Saturday, March 31, 2012

Filled with quiet joy

So, I come back from the gas station --having gone there to fill up someone's gas tank so they could take their son home from school for the weekend, and Joel is standing and talking to a guy in front of the gate. I go over to greet the guy and Joel, and invite them both over to the church for Stations of the Cross.

I hear the guy say to Joel, --yes, I know. I nearly died when my son died. My wife didn't make it. But, now, I am glad when I feel that real loneliness and sadness inside me. I don't try to hide it, and I don't want it to go away. It reminds me that there is goodness and love inside me.

I decide not to interrupt --they are doing Stations of the Cross, right there, in the driveway, in their own way. I greet them both and go inside... humbled. Filled with quiet joy. --the loneliness and sadness reminds me that there is goodness and love inside me....

So, after Stations in the church at sun set, everyone sat around, talking. One said, 'You know, Margaret, we did the fourteenth Station in the wrong place --it's there by the tabernacle.'

I look, and sure enough there is a station over the tabernacle by the burning candle. 'Oh my God --how'd we do that?!' I ask. And then I count the the Stations, and, no, we had done the fourteenth Station in the correct place...

Oh! I said. That's the fifteenth Station.

But, the book only had fourteen, someone said.

'Yes, I say, (my heart skipping a beat in delight) --because that book is modeled on the Roman Stations. In the Anglican Tradition, we added another Station that didn't stop with the Death of Jesus on the Cross. We stop at the Resurrection --always, even in the midst of death, we Remember. Oh --this is so wonderful that there is a fifteenth Station --I wish I had seen it before!'

At prayer this morning (2 Corinthians 4:15-18)
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
...this slight momentary affliction --it reminds me that there is goodness and love in me.

Amen.
Unexpected. Natural. Witness. To the Resurrection. On a Friday in Lent. By the garden gate.
It doesn't get any better....
--filled with quiet joy....

Friday, March 30, 2012

Nobody, too?

Blogger is dinking around again...

I clicked the button "Find out more" --and the changes to the dashboard and composition layout suddenly happened... Like Alice in Wonderland --"Drink This" doesn't say taste and see... Oh well. I suppose I shall adjust, settle in, and then just as I get used to this format, it will change again....

--and, I tried to respond to a comment, and there was an error... So, if you are trying to comment, and it doesn't work, --well, there we are.

And the whereabouts of the rising sun are suddenly very different. As a matter of fact, the sun is in a whole different window. Instead of rising over Calvary (the three utility poles), it is rising over the fema trailers... the likes of which make me think about so much. So. Very. Much.

And the cars and trucks from the fema trailers and the little neighborhood behind us use the little foot path that runs through the church yard. The church wardens were very bothered by it --the cars using it, so they pounded metal posts up across the path. And two of the posts are now pulled up, one thrown in the weeds in our yard. Oh dear.... mostly, I am concerned about getting the weeds cut low before fire season....

And I finally have an appointment with the Director to talk about talking to the girls from the shelter who come to church.

And I sat down to build the Necrology to report to the Niobrara Council, as the Council reads aloud at Convocation all the names of those who have passed away since the last Convocation (which is a really, really big event --folks save all year in order to attend) --and I realized with some horror that the deaths/burials were not recorded in The Book... yes, I discovered them as "funeral" in small notations in the regular service book, but their names, the place they last lived, and where they are buried is lost.... three years of those who have gone before us in faith.... Perhaps there are other ways to reconstruct the list.... the names of the Saints.... they are all nobodies.... no record at all....

And the guy called back regarding solar and wind power --take pictures of your systems, lights, furnace, buildings, he said --send them to me. We'll work some recommendations up.

And, I went over to one of the other churches to see if I had a key to get in to the place --I have three key rings, each with a load of keys on each of them, and a very nice person who had too much to drink wanted to help me... and did... and kept dropping the keys and then announced that none of the keys worked.... So, I have to go back....

And, in another place, I went to check on the rumor that the church had 40 unused acres next to this tiny town --and the records don't show anything recorded for the church, but plenty of Tribal lands all around, and the Recorder said --maybe it's one of those parcels --you will have to check with the Tribe about that....

And I wonder in all the busyness of the here and there and all around if I will be able to keep a finger on the pulse of awe and wonder and the profound difference that this place has awakened in me --if I will be able to keep alert --or if the newness and its revelations will become common place and ordinary.... Perhaps it is merely like the ecstasy of revelation or conversion --a one time gift that as one becomes familiar with the newness, it loses its edge.... here, in this place, where there was no word, no concept for sin....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Mark 10:32)
They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. 
He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.” 
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 
And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 
And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
Yes. I understand. I too want to sit close to the glory... right there, front and center... --wanting to keep that ecstasy of the edge is like wanting to sit close to the glory.... to stay there...

And, that's not what it's all about. Not. At. All.

--when we are branded with that glory, marked with that passion... we are sent to serve.... to be nobodies....

--a slave for all....

Oh man... that edge is cutting through Scripture with a whole new reason... a whole new way of seeing.... A whole new way of Being.... The image of All Power And All Glory choosing powerlessness and shame is so much more than an image... it is The Way.... and I always knew that.

But privilege and power have a whole new shaft of light exposing them....

--to hell with all I thought I knew.... --to join those --willingly join those who have nothing as everything... without losing who you are... until, of course, you are called to do that too.... nobodies....

Amen.

Thank you Emily Dickinson:

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us -- don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

walking lighter through the landscape

Waiting for the coffee to make.

And here is real proof that spring is on the way --from our ride yesterday. Other than the green alongside the road, can you tell the real proof?

BUGS!

--yeppa... bugs on the windshield!!!!
And this is Route 34 --a main road that runs east-west south of the Reservation. We pull on to the road, shouting to each other -watch out!!! watch out!!! Congestion!!!!

We stopped at a small town along the way (town, she sez --it's maybe six houses, but it has a store for the ranchers and a PO station), and outside the store for ranchers (which contained many wondrous things, including dinosaur bones) are two large windmills. We stopped to talk to them about fencing and the windmills...

--because I am thinking about applying for grants to install renewable energy sources like solar and wind for the church so that the outreach we do doesn't put such a big hole in our pocket... (feeding 100+ folks 2x a week --and because we are the biggest building around, we get tapped for birthday parties and funerals).

--just dreaming...

At prayer this morning (2 Cor. 3:15)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Actually, all of what St. Paul writes today is astounding... we are so done with the Old Covenant --"the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets".... yowza! And this...

(Beginning at Mark 10:17)
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”

He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

So, we are free --and having less is having everything....

I wish I could settle for an hour, and dig deep --deep into the changes of spring, the true wonder of where we are, the possibilities...

Hey --God. Sorry about the bugs on the windshield... wish we could walk lighter through the landscape --and I'm working on it.

Amen.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

--the same three boys....

Driving to Rapid City today.
Looking forward to seeing the changes in the prairie that the last couple of weeks have wrought.

I know I am changing, and the prairie will be a sign for me....

All the stories my grandmother told me (because she was born up here, just west of Fargo), about the wide open spaces and sky, about the dogs under her cot, about the water in her wash bowl by her bed freezing, about sitting on the back of the bed of the wagon and practicing drawing the alphabet in the dust that was churned up by the wheels...

--all those stories are no longer wisps of my own imagination, I can see them now. With my own eyes.

And it makes me think --you know, of the anthem in the funeral rite, --in my body I shall see God, I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him who is my friend and not a stranger... how the things we think now are not in full spectrum color --it will all be so much greater, much more than we can imagine....

I feel so privileged to have --to know a foretaste of this seeing... and am blown away in just this 'seeing' of my grandmother's tales --how much more will be the seeing of the source of faith --of love....

At prayer this morning (Psalm 119:147-149)
Early in the morning I cry out to you, *
for in your word is my trust.
My eyes are open in the night watches, *
that I may meditate upon your promise.
Hear my voice, O LORD, according to your loving-kindness; *
according to your judgments, give me life.

--for if we have life, we are alive in the Lord, and if we die, we die in the Lord. So, then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's possession......

I have been told, by many, and often, that the priests here get burned out because of so much death, so many funerals. Yesterday, after hearing a delicately woven tale of death and life, and being told again so many priests get burned out because of so much death, I sat quiet for a moment and then said, 'but you stay --you remain --you are still here. Why are you not burned out?' And they said, 'we see death differently.' And I said, 'you really believe what is said in faith --that life is changed, not ended.' And the tears welled in all our eyes. 'We are all mothers of all the children,' they said. 'We stay because we must.'

--and so, I will go out on the prairie today --hundreds of miles from no where... in the center of the world, where an American holocaust lives unacknowledged, unknown --and the monument to its terrible force is living flesh and blood hidden in the vast array of prairie grass punctuated with rivers and wind, and the folly of fences and fields.... and I have heard the stories, but it is so much more to see it and know it --with my own eyes.

Amen. Good God, what have we done....


Three boys....


The same three boys....

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

blind spots and learning curves and mill stones

Okay... all those warnings I've had from folks in the know here --yesterday, they were proven right. The funeral director in the town northwest of us is total slime. T.O.T.A.L. I have worked with him twice now --I have watched his moves... and then he lied to me... twice.

His moves included trying to push the widow up to the coffin for a final farewell so that he could close the coffin.... and then walking amongst the congregation trying to hurry them along too. Then he told the daughter she couldn't directly follow the hearse to the graveyard --I was supposed to follow the hearse directly... she said, 'but, I am burying my father.' I let her drive in front of me, procession protocol be damned. Then, as the procession is forming and we are awaiting the police escort to lead us out of town, he leaned in through the window and said that the family had requested a backhoe to fill in the grave, and that they would be sending me a check on Thursday... I said we wouldn't speak of it through my car window.

Both of which are utter lies. The grandsons looked shocked when he asked them to move aside for the backhoe --and I talked with the family --nobody had requested it, and all thought it was horrid --not to do that for them.... and the Tribe contracts for every funeral --everyone gets the same grant for a funeral... and the funeral home is supposed to pay me --not that I keep the money. I give the money to the church --but he shouldn't have lied to me.

So, today he will hear from me --and I will tell him what I am thinking, and I will go over to the Tribal offices and ask how a funeral home is selected, and tell them what I know....

I hate mess like this....

Joel is speaking --you know, he says, the veil that we speak of, that separates the living from the dead --here, it's like one lives IN the veil --or that one is part way in --it's so very different living here --reality is so different.

Yeppa.

At prayer this morning (Mark 9:42)
Jesus said, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

--'little ones' are not the words I would choose... but, even so --yes. I wonder if it would help me if I envisioned my self and the funeral director with great millstones around our necks... could I then have compassion for him?

Maybe... I'll work on it --but I will still be very clear with him....

Hey God, it's margaret. Thank you for the rain last night --and the show of lightening. Yes, it put the fear of you in me --you happy? heheheheh --and I can't wait to see what this rain does to the Prairie... and, please --help me be aware as I continue to learn to walk in this place --give me the eyes and heart and mind... and I pray for M,L,M,S,V,H,D,D, --thank you for D,T,T and the ministry of C and D and P in the funeral... and for those who are so patient with my own blind spots and learning curves. Amen.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Full plate.

Three churches, three services yesterday, three full meals yesterday --lots of miles covered, God's good people praying.
Wake last night, funeral today.
Please pray for the repose of James.

Going home, he is.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

--thanks to the Patriot Act

Well.... we turned in our VA drivers' licenses... and our car title.... and we are waiting in that liminal limbo space where all we have to all we have is a little paper that will be ruined if it accidentally gets wet --or worse....

Poor Joel had a rough time of it --getting his paperwork. He was born in Canada and brought back to the US as an infant --his parents U.S. Citizens, yes, but his mother was born at home and her birth was never properly registered. So, when it came time for Joel to register for the draft and work, the trouble began... some six years later, after surviving the harrowing experiences of being forced to go through immigration processes and naturalization, he finally received a Certificate of Citizenship --despite his being able to carry in proof that his ancestors had lived in the same three counties for four hundred years....

Yesterday, our little local county office on the Great Plains declared they were not trained to authenticate such Certificates of Citizenship, and had many conversations with the authorities in Virginia and it got very complicated. And dark. And heated. It didn't help any that the clerk kept saying she understood --and that many Native Americans have this problem too....

We were prepared --we brought in registered birth certificates (do you have one handy?), passports and citizenship papers, mail which showed our physical address as well as mailing address (do you know how tricky you have to be to do that! --in a place where there are NO physical addresses!!!), social security cards....

And this is all thanks to the Patriot Act.

What the "Authorities" don't understand is that some folks will be forced to go underground because they will not have the resources to produce what is required, and others will willingly go underground rather than do what we had to do... and we knew what we were up against because it took us five tries and at least two months to get all the documentation together for our licenses in Virginia. Each time we went, we were presented a new hurdle.... And we were lucky enough to have the resources to overcome the hurdles... eventually.

--and when we have a nation with a sizable portion of its citizenry forced in to the margins --unable to vote, unable to prove who they are, and another sizable portion living there already, the chasm between the Haves and the Nobodies will be unbridgeable, and there will be trouble. A people dispossessed will have no nation but themselves....

The purposeful and lawful disenfranchisement and dispossession --and yes it is purposeful and lawful, is a horrid spectre. And it will ruin us.

Yes. It. Will. Ruin. Us.

It is a good day to remember Oscar Romero in my prayers.... --although me thinks the Eucharistic lectionary chosen for him rather disjointed... (links to those provided in the upper left corner at the link provided above).

Collect of the Day: Oscar Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador, Archbishop of San Salvador, 1980

Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.

Hey God, it's margaret. I am so very grateful (yeah yeah --praise and glory, whatever) in such a weird way that we have never had an easy road... and yes, I know that tide pools --neither entirely land nor entirely water, bear the richest and most diverse life... and all life is yours. so, thank you. I guess. No, really I do. You know what I mean. Amen.

-ooooooooo.... I wonder how many search engines will jingle with that title....

Friday, March 23, 2012

Victorious melancholy

I meant to say -the birds are starting to appear. I saw a Robin in the front yard, meadow larks out on the fence line just out of town, the sparrow checking out the eaves of the house... the spring-time birds. But, of course, the eagles and hawks and falcons have been keeping sentinel all along --from the tops of the power lines --from high in the air riding the air tides and eddies.... Some say the whooping cranes may come through. Some years they do.

But I saw a bird I did not recognize in form --compact in flight, all white, body and wings, except for black wing tips that spread like the wings of a hawk --fingers in the wind --at least, that is what I saw from underneath while it was in flight.

I can understand how birds can be thought of as spirit messengers and carriers of prayer, here where the sky and earth are directions in themselves, directions like North and South, East and West...

At prayer this morning (Psalm 102:6-7,11-12,25-28)

I have become like a vulture in the wilderness,
like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake and groan;
I am like a sparrow, lonely on a house-top.

My days pass away like a shadow,
and I wither like the grass.
But you, O LORD, endure for ever,
and your Name from age to age.

In the beginning, O LORD, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
They shall perish, but you will endure;
they all shall wear out like a garment;
as clothing you will change them,
and they shall be changed;
But you are always the same,
and your years will never end.

A victorious melancholy.... I know that feeling. Deep in my bones.



Got a call. Gotta run.

Peace out.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

unknowingness, idols and a good hammer

At prayer this morning (beginning at Mark 8:27)
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?

And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?

Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.”

And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly.

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Who do you say that I am? --THE fundamental question that all Christians MUST answer eventually. There is a good conversation about this very question going on over at IT's post.

And, one cannot be satisfied by spouting off what others say --it must come from YOU. And as you come upon places to rest in your inquiry of Who He Is, you need not spout it about, because, like Peter, you will then begin to shape and form it in to your own idea of what it means --what/how it should be --try to set it in stone... and that ain't it. The minute we speak of what it means, we run the risk of making an idol....

We must be so aware, that we must be willing to smash our own idols. As we discover them. And all that that means. And that is damn hard work.

Here is my response to IT:
Being Christian is not about faith or belief or hope or trusting what Jesus said and did or the circumstances of the Incarnation or Resurrection... babies are baptized without either and are fed from the altar with great intention...

And then again, water and words and prayers don't magically make a Christian....

I would risk saying (because it might be misunderstood) that I don't believe in a "God out there" some where --because of the mysterious in-dwelling of the Spirit, and because God pitched a tent and dwells among us (to paraphrase the Gospel of John).

And, I would risk saying that Jesus, on the cross, probably didn't have much hope --saying, as it is said he said --My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

I would say that being a Christian is to know that one does NOT have faith, does NOT have belief, does NOT have hope, does NOT have certainty ---and is willing to try to live in to the mystery of knowing and seeing God unexpectedly and in the flesh --your own and that of others... to live in to the mystery of living a life beyond death here and now.... and to live for the sake of others.

--or something like that.

So, yes --a Christian atheist?
By all means.

And now that I've said that aloud, I must begin the terrible task of smashing those idols of unknowingness...

--just sayin'.

So... who is He?
Would you like to borrow my hammer now or later?

(If you don't smash it now, m'dear, you run the risk of (a) someone smashing it for you (b) becoming a raging fundamentalist --an elder, a chief priest, or a scribe...).

heheheheheheheh --spell check wants to change 'unknowingness' in to 'incontinence.' heheheheh!

(PS --I think IT's statement that she desires to share in the hope that she sees others have is one of the most humbling and glorious things I have ever read/heard. IT --I am in your debt.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

--among the weak, the poor, those who hunger....

Mr. Witty is playing pirate with his new Kong toy. He puts one foot on the toy and grins and cocks his head and says, arrrrrrrrrrrggh!

Funny little guy --he doesn't realize he's only 18 pounds... and he thinks he is huge, a fighter-warrior, and brave beyond measure. I hate to remind him (so I don't very often) that he is afraid of the noise of the air coming out of the heater vents... and let's not mention thunder --and summer is a-coming....

And so is Easter. So far, we will baptize about 15 folks in the first week of Easter --in three of the congregations. That is so amazing. And tomorrow night, I meet with the Lay Readers --and no, that does not mean folks who read at the services. These are folks who are trained to lead Sunday services and other liturgies, including funerals, at the various congregations because the priest cannot be eleven places at once. True Lay Leaders --spiritual leaders --not the Wardens and etc. --whole different group of folks --but the ones who say and lead the prayers from the heart of the people. And when they've been doing that a while --a couple of years, they become a Catechist --a teacher of the faith --and there is one among them who is the Senior Catechist. Sometimes the Catechists are ordained as Deacons. That's been the system here on the Reservation for a hundred years or more. It's the "old" way. A grass-roots church.

And I think it may be the 'new' way in many places. As the church changes and adapts in the years to come. As Christianity loses its privilege. Which, in my book, is and will be a good thing. A very good thing.

Although the loss of privilege will hit some folks really hard. Rock their world.

I think that is a lot of what is going on in the church --folks are leaving "mainstream" Christianity to go be places where their privilege can be unchallenged and undisturbed. For a little while, any way. And "mainstream" will become bastions of the underprivileged, the marginalized, the poor. And the large cultic (for lack of a better word) churches, based upon the personality of the pastor, will continue to grow and splinter until they finally crash... and so-called Christianity with them. Swept out the door, it's power and privilege with it....

But the Gospel will survive. As it did in the First Generations. Among the out-laws...  --among the weak, the poor, those who grieve, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those that know the bottom of the barrel as home.

Perhaps the folly of a closed canon of scripture will finally be lost. The intimate and grand stories of God working among the people in every place and every time will be told. The healer and reconciler --and the One who gives life to the people --the one who gives their life for the sake of the people --despite betrayal and every kind of ignorant save-your-own-butt-first kind of sin --that One will still be known... and the people will strive to know that they belong to God, to one another and to Life itself... and we will create liturgy and ceremony so that we can remember all that....

If this seems crazy-thought, remember, it used to be illegal --even unto death --to hear Scripture in any language but Latin --in the west of course.... and folks were put to death for translating Scripture in to English --and imagine, a prayer book in English... much less Lakota --who had to make up words to create the concepts of sin and forgiveness.

Perhaps all this thought about the future of the Church is as much folly as Mr. Witty imagining himself as big and fierce... but, I hope and pray not.

At prayer this morning (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

This is a funny train of thought, on this day we are called to remember Cranmer....
Collect of the Day: Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr, 1556

Merciful God, through the work of Thomas Cranmer you renewed the worship of your Church by restoring the language of the people, and through his death you revealed your power in human weakness: Grant that by your grace we may always worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Hey God, it's margaret.... Amen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I had a plan... but what happens is unexpected

Spring is springing!

The daffodils are blooming in Deacon's yard. I think tulips are pushing up in our yard. And a bunch of grass-like leaves that I think will have little lilies bloom in them. The bushes along the fence are fresh with new leaves --perhaps they are lilac? Where there was the most persistent mud which dried to an iron-like pan of earth, grass is erupting.

The fruit tree by the gate and the small fruit trees out back are still resting quietly.... Can't wait to meet them. Don't know who planted them in back of the house --I'm worried there will be too much shade -unless the angle of the sun way up here changes so dramatically that the house will then not interfere... surely, whoever planted nine fruit trees would pay attention to something like that....

We worked hard all day yesterday to get through the few final boxes, and moved some more stuff around. While we were here on interview in December, and when we decided to say 'yes', I measured the house so that we would know what to bring and what to sell and arranged all the furniture --and my plan has mostly worked --with a few tweaks.

Come to think of it --I am quite convinced that when God spoke at creation, God did not have a plan.... God did not measure things out this way and that way. I think God likes spontaneity and letting things go free... because love does not fix things in time or space or place. Love is perfect freedom --liberty... and God is Love.

Love is like spring in an unknown garden --unexpected blooms in unexpected places. Grass pushing up through the impossible. Everything blooming in its own time....

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song to the Lamb, Dignus es
Revelation 4:11)

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

Too often I have heard that Christianity is not an 'earth' religion --that it does not teach one respect for the earth and its cycles... it is detached from our natural sources... and that just ain't true. Our first responsibility -SUN up, SUN down, is to prayer --look at the way the prayer book is laid out --morning, noon and evening prayer first. We have songs to creation --earth, wind, air, fire, water, snow, rain, mountains.... Our entire calendar --our yearly walk (discipline --reckoning --measure of time) is based upon the cycles of the sun and moon --that's why Easter is on a different day every year.... and the date of Easter sets the the dates for Pentecost, Ash Wednesday --all of it....

It is time to get real with our roots again --throw out our old maps and plans --and live radically free and let the sun and moon and stars keep count for us as they do for all else....

Let Love rule us, shape us....

You know... Easter is based upon the name of Esther --a pagan goddess --her name means 'Star'.... We used to be so good at recognizing the holy in 'other' and saying, yes --that's what we mean too.... Now, we pretend that there are lines, maps we need to follow... boundaries to love....

Amen.

Monday, March 19, 2012

--humbled by the faith here...

At prayer this morning (Mark 7:31-37)
They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Late Saturday night I had a sudden onset of something or another... it was horrid, and then it got worse. At first I thought it was food poisoning. The pain inside my right ribs and around my back was so extreme I couldn't sit still, I couldn't walk, I couldn't breathe, I could hardly groan... I made Joel take me to the ER --it's a BIA hospital (Bureau of Indian Affairs), so they can't treat us white folk, except in an emergency... I don't remember much, except that by 2:30, after blood panels and some morphine which settled down the extreme pain and convulsions, they couldn't find anything wrong with me and sent me home.

I'm still wiped out --guessing it might be a gall bladder stone or thingy.... Fortunately, I have an appointment with a doctor this Thursday --planned it weeks ago so that I would have a doctor before something bad happened... they will send the blood results to him.

--sigh--

I worked all day yesterday despite the awful night --two congregations, eighty miles... and oh what work. One place has a project going to identify all the names, if not graves --the grave markings are often so ephemeral --and they want to find a place to record (at the very least) all the names... is there a sonar/scanner thing that will identify a collection of bones six feet underground? --the question resonates... --then we can also at least record grave sites.... We will start with the names --in the records of the church in the safe in the office....

Sorry not to have a tangible reflection. Humbled by the faith here --off I go. Amen.

Friday, March 16, 2012

--gifted with a story....

Yesterday we accomplished the funeral and burial of L and S. At one point during the wake on Wednesday, a hell-fire and brimstone Baptist preacher got up and sang and prayed and preached for about 45 minutes. The family asked me to stop him... I was able to finally stop him by standing directly next to the pulpit and when he paused to take a deep breath I said something like --this concludes this portion of the service-- He showed up Thursday... so before the service began, I sat down next to him in the pew and said I thought we should go out for coffee or something and discuss how to work together, and that I didn't know he had wanted a part in the service, so I had not planned a part for him and next time we could work it all out beforehand.... He said he didn't drink coffee but green tea would be fine....

Sheeeeeeesh.....

So then I went back to sacristy to continue to map out a service plan with the Deacon, the Lay Reader and the pastor from the UCC, and the funeral director, who was a little wound up and didn't seem to unwind in the course of the 48 hours of liturgy, --so anyway, the funeral director comes rushing in to the sacristy, wringing his hands --oh, oh, oh-- he said. Do you allow traditionalist stuff --the guy out there has opened the coffin entirely and he's doing something traditionalist...

I went out of the sacristy and stood by the Paschal Candle where I had a good view of all, saw what was happening, and stood still in prayer to honor it  --and the holy man was smudging around the caskets with sage --like we would use incense, and saying prayers and laying objects in the casket --things needed for the journey... and then he turned and said a few words to the gathered people and was gone. I was grateful he done this --I could tell he had done this at the request of one of the children of the deceased, who was very angry that there was a Christian service... he kept skirting around the church and leaving when we were praying or singing or speaking.... and, I was grateful that the Lakota holy man had done this for him, and had not asked permission of me, because... well, because there is no winning on that one, if you know what I mean.

After the funeral service we walked the bodies out to the waiting hearses, and then we returned to the parish hall for the feast. This time there was a give away as part of the feast. And I was gifted with a star quilt, as a thank you. I was totally surprised. I think it is stunning.



And Joel was gifted with a story and stick to remember it with --how in the beginning the Star People had come to earth for a visit and loved it here, but then the creator gave them their job and they had to go to the sky. But one of the Star People really missed the laughter and talk of The People and asked the Creator if it could return to earth so as not to be lonely any more. But, the Creator said it would be too hard on the people, too confusing --he would be too bright and the people would get distracted and not be doing what they are supposed to be doing --hunting, cooking, playing, laughing and the music --especially the music --the voices of all The People. But the Star Person said he really wanted to be close to The People, and he promised he would hide some place where he would not be noticed --and he kept asking and asking --so finally the Creator said, find a way to hide and you can do it. So the Star Person came down and found a perfect hiding place --in the cotton wood tree. And if you don't believe it, all you have to do is cut a branch off the tree --or pick up what the tree has thrown down --and you will see... the Star Person is still hiding there --wanting to be close to The People.



Being gifted with a story... and yes, that really is what the inside of the branch looks like --totally untouched. And cottonwood trees have heart-shaped leaves....

At prayer this morning (1 Corinthians 9:16)
If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!

Hey God, it's margaret. Funny how it all works... I know. I have been gifted with a story too... help me tell the story, here, in this place, without boasting.... Amen.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Our task is to set down our vacuum cleaners and know it

Got a call at 6:30 this morning --I was already awake, but had not yet committed myself to getting out of bed... but a 6:30 call in the morning always jolts me upright and on my feet in a hurry....

There has been a wake all night at the church --for L and S... a service last night at 7, a feast and then the vigil. So, there have been folks all night at the church --and hence the phone call at 6:30 this morning --the vacuum cleaner does not work... and we need an extension cord....

I love that. Seriously. First, because it was not something for which I had to run out of the house fully present before coffee. Second, because it brings to mind all the domestic and other curious things we do and with which we occupy ourselves even while staring death in the face --or, rather, while death stares us in the face.

I know these are the things we do, like counting beads on a string, or reciting prayers, or chanting --because we cannot face the Void --that chasm between the light and dark of creation, full on without falling in to it --and that would mean certain death....

So, we vacuum. Make feasts. Keep watch. Avert our eyes... sleep in the presence of the HOLY.

At prayer this morning (Mark 6:30-44)
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.”

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

They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?”

And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.”

When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”

Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

In faith --the chasm between light and dark has been filled with bread.... So. Much. Bread.

Our task is to set down our vacuum cleaners, and know it.
Off I go. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

a perfect something or other.

We had such high hopes for Joel's new neurologist... but he proved to be a perfect something or other. When I asked if they still had an office in Pierre (as their website claims), which is 100 miles closer to us, he had the gall to say --there's no money in outreach, doctors lose their shirts with that kind of outreach.

Poor babies --I feel so sorry for doctors who don't make any money in outreach.... And he didn't let Joel go through his list of questions --he was abrupt --condescending.

A P.E.R.F.E.C.T. something or other.

--sigh--

So, we did our other errands in town and had our breath taken away by the starry night sky on the way home....


And now it is time to prepare...

At prayer this morning (Mark 6:9-13)
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

The moving van FINALLY comes with the rest of our stuff --so much for needing no bread, no bag, no money... but we're working on it. That would be like living as if one were dead already --which is what practicing living a resurrection life is all about... I guess.... The house formally closed yesterday --and that was a rush of dealing with lawyer errors... --that we had to pay them to make. And then this evening, I begin to lead the holy march to the grave's edge for a sister and brother and then back again for the family and friends that survive them....

And, even at the grave we sing our song --alleluia, alleluia, alleluia...

Oh --and yeah... it's my birthday. Thank you mom and dad! Wopila, mitakuye oyate!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

--now the green blade rises

In Rapid City --Joel to doctor for planned neurology visit.

After church on Sunday, a handful of young women from the teen shelter came up to me after services. One said, --I am asking because my friend is too scared to ask --but, how do you pray?

Can I say enough times that I knew I was standing at the gates of heaven with a question like that. --so, I am working to get permission to visit with them at their place....

Heaven.

So, hey God --how do I pray? --how do I begin to describe and know again those first steps in something that now comes like breathing? --as unconscious as my heartbeat? --as conscious a sensation as heat and cold??? Amen.

It is 75 degrees here today. The prairie has taken a sudden blush of a new color that is somewhere between yellow and green --it is exhilarating. The promise of spring is coming to fruition.

Monday, March 12, 2012

--this one ain't gonna be easy....

The casino on the edge of the bluffs overlooking the Missouri... it was alright.... The meeting was humbling and exciting --all the Native American churches and clergy that serve them in the Diocese gathered to pray and plan. Fascinating work being done. Good work being done. Preservation of language through recording of singing hymns --changes to the language because those hymns were translated by white people and some meaning missed, words used that shouldn't have been used... plans on giving back... big convocation in June... youth events... discussion of doing funerals with Native Traditionalists and other Christian denominations.... All with a budget of a few thousand dollars.

Like.

The Bishop's visit was wonderful --the service good (the Bishop did allow me to change portions of the prayer and acknowledge the presented gifts --and I received a Niobrara Cross, only given to Natives upon Confirmation and clergy who serve Native congregations-- a true honor).

During the service I heard the tale wending its way through the gathered community --the brother of the lady who died in the snow bank last week --well, he died this week too.

I will do a double funeral this Thursday, beginning with a wake on Wednesday night.... my heart breaks for the mother.... the family, the friends....

Canticle: First Song of Isaiah
Ecce, Deus
Isaiah 12:2-3
Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing *
from the springs of salvation.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted....

Last night about 8pm I left through our kitchen door to go to the church for a minute. I startled a man sitting on our stoop. I was startled too... Have you seen L? he asked. He switched his walking stick from one hand to another --a stick decorated with bits of long hair and leather and beads. No, I said --did you knock, I am so sorry I didn't hear you. No, he said. Didn't knock. Looking for L. My daughter lives in the trailer down there.

We introduced ourselves... he is G. I know the trailer. It is a small FEMA trailer out behind our house. I never see lights on in or around it, so I suspect it does not have power. But it is a safe place to sleep, he said.

He continued, saying, I haven't heard when they are going to bury the Cs. I used to hang out at S's house out in the country. Always had a place to sleep there. I can't believe they are both gone.

The wake will be Wednesday night --funeral on Thursday, I said....

Both of 'em? he asked.
Yes. I said.... Both of 'em.

I could kick myself this morning... I see now he was sitting on the stoop keeping watch --waiting for something to happen at the church... He wasn't waiting for L to walk by as I had assumed --he was waiting for L to come to the church in his coffin --or a comfort service --or something.... I will lead the burial of L & S together on Thursday.... Brother and sister... I should have had my priestly awareness thing going --I missed the boat.... Instead, I was startled and scared by a man sitting on my stoop in the dark... I was intent upon my errand...

--and he was looking for L.

I wish there were a way to carry caution as awareness without fear....

--know what I mean?

Hey God --it's margaret. You know. And, hey God, have you seen L? --or S? I'll do my best, but this one ain't gonna be easy. Amen.

Friday, March 9, 2012

easy travel down the white man's road through Indian territory where nothing is easy

Going north and east today, to the Standing Rock Reservation and the casino that sits in its south-east corner along the Missouri River, for my first Niobrara Council meeting. I look forward to meeting folks.

(Here is some quick information on the Niobrara Convocation.)

But, I hate casinos....

And, just to the southeast of the casino is the Sitting Bull Memorial and grave site... --not without it's own controversies... and at a stalemate --despite stealing bones in the middle of the night....

....

...sorry --Mr. Witty and I got distracted listening to wolf howls on youtube.... He joined in... in one of his most soulful and heart-felt renderings I have ever witnessed... and it went on and on, as long as I kept playing a video of a wolf howling, Mr. Witty closed his eyes, threw his chin up and sang....

I know what he means.

For all that has been lost. For all that has been forgotten. For all that we have destroyed.
For all that is yet to come. For the hope of the generations in the twinkle of your eye.
For all that is.
We give you thanks Creator God.
In a joyful mournful type song.

Remembering Sitting Bull and St. Gregory (Psalm 74)
O God, why have you utterly cast us off? *
why is your wrath so hot against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation that you purchased long ago, *
the tribe you redeemed to be your inheritance,
and Mount Zion where you dwell.
Turn your steps toward the endless ruins; *
the enemy has laid waste everything in your sanctuary.
Your adversaries roared in your holy place; *
they set up their banners as tokens of victory.
They were like men coming up with axes to a grove of trees; *
they broke down all your carved work with hatchets and hammers.
They set fire to your holy place; *
they defiled the dwelling-place of your Name and razed it to the ground.
They said to themselves, “Let us destroy them altogether.” *
They burned down all the meeting-places of God in the land.
There are no signs for us to see; there is no prophet left; *
there is not one among us who knows how long.
How long, O God, will the adversary scoff? *
will the enemy blaspheme your Name for ever?
Why do you draw back your hand? *
why is your right hand hidden in your bosom?
Yet God is my King from ancient times, *
victorious in the midst of the earth.
You divided the sea by your might *
and shattered the heads of the dragons upon the waters;
You crushed the heads of Leviathan *
and gave him to the people of the desert for food.
You split open spring and torrent; *
you dried up ever-flowing rivers.
Yours is the day, yours also the night; *
you established the moon and the sun.
You fixed all the boundaries of the earth; *
you made both summer and winter.
Remember, O LORD, how the enemy scoffed, *
how a foolish people despised your Name.
Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts; *
never forget the lives of your poor.
Look upon your covenant; *
the dark places of the earth are haunts of violence.
Let not the oppressed turn away ashamed; *
let the poor and needy praise your Name.
Arise, O God, maintain your cause; *
remember how fools revile you all day long.
Forget not the clamor of your adversaries, *
the unending tumult of those who rise up against you.

Off I go --easy travel down the white man's road through Indian territory where nothing is easy, to the casino and it's whirring bells and blinking lights on the bluff next to the desecrated yet ever sacred remains of a holy man who wanted to be remembered as the last one to put his rifle down... while so much of what he was fighting for has been lost. Remembering St. Gregory's statement that there is nothing more glorious than to be a friend of God... while Mr. Witty's song remains in my ears and eyes.

Yours is the day, yours also the night...  Forgive us Father. Grandfather.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

in the mighty and terrible acts of nature

Deacon and I went to town --Pierre --to visit someone in the hospital and run the in-town errands. She teased and teased and teased me about the car... --every body's gonna know you live with Indians --maybe she should put her hoody up so people can't see it's her in this car... --and teased some more.... So, after our visit and errands, I went to the gas station that also offers a car wash. Initially, the wash was $3 because washes are just $3 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays --then it turned out to be free! Luck of the draw, I guess. So, I asked for the pre-wash buckets and mopped the car down before we drove in to the power wash.... The car came out so bright and shiny I could hardly recognize it... on the outside, anyway....

When we got home, I dropped Deacon off at her house and carried the stuff in for her, then I parked in the drive by our house. Deacon lives in the house next door (and she's 87 years young). The phone rings --Deacon says, would you please move your car. I said, I did --it's parked by my house. She says, I'm trying to read over here, and there was this powerful glare, and I couldn't figure it out and looked out the window and it's your car! If you won't move it, maybe you could roll it through some mud... please.

Tease, tease, tease. Constant tease. Laughter.

The phone rang again. A woman in her forties had disappeared this last week. They just found her. She had frozen to death. She was found because the snow had melted enough to find her. Time for the funeral liturgies.

The first part of the funeral liturgies is called a Comfort Service, or The Wiping of the Tears. It is prayer, song, words of comfort, then the feast--always the feast, and the rest of the funeral plans are made. Any one so moved may stand up and give words of comfort. Deacon stood up and began to tell a story --she called it a story. She told of how, about seven years ago, she finally came home to the Reservation after being gone for 50 years, because four of her grandchildren died in a house fire. It was time for her to be the elder in her family --and be present. She told of a newspaper woman sticking a microphone in her face and asking why God would do such a thing. She responded by saying God is a mystery --life and death are a mystery, and our responsibility is to live in to the mystery as best as we are able.

She said that and more. So eloquently. So faithfully. They were true words of comfort... not trying to answer questions that form eddies and backwash and can't really be answered, because, who knows the mind of God... we all wept.

To conclude the service, I offered healing prayer, the laying on of hands, anointing.... The line was long. After I realized how long the line was, I asked Deacon if she felt comfortable anointing and would she join me doing so. She had been standing right by my side, praying throughout... She said, no, and continued her vigil of prayer.

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 71)
In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge; *
let me never be ashamed.
In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free; *
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; *
you are my crag and my stronghold.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, *
from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.
For you are my hope, O LORD God, *
my confidence since I was young.
I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
from my mother’s womb you have been my strength; *
my praise shall be always of you.
I have become a portent to many; *
but you are my refuge and my strength.
Let my mouth be full of your praise *
and your glory all the day long.
Do not cast me off in my old age; *
forsake me not when my strength fails.
...
O God, be not far from me; *
come quickly to help me, O my God.
...
But I shall always wait in patience, *
and shall praise you more and more.
My mouth shall recount your mighty acts and saving deeds all day long; *
though I cannot know the number of them.
I will begin with the mighty works of the Lord GOD; *
I will recall your righteousness, yours alone.
O God, you have taught me since I was young, *
and to this day I tell of your wonderful works.

And now that I am old and gray-headed,
O God, do not forsake me, *
till I make known your strength to this generation
and your power to all who are to come.
Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens; *
you have done great things; who is like you, O God?
You have showed me great troubles and adversities, *
but you will restore my life
and bring me up again from the deep places of the earth.
You strengthen me more and more; *
you enfold and comfort me,
Therefore I will praise you upon the lyre for your faithfulness, O my God; *
I will sing to you with the harp, O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, *
and so will my soul, which you have redeemed.

Hey God, it's margaret here. Hear my prayer --for this family, for V the mother, this people, all those who mourn, that whole table of boys creating mayhem with their sandwiches last night, for our blessed Deacon, for all those who have perished in the mighty and terrible acts of nature this week. Amen.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

to pray and live what we think....

At prayer this morning:
Help us, O God our Savior;
Deliver us and forgive us our sins.
Look upon your congregation;
Give to your people the blessing of peace.
Declare your glory among the nations;
And your wonders among all peoples.
Do not let the oppressed be shamed and turned away;
Never forget the lives of your poor.
Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you;
And your favor to those who are true of heart.
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;
So shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

Thinking, praying... the concern for me that I received in the comments yesterday --pondering history, pondering guilt, pondering what one brings in ministry...

I keep landing here: Sin. (I mean, after all, it is Lent!)

As to our history-- I cannot escape our history here. And it is not a thing of the past, it is very present. It is rampant with racism, oppression, extreme poverty --S.I.N. And folks bearing S.I.N. that is not of their making.

As to guilt-- it is not that icky sticky degradation of self esteem and full of shame type guilt --it IS a confession of things done and left undone, known and unknown --it is a priestly confession of that S.I.N. and not necessarily the ordained type priestly confession though because of my vocation I may run headlong with it --it IS the priestly confession that all Christians are called to in baptism as we participate in Christ's eternal priesthood --as we all participate in the vocation of the Church in reconciliation... someone MUST confess out loud and often on behalf of all the people. It is that guilt. We are all guilty. And I will name and grapple with this part out loud for the time being.

As to gifts-- I am frustrated with the following prayer:

O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called your servant to stand in your house, and to serve at your altar.

To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit.

Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do.

Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that I may faithfully administer your holy Sacraments, and by my life and teaching set forth your true and living Word.

Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my ministry. In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in preaching, give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom.

All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. I am supposed to be kneeling in the midst of the people --and I will be. Why pray about being called to stand? --I hate that kind of liturgical disconnect.

2. I devote myself? --Ministry is never done alone, and it is Christ's ministry in which we share --we are one Body, one Faith... I surely believe that we are called to do ministry together --this prayer is my, me, I... yuch.

3. Yes, there is the thought and comprehension of priesthood that the priest cares for the laity and the laity for the world.... this prayer seems to re-emphasize that. For me, that is only a small spectrum of the fullness of priesthood.

4. There is that nasty little gloss of confusion of Word and word --used to be that 'Word' was used to refer to Jesus, and 'word' was used to refer to scripture... in this prayer, it is not clear....

5. "For the sake of your Son"... what?!!! I haven't finished --no, I haven't even really begun parsing that one... but it grates on my tongue. Praying in the Name of the Son, yes... but for his sake???? Dang.

So --what would I rather be saying?

1. I would like to acknowledge and give thanks to God for the gifts the people have presented.
2. I would like to acknowledge that I join them in the ministry of this place --ministry which is already present and fruitful.
3. I would like to offer them (and God, again) my only self --
4. And then turn, kneel, and offer all of it to God --their gifts, my self --that we may all be filled, all remember, all be inspired, all instruments, all be present as the Body of Christ in this place....
5. --in praise and gratitude....

So, that is what fills my prayers this morning.... And, because of the scripture yesterday and thoughts today, pondering this:
Our destiny is to live out what we think, because unless we live what we know,
we do not even know it. It is only by making our knowledge part of ourselves,
through action, that we enter into the reality that is signified by our
concepts. ... We are one, body and soul, and unless we live as a unity we
must die. Living is not thinking. ... Living is the constant adjustment of
thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing,
always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life
is always new.

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, p. 28
I would love to pray and live what I think.... --new things in the old and old things in the new --thus life is always new... Christ will come again, and again, and again, again....

Off to Pierre for a hospital visit. To visit Christ before me. Peace out.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

--what signs can I give to make this an exchange of gifts?

Watching the kids walk to school as the sun comes over the trees in the neighborhood behind our house...

Yesterday, it got up in to the 50s, so major banks of snow are greatly reduced. And the frozen soil has turned into thick, sticky pea soup. When I drove to the far reaches of the Reservation last Saturday, there were portions of the road where the ice had melted --and the slipping and sliding in the mud was far more treacherous than the ice. The drive also covered most of the car in a thick veneer of mud that is now dry and adhered to the car like a coat of paint --there is no brushing it off... --it is like the sand on sand paper.... When I saw other cars around town looking like my car now looks, I thought it was because they had gone out and played in the mud. Now I know better.




I suppose it is a type of baptism....

And the moving company called --guess which day in the next week they want to deliver?! Yeppa. Sunday. The Sunday when the Bishop will be here. I told the driver that they couldn't come before two in the afternoon.... We'll see.

Now in all this, I will have to hunker down and do the paperwork for last month --begin to arrange the more mundane tasks, figure out my new pattern of reporting and communicating --so hard to focus in this way while my mind is being blown in so many other ways....

At prayer this morning (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)
Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

You know... in other places and among other people, it has always kind of been a cool thing to be a descendant of a California 49er... even though I have also always known the history had a very, very dark side --among the First Nation peoples, to the environment... and I have had to claim the whole history as my own. With bitterness....

Yes... what Grace... --perhaps this is the chance for me to learn to forgive my own history... perhaps this is the chance to start anew --throw out the old yeast... both in my patterns of hunkering down in the mundane tasks of reporting, and in the daily reality of our common history that has been and is presently so very destructive and oppressive.

A new unleavened-ness....

I am trying to memorize the prayer I am to pray this Sunday in the midst of the people --kneel in the center of the church and ask God to fill me to serve the people.... And so much of the language in that prayer is wrong here in this context.... And, I will have been given a load of gifts --prayer book, water, oil, bread & wine --and the more mundane gifts of keys and etc. ---and it is strange, that if we are to celebrate a new ministry, doesn't that mean we are to celebrate it together --and that the ministry is not mine, but ours?! All of us together --I mean, even the Bishop gives me the gift of the water so that I will baptize.... It all feels lopsided....

What can I give --what signs can I give to make this an exchange of gifts?? --a sharing?? Or, is that presumptuous?

On the other hand, perhaps there is nothing more that I can give, other than my self... broken in so many ways --and, God willing, broken in ways to let the light in...  and I will morph the prayer to acknowledge that --and that even my self does not belong to me, but to God --and now, them....

--and not "not belong to me" in a bad way --but in the fullest, richest, humblest way possible.... Unleavened bread...

--keeping it all in prayer. Amen.

Monday, March 5, 2012

--the edge of the world.... the center of the world....

At prayer this morning (John 5:22)
The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son...

And the judgement of the Son is the awful willingness to endure the cross --not a response of anger or condemnation to our very worst, but hope that all will see the sign --our folly as we forcefully and wantonly destroy life and health and reconciliation and love; and God's response to the love Jesus has for us, despite our actions, is more life --a new Body, a new world, the eighth day of creation...

A new promise --a new covenant.... Hope.

It puts me in mind... The funeral on Saturday blew me away --took my socks off --landed me in a place I had desired all my life and didn't know in any real way...  --hadn't even dreamed it... The wake lasted all night... in the church... they never left him alone. Then in the morning was the Final Viewing. While the singers cried/sang their mourning songs and the drum vibrated the very air around us, all came forward for a farewell, and then greeted the family. Then the family gave their final farewells and the coffin was closed.

The prayers and feast in the presence of the altar were humble and right. We carried him out to the waiting hearse --and then gathered back in the parish hall for a feast of turkey, traditional dried meat soup, wojapi --a light pudding of berries, fry bread, potatoes, eggs --you name it. Then we drove on a gravel road to the outer limits of the Reservation to the burial grounds at the church I serve in Blackfoot.

The gaping hole... a plywood crate inside.... We prayed the Commital, the drum began again and the pall bearers lowered the casket into the crate by hand --with a rope looped over the top and through the handles on each side. It was not easy work. The star quilt that had served as a pall went in to the grave with him, tucked in on all sides, and one of his friends went down in to the hole and nailed the top on the crate... and the shoveling began. Buried. By his friends. His sons. All while the drum marked the pulse of the heartbeat of the people.

The grave edges were marked by sticks in the corners --and the mound of dirt grew and covered all. Then the mound was covered with flowers, crosses, plates of food....

--and the liturgy spoke of Resurrection.... We stand at the grave and sing Alleluia... those many years, we will not forget... Life is not ended, but changed. Thanks be to God.

We stood on the butte overlooking the Missouri River... the edge of the world... the center of the world.... He had been buried facing east... to catch the rays of the rising sun in the Christian Way. His spirit will travel to the west, along the Red Road, to the land of the ancestors, and then to the milky way --which are the campfires of all who have gone before us --waiting at the gates --of what, we do not really know... but some judgment or another.

--a judgment already pronounced... into your hands Father... Grandfather....

Hey God, it's margaret. You know already --and I am learning... it is both wild and free here --and steeped in things one cannot shake off, but must go through. God help me to be the priest they want and need --to walk to the edge, speak of hope and gratitude and new life in the face of death, and return with them to the center. With love.

Amen.

Next Sunday the Bishop will come and formally install me.... The Deacon wants to read the Gospel in Lakota. I think she should. Off I go.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

And it is good

Home.
There's no place like home.
And it is good.

Came back to a wake and funeral. Lots of work to do. Little time for reflection. My suitcase will probably remain open and thrashed through until Monday. A conference to go to this coming Friday and Saturday. The Bishop comes next Sunday --we will all celebrate the Celebration of New Ministry.

And it is good.

I am still so deeply grateful for D and B and their help in Richmond. It was good to have dinner with F.

But it is also good to be back at my window, saying my prayers, looking out at the vast expanse of sky, the blanket of snow, and the people wending their way in-between --knitting earth and sky together with all the other two-leggeds and four-leggeds --and life and death so present and without pretense...

The casket was covered with one of the most beautiful star-quilts I have ever seen. What a holy venture a wake is... food, children, tears, testimonials, prayer....

At prayer (1 Corinthians 4:1-7)
Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

(I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, “Nothing beyond what is written,” so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of one against another.)

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?

There is no boasting or judgment here... only gratitude that the deep wounds and little deaths I knew and experienced in Richmond are now quickly coming to a close. Gonna bury them. And I can, at last, begin anew. And all that and all this is a gift, and yes, a blessing. There is Resurrection.

Please pray for the family and friends of LE as we give thanks and glory to God for his life, for all life --as we commend his body to the earth and all that he was to his own Creator.

And it is good.

Amen.

Friday, March 2, 2012

sitting in Chicago

Got up early --on my way home! At last!

I could not have made it without D --again, thank you D. AND, I could not have made it without all your prayers. THANK YOU for your comments, prayers, advice.

So, the flight from Richmond to Chicago went like this --it was overbooked and they wanted five folks to volunteer up their seats... and I ended up sitting next to two delightful kids who talked to each other in some secret language of nods and hand signals --not true sign, I think it is something they have devised. I loved watching them out of the corner of my eye.

Then the boy spilled his can of coke all over himself --it was bad... for him. He was mortified, and his pants were wet back and front. Then, over the bad weather zone, the ride got really rough and the pilot made even the attendants sit down and buckle up --and the little girl, who was sitting next to me suddenly blurted out --mommy, I don't feel good... So, folks started handing me little blue barf bags and I held them for her and stroked her back as she filled three bags full....

ahhhhh --the joys of traveling! Poor kid. She was mortified. And wouldn't look at me or her brother for the rest of the flight...

But we all survived --and when the flight was over the parents (who sat two rows behind us and had to watch it all unfold while buckled in --helpless) thanked me profusely --all going to Vale to ski for a week --spring break and all.

And tonight I return to a wake and a funeral tomorrow.... The last four days already seem surreal.... I am so glad to be headed home.

At prayer in the airport (a portion of Psalm 40)

I waited patiently upon the LORD; *
he stooped to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; *
he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God

The young woman who just sat down next to me in the waiting area is headed to Rapid City to pick up her mom's body and "take her home".

Back to work, right here, right now --and, so grateful. So very grateful for the new song in my mouth.