Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 31, 2015

carnival colors

A pattern has been defined for my writing on this specific day in Jesus’ final week before His death.  For the past two years, I have shared stories on this day.  Jesus almost exclusively taught through the vehicle of story, and on this particular day in His final week, Jesus was in full teaching mode.  I have expressed in the past my love for His parables that begin with the words, “the kingdom of God is like” or “the kingdom of heaven is like.”  So today I continue my pattern and share another kingdom story that I was blessed to be a part of this past year.

Last April my wife Kristyn learned of a dear friend whose father was in the hospital, likely in his final days.  She reached out to her girlfriend to see if she could bring her family a meal.  Kristyn’s friend was spending nearly all her waking hours sitting with her mother, comforting her father as he suffered with multiple painful ailments.  In responding, she asked if Kristyn might just come and sit with her the next day in the hospital — a gracious and courageous request in the face of what she was enduring.  It is courageous to welcome someone into such a deeply personal space, and it is exceedingly gracious to allow someone to come alongside at a time when you’re most vulnerable.

Kristyn quickly agreed, and it was a beautiful day spent together.  As her friend would later tell me, Kristyn’s presence allowed her to begin grieving.  As Kristyn would later share, it was an absolute joy and privilege to simply sit with her friend.  It was an abundant serving of daily bread; bread (from the very hand of the Father) whose ingredients were the time Kristyn gave and the invitation her friend offered.  It was kingdom stuff, for sure.

I texted her friend later that afternoon to see if I could bring her some dinner on my way home from work, or maybe I could just come and sit for a bit.  She was gracious once again, and said she would love a cup of soup and coffee … one cream, one sugar.  I arrived with both, almost 20 minutes later.  We hugged, she thanked me and invited me to sit with her in the common area just down the hall from her father’s room.

As I sat and listened, I was overwhelmed by the truth that we were sharing a truly sacred space.  She was doing what she could to love her father fully to his very last breath, and gift him dignity in the midst of a scene that seemed everything but.  Sin authored death, and sin is equally responsible for pain.  Sin was fighting for the headlines in that space, but her father’s belief in Jesus and the Christ-like love his wife, daughter and family were actively living, outshined the darkness.

As we sat and talked further, I asked my friend to share a story involving her and her dad — one that might give me a deeper sense of who he was.  She shared how, as a young girl, she would ride in her dad’s pickup truck to and from his job sites.  He was a construction foreman, and she loved riding in that truck with him.  She shared how he loved to take his kids to the Thanksgiving Day Parade in downtown Detroit.  How he would setup scaffolding so they could be up higher to see everything.  How he loved photography and music.  My friend is a soloist with a beautiful voice.  She explained that she got her love of music from her mom and dad.  They used to sing (loudly) in the car, and her parents would always say, “Sing louder Kimmy, so we can hear you!”  It was not easy to watch my friend share those memories, because intermingled with the smiles and chuckles was a deep sense of sorrow in the here and now.  It was sacred time in a sacred space, and I was so grateful to be able to share it with her.

As she finished her soup, she invited me down to her father’s room.  It was no small invitation, and I was beyond honored and humbled.  As I entered the room, I saw her mother sitting at her father’s bedside, holding his hand, smiling at him.  What an amazing picture of both earthly and godly love.  I was introduced, and stood at the foot of her father’s bed silently and reverently.  I was reminded of times in scripture where people were speechless in the presence of God.  I would consider myself (as would others, I suppose) as someone whose default urge would be to say something.  I am rarely shy with words.  But in that moment, and in that space, it felt right to simply stand in silence.  I had an urge that I wish I had obeyed.  As I stood silently, I felt the urge to take off my shoes.  I had the strongest sense I was standing on holy ground.

Very soon after we arrived, my friend’s mother began to sing.  The song was Amazing Grace, and it was, indeed, a sweet sound.  After the first few words, my friend joined her mother in perfect harmony.  There they were, mother and daughter, honoring their dying husband and father in a way that was so genuinely a part of who they all were together.  It was as if they were sitting on the bench seat of that old pickup truck all over again.

I closed my eyes and listened prayerfully … and then found myself joining in a verse later. I put my arm around my friend and my other hand on her father’s foot.  I don’t know how long we sang, but the world around us seemed to dissolve away.  If holy could get any “holier,” it did.

As I rode the elevator to the first floor on my way home that night, my heart and mind returned to our conversation in the common area.  There were two words that came flooding back and repeated themselves over and over.  I seem to recall she shared them either in the context of her parade memories, or her father’s love of photography.  He had a phrase which has taken a forever place in the vernacular with which my heart and life speak, and she only had to speak it once for it to land there.  My friend shared that her father was fascinated by the colors which were revealed by a cleansing rain.  He had a unique and beautiful way of describing them to anyone who would listen.  The phrase was burned into her memory.  He called them “carnival colors.”  Carnival colors … I will never forget those words, or what they meant to me in that moment.

I prayed as the elevator descended.  I prayed that my friend would see those colors after the cleansing tears that no doubt would come when her father met Jesus face to face (just a few days later).  I prayed that she would associate those colors in her life with the memory of her father, as a gift from her Father in heaven.  Just as God gave the gift of a rainbow so we would all remember, He gave the gift of carnival colors so she would.  May we all live life in full recognition and awareness of the carnival colors all around us … the colors that are revealed after cleansing rains, and during kingdom moments.

The kingdom of God is like … the conversations, songs and memories of the ICU floor and hospital room of Wayne T. Rodd.



  1. Thanks for sharing,

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