7 GRATITUDES: deep gratefulness

{Every now and then I join with my friend Leanna to name 7 things I’m grateful for. Join us?}

It is difficult to be settled into everyday gratefulness when, out in the world, there are people dying from gunshot wounds, refugee children and families drowning in the ocean, villages in which there are not enough diapers for babies, and people fighting over who they think Jesus might be in today’s context.

While I am so thankful for my morning cup of coffee and my warm bed and my healthy children, I need my gratitude to be rooted in something deeper than that today.

I need gratitude that is tethered to the ever-close presence of Jesus in the worst of the world.

I need gratitude that is tethered to the Spirit of God, a Spirit that never abandons.

So in the spirit of our #sevengratitudes, I name these things that I am grateful for:

  1. A God who sees us beyond and despite our cultural boundaries;
  2. Jesus, who calls us friends, siblings, part of the family that he so graciously created for us to belong to;
  3. That this same family is inclusive and dynamic, that it’s diverse and progressive, always transforming into another piece of the Mystery of God;
  4. Creation teaches us lessons about God, and creation calls us into a deeper understanding of this world–from the birds to the dragonflies, from the rocks to the oceans, we have magnificence at our fingertips everyday;
  5. Art in every form that is beautiful and beneficial, that teaches us how to express our humanity;
  6. A world in which I can learn from my native and non-native friends, and a world in which I can learn from my Christian and non-Christian friends;
  7. This quote by Frederick Buechner, one of my all-time favorites, that sums up everything right now:

    “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

 

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What gratitudes are you counting today?

 

A MID-WEEK PRAYER: the spirit’s fruit

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O God, Gentle and Strong Mystery,

We rest our weary eyes on your horizon.

In the here-but-not-yet, we wait every day for your voice to pierce through our darkness.

And yet, our darkness teaches us how to use our senses to feel for you, to listen for your footsteps before us and behind.

O God, Gentle and Strong Mystery,

In the quiet of our homes we hope for new beginnings as the morning dawn illuminates our steaming coffee cups, as the evening calls us into the world of dreams.

And in our mid-week comings and goings, we simply ask to remain tethered to all those fruits of the Spirit we’re told, as children, will save us.

So we hope that love, joy and peace will calm our anxieties;

that kindness and goodness extend past our face-to-face interactions and into a volatile digital world;

that gentleness, faithfulness and self-control ask us to constantly become better versions of ourselves.

So if we eat this fruit, will we see you?

Will we understand that our struggles yield knowledge,

that tired bones heal,

that every blessing is meant to tether us more deeply to you?

Sometimes, we forget how small we are.

So today, we pray to remember that we’re still dust-to-dust, but dearly loved.

We’re still a part of the whole and not the grand picture, but asked to walk with purpose.

O God, Gentle and Strong Mystery,

You bear your image over us, and our journey is restored to your reality.

Restore it again and again, we pray.

Amen.

 

WHEN ALL THAT IS LEFT IS JESUS

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Someone recently asked me, “Why on earth are you still going to church? You, of all people?”

They were referring to my indigenous ancestors, to things like colonialism, genocide, enslavement, and violent conversions that were all practiced toward native peoples throughout the history of many parts of the world.

They were referring to things like the Doctrine of Discovery, which gave Europeans, in the name of Jesus, the ability to take and claim whatever lands they “discovered” once they landed here, despite those who had already discovered and inhabited them.

So many horrible things done, all in the name of Jesus.

I think about that question often, especially when I’m sitting in my own home, studying from the encyclopedia of Native Americans that sits on the living room table.

There, when I’m hurting, when I recognize that whatever I think indigenous peoples have gone through, it’s much worse– when I’m staring THAT in the face, I ask why I’m still here, too.

And this is only my story and experience. I grew up in the church, and yet in my transformation, I remain “churched.”

But many with stories like and unlike mine, many for whom the church is the thing that caused so much pain, they leave and never return.

And for those of use who are still here, we’re asking what’s next, how the church should and is expected to love better in the future. We walk a thin line of seeing who the church was and is, while holding a dream of who she could be.

The ones who leave, often because of abuse caused by the church, seek God outside the institution, or maybe forsake the faith altogether.

But here’s the thing about humanity, God in our midst. The ones still within and the ones without, we have more in common than you might think.

We still have Jesus in common.

Sometimes when we talk about how difficult church life can be, we say, “It’s a good thing we all have Jesus in common, despite our differences.”

I’d argue that this isn’t true only in the church context, friends. I share my story with people who call themselves atheists, and sometimes they say, “Yes. I see that in humanity, too. I recognize your story and experience in my own.”

Is it that we are finding some sort of common grounded good among us? You could call it that.

I’d actually call it Jesus.

I’d call it the ground floor, the place we begin, the very beginning of Jesus laid out before us.

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I believe we need the church. We need the love of church and the dedication to it, and I believe that there are churches that exist today who live and breathe the love of Jesus. To those churches, I say, hold steady. 

But at the end of the day, if a world of people have had some sort of experience in which they felt abused by a godless church, there must be something else to care for them outside the church’s walls or safe bubble or small group.

And sometimes the church responds, “Well, we must take Jesus to them,” as if we are the ones who hold Jesus.

No, dear friends. Jesus is the one holding us, and his presence often chooses the most vulnerable among us. In the case of this world, this nation, this history– those people are often outside the church. So we simply live into a life that honors them, that rests with them, that values them. 

If the church does not accept those in their mental health struggles, skin color, sexuality, or cultural understandings that differ from the wider church institution, Jesus must be found in other ways.

So if we claim Jesus as our common ground inside our church walls, we claim Jesus as our common ground outside them, too.

Why haven’t I given up on the church yet?

Why am I still going?

Why am I leading worship every Sunday with people I both agree and don’t agree with, whose ancestors could very well have wanted the worst for my ancestors?

Because Jesus.

My reality is rooted not only in the church, but in Jesus, which means Jesus comes and speaks, teaches and thrives in my everyday living.

It means that I don’t have to hold my identity solely in an institution that seems to be shifting, breaking, fighting, transforming.

And in the painful breaking, I must be tethered to Jesus, who, in my case, did not condemn native peoples- my ancestors- to reservations based on their skin and ways of worship. Jesus was in our midst, moving among us before the missionaries arrived. Jesus, the spirit of God, the one who meets us in our flesh– was already meeting with us, already speaking to us through a created world.

So I am tethered to the Jesus who does all those things the church wants to do but often gets wrong.

I am tethered to the Jesus who turns societies upside down and teaches us new lessons, or old ones we’d forgotten. I’m tethered to the storytelling Jesus, the parable speaking Jesus, who uses metaphor to teach us how to live holy lives.

I am tethered to the Jesus of the other, the tired, the broken, those that are afraid.

I am tethered to the Jesus who meets us at the table of communion and really means it when he says, “Come, drink and eat. All are welcome here.”

I am tethered to the Jesus of the world, the Jesus who inhabited and still inhabits creation, the Jesus who walks the wilderness with me and calls me, not just in a church context, but outside of it, too.

Jesus just may be the only thing we’ve got left.

And I’d say that’s absolutely enough of a foundation to build on.

 

 

When The Good Things Become Visible

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Mno waben. Mno waben.

I held my three year old son in the early morning light,  held him in the middle of my room as he stumbled in after waking up from his night of rest.

We are learning our language, the language of the Potawatomi people, words that were carried for centuries by word of mouth and then put down on paper in a readable and writable language.

The words carry so much in themselves. The stories, the imagery, the use of body language to tell the tale– this is how the world has worked for centuries.

We continue the tradition today.

It will take a good long while to be comfortable in speaking the Potawatomi language. We sit down at the computer and we recite the words again and again, hoping they stick.

We aren’t quite learning through immersion, but we’re trying to immerse ourselves, anyway. So in the mornings, I try to say mno waben, good morning to both of my boys.

Mno waben. 

Literally, it means that good time when things become visible.

So I wake with my sons and we proclaim that it is good for things to come into the light. It is good for our lives to become visible to the light of day.

We spend so much of our time running.

We run because we don’t know how to slow down.

We run from our pain, our worries, our sorrows.

We run from the things that make us uncomfortable.

We run from intimacy, from vulnerability.

Sometimes we run from God.

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But in the morning, we wake to find that things are made visible– and it is good.

It is good that we lay our souls bare to the light.

It is good that we say hello to another dawn.

It is good that we journey into an awareness that we are not alone, and therefore, we are invited to know ourselves, to know each other, to know God, to know this world that we inhabit.

What if, when we wake in the morning, we call each other into the light? What if we beckon each other into a kind of living that says, you are good, and it is good to become visible, to become known, to be seen.

I think our days would fall into place a little differently.

I think our interactions with each other would be a little gentler.

I think the way we see ourselves would become a little clearer,

and maybe, just maybe, we’d finally stop running.

We’d embrace the light.

We’d lay ourselves bare at the dawn of the day, and carry the light of a benevolent world into our every encounter.

Mno waben, friends. 

Go now into the visible light.

 

 

Do Not Be Afraid If God Is Not What You Expected

When we are young, we are taught to believe certain things about God— about what we can see, feel, understand.

When, in fact, God is beyond our senses or our understanding.

The church has been set up as an institution to hold those beliefs for us, to guide us in understanding them, but not always in questioning them.

 

So what happens when we find out that God is not what we expected?

We find that the world is far from what we believed it is, a world diverse in its expressions of God.

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The first time I went kayaking, it was on a small lake, covered in lily pads.

I was there in the quiet, and the most amazing part was that I’d never seen a lily pad up close before.

How could I have missed, for twenty six years, such a beautiful aspect of creation– of God?

The first time I cooked a meal with our Muslim friend in my tiny kitchen and she took off her head covering in my presence, I thought how could I have gone my entire life without knowing intimate moments like these?

In growing my first full garden, I realized that I could have spent my life not tending to something so beautiful and tender as a garden bed of vegetables waiting to be harvested.

What then, are we missing in our lives? What gets in our way of an existence fully lived with God?

The church is, again, at a crossroads, a battle to determine who we are– and who Jesus is.

Many are uncomfortable with the uneasiness, with the change, with the unknown.

How could God be something other than what we’ve learned all these years?

The problem with that question is that we are not the first to learn the ways of God.

And we are not the only ones who are learning.

That means that in all facets of the human condition, God is experienced in this world.

Who– or what, then, is God?

God is anything and everything.

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God is the good– not our earthly or moral good, but some other Good that encompasses all goodness.

God is in you, me, him, her, creation– some pieces of us, our human, sacred parts.

And the truth is, we hold a healthy amount of fear in the things we do not know– in the adventures, on the journey, into the Mystery that is life and God.

But the church sometimes pulls us into an unhealthy fear, fear that threatens what the institutions have always deemed to be true.

But that healthy fear– that kind of fearful expectation mixed with the joy I felt when I saw those lily pads– that opened me up to God, to myself, to creation, to the world.

Just as we should not be afraid of God, we should not have to be afraid of expressions of God, the church, the ways we see God manifested in our lives, even in ways we cannot understand.

If we deny ourselves the gifts of God, we will miss something. 

And if we miss something here and now, we are actually missing pieces of the kingdom, friends.

We are missing it.

And any hope of adventure, of this journey tethered close to something sacred and Mysterious, falls flat or gets destroyed by the belief systems we clung so closely to for dear life.

I know, because I was there. I was there a few years ago, when the things I’d learned as a child were suddenly challenged in every capacity, and I had to make a decision. What kind of journey was I going to take with God, and how would I encounter this world along the way?

And I continue to ask.

The important part is the asking– the thing we aren’t always taught to do in the church.

And I pray that we actually find that God is nothing like we expected in that other-kind-of-Goodness that can only be Mystery.

I pray that we find ourselves there.

And in that, we find that everything is just as it should be, adventurous joy abounding.

Amen.

To My Sisters Who Mourn on Mother’s Day

Sister,

I wish you could have been with us in that room, four walls surrounding a Hannah Service to acknowledge the grief of children lost, never born, sometimes not even named. We gathered because someone said she did not want to leave you out of this Mother’s Day experience, because you may very well be more deeply affected by it than others.

Sister, I lamented with you, for you, because I have not known what it is like to lose a child, to lose a baby or a pregnancy, to struggle in this way. I cannot understand it, so I hold the silence with you and for you.

I was there to lead worship; I was there to sing a few songs about the faithfulness of God in seasons that are so raw.

Someone said, “I don’t want a hope that will make me deny my grief,” and I thought that so many people should hear this message.

It is universal. It would calm so many hearts and ease so much pain, just a little, if we were allowed to out-loud-grieve and wail and try to make sense of what doesn’t make sense– together.

I cried for you in that space. I grieved with you in ways I didn’t know how, but still, I tried.

We remembered Hannah, who was not afraid to come to God and demand to be heard. We remembered her courage, and I thought of you, of all of you who have been courageous.

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We lit candles to mark our lament. There were only a few of us, but we lit more candles than I’d imagined, because I realized there that you are hurting with more than one kind of hurt today. We counted our grief and I so wish I could sit with you and count yours, so that you know you are not alone.

We remembered how our grief burns like fire, how we carry heavy loads as women. So we demanded there that God hear us, and we turned to trusting that God does.

We had three strings to braid together to remember that grief, hope and trust are often intertwined in our lives. As I braided it, not for my own grief or loss, but for yours, I challenged the church to be better to you and for you.

I challenged myself to remember, to not forget, to hold silent space, to learn what it looks like to lament beside others who lament.

I prayed for everyone who may not know what it’s like to hold their own child, let alone two, like I do.

I thought of women in my life who have fostered and cared for children in their homes, who have tried to adopt and it has fallen through; I thought of you, how loss comes and comes again and it hurts.

We ended the evening with hope, but we asked what hope looks like.

Is hope the realized dream of a baby of your own?

Is hope finding that the pain hurts a little less?

Is hope that Mother’s Day will one day feel different than it does now?

We sang, “You make me new, you are making me new,” over and over again as a proclamation– not that we know the answer to what newness looks like, but that we trust in a waiting God who hears the lament, the cry of grief brought from the people.

This Mother’s Day, I pray that the church does better by you, sister.

I pray the church sees you, I pray that the church is quiet and humble enough to understand that we can’t possibly understand, but walk beside you.

Nevertheless, we are here.

You are not alone.

Daily my work is to try to make the church better, to see things she didn’t see before, to notice the things she’s been missing.

I believe the church has work to do to get closer to the call of Jesus, and wrapped up somewhere inside of this call is the challenge to better learn how to grieve with each other.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we believe politically or religiously, how our views of God are different.

We literally set it aside and we wade into grief together, unashamed, unafraid, to let it do its slow and steady work.

And along the way, we pray for hope and trust to settle in somewhere, to make a home among our grief, to commune with our grief so that we know that we are not alone.

This Mother’s Day, I’m leaning in with you, sister.

I’m holding space that I don’t understand toward a God who holds space far better than I ever could.

For you.

 

DEAR PRESIDENT TRUMP: an honest day’s work

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Dear President Trump,

Today we worked in our garden.

It’s an honest day’s work, fit for us.

I consider it a successful day if I teach my children something new (or if I learn something new alongside them). I consider it a successful day if I can write about the things I care about, and if I do the things I’m passionate about.

A successful day, for me, however, is different than a successful day for any number of the other people in my life. What is success to me isn’t success to you.

And while we’re on the subject, even the hard-working individuals who voted you into office have different ideas of what an honest day’s work looks like, as does a hard day of work for people who are completely different than both of us.

I think of friends who have children with disabilities or health concerns, whose days are full of tender care for their little ones.

I think of the people in my family who suffer with mental illness– a successful day could be simply waking up in the morning or getting out of bed.

The honest work of a farmer is not the same work of a politician or a stay at home parent; and every moment of work looks different to people of different cultures, faiths, economic scales– this is supposed to be what makes America. 

Part of my work, then, is to write you these letters, to use my voice, to be the reminder that people like me– female worship leaders, indigenous people, indigenous Christians, mothers– we exist.

We work.

We believe in what we do.

We go about our passions in the most honest way we can, an it’s a day at a time.

And there are more people like me than you’d think– tribes like us, trying to live a life that is called GOOD.

So in your everyday decisions, President Trump, in your decisions about healthcare and education, about how to keep people both safe and informed– remember that we are working honestly here.

We are being America, the one that has been built because of us.

It’s the ordinary, everyday people that create this country, not the rich who “seem” to own it.

Do not forget that.

So while you’re there, we’ll be here.

Immigrant construction workers,

doctors,

teachers;

indigenous and small town farmers

protecting the land;

Christians trying to hold the church to the standards of Jesus and not western Christianity;

and the writers, who pour our words and thoughts out to the world.

And remember that the world works hard, creation doing what needs to be done everyday to keep us all alive here, to keep things going. She holds us together.

Remember. We will always be here with all the others.

With Watching Eyes & Steady Hand,

Kaitlin

JESUS & US: a shared wilderness

Mark 1:4-12

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The Baptism of Jesus

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;[d] with you I am well pleased.”

The Temptation of Jesus

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

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After Jesus was baptized, he was sent out to spend time in the wilderness. Over the years we’ve examined different ideas for why we think he spent time there, why it was necessary, but what we know is that the wilderness experience was the beginning of a new season in Jesus’s life.

We were sitting in church talking about this passage, and I was growing weary within a few minutes of the conversation, trying to understand what all of this could have meant in an indigenous perspective and not an American or western one. It’s new for me to look through this lens at the stories I heard all through childhood, but it’s a challenge I enjoy if I have the time to make connections in Jesus’s life to my own indigenous identity. And in that space, in a conversation about baptism and wilderness experiences, I did.

In native culture, young men at the time of puberty are sometimes called to go out into the wilderness to receive their life’s calling. Sometimes an elder might accompany them, oftentimes they go alone. They enter the wilderness because they know that on the other side they will come out a new version of themselves.

Kavasch and Baar in their book, American Indian Healing Arts, put it like this:

Endurance training and spending nights camping out alone with little or no food help to prepare each youth for the rigors of his spiritual journey. As the time for the quest approaches, rituals of purification, such as fasting and smudging– the burning of one or more sacred substances and bathing in their smoke– take place, accompanied by special prayers.

Then the boy goes off by himself to seek a vision. He spends four or five days and nights fasting, alone with his thoughts, on a windswept butte or within a shallow pit. He learns to deal with fear and find out about his own personal strengths. Each boy also looks for power and meaning in the natural world. The vision quest frequently brings on life-changing visions and dreams that provide glimpses into mystical and spiritual realms beyond his ordinary experiences.

A vision quest draws a person deeper inside himself and at the same time allows him to look at himself from outside. So much does a person learn in the process that in many tribes it is thought to be essential to the proper evolution of a healthy life path. Pete Catches, a noted Lakota medicine man, once said, ‘I do believe every young Indian, about high school age, should do a hanblecheyapi (vision quest) to get direction in life, to know what life is all about.’

I grew up being taught a very negative side of Jesus in the wilderness, when Satan came to him and tried to destroy him and ruin his life calling before it was about to start.

But now, I see something different. It see a kind of communion with the wilderness that taught Jesus about himself, that prepared him for his coming ministry and journey. We cannot know what kind of conversations happened in that quiet, but I can imagine there were a lot of thoughts coming in and out of Jesus’s existence. And in his struggle with spirits– evil and good, past and present– he found himself, his voice, and his own spiritual journey unfolding.

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CHRIST IN THE WILDERNESS by British Artist Stanley Spencer 

Just as the youth cleanses himself before he enters the wilderness, Jesus cleansed himself– in baptism– and entered into his own wilderness experience. Do you see the sacred connection here?

What if part of Jesus’ experience of the Holy Spirit came in the wilderness, in the place that wasn’t expected?

This is what I see in the wilderness experience of Jesus: a time of calling in the midst of what were often, I’m sure, difficult conditions. Still, he listened. He quieted himself, engaged with the voices and energies around him, asked questions of the world he’d entered into, and received visions and dreams of his future.

Brother, sister, you may be in the wilderness, but that doesn’t mean it’s an empty wilderness.

Glory is still found there. Sacredness, even when it’s uncomfortable, even if you’re alone, even if you’re a little afraid.

A wilderness sometimes still has voices and wind, sun and shade, flowing water.

And many cultures probably have similar practices to this, but growing up in the southern baptist church with little connection to my own native identity, I completely skipped over the wilderness experience of Jesus, because it only had negative connotations. Instead, in some denomination contexts, we are skipping over a beautiful and pivotal time of Jesus’s life: his purification and vision quest– his sending out experience.

So, let’s look at our own wilderness experiences differently. If you are in the middle of your wilderness now, look for what it teaches you. Let the wilderness speak to you, let the lone quiet, perhaps the lonely quiet, breathe something back over you.

And the truth of it is that it is often painful, there are surprises we’re not prepared for, quiet that is too quiet. But instead of running from that pain, lean into it.

Let yourself listen.

Do not hush the wilderness.

Do not rush the learning and the listening, the ending or the beginning, the birth or the re-birth.

Let the wilderness song sink into your bones, let your dreams of the future guide you out and back to a busy and waiting world, ready to welcome you.

And not forget what the wilderness taught you, for it may very well be your namesake.

It may very well be your calling.

Just as Jesus began in his wilderness, so maybe you must begin again in yours.

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DEAR PRESIDENT TRUMP: be a minister

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Dear President Trump,

I’m writing to you today about your role as a minister.

Please hear me, I am not referring to a religious leader, and I’m not referring to a place in a government department. I’m talking about this definition:

minister: v. to attend to the needs of someone.

How are you ministering today?

What person in need is receiving your attention, and who do you call worthy of that attention?

So far, I’ve not seen you interact with our “least of these.”

I’ve seen you spend time with wealthy evangelicals and politicians, with the people who golf with you.

You’ve given speeches, but they are not to lift up and revive. They are full of gloating remarks or even discriminate remarks toward people like native americans, being called Pocahontas.

Mr. President,

The first steps to truly caring for people are 1. to look them in the eyes and 2. to practice empathy toward them.

Even the people who voted for you, poor workers who trusted you, they aren’t receiving your attention today.

We need you to be a present president, who encourages and ares for not only my generation, but everyone from the youngest to the oldest.

You’ve got quite a responsibility, you see. Do not take it lightly.

I did not vote for you, but I still support a president who cares for all people.

So I charge you with the task of ministry today.

Be better to and for the nation you first sought to serve.

With Watching Eyes & Steady Hand,

Kaitlin

That Night at the Monastery

Last year I visited a monastery about an hour away from my city. I was there for a few nights for a staff retreat.

It’s one of those thin places, where you feel yourself go from outside into an unseen womb, a haven of silent meals and monk’s prayers. While the rest of the staff continued conversations in the “talking room” through mealtime, I sat with my friend Dilshad in the silent room and we ate in complete quiet. At one point, we looked at each other with tears in our eyes, and she grabbed my hand. It was all we needed to know that we’d found a sacred space in the quiet. We’d found a place that was going to show us something of God and bond us to one another.

That evening our group attended prayers and worship, a service in which the monks sang Psalms and other scriptures over us.

By the third song, I was weeping. I tried to stifle the noise, wiping my nose on my sleeve so as not to distract the other people from worship.

But I was so tired. 

Over the past six months, I’d begun deeply investing in the history of my ancestors and of native people in general, a long wound caused by the church– people using the name of Jesus to enslave, kill and force out indigenous men, women, children and elders, and to destroy the land they once lived on.

And it wasn’t a grief that I could leave at home or drop off at the front door of the church. It came with me, it sat inside of me, it processed its way into my faith and told me to ask the raw and difficult questions.

So I stood still in that gorgeous monastery cathedral where it was dark and candles were lit and monks were singing a benediction over us, a call into the presence of God, a call into living.

And while they sang, while I wept, I thought over and over to myself, “How could something so beautiful be used to kill so many people?”

Over and over and over,

I stared into human history, zooming in and out, people to people, culture to culture, human to human. I watched as the monks sang over me, as my ancestors sang over me–that piercing in my heart creating shallow breath in my lungs.

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A friend put his arm around my shoulder as we left, and I thought in that moment how grateful I am for a companion on the journey, but how difficult it is to describe something I mourn so deeply.

But I decided that I’d spend my days trying.

And every moment that gives me the opportunity to understand for myself what I grieve, and to bring that to the table of the church, I’ll do it.

And I’ll do it with a spirit of reconciliation, with a spirit of shalom, because I know that on the human life trajectory, though there is killing, though there is pain and death and brokenness, there is still Jesus.

And while Jesus is not the God of the American Church, he still calls the American Church to a new spirit of humility, to a new spirit of learning and re-learning what it means to honor anyone “other.”

For the first time in my life, my spirit feels “othered” and I haven’t been sure what to do with it, except to come here, to share my story, to look my people in the eyes, then to turn to the church and look my community in the eyes as well.

Because today, I have a responsibility to speak into my indigenous, Potawatomi heritage, into my relationship with Creator God and my ancestors, and an equal responsibility to teach the church why I am also a part of her.

So, Church, do you remember how to pray?

I need you to pray with me, to pray us into a new season of Church, into a new understanding of shalom, for the sake of all of us:

O Jesus,

In a world that revolves around life and death,

we hope and pray that we learn to understand the human lives that rest in between.

While we are here, we grieve and celebrate, we laugh and cry,

we journey in and out of appreciation for the life we’ve been given.

And in the in-between times, we are simply listening,

trying to understand what it means to know ourselves and to know you,

the one who carries the stories of the world and rests in the wilderness with the lonely,

the one who lays beside the dying and calls the broken into wholeness.

We simply hold onto your essence,

because it covers us and leads us both into ourselves

and into each other– into you.

May we journey the labyrinth,

the medicine wheel,

the life cycle,

the moment-by-moment call

to be a people who are both

spirit and breath,

both learned and learning,

both wandering and found.

Somehow,

you hold us there,

eternal love your salve,

the call of shalom your surgical tool.

You, Jesus,

are still the beautiful thing,

despite our attempts to

steal you and create you into something else.

Yes.

You, Jesus,

are still the beautiful thing.

Amen.