Thursday, June 30, 2011

perhaps by the sun's setting I will have formed a prayer of the heart...

At morning prayer (Luke 23:21-25)


A third time he [Pilate] said to them, “Why, what evil has he [Jesus] done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.”

But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed.

So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.


And thus is the rule of government... any government. Government knows, at some level, what it should be doing, what it lacks, the direction it should take... And yet it seems government will relent to the loudest voice and punish the least, the most vulnerable, the one without voice or defense....

...sigh....

And that's the Good News.

Unfortunately, it seems to prove itself true in every generation. --the arguments about whether or not to 'tax the rich' proof of it all this very week... and 'austerity measures' in Greece and throughout much of Europe in order to pay a nation's debt... sigh....

And the Good News is that the poor, the weak, the persecuted, those who grieve --the Kingdom is theirs. Already.

And those who seek a 'chapel of ease' --to be comforted and comfortable and fed and 'not be reminded' on a Sunday morning --but to be simply restored to their yes-hard-working lives, and yes-they-give... but, they take no risks.... nothing that might spill the beans, upset the cart, turn things on their head --release the poor from their bondage --reveal the kingdom....

Speaking of revealing the Kingdom --Courageous and Compassionate A sent me this response to the prayers I sent her yesterday:

D and I anointed Kirstin, using your prayers, this morning. She was sound asleep when we started, and immediately woke up, sat up, and said, "I want to be awake for this!" She loved it.

Truth be told, I merely took an ancient ritual of anointing --thanking God for every part of the body and sanctifying it, taught me by my teacher --and Kirstin's teacher too --and morphed the ritual a little.

I find myself this morning, doing more of that... taking the ancient bones in the garden.... There used to be whole books to guide one through the waiting for the time of death. Now, in our BCP, there is only a single paragraph --the only transition from Ministration to the Sick, to Ministration at the Time of Death. It reads (p462)
Almighty God, look on this your servant, lying in great weakness, and comfort him with the promise of life everlasting, given in the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I am remembering my teacher saying it was the so-called middle-ages when we Christians lost the assurance of right-passage in to the arms of mercy and began to beg for mercy instead --and then the prayers to prove it --from singing glad songs at the wings of angels carrying us with confidence to that place where there is no sighing or crying but the unending feast of glory --to, we beseech you to hear us good Lord, Have mercy, have mercy, deliver us...

Feh....

--taught to us by the masters of this world.

Hey God --it's margaret. In all things, in all places, in all ways --I find myself with few words to offer in prayer. I want to talk in circles and bite about the edges... stomp my feet... perhaps by the sun's setting I will have formed a prayer of the heart --or perhaps, today, it is just one of those wordless-prayer days. Whatever --I offer it to you. Because you are its author... So, there. Amen.

A potential mantra for my day....

By your Incarnation, Cross and Passion; by your Resurrection, Ascension and Gift of the Spirit; in the confidence of the Communion of Saints and the Reconciliation of heaven and earth; I surrender.... (you name it....) Amen.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

God bless Kirstin, who fed God's many lambs

From the Eucharistic Lectionary for Sts. Peter and Paul (John 21:15-19)

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."

A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep."

He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."

Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me."

Three times, Peter. To redeem your three denials... not to unspeak the betrayal (which cannot be undone), but to redeem it. That is our task too --there is no unspeaking our betrayals... only to engage in the work of redemption, with each other, for each other --and when someone fastens a belt around us and takes us where we do not wish to go, that too will require the words spoken in faith --forgive....

But when that belt is fastened, we will be led to our own deaths --and how does one forgive death itself?

Last night, I received a letter from Courageous and Compassionate A, who is nursing dear Kirstin. In so many words, the news is that it appears Kirstin has reached the threshold. Courageous and Compassionate A wrote, The Hospice staff say that once these kinds of changes start happening so quickly, the person generally only has 7-10 days left to live.

There is nothing to say or unsay. To be or un-be. To do or un-do. Someone has fastened a belt and is leading the way.... He says, follow me....

Even so, I grieve... at the gaping shredded gash at the sight of the torn veil... the banner to the gates of heaven. --and my only prayer is, Run dear Kirstin, Run. You have been a warrior of life and love and Spirit. Do not turn away now --Run for it. And know that the face you shall see before you, welcoming you, is your Own, The Face of Love as God knows you.

The Face of the Sheep. Whom you fed with such great delight and without hesitation.

The circle dance. Well done.

God bless you Kirstin. Thank you. And if I were there, I would anoint each part of you, saying,  Thank God for your eyes which saw the world in Love; for your ears which heard the Word in Love; for your mouth which spoke truth in Love; for your shoulders which bore the burdens of the unloved for Love's sake; for your hands which worked unhesitatingly in Love; for your feet which walked under bridges and among the poor and suffering in Love; for your heart undone and remade without fear, for Love's sake; in the Name of the One whose Name is unutterable except in Love incarnate... the Name we all share through the imagination and work of the Spirit, in concert with the One who spoke Love in the very beginning...

Amen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

...now what should we do?

I watched the news last night, because I hadn't done so in a month and thought maybe I needed to do so...

I didn't... not really... need to do so. Details in the headlines have changed... a bit... but other than that, nothing has really changed. Seen from afar, the obvious: capitalism is doing so and will fall in on itself-- it has a ways to go yet, but it cannot stand; corruption is a standard that is hard to beat; and, the Church is a whore (but she is my mother...).

It is time to resurrect Robin Hood --to steal from the rich and give to the poor, because stealing from the rich is all that is left to us... our house has lost $50,000 in value and its appraisal value continues to drop, despite our 'investments' to improve the property. That is real money stolen from us... stolen 'legally' --that we will end up paying for three times over --in continued bail-outs to the banks and corporations, in interest and required payments to those same institutions, and in real numbers when we sell this ol' dame.

It will break us. And everybody else will have made money on our loss... such is capitalism. The little guy loses while the fat cat gains.

...and if the fat cats continue to steal from the base that holds them up, can they not see the inevitable future when the base has nothing more to steal away?

...which leads to corruption --folks taking things any way they can.... --whether it be internet sex, graft, permission or not to cross an imposed and imagined boundary... so, one joins a gang because no one can stand by one's self....

And, yes, the Tea Party is a gang. And liberals and liberalism fail because the myth of individualism holds strong.

And the Church is a whore... using sex and power and access to fuel its engine. I am so heartsick over sexual scandals-- the newest with the revelation in Nevada accepting a former RC priest a decade back during the tenure of +KJS, knowing this guy confessed to one molestation, and yet.... Not that the laity are exempt --sex as abuse is as rampant in the laity as in the clergy --and cover-ups galore. And to speak any truth about ANY of it... the Church herself will erect a cross for you and nail you to it.

...which is, of course, the essence of the Gospel, but the Church should be pointing that out and proclaiming something else instead of enacting it... shouldn't it?

At morning prayer:

Psalm 123

To you I lift up my eyes,
to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
until God shows us mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,
for we have had more than enough of contempt,
too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,
and of the derision of the proud.

The blatant struggle of the people of Guatemala, freshly imprinted on my mind's eye, is our struggle too --here, and now --not just because we are neighbors, but because our situation is the same.

And, yes, I have had more than enough of contempt, too much the scorn of the indolent rich and the derision of the proud... And it is not as subtle here as one might think --it is quite blatant, in truth.

And there seems to be two ways to respond --one is to quietly get along with life, keeping one's head down, doing the best one can, getting fed when and where one can... The other is to make a fuss, put your boots on, stir and trouble the water, hang mirrors, throw firecrackers to awaken the people from the sleep, dress up and dance like mad in the streets....



...or, of course, do both at once.... subtly mocking the conquerors of any land dancing with the surrounded women while re-enacting one's own terrible demise with the face of another....

Hey God, it's margaret here; I'm bored with the mercy bit, okay? Yeah, well, you made me and a whole host of other folks that way too... Now, what should we do?

Waiting.

Monday, June 27, 2011

pictures --Camino Seguro

And now, for the pictures from my trip to Camino Seguro, a life changing experience....


The graveyard and the dump are side by side in Guatemala City. About 22,000 people begin their life at the edge of the dump, and are laid to rest there as well --a full cycle of life. This is the tomb of a wealthy beer-making family. To the right is the wall of resting places, perhaps ten high, rented by families and when/if they can no longer pay for the space, the remains are removed and the space rented to another. I wrote about this more completely here.


Some folks never leave the graveyard... they live here, a city unto itself. Among the walls of crypts and free-standing mausoleums are shanties --lean-tos in which the living dwell amongst the dead. They glean their living from the dead and those who care about the dead....


So do the vultures. Huge. Slick. Masters. At the end of this foot path is the dump....


...a gaping slash in mother earth. The trucks enter through the slum at the mouth of the gash and descend in to the pit where the poor and the vultures pick through looking for viable bits to recycle, eat.... lining up alongside the trucks to claim whatever falls out....


...side by side amongst the trucks and waste, they make their living.


...taking it to build a home, saving every bit they might sell or fashion into something sell able... or just because. These are the good homes which cluster at the mouth of the dump. 22,000 souls among small footpaths threading the waste. One of the largest dump communities in the world.

And, in the midst of the hell --humanity...


Students from the University of Washington come every year, meet and talk with the children --What would you like in your garden? And they do their best to make it happen.


...including a place to run.... and not stumble or worry... or a place to roll on your back and look at the sky and dream of something besides garbage or the dead...

Yes, they must all return late in the afternoon to home... a place between the rotten earth and walls of whatever and roofs of something, sleep sitting up and aware...


...a place where the scraps and bits from the dump are used or cleaned to sell --either to recyclers or at the market or to each other... and it is the job of the young to sort it, make it ready....

The smell still inhabits a crevice in my brain... as does the image of the women learning to read, the children in the classroom, the area where families can meet with counselors to help with the accumulated effects of garbage, violence, hopelessness and the glue-sniffing or alcohol used to dampen its worst effects.... the clinic...

To find out how to give of yourself and your treasure to this bit of heaven planted in the midst of hell, go the the website of Camino Seguro --Safe Passage and share what you have. More specifics on ways to give and what happens with your gift are here. I will be writing a program about this portion of my journey to share with the church I serve and will be glad to make myself available to your group.

Amen.

Glad to be home. Revved up --so to speak!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

ears outstanding to catch even the unsaid prayers of the unfaithful

And so Saturday comes. I have not had the heart to go in to the marketplaces and haggle…. It is my last few hours in town, and I want to breathe in the last torrent of air…

I set out to go to the far end of town --down to the Franciscan church where the Patron Saint of Guatemala rests in a bronze coffin. I am sure he would rather remain anonymous in the oblivion of history, but that is not his fate... I enter the church. It is under restoration. The side altars are ornate and intense, full of grief and blood, wax offerings dangle from every prominent bit and more ---Our Lady with a crown in pink or blue or orange --legs and arms, hearts oozing blood….

I sit for a while, saying my prayers without the benefit of a tangible offering. I am moved by the old lady who mutters without teeth, adjusting her small plastic purse every few minutes for emphasis. I don't really know if she is praying or scolding God... either way, I know God listens.... In the other corner of my eye, there is a young mother in indigenous dress, infant bound to her side --she stops and prays at every altar. Covering each base….

I leave an offering in the box where it talks of restoration… and walk around the corner to the entrance to the tomb. I do not really want to go there, but I am drawn. The entrance is dark and low and opens to a room filled with green marble and a bronze coffin and places to kneel and sit all around. A small family sits on the low bench to the left, the mother instructing the children, and then they all kneel to pray. Two of the children poke each other and continue to mess with the other's hair or face or shoulders…. the mother pays no attention. One child is intent in his prayer and glances side-long to his mother for more clues.

An old man kneels stiffly at the side of the coffin. A mother and grandmother sit on the bench to the left. The boy with them is receiving instruction. He then cautiously leaves their side to make his way to the tomb --and turns back. Shy. Scared. His mother encourages him to continue. He goes to the tomb, pulls a small stout candle from his pocket, touches it to the glass, crosses himself and then holds the candle in both hands over his heart and begins his prayer. What are the prayers of innocence? A sudden sigh escapes him and his shoulders release their modesty. Behind him, his mother and grandmother wipe away their tears…. --after several minutes, he touches the glass again and turns in radiant joy.

My heart is filled with gladness and wonder. I put my head down on my arm resting on the kneeler before me and finally weep the tears I have been saving for days…. oh God, give me the taste of this courage and beauty and mystery… put it on my tongue like a coal… fill my bones with its brokenness and grace…. take away all those burdens of things done, undone, ought to have done, known and unknown… help me speak the truth of this place and its people.

When the joy and grief have wrung their course I am not ashamed of my tears and snot in this concordance of naked hearts shaped in wax and slung about for the world to see. A man walks by with his hat hung on his deformed arm. The world is broken and redeemed here. A garden filled with skulls and painted masks with tongues and horns hang like fruit from the trees. Dry hard gourds rattle about with ancient voices and dances that did not fool the Franciscans; it was they themselves who were changed and joined the people, adding to the meaning of their kites and firecrackers and skeleton dances of the ancestors…. The people have made this place their own and painted the faces of the saints as brown as their own….

The small boy appears in the doorway, crushed cash in one hand, and in the other another offertory candle to touch to the glass and carry home and burn away the dark in that place --sweet odor of the bees who toil for their queen and her offspring as unknowing of the fruit of their labor as the oyster to the ballerina who adorns herself with the product of its grit and annoyance….

Funny how it all works.

Outside, a lean-to agains the walls of the church displays the masks of the dancers. Dragonesque. Hawkish. Adorned with the horns of the mountain deer. Ears outstanding to catch even the unsaid prayers of the unfaithful. Leering. Taunting. A conspiracy of mockery, savagery and mystery. And holiness. An offering. Total.

It is time. Time.

….oh God, give me the taste of this courage and beauty and mystery… put it on my tongue like a coal… fill my bones with its brokenness and grace… help me speak the holiness of this place.

Friday, June 24, 2011

...holding Joel and Mr. Witty --both at once for a while

Headed home. After the subjunctive, I prefer to think only in real terms....

My whole heart is glad that there is a Guatemala. My whole heart is glad I am heading home. I am looking forward to holding Joel and Mr. Witty --both at once for a while. And, truthfully --I cannot do one more conjugation. Just sayin'.

I go to El Salvador first. Then DC.
See ya!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

...salsa is an action verb. I wouldn't be surprised if that is not the WORD God spoke in the beginning

The world goes round and round….

The birds. The stars. The streets. The lady in the small store on the side of the big yellow church showed me the meaning of all the different patterns in the weaving and embroidery. Said the names of each of the Pueblos where the work is done. I went closer to the back of the store, and there was a woman sitting on the floor --have I written about this yet? --I don't know --it's all mushed together… the woman sitting on the floor had a leather belt behind her back and she could loosen or tighten the tension on the warp and woof by leaning forwards or backwards. It seemed she was both weaving and embroidering at the same time --a large block of wood separated fibers and allowed her fingers to work between…. and among… the birds and stars and streets…..

The young lawyer man and I are talking about our studies… he is wanting to memorize vocabulary first --how can I use a word if I don't know what it means? he asks. And I desire the big picture --moods, tenses, forms, structure… how it works… together… I'll memorize meaning later…. I feel as though I have been drinking a very frothy brew…. I'll recover later….

At one point today in our lessons, we talked about the creation story --did God separate light from dark on the first day, my teacher asked. What God did, as far as the story goes, is that God spoke the WORD first…. And my teacher said something --and I responded, no, if I understand you correctly, I think that would mean that the word would be a noun, and somehow there has to be a way that the first thing God did was a verb….

Oh. He says. That is very interesting… I've got to read it again… and read different translations….

And then I wonder if when the women weave, what they weave are verbs or nouns --can stars be verbs? Does one 'star.' Does the street 'street?'

Or, perhaps the stars and streets are something else entirely.. neither nouns nor verbs….

…and then the subjunctive --with would haves could haves should haves may haves dreams hopes wishes desires…. I am fascinated to find out what translations (if any) will put the words of liberty out of the mouth of Jesus into the subjunctive…. because in him there are not two subjects, only One… and the Kingdom is not a maybe… or a should, nor an if.

Funny how it all works… I am already getting the going-away blues… would that it were different… (ha --subjunctive in English without even thinking about it!) But I am not yet ready to give in to that… maybe Friday afternoon or so….

…one thing I do know --the salsa made with the little black chiles are anything but subjunctive… Yes. Salsa is an action verb. I wouldn't be surprised if that is not the WORD God spoke in the beginning. Amen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

...what am I gonna do with it anyway?

A young man --recently graduated lawyer. A young woman --German-born, living in New York. A young mother with her two children. The family --which has many generations and complicated connections….

How many children do you have, they ask me. How do I answer that question lightly in a houseful of children and dolls and songs Arriba, Abajo, Arriba, Abajo she sings again and again with her feet against the walls and her head hanging over the arm of the sofa --reveling in the words as they come off her tongue.

At breakfast there is great concern --the young mother's mother had called --her house broken in to, stuff stolen, other stuff trashed --her bank account robbed. She says she is not yet angry --but expects that to come soon. In the meantime, she weeps. At school, another has long phone conversations about foreclosure on a house and bankruptcy.

In the long evening after dinner, the child who had created the sing-song arriba abajo knocked on my door. I invited her in --and she began to speak--but her tongue was more a dam than the river of song before. A terrible stutter before she unleashed a string of syllables and pointed at my water container. Yes. Of course you may. And she follows directions given in Spanish or English. Singing is okay. Speaking is not.

My tongue feels like a dam too. I can almost see the strings of words changing on my tongue before I struggle to blurt them out…. so untidy and unkempt. Kerplogf.

How many children do you have, I ask. One in Miami, one in Mexico, one in Argentina and one on the way, here, he says, pointing to her. Felicitations we all say and lift our glasses. Oh how wonderful --exciting! I try to keep my mind from racing ten years ahead…

What a strange and awesome and wonderful thing life it.

The conversation shifts… does Obama like Hispanics? What is going to be done about immigration? Why doesn't Obama fix it if he likes brown people? He is a brown people… The lawyer says something disparaging about the AG in Virginia. Duh… what surprises me is that C's reputation is know far and wide --what a whacko, says the young lawyer. Preaching to the choir, I say.

And when on line, the headline pops up --Walmart wins in the Supreme Court.

Legal righteousness. Not what's right. I remember the young mother's words --not yet angry, but expects that to come soon. Yes.

In all this --how to forgive? --forgive the vagaries of bodies that cause stutters or no babies; forgive the rape and theft of one's belongings; forgive the man that runs from woman to woman leaving a trail of untended life; forgive our governments; forgive colonialism; forgive our racism, genderism, power grabs, colonialism, anger....

Well... as the Good Book says, what we hold on to, we hold on to --but what are we going to do with it anyway?

Aye Matey...

It's nearly 4pm here... up to my ears in imperative.... negations.... and letting go, because, what else am I gonna do with it anyway??!

Cannot yet believe my three weeks is almost over.... too fast. too full. Amen.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pragmatists, realists, the conditional and subjunctive....

I wish the fireworks wouldn't make me jump every time… I take heart that the car theft devices in the cars parked in the street beep and blare too… the blast is truly physical.

Physical. As is grief. And joy. And wonder. I suppose learning not to jump at fireworks is a discipline like any other…. more difficult than learning to make one's bed, however…. just sayin'.

There are way more noises and different noises in the city… more cars, more horns, church bells compete. We came into town on a different route --first the highway route, then we turned on a dirt road, crossed over a small bridge and went through huge puddles hemmed in by high impregnable walls. We came out in the middle of town… a whole different view of entering Antigua… the walls were rich.

…the home I am staying in now has children running about, several students, a clean and open courtyard in the middle of the house as is typical --all the rooms open to this center greenhouse of ferns and flowers. The children run about --some speaking English, some Spanish --it doesn't make any difference… the language of play is all that is necessary….

…and when I spoke with my beloved, I longed to resurrect once again the language of play between us… which so easily becomes mired in pragmatism and responsibility…. the language of play so easily transposed as inconsequential. But it is not --it IS how we we work out who we really are….

…it's probably what drove the pragmatists and realists --the pharisees crazy… and here, in Guatemala, the pragmatists and realists carry heavy equipment and big guns… very big guns --with wide open barrel-mouths and hands ready gripping triggers….

…it is pragmatists and realists that make the rules between master and servant, friend and foe, those who are welcome at the table and those who are not… that draw borders between nations and genders and ages…. and all that….

Jesus doesn't draw those distinctions… and called all to the table… regardless. And sometimes I think that when he stooped and drew figures in the dirt, he was playing --drawing the next cosmic map --the distance between his heart and the next star…. a distance physical, yes… but as close as the next heartbeat.

Physical. Play. I ponder these as I transverse through the first attempt at parsing the conditional and the subjunctive… separated only by 'but' or 'if' ….

Can't make this stuff up.

Peace out.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My last week.... already.

We just had cream of asparagus soup. With a piece of pre-toasted bread (Len says it reminds him of melba toast) covered with melted cheese. Which is served floating in the asparagus soup.

Comfort food. It's been raining hard most of the afternoon. There are only two seasons here --drought and rainy. Last year, part of the road between here and Guatemala City washed away in a land slide. That's what happens here. The first colonial governor type was killed --I forget that part of the story --it was, you know --colonial-ish and brutal and a story of raw power and conquering tactics…. but anyway he was killed, and his widow declared herself governor when she heard of his death. That night, a huge landslide happened, and killed her. Too. The whole colonial palace. Whooooosh.

The people called it an act of God.

So be it.

That is what the work of God is like --tiny little drops… one at a time…

…until the mountain falls….

….so, we eat cream of asparagus soup. With melba toast and melted cheese. Comfort food at the foot of the volcano. At dusk.

During dinner, a truck with a loud-speaker drove by, calling something out in a sing-song… I couldn't make it out. I asked --was that a political announcement? No, says Juan Carlos. They're selling tamales. I said, --well, in some places that would be political….

Tamales. Creamed asparagus soup. The politics of food. I am surprised at the number of restaurants in town selling French or Italian food --I stumbled in to one selling Indian food….

Comfort food. And, I brought Virginia peanuts and some true Smithfield ham here. As a treat…. Ham --cured by a method taught to the colonialists by the indigenous people of the mid-Atlantic….

…round and round we go….

Len and Juan Carlos always have a feast prepared. Politics or no….

Even so, tonight, Sunday, I find myself in a new place… settled in the northeast corner of Antigua. A stone's throw from the back of the big yellow church --walking distance to school.

The restaurant I'm in has wifi --and a chance to talk to my beloved. The rain is threatening and huge firecrackers are echoing the thunder….

Sunday night. Amen.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

...taking the risk to declare it so....

Friday night….

The test was fine --there was once upon a time I would have been ashamed of 43/50 --but not tonight…. it is more than enough.

It is Father's Day here. I brought home two very huge treats --two Coca-Colas --for the men in the house. Next door --I think there are other kinds of treats going on --somebody is singing… love songs…. poorly…. between the shouting and hooting… very poorly. Perhaps drunkenly. Oh well. My teacher said that when it is Mother's Day, the men are out on the streets singing love songs deep in to the night. The men don't get reveled like that. I tried to say, 'because we're not the peacocks,' but we ended up giggling and laughing at our cross-cultural joking….

She's a survivor of breast cancer too. She wore a scoop-neck T-shirt the other day, and right smack in the middle of her chest was the tale-tell tattoo… I showed her mine. She is only four months out of treatment. We had much to discuss…. And then, somehow, we got talking about seminary classes, and she was shocked that we were not required to take Latin.

No, I said, we are required to take lessons in the original languages of Scripture --Greek and Hebrew. Latin isn't one of the original languages? she asked…. Where could I begin… we ended up talking about different translations… and the meaning of words….

Meaning.

Father's Day. Bad love songs. Cancer. Language. Meaning.

Tuesday night on the bus ride home, I saw my Peace Corp angel again. We laughed and talked. A man, European features, dark skin, long scrabbly hair pinned in a rotten rat's tail, one eye partially gouged out… heard us talking and turned around and smiled --and listened and smiled at us some more.

We ignored him.

When we got off the bus together he got up from his seat and followed us. When we stopped at the corner to chat, he stopped and then moved toward us… we took each other's arm and started to move down the block. He followed. At the center of the block, I grabbed the young woman's arm tightly and we did a one-eighty and started to walk in the other direction down a crowded street. We walked a couple of blocks…. we were headed no where, except other than where he was….

It worked. No big deal, right? A girl learns how to do that in the sixth grade….

Wednesday night… he was there again… followed us again. The red flags in my head start to fly….

Thursday night, I saw him waiting at the bus stop. I turned and walked back in to the market and down the street…. It's wrong. All wrong. The red flags in my head declare war...

Friday night --I walked around town for an extra half-hour before heading to the bus stop and took another and later bus home….

Part of me is amused… me --the age of a grandmother…. The other part of me is not amused. At all. N.O.T. A.T. A.L.L.

Len assures me we live in a fortress and the whole town knows who I am and I am truly safe.

Yes….. that is what my gut is telling me too… mostly… partly…. but I have come to trust that small still voice….

And this morning... Saturday... the drums and music were going like crazy all around town. Len and Juan Carlos had to run the big dog to the vet, so I left the house and followed the music. Ended up in the town square with a couple of hundred other folks --and a hundred children, the girls in small ornate wedding dresses, the boys in suits or dark pants and vest --white shirts with ribbons flying from their shoulders --it was first communion day. The church and square were packed --standing room only, spilling out in to the square.

I stayed for the entire Mass --I could follow about a third of the prayers, knew the responses, joined in singing. I felt like weeping when, at the offertory, the women in front of me in indigenous dress took a couple of yards of material and folded it squarely and put it on top of their heads... --hats.... --veils... whatever.... and act so simple and unassuming...

And the church was gorgeous. The whole thing draped in white gauzy material with embroidered gold stars... angels on either side of the altar, the reredos thick with flowers and saints... incense, candles.... The gate to heaven... for lives that eke out a living scratching the floors clean with plastic brooms and clorox... a place of mysterious sumptuous beauty. Yes. Cover the head in respect.

Meaning.

...and between it all, I am thinking of vulnerability. If I am thinking meaning --I desire to think of vulnerability.... God took on the mantle of vulnerability. Not just a mantle --the essence of vulnerability, to know intimately all that we know, which is UN-knowable as a powerful and separate ruler... to be born poor in an indigenous village amongst the animals and straw and smoke and the poor.... to know hunger... and love... and hospitality... and betrayal.... and mysterious beauty in the simplicity of bread and wine.

This is meaning. Essence. This is vulnerability.... Taking the common ordinariness and danger of life... and seeing it as the holy that it is.

...and taking the risk to declare it so.... Amen.

Friday, June 17, 2011

…so much for so-called 'natural law theology'

Thursday nite.

I have met --face to face --with inspiration. Embodied hope. Folks working against all odds with few resources….

For those who care, there seem to be two types --those who throw money around, and those who roll up their sleeves and get to work…. I have met with two women in the past two days who have left their native ground and let their minds and bodies and souls into a passion… a deep source --deep like the howl of a wolf….

Today, S said --across a beautiful table laden with gifts from her garden, --she said, I don't know why I chose Guatemala to do this work… sometimes I think --of all the places I could have chosen, why this place --with its machismo and conservative religious culture and so much else to overcome… why this place to work on the autonomy of women?

S created a foundation, Wings, that offers assistance to women and men for family planning and health screening for such things as sexually transmitted disease and cervical cancer… educating and offering such health services in rural, poor and other inaccessible areas.

When I got back from lunch, and my teacher asked me what I had done for lunch, and I told her… the sudden brick wall that erupted when it was made clear that contraception was part of my lunch-time conversation… I realized what S must be up against….

…and, yes, why Guatemala? --where so often when folks have hard-scrabbled together a life with a tile floor and some lightbulbs and despise those who have not been able so to do and resent those extranjeros (outsiders--foreigners) who come and most often give handouts….

I have been blessed in the past two days to meet two women who are not here to give handouts or dig a well or help folks move away from their lives… they are here to reveal the kingdom in the midst --alongside --already present in and amongst the livelihoods and relationships… they are here to foster transformation --not betterment…..

…and they both do so with determination. courage. against all odds.

You know --there is an obvious order in this world --the big and strong or those intimately connected with big and strong, these prosper. Dogs chase cats. Wolves eat dogs. People hunt wolves. Men hunt women --or other creatures --usually men are the top of the pecking order, unless of course, they exhibit weakness, powerlessness of some sort… and then they are treated as women or children. It's the natural way.

But there is nothing natural about what Jesus said and did. He said the poor have it --the poor, the sick, the infirm, the weak, those who mourn, those who suffer, those who are persecuted… they are already first in line --the sinners too, first in line.

There are those who will never understand the un-natural order Jesus calls us to --totally contrary to the natural order of the world….

…so much for so-called 'natural law theology' ….it's the glorious gospel reversal once again….

We should all act from that unnatural cave --tomb, --womb, --space within us… that broken space…. that on fire or empty place --whatever… you know, that place of which you are most ashamed… that place where we think we hold our secrets… those two women whom I have been privileged to dine with --that is the place from which the move and have their being....

That place is the gate… the eye of the needle…

hmmmmmm…. now it is time to return to gerunds, present and past participles… imperfect, pluperfect… conditional… and all those action items past and present --terms of affirmation and negation…. in this place… where heaven and hell are lovers, and where the woman who slept with a bear loves her children as numerous as the stars… and are so very different from herself --and her husband... In the center of the earth the kingdom is revealed… in this place --I heard it called the second poorest place in the western hemisphere… It is that, and so much more…. amen.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Life --good life among the walking dead --the work of Camino Seguro

I have so few words. Not for what I saw.

We entered the world around the dump through the cemetery. The cemetery seems an apt --a tragically poetic entry place… A city all to itself, where the living live among the dead and tend their graves, superior to their own lean-tos --mocked by the marble…. L spoke of the families eking together enough to pay for a burial place, vaults stacked upon vaults. The wealthy claiming space with sturdy marble mausoleums to themselves, juxtaposed to the walls of vaults decorated with ribbons and plastic flowers. Walls of vaults that stretched for a mile at least. The families are required to keep paying to maintain the vaults… and if they don't, the remains are removed and the place is rented to another….

I didn't ask what happened to the corpse. The vultures and the dump answered before I could ask.

So many vultures. Real true vultures. Black. Skaggy. Designed to eat death. We went to see the dump through the haunts of the vultures --through the cemetery.

We parked the car and walked down to the edge, where vaults with dates new and old were certain to go crashing and tearing down in to the ravine in the next rainy season. Ravine, I say to myself… no, you mean the dump. Where the living dead walk and glean through the garbage and waste, looking for something to salvage, trade, recycle, eat….

It reminded me of Tolkien's vision of the gross destruction of Middle Earth --the grinding machinations of destruction distorted to such overwhelming proportion that life itself seemed to disappear.

A horror show where hands placed on the side of the moving dump truck claim a place to go through the crud. Where women give their bodies to the drivers for a chance to glean before the truck even reaches the entrance to the dump. Where a day's worth of gleaning is taken back out of the dump to the crowded dirt floor tin walled place called home, and the children clean and sort and repack. To sell.

L said, 'And what's worst --is that the economic crisis has hit them too --people are buying less, using more and throwing away less…. These folks are lucky to make a dollar or two a day.' Most, having been born in or around the dump, have no documentation… no proof they exist… and are not eligible therefor for any benefits of citizenship… no proof.

And the work the children do is essential to the welfare of the whole family. Which is why Camino Seguro pays a family in food and goods to keep bringing their child to the oasis on the edge of the pit… the oasis where counselors, cooks, teachers, security guards, mothers, housewives, teenagers give time, give of themselves….

…and the goodness I saw… classrooms of kids…. another of mothers learning to read and add….

L spoke softly --it's very hard to decide who gets to come in the gates, but one of our criteria is that the children must be able to walk. One of the tragedies of this place is that the mothers don't let their children down out of the carrier-cloths strapped to their backs and around their waists --it is not uncommon for a two-year-old not to be able to walk or speak…

Homes. Built up to the walls of the oasis. Made of garbage from the dump….

What does one say? I have so few words for what I saw….
Sorry not to be able to post pictures.... but maybe that's better anyway.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Camino Seguro

I am writing this quickly --I went to the dump in Guatemala City this morning... I ask your prayers for the good people of Camino Seguro --for the women and children and men who live and work in the dump there... please follow the link. Please.

I am still sorting things out in my head --if such things can be sorted out... I will try to write about it all later.

Back to school.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

the world is saved by those who have no faith in themselves...

It seems my brain became an empty parking lot over the weekend… It's not as discouraging as it is hard to reconstruct the pieces that I find around in the corners of my skull. The changes in the preterit --the same verbs changing in the future and conditional and how they change… stem changes --the worst….

Certainly, if one were to sit down and invent a language one would not invent mono-syllabic yet densely layered code such as this…. it's so much like Greek it's near frightening….

Let's see --that's 1. Statement of certainty; 2. subjunctive which I have not yet learned; 3. present with DO; 4. conditional; 5, adverbial and adjectival…. shish --but still don't yet know how it all fits together in a sentence structure about which I do not even think. In English.

I have begun with a new teacher today. Magdelena. She's tough --and really good. She assigned written homework! Yow!

And Leonardo is as much an artist in the kitchen as he is any where else --every night --delicious! Tonight was burritos with big hunks of spicy meat in a salsa in flour tortillas with cream cheese and spiced white cheese over the top. He has been so very sweet and arranged for me to meet folks. Wednesday I am going to Guatemala City to visit the work of Safe Passage (Camino Seguro) --and Thursday lunch meeting with Wings (health) --and then there is more this weekend.

I am feeling an intense emotional exhaustion wearing off --and a new tiredness taking over from pushing my mind and body in new directions --which is a really good and welcome tiredness.

One must choose --daily if not hourly --to L.I.V.E. here.
Thanks be to God.

I am now sitting in a small cafe eating lunch --another God thing, me thinks… sent here by Leonardo. Good food. Delicious drink (a Mayan specialty with the same benefits as cranberry juice, sez The Man). It is a happy corner. The Man helps extranjeros get the necessary paperwork to stay longer than your visa allows… or to get permanent status…. etc. He spoke of his early experiences here --how he came back as a missionary --his family came with him, and his children married Guatemalans… He has not gone back to the States for seven years…. isn't planning on going back soon.

He spoke of the rumors and evidence of a growing culture of violence --and how, yes, it's true --but the rumors are also overblown. --not as dangerous as any of the big cities in the U.S., he sez. --I think the news is playing it up because of all the politics --and what with the economic downturn, fewer folks are coming here…. The tourist business is down %60.

…yeah. I have come to believe the most dangerous people on earth are bankers and the financier types --and the news media. More dangerous than any army.

And what most people want is contentment. Unmolested. Something better for the next generation. Add money, and you get poisonous greed and violence….

Money is not the root of all evil --we are. We, ourselves. --thinking all the time, more is better.

I look into the eyes (politely) of the young folks on the bus…. It is not hard to see who wants what.

You know what I mean?

Me? --all I am hoping for right now is to know what is righteous in the moment. And I know what the gospel says… the poor have it, hands down…. the sick, the despised, the outcast… the powerless. --and it is not the suffering of the poor, sick, despised, outcast etc. that makes anything holy…. holiness belongs to the Big One alone…. it is knowing that there is no other recourse than putting oneself in the hands of God…. and in a land where there is no place without a volcano....

....thinking.... or, in other words, the world is saved by those who have no faith in themselves... and that has nothing to do with self esteem.

Es verdad.

For me, anyway.

Peace out.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Day after The Pentecost

I go make coffee. Greet the small old dog whose gait is unhinged and creaks out a small ancient dance of welcome, mostly all tail. Smoke is hanging close in the air. Over coffee I conjugate verbs and decline pronouns and take in the chocolate waste from cookies that exploded like volcanos on the crowded Friday bus and are now crumbled like ash --but even so, it's too good to discard. Cinnamon. Ginger. Anise. Chocolate.

The gardener comes. The big dog, the old dog, the feisty dog and the lover dog who would win dog of the month every month --hands down, if such a thing were allowed --they all run and shout and greet him.

Leonardo fills bowls with kibbles and a cup with coffee for the gardener. I go with coffee in hand and open the small window behind the bars in the front door and look at the Giver of Life and Death at whose feet we stumble about in this new day. The street is already full with mothers taking children by the hand to get the fresh tortillas next door; others with aprons off to work. The boys are running cattle down the street, long pointed sticks to keep them all going in the same direction at the same pace --none of the three boys with more than a decade under their belt --one is maybe six. The motorcycle shouts as it goes by. The church bells at the center of town suddenly ring about, clanging in a joyous cacophony and clamor.

It's The Pentecost. The Spirit is poured out like fire. In every nation. In every language. In every people. No priestly elite. The hierarchy undone. Heaven on earth. All are chosen.

It's 6am. Amen.

Such was my morning reflection on Sunday. Lunch was an ecstasy --plantains, spicy ground meat, cheese and eggs put together like an exotic lasagna --OMG --and cake --Lord have mercy. We had a small and quiet Misa together --four of us, in the evening.

Late evening snack and then bed.

Back at school --I don't remember A THING!!!!
Back to work.
The Day after The Pentecost

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Leonardo said, you cannot rebuild something good out of the shambles... yeah.

It's Friday night as I write…

I bought Leonardo some beautiful bread. Note to self: do not take bread home on the bus on Friday night…. smushed…. this wasn't just crowded… we were like fish in a pond with too many fish, crowded to the surface, all gasping for air….

I had to laugh --inwardly, of course, because as we passed by the large church in the town between Antigua and Duenas, several women crossed themselves a couple of times and kissed their fingers when they were done. The young woman next to me did just that, solemnly and slowly and reverently…. and within a few minutes of passing the church and accomplishing this ritual of blessing, she suddenly threw open the window, banged on the edge of the window with her fist, yelled at a man on a bike, spit on him as we passed, and flashed him the finger! Over and over again until we were out of sight….

O.H.

But, then again, maybe it's her anger that keeps her alive…. In this land, where in some homes and situations, women are only just above the dogs…. and sometimes worse off.

…don't get me started on the dogs… the half-starved back-bone to the world flea-bit creatures of the street that breed like rats….

…and the children that belong to the women and the dogs sell dirty trinkets and run when the police arrive --afraid to be taken to school…. and most look away from the out-stretched hands…

…this is the fringe and the center of Guatemala. I think of the centuries of destructive Colonialism, and then the more recent colonialism and wars the U.S. imposed on this place when the forward thinking President some forty years ago was trying to take currently uncultivated land and give it to the dispossessed, and the U.S. objected because it would interfere with its corporate agricultural investments… We were stealing fruit in the middle of the garden --and it was not ours… all under the guise of "foreign aid." Millions dead.

And still they welcome us. Big. White. Head hit the top of the bus types. Into their homes. Yes, it's a different war now --there is little time for play…. if you are awake, you must be making money. Some how. Some where. Or finding a way to take some from somebody else who might have too much --or too little to seek revenge….

--except when the brief play time comes --it is all-out, no bars held back --full throttle cantar y bailer en la calle type fiesta --or a faith-full burn incense carry candles beat drums play flute and carry a saint --sometimes Jesus or the Mother Herself through the streets --blessing all--and especially the destination, in a hard-pressed breath below and between the volcanos and the guns of the boys not yet men in the pick-up trucks and the roaring chicken buses… fearsome sights when all the lights are flashing.

Oh --and the rumor is --through the town of Duensas --I am Leonardo's daughter. Heheheheheh…. I am pleased! 'We all look alike,' Leonardo said. Heheheheheh.

…I marvel… I stand in wonder-- the grace and beauty and awe of difference…. There is no deceit in the Mother Herself when it comes to handing out blessings --they are abundant and glorious. And dangerous in our own hands…. because the deceit is ours --when we forget. When we steal fruit that is not ours. We have known that from the very beginning --when we first became conscious we told ourselves those stories… about fruit and the garden…. --as Leonardo says --we keep running around trying to rebuild out of the shambles what we think we know is true and right --and you cannot rebuild something good out of crap….

Oh. How true. And yet how we persevere….

God doesn't build with the crap we make either. God lets us go our course, lets us die --then redeems us from our own destruction and destructive ways with something new…. Not new wine in old wineskins --but something new. Entirely. With a sign from the old Body so that we may always remember… open windows to the past…. icons of the life that was… because we cannot find our way without the signs….

Such is a Friday night and Saturday morning at the foot of the volcanos…

Some pictures --I hope: nope --sorry.... don't know what's wrong... maybe there is too much info in them, or the internet is too slow.... I'll try again...

Friday, June 10, 2011

death defying life-leaps from rock to rock

I seem to be writing after homework late at night --and then again in the same post at break or lunch and posting after lunch the next day… It is a strange rhythm --but there we are.

Speaking of rhythm, I have none, really… I fell Thursday afternoon… twisted my damn ankle. …sigh… But, I bought an ace bandage type thing --and I'm swinging from the moon again. But it hurts like hell… death defying life-leaps from rock to rock in the street...

And mi maestra is preparing me for my first grammar exam tomorrow --I think she is more nervous than I --verbs in the present and preterit --regular and irregular --pronouns --adverbs --prepositions --all that kind of stuff. It should be fun.

I brought with me the small book "Charlotte's Web" that I lived in for a while --probably in the second grade or so --and I am reading it now, in Spanish --La Telarana de Carlota. That 'n' has an ~ over it… but for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to do that yet… Anyway, mi maestra is fascinated with the book --exclaiming it is wonderful with all the preterit and perfect verb forms --all the prepositions and all that stuff. Me thinks I will give it to her when I leave --because I think all the teachers have to supply their own supplies --markers, paper, flash cards, reading materials --that kind of thing…. One of her markers stopped working Tuesday --she writes the rules in one ink and then the examples or changes from the rule in the other color… I finally figured out that she couldn't just go up front and ask for another marker --and went to the store and bought her two brand new ones…. She blushed. And was very excited.

And now I have my bi-color learning pallet again. Me gusta.

Speaking of pallet, I went looking for some whole grain bread for Leonardo --or more of those chocolate cookie/bread things --but there were none to be had… nunca. nada. not no how.

And when I came home, Leonardo and Juan Carlos were hard at work --it is magic to watch the work come in to being --come alive.

Damn.... none of the pictures are loading.... perhaps later and I'll amend the post... damn.

Magic. Leonardo says he's never 'done it' this way before --putting the nails/studs in on the background colors first --to work in 'negative space.' His excitement is palpable --and these pictures do no justice to the depth and texture of the work. It's absolutely breathtaking….

Sorry --pics not loading.... sigh...

And in the evening --this evening anyway, the volcano wrapped the town in its arms --tremors --rocking us to sleep. There is no better way to give one's life to God, than to be rocked to sleep by a volcano….

This morning (Friday) I awoke --ankle only a bit swollen --Leonardo and Carlos have planned a party for Sunday afternoon! --I think Saturday brings with it a breakfast galore.

Right now, I am sitting in the restaurant of the panaderia of Dona Luis Xicotencatl --I think the formal stuff is upstairs and I am sitting in the cafe area…. 100Q are equal to about 7 or 8 dollars US…. this lunch of fancy beans, limes, salsa, shredded salad, a whole avocado, complete with tortillas, was just 30Q…. And I'm in the expensive part of town....

I took my test this morning --I scored well…. I got 44 out of 50 questions…. I suppose that is alright for the first week --and if it is a good score, I give my teacher credit… I think I actually understood some stuff too!

In the meantime I am pondering with some amazement L.I.F.E. --you know what I mean? And it is so overwhelmingly raw and colorful and horrifying and broken and holy and present here…. There we are. Time to go back to school. Get my homework for the weekend. Do some more verb drills. I am going to look for a little bit of grape juice and bread for… oh… whatever else might happen this weekend…. you know, L.I.F.E…. With death defying life-leaps....

Thursday, June 9, 2011

...una vida...

This is the garden in the center of Leonardo's home. I see it out my bedroom window.


It is late… Wednesday night --I think… the music is still blaring across the street --the sound of laughter, children playing… Leonardo said this could go on in to the wee hours of the morning.

Shared space --it's so very different… the unsaid rules of touching or not touching are laid waste in the bus… buses careening within feet --no, inches of men on bikes, children walking on the road's edge, a city on the edge of the volcano…. barbed wire shares space with doves and trumpet vines amid graceful ruins and ramshackle constructions of corrugated roofing plugged with old brittle plastic bags…. smoke pours out between the gaps of the rusted metal --a dinner is being cooked behind the wall next to the cemetery…. the music pounds on the walls of the street and houses in to the wee hours of the morning….

And then --there's the chocolate cookies… they aren't really cookies --they are small cakes, and they are not terribly sweet --they are C.H.O.C.O.L.A.T.E…. as it should be. Last time I was here -with Malinda, the hostess made us cookies, small chocolate cakes that are primo with coffee, of course. Malinda didn't like them, so she gave hers to me --I think I lived on these cookies…

--I found them --in the bakery across the street from the yellow church. I bought a few and brought them home. My good luck continues because Juan Carlos doesn't really care for them…. although Leonardo does….

and the air is crammed with verbs that run in nonsense-like sing-song through my head. All the time. Bajo del cielo.

And the colors…. I think if I ever stayed here for too long, my eyes might run dry, if you know what I mean…

And this morning --I could only struggle to get out of bed --perhaps it was the party across the street --perhaps it was the volcano…. and the chocolate cookie waiting for me with coffee --is there anything better? --brown on brown…. and I had to run for the bus… I sat on the front seat --where my knees would not bang against the corrugated metal of the bench in front… and the man that takes the money said something… I didn't understand, but the other folks got up and left the front seats, so as I stood I heard a small voice say, 'they are reserved for the teachers only….'

And an angel appeared before me --a blonde angel. She lives in San Miguel Duenas and works for the Peace Corps…. In Antigua. She is currently organizing the project to help folks build out of creative materials, like stuffing a plastic bottle with plastic sacs --very, very firmly and sealing it and using them like bricks…. Brilliant!

We talked about what I have seen of Gringo projects here --that leave my heart cold --or the Gringos at school who are learning Spanish in order to do 'mission' work…. And the way they say 'mission' gives me the willies…. And the angel said there were many worthy projects led by Guatemalans… and we exchanged email addresses… and she talked about resources for preparation to work in Guatemala…. The Blue Sweater by Jaquiline Novagratz and the NPR series "Being" with Krista Tippett --especially "A New Kind of Capitalism" and "The Ethics of Aid"…. I am looking forward to discovering what was important formation for someone who has been in the "field" for three years….

I consider meeting her a God thang.

Space… the overlapping, the dovetailing… the intersecting and intersections… so very few obvious beginnings and endings… just one life. Beginning to end.

Time for lunch -- a traditional burito in a restaurant with heavy tile floor, open patio --looks like those dark brown beans in a paste with fresh cheese and some chicken…. with agua puro-- of course…

Old world --tongue, share space with the Old New World!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

...mi cuerpo....

I am sitting in the lounge of the school --between the motorcycles, under a tin roof with no walls --just a lean-to with wooden posts.


The walls are of the building behind me are an apricot-peach color. With a brownish-red baseboard painted unevenly around 10 inches tall. It is a startling color against the green vines that creep over the drainpipes, electrical conduit and barbed wire that define the inner court-yard.


I have not yet found a place on the campus that has wifi during lunch… I think they cut the power off during lunch to save money, or something. It also keeps one from working --which is a brilliant idea --two hours with nothing to do but conversation and digest lunch…. So I write this to post at a later time.

This morning the clouds lifted at the right time in my journey on the chicken bus to school to allow me to see the terracing on the volcano --or the small half-thought-out eruptions next to it, I couldn't really tell --and I was fascinated, because I expected to see the flat, linear horizontal stretches that scar the mountain, and make it more like a step-stool to the sky… I was fascinated and surprised because the mountain was covered in diamond shaped terraces --like diamond diapering --or like an expensive clothe decorated for evening wear…. or like a juggler painted by Picasso with a brash blouse one…. Instead of a utilitarian emphasis --the mountain seemed pleased to be so decorated….


Unlike the fields below --where what is growing looks like it is being pushed to its limits, straining under the burden to produce amongst the litter of left-over plastic implements strewn about like discarded fruit of a bad seed….

Perhaps if we were closer to the mountain, there would be another tale to tell…

At the morning break at school --after reflexive verb drills and the first set of stem changes in irregular verbs --a woman was standing at the door to my cubicle --blond hair --fairly obvious North American --wanting to talk… so I asked her out for lunch….

She has been here a week… alone…. fairly unhappy with the school, with her living arrangements… with her age…. I asked her where she would like to go to lunch, and we ended up in a cafe run by expatriates that also have a non-denominational fundamentalist church in the back room…. sigh….

….as sad as her story. And she wants to go see "an indigenous village to watch the women weave…."

Uggghhhhhhh…. is there nothing, no where free of American stupidity?

So --I sit here --the clouds are gathering for the afternoon rain storm --and again I am reminded of the way I wish to move through the world… and they way I probably move through the world… and the wake I leave….

…and how God redeems…. always.

And…. there are the words that sing in my head --on the bus, in the market, in the bird song, in the shoulders of the women I see through the window washing the dishes, in the bend of the palm fronds made in to a broom, in the eye of the man setting stones in the street --este es mi cuerpo….

This is church close to the school -we can hear its bells all day....


and this is my teacher --she's delightful! --our classroom wall and whiteboard behind her....


...este es mi cuerpo....

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

lunch was a bust

Leonardo --lunch today was a gringo establishment at the urging of a companion who is sulking about for candy and McDonalds.... No pictures!!!! Not of that!

The space between is always holy

I went to lunch…. traditional foods… black beans and fresh cheese, chicken, all kinds of sausage… with guacamole and a green sauce to knock your head off --which I LOVED… I saw the waitress watch from afar as I tasted it with my spoon --she was shaking her head, waiting for mine to explode. She turned away laughing as I put my spoon back in the dish to get some more --so very different from any hot I've ever had before --It looked like very thin bright green pea soup. mmmmmm.

There were huge claps of thunder as I ate --and I remembered I needed to get an umbrella or something… as it is the rainy season. And I had made the choice to sit by the open window --no glass, just an opening really… and as I ate, every type and variety of goods was offered for sale to me --flutes, necklaces, scarves, knives, with an offer I tried to refuse with grace --making eye contact, saying no gracias as many times as it took but eventually looking away because so long as they had my eyes, they were not going to quit…

It was not guilt I felt…. it was not the urge to join them… it bordered on shame --shame that hundreds of years of colonialism were being borne on the shoulders of these women and youngsters who refused to beg --but they weren't but a week away from such… grateful that my school uses my tuition money to help preserve and document the Mayan languages of the indigenous peoples and supplies books to their schools…. wondering if they were going to have as much in a day as I was having in the one meal --which I could not finish….

And more thunder as to throw one to the floor. I made it back to school before the downpour began --I sat in our little cubicle while the power went on and off and the racket on the tin roof made it impossible to hear, much less think… and my teacher and I sat there and giggled a bit --she hating the cold and my thinking it wasn't really that cold --just wet….

When the rain let up, we walked in the garden which surrounds our cubicles --avocados, oranges, candle flowers, impatience --all fresh and wet, the banana tree had fallen over in the rain…. the garden walks washed clean, the constant volcanic dust settled in puddles….

The door to this place is always through the heart --and that is so dangerous… no, not dangerous… yes, dangerous. As it should be.

Those were the notes from my journal as I worked my way to sleep last night.... I cannot tell you how exciting it is to open the door to Leonardo's home and see him in his glory --working --painting --it is one of the most exciting things in the world (for me) to see an artist at work. --It's like the gates of heaven. Dinner last night was wonderful --a colorful plate on one of Leonardo's works of art --the table --sitting on his chairs --I am so grateful SOMEONE in this world sees as he sees.

Now it is about 10am here --been at school for a couple of hours already --and I must get up and walk around for a minute!

Blessings abound --Joel: the space between us is always holy m'love. Thank you. more pictures later.

Monday, June 6, 2011

my first pictures --my bed and my food

I have just had lunch --I made it back to school before it started to pour... so here are my first pictures:


This is my bedroom --graced with art from Blessed Leonardo.


This was my lunch!
My teacher is back --off I go!

I am here!

OMG. I am here!
All my Spanish has run out of my head and hid behind a rock....

I rode the bus from Leonardo's house --I am so big, so white!!! and the bus was crammed with humanity --I haven't been that crowded for space since the subways of NYC at rush hour. I hope to publish pictures soon

Leonardo's home is beautiful with a jungle in the middle in an open patio and birds that sing the day into being --last night there was a procession down the street in front of his home --candles and incense and drums and flutes --toting Jesus from one place to another.

Leonardo is a delight --and he and Juan Carlos have welcomed me in to their home as though I were the long lost sister --I am so very grateful!

I am still uncertain what time of day it is --I have not yet figured out a schedule --perhaps there isn't one in a place where time zones and clocks are imposed... and imposters.

I am here! Blogger spell check is in Spanish!!!! This whole thing is wrong!!! I love it --big hint... I should be writing in Spanish.... oh well! if there are any typos --there we are!

Blessings from the center of the earth.... PS Leonardo said good night and then said 'sometimes at night we can see the lava from the volcano ---' Hows that for sweet dreams! (I slept like a baby.) There's the bell --time for school.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

G'wan. I ain't going to church tomorrow.... Somebody needs to! Go and pray for the whole lot of us. Please. Amen. It's John (beginning at John 17:1) for the Gospel drink tomorrow --Thick. Turgid. But it's real blatant: And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

That's all there is to it!

I am beginning my journey in the belly of a jaguar and flying through the ash of the volcano


Oh my.... now, I grew up in the proximity of a great volcano --a live one... Lassen, which last blew big time in 1915.... but, even so --a live one....

The volcano above is Popocatepetl --about 40 something miles south and east of Mexico City.... I'm hoping it's ash cloud doesn't stand between me and Guatemala.... It is called a mild eruption....

And, tomorrow at this time (6:39am) I will be on my way.... I can't believe it... I mean, I CAN believe it, but I can't believe it!!!

So, tomorrow --I pile in to a car --not just a car --a  C.A.R. --a Jaguar, and accept this gift-ride to the man-made jungle of the Beltway, and then leave the terrestrial sphere for the celestial spheres filled with the volcano, and fly to the home of jaguars... the spotted one who mediates between the terrestrial sphere and the world below.

A mythic beginning to a journey --which is not lost on me--

I am beginning to remember in my minds eye the dovetailing of life and death in Guatemala --the dancing skeletons in the feasts laid out on gravestones... in the light of the night sun.... --and I feel it in my bones. Already.

Last night --the sun was gone but it was not yet dark --mr witty and I went out to the backyard. I sat on the stoop. I overheard a conversation next door --you should go to such-and-sucha church for the Sunday night service --it's traditional, but it's not... you know, traditional --it's beautiful-- it's got lots of candlelight and it's almost zen like... and no one bothers you or asks you to do anything.

Oh my, I thought.... and tried to let the rest of my thought not form, satisfied instead with the unlit light of twilight.

At daily prayer (beginning at Luke 9:37)
On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not." 

Jesus answered, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?
Lordy, Jesus.... My, my, my... if he said it to them, he's sayin' it to us....

I think the ancients had it right --a jaguar... from the underworld... which mauls and kills... and will not leave you... a real something to be feared... known. Whereas what haunts us in the world we have made --we cannot put a face on it -we cannot even name it any more.

Most of us don't even want to be bothered to be asked to do something, anything....

I am beginning my journey in the belly of a jaguar and flying through the ash of the volcano....

Hey God --I offer it to you. Amen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

I volunteer to go turn over all the tables in their temples...

Today has been given us the discipline of remembering the Martyrs of Uganda...

In seminary, a friend in the class ahead of me was from Uganda. We connected on the level of leaving behind home and spouse to be at seminary-- the dry itch that is almost an out-of-body experience that finds little relief....

The last term his wife joined him at seminary to witness his graduation. Joel and I took them home to south-western Oregon during breaks when the school was closed... At the time, Joel was Vicar at a small mission at the end of the road on the banks of the Rogue River. Friend's wife wanted to know where the 'garden' was for the town --you know, where the women all go to cultivate the food for their tables.

I took her to the market. She was most amazed at the freezers.

They were both amazed at the scale of agriculture in the valley on the way home --and no people out working in the fields... all the mechanization.

They were shocked at the vistas from the mountains --the clarity of the mountain water --the feel of snow...

They loved the idea of the solar powered outhouses --to speed the decomposition of the waste... 'my people need this' said my friend. Months later we were able to obtain blueprints from the Forest Service and mail them to Uganda.

All these were wonderful and exciting --but the highpoint for me was sitting with them in living room of our little vicarage and exchanging stories... of the school they ran... of the child that died --their only son... of escaping the slaughter of Christians under Idi Amin --of hiding in a pond for two days with other children, submerged in the water in the midst of weedy reeds --and when they were finally rescued the sights and sounds of death all around them as they were secreted away to a place of temporary safety.... to live. And tell. Of the threshold of chaos and beyond.

In many respects --this nation of ours is not far from the threshold of chaos. The undercurrent of anger and frustration, of stinginess... and ignorance --and giving equal value to the opinion of ignorance on our news media.... Our friend IT has had several recent posts --calling us like a prophet to awaken to our spiral towards a crash... Counterlight always seems to hit the ball out of the park too....

And in our own neck of the woods, the rainbow flag is flying downtown --on the Federal Reserve building, no less (heheheheheh) --and some folks are crying out that they are excluded by the flag of inclusion...

Poor babies.... But, I write off those screaming exclusion at my own risk. Without a blink, others are already raising the cry for "equal time" to fly the flag of the Confederacy, or a so-called Christian flag this coming September... for Christian Pride month.

aaaaack.... if they only knew... what an oxymoron that is... more moron than not...

A portion of Psalm 85 at daily prayer
Show us your mercy, O LORD, *
and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what the LORD God is saying, *
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness shall go before him, *
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.
If we follow the Gospel news as to what is going to happen --the just shall be slaughtered, the poor punished, the righteous pushed in to exile, the women raped and murdered and the violent murderers and perpetrators of violence and death will, in every respect, win. Yes, they will win.

A lucky few may survive in a pond among the reeds to be rescued by those who live hidden and silent in the midst of the angry violent crowd... a different charism to remain silent...

And, God will be at work in their midst --in the midst of violence and death. The Gospel will be known --Church or no, --love and mercy and righteousness and peace do kiss and reign....

--but not through like machinations of that which they belie.

--although... I figure I am not one of those with enough humility to be discrete... and when push comes to shove, I will fear I will be more like Peter than not... although I hope and pray to be more like the women who seek the tomb at great peril to themselves and their community --if they were caught what degradation and violence would abound....

But, off they go --in the morning before the light at great risk, to do what is expected, what women and others who are less than do in tending the dead in the tradition of their ancestors --only to discover the unexpected.... to them, the Kingdom is revealed.... That is always the Gospel...

We must keep speaking out. We must make our priorities blatant --feeding the poor, tending the sick, visiting the widow, holding the children, housing the homeless.... it is when we lose these, we lose hold of the Gospel. The dispossessed already know --already possess the good news....

Hey God --it's margaret here. I reject literalism and embrace myth and metaphor... I/you know this. Help us all, who struggle in this bitter and rancid environment of capitalism, violence, self-righteousness and fear, to seek your righteousness and peace --which is to seek you. But, you know, I do sometimes like those psalms that want to whack the opposition and make them bleed before they are crushed into oblivion. Oh, yes. I do. Just sayin'.

Any way --off I go --today and tomorrow and then I'm off to points unknown to pray and learn in the valley between the volcanoes.... I pray for A,K,L,F,B,S,M,J,L,P,S and the family he serves, and yes even that twit that sits downtown worried that the flag of inclusion is excluding them --being shoved down their throat.... dear, dear me... Hey --I volunteer to go turn over all the tables in their temples... not there yet? You mean, I still have much to learn from the folks in Uganda? --and Guatemala? --I wait impatiently. Amen.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

this is The Key because I say so...

There is a whole lot to hold up and offer today --Grandmere Mimi posted a piece on drought and flooding in her neck of the rivers which said: Land in these areas may be either in severe or extreme drought conditions or inundated, depending on what side of the levees it lies, the officials said.

And four people dead and hundreds in hospital from tornadoes in Massachusetts... freakin' way north....

Lord, have mercy!

And please, God, give us the will and way to quit ruining this planet with more pollution heaped upon pollution --what a self-destructive web we weave.

God, help those sick, suffering, dying... hurt, wounded, in need of healing....

And, the Today show is featuring Matt and Al in white hats with black hat bands and slick dark glasses at the Vatican talking with Vaticanites about the 40 something percent of folks who have dropped out of church and what steps they are taking to have them return to the fold --social media being one such tool.... and a Day in the Life of....

hmmmmm..... I become more convinced that trying to fit new wine into old wine skins is not a good idea.... it is the Church that must change, not the people which must 'come home.' Most importantly, I did not see any time in the Papa's schedule to allow time to contemplate his doubt. About anything.... and doubt is so vital to faith. Because faith is not certainty.

Like, a couple of years ago, my purse was stolen out of the office during church --and while everything else was replaceable --even though it wasn't easy --but my greatest regret was the loss of my key chain --not that the locks weren't also changeable and new keys easily accessible --but because my key chain also contained the huge skeleton key from the back door of my childhood home --a key that I had carried for 40 years. Soaked in prayer and memories.... the key home.

Upon hearing that, Joel said --no, no margaret --your key is not missing --you had changed your key chain --here is your skeleton key... and he produced this wonkin' big skeleton key that could indeed be The. Very. Key.

But, I had doubts. How could this be? I knew I carried that key --I K.N.E.W. it. And, yet, here was the big, bold, long, steel muthah... carefully cut to fit a door and lock that no longer existed. So, I couldn't even go test it... The key home....

After a while --sitting with my doubt, I decided that while it mattered, it didn't really matter whether this was The Key or not --I could make it The Key and this Key too could carry all that really mattered --the prayers, the memories --no one could steal that from me....

And so, when I pull my key chain out and my own doubts taunt me --singing in that sing song tune --I'm not the kee-ey... Joel was just playin' nice... giving comfort in a final loss of home... he has fooled you. --and I respond, This Is The Key --and all keys can be The Key.... but this is The Key because I say so....

so freakin' dangerous.  --another part of the dangerous web.... --yet also the opportunity to mature...

In a weird way --I think that is exactly what The Ascension is all about... We Know Who. And We Know Who is not here in that way we once knew Who. Thanks be to God --because if We Know Who were here in that exact same way we would not have the gift of doubt that would make us go to those spiritual depths to see You Know Who every where. In all things. In all ways. Because there is not one thing that You Know Who does not hold in being.

At daily prayer (Matthew 28:16)
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Yeah, man.

Collect of the Day: Ascension Day

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church people on earth, even to the end of the ages...

Yeah, man.

Gonna start packin' my bag in a serious mode today.... makin' my list, checkin' it twice... finishing the old wine --looking for the new... taking the keys out of my pocket, because the doors won't be mine to open and close where I am going... but I am confident that when I knock, it shall be opened... that kind of thing.

...cuz the gates to hell are strewn about in a wreck and The Keys to the kingdom are endless and all around us. Because of the gift of the Ascension....

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

for the building up of ministry, some time, restoration as well as a quest

Yesterday, I went to lunch with a group of eight graduate students from the University of Delaware, American Material Culture program. It is an excellent program that trains folks to work in museums as curators and conservators --a highly competitive program that offers full tuition, a stipend --and two years of study at Winterthur Museum.

It was really exciting to spend time with a group of folks that are twenty-something and full of life and imagination --pushing the limits of material evidence to study culture/history in the United States. In the group I sat with, one student is studying the art and objects made in Japanese internment camps of WWII --a shameful part of our history. Another is studying gender purchasing differences in 19th C. receipt books. Another is studying silver chalices and patens and other communion pieces in mid-Atlantic churches....

Why? Well --looking for patterns in the objects, one can look for patterns in the cultural priorities of the people. And in observing the cultural priorities, one can view history with another lens. Object are/can be another primary source (other than written documents) to look at the lives of ordinary people.... remember, before about 1870, only about 3% of the population could read and write --and they were mostly white males.... So, objects can tell a tale that documents cannot.

And, yeah --I was a Fellow at Winterthur --which is why I was invited to lunch. All other things aside --the favorite stories were tour disasters --and the one I offered was traveling on the elevator at Winterthur to the 6th floor, and having a snake crawl out of the shaft in to the elevator with all aboard.... after the screaming subsided, there was no regaining control of that crowd... I think is was the same elevator ride that the guy said something to my sister, implying she was my mom --yeah, he survived....

But, what I am personally remembering yesterday is the excitement of the young woman who is studying chalices and patens.... She is an Episcopalian --and obviously a church go-er from the comments in the group. I couldn't help observe the near disdain of her peers. And her thesis is still amorphous --she's still waiting for the patterns to emerge, and doesn't have a specific question in mind as she approaches the objects --which is difficult, but honest --and allows the objects themselves to "speak."

But she was so grateful to sit by me --where theology was not a taboo --and when we talked, and I spoke of the collection of chalices at the Victoria & Albert in London, and the exhibit there, which was tucked away in the corner and was one of the best exhibits I saw in London --and it showed chalices over time --from the 11th C to the present --and the exhibit documented the theological impulses revealed --by the shape, size, ornamentation... like, the chalices got reeeealll small in the 15th C --because only the presider and perhaps an assistant or two consumed the holy mysteries.... the people watched --if they could get close enough to see. Hence the bells... so they could know what was happening even at a distance.... --and I know she finally felt affirmed. Because there is so much to be said, can be said, should be said --and theology and its impact is so often divorced from the study of history....

All the while --at lunch, a huge crow that had slammed head first in full flight in to the large windows of the restaurant was standing still --trying to gain its life back, but unable to move much at all. Stunned. Perhaps broken. Somewhere.

And I remembered why I had left the disciplines of this passion I have of history and stuff --the stories.... I don't know why the poor crow reminded me --but it did....

At daily prayer (Luke 12:22-31)

Jesus said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.


Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!


And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, 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, how much more will he clothe you - you of little faith!


And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.


Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."

Seeking the Kingdom first... it was impossible to say no any longer. So, I said yes....

And, today, I begin a month of sabbatical --Remember, said my Bishop, --it is for the building up of ministry, which cannot be accomplished except in some time away, in the example of Jesus --for restoration as well as a quest.

Joel wanted me to do something just for myself --I have worked like a dog at church, and our home life has been stressful --what with Joel in the ICU three times and the hospital five times in the last nine months....

...burning the candle at both ends...

So --just before his heart attack the day after Easter, he suggested I go back to Guatemala for more language school. Too expensive I said.... and then, Leonardo make a comment in my comments and said --come down and visit me! --So, I said --Really?! He said yes! Then Joel found a ticket to Guatemala for about $350 bucks --round trip.... Which may mean all the passengers have to run on a treadmill to keep the plane in the air... but, hey! There we are!

--it was impossible to say no any longer....

--I thought the trip might be off the table.. what with Joel's heart attack the day after Easter.... but Joel is now stable, again... and insisting....

So, this morning, I am going to begin the mental shift to packing my bags to go sit on the edge of a volcano --well, several volcanoes actually!

--and wonder at the dance of Guatemala --the colors, the food, the lilt of the tongue, the people who weave colorful fabric and eke a living out among the cobblestone roads, the guns, bravado and dangerous burps and belches of mother earth.

--to seek the Kingdom of God. First.
And, yes --I hope to post about this journey as often as possible, here.

Leonardo --see you real soon!
Amen.