Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Wind Beneath My Things

When I pulled up to Leola One Feather's trailer on the Pine Ridge Reservation...I made several immediate observations. There was some kind of mud house that had been started and abandoned right next to it, the trailer they lived in looked like it had once been abandoned, and the signs of apathy borne out of extreme poverty were everywhere.  Piles of trash were scattered around the small yard, and anything that had ever broken was thrown out into the weather and old clothing that had been out grown was in mildewed piles, as well.  There's no trash service to her house, there's no convenient dump to take what you don't need any longer...there's no vehicle to get it there even if there was such a facility. The trash and leftover everything that had taken over anything that might have been called a yard were representative of the overwhelm in her life and the disadvantages in her community.

When this lovely and soft-spoken woman emerged from beneath her tin roof, she smiled big, then quickly put a hand over her mouth and muttered something about bad teeth. Honestly...I didn't notice her teeth...I was too busy noticing the smile that reached her eyes and I how her hands were always on the heads or the shoulders of the 2 little boys who walked closely and shyly next to her. Her grandsons live with her and literally walk in her shadow...a shadow that is long and tall in its grace and in its way of perceiving the world very differently from the way we do; those of us who do not walk under the Lakota sun. She hugged me tight, happy to see me again and I felt something akin to being my God who had put me in the path of this place and by her.

Leola loves to tell you of the places she hopes to travel to and is quick to point out the types of birds landing nearby...watching them fly away...a look of longing in her eyes.  The spirit of the ones with wings lives in her. And even though her grandsons speak their native language first and English second...she wants them to know of both worlds....but always through the eyes of her warrior descendants. That will be a fine line that will not be easy to walk. She herself is a warrior...a once-teenage member of the AIM (American Indian Movement) uprising and occupation of 1973.

The first time I met Leola and the little boys White Plume was last year when a friend suggested I stop to see her, asking me to bring blankets if I could as there is no electricity in the trailer and a small wood burning stove for cooking and for heating. She said their floor was plywood and cold....which indeed it was. The same plywood covered every that had been broken out before she moved her family into the trailer. Plywood that kept the cold at bay a little, but also blocked out the sun and ensured that if the wood- burning ever turned to one would get out.

But there was a different spirit at her home than there was in other homes I had visited on the Rez. Even with despair written in big, bold letters everywhere I turned...Leola smiled...Leola dreamed...Leola encouraged her grandsons to have strong, bold hearts that noticed things beyond the poverty and the plywood. In the midst of the debris-strewn property, she had encouraged 8 year old Onalsala to decorate a little "rock garden" plot, to paint on whatever he could (with paints donated by my dear friend Steven) and to see things differently...just as she did. Explaining to me that her little tomato garden had not gone well this year, she didn't express it in a way that we might...a way that is not aligned with all living things. She didn't say "darn grasshoppers destroyed my garden!" She simply smiled and said "For the past two years the grasshoppers have shared my garden. This year they did not share it with me."  Spending a half hour with Leola gives me perspective. Spending five minutes with Onalsala gives me revelation.

I had lowered the tailgate on my truck to unload the items I had brought specifically for him. Warm boots, a pillow, paints, canvas pad, a Bronco sweatshirt...important things that any child would be enamored with. I set them out and encouraged him to take them...expecting wide-eyed wonder at the material bounty in front of him. But Onalsala, the warrior grandson of Grandmother Leola and son of Wakan Tanka, the Creator, touched the paints for a second, then looked over my shoulder, beyond me,  beyond his surroundings and pointed. "Look at the wind in the trees," he said with the same light shining in his eyes that shone in Leola's....Bronco sweatshirt not even on his radar.  In that quick moment, before he turned his attention back to the paints, I felt the wind moving through me. It was as though this little boy, wisdom beyond his years, was telling me....don't forget the focus is on God...don't forget to carry His message. The wind in the trees, the Holy Spirit moving through the people of this place...his love the breeze on the hilltop that can not be ignored as it touches the beautiful people in this beautiful place. A rainbow promise of total destruction never happening again. Onalsala knows the wind and recognizes its voice in the trees. "Here," it says touching his hair as his grandmother does...always recognizing the promise of the next generation. "The change will" Wopila tanka, Onalsala. Thank you.

If you would like to be involved with the work we are doing on the Pine Ridge Reservation...
email me at

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Feelin' Groovy

I don't know if you've noticed lately, but there is a bit of a quiet revolution going on in the world of Believers who are not satisfied with what is being done today in the name of Christianity. It's a simmering stew of folks from all walks of life who are looking at this whole thing a little differently. And when I say simmering, I don't mean as about to boil into an angry mob, I mean simmering as in slow-cooking, great smells in the air all day, ready for a feast when it's ready-type simmering. It's a Love Stew and it's on the menu in cities big and small all over the country.

Way back in the late 60's, I was part of an amazing thing that moved across America. Hippies found Jesus and suddenly The Way of the Master was a cool thing and the Jesus Movement somehow made its way into even my little Southern Baptist church in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I was about 14-ish when I heard my first message by a groovy guy with hair long enough to give Moses a run for his manna...and being a girl who never in her life had the word cool attached to a sentence with her name in it...well I was hooked. Here was a way....One we groovy people called love me some Jesus and be accepted all in one fell swoop.

But a revolution, as this surely was, by definition means turning the people around to a whole new way of life and leaving the old behind. The Jesus Movement didn't go over so well with the old guard who wanted things to stay the same. We had a new American Revolution on the that took the words of Jesus seriously. ("The Red Letters are coming! The Red Letters are coming!") Some didn't like these young up-starts telling them how to love their neighbor. They knew perfectly well how to do long as neighbor was defined as someone who looked like you, talked like you and didn't rock the boat you had built.  They were not so big on melding a family out of just any old material. The Anointed Groovy Ones tried to show them a different way....a way of accepting all peoples and reaching out to the least of these...not just bringing things to the poor every Christmas, but asking the poor to join them every day of the year. The Elders (those Non-Melders) didn't want those words pointed out to all. They stuck to their preferred passages and ignored the ones about loving your neighbor and giving your coat to the cold. I think they were just a little more comfy with a God who was angry and cast people out...their kind of guy.

I see it happening again....this 21st century version of the Jesus Movement...complete with Jesus Freaks and enough Love to sink an Ark. It's happening and I am old enough now to dig feeling groovy about this new revolution in a way I couldn't at 14. This time I get the love-thing in a way that you can only get when you have spent your life looking out for with a capital M. Suddenly there is an answer to the dreariness that long ago took over your interior weather patterns because YOU have been the only cloud in the sky.  Love 'em like Jesus. That's what's in my forecast...and it doesn't even have to be hard! Just set out everyday to be kind to those who cross your path. To help someone when you have the means to help them. There are soooo many hurting people in the world. 

When books like  "The Love Revolution", "Crazy Love", "Under the Overpass," Radical" and "Irresistible Revolution" are bestsellers...then I'm feelin' the winds of change and I'm praying for a big ol' storm. When you see it coming....don't run for the basement. Stand on the roof and say "Here! Over Here!"  I for one am truly welcoming this revolution that is sick and tired of things being done in the name of Jesus that don't have anything to do with the life he gave us as an example. Love. He was all about the love. Mercy. Justice.

"God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power...and he went about doing good..." Acts 10:38


Note: In preparation of write again...I am re-posting some of my favorite blogs from last get you familiar with my voice again...and to get me familiar with my voice again. :-) Love you. Mean it.