Monday, December 31, 2012

And I see the Living Christ in them.

There's a new girl hanging out with the cedar tree guys this morning. She's so tiny I thought they were kids walking to school, and then Joel reminded me --there is no school today. So, there she is, with them, and they are drinking already --it's just 8am....

We heard this song on the radio yesterday--this morning she is a living portrait of it...

Yesterday, Sunday, was a fifth Sunday of the month --and I have fifth Sundays off. But I would go to church anyway --and not driving 180 miles or so and doing three services or so IS a day off --so, Joel and I went to church together in here at St. John's --fifty feet from our door. And I did preach and celebrate --and I began by saying if I were to be stranded on a desert island, and I had only this little bit o' scripture --I would be satisfied. I would be forever filled. Because this little bit o' scripture is all in all --it is enough....

Yesterday's Gospel (John 1:1-18)

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into being.

What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.
He was in the world,
and the world came into being through him;
yet the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who received him,
who believed in his name,
he gave power to become children of God,
who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh
or of the will of man,
but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father's only son,
full of grace and truth.
From his fullness we have all received,
grace upon grace.
The law indeed was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God.
It is God the only Son,
who is close to the Father's heart,
who has made him known.

--There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'")
Yeah... I put all the stuff about John the Baptizer at the end, so as not to interrupt the great Hymn... Actually, Sandra Schneiders suggests that the Gospel of John was written like a Greek Tragedy --and that there was a chorus --which also acted the parts of the crowds, the protagonists who actually speak, and a narrator who tells the bits inbetween --and this opening hymn --yes, it is believed that these first few verses were actually a well-known hymn, was sung by the choir while the narrator told the bit about John the Baptizer --setting the stage for us, so to speak.

But I digress... because what I wanted to say is that this part of this gospel encourages me to see God In All Things (panentheism, not pantheism) --that the WORD spoken at the very beginning and became light and dark, water and earth, sun and moon, stars and planets and rock and living creatures of the air, earth and waters --and also became known to us in living flesh and blood.

And when Christ holds up the bread at the table and says, This is my Body --we are looking at all that it takes to make that bread --the sun, the moon, the stars in their courses --the wind, the rain, this our mother earth --all living things and human hands to harvest and make the bread --ALL is His Body. Same with his life blood --the living blood of the first fruits...

It is cosmic. Absolutely cosmic.

And when I look around --all I see is God --all I see is the One Who Holds All Things In Being.

--and, all I see is Christ --the Living Christ, or Christ Crucified.... All is Christ.

And that cosmic vision is still shaking me today....

And when I see them, young, sturdy --and standing behind the cedar tree trying to loose their vision and hold on things...  I weep. Christ Crucified.

--and it's too cold out even for angels to fly this morning....

So, instead, I will go pick up the Itancan (Lay Leader of our Mission churches_ who just called --and we will eat breakfast --and we will talk about this.... and so much else.

But, off I go, without time to reflect much this morning --without catching my breath...

I can't find the link --but there are runners who have made the journey commemorating the survivors of Wounded Knee --running from Pine Ridge back to Takini and Cherry Creek --they arrive home today, just as their ancestors did in 1890....

God bless the runners. (And I see the Living Christ in them.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

I was left all alone --where then have these come from?

We name things to give them context. We name things to help us understand them. We name things to give them a place in our cultures --relationships. 

When a spouse dies, we name the survivor --widow or widower. When parents die, we name the child an orphan.

We have no name for a parent that loses a child. It is a nameless place to be --we have no social context for childless parents....

At prayer this morning (Isaiah 49:13-23)

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the LORD has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
Your builders outdo your destroyers,
and those who laid you waste go away from you.
Lift up your eyes all around and see;
they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, says the LORD,
you shall put all of them on like an ornament,
and like a bride you shall bind them on.

Surely your waste and your desolate places
and your devastated land -
surely now you will be too crowded for your inhabitants,
and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
The children born in the time of your bereavement
will yet say in your hearing:
“The place is too crowded for me;
make room for me to settle.”
Then you will say in your heart,
“Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away -
so who has reared these?
I was left all alone -
where then have these come from?”

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I will soon lift up my hand to the nations,
and raise my signal to the peoples;
and they shall bring your sons in their bosom,
and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
Kings shall be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,
and lick the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the LORD;
those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.

How long, Father? How long?

I was left all alone --where then have these come from?
--and the childless shall have many children....

Last night I was privileged to be present when the Baby was named --the Baby we will bury tomorrow. The Grandpas (Lala in Lakota) sang, we prayed in all four directions, an eagle feather was presented, and he was named Maka Asi Sni Hoksila, Boy Who Never Walked on Earth.

Another Holy Innocent.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Grazing for headlines (sans TV) just to find out what's going on --mostly looking for weather channels with video that actually report weather for this part of the country --mostly it's Pacific coast and the northeast... which doesn't help here at all.

But, I found these stories through the Huffpost by Bill Moyers --the most under reported stories of 2012. And, on headline reads: "The great underreported story of 2012 is the accelerated spread of poverty and concentration of wealth in the United States." -- Don Hazen, Executive Editor of Alternet

Actually, all the headlines that haven't been headlines are pretty devastating. But the one on poverty... it's all I've been praying about.... For months now....
“Extreme poverty means having an income of less than half the poverty line. That’s less than $9,000 a year for a family of three. The stunning fact is that in 2010, there were 20.5 million people who had incomes that low. And perhaps even more disturbing — 6 million people have no income other than food stamps.”

And this story, on reporting in general...
The real reporting crisis involves the inability of the mainstream to connect the dots, almost any dots, or display any kind of historical memory, or include in its daily reporting the sort of information that would make real sense of the “news.”

--be it poverty, war, global warming, whatever --we have no historical memory.

Bingo. No. Historical. Memory.

Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the Dakota 38 (+2). But who remembers the largest mass execution in US history?
The United States and Dakota leaders negotiated the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux on July 23, 1851, and Treaty of Mendota on August 5, 1851, by which the Dakota were forced to cede large tracts of land in Minnesota Territory to the U.S. In exchange for money and goods, the Dakota were forced to agree to live on a 20-mile (32 km) wide Indian reservation centered on a 150 mile (240 km) stretch of the upper Minnesota River.

However, the United States Senate deleted Article 3 of each treaty during the ratification process. Much of the promised compensation never arrived, was lost, or was effectively stolen due to corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Also, annuity payments guaranteed to the Dakota often were provided directly to traders instead (to pay off debts which the Dakota incurred with the traders).

--so they were starving, their land gone, the buffalo gone, no compensation, what little compensation that did arrive was stolen by the white traders... and the Dakota decided to defend themselves.... The healing from 19th Century atrocities has only just begun.

Any of us can spin the story every which way. But even the US government agrees that it has done wrong, and has been paying settlements to the tribal governments.

But, I remain unconvinced that throwing money at the wrongs, past and present, is going to make things come out right.

We need a change of heart --and I do not believe that will happen either. Maybe one by one, God willing, --but a systemic change? N.O. I can say that freely. Because I have both an historical and religious memory. And any of you that gather at an altar on Sunday will remember that attempts to obliterate innocence and joy are always present. And any of you who pray the psalms know that too. And any of you who have the slightest inkling of Holy Innocents know.

And there can be only one response.


Love enough to join in the suffering.
Love enough not to fight violence with more violence.


As I reflect upon the circumstances of the people I serve, I am reminded that I did not consider myself clueless when we came here. But I was. In so many ways. I "knew" about the effects of generational poverty --I lived in the outskirts of Berkeley, California --I had seen the ghettos by the Bay... I was nine when my father took me and we participated in part of the walk to Sacramento for farm worker's rights --my family boycotted grapes... meat... you name it. I was raised with an awareness, a political activism, I devoted my academic career to remembering (B.A. and M.A. in history) --I thought I "knew"....

But, this week, as I prepare to bury the fourth child in as many months --the third infant, I now know I knew in my mind and heart and soul.... but I truly did not know in the ways that count. Poverty kills the innocent. Poverty kills.

How could I know in my mind, my heart and my soul, but not know in the ways that count?

Couple the burial for which we prepare with the Dakota 38, and Wounded Knee, which is remembered on the day after Holy Innocents (the 28th of this month) --couple those living memories with devastating poverty and the abundant effects of such --drugs, alcohol, domestic violence --the whole context becomes a morass of woundedness which is largely ignored or forgotten by those who can forget. Suppress. Deny. Forget. Throw money at it.

And I think... I can hardly remember paved roads, fire departments closer than 40 miles, hospitals that diagnose accurately and fairly consistently, schools that teach, markets with fresh food that is not half-way spoiled already, tended gardens, fences, patios, sidewalks --the necessities, "treats" and niceties of ordinary life...

--and we celebrated the birth of a poor, marginalized, homeless boy in a cement room with wood heat --heat from trunks of small downed trees gathered from along the creek... and we were all grateful to share spam sandwiches and mashed potatoes... --and I read stories of grand celebrations in cathedrals... and I grieve....

I was clueless. And I still remain largely so. There will be parts I can never ever know. Even so, I wonder if I will ever be able to go 'back'....

Yesterday I spoke with the priest in Rapid who went in my stead to be with the family who had just lost their baby. Did you baptize the baby? I asked, spurred to the question because the family was calling, calling --the baby hasn't been baptized. No --we don't baptize the dead --we have no need to baptize the dead, the other priest said.

Right. And theologically true. The words of my liturgy instructor still ringing in my head --the sacraments are for the living, and only the living --the dead have no use for them....

Right. And theologically true.

But clueless. Absolutely clueless. It is the living that need the sign, a sign, any sign, the embrace from the church --not a theological statement. Especially over the body of a dead baby.

And, so, I will make a sign --I will do something --a full baptismal rite? No. --an emergency baptism? No. But I will make a sign --somehow, I will embrace the terror of the living God in whom there is no difference between the living and the dead because all are alive in him --and I will make a sign.

And I will confess my cluelessness... and continue to love and live in and amidst desperate circumstances --which could be changed if we had the will for it... but, somehow, just somehow, I doubt we will... Instead we will deny, suppress, forget. Throw money at it.

At prayer this morning (Proverbs 8:22-30)
The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth -
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always.
Wisdom. Sophia. The Jews see and hear.... Christians have named Christ the Sophia. Christ, Sophia, Wisdom, the Word spoken at creation --the Word IS creation --the first act, before the beginning of the earth...

--and now, in the Eighth Day of Creation --in the new creation, the Word became human flesh and dwells among us --poor, marginal, homeless, persecuted. Creation itself.... denied, suppressed, forgotten...

And eventually dead. Crucified by both the oppressed and the powerful. (Who wants to change?) Buried in a rock. And the women, in love, have gone to anoint his dead body.

And when they return with the unbelievable story, the men doubt and have to go check it out with their own eyes.

And so we go, round and round....

And, so... in love... I will prepare to yet again anoint another innocent dead body...

--no longer as clueless as I once was...

--and as ignorant as ever...

--but trusting in that hope....
And remembering.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas --we got eleven more days!!!!

Three days. Seven Christmases. Never would I have thought... never imagined... bags filled with nuts and candy brought so much joy and laughter... so many purple and pink trees... so many children running around oblivious to the cold... so many little girls in sequin dresses...

In Cherry Creek, yesterday, the wood stove was hot --the room was smokey --we pushed the pews up around the edge of the room, moved benches close to the fire, put the hot mashed potatoes right next to the stove --and we prayed and laughed and shared bread and wine and then hot mashed potatoes and spam and egg sandwiches and some pumpkin pie. The children laughed and ran and screamed and ran, little ones chasing after the big ones, turning and the big ones chasing after the little ones.

At one end of the room the blue tree was covered with tinsel and purple and red ornaments --colored lights blinked on and off. C and I had piled the Christmas presents there. The six older girls decided they wanted to sing for us --and they did, a surprise concert. It was wonderful. Voices filling the room steeped in laughter.

And then it started to snow.

And in the jumble of everything, the gifts were distributed --I had no idea if the presents were for a boy or girl, age 6 or age 12.... so I told the kids if the present was not for them, they would have to find the person it belonged to... and they did. One seven year old received a fancy treat of hair spray, and all the older girls helped her find the one it belonged to, and then waited patiently while she --after two more packages that were not right --discovered the Barbie doll waiting just for her.... Some of the boys got remote-controlled cars --and everyone got hats and gloves --some with ears like kitties.

We all knew we were at the center of the universe --all things revolved around us --spinning Christmas paper and milky ways of discarded packages....

I had carried with me the phone call I received early on in the morning... a young woman, pregnant, due next month... the baby died inside her and they were inducing labor. What horrid pain and grief. On this day of rejoicing. My prayers settled in to that place where grief and joy are coupled, and offered like the sun and moon, like day and night.... And it wasn't off kilter --all the elders were in that place too --watching the joy and surprise and unmitigated glee. And remembering. Remembering the lights and warmth at church in their own day...  missing those now long gone, some of them buried in the earth just across the creek, others wandering already half-dead zombies --their spirit stolen by drugs or alcohol. Remembering.

I got home just before the sun went down --dropped off the lay reader, C, who had come with me --and then I went to the hospital. One of the elders. I will go back today. I think her spirit is getting very thin. Starved for home. Her family gathered around her, knowing.

And, I will pray... giving thanks for the brand new snow we have this morning. A fresh bit of wonder that isn't so much falling, but seems like it is just pulled from the air. Like so much else....

At prayer this morning (Canticle: You are God, Te Deum laudamus)

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.

The joy.
The joyous melancholy...

There we are.
Off I go.
Merry Christmas --and remember --we got eleven more days!!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

--all the answers we need are found looking at a baby

Merry Christmas!

Mr. Witty, playing cat to get to the bones M sent, that rest at the feet of San Anselmo

Mr. Witty climbed as high as he could to discover the hidden bones --a gift from M --THANK YOU M!!!

And here is a smile that I find irresistible --and I was trying to get him to smile his wider grin, because all he wants for Christmas is his two front teeth!

--and here we are, learning how to bless things, in this case the oranges and apples and small bags of candy and toys (think stockings!)

the children learning to bless stuff

At prayer this morning (portions of 1 John 4:7-16)

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he [first] loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
Yeppa --there we are.

--as Joel said in the sermon last night --all the answers we need, they are found looking at a baby.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

becoming just like us

Okay. It's cold. The dogs woke me up --wanted to go out. So we trundled to the door, and I glanced at the thermometer... it was way below zero. And this is what is coming:

Overcast with a chance of snow. High of 9F with a windchill as low as -17F. Winds from the ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of snow 30%.

Monday Night
Overcast with a chance of snow. Low of 3F with a windchill as low as -13F. Winds from the North at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of snow 30% with accumulations up to 1 in. possible.

High of 9F... shhheeeeeeez! Yesterday, our 20% chance of snow happened --we got the whole 20% all day long. Deacon and I drove to the Missouri, and then took the day making our way back, mostly on icy gravel back roads.

The first church had brought in a heater that made a noise like a jet engine -their usual heaters just weren't cutting it. But the children ran around and warmed us all --and then there was the food.

The second church, the heater wouldn't turn on in the church, so we turned a table into an altar in the parish hall, and I brought in the portable kerosene heaters (a gift --THANK YOU) and we celebrated around the table and told the stories of Christmas Past, shared the tears and the longing, missed old friend and relatives long since gone.... We all remembered church as being central to the holiday. And the elders hoped the children would as well. We shared the bread and wine, cleared the table, ate hot chicken soup and one big biscuit that we broke apart --another communion....

And then the children ran outside --oblivious to the cold, to run and fall and roll in their overstuffed snow clothes and return with their bright red cheeks and runny noses.

Then Deacon and I packed up God in a box and went on to the third church --standing at the rise of the hill where the valley turns and the horses graze in the cemetery where the lightening strikes --always, in the spring of the year. And the parish hall lights glowed through the snowy billows, Christmas tree lights in garish colors reserved for those abundantly rich in the Spirit who always dwell in the economic fringe. The children dashed around in anticipation. A church in North Carolina provides gifts for every child in town --an endeavor that takes months of planning and list building and knowing which grandma is taking care of which children this year. It is a miracle. All accomplished by a handful of good folk, determined. The children all receive two gifts and a lovingly hand-sewn bag of scrap material (no stockings to spare here) stuffed full of an orange, a bag of peanuts, small funny toys, and, of course, Christmas candy.

A miracle. A miracle --and every pew of the church is full --yes, instead of saving on the fuel and heating only the parish hall, there is the Christmas splurge --the church is warm, and we sing in Lakota and raise the roof... the wasps slumber in their mud nests, the small birds crowd the eaves, the horses prick their ears and stomp their feet --blowing clouds that shine from the light through the church windows --we thank God for being born poor and sleeping with the cows and the donkey and the sheep, and knowing what we know --we thank the Creator for life, for all of it.

And I hold silently in my heart what Mary ponders --the coming bloodshed as power slaughters the innocent, the disaster of forgiveness, the broken unkept promises to be discarded --the contract to fulfilled for us by one just like us and yet so very different... to think what it means to be made of earth and have the Spirit blown in to you --to be earthly beings with a heavenly vision, to be made One, heirs of the eternal --subject, object --beloved. --and what chaos that brings to the natural order...

--or, perhaps, that is the natural order....

At prayer this morning (Luke 1:67-80)

Then John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days. 
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins. 
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

That was east --towards the rising sun, towards the River of Life. Today I head west, back the road to Thunder Butte, up to On the Tree.

And there will be more miracles.
And we will sing.

And we will thank the Creator for becoming just like us.
Complete with a belly button.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

--to see God's Name on every face today....

The snow glitters differently in the moon light. It isn't the same frolic as mid-afternoon sun caught in the brittle surface of the snow... it is as though the ghosts got out, and wandered, leaving trails of their tears shining and bits of their gossamer hopes and memories.

The snow and moon light bring a solemn hope laced with these ancestral paths, bring a song that lifts mourning out of the crevices of our lives, out of the corners where we do not often sweep away the old leaves of a spring promise now discarded.

A Saturday funeral, begun as the sun disappeared yesterday and the moon showed only half her face. We prayed to be open to the Spirit. We prayed for God to make the cold rocky cleft that is our heart into the tomb and then womb of new life. We prayed that our grief be a holy offering. We prayed for the children who are changed in untold ways by this death.

I prayed for his friends and nephews who could hardly stand, who couldn't walk, who burst into angry threats at the open air. I prayed for all those in the vise of addiction.

38 years old. And the liver gives out. That's a lot of drink. That is an impossible amount of drink.

This is the fourth drinker under forty that I will bury this year.

I have discerned that there are two types of suicide on the Reservation --fast and slow. The fast suicide is by gun or knife or hanging or overdose or purposeful car wreck. These are acts of despair. The slow suicide is by food or drink or drugs. These are acts of self-loathing.

But in the moonlight, it is only the trail of the ancestors --the fragile uncommon light of a hope not our own.... A hope that is less a shroud and more a veil that lets one see dimly....

And if I speak of the hope that is in me --of the feast prepared for us --a feast of rich food and fine drink.... If I speak of the hope that is in me of the place that is prepared for us.... If I speak of the hope that is in me of the Love of God... --it seems to only make perfect sense to spur on to that end.

Why endure? --why suffer? --when one can follow that trail of the ancestors in the moonlight and be wild and free again....

In that time between the dark night and the dawn, the house lights form odd, stagnant constellations between the trees and utility poles. The rising sun reveals it is made of fire, and the horizon becomes like coal --glowing with the heat of the sun and covered with the ashen clouds....

Sunrise at 7am in Eagle Butte, SD the day after the end of the Mayan calendar

Tomorrow, the day will be nine seconds longer than today. Is that hope? Or is that oppression? Or are they sisters, hope and oppression --two sides of the same coin? --linked at their birth....

I render that coin to those who build calendars and mark time and build economies and consult power and fabricate means that destroy....

I hear the moon bound by the earth longing for its own trajectory... the earth remembering her moon and giving way in tides, and even so, perpetually bowing her head to the sun..... I hear the star chorus in brittle clarity....

The shaft of sunlight strikes my face as I stand in the near dark. I am always startled by the warmth of the sun here --even in this frozen dawn.

Yes. I remember. Another way. By His wounds we are healed.... There is only one life --and that one life is not strewn about, a little bit here, a little bit there.... And I say to the rising sun, We bear one another's burdens --we bear one another's sins, sure, but some bear more, and others are oblivious to their heavy lifting....

And the lines that denude self-fulfillment ring in my ears --the Buddhist mantras of detachment --the Jesus sayings of love and the cross... the Simone Weil sayings of offering one's self as opposed to being the sacrificial lamb tied on the altar....

The ram is struggling in the thicket this morning.

At prayer this morning (Revelation 21:22-26, 22:1-4)

I saw no temple in the city,
for its temple is the God of surpassing strength and the Lamb.

And the city has no need of sun or moon to light it,
for the glory of God shines on it, and its lamp is the Lamb.
By its light the nations shall walk,
and the rulers of the world lay their honor and glory there.

Its gates shall never be shut by day, nor shall there be any night;
into it they will bring the honor and glory of nations.

I saw the clean river of the water of life, bright as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

The tree of life spanned the river, giving fruit every month,
and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

All curses cease where the throne of God and the Lamb stands,
and all servants give worship there;
there they will see God’s face, whose Name shall be on their foreheads.

There is no self-fulfillment in being a servant....

--no sun or moon.... --the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.... --they will see God's face, whose Name shall be on their foreheads....

--to see God's Name on every face today....

--there is my cause. My being. That alone is my hope. There is my salvation.

Off I go.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mountain lion.... ??

Well... tired of fighting with the dogs to come away from the bushes where their leashes always get tangled, and when one is dealing with two dogs in 9F temperatures, who wants to also deal with tangled leashes.... But this morning, with all the pulling and sniffing and tugging, I relented and went to take a look with them....

Here is their print in the snow --

Witty and Paeha type prints in the snow --and, these are about the size of the pad of my hand

--and then there were these type prints all over:

As large as my whole palm, asymmetrical print with tear-drop pads and a leading toe

I couldn't get the best one because the camera decided to quit working in the severe cold...

So, after we came back in to the warmth of the house, I went looking for print comparison stuff online --because there have been rumors of big kitties in town --and if I have a big kitty in my yard, it might be best to know....

And, I found this page, Canine vs. Feline Tracks

What my picture doesn't show very well is the heel pad --sorry... and then the camera froze.... so, there we are.

But it left me excited again --the potential of so much wildness in my yard.... Imagine, just looking out the window and.... !!!

And then I remembered a friend in southern Oregon who told tales of tracking mountain lions, and how rare it is to see one. He told me this after I had climbed with my dog Clio a back mountain south of Mount Ashland in Oregon --we had come up from a lake over a ridge, and I smelled dead meat or something like that, and looking for the source, I happened to scope out the cliff to our right.... And BAM --right there, over us... a mountain lion.

Magnificent. Terrifying. Terrifying. Terrifying.

I was soooo startled and frightened that I did the very thing I knew I shouldn't do, which was to turn and run. I knew I was supposed to put my hands above my head and make like I was big... but, I didn't. I didn't even get the turn in because I fell over my dog --I fell hard. And as I rolled over on to my back --it seemed like ten years, and in my mind's eye I planned putting my arm up over my head so the lion would grab my arm, not my head or throat, and with my other hand I was going to gouge its eyes out... or something like that.


Instead, when I rolled over, all I could see was the lion looking down at us --slowly twitching its tail from side and to side... and it seemed to be saying "stupid human."

I thanked it for giving us another chance. I stood up, my heart racing, paid my respects with a slight bow, and then started to sing KYRIE at top volume, stomping my feet for effect. By this time, my poor dog was terrified, constantly trembling and sticking close to me. But the lion still didn't move. So I backed up slowly as I sang top volume and stomped my feet. Slowly. Slowly...

--and found another way down the mountain, a couple of miles to the car.

I had so much adrenaline I couldn't stop babbling for the rest of the day --called the Park Service, called my friend --who told me not only how lucky I was, but also how lucky I was to have seen one.... He looks for them, tracks them, and has seen only two in his whole life.


The next day I woke up and my arm was soooooo swollen.... I had to wear a removable cast for six weeks. I had been so high on adrenaline, I hadn't even realized I had a hair-line fracture in my wrist and bloodied both my hands and knees because of the turning fall I took in my initial and improper greeting of the lion.

Can't say I would do any better if given a second chance.

But, even the thought of it makes my heart beat fast....

When I told some of my friends, years later, they said the lion wasn't a lion, but was a spirit --my helping spirit, come to greet me.

Perhaps my helping spirit has come to greet me again? ...big kitty.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 121_

I lift up my eyes to the hills; *
from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the LORD, *
the maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved *
and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.
Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel *
shall neither slumber nor sleep;
The LORD himself watches over you; *
the LORD is your shade at your right hand,
So that the sun shall not strike you by day, *
nor the moon by night.

The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; *
it is he who shall keep you safe.

The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, *
from this time forth for evermore.

--if Grandfather, Creator, can send eagles as signs of his presence (I have seen them come --just as we bury somebody, flying above our heads and then flying away... folks saying they were waiting for the spirit of the deceased to rise, and then the eagle greets them, shows them the way --I have seen it too many times not to think twice about it) --so, why not a mountain lion? If the LORD is the one who watches over my going out and coming in, always....

This isn't my video, but the twitching of the tail, and the peering is EXACTLY as I remember....

Right up by the house.


Just sayin'.....

Now, I have a wake tonight, a funeral tomorrow, three services on Sunday, four services on Monday and maybe even a service on Christmas Day... --God willing, the weather cooperating, and the cougar don't pounce.

Our current weather forecast for Christmas Eve:

Overcast. Fog early. High of 9F with a windchill as low as -13F. Winds from the NE at 10 to 15 mph.

Monday Night
Overcast with a chance of snow and rain showers. Fog overnight. Low of -6F with a windchill as low as -17F. Winds from the NNE at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 50% with accumulations up to 2 in. possible.
How the hell can it rain with a high of 9F????


Thursday, December 20, 2012

our early journey west away from the rising sun

We got this joke --well, cartoon really, so I will try my best to describe the action....

There was a dog standing behind a fence in his yard. He is looking out at the street. Out on the street a car is driving by with a dog hanging out the window, and he is shouting at the dog in the yard, "Ha ha ha ha Biff !!--we are going to the market, and then the library, and then I'm going to the vet to get tutored!!"

There was another joke too --A male dog among a bunch of roughneck male dogs, and another one getting the heck sniffed outta her, a lavish female with long eye lashes and with her tail turned up. One roughneck turns to the another and says, "I wonder when Benjie is going to discover he's had his pockets picked?"

That's pretty much the situation in our house today.

No cookies with coffee (Joel sneaked in to the kitchen with Mr. Witty while I held the little one --and they had a secret cookie together)... no breakfast, no water.... And, of course, we worry that Paeha will think he's being abandoned, and that that trauma will undo whatever progress we've made in the last four weeks....

And Mr. Watson is cringing at what we are about to do....

So, off we go --40 miles to the west, past Thunder Butte, past Iron Lightening --to Faith, a small town just west of the Reservation borders.

And then I will buy Christmas presents for the five kids whose grandma called last night --somebody gave her an old tree... she said she stuck it in a coffee can with some rocks and the kids are stringing paper chains on it --and cutting snowflakes to decorate it. She said, we had no electricity when I was growing up --having heat is the best Christmas present in the world to me.

Yeah --cuz it's only 9F out this morning....

--and I discern from what I can patch together that there is quite a storm going on south of us from Arizona to Chicago --and Seattle got slammed with snow that might come our way just in time for Christmas.

Oh!!! A white Christmas for reals!!!!

At prayer this morning (from Psalm 50)

Hear, O my people, and I will speak:
“O Israel, I will bear witness against you; *
for I am God, your God.
I do not accuse you because of your sacrifices; *
your offerings are always before me.
I will take no bull-calf from your stalls, *
nor he-goats out of your pens;
For all the beasts of the forest are mine, *
the herds in their thousands upon the hills.
I know every bird in the sky, *
and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.
If I were hungry, I would not tell you, *
for the whole world is mine and all that is in it.
Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls, *
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving *
and make good your vows to the Most High.
Call upon me in the day of trouble; *
I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.”

--a sacrifice of thanksgiving....

--but, that's so easy, right?


Off I go, singing through the wilderness --thank you God. And don't let us hit any deer, or antelope, or bunnies or skunks on our early journey west away from the rising sun. Amen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I will give over and sit barefoot at the foot of the tree of life

Last night I got a phone call --watch out, Fish and Game caught a "big kitty" behind the old hospital.

"Big kitty" is the other way to say mountain lion.... The old hospital backs right up to the church parking lot and our house.

Hmmmmm.... I thought, having just heard the joke played on the policemen of town. Somebody had called in a report of a "big kitty" sitting by the side of the road just outside of town, so they called out the large game experts who went rushing to the scene --but it was only a truly big kitty --yes, wild, but still only a kitty.

And the People are still all laughing. That was a good one.

So, I am left wondering if the "big kitty" behind the old hospital was another truly big kitty or a mountain lion. The caller promised to call me back when she knew --her husband works for Fish and Game. In the meantime, at my insistence, we continue to keep the dogs on a short leash in the yard. Especially since they have both been going crazy around the bushes beside the St. Francis statue --something is spraying those bushes or doing something there to drive them so crazy.... We go out in the yard and directly to those bushes... every time. And, the leashes, especially since the Rez Dogs run wild here. And, especially since the eagles come and hang out and sit on the utility poles behind the house looking for something to eat.... And, especially since my wild boy dogs like to bark at people walking by, and that's just not very nice....

It's an amazing and wondrous thing to live so close to wild.
It is a wondrous and frightful thing to live so close to wild.

It reminds me that God is wild. There are things about God that should terrify any of us, as much as we are to be terrified of mountain lions --as much as we are to be terrified of eagles --as much as we are to be terrified of wild dogs (that mate with the coyotes btw)....

A wild God, unafraid to be born, unafraid to move like the wind or a pillar of fire, unafraid to die....

This morning, because of our continued fascination with the Korean dramas that we watch on Hulu (yes, we have internet, but no regular TV), I read some Korean history over coffee --before breakfast --the major eras and dynasties. I had no idea... it's amazing... and the 20th Century division of Korea, North and South, was another external fabrication --like Berlin... like Israel... how long, O Lord.... day after day, their tragic empires rise....

--that's not wildness. That's barbarity --barbarism....

One of the lines around here in these parts --when barbaric schools were imposed to help in the "civilizing" of the Indians, the line is --we were civilized. Already.


--and I wonder about my soul...

I wonder how many times and in what ways I might confuse freedom and liberty with wildness, decision with barbarism --how many times I strive for civility --when, indeed, civility is a far cry off....

I know in my heart of hearts, because of our oh-so-very limited sight lines, that even our good deeds will need forgiving... that even those things done with good intent will need redemption....

I know in my heart of hearts that most often I am merely a big kitty, not a mountain lion... dreaming of things carried suppressed in my DNA, but largely domesticated....

And as I wait for Our Wild God to be known again in flesh and blood, I know I truly fear the undomesticated parts... I want for the safe mother and child, the buoyant angels singing "peace", the outlaw shepherds welcomed close... --and I fear our response to always be the slaughter of the innocent. Which makes me not dread the advent of Christmas... but shrink away from the giving over in absolute joy.

How this dread is mixed with thoughts of a wild God, I am not yet entirely sure.... why the new shyness of the undomesticated parts....

Perhaps it is the aftershock of the Connecticut Massacre... perhaps not. Perhaps it is the Holy Day of Holy Innocents lurking in my memory, and dreading that... coupled with the looming anniversary of Wounded Knee.... Yesterday was the anniversary of the murder of Sitting Bull.

Perhaps because I am learning to carry the burden of sin in a new way.... Perhaps it's because of the closeness of wildness.....

At prayer this morning (A Song of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 36:24-28)

I will take you from among all nations; *
and gather you from all lands to bring you home.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you; *
and purify you from false gods and uncleanness.
A new heart I will give you *
and a new spirit put within you.
I will take the stone heart from your chest *
and give you a heart of flesh.
I will help you walk in my laws *
and cherish my commandments and do them.
You shall be my people, *
and I will be your God.

(Canticle: A Song of the Spirit, Revelation 22:12-17)

“Behold, I am coming soon,” says the Lord,
“and bringing my reward with me, *
to give to everyone according to their deeds.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, *
the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who do God’s commandments,
that they may have the right to the tree of life, *
and may enter the city through the gates.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to you, *
with this testimony for all the churches.
“I am the root and the offspring of David, *
I am the bright morning star.”
“Come!” say the Spirit and the Bride; *
“Come!” let each hearer reply!
Come forward, you who are thirsty, *
let those who desire take the water of life as a gift.

Huh... there we are.
Take this heart of stone.
Give me water, because I am thirsty.

Come! Domestic, wild --who cares any more. Just come!
I will give over my fear of sin and disaster.
I will give over and sit barefoot at the foot of the tree of life.

Off I go, into my wild and domesticated day....

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Last night we put up the Christmas trees in the church

--there was only a 4% chance of new snow over night. --and we got it. A thin, fresh new blanket. The trees have been making snow for us --catching moisture in the breeze and it freezing in large flakes until it gets too heavy, and then it falls to the ground... or roof, making the roof a drum and driving the dogs crazy because they think some one is there. The trees have been dropping several inches of snow every day. I have had to sweep the walk to the house several times a day --trying to prevent the packed snow that turns to ice when the sun strikes it. This morning, I will have to shovel the whole walk again. Actually, I will probably only have to use a broom... it's light and powdery stuff.

Paeha is the funniest dog I have yet seen in the snow --we had one dog, Olaf (a California dog), who liked to run full blast in the snow with his mouth open --a dangerous endeavor we finally convinced him not to undertake. Clio (an Oregon dog), who was raised by Olaf, just liked to roll in the snow. Mr. Witty (a southern California desert dog) prefers just to mark the snow and then stand in wonder, sniff the air, and look at the horizon. He is, after all, named after a philosopher. Paeha likes to leap erratically like a drunk bunny, roll in it, and then eat it, and begin again --energetically. He is undoubtedly still pretty much a puppy --being just a year old.

And, pretty much until today, it has been a foggy endeavor --or low clouds, whatever. But, today, the sun is shining brightly and it is blinding to look out the window --the light coming in the window is blinding, undeterred by the curtains.... This time of year --this month, in Lakota, is called "the moon of the burning eyes." I will be looking for my sunglasses today....

Today will be the warmest day of the week --it will reach the scorching temperature of 30F. I got a phone call late yesterday afternoon, and I will have a wake/funeral on Friday and Saturday --a tough time for a family to bury a loved one --the high temp on those days promises to be 19 degrees. I hope his pall bearers don't try to dig the hole by hand... it's gonna be difficult enough to break up the frozen dirt to fill the hole, much less try to break through the frozen ground.

Last night we put up the Christmas trees in the church --we were all chilly, even though the thermostat was set at 70. Things are just radiating cold... but we organized, sorted, put up garlands and lights, ate pink yogurt covered pretzels and then some popcorn --and after the trees were standing and the garlands draped we sang carols, some in Lakota, some in English --and then we prayed Compline and put the day to bed.

And we got a phone call first thing this morning... our funniest dog yet in the snow is finally scheduled to get his pockets picked --if you know what I mean.... We've been waiting four weeks for the local vet (40 miles away) to schedule a 'small animal day'. It has been an urgent concern for us because we had to put down a $100 deposit at the shelter, promising to get him neutered or the $100 would be forfeited. There was a month deadline. Today is exactly a month....

I can't believe this little one has been with us a month already....

And then the guys came over to get the key to open the church to get ready to serve a hot lunch today... when they brought the key back, they had already swept our walk.

Such is the world of generosity....

So, it is a gentle morning.... A morning of light snow and bright sun, good coffee, caring for our little dogs and folks getting ready to serve a hot lunch.... And the only thing I have planned is to prepare the readings bulletins for Christmas --and, oh yeah, write something the children can read at the four o'clock pageant on Christmas Eve that will tell the glorious story of God With Us... and find some fabric we can use to drape the small bodies and tell them they are now prophets and angels --and perhaps some will want to make the necessary animal sounds... among other things.

At prayer this morning; Canticle: A Song of Faith (1 Peter 1:3-4, 18-21)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, *
by divine mercy we have a new birth into a living hope;
Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, *
we have an inheritance that is imperishable in heaven.

Thanks be to God.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Let's face it. We are ineffective and unfruitful.

morning time, fixing coffee, the view out the kitchen window.
that's our garage on the left, the clotheslines, Deacon's house and our propane pigs
It is 8F this morning.

He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
He casts forth his ice like morsels; who can stand before his cold?
(Psalm 147:16-17)

We were twenty miles back the dirt road, the gravel ruts frozen and rigid... most of the rest of the year, the thick gumbo mud swallows the gravel and anything else that slows down too much --roads like quicksand pits, but not on this day. The ice formed thick barricades around the patches of snow at the edge of the road. The edge of the fields frozen fortresses...

Joel and I had seen two large coyotes running through the field together a few days ago --I couldn't tell if their jet-speed dash was in fear or jest. What I could tell is that they were perfectly at home in the frigid landscape --their thick rich reddish coats puffed out. And I worried for them... it is always open season on coyotes here....

But twenty miles back the dirt road on this day, deacon and I couldn't see past the edge of the field for the fog --the fence posts lilting like lazy buoys in a frozen sea, the barbed-wire tinseled up like cheap dime-store decorations, or cheap Christmas lights from one buoy to the next.

We got to the church early. I left the motor running, we put our seats back, and we slept. Blanketed in the frozen fog. We were awakened by the grind of ice and tires, bundled faces laughing at us wiping the sleep from our eyes. A constellation of laughter come to pray. Come to give thanks for another day, week month. Come to eat together at the altar and in the parish hall --no running water, no bathrooms, but heat and noise and laughter enough to shed an outer layer and entice the skunk that lives somewhere close by to announce itself.

Meat. Potatoes. Rice. Beans. Macaroni salad laced with cheese. Biscuit. Cake. Heaped on plastic plates. Hot cowboy coffee in small foam cups.

Is that the sacred kind of cedar --the one that grows north of the church there? I ask. Yes, I am told. The abalone shell rests quietly full of ash. It is always best to dust any place off with a little sacred smoke. We pray. And then we eat.

And the talk --full of salt and pepper, a dash of this and that. I didn't know the buses that crowd the neighborhood with blasts of their horn early every morning and disappear without a child in sight were for the Takini school --I thought they were merely community alarm clocks, a tribal town crier of sorts.... But Takini is an hour away, I gasp. No, they are supposed to take kids to Takini --but you never see the kids go because they can graduate from school down there without ever even going to school. They kids love to be enrolled down there. You can live any where and send your kids any where. Dupree is a public State run school --Eagle Butte is BIA and Tribal school. Takini is a grant school....

And so we talk about overlapping jurisdictions --I can't speed through town, I will get a ticket. The city has jurisdiction over me. Tribal members can speed through town and they can't get a ticket. The city has no jurisdiction over them. I can speed on the highway and not get a ticket. The Tribe has no jurisdiction over me. Tribal members can't speed on the highway, they will get a ticket. We live in the city --over our back fence is Tribal land....

What happens, I ask, if there is a domestic violence call and the man is white and the woman is native? He has to wait for the Tribal officers to call County officials; she gets taken to Tribal headquarters. And the County officials and the FBI won't ever do anything.... I shake my head.

Did you know that so and so broke in to one of the teachers' house --and those houses are under the BIA, so the FBI is called and now they are going to Federal prison because it was a Federal offense. That wouldn't happen if it were on Tribal land. And if your house is broken in to --that isn't Tribal or Federal, so nobody would be able to do anything....

Did you know that the Tribe just passed a law requiring everyone who drives to have a license --that didn't used to be true. Any one could drive. No one needed insurance either --that's going to change. It's going to be better for everyone. The license makes you somebody --you need a license to get a job off the Reservation. So the license makes you somebody. It's going to be better for everyone.

I think we all ought to be under the same laws on the Reservation --under the same jurisdiction, I say, mildly, always uneasy here to express an opinion. New territory for me.... No, is the response --having multiple jurisdictions keeps the Tribal authorities more honest. Otherwise, everything would be left up to who you were related to....

It was asked, Did you ever know Father Bear's Heart? --I used to love to hear him pray. He was fast, church was always over in a hurry. I was his daughter in the old Indian way. My father was his best friend so they claimed each other as brothers, so as I was growing up, I was called his daughter. Deacon responded, I am his sister --first cousin in the white way, but he adopted me as his sister so that I would write him letters during World War II.... I asked, pointing at both, So, does this make you guys related? And everyone laughed and sipped some more coffee and said Yes, of course. Deacon said, Today, since Father Bear's Heart called me sister, I have a new daughter.

On the way home, Deacon slept. The dusk crept through the fog. Four o'clock and nearly dark. Someone had a plastic Santa in their yard beside their home, with a light shining in his belly so he was mostly a robust pink in the middle and his gloves and feet and hat glowed a dull red --perhaps like Rudolph's nose. The cluster of white lights by Santa's side was the sleigh or some mis-shapen deer --I couldn't tell from the road. Someone else's barn was a stanchion for a limp star.

In the dusk, the snow and frozen fog gathered on to every branch and line and blade of grass shone with a strange light all its own. Like it was related to the moon.

And the line that closes every prayer prayed in Lakota --hey, all my relatives-- wove its way deep in to my heart... and then I remembered I had preached to the kids, just last week at the Baptisms, that we were more than just all related, we were One. One Body. One Spirit. One Hope. One Life. And this week, when I remembered in my sermon the unthinkable act of violence and all the dead left in its wake in small little bodies in a small school in a place with too many trees far from this wide open place, and the questions by all of John the Baptizer, "And we, what should we do?" I had said, What the world really needs is to remember what it means to be human... not perfect, not always law abiding, but humble, sharing, giving, feeding --all that John the Baptizer says... and we are preparing to greet and to know and to learn to love the one who shows us what it means to be perfectly human....

--we need to remember what it means to be a human being....

At prayer this morning (beginning at 2 Peter 1:1)

[From] Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support
your faith with goodness,
and goodness with knowledge,
and knowledge with self-control,
and self-control with endurance,
and endurance with godliness,
and godliness with mutual affection,
and mutual affection with love.

For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Like a string of pearls --faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, love... nothing about hope.

As a people, there is too much noise between us --too many divisions --we are too removed from the desolation of a wilderness landscape --we don't have to deal with each other.... We can flip a switch, roll up a window, listen to our own noise. We have forgotten the terrible wonder and danger of living with faith.

--and by divisions, I don't mean the godly divisions --diversity.... I mean our little walled camps of like-minded friends....

We need the wilderness to remember we need each other. We need the wilderness to remember we are all related, we are all One. We need the wilderness to remember...

--instead, we pave it, hunt down the wild beasts, give ourselves over to fear and law, place pink plastic glow in the dark Santa's in our yards and hang limp stars.... And abandon the children to teach themselves....

Let's face it. We are ineffective and unfruitful.
It is not just the Lakota who have a culture in distress.
It is time to roll up our sleeves....
And give our lives away....

Canticle: A Song of Christ’s Humility (Philippians 2:6-11)

Though in the form of God, *
Christ Jesus did not cling to equality with God,
But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, *
and was born in human likeness.
Being found in human form, he humbled himself *
and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

...emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and was born in human likeness....

Let's not wait for God to do it.
It is time to roll up our sleeves....
And give our lives away....

Saturday, December 15, 2012

great enough to put me among the lawless....

We were in the car when we first heard the news out of Connecticut. If we had not been in the car, it might have been until much later --perhaps even bedtime, when we would have noticed the headlines on our computer's home page. But it was day light, before lunch --and I had just duct-taped shut the vicarage door and the garage at St. Phillip's in Dupree because the clasps I had purchased were the wrong kind and the doors keep blowing open when the wind blows more than 40mph. Thank goodness I had stuffed the duct-tape in the pocket of my hoody.

And when I got back to the car, Joel had the radio up and his chin out, trying not to cry. There's been another school shooting --over 20 people dead, he said.

And the oppression of the anger, the grief, the helplessness, the why buried me in an avalanche. Turn it up, I said, because Paeha was doing his puppy whine in the back seat and I could hardly hear the sonorous voice on the NPR station --one of the two stations we get way out here. Joel turned it up just as they announced it was an elementary school, and most of the dead were children.

And I began my mantra for the dead --receive them God with open arms, may the saints and their ancestors greet them, the angels meet them and carry them home. May they find their place at the feast, and all their favorite foods --even if it's chicken nuggets and pizza. Father, look down with pity on those who grieve, and give them strength and courage to do all that they must do in the days and weeks ahead --you who know the loss of your own beloved child, put a mantle of comfort around their shoulders, a crown of mercy, the cloak of patience --make your presence known to them....

--and then somewhere in there, the string of cuss words, like pearls --each complete and perfect.

And then, as we knew to look for them, the headlines didn't improve all day long, nor in to the evening. The verbal gestures then began --time for more gun control, the second worse massacre, we don't need more gun control --just need to responsibly lock the guns away....

The shock. The grief. A nation reeling from yet another barrage of self-inflicted domestic gun fire.

And the picture of the children huddled without jackets, the boy with his hands to his face, the girl trying to comfort him seared its way in to the flesh of my brain like a hot brand.

Except, the gnawing reality... which I hesitated to say out loud --about which I was even ashamed to think on this day.... No, this wasn't one of the worst massacres... Not. Even. Close.

--the smallpox infested blankets... --thousands dead.

--the denial of promised rations if they would just stay in the concentration camps reservations... --the starvation.

--the two hundred plus bleeding to death in the snow, shot down five days after Christmas at Wounded Knee...  children --lots of children, certainly more than twenty, women, unarmed men --their land illegally taken, families broken up, starved, scared, running. Eventually dumped in to a hole, jumbled together, and marked with a cross.... And the men who perpetrated this crime were given medals of honor by the Federal government. 20 Congressional Medals of Honor.... (Only three Medals were given in South Dakota for the whole duration of WWII.)

The gnawing reality that what was being said behind closed doors here was --yes, this is awful, this is truly awful ....maybe now the wasicus will understand? Will they understand our pain?

Maybe now.... 105 men. Over 200 women and children....

--and I am left thinking that perhaps we can legislate the hell out of ourselves, but that won't stop us. Sin is sin in every generation --but who among us wishes to face it? Who among us can stop sinning?

At prayer this morning (Luke 22:31-38)

Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

And he [Simon] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!”

Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”

He [Jesus] said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?”

They said, “No, not a thing.”

He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.”

They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”

He replied, “It is enough.”
...the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one....

I have no sword. I have no gun either, for that matter. I don't want one either. I have at times grappled with this scripture --but with no lasting effect in my heart or soul. Why does Jesus tell the disciples to go sell their cloaks and buy swords? Is Jesus just being sarcastic at the end, saying two swords are enough... yeah, like, right. Two swords are enough for what? To face the Temple and Roman authorities...

What strikes me this morning is not the sword bit --but his line, counted among the lawless.... Were two swords enough to make him be counted among the lawless? Was it about being counted among the lawless --the transgressors --the ones needing redemption? --the living dead?

Some how, this morning, with our humanity once again rubbed raw, our souls unbridled in shock in grief --coming face to face yet again with our brokenness, particularly our brokenness as a nation --somehow it makes more sense this morning to acknowledge our lawlessness and our inadequate swords that we wield trying to protect ourselves from the very same....

(--and maybe even ask ourselves questions like, how come it is alright for a teacher of six year-olds to be a gun fanatic? --how come we don't care for the mentally ill? --how come it's alright to be shocked at the death of twenty children in white suburbia, but there is no shock over the deaths of twenty children gunned down every year, say, in the black or hispanic ghettos, or the suicides among our native youth?)

Not 'why' --but, how come?

And I suppose my own grief and shock will always be laced with anger.... --that is my own sword, great enough to put me among the lawless....

So, today I will pray, for the mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles.... the children.

I will pray for the lawless --the outlaws. I will pray for all those who seek to do others harm.

I will pray that we see... that there is no 'why' that will be easily fixed....

And I will pray we find humility... and that peace which passes all understanding. Now. And always.

Friday, December 14, 2012

this far and distant crust of earth

The "little people" (short --three feet tall or so, dark inhabitants that wear clothes cut in triangles and they are very swift and are rarely seen and they play tricks on humans, sometimes --like hiding your things and other stuff) --they were up all night working lace into my fence....

my fence, Eagle Butte, SD

--a fragile, delicate lace --an edible lace drawn from the air and woven without knots to the fence, instead like some frond of a living thing. This morning's array of lace is the most spectacular yet. The little people out-did themselves --the lace is at least an inch thick. Every where.

And the fog has frozen to the windows and jambs, making the door difficult to open to let the dogs out, requiring the shoulder and knee --the four-leggeds climbing over each other in anticipation, then stopping short as the cold greets us like a new wall once the door is open, breaking our breath in to little bits, even as we inhale --stinging the nose and other exposed bits as we slam in to the morning light --which turns each bit of little people lace into a dusky rose color.

The mountain of snow in the parking lot looks vaguely like a wanton pile of cotton candy. With shiny bits.

Lace and cotton candy to greet us, the dogs bark and pronk in the mounds of the stuff piled against the fence. The school bus honks and edges through the neighborhood --picking up children that fly from the homes that squeak a yellow glow through the lace and cotton candy, backpacks taking flight from the jacket-padded shoulders and hoods.

I'm betting, in this early light, that the children have more containers than books stuffed in their backpacks --containers to bring food for the weekend home from school where they get their two best hot meals daily, some to take home to share, especially with their little sisters and brothers not yet in school. I think January will be a hungrier time --the Tribe provides food for a Thanksgiving and then a Christmas dinner. But, I can't think of a holiday for a meal in January....

A group from Connecticut showed up in town last week with six semi-trucks. They brought 40,000 pounds of potatoes and some winter clothes --not used clothes, but brand new clothes --and two books for every child, too. At the last minute, they put furniture in the truck --they didn't know why... And on the day they arrived, somebody's house in Cherry Creek burned to the ground, and now, when they get their house re-built, they will have furniture in it. Must have been the Spirit that told you to bring that, everyone says.

Yes. The little people and the Spirit are always hard at work here. Always.

And so, now, as I say my prayers, surrounded by rose colored lace and the works of the Spirit, my words merely add to the fronds and layers caught in the fence and trees. Nothing travels far from the warmth of the house today. Not without freezing. Not even as far as the cotton candy piled in the parking lot.

--except for the teenaged boys that trump by the fence, knocking the cold and ice out of the air before them --no school bus for them, thank you --wing-tipped heels and frapping jackets half opened moving down the path in a locomotive fashion pushing the cold away with their fiery inner heat and blowing billowing breath into the morning --as if they were the center of the universe...

--perhaps they are. Arms and legs to the Four Directions, head to the sky and feet to the ground --and they themselves at the center. Life and death, easily at hand. Ancestors and little people and the Spirit looking on. There is no future, except the present moment. And then the next.

There is no future, except what already is.

At prayer this morning (from Luke 22)

When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.

He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

A cup before and a cup after --we are supposed to have really glad hearts --glad hearts in the life blood that flows in every living thing --the sap of trees, the water, the wind, the sun, the rain --all infused in the fruit of the vine... mother earth herself made bread, grew grain up out of her being, the body of her son....

And every week, the Passover is offered again and again, eaten again and again, blood spilled out on the door posts of every household, to remember our deliverance from the bondage of despair --flesh and blood offered again at the altar to feed the priestly people... bread and wine fashioned by human hands... shared in humbleness, in this far and distant crust of earth by the mni wiconi*... where the good road and the road of difficulty cross and make the holy space.

Amen. Alleluia.

*mni wiconi --the water of life, the first name of the Missouri River.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

thank you for being alive

Last night a group gathered in the parish hall to watch a video and talk about surviving boarding school abuse. It barely scratched the surface, but it was a beginning.

And I was torn.... Schools and schooling have been the 'tool' (for lack of a better word) of various agendas since at least the mid-nineteenth century, particularly schools in the west populated by teachers from the northeast --a whole raft of 'em. And promoting citizenship and skills for the common good --not for personal benefit, were the main core of much of the ideology. So, some were trained to be scholars and doctors and some trained to be maids, janitors and secretaries, all for the presumed common good.

I was torn, because having studied the history of education, knowing it was compulsory no matter who you were --and all I could think about was Shirley Temple in Captain January being chased by the truant officer, a poor orphan having been rescued by a well-meaning big-hearted lighthouse keeper --ripped from his care and forced to attend boarding school, and the broken hearts in the aftermath... ending in joyful resolve, of course, because it is Shirley Temple.... (sorry, the youtube version doesn't play).

And thinking of Shirley Temple being torn from her lovely lighthouse keeper as a symbol of compulsory education everywhere, and then hearing the stories of abuse and pain in the room --knowing that the abuse and pain were part of a long march of blatant genocide... I knew I was part in denial, and part in a detached historian mode instead of being present.

So, I tried to put Shirley Temple and all the other failed historical attempts at compulsory education in my pocket, and just listened. And it was so difficult --from the mouths of parishioners, stories of public beatings, hair cutting, shame.... And how the violence and shame learned were then perpetrated upon the next generation....

--and quietly afterwards, the short conversations of --yes, but boarding school, as bad as it was, was still better than home....

The movie ended with a bit of redemption --the guy saying, even so at last I am a human being. And as my beloved says --even that is misunderstood --some one saying "I am a human being" doesn't mean in the Lakota mind what it means in the main-stream culture of the American mind... as best as I am able, I understand it to mean more than just having dignity and being treated as a human as opposed to an animal --it has to do with a spiritual accomplishment -it is like saying I have accomplished my mission in life AND my cup runneth over....


As Joel and I were talking about it this morning, we remembered in those many years past how so many people, having heard about the loss of our pregnancy would say --it's sad, but you can have more babies. (That line pretty much stopped after the fourth or fifth lost pregnancy....) And how so often folks say well-meaning things that often destroy rather than fulfill their intent. So, we find ourselves without words in the face of so much pain and grief here --except something like, thank you for being alive, thank you for being here. Thank you.

Who was it --Black Elk? --that said eventually the Lakota would save the whole world?
Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice. You lived first, and you are older than all need, older than all prayer. All things belong to you -- the two-legged, the four-legged, the wings of the air, and all green things that live.

"You have set the powers of the four quarters of the earth to cross each other. You have made me cross the good road and road of difficulties, and where they cross, the place is holy. Day in, day out, forevermore, you are the life of things."

Hey! Lean to hear my feeble voice.
At the center of the sacred hoop
You have said that I should make the tree to bloom.

With tears running, O Great Spirit, my Grandfather,
With running eyes I must say
The tree has never bloomed

Here I stand, and the tree is withered.
Again, I recall the great vision you gave me.

It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives.
Nourish it then
That it may leaf
And bloom
And fill with singing birds!

Hear me, that the people may once again
Find the good road
And the shielding tree. (Black Elk's Earth Prayer)

Black Elk --some little root of the sacred tree does still live. The people fight to speak in their own language, and the children suffer. Thank you for being alive. Thank you.

And perhaps that is scripture enough for the day?

Well, there is this... (Psalm 37:1-2)

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; *
do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
For they shall soon wither like the grass, *
and like the green grass fade away.

Hope is eternal....

--and I shall live in hope. Not some false hope that hides in the skirts of denial and white-washed history. But the hope that comes from being a childless mother. The up-side-down hope that blooms out of barrenness and loss --not dislodged desire, adaptation and delayed gratification, but a whole other world and way of being.

I am a human being.
--and to all of you, in your suffering, thank you for being alive.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

we do not listen for you with our full being

I was told that there is a dark and wicked spirit that walks around and through town peering in through the windows, looking for people that are addicted to drugs and alcohol, able to steal children --makes them commit suicide.

Today, we will pray in this little city --we will walk from all four directions, walk and pray. It is to tell that dark and wicked spirit that it may not steal the children. That there are people here who love....

And love has already kicked the pahooeee out of death. It has already lost. The dark and wicked spirit would be better off running into a herd of swine and run off a cliff....

--or something like that.

At prayer (from Isaiah 6)

And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
And he said, “Go and say to this people:

‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.’
Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:

“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is utterly desolate;
until the LORD sends everyone far away,
and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.
Even if a tenth part remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak
whose stump remains standing
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.

Geeeeeeez God. You are sometimes so rank.... Well, I guess it is sometimes we are so stubborn, and do not listen for you with our full being. --with more than our eyes, more than our ears, more than our minds....

Off I go.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What are you going to do with them?

Tired. In untold ways... --and woke up with half a tooth gnawing away at my mouth, cutting my cheek....

And me without dental insurance. So I scoped out dental insurance plans offered in South Dakota --and what a bunch of pahooee. Anything that matters is excluded, the cap on benefits is $1,000 per year, and there is up to 16 months waiting period to have a tooth filled. In other words --fugeddaboutit.

But, now I can't. I have an appointment tomorrow at 9... and because they are on central time and we on mountain time, I will have to leave at some ungodly hour in the morning. But, it was the best I could do.

I will have to call and cancel my participation in the suicide walk, however. And tomorrow night we will be showing a video and having a discussion about boarding school abuse --a survivor has made a documentary of his survival and then his liberation from the aftermath. And he wants to share the good news. The movie has played in various places --now coming to Eagle Butte. The evening has been organized by some of the older ladies in the church --survivors, all.

...generational trauma...
The policy of genocide is detailed in congressional documents: "[Indians] are to go upon said reservations .... they are to have no alternative but to chose between this policy of the government and extermination" (U.S. Senate Miscellaneous Document cited in Brave Heart, 1998, p. 288).
Specific features of this historical trauma response include (a) transposition (Kestenberg, 1990) where one lives simultaneously in the past and the present with the ancestral suffering as the main organizing principal in one's life, (b) identification with the dead (Lifton, 1968, 1988) so that one feels psychically (emotionally and psychologically) dead and feels unworthy of living, and (c) maintaining loyalty to and identification with the suffering of deceased ancestors, re-enacting affliction within one's own life (Fogelman, 1988, 1991). Additionally, there is survivor guilt, an ensuing fixation to trauma, reparatory fantasies, and attempts to undo the tragedy of the past.
Traditional Lakota culture encourages maintenance of a connection with the spirit world. Thus, we are predisposed to identification with ancestors from our historical past. Traditional mourning such as cutting the bereaved's hair and body are expressions of a felt loss of part of oneself with the death of a close relative. Grief was impaired due to massive losses across generations and the federal government's prohibition of indigenous practices for mourning resolution. Hence, our impaired grief and our proclivity for connection with the deceased fueled historical unresolved grief, a component of the historical trauma response.

And the path to wholeness and health? Talking about it, the abuse, the inherited abuse and grief. The practice of generosity and other traditional values. Make others aware of the history of trauma and genocide.
If I needed an excuse to die or get drunk, all those things, all I'd have to do is open up that container inside .... Because I believe that feelings never go anywhere, they never die... they are always with us. So we can destroy the people who are around us with them [feel- ings] or we can help them [people] .... I committed to work with [children who are sexual abuse victims] .... All of these things that are in the past don't have to be bad. Our reaction to them makes all the difference in the world. We can make it good or ... bad.

We can make it good or ...bad.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 28)

O LORD, I call to you;
my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry; *
lest, if you do not hear me,
I become like those who go down to the Pit.
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, *
when I lift up my hand to your holy of holies.

Do not snatch me away with the wicked or with the evildoers, *
who speak peaceably with their neighbors,
while strife is in their hearts.
Repay them according to their deeds, *
and according to the wickedness of their actions.
According to the work of their hands repay them, *
and give them their just deserts.
They have no understanding of the LORD’s doings,
nor of the works of his hands; *
therefore he will break them down and not build them up.

Blessed is the LORD! *
for he has heard the voice of my prayer.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; *
my heart trusts in him, and I have been helped;
Therefore my heart dances for joy, *
and in my song will I praise him.
The LORD is the strength of his people, *
a safe refuge for his anointed.
Save your people and bless your inheritance; *
shepherd them and carry them for ever.
I have been taught not to make the pain of those I serve in to my own pain. And I am deeply grateful for the co-dependency training I have received and experienced as well --I know most of my own pitfalls of compassion.

But, here, it goes beyond that.... There is the constant nagging of guilt and shame of my own ancestral participation in the present agony.

And then there's Mark Twain....

Shall we? That is, shall we go on conferring our Civilization upon the peoples that sit in darkness, or shall we give those poor things a rest? Shall we bang right ahead in our old-time, loud, pious way, and commit the new century to the game; or shall we sober up and sit down and think it over first? Would it not be prudent to get our Civilization-tools together, and see how much stock is left on hand in the way of Glass Beads and Theology, and Maxim Guns and Hymn Books, and Trade-Gin and Torches of Progress and Enlightenment (patent adjustable ones, good to fire villages with, upon occasion), and balance the books, and arrive at the profit and loss, so that we may intelligently decide whether to continue the business or sell out the property and start a new Civilization Scheme on the proceeds?

Extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brother who Sits in Darkness has been a good trade and has paid well, on the whole; and there is money in it yet, if carefully worked -- but not enough, in my judgement, to make any considerable risk advisable. The People that Sit in Darkness are getting to be too scarce -- too scarce and too shy. And such darkness as is now left is really of but an indifferent quality, and not dark enough for the game. The most of those People that Sit in Darkness have been furnished with more light than was good for them or profitable for us. We have been injudicious.

The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust, wisely and cautiously administered, is a Daisy. There is more money in it, more territory, more sovereignty, and other kinds of emolument, than there is in any other game that is played. But Christendom has been playing it badly of late years, and must certainly suffer by it, in my opinion.

Trouble is, I don't think much has changed in the last 120 years.... There are still plenty who would rather scream and cry and rant and rave and by more guns and create cloud castles about birth certificates rather than give up an inch of presumed supremacy and power and their aftermath....

--and the voice in my head talks quietly alongside my own words, saying to me --are things really any worse than, say, in times past when folks had to pass by heads on stakes on the way to town? And I don't know how to answer myself, except to say it was as unacceptable then as it is now.... and the little voice persists saying, perhaps we all deal with historical trauma....

We can make it good or ...bad.

--and forgiveness really is the only way through... give it to God, otherwise, what are we going to do with it?

There we are. Jesus said, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment...." (John 16:7-8)

Wrong about sin. About righteousness. About judgment.

(John 20:22-23)
Then he [Jesus] took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

There we are.