Friday, November 30, 2012

Hey God, it's me, margaret

The morning began with three phone calls....

--and two little dogs wanting to go out....

--where we found this

the watchamacallit bushes adorned

the tree at the corner of the house

I find that mess breathtakingly beautiful --spectacular. Every blade of grass, every tree branch, the chain link fence, even the storm window laced with fronds of frost. It is breaking off the branches above the house and falling on the roof, which causes the dogs to bark and scamper to the door, again and again... --although after the 25th time, I think they finally 'got' it --they would find nothing at the door. So now they just sit, ears erect...

If there were children in the house, I would tell them it was Santa practicing making a run on the roof.

And there was also this in my inbox, posted by a friend on Facebook:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Sisters Are Doing It to Themselves
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

She posted it, because half way through the 'commentary' on the screen says, Hey God, it's me, Margaret, and she thought of me, said Colbert must be paying attention!

Well... somehow I doubt that. But the video itself is bitingly funny --of course. Women, you are doing it to yourselves! The same could be said about the poor, you know. Hey, you poor people, if you are miserable, abject and stuck, it's YOUR FAULT.

--and a callous observation would prove it true.... it does appear that many do 'do it to themselves.' You are poor because you drink. You are poor because you didn't pay attention in school. You are poor because you chose to quit your job to attend to your religious ceremony because your boss wouldn't give you time off. You are poor because you are lazy. Being poor is your fault. All. Your. Fault.

Actually, I can see clearly that poverty is like an endless cycle in a computer glitch, that little circle round and round in the middle of the screen and no way out except to reboot --and there are choices made in the cycle of poverty that don't make sense unless you are desperately poor. Yes, being with family and doing ceremony ARE more important than a hard-scrabble go no-where grunt job. One brings joy and life and dignity. The other is supposed to --but in the end, does not.

Frankly --I think our folks that scrub toilets and floors, folks that pick up garbage, folks that harvest our food --folks that do the stuff no one wants to do but we would all be really messed up if they didn't do it, they should get the CEO pay and benefits. Just sayin'.

At prayer this morning (from 1 Corinthians 4)
For who sees anything different in you?
What do you have that you did not receive?
And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?


We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands.

When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.

I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you....

Hey God, it's me, margaret. Open my eyes to the work before me --help me see as you see --without going blind or crazy or some such other disaster, okay? Thank you for the wonder and spectacular display of the cold on every twig and branch today. Thank you. Thank you for the heart and will of the people I serve. Thank you for the experience of alcoholism/addiction in our family --that I might know the heart break and serve accordingly. Thank you for making us homeless that summer a long time ago --that I might know the endurance and creativity it takes to be homeless, and serve accordingly. Thank you for the poverty we have suffered, the indignity we have known, our own ignorance --that we might know more fully the gifts of the Spirit. God, thank you for brokenness. So, now I will rise, and go and do all those things before me... because of the well of joy I have discovered --a gift, not mine, I know.

Thank you.

And, please keep the P family in your prayers. We will do a comfort service tonight. And please keep the D family in your prayers as they begin the long walk to the graveside to bury their beloved daughter.

(A member of the D family said, we can only cry so hard so long --I mean after all, she was on loan --she didn't belong to us.... Wow... to begin grieving there....)


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Overcast. Partly cloudy. Fog. 18 degrees

Overcast in the morning, then partly cloudy. Fog early. High of 34F with a windchill as low as 12F. Winds from the SSW at 5 to 15 mph.
Thursday Night
Partly cloudy. Low of 21F. Winds from the South at 5 to 15 mph.
I guess that means we won't see much of the sun. And, the low tonight will be warmer than it is now. Well... I guess that's good news of a sort.

Sounds like a good day to have a fire in the fire place and do my paperwork. --like, writing thank you notes.

I am so entirely grateful for the unexpected support from so many of you. Thank you. Thank you so very much. Thank you. I suppose you do have an idea of what it means to receive your gifts --I can only hope and pray that some day you will come here and see your generosity at work...

This thank you was interrupted by my gazing out the window and seeing Joel standing there with his arms out and Paeha off the leash running around like crazy not listening to a word he said and Mr. Witty enjoying of every minute of it --and some guys with their dogs on the other side of the fence and all hell ready to break loose at any minute --so I ran out in my pj's and sat down on the frozen ground and coaxed him in --took three tries.... --and then I was able to grab his foot.

His running was glorious, absolutely glorious--head high, so fast, as fast as the wind.... Too bad it was tempered by my anxiety for him. Rez dogs do run wild here... quite wild, and they kill to eat.

We. Will. Build. That. Fence. So, they can run and run and run...


Now, where was I?

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 72)

“I will not come under the roof of my house, *
nor climb up into my bed;
I will not allow my eyes to sleep, *
nor let my eyelids slumber;
Until I find a place for the LORD, *
a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

--nor until my little dogs are safe....

Now I will put on dinner to cook, and then take it this afternoon to a family where the father lies near death. Please pray for him, his wife and his children and grandchildren.

Please pray for the D family --a young mother flipped her car into a ditch because of the washboard surface of the gravel road --and she drowned. She will be buried in our cemetery in Blackfoot.

And please pray for the P family who lost a matriarch last night. Their family is from Red Scaffold, and we will bury her there.

Please pray for the children in Cherry Creek, so remote and an entry place for drugs on the Reservation.

Please pray for T's family, who continue to have a tough time with his death.

Please pray for our Lay Readers. Please pray for Deacon --and our Deacon to be.

Please pray for those without shelter, for those who live in the tin tipis (FEMA trailers) without water or heat, for those who don't have enough fuel, for the elderly with no one to tend to them --for those who suffer from health ailments --especially those with diabetes, for those who suffer from addiction --and for the children who harbor thoughts of suicide.

Please pray for those who have shared their money and time for those who live here. Thanksgivings.

Off I go.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hey --let's ditch Advent and make Christmas 40 days long --a continuous surprise party of grace

Joel is cutting out little paper models --building a ship.

I slept in. Well, except when Paeha came in to my room very early this morning --but at least, today, when I showed him what he was expected to do, he did it. He's a smart little dog.

And mostly, I am trying not to think... I am trying to give myself a break. I have too many words and thoughts that need to be weighed and thought out....

And I have a list of things to do that will take me from one end of Main Street to the next. And then some. And I am hoping that the list of things I must do will not crowd out the words and thoughts that need to be weighted and thought out.

At prayer this morning/afternoon (Luke 19:1-10)

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”

So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.

All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Yes, repentance is that easy.
No, repentance is not that easy....

But I do wish the 2%-ers would pay attention... and start to give half their possessions away to the poor --and realize where/when and how they are engaged in defrauding the people --by ripping off their culture, destroying the environment, engaging in soul-and-body-destroying consumerism.

Yes, I am one of those who will continue to lament the consumer frenzy of December. I despise it.

And even so, here, I believe we will put up the Christmas decorations sooner rather than later, sing as many Christmas hymns as we can --I think it would be a marvelous idea to throw the medieval concept of Advent right out the stained-glass window, and have no 'preparation time' for the sudden grace that is the Feast of the Incarnation --and lengthen Christmas to a near 40 day celebration (four weeks of what is currently Advent plus the twelve days of Christmas!). I mean The Resurrection gets 50 days, and we have prep time for that in Lent, which is 40 days.... So, why not give unexpected, unmerited, unmitigated Grace through the Incarnation 40 days --without preparation.... !!! Because, when Grace hits you, who is ever prepared anyway?

Yes. Perhaps I shall begin a movement to petition the Bishops to consider this... and inquire of liturgy scholars and church historians once again to trope up (I am sure I am using trope wrongly --but I think I can stretch it....) the changes of our church calendar, and call for a morphing of it in our present time --all thing considered.

Yes, ditch Advent and make Christmas 40 days of celebration without preparation --a continuous surprise party --in as much as who is ever prepared to such grace?

Grace upon grace upon grace.


Off I go.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

anachronisms, parachronisms and catachronies, kinda

We began the morning with talk over coffee of anachronisms... and parachronisms... and watched the sun rise.

--and then listened to Bach. With animation.

I hope I got the version without the ad... if not, sorry. You know what to do.

I don't know why that kind of stuff fascinates me. Multiple, distinct voices (shown in the animation as color)... sometimes playing their own melodies....

There was a time when I didn't want to play, hear and think about anything but Bach. Joel wept as he listened --and when it was over said, Or, we could make a bomb and it could go boom.


And, yesterday, in the school auditorium during the funeral, when I got up to speak, I was well composed when I climbed the stairs, but was holding back the tears by the third sentence.... my multiple, distinct voices did not play in concert with each other.

Even this morning.

Remembering how we stood in the dusk, in 20 degree weather, and the fancy vault wouldn't fit down in the hand-dug hole on the hill-top, so the crane had to be ordered out, lifting the whole vault and coffin out and the hole re-dug. Just when everyone expected to be weeping the most, they were all laughing at T's last joke....

And this morning, without a chance for reflection and dusting off, I am off to Rapid --taking an elder to visit a dying friend.

At prayer this morning (beginning at Zechariah 11:4)

Thus said the LORD my God: Be a shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter. Those who buy them kill them and go unpunished; and those who sell them say, “Blessed be the LORD, for I have become rich”; and their own shepherds have no pity on them.


There we are. Off I go.

--dragging anachronisms and parachronisms and catachronies (I just made that one up, we haven't talked about that one... yet) along with me.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I want to howl and toll the bells to awaken the dead and storm the gates of heaven saying Now, Now, Now....

It's cold here this morning. It is 1 degree....

Two days ago there was to be a 50% chance of snow and accumulation today. This morning, the weather report has changed --just freakin' cold with no snow. And I grieve for the land and the plants and the animals --there has been no precipitation to speak of since July. Everything is aching for water.

Church was happy yesterday --singing in places that don't usually sing, birthday cakes and lots of laughter --I mean, it was the last Sunday of the year, so it was time to laugh --we get to remind ourselves that we count time in a different way as Christians --and what fun it is to think of all the different kinds of calendars and all the different ways of keeping track of time....

And the prairie is suddenly alive with the return of the large birds of prey --eagles, and hawks of so many shapes and sizes. They perch atop the utility poles --sentinels, and wait for the small life to scurry in the uncultivated places. Sometimes they catch the not so small life --rabbits and prairie dogs in the open fields where the wild horses, buffalo and cattle graze on the dry stalks between the clusters of wild roses flush with hips that grow where the prairie folds over on itself.

Yesterday, after returning from the far eastern reaches of this Reservation, I went up to the Manor, the small cluster of tribal apartments for the elderly. I had received a call from Arizona --please visit my auntie, so I did. But she wasn't there. She had been taken to the hospital early in the morning --and the hospital had moved her to Rapid... so, prayers for auntie were all I could do....

And then I turned my whole being to the task before me --one I was dreading in ways that made me pay attention... the funeral for T, twelve years old, hung himself at home.

The relatives and friends and supporters gathered out at the 4-mile corner (four miles east of town) and processed with T in a horse-drawn cart, followed by a dozen cowboys on horseback --including his father. And then the 100 or so cars that followed, emergency lights blinking in the dusk. By the time they got to town, where I waited, stole and hat and gloves, it was dark. The team that drew the cart expertly backed up to the church, the cowboys put their horses to graze in our yard in the back of the church lot, and the panic of unexpected and unavoidable grief welled up among the people.

Oh God. Now we really have to start. We can't cook any more. We can't make any more phone calls. We can't arrange things or pack boxes or clean house. Joel tolled the bell as we carried T in to the church --twelve year old coffin bearers --eight of them.... And as we stopped and said our prayers, I was reminded of the procession at the Easter Vigil --in the dark, carrying a feeble light of hope that could blow out at any moment.

The church was packed with flowers --and the scent of people. Three hundred people --standing in rows, crammed in to pews. The funeral director centered the coffin, opened it, and we began....

The father had brought a box of stuff from T's room, and he arranged it all in the coffin while the people looked on --the boots at his feet, his hat at his head, books, a bible, rodeo belt buckle, lariat, pocket knife, a broken magnifying glass in a box, his beaded Indian necklaces, his cowboy kerchief, the pink teddy bear --and his bow and arrows, his BB gun that helped him win State Championship last year...

--everything he owned. Crowded in to his coffin bed.

The wake was rowdy... like riding a bucking bronco. For me, at least. A tenuous grasp of some thin thread and my knees clenched around the wild beast. And then, after the final prayers, wave after wave of young teens, holding each other, crying, filing past the open coffin, getting in line again to look again to test their disbelief, putting hidden mementos in the folds of the Pendelton blanket that held his little body amongst his toys and precious belongings.

After dinner, we had a funeral mass --I knew that liturgy was supposed to be the apex of the journey to the graveside --coffin closed, final words and all that. But that is not what was going to work and was not the truth in this journey.

And after the mass, little B, five years old, who noticed turkeys as big as cows a few weeks ago, came up to me in the sacristy and said, he's asleep and we won't see him or play again. He's my cousin.

I quit doing the holy dishes, dried my hands and gave him my full attention. Yes, I said. You're right.

Why, asked B. Why asleep?

What should I say? And I lunged for words that scurried in the corners of my heart. He didn't tell me, I finally said. But his spirit got hurt.

Will my spirit ever get hurt? asked B

Oh B. (and I knelt to see him eye to eye.) It might. I hope not, but it might. And if your spirit ever gets hurt, you come and talk to me, to your mom and dad who love you so much --you talk and talk about it, okay.

This is a bell, said B and started to play with thurible.

Yes, I said. Would you like some incense?

And I gave him a two small pieces of frankincense and myrrh and thought of wise men and the baby Jesus and I wanted to howl and toll the bells to awaken the dead and storm the gates of heaven saying Now, Now, Now....

At prayer this morning (Galatians 6:1-10 --I cut it up...)
My friends ... --you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. ...

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. ... Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher. Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all...

--and then there was this too.... (beginning at Luke 18:15)
People were bringing even infants to Jesus that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

This morning we carry T over to the school where the final words will be said. I worry about what will be said... Then we will return to the church to feast, and then travel the forty miles to the family ranch to give T back to God through our Mother Earth.

--knowing that what they didn't put in the coffin with him will be burned so his soul doesn't linger....

I want to howl and toll the bells to awaken the dead and storm the gates of heaven saying Now, Now, Now....

Saturday, November 24, 2012

--without conclusion

Thou shalt have no other dogs before me.... This, we believe, is the Great Commandment of Mr. Witty. He's quit pouting terribly and has moved on in to the mostly tolerant stage... which is a good sign. So, maybe we will have a new covenant here pretty soon.... And Paeha is a good natured, gentle, forgiving little pup.

All in all, I think he is a wonderful new little addition to our home.

What they do agree on is barking together when there are people at the door --oh, what a massive commotion. And they both agree on certain places in the yard. I keep Paeha's leash at a shorter length so Mr. Witty is alpha --always first and out there further.... We don't let Paeha in to Mr. Witty's bed (although Mr. Witty is allowed in Paeha's bed).... Mr. Witty gets cookies first, food first --all that....

Makes me think all kinds of strange theological thoughts....

...that are interrupted by piles of leaves in the yard, hiding strange shadows... and the pit bull in the yard last night convinces me even more that we need to finish the fence and put up a gate... and I think of a locked gate and all... mostly because of the late-night knocks at the door, usually some one quite drunk --staggering drunk, and they think we should help because we are church people.... The word is already out on the street --don't come to the door drunk, she'll call the cops.... Joel's the one that put that out there.... It might even be true.

But, yesterday, before noon, we saw a guy on the street whom we know --and he asked for money --we said no and invited to come over to the house in an hour for a sandwich. He shows up at 10pm --saying it had been a very long hour --and we laughed.... but it's 18 degrees out --and Joel knows where he sleeps --so we fed him what we had for dinner (sausage and apple/cranberry stuffing --huge hunks of sausage because I make it even without a turkey to put it in), and he'll come back today.... maybe. He says he can't stay with relatives... which should be a big hint.... But we will try to give him more to sleep with --more to wear....

But I wonder at the Tribe not having a shelter... other than the jail.

And I am mentally preparing for the funeral of T --twelve years old.... well, as much as one can prepare. Mostly, I think, I am leaving plenty of room for the unexpected.... and I will need plenty of room for that.... There will be at least four pastors from different denominations present for the wake --and then I will do a funeral mass late that night --that is all fine --but then we will carry him down to the school auditorium on Monday morning and begin again --and this is when a local very fundamentalist will take over.... and I am already cringing.... what will be said to the kids in the presence of an open coffin?

I think that is where my real work begins, in the school auditorium.... that is where the 'plenty of room for the unexpected' will need 12 entrances and 12 exits --where I will have to call on all the spirits present --where I will have to be prepared to address the "he's gone to a better place" mantra that is so very comment and present here  --where I will know the bullies that pushed him to this place will also be in the room --and because I know that it is the anniversary of T's death --also suicide --also bullied, perhaps by the same kids --and that maybe T's death has as much to do with that as anything....

--and perhaps I should call upon the new Roman Catholic nun in town --who works at the hospital in mental health.... yes, I think I will.

--and, I ask for your prayers --for the kids here --a few years ago there were 105 suicides on the Reservation just to the north of us --most of them teen suicides.... Suicide is a way of life.... Here, in some instances, it seems the logical and rational decision....

From here:

His death was part of a “suicide cluster,” which occurs when knowledge of one suicide influences other people at risk.

Julie Garreau, director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project, said the suicide victims began to take on an exalted position among young people. For the funerals, many kids wrote the names of suicide victims like Alonzo on the rear windows of their cars and left them there.

“One of the teachers, my cousin, she said one of the kids asked her who those famous people are,” Garreau said.

The danger of glorifying suicide is magnified in isolated places such as Eagle Butte or McLaughlin, where teens say they have little to do but cruise Main Street or drink with their friends.

It's old news --but the story hasn't changed....

And there is this:
Frightening Realities Facing Children

Abuse, addiction, poverty, abandonment, gang violence, suicide … the list of realities facing Native American youth on South Dakota reservations is a harsh one. The statistics below put these realities in black and white and substantiate the need for services from the Cheyenne River Indian Outreach.

•The Gang violence is growing at a frightening rate across South Dakota reservations.
•For American Indians, suicide is the second leading cause of death ages 15-34.
•Victimization rate for American Indian children is 15.9 per 1,000 Indian children; this includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as neglect. Caucasian children have a victimization rate of 10.7 children per 1,000.
•Household conditions in many communities on the Cheyenne Indian Reservation are similar to those found in Third World countries. These conditions are caused, in part, by extreme poverty, desolation, substance addictions and more.
I ask for your prayers....

You know, if you came for a visit, you might look at the houses and say --well, that's not so bad. And you might be right --there are many that 'aren't so bad'. But I've been in a few of the 'not so bad' houses... and then I weep.

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 107, ending with verse 43)

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.

Little dogs and pit bulls... One man struggling to live... a child giving up on life...

I trust what Jesus said about God... and even so, I scratch my head and make room for grief and the stress of adversity and sorrow and ponder these things....

--without conclusion.
Such is life on the wide open prairie.


Friday, November 23, 2012

the jokes we can play on God because of the Incarnation

I am glad I brought in the soda pop that I was carrying in the back of the car as contributions to dinners... it's 10 (F) out, and there is nothing worse than exploded frozen soda pop.

Well --I guess there are some things worse... there we are. But I am glad I brought it in. I wouldn't want to be trying to clean up that mess today.

And this morning, as the sun rises, and Mr. Witty and Paeha snooze after their morning cookies and we finish up our coffee in front of the heat of the fire place, I find myself 'pondering'....
ponder (v.)
early 14c., "to estimate the worth of, to appraise," from O.Fr. ponderare "to weigh, poise," from L. ponderare "to ponder, to consider," lit. "to weigh," from pondus (gen. ponderis) "weigh" (see pound (n.1)). Meaning "to weigh a matter mentally" is attested from late 14c.

It's the last Sunday of the Church year.... The long endings begin.

I want to throw the Church calendar out the window, and begin Christmas now --not the throngs in the stores and long lines --oh God no, I HATE that mess... I consider it pornographic... but I want to put up cheap tinsel and sing the songs, even learn one in Lakota, and make the ginger cooky recipe our brother D sent us last year...

I wonder if the WalMart workers in Pierre or Rapid are striking today... or if they are grateful for the slave-wages and no benefit work conditions they get... and if they are striking, I want to fix hot chocolate and hot coffee and go show them our support... and I never, ever want to shop there again....

I wonder about my sisters and brother. They are all settled up and down the I-5 corridor, from Sacramento to Portland, OR... and me, the wild card.... but not so wild as I once was....

I was born with an older brother, but he struggled mightily the last few decades, and made a decision, and now I am blessed with three older sisters. When I confessed to her, saying, 'I will miss my older brother --I have loved you so much,' she said, 'I am still here.' And I prepare my heart for the warrior sister I have always dreamed of having. She will probably be the wisest of all of us.

I am distracted by the list in my head of things I am trying to remember to do today. This, that and the other thing. The phone calls I need to make. Then the letters I must write. One of the things on my list is to mess with a hat pattern --so that I can keep ears warm and all that. I have already spoken with one of those who stepped up in my absence and went to the hospital on Monday to minister to the family of T, 12 years old and dead. They did a wonderful job in such difficult circumstances. I must follow through with the other.

I am amazed that the temperature has dropped outside even though the sun has come up --it is 8 (F) degrees now...

And it should be rain and snow mix for the funeral on Monday. Yuck.

And a frequent theme in ponderings here --life itself. And sister death. All the clich├ęs --death is a part of life... NO. Death is the end of life. As we know it. Full stop. They've gone to a better place.... Oh HELL NO. That totally trashes this place --God's own creation that God called GOOD and loves --God's own blood given for us --not for some other place, but for life here and now. And if we catch on we can participate in the eternal life of God, here and now. Eternal life is not reserved for some later day --it is given to us, now....

Grandmere Mimi posted this in the comments yesterday:

Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
and makes me tread upon the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-20)
Y.E.S. And yes. Thank you Grandmere. And even when we have no strength left and our feet are bound in muck, and we are absolved of hope --God is still our strength, our life, our way....

At prayer this morning (Luke 18:1-8)

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.

He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’

For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

It is not to some other place the Son of Man comes --it is this place, this earth. This life.

The Kingdom Realm Place Life of God is upon us. I am going to keep knocking on the door for justice, for the People I serve, for the likes of WalMart workers --and my sister. I have lost heart before --I know what that wilderness is like. I do not fear it.

I will throw the calendar out the door. It is time to celebrate and make known The Incarnation. And my heart is glad.

Hey God, it's margaret. Knock, knock. Who's there? it's margaret. margaret who? The one who was grateful yesterday when, during grace, I asked everyone at the table what they were thankful for, and Deacon said she was thankful to be a child of God, because I wished I had said that too. Knock, knock. Who's there? it's margaret. margaret who? The one who keeps knocking. Knock, knock. Who's there? it's margaret. margaret who? I think you created me --you tell me. Knock, knock. Who's there? It is thyself.

Oooooo --the jokes we can play on God because of the Incarnation. heheheheeeee.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

in fully knowing God is our Great Thanksgiving

Monday afternoon, we drove to Rapid. Joel had a doctor's appointment early Tuesday, so we decided to make it a party --seeing as how Joel's BD was interrupted with a wake and funeral --so we went down Monday and spent the night at our favorite little downtown hotel, went out for dinner and slept in. Went to the doctor's appointment, got our oil changed, did some shopping we can't do in Eagle Butte, and then decided to spend another night --In the meantime, we discovered the Black Hills Humane Society.... And that's when Paeha happened.

He's a sweet little dog. Truly sweet. Mr Witty is still not so sure.... especially about the toys and about food.... Mr Witty WILL. NOT. SHARE. The good part for the moment is that Paeha doesn't seem all that interested in toys. He much prefers the running-try-to-catch-me game.

--coming home.... There were six messages on the phone, never a good sign. And, indeed, I am feeling guilty that we were not here so that I could have received them --I know about self-care and days off and all that... but this was a suicide... a twelve-year-old boy....

Lord. Have mercy.

So, the phone has been ringing off the hook --and I am so grateful for St. Mary's, Promise. I was supposed to go out there today for a Thanksgiving Day service --but one of the calls last night --they've cancelled the church service in order to be with the boy's family --to feed them, to pray with them --to BE church.

So, Joel and I will trundle up Mr. Witty and Paeha and go 100 miles east, along the River, and gather and give thanks at Ascension, Blackfoot --and share in the feasting there --and then we will come home --and I will continue over to where St. Mary's has gathered --and be present to the grief and give thanks to God for the good-hearted people who have gathered to be with this family.

At prayer this morning (from the Eucharistic lectionary for Thanksgiving Day, Matthew 6:25-33)

Jesus said:

I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-- you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

I suppose it might seem difficult and even cruel to give thanks to God under these circumstances.... But it is not an indifferent thanks we give --it is thanks for/from our very being --and sometimes the most honest offering we have is our grief and pain --which can come from the core of our very being, and at that moment is all that we have to give.

It is a perfect offering --and not a contradiction at all to giving thanks --in time, with spiritual discipline and maturity, it is all one. Not the "same" thing --but part of the wholeness of our being --and it is with our whole being that we are called to know God --and in fully knowing God is our Great Thanksgiving --fully knowing God in that we are caught up and hid in God in Christ.

So, I went looking for some thanksgiving music --and this is where I ended up --in the theater of musical absurdity.... Oh well!

Some days, that's exactly what's needed.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

the newest member of the family

Mr. Witty's not real keen on it all yet... he doesn't like to remember being rescued from jail himself... but, we'll work things out, I'm sure --because who can resist a face like this?

The newest member of the family

He came to us as Seamus --but we may call him Paeha --"Your Majesty", in Korean.... who knows his real name?! We'll find out. He was in the Black Hills Human Society --and he said "Please please please oh please I'll be good" in a way that made our hearts resonate. All 9-1/2 pounds of him --he's soooooo skinny.

Off we go --in another adventure.

Please pray for Mr. Witty whom we are putting first in all things --and please pray for Your Majesty, that his transition is easy and filled with love --and that he wins over the real ruler of the house --Mr. Witty.

At prayer this morning (beginning at James 3:13)

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish.

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Huh --a word for the church too.... I grieve --I lament the decision in the CofE rejecting women in full ministry of the church... and I grieve --I lament the schism decision in South Carolina.

Hey God, it's margaret --help us all get along. Our divisions grieve you --I know....

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I got me flowers to strew thy way

What my love sang to me this morning, as the sun rose, and filled the room with new light....

I got me flowers to strew thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and the East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

How's THAT to start the day!

At prayer this morning:

Help us, O God our Savior;
Deliver us and forgive us our sins.
Look upon your congregation;
Give to your people the blessing of peace.
Declare your glory among the nations;
And your wonders among all peoples.
Do not let the oppressed be shamed and turned away;
Never forget the lives of your poor.
Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you;
And your favor to those who are true of heart.
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;
So shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.
Off I go --no rest for the wicked.

Monday, November 19, 2012

gray clouds and works in heaven made by man

I can't really say why... but I had a terrible time preaching at the funeral. As I formed each word in my thoughts (yes, here I preach extemporaneously every time --it's expected) there loomed six voices in my head out-shouting one another saying No, Fake, Not That, Don't Go There... the dissenting voices formed an angry gray cloud that pushed back at me through the entire service....

When we finally got to the hand-dug-by-his-friends grave, --led there by his friends on horse-back, and we said the prayers and placed him in the grave, two young girls, nieces I think --each about five years old, stood trembling and crying loudly at each end of the grave while the coffin-bearers filled in the grave. They cried without mercy. Unrelentingly. Unconsoled. Soiling their hair. They cried so that no one else needed to or could cry. They gave voice to the grief for all.

They cried for the entire time it takes to fill in a grave, and then some. The sun had set the prairie pink, and the dappled horses blue and red by the time we got back to church.

The angry gray cloud turned incandescent. And disappeared in to the night.

I don't know where the cloud had come from --whether it was from my own work or the work of others... but there it was. And there it went. I am usually filled with self-doubt and blame, so I claimed the gray cloud as my own.

And the dinner served was abundant. The give-away was traditional with the proper songs sung and ceremony and sage....

I went home like an empty shell --disappointed in my own gray cloud.

Sunday, the church was packed in Dupree --with two baptisms and another feast --and at the second church in Thunder Butte, I rang the bell --and the six kids from the eighteen houses that had been out playing with snowballs came running across the road --is there going to be church? --will you feed us that stuff? Gabe went to that other church last Wednesday after school and he farted in the middle of the service and we all laughed and laughed. We saw you yesterday at T's funeral --so you can do this too?

--and they all sat in a single pew, like little peas in an pod.... What good is it to read them a story about huge buildings made of big stones....? Everyone knows that two-story buildings are a folly out here....

At the third church, in Bear Creek, the crowd grew to near twenty in the little church that is about 18 feet wide and 24 feet long in a village of eighteen houses nestled up by the hill at the side of the stream --I couldn't count all the children crawling under the pews and others stacking and re-stacking the chairs in the back of the room by the small blue children's table made of 2x4s. The candles weren't bright enough to read by, so I had to do even the Eucharistic prayer extemporaneously.... and afterwards, I heard the story about how all the women in a particular generation of the family were UCC because their mother was, and the boys went with their dad to the Episcopal church --and the question, is it alright if we worship at both when we get the chance? The UCC church isn't meeting right now --they have no pastor.... And we left in the dark. Prairie dark --dark so thick that without a moon one is blindfolded --even with your eyes wide open.

--and I almost didn't make it home for the mud in the road from a patch of melting snow....

--mud in the moon light with the dancing deer and the children's faces and the church on my shoulders....

Later, I heard that someone at the funeral really liked what I said... (they obviously couldn't see the cloud as I could...) but they really, really liked what I said and how I explained everything as I did it. And, of course, the cloud spoke back to me and said --are you feeding them what they want to hear, or are you giving 'em gospel margaret....

--what is this damn cloud....

At prayer this morning (James 2:14-26)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?

So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?

Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

Is that cloud my own little idol? Is self-doubt a good correction or an idol? I guess it depends... and that is why we need each other....

I listened to a version of this on the way home as I fought with the mud:

Huh. Such is our work.... oh yuck. But this is what people hear... over and over again....

{{{shudder}}} {{{{{{triple shudder}}}}}

Hey God --redeem even my preaching. Please. Because sometimes I think it's as bad as that song.

Off I go... in faith... trusting that the buildings of stone I make will be leveled and redeemed... that the suffering and wars and rumors of war are merely birth pangs --leading to new life....

--trusting that the only thing in heaven made by man was born of a woman and has a belly button and is fully human and fully God and rejected idols of every sort, including the tall buildings and even bread.... and that the resurrected Body still eats fish at a party and bears the wounds of love --not the scars of shame....

Off I go... in faith.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

G'wan. Go to church

[Jesus said,] "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs."

So.... it's not all the rumors and destruction and all that we need to be focused on... we must remember.... it's new life.

Oh. Well, that's easy. No problemo.

G'wan. Go to church. Lift up your head. Stand up. Keep your eye on the prize.

--or something like that.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quilts, death and food in heaven....

The highest bid for the star quilt is now $600.

I am somewhere between humbled, in awe, grateful and flabbergasted! Thank you to everyone who has been interested, passed the word along, made bids. THANK YOU!

And a special and huge thank you to Bonnie Anderson who came up with the idea, organized, and promoted the bids for the quilt. She will be receiving bids until Monday --to be safe, put your bid in early Monday. You may bid at her Facebook page, here --send her a private message and she will respond.

Thank you. And please keep the good people of the Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission and all who live here in your prayers.

Last night we began a funeral --with the all night wake. After the gathering, readings and prayers, I offered healing prayer and anointing. Folks who were present at the death were coming up and asking for prayers --they couldn't get the image of the death out of their mind's eye. Please keep them in your prayers.

So today we will complete the long and difficult journey to the graveside --and then return to the church and feast together --a foretaste of the Great Feast which awaits us all --marinated beef, fry bread, macaroni salad, potato salad, and probably cake. Sometimes there is the traditional soup of wild turnips and onions, boiled with dried meat. but vegetable eaters --beware....

--I wonder... what will we eat in heaven... --at that great feast... will the barnyard requirement of taking life to sustain life still rule? --will spare ribs or jerky be verboten? Will it be affirmed that vegetables have sensory perception too --and so eating them will be out of the picture... ?

I, for one, do not want to exist forever on spiritual food... I want a swimming pool full of tapioca pudding.... and to sip once again on Drambuie (alcohol long gone in our house in honor of my beloved's sobriety)... or perhaps champagne.... and cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto... ham biscuits--southern style....

Real food that requires death....

--and will I lay down my life in heaven too? --for a great life again?

At prayer this morning (beginning at Luke 16:10)

Jesus said, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Huh... replace "faithful" with thoughts of life and eternal life.... Is wanting a swimming pool of tapioca pudding (you know, made with real egg whites and real vanilla and all the real deal --not the prefab caacaa they try to sell in the market) --is wanting that being devoted to another master?

Hmmmmm.... does an Incarnate God infer the real deal in food?

Just wondering....

"read, mark, learn and inwardly digest..."

Joel says that what we eat in heaven is the Word of God....

Jesus said, I have food which you know not...

--well, heck....

Quilts, death, food in heaven....

Friday, November 16, 2012

master of ceremonies

A quick --very quick sort of prayer:

Happy Birthday to my beloved man --yes, born on my Saint's name day, so there was no hope for you from the beginning. I adore thee.

Thank you to Bonnie Anderson for the continued quilt auction --I cannot tell you how this has lifted spirits here as we are hunkering down for the winter. The auction is raising $$$ for heat --we do 50 funerals or so here a year as part of our outreach (most churches will only bury active members, and many do not allow other forms of prayer --such as Traditional Lakota prayer or the Drum --but we do). So --thank you Bonnie, thank you --and thank you to all who are participating in the auction. I am filled with gratitude and joy at the generosity --THANK YOU!

And, yes, last night was the anniversary to my being ordained as a priest. I am overjoyed that the Spirit finally knocked my man on the head (he was utterly opposed to the ordination of women for the first 25 years I knew him, and on the way home from church about 14 years ago he stopped the car and wept --and then before I knew it, there I was --in seminary). I feel fully alive and well used as a priest. Especially way out here in the center of every where.

And, today I have pastoral calls and a fund raiser in the church and a funeral --so off I go....

At prayer this morning (from James 1:16)

Do not be deceived, my beloved. Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Amen to that.
Guys at the door --wanting to be fed by the "master of ceremonies" --heheheheh!

Off I go.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

accept their untempered grief as a perfect offering of love

They said there were northern lights in these here parts night before last.

I missed them. I also missed the story as to why they happen --not the story about magnetism and solar flares and all that --but the old story of the people here... --the story that most likely describes northern lights in the most awesome way, so that one feels absolute humility, but also an intimate relationship with the event --a relatedness --a connection so deep and yet so obvious....

I don't know that story yet.... But, I hope to know it one day.

Last night, before the comfort service, I sat in the church and practiced my flute, and someone heard me and gave me the story of how the flute came to be --it was all about love, and a young man noticing the sound of the wind in the trees --how it whistled through the holes in the tree --so he made a flute and played it and hoped it would cause a certain girl to fall in love with him. There are other ceremonies, besides courtship, where the flute is used, but that story was not shared with me.... I hope that story has to do with love too.

--but, it all has to do with love, doesn't it? What else is there?

Joel was listening to some philosophical lectures from some ivy league college --he was fascinated and started to tell me. I listened for three sentences and then it hit me like a ton of bricks --contemporary philosophy is the new theology, but it is a-personal, which means there cannot be love... or can there be love without a persona... ?

--which is, I think, why the Christian world view speaks of a personal God --not that God has a relationship with me, personally --that God is my personal God.... But, that God has a persona --a diverse persona for Christians --distinct, diverse Father/Son/Spirit --but One --and with a personhood.

The Lakota, too, have peopled the cosmos....


At prayer this morning (Joel 2:21-27)

Do not fear, O soil;
be glad and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things!
Do not fear, you animals of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit,
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

O children of Zion, be glad
and rejoice in the LORD your God;
for he has given the early rain for your vindication,
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the later rain, as before.
The threshing floors shall be full of grain,
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent against you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

--a very personal God, who is intimately involved in the rain, and earth, grain, wine, oil, locusts --an earthy God who understands shame....

Hey God, it's margaret.... hear my prayer for your people --and I really don't know how to put into to words the transmogrification of my soul my whole being in this place --and the vanity that you even might care --or that the cosmos notices... but, since the old stories all say you created it all for us, for our joy, I thought I might just say thank you to you --whatever that means --but the captivating gratitude I feel... for the generosity --for all of it --the whole mysterious shebang.... And about those 20-somethings last night --accept their grief at the loss of their friend as an offering of love. I know it's probably not their first loss, but for some, I know it was a huge loss. I encouraged them to grieve in a holy way --not to mask the pain with drugs and alcohol, but to allow the emptiness they feel to filled with you... So, as you did for me and so many others I have known --accept their untempered grief as a perfect offering of love. And give me the imagination to tell the story of love again. That's all. Amen.

Oh --another perfect offering --sunrise through ice.

Sunrise through the ice on my window, Eagle Butte, SD

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What landscape do you see this morning?

The clouds look like a beach at low tide this morning --that rippled sand where the beach and water meet. And I am remembering the fable I heard once that the branches of trees resemble their roots --that what you see above ground is what is below ground (and I know that's not true because of redwood trees that don't have a deep tap root but merely a magnificent root ball) --but the sky-beach makes me wonder about our earthly boundaries --where does water begin and earth stop --or for that matter, where does water begin and air stop.... rocky, tide pool landmarks....

I am not interested in the science of why the sky looks like rippled beach sand --I am caught up in the wonder and awe that there is low tide above my head --fish ribs strewn every place I look.

And I have noted in the past week as the temperatures have plummeted, that the Rez Dogs --strong, short-lived dogs that live half wild and utterly devoted to their humans, have begun their winter routines --piling up and sleeping in the sun or under a house or porch somewhere during the day, and roving in packs at night --constant roving to keep warm and hunting through the garbage cans or eating the spirit food placed outside so many doors.... spirit food--a taste of everything from the kitchen and placed outside before we humans eat --to share with those things seen and unseen in this place.

And last night, as Mr. Witty and I went out --me keeping an eye out for the subtle moonlit movement of the dogs who leave their footprints in the snow through the backyard and Mr. Witty trailing them with his nose --last night the sky was clear and this time I was prepared to greet the sky with a prayer --my friends Orion and The Dippers... the Milky Way lost in the street lamps and security lights....

Last night the sky was clear, and this morning it is low tide above....

--what will the day bring? --what thing will I see that will take my breath away?

Deacon has said that one of the best things she likes about me is that she gets to see her own world, her everyday childhood home, through new eyes --because it would seem that most can't wait to drive fast through here in order to get back to the trees and things being hidden from view, or to the clamor of the city streets --being bored with the endless openness. But YOU, she says, YOU keep waking me up as we drive --you are always seeing something and making noise about it!

Deacon --shall I run over to your house this morning, bring you some of my cookies I made last night --cookies I tried to make with half the butter/shortening required, so they never went flat but just remained as the cookie-sheet spoonfuls that were put into the oven --shall I bring you some of those and drag you to your door and show you the beach and fish ribs in the sky?

my perfectly round, very tasty, low fat that never went flat oatmeal cookies

Yes, I think I shall --and you will laugh and tease me, but eat my cookies anyway... peppered with cinnamon....

And tonight, we begin the long journey to the graveside for the 20-something young man kicked by the cow --we shall gather when the sun goes down and begin the prayers of a comfort service and share a meal, offering the spirit of the young man some food....

I cannot say whether or not the sky will be clear or whether there will be fish bones and high tides, but I can imagine that the grief will be a landscape all its own... and yet familiar, with landmarks on the horizon upon which I will fix my gaze... and, God willing, find a path across the rough terrain, finding manna for the journey --picking up the falling fish ribs....

At prayer this morning... and when I went back to lift out the part of the Prophet Joel that got me going on fish ribs in the sky, I relented --and went with the gospel instead.... thinking to myself all the time --hey, we have the familiar landscape of The Good Shepherd --why haven't we ever yet had icons and stained glass windows over the altar of the Woman With the Coins....

dang it....

(beginning at Luke 15:1)

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’

Okay --so I googled for such an image... there are three.... three women searching for the lost coin....
--we can do better.


--so, off I go, picking up fish ribs under the low tide sky with round cookies --off to see Deacon ---God willing, ready to look for landmarks on the horizon in a landscape of grief...

--and Mr. Witty is barking and growling all curled up asleep in his little bed --what dream is it, my little dog? --what dream is it? What landscape do you see this morning?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Totally unabashed promotion... and, of course, prayer:

So, we are grateful to have a starting bid at $200 !!!!!

Send Bonnie Anderson a private message on her Facebook page with the amount of your bid. Late afternoon everyday, the amount of the highest bid will be posted on the Cheyenne River Episcopal River FB page.

If you see that you have been outbid and you want to increase your bid, send Bonnie a new bid in a message on her Facebook page.

The winner will be notified on November 19 after 6:00 p.m. (mountain time). Payment will be made to Cheyenne River Alms Fund.

More payment information will be given to auction winner. Personal or certified checks only accepted.

The Star Quilt took on the role of replacing the buffalo robe in ceremonial and religious life. Some of the designs draw upon hundreds of years of heritage, symbolism, and tradition.

The Cheyenne River Sioux [Lakota] Reservation is in central South Dakota, the fourth largest reservation in the USA. Beginning in the 1860s, The Episcopal Church undertook the establishment of Missions among the Lakota peoples. Today, the Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission serves the People of the Reservation through nine active congregations. In this past year, the Cheyenne River Reservation was the poorest place in the USA.

I am deeply grateful to Bonnie Anderson, former President of the House of Deputies of the The Episcopal Church, for coming up with this idea --she has been a guest at Niobrara Convocation (the gathering of Native American Churches in this region), and she remains deeply moved at the generosity and spirit of the People here. Thank you Bonnie.

If you do not have a Facebook account, leave me a note and I will send it to Bonnie.

Please tell as many folks as you know --I would be grateful if you repost this to Facebook for your FB Friends. St. John's is the largest church here on the Reservation, so it is used by many people, including our Hot Lunch program which is so critical here in the cold winter....

Heck --while you're at it, make a bid!

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song to the Lamb, Dignus es, Revelation 4:11, 5:9-10, 13)

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

And with Veteran's Day so fresh in my mind, there's this from the Daily Office:

6 More Americans Die in Afghan War, Including 3 New York Reservists

Total War Deaths: 8030

Iraq: Total Deaths: 4804

-no casualties this past week

Afghanistan: Total Deaths: 3226

GORNEWICZ, Brett E., 27, SPEC, US Army, Alden, NY, 412th Theater Engineer Command
JAYNE, Ryan P., 22, SPEC, US Army, Campbell, NY, 412th Theater Engineer Command
VENNE, Dain T., 29, SSGT, US Army, Port Henry, NY, 412th Theater Engineer Command
BUTTRY, Brandon L., 19, PFC, US Army, Shenandoah, IA, 2nd Infantry Division
CARLSON, Daniel L., 21, SPEC, US Army, Running Springs, CA, 25th Infantry Division

One Soul – Name not released yet


U.S. wounded in Afghanistan, as of September 15: 17,519 (Department of Defense)

Total Coalition Deaths, non-U.S. : Iraq, 318 (UK 179, Italy, 33, Poland 30) as of February 24, 2009

Total Coalition Deaths, non-U.S.: Afghanistan: 1059 (UK 425, Canada 158, France 88) as of August 20, 2012

Human Costs of War:

* more than 99,000 injured and 552,000 disability claims
* rates of suicide, divorce, and spousal or child abuse have doubled or more among military families since the wars began

Source: “Costs of War,” Eisenhower Study Group, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, June 2011

* Other reports have found that at least 217,000 of the 1.6 million troops that have returned from the wars suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), 165,000 have been diagnosed with depression, and 1,600 have lost at least one limb.

Source: The New York Times

Estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq range from 105,000 to 1,033,000
For information, click here.

Estimates of civilian casualties in Afghanistan range from 17,000 to 37,000
For information, click here.

Monday, November 12, 2012


It was cold Saturday. It was twenty-nine degrees (F) and rainy on and off... ice created rampant structures everywhere. We had a funeral for M, buried a sister, auntie, cousin, mother, grandmother. She had planned her own give-away, collected stuff for years --ever since her husband died --and it took an hour  for the eight grandchildren to distribute the gifts. M was a quilter --so in the mix of give-away stuff were pieced quilt tops.

We drove the 40 miles east to the cemetery --very slowly, looking for the patches of ice. We were the only traffic to speak of on the road --the main highway that runs east to west. She was wrapped in a heavy blanket as we gave her back to mother earth --we gathered around, the wind cutting through us with a biting minus-four windchill. I looked around as the singers sang the Traditional song, I looked for you, but I couldn't find you, where are you, where have you gone?  --and I realized all the children stood around the gaping hole in the earth wrapped in star quilts --probably made by their mother... a constellation of love as they bade her farewell.

Sunday morning was even colder. So cold the double doors to the church were frozen shut. I had to go outside and chip the ice away--come back inside and do the same... and by the time I got back outside, more ice had formed. I finally won the battle... got the doors open ten minutes before church was to begin. And we filled the church --a happy excitement rushed among us --greeting one another and the cold and the snow.

Then I put Deacon and a lay reader in the car and we drove, very slowly, the road to Cherry Creek. I had received three phone calls --are you coming? --are you really coming? Yes, I would say --and then ask if the roads were dangerous --well, they would say, it's winter.... So we got there, safely, and somebody had lit a fire earlier, but it was only smoldering when we arrived --and that's when I learned that the really cool portable propane heaters M bought for us required batteries... so, we messed some more with the fire, knocked the dreadful chill off --gathered around the stove together and prayed, shared bread and wine --and then some chili.

it's 18 degrees (F) outside, maybe 32 degrees inside --but 21 of us gathered in St. Andrew's, Cherry Creek, SD

One the way home I was overwhelmed (again) with the wild beauty of this place, and got out and snapped a picture of the hills lightly brushed with snow --hills behind the river valley --that's the Cheyenne River that stretches all the way to the foot of the Black Hills. Cherry Creek is at the confluence of the Cheyenne and what's now called Cherry Creek --French fur trappers noted a settlement there in the early 1700s.... The People have lived there for a very long time. And I was thinking about that, and then my camera froze and wouldn't take the shot of the wild horses, so I gratefully clambered back in to the car.

And, then I got back home, a pot of tea in the making --and got two calls --two funerals --two young men... one died because he got kicked by a cow, hurt his lungs and got pneumonia and sepsis... not yet 30 years old. The young man, about 32 years old --I am not sure how he died, but he was found behind the Post Office. Too much caffeine, I was told....

--and the cow jumped over the moon....

And then another young man called --it was just as we were starting dinner and settling in to watch our Korean historical soap opera on the computer --and he needed a ride over to the police station. I went and found his house in the dark night, gave him a ride over --waited for him to check in with the police -and then drove him back to his house.... He wanted me to drive him 40 miles round-trip to Dupree so that he could pick up some clothes, but I said no. Not right then. Though I didn't tell him at the time, I suppose I will, one day soon... but not right then.

And now, I will go shovel Deacon's walkway --we got her some nifty crampons because the ice can be so treacherous... got some for ourselves too... I finally talked Joel in to some winter boots... and I will meet the family to plan a funeral in just a few....

--and I am still being fed gratitude  --grateful for the church services yesterday --for the snippets of glory I see all around --grateful for all those un-nameable things....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Luke 14:12)

Jesus said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Yes. They cannot repay you....

--and we can never repay them for what has been done....

But, perhaps together....


Sunday, November 11, 2012

G'wan, go to church

I have seen the widow's mite at work here. And, we have been the recipient of many such widow's offerings too.

Wopila tanka mitakuye oyasin! (Great thanks all my relatives!)

Sunrise, November 11, 2012

And thank you to all who have served in a war zone. You are especially in my prayers today.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

praise him and highly exalt him forever

It's 29 degrees.... and raining. Uggghhhh! It rained and froze all night --froze on the branches and stems, and now it is dangerous to step outside the door because of the falling ice!

Joel --who HATES winter (he has always said he doesn't want to die in winter --too cold-- (as if it would matter!)) --even he wishes it would snow.

So, we've had our cuppa, gonna eat some hot oatmeal --and then go over to the church for a funeral and then travel 80 miles for the burial. Perhaps it will be snow by then... the weather gadget says it is a 90% chance of snow.... we'll see.

Whatever it ends up being, it's gonna be messy and cold out on the hill that is the cemetery in LaPlant. I will have to carry all the gear, that's for sure --and the boots... and the gloves, oh yes, time to put gloves back in my pockets, Precious.

I love the way winter stuff like this makes me soooo conscious.... Tomorrow, the high is supposed to be 18 degrees --VERY conscious....

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song of Creation
Benedicite, omnia opera Domini
Song of the Three Young Men, 35-65)


Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

I The Cosmic Order

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord, *
O heavens and all waters above the heavens.
Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew, *
all winds and fire and heat.
Winter and Summer, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold, *
drops of dew and flakes of snow.
Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O nights and days, *
O shining light and enfolding dark.
Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Off I go.
Please pray for the family of M, and all those who come to share in their grief.

Friday, November 9, 2012

even in the mundane

All the thermometers say it's 29 outside.... Mr. Witty and I went out quickly while the coffee was preparing, but didn't stay long. We both slipped on the wooden step by the garage. I think it is a day to hunker down.... But I have a funeral to prepare for....
Overcast with ice pellets and a chance of rain, then ice pellets and a chance of snow in the afternoon. Fog early. High of 39F with a windchill as low as 16F. Breezy. Winds from the ESE at 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Chance of precipitation 40% .
Friday Night
Overcast with a chance of snow and a chance of rain. Fog overnight. Low of 32F with a windchill as low as 25F. Breezy. Winds from the East at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 70%.
Overcast with snow. Fog early. High of 36F with a windchill as low as -4F. Windy. Winds from the NNW at 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph. Chance of snow 80% with accumulations up to 2 in. possible.
Saturday Night
Overcast with a chance of snow in the evening, then mostly cloudy. Low of 10F with a windchill as low as -9F. Windy. Winds from the NW at 20 to 35 mph with gusts to 45 mph. Chance of snow 30%.

I used to hear forecasts like that and shake my head --why would anyone live in such a place?

Now I know.... An elemental part of me delights in such weather --it's time to be still, time to tap in to the vulnerabilities of being alive, time to wonder in awe without confidence, time to remember how dependent we are upon each other.

And that gives me great comfort. A strange comfort, yes, but comfort. Not for my own sake --but for the sake of all --we can remember, together, the best parts of being human. All around town there are doors that are being opened to relatives --the guys I know on the street, or those that hang out by the cedar tree will have a roof over their heads because their mother's sister's granddaughter will make a place for him.

So, while the temperature drops, the human heart will warm and be pushed ever more in to that realm....

However.... thinking about the funeral..... {{{{shudder}}}} -4 windchill in the snow.
(That would be -20C for those thinking in Celsius.)

But, first there is today --and I have managed to accomplish those mundane things --fix the heater in the parish hall and find a plumber to fix the leak (someone turned the air conditioner on and the line to the condenser froze and the furnace was a lump of ice which didn't work when it finally thawed). And I have a few more mundane things to do (the vacuum --oh, never mind... let's just say I will be the one to clean the church today).

So, off I go....

At prayer this morning (Canticle: Second Song of 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.
--in all the ways 'He' wills to be found.... Even in the mundane.... Amen.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

the vacuum shredding, gravity denying burning cold of the stars

Last night we stopped on our way home from Rapid --on the two lane road that runs from Howe's Corner to Faith, at the crossroad to Red Scaffold. We stopped the car on the edge of the road, turned the motor and lights off, and stepped out under the open sky.

At first I was startled, because I hadn't seen that many stars in a very long time --and the milky way spilled across the sky... and then I was surprised at the silence... and then it seemed as though the stars weren't that far away --that some, like old friends, the 7 sisters, Orion, the Dippers --they moved closer, greeting us....

I felt my ancestors move in me --finally, a familiar landscape, with its own place names still intact. I remembered when I was reading old maps for a research project, and was amazed at the ephemeral landmarks chosen to describe boundaries --the oak tree fifty paces west of the stream that cuts down the valley --the pile of rocks at the end of the row of trees 20 chains east.... but this ancient landscape above me... probably as familiar to my people who used flint to start fires, carried coal in a hollow cow's horn from one camp to the next --and they saw it and were glad... --unlike the ribbons of tarmac we've used to tie the earth in unfamiliar humps, the urban trajectories of cement and metal and pierce the sky and hide the hills.... But, the stars... this they knew. And they moved in me....

And standing there in the absolute dark, a certain fear gripped me --more than the low rumble of an approaching set of trucks --still miles away, advancing like beasts growling an approach over the worn path of the highway...

We stood there at the crossroad of Faith and the road to Red Scaffold.... it was not the feeling of grateful puny-ness --it was more like the old friends of my childhood sky were known more completely --the vacuum shredding, gravity denying burning cold of the stars and planets so long ignored or hid from sight were going to lay waste to my soul. --It was more than just being vulnerable which leaves the soul intact...

I had stepped out of the car to glory in the star-light... puffed up with remembrances and familiarities and ancestors.... And it was not to be so. I had begun the wrong way. I had to start over.

I realized suddenly that I was now going to have to meet the sky on its terms.... and I had nothing to offer --no sage, no prayer, no song. I had stepped out of the car to claim the sky. I had begun all puffed up ready to be awed in the ways I wanted....

And it was a certain fear --but it wasn't fear of an imminent demise or pain. It was that I had drawn close to something holy in the wrong way... barged in to the night without thought --like an inappropriate sightseer. And I had the overwhelming urge to hide until I could begin again. In a sacred way.

So, I jumped in to the car, telling Joel he had better do so as well... and we ran....

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 71)

But I shall always wait in patience, *
and shall praise you more and more.
My mouth shall recount your mighty acts and saving deeds all day long; *
though I cannot know the number of them.
I will begin with the mighty works of the Lord GOD; *
I will recall your righteousness, yours alone.
O God, you have taught me since I was young, *
and to this day I tell of your wonderful works.

And now that I am old and gray-headed,
O God, do not forsake me....

The prairie teaches me... that looking at the night sky is like looking at the face of God....

--and, for some reason, this came to mind, so... just so I don't get tooooooo serious in wonder and awe....

Hey God, it's margaret. In all humility, I am not ready to give my liver up to the powers that be. So, thank you for the night sky, and the reminder that you are holy and what that really means. Or something like that. Amen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

tribal politics

I will not link to the page... but some conservatives are calling for hunkering down, employing survival tactics, taking care of one's own tribe first.... make lots of money, help others you know to do so too --survival, survival, survival....

Yes --the descriptor "tribe" really was used....

And then the cry --but it is in God's hands, the path to destruction is God's plan to prove that we should not put our trust in the state or in man --but only in God....

Oh my.

I guess the conservative body took a real blow last night --and the reaction speaks not so much to the loss, but to the fact that they did exactly what they said they didn't do --put their hopes and trust in government to shape the world they live in.

And the open use of "tribe" --still shuddering from the thought of tribal politics --tribal warfare.... And they call themselves Christians.... I guess some truly don't understand that we are One.

As for me --the malignancy of capitalism will still grow unchecked. Corporations and their billionaires will rule buy our government. Lobbyists will still "educate" to sway public opinion. We will continue on our blind path to pollute and destroy our environment. The poor will remain poor and get poorer and the rich will get richer and connive to keep it that way. Health care and education will remain unequal.

I think perhaps it has always been so. But some governments actively ignore the lives of those it consumes for its own well-being, while some do not. I believe we have elected the government that will not actively ignore the lives of the least --so, in this I am relieved.

--but I also fear that the anger and division will become even more entrenched --and even violent. The 'tribal' warfare will become more-so.

And true change will have to be made heart by heart, soul by soul. And few will be those who give their lives, their all, to the unworthy, the unrepentant, the undeserving....

At prayer this morning (portions of Psalm 72)

Give the King your justice, O God, *
and your righteousness to the King’s son;
That he may rule your people righteously *
and the poor with justice;
That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
and the little hills bring righteousness.

He shall defend the needy among the people; *
he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.
He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
from one generation to another.
He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, *
like showers that water the earth.
In his time shall the righteous flourish; *
there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more.


For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, *
and the oppressed who has no helper.
He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; *
he shall preserve the lives of the needy.
He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, *
and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

Long may he live!
and may there be given to him gold from Arabia; *
may prayer be made for him always,
and may they bless him all the day long.
May there be abundance of grain on the earth,
growing thick even on the hilltops; *
may its fruit flourish like Lebanon,
and its grain like grass upon the earth.
May his Name remain for ever
and be established as long as the sun endures; *
may all the nations bless themselves in him and call him blessed.

Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel, *
who alone does wondrous deeds!
And blessed be his glorious Name for ever! *
and may all the earth be filled with his glory.
Amen. Amen.

Off I go --praying to God that I will throttle in myself any attempt to be the defender of my own cause....

Through a kind and generous gift, I am going to go buy a portable heater today!
Thank you M, thank you.

Wopila tanka!!!
Big/great happy thanks!