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.

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Walk in the Water

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Ezekiel 47

Remember, you have been cured. Give up your sins so that something worse may not overtake you.  John 5

Today’s readings are about visions and miracles and, most important, remembering and living them.

The reading from Ezekiel recounts a vision. An angel leads Ezekiel to the entrance of the temple and shows him water flowing beneath the temple threshold. He leads Ezekiel outside and walks off a thousand cubits, has Ezekiel wade through water, first ankle-deep water, then flowing water mid-thigh deep, and another thousand cubits to chest deep water, finally another thousand to water so deep it could only be swum. He has Ezekiel sit beside the river and see the many trees, the living creatures beside it, and the abundance.

In the reading from The Gospel of John, we again have the metaphor of water. Jesus sees a sick person lying beside a healing pool but who has no one to help him into the water. Jesus tells him to “Stand up! Pick up your mat and walk!” And the man is immediately healed.

I was thinking about miracles and visions this morning. Most of the time, we think of visions as something that happened in ancient days to somebody much wiser than we are. And miracles? Well, they seem to be in short supply.

But I wonder if we’re looking in the wrong direction. Maybe the vision and the miracle we seek is really the interior one this Lenten season, the one that breathes, that welcomes each day, that gives thanks for the abundance of life.

Yes, there’s been an abundance of almost everything else lately, whether it’s money worries or family worries or computer glitches or automobile crashes. Yesterday morning, all I heard for several hours were sirens in various quadrants of our wider neighborhood.

And yet, there are visions all around us: the brown, year-old oak leaves still cling tenaciously to limbs – now there’s a vision of staying power! Spring, as stubbornly as it creeps in, is still creeping.

My shoulders and hips are feeling the struggles of these days, tight and unwilling to flex. But I still have shoulders and hips. That in itself is a miracle given the pounding I tend to give my body from time to time.

Remember you are healed.

When I look back on my life, I can see so many worse times than this – times when I was alone, fearful; times when I had no sense of security; times when nothing seemed to be going my way.

Even in the worst of times, we can see a vision of ourselves less fortunate than now. Maybe the vision and miracle of today is giving thanks for where we are at the moment.  

Each day gives us an opening to walk into the water and release another burden. And that’s a vision that will keep us walking: walking through these last weeks of Lent.