Lent and Reading and Writing

ArchesLent’s a lot like this arched stone tunnel. You don’t know for sure where it’s taking you until you get to the end and turn the corner.

Most of you know the saga of moving our big office into a little office so son could have the big office for a bedroom so I won’t go into that except to say that while Cliff and I work very well together, he’s needed more time on the PC for his online classes and I’ve needed a place to set myself apart and look out a window.

It finally occurred to me to move my quiet writing corner into the bedroom. It’s a big bedroom. And we sleep here and dress here but that’s about it except it’s also my home gym. Which I use far less than I need to and which doesn’t take up much space.

My epiphany was to bring one of the larger wooden TV trays and put it in front of a south-facing window near an electrical outlet, and here it is I’ve set up. My bedside table also works as a book stand; my laptop as both a writing tool and a research tool, thanks to wireless all through the house, and I even have room for a teacup.

Today I’m looking out on about ten inches of snow and more to come. But with ten inches of snow, it’s pretty peaceful looking out there. My place in the world is peaceful and yet I’m surrounded by family. How good is that….

I finished revising an essay for publication since I’ve been here and I created a screenplay out of a short story I’d written a couple of years ago. I just like being here. It feels like a writing corner with far fewer distractions that in the official office.

Funny how easy things are when you give up on things being the way you think they’re going to be and see how you can live with things being the way they are.


So here’s the URL again for the Lenten readings in case you missed it last time: http://cotikc.wordpress.com.

May all your days be as peaceful as an empty stone hallway, or an undisturbed drift of snow, before you make that turn into whatever is there, ahead.


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.


Whose Rules?

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Moses spoke, “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Deuteronomy 4

The statutes Moses refers to are the ones we commonly call the Ten Commandments. The first one is not to take the Lord’s name in vain. That one I live with pretty well. The second is not to work on the Sabbath. Now. When was the last time you took a full day off? Honor fathers and mothers: most of us do that, I suppose, to some extent, although therapy sessions are filled with recovery from parental experiences. Not to kill; not to commit adultery; not to steal or bear false witness or covet your neighbor’s wife. Okay. I can live with those.

But then look at the end of the above line: “that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land…” In other words, the laws against killing and coveting don’t seem to include the people whose land is being usurped.

Is that’s the origin of the “God’s on our side” thinking? If God’s on our side, we can justify unjust and unkind behavior to our enemies. That’s the thinking that happens in war and why a soldier can go off the deep end and kill indiscriminately. That’s also the thinking that’s coming up in this election cycle: “man has dominion over the earth,” says Santorum. I guess that leaves women to watch and sort of mop up the messes.

We could all take some time to examine our actions, to question which statues we live by: do we live by kindness? do we live by blame or justification? By the rules we make up?

What statutes do you live by? An “I can do what I want” rule?  An “it’s my fault” rule? Are those rules effective?

Maybe all our statutes need to be replaced with “The Golden Rule.” What if you really did treat others as you would like to be treated. Would your life be different?

Seventy Times Seven

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Peter came up and asked Jesus, “Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times? Matthew 18

Another lesson in forgiveness. Okay. I can imagine Peter wanting a simple answer.

But Jesus replies, no, not seven times, rather seventy times seven. Now while my math isn’t all that great, that adds up to almost five hundred. Four hundred and ninety, to be precise: 490!

If the numbers are taken symbolically, 4+9+0 adds up to 13. Thirteen is the number of death and rebirth. And adding 1+3 equals 4, the number of power.

So you could say that if one were to forgive anyone seventy times seven, the repeated act of forgiveness would lead to a transformative and powerful experience.

Forgiveness equals power – not power over, but the power to forgive ourselves.

The first time I was told that forgiving myself could lead to forgiving others for hurts I had experienced, it felt as if I’d been flung against a wall of impossibility. Forgive myself? Myself? I hadn’t caused the hurt to me! Others had!

And yet, when I could finally forgive myself for carrying anger and blame towards others, I was able to put it down. I didn’t have to carry it any longer.

Like seventy times seven, forgiveness is a continuing practice. Almost every day, we can see some affront that could rile us up.

What could our world be like if we were to practice taking responsibility for the hurts we do to ourselves by our frustrations and our angers? What would our personal world be like if we were to practice forgiving ourselves and, in that process, forgiving others?

Seventy times seven.



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?