lessons, so they'll be right home.' She nodded to her brother, who was now jumping on the trampoline while throwing the stick down to make it bounce while he was mid-air, striving to catch it on the rebound.

I said, 'First, let's think this 'stick-on-the-trampoline' routine through --are you going to poke a hole in trampoline or yourself first?' "He began the third grade going in to fourth grade responses, and I held my arms out to him, shaking my head and saying, 'Nope, nope.' His sister looked away, saying, 'I already told him.'

So, he got down from the trampoline, and began throwing the stick as hard as he could against the packed earth of the front yard, watching it splinter and spin, while he dodged it's unexpected and rapid rebound, laughing at the sky, the clouds, the grass pushing up from the earth, the dog that wandered in from the next yard, very interested in the stick. 'Well,' I said, 'would you please tell Grandpa I came by?' They both nodded that disinterested affirmation.

I noticed the porch of the house was packed with stuff --the trailer in the front yard, by the trampoline, I knew to be occupied by the mom and dad. Grandma and grandpa lived in the house. Probably where the older children slept. The younger ones maybe still sleeping with mom and dad. Three generations. A tiny house.

Nothing out of the ordinary. As a matter of fact, the mom and dad were lucky for the trailer in the front yard. Their own space....

I drove back to the highway, did an errand. And as I returned to town, I saw the grandma and grandpa pulling on to the road. We waved. They followed me through the next light on the highway, made the turn behind me in to the market parking lot. 'Ma-ma!' the grandpa said, laughing and opening the door of the truck to greet me. He makes fun of everyone calling me 'Mother'. So, I joke back, 'My son! My son!' He is older than I. The kids are now in back of the truck, and they jump around, excited for me to see that they really did convey my message.

I know when this grandpa and I pray together in the inipi, he translates my prayers in to Lakota. And, when you pray in the inipi, you always tell the spirits who you are. He introduces me to the spirits as the 'holy fat stealer woman mother.' (wasicu win wakan ina) I love that. And, it embarrasses me, so I pretend not to know, and just pray or sing as he tells me to... although in my ear, those two words sound so much the same, so I never know if I am doing what he tells me to do... although, song is prayer....

I say to him, through the open car door, 'I am going to ask a question, but it's not a stupid white-girl question. Is that alright?' He laughs and nods an affirmation, appreciating my attempt at good manners in asking to ask a question. I tell him of the visiting reporter, why he is here, and would he like to speak with him. Yes, very much so, he says --and we arrange a time. Then I slap the car and tell the boy to make the heavens happy in his music lesson.

I delight in the ordinariness of this. The asphalt. The jokes. The sticks. The truck. The wind. And the extra-ordinariness of it all. Stuff I had never even imagined... didn't know. Couldn't have dreamed. I come home, and unpack the boxes that we picked up from the post office --altar candles of various sizes and shapes, brass followers, a barely used Paschal candle --this stuff is like gold out here... and in the churches where I have no electricity, candles are not pretty superfluous things, but a necessity. Many a time at a service it has been too dark to read, so I sit and tell the stories in the candle light, let the prayers loose in the dark, search the depths of my heart to give voice to the Eucharist. That great offering. That great sacrifice. All. One.

Like the painful sacrifice of sweat in the inipi. And the offering of prayer. Not the same. Different side of the mountain. But a deep current. That buoys the soul toward God.

After the boxes, I open the mail --and the gifts pour out. I am so deeply humbled. One is a gift from someone who has sent me the offering given to her for having done a funeral in her home parish. She has done this before. I know just how it needs to be passed on --to the family that just lost twins... the hospital lab, in a callous and unthinking move, 'disposed' of the tiny remains instead of returning them to the mother. 'But, they were human beings,' the grandmother says. 'They had heart beats. They could tell they were boys.' The young mother is unable to speak. Still in shock.

So, even though there are no remains, the family wants a funeral. They want prayers. They want to tell the Lala and Unci (grandpa and grandma) spirits of the lives lost. Pray for their protection. Mourn their loss. Acknowledge their anticipated and much wanted arrival. But, because there are no remains, the tribe will not grant the usual funeral money... But here it is. In my hand. A sacrifice and offering from another. An unknown other.


At prayer this morning (Luke 5:1-11)

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”

When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Yes. The overabundance of it all... the extraordinary ordinariness of it all. What else is there to do... ?!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Doctrine of Discovery --we can't just 'get over it' already

The hot bed. Right here. Where there is no place to hide from God.

My friend, confidant and colleague, Sr. K, went to the United Nations Indigenous Peoples gathering a year ago --and learned about the Papal Bull called the Doctrine of Discovery.

I have written about it here, and here, and here. The wikipedia article is here, discussing how the Papal Bull still lives on in our court system, affecting a Supreme Court decision as recently as 2005.

Sr. K was excited that the Episcopal Church had formally repudiated said Doctrine --our Church among others, and took that idea to her convent --who took it to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious --and they wrote a letter asking the Pope to repudiate said Doctrine.

Way to go, Sr. K !!!! Way to go Sisters!!!!

So, the National Catholic Reporter is now sending a reporter, at Sr. K's invitation, to the Cheyenne River Reservation to talk with folks about living presently with such an historic burden.

And as Joel says, if you can't imagine a Papal Bull from 500 years ago affecting our lives presently, how can you imagine that something that happened 2,000 years might affect our lives presently --or documents and stories thousands of years older than that might be influential in our lives presently... !

--and the resulting oppressions from the attitude and formula of this Doctrine are present in the lives of the People I serve.

And, no --current generations of the likes of me did not create these circumstances... but, the likes of me have benefited from these circumstances all our lives. And, in giving voice to every creature under heaven what generation will repent, repudiate, apologize, if not the likes of me? (Italics are from our Eucharistic Prayer D.)

Reconciliation and healing for everyone cannot begin until the denial stops.

The Romans say they have repudiated said Doctrine before --perhaps as early as 1537 --

This bull, called Sublimus Dei, is a little controversial because it’s unclear whether it was ever promulgated outside the Vatican. In Medieval and Renaissance Europe it fell to popes to issue bulls, but it was the job of kings to promulgate and enforce them in their kingdoms. The Spanish and Portuguese kings were already up to their eyeballs in New World gold and silver and seem to have lost Sublimus Dei in their spam folders.

But repudiation of the doctrine of discovery didn’t end with a one-page papal bull in 1537. In 1992 in Santo Domingo, on the 500th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus landing there, Pope John Paul II confessed and begged forgiveness for the sins of the Church in the Spanish conquest of America. He repeated a similar confession March 12, 2000 when, kneeling at the Holy Doors of the Great Jubilee, he begged forgiveness for Catholics who had violated “the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and [for showing] contempt for their cultures and religious traditions.”

Papal teaching on human rights, both for individuals and communities, has been pretty consistent since Pope John XXIII’s 1962 encyclical Pacem in Terris pointed toward the United Nations and its role in protecting human rights, said Jesuit Fr. Michael Stogre, author of That the World May Believe: The Development of Papal Social Thought on Aboriginal Rights.

“Subsequent teaching, particularly from Vatican II on, has certainly abrogated that earlier teaching,” Stogre said.

There may be a symbolic value in a very specific statement about the doctrine of discovery, said Peruvian-Canadian Oblate missionary Fr. Nicanor Sarmiento.

“It’s like what happened with Galileo was symbolic, but it has an effect,” said Sarmiento, an expert in the theory of Christian missionary work.

But, the way I hear this defense is like someone with privilege saying --well, we freed the slaves, there is no more racism....

Kind of like saying, 'Been there, done that....'

Or, the infamous 'Get over it already.'

It is so far beyond "symbolic value" to repudiate and repent of this Doctrine.... Over and over and over again. For as long as it takes. Until the last sheep comes home.

The condemnation of Galileo was stupidity, and was also about fear and force and power; apologizing for his condemnation merely wiped the stupidity up --the fear and force and power are still present in the Roman Church, the Episcopal Church --and just about every other human institution I can think of....

And there are those who live every day in the wake of the same.

My dream: because this Doctrine has infected our laws and courts even down to the present day, the originators of the Doctrine must spell out its racism and greed, and then press the laws and courts to redact the decisions that have been made.... even down to Tribal Sovereignty --a murky, transient and volatile swamp of laws and history, affecting every treaty and the civil rights of all First Peoples.

--actually, even affecting the definition of "Tribe" itself, because only the Federal Government gives itself the privilege of acknowledging whether or not a People even exist....

The People can say --here we are! And the Government can say --no, you're NOT; call yourself what you like, but we don't see you... .

So... that is part of what I am doing in the next few days....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Daniel 5:1)

King Belshazzar made a great festival for a thousand of his lords, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand. Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar commanded that they bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.

So they brought in the vessels of gold and silver that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the royal palace, next to the lampstand. The king was watching the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s face turned pale, and his thoughts terrified him. His limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

The king cried aloud to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the diviners; and the king said to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever can read this writing and tell me its interpretation shall be clothed in purple, have a chain of gold around his neck, and rank third in the kingdom.”

Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar became greatly terrified and his face turned pale, and his lords were perplexed.

If you use holy vessels in the wrong way, bad things happens. When you "use" People and land --sacred to God, part of God's own self, all hell breaks loose.

It doesn't take a wise man to see and know that, or to interpret the writing on the wall.

God wishes no more for us than to reconcile --to God's self and to each other. And you can't do one without doing the other, because they are One.


Please pray for T --a tumor found in the brain; pray for S; pray for L and family --stabbed and in Rapid in ICU; pray for M, newborn having blood sugar and breathing problems; pray for C, caring for daughter with organ failure; pray for T and family; pray for L, out of food; pray for M whose children were taken; pray for T diagnosed with cancer; pray for F battling addiction; thanksgiving for J who got a job; thanksgiving for the On the Tree families who feed a hot lunch to folks twice a week. Please pray for the three children we will baptize on Sunday! May they share wholly in and be light for the world.

Off I go.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

a great seam between heaven and earth

I salvaged rocks. Holy rocks. Moved the dirt with a pick, shovel and barrow. Found the old stone walls half buried that hands before me had fashioned. Built some of my own. With an eye to the water that comes in the open throttle of spring, long past the time the flowers have fruited up and strewn their petals. In the time the clouds loft high, and then higher, touching heaven. Then come thrashing down, bringing life and destruction to the earth that waits in fear and longing. Heaven meets earth in that veil of water.

In my yard. That some young testosterone-blinded bimbo leveled with a bulldozer, taking the old clay dug out from under the house to make way for a new foundation. Recklessly unaware of the seam in that veil. That holy seam. Of heaven and earth. That water. That will come rushing down the hill, that will find its own way. Every way.

So. To make a template. Piling the earth here. Making it low there. I would stop and just look and ponder the potential patterns. Then dig a little more. Stopping. Praying. Picking up each stone.

It is hard to believe... it has taken us two years... to go from this

The cottage, October 2013

to this....

The cottage, April 2015

Little by little. Rock by rock.

Recycling the found materials.

Creating a small flat place to go dream. And watch the clouds. And the seam between.

A place to sit at the end of the walk.

A place, not yet deep, that will, God willing, catch the runoff.

The old, dark rock turned out to be petrified wood. A gift from the ancients. A nearly perfectly round rock --a spirit rock-- I said my prayers and put it atop the cairn. An altar in the center of the garden. And with a nod and beck to Narnia, I re-established the Light Post nearby.

And it will be there, God willing, that I will remember that I am more than a Daughter of Eve... more than a descendant of Abraham... more than the dreams, cares and worries I carry... .

I shall remember I am a child of God, inheritor of the Realm of God, keeper of the Promise.

Here. In the center of the garden.

At prayer this morning (beginning at 1 John 4:7)

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

God, our rock.
Can a rock love? or be love?

I hate the word "atoning"...
So much baggage... at one time, this word was translated "propitiation" --which, yes, means to be an offering to appease a god... but the root of propitiation is from "grace"....

Well, there's some food for thought for the day.

Off I go. I already have a call in for the baptism of three children this weekend. And a memorial Eucharist for twin infants. I need clean the guest house for a visitor... I wonder what else the day will bring.

You know. The Great Prairie is a seam writ large --a great seam between heaven and earth. Right here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Our Father, who art our winged self....

I have moved dirt. Painted. Watched the sky. The clouds. The buds at the end of the lilac branches. The young lovers walking by --they have an idea of love, and it shall form them, dissipating the vacuous bits like the wind and terrain do to the clouds. Thanks be to God.

And I pray...
Said one oyster to a neighboring oyster, “I have a very great pain within me. It is heavy and round and I am in distress.”

And the other oyster replied with haughty complacence, “Praise be to the heavens and to the sea, I have no pain within me. I am well and whole both within and without.”

At that moment a crab was passing by and heard the two oysters, and he said to the one who was well and whole both within and without, “Yes, you are well and whole; but the pain that your neighbor bears is a pearl of exceeding beauty.”
     (Khalil Gibran, The Wanderer: The Pearl)

I am filled with pearl... which is what my name is -- mar (sea) garet (pebble).... also, a meaning of flowers... like the daisy....

And, I am filled with love. And joy. Despite the pearl. Because of the pearl. And, my work these past few days has been rather wordless....

And Mary Magdalen says (Khalil Gibran, Jesus the Son of Man)
His mouth was like the heart of a pomegranate, and the shadows in His eyes were deep. And He was gentle, like a man mindful of his own strength.

In my dreams I beheld the kings of the earth standing in awe in His presence. I would speak of His face, but how shall I? It was like night without darkness, and like day without the noise of day. It was a sad face, and it was a joyous face.

And well I remember how once He raised His hand towards the sky, and His parted fingers were like the branches of an elm.

And I remember Him pacing the evening. He was not walking. He Himself was a road above the road; even as a cloud above the earth that would descend to refresh the earth.

But when I stood before Him and spoke to him, He was a man, and His face was powerful to behold. And He said to me, "What would you, Miriam?"

I would not answer Him, but my wings enfolded my secret, and I was made warm.

And because I could bear His light no more, I turned and walked away, but not in shame. I was only shy, and I would be alone, with His fingers upon the strings of my heart.

Joel brought out a chair, and sat with the dogs and watched me paint. That was before I learned (again) that it is not good to paint the underside of a porch with an open mouth....

--so my prayer has been silent... and mostly wordless....

And, on prayer (Khalil Gibran, The Prophet: On Prayer)

Then a priestess said, “Speak to us of Prayer.”

And he answered, saying:

You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance. For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?

And if it is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart. And if you cannot but weep when your soul summons you to prayer, she should spur you again and yet again, though weeping, until you shall come laughing.

When you pray you rise to meet in the air those who are praying at that very hour, and whom save in prayer you may not meet. Therefore let your visit to that temple invisible be for naught but ecstasy and sweet communion.

For if you should enter the temple for no other purpose than asking you shall not receive.

And if you should enter into it to humble yourself you shall not be lifted:

Or even if you should enter into it to beg for the good of others you shall not be heard.

It is enough that you enter the temple invisible. I cannot teach you how to pray in words. God listens not to your words save when He Himself utters them through your lips. And I cannot teach you the prayer of the seas and the forests and the mountains.

But you who are born of the mountains and the forests and the seas can find their prayer in your heart; and if you but listen in the stillness of the night you shall hear them saying in silence:
“Our God, who art our winged self, it is thy will in us that willeth.
It is thy desire in us that desireth.
It is thy urge in us that would turn our nights, which are thine, into days which are thine also.
We cannot ask thee for aught, for thou knowest our needs before they are born in us:
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all.”
And if it is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart. And if you cannot but weep when your soul summons you to prayer, she should spur you again and yet again, though weeping, until you shall come laughing. ... God listens not to your words save when He Himself utters them through your lips.... listen in the stillness of the night you shall hear them saying in silence "Our God, who art our winged self...."

It is enough. Just that.

On my favorite Sunday of the year --with Thomas... he must be my great-grandfather....

Khalil Gibran, Jesus, the Son of Man: Thomas
On the forefather of his doubts

My grandfather who was a lawyer once said, “Let us observe truth, but only when truth is made manifest unto us.”

When Jesus called me I heeded Him, for His command was more potent than my will; yet I kept my counsel.

When He spoke and the others were swayed like branches in the wind, I listened immovable. Yet I loved Him.

Three years ago He left us, a scattered company to sing His name, and to be His witnesses unto the nations.

At that time I was called Thomas the Doubter. The shadow of my grandfather was still upon me, and always I would have truth made manifest.

I would even put my hand in my own wound to feel the blood ere I would believe in my pain.
Now a man who loves with his heart yet holds a doubt in his mind, is but a slave in a galley who sleeps at his oar and dreams of his freedom, till the lash of the master wakes him.

I myself was that slave, and I dreamed of freedom, but the sleep of my grandfather was upon me. My flesh needed the whip of my own day.

Even in the presence of the Nazarene I had closed my eyes to see my hands chained to the oar.
Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.

Doubt is a foundling unhappy and astray, and though his own mother who gave him birth should find him and enfold him, he would withdraw in caution and in fear.

For Doubt will not know truth till his wounds are healed and restored.

I doubted Jesus until He made Himself manifest to me, and thrust my own hand into His very wounds.
Then indeed I believed, and after that I was rid of my yesterday and the yesterdays of my forefathers.

The dead in me buried their dead; and the living shall live for the Anointed King, even for Him who was the Son of Man.

Yesterday they told me that I must go and utter His name among the Persians and the Hindus. I shall go. And from this day to my last day, at dawn and at eventide, I shall see my Lord rising in majesty and I shall hear Him speak.

Our Father, who art our winged self,
Thou alone art holy.
Thy kingdom is among us.
It is your will in us that willeth.
Feed us that bread.
Forgive us when we stray.
We forgive others.
Sustain us through the disasters
   and the evil which comes our way.
For you are all, in all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

anything but black

So.... I went to my closet. 'Anything but black,' I said to myself... because I'm on stay-cation... and who wants to wear black when that is mostly whatcha wear any way....

I plowed through my closet.... Except for the forest-green stuff, it's all black... If it were summer, I have bright t-shirts. But for this time of year.... Nothing. But. Black.

So, I guess there are certainly worse things.
Than wearing black.
But, here I sit.
In black.
Oh well.

And, it's foggy, too.
And cold.
Supposed to snow tonight.
So, hunkered down.
Drinking tea.
In front of a fire.
Wearing black.
My mind screams pink.
And lilac.
And anything but fleece.
Oh well.


At prayer (John 15:1-11)

Jesus said,
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.
He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.
Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.
Abide in me as I abide in you.
Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you unless you abide in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches.
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit,
because apart from me you can do nothing.
Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers;
such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,
ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
My Father is glorified by this,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be complete.”

So... maybe I should just look for a nice grape color...
--and the green is fine, heh?!

Anything but black....
Time for a nap, me thinks.

Yes, time for a nap.

Monday, April 6, 2015

for me, all other bets are off

The devil ran amok among us, trying to mess things up. But, that was a losing battle, for the devil, anyway. Because that was settled for us all. A long time ago. Before time began.

So, I went to bed. Exhausted. Delighted. After midnite --after baptisms... was it thirteen or fifteen... I don't remember.... after the Vigil.

The Vigil. We took some of the red willow I had collected to make the holy fire. And, for good measure, a lot of the sacred sage. And cottonwood twigs. It seemed right to do that. The sacred gifts of the Creator, to make the Vigil fire. It was supposed to be a solemn thing, you know....

What we didn't know is that Joel loaded the fire with those sparklers that you can get on the 4th of July; he hid them in the Vigil fire. He lit the fire as I prayed, and then he stood back as we all stepped forward to breathe in the smoke, to wash in the smoke in the traditional way. And when the fire itself began to sparkle and burst with sparkles, we all laughed and laughed. And tried to light the Trinity candles. And laughed and laughed.

When we finally made it inside, the laughing turned to whispers --the darkness was profound. It was like entering a cave. The softness of the three little candles burning atop the staff Joel carried rounded the hard edges of the parish hall. Joel carried the staff in to the center of the circle of chairs. The font, the large Paschal Candle and an ambo sat in the middle of the circle. He stretched and craned to light the candle. And then stepped back....

He had stuck a sparkler by the wick of the Candle. And when that went off... the hilarity resumed.

We laughed through the Creation story. We laughed through the old bleached bones. We laughed through the return to Jerusalem. We laughed at the news of our adoption. We ate and drank the cosmos. The bread was sweet. Bread from the promised land, filled with yeast and honey and milk. The wine even sweeter.

And then we slept. I had set my alarm for 4:30AM so that I could arise and go to the sunrise service about thirty miles east and north of here. It seemed like it was the middle of the night when the phone rang --is was Sister K. "I don't see any lights on. Are you up? It's 5 --we were supposed to leave at 5!"

I hadn't even heard the alarm. Didn't even. "I'll be right out," I said. I scrambled for clothes. Washed my face. Teeth. Stuffed yogurt in a bag. Grabbed my 'God in a box' traveling sacristy and ran for the car.

We drove east. It was not yet dawn.... By the time we made it to the cemetery at St. Thomas, On the Tree, the sun had softened the dark. There was only one other person there --well, except for the thousands of those unseen.

We sang away the darkness. We stood at the foot of the old cross and prayed. We visited the grave of the son who died avoiding the careless and speeding driver. "Arise! Shine!" I said. The mother said, "Time to get up! --heyyyyyy, he never got up on time!" And we laughed. Ever so gently. Then we could see color in the sky, colors all around.

We went to the house over the hill for breakfast and coffee. The dogs barked. The children and young mother were still asleep in the main room next to the kitchen. The lamp burned on the table. One by one family members crowded in to the room that smelled of hard boiled eggs.

Then the sun spilled in the window. And someone handed me a baby. And coffee.

After breakfast, coffee and babies galore, Sister and I piled in to the car, and drove east. We stopped on top of the "flats" --one would hardly know that there is a river to the east and another to the south. Up on the flats, there is only prairie. And the wind. We talked. And talked. Which is like prayer. Which is prayer.

And the eagles came. Several golden eagles. Later, a bald eagle. To lift our prayers. And souls.

And then we did church. In White Horse. A full church. And cake. And an egg hunt....

On to the next. Where we baptized. And sang. And the children ran and ran outside. We killed only two wasps. And this little one, having watched her little sister get baptized, nearly threw herself backwards in to the water, without prompting. During the consecration of the bread and wine, she came running up to the altar. So, I picked her up, and trusted her invocation of the Holy Spirit.

And then, we couldn't stay for the meal --we had to run, faster than the wind. East. But only after we shared what the Easter Bunny had accidentally left in my car....

East.... I told them I would be there at 3:30.... at 3:34, when we had only two more miles to go, the car heading opposite us was full of familiar faces. We stopped on the road.

"We waited for you, but now we have packed up and gone," he said.

"What?!" My heart was sinking.... "It's just 3:30 now."

He looked at me and laughed. "No," he said. "It's 4:30 out here...."

And I threw my forehead against the steering wheel. Fast Time. In all the rush... The eastern half of the Reservation works on "Fast Time" --adhering to Central Time. They aren't IN the Central time zone, but all of their resources and jobs are.... so they work on Fast Time.

And I work in Slow Time. So, I was double late.... I got out of the car, pulled out the last of the stuff the Easter bunny had sent us....

Resurrection life, I had said, first sermon.... We don't have to wait for it. It is right now. Right now.

At prayer this morning (beginning at John 14:1)

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life."

Resurrection life.

For me, all other bets are off... I'll go with that one.

Off I go.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Now. And Now.

The dogs were sticking their noses in my eyes. It was time to get up. I asked them if they wanted to baptize twenty babies today. They leapt around the bed, so excited. So, we got up.

I am grateful, so very grateful that I do not have to do Lent or Holy Week or Good Friday or anything like that today. Today, we begin. In just 45 minutes, we will gather to make some candy sacks --THANK YOU for the Easter candy! A whole box of it, so heavy the Postmaster made me go around to the back of the post office to load it in the car!

And after the candy sacks, I will begin the set up for all those baptisms --there may be twenty, there may be more; there may be ten. I never know. I just have to be ready.

To share the water that we pass through.
To share the fire that burns within us.
To share the oil that shines so brightly.

I will have to wait until after the chaos of the baptisms at 4pm to sit in the dark around a solitary flame and hear the stories of God's wondrous movingness among us. I know it is not technically correct to have a baptism service and then the Vigil.

But, maybe here... maybe here that is just right. Baptism first.

Besides, it is impossible to do otherwise... unless you want to skip the Vigil entirely. If one tried, at this point, to make fifty running children and their distracted parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, brothers, sisters, and hungry babies to sit still.... Well, then, you are a better liturgist than I.

And, if I am to be fed, soul-wise, I need the Vigil. I need the dark. I need the fire. I need to sit and listen.

So. Now. And Now. And Now is the time. To discover what new life the Spirit is leading us into.

At prayer this morning (from Hebrews 4)

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Whoot! You mean, I can unleash my boldness?!

Oh... well....

One thing at a time!

Blessed Pascha, everybody!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Time to give it all a rest.

We sat in the dark. Grownups at the tables. The children at my feet. We played with fire. And water. And listened to the old stories of blood and promises. We heard how Moses and Aaron listened to God and helped their relatives make a run for it. Protected by blood. Through the water. We ate with our jackets on and our hoods up. That's what we did last night.

We heard how God destroyed all the firstborn sons. How God caused death, drowning the Egyptians. We heard how, even after they were made free, maybe because they were made free, how the People wandered. Hungry. Thirsty. Unhappy. Unfaithful to the God who set them free.

And they wandered. And wandered. And wandered. Lost. Homeless. Forming a land-less nation. A manna identity.

And God saw that laws and contracts just don't work with us. Threats and death just don't work with us. Exile doesn't work with us. Homecoming doesn't work with us. God saw.

We didn't.

God made light first. We prefer the dark. God un-chaosed Creation breathing life in to it, setting it all in wild motion. We prefer death. And sodden lifelessness. We lock it in place with rocks and earth.

God saw how we kept running. We ran away in the Garden to hide. We ran through bloody door posts and walls of water. We ran through the desert. We ran from that other garden on the hill. That garden of the kiss and betrayal. And ran. And ran. And ran.

I have often wondered why Jesus didn't wash their feet as they arrived for that meal. Wasn't that courtesy and hospitality supposed to be offered upon arrival? But that ritual was about being clean. Not dragging the streets in with you.

And that's not what Jesus offered. It wasn't about being clean. It wasn't about getting the street off of us.

The ancient meal of Moses and Aaron was to be eaten in a hurry, getting ready to make a run for it, in the face of death.

The meal Jesus offered... was interrupted by tending to our feet... no more running. Here. You've arrived. Eat. No more running. Take off your shoes. You have run for eons. Let me wash your feet. Sit still. You scolded the woman for doing this to me. Here. Let me do this for you.

Because, now, it is time. Don't you see? It's me.

The death of the light of the world. The death of that first word God spoke.
Some sought that death. Purchased it for thirty pieces.
Not knowing it came freely. Of its own will.
Not to pay the price for our running, our grabbing, our hunger, our greed.
But to set us free.

The Law doesn't work.
Threats don't work.
Running doesn't work.
Death doesn't work.
It's time to end all that.

Time's up.
To finish off the law.
To cut off the threats.
To quit running.
To end death.
Time's up.

And we kept running.
Some of us naked.

Time's up.
To give it all a rest.

(Their little feet in my hands.
I can't get them out of my mind.)

At prayer this morning (Wisdom 1:16 – 2:1,12-22)

But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death;
considering him a friend, they pined away
and made a covenant with him,
because they are fit to belong to his company.
For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
“Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.

“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture,
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hoped for the wages of holiness,
nor discerned the prize for blameless souls.

(John 13:36-38)
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.”

Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”

Time's up.
To give it all a rest.

To set us free.
Slaves no more to sin or death.