The Red Road to Christ, Part Two

Part Two of progressive Christian Ken Downey’s e-book.  Part One can be read here.

Spiritual Struggles

One time while I was in an Inipi and heard people praying to spirits, I got a bit judgmental. Then God asked what the difference was between these people praying to the spirits and Christians praying to the angels or commanding them.

Another day I learned one of the stories of the Lakota, how there was a great flood, and the spirits needed to manifest themselves in fleshly form. Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery, sent down a huge rock called Tunkashila, which landed in the water and being very hot, caused a great steam to come up from the water and dry land appeared. (Scientists tell us that it caused much of that water to drain out of the ocean into the crater it created as well.) This is that same steam that comes up in a sweat lodge–the sacred steam. When I realized that praying to Tunkashila meant praying to a rock, I became more concerned than ever–idolatry, my brain screamed.

“Who is Jesus to you?” God asked. I named all that He is to me, savior, Lord, King.

“He is the rock–the rock that was rejected by the builders and has become the chief cornerstone–the rock of ages, the founding rock for your faith. He is Tunkashila, for as Tunkashila made a way for people to live on the Earth by drying up the waters after that first flood, so he made a way for life in Heaven by washing away the sins of the people.”

This was when I began to realize that not only was this Lakota Way, this red road, a different way to worship, but that it was given the Lakota by God himself–He was defending it for me!

Hamblecha: the cry for a Vision

The prayer ties were ready, six hundred in all. A sacred circle was formed within the lodge by the ties, which went all around it to keep bad spirits away. Those ties are a symbol of the Holy Spirit, for when they are cast into the fire at the end of the ceremony the prayers in them go up, just as the Spirit takes our prayer up and is often associated with fire.  He lives in our hearts and, when He is present, no evil spirit can possess us, “for what fellowship does light have with darkness?”

Then commenced the Opage: the filling of the Pipe. I smudged the stem and bowl with sage smoke four times, then connected them in the smoke. Then, I filled the pipe with the Chinshasha, the red willow bark.

To fill the pipe, you first smudge the chinshasha with sage smoke. Then, you point to a sacred direction with it and bring it along the stem. You make a sunwise circle around the rim of the bowl with it, and only then do you put it in the bowl. You do this seven times, one pinch for each of the seven sacred directions.

The first direction is the west, and represents Buffalo Calf Woman, whom we remember because she gave us the pipe and taught us how to pray. The north, for me at least, represents the Father, who resides “in the sides of the north,” according to Isaiah. Of course, since God is everywhere, in the south as well as north, what the devil really meant when he said he wanted to ascend to the sides of the north was to plunder all God’s mysteries, even the ones shrouded in the deepest darkness.

The next direction is the east, which to me represents the Christ, the bright and morning star, who comes in and goes out through the east gate of the new temple, the one that will exist during the millennial reign of Christ. He is represented by the life-giving sun that rises in that direction.

The next direction is the south, and it represents the vastness, the world beyond–heaven, for when the Lakota speak of dying they often say that a person went to the south.

Up, the next direction in the series, represents Wakan Tanka, God himself. Next is Mother Earth, which also represents our adopted Mother, the New Jerusalem. Finally, within is the last of the seven directions. It represents our spirit as well as the Holy Spirit–Christ in us, the hope of glory. The canunpa, the sacred pipe, also represents the Holy Spirit because it carries our prayers as the Spirit does, and we first take the smoke within, where the Spirit lives.
Then, I offered the pipe to the lodge leader, and told him the reasons for my quest–the desire to know who I am, the desire to be connected. Four times I reached out with the pipe, each time stating a reason, but I did not let go until the fourth time, when he smoked it.

I filled the pipe again, and put a ball of sage in the bowl to plug it.

They placed a blanket around me, and from then until the quest’s end I was wakan–holy, and not to be looked at, spoken to or touched except through necessity. They helped me in the lodge and poured a hot sweat. When they left, I felt the life awaken in the Chanunpa, it seemed to breathe–to get longer and shorter.

Later, I felt weak, but the drummers and singers would start up and their songs gave me wings. Then, I heard a voice in my head that told me that I am a wolf. It was not a voice proper, but more like a strong thought that seems to come from outside myself, as when God speaks in that still small voice. I said I wanted to be a falcon, and the voice said,
“You can only be what you are–no more, no less. You are the wolf that dreams to fly–you yearn for it, but you are a wolf. If you don’t believe me, howl and you will know.”

I sat on my haunches and howled, and goose bumps popped up all over me; I felt power from within.

To be continued

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