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.


Mother Wore Green

St. Patrick’s Day

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

St. Patrick was my mother’s one and only saint. Born a Quaker, she didn’t pray to saints, at least not that she let any of us know, but being born on St. Patrick’s Day was different. You could claim that saint. And his shamrocks. And like any good Irish-Catholic mother, you could have a lot of children: she birthed seven.

Today she would have been 97.

 My mother’s maternal great-grandmother, a Moravian from New Salem, emigrated across the country in a covered wagon. There were no churches in Kansas, no communities either and the family stories say my great-grandfather was the first white child born in Jewell County, Kansas. The family eventually became Quakers but carried the Moravian motto, “In essentials unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things love.”

In our various and oddly encumbered ways, mother’s children have lived that motto.

Mother’s father was a telegrapher on the Missouri Pacific Railroad and when they moved to Frankfort, Kansas for him to take up duties there, Mother was only five. She made friends with a little Black boy “down the street,” and her father, who came from the Blue Mountains of Kentucky and not a Quaker, disapproved. But undeterred, she kept the friendship as she grew up and went to school.

We never heard judgments against peoples or races or life-styles as we were growing up. Which sort of led to varying degrees of wildness in all of us at one time or another, but we were always accepted when we came home and the various friends/partners/ boyfriends were also accepted.

She might make an oblique reference, “Isn’t he/she………” but that was about it. And she might fight with us, and did; but I don’t remember hearing judgments.

None of my siblings judge either. We’ve done a lot of other angry and destructive things, but judgment isn’t there from our parents or each other. None of us are supportive of wars, either, for that matter. Our children weren’t taught with judgments, so now we are a proud multi-cultured, multi-colored family.

Which then leads me to wonder if a “mentality” can be inherited or if it’s conditioning. Are we pacifists because our mother was, or are we pacifists because of our long line of Moravians and Quakers?

Happy Birthday, Happy St. Patrick’s Day Mother. Thank you for integrating an Irish Roman Catholic into our family. You made him ours in a particular and heart-felt way.


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.


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?