Things I've Mused On (Archive)

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Leksi Roy Stone Sr., a gift to us all

Leksi RoyThe Celebration of the Life and Gifts of Leksi Roy Stone Sr., senior medicine man and spiritual leader on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.

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What do we need to give up?

Bio photo Kernit'sSermon on Mark 10:17-31, The Rich Young Man

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On this Columbus Day, I will not celebrate a lie

“In fourteen hundred ninety two, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue …”

I learned that little ditty when I was 4 years old, and for many more years, I believed it. I believed that Columbus “discovered” America.

It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I learned that story was a lie.

I know: “Lie” is a strong word.

But the whole concept of Columbus “discovering” America? Trust me: It is a lie.

Statue of Christopher Columbus.

Statue of Christopher Columbus.

Columbus was looking for a shorter route to India. But he never got there. He landed first in what is now the Bahamas, and then went on to what is now Hispaniola, the island of the nations of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Which is how I know he didn’t “discover” America.

A meme that circulates on Facebook every year at this time corrects that little ditty so many of us memorized:

“In 1492, Natives discovered … a lost Columbus.”

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned the real truth about Columbus: That his so-called discovery led to the Doctrine of Discovery, issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493, which stated that any land not inhabited by Christians was available to be “discovered,” claimed and exploited by Christian rulers …” (Source: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History).

I learned about how, even before that horrible edict was issued, Columbus and most of the explorers who followed him across the ocean began massacring the natives they “discovered” — all in the search for riches.

And when I moved to Haiti as a missionary, I learned even more of the truth that is not told in our history books: Columbus was so intent on finding gold that when the original inhabitants — the indigenous Taino, an Arawak-speaking people who began arriving from the Yucatan peninsula as early as 4000 BCE — couldn’t produce any because the island didn’t have gold, he began enslaving and executing them.

What Columbus and his men and those who followed him did in Haiti, they did everywhere: Give us gold and riches or die.

When I moved to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, the home of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate, the Burnt Thigh Lakota Peoples, I learned even more about the history of Europeans and what they did — and continue to do — to Natives.

How the people who have been here for thousands of years were attacked, wiped out, rounded up, put on reservations as their land was stolen over and over and over again.

How their children were kidnapped and sent to boarding schools in order to “assimilate” to the white man’s ways (even though it is immigrants who are called to assimilate to the native culture).

How many of those children never returned, how they died, and how their remains are still missing, or have been buried far away from their homelands.

How Natives, the original inhabitants of this land, were not allowed to vote in this country until 1924.

How in a country founded in part on religious freedom, Natives did not have the right to celebrate their own traditional religion until the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978.

So, no, I don’t celebrate “Columbus Day.”

How could I? How could I continue to participate in the domination and denigration of the peoples who were here thousands of years before my own people came to this land?

How could I continue to participate in a lie?

I am not saying the Columbus was not a brave man for sailing across the ocean blue. I am saying that I refuse to celebrate the lies about him, that I refuse to ignore the truth about him.

Instead, on the second Monday of October each year, I celebrate Native American Day, as we call it in South Dakota. I celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, as it is called in more and more places in the United States.

Statue entitled "Dignity," Chamberlain, S.D.

Statue entitled “Dignity,” Chamberlain, S.D.

I celebrate the people who were here in the Americas for thousands of years before any European showed up, the ones who have taught me so much truth, who have helped me to understand on a much deeper level my place in God’s sacred creation, and who have assured me, in every way possible, that you can’t “discover” a land that already is inhabited by millions of people.

Christopher Columbus did not “discover” America. He got lost, and landed in the Caribbean islands.

And we need to stop celebrating that.

 

 

 

 

(This column appeared in the Herald and News of Klamath Falls, Ore., on 7 October 2018. https://www.heraldandnews.com/members/forum/wire_commentary/columbus-day-why-i-m-not-celebrating-a-lie/article_c1939abe-2a7e-5a3f-b436-508cf7528e71.html)

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Of Law & Order, Power & Authority, And The Jesus Movement

Bio photo Kernit'sThis is the sermon I preached today, 7 October 2018, on the Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West), challenging the power games of today.

 

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In such a time as this …

 

Bio photo Kernit'sOn Sunday, 30 September 2018, I used the Book of Esther to talk about what we are called to do in such a time as this. Times are tense right now in the United States, and we need to be the ones – indeed, we are called to be the ones, who stand up, who speak up, who seek justice for all.
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We are losing our soul – and our humanity

Right now, I very much fear for our country.F8C5BB25-ABCA-4459-ABDD-2C1F4F46BDEC

I fear that we are losing our soul.

That we are losing our humanity.

That we are losing any sense of community, of commonality, of the ability to even think about working together.

I am not talking about the current leadership of this country, which lies and denies and denigrates, which seems so focused on partisanship that even the hint of cooperation is dismissed as cowardly.

I am talking about the regular folks like you and me, people who get up in the morning and care for their families and go to work or school, who run errands and generally focus on simply getting through whatever the day throws at them.

I see regular folks like you and me who are federal agents working for ICE and Border Patrol and HHS no longer acting with humanity, and wonder: What did it take to make you act this way? What did it take to turn you into the kind of person who separates families and celebrates doing so?

I see regular folks like you and me who work at the detention centers for immigrants, adult and child alike, who ignore and mistreat and abuse people desperately seeking a better life, and wonder: When did you lose your compassion?

I see videos of seemingly normal people attacking complete strangers for having the audacity to speak a language other than English in this country, and wonder: When your ancestors came here – and unless you are Native, trust me, your ancestors were strangers in a strange land once – do you think they should have been attacked because they didn’t know the right language?

I see videos of white people abusing people of color simply because of their color, and wonder: Have you always been a racist?

Where, I wonder, every single day, has our humanity gone? 

Where, I wonder, every single day, are our souls?

I know we have always had among us those who harbor hate, those who despise others simply for being different, those who think they are superior for (insert any reason you want). 

And I know that those people have always acted out, that they are capable of incredibly vicious acts, including killing those who are different.

And I am aware that in this time of instant communication, of course we hear about this hatred and these vicious acts much more frequently.

But I cannot lay the blame on the Internet.

I lay the blame squarely on us.

Because we are losing our souls.

We are losing our humanity.

Not our leaders.

Us.

We are the ones who are terribly divided. Who judge instantly and nastily. Who name call. Who denigrate. Who lie. Who attack. 

We are the ones who tell women, people of color, people with disabilities, people from other countries, people who have not, that they don’t matter. That we can treat them any way we want, that we can say anything we want, that we Do. Not. Care. One. Whit. About. Them.

Where is the grace? 

Where is the understanding?

Where is the compassion?

Think about it: 

Perfectly normal people doing perfectly normal jobs suddenly have become, or at least seem to be on their way to becoming, some kind of monster doing their perfectly normal jobs. 

Separating children from parents – and gloating about it. 

Denying benefits to people – and boasting about it. 

Declaring that sexual abuse victims’ stories don’t matter – and bragging about it.

Denying food to the hungry by cutting back on food stamps, and limiting what foods poor people can buy – No steaks for you!– and ignoring cries of hunger.

Denying clean water to the thirsty (how long has Flint, Michigan, been without clean water?), and shrugging it off. 

Haughtily telling people who are poor to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, even though they don’t own boots. 

Lying about who receives federal assistance and claiming, I did it all by myself.

Changing the name of earned benefits to “entitlements,” as though we who work don’t pay into our own Social Security every single paycheck. 

Who are these people who act like this? Where did they come from? 

You know who they are?

They are us.

Walt Kelly was right: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

We have become enemies to each other.

We have lost our ability to be empathetic. 

We would rather shout than listen, attack than understand, denigrate than lift up. 

We don’t agree with someone on something? Sneer at that person. Call that person a nasty name. Insult her intelligence. Denigrate his manhood. Claim to be superior

All of this is why, at this time, I very much fear for our country.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

We could be better

We could show grace and mercy to each other.

We could listen.

We could try to understand.

We could help.

We could remember that we could all be wrong.

We could remember that we are all on the same planet, and that none of us – not one of us – is getting out alive.

I don’t want to fear for our country.3D42A1A0-4AC1-45DE-BAB5-A8D745455559

I want to be the person … one of many and many m
ore … who can change the direction in which we are heading.

Who will join me?

 

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Dear Mr. President: I am confused …

Dear Mr. President:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am writing today to tell you that less than a week into your presidency, I am confused.

I have been hoping that you would indeed find success as president of  this country, but the more actions you take, the more confused I get.

You have said, repeatedly, that you want government regulations greatly reduced, because they get in the way of business. Yet you, through your continuous Tweets, keep directly interfering in businesses, making off-hand comments that have incredible effects on the stock values of the companies you have selected to (usually) excoriate. Is this not government interference? Is this not what you have said, repeatedly, you don’t want happening? If any other president had dared to interfere with your businesses, you would have howled with indignation. How does this get government off the backs of business people, and return the government to the people?

You have said that you respect women – indeed, that no one respects women more than you do. And yet one of your very first actions this week was to re-instate the Mexico City gag rule, thus endangering the lives of women around the world. I thought, from your campaign statements, that you wanted to help women. This rule, and what you included in that order you signed, make it clear that there will be no help for women around the world, and that indeed, you are endangering women’s lives. Is this what you meant when you said you respect women?

You promised, countless times, that Mexico would pay for the border wall. Yet now you want to use my tax money to accomplish this goal without once asking me if I want my tax money to go there. You told us you were returning the government to the people, but this is not the case, at least when it comes to the border wall (which I know you know is worthless, because it won’t stop the falling number of immigrants trying to cross the Southern border). And I’m confident you understand that the wall you envision won’t help much; after all, we’ve tried other walls and border fences, and they haven’t worked. So why spend – why waste – taxpayers’ money on this? And how does this fit in with returning government to the people?

On the issue of immigration, this week you have called for tremendously increasing the number of ICE agents and offices. This, along with the wall, will explode the both the deficit and
the national debt, both of which you railed against during your campaign. How am I supposed to believe that you will balance the budget and get rid of the national debt if you keep proposing programs that do the exact opposite?

You keep saying “America First,” and that we need to use American-made products. You cited this in your executive memorandum about pipelines in this country, demanding that if we are going to lay more pipelines in this country, we need to use American-made steel. Yet here’s the thing: In your own construction of your own buildings, you have used Chinese-made steel. Not American-made steel, but Chinese-made steel. The same is true for most of the products that are sold under your name, most of which are produced overseas. During the campaign, you claimed this made you a smart businessman, because you were getting the lowest price possible for the labor and costs. How, Sir, does this fit in with “America First”?

And how does signing that memorandum on both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline respect the wishes of the people, to whom you said you are returning the government? I know you know that vast majorities of Natives do not want these pipelines, because of both the threat to the water when the pipelines leak, and the devastation to sacred burials grounds. Sir, Natives are Americans. They are the people. Yet, confusingly, you are not listening to them. How does this return the government to the people?

Along these same lines, I am also confused about “America First” and your claims about strengthening the military. Sir, if we are not going to focus on anything overseas, if we are going to back out of NATO and other treaty obligations, and let Europe and basically the rest of the world fend for itself, why do we need to strengthen the military? Is Canada planning on invading us? Or Mexico? Who else could possible invade us? So why do we need to break the bank on the military if we are not going to be using them, because, you know, “America First”?

The other reason I am confused, Sir, is because you keep tweeting and saying things that make no sense. I know you know that there is no way possible for 3 million to 5 million undocumented immigrants to vote. I know you know that by making this claim, you are holding yourself up to ridicule, as well as making mincemeat out of our election process. Surely you don’t mean to say that your election was illegitimate? I’m confident you don’t mean this, but it’s hard to maintain this confidence when you keep talking and tweeting about it. Especially when you cite stories that make absolutely no sense, such as the one about Bernhard Langer standing in a line to vote in November. You do know that this famous golfer is not an American citizen, and thus would not have been voting, right? So why use this example to illustrate what is clearly a false claim?

Your actions this week on immigration are also confusing to me. I know you know that we have the tightest security structures in place for most immigrants coming in from countries that you believe are incredibly dangerous. And I know that you know that the vast majority of attacks in this country have come from people who are not immigrants. Instead of focusing on better restrictions on guns in this country, which would greatly reduce deaths in this country, you want to target perfectly innocent people. I do not understand how this will protect this country. I can assure you, Sir, having lived in Muslim-dominated countries, that Muslims are not, per se, dangerous. Why, then, are you targeting them? How does this help the security of this nation? (As an aside, I am certain you know that if you set up a “registry” for Muslims in this country, you will be overwhelmed with people who are not Muslim but who are willing to stand with them, and that many of us will be registering as an act of support.)

You also have said, countless times, that you want to “drain the swamp” of Washington, D.C., claiming that the people who work for the government have cheated the American people, and indeed have gotten rich off of their work. You even said a version of this in your inaugural address, attacking the people who were sitting right behind you. And yet … you have nominated numerous people for Cabinet positions who are beyond the definition of rich and who have made their riches off the backs of the common person. How does this drain the swamp? And how does this return the government to the people?

Included in this particular confusion is the one about the qualifications of some of the people you have nominated. I know you know that Ms. Betsy DeVos has absolutely no experience with public education. She has never attended a public school, and has a tremendous conflict of interest vis-a-vis public schools vs. for-profit charter schools. I know you know that she is not qualified for this position, and wonder if she was nominated because she is rich. Her nomination is but one of many that I find confusing, based on your campaign promises.

Yet another Cabinet nominee is Dr. Ben Carson. I am tremendously confused by this nomination, because during the campaign, you had nothing – absolutely nothing – good to say about him. You labeled him low-energy and in-experienced, claimed he had a ‘pathological temper,” and called him a liar, among other things. You promised to nominate only the very best people to lead this nation’s government. Did something happen to Dr. Carson between the campaign and now? If so, could you enlighten us?

I am especially confused by the fact that you slammed your opponent repeatedly during the campaign for having given speeches to Goldman Sachs. Yet you have hired the very people who paid your opponent for those same speeches. I know you know that this is, at the very least, hypocritical, right? They are the ones who brought in your opponent. Does this show good judgment on their part?

Do you see why I am confused?

You made promises, Sir. You made a lot of promises. And now you are either breaking them, or you are pursuing them without any strategy for making them happen. This includes the wall, for which you maintain Mexico will pay, despite the fact that Mexico repeatedly has said it will not; draining the swamp, while empowering the same people who created the swamp; respecting women, while at the same time denigrating those who marched the day after your inauguration, and ensuring the millions will go without proper medical care around the world; making the national debt disappear while proposing to add to it tenfold; and many other examples.

Sir, I need you to know that I love the United States. I have served my country as a Peace Corps volunteer, for which I had to raise my right hand and swear to defend this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I am a patriot and come from a very patriotic family. Numerous members of my family have served in the military, and I have a nephew who currently serves in the Air Force Reserve. Let me reiterate: I am a patriot.

I want you to succeed as President because if you don’t, the whole country will suffer.

Which is why I am confused.

Please, Sir, could you enlighten me, and the rest of the country, on these questions? Could you help us understand what is going on, because we can’t figure it out.

With all of my prayers, I remain

Your servant in Christ,
The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley
Rosebud Indian Reservation
South Dakota

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Dear Mr. President: Act now!!!

The Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States

Dear Mr. President:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sir, I regret to say that this morning, I am furious with you.

Why?

Because of your inaction on the Standing Rock situation.

I know you know what is happening in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where thousands of peaceful water protectors are being attacked and abused by law enforcement personnel who apparently think they are at war. There is no way that you can not be aware of what is happening there. Anyone who watches any news knows what is happening there.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, along with more than 300 other indigenous nations around the world, has taken a courageous stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatens the water of 17 million people in this country, and which is completely unnecessary, given that oil companies are declaring bankruptcies in the North Dakota Bakken oil fields.

img_1983          The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, along with more than 300 other indigenous nations around the world, are desperately trying to protect sacred land where their ancestors lived, died and were buried, land that is being trampled on, dug up and desecrated by Energy Transfer Partners and law enforcement.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, along with more than 300 other indigenous nations around the world, are standing up to say, “Enough is enough. Five centuries of genocide comes to an end, now.”
What is most infuriating is that you doing nothing while innocent people are being beaten, tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, beanbags, and concussion grenades, and soaked with water cannons in freezing weather.

These water protectors, who are standing up for their constitutional and treaty rights, are being treated like criminals.

They are being treated like African Americans in Alabama in the early 1960s.

And yet you do nothing.

You make no statements, other than announcing your intention to “letting things play out” for a few more weeks.

And while you wait, hundreds are being harmed.

To add insult to injury, on the very day you declare Native American Heritage Day, on the very day you recognize the importance of Native Americans to the very essence of the nation, on the very day you claim that your “Administration remains dedicated to the strengthening (of) our government-to-government relationships with tribal nations,” your own Army Corps of Engineers announces that it will be shutting down the Oceti Sakowin camp on federal property next to the Missouri River on 11 days’ notice.

You declare that we should take time in November to “celebrate the traditions, languages, and stories of Native Americans and ensure their rich histories and contributions can thrive with each passing generation,” and yet turn a blind eye to the atrocities – and yes, they are atrocities – taking place in North Dakota.

Sir, do you see why I am furious with you?

How can you sit idly by while people are being attacked, while their constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly are being violently suppressed?img_2150

Have you seen the tactics of the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and all of the assembled supporting law enforcement agencies, including the National Guard?

Have you seen the law enforcement personnel’s riot gear and military equipment, worn to “protect” them from peaceful, prayerful water protectors?

Have you heard the Long Range Acoustical Devices being deployed against people who are praying?

Have you seen the brutal attacks on innocent people?

Have you heard the cries of pain as these water protectors are being shot? Being beaten? Being tear gassed? Being pepper sprayed from less than 5 feet?

Mr. President, where are you?!?!

In March 2015, in what was your finest speech delivered as President, a speech that moved so many of us to tears, you stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and declared of that day 50 years prior:

        It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America. And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. King, and so many more, the idea of a just America, a fair America, an inclusive America, a generous America – that idea ultimately triumphed.

How, Sir, can you remain silent when that same clash of wills, that same contest to determine the meaning of America, is taking place in Cannon Ball, North Dakota?

img_2151            How, Sir, can you do nothing when the exact same brutal acts that took place 50 years ago in Alabama are happening now in North Dakota?

This is why I am furious, Mr. President.

The Army Corps of Engineers has announced that it is closing the peaceful camp where thousands of people have assembled to take a courageous stand against the blasphemous, filthy, unnecessary Dakota Access Pipeline.

It claims to be doing so for the “safety” of the people.

You, Sir, need to act.

You, Sir, need to overturn the Corps’ decision.

You, Sir, need to protect the people of this nation, the First Nations people who are trying to protect the water and the sacred land.

You, Sir, can no longer be silent.

img_1959          We who support the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and all of the other indigenous nations demand that you intervene, that you act, that you protect the very people you claim to admire.

You made promises, Sir. You came to the Standing Rock Reservation in 2014 and promised to help. You gave your word, Sir.

Now we are holding you accountable.

Stand up for Standing Rock, Sir.

Stop the atrocities.

Stop the brutality.

Stop the camp shutdown.

Stop ignoring the people.

Act now, Sir.

We are begging, we are demanding, that you act now.

Until you do, I fear I shall remain furious with you.

With respect,

The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley

Supervising Presbyter

Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West)

Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota

 

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God’s love will triumph

Last month, headlines around the world screamed that the Episcopal Church in the United States had been suspended from the Anglican Communion because of its stance on same-gender marriage.

AnglicanCommunion logoTo read those headlines, and the stories that ran below them, you would think that Episcopal Church was in dire trouble and had been sent to a three-year time-out for extreme misbehavior.

It took several days before all the rumors were squashed and the truth instead declared: The Primates of the Anglican Communion (the senior bishops in each church province) are not pleased that the Episcopal Church has approved same-gender marriages and want the Episcopal Church to refrain from participating in some of the discussions that take place worldwide. Apparently, the primates seem to think that asking the Episcopal Church to sit on the sidelines for three years will cause the Episcopal Church to change its mind on how to treat people with love.

There are two things to know about this whole contretemps:

First, the Primates who gathered do not have the authority to even make this request, because the Anglican Communion doesn’t work like that.

And second, but much more important, know this: The Episcopal Church is aliveTEC logo and well, and will continue to carry out its mission and ministry in the world, regardless of what anyone says.

Let’s be honest: This is a complicated story, because the Anglican Communion is a complicated organization. It is not governed by a set of church laws, and each province is independently formed and run. It is a relationship-based network of churches. For those of us inside the Church, we could spend hours, days, months, years, discussing what happened in England in January (and trust me, we will).

But trying to parse out what happened, and worrying about what might happen, is to miss the whole point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is to love.

Pure and simple, the Church is called to spread the love of God in the world.

And that is what the Episcopal Church continues to do, regardless of what anyone anywhere says.

This whole debate comes down to the fact that we – meaning, all the members of the Anglican Communion – interpret the Gospels differently. In the Episcopal Church, we formally have made the decision to declare, by word and deed, that “all means all,” that God’s love is not restricted by color, by gender, by sexual orientation or identity, by language, by ethnicity, or by any other thing that humans use to distinguish themselves.

Because in the Episcopal Church, we are firm in our belief that all of us are beloved children of God, and all will be treated with the same love.

That’s it. That’s our baseline.

You are a beloved child of God. And you. And you. Every single one of you. All of us are beloved children of God.

God loves all of you. And each of you.

TEC Jesus Movement bannerAnd since that is our baseline, our truth, that is what we as Episcopalians are going to do.

We are going to love you.

We are going to do our best to take care of you.

To treat you with dignity.

To welcome you in our churches.

To encourage you to be leaders in our churches, and in our Church.

To stand up for you when you need someone to have your back.

To do our best to right the wrongs of this world.

To bring you food when you are hungry, and give you water when you are thirsty, and visit you when you are in prison, and pray for you when you are ill.

To celebrate who you are, and how God made you.

To shout from the mountaintops that God’s love is more than enough to right the wrongs of the world, and then to act on that love.

Brass tacks: The leaders of the Anglican Communion are in disagreement with each other and with the Episcopal Church as to how we are going to love God and love one another as ourselves, how we are going to love one another as Jesus loves us.

But this disagreement will not, in any way, stop the Episcopal Church as a whole, and Episcopalians individually, from living into our Baptismal Covenant.

As our Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry said following the meeting, “We are part of the Jesus Movement, and the cause of God’s love in this world can never stop and will never be defeated.”

Because no one and nothing can ever stop God’s love from being proclaimed and lived.

• • •

This column was written for InsideSources.com. For an alternative viewpoint, go to Counterpoint: Curing American Myopia.

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This is God in action

It is a cold Sunday morning here on the Rosebud, this Second Sunday after the Epiphany. At 6 a.m., the temperature with the wind chill – and we know wind chill here on the Great Plains – was nearly 30 below zero.

It is so cold that we canceled most of our church services on the Western side of the Rosebud Episcopal Mission. I don’t want our people out in weather that literally can kill you in less than 30 minutes.

But even when we don’t have church services, God is still at work in our lives. shutterstock_96334607

A few minutes ago, a car pulled into my driveway. If we had had church, I wouldn’t be here at this time, and most of the people know that. But since my car was still parked, still covered in a light dusting of snow, whoever was in that visiting vehicle knew that I most likely was home.

After a few moments of hesitation, the driver got out. She didn’t have a hat. Or gloves. She was holding her way-too-light winter jacket closed with one hand. “You need to zip that up,” I said. “Oh, it doesn’t zip,” she said. “It’s broken.”

I know this woman. She is one of our parishioners here on the Rosebud, a woman who has struggled to hold things together, a woman with children and grandchildren, one of whom has a several physical handicap. This woman needs help, but she hesitates to ask. She doesn’t want to be a burden. Whenever I am with her, I always let her take the lead, because I know how hard it is for her to ask for anything.

“Didn’t we have church this morning?” she asked. “No,” I told her. “We canceled church because of the cold.”

“Um … does the church have any help?” she asked, hesitating every other word.

It turns out they have no food to eat in the house. I’m not surprised. It is mid-month, and it is very cold, and many people do not have enough money for both heat and food.

So I take her into my kitchen, which she does not want to enter because she might track snow onto my linoleum floor. “I don’t care about the floor,” I told her. “It can be washed. Come inside. It’s too cold to stand out there.”

Finally, she enters. I have to encourage her to take more than one step into the kitchen.

“Do you have any food, like bread?” she asks, her head down. I know that she doesn’t want to do this, but she has children. They must eat.

“I don’t have any bread,” I tell her, “because I generally don’t eat bread. But here … I have other food for you.”

I take out four cans of soup, 10 cans of tuna, pasta, couscous, cans of pears and apricots. I give her half of my grapes, most of my bananas, most of my oranges. “Here,” I say, “these have to be eaten. Help me with this.” I see two bags of popcorn someone had given me, as well as some crackers. (“Oh,” she says, “we have crackers.” “Take them,” I say. “You might as well have some more.”) The food_cans.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scalelarge canister of oatmeal has been opened, but I give it to her anyway. It’s mostly full, and the kids will like it. I scour the cabinets for more food her family will eat. “Have you tried quinoa?” I ask. “No. What is it?” she replies. “It’s one of those healthy grains. Easy to make. Just follow the instructions. I like it,” I tell her. In the bags it goes.

Much of the food I give is food I have purchased for just this occasion. People come to my door, sometimes one or two a day, looking for help. I try to keep food on hand that I know they will eat. Cans of fruit, vegetables, soups. Bags of pasta. Boxes of couscous and quinoa. When I have fruit on hand, I always share it with them. I ask them to help me eat it before it goes bad. Our people don’t get enough fruit; it’s frequently too expensive. I try to make sure I always have some on hand for my visitors.

But I have to be careful not to give too much, not to give all that I have. This is a shared meal, as it were, which means that I have to have some food left for myself. The goal is to make sure that everyone has enough. Just that: Enough.

Yassa

Yassa

Through it all, my two dogs, Yassa and Bella, are standing there to greet her. She hesitatingly reaches out for them. My dogs are trained to be church dogs, meaning that they are polite and don’t jump, that they greet each person with love. “They’re so soft,” she says, over and over again. “I can’t believe how soft their fur is.” I tell her it is the dog food, keeps them healthy, the same dog food the vet uses. She marvels again at their softness, and their gentleness. “They’re so nice,” she says, stroking Yassa’s fur. (Meanwhile, Bella, who emerged from her blankets, stands shivering. My visitor is concerned: “She’s cold!” I tell her than Bella lives under her blankets in the winter, and that she always shivers when around guests. Bella is a little … well, manipulative that way. She wants every visitor to pick her up and cuddle her. In return, she loves to give kisses. It’s just Bella’s way …) I do not tell my visitor how much the dog food costs; I am too embarrassed to admit I have that kind of money to feed dogs …

Bella

Bella

As she turns to take the food out to the waiting car, where her daughter and granddaughter are waiting, I ask if they can use some coats.  My family and I picked up a lot of them for a giveaway that I am having problems getting organized (it’s complicated, but it will happen).

We go to the front porch and find a new jacket for the woman, one that is warm and will zip up. Then we find one for her smallest child. Then we dig through and get hats and scarves and gloves. “Take what you need,” I say. “It’s for you.” She is hesitant, again. She does not want to take too much, but I know there is a need. “Really,” I say, encouraging her. “Don’t  you want some of these scarves? They are hand-made.”

Finally, my visitor takes some of the softest scarves she can find. “If it’s all right …” “Take as many as you need,” I say. “Wouldn’t you like another one? They’re handmade for the oyate (the Lakota people).” “Just one more,” she says. “They’re so soft …”

I peek out the window and see the children in the car already consuming the fruit, smiling as they eat it. Already, this has been a good visit.

Again, we go to the door. I know that she feels she has taken too much.

“Do you have a wood stove?” I ask. “I have wood if you need it.”

Once more, hesitation.

IMG_8121

Some of the wood for the Firewood for the Elders program.

Finally, I get her to agree to take what I have stored in my “secret stash.” (We cut wood for the people here on the Rosebud in our Firewood for the Elders program. While I was away after Christmas, nearly all of it was taken by a few folks who have lost their way when it comes to taking care of all the oyate. But we are cutting more wood, with the help of the community. To learn more about that, see our new website, rosebudepiscopalmission.org, and look under “Our Blog.”)

She and her daughter take the wood that is left, enough to keep them warm at least for another day.

Joyful Curry

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Our new Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, has proclaimed that we are part of the Jesus Movement. That we are the ones who are called to live out the Gospel of love and inclusion every single day of our lives. That we are the ones who can change the world by our words and deeds.

No, we didn’t have church this morning on the Rosebud West. It was too cold.

Instead, we – a visitor and myself, as well as my two dogs – had church in my kitchen. Where we broke bread together by sharing our food. And on my front porch. Where we shared from the abundance of cold-weather gear.

This is the Jesus Movement. This is God in action.

Our collect for today, the Second Sunday after the Epiphany:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

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