Monday, September 15, 2014

that dream where condemnation itself is judged and hung out to dry

Even though she was surprised, she smiled as I put water on her head. A huge smile. A huge three-year-old smile. She was outright giggling the second and third times. When I told her to share the light of the world, she nodded, as though I had told her to share her cookies or something. When I invited the congregation forward to shake their hands and share the Peace, she asked me why I was standing with her family. 'Because we're related now,' I said. She shook her head as though that made perfect sense.

The feast was immense. And delicious. The donated school supplies were put out on the table, and the children got to pick five things each. The party atmosphere enthralled everyone. It seemed the shocking taste of the winter to come in the snow, chill and frost of last week could be a distant memory for a little while yet. We would all hold on to that thought.

There hadn't been any general assistance money for a while --nothing to pay bills with, nothing to buy pampers with.  And the Food Stamps hardly make a dent in things.

I learned a new rez word --Foodies-- that's what Food Stamps are called. Except now foodies come on a credit card. And the market stays open past midnight on the date when the credit become available. They work all day to overstock the shelves; it's a veritable party, everyone crowding in the aisles to stock up.

But, there had been money suddenly made available late last week, and those in that office had been working way in to the night and all weekend to process the claims. They took a break to come to church. More party atmosphere.

Then I packed school supplies and bread and wine, and took off for Cherry Creek. I wasn't sure how many folks would show up for church because the last powwow of the season was going on in Bridger, south west of Cherry Creek. Sometimes I have gone and sat for an hour or more and no one shows. But this morning folks had called, so I knew a few would be there.

When I arrived, I couldn't see a trace of smoke or heat drifting out of the chimney. I noticed that someone had left one of the door slightly ajar --I was grateful for that. No one has a key, so someone always has to pick the lock with a knife or something. I haven't yet mastered that art completely, although I am getting better at it....

I entered the cement block building, and it was warm. The person who had left the door slightly ajar had also built a fire in the wood stove and swept the floor. I felt of rush of gratitude and bewilderment --now what would I do while I was waiting?! I checked the fire, and added some more wood. I killed two wasps that were struggling to get warm enough to fly --there are always wasps there. I watched the big spider run and hide. Two more large spiders watched me from their perches in opposite corners.

And after an hour, I added more wood... I saw the car approaching slowly down the street. I went out to greet them. 'Is it warm in there?' the elder asked from the car window. 'It's all ready for you --nice and toasty,' I said. Someone had built a ramp for the wheel chair. That was new. Another rush of gratitude.

Within minutes, the church was packed. The elders all sat by the warmth of the fire. The children ran around --in Cherry Creek we push all the benches up against the sides of the room, leaving an open area in the middle of the room. It's perfect for the children.

We killed two more wasps. Some more spiders. We talked about the readings. What did it mean to forgive and forgive and forgive. The difference between being forgiving and being a door-mat... being forgiving didn't mean the same as accepting abuse...

--and then in the middle of the Eucharist --the snake arrived. I saw it first out of the side of my eye. It was moving away from the crowd of people... 'Oh, look,' I said, laughing. The children didn't need to be told to stay away. It was a baby snake, just over a foot and a half long. I went over to look at it, and it coiled up. It tried to shake its tail at me in a way that told me it had never tried to shake its tail before. It had the characteristics of either a bull snake or a rattler.... One of the men went to the closet for the shovel and a broom.

'Eeeeeee,' I said, grimacing. 'Don't kill it ---eeeeeee---' and I winced. 'It's not its fault its mother was a snake!' I said. We all laughed. I asked one of the little girls who was jumping up and down on the bench, 'Do snakes scream?' She jumped some more. He swept the snake up in to the shovel and took it outside while the boys hovered at the door to watch.... When he came back in, I warned him that another wasp had landed on the handle of the broom right where he was going to grab it....

'It was a rattler,' he confirmed as he put the wasp outside....

I think I went back to the part in the prayer where we thank God for creation... and included snakes and wasps in the litany, to the great delight of the boys... asking for forgiveness in the silent prayers of my heart....

Afterwards, we shared some cookies, talked some about what we might want the missioner on poverty from church headquarters to know about life here.... and had to kill the black widow that suddenly emerged from the stack of napkins right at the child's hand....

At prayer this morning (Numbers 21:4-9)

From Mount Hor the Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

--and this (John 3:11-17)

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Geeeeee... Jesus and the snake... lifted up.

I suppose then, that there is a certain poetry in killing a snake just as we break bread....

--but, I dream of a Sunday when the child shall stick its hand in the snake den and not be bit --and the lion and lamb feast on grass together...

--not a fake-oh dream, not a dream paper-clipped to a devastating reality...

--but that dream where condemnation itself is judged, and hung out to dry.

Amen.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Let's not be silent

Earlier this week, I said:
In the bigger news, it seems everyone is upset that some millionaire who is paid to be brutal in the arena punches his wife out in an elevator... upset because it's on video, a fuller and more complete image of the madness.... Could they not imagine what it took to knock her out otherwise? Wasn't the way he dumped her on the floor and shoved her around with his foot enough?
As well as Rice beating his now wife, there are at least two other recent NFL domestic violence cases.... Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers, and Ray McDonald of the 49'ers. While Rice has been dismissed, the other two men are still playing... McDonald has not yet been charged for beating his pregnant fiancé. Hardy has been convicted already, but is seeking to overturn his conviction and is still playing.

In the last fourteen years or so, there have been 83 arrests for domestic violence in the NFL --which averages to about 6 arrests every year.

--domestic violence accounts for 48 percent of arrests for violent crimes among NFL players, compared to our estimated 21 percent nationally.

So... if NFL players are arrested at a rate twice the national average, I do think the NFL has a problem... just sayin'.

But it's not just the NFL. There are 1.3 cases of domestic violence every year... and

--most cases of domestic violence are never reported to law enforcement, and that boys who witness domestic violence as children are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they grow up
--and... one in three women and one in ten men have suffered abuse by an intimate partner...

No one group is exempt from this violence --rich, poor, ethnicity... I am proud to know Lisette, a parishioner when I served in Richmond, Virginia. Lisette survived the attempted murder. Her husband shot himself after he shot her three times. Their children survived, but witnessed it all --had to run for help because their dad had cut all the phone lines to the house. His violence was not an impulse. It was thought through.

I remember arriving at the house --Lisette had maintained consciousness and was repeating the church number over and over and the ambulance crew called me saying there had been a "gun accident." I remember the look on the cop's face as he plowed through the trunk of the cop car looking for gear. The ambulances had just left --one with Lisette, one with her husband. "Where are the kids?" I asked the cop. He shrugged his shoulders. I spent the rest of the daylight hours finding them, making sure they were safe. Then I went to the hospital.

I remember the nurse calling me back in the ER to be with his family. She stopped me in the hall and told me that he had been shot "through and through" his head --which meant an entrance and exit wound. He had survived his wounds for those several hours. I remember administering last rites --ignoring the police mandate not to touch him. I remember his death.

I remember arranging with her family and friends for the children to be brought in and checked over by a doctor and a counselor. I remember having to tell those kids that their dad was dead and their mom was in surgery...

I remember leaning over Lisette in the ICU, long after the sun had gone down. I remember whispering in her ear as I held her hand that she had survived, and that her children were safe. I remember the surprise I felt when she clutched my hand with a determination and unexpected strength at the news of her children's survival.

I remember preparing for his funeral as she still worked her way through the ICU.... I remember standing up there to preach, some still insisting that she probably pulled the trigger on herself to cover up her murder of her husband....

I remember. Pushing Lisette to pick up some of those things she had put down --like her passion for writing --she needed to tell her story. For her sake, and for the sake of others. And I know, over the years, she has.

And today. I checked headlines at the Huffington Post as I usually do. And there she is. Pushing all other news aside. Front and center. Lisette, I am so very grateful for your continued witness and ministry. For your courage to grapple with the aftermath and the hard questions. For your continued willingness to be present to your vulnerability.

Thank you.

Too often, we try to shame the women who find themselves caught up in the cycle of abuse and terror. Too often, we mock or blame them --why don't they just leave? And we miss the crux. Often, it is the very time that the abused decide to leave that is the most dangerous --the very time when deadly violence takes place. That time of separation must be carefully planned. Orchestrated.

The mirror to the question of 'why don't they just leave?' is --why do the abusers abuse? If we can begin there, perhaps we can begin...

Domestic violence here on the Reservation is fairly rampant. And, it seems from my point of view, too often tolerated. It has been more than once that a woman has come to the door asking for something, and I know if I turn her away empty-handed there is a beating waiting for her --and not just by her man... I know of brothers and mothers and aunties who are the perpetrators. There are so many factors contributing to the situation...

Not the least of which:

American Indian women residing on Indian reservations suffer domestic violence and physical assault at rates far exceeding women of other ethnicities and locations. American Indian women experience physical assaults at a rate 50% higher than the next most victimized demographic, African-American males. About one-quarter of all cases of family violence (violence involving spouses) against American Indians involve a non-Indian perpetrator, a rate of inter-racial violence five times the rate of inter-racial violence involving other racial groups. In all, 39% of American Indian women report being victims of domestic violence.

Compounding this problem, and likely contributing to it, is the current state of federal Indian law. Non-Indians who commit acts of domestic violence that are misdemeanors on Indian reservations are virtually immune from prosecution in most areas of the country.
Yeppa. There we are.

So.... at prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 40)

Let them be ashamed and altogether dismayed
who seek after my life to destroy it; *
let them draw back and be disgraced
who take pleasure in my misfortune.
Let those who say “Aha!” and gloat over me be confounded, *
because they are ashamed.

Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad; *
let those who love your salvation continually say,
“Great is the LORD!”

Though I am poor and afflicted, *
the Lord will have regard for me.
You are my helper and my deliverer; *
do not tarry, O my God.

---and.... this is the gospel I used at Lisette's husband's funeral.... (John 11:30-44)

Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

God is funny --in that today of all days this was the gospel reading.... at his sermon I remember preaching something like --Jesus won't let Martha stay where she is in her grief--shifting her from the 'last day' to the present moment, to the love constantly coming into the world. Calling her further in to relationship with him.

Yes, let's none of us get stuck in the IF ONLYs.

If you know someone in an abusive relationship, don't stop being their friend; listen.

If you know someone who is an abuser, don't stop being their friend; encourage them to get help. Don't let them blame the abused.

Here is more.

And, further information on "why women stay".

Local number for help: Sacred Heart Shelter: 605-964-7233

Let's not be silent.
And, don't forget, not all abuse is physical ---emotional abuse is just as damaging.

Let's not be silent.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

none of us can win this war

I didn't get to watch the President's speech last night. I was in a group of lay leaders who are licensed to lead liturgy here, and we were talking about what to say at funerals... what to say in the face of death and loss so pronounced in this community --such a large part of the ministry here.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to participate in a survey regarding suicide on the Reservation. In the "further comments" section I said that we need to train clergy and spiritual leaders not to say "they've gone to a better place," which is a comment heard frequently here. Last night, there was emphatic conversation regarding that very statement --how bitterly painful it was to hear it within the context of their own losses. And, someone said, "I believed that we live to die."

Aaaaaachhhh.... !!! Face to face with the culture of death, the recumbent beast of unresolved sometimes inherited grief, trauma, despair... heads were nodding all around the table. The tears and the opening up began. The Spirit so very present. Humbling --the power of the strength, the endurance of the People.

This morning, I carry that with me, pray with that. To address such grief family by family, community-wide, who will speak of the bit of heaven in our hearts?

This morning, I also come face to face with the culture of death and war in our Nation. The President, it seems, will do nothing to interrupt this cycle of escalating violence. I remember the feeling I had as a child when they used to make us practice bomb drills in schools --crawling under our desks and tables for cover. I remember the feeling of looking at ads for bomb shelters --the fury inside me that grownups couldn't control their own fights. Worse behavior than us kids. The hypocrisy.

And, now, the man that was elected on the promise to disengage us from the unending violence begun by the Bush/Cheney regime, is marching the whole Nation further down that road, in to the thick of it.

The irony, the tragedy that his speech for more war was made on the eve of 9/11 does not escape me.

There is too much at hand here to do to survive --the next week, the next month, the next disaster or tragedy or death, the coming winter. So, there is very little overt discussion or involvement in National politics --except when it comes to broken Treaty rights and the plight of the American Indian in general --which is overwhelming enough. And, the armed forces is sometimes seen as a ticket outta here, so veterans and the circumstances of war are never highly criticized.

That irony, the tragedy that a People who were put on reservations functioning as generalized POW camps and could be shot if they were caught outside the ever-shrinking boundaries --that they could fight for those who so cruelly defeated and punished them....

--it's as ironic as the poor and marginal so-called middle class and women purchasing the Koch brothers' bilious propaganda and voting those who feed at that Koch trough in to office to enact policies that will further oppress and disenfranchise them.

Not an irony that makes me laugh....

So. Here we are. 9/11. And still marching down that road...

Here....

Billions Wasted. Perhaps the only thing we can be sure of when it comes to Guantánamo's 9/11 proceedings is that Guantánamo is costing the American people an exorbitant amount of money. According to the government's own figures, we are spending over $400 million per year holding the remaining Guantánamo detainees -- more than half of which are already cleared for release. These detainees could be held at a high security facility in the U.S. for less than $12 million per year.

Even worse, the $400 million figure does not appear to reflect numerous other costs, including: (1) millions that we spend annually on the detainees' massive defense teams; (2) the cost to bring detainees to sit in the $12 million courtroom (where I observed more than 20 military personnel in the courtroom area and another dozen or more outside of the courtroom, all there apparently for security); (3) the cost of the prosecution's investigations; (4) the cost of the government's efforts to block attempts to unwind the secrecy surrounding the alleged torture and mistreatment of detainees; and (5) the anticipated $100-150 million that we will need to invest in Guantánamo in the next few years to keep the camp open. Further, there are untold costs that are not shared with the public because they are deemed "classified."

In sum, Guantánamo is furthering no one's goals. We are paying heavily to ensure conviction of the 9/11 terrorists in a way that enables us to say that we tried them fairly and consistent with international law (if not the U.S. Constitution). The reality is that neither outcome is assured, and we are further victimizing the American people by wasting billions on a process that is likely to leave everyone dissatisfied and could taint the American legal system. It seems far more responsible to transfer the detainees to a high security facility on U.S. soil and afford them a more normal process. This has worked in other terrorist cases and would cost a fraction of what it costs now. It might also produce results in the 9/11 proceedings, unlike the Military Commissions proceedings in Guantánamo.

And here --perpetual war....

The United States, by agreeing to airstrikes without end in support of a corrupt and sectarian government in Baghdad; by championing a Shia and Kurdish invasion of Sunni lands; and by promising arms, munitions and money to rebel groups in the middle of the Syrian Civil War, the same groups that sold Steven Sotloff to his beheading, has adopted a policy that will exacerbate the civil wars in both Iraq and Syria and deepen the nightmare existence of their people. President Obama's speech will be remembered as a mark of moral shame on the United States, so very opposite and so very contradictory to the courage shown by the president five years ago in Cairo, Egypt.

Today, on the thirteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it is clear to me that the cowardice evinced by the president is directly proportional to the never-ending 9/11 fear mongering that continues to paralyze and retard this country. In reply to the deliberate provocation by the Islamic State through the ghastly executions of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, the United States has fulfilled the Islamic State's wishes by committing to add more violence to the uncontrollable cycle of violence that has already authored the deaths of 700,000 Iraqis and Syrians.

Pressured by the panicked and hysterical cries of members of Congress, President Obama offered no solutions to the underlying political causes of the civil wars in Iraq and Syria, instead he obligated the American public to a renewed partaking and sharing in the bloodshed and slaughter along the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.

....Through all that, as long as the United States is shackled with the debilitating psychosis of 9/11 and the resultant moral weakness of our elected officials, the Middle East will be full of targets for our bombs, Iraqi and Syrian mothers and fathers will raise children destined to kill and be killed, jihadist narratives of Crusaders will be validated, and our perpetual war will be as boundless as our shame.

And the failed path... but ideas on how to do things differently.... we can't win this war....

So why is Obama leading us further down this failed path? The US fights these failed wars mainly because of domestic politics. Here the precedent of Vietnam is as deeply instructive as it is widely forgotten (or denied). The US wasted two decades and many billions of dollars, killed more than a million Vietnamese, and left over 55,000 Americans dead in a futile and ultimately lost war. Why? On the public level, the fight was supposedly about the communist threat, regional dominoes, and communist world domination. The Vietcong were the ISIS of the day. Yet the real reason for two decades of futile war, as revealed devastatingly in the Pentagon Papers, was US domestic politics. Each U.S. president knew the war they were waging was unwinnable, but they fought it to avoid the embarrassment of looking "soft on communism" before the next US election.

This time, the timeline against ISIS will be at least through 2016. We can't win this war any more that we could win the Vietnam War, but Obama dare not "lose" the war on terror before the next election. Therefore we continue the same hopeless policies of the past dozen years, double down, and carry them through 2016.

These wars are therefore as open-ended as they are futile. How, then, did the Vietnam War actually end? Simple. Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in 1974, and Ford let the final defeat occur a year after (and then was himself defeated in 1976).

If the US had a real strategy for national success, we would let the Middle East face and resolve its own crises, and demand a UN framework for action. We would team up not with NATO, but with the UN Security Council, and put others (for once!) into the lead. We would actually mobilize to solve the real problems facing the region: poverty, hunger, drought, and unemployment. Those are the crises that at the end of the day cause men and boys to fling their lives into useless and suicidal slaughter. If just once in our times US politicians had the bravery to build coalitions to improve the lives of the people through development rather than through bombs, the US public would be amazed to see how much agreement and goodwill could quickly generate. Instead we head to war.

Perhaps we should rescind ALL money we give to that region. ALL money. No matter the nation.

At prayer this morning (from Job 31)

[Job says] --what then shall I do when God rises up? When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? Did not he who made me in the womb make them? And did not one fashion us in the womb?

If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the orphan has not eaten from it—for from my youth I reared the orphan like a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow—if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or a poor person without covering, whose loins have not blessed me, and who was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; if I have raised my hand against the orphan, because I saw I had supporters at the gate; then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket. For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty.

Hey Job.

Hey nations of the world.
Let's stop the madness.
None of us can win this war....

Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

not BACK to the same ol' Lazarus life... but new life

Another baby has died... still yet unborn. And I am in Rapid taking D to the airport and Joel to doctors.

I am so very grateful that there are those in the church who will be able to tend to this tragic loss in the family in my absence --for the mother, for that family.

That makes four unborn infants we will have buried in the last two weeks.

Searing, unbearable pain. To meet such pain is irrational --one cannot do it rationally.

In the bigger news, it seems everyone is upset that some millionaire who is paid to be brutal in the arena punches his wife out in an elevator... upset because it's on video, a fuller and more complete image of the madness.... Could they not imagine what it took to knock her out otherwise? Wasn't the way he dumped her on the floor and shoved her around with his foot enough?

Denial is such a strong weapon....

Some are amazed that his wife sticks with him.... But, co-dependency is stronger than denial.... just sayin'. For some, it's easier to stay with the known beatings rather than risk the life unknown without beatings.

And the weight of the mess in Syria, Iraq, Iran --and all that the President is intending to address tonight --probably by announcing the use of force, yet again. Rachel Maddow makes several points plain in her examination of the crisis in a piece entitled "Tough ISIS Decisions Cow Congress": Congress is shirking its Constitutional responsibilities by not having the tough debate NOW about things like --is putting pilots in the air for air strikes any different than putting troops on the ground? --many of the weapons we have sent to help those fighting ISIS, so-called friendly rebels, end up in the hands of ISIS, so is sending more weapons to fight ISIS really helping? She makes the point that these so-called friendly rebels really aren't in that they sold one of the murdered journalists to ISIS for cash, and they sell their American-provided weapons to ISIS as well....

--and many more excellent points, making the main point that Congress needs to have the debate, and they aren't going to because they don't want to vote on such a controversial subject just before an election --and, besides, having just got back from a month off, now they are going to take a break for the purpose of campaigning....

I wish we would pull our head out of the sand... wish we would stop being in denial about our part on the world's stage... open our eyes to our own history which is not history, but all of which is with us today --right here, right now... can't we see where we are headed? It doesn't take a prophet.

We, as a Nation, are not only addicted to force and violence and power and cold hard cash --or the opportunity to make more no matter the consequences, but we are in denial....

As a Nation, we are an addict. And the other nations of the world are our 'family' where we act out our sick family systems. And if someone speaks up and says 'no more' the whole sick system focuses on shutting them up, silencing them, making them out to be the 'bad' guy....

It sounds sophomoric, but it's not --the only way out/through is love. It doesn't mean that the lover won't face a violent death --as a matter of fact, it's most likely the lover will face violence if not death-- but, we can't fight violence with more violence.

That's the main thread of the Gospel... Love itself is nailed to the cross, crucified for all to see. And for those who can 'see' --well... there is fear, denial, despair, death... until the wounds of Love are opened among them, found inexplicably among them despite the locked doors of fear and fleshy barriers of doubt, embodied in their midst.

That is why we must gather. Together. Even in our imperfections. Even in our sin --our fear, our doubt, our anger, our despair... Because love is impossible on our own. Love is impossible without another.

And the only way is love.

At prayer this morning (from John 11)

Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead."

Well then... that blasts the temptation of euphemism and denial right out of the water...

Perhaps we have heard of Lazarus being brought back to life... Jesus brought many back to life... See, and that's just it... back to the same old life, only to die a mortal death again, because Lazarus and all those brought BACK to life are certainly not around any where we know of for sure. They all died again.

I suspect that the author of the Gospel of John puts this Lazarus back to life story right next to the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus for at least one important reason: to highlight the difference between being called BACK to life as Lazarus was --or being resurrected to new life, as Jesus was--

--and what we should pursue is not being called back to the same old life, but a new life... and to have that, we must die to the life we have... be that here on the Reservation, or as a wife-beater, or as a Nation addicted to violence and death and cash.... We must face our denial that we can patch things up.... we must grasp a whole new life.

Same goes for the church. Recently, a task force (interesting words, heh?) charged with re-imagining the way the church functions, used a Lazarus metaphor to describe the life of the church, urging the church in various systemic ways to reform, renew, revitalize. Some strongly objected to the Lazarus metaphor, exclaiming that the church was not dead where they worshipped, that their place in the church was alive and well....

...too bad... because the church itself has become part of the empire-ish machinations in the very way it functions, and its knickers in a knot over program and power... a feverish busy-ness....

--instead of pointing to the cross, and to those gathered around the cross, and to those nailed to the cross in our own time... And naming those habits of money and force that erect the cross, shame and coerce those gathered, nail living flesh and blood to the cross....

So... until then... I will bury the dead, support the bereaved, help those who are also called... gather at the cross...

--and strive to continue to make room in the hollow tomb of my heart for that Love that calls us all to new life. Not the same old life. But, new life.

And discover again that I must do that again, and again, and again, and again... constantly made new....

Yeppa.

Monday, September 8, 2014

for the times I am moved out of myself

We said the prayers. Others prayed too, with the sage and prayers and song in a different way to the same Creator. We put her in the ground... surrounded by her living children, 40 something grandchildren, 60 something great grandchildren.

All weekend, the mosquitos have been so thick and so vicious it is difficult to be outside, much less be outside and pray. There is no standing still --no train of thought is possible except swatting and slapping.

Saturday night, in the parish hall in Eagle Butte, a mosquito got Joel --good. The poor thing filled up with his blood --which is so filled with chemicals I am sure the offspring would be mutant mosquitos... but the poor bug tried to fly away and fell to the ground. D smacked it, and blood spattered every where.... The jokes went on and on --about Joel giving the mosquito myasthenia gravis... and all the other jokes in such poor taste --but hilarious.

But earlier, as we had stood around the grave, watched the women and children decorate the mound of earth, and I finally got my bottle of bug spray back --nearly empty-- I went and shook hands with the family and friends. The guys singing at the drum must have been exhausted --they had done both funerals too --been present at the 24 hour liturgies of both, through the wakes and funerals, doing their part in the singing. I went to thank them, thank them for their prayers.

Their heads were all leaning towards the guy with the phone, listening to a recording. One of them said, "Mother Margaret, you gotta learn this song." I responded, "well, you've sung every song except the only one I know!" and they laughed. "No," they said. "We're learning this one now --you learn and sing with us."

So, I stood at the side of the bed of the truck where they were perched, and I listened. The drum throbbed, pulsing through the air, through my body, through my thoughts, always permeating my prayers. And they sang. It sounded like a victory song. It sounded like one should dance --but one shouldn't dance at a funeral... It sounded strong and joyful.

Songs at the drum are like chant --the same tune and words are sung over and over --usually four times, sometimes four times sung four times (yeah, 16 --four being a holy number). By the third time or so through, I had most of it. I sang. Willfully. Lifting my voice to heaven, to the sky, to the birds, to the earth we stood on. I had never been asked to actually sing with them --sometimes I did, from afar, quietly. But I had never been asked to sing with them.

I was grateful. And the song was uplifting. Many of the other women came and stood alongside. They, too, sang. Strong. Clear. Joyfully. Victorious.

It was unlike anything I had ever heard or experienced at a funeral. Unlike. Any. Thing.

When it was over, many of the women lifted a fist in to the air, and "pumped" the air...

"That was good, Mother. You learn quickly. It's said our Uncle was given that song." The one that was sitting close to me nodded his approval. "That was a powerful song," I said. "Thank you for asking me to join in singing." There had been no words per se --only vocalization (from the same sort of source as 'Alleluia' in our own tradition --aaaah laaaay eeeee luuuuu---- iiiii ya --all the vowel sounds vocalized, gathering the sum of human language and expression in one word). So, I hadn't been able to get the gist of the meaning. The elders can piece together a meaning from the sounds --each spoken syllable has meaning of itself. But I had only heard typical vocalizations....

"That song," he said, "is the AIM song."

AIM. Oh my gosh. I hoped I hadn't insulted any one was the first thought through my head, but then they had asked me to sing... I thought to myself.... I had sung with such fervor, enthusiasm.... (For those who don't follow links, AIM is a movement, and some equate it to the Black Panthers.)

And then I put my hand over my mouth and began to laugh. And they all nodded and laughed. "A big wasicu like me --and you had me singing that!" And we laughed and laughed.

It was a perfect conclusion to two difficult back to back funerals. Laughter and victory.

I don't claim to know the full depth of the humor here... but I know when something is funny, even if I don't know all the reasons it's funny.

And that was funny. Hysterical, as a matter of fact. Big. White. Lady. Priest. Singing the AIM anthem. Full blast.

I shook their hands. Said see you later. Thanked them again. Walked away, still laughing.

I'm still laughing this morning. Still laughing.

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 41)

Happy are they who consider the poor and needy! *
the LORD will deliver them in the time of trouble.
The LORD preserves them and keeps them alive,
so that they may be happy in the land; *
the LORD does not hand them over to the will of their enemies.

Off I go.

Please pray for S, a young woman with six children who was in a serious car accident on Saturday. Her children and husband suffered no injury, but her neck was broken. She was flown to Rapid, and appears to be in better condition than any one could have hoped. She is breathing on her own, and responsive. Please pray she will not lose the strength of her arms and legs.

And please pray for the poor, the needy, the oppressed. Please pray for the rich, the opulent and those who oppress and abuse.

Please pray for me, for the jokes, for the times I unknowingly offend, for the times I am moved out of myself... amen.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

the Voice

Corporations running away from responsibility through tax loopholes by pretending they are an "overseas" entity... --running away from the very public that purchases their products --running away from paying for the infrastructure, the health and well-being of the American public....

And here's an article about Detroit --the wealthy white suburbs running away from the inner-city infrastructure that supports their wealth-making --running away from the people who bear the burden of their wealth-making....

Among those being asked to sacrifice are Detroit's former city employees, now dependent on pensions and health care benefits the city years before agreed to pay. Also investors who bought $1.4 billion worth of bonds the city issued in 2005.

Both groups claim the plan unfairly burdens them. Under it, the 2005 investors emerge with little or nothing, and Detroit's retirees have their pensions cut 4.5 percent, lose some health benefits, and do without cost-of-living increases.

No one knows whether Judge Rhodes will accept or reject the plan. But one thing is for certain. A very large and prosperous group close by won't sacrifice a cent: They're the mostly-white citizens of neighboring Oakland County.

Oakland County is the fourth wealthiest county in the United States, of counties with a million or more residents.

In fact, Greater Detroit, including its suburbs, ranks among the top financial centers, top four centers of high technology employment, and second largest source of engineering and architectural talent in America.

The median household in the County earned over $65,000 last year. The median household in Birmingham, Michigan, just across Detroit's border, earned more than $94,000. In nearby Bloomfield Hills, still within the Detroit metropolitan area, the median was close to $105,000.

Detroit's upscale suburbs also have excellent schools, rapid-response security, and resplendent parks.

Forty years ago, Detroit had a mixture of wealthy, middle class, and poor. But then its middle class and white residents began fleeing to the suburbs. Between 2000 and 2010, the city lost a quarter of its population.

By the time it declared bankruptcy, Detroit was almost entirely poor. Its median household income was $26,000. More than half of its children were impoverished.

That left it with depressed property values, abandoned neighborhoods, empty buildings, and dilapidated schools. Forty percent of its streetlights don't work. More than half its parks closed within the last five years.

Earlier this year, monthly water bills in Detroit were running 50 percent higher than the national average, and officials began shutting off the water to 150,000 households who couldn't pay the bills.

Of course it's the pensioners who are asked to bear the burden.... Of course it's the poor who are asked to bear the burden....

Of course it's the wealth-making neighbors who deny any responsibility.

That article is worth reading. It's worth thinking about.

Because, it's what happened here --the resources taken ---stolen, the people discarded...  --others profiting. Big time. Over and over again.

--sigh--

So... . Now what do we do? Nothing we have the nerve to do. Nothing we have the political nerve to do. Our voice carries an inch from our lips and drops dead. We could rally and speak with our lives --but we would only end up being arrested or shot dead in the middle of the street.

Seriously. What's that saying....

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

If any of us think we are exempt from the spiritual and physical violence of the current systemic circumstances and betrayals of our Nation, they are just like those in the suburbs of Detroit --just like those corporations running away --living without responsibility, living with blinders on --or entirely blind.

There's the "blindness" that Jesus heals... Blind... just like the Pharisees, heh? The Temple authorities. The police. The government. They will trump up charges, feel threatened, and do all they can with their deadly power to silence the voice that speaks of life, love, true liberty....

At prayer this morning (following Acts 13:26)

Paul said, “My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead....

There is no way to silence the voice that speaks of life, love, true liberty.

--and participating in speaking, in unison with that voice --all those who do will be accused, found guilty, condemned....

So, it is only the Great Lie that makes it feel as though our voice drops dead an inch from our lips.

We must speak. Sing. Pray out loud.

Participate in the Voice that leads to life, love, true liberty....

Amen.

ROBERT B. REICH's film "Inequality for All" at the bottom of the article linked to above looks like it might be worth a watch....

Off I go. Another funeral and burial today. Please pray for the L family --they have lost a sister, mother, auntie, grandmother --it is so hard when an elder dies....

Friday, September 5, 2014

it is Love that we share

Thirty-three.
Number thirty-three.

I'm not even that old. How'd that happen? It's been, like, sssnappp!!!! and there it is... thirty three years.

Us --when... about 1975 I think. The year of the tree house at the Bishop's Ranch

Happy Anniversary Joel. Thank you for sticking with me! (and this is where I put my hand on my hip and say, So Far!)

And, just so we can jump around and have a little fun (I'm sorry I won't even see you --between the funeral and burial today and the other wake tonight) I am posting this for you --because when you look across the fence and parking lot and catch my eye, and I shrug my shoulders twice at you, you will know this song is going through my head --your favorite-- especially after the Geico commercial....





--and I love to tease you.
And I love you. No, it is not I that love you --but it is Love that we share, Love in/through/by which we partake.

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song to the Lamb, Revelation 4:11, 5:9-10, 13)

Splendor and honor and kingly power *
are yours by right, O Lord our God,
For you created everything that is, *
and by your will they were created and have their being;
And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, *
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, *
a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
And so, to him who sits upon the throne, *
and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor, *
for ever and for evermore.

Don't wait on dinner for me.
I'm writing that here so you don't forget!

heheheheheheeee!

Off I go.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

the eye of death and hope

Between the clouds and her waxing profile, the moon looked like an apple core discarded in the sky. And it produced hardly any light. As I went down the dark ramp from the house, I might as well have closed my eyes, for all that I could see. I searched for and then clutched the handrail, and spoke to the elder who walked in front of me about the warmth of the air. It was well past sunset --and yet the air still carried the weight of the day's sun shine.

"We better enjoy this warmth while we can," I said. The dark was so thick, I couldn't even see his back even though he was hardly ten feet in front of me. I heard the children chasing and being chased in the side yard. They didn't need to see for that game. The dark of the night enhanced it. Perhaps they see differently. Yes, children see differently. Especially in the dark.

I remembered seeing their faces peering in the door as the elder, also clergy, and I had sung in Lakota from the UCC hymnal. They had had their fill of homemade noodles boiled in chicken broth; they had eaten the gabooboo bread with both hands, catching the crumbs in their palms; they had pulled the processed meat out of the white bread sandwiches and eaten that solo, except for the margarine smeared on one side of the meat to hold it in place. This was a Comfort Service --a family gathered to pray after the death of a love one. Comfort food was served. To be eaten as one pleased. I had two plates of wateca (wa-tay-cha --leftover food) one on top of the other, with a bowl of soup stacked on top in one hand, my prayer book shoved against my body with my elbow, and my other hand grasping the handrail. And the children running around.

I guessed the elder had a lot more experience in navigating the dark than I. I followed his voice down the driveway towards the dark street....

This was not an unexpected death. She was old, as old goes here. Her husband had gone before her. They had had twelve children and nine survived them. That was an achievement. There were many grandchildren. The house was filled with photographs and mementos of a life full of events to be remembered. She had been sick for a while. She had been tended by family until the very, very end when they needed hospice help. It was a good life, a holy death.

It was the kind of life and death that opened eyes to God... and goodness... and faithfulness. Not without imperfection. But a complete and holy, fully human life to the glory of God. And the darkness and warmth of the apple core moon night spoke of both death and hope, completely.

This is how blessings are known. Not in the full delight of broad day light. But groping in the dark, warm air, following an elder, arms laden with food and the sound of children playing.

This is how blessings are known. In the eye of death and hope. In the chorus of faces.

At prayer this morning (from Job 16)
[Job said] “If I look for Sheol as my house, if I spread my couch in darkness, if I say to the Pit, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’ where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? Will it go down to the bars of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust?”

And also (Psalm 37:12)
But the lowly shall possess the land; *
they will delight in abundance of peace.

I begin the marathon of wakes and funerals --tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night and Saturday.

I shall grope about in the eye of death and hope. And bury only one.

In awe. And humility.
Amen.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

this morning...

We were talking about Israel's land grab --and history of land grabs... and the backlash.

IB was sitting in the chair at our table, his wife next to him. "You see, they're still fighting back over there. They still have it to fight back. We quit fighting back. We gave up on the war. We gave up."

I nodded my head, thinking of all the efforts to 'come back' that have been tried here. Before and after the creation of the Reservation systems -which were really prisoner of war camps --big Guantanamo camps... with the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) being the prison-keepers. Autonomy and self-determination were afterthoughts.

"But the war is still happening," I said. "And the casualties are dying down there on the corner, on drugs and alcohol." Self-inflicted wounds, yes..., I think to myself, but war wounds none-the-less.

IB is someone I pray with frequently --IB comes to church; I go to "sweat" with him. The ground we share between us is holy. And I am grateful for it.

It was not any better, though --the images of war I mean, in the larger scheme, as I went to bed last night --another beheading. Unimaginable chaos of the soul. I can only imagine that it's one thing to kill someone in a fever pitch of battle, kill or be killed; quite another in the mid-afternoon sun surrounded by friends in order to make a point.

How and why could someone --a human being-- be pushed to such an extreme... ?

--or, is it that we are just tone deaf? --unable to hear the fevered cry for decades?

Alastair Crooke traces the history back more than just decades --Part One is here, Part Two, here. I suppose such a "long" mind to the conflict would be like looking to Zwingli and Calvin and the oppressive violence for and against Reformation in the Church in much of Europe for the roots of Christian fundamentalism --which probably is not far off the mark, come to think about it.

But, I suppose... it goes back to that little bit of the Gospel of John--- And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment... Yeah. Deadly wrong.

Sin is forgiven. Righteousness is humility and putting others first. And the judgment is the cross and resurrection.

And, from some local points of view --what is being done now in the Middle East has already been done here --perpetrated by the US Federal government and white people in culture-cide... and Gaza looks and sounds all to familiar...

How long, o Lord? How long?

At prayer this morning (from Job 14)
[Job says:] For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stump dies in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant. But mortals die, and are laid low; humans expire, and where are they? As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up, so mortals lie down and do not rise again; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake or be roused out of their sleep.
Yeah --we got trees like that --at the stoop, by the foundation of the house, by the entry of the church. Human life is so fragile.

We must not give in to the way of violence... no matter what. If you want to see the results of the madness of violence, look to ISIS, look here....

I will only say to IB that the Lakota have taken the better path... I do see folks fighting back --with the preservation of the language, with ceremony, with keeping the stories and visions alive... with all the underground workings of which I know nothing or know only in part. I understand completely the desire to keep any of the hidden Lakota knowledge out of the hands of your oppressors. Pick up the weapons of death and destruction, and that is all that there will be --if not the death of the body, certainly the death of the human soul, the human spirit that God made for the joy of it --for love.

Because death and hatred beget death and hatred. It is not of God nor from God. And to kill --in any way, in the Name of God is the biggest heresy that can ever be fomented.

And, so... this morning... I pray....

(from Job 14)

But the mountain falls and crumbles away, and the rock is removed from its place; the waters wear away the stones; the torrents wash away the soil of the earth; so you destroy the hope of mortals. You prevail forever against them, and they pass away; you change their countenance, and send them away. Their children come to honor, and they do not know it; they are brought low, and it goes unnoticed. They feel only the pain of their own bodies, and mourn only for themselves.

Yeah... amen.

I think it is a perfect time to struggle with the devastation of Job.

Yeah.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

to argue my case with God before the leaves disappear

--when I took the dogs out last night, the stars had an edge to them --a crisp edge that happens when the humidity and dust in the air are low. They are usually very crisp all winter long.... I listened to hear if I could catch the sound of the drums I knew were still playing at the powwow grounds, but I think the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, carrying the sounds of the dance away from town. There was only the sound of the leaves talking in the trees. The voices of the leaves are increasingly brittle. Dry.

The earth --not so much. Yesterday in the afternoon session of the Wacipi (dance --powwow), a storm front moved quickly through. I had to quickly grab the jackets that had been left around as the children ran back and forth to the snow cone or cheese-fries stand and bring them and the blanket that padded the riser we were sitting on further up in the stands, under better cover. There had been lightening in the distance to the west and the wind was blowing from the north --so, at first, I figured we were safe. But the wind switched directions, suddenly and twice --first coming in from the west and bringing the rain. At that point, even the guys at the drums were running for cover, carrying their chairs and drum under the stands. Then, the wind switched again coming from the south, dragging the storm we thought had passed to the west and south of us right overhead.

In a lull, D and I ran for the car and jockeyed our way through the crowd and traffic. We made it home before the skies poured water down from heaven. Then the sun set. And the stars. With an edge.

As I looked up last night, I said some prayers. For the young man who died last week. For the other young man carried away to prison. For their families. For the elder who was preparing to die Sunday morning --I got the phone call at about ten minutes to seven in the morning --I had just started my coffee. I pushed aside the morning routine and went to the hospital for last rites. The elder's breathing was gentle, unlabored, shallow. The gathering of daughters in the dawn light saying it was okay to go. We said the prayers, asked for a safe journey, for the protection of the angels, for peace in our hearts.

I returned to the church; it was time to help serve the breakfast in the church hall, time to prepare for church, time to set the altar. After the sausage and eggs and pancakes, we gathered for bread and wine, said the prayers. Then, afterwards, I finished giving away some things I had been asked to share earlier in the week. It was all good.

And then I went back to the hospital to be with the family. The elder had died; the whole family had gathered. The sage and sweet grass odor filled the small round sanctuary of prayer in the back wing of the hospital. The men sang and prayed. Reminded us all that we were from the stars, that we would return there. And then they left. Women, mostly, remained. Waiting in vigil until the mortician arrived. I was asked to pray. I did. And I sang. In Lakota. It is the only prayer I know by heart in Lakota, and the people appreciate it.

So, last night... I said my prayers, towards the stars as an icon of the people themselves. The wet earth beneath my feet. The sound of the leaves. The stars. The people. The vision of the Dance in my mind's eye. The honorings. The give aways. The processions. The eternal movement caught up and in to the liturgy of the powwow....

I feel the longing of the People I serve. I feel their joy, their anguish, their hope. I feel their grief. I feel the angry loss. I feel it all in my bones. I feel it in my prayers, crowding my prayers, demanding a voice... how do I pray that prayer...

It wells up in me. And I offer it, wordless, to the stars. And the leaves speak, September.

Dang. September. Time flies.

Time does not heal all wounds. The wounds change with time. Become inherited. But time itself does not heal. Healing is a conscious endeavor of the heart and soul. It's the hard, hard work most of us avoid.

Healing takes more than a life time.

--and it begins by partaking of the dance.

At prayer this morning (Job 12:1; 13:3-17)

Then Job answered:

“But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God.

As for you, you whitewash with lies; all of you are worthless physicians. If you would only keep silent, that would be your wisdom!

Hear now my reasoning, and listen to the pleadings of my lips. Will you speak falsely for God, and speak deceitfully for him? Will you show partiality toward him, will you plead the case for God? Will it be well with you when he searches you out? Or can you deceive him, as one person deceives another? He will surely rebuke you if in secret you show partiality. Will not his majesty terrify you, and the dread of him fall upon you? Your maxims are proverbs of ashes, your defenses are defenses of clay.

Let me have silence, and I will speak, and let come on me what may. I will take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hand. See, he will kill me; I have no hope; but I will defend my ways to his face."

Off I go. There is knocking at the door.... Time to pray. I need more time to pray.... to argue my case with God...  the stars as my witness... before the leaves disappear....

Amen.

Monday, September 1, 2014

--because Jesus said to

Breakfast fundraiser again for Fair (Rodeo and Powwow) weekend. Up early. And then the parade. Some really good floats. Some politicians. Some folks on horseback. Some on foot. The anti-Keystone Pipeline float was good. Most all the floats threw candy and Other Good Stuff out for the kids. I was extremely jealous of the Roman Catholic priest --he got to drive a firetruck.... I asked him how come he rated a firetruck, and he said it was because he was a volunteer fireman.... Imagine that!

So, now, off to the powwow again. In my prayers I am remembering all the workers who fought for workers's rights --and all those who work forty hours or more and still live in poverty --all those who suffer from wage theft --all those....

From Wiki:

As commentator E. J. Dionne has noted, the union movement has traditionally espoused a set of values—solidarity being the most important, the sense that each should look out for the interests of all. From this followed commitments to mutual assistance, to a rough-and-ready sense of equality, to a disdain for elitism, and to a belief that democracy and individual rights did not stop at the plant gate or the office reception room. Dionne notes that these values are "increasingly foreign to American culture".

And, I pray for the oppressors, the rich, the cold-hearted, the 1%-ers, those who devise tax-evasion strategies.....

--because Jesus said to pray for those who wish to do us harm....

At prayer this morning (Canticle: First Song of Isaiah, Isaiah 12:2-6)

Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing *
from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say, *
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
Make his deeds known among the peoples; *
see that they remember that his Name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, *
and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, *
for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.

Off I go.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

the light and the dark knowing themselves

There is power in a Grand Entry (each period of dancing is opened with a procession of all the dancers) that is difficult to describe. It's more than the drum. It's more than the singing. It's more than the presence of hundreds of dancers. It's more than six or more generations dancing together. It's more than the littlest ones in their mother's arms kicking their feet in excitement, in more than coincidental unison with the beat of the drum, the jingle of the bells and rolled metal and deer hooves. It's more than hearing the clear voice of a small boy singing with the men. It's more than the immense color and motion and feathers catching the uplifting movement of the Spirit.

It's more than that. It's like the earth itself is busting open with the power of life, caught in the spin of the cosmos that begins with the light and the dark knowing themselves.

Which brings to my mind the remembrance of the ardor of the heavens, the moon flirting with the same horizon as the setting sun. The evening too rich with light for the stars to show. At one point, all the lights in the powwow grounds blew out. No one missed a beat. Not the drum. Not the dancers. Not the gathered crowds. Only the whisper of delight. The joke. We'll do it the old fashioned way.

The jokes. 1491 was there for a comedic presentation. Here is one.





Perhaps you gotta be here --and I don't claim to understand the full depth and nuance of the humor --but it is hysterical!

But, today, I have to shift my focus... a burial. The grief that up-ends. Grief that will take us to the borderlands --the burial of an unborn infant.

Yet, even so, the power of the Grand Entry will not be diminished. Instead, the burial, the liturgical recognition of obliterated hope and desire and love, will be enriched by the dance... I hope that makes sense. Lifted on the wings of the upwelling of the Spirit.

It makes sense to me, any way.

At prayer this morning, filled with the dance, preparing to bury a hope we shall never know, but name (from Acts 11)

"...the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?..."

Off I go --up to Thunder Butte, where the Moreau River winds around even itself. (The River winds around in so many "S" curves, at one point it seems there is little more than 15 feet between a place where the water must travel a quarter mile or more to return... I'll try to take a picture...)

Off I go. Because it's more than that....

Friday, August 29, 2014

before the Creator of us all

So.....

Joel was hurting so badly last night, we made a second trip to the ER. Not all the way to Pierre or Rapid, but at the IHS (Indian Health Services) hospital here in Eagle Butte. They can't offer us a hospital bed or take-home meds, but they can see us there in an emergency.

He was hurting so badly he was screaming and crying... so after two shots of morphine, muscle relaxants, and an anti-inflammatory, he could breathe again. After the first trip, there was no diagnosis other than belly pain. After the trip, it was sciatica.

This morning, we went to our regular doctor. She knows Joel well, knows when and how he complains, all the meds he is on. Because all his blood work is really good, she took an exray, and botta bing, there it was --degenerative scoliosis lordosis... a sharp turn of the spine in the wrong direction, maybe due to disk degeneration, maybe due to bone density loss....

Poor kid. But at least we now know. So, we moved the twin bed mattress in to the living room --I told Joel he had no choice, and for the time being, he is on bed rest with minimal adventures to other parts of the house. He will start physical therapy in a week or two.

Poor kid.

So. There we are.

And, today --The Fair begins! Carnival. Rodeo. Powwow. D and I went over to watch the beginning activities for the kids --where kids 3 to 6 years old try to ride sheep --which was hysterical. I yelled and clapped and hooted for them all, of course. But especially for S,P and L! Good job guys! Proud of you! (No sheep were hurt in this adventure.) And then there was the rodeo event, is it called Running the Poles (?) --the horse and rider must weave between poles out and back, for 3 to 6 year olds, and then 7 to 10 year olds. Most of the horses knew what to do... some of the kids did too. S on his pony was a sight to behold. Bop bop bop bopping along.

Really proud of those kids.

And in the two hours we were there, only two sets of parents/grandparents got lost.... Really proud of those kids.

So, before we go see the dancers tonight, I will work furiously for a few hours, preparing for Sunday and the rest of the weekend --hoping, praying there are no calls to the hospital, no accidents, no car accidents... that the suffering that people carry --Joel and all the rest, will find relief, and joy will infuse all souls that pass through this place.

At prayer today (Acts 10:34)

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."

the stars and moon tonight
will witness the prayers of the people
in the feet of the dancers,
the voices of those who sing,
and the drum shall be like their heart.
the riders and horses
shall be as one between fence and cow and post.
the children, in turn,
shall dream of the flashing colored lights
of the carnival ride
with the merry go round music
and the metal ducks and geese clanking along their hinged galley chain
before the blast of the guns
and the barker hawking a chance to win heaven.
there will be cotton candy,
heavy fry bread,
and the haunt of geometric design on fleece
recalling woolen relics of the ancestors
who now stroll along the fence lines
where the grass grows taller
seeking that purity
in the upturned heel at the hem of the fringed dress
that passion in the feathered brow in the arbor
where the ancient prayer ekes out a living
among the nations.
the ancestors will know
and the stars and moon witness
what is right and acceptable
before the Creator of us all.

Amen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

--what shall we do with that?

I am so distracted. So riddled with pinpoints of concern.... my mind feels like an urban landscape filled with sky scrapers and muck in the gutters... beggars, king pins, suits, cheats, and the oblivious wandering in the maze of cement and shadow....

A construction zone would be better --at least there is a goal. But, having an urban landscape in my head is distressing.... at best. Because there is no goal, no point --it is what it is and it happened without forethought or planning.

Oh well. Let's just hope it's not an urban landscape in a low-lying coastal area prone to flooding.

Oh dear. I shouldn't have thought that. Now I will suffer flooding as well. --sigh--

Perhaps the most oppressive thing... we never really had summer. We've had more rain. things are knee deep in mud and as wet as spring... without the hope that spring brings. And it's cold --the nights are beginning to hint of things to come. The sky itself is low, brought low with clinging clouds. Not the high loft of the thunderheads --just low slung tree-top obscuring gray.

But... it's Fair time. Yes. It's Fair time. The crowds and "traffic" have come to town. Tomorrow, with the promise of the prize of a free good-for-the-whole-weekend pass, the children will compete with a pony race. I know a couple who will enter, so I will have to go watch. I heard from a certain grandma that one takoja (grandchild) has been practicing; but the grasses are so tall, the pony so short, and the child so young, that all one can really see is the top of the head of the child popping along. I MUST go and support that child in the race!

There will be the dance --wacipi --powwow. A rodeo. A fist fight in the rodeo grounds. No. Really --with a prize for the last one standing. And the very scary fair rides. And fair food. We will fix breakfasts at the church every morning. Church will be here in town. We will hear the singing and drum late into the night. And the cars. And the sirens.

And then. School. Early Tuesday morning. The world will change.

I am working on the Fall programs too. What to say at funerals. Bible study. Preventing Child Sexual Abuse. All those kind of things.

But those aren't the pinpoints of concern. It's more like: Joel's pain is unabated. There's a whole new crew of Those Suffering Desolation downtown. The hyper intensive oppression of the coming elections. And I don't understand how things can get so twisted that folks will vote for their own oppression. Or willingly and knowingly vote for the oppression of others. We are threatening more war in the Middle East. There seems no end to the violence in our own nation. And we are unwilling and unable to get any movement from Congress. On anything.

The world seems to mirror the sky. Close. Clinging. Gray. Without hope.

--that. And so much more.

So. I must remember. The Big Story. That the children practice riding ponies in over-abundant weeds. The dance is prayer. And the air will be filled with it --no escape from it --all around us --all around town. And that just because the clouds are too close doesn't mean there is not the horizon. And I will sing. I will open my throat and sing. One note at a time. And remember. Not hope. But love.

Because, what else would any of us do otherwise?

At prayer today (from John 7)
Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

--you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come...

Hmmmmmmmm.... there are never any easy answers, easy times....

--what shall we do with that?

--what a jumble. Oh well. Off I go.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Poor Joel

The fog was so dense --we couldn't see the valley as we came up over the crest of the hill. The view from the crest of this hill usually makes us both inhale sharply in awe because what we see must be what infinity is... but, this morning was only thick and gray, too close, no sky. Not the silver gray color of holy sage; but a gray that captures secrets and holds them closer --crowded.

Joel groaned in the passenger seat of the car.  In severe pain. It takes a lot for him to admit that he's in pain. It takes even more for him to say that he wants to go to the hospital. He said both this morning, over coffee. So, D stayed back home with Paeha and Witty, and we packed him in the car.

And now I am sitting in the ER. They have taken him away on the gurney to check his gut --probably a kidney stone. He thought as much. But just in case, he packed an overnight bag.

'Did you pack you breathing machine?' I asked, because the bag was so heavy.

'No,' he said. 'Just books.' And we laughed and laughed. It's okay to stop breathing, but not okay to be stuck without your books.... silly man.

So, now they just brought him back from the CAT scan, and he's singing along with the IV pump, which has this funny little sing-song thing going. And now we will wait. And I will pray, as I am wont to do.

At prayer today (Mark 7:32)

They brought to Jesus a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech....

Hmmmmmmm..... See?! It's not OUR own faith that usually save us... but the faith of others.

Just sayin'.

Okay.... the thingy is beeping, and the nurse is back in the room, Joel complains of pain to me three minutes ago, tells the nurse he is okay... gonna get busy.... Poor Joel. Silly man.