Sunday, April 12, 2015

Our Father, who art our winged self....

I have moved dirt. Painted. Watched the sky. The clouds. The buds at the end of the lilac branches. The young lovers walking by --they have an idea of love, and it shall form them, dissipating the vacuous bits like the wind and terrain do to the clouds. Thanks be to God.

And I pray...
Said one oyster to a neighboring oyster, “I have a very great pain within me. It is heavy and round and I am in distress.”

And the other oyster replied with haughty complacence, “Praise be to the heavens and to the sea, I have no pain within me. I am well and whole both within and without.”

At that moment a crab was passing by and heard the two oysters, and he said to the one who was well and whole both within and without, “Yes, you are well and whole; but the pain that your neighbor bears is a pearl of exceeding beauty.”
     (Khalil Gibran, The Wanderer: The Pearl)

I am filled with pearl... which is what my name is -- mar (sea) garet (pebble).... also, a meaning of flowers... like the daisy....

And, I am filled with love. And joy. Despite the pearl. Because of the pearl. And, my work these past few days has been rather wordless....

And Mary Magdalen says (Khalil Gibran, Jesus the Son of Man)
His mouth was like the heart of a pomegranate, and the shadows in His eyes were deep. And He was gentle, like a man mindful of his own strength.

In my dreams I beheld the kings of the earth standing in awe in His presence. I would speak of His face, but how shall I? It was like night without darkness, and like day without the noise of day. It was a sad face, and it was a joyous face.

And well I remember how once He raised His hand towards the sky, and His parted fingers were like the branches of an elm.

And I remember Him pacing the evening. He was not walking. He Himself was a road above the road; even as a cloud above the earth that would descend to refresh the earth.

But when I stood before Him and spoke to him, He was a man, and His face was powerful to behold. And He said to me, "What would you, Miriam?"

I would not answer Him, but my wings enfolded my secret, and I was made warm.

And because I could bear His light no more, I turned and walked away, but not in shame. I was only shy, and I would be alone, with His fingers upon the strings of my heart.

Joel brought out a chair, and sat with the dogs and watched me paint. That was before I learned (again) that it is not good to paint the underside of a porch with an open mouth....

--so my prayer has been silent... and mostly wordless....

And, on prayer (Khalil Gibran, The Prophet: On Prayer)

Then a priestess said, “Speak to us of Prayer.”

And he answered, saying:

You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance. For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?

And if it is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart. And if you cannot but weep when your soul summons you to prayer, she should spur you again and yet again, though weeping, until you shall come laughing.

When you pray you rise to meet in the air those who are praying at that very hour, and whom save in prayer you may not meet. Therefore let your visit to that temple invisible be for naught but ecstasy and sweet communion.

For if you should enter the temple for no other purpose than asking you shall not receive.

And if you should enter into it to humble yourself you shall not be lifted:

Or even if you should enter into it to beg for the good of others you shall not be heard.

It is enough that you enter the temple invisible. I cannot teach you how to pray in words. God listens not to your words save when He Himself utters them through your lips. And I cannot teach you the prayer of the seas and the forests and the mountains.

But you who are born of the mountains and the forests and the seas can find their prayer in your heart; and if you but listen in the stillness of the night you shall hear them saying in silence:
“Our God, who art our winged self, it is thy will in us that willeth.
It is thy desire in us that desireth.
It is thy urge in us that would turn our nights, which are thine, into days which are thine also.
We cannot ask thee for aught, for thou knowest our needs before they are born in us:
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all.”
And if it is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart. And if you cannot but weep when your soul summons you to prayer, she should spur you again and yet again, though weeping, until you shall come laughing. ... God listens not to your words save when He Himself utters them through your lips.... listen in the stillness of the night you shall hear them saying in silence "Our God, who art our winged self...."

It is enough. Just that.

On my favorite Sunday of the year --with Thomas... he must be my great-grandfather....

Khalil Gibran, Jesus, the Son of Man: Thomas
On the forefather of his doubts

My grandfather who was a lawyer once said, “Let us observe truth, but only when truth is made manifest unto us.”

When Jesus called me I heeded Him, for His command was more potent than my will; yet I kept my counsel.

When He spoke and the others were swayed like branches in the wind, I listened immovable. Yet I loved Him.

Three years ago He left us, a scattered company to sing His name, and to be His witnesses unto the nations.

At that time I was called Thomas the Doubter. The shadow of my grandfather was still upon me, and always I would have truth made manifest.

I would even put my hand in my own wound to feel the blood ere I would believe in my pain.
Now a man who loves with his heart yet holds a doubt in his mind, is but a slave in a galley who sleeps at his oar and dreams of his freedom, till the lash of the master wakes him.

I myself was that slave, and I dreamed of freedom, but the sleep of my grandfather was upon me. My flesh needed the whip of my own day.

Even in the presence of the Nazarene I had closed my eyes to see my hands chained to the oar.
Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.

Doubt is a foundling unhappy and astray, and though his own mother who gave him birth should find him and enfold him, he would withdraw in caution and in fear.

For Doubt will not know truth till his wounds are healed and restored.

I doubted Jesus until He made Himself manifest to me, and thrust my own hand into His very wounds.
Then indeed I believed, and after that I was rid of my yesterday and the yesterdays of my forefathers.

The dead in me buried their dead; and the living shall live for the Anointed King, even for Him who was the Son of Man.

Yesterday they told me that I must go and utter His name among the Persians and the Hindus. I shall go. And from this day to my last day, at dawn and at eventide, I shall see my Lord rising in majesty and I shall hear Him speak.

Our Father, who art our winged self,
Thou alone art holy.
Thy kingdom is among us.
It is your will in us that willeth.
Feed us that bread.
Forgive us when we stray.
We forgive others.
Sustain us through the disasters
   and the evil which comes our way.
For you are all, in all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

anything but black

So.... I went to my closet. 'Anything but black,' I said to myself... because I'm on stay-cation... and who wants to wear black when that is mostly whatcha wear any way....

I plowed through my closet.... Except for the forest-green stuff, it's all black... If it were summer, I have bright t-shirts. But for this time of year.... Nothing. But. Black.

So, I guess there are certainly worse things.
Than wearing black.
But, here I sit.
In black.
Oh well.

And, it's foggy, too.
And cold.
Supposed to snow tonight.
So, hunkered down.
Drinking tea.
In front of a fire.
Wearing black.
My mind screams pink.
And lilac.
And anything but fleece.
Oh well.


At prayer (John 15:1-11)

Jesus said,
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.
He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.
Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.
Abide in me as I abide in you.
Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you unless you abide in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches.
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit,
because apart from me you can do nothing.
Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers;
such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,
ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
My Father is glorified by this,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be complete.”

So... maybe I should just look for a nice grape color...
--and the green is fine, heh?!

Anything but black....
Time for a nap, me thinks.

Yes, time for a nap.

Monday, April 6, 2015

for me, all other bets are off

The devil ran amok among us, trying to mess things up. But, that was a losing battle, for the devil, anyway. Because that was settled for us all. A long time ago. Before time began.

So, I went to bed. Exhausted. Delighted. After midnite --after baptisms... was it thirteen or fifteen... I don't remember.... after the Vigil.

The Vigil. We took some of the red willow I had collected to make the holy fire. And, for good measure, a lot of the sacred sage. And cottonwood twigs. It seemed right to do that. The sacred gifts of the Creator, to make the Vigil fire. It was supposed to be a solemn thing, you know....

What we didn't know is that Joel loaded the fire with those sparklers that you can get on the 4th of July; he hid them in the Vigil fire. He lit the fire as I prayed, and then he stood back as we all stepped forward to breathe in the smoke, to wash in the smoke in the traditional way. And when the fire itself began to sparkle and burst with sparkles, we all laughed and laughed. And tried to light the Trinity candles. And laughed and laughed.

When we finally made it inside, the laughing turned to whispers --the darkness was profound. It was like entering a cave. The softness of the three little candles burning atop the staff Joel carried rounded the hard edges of the parish hall. Joel carried the staff in to the center of the circle of chairs. The font, the large Paschal Candle and an ambo sat in the middle of the circle. He stretched and craned to light the candle. And then stepped back....

He had stuck a sparkler by the wick of the Candle. And when that went off... the hilarity resumed.

We laughed through the Creation story. We laughed through the old bleached bones. We laughed through the return to Jerusalem. We laughed at the news of our adoption. We ate and drank the cosmos. The bread was sweet. Bread from the promised land, filled with yeast and honey and milk. The wine even sweeter.

And then we slept. I had set my alarm for 4:30AM so that I could arise and go to the sunrise service about thirty miles east and north of here. It seemed like it was the middle of the night when the phone rang --is was Sister K. "I don't see any lights on. Are you up? It's 5 --we were supposed to leave at 5!"

I hadn't even heard the alarm. Didn't even. "I'll be right out," I said. I scrambled for clothes. Washed my face. Teeth. Stuffed yogurt in a bag. Grabbed my 'God in a box' traveling sacristy and ran for the car.

We drove east. It was not yet dawn.... By the time we made it to the cemetery at St. Thomas, On the Tree, the sun had softened the dark. There was only one other person there --well, except for the thousands of those unseen.

We sang away the darkness. We stood at the foot of the old cross and prayed. We visited the grave of the son who died avoiding the careless and speeding driver. "Arise! Shine!" I said. The mother said, "Time to get up! --heyyyyyy, he never got up on time!" And we laughed. Ever so gently. Then we could see color in the sky, colors all around.

We went to the house over the hill for breakfast and coffee. The dogs barked. The children and young mother were still asleep in the main room next to the kitchen. The lamp burned on the table. One by one family members crowded in to the room that smelled of hard boiled eggs.

Then the sun spilled in the window. And someone handed me a baby. And coffee.

After breakfast, coffee and babies galore, Sister and I piled in to the car, and drove east. We stopped on top of the "flats" --one would hardly know that there is a river to the east and another to the south. Up on the flats, there is only prairie. And the wind. We talked. And talked. Which is like prayer. Which is prayer.

And the eagles came. Several golden eagles. Later, a bald eagle. To lift our prayers. And souls.

And then we did church. In White Horse. A full church. And cake. And an egg hunt....

On to the next. Where we baptized. And sang. And the children ran and ran outside. We killed only two wasps. And this little one, having watched her little sister get baptized, nearly threw herself backwards in to the water, without prompting. During the consecration of the bread and wine, she came running up to the altar. So, I picked her up, and trusted her invocation of the Holy Spirit.

And then, we couldn't stay for the meal --we had to run, faster than the wind. East. But only after we shared what the Easter Bunny had accidentally left in my car....

East.... I told them I would be there at 3:30.... at 3:34, when we had only two more miles to go, the car heading opposite us was full of familiar faces. We stopped on the road.

"We waited for you, but now we have packed up and gone," he said.

"What?!" My heart was sinking.... "It's just 3:30 now."

He looked at me and laughed. "No," he said. "It's 4:30 out here...."

And I threw my forehead against the steering wheel. Fast Time. In all the rush... The eastern half of the Reservation works on "Fast Time" --adhering to Central Time. They aren't IN the Central time zone, but all of their resources and jobs are.... so they work on Fast Time.

And I work in Slow Time. So, I was double late.... I got out of the car, pulled out the last of the stuff the Easter bunny had sent us....

Resurrection life, I had said, first sermon.... We don't have to wait for it. It is right now. Right now.

At prayer this morning (beginning at John 14:1)

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life."

Resurrection life.

For me, all other bets are off... I'll go with that one.

Off I go.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Now. And Now.

The dogs were sticking their noses in my eyes. It was time to get up. I asked them if they wanted to baptize twenty babies today. They leapt around the bed, so excited. So, we got up.

I am grateful, so very grateful that I do not have to do Lent or Holy Week or Good Friday or anything like that today. Today, we begin. In just 45 minutes, we will gather to make some candy sacks --THANK YOU for the Easter candy! A whole box of it, so heavy the Postmaster made me go around to the back of the post office to load it in the car!

And after the candy sacks, I will begin the set up for all those baptisms --there may be twenty, there may be more; there may be ten. I never know. I just have to be ready.

To share the water that we pass through.
To share the fire that burns within us.
To share the oil that shines so brightly.

I will have to wait until after the chaos of the baptisms at 4pm to sit in the dark around a solitary flame and hear the stories of God's wondrous movingness among us. I know it is not technically correct to have a baptism service and then the Vigil.

But, maybe here... maybe here that is just right. Baptism first.

Besides, it is impossible to do otherwise... unless you want to skip the Vigil entirely. If one tried, at this point, to make fifty running children and their distracted parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, brothers, sisters, and hungry babies to sit still.... Well, then, you are a better liturgist than I.

And, if I am to be fed, soul-wise, I need the Vigil. I need the dark. I need the fire. I need to sit and listen.

So. Now. And Now. And Now is the time. To discover what new life the Spirit is leading us into.

At prayer this morning (from Hebrews 4)

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Whoot! You mean, I can unleash my boldness?!

Oh... well....

One thing at a time!

Blessed Pascha, everybody!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Time to give it all a rest.

We sat in the dark. Grownups at the tables. The children at my feet. We played with fire. And water. And listened to the old stories of blood and promises. We heard how Moses and Aaron listened to God and helped their relatives make a run for it. Protected by blood. Through the water. We ate with our jackets on and our hoods up. That's what we did last night.

We heard how God destroyed all the firstborn sons. How God caused death, drowning the Egyptians. We heard how, even after they were made free, maybe because they were made free, how the People wandered. Hungry. Thirsty. Unhappy. Unfaithful to the God who set them free.

And they wandered. And wandered. And wandered. Lost. Homeless. Forming a land-less nation. A manna identity.

And God saw that laws and contracts just don't work with us. Threats and death just don't work with us. Exile doesn't work with us. Homecoming doesn't work with us. God saw.

We didn't.

God made light first. We prefer the dark. God un-chaosed Creation breathing life in to it, setting it all in wild motion. We prefer death. And sodden lifelessness. We lock it in place with rocks and earth.

God saw how we kept running. We ran away in the Garden to hide. We ran through bloody door posts and walls of water. We ran through the desert. We ran from that other garden on the hill. That garden of the kiss and betrayal. And ran. And ran. And ran.

I have often wondered why Jesus didn't wash their feet as they arrived for that meal. Wasn't that courtesy and hospitality supposed to be offered upon arrival? But that ritual was about being clean. Not dragging the streets in with you.

And that's not what Jesus offered. It wasn't about being clean. It wasn't about getting the street off of us.

The ancient meal of Moses and Aaron was to be eaten in a hurry, getting ready to make a run for it, in the face of death.

The meal Jesus offered... was interrupted by tending to our feet... no more running. Here. You've arrived. Eat. No more running. Take off your shoes. You have run for eons. Let me wash your feet. Sit still. You scolded the woman for doing this to me. Here. Let me do this for you.

Because, now, it is time. Don't you see? It's me.

The death of the light of the world. The death of that first word God spoke.
Some sought that death. Purchased it for thirty pieces.
Not knowing it came freely. Of its own will.
Not to pay the price for our running, our grabbing, our hunger, our greed.
But to set us free.

The Law doesn't work.
Threats don't work.
Running doesn't work.
Death doesn't work.
It's time to end all that.

Time's up.
To finish off the law.
To cut off the threats.
To quit running.
To end death.
Time's up.

And we kept running.
Some of us naked.

Time's up.
To give it all a rest.

(Their little feet in my hands.
I can't get them out of my mind.)

At prayer this morning (Wisdom 1:16 – 2:1,12-22)

But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death;
considering him a friend, they pined away
and made a covenant with him,
because they are fit to belong to his company.
For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
“Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.

“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture,
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hoped for the wages of holiness,
nor discerned the prize for blameless souls.

(John 13:36-38)
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.”

Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”

Time's up.
To give it all a rest.

To set us free.
Slaves no more to sin or death.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

No. Such. Thing..... ???

More Holy Week thoughts...

It occurred to me this morning, in-between printing the bulletins for the baptismal service and the Vigil, that there is No. Such. Thing. as justice. I can't recall everything --of course... but did Jesus ever speak of justice?

I can't recall him doing that... talking about justice.

No. Such. Thing. as justice.

Only mercy and love. Grace.


At prayer (John 17:1-11)

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

in to the thick of it

That I took a day off during Holy Week is a miracle in itself.... But, it had been a while, more than ten days, so... I knew I must do so.

And, now, I will begin the final organization of bulletins, objects, schedule that is always Easter. Usually, this task is monumental and exhausting. Ask me again on Monday, but somehow, this year... there is so much that is so 'very much' and seemingly impossible, that the glory of Easter in so many places and with so many services seems like --well-- do-able.

But, only if I start now. Now.

So, if I don't have the time to stop and reflect and write, please know that I am praying as I run from one thing to another, and that the joy and confidence and holy hope is busting out from within me.

At prayer this morning (Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17)

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed Lost are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the LORD.
They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed are those who trust in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it?
I the LORD test the mind
and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings.

Heal me, O LORD,
and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved;
for you are my praise.
See how they say to me,
“Where is the word of the LORD?
Let it come!”
But I have not run away from being a shepherd in your service,
nor have I desired the fatal day.
You know what came from my lips;
it was before your face.
Do not become a terror to me;
you are my refuge in the day of disaster.

Off I go. Not running away, but in to the thick of it. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

this Holy Week

In Rapid. At the cottage. The lilacs are in bloom -- well, they've leafed out. And I was mourning the loss of the tiger lilies along the east side of the house, when all of a sudden I discover dozens of them pushing up (against all odds ) through some compacted gravel and other construction trash by the garage....

So unexpected. So wondrous.

I will hold these images, the smell of the awakened earth, the feel of the lilac leaf against my face as I raked the rotten leaves of last year out from around the overgrown roots. This. This. This.

This Holy Week.

I gather the rocks strewn about. Flat sandstone kind of rocks liberated from a hill close by, by a gardener who worked here before me. All their work of wild flowers and directing surface run-off to a pond and and other naturalistic features were trashed by the testosterone filled zombie in an earth moving machine who leveled the yard during construction. These rocks might be trash to any one else. I give them new use. I make a patio in the back. I make the square cement slab in to a circle. Of sorts. Not really. I will grow creeping oregano or something like that, between the stones.

One of the rocks I moved must have weighed a hundred pounds or more. I spent much of the afternoon shoving it across the yard. Hoping. And I would stop and rest and look around. Taking the flat stretch of mud and clay and transforming it in my mind's eye.

I see it. In my mind's eye. Where I will put the pond. A sort of pond. A basin really, to catch the runoff from the hill behind us. So that it doesn't flood the house or the yard. And there, the curly willow tree. And there, the silly narrow path in a "Z" up the hill to the level place behind the tree. From there, you can see the whole neighborhood. A little level place for two chairs. It will be as good as a tree fort. A grown up tree fort.

Joel and I built a tree fort --about forty years ago. In the hills of Sonoma at The Bishop's Ranch. Overlooking the vineyards and oaks of northern California. But, then, we could climb a tree, twenty feet up, building a platform that rested on the branches of the ancient and holy oak. We put no nails in to its flesh. We just rested the beams of the platform in its elbows. Even the ladder up to the platform was a series of resting spots in its own branches.

We were so much in love. Between the two us, neither of us had the courage to drive a nail. It was just that way. He the monk. Me the wildflower. Thinking if he didn't leave the monastery, perhaps I should go join a nunnery.

Look at us now. Still so much in love. Still chaste, poor and obedient. Still wild-ish. As wild as one can be looking 60 down the throat. And him at 70. It will be a path, a silly path, that is not too steep, that will take us to an earthen perch by a crook in a tree. And we will sit there, looking out, then glance at each other out of the corner of our eye. Knowing fully the thoughts of the other. Still shy about that.

And we will laugh. And then cry because we are laughing. And cry because we can't climb trees any more. And then laugh because I will have built us this perch. High up. On the hill. Behind a little house that has cost us everything.

I see it. In my mind's eye. With lilacs that I must work around. Salvaging lilies and rocks. As though lilies and rocks need salvaging.

I think it is Spring.

I know it is Holy Week.

When our sin is before us. Killing life and driving nails in to a holy tree.

Hoping. That the landscape of our lives will be transformed by moving a rock too great for us.


At prayer this morning (ending with Philippians 3:21)

...their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

Oh Paul. I am not so Greek that I think heaven is someplace else. His Body is here. Always erupting unexpectedly from the earth. Heaven is here. Alongside us. Among us. His Body is formed out of seed and sun and water and earth, crushed and thrown in to the fire to make bread. His Blood quickens in the vine, made of fruit. Made of this earth. Heaven is here.

Let us make it so. It is so.

(From John 12 --the gospel reading for the day)

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

the way through death

After the funeral, I went further off the gravel road a mile or so, going back to the river banks east of Thunder Butte. Two years ago, the red willow grew thick along the banks. Last year, the spring floods carved away the banks and much of the red willow with them. I went to see how much they had recovered.

Red willow is harvested in very early spring, before the Thunder Beings call out the buds on the stems and quicken the blood of all living things. The inner layer of bark (cambium) is stripped away from the stalk and outer layer, dried and cut in to small pieces to be smoked in The Pipe. Cansasa. (Chanshasha)

I drove over the spillway that provides a crossing, turned the car around on the next wide place in the road, and parked. Cautiously. The earth is very sandy--almost like volcanic ash. It would be way too easy to get stuck. And I know I wouldn't get help without walking more than ten miles or more. And, even then, would have to wait for them to come home. At first glance, the red willow had recovered but was not at all as thick as I had imagined it would be. I would take only a few stems, I thought to myself. I wanted to harvest at least some--it was for a gift.

I pulled the small emergency pocket knife out of the place it is stored in the dashboard. It would be difficult to cut cheese with this two-inch blade. I laughed at myself. But stepped in to the sand to cut a few stems.

I said my prayers before I began. I thanked the Creator for all life. I thanked the Creator for the gift of red willow and said why I was there, and that I meant to be doing it in a good way. I apologized to the willow, and thanked it for its many gifts and asked it to carry in a good way the prayers that would be said. I prayed for holiness. Turned to honor all my relatives, as I have been taught to do. And then let the Spirit draw my blade....

I took a step towards the shrub. And stopped. I realized that I had stepped on a red willow stick, already cut and laying abandoned in the dirt. I looked around. And gasped. The paucity of red willow along these banks was not because it hadn't yet recovered from the floods... someone had been here before me --and done an "industrial" harvest --so quick, so ferocious, so callous they hadn't even bothered to pick up the sticks that slipped their grasp.

My first thought was to pray for those who had done this awful thing. Something sacred. Trashed. And then I wondered if it was okay just to go pick up all that they had left behind --if it was okay to invite that unholy energy in to something I was gathering for prayer.

I stood still. My silly knife in my hand. Grieving. Recovering from the shock. Feeling the air. Grieving. Breathing. --and asked heaven and earth if it would be right to salvage... --is it okay to gather these sticks that had been treated in such an unholy way... and use them in prayer?

I don't know.

And I waited. Images passed before my open eyes --of holy people abandoned, misused, slaughtered... and the sticks became like the People, faces, lives... strewn about, viciously cut off, uprooted in their own native soil.

An unconfident affirmation began, first in my knees as I bent over to pick them up... I could not even push them back in the earth, hoping and praying the lowest buds would morph and take root... the cut was not clean enough --the bark was stretched and ragged and torn and cracked.

The unconfident affirmation pulsed through my fingers as I grasped each stick and looked at it --is it okay? --and then, like each stick had a soul, are you willing? Is it alright? May I?

The unconfident affirmation fixed in my elbow as I kept stooping and grasping, until the bundle of sticks poked my face and shoulder and arm. Choosing the abandoned leftovers. Picking up after unholiness. The bundle of broken, misused sticks. The Body.

It is not our actions or prayers that make something holy. Those creatures and things made by our Creator are already holy. Our prayer only focuses our limited sight, helping us recognize the holiness all around.

I cradled the sticks in my hand, the sticks whose body has been broken. Whose broken body will be transformed, will enter and fill us... --the sticks that will die and carry our prayer. Their holiness is not lost. It seems this is always what we do.... Always.

It is our own souls that get lost.

At prayer this morning (John 11:28-44)

When Martha had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.

Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep.

So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.

Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus the un-binder. Jesus the Redeemer. Also bound. Also put in to the earth behind a great stone.

But, he didn't just come "back to life." He went right through death, mortifying it... out the other side. Torn, trashed, ripped, pierced. Holy.

Nothing is lost.

Holiness and goodness belong to God alone.

And we share in it. Picking up the broken bits and pieces, the torn and shredded life....

--until, we, too, are planted like seeds... dying...

And the Lord of Life will come humbly... right through our misconceptions and pretenses of holiness... not calling us "back to life" but showing us the way through death.

Thanks be to God.

Friday, March 27, 2015

hearing our many voices

Episcopal News Service posted the following:
Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society reports $2.4 million annual surplus: A presentation by Barnes on the meeting’s first day showed a preliminary net result (income less expenses) of $2.4 million in the churchwide budget for fiscal year 2014, the middle year of the 2013-2015 triennial budget.

The surplus, which appears in budget lines overseen by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society management, represents “a better result than budgeted” for 2014, according to Barnes. “The strong financial position of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society comes through taking advantage of opportunities for revenue generation, as well substantial savings in operating expenses,” he said.

(For those who don't speak our Churchy language, The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the fancy name for the Episcopal Church in the US and its overseas affiliates --affiliates being the wrong term entirely, but the only un-churchy term I could think of.)

A surplus.... Hmmmm..... The article continues on how that surplus was achieved. But other sources have told me that this surplus is offset by a $3 million (give or take) draw-down on the endowment funds of the Church.

Geeeeeeeee..... So... it's not really a surplus at all?!!!


So.... is the headline or article content to be trusted at all? Or is it hype? Spin? A rah-rah rally? What?

My initial reaction was one of despair, because of all of the above --and, knowing that our funding from the up-coming budget has been proposed to be frozen at the level that was allocated three years ago --with an eye to elimination, eventually. I despair...

Why am I feeling and reacting thus? With frustration. Despair. Irony. And, yes, anger. Am I falling in to the pastoral danger zone of not differentiating?

And, I have continued to wrestle with my reaction. Punching in to it.... I have publicly asked:
--why is our line item for SD frozen at the level it was three years ago?
--why is the church even thinking of defunding this work?
--I know, not necessarily in the very near future, but surely way too soon to do any of the work that needs to be done here.
--why are we already so DRASTICALLY underfunded?

And, I have heard many responses.... And, in pondering those responses and wrestling with them, I have come to the following conclusion: Any, any answer to those questions, in all honesty, that focuses on the "bottom line" --the almighty dollar, instead of plainly saying "Sin" --is merely 'spin.'

Yes. Sin.

Sin I can deal with. Sort of. It's painful. But liberating. Nobody much likes it.

It's revelatory, too. Which can make it frightening.... and awash with grace.

But to begin to deal with it, let us say it plainly and out loud. S.I.N. Let us, as an institution, name it, confess and repent of it. Let us commit to reconciliation.

What might that look like?

--let's not move too quickly down that path or reconciliation.... Let us give the People who have suffered the effects and affects of this sin name the same and chart the path of reconciliation.

I return to the idea of Han....
Han or Haan is a concept in Korean culture attributed as a unique Korean cultural trait which has resulted from Korea's more frequent exposure to invasions by overwhelming foreign powers. Han denotes a collective feeling of oppression and isolation in the face of insurmountable odds (the overcoming of which is beyond the nation's capabilities on its own). It connotes aspects of lament and unavenged injustice.

The minjung theologian Suh Nam-dong describes han as a "feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one's guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong—all these combined."

I see the same here. The oppression--economic and cultural. Isolation. Insurmountable odds. Lament. Unavenged injustice. Helplessness. Acute pain. An obstinate urge to take revenge. The overcoming of which is beyond the People's overstretched or scarce resources.

And the results of sin.

When we confess sin, liturgically, on Sunday --forgiveness is a given. It's right there in print. Even in personal confession, absolution is a given. Forgiven-ness is foundational to our Faith as Christians. It is promised in Baptism.

What is not spoken of in the Church is making amends. Addressing the results and consequences of sin --the han --individual and systemic. And, in that, the one/s bearing the consequences of the sin need to chart the path to justice. For the sake of all.

And making amends is NOT penance. Penance is most often a dualistic process between sinner and God. Perhaps living in to a Trinitarian spiritual life, it is time, with sin, to make it a 3-way street.

Or something like that. The unknown curve.

So.... still struggling.

Knowing anew and with greater conviction that the People have so many gifts to give --not only the world, but the Church....

At prayer (Psalm 22)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? *
and are so far from my cry
and from the words of my distress?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; *
by night as well, but I find no rest.

Yet you are the Holy One, *
enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
Our ancestors put their trust in you; *
they trusted, and you delivered them.
They cried out to you and were delivered; *
they trusted in you and were not put to shame.

But as for me, I am a worm and not a man, *
scorned by all and despised by the people.
All who see me laugh me to scorn; *
they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
“He trusted in the LORD; let him deliver him; *
let him rescue him, if he delights in him.”

Yet you are the one who took me out of the womb, *
and kept me safe upon my mother’s breast.
I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; *
you were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.

Be not far from me, for trouble is near, *
and there is none to help.
Many young bulls encircle me; *
strong bulls of Bashan surround me.
They open wide their jaws at me, *
like a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water;
all my bones are out of joint; *
my heart within my breast is melting wax.
My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; *
and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.
Packs of dogs close me in,
and gangs of evildoers circle around me; *
they pierce my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me; *
they divide my garments among them;
they cast lots for my clothing.

Be not far away, O LORD; *
you are my strength; hasten to help me.
Save me from the sword, *
my life from the power of the dog.
Save me from the lion’s mouth, *
my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.
I will declare your Name to the community; *
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

Praise the LORD, you that are God-fearing; *
stand in awe of the LORD, O offspring of Israel;
all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

For the LORD does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither is the LORD’s face hidden from them; *
but when they cry out, the LORD hears them.

My praise is of God in the great assembly; *
I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship the LORD.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the LORD shall give praise: *
“May your heart live for ever!”

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to God, *
and all the families of the nations bow before the LORD.
For sovereignty belongs to the LORD, *
who rules over the nations.
To the LORD alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; *
all who go down to the dust fall before the LORD.

My soul shall live for God;
my descendants shall serve the LORD; *
they shall be known as the LORD’s for ever.

They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *
the saving deeds that God has done.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Ooooo---- that's good enough to dance to.... where's my drum... !

Off I go.
Struggling with it all.
(Heh, there's a bible story about that... right?!)

A blessed struggle.
Thanks be to God.

(I remember being told once, a very long time ago, that one of the charisms of the Episcopal Church is that we fight out-loud... I am hoping and praying we never lose that. I am hoping and praying that the generous move towards less rancorous interactions, less legalistic meetings, is not also a move to lose the gift of hearing our many voices.... especially those that come from those places bearing the results of sin....)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

what are the issues, the real deep issues?

Dispassionate... .

I think that is a strange word, thought, feeling, concept for a Christian.

Except... sometimes I think it is a temporary and necessary stance in order to see/act with a little more clarity. For oh so many reasons I am reading up on bullying and triangulation. Hardly a prayer topic, one might think... but it is a thick rope in my current prayer life. And, yes, bullying and triangulation are intimately related.

The slick presentations on-line with regard to bullying rarely get beyond the recognition and naming of the cycles. Most end with the discussion of not taking on the system and leaving the work/school/wherever for health reasons.

Most state that more than half of all folks have suffered bullying in the workplace.

Let me be clear --I am reading and thinking and praying about this stuff for the well-being of others. I am not suffering bullying from my "boss"; but bullying is a HUGE problem here on the Reservation. And, yes, it is named and recognized, but the organizational process of confronting the bullying is not well established.

I have found helpful the descriptions of response/process patterns to bullying, found here. It describes "triangulation" and responses to such (--because triangulation is indeed a type of bullying). Naming things helps direct to dispassionate clarity. Yes?

So. They are, in short:

Absorption: The absorption triangle is one in which the middleman, “the absorber,” keeps all the information and/or emotional content to himself. This person has tendencies or desires to be the strong silent type and sees his role of absorption as vital to keeping the company running.

Deflection: The second type of triangle is “the deflection” in which the focal person deflects the issues to others thereby avoiding the problem. The focal person protects both other parties by deflecting the emotional content of the other two to others. A typical deflecting behavior is for the focal person to tell one party to complain to someone else or to vent his frustration elsewhere. The deflection becomes, in essence, a switchboard operator who connects the two other parties to the wrong connection avoiding a short-term conflict.

Filter: The third type is the “filter triangle” in which the focal person selectively filters information to protect or attack one of the other triangle members. Managers in the middle often protect a subordinate by filtering orders, so a task for which the superior is responsible is not done. The focal person uses filtering as a means to gain power for himself. The filter is usually selective and the triangle only operates when the focal person is sure it will work to his advantage.

Interpretation: In the “interpretation” triangle, the focal person interprets information for the others. He is a translator who slowly becomes indispensable to the other two parties. A typical interpretation triangle occurs between two departments that are very dissimilar with specialists in each who have their own distinct jargon and thinking patterns. The specialists become dependent upon the focal person and lose their ability to communicate with anyone else. They then lose much of their usefulness to the company because they can only communicate to a translator or, at best, to a selected few, and, as with all translation, something is lost in the process.

Blocking: Here the focal person becomes an impermeable boundary between the other two parties. Only a trickle of information gets through the focal person who effectively prevents any real exchange of information. The blocker usually does not pass on information because he sees no need for the information to be passed on. Frequently, he feels he needs to do whatever the information requires, forcing him to work longer and harder. The other two parties do not understand why he is working so hard because they are uninformed. Instead, they usually think he works longer and harder than everyone else because he chooses to or because he is avoiding a personal problem.

Ignoring: In this last type of triangle, the focal person is ignored. The two other parties ignore the focal person speaking directly to each other. The problem in this case is the focal person needs to be in the middle. This triangle is exemplified by skipping the chain of command where a worker or manager will skip his immediate superior and speak to the manager at the next higher level. This type also works in reverse where a manager will skip a subordinate to speak to an employee.

The Temple authorities and Pharisees, Pilate, Jesus --the ultimate biblical "Triangulation" if you will. Perfect meditation for Holy Week, heh?

But where my reading, contemplation and the practiced "dispassionate" discipline of meditation keeps leading me --is to the disruption of the system itself. But. Whistle blowers. Rarely fare well.

And, disruption is not something that is done according to the systemic "rules" that every one "plays" by. Disruption, like the Gospel, interrupts. Dislodges. Refocuses. Turns around or turns over.

Sell everything. Follow me.
Get up. Follow me.
Stop it. Follow me.

Jesus. The systemic whistle blower.
Jesus. The disrupter.
Jesus. Says "repent" (turn around).
Jesus. Turns the tables.

I know that I, myself, most often follow the pattern of the "Absorber" when it comes to patterns of bullying and triangulation. It can also be called co-dependent.

And, I think of the church... it's systems of bullying and triangulation. 815. Bishops. Clergy. Laity. Dioceses. Councils and committees. And... I think of those who are striving to set before all of us a systemic restructuring.

(Some of it is already being played out in the proposed budget....)

And I am not at all sure we, as a church system, have named and identified those things that truly need addressing and restructuring.

The above article continues, saying,

Triangles hide organizationally based problems from managers. Triangles are the organizational equivalent of military camouflage. Camouflage makes one object look like a different object hiding the real object from view. Triangulation behavior looks as if it is all individually based behavior while in reality it is organizationally induced behavior.

Triangles are contagious. They spread by example and by word of mouth. Managers and employees alike spread triangles. The existence of one or two triangles leads employees and managers to focus only on individual problems, to assume organizational problems are nonexistent, inconsolable, irritating facts of life, or even desirable. Once any of these assumptions are accepted, organizationally based problems spread, and in their wake come triangles quickly covering the problem while announcing its presence.

Triangles are very experiential and therefore difficult to identify, accept, and dispel. Most managers can understand triangles when they are identified but would never know they existed otherwise. Managers who become aware of triangles and begin to defuse them need to expect a great deal of initial disbelief.

All in all. I am excited and hopeful our church has begun to address systemic issues. And it will be an imperfect process, because we cannot "see" it all. Obviously.

Perhaps the "whistle blowers" are those who have withdrawn $$$ or have chosen to no longer participate. I don't know. Whistle blowers are also those who continue to speak out --on our responsibilities to the poor, the oppressed, the earth...

Joel and I were talking this morning.... One of the greatest sins we can participate in is telling the folks here that they are poverty-stricken --that they are poor. Because it is only by the measure that the wealthy give us that any one can be called poor.

And, yet, in talking church budget, I have done such a thing....

What, in God's name, are the real issues at hand?

At prayer this morning (John 10:19-42)

Again the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?” Others were saying, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”

The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”

Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled—can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

Works? Law? Words? Authority? Grace?

What are the issues, the real deep issues?
Can we name them?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

no, I won't sit with it

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 85)

Show us your mercy, O LORD, *
and grant us your salvation.
I will listen, O LORD God, to what you are saying, *
for you are speaking peace to your faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to you.
Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you, *
that your glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
O LORD, you will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness shall go before you, *
and peace shall be a pathway for your feet.

Mercy and truth have met....
righteousness and peace have kissed....
truth shall spring up from the earth....

Love that.
I think I will sit with that today.
Let it seep in to my bones.
No, I won't sit with it.
I shall drink it.
Cool and clear.
Taste it with the tip of my tongue.

and, oh yeah, Mina... sing it, Mina. With guts.

Please keep the B family in your prayers. Wake tonight. Funeral tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

in your heart. all around. pressing in to the wounds.

It's never a good day to bury a baby.

Today, particularly so. The warmer weather has warmed the roads. And last night rain spit down on the dry earth. The long gravel road to Thunder Butte will be difficult. The road in to the cemetery problematic. At best.

And, it's not just getting there and back that makes it all so difficult. It's the smashed hope. Again. The dream taken away. Again. The longing. The love.

It hurts to love. And, yet... that's all there is. The rest is craven. And deadly. It's so easy to fall in to something twisted, and call it love.

And we have such little minds and hearts. Such broken hearts. Broken minds.

And burying a baby brings it all in to such clarity. I think I shall read the Gospel of John, the part about Doubting Thomas after the Resurrection. How easy it is to want to touch and grasp, and all that, to believe in love. To possess love.

It's always the wounds we press in to. Only the wounds.

We can't possess love. We can't hold on to love. It's the other way around --love possesses us. Love holds us. Like a fish in water. We can't see it. We must breathe it.

It holds us in being. Love.

What I can see is that the clouds are still low. Close to the ground. The hills here do not interrupt the sky or the vastness of the prairie. (It is the un-seen river valleys that do that. But one must happen unexpectedly upon those.) These are winter clouds at best. Clouds that bring even the blue sky too close. And that, too, is love.

Like bread is love. And the fruit of the earth. Love.

And love brings on this awful grief. From the pit of the stomach. That terrible pain in the gut. Because that feeling, that awful feeling is not the absence of love. It is love itself that hurts.

Perhaps because Holy Week is right before us, I know in a new way that when love itself hurts, we share in the Great Passion.

But none of this "preaches" at the burial of an infant. Neither love nor hope "preach" at this awful time. There is no more to do but stand with those who weep, touching the wounds with them. Sharing it. The Great Com-Passion. To say that the whole company of heaven and earth stands with them. Without getting all schmaltzy about it.

Because in the depth of this kind of grief, insincerity --schmaltziness of any kind-- is the cruelest blow of all. Fakitude. Is living hell. Part of the Great Lie. Here, said the snake. This is sweet. Eat it. And we were off and running in Fakitude. False goals. False hope.

And there is already more than enough of that to go around.

More than enough.

Today, I hope to remember.

Perhaps, I shall also go to that place along the River up there, where the cansasa (the holy tobacco used in ceremony) grows. I will look up at the sky, look down at the earth. Turn to greet all that is around me. Say some prayers and harvest some of these winter twigs. For the Pipe of my friend. A gift. To remind myself of the Circle of all things --that things come out of the mud, and with and through prayer burn hot, and leave us as smoke in the air. Earth. Water. Fire. Air. And we share in it.

Like bread. It's holy like that. Complete. And we share in it.

And remember that love is like that. Complete. Nothing added or subtracted. And we share in it.

Back to the clouds. Searching the heavens for that sign that they will lift. And announce summer.

Soon, and soon enough.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 121)

I lift up my eyes to the hills; *
from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the LORD, *
the maker of heaven and earth.
The LORD will not let your foot be moved *
and the One who watches over you will not fall asleep.
Behold, the One who keeps watch over Israel *
shall neither slumber nor sleep;
It is the LORD who watches over you; *
the LORD is your shade at your right hand,
So that the sun shall not strike you by day, *
nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; *
the LORD shall keep you safe.
The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, *
from this time forth for evermore.

(Psalm 123)

To you I lift up my eyes, *
to you enthroned in the heavens.
As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, *
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to you, O LORD our God, *
until you show us your mercy.
Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy, *
for we have had more than enough of contempt,
Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, *
and of the derision of the proud.

(and from Romans 10)

For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?
“The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)....

The word is near you... on your lips. In your heart. All around. We need not search for it.

And that word is Love.

Pressing in to the wounds.

Monday, March 23, 2015

don't be like those who guard the tomb

The geese looked like strange up-wellings of fresh unfrozen dirt in the shorn field beyond the cow pasture. I noticed them, hundreds of them, at the same time I noticed it wasn't raining --it was sleeting and snowing, collecting in the grooves and ruts alongside the road and under the windshield wipers. Out the passenger-side window, the view was of the ice from the river collected alongside the shore. Mostly, the ice has disappeared, suddenly. In the same way the blades of green grass appeared. And the first shoots from the flowering bulbs. Suddenly. Quietly, this year.

There had been trouble. It had gotten mean. Back-biting, back-stabbing, destructive mean. It was all hush-hush. Without public discussion, some were going to try to sabotage a meeting or something or someone, hit people over the head with it, in a way so that no retort or reply could be made. Just someone crushed. But tendrils had reached my ears... and, everyone was going to get hurt... Everyone. So, I had to act. It made me soul-weary. It made me weep. It made me angry.

As I navigated the gravel road, I kept going over the situation, rehearsing what I wish I could say and do --which would not be at all helpful. I kept seeing the whip and turned over tables as an appealing scenario.... but I knew that would not be at all helpful, either.

There is a story told often here, about a pot full of crabs with a fire underneath it. And when one crab makes a run for it or finds a way out, all the other crabs grab it and pull it back in to the boiling water. That's what life is like here, they say. That's what we are like.

I've heard this story told about Reservation life since before I arrived here. I've heard this story a million times, like it's a mantra....

It's no different any where else, I always want to say. It's the human condition. Red. White. Yellow Brown. It's no different. But saying that is not helpful. Pointing out that it looks like some stories in the Bible is not helpful either. That would seem only to give it some strange credibility... some justification....

I had to slow down as the road turned from gravel to asphalt --the asphalt would be slick. I noticed that the calves which had been born and discovered early this morning were already tagged through the ear. One still had its umbilical cord dangling from its belly. Out of a warm womb in to a storm. Pierced through the ear. Not born free... but cultivated.

It hurt... to see that....

The strangeness of life. The darkness of life. The hard edge of the cold stone that is rolled over the carved hole in the rock. The bleakness and severity of the bindings with which we tie each other up --with which we tie up all life, bind it with fences, sheer it with machines... so that the wildness, like the geese and the ice and storm are the things that seem out of place... a hindrance....

Or, we can perish by getting caught by our own wrong move in storm like this... in a moment of distraction....

I turn on the radio. It's Lake Wobegone. The Wailin' Jennys performing this....

"Storm Comin’"
When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
Don’t run from the comin’ storm cause there ain’t no use in runnin’

When that rain falls
Let it wash away
When that rain falls
Let it wash away
When that rain falls
Let it wash away
Let it wash away, that falling rain, the tears and the trouble

When those lights flash
Then you’ll hear that thunder roar
When those lights flash
You’ll hear that thunder roar
When those lights flash
You’ll hear that thunder roar
Will you listen to that thunder roar and let your spirit soar

When that love calls
Will you open up your door
When that love calls
Will you open up your door
When that love calls
Will you open up your door
You gotta stand on up and let it in, you gotta let love through your door

When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
When that storm comes
Don’t run for cover
Don’t run from the comin’ storm
Cause you cant keep a storm from comin’

You gotta let love through your door. Yes. I feel my eyes lift from the dangers of the road, seeking the horizon. The weight is lifted, even if momentarily. My own unhelpful mantra, my own rehearsal of all that I want to do and say is lifted off my shoulders, off my lips, out of my mind --I can see it for what it is... and remember-- It is love and only love which moves the hard edge of stone away from the cave of death which is my heart. I remind myself... don't be like those who guard the tomb and fall asleep. Don't be like those who guard the tomb and run away --terrified, disgusted...
When that love calls
Will you open up your door
You gotta stand on up and let it in, you gotta let love through your door
When that storm comes
Don't run for cover....

Strange how it is a song from the radio recorded so long ago... Strange.... God, you are so funny.

At prayer this morning (Romans 9:19-33)

You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they shall be called children of the living God.” And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.” And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us, we would have fared like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah.”

What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Stumbling, falling over that rock. In spring time.

Thanking God for Geese. And storms. And penned calves. And the radio. And the People.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We drove in the dark, and now it's morning... still singing

--and this seems to be my Lenten theme:

--and, because it's March....

At prayer this morning (Isaiah 63:7-16)

I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD,
the praiseworthy acts of the LORD,
because of all that the LORD has done for us,
and the great favor to the house of Israel
that he has shown them according to his mercy,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely”;
and he became their savior
in all their distress.
It was no messenger or angel
but his presence that saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

But they rebelled
and grieved his holy spirit;
therefore he became their enemy;
he himself fought against them.
Then they remembered the days of old,
of Moses his servant.
Where is the one who brought them up out of the sea
with the shepherds of his flock?
Where is the one who put within them
his holy spirit,
who caused his glorious arm
to march at the right hand of Moses,
who divided the waters before them
to make for himself an everlasting name,
who led them through the depths?
Like a horse in the desert,
they did not stumble.
Like cattle that go down into the valley,
the spirit of the LORD gave them rest.
Thus you led your people,
to make for yourself a glorious name.
Look down from heaven and see,
from your glorious and holy habitation.
Where are your zeal and your might?
The yearning of your heart and your compassion?
They are withheld from me.
For you are our father,
though Abraham does not know us
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O LORD, are our father;
our Redeemer from of old is your name.

Hey --Daily Office --thank you! Thank you for the gift for the People of the Cheyenne River. Thank you!