A Prologue – A Tale of Restless Sleep
I love this girl.
You hardly knew her.
I love this girl.
You kept her small,
but not from me.
You did not know her.
But I knew her and
close to her heart
for 494.95 Moon Cycles…
give or take a few.
What are you prattling on about now? It’s 2 am….
could have done that?
Would have done that?
this past year
For fucks sake…You Old Dog…I have to work in the morning.
A business to run, a non profit to build.
Let me sleep.
I love this girl.
So glad none of you married her.
She knows how to talk to me.
My girl –
I’ve come into your golden hour
to whisper your story from my lips.
At 2 in the morning?
How is it you came from
behind the veil and disturb my sleep?
It’s your God-talk
Your story and mine
that calls to me.
I want to hear
the tale of an outlier
at every fucking table.
The story of a world
in a stand still
alone and untethered
hearing my howl,
setting me free.
That story again…?
I’ve told that story
and that should be
for some sleep.
I love this girl
stronger than any 1000 year old tree.
The priestess riding upon a thunder cloud
to resurrect me.
You foolish, old dog,
that’s not how it happened.
I simply wrote a long
overdue Constructive Theology paper.
Oh my girl,
Please read your paper
Now!!!? You freaking kidding me??
I loathe your interruption.
I was dreaming
about the Wild One.
I know that’s why I wake you.
Don’t dwell on the Wild One, you fool.
tell me again how I howled
into your heart and theological imagination
for 494.95 Moon Cycles.
Your story simply humors me.
If I do, will you let me sleep?
I’m a Trickster…
I make no promises.
494.95 moon cycles a Coyote Howls:
The Paper that Woke My God
Part 1: Contextualizing God-talk and the Interior Landscape
If I am seriously being called to write a constructive theology paper and engage in God-talk 20 years overdue, then in order to do so – I need to be clear why I couldn’t write about my experiences with God back then.
Looking back, at who I was then, and knowing what I know now, the reason I was called to seminary was to simply be handed the tools and framework for the work I’m now called to do. I was gifted with these tools, but was too young to use them. They’ve been sitting on a shelf, somewhere deep within the interior of my spiritual landscape. And in this pandemic, this year-long sabbatical away from the noise and chatter of the world, the tools reappear and I have no choice but to reclaim them and use them.
Being born into a physical existence, from a very young age we are indoctrinated and culturalized into the exterior physical realm in which we live. Our humanity and human nature are shaped by this physical realm. It is the culture and community in which we are born that give us the rules of engagement for our lives – shaping the way forward as we grow into our humanity for how we live, proceed, grow, shape, rebel, lead, preach, teach and love one another. This indoctrination of culture also shapes our God-talk and in my world and experience, that God-talk has been shaped by western, white, European culture.
By providing a framework of liberation theology, Chicago Theological Seminary gifted me with the tools to dissect and engage this dominating exterior landscape. I wasn’t quite ready though to use these tools. There was another landscape that needed full exploration – my interior spiritual landscape.
This interior landscape was too vast for me to understand and navigate in my early 20s when I was in seminary. The fierceness and wild forces at work in my interior landscape were just as demanding as those in the exterior. And for most of my life, these two landscapes have been crashing into each other. If I’ve lived a quiet, rather pedantic lifestyle the last few years, it was mostly to keep the peace between these two landscapes. I could live and work within the external landscape, and use the inner world as inspiration for art and creativity. Both as real as each other, both with forces to contend with and problems and struggles of their own. Separate, equal in weight, but until recently, not wedded together into a unified whole.
The challenge is to tell a narrative that weds both these landscapes together – bridging the gap between the lived experience of a complex and messy exterior world with the private, somewhat secret experience of a vast, wild and fierce interior. I’m not just telling a story though. I’m constructing a theology to wed these two landscapes together in a way that only a true artist and storyteller can do – with a mission and vision to create a better world, embracing the miraculous and amazing nature of both landscapes.
Or maybe I’m just bat-shit crazy. Time will tell.
Part 2 – Why Now?
And maybe you are wondering, why now? Why is this wedding so important?
Why is it important now?
Well, a couple reasons really….
One, there’s work to be done. And it’s important work, and it’s the most important work of our life. There’s urgency around the work. There’s a world to mend and heal – this world is so ill from the soul-sickness of white supremacy and that illness is choking the life out of most of the world’s people. We don’t have much time left.
And two, there’s a theology that hasn’t been written yet – a God-talk experience hounding me and howling at me for most of my fucking life.
So let me begin, a tale to be told, of a girl and a coyote.
And to understand…
Part 3 – We Go Back…
…and journey home again, where I was not only birthed physically into this world, but where my God howled a vast interior world into my heart and soul. It’s the story of trickery and a white-washed history.
Culturally, I grew up in Cowboy Country – on a ranch in Wyoming where the nearest town was 20 miles from our home. We owned thousands of acres and raised cows and sold them to beef processing centers. I often describe my father as the last of the real cowboys. We rode horses. We wore cowboy boots. We moved cows from pasture to pasture, and watched westerns on tv. Our life was horses, cows, and the land. Culturally, we embodied the rugged individualism (all the good and all the bad) that lives in the mythos of the American cowboy.
Our land was beautiful. It was home, but as such, it was a privilege afforded us by the white man’s manifest destiny. At a very early age, I came to realize that other nations called it home at some point before its story became a home to our family. The Plains Indians of Wyoming are many.
Here I speak their names – they are the Arapaho, Arikara, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Sheep Eater, Sioux, Shoshone, and Ute tribes.
I don’t know which tribes had lived on our land before us. But for me, a small cowgirl with a sensitive heart who could feel the shadows and ghosts of these tribes – well…the ghosts of these people found a way through the imagination into my internal, spiritual landscape.
Above our house on the ranch, there was a hill that bore the remnants of these tribes – circles of stone that we called the “Teepee Rings.” The young cowgirl in me remembers often walking with our dogs and standing on this hill where you could see our land stretching long and far. Standing inside these circles, I could see the sky touch the ground, the land kissing the sky. And if I lifted my arms up to the sky feeling the majesty of it all, I could somehow sense these ghosts, the native presence on this hill. And it was there, on this hill, in these stone rings and circles, that an ancient god unbeknownst to me entered the vast spiritual landscape of my heart and soul and made himself at home.
I received a white-washed education both in school and in the churches I visited growing up. My family was pretty much unchurched, but I did attend church with aunts and cousins from time to time. The little I experienced was typical of white churches in rural areas of the country- God-talk centering of sin, salvation, hell and damnation.
There wasn’t any talk about the ancient gods of the people who occupied the lands before manifest destiny. History classes in school also white-washed the stories about these people – the narratives incomplete – stories told by the victors in the structures constructed by those inflicted by the soul-sickness of white supremacy.
In those first 18 years of my life, as I grew up on the plains in the 70s, and came to age in the 80s, there was history taking place on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation four hours from my home. Did I hear about these stories during my high school days?
Not At All.
I didn’t hear these stories until college in the 90s when I made it to the university. When I read the accounts and history, I had a rude awakening about the domination of white supremacy.
I began an exploration of this soul-sickness, by reading the stories of the native peoples and the white supremacy that stripped them of their humanity, their culture, their land, their lives and yes, their gods.
While I was navigating those gaps in my education, spiritual forces were at work in my interior as well. Somewhere in growing up – I became aware that it wasn’t cool to talk about the interior. We navigate the dramas and struggles of the life of the exterior world – this is what we are taught to see is the real – while our interior landscapes are chalked up to imagination and creativity.
While I worked on my undergraduate degree, studying the white European philosophers and their theories, there was this energy that was infusing itself into my interior – an energy that became more and more conscious to me. And over time, it became a force of nature I eventually had to name and reckon with- this God energy was of a God-force fueled by my feeling of betrayal of the white-washed history of our native people.
I remember wondering how I could worship and grow to love the christian god that fueled the manifest destiny and wiped out a whole race of people so we could build ranches and live on their lands? And perhaps contradictory, at the same time, I began to sense a calling – of something bigger from within wanting to study theology and learn about religion. There was an energy and an incarnation of something Holy growing inside me. A relationship was being forged with a god – yet he was different from the god that I was taught to love and fear within the white-washed churches. It was a relationship born on a hilltop with a god of the Plains people, and this relationship was just as real to me as the God from Nazareth.
Don’t get me wrong – I have come to love Jesus and the liberation theology born in his name. But the god of my interior was never Jesus.
…in seminary, we tackled the problems associated with the big white-washed god. The god born in the Holy Land and fueled by the imagination of the western European culture – a god whose manifest destiny marched through the tribal and native cultures the world over – a fierce, violent victory march destroying the cultures of brown, black, and red people the world over.
Like the white-washed history lessons in my high school history class – the stories and importance of the gods from these cultures weren’t discussed or talked about in the theology textbooks. We were being taught to name and engage the powers of this big white god, this god that fueled the manifest destiny of the white race.
I was just a novice in these studies. I was young and impressionable, and couldn’t give voice to this problem and the discrepancies I intuited.
I enjoyed my studies. I received some valuable tools and I found some solace in the liberation theologies speaking against the soul-sickness of our time.
But when it became time for me to engage in God-talk, there were no words for me to make real the God whose presence I felt deeply in my spiritual landscape.
This God was not reflected in the theological and spiritual treatises I was reading. He didn’t seem to exist. No one talked about him anymore. He was white-washed from the academic theological undertaking. He was a product of my imagination, right? He became a secret God, for my heart only.
And as I was still a simple cowgirl at heart, not yet a spiritual warrior, I could not name my God nor step into my theological and spiritual authority.
I didn’t have the words. I do not have the words. It felt blasphemous to speak his name.
A sin to hear his call.
A sacrilege to the core.
He wasn’t Jesus. He wasn’t Christ made incarnate.
He was fucking Coyote – the Trickster.
Part 4 – I Have The Words Now – 20 Years Overdue...And Right On Time.
I speak his name –
My God Coyote.
There is Power in name.
To name the power is to engage the power. Your theologian Walter Wink taught me that. So I speak his name – Coyote.
And I engage his power.
As such, I become a Power,
and will speak with Power
I digress….but you will see.
I talk my God-talk.
I name my Power.
I speak my God-talk
and introduce you to
The trickiest Trickster of a trick,
you ever did see.
a god-damned, son of a bitch
Trickster God –
A trickster by trade –
a trouble maker –
and a fucking punk.
If I’m going to re-emerge
from the spiritual and theological
sabbatical of a year of living
through a pandemic…
If I’m really to live and engage in this
white-washed Christian world,
then I am bringing my God
free from within my
of my interior.
For 40 years of my life
494.95 Moon Cycles to be exact
he’s howled beside me.
Roughly 14,600 days and nights
give or take a few…
this fucking Trickster
Traveling with me through
University -49.49 Moon Cycles
Seminary – 123.97 Moon Cycles
Ashram and spiritual community – 31 Moon Cycles
And in the halls of my beloved church – 173.22 Moon Cycles
My turn to howl…
for 494.95 Moon Cycles – let that sink in…
I learned your philosophy…
I studied your
I observed the madness of powerful men
who disrespected my girl.
I learned your hymns.
I loved your Jesus…
and spoke your litanies and liturgy.
And together my girl and I
we loved your people…
all the while remaining
outliers always at your table.
You were right to dismiss us,
we didn’t really belong
at your church for all your God’s children.
She wasn’t yours.
And in the end,
there wasn’t enough room
in your church for
a white-washed God and I – a fucking Trickster.
We needed a bigger bolder new sanctuary,
an arena in which to engage.
And this past year – 12.37 Moon Cycles
Just me and my girl
engaging in conversation…
while the outliers are lining at her door.
Heart-powered adventurers slowly beginning to pour
into our new life
-new conversations and alliances form
-new fellowship is made between strong-willed spiritual warriors
And the Wild One is coming?
How many times, girl…
No talk of the Wild One.
I need the Wild One.
I need some fun.
Do you wanna know
what the Trickster talks about
all day long every day
You wanna know…?
It’s pretty deep.
It’s pretty dope.
It’s not about your Wild One.
No Coyote…It’s not about my Wild One.
No, my friends,
is obsessed with one thing…
One thing only…
and keeps me up at night
Oh, on this he has so much to say.
So many stories…
He has so many tales
and so many stories
about the church and a white-washed God –
about tribal Gods and native Gods
white-washed from our history and
from our theological theses.
Stories of people and their suffering.
He sings me stories of other tribes
besides that Hebrew tribe from the bible.
He speaks of suffering of these people
and the death of their gods.
He cries and trembles at their lament
and of collective sin
with no repent.
And my Coyote
My God, he speaks so many names.
we weep –
and as we weep,
over and over
He reminds me we
to Mother Africa.
And these names of these peoples,
and their long slain gods,
together, we will name them all,
for in the naming,
there is Power.
We will name them all
in the coming weeks, months
years to come.
For this is our work –
the work that’s ours to do…
And we will howl together
and send a call
for all the other outliers
at your fucking tables.
I apologize in advance.
What’s to come.
You’ve been forewarned.
We are writing a new story.
A divine story fueled on deep. deep sorrow.
And we write a new theology
or a soul-sick world.
We speak a story
of Divine Trickery and
of an ancient tribal God
who walks Amongst us