Thursday, May 31, 2012

a righteously messy grave of joy and love

I'm dark, he said, because I go fishing a lot. He had not much good to say about Indians. Their wakes. The messy funerals. The time they take to bury the dead.

He was driving --the funeral director, that is. We went all the way to Sturgis, near Rapid, to the National Cemetery for a burial, to complete what we had begun the night before. The deceased, a Veteran, embalmed and draped with a flag, qualified for burial in a cemetery where all the headstones are the same, floral decorations pre-approved and purchased on-site in re-useable vases, and the vaults are shoulder to shoulder, family stacked one on top of another. We had to wait in line to get in to the chapel, a cold, dark stone circle half buried on a hillside overlooking the hills and freeway to the west. And we were informed, at the start, that we had to vacate the structure in less than 20 minutes. Taps was played on a recorder with little speakers, the dirt offered (which I place on the coffin with the words 'ashes to ashes' etc) was sterile sand. A few prayers, and then we had to leave the coffin standing there on its own, whisked off to a place yet unknown after we leave.

30 minute funerals churned out all day long. If you wish to visit the grave, you must return the next day, and the headstone and turf will have already been placed --everything looking so undisturbed... like he's always been there  --pristine and clean --the democracy of the dead.

And some present in the funeral party raved on and on about the beauty of the place, how wonderful it all was, so well cared for....

I don't know --I couldn't see it. I guess I prefer the rumpled graves, the anonymity of a wooden cross, the uneven dirt shoveled by the family, the whole process taking as long as it takes --rampant and unique decorations selected at the supermarket or craft store and then personalized that disappear in the course of a winter, shredded by the wind and snow... where the children run and play, descendants come and clean the place up, have picnics, leave spirit food and drink --remember the whole family, relatives all.... perhaps eventually losing the borders of the grave, the cross, the distinction of death....

--becoming more and more alive in Christ. The grave forgotten.

After her death, my mom was cremated, buried at the foot of a tree in the church yard. The next year, the tree fell down. No surprise to me, with my mom buried in its roots. Now she is simply and fully part of the garden, all mixed in. I think she would like that.

My sister's mother-in-law died yesterday. Betty. Please keep her family in your prayers as they navigate the waters of death and burial. Rest in peace, Betty. May your ancestors greet you, your husband meet you, all the angels and archangels welcome you home.

Came home last night from the burial and led a comfort service --a prayer and hymn gathering at the time of death... a meal shared with immediate family to go over funeral arrangements. A member of Deacon's family --her niece's uncle, but in Lakota reckoning that is immediate family --first cousins are considered brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews your own children, their children your grandchildren. Please keep them in your prayers. (I was privileged to preside at the comfort service, and offered anointing and healing prayer --but I will not be presiding at the funeral as he was Roman Catholic.)

At prayer this morning (a Canticle: A Song of True Motherhood by Julian of Norwich)
God chose to be our mother in all things *
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure, in the Virgin’s womb.
God, the perfect wisdom of all, *
arrayed himself in this humble place.
Christ came in our poor flesh *
to share a mother’s care.
Our mothers bear us for pain and for death; *
our true mother, Jesus, bears us for joy and endless life.
Christ carried us within him in love and travail, *
until the full time of his passion.
And when all was completed and he had carried us so for joy, *
still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.
All that we owe is redeemed in truly loving God, *
for the love of Christ works in us;
Christ is the one whom we love.

--for the love of Christ works in us; Christ is the one whom we love.... At comfort services, and sometimes at wakes, when I offer anointing and healing prayer, I pray:
I lay my hands upon you and anoint you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, beseeching our Lord to hear your every prayer, to answer your heart's desire as may be best for you; that you may have the strength and courage to do all that good work given to you to do; that your grief and sorrow and all that you believes ails you be swallowed up in Love, so that you may have that Peace which passes all understanding, and abide with it now and all the days of your life. Amen.

--and then, in the Lakota way, we shake hands. And the smell of the healing oil permeates the air, and coats my hands and the cloth I use to try to wipe them clean....

Life is messy. Healing is messy. Death is messier. I give thanks to God for a very messy soul, and pray that someday in the very distant future (because in so many ways I feel I have finally just begun), I may have a righteously messy grave, carried in joy and love. Amen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

all the nests around our house are safe

At prayer this morning (Proverbs 15:16-17)
Better is a little with the fear of the LORD
than great treasure and trouble with it. 
Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is
than a fatted ox and hatred with it.
I fixed a pot of spaghetti to last us the weekend--with a meat sauce. But it's the end of the month, and folks are hungry and out of money so came knocking at the door. By the end of the day on Friday we had given it all away... So, Saturday, I made Joe's Special (spinach, mushrooms, onions, lotsa lotsa garlic, ground meat and eggs to set it all together)... now that's gone. So, I think we are back to black beans tonight.... I would make a lentil paste, but I cannot find pita bread here...  and lentil paste on corn chips sucks.... I suppose I could use pepper strips --but they are so dang expensive --$4 or more per pepper.... The celery is only good for cooking, if you know what I mean... Whatever it is I make, I better make it early because I have a wake tonight, and funeral tomorrow.

And Joel is talking to the small birds outside the windows. Hello! Hello! Good morning! You are so beautiful. Thank you for coming to the window, he says. We have a small red pair of birds nesting in the pine tree, robins in the tree above the house, and another nest of robins in the tree by the garage. There must be another pair of small yellow birds because they frequent the yard --but we cannot figure out where they fly off to....

Late Sunday, when I got back from the wake of another funeral at which I was presiding, some folks knocked on the door --it must have been 10:30 or so and we were already in bed. The couple at the door wanted to trade something with Joel, so I dragged him out of bed. In further conversation, they asked if we had heard about the accident --a car ran over one little girl and she died and another was in the hospital. Joel said he had seen the police and ambulance in the street we can see at a distance behind the house about an hour ago (before I got home)... then they said the last name, and I knew it was the family of a parishioner. So, I excused myself and immediately put my clothes back on (yes, I answered the door in my pjs) and drove to the hospital....

The nurse took me back, past the triage area in the ER to a room filled with police and some family members.... the little girl had stitches on her nose and was covered with a blanket --grandma, mom, dad and sister were putting band aids on her --all over. She was obviously scratched and badly bruised. After the police cleared out, and the doctor said she would be able to go home that night, I introduced myself, and asked if this beautiful little girl were the only injury --and they said yes! And I said, oh, thanks be to God --the story all over town is much worse than the story I see here! And the grandma brushed the hair off the girl's bruised forehead and she said, see, you are now famous. And the little girl pulled the blanket up over her head. We all shook hands, they expressed thanks that I had come --and I left the hospital, greatly relieved. I sang the gloria on the way home... in English, of course.

All the nests around our house are safe. All the little fledglings are still whole and alive in our neighborhood.

And we shall eat vegetables with love tonight. And share what we have --who needs the trouble of great treasure.

--and give thanks to God for everything.

Utterly grateful.

Hey --do you like the new photo across the top of the blog? I decided I should finally switch out of the winter mode and post a spring view. That's Thunder Butte, taken from a point about 15 miles off the main road down the gravel road to St. Peter's at Thunder Butte. I got out of the car, sang and danced and then remembered I had the camera so I snapped a shot.... Amen. Alleluia!

Monday, May 28, 2012

--in the language of God

Eighteen people. Eighteen people came to worship in a place that three weeks ago had been closed up for four years or more. Eighteen people from a hill that holds about twenty houses above Bear Creek, nine miles down the dirt road off the main road.

For me --this is like a miracle.

The same miracle that kept the church intact and relatively clean for all those years. The same miracle that inspired a friend to come repair its aches and pains and open it for prayer. The same miracle that inspired a daughter to take dad's lawn mower to the church, remove the tornado branches and cut the grass. The same miracle that pushed me, on Saturday afternoon, after three weeks of relentless funerals and Sunday night wakes to throw my care and schedule on the wind and make two calls that brought together eighteen people on a holiday weekend. The same miracle that inspired me to use --at his prompting, the old man's crutch in order to the ring the bell outside the church, because the rope was broken but the crutch could bat the clapper and make it move --so that the town could hear that we were getting ready to pray.

We started with just me and the old man.

And one of the young men arrived with a brown recluse in a mug --see dad, see dad --I think this is what it making you sick. It's biting your eyeballs! I found it in the basement.

And I picked two ticks off me in the middle of the liturgy, and processed twice to the open door to flick their bodies I had unsuccessfully tried to crush between my finger and thumbnail in to the grass far from the door of the church.

And then the children arrived, thrilled that there was a table and chairs for them. The building moved in excitement with their presence.

And then the grandmothers arrived, corralling the older children to the front of the church while they sat behind them and could say one quiet word to settle them down.

And the eldest son arrived, heartfelt prayers with a bowed head, touching the plaster walls, in this place where he has prayed since before his grandmother corralled him to the front of the church with one quiet word....

And before the old man with a crutch and I started, he told me some stories --three of the houses vacant because the elders had died and the kids didn't want to return the homes to the tribe so that others could move in, nor did they want to live here --too remote, too quiet, too boring. They live in the big cities --in Colorado or Wisconsin.... But didn't they know that an empty house attracts ghosts and we don't need no more ghosts around here, we have enough of our own. They must have forgotten that because they live in the big cities now. And every time he crosses that little bridge on the road to town he has to say a prayer, because that is where his brother hung himself. He was in a meeting, and two kids came in and got them. He was having trouble, but he should have known it was going to get better. And the last priest stopped coming up here after they came up here one day and one of the young teenagers had hung herself in the church yard. That priest left the Rez soon after that, too much death. Too much death. --couldn't keep it together. That is probably why the tornado took those branches down.

So, I asked, how do you keep it together? How do you keep living here?

Because, he said, I don't need to run from the ghosts. They're just like me --don't want to leave here --always want to be here --because the coyotes sing on the hills, the stars are clear, and all my people are here. Always have been.

Then, let's pray, I said. And taste that humble meal of bread and wine which is just a foretaste of that feast they are all sharing so close by.

And, we did. And the congregation swelled... was made manifest... and all the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven joined in singing that song ---Holy. Holy. Holy. Wakan. Wakan. Wakan. Alleluia! Wopila!

At prayer this morning (Psalm 148)
Praise the LORD from the heavens; *
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you angels of his; *
praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon; *
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, heaven of heavens, *
and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the Name of the LORD; *
for he commanded, and they were created.
He made them stand fast for ever and ever; *
he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

Praise the LORD from the earth, *
you sea-monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and fog, *
tempestuous wind, doing his will;
Mountains and all hills, *
fruit trees and all cedars;
Wild beasts and all cattle, *
creeping things and wingèd birds;
Kings of the earth and all peoples, *
princes and all rulers of the world;
Young men and maidens, *
old and young together.
Let them praise the Name of the LORD, *
for his Name only is exalted,
his splendor is over earth and heaven.
He has raised up strength for his people
and praise for all his loyal servants, *
the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Miracle. --I keep thinking of the imperative in Spanish --Mira! --Look!!!! (And those that have eyes, see. And those that cannot see, will be given hearts so that they might trust. And those whose hearts are of stone will be given hands so that they might touch. And those whose hands cannot touch will be given lungs to that they might sing. And those who cannot sing will be given ears so that they might hear. And those who cannot hear will be given eyes so that they might see. One Body.)

A perfect Pentecost. Heard the Gospel in Lakota, Greek, Spanish, English. Then went to the next church and heard the Gospel through the doves singing on the porch. Then went to the next church and heard the Gospel through the ancestors that love being at home. Then went to the wake for the one whom we shall bury today.

And we shall all remember in the language of God.
Moved by the Spirit.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

--and without doing harm...

As part of the "civilizing" program dreamed up by our government, Native American children were removed from their homes and forcibly sent to boarding schools (this was Deacon's experience) or were treated as foster children and parceled out to families in white communities (the Sr. Warden's brother landed in SF because of this). A great number of these children ended up in Mormon households where they were required to be baptized as Mormons in order to participate in placement programs.

In 1978, tribes began to realize their future was at stake because a whole generation was being raised without Native American identity, without knowing family or traditions, having nothing. So they objected and finally got a law passed saying they, the tribe, had jurisdiction over the placement of their children.

I keep thinking --within my own adult lifetime, the government and many churches were/are still at work to annihilate Native Americans....

At one of the funerals last week --remember, four relatives died within 24 hours of each other, one of the relatives was Mormon, so at the exact same time we were having a wake --so were they... at the exact same time we were having a funeral -so were they. And at our wake, four Elders from the Mormon congregation showed up, and without even introducing themselves to me, began to seek out relatives of the relatives and ask them why they hadn't attended their wake, what were they doing here and etc....

I heard this with my own ears. I was sitting at a table, and they stood right behind me and did this.

So, I stood up and introduced myself. They, the Mormons --including their Stake President who is, as I was told later a Navajo, were instantly jovial and greeted me oh so politely, grasping my hand and saying they had meant to introduce themselves.

I think I remember standing with my arms crossed across my chest --until they left. I am sure all my prejudice and inner workings ran rampant and showed physically....

The long lost tribes... Mormonism... an American religion. Gag.....

My understanding is that the First Peoples immigrated to this continent before the tribes of Israel were a twinkle in Abraham's eye... arriving as early as 21,000 to 40,000 years ago, more likely 10,000 to 17,000 years ago. And they weren't from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.... Members of the long lost tribes... how arrogant... how myopic... how twisted is that... ?

And trying to link to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and their section on Native Americans crashed my 'puter....

But, thinking about all this... in the back of my head, in the pit of my stomach --I have to know and realize that my own church is part and parcel of the arrogant, myopic, twisted "civilizing" program.... and even though we have begun to take steps to amend that and to denounce the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny and all that crap, we actually formed and ran some of the boarding schools and participated in the relocation of children and youth... encouraged foster-parenting....

--which makes my presence here as fraught full of blunder as that of the Mormons... except I don't go over to the Mormon services and look for 'my' people and ask them what they are doing there... and I know some of there were there because they told me they were there, and they were there because they loved the person being buried....

--but ultimately, perhaps this is about identity.... The First Peoples being denied theirs...

At prayer this morning (Ezekiel 36:22-25)

Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you....

We have profaned the holy name... and to sanctify God's own name, God shall act and we shall be made new, and given a new heart, new spirit, a heart of flesh and God's own spirit.

Hey God, it's margaret. Help me walk humbly and carefully. Help me tame my contempt of those who interrupted our services and help me show only your love... unless, of course, you really do want me to turn a few tables over... (no, just joking). Most of all, let me know your peace that passes understanding, and do the work I have been given to do with gratitude and grace --and without doing harm. Amen.

Friday, May 25, 2012

--good pleasure....

So, yesterday I got a reprieve from the constant funerals... but not in a good way. Let's just say there was a family fight about who had the right to make funeral arrangements.... While the courts had to intervene, I decided I would take the day to myself --it had been a while.... I didn't have to cook because there were black beans in the freezer and remnants of a blackberry pie --so we were good to just hunker down and play.

And I did.

These are some of the crosses I have been given since our arrival --a beautiful peyote stitch with beaded leather lanyards. The blue and white one was given to me when I interviewed; the blue and red one was given to me after this last funeral --by the funeral director... he bought it off a guy in the parking lot (Cheap! he said) and the funeral director came up to me in the midst of one of the more chaotic times of the funeral and asked, would you wear this? I said, yeah! --so it rested on the altar for most of the funeral:

Crosses, peyote stitch, from Eagle Butte

And this is the cross given to me upon my installation --the silver cross design is called the Niobrara Cross, designed by Bishop Hare in the late 1800s and given to confirmands, Lakota only.... In the last 20 years or so, the Lakota voted that it could be used by all in the Diocese of South Dakota.

Niobrara Cross

It is an honor and privilege to wear it --but I am scared to wear it because the lanyard is just a thin two-bead wide strand, and one good accidental yank and it will be toast. So, I have resurrected some skills acquired in the past --and picked up my beads...

I assembled my kit:

--worked up some patterns and began a test strip....

--which I liked, so I decided to keep going. It's seven beads wide --most lanyards are nine or eleven beads, but I thought I would begin with a narrower and perhaps more comfortable width --what with collar and alb and stole etc all gathered on the back of my neck.... I haven't yet decided what to do with the medallion part of the necklace --most everyone has the Episcopal shield... I'm not crazy about it... but I have more time to think about it.

I have worked up the parts that will be just above the medallion --and I'm thinking of beading the words "Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission" around the upper part of the lanyard....

the lanyard begun

--and, yes, I am doing it straight stitch (or also called flat stitch) off loom.... Off loom is a little more time consuming, but in the end, far more durable as each bead is woven in to the the row above and below and twice to the surrounding beads.

In total, the lanyard will be about 27 inches --I have about ten inches accomplished. I haven't done any beading in years --not since I worked up little Victorian-type bracelets and miniature necklace purses  --this one still needs its silk lining and braided silk lanyard --I never could decide what color.... It's peyote stitch --off loom....

Unfinished beaded necklace bag

It was good to do this yesterday --to spend the day thinking and weaving beads and praying --and having something tangible at the end of the day --something to look at which pleased me --a work of my hands that was not practical and necessary --but instead joyful! --an offering with no 'purpose' other than delight!

It feels a little silly to spend time doing something like this --weaving a lanyard when I don't really need one ---but, I know that I should and probably must spend time doing silly little things like this to keep the rest of my days in perspective....

At prayer this morning, a Canticle: A Song of Our Adoption (Ephesians 1:3-10)
Blessed are you, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, *
for you have blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
Before the world was made, you chose us to be yours in Christ, *
that we should be holy and blameless before you.
You destined us for adoption as your children through Jesus Christ, *
according to the good pleasure of your will,
to the praise of your glorious grace, *
that you have freely given us in the Beloved.
In you, we have redemption through the blood of Christ,
the forgiveness of our sins,
according to the riches of your grace *
which you have lavished upon us.
You have made known to us, in all wisdom and insight, *
the mystery of your will,
according to your good pleasure which you set forth in Christ, *
as a plan for the fullness of time,
to gather together all things in Christ, *
things in heaven and things on earth.

Good pleasure.... ahhhh, that says it so much better!

Peace out.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

a love which washes us through and through, but not as though we needed a bath

Joel freaked at my post yesterday --that Jesus gave himself away --all of himself, body and blood, at the last supper --not at the cross --at the last supper. What God had given him, that very life, he gave to his disciples then and there.

So --the blood part had nothing to do with being 'shed' --as in spilled on the ground atonement stuff --it had to do with the essence/being-ness of his living life was theirs.  In other words, giving his life had nothing to do with the 'sacrifice' --but the living gift of God....

And in that he had to give all of it away so that the living life could be theirs completely, Jesus knew he had to die... and on the cross he said, 'it is finished.'

--and God's little surprise was the Resurrection --New Life, so that as we share in His Life, what we have received is Resurrection life. Already. Here. Now.

We already share in eternal life --it has nothing to do with 'life after death' --it has to do with already having died in the font and being raised in to that new life in Christ. Now. Here. Already.

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are
buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his
resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.
Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your
Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and
born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus
Christ our Savior.
--as to the cleansed from sin bit.... I earnestly believe that it is a statement and early memory of the first generations of Christians --that Jesus was not interested in sin, nor in keeping track of sin --nor in us worrying about sin --but that we should get on with offering reconciliation and life in Christ, just as we have been offered... --which means taking an active participation in healing the world as Christ did...

But, in my experience, folks get really hot and bothered when you tell 'em to forget about sin.... And the opposite is true too --when folks claim they have no sin to confess....

--but thinking first about sin is like beginning a science experiment with a faulty question, or searching for an answer with rigged statistics. That just ain't it. Over and out.

If that old protestant image of being stained with sin has any merit at all --baptism is more than oxy-clean or bleach.... baptism brings us is a whole new fabric, a whole new life.... --a whole clothe, uncut, seamless.... and those who do not know, will gamble for it, try to purchase it --when it is given freely to any and all who seek it.

At prayer this morning, a Canticle: A Song of True Motherhood
by Julian of Norwich
God chose to be our mother in all things *
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure, in the Virgin’s womb.
God, the perfect wisdom of all, *
arrayed himself in this humble place.

Christ came in our poor flesh *
to share a mother’s care.

Our mothers bear us for pain and for death; *
our true mother, Jesus, bears us for joy and endless life.

Christ carried us within him in love and travail, *
until the full time of his passion.

And when all was completed and he had carried us so for joy, *
still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.
All that we owe is redeemed in truly loving God, *
for the love of Christ works in us....

--or this bit from Ephesians 4
You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its addictions, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

--and, yeah, okay, I substituted the word 'lusts' for 'addictions' --sue me. Paul is NOT talking about sex which we associate with the word 'lust' --he is talking about bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.... and all that kind of stuff. Baseness. Cravings. Violence. Deceits. Delusions. Guile. Deceptions.

A whole new clothe.
God, our mother.
Christ, bearer of our mother's love.
Bore us in love and joy.

Not a love born in death.
But a love which feeds us, heart, mind, body and soul,
--a love which washes us through and through,
but not as though we needed a bath....
--a love which death could not conquer.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

--he gave gifts to his people....

At prayer this morning (Ephesians 4:5-16)
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,

“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.”

(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
ohh-hhuuhn... that is the Lakota acclamation of affirmation and sometimes surprise that one will never find written down....

I just got it... Jesus modeled and did the great Give Away.

And in old times, here, when one's family member died, the sign of the depth of your love and grief was how much you gave away. And it was customary to give all away --even your very own home, your stored food, your clothes, your blankets --anything and everything --and stand naked and vulnerable in the world.

Raw. Real. Grief. Embodied suffering. The hole-in-your-gut grief made visible. Tangible.

And slowly, over the course of the next few hours and then months, you got a new life.... --and yes, you suffered because of what you lacked.... But it was real. Suffering and grief you could trust --that your hands could know, --so your heart and gut could know the veracity of their loss --if you know what I mean.

And in your grief, the whole people provided --allowing them to truly care for you --clothing you, feeding you, housing you --helping you through the suffering --and so their grief was also tended.

So, last night, we did a comfort service (a service directly after a person dies --lifting parts of the service At the Time of Death in the BCP with a whole lot more comfort thrown in) --and a 45yo man died --a son, a brother, a father, an uncle, a cousin.... and over 50 family members showed up --all immediate family in Lakota reckoning.

--and the hole such a death leaves in a family --when one of the "Provider" generation dies....

And during the service, there is a time for those gathered to speak... So, we sang, and listened, and spoke, and prayed --and then ate together.

The Give Away has just begun...

--the gifts He gave to his people will become evident, and real. There is only one body here --one body which is lifted on the cross of arrogance, deceit and oppression --one body which simultaneously gathers at the foot of the cross and weeps --one body which prepares the tomb --one body which gathers the herbs and spices --one body which prepares the meal and the gathering place....

--while the children run and play, leaping off any and everything --one body which holds the joy....

We. Are. One.

And we try so desperately to personalize that --make it ours --everything is one with me type routine.

When in fact, we become one when we have lost or given away all...

and so, we stand, visible, waiting for someone to see....


My mind, such as it is, skips in to the other hemisphere... I see the solitaries, the folks working in the wilderness or in the urban jungle --the Brothers working in L.A. --the Sisters in San Francisco --the network of friends and enemies on the internet --those fighting within and without the Church --the crucifiers and the crucified and all those in-between --One Body... at last seeing each other's faces, the wounds of each and all...

--and we take such pains to hide our woundedness --make such efforts to hide our grief --pretend that everything is okay --deny our vulnerability....

Perhaps this is the true story of Thomas the Doubter --not the Doubt which we preach with such confidence.... but the wounds, the willing vulnerability of Jesus...

Yes, Thomas, my wounds are real... look... stick your finger here.... it still hurts --it's still open, it still bleeds....

--and by his wounds we are healed....

--not the warrior songs about wounds and transgressions and being healed.... not that.

--maybe that.... but we've made it so pious.....

--because blood and body is what the mass is all about....

Inajin yo-Stand!
he waniyankinkte-Someone will see you
Tunkasila he waniyankinktelo- Grandfather will see you.

Yeah --that's just what Jesus said to Lazarus, for whom he wept.

Off I go.

(Dang --spell check wants me to capitalize 'internet'.... ohh-hhuuhn)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

we must trust love first, in order to get to the compassion and all that follows

Yesterday, some family members at the funeral said they wanted a Mennonite preacher to participate in the funeral. So we had a UCC pastor, a Mennonite, another whose affiliation I do not know, me and Deacon. The Mennonite had asked to speak --so I said yes.

OMG. It was the most God-awful hell-fire and brimstone blood of Christ stuff and trying to convert and save the Indians crap I have heard yet. He told stories that were not his own... and read them, the worst kind of stuff....

His wife was present too --wearing an old fashioned shift of some kind and a veil type thing on her head. They were both youngish....

Of all the Mennonites I have heard and read, I never expected this kind of stuff out of the mouth of one.

I had to stop him by going and standing next to him at the podium. Politely. But firmly....


I'm learning.... But I have a really, really hard time with fundamentalists and fundamentalism.... And especially fundamentalists who preach with a finger as though it were a loaded gun.... I could actually say I 'hate' 'em.... But that is such strong language... but true.

You should have heard Deacon --oh YOWZA!!!!

I have at least two more funerals this week... So, if I go on and on about funerals right now, please forgive me. That will be six funerals in less than two weeks.... that is part of life here --more funerals than is reasonable... and their impact so widely felt in all the communities....

So, today, we have a break, --and we are piling in to the car, and heading north and east to file the registration on our car. Gonna stand out on the wide open prairie. Sing. Seek beauty....

At prayer this morning (Ephesians 3:15-19)
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

--rooted and grounded in love.... love that surpasses knowledge --filled with the fullness of God. I have had glimpses of this love... of the radiancy --of this fullness.

--also this:

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.

The Mennonite said that in his youth he was a fighter, a real fist to cuffs fighter, and that was part of his conversion experience... Poor guy doesn't realize he is still fighting, but now he is using a bully pulpit... and is beating souls to a pulp.

Love is our foundation --but perhaps we have to dig down and root through the compassion bits first before we get to the love...

nah.... we must trust love first, in order to get to the compassion and all that follows.

Perhaps I will bake him cookies some day soon, and go speak with him.... because with me having responsibility for a church in the same small town in which he lives and works (town --you know a collection of about 35 houses down a small road about 45 miles from the intersection of the highway), I'm gonna have to rub shoulders with him again....


Dang it.
Peace out.

Monday, May 21, 2012

each moment a tightrope of faith

It's supposed to be hot today --upper 80's. But I don't see how it's gonna get hot with the wind that is rising --gusts up to 40mph. And if this wind persists in to the afternoon, when the pall bearers have to fill in the grave we are filling in today, half of each shovel full is gonna blow away!

Such is life in the great plains.... air-scrubbing, some of the locals said... keeps our air clean.

It is also life in the great plains that some one came and mowed the church yard, all around and behind --a simple, anonymous gift of great expense in time and gas. And, the red robin who has built her a nest in the tree next to the garage loves having the grass mowed too --within just a few minutes last evening, she found four or five huge worms she toted back to the nest. I complimented the robin on her endeavors, and the children who were playing near by came running up to me --there are worms in the grass? --there are worms? Yeah, I said... hundreds of 'em, every where. See those birds over there --they are hunting....

Well, it didn't take long before they found sticks and were hunting worms too, imitating the movements of the birds, cocking their heads, moving slowly on tip-toe, jabbing the sticks in to the ground as a beak in hand. I don't think they found any worms --I didn't tell them that the bird HEARS the worm beneath the soil because the chatter of the children hunting worms with sticks for beaks was too delightful... and the horses that were leading the hearse arrived before they tired of their hunt --and we were on to another ---soul hunting --love hunting --grief hunting --moving through the tall grass of death trying to get a sense of direction, listening for that peace which passes understanding....

At prayer this morning
(Canticle: A Song of Christ’s Humility beginning at Philippians 2:6)
Though in the form of God,
Christ Jesus did not cling to equality with God,
But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,
and was born in human likeness.
Being found in human form, he humbled himself
and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Therefore, God has highly exalted him
and given him the name above every name....
I love watching the wind blow over the grass here --when the grass is tall and unmowed.... how the grass moves in waves, bending and rising again... is it a 'servant' of the wind? --is the grass 'humble' ?

No... it is in the nature of grass to move as it does.... and what is our nature --our form --our likeness?

We build and imagine our likeness... our nature.... I was thinking yesterday that moving beyond the duality of 'heaven and earth' is a hard sell --moving in to the realm of unity and universe is a hard transition...

--and modern physics is now telling us that we do not even have a universe --but we do have a multiverse that has waves of time that bubble and pop and transect and time is really related to space, and space blinks in and out of existence all the time --I mean always....

--and how much we are like the children with sticks imitating the motions of birds without truly knowing what we are doing... and so we stand in the tall grass of grief and death searching for direction... or we mow the grass down, creating our own earthly designs....

--but unlike the tall grass, we are mostly unbending, mostly unmoving in the wind.... and we do not have the wisdom to grow towards the sun, but instead parse the mud at our feet....

Hey God, it's margaret.... --and what are we? --what can you possibly see or love in us? --How can we possibly participate in the glory that is Christ in this flesh and blood you pinched from the mud...? Some days I just gotta ask that question, and I'm always scared when I do because that means I'm about to have my mind blown.... So, now I venture forth in to this day, to serve the family and relatives and friends who weep openly before the coffin --each moment a tightrope of faith... each moment the possibility of a free fall...

So, thank you. Amen.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

G'wan. Go to church

It's the last Sunday of Easter.

You do not belong to the world.
You have been sent in to the world, as he has been sent.
And he was sent not to condemn the world --but to love it in to a new way of being.

And to love in that way, you need food for the journey.
So, g'wan. Go to church.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hey church --pay attention. Iceland is a model for you

While the leadership of the Episcopal Church wander about in a wilderness of confusion regarding restructuring how we govern the church, our own media systems have generally ignored a revolution that has happened in Iceland. (Thanks to MadPriest for posting the initial lead that got me interested.)

In Iceland, they fired their government, arrested, tried and convicted the perps that created the financial crisis in their country, refused to pay back England and Holland the debts created by these individuals despite the threats of isolation, rewrote their constitution on-line soliciting comments and suggestions offered throughout the entire process...
To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.

Some readers will remember that Iceland’s ninth century agrarian collapse was featured in Jared Diamond’s book by the same name. Today, that country is recovering from its financial collapse in ways just the opposite of those generally considered unavoidable, as confirmed yesterday by the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde to Fareed Zakaria. The people of Greece have been told that the privatization of their public sector is the only solution. And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal are facing the same threat.

They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign.
This was lifted from here, written in August of 2011.

--and in the meantime, we have been fed the frenzied violence of the middle east --given to seeing them as Don Quixote-ish morality plays, and were seduced in to hoping that the various Occupy movements could generate the energy to move us from the pit of continued suppression of outrage over the oppression of the big banks and institutions 'to big to fail' that are now the lawful (according to the Supreme Court) leading 'citizens', and with their money the law makers and policy setters of our own nation.

We are far too comfortable to be so outraged... we are more like cattle and sheep and other domesticated animals, happy with our pens and enclosures, and fed pre-medicated foods that keep our minds and souls numbed to what is happening to our environment, the poorest of the poor, and the wreck of the effects of our own national history which has been dumped in isolated places for only the few to bear.

At prayer this morning (from Ephesians 2)
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
We behave as domesticated animals --but we are the dwelling place for God. Would that we would believe that --and act like it.

--or, as it reads in the Hebrew scriptures at prayer this morning: Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!

Oh God, have mercy.
Hey church --pay attention. Iceland is a model for you.

What we did not see:

--and, can a movie be prophetic? --what about this:

Friday, May 18, 2012

our way of life --saved by grace, not works

The birds are making song this morning --so many of them it is a cacophony out the window. Joel and I are laughing because it sounds like the doves are saying "what do you do? what do you do?" --and the other one is answering "I fixed it. I fixed it." --and then "I lost it. I lost it."

I know we shouldn't put words in the birds' mouths --but it was before coffee....

What I do know is that we miss kirkepiscatoid --who came and worked hard for the first part of this week. Her chair at the table is empty and it just doesn't seem right.... Among working two funerals, she prepared the church in Bear Creek --it will open for prayer this coming week --when nothing has happened there for more than three years... What a God-send.

And today is the church bazaar --Joel made a sign out of a plastic tablecloth and letters cut from duct-tape --but it got shredded in the wind.... But everyone in town knows it's happening... things just work that way here.

And here is my contribution to the bazaar --ten pies:

Peach & cherry pie, blackberry pie and blue berry pie for the church bazaar

Joel made a little card that we taped to the bags that says, "Mother Margaret's wholly and magnificent pies" --with a little preacher lady at the lectern saying "no sugar added" --yeppa, just fruit.... that's the way, uhuh uhuh, I like it... !!

Blueberry pie

I hear-tell that there will be other pies as well --I hope they all sell.... It was 90 degrees yesterday --not the best day to have the oven on for four hours....

All the money raised at the bazaar will go to paying off the church's winter utility bill....

And the soup kitchen folks gave me a bunch of fresh flowers yesterday --a belated mother's day gift... I mean, wow!

At prayer this morning (from Ephesians 2)
God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Created for good works --our way of life --but not saved by them so that we may not boast --we are saved by grace. The gift of God.

Is there anything more wonderful than that?
I can't think of one....

Not one.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

you move us to find water from the not-so-much a stranger in the wilderness

Well, dang.... my friend is on the way back home. --sigh..... what a delight to have her here. We worked together the first two days --one out in the field, the second doing a funeral... yesterday, my friend and Joel went and finished the job out in Bear Creek --and the church is now ready for the people.

What a blessing! What a God-send!

In the crunch (and spiritual work) of three funerals this week --I also got to meet with a young couple preparing for marriage, and I was honored to be asked to honor the returning soldiers of the 200th Engineering --12 of them returning to the Cheyenne River.

We marched through town... gun shots, bells ringing.... following behind the drum and the singers, the flags and the local medicine staff of the veteran's group --the march was about 1-1/2 miles long --through the whole town --one end to the other. The children of the Young Marines marched too....

Welcome home march through Eagle Butte, SD

The returning soldiers retrieve their  yellow ribbons off the tree in down town --there are still many ribbons there --too many.... This was where I was first asked to pray....

The soldiers retrieve their yellow ribbons, Eagle Butte, SD
 And then all the soldiers are greeted personally by all those who have gathered, and thanked for their service by children, grandmothers, other veterans --the town lines up and everyone gives thanks by shaking the hand of the returning veterans. Yes, it takes a while. I guess it should....

Soldiers thanked personally by all who have gathered, Eagle Butte, SD
Then we went to the cultural center in town where a big feast had been prepared. Speeches were made, star quilts given to the returning soldiers, more prayers were said, the drum and singers sang returning warrior and honoring songs --and then the feast was consumed.

Turns out the guy I walked behind --you can see his immediate back in the first photo, shares our same last name --and later in the afternoon, when Joel and my friend were up in Bear Creek fixing the church --they needed water, so they went to the house next door to the church and the guy who answered the door and gave them water was the very same guy as above... Joel saw his name on his uniform and said, hey, that's my name too, we are probably related! --and the guy said, the lady chaplain in town said the very same thing.... So, Joel said, yeah --that's my wife! (One should always speak in terms of relationships here --not names... just the way it is.)

Small world some days.

A small world that has a big heart and we are all so connected --such that I shouldn't be surprised that my friend from hundred of miles away and my husband should speak to the very same man the very same day some 35 miles away and in such different circumstances...

God is so funny that way....

At prayer this morning -Ascension Day (Psalm 8)
O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!
Out of the mouths of infants and children *
your majesty is praised above the heavens.
You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
to quell the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
the son of man that you should seek him out?
You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
you adorn him with glory and honor;
You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
you put all things under his feet:
All sheep and oxen, *
even the wild beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!
What is man that God should be mindful?

---the Body of the Beloved --that has ascended, and at the same time we march and wave our flags and shoot our guns, you move us to find water from the not-so-much a stranger in the wilderness, and honor our mortal flesh upon the throne of heaven... not in any dualistic way --not one separate from the other, not woven strands --but in the continued whole work of redemption and glory. All. And all at once. Amen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Very. Holy. Work.

Yesterday, in a cemetery 45 miles out of town, as the funeral director stepped up out of the grave (yes, he went in to nail the top on the wooden vault), his pants ripped from one end of the crotch to another. And then he got the text asking his ETA at the hospital....

So, we left his assistant with the hearse and the people to finish the burial, piled him into the car with Deacon and my friend, and came home. Joel was asleep in the living room --snoring the roof off, so we scuttled down the hall. I fished some pants out of my dresser drawer and the funeral director went in the other bedroom, closed the door and tried on the pants.

So, I went back to awaken Joel --and told him the funeral director was in his room trying on my pants.

He didn't understand....

So, I said it again... he still didn't understand.... nor did he after the third time....

When the funeral director opened the bedroom door and started walking down the hall, saying, they fit fine --the look on Joel's face --priceless.

We laughed and laughed and laughed.

Then I drove the funeral director to the hospital --because I figured it was the same family I was working with --and it was.... and in the course of 24 hours, four members of this same family died.

That's too much death for one family.

So I have much work to do today... including walking a couple of miles to welcome home the Veterans who are returning from Afghanistan and Iraq --then meeting with the family to plan the days ahead, and do a comfort service --another one....

In the meanwhile --Joel and my friend are going to go out to Bear Creek and mop up, get it ready for worship --soon.

It's all holy work. Very. Holy. Work.

At prayer this morning (1 Cor. 15:20-22)
Christ has been raised from the dead, *
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death, *
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, *
so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.
Amen. Alleluia.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

now the sun has called out of bed.....

Sneaking in some quick time while the sun begins her walk across the sky --she's starting out of view now --way off to the way off. All winter she was in the middle of the window --now she's way way east.

And, we've slept with some windows open for the last two nights. The bird riots in the morning are awesome...

In some places the prairie clover, which has a yellow-orange stem of flowers, is knee deep.

And my friend and Joel made good progress on the church in Bear Creek... replacing two windows and patching holes in the walls (with an ice-scraper no less). I arranged pews to form the sanctuary and the parish hall... picked up the garbage outside. Someone has moved a community dumpster by the church gate... sure would love to get it moved --but perhaps in the meanwhile it could be used like a holy water font --divest one's self of all the garbage before one enters for worship.

---or something like that.

Then, last night at the wake, the UCC pastor who was to be a help during the service didn't show --so my friend stepped in and participated as a lay reader. Excellent. After the opening part of the service (portions of compline, evening prayer and the vigil at the time of death glommed together --I didn't write it... needs work and more words of comfort), the drum and singers began their prayer --it was massive and strong. The singers are all quite young.... the throbbing of the drum reverberates in the air and makes the heart skip -yearning to join the rhythm  --compression presses against the chest. The heart beat of the people.

And then the UCC pastor arrived --he had driven quite some distance, and apologized profusely --just glad to see him.... I introduced my friend and told him of the work she is doing --and he said there are work crews in every town --and maybe they could help. Oh, oh I said --Oh yes! So, maybe today there will be news of more hands ready.... --especially to move the limbs of the trees torn and dropped in the church yard when the tornado ripped through town...

Our work at the other church in Dupree has not yet begun --except in the mind's eye.... but we found Dakota prayer books written in the old dialect... the chalice, the vestments ---the aumbry, the sanctuary lamp... every thing in no order at all.

And, now the sun has called out of bed Mr. Witty, my beloved and my friend --so....

At prayer this morning (from Psalm 78)
So he commanded the clouds above *
and opened the doors of heaven.
He rained down manna upon them to eat *
and gave them grain from heaven.
So mortals ate the bread of angels; *
he provided for them food enough.
He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens *
and led out the south wind by his might.
He rained down flesh upon them like dust *
and wingèd birds like the sand of the sea.
He let it fall in the midst of their camp *
and round about their dwellings.
So they ate and were well filled, *
for he gave them what they craved.
Crave.... There's the thought for the day....

Now, off to complete the journey to the grave on behalf of this family that spent the night in the church with their relative... watching.

Amen. Alleluia!

Monday, May 14, 2012

making room among the weeds and fences for the laughter and tears to be brought together

A beautiful day --carrying a friend around to our communities and decide how and where she wants to use her hands... fix a window, fix the plasterboard, clean up the damage of confusion, water and despair....

It will be the window and plasterboard first --and then I hope she will join me in serving at the funeral. We'll see. The funeral begins tonight --on in to tomorrow.

With so many funerals and among other things, I've been thinking a lot about 'reconciliation' and all that.... not bridging two distinct thoughts or ways of being, not bridging love and betrayal, not bridging....
reconcile (v.)
c.1300, of persons, from L. reconcilare "to bring together again," from re- "again" (see re-) + concilare "make friendly" (see conciliate). Reflexive sense is recorded from 1530s. Meaning "to make (discordant facts or statements) consistent" is from 1560s. Related: Reconciled; reconciling
--bringing together again... make friendly....

Our Deacon says, white people are so afraid to die.

She's right, you know.

And to reconcile also means, in bringing together again, making room --letting die those things that must give way... to bring together again --to make whole....

So, what gives way?
Aye matey --there's the rub.

Little and big deaths.... choosing.

...must the buildings give way sooner or later to what comes next?
--because sooner or later, the buildings will give way and be reconciled to the earth. One can see that quite plainly here --where the broken stems of rooftops punctuate the sky... snow, wind, rain, wind, folks taking what they need.

The church in Bear Creek has the only fence in town --except around the place where the four children died in the fire --and a church group thought that perhaps putting some play equipment inside the fence might redeem the place.... play equipment alongside the memorial, with their faces etched in the stone, looking skyward.

How can the children play in a place where the grandmothers gather to weep?

--making room among the weeds and fences for the laughter and tears to be brought together. If it can happen, it will happen there.

And, if we are to be reconciled with God? ....?

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song of Hannah 1 Samuel 2:1-8)
My heart exults in you, O God; *
my triumph song is lifted in you.
My mouth derides my enemies, *
for I rejoice in your salvation.
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.
----perhaps only God reconciles... clothing the weak, lifting the needy, raising the poor from the dust and making them inherit the place of honor, bringing life out of the childless woman....

--and it is only morning, beautiful and fair....

Sunday, May 13, 2012

G'wan. Go to church

--and I will be giving thanks to God for my mom --and thanks for the life and formation she gave me --and thanks for all those who have mothered me in various times and places.

Downtown Rapid City bronze called "Hunkayapi Ceremony" -the making of a relative or the giving of a name
Happy and blessed Mother's Day to all!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

more than any words or any thing else --just being present

This is St. Andrew's, Cherry Creek. I will have Sunday services there tomorrow afternoon. Today I will have a funeral in Eagle Butte and then make the journey to Cherry Creek for a burial....

St. Andrew's, Cherry Creek, South Dakota

At prayer this morning:
Show us your mercy, O Lord;
And grant us your salvation.
Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
Let your people sing with joy.
Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
For only in you can we live in safety.
Lord, keep this nation under your care;
And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
Let your way be known upon earth;
Your saving health among all nations.
Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Create in us clean hearts, O God;
And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.
The men of the family gathering for the funeral today have either all died (brothers and sons of the woman who is now the acting elder for this family) or moved far, far away. The younger women with children have not married. So this is mostly a congregation --a family of women. And children --- the poorest of the poor.

I know this because the usual elaborate presentations of real flowers, candles, pictures, scrapbooks are not present --only a few plastic floral arrangements, and sparse at that. The food at the meal of the wake was soup, baloney sandwiches (no slabs of beef or buffalo), plenty of fry-bread and marshmallow salad --with a few grapes mixed in. And, the star quilt that is used as a pall on the coffin is a twin-size quilt, which hardly covers things --and I overheard the discussion-- the family wishes for the quilt to be removed before the coffin is lowered in to the ground. So, I don't know if it is merely on loan or will be re-gifted --but the usual practice of the quilt accompanying the deceased in to the spirit world will not happen in this instance.

The vitality and strength usually found in the burial customs is not found here this time.... No rider-less horse, no drums, no spontaneous testimonials, no young men with braids and confidence. Compassion is welling up in me.... And I am remembering Wounded Knee, the betrayals, the living wounds, the inherited grief... I am seeing it in living flesh and blood.

But I will not speak of "that better place" which is so often spoken of --and gives comfort to some, but, in my mind's eye sets up the watershed for suicide --so rampant here. I will speak of the Good Shepherd, the many dwelling places prepared for us --of the tears Jesus shed, of Martha's anger --of the dismay and bewilderment and God-awful sorrow and holes in the gut --and ultimately of love... and the courage of the disciples to gather and eat and be present to one another in their confusion and tears --and of the totally unexpected and bewildering presence of New Life suddenly in their midst.

But I think, more than anything, more than any words or any thing else --just being present --being there is what it will be all about today...

On that note --I have already let the family in to begin work on today's feast which follows the funeral rite -before we head out to Cherry Creek for the burial.... I must prepare now to be present.

Peace out.

Friday, May 11, 2012

perhaps spring was a mistaken thought

Choke cherry in bloom

My little weather gadget said it was going to happen --I should have believed it... but there was not a cloud in the sky. It was warm and sunny. We ate lunch outside. And then, suddenly, in the late afternoon ---BLAM! High winds --I'm talking wind taking the door outa my hands and trying to blow me off the stoop kinda winds --and I'm no little toss about either. And then came the rain with drops so big each one formed a large puddle. And the thunder sent poor Mr. Witty under the table to shake and quake in silent terror. I noticed two small orange and black and yellow butterflies that had taken refuge low on the side of the garage outside my window... but they disappeared in a sudden thrust of the wind.

The wind persisted late into the night --thrashing about, knocking at the doors, shaking the locks on the windows. This morning it is gray and still and cold --like perhaps spring was a mistaken thought --and the trees and flowers and native shrubs that are all in bloom are once again wrapped in a shroud of chill that shall drop the green from their sunny and warm conversation --because they were making great speeches all around the open prairie that there is life after winter....

And today I shall prepare to lead a family to the edge of the known world --and plant in the earth the matriarch who shall, in the language of spring, continue her journey to and through that place we call the Milky Way --which is really the millions of campfires of the ancestors waiting for us --waiting for those they know and love before they continue on. In that direction we call Westward. Ever west.

And tomorrow I must lead the family back from that edge --back to the conversation of the trees and flowers --the choke cherry and buffalo berry bloom --following the fragrant sweet grass aroma back to the people --back to face into the wind like the buffalo teaches --head on, no hiding.

At prayer this morning (A Song of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 36:24-28)
I will take you from among all nations; *
and gather you from all lands to bring you home.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you; *
and purify you from false gods and uncleanness.
A new heart I will give you *
and a new spirit put within you.
I will take the stone heart from your chest *
and give you a heart of flesh.
I will help you walk in my laws *
and cherish my commandments and do them.
You shall be my people, *
and I will be your God. 
Praise to the holy and undivided Trinity, one God: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
Commandments.... It seems there is only one great commandment on the prairie --Know you are vulnerable. One response to that commandment leads to a heart of stone; the other to a heart of flesh... flesh that blooms --like the chokecherries and buffalo berries bloom --not when it is safe, but at the first chance they get, poking holes in the shroud of chill.

And, looking for a picture of buffalo berries, I found this:
Buffalo Berries 
Their hidden weapons make buffalo berries the elite among wild fruit. The thorns can be up to six inches long, all scientifically placed so that you cannot pick a single berry without puncturing naked hands. Even leather gloves don't save you from injury. 
Buffalo berries are symbolic, to me, of the answer to the question all plains people are eventually asked. . . "Why do you stay here?" 
These tart little berries on hidden, thorny bushes are what the modern people of the plains have become. We're not easy to find, and we tend to be a little prickly if we've been here long. Hardship and freedom breed stoicism, and don't leave us with much patience for such questions. But when you get to know us, when you understand a little of the plains, we're rare and tasty. 
From Land Circle: Writings Collected from the Land
pages 23-25, published 1991, Fulcrum Publishing

Oh! Huh.....
--writing like tending a garden....

Yeah. So, is that a private thought --that perhaps I should write her... or is that so obvious....

Peace out.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I haven't invented a song for that, yet

I bought a book on clouds, The Cloudspotter's Guide. I want to read what is writ in the sky. I have been inventing little songs so that I can remember the cloud types.... When I got up this morning and peeked out the window to sing my songs, the sky was clear clear clear... I haven't invented a song for that, yet.

And I am reading more about the geography (the geology and inhabitants and change over time) of this place.

I like maps, by the way. And I found two good maps that convey different info clearly --one of the reservations and other Federal lands, another with other data, like roads and county lines. For scale, remember that the State of Connecticut could fit into the Cheyenne River Reservation alone....

South Dakota is not the biggest State by any stretch of the imagination... but it is big. And notice how there is only one main road running through the reservation... --and it is a two-lane road, at that.

Pierre (pronounced peer) is the capital, right there in the middle of the State. Fort Pierre, which is on the other side of the river, was established in about 1817 --trade and all that. Beaver and other pelts, until they ran out... and then buffalo... the American way.... sigh.

And I found out this morning in my reading that what we are calling antelope are not antelope --but are pronghorns.... and they are the second fastest land animal in the world --second only to the cheetah, and can sustain their speed longer than the cheetah can --but they are not good jumpers and so they can be trapped by fences. So there is a movement afoot to remove the lowest strand of barbed wire on fences throughout South Dakota, or at least make it not barbed wire, because the pronghorn prefer to crawl under the fences rather than try to jump them....

And knowing the landscape and its inhabitants is so much more than poetic curiosity.... it is even more than reverence --which is big in my book and due for our Unci Maka (uhchi mahgka --phonetically) (grandmother earth) --it is also survival... like, I still don't know what to do if I am out on the road in the middle of no where and see a tornado coming... in the ditch --right --but mostly there aren't any....

At prayer this morning (Matthew 6:25-34)
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 
And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 
And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? 
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Love this gospel. It was the gospel Joel and I selected for our wedding liturgy.

Just got a call. Funeral home. Age 47 and dead. I haven't invented a song for that yet, either. Gotta go. Please keep the family in your prayers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

despair is the body and blood of the idol

--and North Carolina joins the growing line of States that have erected the legal means for pogroms against our LGBTQ brethren... and their children.

--and Obama has signed a peace time martial law executive order.... He did it in months ago...
The 2012 NDAA deemed the United States a "battlefield," as Senator Lindsey Graham put it, and gave the president and his agents the right to seize and arrest any U.S. citizen, detain them indefinitely without charge or trial, and do so only on suspicion, without any judicial oversight or due process.

The new Executive Order states that the president and his secretaries have the authority to commandeer all U.S. domestic resources, including food and water, as well as seize all energy and transportation infrastructure inside the borders of the United States. The Government can also forcibly draft U.S. citizens into the military and force U.S. citizens to fulfill "labor requirements" for the purposes of "national defense." There is not even any Congressional oversight allowed, only briefings.

The article continues:
Finally, the 2012 NDAA was hurried through the House and Senate almost like a covert op with minimal public attention or debate. It was then signed by the president at 9:00 PM on New Year's Eve while virtually nobody was paying attention to much other than the approaching new year. This new Executive Order was written and signed in complete secret and then quietly released by the White House on its website without comment. All this was done under a president who studied constitutional law at Harvard.

It is hard to know what to say in the face of such egregious disregard for the integrity of what America has stood and fought for since its founding. It is hard in part because none of us thought such encroachments would ever happen here, certainly not under the watch of a "progressive" like Obama.

It's hard to know what to say? Oh --I know what to say... but who's listening? The encroachment upon and destruction of civility and civil liberties is so far gone that it will take uprisings more massive than Occupy --and uprisings far more deliberate... and I'm afraid the only ones organized and willing are precisely the ones that have created the circumstances in North Carolina and have urged the circumstances of Peace Time Martial Law upon us.

The Indian Country reports it here --reflecting upon the martial law circumstances in Indian Territory. As they say --it doesn't matter that this has happened under every president since Truman.... In the wrong hands, this is absolute terror.... Perhaps in any hands, this is terror.... Terror and terrorism has always begun with a piece of paper....

We live under 'peace time' martial law.... And have, for quite some time. Does that pop your American Dream balloon?

I hope so.

This 'fear' we are living with is an idol --encrusted with hopes and dreams, and rotten to the core. And we worship this idol, praying for safety, peace and bountiful times --and all the while we offer it our liberty of mind and body and soul....

At prayer this morning (Matthew 6:19-24)
Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Our eyes are not healthy --we live in darkness.... we serve two masters --we store up all the wrong treasures --that is what this idol we worship is --encrusted with light, power and hope.... It is time to give up our naivety and ignorance that we mask as innocence. It is time to raise our heads up from the sands of denial. Even if we do not yet act, we need to be honest about the times in which we live.

Because it is then and only then that we can give glory to the Creator --be poor, humble, broken, meek and mourn the circumstances of the world --and know we are blessed. The Beatitudes --our creed, the foundation for our rule of life.

And despair is the bread and wine --the body and blood of the idol.

So, today, I shall arise, bake a pie or two and cross the street to give it away to S & C --C has decided not to do any more chemo and will probably not see summer in its full glory --please keep S and family in your prayers. And I shall mow the prairie in the yard, gather the cordless and manual tools I have and make a list of resources already here for K who is coming (!!!!!). And I shall prepare for the funeral this Friday --and the marriage counseling this evening and the next.

And remember to give thanks in all things and in all ways.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

for the will and wisdom to live what we know and believe

Sometimes it is difficult first thing in the morning, to remember all that for which I want to remember and pray...

--but it is a whole new group of guys behind the tree out back. They gather around the dumpster, searching for a left over something or other and move on if they catch a glimpse of me. New faces and hands require new prayer, new words for the particular angst they are nursing and masking....

The town is so busy all of a sudden, it is hard to find a parking place downtown... I know that sounds funny --with a down town that is all of two blocks long... but it's true. Summer brings a whole pattern of life, from the looks of it. The constant scrubbing of the wind is still present, shelter and relief from its relentless presence is still a priority --but folks are streaming every which, having been hunkered down from the cold for months. And cars which would not be put on the road in mid-winter, because the wire and duct tape might not hold back the bite and danger of the cold and the tires mismatched and bald, weave and drag unexpectedly from one place to the next, children sleeping and playing in the back seat....

And a fermenting excitement --the greening of the prairie, the bulging of buds, guys with handfuls of beaded bags and bolas --a winter's work, standing and selling on the corner... the promise of pow wows and the circuit to see relatives and the singing of songs out in the open --prayers for the wind to carry and the spirits to hear....

--and I am grateful because a truck pulled up alongside the church yesterday, three big guys rolled out and climbed out on the roof and began patching it --word got out that we would not get the roof fixed until July and that damage was already happening inside... and somebody with pull and resources in town sent them over, and the roof will last until July....

--and the three big guys couldn't believe I was the priest --lots of that humble laughter and joking...

--and it's almost time to go open the doors of the church so the hot lunch helpers can get in and set up --they have been redeemed from their dumpster breakfasts by the love of these sisters that gather and cook and pray and laugh and cook and gossip and become willing relatives of the most desperate --we wouldn't be Lakota if we didn't share what we have, she says....

--yeah. You are respected for what you give away here, not what you have and keep....

Joel and I decided I would not have an alms fund here --funds from the church to give away... but that we would do what everybody else does --share what we have --which is never cash but not always food --sometimes a trip to the gas station or hotel.... But every knock on the door is the call to prayer....

And the deaths of the priest, parish administrator and homeless man.... present in every knock at the door, but not in fear for my safety --but with the frustration and anger that a mentally ill man was living in the woods with a gun... how the hell did that happen? And sure, it is the responsibility of the church to serve the poor and homeless --it is the responsibility of the church to make willing relatives of the most desperate --because we are all related... but we must also work and pray and live to change the circumstances that allow such circumstances to exist. We must not blame and further marginalize the mentally ill... We must not hunker down in fake safety... but continue to work for the sake of those who fall through the huge and growing gaps in the so-called safety nets....

--not for our own sakes....

At prayer this morning (from Leviticus 16)
For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the LORD. It is a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall deny yourselves; it is a statute forever.

The priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the linen vestments, the holy vestments. He shall make atonement for the sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.
--and as a priestly people, baptized in to the eternal priesthood of God, we are all called to make atonement --all of us, for the sake of the world --to do as Christ has done --to follow him.

Oh dear... not where I expected to go this morning... but such is prayer and there we are.

Hey God, it's margaret. I remember in my prayers this morning GM, Paul and his family, for the champion of prayer our beloved David, for our niece S whose birthday it is today, for my niece Suz who is also celebrating her birthday --all week I would guess! --for S,C,V,C,D,T,T,H,E,H --for D,M and those in the nursing home on the hill... for C and her family in bereavement.... for the will and the wisdom to live what we know and believe... Amen.