Saturday, May 23, 2015

--nothing is as it appears to be....

So... It was P. He saw it. So he took care of it. There had been vicious winds, a harvest of late snow, ice... and the flag had finally torn loose from its grommets....

So, P took it down. Rope and all. And shoved it in the closet.

He's done that before --shoved things in the closet. We looked for weeks for the round tables. Searched high and low. Figured some one had "borrowed" them... and never returned them. Then, one day, P was helping set things up and he pulled them out of the closet...

We looked for weeks for the special folding chairs, too. Bigger. Softer. There were only six of them. We found those in the closet too.

I suppose I should have looked there. But experience doesn't always play its hand in my logic. And when Joel told me that someone had stolen the flag, well... I believed him.

And its not as though we hadn't looked in the closet, or been in the closet... it's just that we were blinded because we didn't expect to find those things in the closet... .

So... the flag wasn't stolen. P had put it in the closet... .

So... Joel is relieved. And embarrassed. That he went to the "stolen" thought first.... Oh well.

And I am reminded, once again, that it is only rarely that things seem to be what they appear to be. Joel said this morning, 'Let's just take the dogs, go drive out to the middle of no-where, and start walking until we stop walking.' And then he was silent for a moment before he said, 'But, we will find too many snakes....'

So, I finished the list for him. 'And spiders --the huge tarantula kind, and porcupines, and coyotes, and wolves, and bears...' Thinking he had slipped in to some kind of idyllic romanticism I said something to the effect of  '--get real...'

But he said in response to my list, 'Exactly.' And the pause in both of us filled the air... yes, exactly. Thanks be to God.

'Well then,' I said, 'why don't you walk a little bit with me later this summer?'

Last year we had a youth group from Delaware join our youth in a forty-mile trek --a pilgrimage of prayer for the People and the land. Some got it. Some didn't. But it was all good. And holy.

The idea had come to me in prayer after I had buried 100 People or so... and felt I needed to 'do something' for myself and for the People.... And the walking prayer emerged from within. To circumnavigate the Reservation in prayer. But, then I aggravated my achilles tendon and the doctor put me in a cast and said --rest this tendon, or else... And the day the doctor slapped the cast on me, I received a call saying, 'how about a pilgrimage?'

God works in such mysterious ways....

So, as it turns out, in trying to save $$ for the youth program for the second priest for whom we have been praying without even knowing who that person might be... yet...  I decided to just walk, as I had imagined before. This year, the prayer will continue, God willing... across the top of the Reservation for the next 60 miles or so....

So, when I said to Joel, 'why don't you walk a little bit with me later this summer?' I meant it....

And he said... 'Oh. Yeah. That walking would be a pilgrimage, wouldn't it....'

There are at least two types of pilgrimages --one with intent, and the other with a goal and intent. Mine is intent... intent on prayer for the life and well-being of the People. And, because the People know themselves to be inextricably interwoven with all of creation --with All Their Relatives-- for the 'Land' --and all the life, all the beingness that is there --the water, the air, the creatures, things seen and unseen....

And, just as they were last year on the Walk, so it shall be again and ever so --nothing will be as it appears to be....  --the dangers and joys on the walk are like life itself --the walk is life... and life is The Walk... The Way....

--no idyllic romanticism... but hunger, fatigue, aching muscles and feet, an emptying ---and fulfillment...

--walking without a goal... but with great intent...

--and it seems, this morning at least, that there could be goals named... Health. Life. Reconciliation. Restoration. Resurrection. Liberty. But, in truth, those have already been achieved, once and for all....

Yes. Truly.

--and we go around looking everywhere for them... thinking they have been stolen from us, misplaced...

And... whups, there they are.... deep within... where we never look or expect to find anything...
Wherever you go, there you are....

At prayer this morning (Psalm 107:33-43)
The LORD changed rivers into deserts, *
and water-springs into thirsty ground,
A fruitful land into salt flats, *
because of the wickedness of those who dwell there.

God changed deserts into pools of water *
and dry land into water-springs.
God settled the hungry there, *
and they founded a city to dwell in.

They sowed fields, and planted vineyards, *
and brought in a fruitful harvest.
God blessed them, so that they increased greatly; *
God did not let their herds decrease.

Yet when they were diminished and brought low, *
through stress of adversity and sorrow,
(God pours contempt on nobles *
and makes them wander in trackless wastes)
God lifted up the poor out of misery *
and multiplied their families like flocks of sheep.

The upright will see this and rejoice, *
but all wickedness will shut its mouth.
Whoever is wise will ponder these things, *
and consider well the mercies of the LORD.

Deserts. Rivers. Fruitful harvest. Adversity and sorrow. Contempt on nobles, the lifting up of the poor....

--nothing is as it appears to be....

Thanks be to God.

And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well....

Friday, May 22, 2015

I surrender to the day

There it is, I thought to myself as I looked at the crescent moon in a night sky. Whoever said there are no shadows in the dark never looked at a crescent moon. There is our shadow, right there, on the moon.

The moon was low in the sky, just above the branches of the trees across Main Street. I saw the empty flagpole at the front of the churchyard, daring the moon to be its standard. Somebody had stolen the flag and the rope right off the pole. Joel is furious. That someone would steal the flag. And the rope. He had worked for weeks to surprise us all with that assemblage. It had been a real eye-catcher. Now it is gone.

I turned my head to look at the stars. The siren had just sounded, announcing curfew. The children, whether they liked it or not, whether they had permission to be out or not, whether their home is safe or not --they all had to be indoors or be subject to arrest.... The basketball court on the other side of the marsh behind the house stands flat, empty and silent.

But the town has erupted with a warm-weather tenor of the noise of cars and trucks running errands from house to house, block to block --or just cruising. Wondering where friends or enemies alike have gathered. What house is the party house tonight. The low-level noise of conversations and laughter filtering through the streets. Someone has music on. Bass throbbing.

I knew that J was out tonight, seeking direction from the spirits, hanbleceya. Preparing for the sun dance he has undertaken. This will be his fourth year, I think. I pray for him, not in words or cohesive thoughts --but something along the boundaries of strength and wisdom and courage. He will need it. Practicing giving his life --his flesh and blood, for the sake of the people.

Paeha interrupts with a reverie of a running bark at things unseen by the back fence, by the cedar tree. A solace of emphatic dog. A dog that does not know he is only nine pounds, and won't listen when you tell him so. A dog bred to bark. Not a guard dog, but a watch dog. An alarm dog. In daylight, the guys by the fence tell him they will make soup with him. At night, they move on.

But no one is there tonight. The alarm is wasted. As far as I can tell.

The hubbub of the town. A crowd of noise. So different from the quiet of winter. One can hear the snow in the winter. A soft padded hiss as it joins a drift. But the great time of bouquets of families, crowded in rooms that spill over on each other as living rooms are bedrooms and bedrooms are living rooms is over. The life of this place. Changes with each season.

I think in the dark. Prayer changes with each season here. I had been invited to pray at the inipi. I couldn't go. I missed it. As the life of this place spills out of its winter habit, it is good to go back in to the dark and heat and pray. Sometimes life itself can overwhelm. Hard. Fast. Life.

I am startled by my own sudden thought --overwhelmed with life in this place. The chaos of the children. The boundary-less teens. Those called to pray, to action. Those caught in despair. Those who survive the despair, filled with love. And regrets. And grief. The young will not listen or pay heed to their map of pitfalls.

I stop in the place by the choke cherry tree. Joel had discovered it was full of huge ants with red heads, eating at the new growth, curling the leaves with their waste and spit. How can I pray for them... ruining the tree and fruit like that. My thought jumps to the hybrid store-bought tree in front of the other house. A purple-leaf tree that one day will bear purple fruit. It has been burned naked by the late snow and frost.

One learns to live or die here.
And none is their own master.
If you live, you pray.
If you die, you pray.
So whether you live or die...

I chant this inwardly, mimicking the funeral service...
For none of us has life in himself,
and none becomes his own master when he dies.
For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord,
and if we die, we die in the Lord.
So, then, whether we live or die,
we are the Lord's possession.
And I surrender to the night. And the crescent moon.

At prayer this morning (from Ezekiel 34)
I, the LORD, have spoken.

I will make with them a covenant of peace
and banish wild animals from the land,
so that they may live in the wild
and sleep in the woods securely.

I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing;
and I will send down the showers in their season;
they shall be showers of blessing.

The trees of the field shall yield their fruit,
and the earth shall yield its increase.
They shall be secure on their soil;
and they shall know that I am the LORD,
when I break the bars of their yoke,
and save them from the hands of those who enslaved them.
They shall no more be plunder for the nations,
nor shall the animals of the land devour them;
they shall live in safety, and no one shall make them afraid.
I will provide for them a splendid vegetation
so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land,
and no longer suffer the insults of the nations.

They shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them....

---and this (Luke 10:38-42)
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

...and now, I surrender to the day--

Thursday, May 21, 2015

we should pay attention to what already is

Okay... so in Episcopal Church/General Convention geek-land, reform of the structures of the Church has been called for --it happened at the last gathering of the Church (for those not acquainted with Episcopal geek-land, General Convention --GC-- is a gathering of Bishops and elected lay and clergy folk to make decisions on behalf of the whole Church, and at the last GC a resolution was passed calling forth a group to examine and make proposals for a way forward by proposing such changes in order to respond to the continuing decline of numbers in membership of the Church, and to revitalize the life of the Church). The group assigned to the visioning task was called TREC.... When TREC published its thoughts, there was backlash, thoughtful responses and... then a vacant lot, so to speak.

So... some have begun to respond to the vacant lot, so to speak. Here --on calling the Church to action. And, here, on specific proposals as formal resolutions to order restructuring and actions to get the Church off its butt, so to speak.

So, yes... I am a geek... and I enjoy pondering these kinds of things... but, on the other hand... I am not. Most of the resolutions require canonical and constitutional changes, which, if my geekiness remembers correctly, takes two meetings of the GC to accomplish --and, since GC only meets every three years, that would mean at least another six years before anything could be done... legally. Canonically. Constitutionally.

--that's too long, frankly.... But, it was set up that way precisely to prevent such changes --to prevent knee-jerk reactions --to prevent a hostile take over... so to speak.

Built-in institutional preservation.

As a sometime student of history, I have observed that deep change rarely, if ever, happens by re-ordering the laws and constitutions first. Stuff happens. And then the laws and constitutions are either thrown out or remade to conform to what is already happening. Take the extra-canonical ordination of women to the priesthood, for example. Women were ordained first --and then it was made canonical.

So... I have been thinking.... Constitutions and laws are specific first, and general in their application... so to speak. And how we interpret the same and the questions we ask of the same are different in every age. And how we move and live within and beside the same are different in every age...
The study of constitutions is not necessarily synonymous with the study of constitutionalism. Although frequently conflated, there are crucial differences. A discussion of this difference appears in legal historian Christian G. Fritz's American Sovereigns: The People and America's Constitutional Tradition Before the Civil War, a study of the early history of American constitutionalism. Fritz notes that an analyst could approach the study of historic events focusing on issues that entailed "constitutional questions" and that this differs from a focus that involves "questions of constitutionalism." Constitutional questions involve the analyst in examining how the constitution was interpreted and applied to distribute power and authority as the new nation struggled with problems of war and peace, taxation and representation. However,
[t]hese political and constitutional controversies also posed questions of constitutionalism – how to identify the collective sovereign, what powers the sovereign possessed, and how one recognized when that sovereign acted. Unlike constitutional questions, questions of constitutionalism could not be answered by reference to given constitutional text or even judicial opinions. Rather, they were open-ended questions drawing upon competing views Americans developed after Independence about the sovereignty of the people and the ongoing role of the people to monitor the constitutional order that rested on their sovereign authority.
A similar distinction was drawn by British constitutional scholar A.V. Dicey in assessing Britain's unwritten constitution. Dicey noted a difference between the "conventions of the constitution" and the "law of the constitution." The "essential distinction" between the two concepts was that the law of the constitution was made up of "rules enforced or recognised by the Courts," making up "a body of 'laws' in the proper sense of that term." In contrast, the conventions of the constitution consisted "of customs, practices, maxims, or precepts which are not enforced or recognised by the Courts" yet they "make up a body not of laws, but of constitutional or political ethics."

There is what we say we do, and then what we do.
There is what we say we believe, and then what we believe.
There is what is lawful, and then what is conventional....

Given that... and the general fear and backlash that results in trying to change established systems --or the overly prolonged time it takes to enact such change, perhaps we need to look in those hidden places where access, or money, or culture, or anything else makes conformance deadly, and see what 'best practice' is coming to be... see what is 'conventional' in those places....

--because otherwise history will show us that the whole thing will be ditched --in political revolutions, heads roll --in political upheaval, riots and violence... and that is already happening folks... membership is declining in mainline protestant churches (and all of Christianity if truth be told) because people are ditching it... so to speak... searching for the integrity of action and way of life, and for some --worship-- that does not exist in the church as it is.

So... maybe, just maybe, we should look at what is working... in those small house churches in Michigan, in those impoverished bible study groups in Venezuela, in those black parishes in Virginia... and, should we expect to find elements of anger or resentment or other foibles of dysfunction writ larger than in the well-heeled congregations? Probably not... the dysfunction is human... It just won't be hidden as well, or be as well greased. But the gifts that are hidden there for the whole Church that is striving to put lawful order on the messy human condition are manifold and manifest. And we should pay attention.

Jesus didn't go to the Temple and try to get the Pharisees and Sadducees to talk reason and Lawful change.... He went to the poor, the disenfranchised, the fringe, those outside the Law, and spoke aloud their hearts' desire --and told everyone else the "Kingdom" and everything else already belonged to them.

We should pay attention to what already is. By the grace of God. Jesus didn't say 'the poor will be always with us' to guilt us in to some so-called social justice action. I earnestly believe he said it so that we could know where to always find him.

At prayer this morning (Luke 10:25-37)
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
The Samaritan... was disenfranchised, an outsider, an outcast, an outlaw --the fringe....

Whoops --there it is.  !!!!

So... off I go.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

and then my dream

So... I spent three weeks busting up a patio at the cottage... and the remnant chunks of it filled the yard and driveway. Somebody offered to haul them away for me. I respectfully declined, and instead built a retaining wall to help control surface drainage. That's the plan, any way. We'll see if it makes any difference when the June torrents kick in. When the sky opens up and the waters of the heavens pour in.

I did laugh at myself, placing my little rocks and chunks of rubble in a line, thinking to myself --remember now-- the Grand Canyon was carved by water, don't rely on this little mess....

I shall probably never be able to domesticate my yard... truth be told, I am not sure I want a truly domesticated yard any way. The "plan" (I know--God laughs at our plans) is to plant native grass --not the five-foot tall prairie grass, or bunch grass --but it's called "buffalo grass" --stays pretty short most of the time --usually only have to mow it in the spring --maybe three times as apposed to grasses that require frequent mowing. And buffalo grass uses very little water (because you don't have to water it at all if you don't mind the grass turning brown in August --and I don't mind --at all). And we will plant native species of shrubs and trees... all drought tolerant.

I am also building places to catch the surface run-off --temporary pools where the water will gather and soak in to the earth. They will be lined with sand and gravel... Returning to the earth what belongs to the earth --where in most places surface run-off is just directed to the sewer.

Water tables are all well and good, but not when they find their way in to one's foundation. And such. The ponds are well away from the house....

The cottage is on a dead-end street that butts up to a rocky backbone that separates west Rapid from east Rapid --or "old" Rapid. We live on the "old" Rapid side. And the street dead-ends in a steep rocky canyon which was preserved from more development by the declaration of a "wilderness area," --a naturalistic park of many acres with paths and wildflowers. Which is good, because the development was done without thought to run-off... or wild fires.

Trouble is --the city has decided the wilderness area is now a fire-hazard, and has gone in and cut down the majority of trees, without tending to the run-off in the street first....

There are memories here in Rapid, about a great and devastating flood. Fifteen inches of rain fell in just six hours... 238 people died... in June, 1972. I have no doubt my little walls and ponds would be overwhelmed in those circumstances. What hasn't and won't help at all is that surface run-off on our street from the wilderness area is not controlled or channeled at all. When it rains hard, the street floods with a vigorous stream that enters our neighbor's driveway and then inundates our sidewalk and sometimes the yard. The whole hillside in our yard.... and now, stripped of its trees...


Water. Fire. Truly the first sacraments... Before creation, there was the holy light --the flame, because there is no light without flame. Before the land, the waters were separated between heaven and earth. The first mighty acts of creation... the first sacraments... And then, in God's good time, the light entered the water and could not be put out... We die and then live through the water. And after the bread and wine, there was fire... flames over their heads...

Water. Fire. Is it no wonder we use these dangerous, life and death defining elements in our worship....

It shouldn't surprise me that I have chosen a piece of earth --a sanctuary-- where fire and water shape what I dream....

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song of the Spirit, Revelation 22:12-17)

“Behold, I am coming soon,” says the Lord,
“and bringing my reward with me, *
to give to everyone according to their deeds.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, *
the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who do God’s commandments,
that they may have the right to the tree of life, *
and may enter the city through the gates.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to you, *
with this testimony for all the churches.
“I am the root and the offspring of David, *
I am the bright morning star.”
“Come!” say the Spirit and the Bride; *
“Come!” let each hearer reply!
Come forward, you who are thirsty, *
let those who desire take the water of life as a gift.

Okay... Gates... and a tree... but that sounds so domesticated....

--and then my dream....

Off I go.

Monday, May 18, 2015

how to Be

I know... I haven't been writing every day.... and it's been almost every day for eight years.... If it's been strange for you, it's been strange for me, too.

It's not that I've been taking a break... because this blog is really just my prayers and stuff running around in my head, and I haven't been taking a break from my prayers. Or from stuff running around in my head... . It's not been a dry patch --no, things have been really fruitful.

But --part of it is because some stuff has been really hard, and it's not stuff I can write about "out loud." I've had to dig stuff up from places in my own interior life --from places I don't go very often. Which usually means I write more... but not this time around.

It's been strange.

And all of it has to do with living in the midst of the results of poverty, oppression, historical genocide... . Chronic illnesses. And the demands made upon me. All of which make me look deeply at myself. No--not at myself. That's not it. But, rather, how to Be. to Be.

--in the midst of historical rupture. Everyone knows that we are living in the midst of radical cultural and economic change --the end of modernism. The old words, the old systems, rationalism begun in the so-called Enlightenment --all of it is crashing down around us... out of fuel.

No one knows where or how any of this will play out. No one knows if even the planet's generous and life-giving (to human beings) ecosystem will survive our greed and machinations.

No one knows how we will establish systems of access to resources (food, water, shelter, air) --how control or power around the resources will play out... .

And if we think all is going to hell in a handbag... well, that's not it, entirely. Certainly, that elemental feeling is known throughout all of human history... just consider the work of Hieronymus Bosch....

Mad Max, in its latest incarnation of Fury Road, has nothing on Bosch (1450-1516)... who also lived in a time of great shifts in power and thought. Human degradation/deliverance is not new. Or peculiar to one culture. Or place... .

And.... what have I been thinking? That the Church is not exempt from these systemic ruptures. In each and every age she has re-fashioned herself and her thought... look only at the act of communion for an icon of change --from being part of a meal, to being so holy it was withheld from the people entirely. Layers upon layers of meaning, a bastion of inclusion or exclusion. Or meaning dismissed entirely.

The Church has played a major role during the age of modernism --either as a tool of colonialism and empire, or as the icon of all that one should refute. It has become a waste land of angels and life after death....

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
(first few lines of Waste Land, TS Eliot)

--how many of us will choose a life of winter... and death....

The readings yesterday. At church. All about "believe this" or that or him... all about eternal life.... The language itself will turn people away.... 'Eternal life,' I said, 'is not something we have to wait or die for... it is not a reward for being good... we received eternal life when we rose from the dead at baptism... We died with Christ. We live in him --he doesn't live in us --we live in him, by him, through him....'

Only one old lady shook her head, yes. The young boy dreamed of a gleaming sword he could use on the other kids.

Systemic ruptures... . How do we move the Church to move in to the looming changes with sacrificial love, repentance and reconciliation... instead of responding to or being shaped by the coming age...?

Or, should we disengage... .

The only thing I am sure of --is even if the Church does not survive as a recognizable institution, the Gospel will survive. And thrive. Because the only other thing I am sure of is that God works in mysterious ways....

In the very same way that Jesus showed the people what they must let go of (you can name those things as easily as I can --The Law as legalistic instead of as love being one of the biggies --separating power and force from authority is another) in order to live an abundant life --the day is coming, sooner rather than later, when we, too, will know what we must let go of to live an abundant life....

--and we can do it in great agony and fits like the Pharisees and Temple authorities... or as an act of liberation and relief....

At prayer this morning (from Luke 9, ending with verse 62)
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

How to Be. Unafraid to have nowhere as our destination. Unafraid to put custom and obligation and even grief aside. Unafraid to not look back....

Hey God, it's me, margaret. Help us to know not to know. Help us to let go. Help us say goodbye in a way that makes us eager to move on. Amen.

--how to Be.

Friday, May 15, 2015

do we dare dream?

The snow has melted, except in stubborn, shaded patches --and it has rained. All at once. Which means the birds are happy --ducks every where, the robins even bolder and redder than ever. It also means there is standing water everywhere. The cattle dams are all full. There are wonderful spontaneous little ponds and lakes that shine like jewels --and capture the moon at night. Even through the clouds.

The honeysuckle hedge is in full bloom. The lilac. I saw iris too. The new green grass is pushing up through last year's waste. The calves are here...

I am tasting the thought of spring with the tip of my tongue. Do we dare dream it?

I saw the bright blue eggs on the ground --between the wind of the storm, and the snow which bent all the branches, they must have fallen out of the nest. It reminded me... . Life is abundant and full of grace, but that doesn't mean it is ever easy.

I wonder
at all those
who write those poems
of foxes and geese
and tall grass
life by the still waters
I wonder
if they have ever
spent a day
watching the eggs
fall out of the nest
or seen the snake
eat the baby mice
or watched the eagle
carry the snake away
for its young

I wonder
if they can talk
to their ancestors
deep in their guts
who remember why
they killed the wolves
and coyotes
and shot the dogs
who got into the chicken coop
because if once
then twice
and the deer
because of the corn
so the fences and boundaries
the cutting of the forest
the earth with a blade
the mindful willing killing
for life's sake

I wonder
at myself
gathered eggs from the coop
but couldn't eat them
it didn't seem right
something in the hen's eye
screamed at me
from my plate
and I couldn't listen
to the hunter
waiting in the blind
shoot the turkey
or the bawling of the calf
or the screams of the rabbit

What then,
shall I eat
if not life itself?

At prayer this morning (Ezekiel 1:28—3:3)
Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day,
such was the appearance of the splendor all around.
This was the appearance of the likeness
of the glory of the LORD.

When I saw it,
I fell on my face,
and I heard the voice of someone speaking.

He said to me:
O mortal, stand up on your feet,
and I will speak with you.
And when he spoke to me,
a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet;
and I heard him speaking to me.

He said to me:
Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel,
to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have transgressed against me
to this very day.
The descendants are impudent and stubborn.
I am sending you to them,
and you shall say to them,
“Thus says the Lord GOD.”
Whether they hear or refuse to hear
(for they are a rebellious house),
they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

And you, O mortal,
do not be afraid of them,
and do not be afraid of their words,
though briers and thorns surround you
and you live among scorpions;
do not be afraid of their words,
and do not be dismayed at their looks,
for they are a rebellious house.
You shall speak my words to them,
whether they hear or refuse to hear;
for they are a rebellious house.

But you, mortal, hear what I say to you;
do not be rebellious like that rebellious house;
open your mouth and eat what I give you.

I looked, and a hand was stretched out to me,
and a written scroll was in it.
He spread it before me;
it had writing on the front and on the back,
and written on it were words
of lamentation and mourning and woe.

He said to me,
O mortal, eat what is offered to you;
eat this scroll,
and go,
speak to the house of Israel.

So I opened my mouth,
and he gave me the scroll to eat.

He said to me,
Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you
and fill your stomach with it.
Then I ate it;
and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.

Lamentations, mourning and woe, as sweet as honey.
Heavy snow in May.
Bright blue eggs fallen from the nest.

Do we dare dream?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

--what are we going to do with it? --Resurrection life, that is....

I took Tuesday off. Totally unplugged. When I plugged back in yesterday, folks were so concerned that I had unplugged.

Heh... . That says something, there.

And, yesterday, I was feeling really, really punky. So, I stayed in my pj's and wrote letters and stuff.... And yesterday afternoon, the congestion started.... I was not happy about it. At all. So, I snorted all that nose stuff that fought off the chronic infection discovered in my sinus after surgery. I am better today.... Sort of.

So... while feeling punky, thoughts about circumstances on the Reservation keep swirling around in my soul, in my head, in my heart. To top it off, Joel has been listening to recording of the Chris Hedges stuff with regard to his newest book Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt --about the death of middle class, the death of elite progressives, the collapse of our governmental system in to a pool of greed and graft --the take-over by corporations, the icon of which is our Supreme Court recognizing such as a "person." --and thinking money is speech....

--and the moral imperative for revolution... .

--an excerpt from the interview:

Revolt “implies resistance, but it also implies suffering and violence and struggle of a kind that most often doesn’t end well,” Scheer says. It “suggests to people, ‘You’ve gotta go out there and throw your bodies on the barbed wire. You’ll suffer enormously; your family will and everyone you know about.’ ”

“Is this what you’re holding out?” Scheer asks. “You still see—what—orderly alternatives? Peaceful alternatives? Peaceful protest?”

Hedges responds: “The fact is most rebellions don’t succeed. Most rebels are ultimately crushed."
Hedges speaks of not entering the political game because the whole game is rigged... he speaks of taking to the streets... knowing full well there never will be any resolution, never will be an "pure" and "fair" and "just" political system. And that we are up against the most insidious and powerful political "game" ever --and the greed is killing ourselves and the planet to boot....

But, that we must do it. Any way.

And, I keep wondering if Hedges knows he is traveling down the same path as MLK. And Gandhi. Taking it to the streets. Non-violent protests. Speaking out against oppression. Courting death. When I watch a video of him, I am uncomfortable with the deep exhaustion behind his eyes. Like pools of dark water. So much more so than just a few years ago.

Except this time, I do not think the bullets will fly. The powers that oppose him will just adeptly steal his life's work and apply it as a veneer to their wickedness... they will buy it, co-opt it, put it in books with neat covers, make their own profit on it and use it to their advantage, make his voice their own theme song... so that everything will seem okay... . Give a nod and beck on the surface while the deep currents of wickedness and evil and greed will still run strong and deep.

Or, perhaps... I am just too jaded. Even while I hope. Not a bleak hope --but a hope full of joy and energy... and grief.

Hope --because of the cross.
Grief --because of the cross.

And I cannot hide from the cross --it is before me, daily. All around me.

Sometimes I wonder... . I remember when I was diagnosed with cancer, my view and understanding of the world changed. Drastically. And part of that was no longer living in denial --facing death head-on. It appeared to me as though most of the world was living in a state of denial about death. Then, I realized one cannot live well staring death in the face....

And that is what Jesus talks about, what the Church so quietly references --a Resurrection life... eternal life.... Not a "here-after" life, but living, right now, having stared death in the face. There are three ways to live... in denial--refusing to look death in the face... staring death in the face, which makes it hard to truly live... and living the eternal life--a way of living on the other side of--beyond looking death in the face.

I think for the most part, most us live somewhere between denial and looking death in the face. Very few --very few live true Resurrection lives. And I think perhaps Hedges is in that mortifying field, pushing through death and denial... .

--giving up all the false senses of security... .


When I preached on Sunday, I spoke of letting go of sin--ours, yours, mine... of the liberty, of the freedom that comes with letting go of sin... But, I also know what courage it takes to step outside of that --the cycle of sin, and, as the Desert Fathers described it --not even know sin --not even see sin.

But most of us have our identities wrapped up, imbued, defined by all that... by sin... by all the false senses of security... and we are forced, daily, to deal with it all --in the greed of the banks etc., and even the health care systems that might, just might cure what ails us, but make us pay for it the rest of our lives....

Is there no way to truly "let go" now a-days? Is there no way to truly "unplug."

I wonder....

From the Lectionary today, for Ascension Day (Luke 24:44-53)

Jesus said to his disciples, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-- that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled."

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Yes... there is great suffering before and at the foot of the Cross... and great joy in knowing, seeing, living in those glimpses of Resurrection life.

We are not called to patiently wait for Resurrection life --it is given to us at baptism. We die and rise with Christ.

So.... now... now that we know... what are we going to do with it?

Monday, May 11, 2015

in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away

It has snowed.

And snowed.

And snowed.

At 33 degrees (F). Which means it is wet, heavy, slushy snow. I spent much of Saturday preparing for it --making trenches for run off so the garage doesn't flood --that kind of thing.... And much of Sunday clearing the trenches. I started shoveling snow at about 8 --around the church, because there was a baptism scheduled and the family called at 7:45 --we're still on, right?! Of course, I said. B had been waiting for this for a long time.

But I couldn't dig out the fire escapes --between the drifts and what was sliding off the roof, the banks of snow all around the church are as tall as I. So I wondered about doing church and candles and all that....

And, then I thought about how some folks might just need to come in off the street and dry off --drink something hot....

So --church happened. And we got a crowd despite the snow and the storm. And everyone came in laughing. A good storm does that. Especially when you reach a destination safely. And B got baptized. So serious. And I asked him to stand with me at the altar --as a sign of his share in our priesthood of Christ.

Then I called the folks in Cherry Creek --there was no way I was going to make it down there. And I mucked the ice out of the trenches around the garage. I was able to attend the memorial for the matriarch that died just over a year ago --and that was good. I was sad to learn of a miscarriage --so we will plan that.

And then I got a phone call and was sad to learn of a suicide --not here, but a grandchild in Arizona. It shakes a family. A community.

And then, I prepared for the wake. R, one of the homeless women here, was found dead just north of town last week. Now, we prepare to bury her... except we can't get in to the cemetery. So we will thank God for her life, share the bread of heaven --and then wait until later in the week to bury her.

She had many children. The eldest said she really liked us at the church, which is why she asked us to bury her. I told her the story of R always coming up to the car window or approaching me at the street corner asking for a dime (and I don't carry cash for so so so many reasons and everyone knows that) --and after the twentieth time, laughing and saying her name and joking her, I said --Geeeeee! Do all of us white ladies look the same?!!! And then she looked so surprised.... After that, she recognized me.

One of her sons asked me what she was like... she had left her children abruptly to go live on the streets. Recently, some of them invited her to stay with them --shelter, clothes, food... but she would run away again, the minute they turned their backs.

So, now they have lost their mom, again. The longing....

--and I know I must speak to that, somehow....

One of the sons said his kids asked him why he gives money to the folks on the street where he lives. I think I know why... on so many levels. I thanked him for raising his kids that way --to give like that.

We did the wake service about two hours later than planned... about 9PM last night. Between the storm, the last minute running around, the relatives who were still on the road, the agony of facing the reality of this loss....

And... today --it's still storming. The clouds are low and gray. The light from the sun is not cheery --it is like a draped pall without seam and doubled up at the folds....

And it is times such as these that I remember my mother --and that loss. The dissolution of all familial bonds. The disorienting grief.

Last night, between mucking ice and before the wake, Joel was listening to a Chris Hedges interview about how the symbiotic relationship between the rich and poor (how in generations past, the rich at least acknowledged that they must keep the poor alive and well for the sake of generating their own wealth) is breaking down --and how, historically, that breakdown always points to the advent of revolution, and that Baltimore and Ferguson, and even the Occupy movements are, perhaps, the first inkling of what is to come.... But, that the despair is so deeply entrenched... it is all moribund. All of it.

Excerpt from the interview (found here in Part 5 of a 7 part interview):

JAY: In the beginning of the interview, I asked you why the left hasn't been able to take more advantage of this moment, and you talked a bit about the failure of the liberal elite. But why should a people's movement, why should a working-class movement, why should it matter what the liberal elite does or doesn't do? I mean, one would assume the liberal elite, when push comes to shove, are a part of the elite.

HEDGES: Yes, they are. That is, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the role of the liberal establishment, to act as a kind of safety valve, to ameliorate the suffering and respond to some of the grievances of the underclass to right the system, which is again, going back to the New Deal, precisely what happened. Roosevelt and Henry Wallace functioned as traditional liberal leaders functioned. And they keep the system afloat.

Now, the problem is that the radical movements that were able to push the liberal elites to respond have been destroyed. We don't have any anymore. In the long war against our internal and external enemies in the name of anti-communism, they've been utterly decimated, culminating in the 1950s with these huge purges. Ellen Schrecker has written two good books about this. You know, thousands, thousands of high school teachers, social workers, artists, directors, journalists like I. F. Stone were pushed out. I. F. Stone--.

JAY: And particularly trade unionists.

HEDGES: And trade unionists. So you end up with these distortions like, in the 1960s, Meany and Kirkland, who support Nixon's war in Indochina, denounce the hippies in the street. I mean, when Joe Sacco and I did our book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, one of the chapters is out of southern West Virginia. Now, pre-World War I, Mother Jones was a hero to the miners, like John Lewis and all of these radical figures. Now it's Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.

Why is that? It's because there's been a divorce of radical movements from the working class and radical ideologies from the working class. And the way that divorce came about is that those who had these kind of broad social visions which challenged the primacy of corporate capitalism got pushed out of the system. They're not there anymore. And so now at a moment of crisis--and we are certainly in a moment of crisis--we lack the movements which can give expression to the suffering of our underclass, and our liberal elites which once responded to those movements have been eviscerated and essentially are corporate stooges.

JAY: And it kind of goes together. When the movement's so weak, a lot of the elite says, well, we don't need to safety valve, 'cause the pressure's not building.

HEDGES: Well, that's precisely the problem. There is no pressure from the other side. And the liberal elites, you know, while they can speak in a rhetoric that is reminiscent of that rhetoric--and Obama does it, certainly--serves their paymasters, which are Wall Street and defense contractors and the fossil fuel industry.

JAY: Are you seeing any positive signs? For example, people are enthused about Bernie Sanders getting elected in Vermont. There's the--what do you make of some of the third-party options? The Green Party didn't have a lot of electoral success, but they did run a lot of candidates. What significance does this kind of stuff have?

HEDGES: Right. I voted for the Green Party as a kind of protest vote, just as I voted for Nader before that. And I think the more of us who are willing to step outside the system and in essence vote that way, the more we can begin to build pressure.

But electoral politics is a very minor part of what we have to do. What we really have to do is build mass movements that muck up the system enough that we can begin to interfere with the mechanisms of power. And what I'm talking about are strikes, disruption of public transportation, which we would see in France, for instance, farmers driving their tractors into the middle of Paris. It's that kind of stuff that we're going to have to build. And we're not going to build that any other way than, you know, almost starting all over again.

JAY: So what's holding people back? I mean, we're in a very difficult situation for millions of people, but we're not seeing that. And, you know, the liberal elite being weak in some ways, you should--one could follow the logic--then there should be more reason for this to be happening, not less.

HEDGES: Well, because the mechanisms of control, as any Walmart worker will tell you, are quite severe. I mean, the moment there's a whisper of organizing in a Walmart store, there's--the corporate jet flies in with all their strike union breakers.

JAY: Although there was some success recently with some of these strikes.

HEDGES: The forces arrayed against us, the security and surveillance state knows the moment anything is going to be organized. They've essentially shut down all public space for any kind of serious dissent because they don't want to see a resurrection of the Occupy movement. We are the most surveilled, monitored, eavesdropped, controlled, watched population in human history, and I speak as somebody who covered the Stasi state in East Germany. We are kept in a state of perpetual fear that we could lose our jobs [incompr.] so many people in this country now are living at subsistence level. To lose their job is catastrophic. We are seeing the corporate state dismantle programs that once provided benefits like unemployment payments or social programs to the poor, to the elderly, to students, to make us even more frightened and more easily manipulated. I mean, there's a kind of awful logic to what they're doing. And, you know, it is--those forms of repression are quite effective. We have shifted, I think, from a democratic state to a species of corporate totalitarianism.

Our media is, you know, largely drivel. Celebrity gossip will dominate even the nightly news programs of the three major networks. MSNBC, you know, will spin the court gossip one way. Fox spins it another, but it's the same stupid gossip. Neither of those cable companies covered the National Defense Authorization Act, our challenge.

JAY: But you said in an earlier episode--and I agree with you--the moment will come.

HEDGES: Yes, it will come.
Our politics.... our world....

The gospel all around us, at every moment.

--at every moment.

At prayer this morning (from James 1)

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up, and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.

Come Lord Jesus.

Now.... --off I go.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

the pattern is abundance

The storm has begun... no snow yet, just rain. I let the dogs out first thing. They prance and leap at the door in anticipation, and usually race out, eager, barking at the sky and all the unseen things in the yard, and all that beyond the fence. So, when I opened the door this morning they just stood there. Thirty-five degrees and raining. 'Really?' they said, looking at me as if I were to blame.

I shooed them out the door, went back to the kitchen to put the water on to boil. I began my morning routine of prayer --thank you for the gift of water, I prayed as I turned on the faucet.... When I turned the knob for the flame to light on the stove top, I prayed --thank you for the gift of fire.... I felt my DNA untwist and the ancestors within all put their hands open hands to the flame, saying --'this is what makes us human, we think we are masters of the fire....'

I agreed... as in all things holy, there is also danger.... We are drawn to it, use it, and it can burn, destroy.... And I ponder again my constant struggles with authority, mastership, governor --my own, and the Church, and the world.... Like fire, authority is not something to be clutched --it cannot be possessed. It is its own governor. We are more like servants --tending the flame.... The fire has its set of rules --lines-- --taboos-- mind them, or get burned.

Is it that way with all thing holy? How do I want to live in to authority....? Do I want to....?

The dogs bark to be let in --well, Paeha barks... Mr. Witty is the silent type, a man of few words like his namesake, Wittgenstein, who finally gave up on words. When Witty speaks, one should listen.

The kettle whistle screams as I wipe the dogs' feet. I am servant to the dogs. I am also their boss. I am servant to the fire, to the water... and I consume it, use it....

I pour the hot water in to the pot of grinds, prepare the mugs, tell the dogs to go get Joel out of bed --which they do with great joy. I can hear him exclaim 'Okay-okay' as they leap on the bed. I stand and look at the steeping coffee --made in the French press, it is nothing but cowboy coffee --water, grounds and instead of cheese cloth, a screen....

The presumed lines of authority criss-cross before me. They had told me they had been asked to do the funeral and to bring communion themselves --and I am glad, happy, thrilled... the people here must become the ministers --they must. It is my job to help shape and form that.... but in this instance I cannot tell if it is a thwarting of authority --a different scenario than just being called and being willing to serve... and I keep pushing the lines around, striving to sniff out my own discomfort.

The last thing I need to be is greedy about funerals.

What precedence --what pattern is being set? Does one need to be set? Yes, there needs to be a pattern, for the sake of all... to prevent power-grabs.... to keep us all humble....

And, yet, both of these folks insisting that this funeral is theirs have previously refused to serve at the altar with others --disrobed and walked away.... a spiritual farce of unity... or service, or ministry.... Am I encouraging that kind of behavior in considering saying yes to this?

Is this hesitation, this pondering my own presumption --my own falsehood --my ego?

What should I do? I have absolute faith and confidence that God will use it all to the good... eventually... but, in the meantime....

I serve the coffee. I put dog cookies beside each mug --treats for all....

---and the rain pelt the window....

At prayer this morning (Psalm 75)

We give you thanks, O God, we give you thanks, *
calling upon your Name and declaring all your wonderful deeds.
“I will appoint a time,” says God; *
“I will judge with equity.
Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking, *
I will make its pillars fast.
I will say to the boasters, ‘Boast no more,’ *
and to the wicked, ‘Do not toss your horns;
Do not toss your horns so high, *
nor speak with a proud neck.'”
For judgment is neither from the east nor from the west, *
nor yet from the wilderness or the mountains.
It is God who judges; *
he puts down one and lifts up another.
For in the LORD’s hand there is a cup,
full of spiced and foaming wine; *
the LORD pours it out,
and all the wicked of the earth shall drink and drain the dregs.
But I will rejoice for ever; *
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
God shall break off all the horns of the wicked; *
but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.

(and from Wisdom 19)

Fire even in water retained its normal power,
and water forgot its fire-quenching nature.

--oh geee-- !!!

(and from Luke 9)

On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.

The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.”

But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish – unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men.

And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
The pattern is abundance....

Why is that so hard, sometimes....


Friday, May 8, 2015

to escape from your hand is impossible

Winter storm watch.... my app keeps blinking to warn me that we should expect rain and snow over the weekend. In Eagle Butte we should expect 2 inches of rain and more than an inch of snow. In Rapid we should expect as much as twenty inches of snow....

Geeeee.... This doesn't look so good. This kind of storm will bring down trees....

So.... Onward.

Wouldn't it be nice if we had a "Life App" to warn of approaching storms?

Well, I guess we do, mostly... just is, no one wants to listen to themselves or others in that regard. Or our own blindness and hardness of heart....

At prayer this morning (Wisdom 16:15 – 17:1)

To escape from your hand is impossible;
for the ungodly, refusing to know you,
were flogged by the strength of your arm,
pursued by unusual rains and hail and relentless storms,
and utterly consumed by fire.

For —most incredible of all— in water, which quenches all things,
the fire had still greater effect,
for the universe defends the righteous.
At one time the flame was restrained,
so that it might not consume the creatures sent against the ungodly,
but that seeing this they might know
that they were being pursued by the judgment of God;
and at another time even in the midst of water it burned more intensely than fire,
to destroy the crops of the unrighteous land.

Instead of these things you gave your people food of angels,
and without their toil you supplied them from heaven with bread ready to eat,
providing every pleasure and suited to every taste.
For your sustenance manifested your sweetness toward your children;
and the bread, ministering to the desire of the one who took it,
was changed to suit everyone’s liking.
Snow and ice withstood fire without melting,
so that they might know that the crops of their enemies
were being destroyed by the fire that blazed in the hail
and flashed in the showers of rain;
whereas the fire, in order that the righteous might be fed,
even forgot its native power.

For creation, serving you who made it,
exerts itself to punish the unrighteous,
and in kindness relaxes on behalf of those who trust in you.
Therefore at that time also, changed into all forms,
it served your all-nourishing bounty,
according to the desire of those who had need,
so that your children, whom you loved, O Lord, might learn
that it is not the production of crops that feeds humankind
but that your word sustains those who trust in you.

For what was not destroyed by fire
was melted when simply warmed by a fleeting ray of the sun,
to make it known that one must rise before the sun to give you thanks,
and must pray to you at the dawning of the light;
for the hope of an ungrateful person will melt like wintry frost,
and flow away like waste water.
Great are your judgments and hard to describe;
therefore uninstructed souls have gone astray.

...even in the midst of water it burned more intensely than fire...

When Christ went down in the water of the Jordan, water could not quench the flame, and the fire spread in all the waters that covered the whole earth.

For in himself, he is both fire and water.
He is all, in all, and holds all things in being.
He is our mother earth, and all the heavens.
The powers. The winds. The rocks themselves are his being.
He is the bread, the sustenance,
the punishment,
the word that sustains,
the dawning of the light,
the judgment.


--and just think... protestants leave this Wisdom out of their bible....


Thursday, May 7, 2015

tornadic microburst

We arrived home yesterday --answered email, phone messages, received an invitation to go to inipi (prayer) --and then received a call -a tornado hit Cherry Creek and the building where the Tribal Council was meeting collapsed with everyone inside.

I thought to myself --Cherry Creek... it's only four blocks wide, four blocks deep --if a tornado hit there, the whole town will be gone....

So, I changed clothes -put on my collar, grabbed boots, put on tennis shoes, grabbed gloves, shovel, several sleeping bags, blankets, towels, water.... I couldn't think of anything else... and then left in the car.

The sky was very dark, but there were no obvious cloud formations that I could see from Fox Ridge --mind you, one can see forty miles in any direction from there. I turned on the local radio but there were no emergency notices going out. I kept going --seeing the ambulances about five miles ahead of me --all of them on their way.

It takes about 50 minutes to get to Cherry Creek from Eagle Butte... it's about 43 miles, the last 17 miles on a nasty road half paved, half pot hole, half mud, half slipping away at any given time. The rain was coming in torrential downpours and then clearing for a bit, and then more torrents. I saw the ambulances going over the crest of the hill just as I began to drop down in the valley to the turn-off. I estimated they were now nine miles ahead of me. I put the car in the heavy-duty 4-wheel drive as I turned on to the gravel/mud/pothole road.

It was hard-going --two of the ambulances passed me going back to Eagle Butte before I arrived in Cherry Creek. I was saying my prayers --steeling my gut for whatever was before me --wondering if they were even going to let me in town--

I passed over the last ridge --many cars and trucks and vans were clustered up at the ridge --cell phones don't work down in the valleys, so every place has a "cell-phone-hill" --and this ridge had wide well-worn turn-offs where folks drove up from Cherry Creek to talk. I didn't want to stop for fear of getting stuck on the soft shoulder of the road. I kept going....

--and coming in to town, I could see that the town itself was intact. It was just the Community Building, where the Tribal Council had been meeting.... The cars and trucks, FBI vehicles, flashing lights of the ambulances, the crowd --they were all there.

I breathed the initial gasp of relief --the town is okay-- and turned up the drive to the mess.... The building was wrecked --the roof, collapsed....

I parked in an out of the way place --and walked through the mud... Standing in the closest crowd I saw D, who comes to church --is related to everyone. "Is everyone okay?" I asked. "Yes --got 'em all out." "Who is hurt?" I asked. D told me, and pointed to the waiting ambulances. D's face was tight and drawn up, even though he was smiling.

Then I noticed that everyone was gathered in small groups, laughing tight laughs. 'That's shock,' I thought to myself. 'You either laugh or you freak... that's shock.' I can't imagine what must have been going on just forty minutes previous --mayhem, trying to get people out --counting twice and then again to make sure everyone was there.... They were all on the other side of it now --except for those in the ambulances. I went there.

One pulled away as I got there. The young man grabbed me, hugged me --'thank you for coming --my mom is in there' he said, pointing at the ambulance. He tried to open the door. He wanted me to pray. Ambulance doors lock automatically so no one can get in without permission. But, they opened it up from the inside, let me in.... It struck me as I climbed up the stairs --this permission probably wouldn't happen any where else... prayer is first here, not to be denied, equal to the medicine of the medical personnel.

So, I prayed. And held hands. When I saw they were starting to prepare to pull away, I got out. Went to each crowd. Listened to the jokes. Carried the concerns I heard. 'I had just left--I could have been in there, except I got bored!' 'You should have seen Richard trying to hold the doors closed --like the rodeo --the building blew apart when he couldn't hold the doors closed any more --he got blown across the room, and the ceiling came down.' (Richard is not a small man... the thought of him flying across the room....) 'Ryman protected the elders --covered them with his body as the building fell.' (Ryman is a much beloved young man --I am quite sure the elders would have objected, given the chance, and protected him with their bodies....) 'What were they talking about anyway, that made something mad enough to do this!'

A spirit in the wind. Wreaking destruction. What had they done to deserve this?

The big machinery was brought in --trying to lift the broken beams and twisted metal wreckage --to double check --someone had a very long pole with a hook.... They retrieved someone's purse. Great laughter and relief.

I kept moving, checking. Offered our church building just down the other end of the street to store what might be salvaged --the brand new chairs and tables.... Somebody was concerned.

'The sirens never went off' she said, pointing to the tree of bullhorns that stood nearby. 'She ran in the building, screaming 'A big wind is coming' and everyone looked at her like she was crazy. And then it hit. Do they even check the sirens down here?'

Folks looked shocked. Relieved. Laughing the survivor laugh.

I decided to go back --to the hospital... everything was going to be okay here.... I hear the road conditions have worsened. A mud slide. A potential mud slide.

I wend slowly through the pitch and yaw of the road. No mud slides. I don't even remember driving through the area where the mud slide was supposed to have occurred. I laugh and think about biblical folks being 'lifted and finding themselves' someplace else.... that's what it must have felt like... maybe I was lifted to this end of the road....

I see the ambulance waiting at the intersection ahead --they must have been waiting there a good while... probably waiting for instructions --turn left to Eagle Butte and the IHS hospital, twenty five miles --turn right to Pierre to the other hospital --70 miles.... I imagined that the crowd and hustle in Eagle Butte might be overwhelming the resources... and then I saw them turn and head to Eagle Butte.

EAGlebutte, --it's said like it's one word constantly diminishing. I sing the word a few times. It always makes me laugh. The Tribal center on the reservation north of us is Fort Yates. It is called forCHATES. I sing that, too. I am glad no one is listening to me... I become conscious that I am processing what I just saw and heard.

As I pull in to the hospital parking lot, folks call out my name --'You're back!' like I was gone forever to a distant place. We talk. They came to check on Richard --they had heard the story about him wrestling with the wind and the doors and losing. 'No, he's still down there,' I say. 'He was talking and laughing when I left.'

The ER waiting room was packed. The hospital building supervisor came up --'who are you looking for? They can't let you in the back yet.' 'No,' I said. 'I just came to check on the folks here --I went down there, came up to be with the folks here.' 'They are all in the meditation waiting area --more room back there.'

I visit. I ask God's blessing. I pray. I share the jokes I heard. Folks get to laughing. 'You know, someone asked her --do you have any broken bones, any cuts? She said no, so then they asked her, well then, where's my check? and she had to laugh even though she was still shaking from the shock.'

The kids tease me with tongue twisters. 'Say 'silk' fast seven times' they say as they jump in place, excited. So I say 'silk' fast seven times --rolling my eyes.... making a face. Then they ask 'What do cows drink?' --and I remember this one... the first word that is supposed to come to mind is 'milk' --but the proper response is supposed to be 'water.' So, looking surprised and like I'm thinking real hard, I ask back, 'Well, how old is the cow--because baby cows drink milk!' --and the boy slaps his hip and says --'why didn't I think of that....' And I finish it with, 'Surely they don't drink soda, --not without a straw!' And the kids roll on the floor, thinking of a cow drinking with a straw.

And, then I came home.... Joel had put the word out on Facebook.... the prayers had been happening all around. He told me that just after I left, he had received a call to go to the basement --the sirens had been wailing a tornado watch. He had to carry Mr. Witty down to the basement, because Witty HATES the basement to the point of fear.... Poor Joel.... He must have been worried sick the whole time....

At prayer this morning (from Romans 14)

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

There we are.
Off I go.

Please give thanks for all those who acted courageously in Cherry Creek and are working the clean-up. Please pray for those who have been wounded in body, mind or spirit. Please pray for T diagnosed with cancer and is in to the second month of waiting for an appointment.

Give thanks to God that there we no fatalities.... forty people in that building....


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

heart of stone

A year ago I asked one of the construction guys to rip up a portion of the patio between the garage and the cottage. He didn't.

Six months ago I asked another guy to rip up the same portion of the patio --he stayed for two weeks, but still didn't.

Three weeks ago I asked another guy to give me an estimate to rip up the same portion of the patio... I would even rent a jack hammer for him --he said, 'Sure!' but never called back.

The trouble with the patio was that it directed all runoff from the yard right at the foundation of the house... at some point in the last 100 years, someone went to great effort to allow the water to permeate the clay and brick and rock foundation --but drain under the house. The whole west side of the kitchen had an elaborate shoring system of planks and beams.

And, the whole front yard and driveway directed runoff to the same spot... I had to do something. And I had to get this portion of the yard at a higher elevation than the sidewalk because when the torrential spring storms happen, the sidewalk floods. I do not want the whole street in our basement.

So, given that the rainy season is nearly upon us....

tearing up the old patio, May, 2015

--I tore up the damn patio myself. It was too hard for all those guys.... So, here I am....

I got in to finding the "sweet spot," as my father would say --the spot that makes the rest happen --the spot where the crack will happen. But --I also discovered it wasn't just nice four inch pavement. Parts of it were more than eight inches thick. With slate on top. Fortunately, there was no rebar....

It took me all day to rip up just a little more than half of it. But, I have the rubble organized, and I began to grade it all --brought in 20 wheelbarrows of dirt from the back yard....

My back is sore this morning.... Even so, I can't wait to get back here next week and finish the job. When that is done --then I can plant stuff --and fix the fence.

That's the plan, any way....

So, I am saying my prayers this morning --sore, but grateful. And praying for all those who do manual labor.

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 36:24-28)

I will take you from among all nations; *
and gather you from all lands to bring you home.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you; *
and purify you from false gods and uncleanness.
A new heart I will give you *
and a new spirit put within you.
I will take the stone heart from your chest *
and give you a heart of flesh.
I will help you walk in my laws *
and cherish my commandments and do them.
You shall be my people, *
and I will be your God.

Oh yes, please dear God --take away my heart of stone.... Please don't make me break up that slab, too!

Off I go.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

nothing much

We stopped at the vet on the way to Rapid to make an appointment --the dogs needed their nails trimmed, and while we were there I asked about their vaccinations. Well, I couldn't do it on Wednesday at the time they had free --so, they said, how about now?

We have to muzzle them to trim their nails... silly boys... they really hate it. They prance around like they are kings when it is done. They must think they survived something life-threatening.

So, nails trimmed AND vaccinated, we headed west. It rained on and off. We stopped for dinner. Got to town. Settled in...

--and that's when Paeha started to go crazy. We just thought he was excited to be here --but then Joel held him and noticed something was wrong with his eye. So I looked at him --the flesh around both eyes was swollen up --making his eyes look like golf balls. And a spot on his nose was bleeding. We thought perhaps it was a spider bite....

I got a cool rag. Bag of ice. Then the vomiting started. Then his jowls swelled up. So, around 10:30pm we got in the car to go to the Veterinarian ER.

Quite. The. Night.

It wasn't a spider bite. He had a reaction to the vaccinations --not sure which one... and, because he's a pound puppy --we are not sure if anyone noticed if he had a reaction to his puppy shots. Poor little thing.

He's calm and still with us this morning. And keeping his breakfast down. So, I think we are on the right track. Poor little thing.

And poor Joel. I thought I was going to have to take him to the ER after we finished with Paeha. He can't stand it when someone else suffers. I think he gets sympathetic pain and feels it in every inch of his body.

Quite the night.

So, today is going to be a quiet day. Mostly because I can't think!!!

And, my sister found a photo of me and sent it to me last night --I guess I was about eleven... backpacking in Inyo National Forest. In two years I had done most of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington... This is from one of those two years....

I was going to climb all those peaks, too...

Oh well.

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song of Pilgrimage, portions of Ecclesiasticus 51:13-22)

Before I ventured forth,
even while I was very young, *
I sought wisdom openly in my prayer.
In the forecourts of the temple I asked for her, *
and I will seek her to the end.
From first blossom to early fruit, *
she has been the delight of my heart.
My foot has kept firmly to the true path, *
diligently from my youth have I pursued her.

To the one who gives me wisdom will I give glory, *
for I have resolved to live according to her way.
From the beginning I gained courage from her, *
therefore I will not be forsaken.
In my inmost being I have been stirred to seek her, *
therefore have I gained a good possession.
As my reward the Almighty has given me the gift of language,*
and with it will I offer praise to God.

Amen. Amen.

Off I go.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ticks. Dinosaurs. Babies. And so many delightfully dangerous things.

I picked the first tick off of me at the lunch and give-away. I found it on the back of my neck. Flat. Tough. It wiggled its legs as I turned it over. It used to be I would save the ticks, take them to the doctor to see if they were the ones that carried Lime's disease. Now, I just crease their body with my fingernail and throw them in the garbage; or, I keep creasing its body until it splits in two. Time will tell if it carried Lime's disease or not. And I have no mercy.

Not for ticks. Or ants. Or mice. Just sayin'.

I kept itching and scratching throughout the lunch, feeling a million more ticks. The first thing I did when I got home was to strip, ask Joel to take my clothes immediately to the washer, and check my back... I found another tick on my shin. It was just beginning to burrow. And I hadn't even felt it.

Sunday morning, everyone was talking about ticks. In their hair. In the children's hair. It must be spring. But when we sat around the table and talked about the readings, it was about Creation stories. It was about why we gathered on Sunday mornings instead of the Sabbath. It was about how the gospel used the second creation story in scripture --God as the gardener of the vine.

"What about dinosaurs," one of the teens asks.
"What about dinosaurs," I respond.
"They aren't mentioned in the bible."
"Really?" I say. "What part doesn't mention them?"
"Did they all die in the flood?"
"Well --I think the ones that could swim or fly survived," I say laughing.
"Where are they, then?"
"Look," I say, and point out the window at the turkey crossing the road.

In the late afternoon service, I get to hold all the babies. Four of them. Two have been baptized; the grandmas talk about the other two. The other children come and go. Some crying --I was pushed--  --she's being mean--  --they won't let me play--  The proper clucking noises are made by the grandmas and the 'oh no' is said with great gentleness.

We sit in a circle to talk about the readings. Big questions. About love. About how to talk about Jesus. One grandma says she is mocked at work --her co-workers don't want her to say anything about Jesus. Don't want her to play gospel music at work. When she plays the CD of her family singing the hymns, that is okay because it is in Lakota and her co-worker can't understand what is being sung... .

"But I want them to know," she said. "I want them to know the peace I feel. Am I doing wrong by not talking about it? You know, when Jesus said he would deny anyone who denies him. Am I denying him by not talking about it?"

"I don't know," I said. "But, I do know that I, too, have been offended by people trying to convert me to their way of thinking. Trying to tell me I'm not a Christian because I don't think like they do. So, I try not to shove what I believe in front of others. None of us likes to be told what we should think. So, what has been placed in my heart is patience. Patient waiting. Which is sometimes really hard. I wait for them to ask. I wait for the sign --the open place, to do something. Like, in pastoral care, I know and see something is wrong. But I don't go putting my nose in it. I wait. I pray. That is what God has put in my heart."

There is some nodding. Some chins are down. It is thoughtful. And then we say our prayers. And after I hold up the cup and the bread, after the great Amen, I stop and say that it is really wonderful to think about the fruit of the vine on this day, especially after that gospel lesson. The vine, the branches, the fruit....

And I don't remember how I finished that sentence because the sun slanted in the window and turned the world in to a soft hue of golden pink, one of the babies cried, and the grandpa by the door got up to go get all the children that had played outside while we prayed in the small building overlooking the river running dry between the cliffs. It was time. Time to eat the bread and wine. Time to eat the sun and moon and stars. Time to eat our mother earth. Time for all the children to come in and be fed. Time to be one with the cosmos. With life itself.

At prayer this morning (from Wisdom 9)

“With you is wisdom, she who knows your works
and was present when you made the world;
she understands what is pleasing in your sight
and what is right according to your commandments.
Send her forth from the holy heavens,
and from the throne of your glory send her,
that she may labor at my side,
and that I may learn what is pleasing to you.
For she knows and understands all things,
and she will guide me
and guard me with her glory.
Then my works will be acceptable...

For who can learn the counsel of God?
Or who can discern what the Lord wills?
For the reasoning of mortals is worthless,
and our designs are likely to fail;
for a perishable body weighs down the soul,
and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.
We can hardly guess at what is on earth,
and what is at hand we find with labor;
but who has traced out what is in the heavens?
Who has learned your counsel,
unless you have given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from on high?
And thus the paths of those on earth were set right,
and people were taught what pleases you,
and were saved by wisdom.”

Also (Luke 7:36-50)

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.”

“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.”

And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
So many babies.
And so many other delightfully dangerous things.

Speaking of Jesus in a world that is so full of judgment.

God the gardener. Tending it all.

Off I go.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

--it has begun

I crossed the river on my way to receive the body for the wake. The metal and concrete of the bridge interrupted the wash of green lining the road. I said my prayers. I know of two people who have died there, at that bridge. I know of one person who believes a spectre entered their body there. Possessed. It was once called the Owl River by the People. Now it has a French name, a name that isn't even carried by the People.

As I began the climb out of the valley on the other side of the River, my cell phone clicked on. Reception is so iffy out here, depending upon a high spot and proximity to a tower. The phone chimed a tone that told me I had received a text message. It read, "CHANGE OF PLANS. Going to arrive at 7." It was the funeral home.

I looked at the clock on the dashboard; it was just after 5. I had two hours --not enough time to go home; too much time to sit around. So, I turned the car around, and went back to the turnoff for On the Tree Road. I will go visit T, I thought to myself. T has recently been diagnosed with cancer. A visit will be good.

I switched to 4-wheel drive as I turned down the gravel road. This time of year, the gravel is pushed up out of the road bed by the heavy trucks that carry around most people and their gear for horses and cattle out here. The gravel forms lines which follow the traffic pattern, are dangerously soft and unpredictable, and can throw a vehicle in to a ditch. During the winter, everything is frozen in place so there is no problem. During the spring, the mud won't let go of anything. But when it is dry, like it is right now, the gravel furrows can kill. I slow waaaaaaaay down.

It gives me time. To think. To watch the meadowlarks gather the grass. To see the new calves, looking stunned, fresh from the womb. To laugh at the prairie dogs and their perky watchfulness, flicking their tails. Pzpzska... that is what they are called. (I don't know if that is the agreed upon spelling.) Because that is the noise they make. PzzPzz!

I go up over the hill by the cemetery, and then turn to T's house, go down by the turn in the river. The dogs come running, barking, hair up. The littlest dog is missing one of its hind feet--it got stuck in a rabbit trap when it was a puppy, and was sick until the foot dropped off. Now it keeps up with the best of them. There aren't any trucks around... no one comes to the door... so, I don't risk getting out of the car and making the dogs furious that I didn't listen to their warning. With no one here to call them off....

I turn the car around in the yard and go back out to the gravel road, turning east and north. The shadows are not yet long, but the west side of the hills have lost the light. The crevices and dry rivulets, where runoff from the rain and melting snow carve away the earth, gather the wind-braided grasses in deep and protective folds.

The car climbs and descends the gravel furrows like a strange wake, sliding first to the center then to the edge of the road, emerging out on to the flats where they built the railroad towns. Only pzpzskas lived up here on the flats. Pzpzskas and Tatankan, the buffalo.  But now, the railroad towns have lost the railroad and are ruled by the tarmac ribbons that stretch from here to there in as straight a line as possible.

You can tell the where the families have lived for a long time. Their yards are filled with the testimony of the tarmac --the pulp and waste of vehicles rusting out. It takes a while for the earth to reclaim them. But she will, soon enough. First they collapse in on themselves, crumpling under their own weight. The windows succumb to small boys with rocks. The hood and roof cave to the weight of the snow and wind. The older vehicles, with more metal, take much longer than the new ones. The new ones blow away to someplace else. Maybe to car heaven.

The gravel road gives way to the town hidden from the prairie in a clump of trees. I don't know where the community center is, but I look for the crowd of cars. I pull up and park. The grandmas nod in recognition; I have been called here for their benefit. The young women glance and look away, worrying if they will have to listen to too many words about Jesus --words they have dismissed. ''Son of God.' That is like Greek mythology. Who can believe such nonsense about a god mating with a woman. Who can believe that. And, yeah, right --walking on water and raising dead. If you believe that, why is my friend here dead?' All this from their eyes. I hear it. The young men remain silent, harboring their doubt and desire to know God, so that when they finally see God face to face the question can be asked directly --Why God? Why? ...Why?

At prayer this morning (Luke 7, ending with verse 35)

When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?'”

Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

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.”

---blessed in anyone who takes no offense at me....

I begin the prayers with an apology --please forgive me if I offend.... That is the right thing to do.

--and then I leave the rest up to the Spirit....

--and the People weep....

It has begun.