Wednesday, October 22, 2014

mildly dys-something or other

I went in the Family Dollar store here in Eagle Butte on Monday --when I knew I was getting sick, but before I was really sick. I went in to buy some Halloween stuff for a teenager who is stuck in lockdown in the hospital here (which means there is a cop outside the door...). I didn't go in the room, but I bought some cool stuff --and checked with the nurses before I included the fake blood and all that....

And, I saw the first Christmas stuff up... --sigh--

Then, on a friend's post on FB, I saw conversation about the same --Christmas in October routine. There was a post to this --the Silent Night of the Living Dead...

--a zombie cresche set....

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately --depending upon your pov, this project didn't get funded... but I thought it was perfectly irreverent... which, feeling the way I do right now, is perfect.

It goes right along with the new Barbie and Ken stuff....

--and, just sos ya know that there is not any religious discrimination....

There was a FB page with these images, which appears to have been taken down... so, here is another article about them. My understanding was they were made for an art exhibit... and are not desecrating items like a crucifix in a glass of waste water etc.... but sure do bring to mind the idols we erect around holidays, acceptable toys for children, and all that kind of thing.

And, I suppose I feel that way this morning because whenever I cough it brings a whole new meaning to that childhood song about gopher guts.... And, poor Joel upchucked all night long.... Our household is quite the deal. Quite. The. Deal.

So.... I think I shall sit and do some ridiculous marathon of Star Trek or Merlin --something silly and so unreal that I will feel grounded and relevant, even in our current state of being.

At prayer this morning (portions of Psalm 38)

O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger; *
do not punish me in your wrath.
For your arrows have already pierced me, *
and your hand presses hard upon me.

There is no health in my flesh,
because of your indignation; *
there is no soundness in my body, because of my sin.
For my iniquities overwhelm me; *
like a heavy burden they are too much for me to bear.
My wounds stink and fester *
by reason of my foolishness.
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; *
I go about in mourning all the day long.
Searing pain fills my innards; *
there is no health in my body.

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

Best psalm ever when one is sick.... I nearly tattooed it on my arm when I was sick with breast cancer... At the time, I read it every morning at prayer, including the other required psalms...

Which reminds me --it's October. If you haven't yet, please get checked with a little tease and squeeze. --P.L.E.A.S.E.-- And gentlemen readers --breast cancer is not just a women's disease --if you have any lumps or bumps, please don't ignore them. Men have less than a 1% chance --but, still, I only had a 3% chance when I was finally diagnosed (I had found a small lump, the doctors insisted it was just pre-menopausal breast tissue stuff. So, I had to wait a year until I was age 40 to qualify for a mammogram... by then, the lump was as big as my thumb and the cancer had infiltrated my lymph nodes).

I can hear the drum leading the cancer awareness walk from the park downtown to the culture center right now.... I was supposed to be there, but... here I am...

--hack hack hack---

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

exactly what it feels like

I was supposed to go to Pierre for a Reservation clergy meeting today --first time they've ever had one. I really wanted to go. But I woke up sick. Head congestion. Feverish feeling. Hit in the head feeling. Burning in the chest.


So. After calling and emailing, I fell back asleep. Now, I'm waiting for a call from the doctor while I'm sitting in the sun in the living room. Drinking lotsa water. The sun feels good.


I don't even feel good enough for that sit-down-busy work...


so I will try to nap....

--after I pray (from Luke 10)

See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.

that's exactly what it feels like....

Remembering the folks gathering in Pierre. Remembering the family of D as they meet at the funeral home today. Remembering.

Monday, October 20, 2014

grass-feathered crest of the plain

The teenaged boys really didn't want to be there, but the grandmothers had brought them, and then made them read. The smaller children squirmed, but listened, because the story was coming out of their mouths. Their voices.

We had begun the service by hauling the pews up, front and center. Sweeping. Killing the wasps. Chasing out the flies. Strange flies, with zebra wings. One of the windows had been shot out again, but someone had already cleaned up the glass before I even got there.

Such preparation is a liturgy all its own. It was late afternoon. The sun slanted in the windows. The candles on the altar were the only other light. Except in the eyes of the children. The prophet came alive and the great waters and danger and comfort of a powerful God lapped against the walls of the building, especially where the unmown grasses stood so tall. The grandmothers and mothers looked away from their own hands when Paul's letter was read --that part when he acknowledged how much they had suffered. And then the coin. Jesus and the coin.

Someone had a coin in their pocket. All the children saw the face on the coin. How did Jesus know there was a face on this coin... a face that belongs with the history of the Nation. So the coin belongs to the Nation; give it to the Nation. When I made the other older boy stand up, the one not quite old enough to read, I asked who owned this face... who owned this heart... who... . So, the coin we can spend on food, electricity (except there was none here), taxes... --all that kind of stuff. What shall we 'spend' our God-given lives on?

The children answered with all those things they find so difficult to do --be nice, share, give up your place in line.... The adults didn't answer. Not with words, anyway. But with those longing looks of absence. Lips parted with those unspoken things, the ghosts of remembrance.

On the way home, while we were still on the gravel road and we could see the highway a few miles off, we saw the flashing lights of the police car racing west. 'That's not good,' Joel said. 'Never good,' I said. After we had turned on to the highway ourselves, heading east back to town, we pulled on to the shoulder of the road as the ambulance passed. 'That's not good,' I said. 'Never good, and Sunday night, too,' Joel said. And we prayed silently.

It's so different on the highway. Joel had never been the 'back way' from Thunder Butte to Bear Creek. It's a road that turns from gravel, to dirt, to tracks along fence lines separating fields. Then you suddenly find yourself perched on the grass-feathered crest of the plains before dropping in to the hidden ravine of Bear Creek.

And now the steady stromm of the tires on the asphalt played the tune of enticing promises of false security, of the advances of civilization... of a coin with a face that looked nothing like their faces --a face carved in to their sacred mountain, a face desecrating their Holy of Holies. And the evening took its foothold in the growing shadows, covering the carcasses of the wild things on the edge of the asphalt with a deep darkness --so different from the crest of the plain.

'How shall we spend our lives?' I had asked, and was answered in the playful yet seriously earnest movements of the three children who had stood right in front of the altar, mimicking my every gesture, calling down the Holy Spirit.

At prayer this morning (beginning at Ecclesiasticus 4:20)

Watch for the opportune time, and beware of evil,
and do not be ashamed to be yourself.
For there is shame that leads to sin,
and there is shame that is glory and favor.

Do not show partiality to your own harm,
or deference to your downfall.

Do not refrain from speaking at the proper moment,
and do not hide your wisdom.
For wisdom becomes known through speech,
and education through the words of the tongue.

Never speak against the truth,
but be ashamed of your ignorance.

Do not be ashamed to confess your sins,
and do not try to stop the current of a river.
Or... (In a different translation... same scripture but called Sirach 4:20)
Take advantage of opportunities,
but guard yourself against evil.

Don't underrate yourself.
Humbleness deserves honor and respect,
but a low opinion of yourself leads to sin.

Do not let others have their way at your expense;
do not bring on your own ruin by giving up your own self.

Never hesitate to speak out when the occasion calls for it.
Don't hide your wisdom.
Your wisdom and what you know can be known only by what you say.

Do not, however, go against the truth,
and remember that you do not know everything.

Don't be ashamed to confess your sins;
there's no point in trying to stop a river from flowing.
There we are.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
(The Summer Day, Mary Oliver)

--how shall we spend our lives.... ?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

shield the joyous

The moon is like a thin silver cup turned on its side, spilling the desire of the cosmos through the heavens of this early morning. It is hours before the sun comes up. The moon still rules.

There was no light of the moon as Joel and I stumbled through the rough grass and sod last night. The sidewalk was broken and missing. The young man with young kids and wife had died; we had been praying for him for months --a rare cancer had taken hold of his body. His family had gathered for a meal and prayer.

The young cousins filled the yard. Stumbling over one another in some rough shoving game. In the dark. Scant light peering through the windows covered with sheets for drapes on the inside. 'Shield the joyous,' Joel prayed as we walked through the gate. It was not one of those gates that could swing open and closed --it remained solidly ajar with the grass woven up through the lattice work of wire and boards.

Not all the family could be here --some were still on the road, but prayer and food and companionship, holding the newest babies --this is life. The great great grandma got the big easy chair, hot soup and fry bread on the metal table before her. Coffee --always coffee. The young cousins ran in and out, out of breath, invariably grabbing a roll or fry bread. Those with glasses had to take them off --they steamed up the minute they ran inside.

They were all called inside when it was time to pray. The prayers of children interrupted with having to sit still, inside. The tears always come then.

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 103)

For as the heavens are high above the earth, *
so is the LORD’s mercy great upon the God-fearing.
As far as the east is from the west, *
so far has the LORD removed our sins from us.
As a father cares for his children, *
so does the LORD care for the God-fearing.

For the LORD knows whereof we are made *
and remembers that we are but dust.
Our days are like the grass; *
we flourish like a flower of the field;
When the wind goes over it, it is gone, *
and its place shall know it no more.
But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on the God-fearing, *
and the righteousness of the LORD on children’s children;

Bless the LORD, you holy angels,
you mighty ones who do God’s bidding, *
and hearken to the voice of God’s word.
Bless the LORD, all you holy hosts, *
you holy ministers who do God’s will.
Bless the LORD, all you works of God,
in all places of God’s dominion; *
bless the LORD, O my soul.

Off I go, into the morning before it is light with many miles to go. Pray for the children. Pray for the family (this is their second major loss this year).

Father, shield the joyous.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Joel's back went out again yesterday. So I moved the twin bed mattress back in the living room and forbade him to move. The dogs love it --able to curl up with him in the big 'pillow' --except, because I then serve Joel his coffee and breakfast on a low table by the bedside, Paeha stole half his toast before any one noticed it... bad dog. Bad dog.

And, now, thankfully... Joel is eating yogurt with Ottmar Liebert at his ear.

It's worth a listen --I guess some would call it "fusion." Some don't like it at all... and reject all "cross-over" music, but he does have his moments of genius. His father is Chinese-German, his mother Hungarian. He lives in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

Some would prefer the "purer" variety of Paco de Lucia...

--but he also pushed himself to combine jazz and thrust himself into the more hard-core rock elements.

I love that kind of stuff. When it is done well. With passion.

At prayer this morning (Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10 or thereabouts)

All wisdom is from the Lord,
and with him it remains forever.
The sand of the sea, the drops of rain,
and the days of eternity—who can count them?
The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth,
the abyss, and wisdom—who can search them out?
Wisdom was created before all other things,
and prudent understanding from eternity.
The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed?
Her subtleties—who knows them?
There is but one who is wise, greatly to be feared,
seated upon his throne—the Lord.
It is he who created her;
he saw her and took her measure;
he poured her out upon all his works,
upon all the living according to his gift;
he lavished her upon those who love him.

The fear of the Lord is the crown of wisdom,
making peace and perfect health to flourish.
She rained down knowledge and discerning comprehension,
and she heightened the glory of those who held her fast.
To fear the Lord is the root of wisdom,
and her branches are long life.

Unjust anger cannot be justified,
for anger tips the scale to one’s ruin.
Those who are patient stay calm until the right moment,
and then cheerfulness comes back to them.
They hold back their words until the right moment;
then the lips of many tell of their good sense.

Gonna be working with an elder who wants help writing down his stories. He wants the stories to sound like he said them --no big words. --no long sentences, he says.

Would our working together also be "fusion" ?!

I just pray for wisdom....

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nectar of the gods

The wind. It shook the windows. Made the siding of the house groan and screech. The sun had not yet made its way through the brilliant red of the horizon. There was no thrill to being run indoors to escape the flying branches and leaves, calling the dogs after me; no thought of comfort in taking refuge, wrapping fingers and palms around a mug of hot coffee and watching the storm from the security of the old chair. There was only a sense of foreboding, danger, a crashing end to this pre-dawn storm.

I prayed for the young nurses now sick with Ebola. This must be what it is like for them --this storm. Unexpected. Unpredicted. No comforting refuge. No safety net.

Last night it had kind of been the same. Gathered together in that room. The recklessness of scholarly assumptions. The words before us, telling the tale of multiple spiritual ancestors --that the past was not uniform, not seamless. The factions spring to life before us. The ages fold one over the other.

'We were taught not to ask questions --that it was unfaithful to question anything in the Bible,' she said. 'We were all taught that,' another said.

'Who taught you that?' I asked. But, I knew already. I knew that the tragic and deadly fundamentalism which offered unbending criticism and condemnation of anything that didn't fit its own doctrine of absolutism, its own rigid superlatives of modernism, reeking of binary only this or that --I knew that poisonous fruit had been tasted here. I had to press on. I had to cut the sky wide open. Let the stars in. The chaos of the Milky Way to pour in over us.

Why --when we decide to teach, do we always start with the Bible? Why don't we --when we decide to teach, start with the Gospels instead of Genesis? Why don't we --a people free of dogma, start with the mysteries? --the sacraments? --the liberty of Christ?

Last night, too, the story was told --that it was obvious that Joel was a holy man, that he carried the old ways with him, that his understanding was so very deep. I agreed. Without hesitation. And, they said, we can see that what you know, what you carry, you learned from him. I agreed. Without hesitation.

The wind has thrown the screen door open, making the dogs jump and bark, thinking someone is at the door.

Someone is always at the door. Not always in flesh in blood. But, someone is always at the door. So, when I return from pulling the door closed, I tell him. I tell him how grateful I am that he never let me rest in those places where I thought I was comfortable. Those places to which I tenaciously clung, even while I despised them, even while I knew those places were not for me... and would rest only in denial.

Joel laughs. 'You are the one who pushes me,' he says. And our laughter is as good as the dregs in our mugs, that thick dark stuff that reminds me of coffee in Greece, of that bittersweet stuff worthy of licking off the rim....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Luke 9:18)

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.”

He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

The Son of Man....

The New Testament features the indefinite "a son of man" in Hebrews 2:6 (citing psalm 8:4), and "one like a son of man" in Revelation 1:13 and 4:14 (referencing Daniel 7:13's "one like a son of man"). The four gospels introduce a totally new definite form, the awkward and ambiguous "ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου", literally "the man's son." In all four it is used only by Jesus (except once in the gospel of John, when the crowd asks what Jesus means by it), and functions as an emphatic equivalent of the first-person pronoun, I/me/my. Modern scholarship increasingly sees the phrase not as one genuinely used by Jesus but as a one put in his mouth by the early Church.
--one put in his mouth by the early Church (yeah, yeah --I get it), except once in the gospel of John? (Really? Then there must have been something.... something about it....)

And, yes, there is a world of difference between THE theology of the Church, and A theology of the Church.

--damn feminists, so full of scholarly humility.... gotta love 'em... like that dark stuff that reminds me of coffee in Greece... can't stir it with a spoon. Best stuff. Ever. Nectar of the gods.

How long will this storm blow like this? --no threat of rain.... just the wind....

--the man's son must suffer and be rejected.... .

Off I go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

the coyote crossing the road with the dark pressing in on all sides

The young coyote turned and looked at us before it vanished in to the ditch and dark alongside the road. The shining yellow and white lines gleaming in the deep prairie dark looked absurd, stretched, floating in the light of the headlights. The radio was turned up loud --the music was a strange disconnect --the trumpet sounding like a person screaming an exotic and mystical revelation of some kind. Wynton Marsalis and a Santeria priest at Lincoln Center. The priest's voice intoned a prayer to the gods, to the sun, to the moon.

I pushed myself to try to feel what it must be like to think of the sun and moon and stars as unconnected separate beings instead of the relational communion that is at the center of what I call 'me'. I couldn't do it. I ranted suddenly, 'I can't imagine not being a mono-theist.'

'What?' said Joel. 'I am certainly NOT a mono-theist.' He had been going on and on all day about the tragedy of creative religious thought stopping with the Cappadocians... that they were the last ones to truly push at the fringe of Christian thought, striving to create the necessary language to speak of their visions of communion before the deadly platonic, Aristotelian and Augustinian magisteriums throttled the throat of the Church. He had been going on and on about the tragedy of science not pushing in to the language of 'beingness' instead of observable 'stuff.' The scientists cannot speak of 'who' only 'what' he ranted. He had gone on and on about the tragedy of binary-ness --about the false world view of either/or --and even the false world view given 'by new-age gurus' of either-or/both-and. 'It's still binary,' he grunts, disgusted.

I don't see or understand where he wants to go with what he is striving to say. We argue at length, using the so-called Columbus Day holiday as an example. I say it is a good thing for the First People to snag the day and turn it on its head as Native American Day. 'If Italians want to celebrate the so-called achievements of Columbus, let them have at his birthday or death day --but not the day he so-called "discovered" this continent,' I say vehemently. 'It's imperialism --pure and simple, and we need to repent of that crap.'

Joel keeps pushing at something, and I didn't get it. He is not an imperialist. He is not one to celebrate Columbus. I didn't get it. All day long he had been pushing at something --and now he's saying he's not a mono-theist. In the wake of seeing a coyote. And Santeria prayers.

Perhaps it was because it was the curtain of dark. Perhaps it was because I turned the radio down. Perhaps it was the coyote. 'I cannot imagine not sharing in the One Life,' I said. 'That's why I have no truck with re-incarnation --no desire to be a soul or some other entity for all eternity. I cannot imagine not becoming one with...' I said.

'Precisely,' he said, hitting the dashboard of the car with his palm, making the dogs in the back seat jump up in fright and look out the windows. 'SHARE and WITH are the key words you just spoke. Christians are not mono-theists because we are Trinitarians. Love is not possible when there is only One. That is why it is that Christians speak of God's love. You cannot speak of the love of God if there is only God --if there is only union --one thing. We are in Co-union, communion. Freakin' protestants made Jesus in to God --made him a man that was God in flesh. Jesus is not the Father. Jesus is not the Spirit. Don't get me going on what's been done with the Spirit....' He didn't stop. For a hundred miles. He focused on a few of his favorite rants --especially about reducing the Trinity to verbs... which always leads him to deeds instead of grace.

I only barely heard him. The words he had said --love is not possible when there is only One... they were still battering against my chest, my forehead. The divine 'otherness'.... The longing. The desire. It is not to be one. It is to be one-with.

This morning, he got up first and made the coffee. That's not the way it usually goes. I watch my dogs dream after their breakfast, their little paws running, tails wagging, eyes rolling around. I wonder if the deep-seated joy I feel receiving the hot cup of coffee, of watching silly dogs, resembles in any way the joy of the 'Who' of creation, saying 'That is Good,' at every new turn.

Perhaps that is another hair of the coyote --those who see the world as filled with evil, as a test --instead of those who see the goodness, the love, the willing suffering for the sake of other... Joel had stood at the wake the other night, and said, 'Grief is love.'

--because all is love....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Acts 26:24)

While he was making this defense, Festus exclaimed, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!”

But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. Indeed the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am certain that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.”

Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?”

Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am – except for these chains.”

My beloved... see? You are not crazy. But, I don't think we have to return to the Cappadocians to get the thought and language we need...

--I think all we have to do is share bread and wine --it's as simple as all that. (Except now we've put too many words all around it...)

--I think all we have to do is pour water on some one's head to wash away sin --to turn hearts to seek the other --it's as simple as all that. (Except now we've put too many words all around it...)

--it's not more words we need, more language we need....

....Perhaps it is silence we need for communion... to behold.

Perhaps it is the dance we need....

Perhaps it is the coyote crossing the road with the dark pressing in on all sides....

Perhaps it is only coffee, dogs and all the other 'others'....

--because you right... love is not possible without other --without more than one.

....thanks be to God.

Monday, October 13, 2014

in these times

--the leaves are falling. Actually, because of the winds the other day, whole branches are coming down. Alongside the path that leads to our door, the leaves are beginning to be three and four deep.

Every one who has taken my hand in a greeting in the last week has exclaimed --your hands are so cold! I don't notice until they say that... but it is so very true. Their hands are so warm.

So, I guess it is time to put away the sandals... time to wear socks... and be more mindful of the cold.

I love autumn. I love the way the air loses itself to a brittleness, a sharp edge, a nakedness. A loneliness permeates everything, that pushes us inside, together. Not a howling, dolefulness. But, the promise of abundance that is in the spring air --the weight of life --is now like a mindful teacher, calling us back, each leaf turning color and falling, like a church bell ringing us to our senses, telling us the time.

Somebody decorated the church with pumpkins yesterday. And yellow leaves. An offering, like bread and wine, which comes from God's own creation. Funny how we do that. Offer to the Creator that which already belongs to the Creator. But we do it, over and over again.

I talked with the old ladies yesterday. One from Rapid was exclaiming how they had lost all the families with young people to the big churches with programs --the big churches that hosted powwows in the parish halls, that supported the children that way. But, she thought it was wrong to have "anything Indian" in worship. 'You know,' I said. 'The Roman church has even brought a Pipe in to their worship.' And she was horrified. But the lady sitting next to her (it was her party, celebrating her 95th birthday) nodded and said, 'We should at least be talking about it, and listening to the young people.'

I couldn't help thinking about leaves, and wondering... which leaves gladly fall, which leaves cling....

At prayer this morning (from Acts 26)

[Paul said,] “Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.

”With this in mind, I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’"

Conversion is never easy.

It is a fearful thing.

It is a wondrous time... like winter. Like the wilderness. Sometimes we can feel the change happening, and we resist, striving to stick to the way we have always done it --bowing here, doing this, that, then.... Telling ourselves this must never happen....

I remember taking a friend from Africa up to Crater Lake in Oregon --in June, so that she could see snow. And the snow was still piled up in banks as tall as the buildings. And she took off her shoes and climbed up on the snow, laughing and grimacing at the cold between her toes.

God, help us all, in these times. Thank you.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

as true today as ever....

He ran up to me, eyes all bright. 'I missed you,' he said. He buried and snuzzled his face in the sweater around my waist. 'Oh, you have grown soooooo tall,' I said. I ran my fingers through his hair, the way grandmas can do. Lots of the kids think I am their grandma because their parents and grandparents call me 'mother.'

'How old are you now?' I asked. It had only been maybe six months since I had last seen him, but to many of the kids, that could be three homes and a birthday --a life time since they had last grabbed me and held on. 'I'm not four any more, I'm five!' he said. 'Oh! And are you in Head Start or Kindergarten this year?' I asked. He shook his head no. 'What? First grade?' I asked.

He shook his head, pouted his lips and said, 'I've got bugs. I can't go to school...' I resisted the urge to withdraw my hands --it was too late, any way.... 'That's okay,' I said. I looked him in eye. 'That's not a forever thing. You will get to school soon.' I drew the sign of the cross on his head; he closed his eyes like he was letting the blessings fill him. Then he nodded, and ran away to play again.

There's other kids in town --their heads remain shaved all the time --boys and girls, to make looking for head lice, or proof of their absence, easier. Truth be told --we've now been infested three times, most recently we discovered them again about two weeks ago. Bed bugs.

The shame has left me. It's just a part of life here. And I'm not going to not hug a kid, hold a baby, or sit and have coffee when invited to some one's house. The bugs come and go. That's all. We work hard to keep them away. We saturate the crevices of the mattresses with rubbing alcohol, put all the bedding --pillows, blankets --everything, through the hot dryer, wash all the sheets and towels in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer for more than an hour. We were nearly bug free for six months this last time through --now a whole new batch.

I've wondered if freezing would work too... putting the mattresses and bedding outside on one of those mid-winter nights when it dips below zero.... actually, it would take several nights....

Or --maybe the head lice and the bedbugs could have a war... ?!

In the mean time.... We vacuum and clean and run things through the dryer and spray alcohol every six days, trying to break the egg cycle.... We came up clean this week --no evidence of bugs... so we will do that two more times --two more weeks.... And then some more.

University of Wisconsin has a policy for their dorms, explained:
I'm embarrassed to say I might have bed bugs in my room: Don't be. Bed bugs have nothing to do with whether or not a person is clean, neat, or hygienic. There should be nothing more embarrassing about bed bugs than about being bitten by mosquitoes.
So... there we are. Mosquitoes are a fact of life. Along with other bugs. And don't tell me about chemical treatment and hiring a professional. There isn't one that will drive the 180 miles... besides, many bedbugs have a resistance to the chemicals now... and I'm pretty sure I don't. But frequent douses of rubbing alcohol and high heat are effective.

I think of St. Francis hugging folks no one else would hug... and put the rest in God's hands.

At prayer this morning (beginning at Luke 8:16)
Jesus said, “No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”
--nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed...  Sounds like they knew about bed bugs too. And to those who have, more will be given....


Actually, that's quite a radical economic statement, isn't it... the rich will get richer, and the poor --even what they seem to have will be taken away....

That's truth. Yeppa. As true today as ever, if not more so. Ding bust it.

Off I go.

Willingly. Joyfully.

And going in to inipi (sweat lodge prayer) this afternoon, after the burial. Thanks be to God.

Friday, October 10, 2014

brilliant deep

The sky is brilliant today. Deep and brilliant. And the dogs let us sleep in --I guess we all needed it. When they did wake me up (Paeha likes to climb up on my prone body and stand there looking down at me as though he has conquered a mighty peak --Mr. Witty likes to stick his nose gently in my ear at the very same time Paeha conquers the summit), I looked out the window at the foot of the bed. Beyond the garage, the cottonwood tree stands, filling the sky. Today, it is more than just suddenly brilliant yellow.

Yesterday, as we were driving the forty miles or so to the cemetery, I noticed that the cottonwoods which line the river valley are almost naked already, while the cottonwoods that stand in the high parts of the prairie, along the ditches and dams, still retain most of their leaves. I remember --heat rises --and the river valleys are colder right now than the 'flats.'

It was a cemetery where I had not yet been... Joel took the ride with me and the lay reader --and he said, standing up on top of everything, 'I think this is the most beautiful place on earth.' The cemetery was on a small rise overlooking the Moreau River valley to the east, with its own mini bad lands to the south, and the open ocean of prairie to the west.

There had been so many tears spent getting there --all the young folks taking off of school to attend the funeral, and now sharing the shovels to fill the grave while the parents wept. The grandfathers looked for and found some chokecherry branches to stand sentinel at the corners of the grave --remnant reminders of the ancient traditional scaffolding that used to hold the deceased closer to the sky. Signs and symbols of what used to be. Sacramental.

Descendants of "Big Foot" --who ran to Wounded Knee after Sitting Bull was murdered, knowing he was next, seeking safety. His real name is Unpan Glešká, Spotted Elk.... And descendants of another, Wakinya Maza --Iron Lightening.

Today, I must get ready to bury another... a grandson of those who provide a hot lunch twice a week in Eagle Butte... their ancestors lived east along the same river, down where the river valley widens and gets deep, more trees...

Please pray for the people here. Pray for their health and well being. Pray that they will continue to hold on to their language, which is the language of prayer and poetry. Pray that they will remember and know that they are holy and good. Pray that the suffering they now endure in body, mind and spirit may be relieved; pray that those who don't understand or don't care --those who perpetuate the suffering, may have a change of heart.

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.

Off I go.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

--how can we know the way?

The clouds cast a fishnet over the twilight, and caught the moon. I had heard the grandmas cry that high, piercing moan. I had seen the shoulders wrecked with grief. I had seen the girls, almost women, their young bodies pressing against their clothes, pressings against the world, become frigid and withdrawn, hands to their faces.

And now this. The moon was caught in a net of clouds.

I picked my way across the uneven shadows in the parking lot. He was just nineteen. Graduated last June. Good grades. Working hard. The future belonged to him. Found in the water below the dam.

Soon it would be dark. We say the prayers that begin a night of last looks. I fear hollow words. I fear nice words. I struggle to find any words. My prayer, I know, will settle back in to that place, in to that way where there are no words. God will be convicted, tried and found guilty. Again.

Only a few will see him break in to that locked room of despair. Fewer still will hear the word of peace. Will dare to touch the open wounds. There are no words. Only the wounds.

This morning, the sun streaks through the ragged clouds. The net has broken. The moon has moved on to the other horizon. We will gather. Bread will be broken. Shared.

The seed must break through the ground. There must be rain. It must be harvested. It must be crushed. There must be fire. How can this be food for our souls.

How can we know the way?

At prayer this morning (Psalm 131, BCP)
O LORD, I am not proud; *
I have no haughty looks.
I do not occupy myself with great matters, *
or with things that are too hard for me.
But I still my soul and make it quiet,
like a child upon its mother’s breast; *
my soul is quieted within me.
O Israel, wait upon the LORD, *
from this time forth for evermore.
--and in another meditation (Psalm 131, Good News translation)
Lord, I have given up my pride
and turned away from my arrogance.
I am not concerned with great matters
or with subjects too difficult for me.
Instead, I am content and at peace.
As a child lies quietly in its mother's arms,
so my heart is quiet within me.
Israel, trust in the Lord
now and forever!
A whole people, Israel. The One Who Struggles With God. Triumphant With God. Prince of God.

Creator, your people... have not surrendered.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

striving to be, which means, of course, that I am not

I run through the mental list in my head... and the shoulders in my brain slump.... I sincerely believe that catching up is not an option. I wonder which things to discard, which things to delay, and which things are urgent.

They all seem urgent. Necessary. Life giving --not tasks or labor, but the upbuilding of tomorrow and all tomorrows in this place....


I will never catch up.

So.... I will strive to set the stage today to get through the bible study tonight, then the wake tonight, funeral tomorrow, wake Friday and funeral Saturday, Sunday services, wake Sunday night and funeral Monday.

--and mostly, in marathons like this, it is preparing the body and mind... and yes, making sure the equipment is working order --wine, bread, oil... comfortable shoes, extra clean clothes... all set aside, ready, so I don't have to think about them.

These marathons are not like getting lost in a maze. Nor is it like swimming in a series of overwhelming waves too close to a rocky shore. It is more like having a hundred hands on the shoulders and head, and then two hundred more. It's the weight. Pressure.

And I am not sure why --but it is in times like this that I remember the night of my ordination to the priesthood, and afterward the service I took off the chasuble, placed it over the kneeling rail by the altar and turned to speak to someone. And a friend, DB, standing nearby, placed his hand on my shoulder and said gently but firmly, "It was told to me, so now I will tell you --it is not that the things like chasubles that mark you as a priest are so very important in and of themselves; but, how you treat them is a sign to everyone else what you think of priesthood." And he pointed at the chasuble. It had fallen off the rail and lay in a heap on the floor.

The signs. The outward and visible signs. Not just the sacramental stuff like bread and wine. But all the signs. Even my own flesh and blood. Maybe especially my own flesh and blood. And the things that adorn it. Those signs.

Being present. Fully present. Undistracted. The most important sign of all.

--striving to be, which means, of course, that I am not....


So, I will do those things first that will allow me to be fully present. To my beloved. To the people. The rest... well.... there we are.

At prayer this morning (from Luke 7)

When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,

‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’

I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

(And all the people who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.)

“To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon'; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

My favorite hymn (#803, Wonder, Love and Praise)

These three are the treasures to strive for and prize:
be gentle, live simply and have the humility
to shy from the struggle to put oneself first, these are the pearls.

If mercy’s abandoned by those who’d be brave,
economy squandered by those who’d be generous,
humility slighted by those who would lead, this is sure death.

Be gentle and you can afford to be bold,
be frugal and so have enough to be liberal,
be humble and thus be a leader of all, this is the way.

Through gentleness those who attack win the fight,
and those who defend have their safety in gentleness;
this gentleness rests in the children of God, this is their sign.

I think I shall sing it, all day long....

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

faith is a luxury. A facade. Or masked, unrealistic hope

First the drive in to the country.

Then the clinic --holding the baby until he fell asleep again.

Then to the ER.

Then to the Funeral Home.

Then back to the ER.

Then to the prosecutor's office.

Then to mental health.

Then back to the ER.

Then to the market for the pregnant young mother with WIC but no car.

By the time I got home, I was too tired to work on the outline for the Hebrew Scriptures class we are doing on Wednesday night.... So, we ate scrambled eggs and watched the final episode of the Korean Drama series we've been watching, Golden Empire. It's about a poor young man who takes up revenge for the death of his father against a family that owns a multi-national conglomerate and has half the government and court system in their pockets... David and Goliath... but written with the harsh reality that David rarely, if ever, wins. And when he does, he loses himself.

It's about devolution of self --becoming what we despise...

It's about devolution of family --when what presses us together is not love, but obligation and greed... and getting what one wants because you can reveal some one else's deep, dark secret --the ability to ruin lives, put them prison, total control....

It's about greed.... and power. And intrigue. And machinations. Manipulation. In other words, politics.

It's about total self-sacrifice in order to extricate someone else from these barbs and bondage of debt...

It's about choosing death instead of life....

Actually... all the Korean dramas seem to be about these things --like Shakespearean drama, serving to remind us of the human condition --making us squirm in our seats as we watch the decisions being played out and we clutch and grasp the clothes on our chest or the seat cushion screaming 'nooooooo!!!' --wanting to will them in to making another choice.

--and then I turn and face my little life.... and know and see the same human condition.

I wish the stories from the bible could be told in this fashion --without all the religious faldeeral --without the pious overtones... --mocking the provocative depths and garish realities the tales remember... putting our lives in the light of the divine.

But, instead... we avoid the light by making the bible history, or as some see history... "fact"  --or making it divine in and of itself --making the scriptures out to be God...

--or, in the worst case scenario, making scripture only in to text... which, because of its reference points, can be discarded as revelatory of the divine/human and made in to moral stories, like Aesop's Fables...

So.... holding these things in mind, today I will struggle to create an outline for our study of the Hebrew scriptures....

God willing.

At prayer this morning (from Luke 7)

Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town.

When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!”

This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

I know many who have been formed and trained as I have been... and that part of our mind says the story just couldn't be true --that dead is dead, and Jesus saw that the young man wasn't really, really dead and was able to rouse him --not bring him back to life. And the ignorant crowds were fooled that he was truly dead. So the story is really about the widow, the crowd, the young man --and the way they interpreted Jesus.

And then, like many others, when I read this with my heart, I know it is about restoration, God's true desire for us... and I know that I, myself, have been restored to life like that on many occasions. Restored to community and well-being as a bereft mother (which I have been), and as a son (even though I am not, I know I have been brought back to life), and even as a member of crowd of mourners (which I am, frequently). So, of course it's true. All true. Symbolically.

And then... the small fearful part of me that hopes and dreams in a different way... wants it to be literally true... wants to know that God can and will and does interfere, and can and will do anything... can and will interrupt the seemingly natural course of all things... to save us.

I know that in the next few days, I will bury too many sons... and I will stand beside those who won't give a pahooey about whether or how the story is true. Their grief will scream and wreck even the most solemn intonations of peace or hope. More death will be the only logical conclusion.

In some times and places, faith is a luxury. A facade. Or masked, unrealistic hope.

Which is when the truest part of this story will come home, again... that the in-breaking of God will happen outside the gates of the place we call home --will be unexpected... that it takes a crowd to carry death... and that fear is the most common and appropriate human reaction to the in-breaking of God, and we will always fall short of comprehension....


All ways.

And true restoration will not look anything like what we expect.

(In a culture of rampant death --perhaps it looks like a new chance at life.... In an era of war, perhaps it looks like everlasting peace.... In an oppressed people, perhaps it looks like the death of your oppressor --or liberation.... In a time of industrialization, perhaps it looks like a peaceable kingdom....   In a time of inequality.... but all these things will not look anything like what we expect.)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Thank God for the apple, and vulnerability and large storms... and what did St. Francis say --even Sister Death

I could see it coming. A wall of wind and rain. I was glad to get out of my little car before the fury of it hit. I grabbed my sacristy box and ran for the stairs of the church. I got inside just as the blast of the storm hit the building, shaking the windows, making screaming sounds around the corners and forcing its way in through every crack and crevice.

Other cars were pulling up. I held the door open against the wind. The rain was coming down so fast and heavy, it felt like a waterfall. We were all laughing, shaking the water out of our hair, picking the edges of our jackets off our shoulders where the water had made them stick to us, soaked. There was no heat in the church... oh well, the candles on the altar were lit and the altar was set, what more could we ask for.

We were frail and vulnerable --the whole lot of us, the church like a small row boat caught in the rip and roar and crash of a storm that could crush anything in its way. It is not a congregation that sings --so we laugh. The smell of the rain filled our open mouths and nostrils. The day turned dark as night.

And, somewhere before the gospel, the violent front of the storm passed. We could talk about vineyards and greed, death and power. With the clarity of having survived. Once more.

In the parish hall, the private conversation happened. Needing this action, and that. Then the news of death punctuated the hard boiled eggs, the soup, the donuts.

One died of pneumonia that attacked the heart. That's the way it happened. He waited too long to go to the hospital here. The hospital here waited too long to send him to Rapid.

Another died, late 30's, of liver failure. We all know what that means.

Another died, just a teenager still. He fell off the dam. We all know what that means.

My heart breaks. And wells up inside me. I decide to go around the long way, by the paved road, not wanting to risk what the back road might be after the violence of the storm. I go to the house of the woman who will make the necessary contacts --the afternoon church service may be affected. One of the deceased is a relative. A grandson. Nephew.... cousin, brother, uncle, father, son.... We decide to do church in town because there will be a comfort service in town --a liturgy of prayer and food for the family that follows a death.

I am with them late in to the night. Eucharist. Meatloaf. Real mashed potatoes. Emphasis on real. Fresh corn. Cherry brownies. Coffee. Then soup and sandwiches and chips after the late service. The men cry. The women still have too much work to do. The tears will come later.

Somewhere in there, I discovered that someone had turned on the air conditioner, probably thinking they had turned the heat off. The furnace was frozen solid with chunks of ice all over the outside. Smoke --I could smell it-- from an internal engine fighting the block of ice that must be on the inside as well was coming out of the sheet metal seams. I might not have discovered it in time to save the furnace.

And then there was the commotion --girls had gotten trapped in the women's bathroom. The handle of the door got stuck. Somebody took a spatula and forced it open, put duct tape on the bolt to prevent its contact with the door jamb again.

Perhaps I will just take the door knob off... and the thermostat... until I have time to think about it all.

--but not before the other works of cultivating the Kingdom of God among us....

At prayer this morning (Luke 6:39-49)

Jesus also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?

Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”

Someone recently said to me that they did not know how I could do what I do here and not fall apart. I told them that what I do is far, far easier than working with those who live and work and breathe still half asleep, not having an inkling of their total dependence upon God --far, far easier than working with those who don't see, can't hear, won't be moved... Far, far easier than working amongst those who don't know the Great Lie when the see it.

Yes, the suffering and circumstances here....

Life here is real.

And the presence of God is tangible.

Thanks be to God.

Adam lay ibounden
Bounden in a bond
Foure thousand winter
Thought he not too long

And all was for an apple
An apple that he tok
As clerkes finden
Wreten in here book

Ne hadde the apple take ben
The apple taken ben
Ne hadde never our lady
A ben hevene queen

Blissed be the time
That apple take was
Therefore we moun singen
Deo gracias

Adam lay ibounden
Bounden in a bond
Foure thousand winter
Thought he not too long

And all was for an apple
An apple that he tok
As clerkes finden
Wreten in here book

Ne hadde the apple take ben
The apple taken ben
Ne hadde never our lady
A ben hevene queen

Blissed be the time
That apple take was
Therefore we moun singen
Deo gracias

Adam lay ibounden
Bounden in a bond
Foure thousand winter
Thought he not too long

And all was for an apple
An apple that he tok
As clerkes finden
Wreten in here book

Ne hadde the apple take ben
The apple taken ben
Ne hadde never our lady
A ben hevene queen

Blissed be the time
That apple take was
Therefore we moun singen
Deo gracias.
Yes --thank God for the apple which Eve took, because without Eve having taken the apple, the Queen of Heaven, our Mother Mary, would never have been....

Deo gracias.
Wakantanka, Pilamayaye.
Off I go.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

in crazy love, Francis did

It is the day we remember St. Francis.

When I first met Joel, he was Brother Joel of the Society of St. Francis (SSF). SSF is the Franciscan Order for men in the Episcopal Church. At the time, the Society was headquartered at Little Portion near Port Jefferson in the Diocese of Long Island. I think it still might be.

Joel wore a brown robe with a hood, a white cincture with three knots, and sandals. He worked with other Brothers at the Bishop's Ranch (El Rancho del Obispo) on Westside Rd. out of Healdsburg, California --Sonoma County. It was a new call for them --running the camp and retreat center. Joel had just taken life vows as a Franciscan.

I was in high school --my family had just left Berkeley where I was born and raised, and moved to Westside Rd --part of the urban flight of the time --1972. So, I went from a high school of three thousand to living outside the town of Healdsburg having a population of four thousand. Highway 101 leading north out of San Francisco was not yet a freeway --it still was a two --sometimes four lane highway that went through every small town. Healdsburg did not even have any stop lights. It was my first go with culture shock.

I remember first seeing him --driving the riding lawn mower at the Bishop's Ranch, his brown robe hitched up around his knees. I thought that was so funny.

The motives for my parents' flight from their home of twenty-five years in the Bay Area continued to play out, and within months of our arrival in Healdsburg, things got so bad at my home that I ran away to the safest place I could think of --the Ranch. The Brothers said I could stay, especially because my priest and his family were staying there too --run out of the house they were living in by an angry parishioner. But, they said I had to earn my keep and help out in the kitchen.

Joel was in charge of the kitchen. I remember falling in love with him. Making rice pudding. For a hundred people. We could hear someone practicing a saxophone in the chapel. It was very sexy music. Drawn out. Longing. Being a Grade AA sacristy rat, I said it was disgusting to play that kind of music in the chapel. I remember Brother Joel putting down his spoon, looking at me, and saying, 'Don't you know Saint So-and-So? He said the only reason God doesn't destroy the earth again is because Mary stands between the wrath of God and us, baring her breasts --and God is overwhelmed with love and desire... and that there were whole treatises written about rain being like God's seed fertilizing the earth and the whole creation is groaning in the throes of passionate sex...' He went on and on. Waving the spoon like a baton. Swelling the crescendo. Flinging partly cooked rice all over the kitchen. Oblivious.

And the next question out of my mouth was something to the order of --well, if it's all so wonderful and God-given, why have you taken a vow of chastity?

But, I was already having my carefully crafted and prim world undone. Theotokos saving the world with her boobs. Of course! None of the rest of our theological discussions were quite so rampant. Or maybe they were...

It was then, too, that I became a lover of Francis. Because I loved Brother Joel so much. And I know he loved me. The crazy passion that filled Francis, filled us. Between us, before us, around us. Joel gave me a copy of St. Francis by Nikos Kazantzakis. I imagined that he was Francis and I was Clare, reincarnated.... But this time, maybe, we would... have a different life, together....

And we were chaste. Not even a kiss. That wasn't even part of it. St. Francis had invited us both over to the edge of passion, to be consumed by it, not partake of it. But, I had told Joel that we were going to be married --I knew it. I knew it. And he said he was already married, and would not break those vows.

Poverty. Chastity. Obedience. One knot for each vow in the rope he tied around his waist every day.

After eight years or so --through the rough and tumble dropping out of school and personal chaos at the unraveling of my family life, and being unwilling to pursue the newly opened dream that rested so heavily upon my shoulder of becoming a priest --unwilling because there was too much rabid anger in the church over the ordination of women (and at the time, the church was turning away 'young' vocations faster than it could swat flies), I went to Assisi, Italy, and tried to join the Poor Clares --Episcopal, of course.

After three weeks, the Sisters and I together had a good laugh, and they said I was called, but being a Poor Clare was a mis-placed vocation. I remember that conversation over a bowl of fresh steamed string beans smothered in olive oil. Like it was yesterday. With the pink stone of Clare's basilica gleaming in the window.

I went, that afternoon to the basilica of Francis. Confessed again my love for Joel. Asked for help. Direction. Felt so lost. If not this, then what...? Took the narrow stairs down and down and down to the tomb itself. Lit a candle. Turned to go. And a short round Roman Franciscan popped out of an alcove on the side of the room and put my candle out and asked for money if I wanted to burn one.

He shouldn't have done that. He really shouldn't have done that.

Some where between really scaring that poor little man by chasing him around the tomb until he disappeared behind a door, and my putting out all the candles in the room and screaming at the tomb 'Let Go Of My Man,' I left without further incident.

I made it back to the States with only twenty dollars in my pocket. I had stashed and folded a bill in my passport --grabbed it quickly as the custom's officer held it in the air and asked if that were a bribe. 'Hell no,' I said. 'That's all the money I have.' And he stamped me through, laughing. 'That would have been a poor bribe--twenty bucks is nothing,' he said. Joel met me with a car, announced that he would drop me off in some desolate place in Queens, I couldn't stay with him because he had left the Order.

I remember wishing I had gone to yell at Francis years before... was that all it took... ! And then I was trapped in Queens with no money for a week....

And two year later, we were married. Franciscan-like. Nailed invitations to the wedding up around Brooklyn. Had a pot-luck wedding reception. Left for a honeymoon on a bus....

Joel has always said that he has never been more chaste, poorer and more obedient --that he has never given up those vows.

And I would agree. Francis has shaped our life together. Always. All ways.

And I am so grateful.

At prayer this morning (Luke 6:27-38)

Jesus said, "But I say to you that listen:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.

Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged;

--do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.

Forgive, and you will be forgiven;

--give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
The Christian Commandments. Whooops, there we are!

I am quite certain that when Jesus said to turn the other cheek, he did not mean to tolerate abuse and oppression. That command is not for those who are trapped.

I am quite certain that command is for those with enough self-esteem and discipline to practice putting aside ego and self... as he did.

As Francis did. In crazy love....

Risking everything for the sake of other....

--for the sake of the whole creation... .