Thursday, January 31, 2013

"and round about him a raging storm"

We got up at 4am --left at 4:45am --and drove Deacon to the airport in Rapid... it was -11 degrees when we left --it's not much warmer than that now.... It was a real hair-raiser of a drive. The winds are about 30mph with gusts up to 45mph which brings the wind chill factor to about -45 degrees --yes, really.... and that kind of wind moves the snow, so in protected places in the road, all of a sudden the drifts can be two feet deep.... And, then there was a snow storm here in Rapid over night and the city is a snowy mess --folks sliding all over the road... well, those with rear wheel or front wheel drive only --which seems to be a surprising number of people given the territory.

The driving conditions were so extreme, we used up twice the amount of gas we usually use --so almost ran out --went in to a station at 6am, and the card readers were frozen up and not responsive... almost freaked out... drove around to the other side of the pumps, and the card readers were full of snow.... but they worked.... It was a real knuckle-white drive.... but we did get Deacon to the airport on time.

And, so, now we have chosen Starbuck's for some fortification --with breakfast. We have to figure out where to walk the dogs.... in the snow and freezing cold....

And, I'm going to drop by and see D in the hospital here --recovering from amputation of his leg below the knee....

And, I'm giving thanks for the safe drive, the startling vistas, the amazing cold, and a decent car with 4-wheel drive....

At prayer this morning (portions of psalm 50)

The LORD, the God of gods, has spoken; *
he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, *
God reveals himself in glory.
Our God will come and will not keep silence; *
before him there is a consuming flame,
and round about him a raging storm.
He calls the heavens and the earth from above *

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.”

There we are! "and round about him a raging storm"
Peace out.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I climbed up on the garage roof....

It snowed last night --with strong winds... the kind of night that makes me feel sorry for the horses and cows out in the fields, huddled behind wind breaks. Not quite so sorry for the foxes and buffalo and coyotes and such --they are free and wild... but sorry for those animals that we have domesticated.

Especially for some of the dogs here in town. They curl up anywhere, scrounge for food. I realized yesterday, out in the yard with teeny-weeny Paeha and itty-bitty Witty, worried about the six Rez dogs hanging out in the parking lot --that they might come in to the yard where we have no fence and 'get' us --in the midst of that fear I realized how smart, really smart those Rez dogs are. I mean, they can't drink from the puddles on the ground, even when they do melt, because they are filled with the sand/salt thrown out to assist in the melting. So I watched as the dogs shared lapping at the dripping water from the downspouts --yes, it got above freezing, and snow was melting yesterday.

And, then when I climbed up on the garage roof (the security lamp shade had twisted off in the wind, and with more high winds in the forecast, I had to do something, but I realized as I got up there that the shade hadn't just twisted off, the holders had been filed through by the shade itself --I am sure you've probably broken a piece of metal by constant bending, right --so, I used duct tape to put it back in its place while Joel wrung his hands at the foot of the ladder --please be careful --please be careful), I realized that they have sentinel dogs, keeping watch over the pack, watching for a competing pack that might enter the territory of the church parking lot.

--and, they were all crowded in to the parking lot, because there was a funeral, and when there is a funeral there is usually Spirit food put out --which means food for the dogs when the people aren't watching....

So, water from the down spout and Spirit food --and of course, dumpster diving.... Rez dog survival skills.

And I worry about them today --I see them trouncing through the snow in packs on the other side of the fence. Paeha goes crazy barking at them. I don't think the Rez dogs can hear through the double panes and storm windows.... maybe they can and just ignore the noise of a sissy dog....

I think the life expectancy for a Rez dog is just long enough to breed.... I rarely see a dog I recognize. And they are all young.

I see their prints in the yard all the time --they drive Witty and Paeha to distraction.

And, while yesterday was warm enough to start to melt things, this morning it is below zero. There is a continued chance of snow --which we so desperately need because of the drought --and the winds have died down for the moment, though they are predicted to return by nightfall. The parking lot is a thick sheet of ice.... and I will be venturing out in it all to go to the hospital to have my picture took for a poster to be hung all over the Reservation --a bunch of us breast cancer survivors.... They want me in my clericals. (heheheh --Won't that just scare folks?)

And I pray... I pray for wit and wisdom as I return to work; I pray for D who is having his leg amputated this morning; I pray for the Rez dogs and the cattle and the horses; I pray for our silly little dogs; I pray for Deacon as she prepares for a short leave for restoration; I give thanks for those of you who sustain us in prayer --in thought, word and deed; I give thanks for my Bishop who, as L said, left his ego in another state, and truly cares for and loves every bit of this Diocese; I give thanks for my beloved; I give thanks for the people of this Reservation --may they not hide their light under a basket and such....

It is a cold and dangerous world out there... laced with wonder, awe and grace.

At prayer this morning (from Galatians 2)
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.

And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

Law. If it is about the law, then Christ died for nothing.... that about says it.

It is not the law of the survival of the fittest that will help anything survive winter here... it is only and remains only compassion --and sharing --and yes, luck --but mostly by sharing.... It is not the law that will sustain us....

It is grace.

--and love.

Amen.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

things seen and unseen

Well... I'm disappointed in the storm. It promised snow, but we got only about 1/2" of the stuff --sticky and wet, that stuck to the dogs' feet in little snow balls that had to be combed out. And I can sit here with my coffee in the sun in my living room, and look out to the south-east, and see it snowing in buckets. A friend wrote and said they got 6" of the stuff... well, dang.

My weather gadget says it will snow again today, with accumulation up to 1" --but in the sun shine, and what I can garner from the radar gadgets available to me --I don't think so. Unless there is something hidden --a snow spirit somewhere....

Which reminds me --last October, Joel and I drove to the County buildings and got his South Dakota handicap parking permit to replace his Virginia one --the blue and white eight by three thick plastic card that hangs from the rear view mirror --and then we drove to Mobridge and shopped, using the permit, and then came home. Then the next time we went shopping, and I stuck my hand in to the compartment where we keep the permit --the South Dakota parking permit was missing. We ransacked the car, lifting, sorting, searching --and we couldn't find it.

So, we went to Rapid, and were going to park in the handicap parking place next to the hotel (it is all on-street 2-hour parking near the hotel --the parking lot being several blocks away), and I reached in to the compartment for the Virginia handicap parking permit which we still had (good until 2016) --and bottabing... I pulled out the South Dakota permit....

What the.... ???!!!! We were astounded --plumb knocked off our rockers.... How could it have been in there for four months, and we not see it or feel it.... plain impossible. Impossible.

And, yet, there it was.

You tricked me, I said to Joel --you found it somewhere and put it back there. No, he said, I was just going to say the same thing to you --you tricked me. And we poked each other with our fingers --You. No, You. And we laughed and laughed.

And, so, we blamed the Little People --or a spirit that must live in the garage....

Probably a kindred spirit to the snow spirit that took our snow and gave it to the people living south-east of us.... Which might mean that our snow will show up here sooner or later.... maybe.

At prayer this morning (from Mark 6, ending at verse 13)

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.

He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

In the meantime, we pray for the animals and growing things that continue to suffer drought conditions. We pray for those things seen and unseen --those hidden and incomprehensible things, the spirits. For D who will have to have a foot amputated tomorrow --up to the knee; for the family gathered over in the church last night and this morning to bury another baby; for all those whom we love but see no longer; for all those in one of those limbo places or trying places of transition; for the People of God whom I serve; for grace and courage and perseverance... in thanksgiving for all those things missing that are found....

Amen.

Monday, January 28, 2013

bread falls from the heavens like snow

Okay --in anticipation of D's arrival in a couple of weeks --and taking Deacon to the airport at the end of this week, I have been trying to find extended forecast pages --so that I can track storms and plan when to be on the road etc.... And I found this site, which at first didn't catch my attention in any way --but then my cursor accidentally ran over the blue line of days at the bottom of the map.... If you start with your cursor over "Day 1" and move to the right... well, you'll see.

I thought it was kinda fun. Especially making the weather move from east to west by running the cursor right to left. Which isn't so far from the truth here --I mean, yes, the weather runs from W to E --but on the surface, more so than any place I've ever lived, the wind can blow, hard, from any direction --the weather can blow in from any where.

And if you live on one of the coasts, and you are saying --well, we get Santa Anna winds (west), or, well, we get nor'easters (east) --I've seen and lived with all that, and no... this is a different sensation, entirely.

And, it is snowing right now --it will persist for the next 24+ hours --teeny tiny little flakes that cover the sins of the world.... The model last week suggested we might get heavy snow at times, with accumulations of several inches, but there is no indication of that right now.... We'll see.

It was amazing --on the way home from Rapid on Saturday where it had been in the 50s --watching the temperature drop back down in to the 20s the closer we got to Eagle Butte --watching the snowpack increase alongside the road --returning to a whole different world in so, so, so many ways.

We have been looking for "decent" bread here --and one would think that here in the land of grain somebody would be doing something creative.... But the whole wheat here --in bakeries and markets --it's just like white bread, only it's brown. There is no real substance to it. But, then, Saturday, as we were playing around, we stumbled in to this wonderful place in Rapid that sold Dakota foods --and we found bread. Real. Bread. Oats. Barley. Whole wheat. Organic grains.... We had lunch there --and I had a platter of olives, dried fruits, nuts, meats & cheeses --and B.R.E.A.D.

We got the chance to speak with the baker, and he asked what type of bread we were looking for --and I asked --real sour sour sour dough, like in San Francisco. And he said --he has tried tried tried --but even when he gets starter from San Francisco --after three days of ripening here, it just turns to a lemony taste.... So, no, we won't find any real sour sour dough bread here.

But, his bread is absolutely divine. He knew what we meant when we said we wanted the bread to be a meal in itself....

At prayer this morning (beginning at 1 Samuel 2:1)
My heart exults in you, O God; *
my triumph song is lifted in you.
My mouth derides my enemies, *
for I rejoice in your salvation.
There is none holy like you, *
nor any rock to be compared to you, our God.
Do not heap up prideful words or speak in arrogance; *
Only God is knowing and weighs all actions.
The bows of the mighty are broken, *
but the weak are clothed in strength.
Those once full now labor for bread, *
those who hungered now are well fed.

Bread, I think..... and in this different world to which we returned --where diabetes ravages the population --where there is a dialysis clinic that runs 16 hours a day seven days a week --and there is a waiting list to receive treatment.... and folks with diabetes aren't supposed to eat white bread and folks on dialysis aren't supposed to eat wheat bread... where there was no tradition of bread --only ground up kernels and seeds and powered dried buffalo made in to patties --easy to carry....

Weather.
Bread.

And an hour ago, the forecast was for light snow on and off.... and I just received a weather alert warning of heavy snow --and it's coming down like crazy....

And how to speak of "bread for the world" in an almost bread-less place?

--and so I do, by referring to all that it takes to make bread --the wind, rain, mother earth, sun, moon, birds and insects and human hands....

--and when one does that, bread falls from the heavens like snow....

Please pray for D --in the hospital with possible amputation. And for W whose husband died.

I'm still not back to work --not until Friday.... week two of vacation.
And It Is Good.

Amen.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

slept. ate. played. looked at pretty things.

Been in Rapid.
Vacationing.

We found a really good Mexican restaurant --except they do the hard cracker-like sopapillas instead of the puffy ones that get filled with honey and cream.... Oh well. So we ate flan instead --our favorite dessert anyway. I ate shrimp wrapped in bacon --Joel had a pork burrito with chile verde and loved it. Their guacamole was some of the best. Ever. And we went to our favorite Italian restaurant where I had chicken, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, zucchini in a spicy olive oil sauce over linguine. I had creme brule for dessert there --another kind of flan, right?! Joel has lasagna.

We saw three movies. I really liked Skyfall. The Hobbit was great --but, obviously not the complete story, which was disappointing. And was bored through most of Lincoln. If I had wanted to watch a parable about politics.... but, I didn't.... so, there we are. I was hoping for more biography --I loved the little bits where Lincoln shared stories. And the conversations between Mr & Mrs Lincoln were good. But otherwise... .

There is the livestock show in town --the place is really full with cowboys having fun --and huge pickups, straw, and livestock. Women in red cowboy boots. Little boys in bolo ties.

We took Teeny Weeny and Itty Bitty to the park, and they ran, and ran, and ran. It's the first substantial above-freezing weather we've experienced since Thanksgiving --and I'm talking temperatures in the 50s. They are loving it. When we left Eagle Butte, it was 3 degrees. When we got to Rapid, it was 40. And there I was in long underwear and snow boots. There's not even any snow on the ground here --it's the tropics of South Dakota.

We've slept. Ate. Played. Looked at pretty things. --oh, and I got a massage and re-entered my body... if you know what I mean. After the massage, I asked the young woman --do you do this as a spiritual ministry. Yes, she said. It show, I said. Thank you. The 'spa' was called "Wicked" --but I didn't see Elphaba... or flying monkeys or anything.... Just peace and restoration.

Which was wonderful.
It's all been wonderful.

At prayer this morning (Canticle: A Song of the Wilderness, Isaiah 35:1-7, 10)

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, *
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
It shall blossom abundantly, *
and rejoice with joy and singing.
They shall see the glory of the Lord, *
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weary hands, *
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to the anxious, “Be strong, do not fear! *
Here is your God, coming with judgment to save you.”
Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, *
and the ears of the deaf be unstopped.
Then shall the lame leap like a deer, *
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness *
and streams in the desert;
The burning sand shall become a pool *
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
The ransomed of God shall return with singing, *
with everlasting joy upon their heads.
Joy and gladness shall be theirs, *
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
There we are.
Off I go.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

--those words of subversive power--

They claim it's been in the works even before the Newtown massacre.... and the school boards representatives and teachers reps object strongly to the Bill allowing teachers, administrators and volunteers to have guns in schools, but my suspicion is that here in Don't Tell Me What To Do South Dakota --the Bill will pass....

...sigh....

Which put me in mind this morning of losing children, and my prayers for the parents and guardians and aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas of the lost children of Newtown --and how our oldest would have been 30 years old about this week... and I think how strange it is to miss a child that was never born, but I do... which puts me in mind of the women of this Reservation --of the congregations I serve --and I can think of only three women that have NOT lost a child, and how in my off-Reservation life I am an anomaly --I don't know many women who have lost children --and, yet here --nearly every one has....

--and what a different tenor that gives to Good Friday, mothers weeping at the foot of the cross....

--and how not a single gun in any school could have saved any of them --and how grounded in fear and self-protection and then more fear it all is.

And I pray for the spiritual health and well-being of The People --and for this Nation, because I think we have so much all backwards....

--which reminds me of the book by Charles Williams (is it The Greater Trumps? --dangit, I cannot remember the title) in which the devil or the devil's lackey goes around unspeaking things --un-doing the words spoken at creation that brought all things in to being, un-creating creation itself. And does it in such a way that is so very subtle and un-terrifying to witness because one is brought in to a spiritual lull --a frozenness in the presence of the uncreating backwards words.... A horrid thought.

But I cannot help but think that is what is happening to us --that we are caught in a frozenness, a spiritual lull, and are powerless to stop the un-creating that is happening around us. Calling war mongers "peace keepers" for example. Or the warehousing of the elderly "care". Or mandates to purchase insurance "health care reform". None of those things are any of those things.

And I read and re-read Cornel West's reaction to Obama using MLK's bible for the swearing in --and I am glad West is resisting the numbing normalization --glad West is resisting the un-creating of the prophetic voice of MLK by saying "We just loving the tradition that produced Martin Luther King, Jr. and we're not going to allow it to be in any way sanitized, deodorized and sterilized, we want the subversive power to be heard."

Yes. Un-created. Sanitized. Deodorized. Sterilized. We want MLK's voice to be heard. We want God's power to turn over the work of our hands --the drones of war, the violence of racism, the death of children... and we want someone to be speaking those words --those words of subversive power --the power of love, before we are lulled to sleep by the insidiousness of un-creation.

At least, I do. And it is, perhaps, the present sting of the deaths of my children --at the many deaths I know here, that keep me awake from the lullaby of un-creation. It is the holes in my heart that allow the light to shine through.

At prayer this morning (portions of Mark 4:21-34)
Jesus said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
....
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
For to those who have, more will be given  --and I do not think Jesus is really talking about material wealth here, although there is certainly a subversive way to read it thus.... In light of the Beatitudes, I think Jesus is speaking of those blessings.....

And I mustn't balk when I think of the tiny gestures of ministry --all ministry --our shared ministry --our part in the eternal ministry --our share of the eternal priesthood --all of us... and against the uncreating forces, our little resistance, our little bits of fire seem like nothing.

But, that is like hiding our lamps under the bed... or thinking our mustard seed inconsequential. We do what we do to the Glory of God. Without betting on the outcome. Because that is not our business. That would merely be uncreating what God has in mind.

Or something like that.

Off I go.

It's windy and cold. Even so --we're going on an adventure for the day!
Peace out.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

such are my prayers this morning, anyway

Okay --I knew it all along. But it came clear as light.

The Rabid Right, who claim to worry about the "growing deficit" for the sake of the generations to come, don't really worry about the generations to come at all.

If they did, they wouldn't block alternative and self-sustaining energy sources; they wouldn't block protecting our world from greater and greater pollution; they wouldn't block health care and education for all children; they wouldn't block even moderate gun control laws.... They wouldn't so greedily and so readily send the children (but not theirs) to war.

All they really care about is the bottom dollar --as it feels in their hands. If they really cared about the generations to come, they wouldn't be doing what they are doing --which is only securing the future of a few --and doing so at the expense of everything else... including this, out Mother Earth.

Their actions tell the story about their true motives....

Budget.

Guns.

Blatant racist commentary that strikes to the bone.

Destruction and stalemate, instead of cooperation and compromise.

Climate and pollution.

--oh, and just why are they scared of the U.N.? --because the U.N. priorities seem to be pollution, economic justice, peace, and providing energy, food and water to all people.

Need I go on?

At prayer this morning (Ephesians 5:1)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Imitators of God.
Beloved children --all of us.
Live in love --sacrificial love.

There we are.
Well, such are my prayers this morning, anyway.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

entirely grateful

It seemed as exciting as Christmas in our house this morning --the dogs licking and pronking on my bed to get me up early. We put the water on and tromped outside in the near zero temperature to the 1/2 inch or so of new snow --and ran and ran and ran in absolute delight. While the coffee was making, the dog cookies were counted and carefully placed on tables --and when the coffee was done, the cookies were shared with much shaking and excitement and running up and down the hall and barking. And then each lap was graced, and dogs looking out the windows and barking and finally an after cookie before breakfast snooze.

And then there was breakfast.... And even greater delight.

And I am so grateful --for this time, this time together, this time here. I am on vacation, and have thought of so many words, and haven't yet written them, and had so much time to reflect and rest -I am so very grateful.

And each time we think --let's go some where-- --let's go to Rapid and go out to a movie and spend the night-- and then we turn the fireplace on and snooze and sit comfortably drinking tea or hot chocolate instead. I read a book yesterday. A whole book. In one sitting. Without interruption. How long has it been since I just sat and read? And then we get a knock on the door, and someone has sent a gift to the churches of new Paschal candles. And I am so entirely grateful.

We haven't even been to the post office to check our box, we've been so lazy. We haven't even vacuumed or done the dishes, we've been so lazy.

And I am so entirely grateful.

At prayer this morning (Ephesians 4, ending with verse 16 --see how lazy I am --I won't even look it up)

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

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

And the body must rest, too.

The body must rest.

And, so, I am trying to set a good example --and rest.
And I am so entirely grateful!

Peace out!

And, blogger refuses to acknowledge the word PRONKING --so, just prove that such a word exists, and what absolute delight it signifies, here:

Monday, January 21, 2013

for the sake of the people --so that the people might live

It is Martin Luther King Day.

And as I sit here, in the poorest county in our Nation, I can't help think of the sermon/speech King gave just four days before he was assassinated, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”:

Jesus told a parable one day, and he reminded us that a man went to hell because he didn’t see the poor. His name was Dives. He was a rich man. And there was a man by the name of Lazarus who was a poor man, but not only was he poor, he was sick. Sores were all over his body, and he was so weak that he could hardly move. But he managed to get to the gate of Dives every day, wanting just to have the crumbs that would fall from his table. And Dives did nothing about it. And the parable ends saying, “Dives went to hell, and there were a fixed gulf now between Lazarus and Dives.”

There is nothing in that parable that said Dives went to hell because he was rich. Jesus never made a universal indictment against all wealth. It is true that one day a rich young ruler came to him, and he advised him to sell all, but in that instance Jesus was prescribing individual surgery and not setting forth a universal diagnosis. And if you will look at that parable with all of its symbolism, you will remember that a conversation took place between heaven and hell, and on the other end of that long-distance call between heaven and hell was Abraham in heaven talking to Dives in hell.

Now Abraham was a very rich man. If you go back to the Old Testament, you see that he was the richest man of his day, so it was not a rich man in hell talking with a poor man in heaven; it was a little millionaire in hell talking with a multimillionaire in heaven. Dives didn’t go to hell because he was rich; Dives didn’t realize that his wealth was his opportunity. It was his opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus. Dives went to hell because he was passed by Lazarus every day and he never really saw him. He went to hell because he allowed his brother to become invisible. Dives went to hell because he maximized the minimum and minimized the maximum. Indeed, Dives went to hell because he sought to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty.

And this can happen to America, the richest nation in the world-and nothing’s wrong with that-this is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.

In a few weeks some of us are coming to Washington to see if the will is still alive or if it is alive in this nation. We are coming to Washington in a Poor People’s Campaign. Yes, we are going to bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. We are going to bring those who have known long years of hurt and neglect. We are going to bring those who have come to feel that life is a long and desolate corridor with no exit signs. We are going to bring children and adults and old people, people who have never seen a doctor or a dentist in their lives.

We are not coming to engage in any histrionic gesture. We are not coming to tear up Washington. We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. We read one day, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.

We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic nonviolent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible.

Why do we do it this way? We do it this way because it is our experience that the nation doesn’t move around questions of genuine equality for the poor and for black people until it is confronted massively, dramatically in terms of direct action.

Great documents are here to tell us something should be done. We met here some years ago in the White House conference on civil rights. And we came out with the same recommendations that we will be demanding in our campaign here, but nothing has been done. The President’s commission on technology, automation and economic progress recommended these things some time ago. Nothing has been done. Even the urban coalition of mayors of most of the cities of our country and the leading businessmen have said these things should be done. Nothing has been done. The Kerner Commission came out with its report just a few days ago and then made specific recommendations. Nothing has been done.

And I submit that nothing will be done until people of goodwill put their bodies and their souls in motion. And it will be the kind of soul force brought into being as a result of this confrontation that I believe will make the difference.

Yes, it will be a Poor People’s Campaign. This is the question facing America. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. America has not met its obligations and its responsibilities to the poor.

One day we will have to stand before the God of history and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done. Yes, we will be able to say we built gargantuan bridges to span the seas, we built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. Yes, we made our submarines to penetrate oceanic depths. We brought into being many other things with our scientific and technological power.

It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, “That was not enough! But I was hungry, and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me. And consequently, you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness. If ye do it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.” That’s the question facing America today.

I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” The world must hear this. I pray God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.

I am convinced that it is one of the most unjust wars that has ever been fought in the history of the world. Our involvement in the war in Vietnam has torn up the Geneva Accord. It has strengthened the military-industrial complex; it has strengthened the forces of reaction in our nation. It has put us against the self-determination of a vast majority of the Vietnamese people, and put us in the position of protecting a corrupt regime that is stacked against the poor.

It has played havoc with our domestic destinies. This day we are spending five hundred thousand dollars to kill every Vietcong soldier. Every time we kill one we spend about five hundred thousand dollars while we spend only fifty-three dollars a year for every person characterized as poverty-stricken in the so-called poverty program, which is not even a good skirmish against poverty.”

I suppose we spend even more now, to kill our enemies in the Middle East....

--and I see, everyday, the spiritual, moral and physical devastation of poverty --spiritual because there is little hope except to survive, surviving for a chance for your children's children --moral because all I have to do is drive 90 miles and see the accumulated abundance, and how much that is like the pathway in the parable of Dives --physical because I live in the midst of the highest child suicide rate, highest infant mortality, and lowest life expectancy in the nation.

I buried five children this year --a fifteen year old, a twelve year old, a two-day old and two stillborns....

I buried more than I care to count who died from liver failure due to alcohol consumption before the age 40.... And how easy it is to say --well, that's their fault.

No --it is the symptom of oppression, devastation and poverty.

I buried more than I care to count who died because they refused medical care --a decision based in the emotional froth of ignorance and a poor educational system, and afraid of being caught up in "the system" and losing whatever little autonomy they had left.

I look around and see houses that mission groups come and fix up, and within a few years the houses are like bombed out shells again --the inhabitants wreaking the same devastation upon their surroundings as to their bodies --as they do to their souls and hearts and minds --submitting all to the wreckage of hopelessness and despair.

I look around and see discarded cars and trucks and trailers because who can afford to move them? Who can afford to clean it up --tow it, pay the dump fees? The wind will carry it away piece by piece... eventually.

I see the body blows given all around....

And yet --there are the folks who lift their heads, and in the midst of it all remember what it is to be a human being. And they have driven a stake in to the ground and tie themselves to it and promise to stay there for the sake of the people --so that the people might live.

MLK was one of those. Who worked for the sake of the people --so that the people might live.

--in the example of Christ....

And I thank God for his witness and ministry.

At prayer this morning (ending with Ephesians 4:32)

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.

Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

I would rather liken the "thieves" to those who make a great deal of money without ever lifting their own hands to the task and not sharing with the needy....

And now, Joel has said something about the rest of the day, so, off I go.

Peace out.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Just what we need....

At prayer this morning (Isaiah 43:1-13)
But now thus says the LORD,

he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:


Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.


For I am the LORD your God.

Because you are precious in my sight,

and honored, and I love you,

I give people in return for you,

nations in exchange for your life.

Do not fear, for I am with you;

I will bring your offspring from the east,

and from the west I will gather you;

I will say to the north, “Give them up,”

and to the south, “Do not withhold;

bring my sons from far away

and my daughters from the end of the earth
-
everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.”

That is perfect for a funeral reading --includes the Four Directions, an assurance of God's love, remembering God as the Creator who made and formed us for love....

And this too (Canticle, Song of the Wilderness: Isaiah 35:1-7, 10)
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, *
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
It shall blossom abundantly, *
and rejoice with joy and singing.
They shall see the glory of the Lord, *
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weary hands, *
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to the anxious, “Be strong, do not fear! *
Here is your God, coming with judgment to save you.”
Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, *
and the ears of the deaf be unstopped.
Then shall the lame leap like a deer, *
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness *
and streams in the desert;
The burning sand shall become a pool *
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
The ransomed of God shall return with singing, *
with everlasting joy upon their heads.
Joy and gladness shall be theirs, *
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

I think I shall add these to the funeral readings.... These are stunningly beautiful and hopeful. Direct. Just what we need.

There we are. Thanks be to God.
Amen.

Friday, January 18, 2013

--and still they stand and pray

It has been marginally above freezing for the last two days --melting the great banks of snow and causing run off which has then frozen during the night, causing great sheets of ice. The other night, between the melting and the freezing, it caused a HUGE body of water to form, and Joel couldn't get the water to part and form a bridge of dry land, no matter how long I stood there holding his arms up.... And we couldn't cross it on foot. So, we had to get the chariot out and drive through it.

Sigh. I hate driving 100 feet to the church. It's just wrong. It feels so southern Californ-i-ish....

Then, when we return, we get our wheels wet crossing the HUGE body of water again, crunching through the thin sheet of ice that has formed. We park in the garage, and in the morning as we prepare to drive the chariot again, there are great sheets of ice inside the garage where the water from the chariot's tires has formed remnant bones of the winter weather outside.

Will these bones rise again? Surely.... Actually, what happens is that when the humidity drops, even the ice and snow evaporate, including the ice in the garage. It is an amazing thing.

A. Maze. Ing.

Yesterday, to explore places we had not yet been, we drove to Gettysburg....



We didn't take that picture --obviously, because there is green grass, and we saw it with a foot of snow around its base. It was getting dark by the time we got there, so I had to find this one on-line. But you get the idea. We laughed and laughed as we entered the town. Gettysburg is about 20 miles the other side of the River....

Missouri River, entirely frozen, taken from the road.
The ones we took closer to the River didn't stay in the camera....

The River is frozen. Frozen. Frozen. Huge chunks of ice --boulders of ice bumping and grinding. Actually, the is not the River in its natural state --I mean, being frozen is natural, yes. But this is about 40 miles upstream from the Oahe Dam, so this is really the Oahe Lake --the River, dammed.

And underneath the ice boulders are the remnants of "The Old Agency" --the town with a hospital, schools, churches, established in the 1860s alongside places where The People had lived since forever, alongside the places where the Creator had brought the People out of the earth.

church at Old Agency, Cheyenne River, South Dakota


Hospital, Old Agency, Cheyenne River

--the whole town swallowed up by water.... The best dirt for the best gardens gone, buried, for the benefit of the white farmers down stream.

The people were relocated. Some refused to go any further than the hills close by --glacial moraines that yield nothing but more rock than you can count. Others were carried to Eagle Butte. The dead they could find were uprooted from the Agency and church cemeteries and taken to a knoll by On the Tree Road, and reburied in one large common grave.

Will these bones rise again? Surely.....

At prayer this morning (Acts 10:34)

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

How much can a people endure, O Lord?
And still they stand, and pray.
And still....

Amen.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

--a dwelling place for God.

Day one of vacation --now what do I do??!!!!!

Last night, we showed the movie "Dakota 38" in the parish hall of St. John's. Forty-five people showed up to see the film --it was amazing. And after the movie, we moved the chairs in to a circle and talked late in to the night. It was truly humbling and amazing --little children all the way through to the elders, telling their stories, crying, laughing.

Some of the folks there were related to those condemned and hung. Some of the folks were related to those who did the ride. Some of the folks were present at the ride. Arvol Looking Horse, Pipe Keeper, who led portions of the ride, came last night and spoke.

Humbling.

Joel and I  were the only white people in the crowd. We both spoke about being white, about this part of our nation's history not being adequately taught or taught at all in the history classes, about the guilt and shame.... And I said that the secret of most white people is that they don't know their own culture --they don't know their own history --they don't know much beyond their own grandparents, if that --they don't know what it is they have lost, and that is where the craziness comes from. They are not spiritually grounded. They only know and vote and work to put $$$$ in their pockets or to obtain power (the flip side of oppression and exclusion).

And I thought of all those media personalities and the Tea Partiers and etc... and know we are in for more trouble ahead. And I wondered if any of them could ever be convinced --could ever see beyond what they think they know, but don't. I wondered if any of them could ever realize and weep over the blood and bones upon which this nation is built.

I wondered if any of them could ever apologize.... Because, in the movie, the Lakota elder who had the vision and did the ride said, Let us Lakota be the first to apologize --there was great wrong on all sides.

He apologized for the wrong done.

Dang.

Halfway through the movie, our internet hiccuped and we were thrown off the wi-fi and couldn't get back on --so one of the kids ran home and got his CD. He and his dad were talking on the Indian radio station the other day --talking about the Dakota 38 ride and the Wounded Knee ride, and the guy whose vision it was to have the Dakota 38 ride heard the interview, got in the car and drove to the Indian radio station, and gave them a CD. And that was the CD we watched.

It's all that close.

Someone said that they were going to have to make rides for quite a while --four years for each person killed.... which is what --152 years. And I wanted to say --No! 37 of the 38 were Christians and they don't need to be set free from that past --they are already free, the price has been paid.... But, I didn't. Those are the kind of words that are said one-to-one. Or when I am asked to speak to such things.

I am not here to save --I am here to love, and to be present to the joy, the suffering and the struggle. The world, the whole world is already saved.

At prayer this morning (Ephesians 2:11-22)

So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” –a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands –-remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

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

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

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

A Christian cannot help but look around and see Christ. In all things. In all ways. In all persons.

The law is abolished... one new humanity... reconcile to God... proclaiming peace... the whole "structure" joined and a holy temple... built together in to a dwelling place for God.

Not perfect as the world would have it, know it, think it. But certainly holy.

--a dwelling place for God. God has left heaven and pitched his tent among us. God with us.

That about says it.
Off I go.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

arms wide enough to hold it all, and waiting for my brain to click back on....

My brain is on 'pause' --I hit the button, and let it stay there.... I need to push it back on for a little bit tonight when we show the movie Dakota 38 in the parish hall, and then lead the discussion. But I can wait to turn my brain on again until after I shovel the snow that fell over night.... And then, after the movie tonight, I begin two weeks of vacation....

In the meantime, I have both dogs sitting in my lap... and the computer too. Paeha asked to get up for some post-breakfast loving, and then Mr. Witty sat just out of reach, moping. So, I tricked Witty in to coming closer, and picked him up to give him what he really wanted --center stage in my lap. Paeha is so tiny, he can sit between my hip and the edge of the chair and put his head on the arm of the chair --and he is happy just to be close. Mr. Witty, however, whom we used to think of as a small dog but is now twice the size of Paeha, demands more attention than just being close. He wants it all.

I understand. I truly understand.

What amazes me, is that I once thought of small dogs as merely lunch for bigger dogs --they weren't "real" dogs.... So, we've always had 40-60 pounds dogs. And I thought I only liked hounds, too... until I got my first shepherd type dog --and then it was all over.

I remember distinctly the first time I realized that we had shifted from dogs that could protect us, to dogs that needed protecting. We were camping with Mr. Witty at Snake Lake in northern California, and an osprey flew over --I saw its shadow move through our camp.... We had watched in wonder as this osprey picked salmon out of the water, a precision strike faster than the eye, lugging it with tremendous strength --the awesome wing span. And we knew the salmon was bigger than our dog. I hardly let Mr. Witty out of my arms the rest of the time....

And here he sits this morning, moping because he now has to share my arms....

And I understand. I truly understand.

At prayer this morning (from Isaiah 41)

You whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Hey God, it's margaret here. Today is the last day of work before I begin two weeks of vacation --and tonight we show Dakota 38 in the parish hall with discussion to follow. Be with us. Tend your flock. Send no birds of prey this way. Help us hold each other in prayer without jealous moping. Give us the hearts to understand, eyes to see, ears to hear, and arms wide enough to hold it all.

--and most especially, thank you for the desolation of winter.... It is totally, freakin' awesome.

Now, I'm off to see if I can move with a broom the snow that fell over night... the snow here gives new meaning to the word 'powder'.
Amen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What the heck is beauty?

Joel says, I want to know about beauty. What the heck is beauty?

He says this as he conducts the orchestra in the middle of our living room, waving his arms in the air before him, the invisible baton narrowly missing his cup of coffee --trying out different theme songs for the day --shall it be love? chaos? wisdom? dog personalities? beauty?

He asks about beauty after wondering why everyone couldn't or won't see the three utility poles as an icon of Calvary --can't see the tragic reality of it all --and the circumstance of beauty as the sun rises through the litter of the town, as it always does, compelling the night and dark and the spirits that run wild and unseen to withdraw. The beauty of it.

What the heck is beauty?

The eye of the beholder makes beauty, I think to myself... intrinsic and extrinsic value, worth, design --that ain't it. Or, even more to the point, the inner eye that stakes a claim to those things that cannot be held, cannot be claimed or grasped --those things that point to something greater than themselves.

And I think, with the water of Baptism still knee deep around here, I think of John the Baptist, pointing.... That is true human beauty.




The wry eyes, the upturned mouth that has the courage to call out truth to Herod and all the rest of us, and even to Jesus himself --drawn in to his face, we must follow down his naked shoulder, and rather than eating the rest of his body with our eyes, we are turned by his gesture to consider something other, something else --he points us to something greater....

That is beauty.
And it can be ragged and ugly, terrifying, wry. It can even be sin.
And it can be chock full of beauty.

Like a body on a cross. Piercing the sky.
Beauty.
Pointing to the heart of God.

Or, like a landscape that continually draws the eye --from the round hill, to the trees and the line of the river that runs away through the cover of tall grass and willow --drawing the eye to the horizon and around again to the backbone of the hill.

Unlike most urban landscapes that strike and impress themselves... perhaps drawing the eye into very exciting and wonderful fabrications --or leading the eye to excavate lines and shadows and maybe even the horizon... but always self-referencing.

At least, that is the way it seems from here... .

Here. No place to hide from death. No place to hide from the fragility of life. No place to hide from the power that one cannot strive to possess. No place not to be lost in things greater....

At prayer this morning (Isaiah 40:25-31)
To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.    ...

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;

--but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

In the beauty of holiness....

What more is there?



These, too, are beauty:





There we are.
Beauty.

Off I go.
Into the beauty of holiness.
Amen.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wild God of the Living Waters

We put out the hot water, the sweet-smelling oil, a small linen to wipe the child's forehead, a candle. We set them on the rough table made of 2x4s that we had drug up next to the font. We set the Paschal candle next to the font. It is the sixth candle we have burned down to a nub this year --it is an old candle with the date "2008" around a sign of the cross engraved in gold into its body.

The Paschal Candle, with its beadwork to cover the numbers of a previous year.
We usually have a star quilt on the altar.


We lace on the leather and bead work that cover the numbers --bead work of a cross and eagle feathers. The candle was a gift. Prayed over in some place far away from here. Hardly used. We will use it all up. Gratefully.

We prepared the altar, put out the bread and wine and water. I made the announcement that I forgot to hit the double-side feature to print out the readings --and we all laughed and the resulting paper shuffling sounded like wind through dry grass. We sang a hymn.

And still the candidate for baptism had not yet arrived. It was, by the clock --as if that means anything --twenty minutes past --twenty minutes after we were scheduled to begin --but like everything else here, things happen when they happen.... So I asked if anyone wanted to be baptized, the water was warm --and we all laughed. And still no candidate....

So we lit the candles on the altar and began praying to Our Father from whom no secrets are hid --we heard the readings.... I gathered with the children for the sermon, sitting on the step before the altar --telling them their regular names probably have a meaning, and that my name, Margaret, meant 'pearl' or 'wild flower' --and that at baptism we receive a name --a secret name --Child of God, Beloved, Of Whom God Is Well Pleased....

And then I asked if there were anyone who wished to be baptized --more folks had come in. And a beautiful young man --maybe ten, maybe eleven years old stood and said, 'yes' --his grandfather said, 'here he is.' And a new light entered the room --the people breathed and smiled and laughed.

The boy and his family and Godparents came forward. We lit the paschal candle, we confessed the faith of the church, we prayed, I asked the Godparents if they promised to do all in their power to teach this child to live a holy life, to teach him to reject those things that are not life-fulfilling. We poured water and prayed over it, giving thanks for the Spirit that hovers over the water of creation, hovers over this water. I saw the ancestors gathered by the Water of Life --the River of Life that used to meander through the trees and open places east of us --water that now gathers passive behind the dam, the old ways drowned in the thick dark deep. I gave thanks for the living water in this place, placed my whole hand in it and stirred it up, calling out to them without voice, inbetween the words I was already saying aloud....

And they turned leaving their watch posts by the water's edge and gathered round the boy, filling the room at every angle, stuffing the corners with the old stories, filling the rafters with the old ways that he will need, pressing in on us, saying their blessings --this water, the same water that has always flowed from the source of all water, the living rock --and then, like a coup*, I put water on his head, messily, so it dripped down his whole face, fell on those places all around, his shoulders... and we laughed. And then we took the sweet-smelling oil and marked him, Child of God, Beloved, Of Whom God is Well Pleased.

I forgot to ask for the offering --what more could we offer on a bitterly cold day than warm water and the life of a willing child and the humble fire of a candle.... So, we offered bread and wine, first fruits of the harvest and life blood of the vine --we called down the Spirit again, and shared and ate and laughed and sang. And after Deacon was clearing the altar away, the Warden called from the back --Mother Margaret, can you ask for the offering plate now?

And we laughed. And laughed. I said, well, now that God has fed us and assured us of his presence among us, let us offer ourselves, using the money as a sign of life and labor in the world.... And then we sang a hymn of love and the gathering of the saints. Could we sing the doxology, someone asked. So we sang the doxology, in Lakota, and processed out, giving thanks and glory to God.

It was the most perfectly imperfect liturgy, ever.

At prayer this morning (Ephesians 1:1-14 --and more, I couldn't not)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

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.
Therefore, God has highly exalted him *
and given him the name above every name,
That at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, *
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, *
to the glory of God the Father.

(Also, Mark 1:1-13)

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 
Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Wilderness awaits us all --in faith. We cannot follow a Wild God of the Living Waters and not enter the wild places.

Sunrise, Eagle Butte, SD January 14, 2013
with the three utility poles I call 'Calvary' 

It is exactly a year this week since we packed and left Richmond....

--who knew? I would have never dreamed this.... !!!

*among the Plains Indians of North America, a brave or reckless deed performed in battle by a single warrior, as touching or striking another warrior without sustaining injury oneself.

Details of the beadwork on the Paschal candle (Joel and I purchased this in thanksgiving for our 31rst anniversary)

The beadwork conveniently covers the numbers and designs of a previous year.
The colors of the Four Directions surround the cross, eagle feathers hang from the hoop.

The beadwork is laced on the candle --and then I pin it in place too....

Side detail
There we are.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

a beginning on individualism and the body

It is wild outside. W.I.L.D.

The winds aren't the worst they've ever been, but they are strong. And in some places the wind has piled the snow up four and five feet deep, and in other places it has scoured the ground naked --no snow what so ever. In the protected places, it seems we have received a couple of inches of snow --not near the six to nine predicted inches --but enough snow to be moved around.

It's particularly deep by the church --and in front of our garage....

Drifted snow in front of the garage, January 2013, Eagle Butte, SD --my impending work out

I can't see going out and trying to shovel any of it now... the wind is still blowing too hard; it will all just come back! And if I make big piles of snow on either side of my driveway, the children will just come and play on it and mash it all back in to the drive!

Oh well. Such is life. In the snow. With drifts. And wind. And children. And a driveway.

And it is glory! I am so deeply grateful to see and know these things. To know them with my body.

In speaking with someone the other day --they said they were a spiritual being having an earthly experience. I responded, no, I am an earthly being having a divine experience.... Since then, I have done a lot of turning over the soil in my heart about the 'body' --how guttural and base it can be --how filled with ecstasy it can be --and either end of that spectrum and all the places in between, it is the body that knows first and fills my mind with the sensory experience and from that sensory experience any other way of knowing has its source.

Eye. Ear. Nose. Touch. Taste. These inform me. These form me.

We are 'made' --created out of 'stuff'.... And it is to 'stuff' that we will return --the Body of Christ. Always alive. Holding all things in being.

I have no other being than that.

And thinking about the Body, has put my own body in mind --and how I must treat it more kindly. Feed it better. Feed it less. Move it around more. In ways that count.

And, like, after I make the Snow Mountain Next to the Driveway, maybe I should be the first to climb it! You know, play more. Play first.

That's it! --instead of shoveling that drift in front of the garage, I shall hide behind it, and throw snowballs at all who pass by! I can disguise myself, pull my hoody up, cover my hands in gloves --who will know! Ha ha!

Except, it's our driveway, and the church parking lot. And everyone knows. Everyone.

Oh well....

And somewhere in the back of my mind this morning another thing lurks --also body related.... The headline reads "America Flunks Its Health Exam". It mulls over the fact that as a Nation we are last in wellness and longevity.

A just-released report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council is making news by clearly illustrating that Americans have "shorter lives and poorer health." This is somewhat shocking, given how much we spend on health care each year — more than any of the 16 other rich countries surveyed in the study. What's even more upsetting is that this report focused quite heavily on people who are young. In the United States, even that group fared poorly.

Why is this?

Some of the reasons involve choices make at a personal level. We eat too much, abuse drugs too often, wear seat belts too rarely and commit violence against each other to often.

Systemic issues are also to blame. We have higher levels of poverty than comparable countries, and our safety net programs are less capable of catching people when they fall. And too many also have too much trouble accessing the health care system, resulting in inefficient, ineffective and often absent care.

....

We have to work together to make these numbers better. Some of them can be improved with public health measures. We need to help Americans be less obese, to have fewer accidents and to commit less violence. There are lots of local studies and initiatives that propose ways to fix these things, but our public health system is woefully underfunded, and translating any promising findings to meaningful societal change poses a huge challenge.

We also need to improve our safety nets to help children at the lowest end of the socioeconomic ladder do better, even before they are born. Pregnant women, babies and children suffer from hunger and malnutrition far too often in the richest country in the world. Yet we still debate the merits of the federally funded WIC (Womens, Infants and Children) program, school lunches and food assistance to needy families.
Finally, we need to find a way to improve access to the health care system. The Medicaid program covers one in every three births and one in every three children in the United States, and it's still not enough. As some states balk at expanding Medicaid to cover many of the poorest uninsured, some are still talking about reducing funding to the already stretched program. There's no question that we have the capability, the knowledge and the resources to care for people. It's just a matter of doing it better.

I think there is one systemic issue that is not mentioned here --the cult of individualism. See, I can say to myself, I can be fat --it only affects me... I can say all kinds of things about the way I treat my body (drugs, alcohol, sex etc) and believe it doesn't effect any one else....

But the cold hard reality of dollars and cents belies that --no one, no matter how rich or how well insured, no one pays their own way.... Doctors go to schools built with communal funds and pay tuition through public grants, loans etc --certainly true for nurses too... no matter how rich or well insured, we all drive on roads paid for with public money --you get the gist.

And what someone else does, affects all of us --not because we live in a closed system where all things must remain equal --but because we live in an organic system that is dependent upon all its parts....

But the cult of individualism transcends politics: we are all in the cult. We’ve all had its invisible lens pulled over our eyes such that we perceive the world through a warped and myopic tunnel vision. Aiming to find and remove this lens is as futile as trying to bite your own teeth – for it is built into us.

The great myth of our time is the heroic pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps tale of His Majesty the Autonomous Self (and how convenient is it that this selfsame trope is the foundational myth capitalism needs most for its continued political survival). But this myth needs no creeds to perpetuate its dominance, for it is woven into the very fiber of our being.

We were all inculcated into the cult of individualism – by our families, who tell us we are special; by the vision of the American Dream; by schools, who demand that we specify fields; by advertising which compels us to carve out who we are by consuming certain commodities; by capitalism which teaches us that to succeed is to win in a competition of yourself against all others; and by the ever-growing new-age and pop psychology œuvre which tells us to create our own realities…

--a charism of faith, I think to myself --We Are One. The Body.

And here, the identity of The People embedded in every day realities of All My Relatives.

And it just hit me up the backside of my head --this is my first weekend in about three months during which I do not have to preside at a funeral.... All my relatives....

At prayer this morning (Canticle: Benedicite Aotearoa, A New Zealand Prayer Book)

O give thanks to our God who is good;
whose love endures for ever.
You sun and moon, you stars of the southern sky:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
Sunrise and sunset, night and day:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All mountains and valleys, grassland and scree,
glacier, avalanche, mist and snow:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
You kauri and pine, rata and kowhai, mosses and ferns:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
Dolphins and kahawai, sealion and crab,
coral, anemone, pipi and shrimp:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
Rabbits and cattle, moths and dogs,
kiwi and sparrow and tui and hawk:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
You Maori and Pakeha, women and men,
all who inhabit the long white cloud:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All you saints and martyrs of the South Pacific:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All prophets and priests, all cleaners and clerks,
professors, shop workers, typists and teachers,
job-seekers, invalids, drivers and doctors:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All sweepers and diplomats, writers and artists,
grocers, carpenters, students and stock-agents,
seafarers, farmers, bakers and mystics:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All children and infants, all people who play:
give to our God your thanks and praise.

All. All. All.
Now.
Amen.

Off I go.

Friday, January 11, 2013

I will take that as a hint

The moon is zero percent full.
It's promising to snow like all get out. And be dreadfully cold, too.

Music for the day:















At prayer this morning:

Psalm 148

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

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

Psalm 150

Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy temple; *
praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts; *
praise him for his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the blast of the ram’s-horn; *
Praise him with lyre and harp.
Praise him with timbrel and dance; *
praise him with strings and pipe.
Praise him with resounding cymbals; *
praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.
Let everything that has breath *
praise the Lord.
Hallelujah!

Praise to the holy and undivided Trinity, one God: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

And, of course, a little gospel (John 6:15)

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

I love that line --make him king by force.... and the gospel fully implies it is not because they believed what he said, but because he fed and healed them.

Oh dear.... somehow I hit publish by mistake when trying to format the blockquote.... Now when I come back to finish my thought above, I realize I have totally lost my thread with the fluster. I will take that as a hint from the powers that be, and quit here.

Off I go.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.”

The wind is already beating against the house, making the dogs jump and bark. They say we are in for it during the next few days --ice storm stuff this afternoon and evening, beginning to snow through the night and all day tomorrow --with high winds.

I know this may sound strange --but there is a certain comfort in having cold and ice and snow. I think it borders on that place of "the way it is supposed to be".... It is almost a sense of normalcy. It is a great comfort to know that everyone is tucked away --and if there is a power outage, we will have company and warmth --our propane tank is full and will last us a month of cold and more.... Our fridge is stocked. We have plenty of packages of dried beans on the shelf.

It is time to hunker down and share. That's what we people do.

During the summer, I heard all the stories from the women elders --picking and drying berries and choke cherries, how they were stored. And then when the winter came and snow was everywhere and unexpected visitors showed up, you always assumed they were hungry (why else would they move around during the winter --unless you are hungry or in danger). So, you got the dried berries and choke cherries, boiled some water and threw the fruit in --and ate summer in the middle of winter.

In the old, old days --before metal pots --one heated rocks and placed those in the leather water containers to heat the water... it took a while.... There was not a ceramic tradition here --well, there hadn't been for about a thousand years, anyway. Ceramics broke too easily when you packed things up on the dog's back to move to the next camp. And if you didn't have a dog, the women dragged the stuff on their backs.... The tipi and all the household goods belonged to the woman, and if she decided she didn't like the man after all, she had every right to deny him entry or any part of the household. Just the way it worked.

I guess there was a certain comfort in that, too.

In my house, the dried berries probably wouldn't last through the end of October. I would boil them all up BEFORE I had to carry them any where --along with the dried wild turnips and other roots and stuff too. You know, I imagine in my mind's eye that it would be my home where the hungry came in mid-winter, but the reality is that I would probably eat all the roots and berries I could during the summer, and then resort to the meat routine all winter....

Oh --I don't know.... when I was an avid back-country backpacker, and all the camp stuff divvied up to carry, and then the personal stash of trail mix etc found its place, I always always always took the trail mix intended for week, and divided it up into 14 parts, and didn't touch it for the whole time we were on the trail. Just in case. For an emergency. My nephew once caught me divvying up my stash when I had been asked to accompany his boy scout troop on a fifty mile six day hike, and he asked what I was doing --just in case, I responded. Just in case.

And I know so many people who live their whole lives that way --storing up good deeds just in case... --storing up good thoughts, good actions like a bank account.

But, survival skills have no account with grace.

There is a pastor here in town who drives 85mph every where, even at night when the deer are out. Drive more slowly, people have said --and the pastor says, I trust God and he has told me no deer will ever be hit by my car....

That's poor survival skills --not grace. Not prayerful power. Just poor survival skills.

--what about the cattle on the road? I want to ask.... But, I don't. Grace doesn't work that way either.

At prayer this morning (John 6:1-14)
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.

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

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

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

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.”

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

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”

So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

And that is grace. That is the way grace works.

So, in the meantime, we will exercise our survival skills --we must and we should.

But it will be by the grace of God at this and any other time that we shall eat. Together. And there will be more than enough. For everyone.

Amen.

And just because this is my favorite psalm:

Psalm 139:1-17

LORD, you have searched me out and known me; *
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
but you, O LORD, know it altogether.
You press upon me behind and before *
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
it is so high that I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning *
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, *
and the light around me turn to night,”
Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day; *
darkness and light to you are both alike.
For you yourself created my inmost parts; *
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will thank you because I am marvelously made; *
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.
My body was not hidden from you, *
while I was being made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;
all of them were written in your book; *
they were fashioned day by day,
when as yet there was none of them.
How deep I find your thoughts, O God! *
how great is the sum of them!
If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; *
to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

There we are.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

the manufactured landscapes

The National Weather Service In Rapid City Has Issued A Winter Storm Watch...Which Is In Effect From Late Thursday Night Through Late Friday Night.

• Timing...Snow Will Develop Early Friday And Continue Through Friday Night. The Snow May Become Heavy.

• Main Hazard...Heavy Snow In Excess Of 6 Inches Is Possible By Saturday Morning.

• Other Conditions...Gusty Northwest Winds From 20 To 30 Mph Will Cause Blowing Snow And Greatly Reduced Visibilities. Bitterly Cold Air Combined With The Wind Will Cause Wind Chills To Drop To 10 Below To 25 Below Zero Friday Night.

Oh my. 25 below zero. (That's -32 Celsius for you Celsius fans.)
Should I worry that they capitalized Every Word? (snark)

Snark aside --guess we better get ready, make sure everyone is informed and ready. And six inches of snow is not the problem --it's the cold and windiness and the drifts that will wreak havoc. And that kind of wind and cold is likely to cause power shortages....

(!!How exciting!!!!)

And --we are supposed to have a Mission Council meeting on Saturday --guess we better delay the start until the afternoon.... No, to be smart, we will cancel.

I love it when mother nature interferes with our plans, our designs --makes us pay attention to those things which are wild. Those things set in motion through the stars and polar magnetism and the weight of the oceans on the skin of the planet. Who can tell where the wind comes from or where it goes?

The big events capture our attention --But what about the smaller everyday events? --like the color of a flower, or the light of day against the snow? Or the way our shadow casts against the moon... and how the moon pulls against the waters....

How can anyone not be in wonder and awe? All the time?

How can anyone believe our designs manifest anything but power and control? As I was out and about this week, I was fascinated to think again of the layout of the town --the fabricated landscape which is a procession --and as with any procession, we can read it, and read relationships.

The town is laid out north/south off the east/west highway --all that is along the highway are the gas stations, car stores, one tourist stop, a bank, the Tribal hotel and the pow wow grounds --but the pow wow grounds are really more in relationship to the rodeo grounds, which came first. Eagle Butte was established in 1910 when the Federal government broke the treaties it had established, and opened up the Reservation to homesteaders. The railroad established towns every 50 miles or so --Eagle Butte being one of them. So, it was a white town with white jurisdiction separate from the Tribe in the middle of the Reservation. The cowboys built a rodeo grounds first....

When, in 1950, the Army Corp of Engineers built the Oahe Dam to save the white farmers from flooding downstream, they flooded out the centuries-old Lakota settlements along the Missouri River --settlements which had turned to villages, schools, hospitals, cemeteries --all of life....

So, the Feds, after 'buying' out the landowners at 1/10 what they gave the white landowners on the other side of the River, and flooding out those who only reluctantly sold, moved the Lakota up to Eagle Butte --laid out streets according to the 1950 city planning ethos, and built "rehabilitation" housing for the "Indians". They built a new Tribal Headquarters, a new Bureau of Indian Affairs building, a new hospital and clinic... a new school and housing for the BIA and Federal employees.

These buildings anchor one end of the Main Street which runs north/south off the east/west highway. The Eagle Butte town buildings --city hall, the community center, the post office all anchor the other end of Main Street. Two competing centers of power, each with a jurisdiction that cannot touch the other --two competing poles --two suns, two moons --two winds that blow fiercely in different directions....

And the Episcopal church --as in many, many other towns and cities across this nation, sits opposite the seats of power --in this case the Tribal and Federal buildings, and next to the old hospital.

Yes, the old hospital. After 15 years of negotiating because of the asbestos in the building --the Feds finally built a new hospital. Yes --as part of the treaty rights, Indian Health Services provides medical care for all Native Americans --and just last year the new hospital opened --a brand new facility a mile out of town, along with its new housing for hospital workers only --in a gated community south of the hospital.

The "rehabilitation" housing is now in need of rehabilitation --if not destruction. They are little two-room cottages of about 600 square feet, almost like a FEMA trailer, except now 70 years old. How they expected/expect families to live in them is beyond me. They dot the neighborhood behind me. They are worse than the God-awful trailers that line some streets. The Tribal housing gets rough and tumble living, but they get new paint and interiors every so often.

The cream of the crop housing is the BIA housing on the other side of Main Street. Big houses (two and three bedroom) with basements --like ours. There are two houses on the church property here --a cement-block home directly behind the church --and ours which stands further behind the church. Our house is covered in aluminum siding. The paint of the siding has turned frosty (for lack of a better word) --when you brush up against it or touch it, the paint comes off on your finger tips.... The main entry is the back door.

And, half of the world walks here --and the other half drives. What these two halves see and how the landscape is perceived is so very different.... When we first moved here, I tried walking to the store and post office --but the sidewalks become icy, so it is necessary to walk in the street, and that is dangerous. The white people must obey the 20mph speed limit --but because of the jurisdictional overlaps, the Lakota don't have to obey the 20mph speed limit in town.... Just like when I drive out on the Reservation, the Tribal Police can only give me a warning, but they can give enrolled members tickets....

Different landscapes. Entirely different landscapes. Different jurisdictions.

But, I can be certain of one thing --we will all feel the effects of the coming storm. The storm will have no care of jurisdiction, City, Tribal, BIA, IHS, --of seats of power, of gated hospital community, rehab housing, trailer....

We will all be in it, together.
And, in the end, that is the only reality worth paying attention to....

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

Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.

For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.

But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.

Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.

Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut.

They will call you, The City of the Lord, *
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Violence will no more be heard in your land, *
ruin or destruction within your borders.

You will call your walls, Salvation, *
and all your portals, Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.

The Lord will be your everlasting light, *
and your God will be your glory.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

A new city --a new light --a new landscape --the gates always open --yeppa....

Perhaps the storm will remind us all of that....
Lord, have mercy.
Amen.