The red inferno

I am totally engulfed in the red inferno. Flames of red and ribbons of yellow lick at my skin, yet I remain cool and indifferent to its intense heat of color. As I strain to look up, up, up, my eyes wide with delight, I can’t help but smile like a Cheshire cat at my good fortune. My neighbor’s tree is responding to the call of autumn with such passion and intensity that I stop my early morning walk to stand and allow its splendor to thoroughly saturate my senses. I can’t move. I breathe deeply. My eyes veer back and forth, up and down, trying to absorb every nuance of the celebration of color that is partying around me. I gently draw my lids closed and desperately try to remember every color and how it feels to know my heart is so inflamed with love for God’s creation. For a few heartbeats of my life, I know no anxiety, stress, anger or impatience. “Thy kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven.” I was experiencing what I believe to be God’s reign right here, right now. Yes! It can happen if I am willing to participate with God in creation and to realize that God is just waiting for me to jump in.

This moment takes me back to a small island country. I see the urban sprawl of its capital, its dusty and dirty roads, ramshackle houses and sad countenance. Yet I remember in that distant memory the little window box hanging on one of the houses. In it is planted a few festive flowers, making the house a home, the city a tad more hospitable and palatable for its neighbors. I am grateful for whoever took the time to participate in God’s glorious creation, breathing God’s sacred presence into a place that some might say God forgot.

At the same time, I am whisked back into another memory. I am driving through Romania in the midst of the years of the reign of terror. The bus is full of our high school concert choir. From my window I see many a field of joyful sunflowers, lifting their bright faces to God in praise of sun and water and earth. St. Francis would have been pleased. I know I surely am. God hasn’t forgotten God’s precious creatures, even in the middle of desperation and darkness brought about by human minds and hands.

Coming back to reality, I immediately think of those engulfed in the flames of war and lives disrupted by falling gunfire, not rays of sunlight or the fanfare of changing leaves. While I believe in the mysterious power of prayer, in this moment lifting up a prayer for them seems too easy, too much like Pollyanna. What to do? Only one thing – I must take this God moment with me and use it to infuse my day with awareness of God’s presence. I need to make myself available so that I might be that flaming and brilliant red leaf to someone who needs passion or joy or just a word of kindness. It still smacks of excessive optimism, but then I pause. Isn’t that what I pray each day, for God’s will to be done and for me to have a part in it?

I can’t stop the violence, the sadness, the hatred, or the anger of the world, but if I have faith at all in a loving God, then I must acknowledge God’s own broken heart and tears that water the sunflowers and the red maple tree I stand under. No, all is not right with this world. But I pray that God will help someone who has their eyes shuttered with the burdens of this world to look up and around, to see that a loving God is working in and through us to bring beauty into the lives of others. Maybe the pleasure that God just brought into my morning is the smile I share with someone who seems to have nothing to smile about. There is no easy answer. I take my smile with me and offer a prayer to be God’s bright red leaf today.

Rebecca Husband Maynard

Author's Website
About the Author
Rebecca is an ordained Baptist minister and founder of Stacking Stones Ministry, an ecumenical ministry providing retreats, spiritual formation and labyrinth events, and spiritual direction, for churches, religious groups, and individuals.

Read more posts by

  • Anonymous

    Amazing. Inspiring.

    • rebecca

      Thank you!

  • C-A

    God’s awesome creation… a touch of His Spirit!

  • Ouida Wyatt

    What a lovely thing to run across as I check my email and chase a few rabbits of thought this morning. I’ll wager I’ll have a nicer day for having been reminded for a few paragraphs what life is really about even on election day after an ugly, horrible campaign. Think on those things that are beautiful, thoughtful, helpfull and fullfilling; reminding us that God is still in his heaven and we have much to be grateful for. Thank you