Lasting Color

fall-vaseThe sun shines and the clouds float. Aspens on Colorado hillsides remind me of the wild golden colors of Van Gogh. Although green leaves still cling to the trees outside my window, cooling nights indicate that fall is coming and those leaves could loosen and fall with one strong windstorm. Or even a determined Colorado breeze.

But I don’t need all those prognostications. (A popular website declares, “Smart is sexy, learn a new word every day”!) Fading, wilting stems in my patio flower box proved that summer is nearing its end so this weekend I pulled up the few lingering, spindly sad plants. But before heading to the dumpster with the dry litter, I clipped the blossoms you see here. I’m determined to hang on to the bright colors of spring and summer as long as possible even as I anticipate weather changes, wooly sweaters, soups and stews.

We can’t stop the weather. And we can’t stop inevitable life change either. Within just a few days this past week we heard news from three special friends “of our generation” who face potentially serious health challenges. Even without such medical issues, every time I carry bags of groceries (or bags of library books!) up our condo steps I’m reminded that my days of spring and summer are becoming fewer.

But as I placed these red and gold flowers in a small vase, I was reminded that God provides “color” for all my days. I am choosing to remember that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever… That God boldly declares over me, Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

If I knew how to Photoshop,© I would emblazon those promises on the flowers in my small vase. When the petals finally drop, the promises remain.

Just Enough Time?

hurryWhile slurping my coffee and bolting down my small-egg-on-half-a-muffin…and longing for the days of ham and pancakes…and watching the clock so I can leave in time to wash the car  before heading to the office…dashing from the office in time to attend an early afternoon funeral… In the middle of all that I heard a whisper, “Marilyn, you have just enough time for it all.” (Yes, the Holy Sprit does speak while I scan the daily paper’s front page.)

Dr. John Ortberg writes about a life changing experience:

“Not long after moving to Chicago, I called a wise friend to ask for some spiritual direction. I described the pace of life in my current ministry. The church where I serve tends to move at a fast clip. I also told him about our rhythms of family life: we are in the van-driving, soccer-league, piano-lesson, school-orientation-night years. I told him about the present condition of my heart, as best I could discern it. What did I need to do, I asked him, to be spiritually healthy?

Long pause.

‘You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life,’ he said at last.

Another long pause.

‘Okay, I’ve written that one down,’ I told him, a little impatiently. ‘That’s a good one. Now what else is there?’ I had many things to do, and this was a long-distance call, so I was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible.

Another long pause.

‘There is nothing else,’ he said. ‘You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.’”*

 In another place Ortberg writes, “Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life in our day. There’s a difference between being busy and being hurried. Busy is a condition of the body having many things to do. Hurry is a condition of the soul in which I am so preoccupied that I cannot be fully present to God or a person. Jesus was often busy, but he was never hurried.”** (Emphasis my own.)

As I finish writing these words I’m asking, “Am I busy today or am I hurried? What will the differences look like? Who will I really see and listen to at the office? Whose heart must I peer into at the funeral? Will I hear or see Jesus today?”

I have just enough time to leave now and get the car washed…



*Leadership Journal, 2002

**Living in Christ’s Presence, Dallas Willard and John Ortberg


Yesterday we somberly recalled the events of 9/11, but it is good to continue thinking about how—or if—we have personally and corporately changed. In an article in The Gazette (Colorado Springs), columnist Woody Paige reflected on that day by reviewing paragraphs he wrote in the days following September 11, 2001.

As a man with dark brown skin walked down the aisle of the Boeing 757…he drew a suspicious look from the woman passenger in 21F…”I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t look like us,” (said) the woman.

It was former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, who sadly brought attention to the power of a simple word when he tried to re-define the word “is.” I recalled that incident last week while attending a class where we were challenged to focus on the word “others.” Describing the singular form, dictionaries define other as an adjective or pronoun: used to refer to a person or thing that is different or distinct from one already mentioned or known about.

Beware of things that sound too simple! Using curriculum developed by the Global Immersion Project, about twenty of us sat comfortably at round tables trying to be as honest as possible (it was the first time many of us had met some of these “others” who were really quite like ourselves) while identifying who were the “others” in our community—or in our families!—who did not share our values, lifestyles, interests, morals, religion, gender, race. And what was the truth we believed about them?

After table discussion, the list was placed on the board…and it wasn’t short! Sometimes we chuckled, but more often we squirmed. Then another list began to form. This one included how what we have read, viewed or experienced informed our truth about the individuals or groups. Need I add that the squirming increased?

Even more uncomfortable was a third list: how does my truth inform my behavior toward the “others” in my life? We didn’t need a Bible study on Christ-like attitudes or actions at this point to reveal how UN-like Christ were most of our behaviors. While Jesus moved toward the prostitute, leper, adulterous woman, skeptic and political zealot, how often I want to retreat to my comfortable corner where I can at least appear ritually clean. No risk involved there. No chance of being misunderstood.

And no looking like Jesus either.

End of Summer Thoughts

End of Summer“I have the end-of-summer blues,” she sighed. These words from a friend who enjoyed a summer of travel, reuniting with friends and family and camping in quiet Michigan woods where poetry became her companion. Now it’s time to get back into her job–a good job that she (generally) enjoys–but not one she envisioned as a career. Everydayness resumes. The very early alarm, walk with the dog, cup of rich coffee, the day’s paraphernalia stuffed into a backpack, city traffic and…people!

I’m slowly tiptoeing back into my own post-summer life. Did you notice that the park bench picture is gone from this site and in its place are the trappings of my life? Notebooks are strewn throughout the house for thoughts that come at odd moments (in what notebook did I write what thought?), coffee is never far away and the computer had better to do its job of recording and saving those absolutely brilliant literary ideas that sneak into the brain. The park bench is packed away for another season.

So why do we do what we do? Is there rhyme or reason for the activities that take the majority of our time and attention? Some—perhaps many—earn money at occupations that simply pay the mortgage and put food on the table with little personal satisfaction. Others have similarly unfulfilling jobs but find bright spots in most days. Stay-at-home moms or dads love their kids beyond measure but groan at yet more grass stains in the laundry and one more nourishing, appetizing dinner to prepare. (Dinners that at least someone may pronounce ‘yucky’!)

This is Labor Day, a holiday usually marked by a last picnic, drive into the countryside or dive into the pool before settling back into the school or work year routine. But I’m determined to accomplish at least one laborious task today, one that I’ve avoided all summer: mopping layers of grime off the common area of our condo entrance. A task that reminds me of my mother’s semi-annual scrub of the cement basement floor. (So comforting to blame it on a mother!) This is not the dust that gathers on a weekly basis and can be easily ignored or, when finally noticed, whisked away with a Kleenex®, but the stuff that is ground in and visible to all. Let’s get it over with!

Scrubbing cement doesn’t bring me personal satisfaction except for I-finally-got-that-done, and now that it’s over, I want to sit with one of those notebooks and a cup of coffee and think about God’s primary call on my life. It’s really pretty simple: start each day intentionally listening to him, then eagerly entering in to the “job,” whether it’s one that brings heart satisfaction or one that simply pays the bills. Come to think of it, if my day has begun with listening, heart satisfaction usually follows!