Tuesday, July 29, 2014

--in silence....

Unhooking is hard. For me. I usually find it easy to grab the couple of hours here or there... but consciously knowing I have no immediate crisis list to tend to is... well... disorienting. I slept fitfully. Woke up way too early. Heard someone firing a gun in the neighborhood --and even though there were no sirens following it was disturbing. To say the least.

So, this morning... the weather gadget shows a storm system brewing and moving slowly southwest of us. A strange laborious slow curl over Wyoming, descending in to Nebraska... I can't tell if the curl came from the Gulf or the Pacific --or if it's a combined system --which is what gives us such strange weather and high winds.

So, I think I will, at some point today, clear the table of work stuff... which means I will clear the table --the whole table... and then I will mow the lawns in case that strange laborious slow curl comes up this far. And that's enough plans for the day... except for maybe the nap. I never nap. Yeah, a nap.

Perhaps I will dream in color. Perhaps I will dream that dream --the one I've never finished, the one I've dreamed my whole life, the one that used to terrify me as a child --the one where I am in bed and all those old people surround my bed and look at me and at each other and laugh and smile and nod. Once, after we got married, I had that dream again, except that time I sat up in my dream, clutching my blanket to my chin, and they spoke to me. Nothing that I could understand, but they spoke.

Perhaps, if I can have the dream again, I will understand....

Nah. That's dreaming....

I keep having to remind myself that understanding and conscious being are two very different unrelated states. And if I had to choose, I would choose conscious being... . For the time being.

---it's taken me this long to know I don't understand a great deal... but being consciously present, and putting understanding aside, is really quite liberating. For me, any way.

At prayer this morning (a portion of 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.

--yeah... in silence.

Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2014

we'll figure it out

The road in to the church was still gumbo, so I veered off to the left and drove through the meadow along the same track that had frightened K so much earlier this Spring. But the track was now well used and the grass pressed flat --the gap in the fence obvious. It would not have frightened him this time. Well, maybe not. I still had to keep a fast clip, and the seat belt tightened on my shoulder as the car bumped and I veered off toward the pump, around the corner, still avoiding the road which was deeply rutted and still wet. Ruts so deep, my little car would bottom out.

The mud looked like slightly melted baker's chocolate.

I took the corner at full kilter, swerving here and there --and as I finally rounded the corner to turn in to the meadow between the church and the cemetery, I gasped. The whole meadow was still a sea of mud --dry and cracked on top, thick and wet underneath. It was like a drying riverbed --cracked and creviced mud skewed akimbo.

I turned sharply to climb up the drier land right alongside the church --a thin narrow stretch barely as wide as the car. I parked between the steps leading to the kitchen door and the church porch. Still staring in disbelief, I climbed out of the car... it all smelled like drying river bottom too --that stench of rotting wet leaves and grass, and disemboweled tadpoles with only half grown legs unable to wriggle or to keep up with the retreating water.

Wondering about the fate of the cemetery, I began to traverse the mud-scape. It was a mistake. I was out about 50 yards from the church, and I noticed that while the surface of the mud was nearly dry and almost like cement, the parching process had opened crevices revealing the large puddle of muddy water underneath. The sun-hardened surface was floating, like a dock on a lake. As I stepped on a seemingly dry part, I began to sink. So I had to step quickly again, and again, making snap judgments as to which were the driest parts --which parts would not sink before I could skim to another. The dry parts became fewer and fewer until they were like stepping stones with deep crevices filled with mud.

'This is exactly how it must have been crossing the Red Sea,' I thought to myself, always scanning three to four steps ahead of myself, half expecting to suddenly find a large catfish ready to leap up and beg me to carry it to the River beyond the cemetery.

But, there were no cat fish. And I made it to the cemetery fence. I climbed on to the steel gate and caught my breath. Inside the fence, the tall grass of the cemetery nearly obscured the head stones. A month ago, I had wandered through the stones, knowing the names, the families, praying --it had been a solitary garden, relatively tamed and trimmed. Now, it looked like it had not been tended in a hundred years. Tilted. Askew. Crammed with twigs and branches shoved every which where.

The birds cackled and called and sang. Frogs croaked. The wind --no, just a breeze today. Trees with deep green shadows. It seemed all was as it should be. Except it wasn't. The stone foundation of the old church mounded up between the shrubs.The people waited in the deep green shadows --generations gone before, waiting, with sighs too deep for words.

Even if the Army Corps of Engineers comes in and builds a berm around the cemetery, which they are planning to do --to protect the historic markers, the graves, no one would be able to access the cemetery to clean it --to keep it up, to mow it. It's so short-sighted... that plan... who will maintain the berm? What they need to do is dredge the mouth of the River which has silted up because of the Oahe Dam they built... taking the best land away from the People for the sake of the white farmers downstream... and continuing to take this land, even now. But they refuse to dredge...

I remembered the visible sand bar all across the mouth of the River about eight miles down stream. I had seen it just this morning... the passive despair passed like a cloud. And then I remembered M, 96 years old, who is fighting tooth and nail because she wants to be buried here, among her people, with her grandfather. She is haranguing the Governor's office. The Tribal Chairman. Lawyers.

I cannot turn away, and just let this flooding happen or continue. I cannot let them build a berm. I cannot not. But, what can I do... .

Anything. Everything.

I turn to traverse the unfamiliar mud-scape again, trying another way back to the church. But it proved to be even more harrowing. Leaping between encrusted pillars of mud jello. River pudding.

I open the church door --it is never locked... just a chair leans against the door to keep it from flying open in the high winds. I find the broom and begin to sweep the mud clumps up from the remnant rugs scraps which cover the plywood floor. Gray here. Blue. Orange up by the altar. The ceiling tiles sag between the metal frame. I dust off the plastic roses which adorn the altar. Wipe the painted single board pews, hard and rigid, upright.

I hear the cars coming, jostling, creaking metal on metal Rez cars. The boys pile out, all arms and leg --no, it turns out they are mostly all feet. The eldest comes to help me carry one of the blue rug remnants out to the porch; the middle one picks up a stick and begins to thrash the shrubs; the youngest leaps in to the pillars of mud... of course.

The noise. The busy-ness. The laughter. We set up. We talk. We are ready to begin. The eldest leads the youngest around to the pump to wash him off, to wash off his shoes which he tried to scrape clean on the stairs until his mother told him not to do that there. He comes back, soaked head to toe --what is an elder brother to do, any way... the boys read, even the youngest gives his go at it, compliments are shared. I call the kids up to the steps by the altar --what part of the stories surprised you? I ask. And they answer. They got it. Pray for the ability to tell good from evil --like that king did. Don't be afraid, because there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God. And would you rather be the fish that's saved or fish that's thrown away? --let's all be the fish that are saved, the youngest shouts and fist pumps his brother --but we all know the fish we save are going to be eaten, I said --so let's be good food --good food for hungry people --food for the world.

'I'm hungry,' says the youngest. 'And we didn't have any food to bring and share.'

'That's alright,' I say. 'I brought some bread and juice.' So we gather around the altar, we say our prayer, acknowledging all creation as our relatives, remembering how Jesus became food for hungry people --his flesh, his blood as bread and wine. The youngest always claps his hands with joy as the prayer is finished. And we share that food. He gets all the seconds. Except on the juice. The eldest takes the cup out and pours it on the ground by the edge of the church, saying the prayer I taught him to say --thank you Father, we return to you what you have given us, thank you...

And then we close the church, lean the chair against the door, and turn to our cars and the sea of drying mud. The youngest catches a frog. 'It's mother will worry,' the mother says, so he puts it down again. And we all eye the narrow space where we entered, between the ruts and mud and fence and pump.

'We'll figure it out,' I say. 'We'll figure it out.' We all nod. Unsure. It's the first time since March that we've been able to meet on our regularly scheduled Sunday --we've been flooded out, otherwise.

"I'll figure it out,' the youngest yells, and jumps the height from the porch rail knee deep in to the mud. And we all nod.

At prayer this morning (from Psalm 56)

I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God; *
I will present to you thank-offerings;
For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling, *
that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

And today, I begin a little time away from my usual daily routines... what is that called --oh, yes --vacation... but, since no one here gets vacations, we will follow suit --and just take a break from my usual daily routines... except for my usual prayers --for the health and well being of the People, and all my relatives. Amen.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Trinitarian" needs to be blown out of the water again....

After the funeral yesterday, Joel and I drove to Rapid for a hospital visit. Last time, this person was in ICU for nearly two weeks... we had to hurry. Not sure how it was all going to play out this time. When we got there, they were sitting up in bed, not in ICU, family all around. What a relief. We prayed, we talked, we laughed --all of us in those plastic garments and gloves. Sweating like crazy, even in a chilled hospital room.

Afterwards, Joel and I went over to our little house. It is down out of the air. Finally. The guy who hoisted it up in the air, took our money to build a foundation and then didn't but instead quit answering the phone --turns out he did that very same thing to more than a dozen people... They've sued him and taken him for everything he had... but we were too late to the game, we've got nothing for a whole lot of something... and we're out tens of thousands of dollars we don't really have. And we really had to scramble and work and scramble and work... tear our hair out... weep.

But, now the house is down. We drove up in to our little drive --the whole lot has been trashed... gravel, foam, broken bricks everywhere... and there is a sign taped on our door... we are in violation of city code because of the construction stuff in the yard... So, it seems we have nice neighbors too, reporting us like there isn't construction going on or something... can't they see??? We're working on it as hard and as fast as we can!!!!

I had stuffed a step ladder in the back of the car, in case we had some time... and we climbed up in to our little cottage together for the first time. Considering that we had four months of uninterrupted freezing winter, and temperatures way below zero for a considerable time, and wild spring storms with lacerating winds --the house is in better shape than I had thought it might be. The floors are intact. The old plaster has cracked in places from when they put the house down. The soda cans had exploded all over the kitchen (we expected to be back in the house before last winter began...). But, that's about it.

Witty and Paeha went crazy --sniffing everywhere, finding their toys.

It's been a year since we signed the contract to have the house lifted... . Exactly a year since we last had access. A helluva year.

And so we sat. Joel in the chair, me on the little sofa. We sat. Quiet. For 45 minutes. It felt like a week. It was wonderful. Now, we wait for the bids to finish it --give it a bathroom, a back door... the rest is details. Getting it down out of the air was a hurdle... major. Now on to the rest.

And now Joel is talking to me this morning --about creation and nature and God and western mind thought --in the Eucharistic prayer. And he is striving so hard not to make a point to point connection between what we know of ancient Christian prayer and what we see and hear of Lakota thought in the Eucharistic prayer from the Niobrara Convocation a few weeks ago... but he is going on about hearing and seeing God in the trees, in the wind, in creation --and how it does and doesn't apply to the ancient ideas of Incarnation --insisting that when God entered the world in human flesh and blood, it was for the whole world, and that means here too --and so there must be universal points of reckoning in our prayer...

Really? I ask. Really? Universal? In my mind, I'm still thinking about the house... and what he is saying seems like he's trying to make a tipi out of 2x4s and stucco... even though I know he is more astute than that... Or... building a brand new house and trying to make it seem old... it just wouldn't be the same... cheaper maybe, but not the same.

Or, perhaps it is like looking at a satellite picture of clouds, and wondering what someone on the ground might see in the clouds.

But, I know he is working through major concepts --like, the Lakota had no word or concept for "Sin"... much less Incarnation. ... much less Resurrection...

On the way home from Rapid last night, there was a huge storm south and east of us. We could see the lightening --and the clear sky with the stars beginning to emerge over our heads, the sun setting behind in a blue and pink. Day and night, both at once. The thunderhead clouds were a shocking white folding over on themselves in ominous gray and black. 'Look,' I had said. 'Do you see the lamb looking over its back, up there, in that cloud?' Joel looked. I wanted to correct myself and say 'Ram' but at that moment I didn't want to confuse the issue. 'Yes,' he said. 'Yes, I do.' And the Ram/Lamb lit up with lightening, and then another cloud to earth strike with a bolt so obvious it was frightening.

And the Ram in the sky, filled with lightening striking the earth, and the corn rows and mowed hay, the young horses, the stars and sunset, the awe and fear, the glory and danger... I no longer care, I realized... I no longer care --I mean, no, that's not right --I care more deeply than ever, --but I no longer care if my Christian thought conforms entirely to the Greek philosophy that formed my ancestors in faith. I care more deeply than ever in Incarnation. I care more deeply than ever in Resurrection. I care more deeply than ever.

And I could care less if I have no temple of words or images. I could care less. There is something even more ancient --perhaps it is the vastness of the prairie, of the sky, of the wind... of the only word I know --creation. Which is not at all where the center of anything is.

I am even stymied by the difference of words such as "be" or "is"....

At the Wake on Thursday night, the Lay Reader was going to stand and read something. 'No', I whispered. 'Tell them what is in your heart, not what sounds good, not what you think they need to hear or should hear.' And the tears began, and the loss experienced at other times that resurfaced in this loss, and all the words spoken then forgotten now --meaningless, and grief so overwhelming. 'Yes,' I had said. 'All the more reason to speak what is in your heart.'

....thinking, speaking with our guts... .

--as if such a thing were possible....

At prayer this morning (Matthew 27:11-23)

Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus said, “You say so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer.

Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.

While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”

And they said, “Barabbas.”

Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

All of them said, “Let him be crucified!”

Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?”

But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Jesus didn't have any words, either...

--and it is so much easier to continue to choose the wickedness we know, rather than risk anything else...

The Ram. The Lightening. The prairie. Day and Night, both at once.

Yours is the day, O [have no words for you],
yours also the night;
you established the moon and the sun.
You fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.

[Dare I] seek the one who made the Pleiades and Orion,
and turns deep darkness into the morning,
and darkens the day into night;
[the one] who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon
the surface of the earth...

If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me,
and the light around me turn to night,"
darkness is not dark to you,
O [have no words for you],
the night is as bright as the day;
darkness and light to you are both alike.

(playing with Psalm 74:15,16; Amos 5:8; Psalm 139:10,11

Perhaps you are not even "one"....
which is why "Trinitarian" needs to be blown out of the waters again....

Off I go...

Friday, July 25, 2014

If I were Ruler of the Universe

I do not understand why God made horse flies. Or any blood sucking creatures, for that matter. Joel saw it first, resting, frustrated, on the curtain at the window. He went for the fly swatter... but I wasn't yet done with my coffee, and protested the hunt... it wouldn't be anything but messy. Way too messy.

So, he returned from the kitchen and with a scrap of paper and a glass chased the danged fly all over the living room. The dogs wanted to join in. Excited at our fierce attention. Ready to help. It flew around the room --we would lose sight of it, and it was a silent flyer. Then it would suddenly reappear, first by Jesus hanging on the wall, then by the violet on the table, disappear again, then by the lamp. It finally lit upon a surface where it could be trapped; and it was. Joel released it outside.

I know. Saving a horse fly is probably a crime somewhere. If not, it should be. At least until Judgement Day, anyway.

If I were Ruler of the Universe, I would make horse flies look like this:



--and they would hunt and eat mosquitos and other biting, stinging, flying bugs... all of 'em, all the time.

But, because it is not Judgement Day, and I am, gladly, not the Ruler of the Universe, we will probably put horse flies out of the house before coffee --probably not after coffee, but certainly before.

And, because it is not Judgement Day, I will go about my work today, prayerfully... burying a young woman/mother/auntie/wife, praying for the grandmas who will pick up the pieces of the broken hearts, praying for all those who may be overwhelmed at this loss. Praying. Without ceasing.

This young woman had a tattoo on her face --little stars following the creases of her eye along the top of her cheek bone. I have seen other facial tattoos there --mostly little blue tears that look like they have just fallen from the eye. But she had a waft of stars....


--falling stars from her eyes... on her chest... I shall try to remember that. I shall ponder seeing the world like that, too.

At prayer this morning (Canticle: You are God, Te Deum laudamus)

We praise you, O God,
we acclaim you as Lord;
All creation worships you,
the Father everlasting.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
the cherubim and seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you:
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you took our flesh to set us free
you humbly chose the Virgin’s womb.
You overcame the sting of death
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come to be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting.
Glory certainly involves stars... yes?
Off I go.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

no more arm-chair Christians

It seems as though the world is somewhere between "Fight Club" and "Clockwork Orange."

Violent. Nihilistic. Crazy. And those just trying to get along --eating, praying, loving, working-- are swept up in the machinations of the scramble to try to make sense of it all.

I have decided this morning that there is no making sense of any of it --of the weapons, of the laws legitimizing it all, of the frightening deceit, of the power plays, of the death...

I read this, just this morning.

Now the world faced a free-for-all in which “non-state actors” -- terrorists, global corporations, religious and ethnic tribes, sovereign wealth funds and nonprofit charities, to name a few -- were as crucial as countries in shaping the order of a “nonpolar” world.

To be clear, non-state actors -- which also include alliances such as the United Nations and the European Union, "civil society" foundations and academic institutions -- ... these new entities do not follow the familiar playbook of nations.

The Internet and international floods of capital were empowering these non-state players, Haass wrote in 2008. No nation or set of nations was “in charge.” Ethnic, religious and regional rivalries had been set free by the weakness of nation-states, and by an Internet that enables digital forces who couldn't care less about the wisdom of Metternich or Gorbachev-Reagan diplomacy.

The U.S. had to figure out how to operate in this new world...

Yeah... nothing --not one thing is "following the familiar playbook"... And just as weakened nations must figure out how to operate in this new world, so must the Church.

Fr. K wrote Joel and wondered about the Church needing new metaphors.

I about lept out of my skin. 'We don't need new metaphors,' I said, grasping the door jambs with both hands and putting my forehead into the soft part of my inner elbow. 'We need sacraments --in the best sense of the word --things that actually take part in those things which they signify."

And as the day stretched on, and as Joel and I continued to think about that, the number of sacraments melted in to infinity. Everything is holy. Everything is an outward and inward, visible and unseen, grace-filled sign of the presence of God... even those things twisted and perverted by human endeavors --things turned pornographic, things aimed at death... because they speak most clearly of the cross. And, therefore, the presence of God.

We must stop cringing or being in denial of significance; we must gather around those things and those places and those people and witness it, point it out, expose it.

We must throw away the nice, neat little corporal on the altar --the linen place mat where we place the cup and plate --we must throw away the altar --and move the people back in to the dungeons --the crypts, back out in to the streets, along the borders, in to the places where the homeless gather, where the sick are dying, where the bruised and battered weep, the kidnapped, the horrifically executed, the suffering, the bombs, the wreckage are... we must show that their flesh and blood has been sacrificed for us... by us... among us... with us... because of us...

We must open the doors of corporate back rooms and expose them. We must open the court rooms and expose them. We must blow open the doors of Congress and expose them. We must blow open our own hearts and eyes...

This is not a frantic, frenetic cry. This is not the gnashing of teeth or despair.

This is the gospel in our time and place. Without metaphor.

It is not our place to give up or give in. We have been called to pray humbly, see clearly, and act boldly --as servants. And feed the world with bread that leads to life.

At prayer this morning (Matthew 26:69-75)

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!”

At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

And he went out and wept bitterly.

No more arm-chair Christians.

No more tears.

No more metaphors.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

the dance of it all

At prayer this morning (Romans 14:13-23)

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.

I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died.

So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble.

The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
The lightening and thunder were right overhead last night. Sitting on our little sofa in one room, I could see the flash of light through the kitchen window and hear and feel the pressure and explosive crack of the thunder almost at the same instant. I know it's crazy, but I felt safe because we were in the house, and not in a tent. Nobody, nothing is "safe" when the storm is that close.

And poor Mr. Witty sat in my arms and trembled --shook, really. Perhaps he is wiser than any of the rest of us. Paeha, who is usually oblivious, took cues from Mr. Witty, and decided to join him in my lap, but couldn't quite get the trembling part right. He wasn't really as terrified --just jealous.

And, so, I would run the comb down Mr. Witty's back, clicking my tongue and saying those comforting words he likes. And then I would run the comb down Paeha's back, saying his name and the word 'love' over and over again. Then the lightening and thunder would make everyone jump, and we'd start over again...

I have often wondered about weathering such storms in a traditional tipi. Erected correctly, I have heard that a tipi will withstand 100mph winds and more --and that they are safe, dry at all times, and very warm in winter. Especially the old ones made of buffalo hide. Perhaps, one day... .

I do know, because I've been in one, that the universe changes when you are inside. The cosmic spin of the stars and planets is echoed inside... and you are caught up in that reality...




This morning, the grass and twigs the dogs pick up in the hair of their tails is soft and pliable. Everything grows so fast this time of year, we don't bother raking. Well... it's not just because it grows so fast... we just don't bother raking. Usually, the Tribe mows down the prairie that grows on the other side of the fence. This year, they haven't. And it has been wonderful to watch the changes in the sworls of grasses and wild flowers --which ones collapse on themselves, which ones dry in place. There is a powwow dance called the Grass Dance --and the young men show off their greatest acrobatics, strength and flexibility. I asked once about the dance --of someone whom I could trust not to laugh too hard at my questions. As if a dance needed to be about more than young men showing off... They said the old dance was about coming in to a new camp, and the wild grasses --which grew four and five feet tall-- needed to be trampled down before the People could put up their tipis --so, they put the young men to it, swirling and stomping, seeing who could cover the most ground most effectively.

Imagine sleeping on sworls of grass and wild flowers, under the sworl of the tipi poles, under the cosmic spin of the universe...

---the circle of life... and your place in it.

I always wonder at my place in it all --in the borderlands... especially with the overwhelmingly awful headlines and news from every quarter --war, greed (as if the two are separate), backstabbing, death... I know it has been always thus. Always.

But, for me, there is a new edge --something we have not dealt with before. And that is the end of a planet able to mend, heal, feed and sustain us. I know that climate change has always been with us, too. That's life. Part of the circle of life. Hey --South Dakota used to be beach-front property. But, I don't think we have ever faced planet-wide poisoning of the environment. As we do now.

Poison.

Spills here. Fires spewing chemical waste clouds there. The ocean, lakes and rivers --toxic, filled with waste. Undrinkable. Unnameable waste being forced in to every crack and crevice underground in order to force out gases and oil...

Even the commercialization of food causing disastrous methane... .

Perhaps it is time again to eat only lentils and beans... to put my prayer in to action... let us not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God...

Hey God, it's margaret. You have long since given us prophets to wake us up from our own disaster, but we lumber along, like the living dead... I grieve our stupidity. I grieve our greed. I grieve our unwillingness to change. I grieve our political system which runs only for the profit of the few. I grieve our violence to and hatred of one another. I grieve, and offer my grief to you. Thank you for the cleansing storms of the night which sends the dogs in to my lap, reminding me of the spinning cosmos and our vulnerability. Thank you for the dance of it all. Help me walk, listening for your voice, your hand in the world around us, ever calling us to behold you, and to our beginning and end in you.

Amen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

like a hen collects her chicks under her wings

At prayer this morning (beginning at Mark 15:37)

Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.


There were only women watching him die.
Is this because they had nothing more to lose
that without him they were as good as dead any way

Is this because men can't cry,
which isn't true because I have seen plenty,
or perhaps, because they are men,
they thought they still had much to lose

Is it an icon of sorts, in words,
that only the those on the bottom rung
have heart enough for eyes to see and ears to hear

I don't know.

I do know that the one who knew first,
who first told of new and unexpected life
was throttled with the name 'whore'
was labeled as one possessed with demons
was caged by reputation for eons

the women could only be virgin or whore
not the 'providers' they were

Jesus, our Mother,
who like a hen collects her chicks under her wings


Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you; •
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Often you weep over our sins and our pride, •
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds, •
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life; •
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness; •
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead, •
your touch makes sinners righteous.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us; •
in your love and tenderness remake us.
In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness, •
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.
Anselm of Canterbury




Monday, July 21, 2014

the belly of death itself

'We should fill up the tank,' I said.
'What tank,' Joel said.
'The propane tank.'
'It is. Got filled last week.'
'Oh,' I said.
'Why?' he said.
'Because propane is only $1.50 a gallon right now...'

--at least, that is what I heard at the wake last night. The local propane company won't offer any contracts for a gas price for the winter months. They fill it when they fill at whatever price. During the worst of the winter, propane was sent to the south first, and we paid over $5 a gallon for it up here. Pipes froze all over the place.

I remember the bite of winter --and I think about having a shiver, but I can't. It is supposed to be 101 degrees today here, with rain. Rain would be nice. One of my weather gadgets has a feature that identifies the locations of active fires and the resulting smoke and where it is blowing. The smoke is so thick over us right now I can hardly see the tops of the trees just beyond the tin tipis behind our house.

Here is the link to that gadget. It will probably open up to your location --but there is a list of options that can be shown in a column on the right --scroll down, and click 'Fires'.... you will see the smoke clouds shown in gray. (You can travel the globe by using the direction arrows in the upper left corner.)

101 degrees. With rain. I can only hope it rains AFTER the burial... standing out in the muck and heat, watching men sling heavy mud that won't come off the shovel will not be... well, what's the word... conducive to prayer --except that prayer of a certain kind, laced with absurdity and expletives deleted.

--although, the jokes might be really good... Somebody told me this winter, when snow would not come off my shovel, to use 'Pam' --that non-stick spray stuff... I wonder if it would work with mud, too... perhaps I shall stick some in my sacristy purse...

--I keep meaning to buy rubber garden boots...

And these are the hardly deep, hardly meaningful thoughts wandering 'round in my brain --on the Monday of a week where this little prairie town will bury three folks --one last week, three this week... one elder --a holy death, and the grief is different than the other three who are all in their mid-thirties. Lives captive to inherited grief. Born in to a system of grief and despair so overwhelming...

--and the system can't be broken from the outside. The will and the strength and the courage to do that must come from the inside. And that is where I see hope. Because the foundation for that is being constructed. Some might not see it. But I do. Little by little --not in a cohesive plan. Not in a linear fashion. But by the power of the Spirit.

Joel and I were watching our Korean dramas that we like to watch --and one of them was set in the 1880s --with the introduction of guns from the west in to a sword culture --and the devastating shock --all protocol, all custom, all that was known about honor and death --sent right out the window.

But I was also watching the cultural responses to such swift and devastating pressures that were part of the background of this particular drama. I was watching the political machinations --do we allow this in the country --or that --do we allow ships from Japan or the West --what about the science, the medicine --the whole cultural system trying to figure out what was going to be good and/or healthy for them as the tidal wave hit them. They had tried to regulate it all, tried to shut out those things they did not want --but it didn't work... and soon all of Korea was occupied by Japan --and soon again Korean language, culture, food ways, religion --all of them outlawed by the occupiers.

The shutting down of their borders and the devastation that followed was equaled only in what happened to their souls --trying to keep it alive within... the common people bearing the sins of the wealthy, the greedy, the motives and goals of the occupiers...

Most contemporary Korean dramas focus on the interplay of the old and embracing the new stuff from the West --and a new occupier, a new border enforcer, the United States.

In cultural dynamics writ large, there are great commonalities between what I see around me, and what is portrayed on the Korean screen. A culture under duress from overwhelming outside forces.

I can only recall, biblically, the first destruction of the Temple, the people carried away in captivity --the changes, the survival... and note the death and the birth pangs here.

But this week, the people we bury here are known to me. Their lives. Their humor. Their hands. It is not a history, an anthropological description and analysis.

It is Arlen. And Stella. And Herman. And Jeanne.

And, so, in the midst of that, I watch my weather gadgets and smoke plumes. I remember the cost of propane last winter. I think about putting slip-off grease stuff in my sacristy bag. I remind Joel to take his pills. And turn on the A/C. It's going to be hot. Too hot.

Momentary distractions...

And I offer up to God my unwillingness to dig deep into the grief at this moment. I offer up to God my willingness to carry it for a time. I know. I see.

And I wait, expectantly. In great hope.

At prayer this morning (Matthew 26:36-46)

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”

And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”

Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.

So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

--sleeping...

Yes, I avert my eyes every now and then...

Yes, I sometimes sleep.

But the Great Betrayal is always before us all. Always at hand.

--as is the horror of the death of Good Friday. The despair of the prolonged hours of Holy Saturday.

And unexpected life. Not called back to the same old life. But busting wide open the belly of death itself...

Amen.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

joy comes in the morning

The sky.... where is the forest fire? The sun is like an orange moon...

Went to the hospital late. Another death.

Fr. B is coming over early to clear branches away from the roof.
I will pick them up and carry them to the dumpster.
Then they drive back to Chicago.
Thank you guys.

A Mission Council meeting in the morning.
Prayers for the dead this evening.
Church tomorrow --a couple of times. A hundred miles apart. At the least.
A wake tomorrow night. A funeral Monday.

And I am so grateful --that is too soft a word... but it's all I got. Grateful to serve here.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 30)

I will exalt you, O LORD,
because you have lifted me up *
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

O LORD my God, I cried out to you, *
and you restored me to health.
You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead; *
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

Sing to the LORD, you faithful servants; *
give thanks for the remembrance of God’s holiness.
For God’s wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
God’s favor for a lifetime.

Weeping may spend the night, *
but joy comes in the morning.
While I felt secure, I said,
“I shall never be disturbed. *
You, LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”
Then you hid your face, *
and I was filled with fear.
I cried to you, O LORD; *
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,
“What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me; *
O LORD, be my helper.”

You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.
Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

Off I go.
Always, joy.

Friday, July 18, 2014

what. if.

I don't know how he got so ragged looking --unkempt
my littlest dog
keeping cookies in his beard
dragging garden beetles on his back into my bed

I caught him tasting shed snake skin
out by the stoop
a summer delicacy
picking pistachio nut shells up
from the rug
running away when I say drop it
when I clap my hands

he comes when he chooses if I call his name
but always if I call the other dog's name
who is obedient enough to shame me
before God and all creation
imagine, he says as he sits or comes,
imagine me telling you what to do,
and then he bows his head
like a bird with beak under the wing

and in the yard
they share the chase of the same red ball
the littlest one faster than lightening, leaping on ahead
turning, and cheering the other on

they both avoid where the prairie cactus grows
tunneling as it does
in a subterranean mass under the fence
erupting in to the sun where I sheer the grass short
a border ignored
like so many other borders

both of my dogs undocumented,
sprung from jail cells
that smelled of urine and reeked with disease
I know they remember
sometimes it is a ghost I can see
in their eyes

we had a boy once, a beautiful brown boy
sprung from a border patrol cell
his prints not found in the system
because he chewed on his fingers
for that very reason
and we were told he had come here as a child
a victim of untold abuse
seeking refuge
so many ghosts in his eyes

but he was just a felon from Texas
willing to tell a story,
any story when he got swept up in that net
he was just a kid
with gang tattoos
doing his best to hide

the ghosts were real

he would have liked the snake skin
and the pistachios
and the way the cactus ignored the fence

there is not a mother here
who does not laugh at something in summer
when things should be easier
except to feel the searing loss too
having watched that labored breathing
in the dance of death
helpless

there is not a mother here
who doesn't wonder
what if


At prayer this morning (Romans 12:9-21)

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The Christian commandments.
Let's tattoo them on our hands.
Let's nail them to our door posts and kiss them as we go in and out.

What. If.
Amen.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

certainly not conformed

Dawn happened, already filled with the sound of tractors and mowers. The air is filled with that dust and roar --a strangely comforting sound, even in the morning. Usually the Tribe mows the grasses and weeds behind our house, but they haven't this year. Perhaps it is because it has been so wet, one couldn't take equipment in... What I do know is that the weeds have harbored water, and the mosquitoes are rampant. And huge. At times, even in the heat of the day, they have been so thick, it's dangerous to talk, or to try to stand still.

Actually, there has been no way to stand still. The swatting and slapping and ducking have been a strange dance, of sorts. And the welts have been terrible --lasting for days, itching and swelling like crazy.

Last night, as I came home from the hospital, I saw the hinged bi-fold plywood sign with neon green poster paper taped to it standing in the middle of the street in front of the police station. In a felt-tip scrawl, it read: "Mosquito spraying tonight. Low flying air craft." And just as I read it, I saw the air craft buzz over the largest swampy area east of town --behind my house, heading over to the park where a softball game pushed back at the growing night.

'The moon,' I remember thinking to myself. 'Where's the moon?' I looked to the sky, but saw only clouds --dark and flat underneath, stretched and scattered above. Instead of the moon, I saw a cloud T-Rex with antlers and a too-long tail. And I laughed at that. A T-Rex with antlers.

We had prayed together, a comfort service, a gathering for the grieving family, a meal shared, the elders and children fed in that in-between time before the plans for the funeral are set in to action. And then I had gone to the hospital --hospice. A young mother. Her children, sitting deep in their chairs, unbelieving, angry at the mention of a loving God. Prayers. The labor of breathing. Silence in-between.

And while the world has forever changed in death, the mowers continue their endless summer task of trying to harness abundant life. Life so strong it dulls every blade.

The sweet smell of mown grass. Cut clover. It is overwhelming. Incense.

Everyone is saying that they have never seen clover this thick and abundant before --that lots of clover always means a very wicked winter is to come. I can't imagine a winter any worse than the one we just had --the ground frozen so solid it broke the teeth of the backhoe digging the graves, and that was after they had set a fire with logs on the spot over night to thaw the ground.... I buried two people who froze to death....

If that is so, we must prepare. We must prepare beginning right now. But who really knows?

And I say my prayers into the endless cycle of abundant life and death, always changed. I hold up in prayer those who write me --moved that they would do so. Late last night I opened many emails of gratitude, of remembrance, of fear for me and my well-being --each letter speaking more of its author than of me... because there is so much I cannot, do not say. I am remembering those priests who have served here before me --and I know some of their stories... they are always changed, too. But there has been a generation now, when priests were not lifted out of this very community. And I grieve at that. I think of holding broken bread up at the altar, speaking and praying in the language of the conqueror, the victor --for now. I know of the lives before me --broken in so many ways, yes... but like the prairie grasses, filled with abundant life --more life and death than I have ever known. I ponder the demands of living here. And throw myself, buoyed by the sun, the moon, the stars --the T-Rex antlered clouds, the smell of mown grass and cut clover, by the threat of bitter winter looming in the clover blossoms, the anger of the children, the tears of the grandmothers --I give myself, willingly, to the risk, the the grief, to the abundant life, to the People.

At prayer this morning (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.

---and....

(beginning at Romans 12:1)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present:

--your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

--Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.

If anything --I am certainly not conformed... yet transformation is a wild bull or a bucking bronco --heh?

Let nothing disturb you,
nothing afright you.
Whom God possesses
in nothing is wanting.
Alone God suffices.
All things are passing.
God never ceases.
Patient endurance attains all things.


(See sidebar --St. Theresa d'Avila)

Amen.
Off I go.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

make me good company

I went to Rapid after the funeral. Went to the hospital --in talking with Joel I learned that someone else had died --another young man. Same cause.

How God must weep.

The sin of genocide and intergenerational despair, borne in his flesh and blood. Again. Han.

And then another phone call --an old lady, dying. The young man and his family were already gone from the hospital, so, I put my back to the setting sun and began the journey to Eagle Butte. The long shadows, the trilling of the movement of hay not yet mowed, the antelope... abundant life filled me, restored me. I arrived at the hospital about 9 or 9:30pm. I said the prayers. I asked her if she were worried. She shook her head, 'no.' She had seen them --her loved ones had come to carry her home.

I finally arrived home. Fifteen hours after I had begun. Suddenly spent. First, a burial. Then a death. Lastly, someone dying. I don't remember walking down the hall to go to bed. Worse yet, I didn't hear the phone ring at 3am. Two calls. First the hospital. Now, she too, was gone.

But I didn't hear either call.

I must have slept right through them.

I am mortified. Embarrassed.

But it is not to be undone.

This morning, I am moving slowly. Conserving the psychic energy that I will most likely need in the days to come. I am pondering the NPR interview I heard with a military wife who confessed numbing her feelings every time her husband was deployed --calling it a black soul. Numbness.

And I hold two things in tension remembering her interview --the first is a memory of a beautiful woman in seminary who took me to task for calling something awful and tragic by the descriptor 'black'... and wondering how military wives of African descent heard her --calling her own purposeful avoidance and numbing of her emotions a 'black soul.' It didn't sit well with me...

And the second... I know the numbing routine. Another name: Denial. It is a great and powerful tool, denial. It can also be destructive. Very. Destructive. Denial can eat someone up from the inside out.

So. Here. With such overwhelming, constantly present grief and despair. I have had to undertake a different discipline other than numbing... because I don't think a numb presence is a presence at all... I have to remember not to confuse or intermingle my own work of grief or whatever --my own 'stuff' with the 'stuff' that others must do... and I know we are called, on occasion, to carry the cross for one another --but that doesn't mean we make their cross our own.

So, it's a jumble... but it is also very clear: Bearing the sins of the world has been done for us.

We have been called to carry Love. Which is so much lighter. Not easier, just lighter. And we can't carry Love if we are numb...

At prayer this morning (Psalm 38)

O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger; *
do not punish me in your wrath.
For your arrows have already pierced me, *
and your hand presses hard upon me.
There is no health in my flesh,
because of your indignation; *
there is no soundness in my body, because of my sin.
For my iniquities overwhelm me; *
like a heavy burden they are too much for me to bear.
My wounds stink and fester *
by reason of my foolishness.
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; *
I go about in mourning all the day long.
Searing pain fills my innards; *
there is no health in my body.

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

Those who seek after my life lay snares for me; *
those who strive to hurt me speak of my ruin
and plot treachery all the day long.
But I am like the deaf who do not hear, *
like those who are mute and do not open their mouth.
I have become like one who does not hear *
and from whose mouth comes no defense.

For in you, O LORD, have I fixed my hope; *
you will answer me, O Lord my God.
For I said, “Do not let them rejoice at my expense, *
those who gloat over me when my foot slips.”
Truly, I am on the verge of falling, *
and my pain is always with me.
I will confess my iniquity *
and be sorry for my sin.
Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty, *
and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me.
Those who repay evil for good slander me, *
because I follow the course that is right.

O LORD, do not forsake me; *
be not far from me, O my God.
Make haste to help me, *
O Lord of my salvation.

I remember reading this Psalm aloud almost daily during those nine long months of chemotherapy... I read it because it doesn't go to that 'happy' place --it doesn't end with something like --but you are the good God who always listens to the prayers of those in need, and I know you hear me and will do something good for me... I think it is the only psalm that doesn't go happy. The only thing said with confidence in this psalm is pain and despair. I remember in amazement how most folks ran from that pain and despair... and as I was grappling with my own mortality and the pain of treatment, most folks just said --but this will make you stronger! No one would be with me where I was...

I was not in denial. I was not numb.

And I was so grateful for the company... and nobody else could do what had to be done for me.

But --the company.

Hey God --make me good company, heh?

Off I go.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

wildflowers

The wheat is turning golden brown. Already. Some wild stuff on the fringe is turning pinkish, with frothy tops.  And then there are the bombastic heads of some type of thrusting reddish-pink with wide leaves. I think I remember seeing a picture of it in the cultural center, but I can'r remember if it is noxious or not.

The bright yellow of the clover is dominant --everywhere.

The birds nesting on the sill of the bedroom window wake us up with hungry clamor before dawn.

Perhaps I am focusing on flowers, fields, and baby birds because today's work is so difficult... the burial of a young man, age 38... a veteran... dead from excessive drink. The Lakota way of encouraging their people to find their own way --which is so expansive and generous, so good, so amazing... also means there is little intervention. Except for death, or accident.

It is just the way it is.

And this morning, I can't stop and pray and think my way through it, my way with it, my being a priest in it --except to know that it is that same expansiveness and generosity and goodness that allows me, a white, Christian priest to be here, to live here.

This morning, I can only do the shortsighted work of standing with the young mother, the friends, the family, who just want the pain to stop. And I will stand with them, knowing I cannot stop the pain. Cannot stop the grief. I can only speak of God's presence, God's physical understanding of the pain and grief --of their own holiness.

At prayer this morning (beginning at Romans 11:13)

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.

Yes. I, too, am a wild olive shoot. Grafted.
And I bear the name of the wildflowers that grow alongside the road --margaritis --the wild daisy, sun-flower type...

I have no other purpose but to receive the light of the sun, to the glory and delight of God. I am made for the joy of God.

It is that easy. It is that dangerous.

Off I go.

Monday, July 14, 2014

a descant to poor, rocky dirt

The sun just at the horizon. Dawn. The cement of the stoop, cool on my bare feet. None of the harvest dust fills the air yet --it is a clean sky. The polar vortex is supposed to visit us for the next three days. Uncharacteristically cool. I pray for the farmers who had mowed, left the hay in rows, and then were inundated with rain. It can ruin a harvest --the wrong type of mold and rot set in.

It was such an awful storm Friday night, the robins lost their nest. The fledgling birds were found among the leaves and branches on the ground. The boy buried them, and marked the grave with a cross made of small stones. I had done something similar to the small bird I had to pick off the grill of my car. 'The sin of the world,' I think to myself '--they bear the sin of the world.' I had also hit a juvenile prairie dog, lost and confused on the road. They are dead because of my need to unnaturally travel faster than they can fly. In a car fueled and made of pollutants that are killing us all. In a car fueled by the causes of the stuff of war. The sin of the world.

I thought about the crowd of vultures I had seen earlier in the day, flying above the tree line just north of the highway. All too often folks think vultures are eagles, the way they ride the wind currents, their size, the light shining through their feathers. I remembered Deacon saying they were her favorite bird. 'Really?' I had asked. Deacon said, 'Yes. They quietly clean up after everyone, doing the work nobody else wants to do.'

Eagles rarely nest in this part of South Dakota. Sometimes they winter just below the Oahe Dam. They migrate through these parts, twice a year, spring and fall --sometimes late in to the winter months if the rivers don't freeze.

Back to my bare feet on the stoop... I see the meadowlark charge at Paeha's head. He must have been hit recently, because instead of thinking it is a game of chase as he did last week, alternately chasing and being chased in a fast race of fur and feather, he now lowers his head and runs for the cover of the hedge.

The meadowlarks are increasing their territory --now more than half the yard... transgression of some invisible line brings them out to drive us all away. They hadn't come at me on the mower the other day, as I expected they would. I had put my shirt up over my head just in case. Needlessly. Perhaps it is because of the more symbiotic relationship --the mower exposes and injures all kinds of bugs, making them easy prey. Seeds, too.

Seeds. I see the faces of the people as they pained away yesterday after the gospel, during the sermon sharing, longing to be good dirt, feeling they are rocky or weedy or shallow dirt --just plain bad dirt. That the seed won't be fruitful in them. The sense that their dirt will never be good enough.

I had asked them who the farmer is in the story. One brave child agreed he might be the farmer. That made me happy. 'God, of course, really,' said another.

So, I said, if the farmer is God, is Christ part of God?
Yes.

And are we members of the Body of Christ?
Oh. Yes.

So, then, as members of the Body of Christ, we are like the farmer. In this story, we are part of the farmer. Our job is not to judge the soil, but to do like this farmer does, throw the seed every where. Every. Where. Throw it! Where it lands is none of our business. Our job is to throw the seed --to tell the news of God's outrageous, abundant love. Every. Where. With our lives. In everything we do. Using words only when we have to. Throw. The. Seed.

Unexpected news. I remind them of their baptismal invitation --to join in the eternal priesthood.

Sometimes it's easier to ponder our unworthiness as poor, rocky dirt.

At prayer this morning (Matthew 25:1-13)

Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.

"But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’

"And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

I wonder if the "wise" bridesmaids were girls scouts, always prepared...

So... another end of this story...

the wise bridesmaids get inside, the door is shut, and the bridegroom himself is revealed as The Light, and all their lamps are useless anyway. So they extinguish them. Their hoarded oil useless.

And the bridegroom asks them, 'Whatever happened to those who did not have enough oil?'

And the wise bridesmaids say, 'We told them to go get their own oil. Now they are locked outside.'

And the bridegroom says, 'Didn't you realize that if you shared your light with the least of these, you shared it with me? So, go now, and open those gates and invite in those who were locked out. Tell those foolish ones looking for oil in the market place to come and sit down at the feast in the light. They have gone looking for something they didn't need.

"And now you, who have oil enough but didn't share, you must stand outside the gates with your lamps lit, to be beacons in the dark for those who have lost their way, until all have come in to the feast. Because the first shall be last... ."

The gospel according to margaret. Not knowing the day nor the hour. Throwing seed as fast as I know how. Even in to the gumbo. No oil in sight. Sleeping when I can. And always having the descant of unworthiness playing its tune right above my head. Too.

Perhaps next time, as I mow, I will not cover my head, and let the meadowlarks pluck and carry that descant away... They could so easily redeem that song with their gorgeous melody.

It is dawn. I am barefoot and awake. A morning glorious and cool and fair. It is not judgment day....

Off I go.

Please keep the family of A in your prayers. We begin the long walk to the graveside this evening.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

dreams of grandmothers in my bones

I heard the sound of dripping water as the light slowly edged to dawn. It sounded like the gurgling of a small stream into a still pool of water. I stretched. Joel had left the air conditioner on all night, so the room was cool and dry. The blanket pulled tight in my stretch --Mr. Witty was up on the bed. His soft fur and wet nose filled my hand with a kiss. The sweetest dog on earth. The sweetest grumpiest old man dog on earth.

And then it registered --dripping water. I awoke in a flash, the hardcore determination of my pioneer grandmothers, always willing to live on the edge, surging through me. 'Good morning grandmothers,' I think to myself, strangely comforted by the presence I feel in my bones of all my mothers who made me. Strangely comforted that I live in a place where even the concept of feeling my ancestors present in me, with me, by me, is not mocked or dismissed, but understood.

I could not have come this far without them. Whenever I have had to dig deep... there they are.

Yesterday, I met with someone in crisis --they wept with exhaustion, with fear. 'I had that dream, where my grandmothers were sitting around the campfire, and they told me to sit and eat, and I was afraid to eat with them because every time I have this dream, something really bad happens, so I turned away from them and ran. Like, you know, last time it was L in the car accident, and they almost died. And now this. I knew it.'

An almost-type death had visited the family. Crisis. Someone had seen the unmentionable thing dressed in black with hooves running around their house, peering around the corner. Someone had given it a ride in their car. There was a dark weightiness, a pall, a shade, a mantle of despair that would tempt them, lead them into death if they were not vigilant. I wondered if I was going to be asked to come bless their house again, to prevent the shadows from coming in the windows.

'Are the grandmothers the ones who bring death so close?' I ask.

'They are always there --I always have this dream before something bad happens,' they said.

'Perhaps they show themselves to you in your dream to remind you that they are there for you, giving you comfort, making and offering food to you to get you through the hard times that are coming,' I said, drawing on my own comfort, not sure if the cultural gap in dreams could be bridged.

'Oh,' they said. And we sat together in the quiet. Then they whispered, 'I like that. My grandma is taking care of me still. I like that.' And we spoke of the strength that comes from outside us that we find inside us. And we prayed. They tucked the cross and the medicine bag on their separate strings around their neck back inside their shirt. And ventured out again, amidst all those things seen and unseen.

Sometimes I feel weird in my own skin, meeting folks where I can in such matters. My western mind, linear, full of scientific explanation and metaphors... . But I never go places that don't 'belong' to me, if you know what I mean. My experience is not this experience, the Lakota experience. My understanding is not this understanding.

What I do know, I do not know. There is mystery, abundant mystery. And like my grandmothers, I seem to walk the borderlands. Out in to difference. Unknowingableness at hand.

Perhaps that is why it is so much easier for me to see God in bread and story, rather than in text, letter after letter, a linear comprehension bound tightly. Perhaps that is why I am a sacramentalist, an incarnationalist, rather than a scripturalist.

I don't know.

But I do know I am so much more comfortable with the understanding that strength, comfort, the Way through something is something ancient outside me which I find inside me --inside my bones lending a strength I cannot claim as my own --something which fills me like food fills me, rather than something I can comprehend or figure out or rationalize.

I stretch again, Mr. Witty still kissing my hand... and as I open my eyes I see and know that the running water is rain dripping on the window sill. July rain. How odd. And Joel says, 'The storm kept me awake almost all night. The lightening and thunder were awesome.' And I wonder how I slept through it all....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Matthew 24:32)

Jesus said, “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Hmmmmmm.... the Son of Man like a thief in the night...

Well. Perhaps that is no different or no more difficult to understand than a July rain in the west.

Or, dreams of grandmothers in my bones.