Saturday, June 30, 2012

so many gifts

Going in to sun dance today. We will walk in to the fourth day of the dance, when by this time many of the dancers are so parched their faces show it with drawn cheeks and crusted lips. They may be beyond hunger pains at this point. It's a challenging day to pray... when someone is giving themselves so bodily in prayer... for the people.

Last night, we celebrated with the good folks from far away who have been working so hard on the church at On the Tree, and offering a bible camp here in town. How a people who have so little can give so very much.... A quilt for every man working on the church, beaded work for all the women. One quilt --the star was made of tipis. It was given to the man who lead with experience and imagination the restructuring of the foundation and sills at the church. Amazing work, that.

There was a prayer offered in Lakota and then English --I wish I could remember all he said, but I was moved to tears.

And then a song (which is also and always prayer) was offered --and it was powerful --Thank you Great Spirit, Grandfather, for my family and relatives; have pity on us. It is hard to be Lakota.

The children that were there ran and laughed and cried and played hard --adding their own prayers in that way.

More tears. More thanksgiving. Lots of hand-shaking. We ended the evening with singing the Doxology --in English and Lakota together --it was wonderful. A joyful noise before Grandfather.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 107:33-43)

The LORD changed rivers into deserts, *
and water-springs into thirsty ground,
A fruitful land into salt flats, *
because of the wickedness of those who dwell there.
He changed deserts into pools of water *
and dry land into water-springs. 
He settled the hungry there, *
and they founded a city to dwell in.
They sowed fields, and planted vineyards, *
and brought in a fruitful harvest.
He blessed them, so that they increased greatly; *
he did not let their herds decrease. 
Yet when they were diminished and brought low, *
through stress of adversity and sorrow,
(He pours contempt on princes *
and makes them wander in trackless wastes)
He lifted up the poor out of misery *
and multiplied their families like flocks of sheep. 
The upright will see this and rejoice, *
but all wickedness will shut its mouth.
Whoever is wise will ponder these things, *
and consider well the mercies of the LORD.

Amen. Amen. Amen.
Off I go.

Friday, June 29, 2012

official weather alerts and Peter's redeeming denial

I should have been able to tell that a severe thunderstorm was going to happen. Beyond the 'red sky in the morning, sailors take warning' mantra, (--and, OMG, the red sky was awesome) --my nose and throat closed up and went phlegm-crazy... and Mr. Witty wouldn't eat his cookies. I should pay more attention to that kind of thing... it's the third time the phlegm-crazy before the storm stuff has happened....

We didn't get the official weather alerts for a severe thunderstorm until 15 minutes later when we were already well into the thick of the cloud, the wind and the lightening. The cloud-to-ground lightening was showing off its stuff right outside our livingroom window, and the thunder was shaking the floor of the house. (No wonder there are no two-story houses in South Dakota....)

The phone rang about 6:15am --fortunately, Mr. Witty and I were already fixing coffee --it was our Itacan telling me to phone the mission folks and tell them not to come out yet, that there was a storm coming out his way. He lives east of us, 20 miles on the other side of the church the mission folks are fixing. We live 20 miles to the west of the church.

I looked at the storm on my weather map gadget. The whole rest of South Dakota is clear as a bell... --except over us. Except over the exposed foundation and sill of the church the mission folk are fixing....


I suppose the good news in that is that the storm and the rain will pass in time for the folks to finish the church foundation by this evening, and those children that are some where down a dirt road may still be able to get to town for the last day of bible school.

What a blessing these folks have been --here for a week, transforming and being transformed. Can't help myself, here's

Vacation Bible School, Eagle Point, SD
Our own accidental and innocent version of Ancient of Days
and then this:

Ancient of Days, William Blake

---love that. Trying to pay attention in those untold ways....
Praise to the holy and undivided Trinity, one God: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
A wonderful story --some of the grandchildren of the senior warden don't participate in the singing at the bible school. Reeeeefuuuuuuze. Well, night before last, the kids were sleeping in a tent out in the yard of their grandparent's house, and before going to bed, the grandpa went to check on the kids in the tent --and they were all in the tent singing... singing the VBS songs.

Amen to that. And just when you thought they weren't listening.... paying attention in those untold ways.

Today is the day we remember the saints Peter and Paul: (Ezekiel 34:11-16)

Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep.

I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land.

I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

.....and just because... this: (John 21:15-19)

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?"

He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you."

Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."

A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you."

Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep."

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

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

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

After this he said to him, "Follow me."
Three times Jesus asked him... told him. Sandra Schneiders says it's the poetic book-end to Peter's three denials --the undoing of his transgression.... redemption. (Was Peter paying attention?) Yes Lord, I love you --the un-saying of 'I do not know him'.... Not transactional... just grace. Freely given. Death is not the result of this grace... not the price... death is the result of sin --in the parlance of faith. And even in the result of sin, we can glorify God... THAT's grace.

--striving to pay attention in those untold ways....


Now, it's time to begin preparing for the feast and the give-away planned for tonight. Amen. Amen.

Joel just began playing (on the stereo) some kinda Russian sounding triumphalist trumpet and cymbal and drum and swirly violin thing... it's NOTHING compared to the storm, now ancient in this day....


Thursday, June 28, 2012

"and hope does not disappoint us"

At prayer this morning (Romans 5:1-11)
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Paul --that is so freakin' beautiful.... (weeping in joy)!

Hey God.... it's margaret. So many things merging in prayer this morning....

It's been two weeks since I've had a funeral. That's nerve wracking. And also good. So, I'm Leaving it Lay.

The Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery was passed at General Convention in 2009. Now there is a call to prayer in repentance and reconciliation. I am not sure the two can be done well together by all parties. But it's a start. Still thinking about it. Picking this one up. More resources here.

I have been praying about the Affordable Health Care Act.... I didn't hold out much hope with the Supremes that we have... breaking news while I write this is that it has been upheld. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you. (snark--but real shock nonetheless). Bracing for the venting that is to come from those who see health care as a business and not as the well-being of the people. Putting this one down. For now.

Went to a day of Sun Dance yesterday. It was the sweetest prayer I've ever had at Sun Dance. I took the whole day in retreat. I really needed it. Quiet. No phone. No 'puter. Just grass, ants, spiders, wind --OMG the horses ran through the middle of the camp --it was magnificent --they were shouting horsey things on their way to the river --and the people and the dancers, who looked very strong (of course, it was the first day --they pray for the people for four days and nights without food and water). It was the sweetest --by that I mean, yes it was demanding --probably grueling for the dancers --but for the people it was the least regulated, the most comfortable... I am grateful for the day. Very. Grateful. I feel restored. My cup has been filled to overflowing. Leaving it Lay, but moving forward, restored.

And I've been pondering my habit of trying to not over-plan, keeping and leaving room for the Spirit... but, sometimes that is nerve-wracking/stressful... I have to really work at it... so, is it good or bad? --wrong words --here we go: Helpful or not helpful? Over all, I think it is helpful... much better than trying to make sure the plan goes as planned.... but stressful on someone who likes to plan, have a sure map to follow, knowing that we will get from this place to that place in this manner and this way etc, etc, etc.... I've had enough funerals and liturgies in this place to know that's just not the way it usually happens. Picking this one up.

And praying for my brother because he has just told me his wife left him... and he has a bunch of stuff going on... and my sisters and their husbands and families because their mother-in-laws have died... and my younger brother who is engulfed in addiction... and my personal stuff with some of my siblings in the manner of mother's death, and the ensuing estrangement and wondering if I strive for reconciliation will it be the same ol' dead end, and should the probability of that dead end mean I shouldn't do it any way and the demands on me to keep trying.... Hope does not disappoint us.... striving to Leave it Lay.... and pick it up... and put it down....

And praying prayers of gratitude for this time with my beloved --how lucky we are to be alive, here... and how fortunate we are to have and have had the medical care necessary for Joel to breathe and walk and talk and think....

And praying prayers of gratitude for the congregations and people I serve....

And praying prayers for those attending General Convention... wisdom, grace, generosity....

And now, to my day before me --taking Youthworks over to look at our church in Dupree --to get it opened for the congregation that is presently meeting in the community hall....

Off I go. Amen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

make us fearless out-laws.

A great deal of angst kept me awake last night. Part of it was the couple who rang the doorbell at 12:30 last night to tell me that someone had pushed over both the church dumpsters this time --I had given them a gallon of gas and some small-engine oil to upright the one dumpster that had been tipped over earlier in the week... --and for two gallons of gas they were willing to put both dumpsters upright.

What do they think I am? Stupid? I sent them away, empty-handed. And the dumpsters are still on their sides this morning. And I have no idea how I am going to get them upright.

And I am totally discouraged by the unraveling of the church in preparation for General Convention.    T.O.T.A.L.L.Y.   We have opted to become like the brothers who quarreled to sit closest to Jesus and drink from the cup he held --without having the foggiest of what that means and what that requires. I am so sick of the church doing what's right and good instead of striving for righteousness and justice.

But, of course, righteousness and justice for Christians requires REQUIRES the cross... and who wants to go there... themselves....

No one really believes in the Resurrection after all.... oh-huhn.

I think I need a few hours of wilderness time.

Today is the day we are invited to remember Cornelius Hill, priest and leader among the Oneida.

At prayer this morning (Romans 4:13-25)

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) – in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.”

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

This little bit o' scripture may just become what I pray for the duration of General Convention --and to get me through my own situational angst....

Lord, have mercy.
Inspire us.
And make us fearless out-laws.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

butterflies do fly thousands of miles....

From my weather gadget:
Mostly cloudy in the morning, then clear with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain. High of 104F. Breezy. Winds from the SSE at 15 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

Cloudy.... then CLEAR with a chance of a thunderstorm.... Huh. A clear thunderstorm....

My weather gadget also says that systems have stalled on both coasts east and west, so this wet heat is being drawn up from the Gulf. That's also how tornados happen --stuff being drawn up from the Gulf, and things moving east to west.... One good thing --by the time it gets way up here, it's not as wet as it is in the south.

But, it's still gonna be miserable today. And the folks are here from Michigan --one group is meeting in the parish hall with local children for vacation bible school --another group is meeting out at St. Thomas, On the Tree and fixing the foundation of the church building.

What a God-send these folks are. And, they are working their butts off.... There is the controversy over whether or not such stuff ought to happen --people coming in from far-away places to do this kind of work. But, what I see is that these folks have been coming here for years --and relationships have been built and are being built, and that's really what it's all about. And that is good.

That is very good. One of the guys who had been coming for years and had built many relationships here --he was an electrician giving his time, he died unexpectedly this past year. The folks from far away brought a gift of a stained glass window to hang in the window of St. John's. We will have a dinner later this week, and exchange gifts --it will be good.

Tonight is our Itacan's (Mission Council Leader) birthday. For his birthday, he asked the museum to be opened after hours up in Timber Lake --we will go up there and tour the museum. And then we will eat cake!

All this. But the words of one young lady are still resonating in my ears --why don't we get in vans and go to podunk anywhere USA and put on programs?


I'm still thinking about it... but, in so many ways, it takes the whole context, the whole thing to make it right --and taking the gifts I see here and taking it to Elsewhere USA would be like trying to fly with butterfly wings in a tornado... or something like that.

At prayer this morning (beginning at Matthew 19:23)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?”

But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

We had a terrible/terrifying storm last night.... The night sky was boiling with lightening which turned the clouds magenta and inside out with its light....

--and butterflies do fly thousands of miles, through thick and thin....



Monday, June 25, 2012

Greasy Grass, John the Baptist, Custer and repentance

It's a National holiday here on the Cheyenne River Reservation.... Yeppa. The day Custer got nicked. 1876. One hundred and thirty six years ago.

The Tribal offices and institutions are all closed. Bureau of Indian Affairs is not, of course, because they are Federally run....

Custer was running after those who refused to stay put in the concentration camps Reservations or accept the destruction of their culture civilizing effects so grossly generously offered by the Federal government --which was, as you may recall, riding high on its Civil War victory horse and had to do something with all those soldiers addicted to war anxious to serve their Country.


And if celebrating Custer's defeat makes you uncomfortable... well, here --I contextualized some Scripture we are given to read today on the Feast of John the Baptist --I offer it in humility, because my ears and heart have been changed, and I hope you, too, can hear the voice of a people who suffer with hope in hand:

Isaiah 40:1-11 --contextualized

Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God Grandfather.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem my People,
and cry to her them
that she has they have served her their term,
that her their penalty is paid,
that she has they have received from the LORD's Grandfather's hand
double for all her their sins.
A voice cries out:
"In the wilderness prepare the way road of the LORD Wankatankan,
make straight in the desert a highway a path for our God Wakantankan.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD mystery of The Great Mystery shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD Wakantankan has spoken."

A voice says, "Cry out!"
And I said, What shall I cry?
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the LORD Wakantankan blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word voice of our God Wakantankan will stand sound forever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion People, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem  People, herald messenger of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah Seven Tribes,
"Here is your God! Grandfather!"
See, the Lord GOD Great Mystery, Wakantancan comes with might strength,
and his arm rules for him is strong;
his reward is gifts are with him,
and his recompense generosity before him.
He will feed his flock people like a shepherd Tatankan (Great Buffalo);
he will gather the lambs children in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom chest,
and gently lead the mother sheep those who care for the generations to come.
Or, of course, there is this (From Acts 13):
Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak:

"You Israelites Tribes, and others who fear God, listen. The God of Grandfather this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt in the Reservations, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years many generations he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan those who oppressed them and stole their land, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years many generations.
See what I mean? Hear it from the other side....

Oppressors beware. Repent. Turn from your ways. (It is John the Baptists Day --c'mon.)

Or, there is always the blatant language of this (Luke 1 about verse 57):
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel Wakantancan,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior warrior for us
in the house of his servant David tribes of Gall, Sitting Bull and the others,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant promise,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham ancestors,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness humbleness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet visioner of the Most High Great Mystery;
for you will go before the Lord the Itancan (the Leader) to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God Grandfather,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace."
Hey God, it's margaret. On this day that the People I love and serve remember those who worked to save them in days past, and remember those who are to come and right the wrongs they still suffer, help me to walk with humility, that I may not perpetuate the oppression, but instead be ever aware of and a servant of your reconciling love --guide our feet into the way of peace. Amen.

Yesterday, a small girl came up to me and we talked some holy talk --and then I asked, 'Do you know what covenant means?' She shook her head. And I said, 'It means promise.' And her eyes got big --because there we were --at a turn in the road called Promise, between Black Foot and White Horse....

'I live in Promise,' she said. Thrilled.

Yes, yes dear sweet innocent child. Yes. Exactly.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

not Kubler-Ross, so very not

Let's see... hormone based cancer --my father's genes. Check.

Gall bladder stones --my mother's genes. Check.

Straight hair --my mother's genes. Check.

Brown eyes --well, they both had 'em. Check. Check.

The ability to crave alcohol --my father's genes. Check.

The ability to refuse alcohol --my mother's genes. Check.

The ability to grow big huge knotty callouses next to my baby toe on my feet --my mother's genes. Check.

So far, mom's winning....

Funny how that goes, heh?

Got news through Facebook that my second-oldest sister's mother in law died this past week... Both my sisters lost their mothers in law in the last couple of weeks.... And I never had one.

Funny how that goes....

And I'm thinking of death ceremonies off-Reservation... and wondering. Knowing how to shape and form and live with grief or loss is not inherited, it's learned.... But, we do pass it down, generation to generation.

When my mom's mom died, I was thousand of miles away... but even so, my own mom didn't plan a funeral with her sister. My mom was too busy with work, too desperate to keep things going as is, she didn't take a break and go deal with her mom's death. After months of waiting and wondering what to do, my auntie went and buried my grandmother without ceremony.

When my dad's mom died, my eldest sister received the cremains in the mail. After a couple of months we all went and buried Grandma Hambly in the veteran's cemetery south of San Francisco. We donated her full grave site to a needy veteran... and decided to bury her in the same plot with Grandpa. We gathered around the small hole and put Grandma in it, laughing that now she would be 'on top' forever... crying tears from the head, not gut, in the confusion of unresolved grief --she died without any family around her, abandoned in a nursing home in Wyoming by my father's second wife --both of her children having died before her --and she losing all her mental faculties... grief compounding grief.

When my Dad died, his second wife buried him. I went looking for his grave. All his grave stone and funeral records had the wrong name... Sargent Alvin Hambly instead of his proper name, Alvin Sargent Hambly.

My mom's death was so fraught with tension and dysfunction.... My youngest brother, being her caretaker, had been arrested for neglect and abuse --circumstances I had been screaming about to my siblings for months --and a stranger finally took action where my siblings would not. Upon receiving a phone call about my brother's arrest, and suddenly knowing without any one saying it --that she was dying, I scrambled to get to her home in Oregon from the east coast where I lived as quickly as I could. As I got off the plane, my second-oldest sister met me and listed all the tasks that were to be done, and I was supposed to write the obituary and plan the funeral liturgy. 'Is she dead, then?' I asked. 'No, not yet. I'll plan the party, Mom wanted a party instead of a funeral,' she said.

Funny how that goes, heh?

Patterns of grief and denial --no tracks laid across the wilderness of death --just an unthorough regime of disposing of bodies....

God is so funny. And here I am, suddenly, in a culture where ceremony and grief surrounding death are intense, lasting, dignified --and are marked for at least a year.

In working through my mother's death, I established landmarks for myself so that I would know and remember where I was in my grief. They weren't the Kubler-Ross landmarks so similar to the ones taught us in seminary --denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance... minding that Kubler-Ross was looking at those dying, not necessarily those left with grief after death.

I put different words to it all --denial... I chalked this one up as some said --death is just a part of life. Ummmm.... NOT --death is the END OF LIFE as we know it. The end. Over. Out. Anger --I chalked this one up as not being able to look beyond one's own nose --self centeredness.... Bargaining --I chalked this one up to that same self-centeredness --trying to recreate the situation in to our own image. Depression? --well, death is disorienting and certainly challenges our smugness in 'dealing' with it. Duh. Acceptance? --ummmm, no, let's go back to that denial business.

Here --it seems my own landmarks are well expressed.

What is NOT said at funerals here on the Cheyenne River is that everything is going to be alright, because every one knows that it is not going to be alright....

What is said and done, a partial and initial list:

Recognition: true loss (physical, emotional, financial --every which way) is acknowledged, sometimes/mostly named out loud. And standing by the grave until by sweat, blood and tears, it is filled and the mound of dirt is accomplished --it leaves no doubt...

Spiritual (for lack of a better word): that life is forever changed, but not ended. Disorientation due to the loss and grief is not alarming --it is the opportunity for a vision....

Letting go: the deceased's personal articles are burned or given away. Beyond that, the grieving gives a lot of other stuff away in gratitude of the presence of the community.

Process: there are ceremonies to mark the desolation and wilderness of grief; one knows where one is by cutting hair, giving away, feeding others, stopping your normal routine and giving yourself a new one, and 'wiping away the tears' --after a year.... There is lots of prayer. Lots.

Ceremony and ritual: yes, we are more than physical beings, but we are definitely bodily beings, and sometimes our bodies know stuff before our mind knows stuff, so marking grief with ceremony gives bodily recognition of 'where' we are. And honoring the body of the deceased recognizes that bodies are important --in love, in anger --well, in everything. "In my body I shall see God."

Resilience --or is it Resurrection: looking for the laughter, lots of it; tending to the children; telling stories, particularly about the deceased; feasting; funerals are like family reunions....

How did I get here this morning... in the first week of summer... with the sun out and no funerals on the horizon? Perhaps it is the distant recognition of the loss of two mothers in law, which in Indian Country would have me traveling to the homes of my sisters to do what must be done, and participate in it... and in my own family systems means quite the opposite.


At prayer this morning (Psalm 90)

Lord, you have been our refuge *
from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born, *
from age to age you are God.
You turn us back to the dust and say, *
“Go back, O child of earth.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are like yesterday when it is past *
and like a watch in the night.
You sweep us away like a dream; *
we fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
in the evening it is dried up and withered.

For we consume away in your displeasure; *
we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.
Our iniquities you have set before you, *
and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone; *
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

The span of our life is seventy years,
perhaps in strength even eighty; *
yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
for they pass away quickly and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath? *
who rightly fears your indignation?

So teach us to number our days *
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry? *
be gracious to your servants.
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; *
so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.
Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us *
and the years in which we suffered adversity.

Show your servants your works *
and your splendor to their children.

May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; *
prosper the work of our hands; prosper our handiwork.


Friday, June 22, 2012

warnings and grace are so much better.....

Sweet round dreams. Of nothing that I can recall. And a new window screen. That is good too. Small mercies.

The long drive yesterday --to Rapid for his myesthenia doctor --was punctuated by two hitch hikers we picked up --a mother and her young man son. Turned out they were trying to get to Mobridge. Daughter having a baby. Their car had broken down. When we picked them, they were still about 140 miles from Mobridge --walking.

Of course, as soon as we entered the Reservation, and had entered a long stretch between the edge and the first town, a distance of about 25 miles, a cop going the opposite direction turned in his tracks and put his lights on.

Dang. I didn't know their radar systems worked in that direction....

So, I pulled over and waited... my second speeding ticket in my life....  Dang. He came up behind the window just like ya see on tv... him not knowing who or what was in the car... and I recognized him immediately --'hey,' I said. 'Didn't I baptize your son? Why haven't you been to church?'

And he blushed seven shades of crimson....

'I work weekends,' he said, and began the litany of excuses. Oh-hunh, I said.... and we shook hands. I didn't mean to get the upper hand so easily.... But he's young....

'How fast was I going?' I asked, knowing now that all the spirits in the area had taken all my guilty feelings and dumped them on him.

'73' he said.'The speed limit is 75 on the freeway only --back here, it's 65.'

'That's too fast,' I said.

'I'll give you a warning,' he said....

'What's that mean?'

'No fine, no court --just a warning,' he said.

Then, the talk inside the car ensued --the jurisdiction of each law enforcement agency --how one agency can stop us white folk, but not Natives --and other agencies can stop Natives, but not us.... It's historical and convoluted... and crazy.

What's really screwy is that I had been going under the speed limit all day... our new car has a little indicator with a gauge that tell you what your miles per gallon consumption is at the moment and for the entire trip. I'm trying to pop it up over 27 mpg and keep it there, which means going slowly for the most part --well, by slowly I mean under 65mph.... Once we picked up the hitch hikers, I wanted to get back to Eagle Butte before the sun went down so that they could continue their journey in day light.

See... it's their fault. (I say, laughing at myself, feeling like Eve caught with apple in my hand.)

There should only be one lawful jurisdiction on the Reservation... we should all be under the same law....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Romans 2:25)
Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.  
So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?  
Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 
For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical.  
Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart – it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.
Oh man... Paul had to really wring his hands and pace a lot and pull his beard to come up with those convolutions....

Grace --warnings and grace are so much better.... Law gets to be too much....


Thursday, June 21, 2012

snake in the garden

I found a huge swath of prairie cactus yesterday as I was mowing the lawn. I am fascinated that cactus can grow here --I've lived in the deserts of Southern California --I know cactus... but this little pink and green prickly is so unassuming... I saw one in a larger and more assuming state in a cemetery the other day. It had grown several feet tall and was getting ready to bloom. A fierce bloom, actually. But I didn't have my camera with me....

And I was fascinated as I drove in to Pierre, the State Capital (pronounced 'peer') --the winter wheat is fully grown and suddenly turning a doe-colored brown. When the wind blows (the wind always blows in SD --it is only a matter of degree), it looks like a lake stirred by the wind, wave after wave cresting and falling. Now that the grass is drying out, there is a new noise, a chatter --a brittle chafing laughter what wafts in the car window as I drive by.

I noticed the same wind-swept drying in my own lawn as I mowed. Despite recent heavy rains, the grass is spent and going to seed, the stems drying out and turning stiff enough to pick and place between the teeth. The birds are loving it... and are also beginning to risk hanging out closer to the house in the hedge by our patio --there is small fruit forming --small soft red fruit that is still very bitter.

The still type-unknown hedge now bearing little berries
See why I think they might be huckleberries?!

The meadowlark and the robin are having words about who gets to pick this fruit... I hope they leave enough for me.... In another part of the yard there is a wild and coveted choke-cherry. The fruit is still very hard and green... a ways to go yet. The elder women all speak with great affection for the fruit --when sweet, picked and mashed --pit and all, then dried and formed in to biscuit-sized patties for easy storage, transport and when the time comes reconstitution --soak it in water, botta-bing, a fruit smoothie Lakota way. I asked one of the elders (she's 94 or 95... no one can really remember) if she would show me how to do it. Of course, she said. But it will turn your hands red! Then she smiled and lifted her eye-brow.... Pun intended.

And then in the back, there are purposeful trees --they look like dwarf fruit trees, all in little rows growing up in the middle of rubber tires --I suppose that was to protect them from lawn mowers. But, now they are choked with what looks like suckers --unproductive branches coming straight up from the root stock. Too many suckers will displace the fruit-bearing branches. And the ground inside the tire is choked with weeds... But I can't get in to it to clean it all up --I have seen about four large snakes back in that area, and a tire would be a perfect place for a snake-nap.... So, I will have to wait until next winter to clean them up --cut the suckers and pull the weeds... perhaps take a saw to the tires....

Some days I laugh at myself --puttering about, dreaming of domesticating at least some part of this wildness --cactus, fruit, grasses, snakes.... The Senior Warden has come over and one of the snakes greeted her.... She is quite alarmed and wants them gone. I keep reminding her that we don't have any mouse problems....

At prayer this morning (Matthew 18-18-20)

[Jesus said,]
Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
I have always dreamed of heaven as a place unfettered, undomesticated, wild --where we will finally be at home in the wilderness.... I hope and pray that impulse to tame, cut, harvest will not be loosed in heaven, but that we will live in the glory of God's wild imagination... and my appreciation for that wildness is saturating my imagination more deeply every day --wounding my hands and heart as I try to impress my own vision of order, allowing an opening for the wildness to seep in.... Perhaps there are two or three of us who might pray for such a heaven.... Please dear God, no pearly gates... no streets of gold... just your creation, as you dream it.... I think I'm beginning to understand why you put a snake in the garden.... So you yourself do not run the danger of domestication... a snake to keep you on your toes. Amen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

the dawn from on high shall break upon us

It rained last night. I didn't hear it --it must have been a gentle storm, it didn't even blow in the open windows. But the ground is soaked and there are puddles on the pavement.

And when Mr. Witty and I went out first thing this morning, as the sun was sitting at the horizon and not yet above the wet and dark clouds, the birds were all along the fence pacing and flicking wings and tails. Mr. Witty began to sniff and sniff --and that's when I saw it --a big ol' black and white cat. There aren't many cats out here, and what cats there are need to be very tough... I didn't want Mr. Witty to meet up with this kitty. So I shooed Mr. Witty back in the house and scared the cat away.

The best part of all that early morning drama was that the birds I saw sitting on the fence --they seem to be the robin family that got blown out of the nest about ten days ago... or had their nest blown out of the tree... --and for a few days we could see the parents frantically protecting and following the young around the yard. Perhaps this means that at least one of the fledglings has survived.

And that is very good news.

I remember sitting in college biology class way back when. The teacher was quite engaging --presented stuff in such a way that it captured the imagination --like the cells in our eyes processing light and how and where they resemble cells in plants that capture light for photosynthesis, so you see, we really are related to trees and the great huge circle of life.... Another story of the great huge circle of life --in his talk about reproductive cycles, he spoke of cute little birds in the nest, but the cruel reality was that most would not survive --in fact, in the life time of a bird, for a bird population to remain constant, each bird only needs to successfully raise one chick to adulthood. So in the four or five years of mating, nesting, feeding --the reality is that out of twenty chicks or so --only one or two will make it.

How easily we forget the harsh reality of simple biology. We build castles of medical miracles now adays... putting folks behind the protective walls of drugs and therapies and procedures. I know I am certainly one who has survived because of modern medical miracles --I would not have survived infancy without penicillin --or, if I had, I would have been deaf just like my grandmother. I would not have survived the ectopic pregnancies --although those were caused by intra-uterine devices which would not have been available, so I do not think I have to count those.... I certainly would not have survived the pneumococcal pneumonia I contracted once... nor would I have survived cancer.

Let's just say I am very conscious I live a Resurrection life already.... I should be dead, but I'm not. So, in my flesh and with my very bones I already know I have gone down into the tomb and have been pulled out by grace. And, yes, also by historical accident, modern medical miracles. And when I reflect upon these circumstances, and the baptismal statement --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. --I can't help but think on this wet and beautiful morning of the fierce danger of being alive --and the fearsome encouragement of the Spirit to live outside the walls of the protective castles we fabricate....

--and in doing so, be reborn....

At prayer this morning (Canticle: Song of Zechariah, Benedictus Dominus, beginning at Luke 1:68)

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old,
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Free to worship without fear... the dawn from on high shall break upon us... to shine in the shadow of death and guide our feet....

Hey God, it's margaret --                              ...amen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

--to whom do you look to learn love like that?

--and then the other side....

The other day, while I was sitting in some one else's house, a young woman came to beg. Her brother stayed in the corner of the yard. The young woman showed us, almost bragging, her bruises on her arms and legs, where she had been beaten by her brother and mother. My host refused her petition as the young woman was drunk.

I am fairly certain she would get more beatings for returning from that venture empty-handed. I vowed to go to the police and report it.

And then, recently, I heard the tale of a woman being beaten by her husband with a pipe, it being forced between her upper and lower jaw until she feared for her life... the police were called, and arrived and intervened.... But, then the police let the husband go.

I am fairly certain that in both instances, the women would not and probably did not press charges. No matter what, you don't betray your family -your brother, your mother, the father of your children to the cops....

I don't know whether the root cause of accepting the brunt of the violence is hope --that things will get better (I really doubt that, except in a very skewed way, because that is called denial, not hope), or if it is despair --why bother, whatever I do might make it all worse....

Perhaps I should give her this:

Maybe I should invite her to come speak at the church --at the community center... anywhere here....

From our dear brother, Paul, writing to the Romans,

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.

What can be know about God has been plain since creation....

The other day, some one asked me why God saved Cain.... I said it was love beyond our wildest dreams.

And they walked away in disgust....


--I just lost the last two paragraphs.... guess it's time to get to work.

I had written something about learning to love one's self, and learning to love God that lead us in to the place where we can love our enemies... I wrote something about surviving winter here --one can't just go out and do it, one must learn to survive winter... same thing with loving one's enemies... one must learn to do it.... And where are our Master Lovers? --yes, Jesus... but, any one alive today, at this present moment? --yes, Jesus... I mean someone you can pinch....

So... to whom do you look to learn love like that??

Peace out.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Convocation: For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you

I apologize for not posting during Convocation --it was impossible to post at the most accessible link (wifi offered at the middle school where Convocation was held) because my blog, along with all others, was blocked --as was Facebook, and I am not savvy enough to know if and how to override such blocks.

Oh well... let me just say my mind was blown and I was, again, rocked to my soul.

In many ways, this was just a regular old meeting, reports given, official things said.... That would be the framework upon which this meeting was spread --but, in most ways it was not, so VERY not a regular old meeting. The meeting was hinged in constant prayer, many blessings (of things and people), abundant meals shared in memory of some one --offered and served by family members, and gift giving. At every turn, there was gift giving, lots of gift giving. More wondrous gifts than can be imagined. ++Katharine was honored with quilts, blankets, medallions --as was Bonnie Anderson --who was also adopted by members of the church I serve in White Horse. Every Bishop present received gifts... and many others were honored as well....

The whole point of the meeting was to be together, pray, eat together, hear stories of the last year, remember, and exchange gifts. This was the point of the meeting: We survived the winter, it wasn't so bad this year --so and so died, but we had this many baptisms, this important thing happened, and in gratitude for being here and seeing you again --I want to give this away.

Holy time. Time filled with grace and thanksgiving. And sacrifice. A continuous Eucharist lasting from Thursday night through to the Day of Resurrection.

I wonder what would happen if General Convention met like that --no politics, no resolutions --reports given mostly as stories or jokes, people honored, gifts given... not smartly crafted word wonks, but gifts of the heart....

There wasn't a single report from the missions on the Reservations that didn't mention plumbing --I mentioned our new two-seater at St. Mary's, Promise... the report from Standing Rock mentioned how they, too, had new outdoor plumbing--ones that might not blow over... same with the other missions.

I would love to hear that kind of reality at GC....

And yet, the stories were not about the rampant poverty, but about the abundance of the Spirit --and gratitude. And only one mission spoke of having to close a particular church, but how it blessed the other churches in its closing by sharing its pews, its font, its altar....

 There was also talk that this was the first Convocation held indoors --and how much they really missed the big tent --and where were all the people who usually camped out on the grounds --and next year, we are going to have to bring horse shoe games or our mitts and bats to play soft ball....

To the serious stuff... at one point in the missionary history of the Dakotas, all the cultural items --buffalo robes, eagle feather fans, pipes, drums --all these were condemned and confiscated by the white missionaries.... As a sign of repentance and reconciliation, a buffalo robe with the Gospel of Luke written in the style of winter-talk was given...

Reconciliation robe with the Gospel of Luke recorded 

The Gospel of Luke written in the ancient method of the People, read from the inside out:
The Gospel of Luke --the Revelation, in the ancient method of the People

Yes, I know the pictures leak over into the margins... at least they do so in "Preview" mode.... But, I couldn't help myself.

As to the little stuff... Mr. Witty insisted in sleeping under the tick trees and in the long tick grass:

Mr. Witty sleeping, oblivious to the ticks
--and so I had to look up the life of ticks... there are two basic kinds of ticks, hard ticks and soft ticks, and each have to bite several times during their life span in order to make more ticks.... So, yeah, it is really incredible --but I still think ticks are disgusting and horrid and am entirely grateful that Mr. Witty's Wonderful Medicine killed every one of 'em that tried to bite him. Not so much with us, but neither one of us had to pull one out of us... just pick 'em off and try to make sure they wouldn't live to reproduce, if you know what I mean.

--and our tent was pretty wonderful, even in the midst of really powerful storms.

We called her the Taj Mahal

We called our tent 'The Taj' until this pretentious semi-truck length load and the truck to pull it showed up:

Raptor... a predator... aptly named

And here are gifts being given:

Bishops receiving quilts.
The "Staff" folks are from the camp, come up for the weekend to work the Convocation.

Some of the quilts and blankets that were given, some auctioned

A quilt that was auctioned to benefit someone who needed an organ transplant.
It was sold for $500, but $1,000 was given... such generosity was continuous

Bishop John Tarrant receiving a beaded deer-skin stole

During the auction, I bid against the Bishop for a Pendleton blanket. He won (how does one not let one's bishop win). But then afterwards, he and his wife came and gave the blanket to me, insisting that it would be rude for me not to take the gift.... The blanket was being auctioned to support medical treatment for one of my parishioners.... I must/will do something prayerful with it.

At the very end of the Eucharist, which was the small humble meal offered and received at the altar, all walk out and each one of us greeted one another --until all are greeted --in a whole circle --except there was no place to make a circle, so we did a very long continuous line... but all were greeted.

Those are Deacon's hands there in front of ++Katharine --Deacon is sitting down

The common greeting is 'Thank you' --or, 'Wopila' --hurrah and thank you all together... or, 'See you again' (never good-bye)....

At prayer this morning (from Romans 1)
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Amen to that.

And, so, we are home, strengthened for the work before us. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

our new thunder and lightening and wind and rain colored wings

Well, well, well…. I think we earned our North Dakota entripid stripes –yes, Fort Yates is in North Dakota, so we have to earn our South Dakota stripes.

But OMG –last night… we went up to the casino to leave messages and stuff, and then we got on-line –and severe thunderstorm warnings were flashing across the screen…. But they were mostly to the west of us…

And, yes, I think the worst of it was to the west of us, but what we got was the worst I’ve ever seen from a tent. The lightening filled the whole sky, every part, and made it seem we were standing in broad daylight. It was massive light. I could see it through closed eyes…. In huge sheets and occasional branches emerging for a touch down.

And the thunder…. For forty minutes or so it was non-stop –continuous…. Without a break. It reminded me of being at my grandmother’s house and listening to the ocean –never stopping… except instead of the calming sound of distant waves, it was as though a herd of buffalo were running alongside and round the tent. I was sleeping on the ground, and I could feel the thunder. Shoulder. Hip.

And poor Mr. Witty, who has never much appreciated thunder any way, kept trying to get out of the tent. I told him it was worse out there –so he finally agreed to crawling down inside my sleeping bag and letting me hold him.

And, then there was the tick. In the midst of the lightening storm, I felt something crawling along my inner thigh. I ignored it, thinking it was just a thread from my pj’s, or my imagination… but when it started to pinch I pinched back and got the hard little thing between my fingers… and Mr. Witty didn’t want me to move, but I did any way, and with one hand opened the tent flap far enough to flick it out as far as I could –which wasn’t very far, but far enough.

And then the wind and rain came in on the thunder’s back… shaking and lifting the tent… like a plastic bag in the wind, except we didn’t get blown down the street –and the tent, mercifully, didn’t leak…. And at some point before the thunder stopped and the billowing let down, I fell asleep. Exhausted.

And so, this morning, like butterflies, emerging with our new thunder and lightening and wind and rain colored wings, we will drink coffee and praise God for our being this morning, and sing songs to the morning star and eventually throw sticks in the big water of the Missouri beside us for Mr. Witty, who is presently sitting, watching the far horizon, saying his own prayers… we think…. Cookies, we say in the midst of his faraway reverie… and he waits for the large heron to fly over, and looks at us as though he were saying, I know about all this stuff… I was there when it was all created… and then he rolls nonchalantly in the grass… who needs cookies when you can roll in the grass instead… --and the swallows dart and dive, dashing in their pink breasts and blue wings….

The script of God’s hand… all around us. Including the terror of last night… especially the terror of last night… the totality of the presence…. Amen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ

Today is the day to leave for Convocation --I come back for wake and funeral, and then return to Convocation. Late. Oh well. In fact, I am quite excited --and nervous. Grand Entries, customs, Traditions about which I know nothing... and, I am supposed to give a report of the year to the entire Convocation --that would be fine if I knew what was expected in the report --so, I thought I might listen to a report or two and then polish one up... but, Cheyenne River goes first.... and now I probably won't be there at all....

That's just the way it is! So I will write one and give it to Deacon to work her magic.

In the meantime, pulling the camping stuff from the basement --we had accumulated 30 years of fine camping equipment, and when Joel got sick and we figured we would never go camping again, we gave much of it away. (Sigh.) So, this morning I will pull out what we still have (that we kept for picnics and the like) and go from there. Yesterday, we got several phone calls from folks who for one reason or another cannot go to Convocation --and they offered their room at the Casino... we turned 'em down.... We have been intrepid campers to very remote locations... I guess we'll see how much intrepid we still have. I think South Dakota is going to demand a great deal of intrepidation....

In the meantime, I am loving this love letter from St. Paul this morning (somewhere around Galatians 5:4-8)
You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.

Slam dunk, Paul. And then he says a bit about '--who led you astray?' kinda thing --and 'why am I being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision?' --in other words, I am being persecuted because I am NOT teaching Tradition --but a new way (a new Covenant, as we say dang near every Sunday, which is NOT the Sabbath, but the Day of Resurrection --ooooo, I can feel my own rant coming)... and then he finishes it off with: 'I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!'

I guess it's biblical to wish your opponents were dead or worse.... Atta boy Paul... keep working that love you preach, honey!

--and may I have even just half your courage... intrepidness... doggedness....
--and, all IS grace. Thank you Jesus.


Here it is --the finished project....

the completed lanyard on my Niobrara cross

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

eagles nesting in the church

A mission group is coming the last week of June.

I have never been among the people at the receiving end of 'mission.' It is new food for thought --about what that does... inwardly --to the psyche, to the soul, to self esteem.... I have much thought to do there.

--so, then, we are preparing --we have work to do before they come, like pulling off the tower of the old St. Thomas, On the Tree so that the mission team can fix the roof (and foundation) and have a running start when they get here.

St. Thomas, On the Tree, Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission, South Dakota
That is the old propane heater sitting on the front porch --they went back to heating with wood, which is free.... what you can't see in this photo is the river valley behind the picture-taker --full of trees. Seriously. During the worst of winter, between the roof leaking and it being too dangerous between the roof and the stove pipe to start a fire, we meet in Eagle Butte. Maybe this winter....

What looks like a small mound behind the church on the left is actually a rather steep butte --the distance in the picture makes it look small. That is where the graveyard to the church rests. We went up there week before last and said prayers... it was the anniversary of the death of one of the young sons of St. Thomas.

So, anyway --that is the tower --the bell had already been brought down and a new bell structure stands to the left of the church door. In taking down the tower, they found an eagle's nest --with two babies in it.... They put it on the bell structure and called fish and game....


--but to have eagles nesting in the church --a very good sign....

I was told not to worry --that eagles are thick as grass out there. But I do. Worry. And grieve that we upset a nest....

And, yesterday, we went to Rapid and found a vacuum cleaner for St. John's, some communion wine for all the churches, and some other stuff. I don't want to buy wine locally --on the reservation. So, today I will mow the lawn around the church, and vacuum the inside... and make some pastoral calls in the afternoon.

and --just got a phone call from a funeral home.... doing a funeral... 49 year old man.

The prayers after the readings from the wake service I've been working on --some of the prayers have been morphed from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer:

God our Father,
we thank you that you have made each of us
in your own image,
and given us gifts and talents
with which to serve you in this world you love.
We thank you for A.B.,
the years shared with him,
the good seen in him,
the love received from him.
Now give us strength and courage,
to leave him in your care,
confident in your promise of eternal life.
Father, hear our prayer.

God our Father,
we pray for the family and friends of A.B.,
that they may know the comfort of your love.
Father, hear our prayer.

We pray that you will use us
as bearers of your love,
to support them in their grief.
We also remember before you
all who mourn and all who suffer.
Father, hear our prayer.

Give us patience and faith
in this time of loss,
so that we may come to understand
the mystery of your love.
Father, hear our payer.

Increase in us faith and trust,
so that we may live joyously.
Father, hear our prayer.

Give us such a vision of your love,
such an assurance of your presence
that we may ever have the hope of eternal life.
Father, hear our payer.

God of Grace,
we thank you for sending your Son, Jesus,
who by his death has destroyed the power of death,
and by his glorious resurrection
has revealed the kingdom of heaven among us.
Thank you for the faith that because Christ lives,
we also live,
and that there is nothing in death or life,
in the world as it is,
or the world as it shall be,
nothing in this life or the life to come
that can separate us
from your love.
Blessed be our God and Father
by whose great love
we have been born anew into a living hope
by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

God and Father, you alone are holy and just and good.
In that confidence and in faith
we entrust A.B. to you,
to your judgment and mercy,
to your forgiveness and love.
Blessed be our God and Father
by whose great love
A.B. has been born anew into a living hope
by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

A.B., go forth from this world;
in the love of God the Father who created you,
in the mercy of Jesus Christ who redeemed you,
in the power of the Holy Spirit who strengthens you.
In communion with all the faithful who have gone before,
in the company of all your ancestors,
May you dwell this day in peace. Amen.

Gotta run.....

Monday, June 11, 2012

--saw some buffalo too

Beautiful day yesterday --after three nights of the most horrific storms imaginable. There's nothing here to stop the winds.... a couple of tornadoes round about --not in Eagle Butte, but in other communities I serve. One lady of the Eagle Butte church --St. John's, spoke of how she had to pull off the road and golf ball size and bigger hail were striking the car she was driving --huge dents all over, and a wind shield broken in several places. Fortunately, it was a rental car while her car is in the shop....

Before I begin the sermonizing, I ask folks what they heard --and folks are really contributing --makes me happy --and then I began the sermonizing, and to begin I talked briefly about a young robin hopping around our yard because it had been blown out of the nest and it was almost but not quite ready to fly... a kid raised his hand and told of how a baby bird had fallen in the school yard and someone stepped on it.... That was a little challenging to incorporate in to the sermon....

And then we drove out to Cherry Creek, and sat in the sun for an hour because no one came... and Joel figured out how to ring the bell and scared Mr. Witty and Deacon laughed and laughed. Met a man and his two nephews, they were out on their bikes and the uncle was going to show them his secret fishing hole and I said, but then it won't be secret any more, and he said, I was their age when someone showed me --it's time to show them. And then he asked us over for coffee the next time we come to town. So, I shall make it a point to go see them....

Then we took a road that traversed up the ridge out of the river valley... a road that had a sign --No Maintenance, Proceed at Own Risk.... and there were so many wild flowers it was breathtaking --and then lifting one's eye, one could see forever --from the minute to the infinite.... Saw some buffalo too....

We got home late, and I resumed my beading --wanting to get this lanyard done....

--and it is nearly so.... now just have to figure out how to design a medallion that the cross will dangle from --was wanting to do a star medallion, but won't have time before Wednesday when I will leave for Niobrara Convocation --the 139th convention of the Native American churches in this region --a kind of 'flying' diocese I suppose, but fully incorporated in to the life of the Diocese of South Dakota. The Presiding Bishop will be there, rumor is so will Bonnie Anderson --and many of us who will not fork over $270 dollars to stay in the hotel rooms will be in tents.... I will be among them.... hoping and praying that they will both come down to the campground for coffee... and that we do not get any righteous thunderstorms.

At prayer this morning (Ecclesiasticus 31.3-4)
A rich man toils to amass a fortune,
and when he relaxes he enjoys every luxury.
A poor men toils to make a slender living,
and when he relaxes he finds himself in need.
whooops --there we are!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

missile silos, birds, children eating grass and a drainage ditch

  We had a massive storm Thursday night --and massive rain, which flooded the garage because the whole church parking lot drains to the garage... I discovered the flooding in the garage late yesterday (sigh). But, even so, yesterday was beautiful --warm, almost hot, with a light breeze. This morning, bright sun is shining in the easterly windows, and out to the west, ominous clouds crowd about the edge of town....

The back of St. John's in Eagle Butte, SD on this fine June morning

--so we have closed the storm windows and we will sit and wait and see. We are both relieved to know, because someone told us last night, that if there is a tornado blooming, the siren in town will wail. The siren wails at 10am, noon, 6pm and 10pm --like the old church bells, reminding folks of the business and dangers of life --giving order to our days. Surely the daily wail sounds as different as when it wails because of fire... as when it will wail for tornado....

Fortunately, there are many weather stations in South Dakota with doppler tracking systems... like this one close to Rapid:

When we take the back road --the dirt road in to Rapid, we pass by this tower.... On these back roads we pass by many other weird enclosures --cyclone fence topped with razor and barbed wire --sometimes just gravel, other times close-cropped grass. Gross little overprotected padlocked empty acres. At first we had no idea what these enclosures were, so we made up stories... one of my wild stories included an abandoned but still secretly used missile silo. Turns out, that's probably exactly what they are....

--oh hunh....

When I google missile silo South Dakota and any other such verbiage, nothing shows up along the back roads and routes we take... and yet, there they are... seen 'em with my own eyes. The madness of suicidal defense systems....

And, still, the birds make a racket singing as the sky behind the house turns from hopeful morning blue to storm warning gray, and the dogs bark across the field, and the children walk alongside the fence and pick grass stems to put in their mouths... I wonder if they have eaten breakfast, and remember that it is Saturday, not even any summer school, and the men who like to drink too much are gathering by the cedar tree and getting ready for another day of begging, and Joel asks, 'what's the opposite of ontologically' and I respond, after the sound of the wind passes by the screen door, 'netherly?'... as if that were a word.

At prayer this morning ( from Ecclesiastes beginning at about 5:8)
If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and right, do not be amazed at the matter; for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. But all things considered, this is an advantage for a land: a king for a plowed field. 
The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity. 
When goods increase, those who eat them increase; and what gain has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 
Sweet is the sleep of laborers, whether they eat little or much; but the surfeit of the rich will not let them sleep. 
There is a grievous ill that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owners to their hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture; though they are parents of children, they have nothing in their hands. 
As they came from their mother’s womb, so they shall go again, naked as they came; they shall take nothing for their toil, which they may carry away with their hands. This also is a grievous ill: just as they came, so shall they go; and what gain do they have from toiling for the wind? Besides, all their days they eat in darkness, in much vexation and sickness and resentment.
This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil – this is the gift of God. For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.
I do hear just a little happy irony (? --or is that word too strong) in that last bit 'o scripture. --we will enjoy life because we will scarcely brood over our days, God keeps us occupied with joy.... But that is at least good --because otherwise we eat in darkness, in much vexation and sickness and resentment....

I am grateful for the imaginations of storm trackers who morph such things as radar to look for tornadoes... I am grateful for the imaginations of those who dream of a world without nuclear missiles... I am grateful for the imaginations of the children who rise early on a Saturday morning, and wander in the field looking for God knows what... I am grateful for all those whose imaginations call them to work quietly and even anonymously to feed, shelter, comfort those who bear the affliction of the world...

--and I grieve as the battles rage to right oppression and greed, and grasping for power in the church, in the nations, in all the peoples --so right on one hand, so wrong on another.... From way out here, I see only vexation, sickness and resentment towards others, turned in on itself --the madness of suicidal defense systems....

Look first for the Kingdom of God.... and all these things shall be added unto you... Alleluia!

That shall be my mantra today, as I brood over my day and dig a fruitless drainage ditch in the driveway before the garage --fruitless, because the one I worked up this winter when the drive froze up better than any ice rink is now choked with weeds... yet I will dig in hope... as a prayer for the whole church. Amen.

Friday, June 8, 2012

--dreams come with many cares....

I saw several Lark Buntings. I didn't know they were Lark Buntings, so now I have looked them up.... (yes, we are keeping a list, but the sighting doesn't count unless we both see 'em.) I kept saying to Joel --Look, look --a black bird with white wings... but he didn't see 'em.... We were out on the road, and he insisted that perhaps I was seeing Red-winged Black Birds, but I said I could tell the difference between red shoulders and white wings....

Here is the Redwinged Black Bird

And to the right is the Lark Bunting. See what I mean?

(See All About Birds here.)

Redwinged Black Birds stay around during the winter. I mean --wow... having experienced a 'mild' winter here myself, I don't know how a little bird withstands minus-zero temperatures, or finds food through the snow. Lark Buntings go to Mexico --and change into drab brown birds. That is amazing --do they lose all their feathers and grow new ones, or do the existing feathers change?

Totally. Amazing.

I am still actively looking for a magpie. Although, --I thought that was just a name for me...
Black-billed Magpies are familiar and entertaining birds of western North America. They sit on fenceposts and road signs or flap across rangelands, their white wing patches flashing and their very long tails trailing behind them. This large, flashy relative of jays and crows is a social creature, gathering in numbers to feed at carrion. They’re also vocal birds and keep up a regular stream of raucous or querulous calls.
Perhaps it was an appropriate name for me.... Yellow-billed magpies are native to my own California, and I don't think I 've ever seen one.

I did find something unwanted yesterday --prairie cactus. I kept hearing about it --and how one has to pick the tines out of one's shoes...

Prairie cactus --right in our own backyard

It is nobodies friend. I dug it out and threw it away. I was tempted to throw it right where the guys get drunk and poop and throw their garbage... but, I didn't....

And then somebody warned me about sand burrs.... But, sand burrs are not particular to the prairie. I know how they like to find their way between the toes and whatnot....

I had wanted a small garden this year --a few tomato plants and peas or beans or squash of some sort... you know.... But, it seems that I will be tending cactus and burrs and looking at birds instead....

At prayer this morning (Ecclesiastes 5:1-3)
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God;
--lest they be full of prairie cactus and sand burrs and the like...
to draw near to listen is better than the sacrifice offered by fools; for they do not know how to keep from doing evil.
--I am striving to listen as never before... it's all so different here....
Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.

For dreams come with many cares, and a fool’s voice with many words.
--I can take a hint. Peace out!

PS: I am still going to dream that the hedge outside my window might be huckleberries!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Trinity revisited over coffee --to whom, by whom, in whom do you pray?

That is coffee they are sharing... right? OMG --what's that in the big ol' coffee cup?

Joel and I were having a theological discussion over coffee... all about the Trinity.... It is because I am re-writing the wake service we use, which uses the liturgy of evening prayer and then replaces the prayers with that of the vigil at the time of death... it is long, complicated, and because most folks at a wake (which number up to 100 or more) are from varied backgrounds, the liturgy is dull and convoluted....

But we weren't arguing --I mean having a theological discussion over coffee regarding the framework of the wake liturgy. We were arguing, I mean having a theological discussion regarding praying to Jesus. We don't disagree about that --we both think that if we are praying in the name of Jesus, as members of his Body, we can't pray to Jesus any more than Jesus prayed to himself. It totally disregards our baptism etc. etc. etc.

What we were arguing --I mean having a theological discussion over coffee about was whether we could/should pray to the Holy Spirit --I mean, on one hand, it makes perfect sense in the separation of the Persons of the Trinity (which is Joel's argument).... I said it was RIDICULOUS because we pray as the Son through the power of the Spirit to the Father.... and if it were all based upon the separation of the Persons of the Trinity, why couldn't the Father pray to the Son --or why couldn't the Father pray to the Spirit... it makes no sense. Not in my head, any way....

So, I have morphed the wake liturgy to the basic framework of    1. a gathering prayer    2. hearing/sharing the word    3. responding in prayer    4. blessings and dismissal  --and I wrote the prayers so we DON'T pray TO Jesus in any of it.

--and, while the local Tradition is to pray to Grandfather, I left the prayers to the Father --my religious imagination and longing is great enough to call that part of the Trinity anything from a pillar of fire, a burning bush, a mother hen --but I tried to write the prayers for this place, not me....

At prayer this morning (Galatians 3:1-14) --it's just too good a rant to break it up....
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified!

The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing? – if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.”

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.”

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
So, does God pray --and if so, how and to whom or what?
And, when we pray --how and to whom or what?

The Trinitarian revelation sets my soul and imagination on fire --I am set free in prayer.... God is One; God is Three; God is not Spirit; God is Spirit; God is Flesh; God is not Flesh.... God and the Son... the Son and the Spirit....

--but, I am very clear that I am flesh and in baptism I have been hid with Christ in God... and, as kishnevi reveled in yesterday  --it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me....

--and I certainly don't pray to myself....

--although I am sure there are some who would say I do....

I believe that when a Christian prays, one prays to the Father (by whatever name) in the Son through the Spirit.

Oh dear --check this out:

That's really weird  --just sayin'. Is this what atheists are rejecting?? --well, I do too....