Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Need for Restoration

There is a deep need for restoration between Native Americans and non-natives if we desire to move forward through this earthly life on the same path; one of peace. The weekend of January 29, 30, and 31, 2010 was an historical step toward restoration between the Miami Tribe of Indiana, non-natives, and other tribes that may in the past have warred against each other.

My irrepressible friend Autumn and I took one of our road trips, this time to Indiana for the "Restoring the Ancient Gates Conference" in Fort Wayne. I wanted to go but the details of whether I'd have the funds, could get the time off work and find child care all came together just days before the actual event. Sometimes God makes me wait until the last minute. I knew I was doing the right thing when I got to the intersection of 322 and 271 and saw Hawk wheeling above the ramp. For me, whenever I think, I wonder if I am doing the right thing, somehow Hawk is above as if to send the message, "You are right where you are supposed to be. This is one step in the direction I want you to go, part of the bigger picture." I always consider it a message from Creator/God because He knows how to get my attention every time. I have shared with Autumn my encounters with Hawk and this time, all along the way to Fort Wayne, she and I took turns spotting Hawk sitting high in a tree, on the fence by the road, or flying across the road right above her vehicle. Friends of ours, Ken, his wife Gio and Viv traveled the road half an hour ahead of us and as I talked with Viv and told her about Hawk, she said they hadn't seen one. We even drove next to a truck with a hawk emblem airbrushed on the door and when we finally arrived at Heartland church we had our first encounter with Ruby the Red Tail Hawk. That made a stunning total of twelve hawks in one day.

Ruby weighed about three pounds and sat on the leather covered forearm of her owner, Byron. Her unwavering gaze, ruddy tail feathers, banded feathers and large talons were magnificently created. Autumn and I looked at each other, amazed at the specificity of God's message: I want you right here. Heartland church was an old elementary school building, the main sanctuary is in the gymnasium. As I walked into the open hand of the santuary and saw the altar decorated with handheld drums, woven blankets, Native Flutes, shakers, a screen with the Victorious Jesus projected onto it ( Jesus wearing a full headdress) among the other set of conventional worship items I smiled big. I looked around at the people gahtered and recognized the faces of Native friends I have met, all from different Indian Nations, I was greeted with warm embraces. I had been told by a few people this gathering was a significant event and now I felt the stirrings in my heart, like the embers in a untended fire stirred, breathed on, and given new life. It is feeling that washes over me in waves, sometimes in a gentle lapping or waves that knock me down, hold me under, and send me head above the water, rushing down a riverbed. I am not afraid the water because I see fingers of sun reaching in the depths, drawing me to it. Worship, for me, is like that. I think of the act of full immersion Baptism, the declaration of giving my life to Jesus and the journey up through the water, a resurrection into new life. I knew the worship time before the evening service was going to be great because the Native Christian Worship Team Terry Wildman and his wife Darlene, known as Rain Song were there. They were nominated for and had recently won a NAMMY award for their spoken word CD, a Native telling of the Bible.

Terry felt led to organize the gathering this weekend and people came from all over the country, and even from Ireland. The council was made up of Native Christians and non-native Christians. Why is important to distinguish between the two? It's important to acknowledge Natives and non-natives worship in different ways, and that's okay. Creator/God does not favor one group of people's worship better or more acceptable than another; people do, denominations do. It's important to me because when I am at gatherings like this I can praise and worship God in my regalia. At any other church I would draw attention and some people may think it inappropriate to wear what they consider merely a costume. This time I brought the scarlet shawl my mom made for me with the long white fringe knotted by her hands afflicted with arthritis that must have caused her considerable pain to tie. I also wore the bone feather earrings gifted to me the night I of my naming ceremony. When Rain Song began to play, several people went out to dance, clockwise around the sacred drum but it always takes a while for me to be brave enough to dance. When they played, On Eagle's Wings, I had to dance, my shawl became powerful eagle's wings and I whirled around, the floor dissolved to nothing and soon I was soaring in the blue sky high above the land, eye roaming the earth. In times of trial I know God has lifted me high above it all, just like this.

It's so different worshiping God this way, as I was created to, than in a traditional church where most often there are only three songs to engage in worship, there is a time schedule to follow, and most people just sit there . Modern churches could find freedom in worship learning from the Native population.

After worship, there was some explanations as to why we all gathered and what the expectations were for the remainder of the gathering; Spirit prompting. A Lenape elder, Sonage Taha (Strong of Heart) Engler prayed a blessing: "Long ago, when the people came from across the water, we told them we all prayed to the same God, but they would not listen to us." Hs prayer was that we would realize this. This pierced my spirit because my mom tells me the same thing, We all pray to the same God.

This is the beginning of restoration.

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