Thursday, July 30, 2015

throwing big rocks

I whacked weeds all day yesterday in Rapid at our cottage. I thought of something hysterically funny that kept me laughing for hours. As soon as I put the weed whacker away, I forgot what was so funny.

Oh well....

But, I have been up to the hospital several times --families there. Tuesday night, I was there in the ICU until about 11:30pm with a family. A very young man --21yo. Congenital heart problems. I went back to visit last night (Wednesday) and discovered another family waiting there. ICU. Another young man.

I told them all that I would have my phone by me... so, when I came home, I put it on "outdoor" mode so it would wake me. I put it in the bed next to me (because in Rapid, we have no bedside tables!!! --yet!!!) --and first thing this morning I checked it to make sure I hadn't slept through a call. It was 5:20am. The dogs were happy that I was awake --and hardly let me check the phone... but, there were no calls. I said a prayer of thanksgiving and continued protection for the young men and the families.

As soon as I put my legs over the edge of the bed to get up and let the bouncing dogs out the door, the phone range. It was the mom of the second young man... her son had died. I said I would be right up.

So, I roused Joel --enlisted him in making coffee and helping put the garbage out and getting the dogs happy-- and then we went up to the hospital...

We greeted the family. We gathered around the hospital bed, shoving aside the silent machines and pumps and drips, said the prayers for at the time of death. We wept. Stroked his face. His hands. He was still warm. We spoke of details. Including that a young mother, another takoja (grandchild) was downstairs in the maternity ward --she had just been given permission "to push." We told jokes of one going and another coming --high-fiving as they passed....

And the young man, whereas last night his body was struggling and tormented --he was now at peace.

On the way out of the ICU, we looked in at the other young man --with the heart trouble. He had looked better last night --and was still stable this morning. His unci (grandma) was in the room --she had probably spent the night with him in there, next to the bedside, holding his hand, telling him he is loved, singing him those songs, saying the prayers.

There have been so many incidents of racism in Rapid, and continued worry about such, that family members rarely leave a loved one alone for any length of time.... Even over night....

We said good morning to her, and blessed the young man...

More than a day full of events --and it is now just 8:30....

Now that the weeds are gone, I think I will go move some dirt around. Maybe throw some rocks around.... big rocks.... --as prayer... --as a way to clean my own soul...

At prayer this morning (from Mark 7 ending with verse 23)

When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

There we are.

Off I go. To throw some big rocks around.
Please keep the families of the young men in your prayers today.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I guess that is a good thing

I wish we could do something like this.... a summer camp and after school program for "at risk" kids.... (thank you to Ellen Campbell who posted a link on Facebook to this article).

--because all of our kids are "at risk".

I am watching one of our eleven year olds disappear before my eyes... swallowed up in frustration and anger, violent and unreliable parenting, constant bullying, absolute poverty, broken institutions all around... . The one or two hours of intervention per week, if we are lucky and persistent, cannot even shape a vowel in the cacophony of discord in this child's life. But, if it were daily... maybe... just maybe... .

Maybe.

--but it would have to be consistent enough to break a two or three generation-old patterns....

--sigh--

I cannot even imagine what it would look like....

Consistency.... There are many good and wonderful and very creative ideas here. And the enthusiasm is tangible. It's the consistency.... One time events fare far better....

But, hey... I can't even get church services going in every church on every Sunday... mea culpa.

I am left wondering if that is a cultural distinction....

So... today I continue my quest to organize and reorganize my own tasks --some neglected for nearly two months as I had that run of about sixteen funerals in about eight weeks... I lost track. And mostly tragic, devastating funerals, at that....

--and organizing and reorganizing my own tasks is mostly so that I can fly on auto-pilot when the pressure hits. Because it always does.

So... I pray for the children. Knowing I can't do it all... we simply don't have the resources... and hoping and praying that what I am able to do, I do to the very best of my being --giving it all.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 62)

For God alone my soul in silence waits; *
from God comes my salvation.
God alone is my rock and my salvation, *
my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.

How long will you assail me to crush me,
all of you together, *
as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall?
They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor; *
lies are their chief delight.
They bless with their lips, *
but in their hearts they curse.

For God alone my soul in silence waits; *
truly, my hope is in God.
God alone is my rock and my salvation, *
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
In God is my safety and my honor; *
God is my strong rock and my refuge.

Put your trust in God always, O people, *
pour out your hearts before God, who is our refuge.
Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath, *
even those of low estate cannot be trusted.
On the scales they are lighter than a breath, *
all of them together.
Put no trust in extortion;
in robbery take no empty pride; *
though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it.
God has spoken once, twice have I heard it, *
that power belongs to God.

Steadfast love is yours, O Lord, *
for you repay all people according to their deeds.

Yeah.

And this (Mark 6:30-46)

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.”

But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?”

And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.”

When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.

In response to the money question, Jesus asks them what they already have....

Yeah....

--but somebody has to buy the toilet paper, pay for the utilities and insurance... and yadda yadda....

Feeling inspired.
And overwhelmed!

I guess that is a good thing.

--or...

Off I go.

Monday, July 27, 2015

filled with good things

Clear and bright. That is how I would describe the day as it began. Clear and bright. I sat, folding the Sunday morning bulletins, anticipating with great joy going to Blackfoot and Promise --both places having been visited by mission groups from the east --both places blessed and improved --and me having so little time to visit and be with the groups while they were here, me too busy burying folks....

Saturday evening, the tornado watches were being broadcast, but we didn't even get any rain --the fronts never even moved close to us. I had checked the weather map app, and everything was to the east of us --dark red, orange and yellow, and covered with the little "tornadic thunderstorm" icons. So, as I folded bulletins, I was wondering in what shape the gravel roads would be.

I checked my gas gauge as I packed the sacristy box in to the car --no problem, a full tank... just in case. The tires looked right. Off I go. Into the clear and bright.

There was no evidence of recent storm --no puddles... the gravel was dry and dusty. I left a plume of dust behind me. It takes an hour and a half to get to Blackfoot. I arrive ten minutes early --folks are already there --and the covered porch is a wonder to behold. Solid posts. Beams. Rafters. Before, we would have to wade through uneven ground, the ramps more than rickety --ice and snow in the winter, mud in the spring. Now --it is easy street. Covered. Even. Solid.

I stand in wonder and awe. The cemetery, too, had been cleaned and mowed. What tremendous blessings. What. Blessings.

So, we prayed. And ate. A toad and its baby came and blessed us. Too. They loaded me up with the bags and boxes of stuff donated by the mission group --brass candlesticks, altar frontals, candles, clothes, blankets.... Good stuff.

And then I began the return trip --Blackfoot really is the edge of the world, perched high on a bluff overlooking the Missouri --well... this part of the River is a lake, really. Lake Oahe, because of the dam 60 miles downstream. The people dragged their church up here from the valley just before the Missouri was flooded. This was as far as they wanted to go. They couldn't stand to leave the water's edge. They had been along the River as long as anyone could remember. As a matter of fact, no one had ever lived up on the "flats" --except the buffalo... . So they dragged their church up to the bluff, and sat down beside the water, and wept as the flood took all that they knew, all that they had...

The Army Corp of Engineers even moved the graves... what graves they could find....

On the return trip, I roll my windows down. There is no air conditioning or water in the building at the next church. I might as well acclimate. The sweet odor of the clover is nearly overwhelming. I turn in to the drive --the mission group here has marked the drive with a new cross. That is good. A sign for all. And the drive is dry --still no evidence of the frightening storms of the night before. The parking lot is dry, too... which is a good thing.... Here, any way.

After I use the outhouse, I back up to the porch. P is already there, her bright red truck cannot be missed. And I begin the journey of delight --the porch, which had been made of plywood and was sagging and ready to go, is new and wonderful. Carefully made. Amazement fills me. The stoop to the kitchen is also replaced. As I go inside, the old remnant carpet samples have been removed, and the floor freshly painted. All the trim has finally been put up. The walls washed. The light fixtures washed. It is amazing. Truly amazing.

And new pews. Well --they aren't new, really. They are old --we had purchased them from a church in Mobridge, 80 miles to the east, off-rez. But the ones we had were even older --single-board pews, probably from the '20s, maybe the '30s.... No one could really sit in them, except the children. You could perch half a bun on them, or twist your body and do one bun at a time... and they were only five feet wide, at most. And we had only twelve pews.... They only sat one adult at a time.


The old pews at St. Mary's, Promise --five feet wide and the seat only twelve inches deep...

But, now... Now.... And I forgot my camera....

Of course....

So, we dig through the boxes and bags of gifts from the other mission group and dress the altar with a green frontal... There had only ever been a lace table cloth on this altar.... And as we work, they tell me about the kids that had come on this mission group, how proud they had been of the work they had done. How they had taken the kids to the river, to the hill, home to see the new puppies... Such wonderful kids....

The edge of the altar covered with a table cloth at St. Mary's, at a recent funeral --the coffin is
before the altar, draped with a star quilt....

We gather. Say our prayers. It is too hot to eat. We stand before the altar, turning first this way and that and exclaim in wonder and gratitude. The church has been transformed. Filled with a generating love, where only things overwhelming and depressing had been before. It is bright. 'There is nothing we can really offer in return,' the ladies say. ''Oh gee, I say. 'You all sound just like those disciples who moped about thinking there wasn't enough food to go around.' And embarrassed laughter fills the corner of the room.

We are filled with gratitude. Our cups run over. We sit down and are filled with good things right in front of those who wish us ill.

And it is good.

At prayer this morning (Mark 6:13)

They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

I know the demons here... it is not easy work to know and name them... but we have been recently visited by those who anointed the wounds, healed the sick and cast out many demons.

And we are filled with gratitude.
Amen. Amen.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

the procession between

I don't remember what I did after I got home... I allowed myself to "crash" and think of nothing. And eat ice cream, even though I know I shouldn't.... Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia... I prefer the frozen yogurt kind, but they don't get that here...

And when it was time for bed, I went out in the yard with the dogs. Off to the west, the horizon was crashing with thunder and lightening. Wakinyan. The two are one in Lakota. I called Joel out to watch with me. Paeha was running around crazy, until I picked Witty up, because Witty always just shakes and shakes and shakes at storms such as this. Then Paeha wanted up too. So we watched the storm approach, standing under the locust tree by the house, holding the dogs in our arms, exclaiming aloud with wonder every time the lightening burst open the sky.

When the wind began to pick up, we came back inside. It was cooling off --so we decided to open the windows and turn off the air conditioners. I opened the windows, except on the west side of the house. The storm was approaching from the west.

I checked my weather app. It said the storm was approaching at 40mph with 60mph winds and large hail. And that we should take cover someplace safe. Two fronts. One at 11:05 and the other at 11:45. I intended to be asleep by then, so just not opening the windows on that side of the house would be safe enough.

I can remember when I was more like Mr. Witty... there was a time when I wouldn't even dream of going to sleep with a storm approaching...

There was also a time when I couldn't imagine that I would bury three children in one week... . Who could even imagine that.... Who could imagine that, except in a war zone or something....

Except, this is a war zone. A holocaust. Even now. With third-rate medical care in a Federal facility that hires doctors trained off-shore that couldn't be licensed in medical facilities any where in the States. With marginal educational opportunities. And 80% unemployment. And crowded housing. And rampant poverty.

A holocaust of denial, ignorance and racism... and willful blindness on the part of most of the Nation that caused the same.

A holocaust also found in the inner cities....

The causes are not as complicated as everyone is led to believe. The system of capitalism and "free" markets require in themselves that there are some who must do without. And we have set up a society and culture that makes that okay.

But it's not.

It's really not.

I do believe a storm is approaching....

And this morning, when I let the dogs out, it was raining. It hadn't rained all night --it was just another isolated storm moving over us. Sometime after coffee, a dove came to the door and called in the open window, telling us that the rain had stopped. Joel noticed it '--the voice of God,' he said, 'telling us the storm is over.''

That is the name of the baby I buried yesterday,' I said to him.

'What?' he responded.

'Little Dove. Wakiyela Cikala. We buried Little Dove yesterday,' I said.

And now I am troubled... with the little dove at the door, the voice of God, the baby.... the passing storm? --or announcing another....

So, I will say my prayers. (ending with Jeremiah 16:21)
I am now sending for many fishermen, says the LORD, and they shall catch them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. For my eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from my presence, nor is their iniquity concealed from my sight. And I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations.
O LORD, my strength and my stronghold,
my refuge in the day of trouble,
to you shall the nations come
from the ends of the earth and say:
Our ancestors have inherited nothing but lies,
worthless things in which there is no profit.
Can mortals make for themselves gods?
Such are no gods!
“Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the LORD.”

Oh gee... what ever made us think that being called to "fish for people" is a good thing? It is obvious destruction.... Or is this just another place Jesus turns the prophets and law on their heads...? A reference point that the time had come for the fishing and hunting to begin... and he is what it looks like... Love. Mercy. Forgiveness. Good News from God. Not condemnation and death....

(Mark 1:14-20)
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Hmmmm.... to be believed, the Church must believe what it says it preaches... it must live what it says it believes....

--we cannot do it until we put down the nets and leave the boats --and our fathers and hired men...

Oh come, O Blessed Storm.
O Little Dove, announce the rain has passed
and lead us into The Day.
Fish bones strewn across the sky,
feathers under our feet,
the procession between
as a pillar of fire.

Amen.

Friday, July 24, 2015

healing and food for the journey

His balloon was already popped. It remained tied to his wrist, and he turned occasionally and talked to it, dragged it to his heels. He would run up and down the center aisle, turning his head, watching it drag behind him. He kept looking at me, sitting up front, waiting in the chair --pre-funeral trepidation --waiting for the signs to begin the wake service. His eyes were so bright, keen, brilliant. He stuck his tongue out, first from the back of the room, then from the front. The grandmas and aunties weren't watching. They were admiring a new baby. I made a face back. I guess he was about six.... a charisma that wouldn't quit. Vivacious. Electric.

Then he spotted it. Somebody had dropped a piece of something --cake, maybe a cookie... and it had been stepped on. It was flat and stuck to the floor. He squatted next to it. Picked it off the floor and looked at me.

I made a 'YUCK' face, putting the back of my hand to my lips. I rolled my eyes and shook my head no. He stood up with it in his fingers, turned around and began to walk towards the garbage can by the entrance. He looked at me, knowing I was watching. The old old grandma, hands on her cane, was watching too.

He walked to the garbage can and stood there... he turned around and motioned, with the piece of something in his hand, that he was going to throw it away. I nodded 'yes.' Then in one motion, he first held it out over the gaping hole of the can, and then with great ceremony brought it to his mouth and ate it, looking straight at me, laughter written all over him. And he chewed it up, making a great drama of it.

The old old grandma followed his eyes to mine. I looked at her, half-smiling, and shrugged my shoulders. Oh well. Then he bolted, skipped out the door, his chin lead the way, hands dancing... laughing with his whole body... He stopped at the door to make sure I saw him swallow it, rubbed his hand on his belly, and disappeared out the door.

The old old grandma and I both started to laugh. What a revolting humor. He will probably eat live gold fish some day. Or a grasshopper. Or bite the head off a snake. In front of the girls. To make them scream and laugh and scream some more. We were his trial run.

And it was funny as all get out. And disgusting. And hilarious. We had been had.... Set up. Taken for the ride. He was really good at it. Already.

Time to refocus. What to say. With that little pink coffin right next to me. What to say?

Turns out, I didn't have to say anything... The grandma stood and thanked everyone for coming. The grandpa stood and gave instruction on how to grieve. Then, the old man stood up and talked and sang and talked and sang. Jesus talk. Jesus hymns. Forty-five minutes. And the people were done. Even the adults were squirming. So. Very. Done.

So we ate... And I left at about quarter-to-ten. The only thing I can really remember is that the heat of the day was still lingering in the dark of the night. From the smell in the air, a field had been mown that day....

Exhausted. I don't even remember seeing the stars. The road-map of heaven. Each light in the sky, the camp fire of ancestors, gathered, telling those old stories...

This morning... I am again filled with that pre-funeral trepidation. The image of the crud-eating boy still makes me laugh. The shared glances with the grandma...

--and some unpremeditated joy wells up from within....

At prayer this morning (Mark 5:21-43)
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him,

Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?'” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.”

And they laughed at him.

Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age).

At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Hmmmmm....

I've seen too many bleeding women and dead babies recently... this all just rings hollow in my ears --pie in the sky stuff.... God like Santa Claus....

However, I do know healing... a much slower kind of healing than the woman who touched his robe... the healing I know took years and years...  and I do know how to like food, especially after feeling so dead....

So... I will trust that --those things... and let the story just sink its roots in to my flesh... and hope, not for God like Santa Claus, but hope that all life conform to healing and food for the journey....

Yeppa.

Off I go.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

western sky

It should get to be the warmest day yet this year.... Not a cloud in the sky. That brilliant western blue uninterrupted. A blue so deep that some have claimed they are able to see the stars. Even in the day.

The stars last night. Like lace. Across the neck of heaven. I could hear the flute music, although there was no flute. I could hear it with my bones. Making peace. Stilling the birds.

Some here move without time. Without rhythm. As in a river current but without direction. It is not a blessing--it is like being without a name... Time gives us perception, even if it is not linear time, but is that other type of time that doesn't run in one direction but is more like rain drops falling on a rough board.

Time.

There is that scripture that tells us there is a time for everything. And it lists everything --living, dying, happiness, sadness --the human condition in presumed polarities --it lists everything except the time to have no time at all.

And, it seems that when we think of eternity --even then we think of time... endless time.

But that's not it.

We begin another funeral tonight. A stillborn baby girl. A life time of memories with her will be compressed in to a night. A single night. An eternity. Of grief. And loss. Packed in to a small pink coffin. And a name.

And there is not a single family here who has not done this.

Searching the sky for stars in broad daylight. In the seamless western sky.

At prayer this morning (Mark 5:1-20)

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.

Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid.

Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.”

And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

Oh gee.... Even after he was clean of Legion, and sitting and talking to Jesus in his right mind, he was still known as the 'demoniac'.

Proclaiming in the Ten Cities (Decapolis) region... among the Greeks... because who else would have a herd of 10,000 pigs....

Off I go... sorting through time like I might touch the tops of weeds with my fingertips....

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

it's always been that way... until today

So...

This past weekend, with the Bishop's visit, we did get pictures of some of the confirmands before they all ran away....





And someone is subtly proud of their Niobrara cross!!

Oh my goodness the wind was blowing...

And, then the baptism in Thunder Butte...




--and one very cool recently graduated Godfather.

And, just because I find it absolutely hysterical --because, for 59 years my hair has been adamantly straight --I mean so straight it won't hold a curl for love nor money... and, now, all of a sudden, I have ringlets... just like the rest of my family....

--never in my life.... never had even one curl or wave... and now a have a whole crop of them....




Maybe I'm not adopted after all.... Or, maybe I'm getting a whole new body.... In any event, it's cracking me up.... And, no, it's not the humidity... Virginia, Delaware and New York are far more humid than South Dakota....

Cracking. Me. Up.

Sigh.... Back to the holiness at hand.

Today we bury a little one. Tomorrow we begin again with another infant.

Please keep us in your prayers.

At prayer this morning (Zephaniah 3:14-20)

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:

Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes,

says the LORD.
Have a blessed Mary Magdalene Day. First one to be sent out (apostle) to tell of the Resurrection.

Yeah, she said, it's always been dead is dead... until today!

Yeah --the first apostle, no matter what the good ol' boys say.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

We're gonna run out of Indians.

The prairie is bright yellow --in the parts where the uncultivated hills and ravines have given way to clover. The air is perfumed --incensed with sage and clover in the heat of the afternoon sun. I breathed in deeply....

The church had roiled with thirteen, fourteen and fifteen year old girls, in zebra stripes, leopard spots and frilly bows and hems. The boys... they wore dark glasses, thinking that would hides their tears. Some wore their hair with thick bangs over their nose.

One grandmother spoke to me in rushed and hurried words. 'She was sitting in the back seat of the car coming over here, and she said to us, I wonder what it feels like... I got mad at her.' I knew I was out of the pamphlets I picked up at the mental health offices --on how to talk to your teen about suicide. So, we talked about things to say and do... most especially getting an appointment to talk with a counselor.

All of the grandparents are heart sick with fear and grief. Frantic. This is the sixth suicide....

And we buried her in a pink coffin, with a pink star quilt, under the bright yellow clover.

In the midst of the waiting by the open grave, one of the singers at the drum approaches me. 'This must be awful gumbo,' he said. 'Look at that.' And he pointed to the hard crust of the earth, crazed with crevices where the earth had split open as it dried. 'Hmmmm,' I said, wondering at his fascination with the dirt, and his wanting to tell me about it. I looked at him, and he smiled and then turned to go be with the other singers now gathering at the drum by the truck at the edge of the cemetery.

Yes, I though to myself. It must be awful gumbo. Because it, too, adds a quality to the aroma --a thin, veiled, ancient smell of dirt that even while dry reminds one of the smell of water... in powder form.

The child with me was remembering aloud every detail of her mother's burial. 'Remember when...' and then she fills in the vivid recollection. I am stunned, drawn and quartered between her memory and the present tense --the burial of this little girl.

My mouth is suddenly parched. The prayers here need to be different than what is written in the little pamphlet I have made, full of the prayers for the burial of a child. I had used these prayers once in nine years before I came here. Now I use it more than once a month. And some of it just doesn't ring true here... other things need to be said here, aloud, before God and the People, than what was written in urban, intellectual, well-heeled places where others are paid to tend the graves....

And tonight, we begin the funeral liturgy for a seven month old baby --and Thursday, another much loved, greatly anticipated infant who never breathed in the air....

--never tasted clover air... or gumbo smell....

I hear his voice on the phone --the echo of it still with me as I stand out in this cemetery in this beautiful aromatic valley-- 'We're gonna run out of Indians,' he had said at his own grand-daughter's funeral.

Yeah.

I hold the hand of the child remembering her mother's burial. I pull her close and tell her to get a handful of dirt. She will help me now, with the prayers. And at the right time, she makes a crooked cross with the pungent and dry earth on top of the pink coffin; we cover that earth with the pink star quilt, and step back from the grave as the teenage boys lower their friend in to the hole and wield shovels with an earthen prayer.

Yeah. We're gonna run out of Indians.

At prayer this morning (from Mark 4)

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
I will trust that.
Off I go.

Monday, July 20, 2015

holiness sucks

I don't even know what they hunger for...

Some say authenticity.

But, I don't even know what that means any more. How am I not authentic...?

What I do know is that adults in every generation have messed up the world. The whole world. By selling out in so many ways. Selling out to the very things their souls cried out against.

I search for patterns in the grief expressed before me. The pulse is only, "Why? Why? Why?"

And from the adults, numbness and anger. Overwhelming loss. And the resulting guilt.

And I know it is folly and pride that makes me think anything I can say can make a difference.

So, I say it again --it is the goodness in you that hurts. Don't numb that goodness with alcohol or drugs or sex. Take care of the goodness in you, the little bit of heaven God has placed in your heart by doing those things that will help the goodness grow. That doesn't mean that you will not have pain or sorrow or confusion or loneliness. That doesn't mean that everything is going to be alright. It does mean that you are holy.

And you are made for holiness....

But what does that mean in the middle of the open prairie, where landmarks are so subtle and always changing.... those are the words I hear tumbling around in my head --the cacophony of clattering bells and beads --the thunder of meaning --my own striving to make sense of it all...

When there is no sense to it... and I hear again the words of my friend, JG, a former Franciscan, who said --sometimes suicide is The Most Rational Act, given the craziness all around....

Rational, yes.

But not holy.

And holiness sucks. Because without maturity, without a steady hindsight, without a vision, without the threshold of the surety of the profound joy, holiness sucks because it hurts. Holiness sucks because it exposes the lie, it deconstructs everything but the suffering...

--and without a guide through the suffering, there seems to be only one way out...

And that is the greatest lie of all.... That is the snake in the tree, its tongue out, tasting our vulnerability, our ego, our desire for a puff-pastry life.... And it offers the fruit of our own desire to us, fresh and ready... its poison sac hidden in the flesh of the fruit....

To overcome death.
To know all things.

And we eat it. Again and again....

There is no easy route to the beginning. Where we can finally let go. No. That's not it. It's beyond letting go... it's beyond the free-fall....

There is no easy route there. But we will all get there. One way. Or another.

At prayer this morning (Mark 4:10-12)

When Jesus was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'”

Or, as it is otherwise said (from The Message)

When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight. These are people—

Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven.”

--open eyes, but not seeing...
--open ears, but not hearing...
--unwilling to try living another way....

Holiness sucks.
Because it opens our ears.
Opens our eyes.
Nudges us to live The Way.

God help us all.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

it's official

It's official.

The world has gone crazy.

At prayer today (Psalm 37:1-18)

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; *
do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
For they shall soon wither like the grass, *
and like the green grass fade away.

Put your trust in the LORD and do good; *
dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
Take delight in the LORD, *
who shall give you your heart’s desire.
Commit your way to the LORD; put your trust in the LORD, *
who will bring it to pass.
The LORD will make your righteousness as clear as the light *
and your just dealing as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD; *
wait patiently for the LORD.

Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; *
do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.
For evildoers shall be cut off, *
but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.
In a little while the wicked shall be no more; *
you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.

But the lowly shall possess the land; *
they will delight in abundance of peace.
The wicked plot against the righteous *
and gnash at them with their teeth.

The Lord laughs at the wicked, *
knowing that their day will come.
The wicked draw their sword and bend their bow
to strike down the poor and needy, *
to slaughter those who are upright in their ways.
Their sword shall go through their own heart, *
and their bow shall be broken.

The little that the righteous has *
is better than the great riches of the wicked.
For the power of the wicked shall be broken, *
but the LORD upholds the righteous.

Please keep B in your prayers.
And the two young men now in jail, because they do not know the meaning of 'NO.'
Please pray for the child who witnessed this and called for help.

Please keep the EM family in your prayers as they gather tonight and prepare to give their grandpa-father-uncle back to God.

Please keep the G family in your prayers at the sudden loss of their 7-month old baby.

Please keep the D family in your prayers as they grieve their beloved little girl who took her own life.

Please keep the Tribal Council, the doctors, nurses, the counselors in your prayers.
Some are pressing for the Chairman to call a state of emergency....

Please keep L and his woman in your prayers. They will receive in to their arms their still born baby girl today. Please pray for the grandmas and grandpas and all the family.

Please pray for the RA and BP families as they grieve the loss of one of the fathers in their family.

Please keep J in your prayers as he recovers from being hit in the head with a 2x4. Please keep AJ in your prayers because he wielded the 2x4.

In the midst of all this, give thanks for those who gather in the kitchen today, and feed the hungry. Give them a cool place for a little while.

And give thanks for the Lutheran mission group here, giving hope and joy to the people of Promise.

Pray for the children of this place.

Off I go.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

--found among them.

I was trying hard to notice the length of the shadows. The shape of the clouds. The way the tops of the grasses are going to seed. The immense and overwhelming beauty all around me. The eagle. The hawk. The watching prairie dog.

I was trying too hard. And I knew it.

I could not remember what I had said when and where and to whom. Death had not yet overwhelmed me. Death had not yet silenced me. But I sure as hell was sick and tired of talking about God and death at the same time.

In between one funeral and the next, I had been called to the ER to pray with a family. They had found their beloved grandfather on the floor. They were shocked at the suddenness of it --burdened with the thought that he had been alone as he died. I assured them he was not alone. But that was not what was the real trouble --it was that so much had been left unsaid. He had so much more to tell them. They had so much more they wanted to say. And watch him crack a smile. Or speak with his eyes.

And, Sunday happened suddenly, interrupted with an afternoon wedding. Sunday morning, I had spoken about power --the power of Herod to do as he pleased. Which is so very different from the power of Jesus, who could have done what he pleased, but never used power to destroy life. And the power of prophets, who speak only at great risk to themselves.

And I spoke of the power of The Dance --the Women's Traditional dance... the endurance, the strength, the grace, the rhythm. The power. When it is well done, it is never showy, never adulterated with pizzaz or ego. It is the dance of humility. And beauty.

The differences between that dance, and the dance of the daughter who could seduce her step-father in to giving away half his kingdom.... or delivering the head of a prophet on a plate, even one he liked and feared....

We all already know which dance keeps the cosmos in motion.

Sunday evening was another wake. The fourth wake in five days. This is when I searched the clouds. The shadows. The grasses. The beauty. The words of the psalmist took shape in my mind's eye, 'I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come?' And I filled in the meaning I needed at that moment --neither the sun nor the moon, the day nor the night shall ever overwhelm you... and I sang it aloud to the eagle and the hawk as the car churned its way up out of the river valley.

I slept restlessly. Too hot. The sound of the fans. Worried that the ointment I had put on my still-healing-from-my-walk foot would get all over everything if the dressing came off. The dogs took advantage of me and slept on my legs. I don't know why. Bad dogs.

We rose with the sun. Thanked God for coffee. And then the phone rang. Please come. A suicide. In the darkest part of the morning.

Joel offered to help --he would ride with the mission group out to St. Mary's in Promise, show them where it was. Other folks would be there to meet them, to welcome them. I would come get him after the funeral. It was a plan.

So I entered the devastation. Submerged in the chaos that is grief such as this. When those present were able to catch their breath, we prayed. But even the Lord's prayer seemed either violent or resigned --I couldn't tell which. Or maybe it was just me. I couldn't tell.

I apologized, and said I had to go do a funeral, but that I would be back. They ask for a comfort service in the evening. I said of course, and made them promise to eat before then and care for their bodies. And then I left, driving east. The morning shadows gone. Heat settling in like a thick blanket. The corn willing to wilt, given a chance.

I arrived ten minutes before the funeral was supposed to begin. By the clock, any way. But there was confusion as to whether the people were supposed to be ready at slow (Mountain) time or fast (Central) time. 'We clearly put that it was supposed to be Central Time in all the announcements,' the funeral guy said in a pinched way. I sighed inwardly.

Sometimes it is so embarrassing to be around white people. Time has nothing to do with what the clock says. And then I remembered that this is the same funeral place that refuses to bring shovels to the Reservation, claiming they don't get them back. Of course they are worried about what the clock says about time.

I speak to the daughter. She was not ready to begin --the cook was still asleep. She points to the tent pitched by the church. I notice that the tents are on this side of the parish hall, the trailers on the other side. She is fine with me running down the road to get my husband and bring him back.

(Today, as I write this, I am laughing at myself --at the time, I didn't even think twice that folks were camped out in tents and trailers on the church grounds for the wake and funeral....)

I take the guy who is going to go help the mission group later. As we go, he tells me where I should just get over on the other side of the road because of the 'washboard' --it will ruin the car faster than the fine dust or the mileage.... He has the road memorized. I follow his cues.

When we arrive at St. Mary's, the mission group is not there. 'We think they drove on by,' the grandma says. I shudder. 'We sent someone after them,' she said.

And, so, we wait. And laugh. The little dog doesn't stop barking at me, and the grandma keeps telling it to be quiet. The heat is really settling in. I get antsy and decide to try to find them and the guy who went after them... As I get back to the road, I see them a couple of miles off, coming through the valley. I turn the car around and wait for them in the drive.

It is a joyful reunion. We tease Joel unmercifully. 'Never follow a white man's directions on a Reservation,' I say. Joel agrees. Huge laughter. He had taken them around by road to where it says 'Promise' on the map.

As if a map means any thing.

'If you cross the River here, where it says Promise on the map is just a half mile that way --but the road takes you around 9 more miles that way, just a half mile this way,' the guy said. 'This area really is Promise, too,' he says. The children of the mission group are already tumbling around in the dirt, as they point to the outhouse in amazement....

We take our leave, and Joel comes with us. When we arrive back at the funeral, I can tell people are ready. We set up. The people gather in the church. We say the opening prayers. People come forward to the open coffin and give their final respects and greet the family. At the right time, the coffin is closed, and we begin our prayers. I don't remember what I said, but I do remember pointing out the windows and saying 'Look, she is hid with Christ in God, and wherever you look, whoops, there she is.' And the people nod.

The young men carried her the half-mile up the hill. We buried her in the hole they had dug by hand. Then we returned to a feast. Meats. Breads. Watermelon. Salads. We ate pumpkin pie and pineapple upside-down cake. To remind us life is sweet. Because life is sweet.

And I called the Bishop, even though I had told him that I would not call him until Wednesday or Thursday because I needed to 'unplug.'

'Why are you calling?' he asked. 'I had to move the goal-posts,' I said. 'I thought I would be able to 'unplug' this afternoon--but it hasn't worked out that way, so I figured I might as well talk to you!' And we laughed and talked.

The evening drew close. The shadows threatened to stretch for miles. The FBI courier still hadn't arrived to retrieve the body for autopsy. (I am still too tired to be absolutely furious about this.) The grandmas were unwilling to leave the waiting area until the FBI had arrived. Someone always has to watch the body. But they still wanted the prayers.

Prayers first. Prayers always. Prayers.

So, we gathered. In the round room at the back of the hospital. By the morgue. The grandmas weeping. The mothers stunned. The fathers silent. The children watching it all through their eyelids.

I no longer had words that I could chose. Or place in a line, so that they would make sense. The setting sun was cutting red swaths of light across the room. We were all blinded by it. Perhaps that was enough. I know I said something, and someone nodded. And I offered healing prayer.

When I got home, I said to Joel, 'I want to wake up there.' So we got in the car, and we drove to Rapid. To the cottage.

And, today, I think I shall nap. Maybe pull some weeds. Drink lots of water. And pray for the People I serve. For their strength. And well-being. For their Dance. And in thanksgiving, because they already know. Because the 'Kingdom' is upon them. God's realm, God culture, is found among them.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 28)

O LORD, I call to you;
my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry; *
lest, if you do not hear me,
I become like those who go down to the Pit.
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, *
when I lift up my hand to your holy of holies.

Do not snatch me away with the wicked or with the evildoers, *
who speak peaceably with their neighbors,
while strife is in their hearts.
Repay them according to their deeds, *
and according to the wickedness of their actions.
According to the work of their hands repay them, *
and give them their just deserts.

O LORD, they have no understanding of your doings,
nor of the works of your hands; *
therefore you will break them down and not build them up.

Blessed is the LORD! *
for you have heard the voice of my prayer.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; *
my heart trusts in you, and I have been helped;
Therefore my heart dances for joy, *
and in my song will I praise you.

You, O LORD, are the strength of your people, *
a safe refuge for your anointed.
Save your people and bless your inheritance; *
shepherd them and carry them for ever.








Three murders. Three suicides. And a wedding.
Out of words....

Thursday, July 9, 2015

witnesses

In all of this... the other things...

It was Victory Day celebrated --June 25... the day Custer was outwitted and lost the battle at Greasy Grass... also called Little Bighorn. It was the day when the American flag was captured and made their own. 1876. All Tribal offices were closed.

And... yes... 4th of July. And, yes... even though it seems ironic to many, that day is celebrated here. I have heard it explained that no matter what government, this is their land, and that is what is really celebrated.

And there have been birthdays. And baptisms. The unrelenting oppression of poverty and marginalization and uninterrupted grief is punctuated with joy. And the funerals, even the most difficult ones, have the undercurrent of humor --as well as the abundant enthusiasm and laughter of children.

And food.

And groups coming from other places to help, to work, to support, to pray. We are looking forward to a group arriving this Sunday, who will work at St. Mary's in Promise, doing more than we can ask or imagine.

And another, the week after, who will work on the guest house --fixing what needs to be fixed and prepared for the arrival --at some unknown time and a yet unknown person-- of another priest. God willing.

And the Bishop is coming --with a plethora of confirmations at hand --all puns intended. And the kids coming home from camp --lives changed.

One of the comments yesterday remarked on the number of deaths. Yes. It does seems so. But I said that it is important to remember that mortality is 100%, every where. Here --the deaths are compounded by the tragedy in that so many deaths are the result of despair... and they seem so numerous because of the higher percentage in the population at large of Episcopalians here.

Despair-- because this is "ground zero" --of capitalism --of racial and cultural genocide... and so much else. And things here will not get better soon. And there is so much at stake.

My Bishop says ministry here is the ministry of Presence. Which is also the ministry of witness. And life here is hard and full of suffering --also joy. I witness this. Which is also why I write.

And all of you who read what I write here --you, also, are witnesses. By the power of the Holy Spirit.

And for that, I am grateful.
So, thank you.

At prayer this morning (beginning at Luke 24:36)

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Whooops --there we are.

Off I go.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Yes.

Wake last night. Young woman. Cherry Creek. Got home late. Joel met me at the door --go to the hospital.

Prayers at the time of death. A sudden death. The shock.

Funeral today. Late afternoon.
Wake tomorrow night. Teenager. It's going to be a tough one. Funeral Friday.
Wake Friday night. Young woman. It's going to be a tough one. Funeral Saturday.
Sunday. The Day of Resurrection.

Yes.

And a wake Sunday night. It's going to be a tough one. Funeral Monday.

Maybe by Friday I will know when the funeral will be for the death last night.

There is a story here --about a "tall man" in a long black coat that runs in the streets. He is Death. And more. He is so feared that people don't even speak of him. If you see him, you will die. He is running rampant last week and this.

Please keep us in your prayers.

(Canticle: Third Song of Isaiah
Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19)

Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.
Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.
Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut.
They will call you, The City of the Lord, *
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Violence will no more be heard in your land, *
ruin or destruction within your borders.
You will call your walls, Salvation, *
and all your portals, Praise.
The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.
The Lord will be your everlasting light, *
and your God will be your glory.

This I believe.

Monday, July 6, 2015

the spices and ointment

He said it quietly. Over his supper. Not quite a question. More of a statement. "When does the suffering end..."

He is seven.

I had finished walking late Friday afternoon. Grateful. For all those who had accompanied me. Grateful. For all those who helped. Grateful for the end of the strenuous prayer --like at the end of a fast, a was ready to re-enter... I was ready to begin to change my pace.

I had a blister on the ball of my foot. I had worn a hole in it. When I took my shoe off in the car on the way home, there was serum and blood all over my sock. I decided to wait to take my sock off... and laughed at myself. Well girly, when you offered your whole self in prayer, you knew it might cost you a little flesh and blood.

The People here understand that. In the Sun Dance, those who dance offer their flesh and blood, literally, for the sake of the People. So, my walking days past the time it just hurt would not be extra-ordinary. This type of prayer, this type of offering your whole self is formation and practice... as well as the real deal.

It is not mortification. It is different. I don't quite have the words for it. There is an exaltative joy in it.

And then we had dinner. S had arrived. I was still spinning. We all went to bed early.

Early Saturday morning --about 4am, I received a call to meet a family at the ER. Baby had stopped breathing. I didn't rush. I knew they were coming from Cherry Creek. I was deliberate in my preparations, saying my morning prayers as I stuffed healing oil in my pocket, found my keys and wallet in the half-light of pre-dawn.

In the hospital parking lot, I saw the ambulance had just arrived. The dad was pulling the truck in to the lot at the ER entrance. He parked it crazy-like, askew between lines that didn't matter and bolted for the doors.

I had to wait in the waiting room. The grandma arrived with the weeping teenage girls/aunties/sisters. The grandma was called back. The girls waited, crowded in to a corner by the TV running its neon green ads amid orange and blue headline banners.

They called me in to the back. I breathed. Deeply. Not knowing what to expect. As I rounded the corner in the exam rooms, I heard the infant scream. I looked at the nurse who was escorting me. 'That's good news!' I said. 'Exam room one,' she said. All business.

A seizure caused by a high fever. We would wait to see if her fever would go down. It did. She had a bad ear infection. She would be alright. The parents wept. Buckets.

I returned home, did some preparation work for Sunday and all else that might come. Then S and I went to the family powwow in Iron Lightening. Traditional powwows lift the spirit. They are partly family reunion. Partly a time for teenagers to test a first love. Partly a time to honor accomplishments. Partly a time to celebrate and teach culture. Partly a time to pray, to name, to wipe away tears.

It felt good to sit in the heat. To shake hands. Someone wanted me to come and speak into the microphone and tell folks about the walking. I didn't. It didn't feel right to blast it electronically all over the place. I spoke one on one to those who asked.

When the women Traditional Dancers --mostly elders, got up to dance, S asked me --is that it?! In the women's Traditional, the moves are subtle. The knees move to the down beat, heels lifted. It is extremely difficult to do --it takes tremendous stamina and skill to keep the down beat going when the drum changes to an up-beat, which it does... frequently. I think I giggled at S's question. I think I said 'Lakota women don't run, they don't shout or talk loud; they don't draw attention to themselves. This is the dance of humility.'

The back bone of The People. Humility. Gentleness. Generosity. Stamina. Endurance.

'This is really a patriarchal society, isn't it?' I heard asked. 'Yes. And sometimes matriarchal --depending upon the type of leadership that is needed...' I explained that there were no such things as 'chiefs'. When the People needed to change camps, the one who was best at that led them. When major decisions were made, the elders conferred --sometimes the grandmothers, sometimes the grandfathers, sometimes together --depending upon the decisions. When the hunt was on, those who had those gifts led the People. Leadership was shared. Depending upon the circumstances.

'It's like the sign on the airplane --put your own oxygen mask on before you try to help others... the men are put first in line in somethings, to feed them first, because of the jobs they are required to do... sometimes it's the elders first, sometimes it's the children first --it depends....'

The Traditional Dance of the women --it is prayer, it is preparation, it is practice, it is offering, it is the outward and visible sign of the way to be.... It is the real deal.

For the children, it is glory....





The heat of the day bore down on us. We watched the foot race. We watched the champions being honored. From the memorial softball tourney. Hand-shaking all around. Then the volleyball tourney. All the games. Children's division. Adult's division... Then the "suicide" horse race --up and down hills that usually unseat a rider or two --or, some horses refuse to go all...




--the woman has won that race four years in a row now... !!!!

We went home  after the horse race... and crashed in to bed. The fireworks ground the night to bits. The dogs cowered. Refused to go out....

Sunday, I returned to the powwow grounds. We have church there. Once a year. I have baptisms there -almost always. This time, there was lightening and rain all around. Thunder. We took refuge under the tent that usually provides shade. It is an old tent, greatly repaired, still full of holes. The winds were so fierce, the tent perimeter poles began to fall. We gathered towards the center. We asked the storm to go around us. It poured harder. The water in the baptismal font was being stirred by the wind...

And so we began. And we baptized. And by the time we shared bread and wine, the sun had come out. Everything was fresh. And new.

A meal was provided. And we sat and watched the men take the rest of the tent down. I sat with the women... a whole row of us... 'Hey,' I said, 'I was taught that the women were supposed to take down and put up the tent.' We all laughed. That is the Tradition. The house belongs to the woman; she puts it up, she puts it down, she decides who can sleep and eat in it. One of the younger women said, 'Yeah, but if we had taken it down, it would be done already.' And we all laughed....

I had to move on to the next service. I thanked everyone. The horse shoe games began. I drove through the mud, the places where it had rained, the puddles along the road the evidence of the downpours. As I neared town, Joel called me. 'Go to the hospital. You are needed.' I still had time before the next service....

Was she sixteen? Was she seventeen? I don't know. But her life had ended. No one was sure if it were suicide or murder. There had been an awful fight. She was found in the morning, hung in a playground on a side street in Eagle Butte. The FBI would not let the family view the body. Suspicious circumstances required a forensic autopsy.

I prayed. One of the grandmothers sang the mourning song. Where have you gone? I look for you, but I do not see you. Tunkasila (Grandfather), look at me and pity me. Absolute. Devastation.

I returned home. The next service had been relocated due to the rain. The children ran to my fence. Mother! Mother! We walked/ran over. Sang. Prayed. Shared what we heard, shared bread and wine. Amid the chaos of late afternoon shadows and crying, running, pew-hopping children.

Over dinner, the adults talked. Their fears and hopes for their grandchildren. Tears were close. The boy sat next to me. He said it quietly. Over his supper. Not quite a question. More of a statement. "When does the suffering end..."

He is seven. He has suffered greatly. Already.

I looked at my plate. I had even eaten a huge serving of cake and ice cream. I opened my mouth to respond, not even yet knowing what would come out.

"When does the suffering end..."

"When our hearts change," I said.

He nodded his head. "I need to learn to read," he said. He turned towards me. "I failed First Grade." I knew that already; his grandmother had told me. He had lived six places this year --six different schools before he came to live with her just before Easter....

"We can do that," I said.

And I prayed.

At prayer this morning (Luke 23:44-56a)

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.

It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Today, I will prepare the spices and ointments.
Today. In exaltative joy.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Wopila!

Done.

So. Very. Done.

At the very end of the walk, thinking in anticipation of the trail coming to the River, we missed the gate, and I walked a mile beyond.... That was a funny joke, God. Haha.

I am so grateful to all the children who walked with me. I am so grateful to their grandparents who supported and followed me. I am so grateful to have had the time, opportunity and health to do this walk and prayer. I am so grateful for the prayers of support for the People and for me from the on-line community.

Wopila! Pilamayaye!!! Whoooot! Thank you!

And, I am glad to welcome S to our little home on the prairie.

Phone rang at 4am... little O, who turns 1 today, ran a high fever and quit breathing. I thank God for all those who responded. She is stable now and her fever is going down. Poor lil' girl --not the way to celebrate your birthday, heh?!

So, I am sitting in bed --trying to catch a nap before whatever else comes my way today!

At prayer (James 5:9-10)

As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance.

Wopila!

(and I have a blister nearly the size of the palm of my hand covering the sole of my left foot. Ouch.)