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?”

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REPTILE RELAY

LIZARD © 2004 Richard Soberka - http://www.photoway.com/REPTILE RELAY
Do you run alone?
Running along the succulent lined sidewalk of sunny Scottsdale, AZ this summer, I was thanking God that this was the last stretch of the run. The sun blazed out its 100 degrees already at 8 a.m. and I was enjoying the slight downhill of this last 1.5 miles of the run. I slowed to take a sip of the rationed remainder from my quickly evaporating water bottle (now approaching those 100 degrees!) and noticed I had a bulging-eyed admirer checking me out from the block wall.
I stopped briefly to study the approximately 5 inch lizard flexing his muscles in a two-, then three-pump push-up before he scattered down the brick wall to the shade of the small succulent bush. As I continued on my run; he followed and began to keep pace. I watched from the corner of my eye. My five strides matched up with his hundreds of steps as he stalked me; bolting from bush to bush that lined the well-manicured embankment of the Cactus Shadows housing development. I began laughing out loud as I continued on; for hundreds of feet, this lizard continued to keep stride with me!
I studied it closer, thinking this had to be impossible for this tiny creature to maintain this pace! Was there somehow another lizard hiding along the pathway, ready and waiting to take the next leg of the race? How could this lizard keep up? But he did!—I was amazed; he, so tiny and having to work so hard to match my downhill run; and me, advancing toward my own air conditioned shade and fresh, chilled water awaiting me at home, yet enjoying the moment with my new running partner. I would slow a bit advancing on the next opportunity for him to rest in the shade, but he would dart out once again and I was motivated anew to continue.
I thought back to the mile relays I ran for Arvada West’s high school track team. Each of the four girls on the relay team had to run ¼ mile at top speed as she transported a shiny aluminum baton to the next fresh-legged runner. What began as a featherweight baton and run-ready legs pumping like well-oiled machinery, at 300 yards would transform into exhausted, wobbly legs nearly giving out and handing over what had become a leaden encumbrance. The next girl then took over transporting the (once again) lightweight aluminum cylinder and, undoubtedly she underwent the same transformation at that 300 yard mark. This went on for each runner and ended with transporting that baton across the finish line to victory!
It would seem that my little lizard stalker had his own teammate with fresh legs waiting in the cool shade of those succulent bushes ready to take over for his endeavor to keep up with me. I laughed at the thought of how many millions of steps he (and his teammates) would have to take to catch me before I made the rest of the journey to my air-conditioned oasis.
I thought back to those Arvada West relay days and, what I loved most about the team was, even though each girl was exhausted after her own leg of the run, each girl would find enough strength to make her way to that 300 yard mark (wobbly, exhausted legs and all!) and cheer on her teammates.
About ¼ mile in to my reptile relay run is when my companion’s journey with me ended. I still had quite a way to go and I thought back to all those mile relays–without that girl located at the 300 yard mark, cheering when most needed, the journey seemed impossible.
My mind returned to the joy I felt during that little jaunt with my lizard companion and it carried me the rest of my way home.– It also struck me as so similar to the journey we have with God; I thought about His footsteps and that old story of the “Footprints in the Sand.”
Whether we see the one set of footprints or we see both sets of prints, we never run alone.
Whatever it is that you are carrying; a shiny baton, a nearly empty water bottle, the loneliness of heartbreak, the loss of a loved one, the burden of an illness; or, maybe you run from the shadows of shames in your past; there is One who can carry you on; One who will heal all your wounds and quench your soul-thirst. He cheers us from the 300 yard mark and every other lonely stretch along the way, providing laughter for the moment, a friend to help carry your burden when your body has exhausted its strength and, most definitely, He shows us the hope of an Oasis at the end of the journey.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)
May your relay, your day, your journey and your life be blessed.