Friday, August 26, 2016

water for all

I sat in the hammock. Looked up at the clouds. And said my life-long prayer --Dear God, I hope we don't mess this up forever...

--except I don't use the word "mess". Hmmm... yes. My father was, quite literally, a sailor....

This was the view of the clouds....

This was the view towards my feet and the street --Mr. Witty now knows the word "hammock" and sat with me nearly the whole time, rocking and looking...

--and this is the view of the part of the yard which is mostly finished... the grassy area for the dogs to roll in, the rock patio area becomes shady earlier in the day than the area behind our house --and it is now sporting our fancy fire-thang, for those late spring and fall evenings when I just don't want to go in --really really don't want to go inside... It is our wedding anniversary present to our selves. 35 years now... and gee, I don't feel that old....

The gray house is our neighbor's house... our little house is hidden behind the lilac hedge to the left. I had to contour the yard in the back (to the right in this photo) to take runoff from the hill behind our house. We had a monster storm last week, and all the grading and contouring and rock walls (and the little prayer cairn) --which I did entirely by hand with a pick and shovel and wheelbarrow-- it all worked! Thanks be to God.

Our intent is to make this our retirement home --when in eight years or so... maybe... God willing....

Oh, and between the rock patio and where I sit (view from the temporary position of the hammock)... one day, maybe, will sit a little screen summer house... bug free, and the ability to sit out in the summer storms... with a lean-to for my garden tools.

All of this... in counterpoint to life on the Reservation which I now share with the People I serve, where survival is at stake. Surviving the God-awful medical care, the oppression, poverty, racism, unemployment --and now the fight at hand for the bare necessity of water...

You know --the initial plan for that Dakota Access pipeline was to route it north of Bismarck. But, the folks there were worried about their water supply, so they rerouted it as far south as they could, so any spill would be South Dakota's problem, and to within 1/2 mile of Standing Rock Reservation, through many of their sacred sites and burial grounds... I guess it's not racist, or anything... no.

To say nothing of the theological issues... Our Presiding Bishop (for non-Episcopalians, the Bishop elected by the Bishops to chair the gatherings and meetings of our Bishops --and all our Bishops are elected by the clergy and laity of the area where the bishop will serve, and approved by the whole church to serve) has issued this fine statement which I quote in part:

“Water is a gift from the creator, respect it, and protect it.” I was deeply moved by these words printed on the sign of a person standing with hundreds of others to protect the Missouri River. In the Episcopal Church, when we baptize a new follower of Jesus Christ, we pray these words over the water of baptism. “We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.” We then recall how God used water to bless his people in the Bible, from the story of creation in Genesis, the emancipation of Hebrew slaves in Exodus, to the baptism of the Lord Jesus in the River Jordan. Indeed, “Water is a gift from the creator.” To sustain it and to protect it is to “safeguard the integrity of God’s creation,” and therefore to protect human and other forms of life created by Almighty God. That work warrants our full and prayerful support.

The people of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, standing in solidarity with hundreds of other indigenous nations and allies, are calling us anew to respect and protect this sacred gift of God, and in so doing to respect and protect God's gift of human life. In protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, they recognize the gift of water to all of us, a gift given to us by our Creator. The Sioux remind us “mni wiconi” or “water is life.” This God-given resource courses through our mighty rivers and our human veins, working to renew and reinvigorate all of creation.
I stand with the people of Standing Rock in their efforts to respect and protect the Missouri River. We know that the right to clean water is an internationally recognized human right and that all too often indigenous communities, other people of color, and our most vulnerable communities throughout the world are the ones most at risk of losing access to clean water. As we join the people of Standing Rock, we also recognize that their stand is one that joins the fight for racial justice and reconciliation with climate justice and caring for God's creation as a matter of stewardship.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you Bishop Curry.

And... Joel and I were talking about the word "stewardship." We don't like it. At all. Steward implies managing stuff that is to be used or bought and sold or consumed --and brings to mind the head waiter or butler in hoity-toity restaurants and mansions. It's a 1% word.

We think "Caretaker" is a much better word...

A caretaker is different... humble... and Takes Care of things... rolls their sleeves up not for one's own sake, not for one's own consumption or profit, but the sake of all, and most specifically for the one or the garden or the animals or the stuff you are supposed to take care of...

God made us caretakers, not stewards...

--but that's just us.

But... imagine a church having a Caretaker program instead of a Stewardship campaign... What is it you promise, you covenant to Take Care of....

At prayer this morning (beginning at John 7:37)

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come, and let the one who trusts me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the heart of the one who trusts God shall flow rivers of living water.'”


Now... on vacation. So. Back to care-taking the little bit of heaven and this poor body I have been given... and restoring and being restored, so that I can again rise in the mornings to come to pray and fight for water for all....

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I am not, was not, hope to not ever be a bystander....

Oh, I don't know....

What does one say... what can one say.

In the course of three days I had had horrible words about me flung around in a public meeting --that I was a white-in-the-worst-way priest from back east come in and shoving my weight around...

And then, in another conversation, I was told that I really should see a spiritual advisor, voodoo or medicine man, whatever made me happy....


I had said that when I take my sabbatical next year, I really needed to spend some time doing grief work. That much I knew. I have buried somewhere close to 300 persons in the last five years.... and that I should see a voodoo doctor or etc. was said in response to that....

--and of course, I carry the usual residual of personal unresolved grief. That is part of the human condition. And no amount of counseling, no amount of prayer, no amount of talking, no amount of prayer --voodoo or medicine man or otherwise-- takes it away.

To pretend grief isn't normative... is to deny the human condition.

But, it wasn't even said in a joking way. It was a mocking.... A put down.

Among many putdowns.

It followed on the heels of going north, to where many Nations have gathered. To protect the water. The Army Corps of Engineers had quietly and without consultation approved a pipeline that would carry the crudest and ugliest of oil under the Missouri, just north of the Standing Rock Reservation, which borders us, just north of us.

The crudest and ugliest of oil because it was pushed up out of the shale in North Dakota by fracking. Oil is bad enough. But oil filled with the chemicals used in fracking is nothing but death to all it touches. Death which we burn, and it kills the polar caps and the air.

We don't need it. No one can afford it. Really.

So at church on Sunday, one of the elders said she wanted to go to the campground where the people had been gathering to protest the work, but didn't want to drive that distance. I said I would drive her up there.

We left early. It was a 2-1/2 hour drive because of the backroads. And the area is on fast-time --an hour ahead of us. We got there at about 11:30, their time. We got within walking distance of the police line. Walking distance for a 96 year old woman.

She was met with such grace and tenderness. We were lead to the shade. Given chairs. (We had brought chairs, but I had left them in the car to return for them. Walking her over the uneven ground was my first priority.)

The police line, protecting the hastily built access for the tractors and trucks to cross the deep ditch and enter the field where the ground was being cut for the pipeline... the police line was about 75 feet from us --if that. 30 officers or so --double that number on the road. Separated from the praying people by a double line of cement barricades....

We were fed fruit and celery and cucumber. Given lots and lots of water. There were speeches, prayer, prayer songs. The crowd grew and grew. And grew.

A man came up and told the elder that something was going to happen, and that if we wanted, he would help us move back, away from the action. The elder shook her head, no. She was here to support...

And then the singing began, and the brain-piercing cry. Horses gathered up at the road and suddenly ran down in to the ditch on the other side of the barricade, their faces, necks and haunches covered with cloth with geometrically painted designs, their chests covered in painted hand prints and stripes, right on their hair and skin. The horses and their riders confronted the line of officers. Not violently. But forcibly.

It was terrifying. It was thrilling. It was terrifying. I found myself standing... speechless, breathless, crying. All the women around me lilili-ing at full volume. The strength of it. I pulled out the camera from my pocket, to document... in case the police... well... do what police have done all too often recently....

People ran for the barricades. Jumped up on top of them... The horses ran, spun in circles in front of the cops. The cops backed up, slowly, together. To the top of the barricade road, and then to the asphalt of the highway.

And then the people jumped over the barricades, and ran in to the forbidden zone, screaming, yelling, fists in the air. The police line gave way altogether.

There were no shots fired by the officers. There was no acrimony. No fear.

And the people, once the access road had been occupied, prayers said, song sung, they returned to where they had begun, on the same side of the barricades as the elders and myself. Except for three young people, who stood at the gate on the access road, waiting for arrest. They would not leave. They would carry this to court.

These are treaty lands. Land given to the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota People. And that treaty was broken by the Feds, by an act of Congress. Without the consent of the People. Ancestors were buried here. Ceremonies prayed here. Sacred ground.

--and Grandmother earth was being ripped and torn and gouged. There was no time for grief. Only action. To make it stop.

As the horses and riders returned to our side of the barricades, the People gathered to pray.

The singers gathered with the drum.

The elder man spoke, explained what had just happened....

It was then it dawned on me --I realized that, in the same way as I had received warning, so had the officers, and they had formulated their response.... This was more like improvisational art... all the players knew and the outcome of the retreat was planned.

At the moment of prayer, the shouts came from behind. More heart-piercing cries of power. But it was obvious this was not planned. The elder man's shoulders scrunched as he spun to look, surprise and alarm on his face.

The fence had been breeched. People --about 50-- poured through the fence. The women led the way, running faster, fleeter. They surrounded the bulldozer that was ripping the prairie apart. They made it stop. Surrounded it. The bulldozer driver leaped from the machine and ran. The people chanted and put their fists in the air.


The crowd around me joined in the shouting. The AIM (American Indian Movement) Song erupted from the crowd.

This was not planned. This was not done with permission.

Two trucks filled with cops raced to the confrontation. The elder who had been leading the prayers with the horses and riders was whisked over to the site.

The uneasiness, the trills of the laughter of unconcerned children. The horses. Stomping. Chomping at the bits in their mouths. The women sat down. Spoke in hushed tones. The men gathered at the barricade. At the highway. The cops that had not gone in the trucks to the stopped tractor shifted their belts. Planted their heels in the earth.

A general discomfort. Waiting.

Then the long trucks and heavy vans filled with workers began to leave the site. Careening through the grasses. Slowing down as they crossed the access road by the line of cops. The anger and disappointment in the shrug of their shoulders seen through the vehicle windows. The People stood and shouted and clapped. The women lilili-ing.

They had done it! The work was halted! Victory!

The elder man came back from the site. We were told. Told not to violate the fence. Told that there were graves out there--we didn't know where and we might violate them. Told that there were buffalo out there--it was dangerous. Told that what had happened had violated the trust of the peaceful protest he had promised.

An elder woman spoke. We shouldn't be doing that. Children might get hurt. People might get hurt. That the work was halted, but it was halted in the wrong way. We must shame them with peace. Shame them by obeying the law. Shame them by doing what was right....

We were protectors, not protestors.


The crowd had multiplied to about 1,000 souls. Everyone knew the day was over. It was about 3pm, fast time. The elder I had carried up there was done --it was hot. Too hot. She asked to go home. We had brought the food and left it in the camp. That was good. We had seen. The work was stopped. Maybe in the wrong way, but it was the answer to our prayers.

She slept on the way home. The hot sun poured in the windows. I kept praying. I thought of the shame... the shaming of the elder woman.

All too often, those who benefit from the rape and pillage of the land, those who benefit from the broken treaties, the stolen land, the genocide --all too often they say --well, I didn't do it --my ancestors aren't the ones who did it --why are you looking at me?

I have seen it. I have heard it. It is rather like the on-lookers to bullying, who do nothing, who say nothing, who form the crowd and watch it happening... by-stander effect. Fear. Guilt. No responsibility. Avoidance.

And all this --all of it... alive and well in the Church. The bullying. The avoidance. The shaming.

Lord, have mercy on us....

At prayer this morning (John 6:60-71)

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
--hey... God, you put the snake in the garden and the devil among us... Gee!
There's something for us to ponder....

Father, hear my prayer.
That those who do act or speak to protect this earth and one another, act and speak in your strength and mercy.

That those who in bitterness, disillusionment, fear, confusion or apathy refuse to act or speak, be relieved of the same.

That those who do act or speak in bitterness, disillusionment, fear, confusion, may find your peace.

Help us all to know your Way.
And help me never to be a bystander....


In your mercy, please pray for those who have gathered to protect the earth and water near Standing Rock. The court date for an injunction to stop the work is this Wednesday...  the police have already put up road blocks to and from the camp... none of it is good. The arguments will be heard in Washington DC.... The Cheyenne River Reservation sent a bus load of people to witness it all....

Friday, August 12, 2016

Suddenly unfettered

I sat down in the chair. The table was in front of me, laden with loose-leaf tobacco, sage, red, blue, white and black cotton fabric, thread. I picked up some sage, and rolled it into a ball in the palm of my hands, lit it and placed it in the little incense burner in the center of the table. I settled in to prayer, let my gut take over, and I wept.

I fanned the sage smoke over my face, my shoulders, my heart, breathing in, deeply. I picked up the cloth, unfolded it and moved it through the smoke. The tobacco, too. Tears streaming down my face. I prayed --hear my prayers, those offered in words, the wordless ones too, the half-formed ones, the little ones I keep at the margins, the big ones I pretend not to notice. Help me. Help me....

The idea came to me that these prayers were like eggs. Colorful eggs. And that these prayer ties I was about to make would not catch the wind with big tails, but would nest in the forked branch of the tree. So, I took a piece of material, tore it into a square that covered my lap, took a handful of tobacco, and prayed.

For strength. For calm. For endurance. For peace. For wisdom. The serenity prayer. I placed the handful of tobacco in the center of the cloth, gathered the material around it --it looks more like a comet than an egg-- I thought. I tied it closed with the string, moved it once more through the sage smoke --have mercy on me if I have not prayed with good intent-- and set it aside.

I did this with every color of fabric I had before me --praying for the People, for my husband, the Church, for those who seek and those who have power and control... asking for mercy each time. Then I tied the four bundles together with a long strip of red cloth, readying it --moving it through the last bit of sage smoke, wrapping it in the remainder of the red cloth.

I had let the weeping and sobbing take its course. I was spent. Exhausted. I took the dogs outside and we ran around in the yard, barking at the birds that flew overhead, barking at the grass that moved in the wind. Barking. Running.

Then, I got in the car, headed north. To the dance. To the tree that would bear these egg prayers. The prayers of all the People.

When I got close to the place, there was a rope across the road. The young man came out of the tent. He knew me. I think he was surprised to see me, but he tried not to show it. He took down my car license number, asked me my name, wrote it all in a note pad.

I drove through the gate and saw the camp, saw the arbor where the people would gather in prayer. The painful excitement of this prayer became a sudden reality. For the sake of the People. For the sake and wellbeing of the People. That was what it was all about. Not magic. Not bartering nor transactional. An offering. A costly offering. It was good that I had exhausted myself in prayer. It was good that I had made an offering of tears from my gut.

It was Good. All of it.

I parked near the gate. I got out and walked through the stubs of grass, my skirt whisking around my ankles. I found the head man, asked him how I could help. He said, Go fin the Grandmas in the middle of camp.

So, I wandered through camp. Until what I was supposed to find became obvious. The three Grandmas. Making the prayer sticks that would encircle the sacred place. Making four hundred tobacco ties, plus some extras just in case. Taking that pinch of tobacco, tying it in to a small bundle of red cloth. Tying that bundle to a stick painted red.

I walked up to them. Introduced myself, and said that Ivan had told me to go find the Grandmas and help them. They nodded. Not wavering from their intent. The sage smoke wafted over them. I found an unoccupied chair and joined them, watching for a moment to see if they tied their bundles differently than I had been taught. Said a prayer. And began.

Light conversation.
Five hours.

When all was said and done, the men hadn't made enough sticks. Lots of jokes. So the Grandmas sent them to collect and make some more. We waited. Drank water. Some Grandmas left, to make their personal prayer flags for the tree. Just one Grandma left. And me.

Are you a nurse? she asked me. She had asked before where I lived, and then I saw her trying to make sense of a white lady living in Eagle Butte. Nurse? or Teacher? You look like a nurse type, she said.

No, I said. Shook my head. Laughed. And then I just let the question hang. Trying to figure out the easiest way to say I was an Episcopal priest, without having to explain at great length why or how I could be a priest and come to this ceremony.

After a few more minutes she asked What do you do in Eagle Butte?

I am an Episcopal priest, I said. Then added the disparaging and self-deprecating aside --but, please don't hold it against me! And we laughed.

No, no, no. She said, shaking her head. My grandfather was an Episcopal priest. But, this isn't your first time at a dance, is it... You knew what you were doing with the ties....

And we talked. And talked. She had been a dancer for years. Now it was time for the young women. The sun began to race for the horizon, and the tree had not yet made it to camp. I noticed all the dancers were still hanging out. They hadn't even gone for the tree yet. Just bundling their stuff. Getting ready. To begin. Eating and drinking water. Lots of water.

I have to get back home, I said.
Before the Tree comes? she said.
Would it be too much to ask if you would tie them in for me? I asked.
No, of course not, she said.

I retrieved my prayer eggs from the car. I picked up the extra bag of tobacco. I carried them to her, handing her the bundled ties and tobacco. Thank you, I said. She nodded.

And, they are not the long-tailed ties, I said. I saw them as eggs, so that is what I made. Would you mind tying them in the fork of a branch?

And I gestured to the sky as I said 'eggs' and shrugged my shoulders, laughing. Blaming it on the One who hears our prayers.

The Great Mystery.
And me. Leaving my prayers in the hands of another.
Letting go.

The next morning. I went for the beginning of the dance. I got up before the sun. Raced out there. Sat quietly in the arbor. Someone brought me a chair. A boy. I don't know who sent it to me. But they didn't want me sitting on the ground. I had been taught by those hard-core Pine Ridge guys that you sit on the ground in the arbor. This gift of a chair --it was a show of respect. I was humbled. I joked to the folks next to me --I guess somebody must think I'm an elder! I said, quietly. We laughed. Quietly.

So, I sat in the chair. Comfortably. With my shawl around my shoulders. Began my prayers. And I realized that the Tree was so heavily laden with our prayers that some branches had already broken off and thrown themselves to the ground. The helpers picked them up and took them to the base of the tree.

I felt a weightlessness. A restoration. I realized that all the stories, all the accusations, all the fabrications had not reached my core. I was still there. I had been carrying it all. I had almost begun to believe it all. Of myself.

That is was bullying does.
It makes you carry what is said about you.
It makes you forget who you are.

And I realized I was okay. Intact.
Not unmarred. Still vulnerable. Suddenly unfettered.
But my center, my beingness, the terrible, wild woman...

At prayer this morning (Canticle: Second Song of Isaiah, Isaiah 55:6-11)

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, *
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, *
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as rain and snow fall from the heavens *
and return not again, but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth, *
seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; *
it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *
and prosper in that for which I sent it.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

storms before and behind... to the south too... never got a chance to look north

I was headed west. There was a huge anvil cloud behind me... indicating a tornado type storm....

Glad it was behind me.... But, of course, there was a massive storm in front of me, too.... Looked at it through the sunset.

Glory every where. Danger, too.

At prayer this morning (John 4:27-42)

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

....they were astonished that he was speaking with a woman....

It is good to remember how far we have come.
It is good to remember how far we must still go.

Off I go.

Friday, August 5, 2016

another tattoo, on my right fore-arm....

In this week...

--of two funerals, one a little boy age four...

--and three deaths...

--of the Wounded Knee Riders, a Native American motorcycle group that rides to the Sturgis Harley-Davidson rally every year, making their presence, coming through town... folks I know... praying for them...

--my beloved man having skin cancer surgery this morning...

--the wind and rain, and then the heat...

--the disappearing ozone layer of our political sphere...

--the disturbing violence trending...

--one in the hospital with an amputation, another with a knee replacement...

--the spiritual gashes of gender gaps and patriarchy...

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

And there's another tattoo... probably should be on my right fore-arm, starting at my thumb....

At prayer this morning (John 2:1-12)

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.

When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.

I've said it before... it's worth saying again.... It's not about the water in to wine routine... it's a deeper miracle --(mira! look!)... it's about Jesus revealing himself as the true bridegroom, the one who truly provides the best of all wines to make glad our hearts...

Canticle: Second Song of Isaiah
Isaiah 55:6-11

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, *
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, *
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as rain and snow fall from the heavens *
and return not again, but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth, *
seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; *
it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *
and prosper in that for which I sent it.

Hi ho! Hi ho! It's off to work I go!


Monday, August 1, 2016

the hem of God's skirt

It was 94 degrees... maybe 96. We parked in the shadow of the church hall and left the AC on for the dogs. After church, we were going to head to Rapid, and there was no need to head the 20+ miles back to the house --adding more than an hour to the journey.

We could see the gray-blue storm horizon to the north and west. It had been approaching us for the duration of church time. Prayers in to the approaching storm.

And, I had to ditch my sermon after I heard the reader put new emphasis on the "it's all vanity" line throughout the first reading.... Preaching something I had never heard before in to the approaching storm. The gospel was no morality story about rich and poor... . (Besides, how could I stand there and preach THAT, in this place...)

No... it was all about belonging to God. All of it. All of us. Hid with Christ in God. Christ, all in all.

Then we ate. The feast. Soup. Homemade bread. Meat. Macaroni salads. Baked beans. Cake.

And then we headed out. Down the gravel road. Seventeen miles. And in to the approaching storm.

By the time we came to the next town, the sky was occluded with a black cloud that threatened to envelope us. The winds nearly knocking the car in to the ditch. Joel started to talk to me about the mystery --not the mysteries--plural--was there such a thing as an archaeology of liturgy.... and I had to tell him to stop talking because I was only hearing about every fourth word... I had to focus on the road, the wind, the lightening that was getting closer and closer.... It took all my mind, all my strength, all my courage to keep us from getting blown off the road.

I was scared. And became more frightened when I realized we were sharing the road with a storm-chaser truck... its radar and sonar equipment on the roof, and peopled in the cab with faces dabbed in the green glow of electronic screens, their eyes glancing down, then out the windows, searching, pointing north.

I was grateful to turn south. We were safer headed that way.

For a while.

--and then it caught us again. Racing west again. In to the thick of it. Hurry, hurry, I kept thinking, as the ink of the cloud overcame us. Hurry to the next road. Hurry. South.

We pulled in to the driveway at half past ten. I should have been exhausted, but the adrenaline was still pulsing through me. It kept me awake for a while. And, then, as I was finally drifting off to sleep, the storm broke anew overhead --pelting us with hail and wind. I wondered if I should call Joel in to the basement....

--and then sleep. Blessed sleep.

Joel swears he didn't hear a thing --didn't even know.

At prayer this morning (John 1:1-18)

NARRATOR: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
CHOIR (singing it): There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
NARRATOR: And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
CHOIR (singing it): (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”)
From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

No one has ever seen God.
But, I think I saw the hem of God's skirt somewhere in that raging storm....

I swear it.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

the dream of new life...

So... there we are.

The Russians have left my blog. No sign of Clinton's emails though. Sorry.

And, the political conventions parties propaganda festivities are over.

This week... left saddened by the blatant political corruption that no one seems to want to face... --left saddened that it all feels like a high school football rally, and that folks will vote for "their team" no matter what...

I hated high school rallies... rahrahrah --and watch girls do gymnastic dances poorly --girls that would later gang up on other girls and bully them, socially, verbally --sometimes physically --especially in a bathroom or dark hallway, taking water collected from the public toilet in a cup, and throwing it at you. And worse.

And it is like that now, on-line. If one differs from a mainstream point of view, with the ever present and dangerous political cesspool we now face --the bullying and snide comments, accusations and put-downs are rampant.

So. There we are.
(--which was a favorite line of my mother's. She picked it up on a tour in England, I think... a tour guide would say her spiel about whatever it was they were looking at, and then the guide would conclude her speech with "So, there we are," turn on her heel with her chin jutting forward, and walk to the next thing to talk about.)

I have found refuge in the words and temper of Chris Hedges.

First --his term "useful idiots"...

In political jargon, useful idiot is a term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.


So, it makes sense when he writes in an article titled "The 1 Percent's Useful Idiots":

The parade of useful idiots, the bankrupt liberal class that long ago sold its soul to corporate power, is now led by Sen. Bernie Sanders. His final capitulation, symbolized by his pathetic motion to suspend the roll call, giving Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination by acclamation, is an abject betrayal of millions of his supporters and his call for a political revolution.

No doubt the Democrats will continue to let Sanders be a member of the Democratic Caucus. No doubt the Democrats will continue to agree not to run a serious candidate against him in Vermont. No doubt Sanders will be given an ample platform and media opportunities to shill for Clinton and the corporate machine. No doubt he will remain a member of the political establishment.

Sanders squandered his most important historical moment. He had a chance, one chance, to take the energy, anger and momentum, walk out the doors of the Wells Fargo Center and into the streets to help build a third-party movement. His call to his delegates to face “reality” and support Clinton was an insulting repudiation of the reality his supporters, mostly young men and young women, had overcome by lifting him from an obscure candidate polling at 12 percent into a serious contender for the nomination. Sanders not only sold out his base, he mocked it. This was a spiritual wound, not a political one. For this he must ask forgiveness.

Whatever resistance happens will happen without him. Whatever political revolution happens will happen without him. Whatever hope we have for a sustainable future will happen without him. Sanders, who once lifted up the yearnings of millions, has become an impediment to change. He took his 30 pieces of silver and joined with a bankrupt liberal establishment on behalf of a candidate who is a tool of Wall Street, a proponent of endless war and an enemy of the working class.

I hadn't seen it as a spiritual wound... but, yes. There it is. Fundamental betrayal is a spiritual wound. And Sanders and the Democratic Party (in their treatment of him in the conduct of staff members undermining him at every chance they could get) have betrayed half their base. And half of those who have been betrayed, will "get on board" out of fear of a Trump presidency.

And, yes. Trump as a president would be deadly for many. And a setback for this Nation. A fundamental betrayal of some common ideals we might hold before us. So. If you understand that Trump would be deadly, you might understand how a growing minority of us feel about Clinton. And Hedges puts what I fear out there:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be pushed through whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The fracking industry, fossil fuel industry and animal agriculture industry will ravage the ecosystem whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The predatory financial institutions on Wall Street will trash the economy and loot the U.S. Treasury on the way to another economic collapse whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Poor, unarmed people of color will be gunned down in the streets of our cities whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The system of neoslavery in our prisons, where we keep poor men and poor women of color in cages because we have taken from them the possibility of employment, education and dignity, will be maintained whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Millions of undocumented people will be deported whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Austerity programs will cut or abolish public services, further decay the infrastructure and curtail social programs whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Money will replace the vote whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. And half the country, which now lives in poverty, will remain in misery whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes president.

This is not speculation. We know this because there has been total continuity on every issue, from trade agreements to war to mass deportations, between the Bush administration and the administration of Barack Obama.
The liberal establishment has fundamentally betrayed the working poor, the poor, the middle class. The liberal establishment has sold itself out to the highest bidder. In our name, the Obama administration has broken families--deporting undocumented folk at a record number. In our name, the use of drones to slaughter civilians in war zones in undeclared war has grown rampant. And has now even successfully used a robot drone to kill a suspect of mass murder in the streets of an American city. In our name, pushed trade deals that will further decimate the working classes.

I do not need to go on. There is more than enough evidence that we already live in a Nation owned and run for the benefit of corporations who have no fidelity to a single nation --the first rule of globalization. And the purpose of these corporations is to make as much money as possible, no matter the cost.

The workers don't matter. (Health. Education.)
The earth and its eco-systems don't matter. (Global warming.)

Power matters. (Militarization of local police. Use of un-due force.)
Greed matters. (Banks too big to fail. Deregulation.)

This is our Nation.
This is where we are.

So. Now what...?

Living here, I have learned what I already knew --that 'things' and money and all that privilege don't make one happy. Nor do they give one a fulfilling life.

Happiness comes in feeding your neighbor, in being generous, in learning to love without measure or boundaries.

Happiness, like Bonhoeffer's faith, is costly.
And worth everything.

And I understand in a new way why "Happy" and "Blessed" are like twins....

Happy/Blessed are you poor....

Hedges, again:

There is only one way to rebel. You fight for all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed. You understand that there is no country. Our country is the earth. We are citizens of the world. Nationalism is a disease. It is a disease we must purge. As long as a Muslim family suffers in a refugee camp in Syria or an LGBT person suffers from the bigotry imposed by the Christian heretics in the Christian right, we all suffer.

There are desperate single mothers struggling to raise children on less than $10,000 a year in some Philadelphia neighborhoods. Many of these children go to bed hungry. There are unemployed workers desperate to find a job and restore their dignity. There are mentally ill and homeless we have abandoned to the streets. There are Iraqi and Afghan families living in terror, a terror we have inflicted on them, in the futile and endless wars waged to enrich the arms industry. There are men and women being tortured in our worldwide archipelago of secret detention centers. There are undocumented workers whose families we have ripped apart, separating children from parents, or imprisoned.

This is reality. It is the only reality that matters. It is a reality we must and will change.


Augustine wrote that hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage—anger at the way things are and the courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

The fight will be hard and difficult. It will require love and self-sacrifice. It will require anger and courage. It is the greatest moral imperative before us. Those who do not defy the evil become its accomplice. We may not succeed. But we must be among those of whom future generations will say: They tried. They dared to dream. They dared to care. They dared to love. They enabled those who followed to press on in the struggle.

So. It is because of the gospel, because of my faith, I will not give up. It is because of my faith, because of the gospel, I cannot join in the agendas of the political machines...

--it is because I take it seriously... and see the present danger.

--not because of what is safe, or reasonable, or any pro-scripted reality painted by the numbers....

--but because that is where discipleship leads me.

--and sometimes, no--most always, conversion is like a quantum leap... or like being struck blind and falling flat on your face in the middle of the road to go do what you have always thought was right.... The time for incremental change to our political system is over, because we do not have the resources to buy it back....

At prayer (Matthew 27:55-66)

Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”

So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
--and so we wait. In faith. Sitting opposite the tomb.

Yes. That is what this time is like. The dream of new life....

Monday, July 25, 2016

2,338 hits from Russia in 24 hours

I have received 2,338 hits from Russia in the last 24 hours.

Without anything showing up in my referring URLS and sites.

And I do not post tag lines to show up in google searches.

This is a little more than weird and scary.

Maybe I should shut this down.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

a conundrum of falsehood.

--and, so... then.

...there was that.

I have never really trusted our government. Perhaps it is because as a young teenager I saw State police and the National Guard beat children and pregnant women. My Jr. High was purposefully bombed with tear gas. Lawful public protest was thwarted with violence.

And I saw the attempts at democratic reform, at war protests, concern for use of public and private "space" denigrated... demeaned. Called degenerate. And worse.

I have never expected politicians to be perfect or honorable. I remember when someone recoiled in horror when I shrugged my shoulders with regard to Tricky Dick's breaking and entering, to Mr. Clinton's sexual predation of women. I had said, 'I expect as much of politicians.'

--which is really, really sad.

So, I object when someone says I am an idealist and not a pragmatist when it comes to our political cesspool. I object when someone says I am in a political minority, I had my chance and have lost the popular vote and to just shut up and get on board to defeat Trump.

--because Trump is really, really bad.

Yes. He is really, really bad. I agree.

And yes, really, really dangerous, too.

Just as dangerous as a political party and therefor its candidate that purposefully works against the democratic process it is supposed to support. Thank you, Wikileaks....

AMONG THE NEARLY 20,000 internal emails from the Democratic National Committee, released Friday by Wikileaks and presumably provided by the hacker “Guccifer 2.0,” is a May 2016 message from DNC CFO Brad Marshall. In it, he suggested that the party should “get someone to ask” Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders about his religious beliefs.
Date: 2016-05-05 03:31
Subject: No shit
It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.

Ahhhhh..... Tricky Dick is alive and well. And this time, his spirit has evolved --not just to undermine "The Other Candidate" of a different "party" --but for a "party" to eat its own young. Literally.

And everyone is in such a panic to defeat the Monster Cheeto-Man, there is not a word of outrage....

--and if one does voice outrage, the specter of fear which everyone is denouncing in the Republican forum, begins to take form and dance.... Vote for "Her" or we all die....

Yes. The fear is valid. The fear is real.

But where is the outrage? Where?

Reacting against or in an opposing fear does nothing. Except feed the hysteria and fear which has gripped us all. Why can folks see the fear gripping the Republicans, but not see the manipulation of a system to incite an even greater fear in the Democratic base?

I am not joining the band wagon. "She" will not save this nation from its own mistakes. Not when the "party" which is pushing her is as twisted in on itself as the next. Not in an era which creates boundaries to prevent a majority vote from meaning anything. Not in a time when hyperventilation about the Supreme Court nominees takes front seat to an election.

Not in a time when the poor keep getting poorer and the wealthiest keep getting more wealth.
Not in a time when the planet itself is threatened.
Not in a time when its okay to dismiss or even eat the young.
Not in a time when the employment of intellect is seen as treasonous.
Not in a time when education and health care are provided only to the rich.
Not in a time when the Electoral College will elect--not the popular vote of the people.

How is it okay to live under the dictatorship of a political party that squashes other voices and even dissent and pretends to adopt a "platform" which everyone knows can be ignored?

How is any of it okay?
Fear makes for deadly politics.
And we all know it was decided eight years ago that She would be given the nomination this year. No matter what.

Because, that's politics.

And I expect that of politicians.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmmmm.... yep. The Gospel observation of power and force. The Gospel observation of party politicking. The Gospel observation of majority rule when it is manipulated and driven by fear.

We will always choose death (fear, power).

We always have.

And love will always win.
And I refuse to be afraid.

But, perhaps in the face of such things, it is better to follow Christ's example, and not utter another word... because the arguments and questions are all a set up. A conundrum of falsehood.

--despite the outrage.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Do we think a repeat of fascism, McCarthyism and/or the French Revolution is not possible?

It is hot. Very hot. Triple digits. And we're in a drought --in some areas of South Dakota, a severe drought. We got the notice today with our water bill that water restrictions are now in place --even/odd watering days and no watering between 9am and 6pm....

Water is life.
The heat is dangerous.

Yesterday, I went on an early evening visit --about 8pm or so. (Sun is up until 9:30 or so...) The family had no air conditioner in the triple digit heat. 'Would you like one of mine,' I said. The big heavy one I usually put up in the kitchen window is sitting on the floor. I am making-do with one in the living room and a very small one in the bedroom. I've closed off the rest of the house --not cooling it.

'No--we would have to pay for the electricity it consumes, and we can't do that. It will cool off in a couple of days.' The kids had jumped around, exclaiming that they had just taken a really, really cold shower. Their hair was still wet, keeping them cool. The windows were all covered with towels and blankets, keeping out the radiant heat. The fan whirred in the corner, stirring a hot breeze.

I am grateful that the soup kitchen will happen today. It will give folks a chance to come in and cool off a little. I have noticed that some of the Tribal offices have hand-written signs out --come in, free cold water-- I am grateful for that. It is only supposed to get near 100 degrees today --a cooling trend in to the high 90s. I am grateful for that....

It is really too bad that the last 100 years of mining and ranching have made the rivers undrinkable and dangerous to swim in....

And, yet... that is not on any party platform as far as I can see.... No. Just greed and power.

And, I am so angry and so ashamed....
At all of it.

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

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.”

But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”

Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

We are all in such denial....

--pretending that nothing is wrong....

The RNC promotes hatred of the so-called elites. And people of color. And women. And the world.
The DNC has gone deaf and blind to 45% of its constituents.

Do we think a repeat of fascism, McCarthyism and/or the French Revolution is not possible?


--well... it was only a little superior to the screaming heavy metal that came up...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Love Supreme, Coltrane, Cornel West, Hedges, the Reservation and WWII concentration camps. Yep. One of those days....

We sat outside to drink our coffee. It was in the 70s already, and the day is headed for 100 degrees or more.... Joel was playing with the bird song app from the Department of Ornithology at Cornell University. It identifies birds, bird songs... we spotted the cardinals that are not supposed to be this far west, but there is was, bright red from the tree, shouting.

And then he listened to a recent short video of Cornel West, on police violence and Black Lives Matter.... He has gone to the Republican Convention, to protest. He says,

Well, there will never, ever be peace without justice. There will never be calmness without accountability. There will never be order without fairness. So when I hear the authorities call for peace and call for calmness and call for order, I say, yes, but it’s not the absence of tension.

It’s got to be the presence of that justice and accountability and that fairness. When I hear the authorities—even President Obama says, well, the attack on the police is an attack on all of us. I said, OK, but an attack on black people, especially black youth, is also attack on all of us.

If, in fact, the attack on the police is an assault on all of us, then when the police unfairly maims and murders civilians, the police is killing on behalf of all of us. Well, I don’t want the police killing on behalf of me. I want the police to be treated with respect and fairly, and I want black youth and brown youth, black men and black women to be treated fairly. And that’s why I came here to Cleveland.
You know, and, see, 49 years ago yesterday was the death of John Coltrane. And for me, that’s crucial, because it’s really about a love supreme, it’s really about the giant steps that we have to take. But we have to hit the streets. We’ve got to preserve the resistance and let the young folk know, see the tears of our dear sister, the aunt. You know, stop the killing. Stop killing black people. Stop killing working people. Because it’s not just a racial thing. They’re killing a lot of white brothers and sisters, too, but it’s disproportionately chocolate. And, yes, you’ve got to stop killing the police, but we’re in this together. We got social neglect. You’ve got economic abandonment. Every day, you’ve got poor black people who are wrestling with unbelievably oppressive conditions. And we’ve got to be able to speak candidly and honestly about that and come up with some ways of rechanneling a lot of this rage and anger.

Rechanneling the rage and anger... yes. I have come to know that rage... I bury the results... I see the results all around... and how, when the rage does not take an outward form of public violence, folks turn it on themselves (or family).... Suicide. Addiction. Physical and sexual abuse. Abandonment.

Coincidentally, Chris Hedges published an article on the writings from the Warsaw Ghetto, which were found shortly after WWII ended. Titled, "Writing as Resistance," Hedges explores why this endeavor is important to us, now, in this present day and time. (I think it also serves as an apologia in his function as a writer.) Hedges writes,

The cache of material, known as the Oyneg Shabes Archive, was buried by writers, led by the historian Emanuel Ringelblum, as German occupation forces were liquidating the ghetto. They meticulously documented all aspects of life in the ghetto and the annihilation of the Jews by the Nazis.

Writing was an act of resistance and faith. It affirmed the belief that one day, a day the writers knew they would probably never see, these words would evoke pity, understanding and outrage and provide wisdom. They struggled to make sense of the stark contrasts of good, evil and indifference. They explored what it meant to live a life of meaning in the face of death. They did not know if their writing would survive. Some of the archive was never found. They did not know who, if anyone, would read their work. But they wrote with a messianic fury. Their words were the last link to the living.

Dawid Graber hastily buried some of the archives in August 1942 as deportations in the ghetto were being accelerated—between July 22 and Sept. 12 some 300,000 Jews were driven out of the ghetto to the gas chambers at Treblinka. He wrote: “What we were unable to cry and shriek out to the world we buried in the ground. I would love to see the moment in which the great treasure will be dug up and scream the truth at the world. So the world may know all.” He ends with the words: “We may now die in peace. We fulfilled our mission. May history attest for us.”

Ringelblum formed his small army of writers clandestinely. Nazi discovery of any writer’s involvement meant his or her immediate execution or deportation to a death camp.

Resistance.... In the form of protest. In the form of desperate writing. Perhaps this is the rechanneling of that rage and anger... but only if someone notices and someone publishes and someone reads...

Resistance.... It is Pulitzer prize winner John Toland, in his book, "Adolph Hitler: The Definitive Biography" who makes the awful connection between Hitler and the Reservation system set up by our Federal Government....

“Hitler's concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history,” Toland wrote in his book, Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography. “He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America's extermination—by starvation and uneven combat—of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.”

Genocide is genocide.... So the connections between Cornel West and his protests, Hedges and his writing, Hitler and the place I live and serve --and our current election...

--I can only think that those who remain silent, who remain passive... --well.... And this bit in Hedges article... we have a soup kitchen at the church...

Ringelblum, like Goldin and Auerbach, was acutely aware that the soup kitchen and other charities he helped organized “did not solve the problem [of hunger], it only saves people for a short time, and then they will die anyway. The [soup kitchens] prolong the suffering but cannot bring salvation. It is an absolute fact that the clients of the soup kitchens will all die if all they have to eat is the soup they get there and the bread they get on their ration cards.”

I see this. I feel this....

The archives detailed the depths to which people sank in the desperate struggle to survive, including the unearthing of corpses to extract gold teeth and steal burial shrouds. This dark descent is characteristic of all societies in disintegration. Those who rise above the mad scramble for survival, who assist the weak and the vulnerable, jeopardize their own existence. Few who live in stable societies see what lurks beneath the surface. The blindness of the comfortable makes the archives an important contribution to the understanding of the human condition.

--and this...

We all have the capacity for evil. The line between the executioner and the victim is razor-thin. Ringelblum and his writers warned us of how easy it is to surrender our better selves in the name of survival. They cautioned us against the danger of political ideologies, careerism, opportunism, the lust for violence and the loss of empathy. They excoriated those who survived at the expense of another. Ringelblum and his writers buried their records shortly before most of them were killed. In their final moments they cried out for us to be faithful to the good. They could not save themselves. But they could, they hoped, save us.

--Yes. Yes. Yes.

And what I drink from this cup this morning is the warning of how easy it is to surrender our better selves....

I will mock Trump. I will mock Clinton. I will mock my own privilege. I will. We face obliteration in global warming and economies that feed greed. We face continued oppression in liberal policies that favor the rich and deny the economic/social/spiritual violence against the poor. We face spiritual annihilation when we don't see our own families and kin in the faces of the perpetrators and victims of social violence.

Resistance. And faith.

And love. Even for our enemies...

At prayer this morning (from Romans 14)

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

(Huh. And I've been saying in in the plural because the BCP puts it in singular, masculine... huh. And there it is... dang it.)

And, lest we forget...

(beginning at Matthew 26:47)

While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Love. Suffering.

It is always, always, sorrowfully profound to bury someone. It is more so to bury an infant. One who never breathed the air. Never squinted in the sunlight, or moved its eyes to take in the colors. And movement.

This one was a twin, the other twin remaining still in the mother's womb. There were special prayers from the Traditionalists because of that, as twins are sacred. And the other might want to follow.

And because, in the liturgy nothing was ordinary, it was an extraordinary first funeral for M. So many exceptions. It was the Pipekeeper's family, after all.

I was thinking about all that as I was driving the distance to Rapid. The road had started ascending from the river bottom to the flats. The grains were already being harvested --so early, because of the drought conditions in so many places west of the River. I received a text message, and pulled off the road to read it and respond. And then I glanced out the window, preparing to pull back on to the road. And it was a field full of a plant I had never seen. Not sunflowers. Not grains. Not that funny red seedy thing... it didn't look like corn....

That was when I realized... it was corn. Shredded until it was unrecognizable. Whether it was the wind or the hail, I couldn't tell --it had happened long before I got there. Perhaps the day before when we got high winds (50mph+) and hail the size of quarters in Eagle Butte. But there it was. Acres upon acres upon acres, stretching to the horizon and beyond. Shredded.

Cut down before it came to fruition.
Like so much else.
In a week when so many were cut down.
So much death.
Every where.

And I was reading, just the night before, about spiritual maturity and transformation. It was in a little xerox copy --something handed out in class in what seems an eon ago. I have no idea any more what book it came from... titled "Chapter Sixteen". I had gone through it with a yellow highlighter, and Joel had gone through it with a pen. It was all marked up, but still legible. It had resurfaced recently.

It began with a quote, "for love is as strong as death, the flash of it is a flash of fire, a flame of [the Name] himself." (Song of Songs, 8:6)

Followed by, "All humans born of women have a short life, and it is full of suffering." (Job, 14:1)

It began (pg 122)

Two universal and prime paths of transformation have been available to every human being God has created since Adam and Eve and the Stone Age: great love and great suffering. These are offered to all; they level the playing fields of all the world religions. Only love and suffering are strong enough to break down our usual ego defenses, crush our dual think, and open us up to Mystery. In my experience, they like nothing else exert the mysterious chemistry that can transmute us from a fear-based life into a love-based life. None of us are exactly sure why. We do know that words, even good words or totally orthodox theology, cannot achieve that by itself. No surprise that the Christian icon of redemption is a man offering love from a crucified position.

Love and suffering are a part of most human lives. Without doubt, they are the primary spiritual teachers... .

After reading just that, I had to put it down.... but, I picked it up again last night before bed, flipped a few pages further and searched in bits and pieces for the trajectory of the work... (pg 125-127)

Suffering, of course, can lead you in either of two directions: it can make you very bitter and close you down, or it can make you wise, compassionate, and utterly open, either because your heart has been softened, or perhaps because suffering makes you feel like you have nothing more to lose.
Great love has the potential to open the heart space and then the mind space. Great suffering has the potential to open the mind space, and then the heart space. Eventually, both spaces need to be opened, and for such people non dual thinking can be the easiest. People who have never loved or never suffered will normally try to control everything with an either-or attitude, or all-or-nothing thinking. This closed system is all they're prepared for. The mentality that divides the world into "deserving and undeserving" have never been let go of by any experience of grace or undeserved mercy. This absence leaves them judgmental, demanding, unforgiving, and weak in empathy and sympathy. They remain inside of the prison of meritocracy, where all has to be deserved. Remember, however, to be patient with such people, even if you are the target of their judgment, because on some level that is how they treat themselves as well. Authentic love is of one piece. How you love anything is how you love everything.

Love. And suffering.
Suffering. And love.

It is one thing to write of another's suffering. But another to even begin to fathom or regard our own. I stopped reading, and turned the light out. The dogs pushed against me, one on each side. (They are jealous of each other, and if one is at one shoulder, the other must be, too. And if one moves to my knee, the other must, too.) I slept. So profoundly I didn't even awaken all night. It was the dogs that roused me, later than usual. A tongue in one eye; the other hit my ear.

Eyes. Ears. The excited tromp up the stairs from the basement. Bells and whistles at the door to the yard. The hurried leaps down the stairs to the flowers and lawn. Full bore around the fence line. The rabbits scatter. The birds scream in chorus, "watch out! Watch out!" The sun is not yet fully over the horizon. The shadows are long and deep.

And this is restoration. This joy. This bounding. This trajectory. This is restoration. The garden of Eden rediscovered. There is too much suffering. Too many boundaries. Too much power. And in this moment, I must drink it all in. This nectar of a moment.

And joy.
That author didn't write of the joy that is in it all.


For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame... (Hebrews, 12.2)

I haven't always like that line... but, this morning, I have entered that door....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Romans 13:8)

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

And, lest we forget (Matthew 26:36-46)

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”

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

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

Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

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

The betrayer. Who became bitter. And closed down. Trying to close down everything with an either/or attitude... looking for the deserving poor....


Thursday, July 14, 2016

worthy of a tattoo


--the sunrise was beautiful. Even through the hay harvest haze that is brimming just above the plains.

--and I felt the return of the pressure of the prayers for all the pastoral concerns here, so I spent the time looking at the sun rise through the hay haze and naming the concerns. Putting words to them. Not out loud. But like word clouds --some of them thin and horizontal, some of them lofty and billowy and vertical....

--and the coffee was good. Joel and I talked through video-chat. He remains in Rapid to keep the new shrubs and lawn we planted green enough through this drought.

--and instead of writing, I did the dishes. It was either do the dishes or wall up the kitchen... I am still realizing how much I am in recovery mode from Convocation, the Holy Walk (a different stress), and the unnecessary poopoo-caacaa the human condition seems to create in abundance.

Unnecessary being the key word there... the fabricated stuff, brought up and played out of our woundedness.

Fabricated stuff. Like stealth drones. Our own un-doing. Like watching a deer caught in a tangle of some sort, and the more it struggles, the worse it gets....

So... I did the dishes.

At prayer this morning (Romans 12:1-8)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us; prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Worthy of a tattoo....

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

on the side of the road

It was kind of startling. And not what I expected. It's been haunting me....

The wildflowers. Up on the flats, on the wide open windy part of the prairie, the wildflowers ran along the side of the road, laughing. Cone flowers. Echinacea. Red clover. Yellow clover. Blue clover. Morning glory. Prairie rose (variety of wild rose). Sun flowers. Oh the wild sun flowers. With heart shaped leaves. And there was a long purple/orange trumpet flower... that was a surprise. But not the thing that startled me.

I showed the children the parts of the flower --petals, stem, the pollen makers, the pollen receiver parts... they didn't know any of it. It was a joy to share what little I knew. The birds and the bee parts too.

Changing subjects, 'Look at that humongous bull' I had said. The boy responded, 'That's not a bull. It doesn't have horns.' I said, 'You can tell it's a bull because of the long things hanging down between his hind legs.' He said, 'But that one has a huge sack. Isn't that a bull?' I said, 'No-- that sack is full of milk. That's a cow and the babies drink there.' A calf demonstrated its milk tactics for us.

I was beginning to get nervous... 'See. That's a bull. Over there.' We were separated from the field by a fence. A thin barbed wire fence. Between us and two tons of testosterone primed muscle intent on only one thing. The boy finally saw it. Finally saw the difference. 'What IS that between his legs?' he asked.

I sighed. I fudged. 'I only know what we call 'em in California. Let's ask your grandfather what to call 'em around here.' So we did ask, when the truck caught up to us. The grandpa tried not to laugh too hard, letting the laughter air out through his nose. 'Balls,' he said. The boy repeated it to me, saying, 'that's what they are called around here.'

'Ahhhhh.... thank you,' I said. And turned to face the grandma, who was also trying not to laugh. I can only imagine that he was most likely only one of a very few 4th graders who didn't know about balls... and I adored him for it. That was a surprise. But not the thing that startled me.

This was on the second day of the walk. Up high on the flats. Where the wind can make the road, and probably even two ton bulls, disappear in no time at all....

On the third day of the walk, we were on the road between Red Scaffold and Cherry Creek. A mostly river-bottom road. Every now and then we had to climb a tall sometimes long ridge between the run-off ravines that emptied in to the river. But mostly, the road cut through the river valley right at the base of the hills, leaving the sloping valley to the small farms and harvest equipment.

And it was haying time --the trails of cut grass drying in contours the length of the valley. The road-side was not yet cut. And this was the startling thing... there were no wild flowers. None. Just different kinds of grasses. Shaggy types. Ragged types. Clean types. Golden types. Green types. Red types.

--but no wildflowers... where I had expected the most wildflowers, in the river valley. There were none.

Not even the morning glory.

And it haunts me. Why no flowers there? --where the resources are the best --where the trees grow --where the animals are fenced away --why...?

It was the third day of the walk. On that day, I was committed to praying for the present generations. (First day --praying for the Ancient Ones; Second day --praying for those I had buried that year; Third day --praying for the present generations; Fourth day --praying for the generations to come.)

And there were no wild flowers.

There was a dog. A ferrel dog, a little hungry and covered in ticks, but otherwise healthy. She must have been about six months old. She walked with us for 15 miles. We tried everything to shoo her away. She would hide from us, pretending to be gone, and then show up again. Suddenly. Wagging her tail. Nodding. Tried to put her in the car to take her to the vet, to get her a family. But she would have none of it. Tried to take her back to where she began to follow us. But she wouldn't let us put her with us on the trailer. She ran behind us for several miles back to where we began, until she disappeared in the grasses on the side of the road.

On the side of the road.
Where there were no wild flowers.
Only grasses.
And a wild dog.

And when we lost sight of the dog (we called her Percy, short for Perseverance), in the shadows which had begun stalking the heat of the day, in the shadows which were calling out to the cool of the evening to hurry, hurry, in the midst of the tall grasses along the road, on top of the wooden fence post which carried the barbed wire from one place to another, the small oddly shaped ground-burrowing owl perched. Praying for us, I thought. Hearing and gathering our prayers for the living generations, to take our prayers back in to the earth, in to the depths of the earth. Our mother earth.

In the very place where there were no wild flowers.
Only grasses.
And a wild dog.

It was startling. It haunts me.

Hinhan makhothila (ground owl), pray for us.

At prayer this morning (Matthew 25:31-46)

Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’

Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The burrowing owl is an endangered species... --suffering in the same way as the wildflowers...  --suffering in the same way as the People suffer.

...let us not pray with words only, but with all our heart, all our mind, all our strength... moving out of our comfort zones --which is really eternal punishment made all selfish, nice and cozy, and in to eternal life....


Monday, July 11, 2016

Time. Again.

--and where have I been...

It feels like I have been more than half way round the moon and back.

Convocation --we hosted Convocation this year. The 144th annual meeting of Episcopal Native American Churches in this region. A couple hundred folks for a couple of days. Mostly outdoors under a tent. And an ordination. Whoot! I now have help on the ground, right beside me.

I hope and pray we will always be a blessing to each other.

Omani Wakan --the Holy Walk. The third year of walking and praying. Time alone, just taking one step at a time. Time to personally grieve those I have buried in the last year. Time to ponder the suffering. Time to enjoy the depth of companionship. Time to be healed by the earth and sky and wind. Time to be surprised. Walking. Praying. Circumambulating the entire Reservation. Dying. Resurrecting.

And. Now. It is time. Time again. To settle in to the routine of prayer. Which is the only constant. And not that I haven't had the routine of prayer in the last month. I have. But there has been very little time for reflection or listening. For tending to the wounds. For steeping in the joy. For being.

One of the challenges... At the cottage in Rapid, I planted seeds. Grass. Flowers. And I planted shrubs, bushes and vegetables. Usually, there would have been two rain storms a week to keep things going. But, not this year. A near drought. So, Joel has remained in Rapid in order to water. It doesn't appear as though we will be getting rain any time soon, either... --sigh--

So, I am here, with him. Going back to Eagle Butte tomorrow. Grabbing some hours with him. And will return to two funerals. Two infants...

At prayer (Matthew 25:1-13)

Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’

Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’

But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’

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

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

---and don't go looking in the marketplace among the dealers in order to buy what will be given freely... --and know that there will always be those sitting outside the door who are unwilling to share... just sayin'....