Friday, August 31, 2012

no rest for the wicked

I went on a rant this morning on my post....

--so I deleted it.

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 17)

I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; *
incline your ear to me and hear my words.
Show me your marvelous loving-kindness, *
O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand
from those who rise up against them.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; *
hide me under the shadow of your wings,
From the wicked who assault me, *
from my deadly enemies who surround me.
They have closed their heart to pity, *
and their mouth speaks proud things.
They press me hard, now they surround me, *
watching how they may cast me to the ground,
Like a lion, greedy for its prey, *
and like a young lion lurking in secret places.
Arise, O LORD; confront them and bring them down; *
deliver me from the wicked by your sword.
Deliver me, O LORD, by your hand *
from those whose portion in life is this world;
Whose bellies you fill with your treasure, *
who are well supplied with children
and leave their wealth to their little ones.
But at my vindication I shall see your face; *
when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

There we are.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

a post-colonial nation....

In a hotel in Rapid. Spent the night after a wonderful dinner out after all the doctor appointments. Now we go pick up D from the airport! TBTG!

A Friend on FB commented, regarding the Republican battle cry of returning this country to the principles upon which it was founded --genocide of the people? land theft? rape of the environment? these principles?

Yeppa. There we are.

A local radio show commenter was afraid of the "post-colonial" world Obama wanted to create --what does that mean? the commenter asked... Whatever it means, it's wrong to consider --we are the best country in the world, he concluded.

Yeppa. There we are.

God. Help. Us.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 18:1-20)

I love you, O LORD my strength, *
O LORD my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.
My God, my rock in whom I put my trust, *
my shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge;
you are worthy of praise.
I will call upon the LORD, *
and so shall I be saved from my enemies.
The breakers of death rolled over me, *
and the torrents of oblivion made me afraid.
The cords of hell entangled me, *
and the snares of death were set for me.
I called upon the LORD in my distress *
and cried out to my God for help.
He heard my voice from his heavenly dwelling; *
my cry of anguish came to his ears.
The earth reeled and rocked; *
the roots of the mountains shook;
they reeled because of his anger.
Smoke rose from his nostrils
and a consuming fire out of his mouth; *
hot burning coals blazed forth from him.
He parted the heavens and came down *
with a storm cloud under his feet.
He mounted on cherubim and flew; *
he swooped on the wings of the wind.
He wrapped darkness about him; *
he made dark waters and thick clouds his pavilion.
From the brightness of his presence, through the clouds, *
burst hailstones and coals of fire.
The LORD thundered out of heaven; *
the Most High uttered his voice.
He loosed his arrows and scattered them; *
he hurled thunderbolts and routed them.
The beds of the seas were uncovered,
and the foundations of the world laid bare, *
at your battle cry, O LORD,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
He reached down from on high and grasped me; *
he drew me out of great waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemies
and from those who hated me; *
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster; *
but the LORD was my support.
He brought me out into an open place; *
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

I love the smoke out of the nostrils bit...
Perhaps that would be the beginning of the 'post-colonial' nation...

Prayers for all.
Off I go.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How'd it get to be a full moon already?

Thinking of folks caught in the storm. It's turned the weather up here on its head --still, hot and wet. Very weird, I might add. It is supposed to be 104 with the possibility of rain....

Getting ready to leave early to drive two folks in to town Rapid for two doctor appointments each...

I hate leaving the Reservation.... And Mr. Witty now knows to start wagging his tail when we get back.

And, the moon is almost full... last time I checked, it was not any where near full. What has happened to time?

At prayer this morning (Canticle: Third Song of Isaiah
Surge, illuminare
Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19

Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.
Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.
Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut.
They will call you, The City of the Lord, *
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Violence will no more be heard in your land, *
ruin or destruction within your borders.
You will call your walls, Salvation, *
and all your portals, Praise.
The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.
The Lord will be your everlasting light, *
and your God will be your glory.
I am not at all sure it is a good thing that certain folks are having a certain political rally during a full moon... or, perhaps they chose it purposefully --hoping no one would notice when they bare their fangs and claws....

I am learning more about how and why some folks choose to support those who oppress them and will vote for the architects of their own oppression... but it is still not a pretty picture.

Hey God, it's margaret. For K in his new world, for all those who grieve especially D who mourns the loss of his partner of 25 years, for R who has surgery today, for J and H at the doctors, for D in her travels, for S,V,K,H,D, for the mother who keeps coming to the door and my own frustration.... I wish I had more cash to give away --but I know that it not going to solve a thing.... So, I guess I must pray for the oppressors too --other than smite them... sigh. Oh, and PS, thank you. For everything. amen.

Peace out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

the physics of prayer before night casts her shadow and the hopes of the stars grow large

Yesterday, Joel spent the day trying to figure out how ancient Egyptians erected obelisks... actually, he was using levers and pullies --the water was my idea.... This morning he was sketching in his little note pad of stapled scrap paper --a bunch of little arrows coming together.

What is that? I ask... I knew I was opening Pandora's box... but, heh....

I'm trying to figure out what happens when a proton...

STOP! I sez... there's just somethings one never ponders over coffee... and in my mind, protons is one of them.

Well then, he sez, what about this one --one car is pulling another car at 50mph, and the rope breaks and they continue the same rate of travel but in opposite directions --are they now traveling away from each other at 100mph? He opened his little sketch book to another page, complete with diagram. See, he sez, if they are each traveling 50mph in opposite directions, are they traveling 100mph away from each other?

No, I sez... they are both still traveling at 50mph away from each other.... it's only the distance that gets greater.

I have no idea whether or not that answer is correct, but at least I was able to finish my coffee without being bombarded with more physic questions to ponder... and we laughed and laughed as he said he was having to erase whole blackboards of equations in his head because of my answer....

Laughed. In our pajamas. Sitting in the sun out back. It's hot early because of hurricane Isaac --creating whole systems of walls of air and pressures to lock in heat up here, way up north, a thousand plus miles from the storm. It's going to be 100 degrees today...

It was hot yesterday too --so we went to play by the River...

Mr. Witty in his rickshaw along the Great Missouri in Pierre

Mr. Witty and I rode the bike up and down the shore --he went swimming while I threw the stick. Mr. Joel stayed in the park, in the shade, and read his book --Early Christians in Their Own Words... a world, that through physics, is never far from him --the multiple strands of time woven so close and in such proximity that he can sometimes see their faces when the light of the sun grows dim on the horizon, before night casts her shadow veil and the hopes of the stars grow large... so close he can see the people raising the obelisk according to his plan... and the cars drive apart at 100mph at 50mph each....

At prayer this morning (Revelation 4:11, 5:9-10, 13)

Splendor and honor and kingly power *
are yours by right, O Lord our God,
For you created everything that is, *
and by your will they were created and have their being;
And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, *
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, *
a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
And so, to him who sits upon the throne, *
and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor, *
for ever and for evermore.

Hey God, it's margaret. I pray for K in her his grief, for the repose of the soul of her his mom, H, daughter of P & Z; I pray for J & H and the doctors they visit tomorrow; for D who is preparing for travel; for P who says there are ghosts in his house; for those guys in the picnic shelter along the River; for all the children as they return to school --and then are let out early because there is no air conditioning at the school; for the cedar tree guys; for those coming to the hot lunch today at StJ; for the girl on the phone last night... for those who grieve and for those who carry the historical burden of trauma and grief here... For S,D,V,H,K, for my nieces and nephews who celebrate birthdays this week --for my dad whose birthday was this week --and, hey God, you know all those other prayers of my heart... amen.

Monday, August 27, 2012

when the hurdle doesn't break my legs

Postcolonial Christianity.

When we were discussing such a thing in seminary, it merely seemed like a rift of liberal Christianity in a different dress.

But, it's not. It's stripping away cultural accretions, as best as we are able, to get at the meat of the Gospel. Including stripping away the cultural accretions in Scripture itself...

I remember one of the classroom discussions regarding touch --which is a sacramental --it is a gesture which is a sign in itself --hand upon hand upon hand all the way back (some with pedigree, most without, except for the sure witness of the Spirit).... touch itself is part of the Eucharistic prayer --touching the bread and wine, ordaining it, setting it aside....And, yet, touch itself --in cultures where touch is taboo --or in our own growing sensibility of physical boundaries  --what does one do when one of the signs is taboo, especially touching some one's head which might as well be like touching some one's privates....?  What does one do when one is in a place where you can touch it all you want to to make it holy, but wine is poison and has been a destructive mechanism of the oppressors? What does one do in a place where bread was unknown --and is part of the diet that causes diabetes?

What happens when the signs of the sacrament are in and of themselves fabrications of culture?

Forget all the other colonial/cultural stuff --touch, sheep, shepherd, Lord, bowing, sin... how much and what is absolutely necessary to get at the meat of the Gospel? What elements do we need to speak of the elementals of the Gospel?

Or... what is the Gospel... and can we show/say/know it without the language (material or ideological) of culture? --and, yes, it is essential to use material stuff, because we have a material faith --an incarnational faith... we are NOT spiritual... we ARE stuff....

I think about these things.... and I speak frequently here of the bread being a sign of the sun, wind, earth, rain and the work of human hands --and all of that is the Body of Christ.

But, in many ways, it would almost be better to use the traditional ground up and dried choke cherry patties as bread... already a sign of hospitality --and the choke cherry juice is already seen as the 'blood of the people' coming up in the veins of the bushes and trees, given so that we may have life...

But, in some respects... many of the Christians in this place would object strongly, vehemently, in using the Traditional cultural signs in church. Many hate having a drum at a funeral --I like my church to be a holy place --I like the drum, but not in church, I want church to be church....

And, Traditionalists here would object to their signs and cultural realities being once again ripped off by the colonial powers that be....

The rift....

At prayer this morning (John 6:52-59)
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them."

"Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

When even the bread and wine are symbols of oppression... how can we speak of eating flesh and blood in the bread and wine? --how can we speak of eating flesh and blood?

I feel like I am carrying water to the top of the hill, and every time I almost get there, the bucket springs a leak, and I have to start all over again....

--perhaps it is time to put the bucket away... can't put new wine in to old wine skins....

And even so, hobbled in a strange enclosure of church and culture and longing and the people, I pray --I pray for those in the path of the hurricane in the Gulf, for the bereaved, for those who hope and have visions, for the rich who have no clue, for the oppressors and fat stealers, for those whom the church has hurt and destroyed, for the addicts, for those who make the alcohol and drugs that make the addict....

Hey God, it's margaret, hear the cry of your people and set them free from all that binds them --and help me keep my eyes open and my heart willing to earth the gospel. Oh, and PS, you know I like having my mind blown --but only when the hurdle doesn't break my legs and when it's far behind me, right? --So, ...there we are. Amen.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

the innermost heart of our Father

At prayer this morning (beginning at John 6:41)
Then the Jews began to complain about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”

They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day.
Sitting at the wake last night --the wake for the young man who met the river head on, there was a name on the bulletin I did not know --someone else to share in the presiding. So I was sitting quietly by the members of the family who were having a really tough time. There was concern the young man wasn't going to heaven. When I asked why, it was mumbled something about the bridge, and something about Traditional Lakota ways.

I gave assurance that there was nothing, nothing at all that could separate any of us from the love of God. And that there were many rooms in Our Father's house. Many rooms.

And, then I also knew that I needed to find the co-presider and offer hospitality... knew that the co-presider was probably not Christian.... come to speak in a place with all the signs and symbols of the oppressors....

--and when, later in the evening he spoke, the co-presider spoke of the Lakota virtues/values/ways to live ---pray first, serve, be humble, these are the first three --spoke of the ancestors the young man had honored in the Wounded Knee ride and erecting a monument at Little Big Horn --spoke of his humility. And he spoke of the hundred plus years of violent oppression --and the endurance of the people, and living as we want to be remembered.

Then I spoke... of the hole in our guts with the death of someone we love... that it is the good in us that hurts and we must nurture that good --not try to hide the hurt or drink it or drug it away --and in that way, the hole in our guts gets filled with God... gets filled with love... the hole doesn't go away, but in time it is changed....

And the by the end of the evening, the obnoxious guy in the back row --so drunk he couldn't walk --somebody called the police and before I could act, he was taken away.

Sometimes, the goodness in us can't stand. Sometimes the goodness in us gets broken. Sometimes the goodness in us gets lost in all the darkness we know and see, and what we do know and see about goodness couldn't possibly help....

But it is the Father who calls us all.

And on the last day... we shall know and see the innermost heart of our Father.
And be consumed by, raised up by love.

Please pray for R and all his family, relatives and friends.


Friday, August 24, 2012

I have seen the gates of heaven in this place

We have a rummage sale and lunch sale today. When we are done, we might have enough to cover hotel rooms for delegates to our convention. Maybe. Next weekend, the big fair comes to town, and we will get up early on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and fix breakfasts --and make enough to pay about a third each of our insurance, propane and electric bills. Then we will have a craft sale in October or November to pay another third each.... It's hard to get ahead. Or even.

What's amazing to me is that all the stuff we are selling for a nickel or fifty cents adds up at the end of the day to a couple of hundred dollars.

--and, it's pay day today in town.

So --off I go.

At prayer this morning (Genesis 28:10-17)

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.

And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place – and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Yes --I have the seen the gates of heaven in this place --and they are not adorned with gold or pearls or anything like that... they are made of tipi poles, and huge swaths of sweet grass and sage grow all around them, and eagles watch above them, and the people come to and fro, and the buffalo leads the way. In this promised land.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

--and I keep getting answers like that

A sign of the Realm of God --some of the kids that have been scared of me are now interacting with me, pulling on my sleeve, looking me in the eye. These arms, this lap, that has always yearned for kids, loves that attention.

Except one kid kept calling me "grandma" --I mean, did he have to use that word? ...sigh.... Yes, it is a term of close affection for any older lady, and it also signifies a familial relationship --which I love... but, why couldn't he have called me 'auntie' or 'mommy' or something --which signifies the same familial relationships, but of another generation. (Any of your mom's sisters are called mom. It's your father's sisters that are aunties. Any of your father's brothers are called dad, while your mother's brothers are uncle.)

I guess I've been feeling the weight of years --what with people half my age dying, some of treatable conditions. One of the folks that died this weekend, died of an infected/burst gall bladder, yes-- properly diagnosed, but they refused surgery. Another died of a broken heart and spirit... perhaps refusing surgery and a broken heart are the same....

And, in the meantime... I fuss and putter and do paperwork and make calls and answer the phone, like a fireman waiting for the call to action. I finally tell the grown kid and his girlfriend that keep calling that $60 and three meals in a week is enough... I anoint and pray for another who is missing the first few days of college because of pneumonia. I pray for those who are gathering to work for the re-establishment of traditional tobacco (willow bark --well, the inner lining of the bark). They also hope to make the Reservation commercial tobacco-leaf free.

I was at a sun dance with an elder and a member of one of the congregations I serve, and the sun dancers were grateful for her presence. The Helpers came over to greet her, and as is customary, gave her a gift of tobacco to ask her to speak, about sun dance in the old days --when it was illegal to pray in traditional Lakota ways. She said she would be glad to speak, and then handed the tobacco back and said, remember, I am part of the chanshasa group and we support the use of traditional smoke only and so I will not accept this tobacco.

Stunning... that.

I also saw more Episcopalians at that sun dance than I usually do on a Sunday morning. But I love that. Because it was a Friday night. And there they were --gathered to pray and eat and laugh and pray and sing.

I love that.

I was worried that they might get upset that their priest was at a sun dance --the old divisions of Christianity and Traditional Lakota --the lines could not be crossed. No how. No way. Never. But, now, Episcopalians that I know host sun dances --the Presiding Bishop, while she was here, was asked out to a Sun dance for a day --and the people I serve come up to me and say they are glad to see me there --that I am learning.

God willing, I pray.

At prayer this morning (John 6:16-27)

When evening came, Jesus’ disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.

But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

That's just like Jesus --not to answer the question that is asked. 'When did you come here?' is answered with an admonition about filling your gut with what doesn't fill your gut, rather than looking for the food that fills the soul.

I have so many questions --and I keep getting answers like that.

I love that. God provides what we really need.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

not only the ones I see, but the ones in which I participate

It's cloudy out, but still warm. Over coffee outside, we saw the kids going to school. One had to turn around, go back home, and then make the trek again. I wonder what he forgot...

I think it really might rain today. Maybe. That would be welcome relief. Joel said he can't believe it, but he is looking forward to the quiet cold --maybe even some snow, so that we could sit around and drink hot tea. I'm thinking that might be eight weeks away --but I don't know. Last year there was no snow to speak of, and yet it was the most snow I've ever lived with.

And, then, just as we've figured out all the car noise that was creating a cacophony just above the trees in the neighborhood out back, he says something I don't quite get about translation and thinking and drawing a new box in his head with lines from some other thing he is thinking about, he says, The Gospels are icons. Word-painted icons.

And my mind exploded. In the same way that my mind was blown once at The Cloisters, looking at a miniature of St. Stephen's martyrdom --in a glass case on a staircase landing --his eyes full of hope and longing while blood gurgled out of his mouth.... As I remember, it was just a little two or three-inch image, maybe even enamel in a small carrying case --and it caused a cosmic shift.

Now this. Gospels are icons. Of course. I already knew that. But when he said it that way over coffee, the world changed. Shifted on it's axis.

Or, maybe it's because we are watching a medieval Korean soap-opera, Queen Seondeok of Silla, that has continuous and hard to read closed captioning because when the characters switch to a dialect, Korean closed captioning is superimposed over our English text (which, at times, obviously loses much in translation) --so one's eye switches between the screen action and what text is readable --and reading the Korean screen action --stage iconography --everything iconography is so very different....

Queen Seondeok of Silla


At prayer this morning (John 6:1-15)

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs icons that he was doing for the sick.

Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.”

Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
And how many images --signs --icons come to your mind's eye as you read that?! This one comes to mind....

Today I shall be mindful of the icons --not only the ones I see, but the ones in which I participate... if you know what I mean.

Peace out.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

for my brethren and companions' sake

It must be damn hard to be a cat on this Reservation. Just sayin'.

Mr. Witty and I were sharing a lap moment while having coffee out back. We saw a cat on the other side of the fence. The cat saw the expanse of open space without tree or other refuge it was going to have to cross, and it turned to take another route. Mr. Witty was trembling with excitement to see an old enemy and wanted out of my lap to elaborate a pursuit --I guess he misses them --cats, and squirrels for that matter. Such tremendous fun to chase because they run.

I guess he misses his walks too. But we can't walk him down the street here. There are so many dogs near wild that even holding him high in the air above our heads would not protect our 18 pounds of dog. So we play out back. I am trying to get a complete fence built so I don't have to be on constant readiness for the sudden appearance of dogs in the yard. We have a fence on just two sides of the yard.... But even with a fence, during the winter we could not let him out without a leash on him --the eagles sit atop the three telephone poles behind the house, looking for just about anything under 20 pounds -cats, dogs, rabbits, birds....

Yes --there are leash laws now in the City. But, for example, the land directly behind our house belongs to the Tribe with a separate jurisdiction and n'er the twain shall meet. If the dog is out without a leash, chase it a block and it leaves City limits, and then the jurisdiction changes... Besides, the City just passed the leash law, and don't have a way to enforce it....

The many jurisdictions on the Reservation is confusing at best. There is the Federal jurisdiction, because the Feds are the ones with the Treaties and all that. Then there is Tribal jurisdiction. And then there are the 'cities' under their own jurisdiction. And the privately owned land --'homesteaded' in about 1910 when the Feds opened the Reservation to white people to occupy "un-used" land, I think the privately owned land is under County jurisdiction. And if you cross from one street to another, one road to another, one parcel of land to another, the jurisdiction and laws change.

It's crazy. It's confusing. It certainly does nothing to enable the Tribe's autonomy. It's impossible to live well with it. And no matter where I am, because I am white, I am not subject to Tribal authority. And Tribal members are not subject to City or County authority. Which means a Tribal member can race through the 25mph zone in town, and not get a ticket from City authorities... things like that.

It's a cat and mouse game for many. Which means the Cedar Tree Guys come and stand behind the cedar tree and drink because City authorities cannot bust them for drinking in public, and the Tribal authorities won't.

Cat and mouse. In a place where it's dangerous to be a cat.

Cats. Eagles. Big Dogs. Little Dogs. Mice.
Feds. Tribe. County. City... each with it's own prey.

At prayer this morning

Psalm 122

I was glad when they said to me, *
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Now our feet are standing *
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city *
that is at unity with itself
To which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, *
the assembly of Israel, to praise the Name of the LORD.
For there are the thrones of judgment, *
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: *
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls *
and quietness within your towers.
For my brethren and companions’ sake, *
I pray for your prosperity.
Because of the house of the LORD our God, *
I will seek to do you good.”

Psalm 123

To you I lift up my eyes, *
to you enthroned in the heavens.
As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, *
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the LORD our God, *
until he show us his mercy.
Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy, *
for we have had more than enough of contempt,
Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, *
and of the derision of the proud.
From where many sit here, the division of the land and the people is purposeful and malicious, and part of the over all plan of contempt and genocide by the indolent rich --the fat stealers.

Pray for unity. Pray for prosperity. For my brethren and companions' sake. Pray for D,H,M, and all those who grieve. Amen.

Monday, August 20, 2012

in that place in the stars, let him ride horses again

There was no moon to speak of Saturday night.

There is a near oppressive air to get things done before winter sets in.

The kids start back to school today --the school buses, empty because they don't use them to take kids to school but rather for school activities... --so the empty school buses ran through town blasting their horns at 7:30 to get the stragglers to school. There is a foot path that runs by our back yard --and moms with little ones decked out in new t-shirts and backpacks trekked hand in hand towards the school. Teenage boys spat and hitched their pants by the fence, waiting for the girls --or the scolding mother to shoo them on their way. Get on. You'll be late. Then the old guys come with their trash bags, picking up cans discarded by the cedar tree on the late weekend nights.

It is wonderful to watch all this over coffee --sitting on the patio.

And yesterday I travelled to three churches. First St. Phillip's, Dupree --and the church was packed --it had been too hot in July when we were due to meet. Yesterday, all the elders were there in force --and children ran in and out --all were excited to be meeting in their church home which has been closed for eight years. There is still no water or electricity and the cement pad floor is cracked and tilted in every corner --one corner in the order of about ten inches, which trashed the plumbing and electricity. But, who cares. The altar is there, the font there, we can sit here --and afterwards, we can gather at this other table in the back and talk. It's all good.

But, before the service we heard --C died, and the children are fighting. Bad. And M died, alone. And the neighbor's baby died --we need to pray for them. That's hard losing a baby. But the baby's heart wasn't right.

So we prayed. Talked about Christ being bread for the world --bread, which takes the wind and rain and sun and earth and fire and human hands to be bread --so when we eat bread, we are eating the whole creation --the Body of Christ. And we are what we eat --and how we are called in turn to be bread for the world. And then we shared bread. And after that, cookies. And Fresca.

And then I travelled to Thunder Butte, seventeen miles up a dirt road. and we talked about C's death, M's death --and did you know the neighbor's baby died. We need to pray for them, and us. That's too many deaths. C and M are not related, someone said, but they are both related to me.

And then two elders walked in late. J from Cherry Creek died. Tragic. Too young. And we just heard, R died. Jumped off that bridge this morning. Couldn't even swim. Left two teenage boys. And there's rocks in that water. They haven't found the body yet. Trying to fish it out now. Has the world gone crazy?

Too many. Too many gone this weekend. Must be the moon. There was no moon. It's really dark at night when there is no moon. Bad spirits come out then.

And so we prayed. And talked about Christ. And what does eternal life mean? In the face of so much death, how can it mean anything except that they are in the better place....? I said, no, not a better place --because when we say that around kids, they want to go there instead of staying here and live.

And then we shared bread. Offered our broken hope. And then we ate corn and macaroni salad and cucumbers in salt water. And orange cake.

Then I travelled to Bear Creek, back down the seventeen mile dirt road, down the highway a bit, and then back on another dirt road that went up the next creek valley. Deacon and I talked about how there must be a short cut from Thunder Butte to Bear Creek along a back road somewhere.

One person showed up for church... the rest were down at a pow wow quite a ways south. So we talked about all the deaths, particularly the young man who jumped off the bridge. The young kids all want to try it. No one survives it.

So we prayed. And talked about the circle of life... and shared bread and wine.

Deacon slept on the way home. And I saw the circle of life in living color. The sunflowers still courageously facing the sun. Birds gathering by clan and then huge tribes to travel to their winter camps, gathering in the air like rampant clouds in turmoil. Porcupines turning their bristly backs to us as we passed. The turkeys stop scared in the middle of the road, and then bend their knees in that backward way and run to hide in the tall grass, the comb, head and neck of the tom standing tall above the grass, looking round-eyed at me and me at him. The grasses laden the air with a sweet smell. The trees rustle and clatter and chatter of things to come, the hinges on the leaves broadening for an impending departure. I think I forgot to turn off the four-wheel drive when we turned on to the highway.

As we pulled in to the driveway, Joel comes out to greet us. He tells me, before I open the car door, that I am needed at the hospital. He doesn't know why. He helps Deacon from the car to her home. I drive the mile to the hospital, praying, preparing for the unknown before me, not emptying myself of the day so that I have room for whatever meets me at the hospital --but, instead, preparing to share the prayers and the overwhelming grace of the day. Realizing my cup runneth over.

As I pulled in to the hospital parking lot, I see the family and relatives. It's about R. The young man who jumped off the bridge. And there are the two sons. And his mother. Sisters. Brothers. Nieces. Nephews. I could have picked them out of a crowd for the disturbance in the air above them, if you know what I mean. Shock waves. Spiritual shock waves.

They want to see him. I will go with them.

All I will tell is that we could all smell the river on him. The river and her rocks and currents and deepness that rose to meet him with such force that it broke him.

And the tears that freely flowed from the gathered family will find their way to the river's rocky shore and salt her with their grief, sorrow and shock. And soon, soon enough, the sun will raise her depths to itself, gathering her waters on the shoulders of heaven, only to be poured and spilled out again as rain and snow to the waiting earth. The circle of life.

At prayer this morning (from John 5 ending at verse 29)
“Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

What the hell?... I shudder at the thought... the resurrection of condemnation. No. I look it up. I pull Joel in to help. Catecrisis is condemnation. The word used is criseos --crisis. The resurrection of choice-making, choosing, decision, the cross-roads. It's that damn NRSV translation --the RSV translates the word as judgment...

--and every clue we have from Jesus, as God put judgment in to his hands --every clue we have is abundant love.

And we go on --and the word 'evil' --phalos --isn't evil. It's the opposite of 'wisdom' --it's pettiness, carelessness, stupidity and the like...

Perhaps it's better translated and said --those who are righteous (not in the self-affirming way, but full of the Holy Spirit way), walk out of the grave free and clear. Those who missed the mark (the petty, careless and stupid), there's still work to be done.

That's what should be read, in my mind anyway. Joel approved.

So much is lost in translation.

Afterwards, when the funeral director arrived, we gathered with R's body in the room at the hospital set aside for ceremony, prayer and meditation; we cleansed our selves with the burning of sage and final prayers. Then I asked the woman who had carried the sage for us, to cense the body and say a final prayer. She prayed first in Lakota, then in English --Father, Grandfather, this is R. He was a good man who worked hard for his family and liked horses. Grandfather, in that place in the stars, let him ride horses again, Grandfather. That's all. All my Relatives.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

G'wan. Go to church.

From the gospel this morning (John 6)

Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

It's either cannibalism --all that eating flesh and drinking blood stuff....

OR --it's good ol' barnyard wisdom --taking life so that others may live, and sooner or later, giving one's life so that the next generation may live.

Barnyard Christianity.

G'wan. Go to church. Eat flesh and drink blood --join in the circle of life willingly.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Joel was talking about a scientist who wrote of awe and wonder and mystery and thanksgiving. And then he asked, I wonder if a scientist can speak of those things and be respected in their own field?

No, I said. Probably not in this age of rabid fundamentalism and division.

Isn't that sad?

Now, off to a church meeting. One this morning. Another this afternoon. Carrying awe and wonder and mystery with me. God willing.

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.

Well, there we are. Amen.

Friday, August 17, 2012

C'mon Virgin. Be a feminist. Step it up girlfriend.

You know, I haven't engaged the headlines much in the last couple of months... the shootings, the violence, gun laws, the economy, civil rights, the political campaigns.... And, it's not that I am not interested --it's just the present realities in the faces of the people I serve are paramount, and not unconnected to all the above, just lived and known in a different way. One doesn't successfully face a storm by reacting to the headlines or voicing/promoting even the most thoughtful opinion. Here --the headlines are the storm already present in the struggle for life and death --here, the headwinds and storm fronts collide perpetually.

When the average household income is less than $11,000 per year, who cares what Romney paid in taxes? The rich will get richer regardless, so-called regular folk that look rich from here will get stingier as their pot empties, and more of the social contract promises --treaties even, will be discarded or broken.

That's just the way it is. It's not going to change.

Now --the weekend is coming, without the hot lunches provided at school, the community center, the church, wherever --will we have enough milk for the baby? --will the children be okay on the snacks donated for me to take home? No --okay --hey church lady, will you please buy the earrings I made? No? Okay, will you drive me out to my sister's house in the country? I'll leave my kids with her --she'll take care of 'em. I haven't had a job in two years. And if I leave the Reservation to look for work, I will lose my health care and whatever little benefits and food I have.... Do you have sixty cents so that I can go buy one of those little bottles of booze and get a little buzz --it's all I got....

It is important to vote? No. Because I can tell you what's going to happen no matter who is elected --the rich will get richer, the people stingier, and more of the promises made by the wasicu (wahsheechu --fat stealers --the white people who have stolen everything, even our supply of lard) --those promises will be broken.

That's just the way it is. And the Lakota understanding? --the one that I have learned best and I really understand is: thank you Wakantanka for making me a Lakota, for giving me a road of difficulty rather than a road of ease, for showing me how the buffalo faces in to the wind. Thank you for showing me how to let the wind blow through me instead of blowing me over. Wopila.

And the road of difficulty is paved with:


These are the basis of life. Even so, these things will make life difficult. Wopila Wakantanka.

That, and jokes. Silly jokes. Constant laughter.

That just the way it is. 200 miles from no where.

So, headlines --Romney says he pays 13% in taxes? Between sales tax on everything --including food here, and what the Feds grab, we all pay more than that. (Hell, Joel and I pay close to 30%.) Smite him, God. Smite him and his arrogance, and give us the humility, perseverance, respect, honor, love and etc to face the next one who stands in his place.

Now, a headline that makes sense? Women In Russian Punk Band Pussy Riot Found Guilty Of Hooliganism. Dancing around in colorful regalia in a cathedral in front of gold doors praying that the Virgin Mary get rid of the political boss?! Yeah --that makes sense. Perfect sense. Arrested while praying the words on your heart. Yeppa.

Their final video, here if you wish to see it. And, yeah, it contains words I wouldn't say in church (but it's not as though I haven't said them)... but the lines I liked best were
Virgin, Virgin, become a feminist
Become a feminist, a feminist stand

I ran the verses through google translate --there's probably a lot lost in translation.... but I certainly get the gist of it.

Yeah. I understand.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 102)

LORD, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you; *
hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble.
Incline your ear to me; *
when I call, make haste to answer me,
For my days drift away like smoke, *
and my bones are hot as burning coals.
My heart is smitten like grass and withered, *
so that I forget to eat my bread.
Because of the voice of my groaning *
I am but skin and bones.
I have become like a vulture in the wilderness, *
like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake and groan; *
I am like a sparrow, lonely on a house-top.
My enemies revile me all day long, *
and those who scoff at me have taken an oath against me.
For I have eaten ashes for bread *
and mingled my drink with weeping.

Because of your indignation and wrath *
you have lifted me up and thrown me away.
My days pass away like a shadow, *
and I wither like the grass.

But you, O LORD, endure for ever, *
and your Name from age to age.
You will arise and have compassion on Zion the people,
for it is time to have mercy upon her; *
indeed, the appointed time has come.
For your servants love her very rubble, *
and are moved to pity even for her dust.

The nations shall fear your Name, O LORD, *
and all the kings of the earth your glory.
For the LORD will build up Zion the people, *
and his glory will appear.

He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless; *
he will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for a future generation, *
so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD.
For the LORD looked down from his holy place on high; *
from the heavens he beheld the earth;
That he might hear the groan of the captive *
and set free those condemned to die;
That they may declare in Zion the midst of the people the Name of the LORD, *
and his praise in Jerusalem in every camp;
When the peoples are gathered together, *
and the kingdoms also, to serve the LORD.

He has brought down my strength before my time; *
he has shortened the number of my days;
And I said, “O my God,
do not take me away in the midst of my days; *
your years endure throughout all generations.

In the beginning, O LORD, you laid the foundations of the earth, *
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
They shall perish, but you will endure;
they all shall wear out like a garment; *
as clothing you will change them,
and they shall be changed;
But you are always the same, *
and your years will never end.
The children of your servants shall continue, *
and their offspring shall stand fast in your sight.”

Hey God, it's margaret. Yes. I hear that ancient song of the Psalmist loud and clear --just like I hear the Riot in front of golden doors to protect you from the commoners. Hey God, we are in the midst of another Babylonian exile, our old institutions gone, our way of life just a pile of rubble; our people are not hopeless, but hope is in exile too.  My paraphrase of the psalm: You are wonderful and forever and a genius creator, and I am dying (not literally, but it's freakin' hard out here so I might as well be), and even so, I will tell everyone how wonderful you are. I know you hear the prayers of the marginal. So, smite them God. Smite them. Amen.

C'mon Virgin. Be a feminist. Step it up girlfriend.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

eternity is not linear

Where to begin --signs of the kingdom everywhere.

Someone posted this on my FB page:
Hey, Margaret, I wanted to show this to you (if you haven't seen it already) b/c I also wish to pass my thanks to the wonderful folks I met at Eagle Butte as part of the seed of where this came from.

When I was there in the spring, between watching everyone make sure others were fed at funerals and comfort services, as well as the weekly food ministry at church, it was a huge part of what helped me come to believe that it was truly possible to fill a pickup truck full of food in Kirksville, MO (Adair County has 1/4 of the population at or below the poverty line) for the local food bank.

Turns out the Holy Spirit saw fit to fill TWO pickup truck loads full of food. 

I would not have believed if not for what I saw happening in Eagle Butte. The idea would not have come to me, I don't think. It was part of what God called me there for, I believe, and I suspect God is not finished working with me on that one, yet...

God bless the dedicated folks who feed others at Eagle Butte!
God bless Kirkepiscatoid!
Well --I'm posting THAT in the parish hall, for sure! The morning prayer site also borrowed pictures from my Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission Facebook page --pictures of folks fixing food in St. John's kitchen...

served with love

hot lunches served by volunteers

So --if you are in one of those moods, thinking ya got nothing, think again. As a matter of fact, St. John's has this beautiful kitchen and parish hall because their beautiful old Victorian-era building burned to the ground ten years ago. Who knew that out of those ashes, people would be fed... and inspire others to share what they have....

And, the Niobrara Council (all Native American congregations/missions in this region) will be meeting here Friday and Saturday --and the Bishop will be coming! So, I definitely need this stuff up all over the place!

But, another sign of the Kingdom --a time for everything....

Dang --this morning, a whole shock of autumn

There have been leaves catching in the high grasses, sudden drifts of yellow against the stairs --yellow leaves hidden behind the broad swathes of sturdy summer green... and I don't think this is caused by stress from drought --our neck of the woods has good stands of tall corn and sunflowers. But this morning, it is a chill 43F and the angle of the sun in to my coffee-drinking place is markedly different.

And --watching the birds at eventide last night --a bird larger than a robin but smaller than a crow, with a large white stripe on its aero-dynamic wings... perhaps a nighthawk we thought as we tried to identify it in our bird book... and the description read in part "seen hunting at dusk, some of the first to migrate south" ....

Migrate south.

Are these the first hints of autumn? I have never lived this far north in a place so unmoderated by ocean climes.... When does autumn usually begin, and how long will autumn last before the winter sets in? I remember bagging leaves in Connecticut and piling them against the foundation of the house to keep the snow and ice away from the foundation... I didn't see any of that here --perhaps with a wilder prairie bent, one doesn't invite safe warm zones around the house --snakes and skunks and all that.... Or, maybe it's because no one rakes and bags leaves here....

Will we even have a winter this year? --last year, there was no snow to speak of.

Here I am drifting away in to the future...

At prayer this morning (from John 4 about verse 30 or so...)

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Yeppa. It's not four months and then the harvest... the fields are ripe now... and always.

Hey God, it's margaret. Sowing. First fruits. Reaping. Food to eat. All at once. I keep forgetting that eternity is not linear. Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

for many, I would sound un-Christian and atheist

So, Joel is having on-line discussions with atheists. Not to try to win any argument or convert them, but to try to understand what it is they say they believe --he says.

Mostly, he says, I agree with them.

Yeah. For the most part, I do too. I don't believe in a God "out there" or "up there" or separate from creation.... I don't believe in a personal life after death and I don't believe in a separate 'spiritual/soul' part of my own being that has a life of its own. I don't believe in heaven and hell. I don't believe that God fabricated the sacrifice of Jesus so that our sins are paid for.

For many, I would sound un-Christian and atheist. Well, there we are.

Christ by Joel

I do believe in the very radical notion that the creator of all things jumped the spiritual ship and became and infuses all that we see and know. Including human flesh and blood. Incarnation. Carna --carne --the creator became In-Meated. Yeah.

And I do believe the creator is also all that we don't see and don't know. The mystery. And so we use material meatly things to point to that mystery. Sacraments. Signs.

I do believe that Jesus was/is (in eternal things, there is no past or future or time being and we don't have a verb like that) part and parcel of the mystery --the sacrament/sign in human flesh and blood, and he saw a new way for us to live --for each other instead of for ourselves. And he showed us and told us and taught that we are all ready related --so interconnected that we are one body --not LIKE one body, but that we are. One. Being. One. Life.

I do believe that sharing One Life means that the physical elements that make us feel and believe we are separate from one another are ephemeral --and sharing One Life means that all that makes us feel and believe we are separate will dissipate and no longer exist. This is what 'sitting at the right hand of God' means --or, hid with Christ means --and what that really looks like no one knows. And if they say they know, I sincerely doubt it.

I do believe that "I" did not exist before "I" was conceived --but that I am a totally unique expression of that ephemeral material life. And "I" will not exist after "I" am dead. Only that "I" will then sit at the right hand of God. Hid with Christ. A new Body --unimaginable --Resurrection life.

I do believe that Christians are called to live as though they are already dead. Well, that they are already alive in Resurrection life. Abundant life. Not holding on to those things that make us feel separate. Or unique. As best as we are able.

I do believe that we talk about all that in words that fail. Metaphors that are incomplete. I do believe we are all capable of those insights and visions of the eternal, the mystery --and each and every time we do have those insights and visions we "die" a little --we give up a little more of those things that make us feel separate.

And I do believe that when Jesus spoke and aligned his life with such clarity, he was murdered by the powers that be --mobs, authority, power... and all those things were exposed to the light of day for what they are. And at the end of the day --or three days for that matter, Life. Wins. No matter what it feels like in between, Life. Wins. Always. Especially when we let go of it and set it free.

In other words, words that I use even though I know they are inadequate to the task --Incarnation. Resurrection. Ascension.

As to "Christ's coming again" --look around. Again. And again. And again. There is nothing but Christ. Because there is only one Life. Any where. Every where. And all the black holes and spaces in-between the where. Even the emptiness. That is the Christ. Beloved. And we are inseparable from that. Share in it. Part of it. Now and always.

And then, when, as modern physics reveals, matter flips in and out of "existence" --well, to use mythic language --that is Life giving itself away, and the Creator, the Father, the Generator, again, giving Life. To the eternal Son....

Christ. The Word spoken at the beginning. The One who holds all things in being. With. By. For. Through. Alongside. Every which way.

Whew.... and I was worried about saving for retirement!

At prayer this morning (Canticle: You are God)

You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord; we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships you.

To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.

You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free
you did not shun the Virgin’s womb.

You overcame the sting of death
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting.

So, are there Cherubim and Seraphim and angels and spirits? Of this I am confident --there are untold orders of creation. And we have named them thus.

But, there is only One Life. They share in it.
And, we share in it.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

probably closer to glory than I know

Joel and I were talking about sin... trying to think of other words that describe the condition of sin... regret is one that he was pondering... He asked, over coffee, sitting in the sun out in the back --what other words are there for regret?

I couldn't think one that made sense, that described that inner weight that pull the lungs down, slows the heart and upsets the stomach. So I went and got the Thesaurus --not the dictionary type one, but the old fashioned one that is presented in categories of ideas and states of beings and their presumed opposites. The Thesaurus was a required tool for us in the 5th grade when our teacher sat us down, blindfolded, and told us to describe the grass we were sitting on --and we couldn't use visual cues, obviously. And we found out how spare how language was --and then he had us buy a Thesaurus, as a tool....

So, Joel had never really examined the front of a categorically arranged Thesaurus. He's hooked. Anyway --after 'virtue' and 'virtueless' as categories of words in the columns of "affections" --we discovered that there is no word opposite regret....


--and one of the words that seemed to resonate with us in describing regret was 'lament.'

All of that because we are making flashcards for Lakota words... and in Lakota there is no word for 'sin' --but certainly there was and is an understanding of doing something that has consequences that does not lead to joy and abundant life --so... what are those words?

And then we talked about Augustinian concepts of original sin... and that one is NOT born 'sinful,' but that we are all born into sin --like the babies and children I know are taught young how to deal with racism --how to carry the weight of history such as extreme poverty, loss of culture and ways of life... it's not their sin, but they have to deal with it.... And the white babies 100 miles east of here are taught ways of presumption and unthinking privilege not their own that perpetuate and exacerbate the systems of oppression....

That is 'original sin' --we all, in various ways, carry it.

But, how to speak of it in a place where the concept of sin is learned? Where the categories of human "affection" are not 19th Century Anglo-European world-view concepts....

Maybe this is the time I need to go back to the Gospel of John and read that part again where it says 'the world is wrong about sin'....


At prayer this morning (from John 3)

Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

I wonder if John's disciples had had coffee before they began a discussion about purification....

Purification --baptism --the disciples are upset because Jesus is baptizing and everyone is going to him...

And John answers with words about reception, he himself is not the Messiah, the bridegroom and fulfillment of joy --of decreasing.

There is a whole different logic going on here.... Purity, belonging, intimate coupling of marriage, joy, --decrease... it's not about me, it's about him.

I am beginning to think that the 'purity' offered in baptism is not the purity we understand and grapple with any more than Lakota has a word for sin and hence grappling with that concept....

--it is not the washing away of personal sin, but is a salve for that inherited sin/crap/poopoo/caacaa we are born in to.... The generational grief has been lifted --we are free. From all of it.

Would that we could teach that. Somewhere. Somehow...

The doorbell rang... Lost where I was....

Anyhoooooo --I guess I'm somewhere between sin and glory. According to God's mercy, probably closer to glory than I know... or even have words for.

I know. One is not supposed to end a sentence or phrase with a preposition.
And, personally, I think sin is a lot more glorious than we give it due --because it is because of sin that I know God's glory and mercy through Christ. Just sayin'.
There we are.

Image above found here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

bullying... the crucified place... the walking dead and the dead zone

There's been a lot of talk recently about bullying... what does it look like, how it happens.... There's a lot of bullying in the Church, by the way. Yes, there is. And the popular myths about bullying is that it is teenage behavior --but it's not. Adults bully too. A lot.

Adults usually bully in this way:
Destroying and manipulating relationships (turning your best friend against you)
Destroying status within a peer group
Destroying reputations
Humiliation and embarrassment
Gossiping, spreading nasty and malicious rumors and lies about someone
Hurtful graffiti
Excluding someone from a group (social rejection or isolation)
Stealing friends to hurt someone
Negative body language (facial expressions, turning your back to someone)
Threatening gestures, taunting, pestering, insulting remarks and gestures
Glares and dirty looks, nasty jokes, notes passed around, anonymous notes
Hate petitions 

In the church, and if you are a priest, this kind of bullying usually results in one losing one's job. I know 13 women --priests all, who have lost their jobs in the last 18 months. Not because they were incompetent, not because they did something wrong worth losing their jobs over, not because of any reason other than a small faction got hold of the reins and did their bullying thing, unchecked.

And it's not that these women (including myself) didn't in some way react to the humiliation, the gossip and malicious talk --the exclusion and constant negativity --I don't know any one that perfect. And, given that the hate petitions are so deeply personal, the wounds cut to the core of one's being.

You don't fit in. It was wrong from the start. Outright fabrications and accusations. It's enough to drive any one crazy.

The effects of bullying --yeah, depression, health problems, loss of interests, PTSD, even suicide. For the church --loss of vocation, faith, you name it.

And there are effects on the bullies too --depression, health problems, addiction, loss of peer groups....

--and then there are the bystanders --they are affected too.... For the church --many folks just leave.

And, no, it's not just priests that get bullied. There are bully priests too --I've met 'em, I've experienced them.

But --my question... how come we let these patterns persist if not flourish in the church? In the case of priests being bullied by congregations --some say that the Bishop shows preferential treatment to the church's pledge and the priest is a goner. In the case of priests bullying congregations and staff --some say the Bishop's hands are tied because a Bishop cannot remove a Rector. Either way, the patterns persist. And flourish.

Joel and I were talking about it all this morning --I don't know why, except even now the way I had to leave my last job wells up in me --and there we were, sitting in the sun, drinking coffee, satisfied and not being able to imagine or wanting to be any where else. There was talk of the "crucified place"... and certainly perhaps even Jesus had those same deep feelings of inadequacy, self doubt --the last temptation, said Joel.

But, when it comes to bullying --I reject "the crucified place" idea. If one walks in to a situation, eyes wide open, informed and willing, that's one thing.

But most do not willingly give themselves to a lynch mob.

So, back to my question... how come we let these patterns persist if not flourish in the church? And, how do we break the cycles?

I suppose if it were obvious and easy, we might have undertaken this work already. Watchfulness. Naming, acknowledging and calling out the bad behavior. Having the resources and people at hand to work through the bad behavior so it is recognized and not condoned. Establishing a culture where these behaviors are not acceptable, and feeling 'safe' enough to report this behavior without the thought of losing one's church home or job.

Most 30-something and younger folks with whom I talk about church don't come to church because it is seen as an institution that is hypocritical --it says one thing and does another, and mostly that hypocrisy is played out in factional behavior at the parish level --the cliques, the factions --who wants to join something that might make one subject to the torments + ! of high school?

This rampant hostility and dysfunction is being played out in every facet of our corporate life --and our national life as well. Are we willing to name it when it happens? To talk about it? (Yes, I know --we can talk until we are blue in the face to some folks who don't understand their own hurtful and destructive words and actions --but that does not mean we should not commit to doing it --consciously, grace-fully.)

Last week, a comment was left with a link that led to Bill Moyer's interview with Chris Hedges regarding his new book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, and what Hedges calls "sacrifice zones." It is really, really worth the look. REALLY. And it got me thinking --what are our 'sacrifice zones' in the church? What are we willing to let die (or kill) for the sake of something else? --and what is that something else we are willing to kill for?

And more --the rhetoric of the "crucified place" .... Are we willing to move to that place in innumerable ways for the sake of those in our own day that look like the ones Jesus touched and healed and taught and talked and fed and ate with?

Are we able or even willing to try to confess those things that are destroying us (bullying, factions, buildings or whatever) and turn away from them?

Or have we forgotten how?

At prayer this morning (John 3:16-21)
[Jesus said] For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in trusts him may not perish but have eternal life.

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in trust him are not condemned; but those who do not believe trust are condemned already, because they have not believed in trusted the name of the only Son of God.

And this is the judgment: that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

Yes --I changed "believe" (Pisteo) to "trust" --look it up yourself.

Condemned already --the walking dead... the very ones needing resurrection.... Perhaps these are the bullies, unknowingly or even knowingly sucking everyone else in to the dead zone....

Even so, we are not in the condemnation business, but in the trusting and saving business.

And the judgment is that darkness is put in a bright light --and all is seen clearly, exposed.

I suppose that is the glory of the cross and the crucified place --all is exposed. Not that hearts are changed or eyes opened... that is the work of the Spirit...

--but no secrets are hid....

Off I go.

UPDATE: The Bill Moyers/Chris Hedges link is here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

G'wan. Go to church.

Okay. It's the third week of hearing about bread and Jesus...

Are you getting the hint yet?

You are a member of the Body of Christ --part of the wind and rain and earth and sun and fire and all else that it takes to grow grain and make bread, or grow vines and make wine. You are part of it, indivisible.

And you are what you eat.

Two ways to quit your denial about what it is you are supposed to be doing.

G'wan. Get out there and be bread for the world.
Yes. It's that simple.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

all those things done and left undone

It's cool and a rainy drizzle today --a far cry from the hot and dry that it has been. Yesterday, after the good news of the doctor's office, we decided to celebrate and go the Journey Museum in Rapid.

Over all, it is a decent museum --but my critical former curator sensibilities went in to high gear... sigh. I remember an observation that hit me like a ton of bricks in a small natural history museum in Oregon --most natural history museums include the "natives" of the area, right alongside the birds and fish and bears etc. To get "real" history, one has to go to history museums, where, of course, the people are not displayed alongside the birds and fish and bears etc. but are displayed with their so-called courageous manipulation of the landscape and time....

This journey museum began with a walk through a dark room with a voice talking about star dust, an exhibit of rocks and fossils and woolly mammoths --and then one walks in to an exhibit of archaeology --on one side digging up dinosaur bones, and on the other side digging up the remains of Indian villages --one side dinosaur bones that one could reach in to a cabinet and touch, and the other side stone tools and arrow heads that once could reach in to a cabinet and touch....

Archaeology exhibit at the Journey Museum, Rapid City SD

From the extinct exotic animals right to the Indians.... The subtle type of learning that goes on in this type of display makes me kinda sick...

And as one entered a wide open room with an empty tipi in the center (basically a play area for children), there were objects and mannequins with displays of various clothes and etc. several feet behind thick glass --no interpretation, no information any where. There was another tipi built in to the wall which had a few objects in it that looked like an interpretation area, but no one was there while we were there.

Then, beyond the tipi, one enters another era --and there are many many bright, shiny and beautiful objects, a great deal of interpretation, the objects can be viewed close up and environmentally --whole rooms set up as general stores, early houses --and the sorry Indian massacres and assimilation history (reservations, boarding schools etc.) is portrayed off to one side in another room in three large and very dark free-standing glass walls.... with interpretation that is difficult to read much less find....

Yes, what we saw was wonderful, and I doubt very many people would see it as I saw it --but I was reading a different landscape... the text behind the text, so to speak.

And it made me sad. And mad.

But the book store was open --and we had a great time in there. And then we drove to our favorite store down town --the Prairie Edge, that has great bead resources and another book store. And I purchased a treat for myself --something I've been coveting for more than a decade...

--a flute.

My flute in its bag

my flute, outa the bag

So, now, when I am all used up by funerals or whatever, I have another way to pray and restore... and I am grateful for it.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 90 --yeah, all of it)

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.

Hey God, it's margaret. Thank you for eyes to see and ears to hear --help me tell the story again of your glory in all people in all places... especially here in ground zero of capitalism, imperialism and despair. Help me serve your people with enough dignity and grace to match their own. I pray for H,S,D, those families in immediate grief, for I,R,T and those I serve tonight with a ceremony for wiping away the tears, for the babies we will baptize this Sunday, and all those things done and left undone --redeem them. You know --in that way you do --just for fun. Amen.

Friday, August 10, 2012

why do they do that?

I am sitting in Rapid --I got up at 3:15 this morning to get someone up in Eagle Butte (neither myself nor my beloved) to a 7am appointment --and as circumstances will have it --someone hit the no-cancer jackpot --so, the appointment will be a short clean up at the biopsy site --as opposed to the 2 hour surgery that was expected.

This is wonderful news. Well worth the drive.

And it was a wonderful sunrise over the prairie --thunder and lightening to the west --startling pink as the sun rose --the moon inbetween. We saw antelope, rabbits, skunks, deer, bison --and the required cattle huddled in the corners of their fields --why do they do that?

At prayer this morning (as a canticle --Isaiah 55:6-11)

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, *
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, *
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as rain and snow fall from the heavens *
and return not again, but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth, *
seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; *
it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *
and prosper in that for which I sent it.

Well --off I go. Got to plan an impromptu party here before we take the three hour drive back home!

(Starbucks is playing a re-hashed Mr. Tambourine Man... the original is sooooooo much better, but the young folk who work here could not possibly know that --feeling suddenly old!)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

can anything good come out of here?

I might have a chance to catch a few hours today --time "away" I think is the biblical term... I hardly know what to do with myself, and when this happens, I think up a project --like mowing the lawn or doing dishes or vacuuming....

And the trip to Pine Ridge... we went through a small portion of the Bad Lands --OMG --what an incredible landscape. And pine trees and cedar trees ---TREES!

(These aren't my photos --I saw them, and then forgot to save the link... sorry. I googled "Wanblee" because that is where we went.)

Any way --I took two young men --well, fifteen year olds with me --friends of the deceased. I asked them if they had ever been down to Pine Ridge --and one said he had once been to Rapid and another time to Bismark --and the other just said, no. So they were pressing their noses to the windows looking out and then turning to punch each other when they saw something they wanted to share with the other... Look! Look!

--when one asked me to play the radio, I asked what station --and they said our local "Indian" station which cannot be heard off the Cheyenne and Standing Rock Reservations.... So I told them I didn't think we could get it down here --and tuned the radio there, and there was nothing but fuzz --they were horrified.... Why not? What happened?

I kept them happy with chips and gatorade on the way down... they slept like floppy puppies on the way back.

There were about 40 kids this age at the funeral --sometimes acting like the little kids, running and jumping, picking up dirt clods --and sometimes trying on the skin of an adult, watching the older folks around them carefully....

And Pine Ridge is as different from Cheyenne River as California is to New York --the funeral director was not to be found --dropped the body off and left... once the body is in place at the wake, they have no further responsibilities... they don't supervise all the way to the grave and help place the coffin in the hole and all that... that is left up to the priest or whomever --we carried the casket in the back of a pick up truck with the pall bearers sitting around the edge of the truck bed, bumping down the highway behind the horse escort --no police escort through town or down the highway, up the dirt road to the graveyard on top of the hill. The dirt was white and like cement... the sky was taller, further away....

And I forgot my glasses --fortunately, I was not the presider --the Episcopal priest for that part of Pine Ridge was in charge... but, much to my embarrassment, I forgot my collar, so was walking around with my collar button sticking out before my throat like some kind of mechanical switch...


After we returned last night, somebody asked me if I had seen any scaffolds -that some traditionalists still use scaffolds for burial... No, I said... pondering... that I had just lamented that very loss for the People... and wondering if it were one of those talking points --that some where some one still does what the ancestors did... but nobody really does do it, or it is outlawed. Or, perhaps because I didn't expect to see it, I didn't see it.

Funny how that works.

If any place should use scaffolds for burial, it is that place... I expected the white dirt to be chalky --and it was in small part --fine chalk that coated the eyes, lips, hair, hands, shoes, shoulders and nostrils --but, for the most part, it was cement. Gypsum, somebody said. Too much gypsum in the soil....

 If I lived in those parts, I could not imagine being brought out of that dirt, shaped and formed and life breathed in to me by the Creator... I could only imagine being made out of the air and water, perhaps even the trees lending something to my being.

At prayer this morning (from John 1)
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Nazareth/Galilee being Gentile according to the Jews of the time --ungodly country, what good could come from that kind of place --one might as well ask --Can anything good come out of these Reservations?

Joel and I were talking over coffee this morning --as the sun rose. The buck stops here, he said, as our conversation had ebbed and flowed about the battles and concerns of the greater church 'out there' and how silly it all looks from here. Here we are, in the fringe, among outcasts, in the very place of historical atrocities, steeping in the Beatitudes....

Blessed are you poor, blessed are you who mourn, blessed are you hungry, blessed are you weak and powerless, blessed are you who are persecuted.

If you wish to know, come, and stay. For some time 'away' without the distracting busy little jobs to fill your time.

Come and see.
And be willing to be changed.