Tuesday, May 24, 2016

dystopia is us

It is bright and sunny. No clouds any where. It will pop up over 80 degrees today. For the first time in a very long time. It has already come close... close enough that two days ago, the first bloom of mosquitoes raged around us. Giving us welts. Getting too close to our mouths and eyes.

Last night, we went out, found pieces of cardboard from the garage. I had paid the guy to mow. Everywhere. So, he had even mowed the very steep hill in the side yard where I had encouraged the kids to play last week. But, last week, the grass and weeds were too long, and it was not good sliding, so they had rolled down the hill. There were no mosquitoes then.

Yesterday, armed with our cardboard, we went out to try the short grass. It was perfect. A perfect slide. But within seconds of standing there, the mosquitoes attacked. And we had to dance instead. Two slides down the hill and we were done... it was all we could take.

I ran for cover indoors... remembering that screens on windows didn't happen until about 100 years ago. How folks would put cheese cloth up in the openings, covered candlesticks and oil paintings from fly speck, covered chairs --every chair, took rugs outside to hang and beat with sticks and then to storage, putting woven grass down on the floor....

Bugs and weather formed a way of life.

And if one lived without a wooden floor, you scraped up the winter earth in your living spaces, sprinkled water, and tamped it down. Again. Burning green wood for lots of smoke. Smoke kept the bugs at bay. All summer.

There had to be more...to keep the bugs away... and we have lost the knowledge of it.

Living in our tight little controlled environments, we have lost the knowledge of a lot of things.

Joel got me watching a show --a fantasy TV series about human devolution --the polluted environment changes us in to monsters, and humanity as we know it disappears. Except one scientist realizes what's going on, and freezes himself and thousands of others, only to awaken to a world of fanged gut-eating humanoids and a small walled in town where he puts people and begins a human experiment of survival.

The monster is us.

Interestingly, the town is devoid of all human expressions of faith. No churches, synagogues, temples, mosques --no religious texts, habits or ceremony remembered or even missed....

There is nothing "other." Outside of. Beyond. Within. Except the monsters. And the wreckage of what we once were.

Dystopia.

Which, for many, seems to be the horizon, the distant reality, which is swiftly careening in upon us. Watching with horror as our political arena froths and bubbles... a stench of power and money and conceit spilling over in to our homes, our families, our relationships.

Trump is the embodiment of a whole sector of our citizenry --unthinking, except of themselves. Angry. Pumped up. Greedy. Intolerant. A billionaire power broker claiming he understands the working poor.

And Sanders embodies those who have been raging at the fringe. Always. The inheritor of abolitionists. Of suffragist movements. The Old Testament prophet warning of what's to come to those gathered in the halls of power. Throwing spittle every where. Who wants to listen to that....

And Clinton. Like Swiss cheese. Milky white and full of holes, expertly navigating a system of legalized corruption. While her own super pacs (having received millions of dollars from the health insurance industry) are striving to defeat the movement towards single-payer health care in Colorado, a movement supported by a majority of the people. Working against the people and for the corporations. And some say it couldn't happen.

The monster is us. Our political arena reflects us.

And then we try to blame each other for it... ripping at each other. Dismissing each other. Un-friending. Blocking. Not listening. Claiming young women must have finished off the media koolaid because they don't like Clinton. Claiming Sanders supporters just want to blow things up. And Trump supporters in such great denial...

--when, instead, we should be paying attention to the power brokers. We should be paying attention to what their money is buying. Because what they are buying is pollution, oppression, genocide, and the means to get more of what they want at our expense.

The historian in me knows that it has always been thus. But, still... it is now.

At prayer this morning (portions os 1 Timothy 1:18 – 2:8)

I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, having faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith... .

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. ....

I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.

And this.... (a portion of Matthew 12)

Jesus said, “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”


---hmmm... back to the bugs.... because without bugs, there is no fruit... ---hmmmm....

Monday, May 23, 2016

That flutter and clenching in your stomach

If ya don't preach what matters, ya ain't preaching....

So... preaching about the three persons of God... didn't matter... Trinity Sunday or not.

So... I found myself talking about what it means to live a Trinitarian life. I mean, because we are members of the Body of Christ. And we are the living flesh and blood of Christ. And at the same time, we are hid with Christ in God. Already.

Already.

So... knowing that we are caught up in God, through/with Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit --what does it mean to live a Trinitarian life.... Right here. Right now.

And, basically it means not choosing the dualism of This Or That... not choosing polarity... but always seeking the Third Way --or the Infinite Way.

Love or Hate... ... grace, reconciliation, compassion...
Death or Life... ... restoration, resurrection, eternal life...
In or Out... ... abundance, hospitality, generosity...
Good or Bad... ... mercy, forgiveness, service...

--a Trinitarian way of thinking, doing, being.

--and talking to someone who is telling me of a death... and I will preside at the funeral... and the arguments between the factions which have turned violent, deadly --hence the funeral. And my saying, you know, I cannot/will not choose sides. I will bury this one with dignity, no matter the wrongs. I will be with those others, over there, whom you hate and fear, no matter the wrongs. I am here. For all.

--and the rational terror creeps in, up the back of my neck. Gangs. Violence. Anger. Factions. Families. Drugs.

Yesterday, after all the prayers were said at the churches, after the visits were made, I took the back road home. Twenty miles of gravel. To slow me down. To remind me to watch the hills, the river valley. To see the meadowlarks and magpie. The red tailed hawk. Prong horn --who keep moving this way. So that I could stop and pray in the quiet dell where the altar and inipi sit. Hoping they were there, fire lit, ready to pray in that Other Way. But, even if they weren't....

I turned off the gravel road and went down the dirt road, in to the dell.  The sacred sage is beginning to peep above the grass. 'I was thinking of calling you,' he said. 'But I didn't know. So, I thought maybe I shouldn't call you.' And he grins and laughs, looking at the shadows, listening to the thunder that had swifted its way around us.

'I got your message,' I said. 'So I wasn't sure, but stopped by any way.' And we laughed. And I had no skirt, no t-shirt to wear. So, he gave me some of his trunks and I wore my shirt... and we entered the inipi just as the rain started.

It didn't pour. It rained just enough to make things damp. The Thunder Beings ran the other way down the valley, away from the setting sun. And we sat and talked, the child between us. We talked about the forces and powers around us. About being scared, but not being scared--doing what we had to any way.

And the child said, 'I don't understand. Being scared but not being scared. I don't get it.'

So, I said, 'You know how when you sit on top of that hill with your bike and you ride straight down the hill any way --you're scared, but you do it any way...'

'I'm not scared of that,' the child said.

'That flutter and clenching in your stomach,' I said.

'Oh. Yeah.'

'It's like that. Without the bike,' and I smile...

'Yeah. Okay.' And then the child began to sing. Skipping beats. And we closed the inipi door. And prayed.

And I was restored to light and life in sweat and dirt and dark and song and heat.

So, this morning... I will not be afraid, even though I am afraid.... And I will speak to both sides --cease and desist while we do this holy work. Of giving back to God what belongs to God. I am going to walk this way, here. Help me. Or not. But, I would do the same for you... no matter what.

And pray. Seeking the Third Way. With my eyes wide open.

At prayer this morning (from 1 Timothy)
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence.

But, I received mercy....


Amen, amen.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Six days. Four lifetimes. And tomorrow.

The icon conveniently popped up. I knew I needed a new flash player--knew it was time. So I clicked on it......

--and was without a computer.

---sigh---

Oh well....

And then, when I went to pick the computer up, I turned it on --the highjacking homepage came up, the whole thing teetered and crashed again....

Six days. Without a computer.

Oh. Ouch.

So. Now. A new hard drive. More memory. And the review of how to check to make sure "updates" are needed and real and not malware or a virus....

And in real time, Joel has been staying in Rapid, in order to water the seeds we have so carefully planted. Native and drought resistant grass, cosmos --of course we plant the cosmos in our yard, of course... and some Shasta daisies--margaritas-- of course we plant margaritas in our yard.... All around the holes and swales I have dug and formed in order to stop run off and give back to the earth the very water of life (mni wiconi) that sustains us.

I went home to Eagle Butte for the week by myself, leaving the dogs with him, because I knew I would be too busy to let them out or care for them properly --you know, loving them up every time they ask for it, holding them, brushing them, checking for ticks... all that. Because the ticks are out. And I knew I would be too busy because I would be busy planting two people in the earth... taking down and packing away their earthly tents for good... planting them like seeds... hoping in faith that they will grow in to new life, watering the earth with our tears and hope... jabbing the mounded earth with plastic "forever" flowers, which stand like sentinels to our grief. Until the wind carries them away. Some where.

And in the midst of those two burials, I learned of the death of another beloved ina (mother) for whom I have been praying, attending, anointing, last rites... giving her back to God, in solidarity with her ancestors. Her burial, that will be the work of the coming week...

And, I was called out in the middle of the night... a young man... car crash. On that remotest of remote gravel roads west of Cherry Creek. Dead. His brother flown out to the closest big town for emergency care. The mother, aunties, cousins, grandmothers... called to the hospital, calling me from that darkest of dark crushing places to come and pray and be with them. Help us.

There are no words. Only focus. And direction. Ceremony and prayer. The smell of sweet sage. And then, Four Directions, yes. All leading to the same place. From the same place. Total dependence. Total surrender. Except we don't. And then we struggle to carry it all with us. Except we can't.

Until we do.

Six days. Four lifetimes.
And tomorrow.
The Day of Resurrection.
What is there to say about the Trinity.
There are Four Directions.
Every one knows that.
And then above, below and within.
The darkest of dark crushing places.
The place where God has planted the seed.
From which all else comes in to being.
And is held in being by the Light
which shines in the darkness
which the darkness has never put out.
Amen.
And this is what it means to be a human being.
To see. And know. And carry that light.
Not for our own sakes.
But for those lost in that darkness.
Amen.
And in losing our self,
we shall be found.
Amen. Amen.

At prayer this morning (Proverbs 8:22-36)
The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.

And now, my children, listen to me:
happy are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
Happy is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the LORD;
but those who miss me injure themselves;
all who hate me love death.

Amen.
Amen.

Monday, May 16, 2016

smoldering unquenchable

Pentecost.

--when God let loose the Holy Spirit on the whole world... the Whole World.

--when the followers of Jesus began to reckon with identity... and what and how.

--when all of us, ALL of us, are called to see, hear, act and think about the world differently through the smoke and fire and wind and haze...

--when we are called to see and know God's Spirit/presence among us, not as separate from... but the present reality.

--each in our own language.... differently.

--grappling with an empty heaven... or a full earth... abolishing the idea that God is some place else....

It was with those grand ideas that I packed the bread and wine, packed the napkins for the cup, sorted through the prayers and bulletins, changed the altar colors and hangings to the bright red at Eagle Butte... packed the red stole....

I finally found the Gospel in Dakota, but not online. So, I had to sit and copy, word for word, oh so very carefully, changing the Dakota to Lakota --watching the auto-correct like a hawk, because it will turn the Lakota words into something else. And then I had to go back through and change most of the n's to ŋ, but not all... change some of the s's to ś, the h's to the glorious guttural ĥ....

It took me an hour... an interrupted hour, because the children kept ringing my doorbell, there was going to be a graduation party, okay, I said... and then fifteen minutes later, please come over because we want to run and hug you. Okay, I said... and then fifteen minutes later, are your dogs barking at us?

So... I finished working on the Gospel... printed it out in large print. Took it over so I could hear the elders in the family say the words, the cadences, the emphases. I folded the paper and put it in my pocket. Locked my door. Closed the gate behind me. And before I got too far up the parking lot, the children began running towards me, dropping their bikes and scooters --fifty arms outstretched, hair to tousle, a million questions, a billion hands to hold, a trillion stories to hear all at once.

Not the streets of Jerusalem and each in their own language the story of the wonderful works of God, but the back parking lot of the church in Eagle Butte, South Dakota... souls bursting with the glory of God.

--and I took my time, to hear each one... even the little one who speaks in a dialect none of us yet understand, and then he nods and points to some horizon none of us yet see or know.

The voice of God. The Spirit. In a rush, a glorious babble.

I remind myself to put tissue in my pocket to hand out, next time... so my waist line doesn't carry the stripes that look like the attack of killer slugs... oh well.

And the elders are all sitting around the counter in the kitchen. I pull out the Gospel and lay it on the counter. One picks it up, and begins reading it. But it is a terrible struggle. 'You read it,' he says. 'Then I'll hear it and recognize the words.' His sister picks it up, and she reads, slowly, saying some words two or three times....

Lakota was never a written language. It was always like the wind. Like poetry. Always particular and contextual, family by family. The elders know and speak. Fluently. Everything is funnier, has more meaning in Lakota. But, they were never taught to read their own language. It was punished out of them. Forbidden. So they taught their children English only, so they wouldn't have to be punished and go through what they went through....

And now, the language may be going extinct... So, they hand it to me. 'You read it,' they say. 'You are better at reading it; we will tell you.'

'I wanted to know if the words were spelled right,' I said, looking down at the counter. Embarrassed.

'We could only tell you if it sounded right,' he said. So, I read it. And when they correct my pronunciation, I try my very best to make sure the letters match their word... to the best of my ability.

'Those are all the old words,' he said. 'We don't really talk like that any more.' I nod my head. Visions of the King James language run around before my eyes.... 'But otherwise, it's good. Waśte. Waśte. But it keeps repeating itself; an Indian must of written it!' And we all laugh. 'Not unless Saint John was an Indian, too,' I say. 'It goes round and round like that in English, too.' And we all laugh. 'He must've been an Indian, then.' And we laugh.

And then the cooks get busy in earnest, the last push. The children are all picking on each other... getting in trouble... starting to cry... so I remembered. I remembered that the guy that mowed the lawn had left the grass long on the steep-ish hill behind the houses. I call out to the kids, feeling like the pied-piper as they follow and skip and rush around behind me. I lead them out of the church and to the back of the parking lot. Again. I retrieve a couple of cardboard boxes from the garage, and go to the hill...

Best. Thing. Ever.

And those that don't get a piece of cardboard, roll. An Oh My God roll down the hill. A mother comes out --worried about grass stains. Don't worry, I say. I'll give you the stuff I get wine stains out of the church napkins with... letting the syntax go.

And then we are called in to eat. Ribs. Taco fixings on fry bread. Scalloped potatoes. Lots of potatoes. The Tribe has been handing out bags of potatoes. Even I got one. Not one. A whole bag. Twenty pounds. That kind of one.

In the morning. I open the church. Set the bulletins out. Set the booklets out. Leave the note to light the Paschal candle. Greet the elders that have already gathered. Ask one to read the Gospel in Lakota --she laughs and says, that will take two hours! So be it, I say. And then I leave.

I head west and south. Just out of town. To the independent living center and nursing home, the Medicine Wheel. And slow way down. Say the prayers. Talk about the Gospel. Sitting in a circle. The tears, shared. Share in the bread and wine.

Then, further west, and north. When two or three are gathered...

Again, it wasn't the robust pageantry of Pentecost. Not the singing choirs. Not the trumpets. Not the processions. None of the fire and glory. None of the elastic triumphalism.

The still quiet voices around a table. The questions. The conversations. That I have only ever dreamed of in the presence of the bread and wine. The deep exposure. The vulnerability. The grief and regrets. The talk of boundaries.

The smoldering unquenchable.

And on the way home, the craving for ice cream almost overwhelms me. But, somehow, somehow, I put that fire out.... Not today, I say to myself. It's not your birthday....

And later, the boy rings the doorbell, says something incoherent and points to the lawn mower. His guardian angel comes over to my fence from the church and says he wants to earn money to go to rodeo camp. Do it, I said... do it every week until camp....

'Are your dogs barking at me?' he asks... and since this kid wasn't with the other kids when that same question was asked the day before, I know I have come full circle and landed in the same place, differently.

At prayer this morning (1 John 3:18)

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before God whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and God knows everything.











The smoldering unquenchable. Amen. Alleluia.

Friday, May 13, 2016

no place to hide from God

The half moon. The stars. I could hear the kids playing basketball on the other side of the marsh at my back fence. Laughter. The echo of the bouncing ball. I turned to see if I could see their silhouettes running back and forth in the lights of the neighborhood court.

There were no court lights on. And still they were playing. By the light of the half moon. It made me remember. Playing at dusk. And something about the increasing dark intensified the vigor of our play.

I turned around again to the western horizon. The sun was gone, but the sky was that brilliant hue of blue that happens just as the light disappears. A blue one can almost taste.

It must be about nine, I thought aloud. The dogs ran back and forth in my yard. The dandelion stems, naked of the puff-cloud of seeds, were taller than Paeha. And you think you are king, I said to him. You aren't even as tall as the dandelions. He ran, leaping at me, singing.

Fingers down to receive the dog kisses, I craned my neck back to look at the stars. The stars. Breathtaking. The sky away from the horizon was already deep in to night. And the warmth of the air suddenly surprised me. It has been months, many months since I was able to stand in the yard without clutching my coat around me. Without hat. Gloves. The liberty of it.

The angry words from the meeting were still clustering at the back of my neck. This time, I had refused to swallow them. The same old anger that had been present long before I arrived. A bitterness that the children would learn, a deceit that the children would swallow....

But now... I had been cleverly drawn in to the arguments months ago. Keys rattled in my face. Threats made. Tears. Surprised, because I had seen it all being woven here, unravelled there. And because I had seen it, I thought I would not fall in to it.

But, I did. And then it got worse. As I knew it would. All factions, not directing the anger at each other, but at me... each side wanting me to 'fix' the other.

But, I won't. Because I can't. Because I won't.

I remember the words of a friend of mine that worked at the Betty Ford Center near Palm Springs. That friend said that sometimes it's best to let the dysfunction play itself out because no one can fix the dysfunction except those who are perpetrating it. And they have to see it first. And in order to see it, something must break --something or someone.

At another congregation I served, while I struggled with crisis in my own home --Joel in and out of the ICU three times, Juan arrested-- the congregation I served thought it could solve its own 'drama' by scapegoating me... I was forced to 'resign.'

At another congregation I served, the rector... well... played dysfunction out on the backs of the people....

And as a clergy spouse... I have seen it. I have known it. The brokenness. The human condition.

But, it all seems harder now --not just because of where I serve.... The whole nation is writhing.... And the church is not free of nor separate from what is going on in the greater culture. We are all at each others' throats, in so many ways.

--which I guess is why most clergy move on sometime between five and seven years. And the dysfunction within congregational systems has become even more rutted, even more embedded. And the clergy do not mature, but remain --silent....

So... I went to the Bishop. I told him I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to be pushed out. I wanted to stay. And I expect it all to continue to blow up...

--and yet, I want to care. To be there. Here. Willing to love. Without condemnation.

No. This is not a 'savior' complex. The dysfunction is far too deep. I know that. But I have other experience too --not just being whipped by the church and the human condition. I have the experience of resurrection. Of being unwilling to leave my husband, whom every one said to leave because he was a bully and a drunk. And I didn't leave. And we found recovery. Together.

It is that experience, of resurrection, that makes me want to stay.

Not because I think there will be a miracle of love.
But because I am unafraid to stand at the foot of the cross.

I am willing to risk that.

And now. After the warmth of the night and the stars and the children at dusk. Now, it threatens to snow today. To freeze and snow. And the lilac blossoms will lose their perfume and turn brown. They will turn to brown mush. The tiny buds that were blossoms on the choke cherries will harden up and drop off. In the turn of the night, spring has given way to a wasteland.

It is like that. And no place to hide from God.

At prayer this morning (Matthew 9:9-17)

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

There we are.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

teeth of the lions

Joel and I talked over coffee... video chat. Him in Rapid. Me here. He said something about being human means having relationships. And having relationships is.... well, fill in the blank.

Hard.
Wondrous.
Hilarious.
Grace.

Joel and I were talking about love. And when someone says, 'I love you' --does it cut out the rest of creation --does it form a dualism/binary which is outside of where Christian thought and experience should be? And as we were talking, I 'heard' the talk I share with couples seeking to marry... that Christian love is at least always a 3-way thing... 1Godhead/2you/3andyou...   1you,you/2God/3family... 1you,you,God/2family/3community.... constantly expanding and contracting, depending upon context... but, never a binary.

And in a close second to those thoughts pressing in around me, I was also remembering the meme I saw on Facebook about white privilege.... and the last line or first line, I can't remember right now, being something about shut up and get out of the conversation.

--and how sad that is... because it is anti-relationship... anti-Christian.

Ultimately, it is dismissive of another human being.

But, I do understand. I do understand that shut up and get out stuff... because it is so much easier. And it is so very tiresome to keep trying to get someone to understand, when they have already built a wall. Or saying it all over and over again to new faces... until it begins to feel that is all one does.

And there are some folks who will never understand. Or refuse to try to understand.
And there are some folks who are just too broken.

And then there is the Gospel.

And love.
And grace.

The snark in me wonders if the only folks who can speak to, name, mock white privilege are those who have lived it.... But, that is like a fish trying to see water. And that is why we need one another.

And this brings me to the political field... and the blind and very emphatic supporters of whomever who are drinking the toxic tea of ribald anxiety. Not that there are not things to be anxious about --indeed, there are. But the demeaning fervor... buys in to the headlines.

I am not one of those who will bemoan the crisis in our political milieu as something we have lost or that we have reached a new height... because I know some situations in and about our history.... and it has never, ever been pretty or noble or clean... and is most always fabricated by one set of persons or another for their own gain.

That is the human condition. That is politics.

And then. There are the prophets. Like MLK. Chris Hedges. Who stand outside the gates and shout. The court jesters, like Jon Stewart (who has left the confines of the court, probably for his own sanity). The warriors, like Berrigan. Maybe even Michael Moore --because he is too serious to be a jester. The seers like Dorothy Day. The poets. The thinkers. The teachers. And the whole host of folks who give for nothing in return. Lunches. Shelters. Care.

A very long list.

And the martyrs. Who expose. The lies.

And the little lies of our personal jurisdictions....

Looking out my window, I think that perhaps sin can be compared to dandelions, or something.... Pervasive. Knowing that is a purely seasonal comparison, and can't be carried very far... but it is certainly true this morning.

Pervasive.

Dandelions.
Dente leons.

Teeth of the lions.
Called so because of the profile of their leaves.

Hmmmmm....

And. So. Now. (Ephesians 4:17-32)

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Amen.
Off I go.
Looking at dandelions with great wonder.
--and remembering that the Gospel of John says we are wrong about sin....

Spell check picked up "practice" in the reading...
So... I looked it up: In the main varieties of English from outside North America, practice is the noun, and practise is the verb.

There we are.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

different bits

It has been a very hard couple of weeks... for so many reasons, all of them different bits of chaos and despair....

And it is the likes of these that have kept me going --a Christian, and a Jew --a priest, and a comedian --a dead man, and a man that left his venue...

The Christian-priest-dead man is Fr. Berrigan. He said

“This is the worst time of my long life,” he said when I interviewed him for The Nation magazine a few years ago. “I have never had such meager expectations of the system. I find those expectations verified in the paucity and shallowness every day I live." Yet he refused to despair. The cross, he knew, is carried even in the face of inevitable failure. This is the absurdity of faith.

Carrying the cross... yeah. Inevitable failure. Absurdity of faith. Yeah. And it took the bits of chaos and despair and gave them focus... even while they hurled through the air, and bit and stung my flesh and soul.

--knowing that no matter what I do, whether it might or might not make a difference in individual lives, the "system" will continue to grind and chew... I know that some will say the "system" is us. I disagree. Christians, as followers of Christ, should always have an "outsider" view --outside the governmental authorities that shoot, arrest, beat, and make the power decisions for the benefits of those in power --and outside the religious authorities who judge, condemn, scapegoat and cast out....

And the Jew-comedian-man that left his venue... (and in typical fashion hurls the f-bomb, so if you are offended, there you are--just sing while that word is said, and listen to the rest, because it is really good).





He still nails it. Watch it all --especially when the students begin to ask the questions.

So, I work and pray. I have had little time for reflection, and that is hurting me... but only because it means I have little time....

So, I pray (Ephesians 3:15-21)
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Amen. Off I go.

Friday, April 29, 2016

what is truth?

Truth.... and honesty. Getting real before God. Means being honest and getting real with ourselves.

When Eugene Peterson's translation of scripture came out, folks were (and are) so dismissive... it's not a real translation. He changes the meaning. Yadda yadda.

First, every translation is not real or lasting... Language changes --English changes... so meaning changes (for example, think of "suffer the little children..."). What Peterson did was to see the idiom in the original languages, and translated idiom for idiom instead of word for word. He went after meaning, not literalism.

Today, I found this:





Each part is good. At about minute 17, it really resonated. With me.

Yeah. The trouble with all of us is that we have trouble telling ourselves the honest truth --we have trouble getting into the guts of stuff... and while Bono and Peterson don't link the two, the dishonesty may indeed be linked to the violence of the human condition.

To be honest... is to tread close to insult (or so it may appear/feel), but honesty should not demean.

To express rage (disappointment, hurt, anger, love, desire) in our hearts before God is not a sin... to direct rage at another, seemingly deserving or not, is sin.

--and I can't finish this... not this morning... I will bury an elder this morning... and then hightail it east to begin the funeral services of another.

No rest for the wicked.

At prayer this morning (from 2 Thessalonians 2)

The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.

But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.


Oh --yes. And this (Matthew 7:1-12)

Jesus said, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 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, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is 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.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”

Off I go.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

chaos and footnotes.

A third death. In less than four days.

And I can't say it was all alright just because they were elders. Death is still shocking. Still painful.

Death is NOT "a part of life." Death is the end of life. As we know it. Over. Out. Done.

And all the rest. It is faith. Hope.

Yesterday, Sister came over for dinner and talk. She had just been home to bury her father. And all of a sudden, she begins to read to us something Joel had sent her --a paper I had written in 2002. In seminary.... "One Death."

I hadn't thought of that paper in.... years.

I remember writing it. I wrote it during the second year of seminary --the time during which, God willing, most folks enter a crisis of formation... having to give away so many closely held assumptions about all that one has learned of faith, of hope, of charity, of love, of God... and most especially, of Jesus. And begin again....

I remember consciously deciding that I would write it in a way that might express that inner chaos. I used three voices. One voice was what I was doing/thinking, while struggling to translate the lofty theologians in to the bloody messy real world. I wrote this voice in single-spaced regular text. Another voice was the echo of what I had heard--been told... pieces of conversation run through my mind's eye... a remembering of family. I wrote this voice indented, in italic. Another voice was the scholar--the textually nuanced and cleaned up discussion of faith. These were footnotes.

It was as close as I could come to un-throttled disintegration and re-integration.

And now... I read it... knowing I am still very much the same... my voice, crisp, loud, questioning, observing... the echo giving rise to my questions of what is real, what really matters... the scholars like base notes, or rocks --touchstones... rhythm. And, so very different.

I began the paper, "One Death, May 2002"

I am writing this in the immediate context of the death of my sister-in-law. In the context of my studies, my standard words and ideas about my faith have dried up withered, blown away. I find myself barely able to scrape together an academic approach to all that I am learning. And I have found this a very rich place, a very disorderly, fearful, colorful and imaginative place.

Central to my studies here at CDSP has been the Eucharist, the idea of sacrifice and trying to make sense of atonement teachings. This paper is a small window into that chaos. So my way, my method into this chaos, has been to engage three writers, [Sallie McFague, Karl Barth and Jurgen Moltmann] and tradition [liturgy and the Scriptures, {the Letter of Paul to the Romans, The Gospel According to Mark}] as literal and figurative footnotes in an approach to my immediate situation. I am trying to create a practical lived experienced theology addressing the death of my sister-in-law. And all this in a culture which glosses death over, makes it tidy or heroic.

I have chosen to present this single-spaced, in the spirit of Sallie McFague by using less paper.

--and so I began... (Footnotes are double-indented in their own paragraphs)

Death. We hate to deal with the issue of death in our culture. Hide from it. Hide it. Or worship it. But we don't deal with it. (1)
(1) Philippe Aries. Western Attitudes Toward Death. See also Earnest Beck, The Denial of Death, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973). Both of these books discuss the social/cultural implications of western attitudes toward death, especially in America. While Becker examines a potential human response to the face of death --heroism, Aries discusses the trend in western cultures to hide the fact that death happens, the reduction of ritual mourning and the removal of death from everyday life by creating institutions like nursing homes to warehouse the dying and "invalids." Both of these books study growing trends in American life to hide from the face of death, which is reflected even in contemporary Christian liturgy in that bodies, once central in funeral rites, are cleanly dispatched and rarely present in most contemporary funerals. Most contemporary death liturgies in America are merely memorial liturgies without any human remains to mark the death. So burial in itself has become "disembodied," in clear conflict with incarnational theology and traditional Christian ritual. This is the "issue" and event I am using to engage tradition and theology in this final paper.
My sister-in-law. She's dead. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Of pneumonia.

I put the phone down and looked around the room. It wouldn't take me long to get ready. I needed to go home. I packed my bag and books, made a few calls and left.

My husband's sister, C. Born after the Great Depression, and raised in Canada, speaking French, studying music. As a young woman, talented musician, wanting to be a veterinarian doctor, she moved back to the States with her parents and an infant brother. She was a stranger to America. Within two years, she eloped with a guy from the next town. She phoned home, "Daddy, can we come home?" They did, moved in with her parents. And nine months to the day, they had a daughter, named after herself. Her husband found a job as a car salesman. C found a weekend job as a church organist. It helped make ends meet. it kept the music alive in her.

But she lost the French and her other dreams, and acquired the accent of the streets of her new home. C had two more children, sons. The eldest was named BD, straight from her heart. The youngest son became the family name bearer, LM, VI. She raised her children in her mother's house until her mother died. Then C and her husband bought the town-doctor's big house and moved in proud, with her daddy, so she could take care of him.

It took me six hours to drive the 400 miles home. I thought about her all the way home. Dredged up those moments, her voice on the phone. I also thought about the theology course at school, the paper I had to write. The suffering and death of Jesus on the cross. Atonement. His death relieving our sin. The ironic twist that puts me six hours in a car thinking about her death and Jesus.
Suffering
***************

I turned the car radio up, loud. The only station I could get was playing Jesus music. "Halleluja!" he sang to buoyant rock and roll. "Hallelujah for the cross where Jesus died for us." (2)
(2) The station was 88.7 It was 8:43pm. The announcer said the song was "Jesus Died for Me."
The air was warm in the valley and all the bugs had bloomed right along with the rest of Spring. I had enough bugs splattered on my windshield that I had to rinse it with the wipers, twice. Enough bugs to feed a couple of birds. I wondered if my ride had robbed some bird of its supper, if some bird was going to starve and die because of my ride. "Died for us." (3)
(3) A fully relational view of creation, where no action or event is separate from another. This view is discussed in Chaos theory, and is definitely part of my context and methodology.
And things got bad for C. Rampant alcoholism. The owner of the car lot where her husband worked was busted for shady business deals, which because of her husband's intimate involvement, tainted the reputation of C's family as well. Her husband lost his job. C suffered this. Each of her children got married and divorced numerous times. C suffered this. The grandchildren stayed more at her house than their own. C suffered this. Her daddy died, taking with him her main financial support. C suffered this. Their house began to shed plaster from the ceiling and walls and leak rainwater through the roof and bust its furnace. The plumbing burst and flushed waste into the basement. But they didn't fix any of it; instead, piling plaster, wasted clothes and broken furniture into the corners of rooms until filled, they shut doors, eventually living in only two rooms in the back of the house. C suffered this. Her husband found work as a used car salesman, bought himself a recliner and drank volumes of beer. At the end of each day he would drink himself into a stupor in front of the TV.   C. suffered this. Finally, C's hips wore thin and she retreated to her bed, crippled, nursing bottles of vodka. For months she was unable to rise and her husband abandoned her in her own filth.  C suffered this.

I stopped for gas. I wondered how much I was contributing to the hole in the ozone with my ride. I wondered whose life I was spending because of my ride. "Died for us."

Enter L, BD's fourth wife. She placed C in the hospital where she went through detox and two hip replacements. But her feet were so twisted from those months in bed, from the weight of blankets, she never again moved without aid of wheelchair or walker. C rejected the pleading of her husband to come home, and L found a nursing home for her. After five years of life in the nursing home, five years of her husband begging her to come home, five years of sobriety, five years of music through her daughter's hands, five years of family making pilgrimage to see her, C died. The doctors thought it was allergies. It was sudden. Unexpected. Pneumonia.

"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son...." I wonder to myself if there is any real difference in the deaths of C and Jesus. C and Jesus. (4)  C, too, lived, suffered and died. Given by God. For her parents, her husband, children. For the doctors.
(4) Womanist theology [Sisters in the Wilderness] encourages me to see Christ in C. While C was not fully a "Hagar," there were certainly social constructions and expectations in her life which prevented her having a true freedom of choice.  
C suffered and died on the cross of the nursing home bed, betrayed by her Judas alcoholic family, tended to by her faithful family.

Oh God. The suffering. The death. How can her suffering and death redeem her husband, her children? God, how can your suffering and death redeem us, buy us life?

What good does it do? (5)
(5) In standard doctrines of atonement, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus redeems us. Scriptural references, both in the letters of Paul and the Gospels (such as Romans 4 and 6, and Mark 10), set the stage for us. Patristic interpretation/writings focus on the Jesus' death as a ransom paid to the devil. The Medieval interpretations/writings of Anselm introduced the concept of the satisfaction of a debt owed God. [Adrian Hastings, The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought (Oxford University Press, New Yor, 2000), 51-52. Alister E. McCrath, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought (Blackwell Publishers, Malden, MA 1993), 20.] The protestant interpretation is exemplified by Karl Barth, discussed in note 14 below. In this paper, I try to examine how the life and death of Jesus saves us, and therefore, in turn through the lens of womanist theology that strives to see the Christ in those around us, how the life and death of C saves us.
I drift in my thoughts as the road takes me into the mountains. I see whole square miles of clear-cut barrenness. Ragged remnants of trees stripped of life look like crosses.

Even the land is suffering.

I am reminded, so much of Christianity is filled with exuberance today. Our confidence in the goodness of God is rampant, to the extent that we fail to honor, truly know and recognize suffering and pain. (6) God is with you, we say. God knows your pain.
(6) Jurgen Moltmann touches on the subject in his book, The Spirit of Life, trying to amplify and then abolish the rampant idea that "for us healing means only 'health'" emphasizing that Jesus' healing power is not found in power over sickness. Moltmann points to the idea that "Jesus' healing power is not to be found in his supreme power over sickness and disease. His power to heal is the power of his suffering." [Moltmann, The Spirit of Life (Minneapolis: Frotress Press, 1992, 191. The emphasis in italics is his.] In and through the Passion of Jesus, God makes the "sicknesses and the grief his suffering and his grief."  [ibid., 191] This is pretty standard Christian doctrine, to have God participate in suffering, sanctifying it. Moltmann may also be reflected here in a "mutual in-dwelling." I understood this to be his take on the idea of deification. [Moltmann, 195.]
And this is troublesome, seems shallow. Especially if you are the one suffering (or even grieving), there is hardly relief in the idea of God's participation because in the end, we are not freed from bearing it --the pain is still very much there. I heard the words a lot when I was undergoing cancer treatment --"God is with you." Internally, silently, I always responded, "Where? Then let God have cancer and take the next chemo treatment." It seems as though the blanket statement that God participates in our suffering is a denial of the reality of suffering, a false mantle placed on the shoulders of those who are suffering by those who are not. (7)
(7) This returns to Becker's thesis that we create heroes of the dying to lessen the horror, to save us from the idea of death. There is also an excellent book, Living in the Shadow of Death (Rothman). Her thesis is that those who are not dying place certain behavioral expectations upon the dying.
Perhaps this, the land outside my car window, C --this unwilling suffering, is indeed affliction, not suffering. (8) is there truly a difference?
(8) Simone Weil and other contemporary theologians, especially liberation theologians, differentiate between surfing and affliction: suffering is willing participation, affliction is imposed. I believe this to be a false and rhetorical construct, a dualism which is dependent merely upon the intent of the one who is suffering/afflicted. This totally dismisses the reality that so-called affliction cannot lead to the realization of God's Grace because it is unwillingly endured. Please understand that I am not endorsing abusive relationships; if I could, I would abolish all forms of it! But by separating the concepts of suffering and affliction, suffering itself is denigrated and falsely sanctified by the veil of "choice." This totally glosses over the real pain of those who suffer. I know I am constructing a view here which puts the "outcome" into the hands of the "onlookers," who either remain uninvolved or become passionate, involved "witnesses." This too has its problems, and left alone is as vacant for me as the suffering/afflicted model. It seems there must be that third place (which is infinite) between motive and perception, between the body in pain and the perceiver. And in any place, the body in pain, the perceiver and the infinite place between them, one may know and see God, or not.
I say, no. The idea that Jesus willingly took on death hardly demonstrates any motive to value life. And if one follows the logic of some Christian writers, it sure seems as though God imposed death on Jesus. And C hardly had the freedom of choosing between affliction and suffering. So much of what she did, what happened to her, good and bad, was both willingly taken on, motives flying in the air like flags; and much was imposed by others.

Jesus, too, perhaps he was afflicted in the end, on the cross, wondering where in the world God was in his suffering, more than ready to give up the ghost. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me." Motive doesn't change the pain or the outcome. Pain is pain. Dead is dead. The road to hell is paved with motives. Especially good ones. Perhaps it is only the onlookers who may change. Guards watched his gasping. Mostly they remained uninvolved, unseeing, except of that one. His mother and the other women, laboring each breath with him, in anguish. They become a witness.

But to the one suffering or afflicted, the body in pain... --in the end, there is no difference. (9) Motive. Choice. The speechless guttural moans, the veil of descending darkness icy hot, witness each. Every body in pain is afflicted and suffers. C. Jesus, too.
(9) Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, Kentucky, 1994), 119. Barth states "the suffering of man may be deserved or undeserved, voluntary or involuntary, heroic or not heroic, important for others or not important for others. But even if it is only the whimper of a sick child, it has in it as such something which in its own way is infinitely outstanding and moving and in its human form and its more or less recognizable or even its hidden divine basis something which we can even describe as shattering. This is true of the passion of Jesus." But Barth concludes that we cannot remain in the "human story" as that was not the intent of the Gospel proclamation. The Gospel proclamation is that it is God upon the cross, not merely a man. In light of incarnation theology, I cannot see the difference. See note 12 below on McFague and Moltmann.
Out the window, snow begins to cover the scarred landscape. A multitude of sins, blanketed with a great whiteness which is nothing like the landscape it covers. Which melts, and feeds the soil. Becoming water, indistinguishable from the life it sustains.

Oh God. I see.

Because I am water like that. C was water like that.

God incarnates suffering like that. Like water becomes soil. And soil becomes tree. God becomes suffering. And we witness. We see it. Not that God makes this particular suffering his suffering. But that particular body in pain is already God's suffering. Willing or not willing. Because it all belongs to God. All of it --foolish and ghastly, chosen or imposed. All of it.

God is not just in exuberant goodness, not in painful suffering.
God is goodness. God is suffering.
God is all beingness. All of it. (10)

So, how might suffering redeem?
(10) Sally McFague, Life Abundant (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2001), 136. McFague states that "everything is from God... even our experience of God's love." "There is no place....that is not a possible route to God." However, McFague implies from this that God is still and absolutely other, hence the "everything from God" and the "route" to God. It seems I like to hold both McFague and Moltmann together, with McFague's ultimate 'other' and Moltmann's 'mutual indwelling' at one and the same time. The creation is from God, is totally imbued with God, but is not God.

The paper continues... the next section I titled "Redemption."

I am amazed at how much of this struggle --incarnation, suffering, death-- is the still the work before me. Still chaotic. Still striving to strip it all of its heroism. To make it and keep it raw. Seeking to find the face of God in it all.

We talked more last night. I was asked, Do I feel the presence of spirits sometimes? --especially around dying or dead people? Yes, I responded. And yes, I feel the presence of my mother dead these 8 years now. And, no, except for right after his death, I do not feel the presence of my father. And, I can only imagine that when I die, I cease to be. Entirely. Absolutely. And all that is "me" returns to the One Life we share. And I feel the presence of my mother, well, because that is the One Life with a familiar face....

Oh, I don't know. I cannot write the footnotes, double indented, on death. On Incarnation. On suffering or affliction. On the presence of God. Or not. There are only the braided strands of the voices. I see and know the voices around me. I hear, see and know my own voice --still scrambling to 'translate' the infinite in-between. The mystery.

And, I think this is the present disaster in the death of the elders here. The "footnotes" --the treasure troves of knowledge and wisdom --the language, songs and stories... they are disappearing.

And I grieve. Too.

At prayer (Matthew 6:25-34)

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Yes. Enough for today.

Oh --and the "Redemption" part of my paper.... hmmm.... maybe I should share it... But in this, there is a vast expanse of wilderness.... Just sayin'.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

dreading spring and early summer

I realized I had been dreading it a couple of weeks ago --dreading spring and early summer. And I have been dreading it because for the past four summers, spring and early summer bring an increase in teen and youth suicide.

One might think it would be the middle of winter when most attempts take place... but, it's not. It's now. And the next 10 weeks. When soon to be or recent graduates ponder their future and find it hopeless. When the social and multi-faceted support systems of school come to a close.

There were two attempts at suicide this week (that I know of). Not the first attempt for either of them. Both of them were not "successful" --a strange definition of "success."

--and my soul and body always gasp for air at news such this....

--and there are three old ladies on hospice... all of them hanging on... families gathered, prayers said, the vigils on-going for more than a week now. Would that the wisdom, desire, love and grasping for life they exhibit be bottled like medicine for those who despair of life.

And, you know... it's not just here, on the Reservation, where the suicide rates are increasing. Self violence, in a society where violence and isolation abound --where the grind and gaw of profit are above human beings, above life itself -- is it any wonder....

Suicide continues to be a mostly white male phenomenon in the U.S.; white men made up 83 percent of the 33,113 male suicide deaths in 2014. But breaking down suicide rates by race revealed that the American Indian and Alaskan Native population had the largest percentage of increases. AIAN women’s suicide rates increased 89 percent from 1999 to 2014, while rates for AIAN men increased by 38 percent.

This article says that it is the stigma and non-treatment of mental illness that causes suicide. I don't know. But from where I sit, it is worse than that... treating the symptoms of mental illness instead of the causes....

The poverty. The oppression. The violence to body, mind and soul. Those things are not healed nor cured in insightful conversation. Nor satisfactorily medicated.

We ALL must change.... because we live in a very sick society.

The status quo is not working. And is devolving. And this time, it is not just an empire that will fail --our mother earth --our source is ailing --is being destroyed, polluted beyond repair. And no amount of money thrown at it will help.

We MUST change the way we live.

And I think the young folk and the vulnerable are like canaries in the mine --the first to go for lack of oxygen. And we aren't paying attention. Or we think we can medicate and moderate the despair.

--sigh--

And here is where I turn, and turn again.... Last night, I went out to call the dogs in. It was soooo windy it was hard to face the wind and breathe. And the moon. The full moon. Reminded me. I have no light in myself. We are all only reflections of the light. And we wax and wane. But can fill a dark night with the hope of the brightest light. Cause shadows. Fill the windows of the soul.

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song of the Heavenly City, Revelation 21:22-26, 22:1-4)

I saw no temple in the city, *
for its temple is the God of surpassing strength and the Lamb.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to light it, *
for the glory of God shines on it, and its lamp is the Lamb.
By its light the nations shall walk, *
and the rulers of the world lay their honor and glory there.
Its gates shall never be shut by day, nor shall there be any night; *
into it they will bring the honor and glory of nations.
I saw the clean river of the water of life, bright as crystal, *
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
The tree of life spanned the river, giving fruit every month, *
and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
All curses cease where the throne of God and the Lamb stands,
and all servants give worship there; *
there they will see God’s face, whose Name shall be on their foreheads.

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

And this (Matthew 5:38-48)

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Meeting violence with violence doesn't work. To love your enemy is to love yourself. For we are all our own worst enemy.

And when we love ourselves, we can love others. And see God's face in them. And fulfill (to perfect) our baptismal covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and strive for justice and peace.

Off I go. God help me. Please pray for us.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Perfect, just perfect

--not only was I clean as a whistle...

--but, I am clean as a whistle! No polyps. No nothing. Clean. Clean.

That's a first, for me. There's usually something. Dear mom and dad --thank you so very much for my gut genes!

As my husband said, see --you ARE a "perfect ass." Yeah. Thanks m'love.


And I swear --I cannot imagine really liking white bread. Or things without substance. Eating bland white stuff for nearly a week nearly killed me. White bread. White rice. No fruit. No vegetables. White tuna. White chicken. Eggs. Blech......

I could have had bacon... but since I don't usually indulge in that --and having no gall bladder to break down the fat, forget about it already.

So, now it's Joel to the surgeon for his continued wound care...

And me to prayer (Matthew 5:21-26)
Jesus said,

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’

But I say to you
--that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment;
--and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council;
--and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember
--that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
--Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”

We cannot be reconciled to God if we are not reconciled one to each other. That is our 'job' as Christians, to love one another. To reconcile each other and all of creation to God. Judgment belongs only to God. And those who judge, who put limits or criteria on another... well, they just don't get it.

Does that mean, then, that any one of us can just go and do what we want whenever, wherever, whatever?

Asking that question also means we just don't get it....

--oh all preachy preachy.... must be because I am a PERFECT ass!!!

Off I go.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

hovering 'round about that "throne"

How does it happen... a whole week before I can sit and write and breathe....

--not entirely sure....

But, here I am this morning. Getting "clean" --for a colonoscopy --in celebration of my 60th birthday some weeks ago. And I decided I would get "clean" in Rapid where I would not have to feel guilty for not answering the phone or door.

--but, I feel guilty any way.... So much of what I do, I can't really "DO" anything at all any way. But, I am present to the suffering, to the joy --a witness to and for Godlifeitself and the People. Being present does matter --we are an incarnational people as a way of knowing and seeing and living and being alive.

--like the witnesses at the foot of the cross...

And, this week, there are two families in the critical care/hospice area of the Indian hospital in Eagle Butte. I have been visiting there, anointing, praying, singing --being there. And now, at this most critical time, I am not there.

I am here.

I am here. Taking care of myself in a way that seems ludicrous and unnecessary. But... at the same time, I know that is not true. Screening does save lives.

If it were not for a mammogram 19 years ago, I wouldn't be here. But, in that instance, I knew something was wrong... I was ineligible for the screening, and had to wait, and wait, and wait --and push and push and push for the doctor to believe me. And by that time, it was Stage III and had infiltrated my lymph nodes.

In this instance --the colonoscopy-- I have no hints that anything is wrong... so...

--it just seems like a lot of poopy bother.

BUT --I am writing about it here and now, because if you haven't tended to your health and you should do but haven't done those screening tests --please do. Because...

--life is such an incredible mystery, and none of us should miss a day of this gift because of laziness or embarrassment --or even health insurance. I know there are programs out there to help. Please do it.

Just sayin'.

At prayer this morning (ending with Matthew 5:16)

[Jesus said] “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Off I go... hovering 'round about that "throne" of sorts....

Heheh... spellcheck wants to turn "colonoscopy" in to "kaleidoscope"  heh!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

bearing the slings and arrows of grief and oppression

--this week....

Please keep in your prayers:

R, who was sent to Rapid from the Indian Health Services hospital. The IHS said she had a pulmonary embolism. Well, I knew that probably wasn't true when I was called to the ER --because pulmonary embolisms don't wait to kill you. When she got to Rapid, she had emergency surgery to remove her appendix. She is doing okay.

This event joins the very long list of improbable diagnoses from IHS --including my own. Sent home from the ER twice with a diagnosis of constipation and two weeks later had emergency gall bladder surgery (four years ago). But the doctors at IHS --a Federal institution, hires doctors that are trained in schools that issue medical degrees that are not recognized by our usual licensing procedures. They are not considered qualified to work in any other hospital system in the States. But the Feds hire such folks to work on Reservations.

Is it part of the continued pattern of the historic policies of genocide?

And please keep in your prayers B and C. Arrested for assaulting a police officer. And because Reservations are under Federal jurisdiction, most crimes which might put an offender in a State system end up putting young men in Federal prison. A far harsher and ruthless system from which it is nearly impossible to recover. Spiritually. Emotionally. Financially. And politically disenfranchised.

Please keep R in your prayers. On the run from arrest.
Please keep S, L, and T in your prayers. Addicted to meth and hiding from those they owe money to... remembering we had more than a handful of meth related murders in the last year.

Please keep P in your prayers. Attempted suicide.
Please keep those who knock on my door almost hourly in your prayers.

Please keep the young people who against all odds are struggling to attend college --I,T,T,T, &B.
Please keep our youth who are attending a youth conference in DC in your prayers. For most, this is the first time they have left the State, or flown on an airplane!
Please keep C and M in your prayers --just kids who are doing well learning the language of music and pianos. So proud of them.
Please keep R in your prayers --a toddler who was born with meth in system, and is still crying through most of the night. Please pray for the dedicated parents.

Please pray for our high school graduates. For many, their entire support system will now be gone.

Please pray for all the grandparents taking care of the children.

Please pray for S,C, &T who might be losing their jobs.

Please pray for us as we plan the Convocation. Really intensive work in the next 8 weeks. Pray that tempers don't flare, and that we all remember the joy. Pray for us as we bear the slings and arrows of grief and oppression in living flesh and blood.

Please pray for continued healing for my beloved Joel. Still cleaning and packing his wound twice a day. But it is much, much smaller!

Please pray for the wellbeing of those wonderful kids that laugh and joke with me as they walk down the path by my fence. They all laugh at Paeha's attempts to be a Rez dog.

Please pray for all of us... the only liquor store in town was closed down. It was owned by the City (a separate jurisdiction from the Tribe). It was the major source of revenue for the City (of Eagle Butte). Now, the City has raised our water bill to over $65 a month, minimum payment, in retaliation.

Personally --We live on land that the church owns, but is under Tribal jurisdiction, but are required to purchase water from the City... a double whammy of disenfranchisement. We can't vote in City elections because we do not live in the City, so we have no say in who runs the City or how we are taxed. We can't vote in Tribal elections because we are not enrolled members of the Tribe. And a long time ago, the City ran water and sewer across Tribal land without permission... And a long time ago, the City land was taken from the Tribe by the Feds, claiming it was "un-used" and therefor open for settlement. And a long time ago, the River was dammed for the benefit of white farmers downstream, and the Tribal headquarters were forced to move here. And, the Tribe was talked out of and sold its water rights....

And two years ago, the City handed the church a $2,000 water bill... and we had no leaks, no nothing... and no recourse. And this winter, the City handed us a $500 water bill for the second rectory which stands empty --and has no leaks, no running toilet, nothing wrong... except we are an "Indian" church in a place where those who run the City seem to hate Indians... and say atrocious things publicly. And we have no recourse except to pay....

Oh gee....

And, please pray for the six-year-old child participating in a sports event, subjected to racist comments.... please pray for the strength and courage of his family. And for all those who are subjected to overt racism....

And please pray for the veterans, especially those suffering from war trauma. Young and old.

Please pray for the dying --especially TRB and WB.

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.




Off I go....

Thursday, April 7, 2016

what staying in bed does....

Well... I went to the first night of the clergy retreat. Good to be with folks. Heard some good stuff. Was ready... and woke up Tuesday morning sicker than sick.

Dangit.

And I stayed in bed Wednesday too. Sound like a frog. Throat burns. Chest burns. Chills.

And I had so looked forward to it.

--sigh--

Taking it easy today, too.

What I haven't been doing is giving too much credence to the mud slinging in the political race. What I have been studying is the social and cultural trends that encourage folks to vote for their own oppressors... such as, why do the poor and middle class vote Republican? And I have wondered why Democrats expect a sugar-coated election process... the 'just be nice' syndrome. Liberalism.

For more than a decade, Chris Hedges has been debunking liberalism --the 'oh why can't we just all get along' attitude, leading, he believes, to fascism --when liberals forget or compromise away their main core political values. It is liberals, forgetting and not standing up, that have led to the likes of Cruz and Trump.





--and, lest we forget... he's been writing and speaking about the rise of American fascism for more than a decade, too. And now that we have had a full frontal load of it, some folks are still surprised.

What we don't need is more liberalism... it will only feed the monster of fascism. And, Chris Hedges criticizes Sanders for running as a Democrat --mostly because Hedges earnestly believes that party has become so entrenched in supporting liberalism, that it can't see its way clear of it. And is, therefor, dead. And deadly.

So... what do we do?

I don't know. Except I do know I can't run. I can't hide. I can't cop out. And I must never think that voting alone is the answer.

And those that are tired of the he said-she said Clinton vs. Sanders --please don't forget it was Clinton's campaign that published this:


Clinton's smear campaign, 2008

No one is above the fray. No one ever runs clean. So, instead of griping about who said what --let's change the way we do primaries. Let's do a single day, open primary. Let's forget about the invented role of super delegates. Let's allow a third or fourth party to our two-party system. Certainly we are more politically diverse than just Republican or Democrat --but our system, as it is, will not allow for a third or fourth party to emerge or remain viable. Which means, we have no alternative to the current stranglehold on government... which means a continued spiral in to chaos, divisiveness, anger, despair and a very narrow (and therefor deadly) political spectrum. A continued devolution in to corporations owning and running our Nation. Which is the definition of fascism.

--and if Clinton Democrats continue to slam Sanders supporters as they do, they will lose the young and marginalized voters he has attracted... the very ones who initiated the Occupy Movement... or have we forgotten so soon the glimmer of hope that provided...

House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi said she supports the growing nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement. Pelosi said she includes herself in the group of Americans dissatisfied with Congress and stated, "I support the message to the establishment, whether it's Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen. We cannot continue in a way (that) is not relevant to their lives."

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democratic Party, appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and supported the protests saying, "We desperately need a coming together of working people to stand up to Wall Street. We need to rebuild the middle-class in this country and you guys can't have it all."
--is criticizing Wall Street then (2011) not as valid as criticizing someone who now continues to take funds from Wall Street? Or foreign governments? That couldn't see through the hyperbole of war lust?

I am, for lack of other words, also "dissatisfied" with our government... but, hey--I live in one of the "ground zero" places where capitalism and government have run amok....

If we continue as we are, being concerned with how things look or sound instead of the substance... well....

At prayer this morning (John 15:12-27)

Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.”


Off I go.

Monday, April 4, 2016

the wind, chips, chili, small children and the gates of hell

It was so windy, it nearly took the bowl of chili right out of my hands. It bent the paper bowl into a V-shape, causing the chili to pour out one end, and without the weight of the chili, the bowl became the perfect sail... and forget the chips. The dogs loved them. So did one of the children....

We could only find four forks between the 25 of us. Forks. To eat chili and jello. So, I knew I had a spoon and fork in the car, and I carried my plate out with me to get them, because everything was chaos inside, and if I put my plate and bowl down, something would happen. Some. Thing.

By the time I reached the end of the ramp by the door, I knew it was worse to bring it with me than to leave it to Some. Thing. At the end of the ramp, a small boy was trying to shove a screw driver in to the lock of a car door. 'Oh, no!' I said. 'Oh, honey, don't do it that way!' And he immediately gave the screwdriver to me. 'Go inside and get something to eat. Your grandma's got it all ready.' I said this as my chips flew off my plate and hit him on his chest and fell to the ground. It took me three tries to get the car door open and throw the screwdriver inside.

He picked up one of the chips from the ground and ate it as he followed me to my car. This boy was old enough to play outside with the bigger kids, but not yet old enough to string more than a few words together at a time. I didn't bother telling him not to eat it... the wind was shoving us around, and I was well in to battling the bowl at this point... and I knew he would just turn and walk the other way. He looked at me as I struggled to get my car door open against the wind, and kindly offered me a bite of his prize chip.

I got the car door open, found the fork and spoon without spilling or letting go of the chili, closed the car door, and that's when the chili took off... like a kite. The bowl, even though I was holding it, flew right out of my hands.

The small boy giggled. I looked at him, made a face and shrugged my shoulders. He mimicked me. We laughed. The large dogs sauntered over and helped themselves. I sheltered my face with my elbow, took the small boy's hand, and we hunched our way back to the parish house.

The older children were all playing by the door, using the porch railing as a balance beam to test their skills against the wind. The porch itself was only about two feet above the ground. But the railing was a good three feet --it would be a hard fall if they made a mistake... and the wind added another layer of terror and challenge.

The grandmas knew the children were doing this high-risk balancing act. They had commented and laughed about it earlier. Reminiscing about the crazy things they used to do. Remember when... and then laughed and laughed. So, as I trudged up the ramp to the porch, seeking the shelter from the wind, they were all calling out chorus, 'Look! Mother, look!' And I could only nod and say, 'oh, that's so scary! Please be careful! You are so brave...' The small boy let go of my hand. This balancing act show was much more enticing than more chips....

As I went inside, I held up my fork and spoon, and pretended to begin an auction --hey, here's a spoon, spoon here, here's a spoon, $5 spoon here do I have a bid, $5, $6 spoon here-- and they all laughed...

--and I contemplated the questions about sin that had been asked during the sermon --what about these murderers and child molesters... if all sin is forgiven, does that mean they are going to heaven too? And not knowing what the source of the anxiety was, I only said, 'Trust God. Trust God.' The conversation began again as I sat down with a new bowl of chili... Does this mean there is no hell? And the elder brother said, 'In the Lakota way, there is no hell. So, I don't believe in hell.'

And he is correct --in the old way, there was no concept of sin or hell. But if you did something horrid, you were banished by your family group --word would spread and you would not be welcome any where, at any hearth or home. And no one can really survive by themselves... easy prey to wild animals and enemies... no longer worthy to be considered a human being.

That was hell enough. A living hell.

So, over chili and chips, I said --there is an old story.... I talked about the work Jesus did in death, quoting the old creeds --he descended in to hell --or the dead-- and talked about how, in the resurrection, the gates of hell were thrown open in such a way that they broke and could never be closed again, and Adam and Eve held on to the heel of Jesus as he was raised from the dead --and they went with him... and even more people held on to their heels, and their heels, and their heels, and so on... until the only people left in hell were the ones choosing to be there.


the gates of hell, broken

And words were racing in to my head like wind-- what to say to open the flood gates of love and forgiveness --open the doors of mercy and grace... that there is no one, no one, no one who stands outside of God's reach... no one. Not even the devil.... One day... even the embodiment of evil....


the devil, all alone in hell, moping....

At prayer this morning (Canticle: The Song of Mary, Luke 1:46-55)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in you, O God my Savior, *
for you have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
and holy is your Name.
You have mercy on those who fear you *
from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm, *
and scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones, *
and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things, *
and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel, *
for you have remembered your promise of mercy,
The promise made to our forebears, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.

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

Off I go. To clergy conference/retreat.

And I am looking forward to it.
Amen. Alleluia!