R.O.Y. G. B. I. V.

ROYGBIV

October 1st in the desert. Those of us who live here know that the last few months have been brutally hot. This heat tends to send things hibernating and the weak of heart only come here to escape their own weather when things cool down.  There are those who say there is no beauty in the desert. They say you can count on the heat and only two colors—the brown of the hard packed earth (and smog) and blue of the sky that for months and months won’t witness a cloud or rain.

 A storm is coming.

They’re calling this one Rosa— I don’t know how they pick those names but I’m thanking Rosa this morning because she has brought clouds to the blue sky, rain to the brown and my ability to go out for a run today without fear of perishing from heat exhaustion. Temps have plummeted form 105 degrees to a mere 75 degrees today. It rained through the night and had stopped for now, but they’re predicting such tremendous precipitation that flooding is imminent for many communities. I’m not thinking 40 days or anything, but it sounds like it’ll last several days into this week.

Of course, before I could make it out the door, I had to rub the ointments on my foot for the pain, and I also had to don my prescription glasses in hopes of seeing where I’m going. (The desert in the summer AND this getting older thing isn’t for the weak of heart.)

Speaking of heart—You could say I’ve been struggling with joy in my heart these dog days of summer… As a Christian, we’re told (and I believe) that since we believe in Jesus Christ, we always have joy.  I carry that hope that I have eternity with Him to look forward to and it keeps me smiling and pushing on, but sometimes things of this world just get me down…It’s just not a “Joel Osteen”-kind of day today. And, with the way things looked last week in our nation, it’s not a “J.O.” kind of week.

I can point to a myriad of things getting me down besides how sad I am about how we treat each other:  the heat has been exhausting, that micro fracture in my foot that kept me from running for several weeks, the inability to see clearly without eyeglasses, the eye infection I am still struggling with caused by the devastating fires this summer, and all that training for a half-marathon that got cancelled because of the other hurricane (Florence.) And that storm also affected a friendship in my life — I don’t understand why, but it would seem that things beyond my control are pulling me down.

And my cat is sick. So, I turned to where I’ve found joy before; running and being outside in God’s earth.  I do believe He still speaks to and through His creation, so I went out for my run and was praying to God for a hopeful glimpse at some Joy….

About 2 miles in, the pain in my foot started to dissipate and I grew more aware of the things around me. I thought about the two colors of the desert—brown and the blue—But, as my focus shifted, the vision of the desert before me was alive with more colors than I could name! From Mr. Hensen’s Jr. high school science class, I remembered the acronym R.O.Y.G.B.I.V. The color spectrum with each letter representing a color that is illuminated in a rainbow.

“A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. It takes the form of a multicoloured circular arc. Rainbows caused by sunlight always appear in the section of sky directly opposite the sun.” – Wikipedia

And also from Wikipedia—“The rainbow is an important symbol in the Bible, representing a promise of peace from God to Noah…”

Even though there wasn’t enough sunshine today to create a real rainbow, I thought I would look for the representation of that in the colors around me.

So I put it out there— “Okay God, it would plant some joy in my heart to see ALL the colors of the rainbow.” —And I began focusing on things around me (instead of my pain…)

First there was the Red Baja Fairy Duster— (I just love the names of the plants in this desert)— Then there was the vivid orange blooms of the Honeysuckle. I didn’t see the Y – yellow, so I moved on to the G in green—Well, that was everywhere! Supporting the blooms on the leaves of all these lovely shrubs and plants, but also unlimited shades of it on all the Saguaro, Agave and Prickly Pear Cacti. And still, I found no B – Blue. I quickly located the Indigo and the Violet attracting all the bees and hummingbirds on the numerous blooms covering the Arizona Sage bushes. So, it just got down to needing to see some yellow and some blue. With each step and each color I could check off in the rainbow, I felt a little more of my Joy returning. 

Violet

I decided to stop focusing on everything that was just on my side of the street, and as I looked to the other side, I found it!  A beautiful stucco home with yellow blooming Brittle Bush and Arizona Yellowbells punctuating it’s landscaping.  

Yellow

“Wow Lord,” I thought, these colors are amazing, BUT I still hadn’t seen blue yet…

However, as I continued on, I was mesmerized by mom many more colors—the bright pinks and fuchsias of the Oleanders and Bouganvilia and adorable little white blooms of the Flattop Buckwheat. But I was still holding out for the blue. 

colors

So disappointing. 

And then, no lie, a blue car drove by. I laughed — “Really, God?” Then I doubted. Was that really blue?—It was really more gray.  I’m not counting it. I continued on… But my throat was bubbly with the tinges of that laughter, my feet were lighter; I felt supported by everything around me. My vision of the world started to look brighter, even though the clouds of Rosa continue to build in the sky.

I was about 4 blocks away from my destination and a bright blue Nissan SUV pulled out into the road- traveling the same direction I was going. I had to laugh again. Okay that’s for sure blue. No mistaking that.  I even looked it up—Nissan calls that color-CASPIAN BLUE.

Then I thought, “Is this really God speaking to me through all these little things? Am I just looking for God to speak to me to lift me up??!” 

Earlier this week I saw this quote from Fred Rogers…

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Fred Rogers

I believe there are scary things in the news, but, like Mr. Rogers, I believe in looking for the helpers. I believe what I believe. The more I thought about my search for ROY G BIV to provide me with hope, the more I realized what I was missing. 

The Blue. It’s always been there—One of the two colors we’re most known for here in the desert southwest-that brown and blue. The sky, now temporarily masked in white and grey clouds bringing the impending storm, yet most always can be counted on to reflect it’s blue in Arizona.  

Sometimes the storms of life and the pain in our lives changes our focus from what is always available -The Blue Sky of Joy we always have available to us. By Faith, I know I always have that joy and today God made it feel so real, so alive, so all encompassing, personal, and so vibrant. And I thank Him for that. I know, and I know, and I know, and my joy is returning.

I guess the question is, “What do you look for?”

IM000571.JPG

De-Light-Full

Heidi Rosner's "Pick me!"

Heidi Rosner’s “Pick me!”

“Life is full of light and shadow.

Oh the joy and oh the sorrow…

Oh the sorrow…”-David Crowder Band

I have a friend who is a very talented artist. A relative of mine had just met her and was exposed to her artwork at the Celebration of Fine Art.

She said to me, “Your neighbor is just delightful!”

I love that.

Delightful.

Don’t we need more of that in life?

And my artist friend is delightful. She says of her own art, “I paint happy.”

I love knowing the “heart behind the art.”

One of my favorite works of her art is a fabulous watercolor with these joyous sunflowers. I believe she titled it– “Pick me, Pick me!” It was her description of the process that has stuck with me.

It’s been years since she described it, but this is my recollection:

“It is one of my goals to capture the process. I paint to capture the movement of a flower lifting its head toward the light of the sun.”–Heidi Rosner

Nature reflecting life. Truly.

If you’ve ever received a bouquet of sunflowers or been in a field where they grow, you’ve felt the mass that makes up the flower—it is quite heavy! Then, when that bouquet is a few days old, and the neck of the flower grows weary, you’ve seen the head drop, as though it bears the weight of a thousand pounds.

Isn’t this how we feel at time? Burdened, carrying the weight of the world, downright exhausted, anything but happy.

Oh the sorrow…

Yet life is full of both, light and shadow.

Some are great at painting “happy” while others reflect more of the “shadows.”

What would you “paint?”

There are times in life where it’s difficult to look to the light; to find joy when your heart is sorrowful, to find the ease when everything in life feels toilsome. It’s just NOT a “Joel Osteen”-day.

We are all going to have stormy days. Dark times will come our way; some self-inflicted and some not.

“We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, felling our way like men without eyes.” Isaiah 59:9

We live in a broken, fallen world. Keep in mind, we’ve been warned, “In this world you will have trouble”—John 16:33

But there is hope.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

“He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light,” said Job. And he knew some pretty dark times. Job 12:22

I have this friend whose husband arrives to work before the dawn rises. Yet, every day, as she awakens from her empty bed at home and rises to get her coffee, she is greeted by his text message– he sends her a picture of the sunrise.  Every morning.

Sunrise from Bruce

Sunrise from Bruce

Not all of those texts are full of light. But he is faithful each day in doing this.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:23

There is something so mysteriously fabulous, so hope-filled in the dawn of a new day.

“Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by your presence, Lord.”-Francesca Batistelli

“Your love, O Lord, is like the mighty mountains. Your faithfulness stretches to the sky.”-Third Day

Another sunrise from Bruce

Another sunrise from Bruce

Like each new dawn, God is faithful to us. When we stumble around in the dark, He is merciful. When life pitches us into some dark depths, He holds our heads in His hands.

As I have brought to the light the many areas that I stumble in, God is faithful to forgive, to love and to assist in healing those areas.

Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46

My hope and prayer is that, regardless of what this broken and shadowy filled world can throw at you, in spite of circumstances filled with darkness that each moment you choose to look to the light, exposing your sorrows and places of darkness to the healing light of the Lord, that your weary heart finds new strength to persevere for another day.

And, as life imitates nature, that your heart and head are uplifted with the light of every new day.

Tomorrow, or the next day, or the next… May you take the time to witness God’s faithfulness stretch across the sky and may you have a moment to bask in the dawning palate of hope that lights a new day of de-light.

ANOTHER sunrise from Bruce

ANOTHER sunrise from Bruce

“This is your brain on…”

Image

“This is your brain on…”

For those of us growing up in the 80’s, we know this phrase all too well.  The commercial for a “Drug Free America” that began with a picture of a whole egg: “If this is your brain…” then they crack the egg and fry it in a pan. “Then this is your brain on drugs.”

The brain unraveled.

This last weekend I attended a seminar/retreat on Love and Joy (and getting more of it in life!).  The instructor, Christy Osborn, was a corporate trainer for over 20 years. She utilized studies of the brain to understand and train/retrain individuals in the corporate world.

In summary, (or if you remember from science class) your brain communicates through a system of neurons and dendrites. Thoughts are neurotransmitters (chemicals) that travel from the neuron and through/out the dendrite. Picture a tennis ball at one end (neuron) and a stem coming out of it with a bunch of tree branches at the other end (dendrite).

When a negative thought happens (and test subjects were asked to dwell on negative things), the neurotransmitter (chemical) travels from neuron, down the stem and out through the dendrite where it makes paths to other nerve cells.

When your mind dwells on negative thoughts, it produces toxic neurotransmitters.

And it isn’t pretty–

Your brain on disappointment

Your brain on sorrow

Your brain in anger

Your brain in contempt

Your brain on bitterness

Your brain on unforgiveness–

Picture that tennis ball as a dried up prune and the extending branch as a dead and gnarly, blackened, spindly thatch of thorns.

It is a sickness that translates into our lives.

My sister calls this her “bad berry theory in management”—Those people who arrive to work in terrible moods, never smiling, always complaining, gossiping and grumping about everything. Their negativity spreads like a mold or a cancer through the workplace. It happens in life and in our bodies. When we dwell in the negative, our immune response decreases, our bodies are weakened and our pain tolerance levels decrease. We are more prone to illnesses when under stress; when someone dies, when we dwell in the negative.

And just a little more bad news—as it would turn out, those negative thoughts reproduce like a cancer. They stack up on themselves like a heaping, stinking pile of rotten produce.

Negativity perpetuates negativity.

Of course, we all will experience negative thoughts from time to time (the loss of a job, a divorce, losing a loved one, etc.,); the secret is to not get stuck there!

Ready for the good news?

Positive thoughts also reproduce themselves.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

For positive thoughts, the same process occurs with the neurotransmitters traveling from the neuron to the dendrites–

Your brain on joy

Your brain in compassion

Your brain in forgiveness

Your brain in acceptance

Your brain in encouragement

Your brain in love!

Picture a robust golden apple and a stem emerging from it with branches loaded with a bounty of beautiful, shiny green leaves.

These positive neurotransmitters are like a shot of pure joy straight to the heart. They result in emboldening the immune system, increasing your tolerance for pain and strengthening your whole body and mind.

And ready for a little more good news?! (A good practice for that idea of MORE positive!) 😉

“I’m trading my sorrows. And I’m trading my shame. And I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.” Israel Houghton & New Breed

Remember that stinking, rotten pile?– It can be brought back to life!

 

The power of HOPE.

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5)

We have a God who knows everything we’re going through.  He knows our hearts and our minds. He created us! And with His power in us, there is nothing man can do to us that He can’t transform to good.

“In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (Psalm 118:5)

For the doubters, unbelievers or many who are just stuck in the negativity, there is a place you can take it all and be changed.

“Anything is possible if a person believes”…“I do believe, but help me with my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Take your burdens to Jesus-He can handle your disappointments, your discouragements, your hurt, your pain, your unforgiveness and your unbelief.

“We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

With his power, given to you by the Holy Spirit, you can overcome; you can trade in your sorrow, your hopelessness and your pain for hope, love and joy.

Retrain your mind by taking a negative experience and locating the hope in it and the negative can transform to positive!

How does this work? Here are a couple of examples–Knowing that with Jesus, though you sorrow for your loved one who left this world too soon; you find hope in knowing you will see them again!

Or, spreading hope in the walk of life by being there for a friend who is diagnosed with cancer. Helping guide her because you survived that same diagnosis.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Hope is knowing that:

When chaos surrounds you, there is One that can calm the stormy seas (Matthew 8:24, Mark 4:35, Luke 8:22)

When things look their darkest, there is One who can light your way (John 8:12)

There is a safe place you can lay all your grief, unforgiveness, shame, anger, bitterness, negativity and contempt

There is nothing new or negative in this world that you can think up that He doesn’t have the power to transform for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

Picture Jesus Christ betrayed, battered, bloodied and wearing that awful, thatchy, spindly crown of thorns, taking his last breath hanging on the Cross, paying the final debt for mankind and thereby enabling us all to live free from the negativity of sin–

That, my friends, is your brain on HOPE.