Both Sides Now

Joni Mitchell’s lyrics, “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now” plays in my mind this morning. It’s a mid-March Spring Equinox day and it’s raining. No wind, no thunder, the threat of tornadoes low. A soft rain, light, just rain. The willow, newly leafed into green lace, dips its head to show off the neighbors red bud tree, ripe with color, behind it.

This morning’s readings, this Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent, are all about water too: the Sheep Pool from the gospel in John where Jesus heals a crippled man because, well, he’s crippled and can’t get to the water when it’s “stirred up”; and the mighty river in Ezekiel that starts small but becomes , “a river through which I could not wade.”

This day of soft rain will reach a troubling phase later in the week. The biggest part of this storm won’t even arrive for three more days, the same storm that dropped two feet of snow in Flagstaff, Arizona. Flood warnings are posted.

Water: a blessing and a danger. One of those too much of a good thing is too much things.

Yesterday, I reposted a blog by Elizabeth Schurman, “Snakes and Ladders.” If you haven’t read it, you can find a link to it on the right. She writes that the thing we’re most afraid of, if we look at it and look at it and look at it, we can deal with it.

Years ago, when we first saw this house and walked up the sloping yard, my mind automatically registered “it won’t flood,” floods  being one of my childhood fears because my father died in the months after bringing his rowboat over here to help with the great Kansas City flood in the early 50s.

Interesting the bad/good contradictions we all carry for some of the simplest things. Growing up on a farm, rain was a blessing, a day to pause the work, but it also meant the farmyard got really mucky. And wet chicken smells? Not the same as smelling early spring tulips, let me tell you!

The Chinese say yin/yang. And that’s about it. The living with both sides because both sides is what we have.


The Work of Our Hands (and minds)

Friday of the Third Week of Lent


This morning, reading the first reading, a passage from Hosea,

I was stopped by the “our god…” Yep. A small “g” god.

 We shall no more say, “our god,” to the work of our hands.

Not an error of the Lectionary editors, the small g god had a meaning quite different from the one I normally think of. And I realized the worry I woke with this morning was that small g.

Yesterday, the day before, way too many of the days, are filled with unexpected or expected dashing. Expected or unexpected (and often unexpected) news of one sort or another. None of them are earth shattering for the most part, but taken together, it’s a lot.

And yet, as I sat with those words “our god” with the small g, picking apart the “oh, my gosh!” feelings I woke with, I realized that in actuality, things were pretty much okay. Yes, there’s a lot going on and yes, there are pieces that will need attention, but worrying about them rather than simply doing what I need to do makes them my “god” – that pesky god with a small g.

What god are you creating from the work of your hands? What are you putting foremost in your life? Is it time to give up that god?

With those questions to myself, I am called back to spiritual awareness, to the breath moving in and out of my body, to peace.


Identity Crisis

Third Sunday of Lent

I’ve been sick this past week.

A week ago, on Sunday morning at church, I began feeling the onslaught

of what has turned out to be

The Lost Week

It’s an odd thing, losing a week. I remember sleeping a lot and coughing a lot and fevers and watching a lot of television that did not necessarily make a lot of sense. And today, I feel empty. Not sure what to write; not sure how to begin thinking again.

I’m used to a mind that thinks. This one? Not so much. Mostly it seems to stare out from behind my eyes, wondering what all this is about anyway. And why it is, exactly, I strive so much. I expect that will fade and I’ll be back to thinking soon, but in the meantime, I’m home on a Sunday morning, another unlikely occurrence, the hacking cough has for the most part stopped, and I’m left feeling a little dish-raggey.

I didn’t expect to give up my mind for Lent.

Funny the things we cling to as our identity. I write and I think. What am I if I don’t?


In Sickness and Health

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

I’m on Day Four of the Great-Respiritory-Infection-Gunk-Thing

that seems to be going around our city. Perhaps yours too.

Day Four seems to be the day everything hurts. Great. But at least, with a husband and son having broken the path before me, I know what’s coming. And yes, I have meds; and yes, I’m taking care of myself; and no, I’m not going out. But thanks for your kind thoughts.

Matthew’s Gospel says, As Jesus was starting to go up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve aside on the road and said to them: “We are going up to Jerusalem now. 

We’re at that place in Lent when Jesus begins his walk to death. It always comes, each year, and each year it seems something drastic is going on in this world, too. This year is no different. I have heard from two friends this week who have lost family members to death; the people in the various tornadoes have lost family members and homes; I’m not the only one sick. I’m not going to die. And certainly not by crucifixion.

This walk to Jerusalem is the reason I avoid complaining as much as possible. And if I complain to Cliff, it’s in my three-year-old voice that says, I’m sick. I don’t feel good. And he says, I know.

Regardless of the fears or the sicknesses or the hurts or the accidents or even the deaths, we can look around and see someone suffering far more and in greater straites.

My life is pretty good, when you come right down to it. I have a bed.


The Folds of a Garment

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

Give and it shall be given to you.

Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will they pour into the fold of your garment.

For the measure you measure with will be measured back to you.

Today’s reading is one of my favorites in Lent. We say what goes around comes around, but the people in Jesus’ day were peasants and understood a grain metaphor. I come from peasant stock, Kansas farmer stock, and I can see the image of the good measure being pressed down, shaken together, running over, and the abundance in it.

But regardless of the way we say it, the philosophy is the same: what goes out, comes back.

Today, I want to offer the idea that Lent can mean receiving as well as giving up. We Americans, we’re not so good at receiving. When someone gives, more often than not the receiver says, thanks, but you don’t have to. Or words to that effect. We have mislaid the ability to receive fully and graciously.

When we give and receive in equal measure, we stay in balance.

Practice saying thank you today wherever you can. Just thank you. No add-ons. And when giving something, a piece of paper, a banana, a dollar to someone else, notice whether that person can simply receive with a thank you. Just observe.

Would saying thank you and receiving, giving and receiving thanks, be the good measure poured into the fold of our world?

Could we change the world one thank you at a time? One day at a time?