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2014 Sherman Lambert photo of sidewalk chalk art

2014 Sherman Lambert photo of sidewalk chalk art

Years ago—almost two decades ago—my husband Sherman and I attended classes at church based on a series of short stories and essays—more often secular than not—where readers were challenged to hear God in the words, even if the author had no intention of addressing God from a faith tradition. Over time we studied all four volumes in the Listening for God series.

I liked the classes. They reminded me of the “Portraits of Jesus” class I had taken in order to meet the religious course requirement at my college. I wouldn’t have signed up for the course, but I was studying abroad and had to rely on my fairly unconventional advisor to register me for the next term. I was surprised he had chosen this class for me after receiving my instructions where I told him to find me something different since “I had gone to church and Sunday School all my life.”

But, boy was I wrong about what that course was about. The first day of class the professor handed each of us a sheet of paper with various facial features for us to cut and paste into a portrait of who we thought Jesus was. Dr. Wolff presented Jesus in the varying Christian gospels, from readings from other faiths, and through all sorts of secular literature and movies where we looked for the Christ figure. He did not tell us what to think though I knew for a fact he attended a Lutheran church close to campus. Surprise, surprise, but at the end of the course I still thought Jesus was the guy I was taught he was while growing up, even though a bit grittier and more nuanced.

Our church is revisiting the Listening for God story series and this time Sherman is taking turns teaching the course with the woman who originally taught it back in the 90s. Sadly, since I sing in choir now I can’t attend most classes, but I’m still re-reading the stories so I can work with him as he ponders the coursework.

What I realize is that these stories are much darker to me now than they were the first time around. I and the world have changed. I see depths I could not see then—I am not quite the sunny optimist I must have been years ago. Is this part of the natural process of aging or have my own life experiences dimmed my ability to read with a more objective eye?

Frederick Buechner’s words in “The Dwarves in the Stable,” an excerpt from his autobiographical Telling Secrets hit me hard, especially now that they were so personal to me. In it he discussed a time in his life when his daughter was dangerously anorexic and how trapped he felt in his fear. He compared himself to C. S. Lewis’ dwarves who cannot accept the food and drink offered by the lion Aslan (of the Chronicles of Narnia) because they are so afraid that they cannot see love when it is offered.

“Perfect love casteth out fear,” John writes (1 John 4:18), and the other side of that is that fear like mine casteth out love, even God’s love. The love I had for my daughter was lost in the anxiety I had for my daughter.

This time I really got what he meant when he stated, “My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours.” Maybe it was the daughter part—which I now understand to my core having lived something similar—but somehow in earlier days I hadn’t connected with how fear—of anything—drives out God’s love. Maybe all fear for me pales compared to the fear for a loved one’s life.

Oh, the darkness was always in the stories but now I know fear much more personally. Unlike Buechner, though, apparently I have not done enough of the hard work of putting aside my fear in order to receive the love freely given to me.

That God’s love is greater than fear and darkness is a lesson I seem to have forgotten. As I once read those stories from a place of innocence and light, my bigger task now seems to be re-learning to see the light that is also in all those stories—and all around me.

Fear not, indeed. And so I renew my search for light—and continue listening for God.


(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Just stop calling—now! With four registered voters at our address—and a land line—we just can’t get enough election phone calls. Of course, I don’t answer, but so many of these people feel compelled to leave detailed messages. Please note that while I wrote this, I have had at least four messages to erase. Lucky me—I just keep getting more examples of what people shouldn’t say to try to convince me what to believe and do.

But I just can’t seem to erase those messages without first listening to what sort of crap I’m being told this time—it’s as if I want to validate my anger or something.

Back when I studied writing, we just talked about statements being true or not, but my son Jackson is always talking about logical fallacies this, logical fallacies that. Oh my gosh, are the people who write these advertisements the evil geniuses of logical fallacies, are they just that stupid, or have they sold their souls just to earn money?

Speaking of money—I just can’t stand to note how much money must be being spent on flyers, phone scripts, and television ads these days during elections—which would be at least a little less painful if advertisements shared factual statements such as voting records and gave us context for what candidates have said or what they have done. What if someone were just willing to donate that kind of money toward solving some of this world’s problems? But, no, much of the donated money is just being used to twist words and take those words and any actions out of context.

A favorite of mine: “Did you know that so-and-so voted to take away money from senior citizens, veterans, soldiers, students, children, dying people, highways, orange people, etc.?” Then this is quickly followed by how we all need to live within our means and so-and-so is busy spending your money—but apparently spending it on the green people or whoever doesn’t matter as much to the caller. At the same time, no context is given explaining how much total had to be cut from the budget, how many other officials voted the same way, or any mitigating circumstances that could explain the record. The old “that person is doing a bad job but if I were in that position I would never cut money for the orange people—no matter what” regardless of any circumstances that might change the perspective is an insult to my intelligence about the complexities surrounding decision-making.

And how about the assumption that anyone registered in a party votes party line? Sorry but being told to be a good party person and vote as expected—and that all your other party members have already voted and you better vote soon to make certain that other party does not win—is an insult to my ability to think for myself. As if there could be no validity to candidates from the other side or to issues supported by “those guys”—who are not like us, right? This is an especially questionable technique in a famously purple state such as ours.

Here’s another favorite: while you’re at it, don’t forget to insult my values and call me anti-whatever if I don’t agree with you about how a person in a certain group should vote—in other words, you=values-based and me=lack-of-values-based. Because, really, why would I look to values in my decision-making—I can’t have any if I disagree with you, right?

OK, OK, it’s time to stop this diatribe before another call comes in to provide me with another example of why I don’t answer my phone these days. And time to try to remember what might be right about the election process in this country.

Yes, despite all my anger and frustration over what is wrong with our elections these days, I am grateful I get to vote and that I really do trust that my ballot will be counted.

Though all these people can try to buy our votes with all that advertising, we are still free not to answer their calls and free to vote as we choose.

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

I try really hard to love my life for the people and the experiences in it and the beliefs I hold. Life for me is not about status or what I own or where I live or anything like that—expect for when it is.

I’ve always feared consumerism in others and I try to snuff it out in myself, but deep down I realize that I am at least still materialistic. Not a material girl in the Madonna way, but just that I know sometimes I get really attached to certain material things. For me consumerism is about wanting stuff for the sake of having it or getting something new or impressing someone else or trying to create an image—all that I try to avoid. No, I’m not quite to the level I’d like to be in the “store up your treasures in heaven” attitude, but I try.

So it’s hard for me to admit that I love my car—and that it is the kind of car that also appeals to hipsters and people who do care what others think. Last month I felt like some sort of fraud while hanging around while getting the car serviced (after 10 months—oil changes only once every 10,000 miles—awesome!)—even the waiting area felt too trendy for someone like me. Who’d have thunk I’d be driving a MINI Cooper S? Not me.

You see it’s my husband’s fault we have this car—and Sherman’s no hipster either. He’s just been coveting them for years. Last year, it became painfully obvious we needed another car around here due to everyone’s differing schedules. Finally, I told him to go drive one. How was he going to know if he really liked them if he didn’t check them out?

So when he found a “pre-owned” (what people like me call “used”) one with reasonable miles, he took it for a spin. He liked it, he really liked it, even though he was out driving it on a dark and stormy night. Throughout the week while we vacillated—I just didn’t want to spend any money, period—the salesperson kept calling—and the price dropped.

When Sherman took me and our son Jackson to see the vehicle in the daylight, I didn’t think anything would come of it, no matter how cute the darn thing was. Both my guys took the car screaming over the hills outside the (BMW) dealership. Our fill-in salesperson—the finance guy who used to work at the MINI location and who knew all about them—was not too excited to squeeze himself into that back seat for that type of journey, but he actually knew more about the car than the BMW salesperson did.

I think he was happier with my cautious driving style than with the let-‘er-rip style practiced by my guys, but he wasn’t so thrilled with my cautious buying style. Don’t think he’d met many with my level of reticence for spending at that place—I mean there were cars there selling for $132,000. My inclination was to run out of that oh-so-precious space and go find some bucket of bolts that probably would have nickled and dimed us to our last penny. But thanks to my habit of not spending too often, I had built a credit number that was the highest Mr. Finance had seen—at the BMW place, no less. (That my husband’s score was slightly lower is due to the fact he’s the one who has the reliable salary and whose credit we typically use, but he’s no slacker either—let’s face it, we are just cheap—usually.)

And with those credit records we could obtain financing that made a lot more sense than paying for a bunch of repairs on a less reliable vehicle.

Can I help it that my reliable and safe vehicle (yes, Sherman checked the reports and ratings even before that first drive) is just so fun to drive? Note: I don’t even like to drive, but I do now. Errands? No problem. City traffic? Still a problem, but so much better with all that zip as well as the as-easy-as-it-gets parking of such a small car. Decent insurance rates, reasonable gas mileage, and ergonomically suitable for my touchy lower back—and with racing stripes on it! So what if the heater takes its time—I’ve finally got heated seats!

OK, enough with the exclamation points. But you get the point—I like the material possession that is my car. Turns out I’m a bit of a material girl, after all.

Nonetheless, I doubt I’m going to respond to all those email ads I get telling me “ the new MINIs are in, new MINIs are in” within anything close to the next decade. Our closest “new” vehicle is the car I drove and now my son drives—the 2000 grandma-mobile my mom gave us in 2008. Sherman just replaced his 1994 with a 1998—after we realized buying a “newer” vehicle would be cheaper than repairing his. And our daughter still drives the only car we ever bought new—back in 1998.

Yup, that’s me smiling like the Cheshire Cat behind the wheel of my little striped car. I’ve got the car I didn’t know I wanted—and I’m keeping it.

P.S. Happy almost anniversary (November 2) to us and our little car–it’s been a great year! Here’s to many more happy miles together!

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

My kids will tell you I’m more likely to post pictures on Facebook of the dogs than of them—which is true. Hey, the dogs spend more time with me than my adult-aged kids do. Access to my iPhone camera makes me much more likely to take pictures of the everyday and the ordinary than in my pre-smart phone days. However, I have always preferred taking pictures of things that don’t move—and all the better if those “things” are living plants and/or plants in front of some gorgeous view.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

So can you blame me if all I seem to do lately is take pictures of my zinnias? Every few weeks since August I have felt compelled to take—and post—pictures of the zinnias, especially since I keep thinking that someday soon the frost will get them. The irony is that the closest they came to experiencing their demise was on September 12—just around six weeks ago.
(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Even though I didn’t know we were going to have such a warm fall, I did know that we would have many more growing days around here—if only a sheet or two could protect them through the worst of the early temperature drops.

Well, those old sheets did the trick and those zinnias are still out-performing every expectation I ever had for them. Frankly, when I first planted some expired zinnia seeds two summers ago, I had no idea how they would do in a spot that few plants I’ve tried so far have liked. Thanks to the unrelenting western afternoon and evening sunshine that dominates the area during the heat of July and August and even that of early September, most plants wilt and give up. But zinnias love that spot, so much so that once the plants get established, they require very little water—even in a year much drier than this one.

Not only do these flowers grow easily for me in a tough spot, they also bloom in all different colors, sizes, and shapes. I never know what the next bloom might look like—which is one of the reasons I don’t want the seemingly endless summer of these zinnias to die out a day sooner than—oh, never! I’m always so curious to see what’s going to pop out next. Until the flowers are gone, I’m just going to keep drinking in—daily—whatever they have to offer. Color me zany for zinnias, if you will.

Enough words about the flowers, though. Might as well continue with my tradition of being that annoying person who posts picture after picture of her flowers even though—this time—I’m stopping with five—pictures, that is, not flowers.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

Gold is the color around here right now but it’s absolutely free for the viewing. These are usually the best days of October in my neighborhood but I am often stunned by these glimpses of beauty. Photos cannot do these golden days justice—or at least with the skills and camera that my husband Sherman and I possess. The intense, low sunshine softens the captured images with a glare beyond even that seen by our own eyes.

Colorado may not have the range of fall colors that explodes in wetter climates but against the backdrop of a robin’s egg blue sky and snow-tipped mountains, the gold glows. Even the native grasses briefly turn from their mostly monochromatic schemes to shimmer in variegated glory.

This year, however, we really have had moisture throughout most of the growing season and even during many of the fallow times. The season’s usual colors in this year are set against grasses that remain green through no human intervention. The wow factor surprises me again and again.

Though the weather forecast calls for no frost in our near future and though we have protected our hanging plants indoors when temperatures have dropped low, it is too late in the season to play that guessing game nightly with the plants we plan to overwinter at Sherman’s office. Reluctantly I prepared those beauties for the annual trip to the office last week before we both carried that burgeoning jungle of greenery and bold blooms into the space with wide southern and western windows our house cannot duplicate.

Even those plants that relied so much on my hand watering, due to hanging in locations that only provide minimal rain access, are so much the happier for the rains that increased the moisture in the air. Humidity—what a concept around here. No, my plants have never had a better season with appropriate temperatures, increased rainfall, higher humidity, and just plain luck from avoiding the worst of the hail that often devastated neighborhoods all around our yard. Our little micro-ecosystem thrived this year with so little effort from me.

I may miss my hanging flower pots, but the delights outside my door remain too glorious for me to mourn their absence too much yet. On yesterday’s drive home from church, all those colors in the established neighborhoods told me I had to get out to see what Mother Nature was offering in her natural neighborhoods—and quickly before those fleeting moments of golden flashiness disappeared.

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

We took off to one of our favorite fall spots—a location that one day soon will be flooded to provide more reliable access to water for the residents of man-made neighborhoods, especially since most years here are nothing like this year of falling rains, green growth, and flowing waterways.

I’m not sure why there aren’t more songs about beautiful afternoons. Of course, the dawning of morning is such a metaphor for new beginnings and growth, but joy may also come in the afternoon. I know it did for me—and so, while walking one golden afternoon with my husband and dogs next to a river still wild enough to be dammed by beavers and not yet by engineers, I burst out in song.

“Who will buy this wonderful (afternoon)? Such a sky you never did see. Who will tie it up with a ribbon and put it in a box for me?” (All apologies to Oliver!—and anyone who really does have a clear, soprano voice!)

But you see, all that gold does not glitter—it was free for the viewing, but not for the taking. The only ribbon there is is the one that binds October’s shimmering golden dance into my memory to keep me until she returns again—next year.

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

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