Wednesday, February 29, 2012

D and a lover to keep me so grounded

In Virginia.
Arrived and the movers didn't know they were supposed to be at the house this week....

D and I on separate phones yesterday... 2 hours later we finally have confirmation. Movers arrive and inform me they were taking my stuff to storage --they hadn't found a truck to move our stuff... --don't know when it is supposed to be delivered --not in the docket.... I made the arrangements in January --confirmed this part of the move three weeks ago....

Then the real estate agent calls and says we are not closing on Thursday after all... and the purchaser wants to rent from us until it closes... which will be in a couple of weeks....

The lady we hired to clean, hasn't... --not a bit.

And the guy who was to forward our mail, hasn't... --not a bit. (The Patriot Act does not allow someone to rent a P.O. Box except in person, so we couldn't create a forwarding address until we got there --so there was a week before we could do something official... and that week was sitting in the box....)

If it weren't for D, I would have totally lost it. She put on her professional PR personality and kicked butt, and then took care of me.... Thank you D. I thank God you are here.

Perhaps it's the finality of it --perhaps it's because the purchaser is getting such a deal and picking our pockets... perhaps it's because the lady we hired to clean hasn't.... I don't know. But it's like death, if you know what I mean. --I know it isn't death... but it feels like it.

But, it is nearly finished. It is nearly done.
And then I shall be of one State, of one mind... and I shall be very grateful.

The trees are already freshing with spring here. I left South Dakota and it was zero degrees --get here and it is a sweltering sixty-five.... I look at the hat and gloves I brought and giggle. And wonder in amazement that I can see a couple of blocks --but the sweeping vista is an impossibility --even out of town....

At prayer (Psalm 119:49-50)
Remember your word to your servant,
because you have given me hope.
This is my comfort in my trouble,
that your promise gives me life.

I am looking forward to going home.
I NEVER want to move again... probably will, but at this moment......


And Joel keeps reminding me --it's a blessing margaret --it's a blessing.

Isn't it wonderful to have D and a lover to keep me so grounded?! I am entirely grateful.
Peace out.

Monday, February 27, 2012

--thinking about mundane circumstances....

Waking up in Rapid City. Flying to Richmond today --get there about 10pm. Tomorrow begins the final packing marathon of those things we had to leave to keep the house 'staged.' And then sign the house over and good-bye...

D. is coming from Baltimore to help --a God send. I couldn't do it without her. And F called and told me that he has hired a truck and paid a man to carry the stuff we won't take to SD to the thrift and consignment shops... a gift for which I am so very grateful, so very surprised, so very humbled....

--and then we will have both feet in one State --and finally be entirely home.

In truth --I am ashamed to be bringing more 'stuff' to our new home. We already have everything we need --despite the fact that our mattresses are on the floor and we had folks over for dinner and did not have enough chairs... we have enough and more than our neighbors. So, there is a certain amount of dread in all this... but, it is stuff for which I am merely a steward.... There we are.

And while I am gone, Eagle Butte will have a blizzard... and I will miss it!!! Dang. Seriously. Only a little worried that Joel will experience it by himself... and then drive back here Friday to pick me up....

It is hard for me to think about these mundane circumstances in a theological way --except I shall try --and where I land is 'repentance' --repent of my worldly stuff, repent of my participation in oppression by my participation in so much of the 'system', repent of the circumstances of denial that keep me wishing for more instead of less... repent of false and destructive hope --if you know what I mean....

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 103)

The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
He will not always accuse us,
nor will he keep his anger for ever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our sins from us.

As a father cares for his children,
so does the LORD care for those who fear him.
For he himself knows whereof we are made;
he remembers that we are but dust.

Our days are like the grass;
we flourish like a flower of the field;
When the wind goes over it, it is gone,
and its place shall know it no more.
But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him,
and his righteousness on children’s children;
On those who keep his covenant
and remember his commandments and do them.

The LORD has set his throne in heaven,
and his kingship has dominion over all.
Bless the LORD, you angels of his,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
and hearken to the voice of his word.
Bless the LORD, all you his hosts,
you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the LORD, all you works of his,
in all places of his dominion;
bless the LORD, O my soul.

I am reminded --bless the LORD --at all times, at all places, in all ways, in all things...

--and I can't wait to get back to my new home... already changed in so many ways.

--blessed are you O Lord God, Creator of the universe --you bring all things from the earth to make glad our hearts, and in this season we are called to remember that we too are brought forth from the earth, and shall return to the very same....

--made of star dust... all of us.... And there is not one bit of any part of us that is not beloved and redeemed.

Blessed are you O Lord God.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

One wouldn't be told how to get along here if they didn't want you to stay

Did another Comfort service --a Wiping Away the Tears... because there has been another death. I think the guy that died was one of the men that stand around the cedar tree out back --and the corner downtown. A life interrupted with addiction. Now gone. We will finish the service sometime next week with the wake and funeral and burial.... Lots of kids and 'grandkids' running around last night....

It makes me want to go hang out with those guys --get to know them... --ask 'em the questions "--what do you love? --whom do you love? --do you know that God loves you? --you know if you keep doing this, I'm gonna have to bury you too --what kind of funeral do you want? And then I'll know. I won't have to guess. And then your family doesn't have to guess...."

Addiction/alcoholism is not a disease that affects only the addict. It hits us all --one way or another.

I don't think I'll see many of the guys today --it's only 2 degrees or so outside --and the wind is clattering the windows and buffeting the house. The yard looks like someone threw diamonds over the snow. The church parking lot is an iceskating rink....

I am finding out more about the priests who have served here --one of the first (1880s) is a tragic story. Two local guys were arrested and thrown in jail because they wanted to keep living their traditional life and were gonna fight the white incursion in to their lands. They promised each other that if they ever got free, they would kill the first white person they saw. The priest --new in town, heard about them being in jail, got on his horse and went and unbeknownst to them bailed them out, got on his horse and left for home. The two guys fled the area of the jail, hunkered down and did as they had promised to do, killed the first white person they saw. It was the priest --their benefactor. When they later learned what they had done... they were forever changed.

Another priest here --he and his wife and young baby were much beloved --he lost his life saving two girls from drowning in the river/lake.

Another priest here died in a car crash on Christmas Eve. I found this out because there are markers along all the road --a diamond-shaped sign on a big post. One side of the sign reads "Think" and the other side reads "Why Die?" The signs and posts are usually decorated with plastic flowers, crosses, medicine wheels --memorials. As I drove to one church and another with one of the Lay Readers, she pointed to each sign and named the person who had died there.

I did not do this Rendition... just sayin'. But that is just about what it looks like....

At prayer this morning (Psalm 30)
I will exalt you, O LORD,
because you have lifted me up *
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.
O LORD my God, I cried out to you, *
and you restored me to health.
You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead; *
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.
Sing to the LORD, you servants of his; *
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.
For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
his favor for a lifetime.
Weeping may spend the night, *
but joy comes in the morning.
While I felt secure, I said,
“I shall never be disturbed. *
You, LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”
Then you hid your face, *
and I was filled with fear.
I cried to you, O LORD; *
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,
“What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me; *
O LORD, be my helper.”
You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.
Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

I remember today all those who live and work and worship and serve among the First Nations --perhaps appropriate on the day we remember John Roberts....

I remember the priests who served here in this Mission.... I pray that our mistakes will be redeemed and forgiven.

I give thanks for the 'text' sign that was up on Ash Wednesday and folks decided it would stay for the duration of Lent. It reads: remembr u r dst & 2 dst u shall retrn

I remember in my prayers F,L,L,K,H,M,V,S,D --I give thanks for the strong and very present ministry of the Lay Readers in this place --I pray for the Cedar Tree/Corner Guys --for the children last night --and for the guy who told Joel that it was bad manners to refuse food --I mean, that is a good sign --one wouldn't be told how to get along here if they didn't want you to stay.


Friday, February 24, 2012

--to eat the forbidden feast

In this place, if you hear about it, you are invited. And, if you hear about it, you really better go.

So... yesterday we heard about a pancake supper at church... so we went. Stunned that there would be a pancake supper AFTER Ash Wednesday... And we had more food than we knew what to do with --real hash browns from scratch --real scrambled eggs --real sausage --delicious pancakes... who cares if it's Lent! --tonight, we will accomplish our Lenten sacrifice by having a feast! --and if you come, put some money in the till for the utilities! This is the sacrifice!!!

Funny how that works. --and it surely puts a whole new spin on sacrifice....

Joel is singing --to the tune of On the First Day of Christmas...
On the second day of Lent,
my true love gave to me....

--you can fill in the blank. And finish the song!

Such is Lent in this place of surprises --of turning meanings inside out --a rupture of Christmas joy in the contemplation of the cross --of beauty in a devastating wilderness --of a feast in a time of sacrifice that is the sign of all that sacrifice is meant to be.... this is my body, broken --rejoice!

At morning prayer (a Canticle: A Song to the Lamb, Dignus es, Revelation 4:11, 5:9-10,13)
Splendor and honor and kingly power
are yours by right, O Lord our God,
For you created everything that is,
and by your will they were created and have their being;
And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain,
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation,
a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
And so, to him who sits upon the throne,
and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor,
for ever and for evermore.

And, now Joel is singing 'alleluia' to an ancient Greek tone... (and I am not going to remind him it is Lent --in this place, I cannot think of a better word than 'alleluia' to sum up Lent anyway) --while more snow blows around outside... while the hard buds on the tree outside my door continue to swell in the promise of spring....

--a kingdom of priests to serve.... to bear the sacrifice in joy.... to eat the forbidden feast... the bread of heaven.

To embrace taboo... --Amen.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ash Wednesday --the day after entering the mystery

oooooppppsss! Sorry about not posting yesterday....

Tuesday I drove to Rapid City because a parishioner was in the ICU. 250 miles round trip... Our ten bed hospital on the Reservation usually air lifts folks out when it's serious. Parishioner now out of ICU --gonna be okay.

Wednesday I got up early to do the 7:30am service --came back home and got a call --parishioner requesting communion at the hospital in Pierre --180 miles round trip... Got home, tried to do some more visiting, but no one answered their door... Did the 7pm service --lots of folk --got home, went to bed --awakened just after I fell asleep --a young woman had died --please come to the hospital.

And so late Ash Wednesday, after reminding folks all day that they were dust and to dust they would return, I embarked upon my first experience of Lakota liturgies of death.

I know I am in a different world... this was only the third or fourth time in nearly a decade of walking through funerals that I have been called out in the middle of the night (or whatever time) to embark upon the journey of making of holy grief. Mostly, I have received a call the next day after the death, a call from the funeral home which has spent a lot of time already with the family, and made all the plans, and the funeral director is calling to see if such-and-such a time is convenient for a funeral. And so my first encounter with the bereaved is usually when the initial shock has worn off and the family is set in to the business of planning the funeral... what songs, what readings, communion, where is the grave site? etc....

Not here.

My work here begins earlier --usually before death... priestly work... last night it was at the moment of death --an unexpected death of a 27 year old woman.

--and the ancient prayers were all I had in hand --the litany at the time of death, the ancient anointing of the senses, prayers for the bereaved, Depart o Christian soul... may the angels lead you in to paradise.... And knowing this time --these next four days will be marked by continued prayer and the gathering community...

--accompanied by sage, sage stems stripped of leaves and scattered about like bones, the smell of the sweet cleansing sage leaf incense rampant in the halls of the hospital... a large crowd --maybe fifty people-- gathered in a specially designated room at the hospital, a round room, all the people seated in a circle, grieving openly --the elderly setting the example --tears running smoothly without the eyes and mouth being contorted in crying --tears like rivers, the parent-aged folk crying sometimes wailing openly, children playing on the floor, teenagers wide-eyed... a lot of hand shaking in the Lakota way....

I had preached at the Ash Wednesday services --that we were entering the mystery of Lent --asking forgiveness when we knew we were already a forgiven people --marking our faces with ash and being public about it while at the very same time we are told in the Gospel not to be public about it --the Day of the Lord's coming a day of fear and trembling all while we express joy --our walk to the cross, striving to follow Christ and do as he did, learning to carry the sins of the world to the place where all is redeemed because we are a priestly people.... entering the mystery --remembering we are fully alive --remembering we shall surely die --remembering our hope.... the mystery of faith.

Mystery. Life and death.... remember that you are dust... --and there is not one thing, not even death, that can separate you from the love of God.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Perhaps Lent already fits like a glove

We finally got the sign in front of the church open --the key had been lost... the sign had not been changed since 2009....

Now it reads in big purple letters the Ash Wednesday schedule. In the nick of time. We'll have to change it again day after tomorrow --and finish fixing the lock (we had to drill it out, and then none of the parts we could purchase locally fit properly... oh well).

But, I admit --I am unprepared for Lent... as though I have any choice. What surprises me is that Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday or whatever else name one might call it is not a big deal here... Lent is big, to be sure... but not the party that kicks it off....

Perhaps Lent already fits like a glove... and having a party about it doesn't make sense.

We'll see.

At prayer this morning (Proverbs 30:1-4, 24-33)
The words of Agur son of Jakeh. An oracle.

Thus says the man: I am weary, O God,
I am weary, O God. How can I prevail?
Surely I am too stupid to be human;
I do not have human understanding.
I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I knowledge of the holy ones.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of the hand?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is the person’s name?
And what is the name of the person’s child?
Surely you know!

Four things on earth are small,
yet they are exceedingly wise:
the ants are a people without strength,
yet they provide their food in the summer;
the badgers are a people without power,
yet they make their homes in the rocks;
the locusts have no king,
yet all of them march in rank;
the lizard can be grasped in the hand,
yet it is found in kings’ palaces.

Three things are stately in their stride;
four are stately in their gait:
the lion, which is mightiest among wild animals
and does not turn back before any;
the strutting rooster, the he-goat,
and a king striding before his people.

If you have been foolish, exalting yourself,
or if you have been devising evil,
put your hand on your mouth.
For as pressing milk produces curds,
and pressing the nose produces blood,
so pressing anger produces strife.

Oh. That's good.
Perhaps I'll give up anger and strife for Lent.

There we go.
Blessed Fat Tuesday --all!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Deep wild joy sewn in my soul with water

It's snowing. And I am glad it is snowing. It's a holiday and a day off --a good day to hunker down and look out the window.

The snow is blowing every which way --sideways from the north out by the tree, the opposite sideways around the corner of the house, and even up right by the house in front of the window. It is that light, very small flake which we call powder in northern California. The best kind of snow. I don't know if there is another name for this kind of snow around here.

It might rain later this afternoon. That would suck. More snow is fine --but rain on top of snow just sucks....

And yesterday it was fifty degrees --our deacon, a lay reader, and I went to points west for church. We put our God-stuff in a box --a big box which the deacon had stored in the spare room in her house --filled with various vessels and pieces of foam and bubble wrap. It had mouse poo in and amongst the things.... So Joel and I took it all apart, down to the wood, scraped off the old dry glue, threw away the bubble wrap and foam and started over.

We created new compartments --for the chalice, paten, lavabo --the wine and water were being carried in baby bottles which was very clever --but now with the new lining they didn't fit --so we were hard pressed to find some bottles --and used Starbuck's coffee bottles which fit just fine... a small jar for the unconsecrated bread --Joel hates the blue top, but I thought it was just fine.... We used a small fleece blanket we found to create the lining... we had no glue so I duct taped it to the pieces of cardboard we used as cushion.

I am quite confident Almay would object... but it holds everything we need... crucifix, candles, water, wine, bread, vessels, linens --and hand sanitizer, a lighter --even chrism and the Oil of Gladness (healing oil).... In one town we met in a small rented hall --it was perfect --two children, elders, and all in-between --there hadn't been a Eucharist for them for several years.... They were hungry, one elder said.

Then we left the town and went 20 miles out the gravel road --we were to do it again, but no one came... wonderful old church building... guess I have some work to do there.... and they showed me the way to the cemetery there, more dirt road. You have to keep going fast if there is mud, the lay reader explained --otherwise you will sink in up to your axels in a hurry.... There were a few brand new graves in the cemetery, large earthen mounds that stood sentinel to their newest inhabitants... white wooden crosses, ribbons, empty bottles and other food stuffs tumbled about, a favorite keepsake nestled at the foot of the cross, choke-cherry sticks pushed in the earth to mark the corners of the grave --remnants of the traditional scaffolding that bore the dead halfway to the sky in times past.... The raw graves were not ruptures in the earth --but an obvious new womb....

The prairie spread out around us, punctuated with buttes, coarse grass and sage, ragged cliffs eaten by wind and water that fall into wending water-ways that eventually become creeks and streams that lead to rivers that lead to the Missouri... the earth and sky sewn together with water seams, interwoven in the horizons near and far.

We are a nomadic people, she said... it wouldn't do to carry a lot with us --it only adds to our burdens.... --and I think of our God stuff in a box... is it pretentious? --is it too much? --what do we really need for good worship? As Christians... out here.

At prayer this morning (a Canticle: A Song of Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:3-8)
There is none holy like you,
nor any rock to be compared to you, our God.
Do not heap up prideful words or speak in arrogance;
Only God is knowing and weighs all actions.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the weak are clothed in strength.
Those once full now labor for bread,
those who hungered now are well fed.
The childless woman has borne sevenfold,
while the mother of many is forlorn.
God destroys and brings to life, casts down and raises up;
gives wealth or takes it away, humbles and dignifies.
God raises the poor from the dust;
and lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with the rulers
and inherit a place of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are God’s
on which the whole earth is founded.

Hey God, it's margaret here. It's snowing. And I am glad. The deacon offered me a book --she said, you didn't ask, but this might help to know us better. I told her I don't even know what questions I should be asking... Hey God, help me forget anything that is not important; help me be quiet so that I can learn; help me learn the questions.... and I am so grateful. And filled with joy. That deep, wild joy. Sewn in my soul with water. Amen.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's not gonna be okay

So, the difference between grief and and grieving. Grief is the immediate response to the rupture of death. Grieving is what one does to work through the grief.

Yes --I kinda knew the difference before... but this book, Lakota Grieving, is being very helpful in sorting through the variety of grief and grieving. And it is very insightful in naming places grieving can get stuck or compounded --and the cultural responses to the places of grief --and the rituals/ceremonies to mark those places and guide one through them.

The most devastating testimony to the grief and grieving are the raw statistics:

Causes of death (per 100,000 population):
                                                  All USA       Indian health areas     Cheyenne River
Alcoholism:                                   7                        38                             58
Lung Disease:                             20                        14                              42
Heart Disease:                           152                      132                            215
Homicide:                                   10                         15                              19
Cancer:                                      135                         94                           196
Flu:                                              13                        19                              29
Suicide:                                       11                        16                              45
Accident:                                    37                         86                            145
Vehicle:                                      19                         48                              74

Infant mortality is six times the national average; life expectancy is around age 65 --far lower than the national average.

Grieving here is thick. One does not usually get the privilege of grieving one death at a time.

The hope is in the acknowledgment of the grief. One of the interviews reads:
A long time ago, everybody seemed to be related to each other, so when somebody died in their family, if one is not crying, the aunties or the uncles would go and talk to them. Even after the person is buried, if the person is not crying, they go and talk to the person until they start crying. They don't say, Come on, cry now, but they talk to that person and try to bring out why. Maybe there's a reason why they're not crying. That's how they keep themselves sane. Things start to developing like you feel you're all alone, because all your older relatives are gone. Pretty soon all these modern things kind of giving me a bad time, one on top of another, and you really get stressed out. I know about it. I just tell my kids, I'm gonna have to cry because if I don't, I'm gonna get sick. I let myself go and cry. At my house.

A long time ago they use to go and cry. Now the people are gonna look at you and think there's something wrong with you! Put you in the nut house! My cousin died and that made me feel bad. So when they brought him to Church, I went in there and I cried. I cried loud. Everybody thought that it shouldn't be that way, because even the priest said, Go calm her down! But my aunties and all them they started crying too. I suppose they want to but the funerals around here, they don't allow nobody to cry out like that. They will come and tell you, Don't cry, don't cry, it's all right, it'll be OK. It's not gonna be OK!

The books speaks to the cultural burden of grief too --how the Lakota are born in to the grief of the past. --and the ritual/ceremony used to name, acknowledge and bring to light that grief... give it air...

It has set me wondering about stuff --our National dilemmas, our politics, our wanton destruction of our own habitat, our angst about institutions.... how much of it is because we are burying the very human things we should be paying attention to --like grief? And when one does not allow the grief expression and exposure, when one does not work it like clay --it forms rigid angry ruts in our lives that we refuse to even see, and so we keep stumbling in to them over and over and over again. And the younger generations think the ruts are not there... when, indeed, they are....

Anger. Fear. Protective-ism. Angst. Territoriality. The human condition. Ruts.

--all the talk about the need to re-structure the church and focus on mission --and no one has asked WHY the current structure of the church is (presumably) not working.... The by-words are nimbleness, horizontal, change, let the new generations speak....

--when maybe what we need to do is name our grief so that we can deal with the anger and fear and territoriality... name the baby.... Honestly. The younger generations don't even know/see the grief they've been born in to.... And will say, they are not ours, those ruts do not affect me....

That's like saying the factory down the road, the pollution it spews, is not going to affect you because it's not yours... bullpucky.

And the grief, the anger, fear, angst --is not the creation of the older generations either.... It is ours. All of us. Inheritors. The human condition.... to get to the good grieving, as a people, we have to at least acknowledge the grief.

It's not gonna be OK! the elder says.

At prayer, from the lectionary for Martin Luther (Isaiah 55:6-11)
Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.


Friday, February 17, 2012

for the honor and nobility of it all

At prayer this morning (1 John 3:3-4)
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Well... that little bit 'o scripture is enough to keep one going for years.... This morning, above all else, it speak of hope.

--what we will be has not yet been revealed... which means we can look at nothing at face value, and must seek the face of God in all...

--which means that anyone who professes to know what is to come is a liar, or at best, deluded...

--except that part --we will be like him... for we will see him as he is... There is so much hope in that... H.O.P.E.

--so much of fundamentalism is based in fear --and an external force that is driving all to destruction, except for the select few.... Which is the ultimate denial of the inner workings of sin --yes, that horrid word, but there we have it.

I have always seen it --Christ's journey to the cross was the patient revelation of ourselves... we are the shouting, scourging, weaving crowns of thorns mob... and when all is revealed, we will be like him... finally... bearing the sins of others. Willingly.

But that don't/won't preach here. (Except to a few...) One cannot preach about oppression to those who already bear the sins of the world. So, I must learn. I must change my inner orientation. I must find the way to speak of the cross (unwillingly) borne --how?

I heard some of the ladies speaking of Lent --what they will give up...

--for the sake of the people....

We will be like him.... We will see him as he is... and we will be like him....

The cross is easily identifiable here.
And a steady supply of joy and laughter.

I have so much to learn....

The phone just rang, and I was just offered a book on Lakota grief and grieving....

Funny how that all works, heh?!

Canticle: A Song of Our True Nature
Julian of Norwich
Christ revealed our frailty and our falling, *
our trespasses and our humiliations.
Christ also revealed his blessed power, *
his blessed wisdom and love.
He protects us as tenderly and as sweetly when we are in greatest need; *
he raises us in spirit
and turns everything to glory and joy without ending.
God is the ground and the substance, the very essence of nature; *
God is the true father and mother of natures.
We are all bound to God by nature, *
and we are all bound to God by grace.
And this grace is for all the world, *
because it is our precious mother, Christ.
For this fair nature was prepared by Christ
for the honor and nobility of all, *
and for the joy and bliss of salvation.

There we are.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What my Father has given me is great than all else

Working on the books for the parochial report --71 baptisms, 50 funerals, 3 confirmations....

I look up and out the window... calculating in my head --there are only 52 weeks in a year.... --that's a lot of water and dirt and light to go through... I remember the spiritual boomerang effect in doing a funeral and turning around and doing a baptism. It's not easy. I guess I better figure out a way to hold that spiritual boomerang effect lightly.... I think its going to happen a lot here.

Funerals here are a bigger deal than even in Richmond... and very different, I hear tell. Sometimes the ancient Lakota ceremonies --drum and songs and all, are included. They are offered alongside the Christian ceremony --vigil, wake, funeral... wipe away the tears, comfort, sending away... --not intertwined, but offered like parallel lines.

Same sky. Different side of the mountain.

What I find very heartening is that there are several really good Lay Readers in these congregations --and they are very skilled at funerals. A true depth of ministry.

At prayer this morning (John 10:27-30)
My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

When you see Jesus --you see God.

--it alleviates the mystery part, on one hand... there is nothing hidden or secret to know.

On the other hand, the profound depths... my words have all escaped in the sky.... like steam.

How can one be in the center of the continent, and yet feel like one has been flung to the middle of no where? --yes, that is the profound depth-ish-ness --in the Christian idiom --The Wilderness... the first place Jesus went after baptism/revelation...

The Wilderness. Nothing but God and striving to be human. And the knowledge that we are in God's hand, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can snatch us out of it.
There we are. But, oh my God, that takes such faith.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The little children

Well --last night I helped out at a little Valentine party for some girls (and my heart was broken).

See... I have heard from folks my age and older how they were removed from their homes, put in dorms, and forced to drop their language and attend white school and speak white language. The church, in the 19th Century was involved in this --actually given the task by the government. Then, the government decided the church was corrupt and took over again --until the late 60s or so when the Tribes took over.... I thought the tragedy of the Dorms was a thing of the past....

Much to my dismay, these girls were from The Dorm --put their by their family, or someone, for one reason or another in order to attend school --a Tribal Dorm to be sure, a Tribal school, yes.... but, I thought the Dorm buildings were abandoned... shredded fabric in the windows where there is a window --otherwise there is plywood, never a light on, stark dark brick buildings on Main Street next to the Tribal Headquarters....

I thought the Dorms were a thing of the past....

But, they are not.

So the party was quite pink, with lots of chocolate and little pieces of jewelry and silly girly games and drawing drawing drawing --an infusion of wonderful silly and laughter and picture taking.

God bless the two young people who organized it.
God bless the children who attended.
God bless the Tribe.
God bless the ladies who work at the Dorm.
God bless the teachers at the school.
God bless the families.

At prayer this morning (beginning at 1 John 2:12)

I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people,
because you have conquered the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young people,
because you are strong
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

The little children bear the sins of the world....
It's not God who has some 'splaining to do....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I love to hear clocks ticking. Joel has clocks --a real tinkering kind 'o guy, we've found old case clocks for little to no money and he has fixed 'em. And they tick away with their imperfect beat and alternating tone. Each one has its own voice... what bothers me terribly is the gong or bells or chimes --some only on the half hour and the hour, some every fifteen minutes with a chime or a portion of the Westminster tone.

That's the part I can't stand --hasn't always been that way --used to love it, but in the past few years... je ne sais, but it's like fingernails on the chalk board.

All that to say Joel has one old clock that only needs to be wound every thirty days, and it used to be in a far away room in our Richmond house, so its chime mechanism is fully wound up --and it cannot simply be turned 'off' --its spring must fully unwind to be disengaged, and I thought I would go absolutely crazy listening to it for a full month. So Joel found a way to let the mechanism run through without chiming; but, what it does do is go through the motions and it makes this guttural chunked off whirring noise and clunking like unstable footsteps with a wooden crutch on hollow stairs on board a metal ship.

Or something like that.

We had the Deacon over for dinner, and I thought she was going to spit her black beans all over the table in unbridled laughter when she heard that noise... but, she didn't. She caught herself in time and politely didn't mention it or even ask.

So, this is our fourth Tuesday in this house --and perhaps sometime this week, it --the clock, will stop trying to do its chiming thing.

Fourth Tuesday. How did that happen? Where did the time go?

--and in our prayers we talk about eternity and forever and life everlasting and all that... --and there is time --God's time, and that is different from our measured time.... one is poured out freely, the other marked and named with distinct innuendo....

Part of me feels like we have been here forever --another that we have only just arrived.

What I do know is that without love, all time would be empty... dead...

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song of God’s Love 1 John 4:7-11)

Beloved, let us love one another,
for love is of God.
Whoever does not love does not know God,
for God is Love.
In this the love of God was revealed among us,
that God sent his only Son into the world,
so that we might live through Jesus Christ.
In this is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us
and sent his Son that sins might be forgiven.
Beloved, since God loved us so much,
we ought also to love one another.
For if we love one another, God abides in us,
and God’s love will be perfected in us.

--not that we loved God, but that God loved us....

Dang that's beautiful. And we get to swim in it.
Happy Valentines Day m'love.

And to all of you too.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mina to remind me....

Whew... sold the house. That's the good news.

The bad news is we will have lost everything. Everything. And then some. It is not an offer we would have even considered, but after seven months, it is the only offer --so we will take it. And lose everything. And then some. We will close in the red....

In a few weeks, we will be less than middle class --we will be among the working poor. And no prospects in being anything other than that 'till Kingdom come.

--and I suppose that will be alright. Because we will be free.

--and we are already so very rich in so many of the ways that count. And that kind of stuff cannot be taken from us. Evah.

--give me some Mina... to remind me....

--and a little more...

Peace out, my friends.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Radical stuff, that Incarnation jazz

Tomorrow we shall baptize four infants and invite them to join us in the eternal priesthood of Christ.

I have often prayed about the relationship of Christianity and Christians (Episcopalians in particular) among the Lakota. For many in the past century, Christianity was unwillingly imposed, another factor in the many gross maneuvers of assimilation....

But for others, Christianity was willingly embraced. I am reading Speaking of Indians by Ella Deloria, born in 1889 on the Yankton Reservation, and she grew up on the Standing Rock Reservation, just north of here. She was a brilliant scholar in her own right --studying at the University of Chicago and graduating from Columbia. Ms. Deloria' father, Philip Joseph Deloria, was one of the first Sioux ordained an Episcopal priest.

In her book, Speaking of Indians, she writes about the ancient cultural ways, about the horrific loss and transition to Reservation life --and about Christianity. One of the persons she writes about is Gall, a leader among the Hunkpapa Lakota, who along with Sitting Bull, brought down Custer in 1876. Gall finally surrendered to the U.S. in 1880, and he, along with 52 other families, were shipped to the Standing Rock Reservation. It was there that Gall embraced Christianity.

Deloria writes:
The masses of people accepted the church eagerly. But certain ones, like Chief Gall who lived a mile from the mission, took a long time to study out the gospel message with care and to appraise it critically. I am told that at the beginning Gall always came to church painted up as for a war council, looking austere and a little frightening. The young clergyman knew he was on trial, he and his message. Gall would sit by the door with his weapons--he never come without them--and would watch every move the minster made in the chancel and take in every word he uttered, with a grimly searching look that was disconcerting. At any minute if the missionary had said something that seemed off key, Gall might just as well have finished him off then and there in the interest of his people. (Who is this mere boy, all dressed up in white and talking to deceive us? I will get rid of him!) But in the end, he made a great feast with the clergyman as his honor guest. When all had eaten and smoked the pipe together, he spoke to him in a public oration, calling him misun, "my younger brother" --a social kinship term, certainly, since Gall was a Teton of the Tetons, while the clergyman was a prince of the Yanktons, another dialect division:

Misun, for many moons I have sat at your wihuta [the seat by the doorway; a term denoting the humblest space in a tipi] and listened with critical attention to all you say. And now I have some conclusions. What you tell us this man Jesus says we must do unto others, I already know. Be kind to your neighbor, feed him, be better to him that to yourself, he says. All are brothers, he says. But that's an old story to me. Of course! Aren't we all Dakotas? Members one of another, he says. Misun, do you know any cluster of Dakota people who are not linked together in kinship? If anyone want you to escort him part way, take him to his very tipi door. If he asks for your shirt, by all means give him your blanket also, he says. Well, all that I have always done, and I know it is good. But now he also says, Love your enemies, for they are your brothers. And he says, if someone strikes one cheek, let him strike the other too. That I have never done. That I have to learn, hard as it sounds.

What is entirely new to me is that the Wakan [Holy] is actually the Father of all men and so he loves even me and wants me to be safe. This man you talk about has made Wakantanka [Great Spirit] very plain to me, whom I only groped for one--in fear. Whereas I once looked about me on a mere level with my eyes and saw only my fellow man to do him good, now I know how to look up and see God, my Father, too. It is waste [well].

And so Gall was baptized and confirmed; and all his days he received special instruction from time to time, calling the missionary in to have things clarified ever and again. He was not just grabbing at externals. He was a student of Christ's teachings.

(Speaking of Indians, Ella Deloria, University of Nebraska Press, First Bison Books, 1998, p100-101)

It is so easy to forget the fundamental crisis of liberty in the Incarnation.

At prayer this morning (Romans 14:7-9)
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Radical stuff. God help us as we take that radical leap tomorrow, into the pit of the water, and emerge proclaiming and seeing with our own eyes the Incarnation and Resurrection once again.

Friday, February 10, 2012

We should make the church itself a sign of what we believe

Okay. I put myself to bed yesterday... and today, I feel better but not well. There it is. You know, that dangerous borderland territory where what one needs to do is remain in bed, but what one wants to do is get up and go!

So, I channeled what energy I have and watched the video of the PB and Bishop Sauls beginning the conversation about changing the church. Here is what I took away--

1) yes, we must A) reform governance B) re-invent local mission.

2) the idea of shared resources is all great and good. BUT, that would mean, for example that the congregations that struggle to pay for a full or even part-time priest --where the salary and benefits of the priest take about 2/3rds of the budget or more, would have to share a priest --well, that is going to be a tough one to pull off. [At my previous cure, we tried to get a shared youth group going, share a sexton, share a program/education staff --we even had conversations about sharing a priest --and it was roadblocked every step of the way. No, each congregation wanted each to their own even if it meant doing without. I cannot see it happening without a mandate. We should also think of ways to reduce/eliminate our utility costs in our grand over-sized and under-stuffed church buildings...]

3) local mission is all well and good, but too often local mission becomes the pet projects of particular folks... and it will potentially end in creating a duplication of resources which all this "conversation" is intending to undo.

4) in suggesting that GC meet less frequently to save money... well, fewer meetings doesn't promote better governance or better conversation. And, fewer representatives doesn't bode well for minority representation... this needs to be thought through more carefully. And in suggesting that legislation or resolutions come only through Dioceses or some other institutional group would be deadly. Just not how The Spirit usually works.... And talk about squashing minority voices.... This one is a tough one...

I suggest that every member of this church be required to read and then re-read What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty so that we can see how rife with assumptions-- even our language, much less our structures, and how we "do" mission is --it is loaded. And self-serving.

I suggest that every clergy person (EVERY clergy person) be willing to take half the pay they do now. As a sign. And give what they would have had to local mission.... I suggest that every church that spends more than 65% of its budget on salaries be required to share personnel resources --including sharing clergy and every other salary line item.

I suggest that Bishops give up meeting in person so often --what's good for the goose etc.... And give what they would have paid otherwise to local mission.... And what meetings there are, should come out of their own pockets.... I suggest that Bishops conform to their own Diocesan scale of suggested pay for priests --you know, how many years of service = X amount of $$$$. I know of only one Bishop that does this.

I suggest that all meetings come out of vacation, holiday or time off --especially those who work for the church. This would put church-working clergy on a parity with laity who choose to do this work. And, I think it would dramatically reform how we do meetings.

I suggest that there be true parity in pension benefits between lay and clergy. I suggest that the medical benefits between dioceses be the same (in Virginia, the medical insurance costs about $450/month --in South Dakota it is $1,100 and we have to pay 15% the cost plus deductibles). I suggest that medical insurance be open to all church workers and all laity who might choose to participate. Perhaps we should do that with pension programs as well....

I suggest we stop supporting Church Publishing and make everything available on-line. Without copyright. And what we do end up publishing should be in paperback and affordable to all.

We should be very, very wary of using the word 'mission' --it has the same history of the crusades and 'mission' has been very damaging in so many places....

I suggest that those who are already critical of the conversation begun by the PB and Sauls start making suggestions --which is far more difficult and can in turn be gone over critically with a fine tooth comb.... We must.

We must.

From prayer this morning (from Genesis 27--I think!)
This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

We should do everything we can to make the church itself the image of the Kingdom, the gate of heaven. We should make the church itself a sign of what we believe. Not practical? What else should we be doing? Anything else is the worship of the idol of institutionalism.

We must.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I couldn't help myself....

You might think the great prairie is flat.

In some places it is.

And in some places it is not.

And in some places it is REALLY not... this is one of the main roads through the Reservation --Route 2. I stopped at this place got out of the car, and just sang....

At prayer this morning (Psalm 146)
Praise the LORD, O my soul! *
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, *
for there is no help in them.
When they breathe their last, they return to earth, *
and in that day their thoughts perish.
Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help! *
whose hope is in the LORD their God;
Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; *
who keeps his promise for ever;
Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, *
and food to those who hunger.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind; *
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous;
the LORD cares for the stranger; *
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.
The LORD shall reign for ever, *
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

I woke up with fever and congestion.... sigh. I guess it's not wise to stand out on the prairie in sub-zero temperatures and sing... but, I couldn't help myself. Hopefully it will run its course before Sunday.

Peace out.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The limits of my language are the limits of my horizon

It isn't all about the weather... but, then, indeed it is. Today we awoke to -3 degrees.

ummmmm.... that's cold. I hope the car starts. I am headed to points north and west today. To go meet with the priest on the Standing Rock Reservation north of here. It is a very clear day (hence, probably, the extreme cold) --I am looking forward to the drive.

And, last night, Joel and I went to our first Lakota language class --my goal is to be able to sing/pronounce properly the words of the hymns --but who knows what will come. I know the syntax/word order is very different too --language really does shape a perspective --a cosmology --a way to go through the world.

To my great delight, one of the young men from St. John's was there, with his girl friend. His girl friend is from Germany --here on break from University. They met several years ago while she was volunteering at the youth center here in town. He speaks some Lakota --she says, gently ribbing him, I am going to speak your own language better than you! He already speaks some German. They both said that she has an advantage over us English speakers, because German shares some of the guttural and nasal intonations.

No alphabet... a long series of vowels and diphthongs to learn. And we began vocabulary studies with learning the names for relationships --grandmother, brother, cousin and the like. There are gender differentials too --but these are indicated not by the gender of the one about whom you speak, but depending upon the gender of the one speaking... so, Joel and I are learning different words to indicate the same person....

I remember years ago searching for Lakota language resources on-line... one site that fascinated me had wanted to continue the tradition of being an oral-only language and saw the alphabet versions as one more way of western oppression --so the vowel sounds and diphthongs were all color coded. It was fascinating, but I could not fathom that many shades of red....

--so many things to learn....

At prayer this morning (Romans 12:1-4)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

I see great faith and a different world all around me. A richness unlike any other in this place of poverty --poverty according to the world's standards. Give me patience and endurance and humor, God, to learn and serve here.

Off I go. North. Into the deep prairie. Pushing toward a new horizon.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pink glory

The winds blew last night. Punching the house. Shaking the trees outside our door. And this morning it is 4 degrees. Outside, of course. I don't think I've ever stepped out a door in to 4 degree weather.... Once, in Connecticut, Joel's mustache froze to his lower lip --but that wasn't any where near 4 degrees. I suppose this is when one covers their mouth to mediate the air.... And as I sit here and look out the window at Power Pole Calvary there are little snow flurries --snow out of the thin air that doesn't accumulate --what did the lady at the Family Dollar store call it --a smither of snow? (with the 'th' sounding almost like a soft 'd'...)

And yesterday, while out with the elders who introduced me to the Chairman of Cheyenne River, they talked about socks... socks. The store sells the fleece socks, but they are $13 --too expensive, so they knew that this morning they would need several layers of socks.

Ms. M gave me a fine pair of fleece socks --cleverly made --three pieces sewn together so that none of the seams is on a pressure point of one's foot. So, I had an idea....

Gift giving in a land of few personal possessions is an art --and very important. If one goes to visit, one carries a gift. If one is celebrating an important event, one gives things away. So... my idea... make a pattern from the very fine pair of fleece socks....

The only fleece is either pink or blue at the only store in town that carries fabric...

--so, pink it is. But very warm and very fuzzy. And they will be entirely hand stitched --blanket stitch... flexible and durable.... mostly because I don't think I can figure out how to do a flat stitch by hand....

And I doubt they will ever be worn out of the house by anyone... entirely too flashy --but that's not the main idea any way.

Thank you Ms. M! You are an inspiration out here on the plains!

At prayer this morning: Canticle: A Song of Faith
(1 Peter 1:3-4, 18-21)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by divine mercy we have a new birth into a living hope;
Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
we have an inheritance that is imperishable in heaven.
The ransom that was paid to free us
was not paid in silver or gold,
But in the precious blood of Christ,
the Lamb without spot or stain.
God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory
so that we might have faith and hope in God.

We have been keeping the house at 62 degrees and heating where we are with little space heaters. This morning, I think I shall turn the heat up... the cold is pressing in from every direction... and God gets more the glory.

Perhaps more pink glory this morning.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sell me your birthright.... Well then --let me take it from you

Well, she said, that's the Sesame Street neighborhood over there --and beyond that is China Town --and the B.I.A. is over there behind the Tribal Headquarters --No Heart is on the other side of the highway, Fox Ridge way over there next to Habitat.... China Town? I asked. Yes, she said --folks think the houses over there look like China Town... We sometimes name neighborhoods as a joke... like Sesame Street. Hey, would you like to have a Housing Authority map --it's got most of the street names, and it has all the neighborhood names on it. We even call the dump The Mall because we all do our shopping there!

We laughed --Joel got all excited. He likes that kind of treasure hunt. I forgot to ask her if there were foxes on Fox Ridge, or if it were named that because no one had EVER seen a fox over there.... There are some street names around town, but no address numbers. None. Never has been.

I despair of ever finding some one's home when I go visiting. I must find another way to navigate other than the ultra-logical system of numbers... I was told the way to someone' house last night --you go over through Sesame, past the double-wide, and the road turns a few times and there will be two stucco houses and a stucco garage and it's the stucco house....

Nothing to do but jump in, I guess. And greet the people I meet along the way!

Today I get introduced to the Chairman of the Reservation by the elders --the Chairman is the elected official that oversees the Tribal concerns and interfaces with the Federal government institutions here. Not an easy relationship. At. All. Beyond the historical trauma --the present day mash --like, 50 years ago the Army Corps of Engineers took 10% of tribal lands (the remaining land --most of it already stolen through broken treaties) by building a dam to prevent flooding further south --a dam for the white farmers --displacing the traditional fishing and seasonal gathering places, and drowning towns and religious/ceremonial places along the river. So VERY wrong. But, then the ACE 'gave back' the land along the edges of the new lake they had made. Now, 50 years later, the dam has caused the tributaries to back up and flood because of silting-up in the lake --and ancient burial grounds and cemeteries are being inundated with water. The ACE says --but it's your land. The Tribe says --but you are the one who caused the problem.... It's all in court.

So. Sad. And I found out that one of our older cemeteries is in the mix of the court battle. I found out because an elder asked permission of the Mission Council to speak on behalf of the Church...

I have So. Much. To. Learn.

At prayer this morning (Genesis 25:29-34)
When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob. Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Joel and I heard the recent story --that the government is still trying to get the Tribes to settle on money to relinquish their claim to the Black Hills. A recent vote was taken to keep the Black Hills or take the money... most of the young people wanted the money offered by the government.... The elders began to tell the stories... the Very. Hard. Stories. It's their birthright, she said. We do not truly possess the Black Hills, a very holy place to us --but if we sell our rights to the Black Hills, we not only do not possess them, we sell our birthright that our ancestors lived and died for... we truly have nothing.

This I understand.

O God. Hear my prayer.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Frozenness: A Joy and Gladness of its own

It is some of the best mud I've yet met. It sticks. It stains. It has its own aroma of old grass and tree bark and water still yet unknown to me.

Mr. Witty found it first and did his macho dance in it --carving creases in it with his thrusting-foot moves. Then I discovered it--the mud in every step we made. It got warm yesterday afternoon --in the 40s. It bloomed mud. This morning, the frozen fog is so thick we can hardly see fifty feet.

Every twig.
Every branch.
Every blade of grass.

I have seen it before --especially when we lived in northwestern Connecticut along the river. But in that place along the river, the frozenness was soppy --wetter...

---here, it is merely a nod toward wet... there are spaces between the kisses of iciness.

So far, anyway.

And here is the tree which stands by the door we use --this door is closest to the parking lot of St. John's --we live on the far side of the parking lot --a sea of mud between us and the privilege of pavement.

Wind. Air. Water. Sun. Earth. An elemental conspiracy. It is a certain beauty, yes. A harsh beauty that masquerades as something delicate, but is as sharp and deadly as any knife...

Oh Winter, is this your song of praise?

At prayer (A Canticle: A Song of the Wilderness
Isaiah 35:1-7, 10)

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
It shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weary hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to the anxious, “Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God, coming with judgment to save you.”
Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened,
and the ears of the deaf be unstopped.
Then shall the lame leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert;
The burning sand shall become a pool
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
The ransomed of God shall return with singing,
with everlasting joy upon their heads.
Joy and gladness shall be theirs,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

The Hope of Winter is not the abundant blossom. Winter is not the opposite of summer growth. It is its own. When the desert blooms and rejoices, it is the desert in bloom --not something else. It is its own. And there is nothing else like it.

So it is here. Now. A cacophony of frozenness, a multi-syllabic word of ice. A glory. A Strength. A Song. A Joy and Gladness of its own.

Hey God. I see you.

Friday, February 3, 2012

And now the world looks like trees walking

The view from my window where I am writing. The sun has risen. It is 19 degrees outside. I have found indelible beauty in this view every morning. And the three utility poles remind me of Calvary. Every morning. I have been turned up-side-down and inside-out... such is my prayer.

And, there is the growing... umm... shame, for lack of a better word. All my life I have heard solidarity, solidarity, solidarity. My parents took me to walk with Chavez in the Central Valley of California --in solidarity for farmworkers' rights --not to be sprayed with chemicals as they worked in the fields, to have a decent place to sleep and eat, and a place to go to the bathroom other than the fields and streams and ditches. And access to medical care....

We didn't eat grapes. Solidarity. We didn't eat meat --protest at rising meat costs. Solidarity. My dad gave time at the free clinic --he took me with him. Solidarity and service.

It was a natural transition for me to walk in solidarity and protest against war, protest against institutional heartlessness....

I hear and see things so differently here. And it's not as though my life has been a lie --no. But, I have always had choices. This, that, or a third way. Maybe even another way. And I have been able to act upon my choices. I have had resources --family, education, connections... strong middle-class values and access.

There is no solidarity as long as there are choices... there is no such thing as solidarity from the comfort zone.

I hear conversations now about the church and the nation, the budgets and stewardship, politics and imperatives --the way of the future and how we shall decide where to go and how to go... as empty calls to a myth, the dusting off and trumping up of the American dream. A beckoning to grand fake-hood.

And as long as the church continues to talk about mission and stewardship while it pays its bills and jets around the world speaking of rights and justice and mission and budgets, it will continue to miss its mark. So long as the church continues to pay for its facades of grandeur instead of hosting feasts where all are welcome, it will continue to miss its mark.

I must think and be anew. The church must think and be anew. The nation... well... who will change the hearts of the empire builders, if God cannot? Do not eat and drink the food of the rich; it will seduce you, intoxicate you....

--and it is time to cast off the shock of guilt and shame... at my sudden reckoning of my nakedness... My mothers ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil... and ran, walked, protested... it is time to cook that fruit and bless God for it --knead the yeast in to the solid parts, make a wild punch of forbidden juices... God's own flesh and blood from that very tree --and eat it anew. Savor it. Solidarity --hell, I didn't know. And now the world looks like trees walking... she says as she wipes the mud from her eyes.

At prayer this morning (Isaiah 57:15) Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, “I dwell in the high and holy place and also with the one who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

There we are.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ready. Set. Go.

Everybody in town knew we didn't have phone or radio or anything... this news was reported back to me by an elder knocking on the door to see if I wanted to travel to the next town west of here for lunch. As the elder spoke, the phone rang. I stood there and grinned. You can tell 'em different now, I said. What about TV or radio? the elder asked. We'll see, I said. We'll see. You will need a radio, the elder said.

Okay. Probably. Yes. To listen to the local station broadcast from the Reservation north of us. Indian news.

Actually, the hiatus was rather like a retreat. Nine days of being disconnected. Unhooked. Out of touch. Really hard, at first. But, we listened to the news in the car the other day --and, nothing's really new.... Seriously.

And being unhooked has given me a real chance to prepare --to think --to pray.... To set our house up.... To prepare an office....

And, it's not that I'm 'frightened' --no. That's not the word. It's not that I'm... what's the word?! --more like the anticipation of stage fright --but that's not it either. Excitement, yes. But this wonder and awe --this trepidation --anticipation --like celebrating the Eucharist for the first time after ordination --and wondering if the Spirit will take it all back and strike me dead on the spot...

I found a page while sorting through files --almost prophetic... a collection of three quotes --I don't remember why I had gathered them, why I had put them together on a page... but they went right to the heart of the matter of my ponderings in my unhooked-ness....

St. Gregory the Great on Justice:
When we administer any necessities to the poor, we give them their own; we do not bestow our goods upon them. We do not fulfill the works of mercy; we discharge the debt of justice... what is given to us by a common God is only rightly used when those who have received it use it in common.

St. Ambrose:
It is not with your own wealth that you give alms to the poor, but with a fraction of their own which you give back; for you are usurping for yourself something meant for the common good of all. The earth is for everyone, not only for the rich.

St. Basil:
When someone strips a man of his clothes we call him a thief. And one who might clothe the naked and does not --should he not be given the same name? The bread in your board belongs to the hungry; the cloak in your wardrobe belongs to the naked; the shoes you let rot belong to the barefoot; the money in your vaults belongs to the destitute.


And here I sit in the poorest place in our nation...
What peace is there between a hyena and a dog? And what peace between the rich and the poor? Wild asses in the wilderness are the prey of lions; likewise the poor are feeding grounds for the rich. Humility is an abomination to the proud; likewise the poor are an abomination to the rich. (Ecclesiasticus 13:15-20)

I know I am not here to solve the wickedness of poverty --for that I would have to serve on Wall Street and the like (fat chance that); I am here to serve, to anoint, to feed, to celebrate, to baptize, to bury, to rejoice, to grieve, to be present, to be present, to be present....

Hey God, it's margaret. Ready. Set. Go. Amen.