Friday, June 17, 2016

these are our times; a choice between Clinton and Trump is a false choice

I listened... it was a book promotion on NPR. About the "redistricting" that happened after the 2010 elections. Redistricting that now allows a minority of conservatives to elect their candidates. All the way to the White House.

It was gross. Chilling. Establishing a legal anti-democratic process. A majority of Democratic votes, but because of the way the district lines were drawn, only Republicans get elected.

And Bill Moyers published this article on the "Dark Age of Unreason." He compares the rise of Trump to the McCarthy era... what did it take to take McCarthy down...

And we can hope there still remain in the Republican Party at least a few brave politicians who will stand up to Trump, as some did McCarthy. This might be a little harder. For every Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham who have announced their opposition to Trump, there is a weaselly Paul Ryan, a cynical Mitch McConnell and a passel of fellow travelers up and down the ballot who claim not to like Trump and who may not wholeheartedly endorse him but will vote for him in the name of party unity.

As this headline in The Huffington Post aptly put it, “Republicans Are Twisting Themselves Into Pretzels To Defend Donald Trump.” Ten GOP senators were interviewed about Trump and his attack on Judge Curiel’s Mexican heritage. Most hemmed and hawed about their presumptive nominee. As Trump “gets to reality on things he’ll change his point of view and be, you know, more responsible.” That was Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Trump’s comments were “racially toxic” but “don’t give me any pause.” That was Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Republican African-American in the Senate. And Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas? He said Trump’s words were “unfortunate.” Asked if he was offended, Jennifer Bendery writes, the senator “put his fingers to his lips, gestured that he was buttoning them shut, and shuffled away.”

No profiles in courage there. But why should we expect otherwise? Their acquiescence, their years of kowtowing to extremism in the appeasement of their base, have allowed Trump and his nightmarish sideshow to steal into the tent and take over the circus. Alexander Pope once said that party spirit is at best the madness of the many for the gain of a few. A kind of infection, if you will — a virus that spreads through the body politic, contaminating all. Trump and his ilk would sweep the promise of America into the dustbin of history unless they are exposed now to the disinfectant of sunlight, the cleansing torch of truth. Nothing else can save us from the dark age of unreason that would arrive with the triumph of Donald Trump.

This is the shadow face of unity... the dark cloud. Party unity before the good of the nation.

What's even more frightening is that Moyers draws a direct line between McCarthy and trump....
Cohn was chief counsel to McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the same one Welch went up against. Cohn was McCarthy’s henchman, a master of dark deeds and dirty tricks. When McCarthy fell, Cohn bounced back to his hometown of New York and became a prominent Manhattan wheeler-dealer, a fixer representing real estate moguls and mob bosses — anyone with the bankroll to afford him. He worked for Trump’s father, Fred, beating back federal prosecution of the property developer, and several years later would do the same for Donald. “If you need someone to get vicious toward an opponent,” Trump told a magazine reporter in 1979, “you get Roy.” To another writer he said, “Roy was brutal but he was a very loyal guy.”

Cohn introduced Trump to his McCarthy-like methods of strong-arm manipulation and to the political sleazemeister Roger Stone, another dirty trickster and unofficial adviser to Trump who just this week suggested that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin was a disloyal American who may be a spy for Saudi Arabia, a “terrorist agent.”

Cohn also introduced Trump to the man who is now his campaign chair, Paul Manafort, the political consultant and lobbyist who without a moral qualm in the world has made a fortune representing dictators — even when their interests flew in the face of human rights or official US policy.

So the ghost of Joseph McCarthy lives on in Donald Trump as he accuses President Obama of treason, slanders women, mocks people with disabilities, and impugns every politician or journalist who dares call him out for the liar and bamboozler he is.

And these are our times.

But, I also stand cautioned in this against a false and dangerous "unity." Unity is what the Republicans have in their unwillingness to call Trump out. And I don't want it.

Just as in McCarthyism, any voice of opposition is considered a voice of dis-unity. Same is true in the Democrats... any voice of opposition against Clinton means you are an ignorant, un-seeing, inexperienced, naive, rebellious idiot who likes to blow up the whole thing and is willing to let Trump be elected.

It ain't necessarily so. And I do not yet know what I will do come November. Just sayin'.

Perhaps it will all be a moot topic any way, if Julian Assange hasn't become unhinged. He claims evidence of email manipulation and use for which the Obama administration has prosecuted and jailed others --most especially de-classifying text in order to email it... and how her actions as Secretary of State led to the emergence of ISIS (which is well documented in other places).

So. In the meantime... I have decided not to be a unity-monger. Some will say, ah! but, unity is a Christian ideal!!! You should at least be interested in unity because of your faith!!!!

Mmmmm.... nope. Unity is not a political coalition. It is not same-ness. The base root of unity is differentiation. Paul uses the idea of the body as an example of unity. We can't all be noses, can't all be ears, he shouts from the page. The foundation of unity is diversity.

It is from a place of faith that I will act. In diversity.

And, I can only say that I will strive to do my best --given what I see as a choice of dual evils in a political field that has already been manipulated with drawn boundaries beyond repair. Beyond a hope of democracy or the voice--the cry of the people actually being heard within the bastions of power and force.

But, thankfully, I am not without hope --I have the Gospel to show me not to rely upon governmental/political or religious authorities; none of those places are where I place my hope.

I place my hope in Christ. I can do no other.

At prayer this morning (from Romans 3)

But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world?

But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner?

And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!

Oh Paul, Paul, Paul..... --but, I get it.

And a choice between Clinton and Trump is a false choice....

Please keep the family of 'M' in your prayers. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

mud and light

I have picked the wild mint. Brought it in the house. The aroma is filling my head. My soul. Now, I will rinse it and hang it to dry. And give it to the elders. It's "medicine."

When we first started working on the yard, I smelled the mint while cutting the tall grass and weeds up our hill. When I learned what it looked like --most obvious clue is the square stems-- I began to cultivate it, allowing it to grow. I made small circles of stones around the little plants so I would not whack it down. Joel freaked out --it's gonna take over the whole yard --you can't get rid of mint. So, for two years I have watched it...

It doesn't have runners like the mint I have known. It propagates by seed. And one is supposed to harvest it before it blooms. So, this is the first year I have harvested it --leaving some of the tall stems covered in its buds.

It smells so good, I have wanted to pick it all... make a bed of it... and roll in it.

But, I won't.

--and just in case I haven't shown the progress in a while... here are my most recent garden shots. A year ago, this was all level mud....


the drought resistant grass is doing okay....


the kitchen garden progresses too. lots of herbs, two tomatoes, and two zucchini --from old fashioned seed.


a curly weeping willow --from a varietal called an "arctic willow"  which
means it's good to -30 degrees... so we can hope and pray...


I have begun to landscape the front --which will be "zero scaped" --all native
and drought resistant plants. The berm is made from concrete patio. It will,
God willing, keep street runoff and our neighbors yard from entering too close to the house.
The trench and ditch will collect water and return it to the earth. It will, one day,
have pipes under the sidewalk for when the water gets to the top.
The tornado storm we had on Monday filled it to the top!


the grass area and run off berm in the back yard. We've planted drought resistant and native plants all around.


the 'swale' is just barely visible in this picture. it captures run off from the hill behind us, slows it down, tries to get it
to return water to the earth, and directs it to the alley run off area of our neighborhood.


we planted a 'smoke bush' --purple foliage on the hill. That is one of the mint cultivars
behind it.

I am so grateful for this garden and house space. It releases the tremendous stress and sorrow I accumulate. Pilamayaye Wakantanka.

At prayer this morning (Canticle: Third Song of Isaiah, Isaiah 60:1-3,11a,14c,18-19)

Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.
Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.
Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut.
They will call you, The City of the Lord, *
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Violence will no more be heard in your land, *
ruin or destruction within your borders.
You will call your walls, Salvation, *
and all your portals, Praise.
The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.
The Lord will be your everlasting light, *
and your God will be your glory.

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.


Remembering those killed in Orlando, and all those who now suffer....

Monday, June 13, 2016

--because of religion --and kissing

--I saw the black, unmarked vehicle race through the parking lot as I was distributing communion. I paused and watched to make sure it didn't pull up by my door....

It didn't. They parked by the fence in the walkway of my side yard, the path to the neighborhood, just beyond the dumpsters. I watched the two women in the congregation get up and go outside to see what was going on. One of them was an ex-cop.

So, I continued with the prayers. The image from the movie, "The Mission," of the priest carrying the consecrated host through the mayhem of guns and bombs and blood and death was in my mind's eye. I saw the ambulance rush to the back of the parking lot. I saw it leave just as we thanked God for feeding us.

The burden of this violence, in my yard, in the church yard... --coupled with the headlines of the morning, of the murdered dead in Orlando....

Wakantanka, unsimala.
(Wah-KAHN-tahn-kah, UN-shee-ma-la.)
(Great Spirit, have mercy.)

My friends, processing the death and murder in Orlando aloud and online, mostly said they were not surprised. Shocked. Horrified. Grieving. Yes. But not surprised. I had written,
I hope and pray never to lose the sting of surprise and shock and bodily grief.... Because I have no tv or radio (unless I am in the car for the radio), I got the news of Orlando late this morning as I was saying my prayers and preparing for church --which does not mean to separate my self from the world, but to move in to it....

And as the headlines scrolled before me, of the Orlando murders, the wave of nausea began its convulsion at my feet and ran up my body through my head. I am surprised. And shocked. And grieved. And angry. And tormented.

And I choose this surprise, shock, grief, anger and torment. Because to do otherwise, to build a "thick" skin, to not be surprised and shocked, I fear to normalize this treachery, this murderous, ungodly destruction.

With over 60 funerals every year --mostly due to self-destructive accidents and habits, the results of despair, of poverty, of oppression, of genocide --I have vowed never to lose the feeling of the sting of outrage... the surge of surprise. The fire burning in my heart.

The hardest part for me is not being surprised, but to conform my rage to the liberty of love, to cut fringe on the compassion of grief, and curb my surprise and outrage to the discipline of the altar I serve... I love you __. I will see you and remember you as I break that bread this morning. And remember, always --Blessed are those who mourn....

But after the feast, and the laughter in the parish hall, and the news about the violence in the side yard subsided (a man beating a woman to a pulp, a member of the congregation had intervened, riding atop the perpetrator until the cops arrived, avoiding the wielded knife until the police and ambulance intervened), I came home and touched base with the headlines again --fifty dead now....

And I had to examine my inner self... it's not that I wasn't surprised after all... but had I really just taken in all this without missing a stride? Was I okay? Was I becoming immune, despite my best intentions?

I listened to myself saying --how the hell can they say it was the worst mass murder in US history --have they not heard of Wounded Knee?!

I said back to myself --that was official military action. Of course they "count" it differently; and if not, even so, the worst would be Gettysburg, thousands upon thousands upon thousands in just a few short hours....

And then I say back to myself --it's all the same. --it's all related. And I see it, the violence, thick within the human condition, growing like cancer, building upon itself, feeding itself....

Violence is learned. Violence is taught. Generation to generation. One to another.

And then I realize. That's a form of denial. The mantra of, oh it's too big, what can I do...

And I wonder, what can I do.

Fifty dead now. Knife fights in my backyard. I read and listen to the online chant of prayers. They all seem soft and silly. Useless. I find the petitions --to hold Congress accountable for their inaction --to prevent assault weapons from being sold to the general public... I know they are all dead-ends (pun intended--like our law makers are going to pay heed to petitions).

What can I do.

There must be something.

Prayer without action is not prayer.

This morning, a new essay by Chris Hedges comes through my email. He's a good, old fashioned spittle-flecked prophet... "We Must Understand Corporate Power to Fight It." Obviously, he had written this essay before the murders in Orlando. I read it, hoping it will offer some new insight....

It didn't. But it did, because it scraped away the old dead flesh once again, and delved into the open wounds... and I am reminded once again as I write this, that Christ bore open wounds even in his resurrection body...

Hedges wrote
The promises made by the corporate state and its political leaders—we will restore your jobs, we will protect your privacy and civil liberties, we will rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, we will save the environment, we will prevent you from being exploited by banks and predatory corporations, we will make you safe, we will provide a future for your children—are the opposite of reality.

The loss of privacy, the constant monitoring of the citizenry, the use of militarized police to carry out indiscriminate acts of lethal violence—a daily reality in marginal communities—and the relentless drive to plunge as much as two-thirds of the country into poverty to enrich a tiny corporate elite, along with the psychosis of permanent war, presage a dystopia that will be as severe as the totalitarian systems that sent tens of millions to their deaths during the reigns of fascism and communism.

There is no more will to reform, or to accommodate the needs and rights of the citizens by the corporate state, than there was to accommodate the needs and rights of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. But until the last moment, this reality will be hidden behind the empty rhetoric of democracy and reform. Repressive regimes gradually institute harsher and harsher forms of control while denying their intentions. By the time a captive population grasps what is happening, it is too late.

I am sure the Roman citizenry of 2,000 years ago thought their government was too big to fail. Just as many of today's citizens of any empire must think....

He continues, saying,
Our corporate masters know what is coming. They know that as the ecosystem breaks down, as financial dislocations create new global financial meltdowns, as natural resources are poisoned or exhausted, despair will give way to panic and rage.

They know coastal cities will be covered by rising sea levels, crop yields will plummet, soaring temperatures will make whole parts of the globe uninhabitable, the oceans will become dead zones, hundreds of millions of refugees will flee in desperation, and complex structures of governance and organization will break down.

They know that the legitimacy of corporate power and neoliberalism—as potent and utopian an ideology as fascism or communism—will crumble. The goal is to keep us fooled and demobilized as long as possible.

The corporate state, operating a system Sheldon Wolin referred to as “inverted totalitarianism,” invests tremendous sums—$5 billion in this presidential election alone—to ensure that we do not see its intentions or our ultimate predicament.

These systems of propaganda play on our emotions and desires. They make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge. They get us to identify with the manufactured personality of a political candidate. Millions wept at the death of Josef Stalin, including many who had been imprisoned in his gulags. There is a powerful yearning to believe in the paternal nature of despotic power.

There are cracks in the edifice. The loss of faith in neoliberalism has been a driving force in the insurgencies in the Republican and Democratic parties. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, of course, will do nothing to halt the corporate assault. There will be no reform. Totalitarian systems are not rational. There will only be harsher forms of repression and more pervasive systems of indoctrination and propaganda. The voices of dissenters, now marginalized, will be silenced.

It is time to step outside of the establishment. This means organizing groups, including political parties, that are independent of the corporate political machines that control the Republicans and Democrats.

It means carrying out acts of sustained civil disobedience. It means disruption.

Oh! my.....

In this election cycle, there were many who blasted me for my support of Sanders, who claimed I just wanted to blow the whole thing up. A Sandernista. A Bernie Bro.

And now... I sit here wondering if they were right.

But as I look and see what's ahead --greater and greater cycles of violence and despair. --the poor becoming more numerous and the rich richer. --the destruction of economic safeguards. --the destruction of ecosystems. --the murder of hundreds each week --because of religion --and kissing. --the scapegoating of all kinds and sorts of human beings....

How can any thinking person not want to create massive obstructions in that path... and there does not appear to be any hope in changing the system from within....

But as Hedges says, it must be done nonviolently.

Which doesn't mean there won't be violence --oh, to the contrary. Those who hold the means, those who hold the power --economically and politically-- they will react violently.

It has always happened thus.
That is one of the major strands of the Gospel --in the Crucifixion.

And we are standing at the Cross Road.
Right now.
Right here.

Can the blood of the murdered testify to the awful reality that reform from within --attempts at reform of our current system has not worked --will not work? How many bills before our Congress, how many times, how many murdered? Children, even. And, can the bleeding wounds of our mother earth convince us to act? Without her, we cannot live at all....

At prayer this morning (Matthew 17:14-21)
When they came to the crowd, a man came to Jesus, knelt before him, and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

I can only think of this:

“[God says] Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend - it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension, and I will help you to comprehend even as I do. Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. My comprehension transcends yours.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself." The disciple must say to himself the same words Peter said of Christ when he denied him: "I know not this man." Self-denial is never just a series of isolated acts of mortification or asceticism. It is not suicide, for there is an element of self-will even in that. To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before and no more the road which is too hard for us. Once more, all that self denial can say is: "He leads the way, keep close to him.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify to the truth as it is in Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, his enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenceless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is indeed a narrow way. The way is unutterably hard, and at every moment we are in danger of straying from it. If we regard this way as one we follow in obedience to an external command, if we are afraid of ourselves all the time, it is indeed an impossible way. But if we behold Jesus Christ going on before step by step, we shall not go astray.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks' wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?...

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

We can't continue as we have been....

Food for thought. 'nuff said.

Off I go. Another baptism today. A very, very young woman, hardly old enough to vote, was just diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Please keep her and her family in your prayers.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

little hatchlings of the Spirit

i saw him
his back
as he sang
the spirit grandfathers
the ancients ones
crowding all around him
while the family gathered
in grief
the open coffin
behind him.

i cannot recall when i knew it
as surely as the ground
will take us back
at our expiration date.
but i saw
he was wrestling with that call
that voice that one first hears
as a longing
a desire
a dream
that some how enters
between the ribs
and builds a messy nest
lodged between the shoulder blades
causing that dull throb
if you move too fast
or not fast enough.

i guess that is what i saw
looking at his back
as he sang.
that nest.

and when we talked
later
over the chili
and bologna sandwiches
and other funeral foods
i said i had seen it.

and he confessed.
yes.
and would dance
his first time
in the sun dance.

jesus died
sacrificed for all
his flesh and blood
for all time
i thought i shouldn't do it
the flesh offering
he said.

well,
i said
you can either join in the suffering
pick up your cross
at the cross

or you can try running from it.
like so many have done.
like so many have tried.
that's biblical, too.

and the spirit grandfathers
finished my bologna sandwich
when i didn't even notice.
the sun left us
and the veterans
played taps
and saluted
the one who has gone before us
and every one wept
in the close-knit darkness
as death crept on
in its futile journey
in to the bodies
of human beings
who carry nests
between their shoulders.

nests.
filled with longing.
desire.
a dream.
little hatchlings
of the Spirit.


At prayer this morning (Ecclesiasticus 31:3-11)

The rich person toils to amass a fortune,
and when he rests he fills himself with his dainties.
The poor person toils to make a meagre living,
and if ever he rests he becomes needy.

One who loves gold will not be justified;
one who pursues money will be led astray by it.
Many have come to ruin because of gold,
and their destruction has met them face to face.
It is a stumbling-block to those who are avid for it,
and every fool will be taken captive by it.

Blessed is the rich person who is found blameless,
and who does not go after gold.
Who is he, that we may praise him?
For he has done wonders among his people.
Who has been tested by it and been found perfect?
Let it be for him a ground for boasting.

Who has had the power to transgress and did not transgress,
and to do evil and did not do it?
His prosperity will be established,
and the assembly will proclaim his acts of charity.

Hmmmm....
off I go.


Monday, June 6, 2016

lemon cake is now a sacrament, too

I said, 'I have two confessions to make... the first is, I have trouble with these stories, about people coming back to life, only to die again. Imagine having to die twice--once is probably enough for any of us. But, these two boys died twice. These are not resurrection stories --these are coming back to life stories. I have trouble with these stories because I used to think that God was punishing me when my all my babies died --like the widow in the first story. And I also used to think that all my babies dying was the result of the lack of my faith --if I had only believed hard enough, there might have been another outcome. Either way, it was All. My. Fault. So, I have trouble with these stories about people coming back to life because of my own experience with death.'

'And my second confession is this-- the sermon I tried to preach this morning spilled out of my lips and fell on the floor and died an ugly death right in front of me. Right in front of every one. It is an awful feeling when that happens.'

They all laughed. We were gathered around in the small cabin, all the windows open, the make-shift altar in the center of the room, the children running in and out, playing and shouting and laughing and running. I kept looking out the window as I spoke, and the green of the grass, the movement of the wind caught in the tall grass, the hills, the river, the earthen cliffs, the shadows, the smell of the lemon cake on the table behind me --all so captivatingly beautiful, so exhilarating, that I wanted to press the whole thing in to my mind. I wanted to never forget.

Anamnesis. Without forgetting. Ever.

I continued. 'So, after that sermon fell out of my mouth and died, I went back to town to get gas, and at the gas station I met a young man who is a Traditionalist. I have gone to support him at Sun Dance. We get along. And he asked me how I was doing. So, I said I was frustrated --that I had preached a sermon that had hit the floor --I had preached on New Life, right here, right now, not waiting until we die-- that New Life is given to us, all the time. But nobody seemed to get it. But--- And he interrupted and said, oh, yes, I get it. Every time I wake up, it's new life. Every moment, it's new life. And I had spun around in the middle of the parking lot because a Traditionalist had understood. What God had put in to my heart to say about new life --he got it... A Traditionalist in the middle of the parking lot in Eagle Butte affirming my thoughts on Resurrection.'

They were all laughing. The women covering their mouths with their hands, their eyes dancing. God playing a joke on me. In the parking lot.

'So, what these stories are about isn't about coming back from the dead to the same ol' life. That should not be our focus. It is about New Life --putting God front and center.... no matter what.' And then we talked about the stories... they spoke up... making the whole story of life not about us, but when we are able to see God at work among us, not to focus on the event, on what just happened that opened our eyes, but to give continuous thanks and glory to the source of Life... no matter what. The woman and her son starving to death--give thanks to God first, and offer to the stranger what is keeping you alive. When your loved one recovers from sure death, do not run to them and tell them how much you love them--give thanks to God first. When your own messed up life with all its jagged edges reminds people of how you used to be and now you are living a different way--give thanks to God first....

--and the stories of our own lives... the laughter and the tears threatening to bust the walls down and expose us.

--and that feeling of light made manifest worked its way in and among us. And we shared bread and wine, the children lifting their dirt-lined hands above their chins. All the others smiling and laughing as they received the stuff that comes from the earth to feed us in body, mind and spirit.

The shadows grew longer. We shared soup. Fried chicken. Beans. Coleslaw. Lemon cake. The mosquitoes showed up for the feast. So before the sun surrendered fully to the horizon, we got into the cars and followed the various dirt and gravel roads back to where we began.

--and the funerals of the past week --the young man I had just buried, not yet even 25 --the elder, taking all the old stories and old ways with her, filled with regret that she had not shared the language with her children but she didn't want them to suffer what she had suffered by shaping their tongues that way, not even imagining the loss the they would suffer instead...

--all of the dead in the past few year --hundreds, literally, of burials...

--filled the shadows with their funeral processions, the drum echoing down the river valley... the lilting wail and 'li-li' effervescing as a paean cry.

Life. Interrupting. Death.

At prayer this morning (Matthew 15:21-28)

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

And her daughter was healed instantly.

Hey God!
     (Thank you.)

--and, by the way, lemon cake is now a sacrament, too... anamnetical...
...just sayin'...

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

--if you don't, what else is there?

And, so... I did that funeral. Those that sought to do the Traditional Lakota prayers and ceremonies, did so, quietly, and in their own way. And we said Christian prayers. Abundantly.

The dynamics of grief.

We carried her 160 miles to be buried. To rest beside her husband.

Afterwards, I went to our cottage in Rapid. I had a night's sleep and a few hours to put aside the grief...

--and then began the cascade of privilege... as a Diocesan discernment facilitator... for those who feel a call to ministry, lay or ordained. Hearing and seeing --witnessing the Spirit at work.

The discernment weekend began on Friday night at the Diocesan camp. There were so many of us that some of us slept in the cabins for the kids who come to summer camp. It had been a very, very, very long time since I had slept in a single bed --my feet hanging over the edge, my head banging the wall. Because, the first night, there were no pillows... and, it was a bunk bed....

Even so. It was startling. The openness. The vulnerability. All of us, wounded. Broken vessels. The Light and Life pouring through the shards of our lives. Making us whole. But only together.

And then the holiday. Holy Day. Of the war dead. All the flags. Graves. And broken hearts. For me, it is more spiritually exhausting than not. So. I unhooked from all media. I made a path through the wilderness of my yard, hauling yard upon yard of gravel. And, we planted a tree. Everyone should plant a tree. At least one a year.

Today, I return. To the next funeral. In that distant village where the creek and river meet. Where all the old things are made manifest. Run wild.

To return to the earth what comes from the earth. Afraid, but not afraid. Feeling the grief that is not my own; full of grief for the human condition. And the oppression and poverty that grind and chew lives already fragile.

And so I pray. (from Luke 1)

And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

It is Mary who convinced me to be Christian, in the light of the moon on a dreadful night when the world fell apart around me. From the light of that moon shining in the window she said, 'Choose love. Only love.'

And it is hard to know love and do love and be love. It is hard to choose love.

But, if you don't, what else is there?
Amen.

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'.