Monday, March 1, 2021

                                                            Lenten contemplation

In this lenten season I find myself introspective. I live and work in a valley of dry bones. Meek, poor in spirit, yoke, poverty, uprootedness - these are some words I am contemplating lately. 

Isaiah 58:6-12 comes back to me again and again. What will I call a fast, "a day acceptable to the Lord v5"? 

What good does it really do to give up something for lent and not enter into the suffering of Christ? I struggle to live in the finished work of Jesus moment by moment. I am strong willed and stubborn and want to offer something to the Lord. In Luke 21 Jesus watches the widow put her 2 small copper coins in the offering box at the temple. Jesus speaks out after this, for something astounding has happened. The woman gave all she had. She gave out of her poverty. Can I give out of my poverty? Can I trust my Lord more and more so that I give out of weakness and not strength? Can I let my clenched fist loose and submit to the finished work of my Jesus, letting all go for the sake of the gospel? 

To be willing to be uprooted again and again; to be a beggar leading another beggar to bread (Is 58:7). To give out of my poverty (mind, body and spirit), enter into the sufferings of Christ, and lift the burden and suffering from my neighbor; this is the fast I want to choose this lenten season. The Lord replenishes, he lifts me up, he treats me not as I deserve! When the poor widow went to the offering box, Jesus "looked up". He sees me and wraps me in his robe of righteousness. In the "day acceptable to the Lord", he makes my burden light and carried my yoke, and plants me like a "tree by streams of living water (Ps 1:3)".

Friday, January 1, 2021

Thanksgiving in our Native Communities

Thanksgiving in our Native Communities

I first began to live on the reservation in 2003. I did not know what to expect. Our first Thanksgiving on the Yakama reservation was pleasant, and family oriented. Everyone on the reservation is glad when households are able to cook and gather for Thanksgiving like all American households do. I expected to hear anger at the history of Native peoples before and since that historic first Thanksgiving. I did not hear any opinions on that history then.

The full story of the first Thanksgiving is not taught through school curriculums. The Wampanoag tribe lived in the area that became established as Plymouth colony. For this tribe, and others, Thanksgiving has been considered more as a day of mourning. The first contact with Europeans brought with it epidemics and the beginning of removal policies that devastated most of the 570 tribes spread across the United States. The most amazing thing I have experienced, living on the Yakama reservation, is not only the resiliency of Native people; but the gratitude of Native people. At a time when mourning would be understood and acceptable, my friends in the community celebrate Thanksgiving together for what they still have. I am always humbled by my neighbors who know that sharing food means sharing love. Families gather and celebrate everything that they can, with simple meals of traditional foods like salmon and deer or spaghetti and jello salads.

The idea of Thanksgiving definitely can be traced to our Native neighbors. As we learned the ways of the longhouse, serving alongside during feasts and funerals; I was struck by the traditions of giving thanks to the Creator. Every time a traditional food comes in season, a feast is prepared to give thanks to the Creator, for his provision. I came to look forward to so many more thanksgiving feasts than mainstream Americans ever get to celebrate! The lessons of the feasts of traditional foods affected the way I viewed all of God’s provision for me. I found my gratitude in life growing substantially.

Gratitude and times of celebrating are also affected by hard things in life and the suffering all around

us. Native America is still recuperating from years of colonization, oppression, the “taking” of their land, resources, and people. Some activists have spread the new term, “Thankstaking” as the more politically correct term for American thanksgiving. Since living on a reservation myself, I can understand why. Sacred Road Ministries was established as a church planting, community restoring work in Native communities. We fight the established norms by revealing the true heart of our Native friends and neighbors. We serve alongside, listen, and attempt to always give more than we receive (which is no small task).

This year, for Thanksgiving, we are excited to serve our communities more, the suffering and loss from Covid has been especially difficult. The Shaws and the Farrises recently went to the Warm Springs reservation in Oregon to distribute 150 Thanksgiving food boxes and take treats and games to the children in the Boys and Girls club where we have relationships. We are also hosting a drive through Thanksgiving hot meal distribution in White Swan, on the Yakama reservation. As those who have a love and connection to your Native neighbors, what can you do? Pray for your friends in Indian country who are struggling and grieving. Reach out to Native ministries, like SRM, to give and stay connected to your first neighbors.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Wanting and Waiting

     I haven't posted in quite a while, but I have been writing. An emotional year needs processing and our thoughts and emotions are sometimes not to be broadcast widely. A funeral and a wedding, it brings tears to my eyes to just type those words together. My younger brother-in-law had battles his whole life. It was cancer that took him to our Savior last summer. There are few more dear to me than my sister-in-law, now raising four young boys alone. She still battles cancer with their oldest who has four brain tumors. She is one of my heroes and exudes grace and strength like no one I have ever known.
     My oldest daughter knew she had met the love of her life last year. Three and a half months ago we had a wedding. I still find it difficult to describe the beauty I experienced with my daughter's wedding. It was her day, not mine; yet the Lord was sending profound messages of His love and beauty to me. Tears have been the  most abundant expression of the last year, and I have been asking, waiting on the Holy Spirit to sift through my soul. Raising my child to send her off, the moment was for specific celebration of her life, theirs together.
     I returned to Birmingham to work on wedding planning. The city that holds memories of my own spiritual growth, meeting the love of my life, time with extended family, vacations, and now a funeral, and a wedding. Having been gone for years, it was old friends and sisters from various churches who first wrapped their love and support around me as I waded into the unknown wedding details. I might have drowned if they hadn't come alongside with skills, supplies, and tried and true suggestions. I experienced the Body of Christ, mature, ready to serve one another and create beauty to glorify God and bless His people. My hope was renewed for the future of our "baby church" in White Swan, and in the faithfulness of God to grow His Kingdom.
      The beauty of the wedding was a gift, and I was enveloped in it. Mild fall temperatures, flaming sunsets, beautiful dresses and jewelry, food and flowers; I let myself enjoy all of it. It became a blur when my daughter was radiantly ready to walk down the aisle. Arm in arm with her father, eyes on her groom, she confidently and graciously entered into her own wedding.
     Our Bridegroom takes us as His own, welcoming us to the beauty. Many are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb and I want to shout out the invitation. The gown is provided for us, as well as the confidence and radiance we want, replacing our shame, guilt, and dinginess. I will have more weddings ahead of me. My prayer is that with each one, I will have the eyes to see myself as the bride of Christ. I pray that I will bring others with me to the Wedding Feast, embracing the Good News together. In the meantime I will spread the invitation on our reservation, speaking into the darkness. In this life we see through the mirror dimly, wanting and waiting (1 Cor 13:12). My brother in law is with Jesus now, watching his Father rejoice over us with singing and dancing (Zeph 3:17). He sees clearly.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Embracing the Grief of Others

Recently our church in White Swan was home to a funeral. A community already overrun with loss,  exploited by injustice, a youth's life cut short by tragic accident; we gathered at our "home".

Those clinging to Jesus through this trial bonded through the evidence of faith and certainty of eternal life.  My husband shared of this hope in Christ.  Others shared common stories and memories.  Still others came to sing the old songs lovingly over one so young. The songs are the work of mourning intended to send the loved one along on their journey from this earth.

My work was in the kitchen. Those who come to mourn are fed for the days of preparation and services. Some food is requested and some is donated. The cook is the one to create a meal with the ingredients given.  All sit down together to eat and an opportunity is always given for an elder to speak; addressing the group with an inspired word, encouragement, or admonishment.

The meal after the burial filled three tables with pounds of salmon, elk meat, roots, berries, along with pintos, potato salad, rice, gravy, fruit salad,fry bread and jam. Spirits were lifted, which is important when hopelessness is rampant. Grief and pain are no strangers to these families.  I too was given some comfort through the process.  My brother in law and nephew are suffering in their battles against cancer. They are miles and miles away, so as I serve those near me now, I move in faith, believing that my Heavenly Father will provide comfort in their needs as well.

Gloria Furman wrote, "It is his strength that gives us what we need in order to nurture life in the face of death and through a million deaths-to-self each day." The Pastor's Wife, 13.

I want to nuture life all around me, to pray for life both near and far away.
May I grow in grace and continue to be able to embrace the suffering of others both here and miles away.

Monday, April 11, 2016


The tires roll over long rez roads on Thursdays.  The girls pile in after school, practice, or taking care of siblings at home.  They adjust, quietly chatter, and look forward to the evening plans.  My 3rd born began this young group, now off to school herself, I keep it going with a motherly touch.  They gratefully accept my efforts and pass the time together, seven of them tonight. Seven young women wondering what lies ahead for them.  Do they remember I am praying for them? Will that comfort them when they fight to survive next?

We drive on...past fields just greening, patches of dust, sagebrush blooming, shacks leaning, and the constancy of Pahto looming, the snow covered mountain steadfast to us all.  Tires roll over long rez roads, but it is time well liked. Energy climbing like tires on the ridge, the giggling is contagious, ascending in mass. The hour of driving electric with laughs and games. Acreage hazy in dusk is oblivious to such joyous change - the breaking of the norm. Joy with momentum surrounded by brokenness.

A week flies by and the same ones pile in for the evening together again. At this days end we start out on those long rez roads; this ride defined by a silence of peaceful rest.  Peace settles on young souls soothed by tires humming on gravel and melody floating out on the air.  A cool breeze brushing faces from the window reminds me of the Holy Spirit softening hearts.  Another breaking of the norm, hearts relaxing together to the point of dozing off on the long roads in sunset. A moment to forget trauma, chaos, or fear while surrounded by love. A love which points to that perfect love which casts out all fear. We end the day driving long rez roads together in peace.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Seeing Resurrection

Moments of seeing Jesus
(instead of myself)
are moments of seeing resurrection-
in myself,
in others,
in the broken fallen world around me,
in the building of the Kingdom.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent yearning

My advent season is one of yearning.  Each year I get busier, even as I attempt to take time to contemplate the promises fulfilled by Christmas.

This morning I drove Connie to school, with little one in the back seat.  Ann Marie let us know she was leading worship in chapel.  The live stream began just as I turned to drive home.  I was listening to connect with my daughter more than to the Lord.  The last couple weeks have left my soul parched, my body tired, and my heart aching.  A chinook wind blew all night with beating rain.  The snow from last week now vanished - and I don't feel too steadfast myself.  I listened to the worship and suddenly Re began to sing "Holy, Holy, Holy" acapella, as a Christmas song.  As she sang the first stanza, I was driving a long grey rez road. In beautiful coordination, an orchestra of sound and sight, the sun rose above dark clouds like a delayed sunrise with brilliant yellows and oranges.

For the first time in a while I felt my soul worship in God's majesty and beauty. Exaltation for Him welled up within me, causing my soul to finally catch up with my heart and mind. I couldn't stop the tears as I drove, so I just gave them to the Lord.  In a few moments I heard sniffles from behind me.  Maybe little one, feeling lost and fearful in this world, released tears to the Lord as well. We are both moving into the Christmas season with an up close view of problems, hurt, and suffering.

As I assess needs within me, needs behind me, needs all around me in the community; may I remember the lines from "St Patricks' Breastplate".

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,                                                                   
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
The promises of a Savior are true and ready for me to grasp every day. May I remember this especially during these days of advent.
"Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!  Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee."          written by Reginald Heber, 1826, from Revelation 4:8