Friday, January 23, 2015

what's on the other side?

We sat around the table --the UCC Pastor had brought lasagna, the Sister had brought Swiss cheese --as in real yes cheese from no other place than, the Fathers had provided a fire --we brought boiled cabbage and red potatoes... and we talked... what could we do to ether, we had talked of doing something together, it was maybe Stations of the Cross during Lent, remember?....

How we could do that, how we might involve other churches played parts in the conversation --amid my outburst of 'no--I will not invite the people I serve to go sit at a fundamentalist church and listen to them, give them an evening of our time together that would take me five years of teaching to undo, no, no, NO... !'

--not that I'm passionate about certain things... or just about anything....

But, somewhere in the mix of conversation over cheese and potatoes, we got talking about a 'personal' relationship with God... and how 'personal' doesn't necessarily mean one-to-one, but in its original meaning meant a God with a 'persona' --a somebody that could be known. But that understanding does not preclude being called individually, or corporately.

Somewhere in the mix of conversation over lasagna and cabbage, we got talking about 'you' in scripture --how it is almost never, ever, ever in the singular --always in the plural, always corporate, but in English the difference between you singular or plural just doesn't exist --and, yet how in the synoptic gospels we have the disciples ALWAYS called and sent two by two, and, yet how in the gospel of John the disciples are called one by one... the enigma of calling.

So, this morning, over coffee by the fireplace, Joel begins to play this:





Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong wait and see.

Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.
Who said that wishes would be heard and answered when wished on the morningstar?

Someone thought of that and someone believed it.
Look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing and what do we think we might see?

Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.
All of us under its spell.
We know that it's probably magic.
Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.

Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors.
The voice might be one and the same.

I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.

Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.

It's something that I'm supposed to be.... And then he read aloud:

It’s a captivating outlook: that I am uniquely called to something special, that I am special and set apart for wondrous and amazing things. It’s also a sentiment that has been on the increase in recent years. According to an annual study of first-year college students called the American Freshman Survey, each year since the 1960s more and more young adults believe themselves to be superior to their peers in virtually every category.[i] This is true even in those categories, such as writing ability, in which test scores show a marked decline in ability over the past four decades. Researchers call this phenomenon “ambition inflation.” Our entire culture plays into it. Every child gets a trophy. The A- has replaced the “Gentleman’s C” as the average grade. Any 6-6 football team goes to a bowl game.

At its worst, such ambition inflation leads to (or, perhaps, is a symptom of) clinical narcissism. But in its more run-of-the-mill variety, the felt contention that we are each set apart for some great and grand role in life can and often does lead to frustration, disappointment, and deflation when the calling never emerges with clarity, or when we the things we pursue in life fail to satisfy, or when the world around us doesn’t appreciate just how special we are. As former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says of our time on life’s stage, “We think we could play Hamlet very effectively if only our talents weren’t so successfully concealed by the fact that we [instead are assigned] a two-minute appearance as Second Gravedigger.”[ii] Our professions, our relationships, our sense of self-worth take a hit when Excalibur remains stubbornly stuck in the stone.

But what if we’re thinking about calling wrongly? What if we are misinterpreting God’s claim and call upon us?

On the one hand, Holy Scripture assures me that I am, indeed, individually precious to God. Psalm 139 says to God, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.”

That is a heady thing! But lest I take the Psalmist’s words to mean that I am destined for greatness apart from my peers, the Prophet Isaiah grants us a vision of all the gathered inhabitants of the world and then says, “Life up your eyes on high and see. Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.”

In other words, there is no one uncalled. God speaks each of our names: Eli, Samuel, you, me. And though this is, at first, hard to hear, if everyone is special, then, by definition, no one is, at least not in the unrealistic and increasingly inflated sense that our culture speaks of being special.

Is this a downer? Not for me. Rather, it’s a relief, and especially a relief from anxious striving. Rather than spending our days frantically seeking to discover that great and grandiose thing God is calling us, and only us, to do in this world, Archbishop Williams says:

“God’s call is the call to be: the vocation of creatures is to exist as themselves, to be bearers of their names, answering to the Word that gives each its distinctive identity…The vocation of things [is] to be themselves, distinctive, spare, and strange…to be the person you are. It means [God] is calling you by your name, at each and every moment, wanting you to be you.”

The real crisis of calling, Williams believes, is when we wake up after years of seeking to be special, only to discover that this very quest has led us to live falsely. The stars we have seen have obscured our true vision, and when the haze finally clears, we sometimes panic. That is when our professions, our relationships, our sense of self-worth truly suffer, when we recognize, sometimes in a flash—like Paul on the Road to Damascus—that we’ve been living a lie. In fact, Paul’s conversion can be interpreted as exactly this kind of crisis, by which God calls Paul from falsehood to truth.

But whether we arrive at the understanding early or late, our calling is, Williams says, “to find out what is true and what is false in us.” To ask, “Is this actually you we’ve got here? Or is it another defense, another game?”

“Our hearts,” Williams recognizes, “are infinitely cunning in self-deceit.” And our faithful response to God’s call is “learning to shed the unreality that simply suffocates the very life of the soul. [Calling] is, you could say, what’s left when all the games have stopped.”

We are not called, in other words, to embark on some fabricated and inflated quest for grandeur, but neither is calling a license to indulge in every impulse or urge that we experience in our lives. Like striving, our impulses and passions can also often lead us to live falsely. We are called, rather, to live authentically as the people God created us to be, people who recognize the image of God within us and therefore reflect to one another God’s own compassion and love.

Of course, it was the case that only Frodo could carry the ring, and there are those who are called to specific roles that only they can fulfill, roles both large and small. But such particular callings can only emerge when we have first pursued the primary call to live authentically. Because we can only hear the voice of God when we hear through ears that are truly our own and not the ears of a fabricated and false self.

Sometimes, that specific calling, if and when it comes, may be to a completely new place, or a completely new thing. But it is worth noting that the life to which God called Samuel was the life he was already being formed to live. Samuel had been raised in the temple at Shiloh in service to the Lord, and from Shiloh he would grow into an adulthood serving God as priest and prophet. Samuel’s calling entailed a full and authentic living into his already-present context.

I am fond of asking people if they know the difference between what C.S. Lewis’ did for a living before his conversion to faith and after. You see, before he became a Christian, Lewis was a scholar of medieval and Renaissance literature at Oxford. But after his great conversion and sense of calling, Lewis was…a scholar of medieval and Renaissance literature at Oxford. The difference for Lewis was not in what he did, or where he did it, but in the manner in which he approached the life he was already living. He became his authentic self, and that made all the difference.

God is calling, you, me, and all people everywhere. We are precious creatures, created in love, beckoned to give up the false self and live authentically, and to mirror God’s image to the world. And that is, after all, the highest calling of all.

It is good, every now and then, to keep our 'call' from God fresh, right up front. But it is not always good to sit in the comfortable 'center' of what we think we are called to do --not always good to sit in the comfortable 'center' of a presumed authenticity... it is good to remember that sometimes we are called away from who we are... sometimes we are called to know, and leave....

Sometimes....

At prayer this morning (Mark 4:35-40))

On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Geeeeee !!!

Never a dull moment....

Let us go across to the other side.....

Off I go.
(Love this...)




Thursday, January 22, 2015

Some days.... Pow! Right in the kisser....

The 5th "Mark of Mission"....
~ To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
If this is indeed a 'mark' of our life in Christ, there cannot be one single Episcopalian who supports the Keystone Pipeline, and is not doing everything they can to unhook the world from the deadly and continued consumption of oil.

A small headline reads, "North Dakota Pipeline Leaked 3 Million Gallons Of Brine In Oil Drilling."

Cleanup is underway after nearly 3 million gallons of brine, a salty, toxic byproduct of oil and natural gas production, leaked from a pipeline in western North Dakota, the largest spill of its kind in the state since the current energy boom began.

The full environmental impact of the spill, which contaminated two creeks, might not be clear for months. Some previous saltwater spills have taken years to clean up.
...
The new spill is almost three times larger than one that fouled a portion of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in July. Another million-gallon saltwater spill in 2006, near Alexander, is still being cleaned up nearly a decade later.
..
North Dakota has suffered scores of saltwater spills since the state's oil boom began in earnest in 2006.

A network of saltwater pipelines extends to hundreds of disposal wells in the western part of the state, where the briny water is pumped underground for permanent storage. Legislation to mandate flow meters and cutoff switches on saltwater pipelines was overwhelmingly rejected in the Legislature in 2013.

Wayde Schafer, a North Dakota spokesman for the Sierra Club, called the brine "a real toxic mix" and "an extreme threat to the environment and people's health."
I've written about this before, here.

What is done to the land, is done to the People's souls. What is done to the land, is done to us.

If we took seriously (I'm not talking literally) one of our own creations stories --about us being formed out of the dirt and having the breath of God blown in to us, we couldn't rationally or otherwise think of polluting the very stuff --the Godly stuff of which we are made.

But we do.

And it's not new....

In this respect, Bottineau County offers an unusual, decades-long test case, since the region has a long history of contamination and a plethora of aging wells, tanks, pipelines, disposal sites and other infrastructure left from North Dakota’s earlier oil booms in the 1930s, 1950s and 1980s. And the experiment’s not over yet.
...
“Some of the pumping units are from the ’30s,” said Larry Peterson as he drove past Margaret Hellebust’s land, which sits on the Wayne oil field. Fifty years ago, a wastewater spill contaminated 80 acres of her property. “It’s sad because it doesn’t produce a crop,” Hellebust said later. Over the decades, her family has tried planting barley, wheat and sunflowers in the contaminated area, she said, but nothing grows. “As a landowner, you get so disgusted that every time you hear of an oil company, you just almost want to scream.”
...
On the Wiley oil field, which sits about three miles south of the Wayne field, wastewater contamination has caused not only crop failure, Larry said, but also the death of ash and cottonwood trees. “The cattle won’t even eat the grass here,” he said.

On the Renville field, Christine Peterson pointed out where she discovered a spill in the winter of 2010 because the snow was streaked yellow. Nearby, the land around a 2011 wastewater spill at a disposal site operated by the company PetroHarvester still has a running generator pumping the contaminated water out of the field.

As is the case with many incidents, the quantity of wastewater released in this spill is contested. The Oil and Gas Division’s follow-up report cites 300 barrels, but local residents say the state health department initially estimated the spill to have been closer to 50,000 barrels. Either way, it’s been an expensive cleanup; the Oil and Gas Division’s report estimated it would ultimately cost $2.5 million.

Mike Artz’s land is still showing high levels of contamination, despite an ongoing cleanup and remediation effort by Murex, the well operator responsible for the spill. But even more troubling to the Artz family and their neighbors is the perception that the process has been riddled with misreporting and a lack of regulatory enforcement by state agencies.

The Oil and Gas Division’s reports say that the spillage lasted for only 24 hours and, impossibly, that it amounted to exactly zero barrels of liquid.

(At a recent meeting, Helms, who worked for Texaco and Hess Corp. before becoming the head of the state’s oil regulatory agency, defended the division’s reporting, explaining that farmers shouldn’t expect “complete accuracy” in an initial spill report.)

Artz and his neighbors had to file a Freedom of Information request just to get a record of the health department’s estimate that 16,800 to 25,200 gallons of wastewater had spilled.
...
Most large spills are caused by burst pipelines, but another source of contamination is tank explosions at water-disposal sites. The water-storage tanks are made of fiberglass, which is a perfect conductor for lightning during storms. This summer, at least three saltwater tanks have exploded after being struck, causing the waste to spill onto the surrounding land. “The industry says it’s cheaper to just put up another tank than to put in the technology to avoid lightning,” said Jerry Samuelson, emergency manager of McKenzie County, where the new drilling boom is occurring.
...
But not all of the tanker spills are accidental. Jerry Samuelson explained that some truck drivers illegally dump wastewater alongside the highway to avoid having to haul it all the way to the disposal sites.

Here is a list of oil spills (not the brine spills) posted by the North Dakota Department of Health, Environmental Health website --these acknowledged and known spills are just for a three day period... a year ago. There are 9,642 known spills that are a year old.

And, it's not just an impact upon the land... here's where the workers live:




It's called "Man Camp."

Body and soul. Warehoused. Makes me wonder if they are also charged for their room and board --have it deducted from their pay.... owned by the company store....





Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you then the left one will

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.

--in more ways than the obvious ones....

At prayer this morning (Mark 4:21-34)
Jesus said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

We have this saying too --the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer... it's happening right before our eyes, right now.... Why are we waiting to act? --to save ourselves? --to save the people? --to save the earth?

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

What generation will it be who can no longer understand the parables because there is no earth that produces grain? --we will eat 3-D printed food products, filled with the 'right' amount of essential proteins and fiber... who hasn't tasted a tomato recently?

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

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Do we still need a private audience with Jesus to have it explained to us what we are doing? --to ourselves? --to each other? --to our mother earth?

Some days.... Pow! Right in the kisser....

Off I go.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

being present

It snowed last night. After a couple hours of icy rainy stuff. It is not a good day to go out. But, most of us probably will. At some point. Because it's just difficult out, not impossible. And when we go out, we will acknowledge each other, make eye contact, laugh, greet one another with some gesture or another. Laughing with each other at our ridiculous vulnerability and quasi-modo recklessness --our half skate, half glide, half careening across ice and snow and tarmac and cement embedded with those curious pink rocks.

Even the guys who stand on the corner by the funeral home will laugh --because it's not impossible out --because I look so ridiculous in my unpracticed semi-controlled perpetual slide and fall across the expanse to the post office or pharmacy or hardware store. 'Mother!' they will call out. 'Can you give me something for food?' And they come close as they ask, with their hand outstretched, hopeful.

We both laugh --because we both know that they would not spend a dime of anything I gave them on food. 'Geeeee----' I say, while I look at them --and if they are soberish, I will offer them a ride to the market to buy them food. And nine times out of ten they usually say they would prefer the money, and then I remind them I don't carry cash... which is true. For so many reasons. If they are not any where close to sober, I tell them how much I love them, and that it pains me to see them all strung out --and when they haven't had so much of whatever, I would gladly buy them what they need.

I rarely take them to the market and buy them stuff --because they will sell that for what they really want... I usually take them to the market cafe, or to the Subway or wherever, and sit with them while they eat.

I mean... they don't call me 'Mother' for nothing....

So, it is with interest I read this article this morning --about addiction not being caused just by 'chemical hooks,' but by loneliness:

Here's one example of an experiment that is happening all around you, and may well happen to you one day. If you get run over today and you break your hip, you will probably be given diamorphine - the medical name for heroin. In the hospital around you, there will be plenty of people also given heroin for long periods, for pain relief. The heroin you will get from the doctor will have a much high purity and potency than the heroin being used by street-addicts, who have to buy from criminals who adulterate it. So if the old theory of addiction is right - it's the drugs that cause it; they make your body need them - then it's obvious what should happen. Loads of people should leave hospital and try to score smack on the streets, to meet their habit.

But here's the strange thing. It virtually never happens. As the Canadian doctor Gabor Mate was the first to explain to me, medical users just stop, despite months of use. The same drug, used for the same length of time, turns street-users into desperate addicts - and leaves medical patients unaffected.

If you still believe - as I used to - that addiction is caused by chemical hooks, this makes no sense. But if you believe Bruce Alexander's theory, the picture falls into place. The street-addict is like the rats in the first cage, isolated, alone, with only one source of solace to turn to. The medical patient is like the rats in the second cage. She is going home - to a life where she is surrounded by the people she love. The drug is the same, but the environment is different.

This gives us an insight that goes much deeper than the need to understand addicts. Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find - the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding'. A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else.

So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

I think the author is both wrong and right --and over simplistic. I think addiction is not all one thing, one factor --but a constellation of factors --environment, exposure, chemical hooks, compulsive behavior, learned behavior, social/cultural/familial isolation... And, genetics....

And recovery requires attention to all of the above.

I keep pondering and praying about this because we are more than neck-deep in all of it here. It has wreaked havoc in my family of origin. It has been a large facet of the jewel of our marriage.

I am pulling together the numbers the greater church likes to look at --the results of which rarely make sense here. So, I had 60 burials this year. For most large congregations, that would be understandable --and, yes, I would consider this Reservation a large congregation --a large parish.

But where in the numbers can I tell of the work --that thirty of those I buried were under the age of 50 --and of those, ten were infants --two infants died of abuse and neglect. Three were known suicides --all under the age of 25, one a veteran. Two froze to death. Three were "more than suspicious" circumstances (probable murders). Twenty eight were dead of organ failure --in other words, alcohol or addiction related deaths.

Let me put it this way --of the sixty burials, only nine could be attributed to the onslaught of old age...

And this year, for the first time, deaths outnumbered baptisms. I had 47 baptisms... .

Who else has numbers like these --except well off, large, probably endowed urban or suburban congregations... ?

Who else has these specters behind the numbers? Except other Reservations? Except perhaps inner city congregations (most of which probably/might have well-heels commuter congregations)?

Where can the 'human connection' be made in the current numbers-driven agenda of the church?

Where else, quite frankly, are all "Five Marks" of mission met face to face, daily, with such great urgency? --and not in just hands-on 'ministry' and then every one goes home to supper --but in being present, 24/7.

(For non-Episcopalians, the Five Marks of Mission are becoming central to the overhaul of how the Episcopal Church looks at what it does, and is allocating its resources accordingly, theoretically. The Five Marks of Mission are:
The Mission of the Church Is the Mission of Christ

~ To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
~ To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
~ To respond to human need by loving service
~ To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
~ To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
Close parentheses.)

But, do I digress... ? I don't know. I have suddenly found myself in a thinking space I did not expect. I am deeply concerned for the family I gave $$ to last night, who are traveling to Sioux Falls today, in this weather, to pick up a teen who attempted suicide for the second time in less than a month... and has been in treatment for less than a week... because that's all....

And, I am deeply concerned for the family, the wage earner --who works full time, was just off for two weeks because they were sick and there is no sick leave, and called, asking for help.

And the young woman who was angry when the State took her children. She slammed her fist against a window and sliced herself up pretty good --she's back from surgery, and she got her youngest one back, but has returned to the house filled with drugs and alcohol where she lived before that caused the State to take her children to begin with, because she has no other place to go....

And for the three children who are to be baptized this Sunday --except the weather gadget is calling for rain, and when it rains, we can't get in to the Church because it floods, because the River was dammed for the sake of the white farmers downstream, and now all the tributaries are silting up and the Army Corps refuses to fulfill its obligations and dredge them.... and the flooding is causing all the cottonwood trees to die, and causing more erosion....

Somebody, tell me about those numbers.

The Five Marks of Mission --holes in the hands and feet, and pierced with a sword...

At prayer this morning (Mark 4:1-20)

Again Jesus began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

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

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

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

But, it's not just about the soil --about receiving the seed.... I mean, yes, yes, yes.... But, as followers of Jesus, followers of the sower --we gotta just get out there and throw the seed around... like there's no tomorrow....

--because, we never know... and, because if it --breaking open addiction/sin/the human condition is about human connection --is about being restored to the human community, it's not just about throwing the seed around or soil conditions. It's about BEING THERE. Being PRESENT.

At all costs.

Yeppa.

Off I go.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

the altar, the wounds --as a beginning place for the cultural change in the way we talk about addiction and recovery in the church

Back then, I knew Joel was sick. I just didn't know what the sickness was --I thought maybe he was "crazy".... When he called me in the middle of the day, his lunch break, and said he needed help, that he just realized that he thought about driving our little car in to the path of an on-coming truck --well, my first thoughts were only of relief. First, that he didn't do it; second, he finally asked for help.

Within 24 hours, he was hospitalized. I still had no real clue. And it was hospitalization for alcoholism and drug addiction. I was confused that it wasn't a mental ward. I remember snippets of some of the lines --his personal doctor, when I asked him why there, said --let's start there. Then, when the treatment center couldn't admit him immediately, --the interview over the big desk, with the big woman, the school-house-sent-to-the-principal-type shame --all the conversations about whether or not our house was a 'safe' environment for him for the next 24 hours --until he could be admitted.

There were several 'great fears' that I experienced. One of the big ones was that our marriage would become unsustainable. For those first few nights, I had to pull out the prayer book and reread the marriage vows we took... as if....

But I remember saying to Joel as I dropped him off (they wouldn't let me in past the locked doors of the treatment center this time), that if he became a Jesus freak or a recovery freak --someone who became so 'sold' on something else rather than what they were 'sold' on now --that all bets were off... I wouldn't go there. I had seen some folks just exchange one addiction for another.

I still had no real clue.

I still had my whole part to discover in the addiction system-- I think one of the break throughs began when the word 'disease' finally made it through my skull --that this wasn't a personality trait, that it was a sickness like, well, --allergies. And it could be treated. And, as with allergies, the whole household had to learn to live a different way --and scents and perfumes had to be banished... from bodies, from soaps, from the air....

But, behavior is part of it --being in the disease is like being caught in a maze. And the hard work is realizing that doing the same old thing will bring you back to the same old place, or a different place but equally as confounded... so, this disease does require behavioral changes --habits.

And the hard work includes looking at families of origin... learned behavior there --whole systems within the maze. And realizing you can't change those systems --so figuring out how to extricate yourself from them, how not to go down that same ol' same ol'.

And the hard work includes looking at work --at friends --at social life --at everything. The hard work of opening your eyes... and choosing a new 'tool box' --new methods --new behavior....

The actual act of choosing is far more difficult than many realize --it's much easier to keep on doing the same thing --it feels safe, it's what you know, it means you don't have to change.... It means there is no push-back from family, friends, work....

The act of choosing also exposes other dynamics at large --like power, like presuppositions, like whole other systems --whole constellations --whole universes....

Family. Families. Institutions. Neighborhoods. Nations. Locked in orbits. You can name them --of greed, violence, despair....

Recently, our Diocese offered a refresher on addiction, and one of the clergy said --I'm not going, how many times do I have to sit through yet another lecture on addiction... and the only thought that ran through my head was --yeah, but you offer Eucharist every week... how many times do you have to offer it until... you understand that....

But, I didn't say it out loud. Instead, I felt that same pain I felt that first night Joel was in the treatment center. It brought it up fresh. I never want to lose the ability to remember that pain.... that place where I can reach out and touch the wounds.... That place of beginning. That place of death, brokenness. That place of resurrection. That place in the middle of the altar of life where brokenness and death is the place of thanksgiving, of love, of new life.

For the past few weeks, there has been in the news the story of a Bishop from the Diocese of Maryland who killed a bicyclist while driving drunk. There have been blog posts, articles, discussion threads about it all... --sigh--   many such posts revealing how very little is truly understood about addiction and recovery. Many such posts revealing anger, outrage, disgust.... others leading a charge to 'go this way'...

I can only remember deciding not to recoil in shame or blame --the most prevalent reactions... but, instead, like Thomas, wanting to touch the wounds... remembering in thanksgiving that heart-searing place of pain ... that place. Of beginning.

For me, the article with the greatest poignancy can be found here, concluding thus (emphases in bold are mine) :
In the recovery community we have a saying: "you're as sick as your secrets". I believe that's true. And I believe that the church is sick when it makes people who need treatment hide out of fear for their professional lives. This is what happens when we don't encourage honest discussions around alcohol and addiction within clergy circles. We need to be able to talk about it, and to encourage recovery.

In the end this will not just benefit clergy, but the entire church as well. As I have written elsewhere, our inability to talk about our imperfections as clergy has only been a detriment to the church. We have somehow communicated the idea that Christians must be people of perfection, and not people of grace.

That's too bad, because when the day is done, I think that people with long-term sustained sobriety actually are assets to the ministry. Staying sober requires a sort of spiritual journey and honesty that can only help clergy. I would not hesitate to elevate a person with sustained recovery to a position of leadership.

And in the end, a story of recovery is a story of grace, and a story of the healing power of God's love for us all. This is the story the church should be telling, because it is a Gospel story. I long for the days when our clergy's stories of recovery are celebrated, and our stories of tragedy and destruction are avoided. This is possible. But it's going to take a huge cultural change in the way we talk about recovery and addiction in the church.

The good news is that, like Jesus said, the truth can set us free.
Oh, Church.

At prayer this morning (from Ephesians 4 ending with verse 32)
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.

Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
I am so very grateful for the courage my beloved showed when he called me that day. I am so very grateful for that place of brokenness.

Take heart, all of you filled with fear, or shame, or blame, or anger --take heart, all of you. Be fearful, ashamed, blaming, and angry, but do not sin. Be filled with doubt --and reach out and touch those wounds.

The Kingdom of God is upon you.
Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2015

before black or white ever dreamed any dream...

Excerpted: Martin Luther King, The Other America, April 1967. Because today is the holiday here --today is the day off....

There are two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. In this America, millions of people have the milk of prosperity and the honey of equality flowing before them. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, culture and education for their minds, freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America children grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.

But there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this other America, thousands and thousands of people, men in particular walk the streets in search for jobs that do not exist. In this other America, millions of people are forced to live in vermin-filled, distressing housing conditions where they do not have the privilege of having wall-to-wall carpeting, but all too often, they end up with wall-to-wall rats and roaches. Almost forty percent of the Negro families of America live in sub-standard housing conditions.

In this other America, thousands of young people are deprived of an opportunity to get an adequate education. Every year thousands finish high school reading at a seventh, eighth and sometimes ninth grade level. Not because they're dumb, not because they don't have the native intelligence, but because the schools are so inadequate, so over-crowded, so devoid of quality, so segregated if you will, that the best in these minds can never come out. Probably the most critical problem in the other America is the economic problem. There are so many other people in the other America who can never make ends meet because their incomes are far too low if they have incomes, and their jobs are so devoid of quality. And so in this other America, unemployment is a reality and under-employment is a reality.
....
But the problem of unemployment is not the only problem. There is the problem of under-employment, and there are thousands and thousand, I would say millions of people in the negro community who are poverty stricken - not because they are not working but because they receive wages so low that they cannot begin to function in the main stream of the economic life of our nation. Most of the poverty stricken people of America are persons who are working every day and they end up getting part-time wages for full-time work. So the vast majority of negroes in America find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. This has caused a great deal of bitterness. It has caused a great deal of agony. It has caused ache and anguish. It has caused great despair....

Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non­-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I'm absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

The first thing I would like to mention is that there must be a recognition on the part of everybody in this nation that America is still a racist country. Now however unpleasant that sounds, it is the truth. And we will never solve the problem of racism until there is a recognition of the fact that racism still stands at the center of so much of our nation and we must see racism for what it is.

Secondly, we've got to get rid of two or three myths that still pervade our nation. One is the myth of time. I'm sure you've heard this notion. It is the notion that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. And I've heard it from many sincere people. They've said to the negro and/to his allies in the white community you should slow up, you're pushing things too fast, only time can solve the problem. And if you'll just be nice and patient and continue to pray, in a hundred or two hundred years the problem will work itself out. There is an answer to that myth. It is the time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I'm sad to say to you tonight I'm absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the forces on the wrong side in our nation, the extreme righteous of our nation have often used time much more effectively than the forces of good will and it may well be that we may have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words of the bad people who will say bad things in a meeting like this or who will bomb a church in Birmingham, Alabama, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say wait on time. Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability, it comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. And so we must always help time and realize that the time is always right to do right.

Now there is another myth and that is the notion that legislation can't solve the problem that you've got to change the heart and naturally I believe in changing the heart. I happen to be a Baptist preacher and that puts me in the heart changing business and Sunday after Sunday I'm preaching about conversion and the need for the new birth and re-generation. I believe that there's something wrong with human nature. I believe in original sin not in terms of the historical event but as the mythological category to explain the universality of evil, so I'm honest enough to see the gone-wrongness of human nature so naturally I'm not against changing the heart and I do feel that that is the half truth involved here, that there is some truth in the whole question of changing the heart. We are not going to have the kind of society that we should have until the white person treats the negro right - not because the law says it but because it's natural because it's right and because the black man is the white man's brother. I'll be the first to say that we will never have a truly integrated society, a truly colorless society until men and women are obedient to the unenforceable. But after saying that, let me point out the other side. It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law can't make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important also.

I submit to you tonight that there is no more dangerous development in our nation than the constant building up of predominantly negro central cities ringed by white suburbs. This will do nothing but invite social disaster. And this problem has to be dealt with - some through legislation, some through education, but it has to be dealt with in a very concrete and meaningful manner.

I want to deal with another myth briefly which concerns me and I want to talk about it very honestly and that is over-reliance on the bootstrap philosophy. Now certainly it's very important for people to engage in self-help programs and do all they can to lift themselves by their own bootstraps. Now I'm not talking against that at all. I think there is a great deal that the black people of this country must do for themselves and that nobody else can do for them. And we must see the other side of this question.

---today many of these persons [who demand folk pull themselves up by their own boot straps] are being paid millions of dollars a year in federal subsidies not to farm and these are so often the very people saying to the black man that he must lift himself by his own bootstraps. I can never think ... Senator Eastland, incidentally, who says this all the time gets a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars a year, not to farm on various areas of his plantation down in Mississippi. And yet he feels that we must do everything for ourselves. Well that appears to me to be a kind of socialism for the rich and rugged hard individualistic capitalism for the poor.

I want to say that if we're to move ahead and solve this problem we must re-order our national priorities. Today we're spending almost thirty-five billion dollars a year to fight what I consider an unjust, ill-considered, evil, costly, unwinable war....

It's nice for me to talk about ... it's alright to talk about integrated schools and in integrated lunch counters which I will continue to work for, but I think it would be rather absurd for me to work for integrated schools and not be concerned about the survival of the world in which to integrate.

The other thing is, that I have been working too long and too hard now against segregated public accommodations to end up at this stage of my life segregating my moral concern. I must make it clear. For me justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

I was going into the need for direct action to dramatize and call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment. I've been searching for a long time for an alternative to riots on the one hand and timid supplication for justice on the other and I think that alternative is found in militant massive non-violence. I'll wait until the question period before going into the Washington campaign. But let me say that it has been my experience in these years that I've been in the struggle for justice, that things just don't happen until the issue is dramatized in a massive direct-action way.

I never will forget when we came through Washington in 1964, in December coming from Oslo. I stopped by to see President Johnson. We talked about a lot of things and we finally got to the point of talking about voting rights. The President was concerned about voting, but he said Martin, I can't get this through in this session of Congress. We can't get a voting rights bill, he said because there are two or three other things that I feel that we've got to get through and they're going to benefit negroes as much as anything. One was the education bill and something else. And then he went on to say that if I push a voting rights bill now, I'll lose the support of seven congressmen that I sorely need for the particular things that I had and we just can't get it. Well, I went on to say to the President that I felt that we had to do something about it and two weeks later we started a movement in Selma, Alabama. We started dramatizing the issue of the denial of the right to vote and I submit to you that three months later as a result of that Selma movement, the same President who said to me that we could not get a voting rights bill in that session of Congress was on the television singing through a speaking voice "we shall overcome" and calling for the passage of a voting rights bill and I could go on and on to show. . .and we did get a voting rights bill in that session of Congress. Now, I could go on to give many other examples to show that it just doesn't come about without pressure and this is what we plan to do in Washington. We aren't planning to close down Washington, we aren't planning to close down Congress. This isn't anywhere in our plans. We are planning to dramatize the issue to the point that poor people in this nation will have to be seen and will not be invisible.

--the destinies of white and black America are tied together. Now the races [racists] don't understand this apparently. But our destinies are tied together. And somehow, we must all learn to live together as brothers in this country or we're all going to perish together as fools. Our destinies are tied together.

John Donne was right. No man is an island and the tide that fills every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. And he goes on toward the end to say, "any man's death diminishes me because I'm involved in mankind. Therefore, it's not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." Somehow we must come to see that in this pluralistic, interrelated society we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And by working with determination and realizing that power must be shared, I think we can solve this problem, and may I say in conclusion that our goal is freedom and I believe that we're going to get there. It's going to be more difficult from here on in but I believe we're going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom and our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. Before the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth we were here. Before Jefferson etched across the pages of history the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence we were here. Before the beautiful words of the Star Spangled Banner were written we were here.

We are going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the Almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands. So however difficult it is during this period, however difficult it is to continue to live with the agony and the continued existence of racism, however difficult it is to live amidst the constant hurt, the constant insult and the constant disrespect, I can still sing we shall overcome. We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.

We shall overcome because Carlisle is right. "No lie can live forever." We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right. "Truth crushed to earth will rise again." We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right. "Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne." Yet that scaffold sways the future.

We shall overcome because the Bible is right. "You shall reap what you sow." With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all of God's children all over this nation - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual, "Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty, We are Free At Last."

He was assassinated one year later, April, 1968.

A prophet doesn't "foretell" the future... a prophet speaks the truth of their own time. And although King has been dead almost 50 years, the truth he spoke then is, sadly and yet gloriously, still true...

--especially for the "America" that was here before black or white ever dreamed any dream....





At prayer this morning (Acts 10:34-44 (NRSV)

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. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ – he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.

All the prophets testify about him....”








I am a truthful man
From where the palm tree grows
And before dying I want
To let out the verses of my soul

My verse is light green
And it is flaming red
My verse is a wounded stag
Who seeks refuge on the mountain

I grow a white rose
In July just as in January
For the honest friend
Who gives me his open hand

With the poor people of the earth
I want to cast my lot
The brook of the mountains
Gives me more pleasure than the sea

Amen.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

rooted and grounded

It is windy outside. The weather app was blinking like crazy. I clicked on it and it said 'High Wind Warning.' The details described a cold front coming through, bringing high winds in its wake --with a steady blow of forty miles an hour with gusts up to fifty miles an hour.

It's the steady blow of seventy miles an hour that are scary. This fifty miles an hour stuff is nerve wracking, but very do-able. Even so, only the most hardy will be out walking around. Which might mean fewer knocks on the door.

Yesterday was pretty crazy... as was the day before. I even had someone knock on the door asking my help in breaking in to their house --they had accidentally locked themselves out. I grabbed two small standard-head screw drivers, a wire and a hammer... she had a long knife she had borrowed from a neighbor, but had worked up a blister in the palm of her hand trying to beat it in between the plate and lock in the door jamb. We tended to the blister first, and then walked to her house.

Who would have guessed that picking a lock would ever be something I would learn to do --in Cherry Creek, there is no key, and the door is locked merely to prevent it from blowing open in the high winds. Usually it has been opened already by the time I get there --but there have been a few times when I can see the smoke coming out of the chimney, and the door is locked, so I have learned to pick it open in order to tend to the fire --stoke it again before folks come back.

I finished writing the job description for the Curate we will hire to join me in serving the people here. I included some hopefully humorous reality checks in the position description part --like, "ability to shovel snow for seeming endless hours" and "willingness to open door at all hours of day and night expecting to meet Jesus." --but, I didn't include picking locks... maybe I should have.

Last night, after dark, we had two at the door asking for candles.... It is against the law to shut off power in the middle of winter here --and I know they had power before Christmas... I didn't ask what happened, because, well... I think it has something to do with them living in the house of someone recently deceased... so, Joel got them the candles and matches....

Mostly, it's better not to ask. The more disturbing and frantic and unreal the story is, the more likely it is to be true, and most of the stories here are disturbing and frantic... and so very real. One person came to the door yesterday --I remembered them because they had asked me to talk with two youngsters a while ago --two youngsters having a hard time with their mom in ICU. So, I prepared a huge table of craft supplies, and they made 'get well' cards for their mom, and we talked over the glue sticks and scissors. But yesterday, they introduced themselves, saying, "Remember me? I was the one with the gun..." So, I told them of course I remembered --but I remembered first their kindness to the two youngsters....

Picking locks. Candles. Guns. Never in my wildest dreams....

Folks who come here --perhaps some expect to see 'trading posts' filled with genuine 'Indian Crafts' that they can purchase and take home and say, see --I've been there... Perhaps others expect to see something I can't imagine...

But, what they will see is a small, poor, beat up prairie town filled with folks doing their best just to get along --and as in every town, the closed up businesses, the drunks standing in sheltered areas, begging. And, if they are lucky, they will see some of the undercurrent of a culture different from their own, striving to make marked differences manifest from the dominant white culture all around....

But, I'm now in my fourth winter here --and I know there are things I still do not see, still do not know. I am present, and am asked to be present only in certain ways, and much is shared. But, I will never fully know. I will never fully see.

I am neither tourist, visitor or truly resident. And, I think, to serve in a good way, that is as it should be --in so many ways. But, of course, I reserve the right to change my mind at any time... heheheheh!

At prayer this morning (Ephesians 3:14-21)

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

--rooted and grounded in love....

See --none of us are homeless after all. No matter who or where... even the fiercest winds cannot uproot us from love. Ever.

Off I go.

Friday, January 16, 2015

living flesh always recoils from death --but that is exactly the habit and the myth we need to break open at the altar

I open my mouth, and sing. I stumble, with the words, practicing through the prayer in Lakota. The faces of the elders up at the Home come before me --remembering at Christmas I had apologized to them before I began praying (it is good manners to apologize before elders before doing much of anything), and I said I knew that I spoke with a big wasicu (fat-stealer = white person) accent. And they all laughed, surprised, I guess, that I knew and would use that word in reference to myself. "You keep doing it," the old lady with no teeth said as she nodded vigorously. "You do okay."

Giving voice. And I ponder the images of God speaking that WORD that becomes and holds all things in being. God with smoke signals coming out of 'his' mouth. Words with texture and depth, skin and bones, flesh and blood. I think we miss a lot in English --without a concept of words that have life in themselves, the life of God in themselves.

There is an understanding for that in Lakota-- 3-D word. Woniya. It is what Grandfather speaks --it is a 'thing' that comes out of the mouth. In Lakotized Christianese it becomes woniya wakan --the Spirit. Contradicting in oh so subtle and not so subtle ways the Greek understanding of logos --the Word that becomes flesh and blood and dwells among us --Jesus. Because Jesus is not the Spirit. Jesus is the Word. The Logos.

Wakantanka. Cihinktu. Woniya wakan.
Father. Son. Holy Spirit.
Great Big Mystery.
Little One That Runs Around at Your Side.
Holy Thing That Comes Out of the Mouth.

So much is lost in translation.... So much is lost. Pushing ideas, whole thought processes --without fully comprehending our own... pushing them on a People blissfully unaware of the corruptions of Enlightenment thought, much the whole caboodle of western ideology --like democracy, rights....

As I open my mouth and sing and stumble and strive, I think again of 'Voice.' The presumption of giving 'Voice.' Our Eucharistic prayer (D) that says we give "voice to every creature." And back again to those who have no voice. Voices that are ignored. Oppressed.

And privilege.

Joel and I were talking about it last night, as we prepared for bed. I was recalling the book, Close to the Bone, in which the author speaks of facing mortal illness, and the stripping away of life's fluff and unnecessary things --all those things dangled before us which are purported to be the greatest and most fulfilling pursuit of meaning in a capitalistic society.

And another, The Body in Pain, in which the author speaks of torture --of reducing another human being to mere animalistic grunts and groans, and finally inarticulate silence. The purpose of torture is to de-humanize.

Scarry begins with the fact of pain's inexpressibility. Not only is physical pain enormously difficult to describe in words--confronted with it, Virginia Woolf once noted, "language runs dry"--it also actively destroys language, reducing sufferers in the most extreme instances to an inarticulate state of cries and moans. Scarry analyzes the political ramifications of deliberately inflicted pain, specifically in the cases of torture and warfare....

--so very similar to our acts of politics... to rob another of their voice....

Joel, last night, returned to Simone Weil, reading to me as he sat on the edge of the bed--

The notion of rights, by its very mediocrity, leads on naturally to that of the person, for rights are related to 'individual' things. They are on that level.

It is much worse still if the word 'individual' is added to the word 'rights', thus implying the rights of the individual to what is called full expression. In that case the tone that colors the cry of the oppressed would be even meaner than bargaining. It would be the tone of envy.

For the full expression of personality [individualism] depends upon its being inflated by social prestige; it is a social privilege. No one mentions this to the masses when haranguing them about personal rights. They are told the opposite; and their minds have not enough analytic power to perceive this truth clearly for themselves. But they feel it; their everyday experience makes them certain of it.

However, this is not a reason for them to reject the slogan. To the dimmed understanding of our age, there seems nothing odd in claiming an equal share of privilege for everybody--an equal share in things whose essence is privilege. The claim is both absurd and base; absurd because privilege is, by definition, inequality; and base because it is not worth claiming.

But the category of men who formulate claims, and everything else --the men who have the monopoly of language, is a category of privileged people. They are not the ones to say that privilege is unworthy to be desired. They don't thinks so, and in any case, it would be indecent for them to say it.

Many indispensable truths, which could save men, go unspoken for reasons of this kind; those who could utter them cannot formulate them and those who could formulate them cannot utter them. If politics were taken seriously, finding a remedy for this would be one of its more urgent problems.

In an unstable society the privileged have a bad conscience. Some of them hide it behind a defiant air and say to the masses: 'It is quite appropriate that I should possess privileges which you are denied.' Others benevolently profess: 'I claim for all of you an equal share in the privileges I enjoy.'

The first attitude is odious. The second is silly, and also too easy.

Both of them equally encourage the people down the road of evil, away from their true and unique good, which they do not possess, but to which , in a sense, they are so close. They are far closer than those who bestow pity on them to an authentic good, which could be a source of beauty and truth and joy and fulfillment. But since they have not reached it and do not know how to, this good might as well be infinitely far away. Those who speak for the people and to them are incapable of understanding either their distress or what an overflowing good is almost within their reach. And, for the people, it is indispensable to be understood.

Affliction is by its nature inarticulate. The afflicted silently beseech to be given the words to express themselves.There are times when they are given none; but there are also times when they are given words, but ill-chosen ones, because those who close them know nothing of the affliction they would interpret.

Usually they are far removed from it by the circumstances of their life; but even if they are in close contact with it or have recently experienced it themselves, they are still remote from it because they put it at a distance at the first possible moment.

Thought revolts from contemplating affliction, to the same degree that living flesh recoils from death.

She continues:

To put into the mouth of the afflicted words from the vocabulary of middle values, such as democracy, rights, individuality, is to offer them something which can bring them no good and will inevitably do them much harm.
...
For the aspirations of the afflicted, if we wish to be sure of using the right words, all that is necessary is to confine ourselves to those words and phrases which always, everywhere, in all circumstances express only the good.

This is one of the only two services which can be rendered to the afflicted with words. The other is to find the words which express the truth of their affliction, the words which can give resonance, through the crust of external circumstance, to the cry which is always inaudible: 'Why am I being hurt?'

Perhaps this is why the majority of eligible voters in this country do not vote... they feel it; their everyday experience makes them certain of it. The knowledge that they really do not have a voice, a vote, rights --that they are not seen as persons in the machinations of government and politics merely destroys the good....

For example --the reality that a court room will take away the real property of regular ol' citizens for the sake of the Keystone Pipeline --for the sake of greed, for the sake of the 1% --and continue along the reckless path of the destruction of our mother earth... this ought to be a wake up call for every one.... Where is the outcry? Where are the words?

And it gets worse from there... we avert our eyes from the very death we are courting --in denial, distancing ourselves from certain death.

Perhaps this is one of the root causes of the decline of participation in liturgical Christianity --one must face the destruction of The Good every week... one must face death.

Or, perhaps... decline of participation is the result of the Church being unwilling to face those very things... turning away, as we are wont to do, from the reality of the Gospel --from the full political and social and, yes, personal ramifications at every turn.

From Blessed Romero:

Thus, the poor have shown the church the true way to go. 
A church that does not join the poor 
in order to speak out from the side of the poor 
against the injustices committed against them 
is not the true church of Jesus Christ. 

....
When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.

Yeppa.

At prayer this morning (from Isaiah 42)

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen,
in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.

He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;

and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

He will not lift up his voice.... --boom, there it is.
--he will not break that which is already bruised...
--he will not put out a dim light...

He will bring forth justice....

--and who are we?
Where do we stand --what are we doing --??

Living flesh always recoils from death --but that is exactly the habit and the myth we need to break open at the altar...





WAKAN TANKA UNSHIMALA YE WANI KTA CA LECAMON

GREAT SPIRIT, HAVE PITY ON ME
I WANT TO LIVE, THAT IS WHY I AM DOING THIS

Thursday, January 15, 2015

who is going to listen?

One of the emails I received said this:

The Rev. Margaret,

UPDATE: You have less than 36 hours to have your say on which Big Ideas progressives should champion in 2015 and 2016!

The Big Ideas Project has been covered by The New York Times, MSNBC, and others. Results will be announced days before the president's State of the Union -- impacting the national debate as he decides which fights to pick.

Hmmmmm.... Less than 36 hours to have my say... --which fights to pick....

I have learned so much living here, where speaking up isn't necessarily considered right, appropriate or even polite. And not every one's voice is given the same weight... wisdom, whether out of the mouth of a child or elder, is what resonates... speaking last is considered the greatest privilege... being asked to speak is a sign of respect....

Yesterday, listening to the radio on the way home from Rapid, there was much discussion about 'Free Speech' in the continued wake of the violence and murder and arrests in France (and the ignored murders in Nigeria and other parts of Africa). 'Free speech in many parts of Europe are not what we call free speech here,' the speaker intoned. And then the moderator here said, 'Yes, here there is the freedom to be a racist.'

Yes. In the good ol' US of A, for the most part, you can spew hate or lies or bigotry or pretty much anything, and have it be your 'Right.' The KKK can have their parades. Those opposed to same-gender marriage can stand in front of the court house and shout, 'Abomination' at those desiring to get married. Those opposed to abortion can visually and verbally assault those entering a clinic --where there are any left.

Yes. We are 'Free.' To be hateful, bigoted and racist.... And in a presumed democracy, every voice is given a presumed equal weight, because, you see, deep down we are presumed to have the ability to weigh and judge what is being said, and accept or reject accordingly. And it is presumed we all have the innate ability to reject hatred.

It is during times like these that I must remind myself that indeed, the Creator made us free --free in every way... and Love in Flesh and Blood even sat at the table sharing bread and wine, washing their feet as a servant --and let all those in the room be free to betray, to sell out, to run, to deny...

Yes. We are free.

And no law, no enforcement, no power is strong enough, thorough enough to change hearts. Even Love in Flesh and Blood could not open the eyes of those who chose to be blind --could not open the ears of those who refused to hear...

So... I went to look at the Big Ideas which I now have less than 36 hours to comment upon... and was not really impressed. And I must admit I have only one Big Idea --which was to require all Federal and government workers, employees, Congress --etc. to participate in Social Security and not have their special health care and retirement perks that we have to purchase for them but are not allowed to have for ourselves... oh, and yeah, no income cap for Social Security.

But, I know that has been said before, and nothing has come of it, and nothing will come of it as long as those who we elect get to decide their own perks. Just sayin'.

And, because of other things, I have been wondering and thinking and praying about having a "Voice" at all... just wondering... if "voice" or "having a say" is not one of those presumptions of privilege --I mean, yes, I know it is... but I am wondering if thinking that it is important to have a "voice" or "say" isn't one of those presuppositions....

I remember how furious it made some people when a clergy retreat leader required alternating male/female and young/elder voices, and there were many times we just had to sit in silence because either the female or the elders would not speak. Some got so furious, they got up and left the room.

(Not that females or elders always have anything more profound to say --just that they are usually the ones we expect, culturally, to be quiet.)(Because, yes, we live in a youth oriented culture.)

Any hooooo.... At prayer this morning (Isaiah 41:17-29 (NRSV)

When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the LORD will answer them,
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,
so that all may see and know,
all may consider and understand,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Set forth your case, says the LORD;
bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.
Let them bring them, and tell us
what is to happen.
Tell us the former things, what they are,
so that we may consider them,
and that we may know their outcome;
or declare to us the things to come.
Tell us what is to come hereafter,
that we may know that you are gods;
do good, or do harm,
that we may be afraid and terrified.
You, indeed, are nothing
and your work is nothing at all;
whoever chooses you is an abomination.

I stirred up one from the north, and he has come,
from the rising of the sun he was summoned by name.
He shall trample on rulers as on mortar,
as the potter treads clay.
Who declared it from the beginning, so that we might know,
and beforehand, so that we might say, “He is right”?
There was no one who declared it, none who proclaimed,
none who heard your words.
I first have declared it to Zion,
and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good tidings.
But when I look there is no one;
among these there is no counselor
who, when I ask, gives an answer.
No, they are all a delusion;
their works are nothing;
their images are empty wind.

Botta-bing....

(And this from Ephesians 2)

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

There will be no peace, no justice, no mercy, no righteousness until all those who exercise a 'voice' stop speaking. And for those who rarely speak or are not ever heard, listen for us all.

Yes. Listen for us all.

How else shall we be heard? Who is going to listen? Really listen? Can we even hear ourselves?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

why do you stand so far off, O LORD?

At prayer (Psalm 1

Why do you stand so far off, O LORD, *
and hide yourself in time of trouble?
The wicked arrogantly persecute the poor, *
but they are trapped in the schemes they have devised.
The wicked boast of their heart’s desire; *
the covetous curse and revile the LORD.
The wicked are so proud that they care not for God; *
their only thought is, “God does not matter.”
Their ways are devious at all times;
your judgments are far above, out of their sight; *
they defy all their enemies.
They say in their heart, “I shall not be shaken; *
no harm shall happen to me ever.”
Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and oppression; *
under their tongue are mischief and wrong.
They lurk in ambush in public squares
and in secret places they murder the innocent; *
they spy out the helpless.
They lie in wait, like a lion in a covert;
they lie in wait to seize upon the lowly; *
they seize the lowly and drag them away in their net.

The innocent are broken and humbled before them; *
the helpless fall before their power.
They say in their heart, “God has forgotten; *
God’s face is hidden; God will never notice.”

Rise up, O LORD;
lift up your hand, O God; *
do not forget the afflicted.
Why should the wicked revile God? *
why should they say in their heart that you do not care?
Surely, you behold trouble and misery; *
you see it and take it into your own hand.
The helpless commit themselves to you, *
for you are the helper of orphans.
Break the power of the wicked and evil; *
search out their wickedness until you find none.

The LORD is Sovereign for ever and ever; *
the ungodly shall perish from your land.
The LORD will hear the desire of the humble; *
you will strengthen their heart and your ears shall hear;
To give justice to the orphan and oppressed, *
so that mere mortals may strike terror no more.

Plain-talk to God.
Love it.

Distracted by a stove, refrigerator --and a floor... and a shopping list. I guess we might all have days like this, heh?!

Fortunately, I'm loving it.

And the plain-talk to God... well... I guess I'm feeling sassy, or something. It kinda feels good to remind God every now and then... (and at the same time a lurking sadness to know that nothing has changed).

I wonder what the music might have sounded like....

--back to the floor.

Peace out.

Monday, January 12, 2015

because, where else would he be?

I was going to tell of how the roof of the church split open just far and fast enough for all the angels to rush in... how they beat against my face and head as I read the Gospel at the wake service --some parts of the words leaving my mouth like little points of lights, other parts running down my chin like fruit nectar... .
Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, because they were afraid they locked all the doors in the house. Suddenly, Jesus stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.”
--and I wanted to laugh out loud, because I had always imagined a just-go-through-the-walls entrance of Jesus in his unrecognizable resurrection body. But, last night, in a flash, I realized that he hadn't entered at all... he stood among them.... there was no grand entrance because he had already been there, standing among them, all that time --even while they gathered, even while the potluck was being arranged, even while they talked of their loss and grief, shedding tears, who they had seen, and where... even while the doors were locked and the windows barred in fear.... He was already there, among them....

--because, where else would he be?

But, I can't. Tell of that. Not like I want to. Because the phone rang early this morning. And even before coffee I was up at the hospital. Another teen suicide attempt. 'You've found that deep, dark place of grown-up hurt and grief, haven't you,' I said. Surprise leapt from the teen's lips in acknowledgement, tears streaming down the cheeks. 'It is always a terrible shock to find that place,' I said, brushing hair off the forehead. 'But we all want you to survive, to live, because with practice you will find that place to be a source of love and compassion, for yourself and for others. With practice, it becomes an easier place.' The teen nodded. Like they already knew that was true.

There is no running from that place. I held back the word 'mystery'... because, when you see it, it's not. Not really.

In Christian-talk, it is the very place where Jesus stands among us... the Crucified One, Incarnate Love.

At prayer this morning (ending with Mark 1:13)

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

The Spirit always drives us out into the wilderness... or in to that deep dark place within, where the wild beasts gnash their teeth. Where the angels wait... .

It is in that place, that we will see him. Suddenly.

Because, where else would he be?

Off now. To bury the dead. Give them over to the deep and dark. Thanks be to God.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

pulling our masks off

Is Europe Imploding? the headline asked.... the links to the discussions erupting after the God-awful violence, deaths and velcro-perfected face-covered militarism in the heart of France followed. Economy. Race. Religion. Where shall we put the blame?

Other headlines tell of world-wide travel warnings, high alerts, lover suspects still on the loose. Fear. Confusion. Islamophobia.

I ponder the images I have seen of the police, of the terrorists --I wonder at the use of the color black by all concerned --and why all those who carry the guns cover their faces... terrorist and police alike. Sure, it's obvious that those who committed the violent murders in a newspaper editorial room didn't wish to be easily identified... but do the police cover their faces with that same motive --under their protective shields, they pull up black masks to cover their faces... ?? Is there a functional motive? Is it that cold? Is it so that terrorists lurking on the internet can't identify them?




---or... is it a more hidden and symbolic motive... the masking of our humanity, the donning of a uniform which then allows/condones certain behavior... enables....

I turn to look out my living room window... last night someone didn't know about the crisis and events in Paris. 'If it's bad news, I don't listen,' they said. 'I turn it off.' And then, as I tell the story oh so briefly, they wonder what events in Paris have to do with us, here, how could that affect us... and besides, we have enough to worry about. Right here.

My eye and heart are drawn out the window. The sun rise is red --deep solemn red over the little town. Blood-red.


A deeper-darker red dawn than this intimates... with the three power poles I call 'Calvary', in Eagle Butte, SD

I find myself remembering the responses and criticism I received in classroom after classroom in seminary, a decade ago and then some, as I allowed my inhospitable attitude to Christian fundamentalism show. My classmates were angered at my intolerance. 'It's more nuanced than that,' they would say.

Then, after 9/11 I remember saying 'This is the end result of fundamentalism --all fundamentalism.' And their anger and resentment grew. It also didn't help that I said we should examine the complaints that cultivated such anger directed at us as a Nation....

And I find myself thinking similar thoughts this morning... this is the end result of all fundamentalism, yes. Economic fundamentalism. Political fundamentalism. Racial fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalism.

And, yes... we must examine the complaints that cultivate such anger.... This anger and violence and murder didn't percolate in a purely religious vacuum. Religion is not to blame in entirety. We must look at our century of deceit in manipulating governments, in the rape of the environment, in the chokehold of capitalistic ventures --while others are bullied, coerced, abandoned, abused, poisoned, oppressed, murdered....

None of us are innocent... it was done in our name. By our government. By our corporations. Our roads have been paved, our schools have been built, our houses heated through, by, and with these actions.

--the tangential thoughts of borderless politics, borderless violence, decentralized cells of terrorist activity.... will the centralized nations taking centuries to make win? --or are we beginning to witness the end of nations.... Chaos always seems to win in nature... either that, if it stagnates, if it unifies --it dies. The areas with the most abundant life on earth are where land and water meet --both dangerous to each other... both threatening to overwhelm and thus destroy the other....

We need 'OTHER'....

One of the lines from the "Imploding" article/link above keeps running about in my head...
Commenting on the Paris massacre, philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo argues that fanaticism that allows no other truth than its own is the sign of barbarism.
Barbarism. Barbarians. Brutish, ignorant, violent... those are words that come to mind when I think of 'Barbarians.' I quickly google 'Jahanbegloo'....

In late April 2006, on his way to an international conference in Brussels, Jahanbegloo was arrested by the Iranian authorities.

On May 3, Iran judiciary branch officials confirmed that he was arrested and sent to Evin Prison. According to some sources, he was accused of spying. The following day, a friend told CBC News that Jahanbegloo had been moved to a hospital. Human Rights Watch expressed concern over Jahanbegloo being detained without charges and called for his immediate release.

According to Canadian newspaper reports on May 6, Jahanbegloo's friends suspected that he was being tortured. Their fears increased in the wake of reports that Jahanbegloo had been examined twice at the medical clinic of Evin Prison, a detention facility for political prisoners.

An Iranian newspaper, Jomhuri Eslami, accused Jahanbegloo of links to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Mossad. "He is considered as one of the key elements in the American plan for the smooth toppling" of the Islamic regime", the newspaper stated, further charging that he was being paid by the United States to conduct "cultural activities against Iran."

So... he's been through the ringer.... He has put his life, and the lives of those he loves, on the line because of what he thinks... . He has battled bodily violence with his mind and what he writes --his 'pen.'

I find an article he wrote a few days ago in initial reflection on the events in Paris:

The barbarian and inhumane attack on innocent French journalists and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo -- following incidents like the massacre in Peshawar, the killings of the innocent Yazidis by the Islamic State and the kidnapping of 172 women by Boko Haram in Nigeria -- have created a sense of alarm and fear of religious fanaticism.

Fear of religious fanaticism is nothing new in our world. What is new about all these attacks is that they have all taken the form of a new barbarism.

Taking the long and violent history of "the crooked timber of humanity" into account, Isaiah Berlin once said that the best we could hope for in a "common moral horizon" was what he called a "minimally decent" society.

But is even Berlin's minimal hope possible today? Is there any way to build a world of diversity and intercultural dialogue in the face of this new politics of universal hatred that renounces recognition of others?

Why is this departure from tolerance happening in a world of multiculturalism and global integration? Why this increasing division of the global village into fundamentalist camps shouting and killing each other?

He continues:

All of us are seeking relief from various forms of frustration which globalization and the juxtaposition of cultures is bringing with it -- and which is feeding the rise of fundamentalism and transnational terrorism. But we cannot abide in any way the kind of response we saw in Paris.

Fanatics and fundamentalists have always rejected and struggled against each other. When fundamentalism seeks to enforce sectarianism through coercion and violence, it invariably leads to terrorism. When people believe that they have the absolute truth, they end up denying other people's existence. Then they can no longer distinguish the good from the evil and are thus unable to establish a modus vivendi among different values.

Finding a common ground can only work if we share enough to behave civilly. It goes without saying that though some Jews, Muslims, Christians and Hindus may be terrorists, no religion in the world, much less Islam, teaches terrorism or inspires anyone to kill innocent people.

It is the politicization of religion and its ideologization which is a great danger for peace and tranquility in our world. If fundamentalism, in all its different forms, is akin to violence in its mode of thinking and its methods of acting, it cannot expect to be recognized or tolerated by others. As German psychoanalyst Karen Horney observes, "one cannot step on people and be loved by them at the same time."

In the face of this explosion of barbarism -- born in the throes of the Arab Spring and in the wake of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the endless Israeli-Palestinian confrontation -- we cannot return to the politics of tyrants whose motto is no different than the fundamentalists: "to rule others unconditionally."

--and, yet... the corporations and capitalists among us ARE ruling unconditionally.... When courts agree to the seizure of land of regular ol' people in the good ol' US of A because they are in the way of the XL Pipeline from Canada that will benefit no one but the 1% and cause further destruction to the environment, how can we not say that corporations are ruling unconditionally?

--and we look away... we believe if not purchase the lies that it will be good for the economy, provide jobs... what has been happening in other places of the globe by the corporations, is just beginning to happen here....

--what has been happening here, to the First Peoples, is just beginning to happen to others....

Jahanbegloo concludes:
To be anti-barbarian in our time is to say "no" unconditionally to fanaticism -- not as tyrants or "avenging angels" who are intolerant in our own turn -- but by engaging in meaningful dialogue with anti-fanatic believers. Civilization is the cry of humanity in the face of barbarism.
But Rome fell to barbarians... as did Greece in it's epic flourishing... the fall of the Holy Roman Empire led to the so-called Dark Ages... and the slow climb in to our modern Nations.... Civilization has never withstood barbarity.

--all the post-apocalyptic narratives like Thunderdome come to mind....

Perhaps this is all just a post-modern search for identity...   --in a post-Christian world...

Where is there any hope?

At prayer this morning (John 6:1-14)

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

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

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

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

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

The people followed him because he healed the sick... and then they saw him feed the hungry. But again --it's not about healing and feeding, although those are surely the signs. But only the 'signs.' For us.

It is about being and living without fear. Or want. Even when it seems there is not enough.

It is about acting for the benefit of all the people, even the sudden crowd that appears --not the few like-minded followers.

In the most poetic, most mystical way --it is about trusting what the children carry.... And what the other 'least among us' carry....

It is not about being healed or being fed or our own well-being. It is about being as he is --healing and feeding others.

It is not about dialogue among those with differences... or the crowning achievement of so-called civilization. It is about healing and feeding --not in spiritual terms, but in very real whole bodies and full stomachs.

It is about pulling our masks off... living without fear of being known as we really are... for being who we really are. Because masks are no different than burying our heads in sand... hiding....

We will all surely die... and I know enough to fear death, to fear the pain of dying. But it is usually only a few years, months, weeks, days, hours of a life time. Dying is not the end-all, be-all sum. So... how do we wish to live?

Truly live?