A Level Road

Wednesday the Fourth Week of Lent

I will cut a road through all my mountains, and make my highways level…But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget her infant? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.  Isaiah 49

Each morning I fix a mug of tea, and write in my journal. Most of the time, my journal entries help me make sense of the day passed and the day ahead. I write lists; I organize my time.

My next two days are pretty full with appointments and classes, which of course leads to micro-managing my time: what time do I have to get in the shower today in order to leave early enough to have time before class? Today’s classes run until 9 p.m. and I need to get there early to do some online work with them.

And what about tomorrow? Well, tomorrow’s calendar is just about as full. That’s how life is these days – although I remind myself that the phone isn’t ringing, right now, and the day is clear, right now, and I still have time before leaving for class. I’m okay, right now.

I managed to plant peas and lettuce a week or so ago, but the yard work calls. But not right now.

Micro-managing and climbing mountains. And I expect your life is just as complicated.   These are the days of micro-managing time. And people. And the to-do list.

That’s why I chose these words from Isaiah this morning. Words that again resonated with me and filled my heart with peace. Somehow it will all get done. Somehow my life is not forgotten.

“I will cut a road through all my mountains and make my highways level…”

I leaned back in my chair from writing these dots and pixels and smiled at myself. I will get through my days. And I can either get through them tense or I can trust that things will go okay. And whether they do or not, I can remain in a place of comfort.

That’s a lesson I learn over and over. Trust. Breathe. You’re safe. The world won’t fall apart and you won’t fall. At least you won’t fall if you pay attention; and slow down; and breathe.

Is this a reminder you need today? If it is, and I suspect most of us are treading about as much as we can these days, go back and read the verses at the top of this post.

“Can a mother forget her infant? Even should she forget, I will not forget you.”

Keep reminding yourself today that you are held. That you are loved. That the God spirit in you will keep you safe. Today, trust your journey will be on a level road.

Push the Pause Button

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

But his servants came up and reasoned with Naaman. “My father,” they said, “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.” So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.  2 Kings, 5

I love this story. We don’t hear it very often because it’s one of those tucked away in the Lenten daily readings, but each Lent about this time, when I read it again, I take a breath. And I sit and I think about the story and realize how easily I forget to do the simple things.

Naaman is an army commander and he has leprosy. He’s captured a girl from Israel and made her a servant to his wife. The girl says that if Naaman would go to the “prophet in Samaria” he would be cured. So Naaman takes his horses and his chariots and “ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments” to go visit Elisha. The prophet sends out a message, “go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal…” Elisha doesn’t even come out, he just sends the message out.

So of course Naaman gets upset and says, I could have washed at home! I didn’t have to go through all this! He could have at least “move his hand over the spot.” He’s angry. His servants reason with him; he washes in the river and is healed. Simple.


It’s already mid-morning and I’m just now getting to the reflection. Other bits and pieces have pulled me away – I have students in crisis and appointments to clarify for later in the week; the phone rang at 7:40 this morning when I was barely conscious from someone needing counsel. Wise words? At 7:40 in the morning? I hadn’t even had my tea! Okay.

And after each bit, after each one-more-thing-to-remember, I’d come back to my corner and recognize the rushing tightness in my chest. Finally,  I breathed and the tightness released.

Breathe. Calm. Stop.

That’s what I keep saying to myself this morning: breathe, calm, stop.

There’s an additional story in the midst of this Naaman adventure: Naaman goes to his lord and tells him what the girl had said about the prophet and his lord says, Go. I’ll send along a letter to the king of Israel. But when the king of Israel reads the letter, he figures that Naaman has come looking for a quarrel – he “tore his garments” and gets upset. But Elisha says, “Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me…”

I wonder if we aren’t, many of us, jumping to conclusions or actions these days when we just need to breathe, pause, stop.

It’s the simple things that are hardest to remember. I know I’m not alone in the challenges and busyness of this time. So all together now: Breathe. Pause. Stop.

And then, like Naaman, give thanks for the healing.

A Tortuous Heart

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17

I loved that line when I read it. It was one of those spot-on sayings that none of us need defining. We understand.

The lines following that one go on to say, “I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart, to reward everyone according to her ways, according to the merit of his deeds.”

I’m home today and sitting in my writing corner. I decided to miss the writer’s meeting scheduled for today and make another choice for simplicity and quiet. I had to. And I’m grateful I have the freedom to make that choice. Home. I’m staying home. At least until tonight when I teach again.

The day is chilly and overcast. I’m sure there are many who regret the overcast and chilly morning, but I’m not called to go outside and do anything. My job, today, is to center myself and get back into my spiritual center.   

I wasn’t so balanced a couple of days ago – on Tuesday I found myself close to tears a couple of times I was so tired of dashing about, doing and looking ahead to the week – a long day of teaching on Wednesday, a long day of meetings on Thursday, appointments on Friday, two afternoon meetings after church on Sunday –  yikes! My heart, as the reading goes, was tortuous. And so, I cleared my calendar for Thursday and I got quiet – because that’s what I had to do before I flew off the very edge of balance.

There’s a lot of flying off the edge of balance these days in all of us. And most of the time we have no idea how anything is going to work out in personal lives let along world lives: are nuclear rectors going to melt in Japan? is a fault line reactor in this country going to crack? is another American war beginning in Libya? … okay, let’s simplify: is it going to snow next week? That last simple question sets nerves on edge and contracts hearts in fear. Snow? Again?

See what I mean? We are easily tossed off the edge of balance.

That’s what the, “I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart…” means. Whatever we conceive “God” to be, the testing is in how we react to life. We can go gently and with balance or we can go digging in our heals. Which simply leads to bloody heals. One way or another, we have to go.

I read another beautiful line this morning by Ralfee Finn, an astrologer I follow. She said, “…spiritual health is learning to live comfortably in a state of uncertainty.”

And there it is. That’s how we gain “reward” for our ways. We find a way to live comfortably in uncertainty and we find a way to keep our hearts at peace. My way, today, is staying home because I can (at least until it’s time to teach). Your way is another way different from mine. It may mean closing the door to your office; leaving your desk and going to a quiet corner to do research; it my mean stopping long enough to feel a loving presence in your heart and expand it into a shield around you.

Whatever it is, may you find a way to peace and comfort today. Your mind and your heart will be happier for the effort.

Persecutions – a cheery title

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent: Jeremiah 18; Matthew 20

Today’s readings are about the threat of persecution. In The Hebrew scriptures, the people of Jerusalem contrive a plot against Jeremiah; in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus begins his journey to Jerusalem and tells his followers that a plot will be formed against him.

And I wondered at this litany of persecutions that the Bible contains. What percentages of our scriptures are devoted to healing, to praise, to joy, and how much to persecution. I realize that in this time of Lent, we’re likely to hear more about persecutions, but it’s still something to think about.

Like many of you, my life has been pretty complex lately. Yesterday, for example, the blog was in a “read-only” mode, meaning I couldn’t post, and it took most of the day to find the time to get it going again. Ergo, no Lenten reflection yesterday. Lots of errands and appointments, but no blog post.

But that’s the way life is right now: multi-doing because there’s so much doing! I finally got an email off to wordpress support and they got everything working again, but by then it was evening.

I expect your life isn’t any more reasonable; and I expect most of us feel pretty persecuted from time to time by the complexity of our lives. But I also expect none of us have people plotting to end our lives.

Since today is full again, here’s a Psalm 31 prayer for you and for me, also from today’s reading: “My times are in your hands; rescue me…save me Holy One, in your steadfast love…”

Measuring Life

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.   Luke 6

My window is open this morning and I smell spring. The birds are talking in the shrubs along the fence. When I read the above line, I smiled. A few minutes earlier I’d heard sirens wailing and overtaking the sounds of the neighborhood, and then they faded and went away and I hear spring.

“Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will they pour into the fold of your garment.” That’s what it feels like this morning. I will measure out my today in a way that remembers this joy, right now.  

It’s never easy to remember the quiet joy when experiences suddenly toss us a garbage bag full of surprises. Hey! What’s that! we want to say. That’s not mine! What are you doing??? instead of simply throwing the bag in the nearby garbage can and letting go of it. If it’s not ours, we sure don’t need to keep it. None of us deserve bad treatment, but if we make the choice to measure out peace today, perhaps the transfer from catching the garbage to depositing the garbage will be shorter.

Have a simple day today. Consider how you measure out life and what is measured back.