Reflecting on Release….

There are things we learn all at once, so obvious we wonder why we didn’t figure it out sooner. Then there are things we have to learn in stages, sort of like peeling an onion. We think we have it figured out, only to learn there is yet another layer to work through.

The sunrise in Colorado is like that lengthy form of learning. The mountains keep you from seeing the sun until long after first light. Then there are the dense stands of trees that filter the light rather than obscure it. My friend Mike Wiederhold caught that Colorado sunrise perfectly in this wonderful photo.

This early morning light illuminates some things while casting others in deeper shadows. We see a great beauty that had been hidden. We also see things we would rather leave in the dark.

For me, those things are often old wounds, wounds I thought were long healed but tend to come back and bite me when I have little or no time to sort them out. Perhaps it is an offense I thought I had forgiven, or a time when listening was more important than too much talk. Either way, the old wound surfaces. At that point, I have two choices. I can stuff it further into the darkness or I can let go, releasing it to the Ultimate Healer.

Release is only possible with hope. Unless we are confident a healing has been prepared, it is tough to let go. While the timing may seem wrong to me, I must trust that God has opened me up to heal me now for a reason I cannot currently perceive.

More importantly, healing requires beauty. When I release the old wound, beauty pours out. I find myself remembering things long forgotten, things that helped me when I was first hurt, precious memories that guide me still. I can face the dark forest in awe and confidence that God is bigger and more powerful that the current challenges compounded by the ghosts of the past. If I open myself up and rely on the strength of the Holy of Holies rather than my own, more is possible than I can begin to imagine.

Make time today to consider how current challenges may be resolved in ways you least expect.  Learn to let go of the present more completely because once again you have let go of the past. And even if you cannot let go, perhaps it is enough to loosen your grip. Even a tiny space is room enough for God’s grace.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2022, All Rights Reserved

Photo of ‘Mountain Sunrise’ in Conifer, CO by Mike Weiderhold©2021, used with his permission, All Rights Reserved.

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Reflecting on Vulnerable….

What does the word vulnerable mean to you? It seems like a word that has gone out of fashion. Instead of being vulnerable, we are stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious. In the past two years, we probably have been all three at once. Or perhaps we were all just vulnerable.

For months I have spent my morning meditations contemplating this lovely photo by my friend Betsey of a hydrangea, a mix of near perfect periwinkle blossoms and mottled lilac petals. Difficult memories kept creeping in and I kept batting them away. The most persistent memory was of my mother’s last days almost thirty years ago. Perhaps it takes that long to make any sense of it at all. Perhaps it never will make sense in the way the world understands sense.

My mother passed away in a burn unit due to a severe allergic reaction to experimental chemotherapy. She had been diagnosed with lymphoma three years earlier. The first round of chemo had provided us with a year of good life. Then the cancer returned again, this time with a vengeance. Each tumor seemed to react differently, with the latest chemo shrinking one tumor while barely phasing the others. Soon we were on to chemo cocktails, but mixing what worked for each tumor alone did little when combined. Before long she ended up without any FDA approved options. The doctors offered her an experimental chemo and she took it. I recall the huge argument my parents had over this treatment. My mother wanted to try it. My father felt it wasn’t worth the risk. In the end, she told him it was her body and he respected her wishes.

Up until then, I truly thought I knew what it meant to be vulnerable. I had no clue. My mother had the courage to open herself up to a huge risk in hopes of a huge reward. She took that risk knowing full well it might just kill her. That brand of vulnerability is only possible with great strength of will and courage, day in, day out. You have to live with the path you have chosen.

Here’s the toughest part. We all became vulnerable. My father, my sisters, my aunt, my cousin, her friends. My husband and I were newly married and living in California while my mother was in New Jersey. On chemo days I would startle when the phone rang, often letting voicemail pick up the call. Then as the days and weeks went on, it seemed the gamble might be working and I began to relax. The call I did take was my father telling me to come home because my mother was dying in the burn unit.

What I see in this flower is all of us during that time. By the grace of God, each of us had near perfect, beautiful moments, times where we were able to carry the weight of our own struggles along with those of others. Then in the blink of an eye, it would switch. Whoever had been strong would crumble and was in turn carried, held, comforted. We got through it together by accepting each other for who we really were. You can only be that strong if you open your heart, warts and all, trusting that you will be safe and whole. Those few weeks were both horrible and wonderful, simultaneously the most  terrifying and the safest I have ever been. It was the making of my new marriage.

Make time today to be open to those you love. Listen with the ears of your heart. Look with the eyes of your soul. Refrain from complicated responses or plans. Offer simple comforts like a cup of tea or favorite snack. You don’t need to be perfect to help another. You just need to be willing to try. Be vulnerable to be safe. Allow them to hear and see the genuine you, as only then can others know how to truly comfort and heal you. And always remember, on those days when it all seems too much, something as simple as a flower can offer a window into the whole world of comfort and care.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2022, All Rights Reserved

Photo of ‘Nifty Fifty Hydrangea’ in Hammonton, NJ by Betsey Karl©2021, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved.

Reflecting on Presumption….Seeking the sacred amidst the ordinary

We all take shortcuts to get through the day. We bundle things together, like our trips into town to run errands. That sort of effort saves us time and energy, but what about when we begin to bundle how we think about ourselves and each other? Take this photo by my good friend Pat of her cat Fred and a young possum enjoying a very interesting dinner party. Who do you presume is hosting this unusual event? The easy answer is the cat. After all, he has a name and someone who probably puts out food for him. There are two bowls, one with dry food and one with canned food. If the cat is the host, he is simply tolerating his friend the possum, allowing him to eat the dry food while he enjoys the better portion of the canned food.

On the other hand, consider if the possum is the host. He is offering the better option of the canned food to his guest while he eats the dry food. The possum also gives the cat the better place, a cool, shady spot while he eats in the sun. We view this picture based on more than an assumption – we presume to know who is the host. To presume is a farther reach than to assume. Assumptions are an extension of known facts, at least based on what we know and can reasonably expect in the future. By contrast, presumptions project information from a past experience onto the present. Presumptions take things for granted, suppose things to be true. Presumptions often start with an assumption, then apply it far beyond what reason and good sense might dictate.

In the Christian tradition, we speak of the sin of presumption, better described by a fellow blogger:

Those who sit on a premise instead of standing on a promise, slip over a precipice. Faith says God will “give us this day our daily bread”; unbelief says He won’t; doubt says He might; but presumption believes the bread must be hot and buttered — an assumption. It might be, but God’s under no obligation.

https://www.gracebiblefellowship.com/blog/2019/7/31/what-are-presumptuous-sins

Presumption is a sin against hope, dashing any chance of success before we even begin to make an effort. The sin of presumption only considers what is probable without allowing for what may be possible. When we rush to judgment or make a decision based on presumptions, we no longer make room for God’s grace. We don’t even allow room for what others might do to help us. We have no time to learn from others or look for another path toward our goals and desires.

The sin of presumption can lead us to judge others based on superficial appearances or behavior. We may avoid others based on how they look or dress. Without much effort we are prejudiced for or against another without getting to know them. Most of us have learned to look beyond skin color and sex, but what about piercings and tattoos? Hair color or style? Where they live or what they do for a living? Sometimes presumption is more of a slippery slope than a precipice.

Make time today to ask more questions than you are comfortable with. Look beyond the obvious and hold open space for God’s grace. Allow time to pray over a decision or judgment before making up your mind. Break open your heart to see more than just the facts and figures. Most of all, let the Holy Spirit soak your soul in God’s will rather than your own.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2021, All Rights Reserved

Photo of ‘Fred and the Possum’ in Burlington, NJ  by Pat Dandrea©2021, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved.

Reflecting on Speculation….

Walking in the woods soothes my soul. I feel like I am praying with the trees, that together we are grateful for the bounty of creation and the gift of light. Sunlight filtering through the trees never ceases to astonish me. As I follow the trail, the shade of the forest is comforting, almost like being wrapped in a cozy blanket. Then the sunlight bursts through and I begin to see how dark the path has become. I did not expect the light because I had grown used to the shade. Or had I? After all, the trees can only exist because of the light. Perhaps my comfort with the forest is a deeper understanding of a quality we all share with the trees. We are both children of the light.

Yet I see more than sunlight bursting through the trees in this photo. The path ahead is not clear. It bends away from us beyond the light, turning in a new direction. How long do we spend in awe of that burst of light? How quickly do we jump ahead to the bend in the road? How easily do we lose the present moment to speculation about the future? Or perhaps lose the present to the past, limiting our understanding of the now only to what has come before.

If you find yourself lost in the past or the future, you are in good company. C.S. Lewis wrote about this fundamental human condition in The Screwtape Letters, a training manual for a junior devil on how to tempt us poor souls.

The humans live in time but our Enemy [God] destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity…..He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present–either meditating of their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past….[However] it is far better to make them live in the Future.…Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity.

[We must] fix men’s affections on the Future, on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead….He[God] does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do

(The Screwtape Letters , pp. 75-77)

To speculate means to form theories about what will happen next, theories frequently without basis in fact. We think first of investments with high risk and high payoff, of speculation in terms of money rather than time or faith. Yet speculation was once a synonym for meditation or reflection.

So where do we go wrong with speculation? We lose the present when we get ahead of ourselves. We miss crucial information that can inform our view of things to come. We begin to overthink the current situation, to second guess ourselves, to allow doubt to seep in and steal our present joy. The Buddhists call this temptation ‘speculative doubt’. Saint Augustine called it ‘anxious imaginings’. Perhaps the modern epidemic of anxiety has its roots in this corrosive form of pondering the future.

Make time today to simply dwell in the present. Let the beauty that surrounds you soothe your soul and seep into your heart. Learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable, seeing discomfort as necessary for growth. Let your imagination and speculation ponder a future of possibilities, rather than a projection of past disappointments. Most of all, accept the gift of the present moment and allow it to become your window into eternity.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2021, All Rights Reserved

Photo of Lower Big Quilene Trail in Olympic National Park, entitled ‘Light and Shadow’ by Cheryl Lindsey©2018, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved.

Reflecting on Unfinished….

Images that evoke strong memories always seem to be the toughest to contemplate. This memory is a very happy one, a memory of days long past when my daughter was young. We would often stop at Lake Brittle on the way home and even enjoy a picnic dinner if my husband was traveling. I would walk along the shore while my daughter ran, stopping when something caught her eye. The evening I am remembering now was quiet and still. The lake was a perfect mirror of the sky. My daughter knelt down to touch the water and created ripples in the perfect reflection. As only a toddler can, she burst into tears. As I caught up with her, she said, “Momma, I broke the sky”. As I drew her gaze upward, the crying turned into inconsolable sobs. “Momma, I wanted to touch the sky.” All I could do was sit down next to her and hold her. There were no words that I could offer as a new mother. Yet in my morning prayer time, often in my car in the parking lot before heading into work, that evening kept taking hold of me. At first I thought it was new mom guilt, the kind that makes you sure you will burn in hell forever. Then I realized that if I cared about burning in hell that meant I was a good mom. Bad moms could care less. And still that evening kept invading my in between time, time when I was no longer at home and not yet at work. Time I really wanted to just be silent and listen to God.

Okay, I know you are already ahead of me. I was listening and God was speaking to me. I don’t know about you, but for me, getting the message seems to take a lot of repetition. Frequently it also takes a kick in the head. Yet isn’t that the most important reason to set aside quiet time? In life, we are told success consists of 90% effort and 10% just showing up. With prayer, it is more like 90% just showing up and 10% attitude. Oh, and God will fix that attitude for you if you will let Him.

Over time I came to understand that sometimes words simply make things worse. Sometimes you just need to offer a hug. Sometimes all you can do is cry with your loved one. After all, even Christ cried with the sisters of Lazarus as they grieved. Then he brought Lazarus back from the dead. He consoled them before he sought to heal. He was present to them before he performed a miracle.

Fast forward to today. My daughter will soon be 26 years old. My hair is more grey than brown and I have more than my fair share of wrinkles. That is what the world sees. What God sees is my heart and soul, more vibrant yet more restrained, more willing to listen than to speak, more willing to learn than to teach.

As I look back on that memory, I realize words would have diminished that experience for my daughter. I probably would have tried to convince her the sky was not broken. Letting the experience just be allowed her to figure it out for herself and allowed me to learn as well. That evening wasn’t about the sky or the reflection. It was about how many times we start over to reach our goals. It takes practice to master the best of this life.

The Benedictines start their morning prayers with, ‘Today we begin again’. Each day we get another chance. We can learn from our mistakes and let go of them. We can continue to fall short until we can reach the sky.

All this came together listening to the young poet Amanda Gorman at the inauguration. She distilled the entire Gospel into one simple phrase. We are ‘a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished’. Make time today to listen to the Lord. Walk in the woods; take care of your animals, listen to your heartbeat as you breathe in and out. Allow the Holy Spirit to drench you with new beginnings, to rest and recover, to lean on God’s strength, to continue to run the good race. Let tears and touch speak what is in your heart and soul, trusting that we each are simply unfinished, not broken.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2021, All Rights Reserved

Photo entitled ‘Sunset over Whitesbog’ by Monica Cahill©2020, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more of her work and the bogs of the New Jersey Pines,  go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/BogIronOutdoors/

Reflecting on Intercession….


Sometimes the simplest things take the longest to figure out. We look and look, yet fail to see what is right in front of us. For the past month, I have been pondering this enigmatic photo by my talented friend Mel Orpen. She entitled it ‘Ripples in the Water’, yet it is so much more than that. I see the shadows bleeding into the light, and light piercing the darkness. What formed the shadows in the light that we can see, unless there is light before the darkness we cannot see?
 
This time of year is always tough for me. I do not like the short days and early nights. A friend calls this time of the year ‘The Dark Ages”. The building he works in has few windows, so he goes into work in the dark and leaves in the dark. Then there is the darkness of Covid, no longer an abbreviation but a word in its own right. Our prayer lists at church grow, covering both those suffering from the virus and other health challenges that will not wait for the virus to pass. There are days I simply lay my hands on the list rather than read the names aloud one by one. I have no audible response to even the names.
 
Then there is a faint whisper, a small, still voice. Go back to what you know, go back to the old Quaker ways of ‘holding them in the light’. When the list is long, how can I hope to know how to pray for them? Then I pull myself up short, asking if I need to know? After all, we are asked to pray to the Holy of Holies, the Author of Creation, the Savior of the World. God knows each of their wants and needs, their hopes and dreams. We do not seek to bend God’s will to theirs, but more to open our hearts and minds to what is possible with God. Rather than limit ourselves to what we are capable of, we need to stretch ourselves beyond the hard facts and cold realities into the realm of the possible. Otherwise all we see is the current darkness and we lose sight of the light that came before and the light that lies ahead.
 
We are called to pray for others, focusing on the outcome rather than the current dilemma. We pray for healing, wholeness, hope, comfort, understanding. Prayers can ramble on and on, especially prayers for those who hold most dear. Sometimes we pray for ourselves as much as we pray for them. How can we help? What is needed right now? How do I keep from getting ahead of myself? How do I hold onto hope?
 
At the end of the day, I must accept I do not know how to pray for others, at least not with words or simple sentiments. These prayers offered for others are best left at the foot of the throne, as described in Isaiah. I let go because I know I am lost in the folds of the hem of the Lord God Almighty’s robe. My view is small – His is all encompassing. My love has limits – His love is without beginning or end. Most important of all, my ways are surely not His ways.
 
Make time today to let go of what you expect, to allow your prayer to become very simple. Stand in the darkness with those in need of intercession. Lift them into the light ahead. Trust in the light that has come before. Know that no matter how meager your offering may be, you can trust God will make up the gap. Then end by collecting those prayers with God’s words, rather than your own.
 
Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely
more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from
generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus
for ever and ever. Amen.   Ephesians 3:20,21
 
Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved
 
Photo entitled ‘Ripples in the Water’ by Mel Orpen©2020, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved. To see her film work, go to https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2146410/

Reflecting on Generosity of Spirit….

There is nothing more spectacular than watching the stars near the water. Time seems to stand still as your eyes adjust to the darkness. Sounds drift across the waves and offer soothing background music to the sights of night sky. This photo was taken by a new friend Audrey Geddes. She look a long exposure photo to sharpen and brighten the stars, with the goal of capturing the Big Dipper over Batso Lake. Later when she took a second look at the photo, she found the comet Neowise along the horizon. I have spent most mornings the past two months contemplating this photo, mostly lost in wonder, awed by the majesty of creation. While my prayer time greatly benefited, I found it difficult to put into words what I saw. Then a few weeks ago, my husband and I were able to attend an outdoor church service. It is the first time we have been able to worship in person in almost six months.

The Gospel for that Sunday (Matthew 16:21-28) is frankly a reading I have struggled with for years. It’s yet another story about how the disciples just don’t get it. This time around the stakes are higher than ever. Jesus is explaining he must go to Jerusalem and suffer. When Peter objects, Christ rebukes him, saying ‘Get behind me, Satan!’. This is the same Peter who denies Christ after the crucifixion, yet that is not the end of the story. He later becomes the rock on which the church is built. What really struck home for me this time was a simple line from the sermon: ‘God is the only one who sees the entire truth’. The whole story is turned on its head when you start with that in mind!

How often do we congratulate ourselves on widening our perspectives, being open minded, giving others the benefit of the doubt? The bottom line is no matter how hard we try, we cannot expand our perspective to even a tiny fraction of what God can perceive in a split second. Like Audrey, we think we are going out to look at the Big Dipper. We may even wait and wait while the camera collects all the light it can. Then when we take a second look there is this amazing comet on the horizon.

God offers us much more than we are capable of taking in. We can look, then look again, perhaps ask others to look with us. Yet we are no better than the blind men each describing an elephant by the just the part they can touch. There is a generosity in God’s provision that overflows any cup, spilling out into unexpected places, adding surprises and delights beyond our imagining.

We offer up what we can to the Lord in response. Generosity is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I have entitled this post generosity of the spirit, because just the word generosity is so often associated with money. We give something because we expect something in return, perhaps just a thank you or tax deduction, but usually at least something.

Generosity of spirit is much more than that. When we are filled with the spirit, we openly and willingly offer our gifts without expecting  anything in return. We recognize that we do not own what we have; we are simply stewards of what God has given us. We give solely for the joy of giving.

Make time today to look beyond the central focus. Consider what God has given you and offer thanks for the blessings of this life. Let go of the need to know the whole truth, trusting God is showing you what you need to know right now and is taking care of the rest. Be alert for the fleeting beauty in the midst of the eternal, the little gifts of being present to the Now. Most of all, open up your prayers, knowing God has prepared more for us than we can begin to imagine or know to ask for.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Quote from sermon by Dr. Peter Gustin, 14th Sunday after Pentecost 2020

Photo entitled ‘Big Dipper, Little Comet’ by Audrey Geddes©2020, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more photos of the Pines,  go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/BogIronOutdoors/

Reflecting on Legacy….

Stone House in the Pines by Dave Archer
Life is seldom what we expect it to be, and 2020 has sure been teaching us that lesson day after day. So many things we simply took for granted are no longer an option. I find myself praying in more open-ended ways, surrendering at a new and deeper level. I pray for the concerns of other, often concerns that cannot put into words. More than ever I just pray for their concern, trusting God knows what they need in the depth of His mercy ad love. Some mornings I just pray for the greatest good and highest healing, without clear knowledge of what that might be or how it will come about.

Lately I have been reflecting on this amazing photo taken by my cousin Dave Archer in at the village of Batso in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. The structure is a disused horse stable, yet if you look closely, you can still see hinges on the wood covering the window openings. Even when this building was boarded up, someone wanted this stable to stand ready to use again. Who knows how many other buildings were constructed in years gone by, then reduced to shambles over time? This stable was built to last far beyond the life of its creator, a building sturdy enough to be used by children and grandchildren not yet born.

The Pines are part of where I grew up so by contemplating this photo, I often think of those who came before me and formed who I am. There have been good and bad mentors in my life, those I seek to emulate and those whose fate I avoid like the plague. It seems to me during these quiet mornings we all need a bit of both to grow and change, both a carrot and a stick. Simply running away from a bad example is not enough. We need a brighter future to aim for or we may just jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

Those good and bad examples left behind a legacy that is difficult to describe in worldly terms. Legacy is a word we most often apply to money or property, yet I wonder if this stable offered more than just that. Those who helped build this stable learned what it means look beyond today, to take in the long view. This stable took more work and time than a simpler building, so they also learned patience and perseverance. Most of all, they created something that stands the test of time.

What if a lasting legacy is really about the principles we live by, how we nurture and mentor those in our care, how we treat those we love? That sort of legacy multiplies after we pass on, continues and expands beyond what we can begin to understand or imagine. That is a legacy worth the effort, isn’t it? Our own achievements, awards and possessions pale by comparison.

How do we stay focused on that lasting legacy? How do we refrain from allowing the distractions of everyday life to overwhelm us? The Buddhists practice something called Maraṇasati. They meditate on the nature of death using various visualization and contemplation techniques. I am sure you are wondering what this has to do with your legacy, yet this practice is far from morbid. We learn to appreciate that our time here is limited and precious. What seemed so important in the moment tends to fall away and many experience a profound sense of what is truly important to them. For some legacy is still part of their work, for others perhaps not. Each of us has at least one talent or interest that fills us with pure joy – something that makes us who we are, singular and distinct from anyone else. What if your lasting legacy is sharing that interest, passing along the simple pleasures of this life?

Make time today to consider the legacy you wish to leave behind. Listen more than you speak, ask questions rather than offering pat answers, slow down when tempted to speed up. Refrain from judgment – judging takes time away from loving, and is far above your pay grade anyway. Be present to those you love, those who you encounter in daily life, and especially those who rub you the wrong way. Each one is sent to share your journey and stimulate growth. Offer what you have learned when asked and be humble enough to learn from those who may be wise beyond their years. Most of all, let us live this day and every day as if all we have to leave behind are our words, our actions, and most of all, our small acts of kindness.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Photo entitled ‘Lasting Legacy in Stone’ by Dave Archer©2020, used with his permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more photos of the Pines, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/BogIronOutdoors/

Reflecting on the Long View…

Long View by Jeff McCord
This past weekend at the lake was a welcome change of scenery. Yes, we are still under the stay at home order, but that does not prohibit travel between personal residences. As time goes by, I appreciate a view of the water more than ever. So I was drawn to the view from my good friend Jeff’s cottage in upstate New York. He and his wife Martha frequently post views of their pond as the seasons change. I have been mulling over this view since early spring. We can see the shore near to us very clearly, while the far shore is shrouded in fog. As long as we focus on what is at hand, that far shore, that long view, will never come into focus.

As a young woman, I wondered if there was a difference between people raised near water and those raised in land locked areas. It seemed to me water offered more possibilities than land and more land. I grew up along the Delaware River in New Jersey. Some of my most cherished childhood memories involve an old jon boat with a 5 horsepower Sears motor. We would gather up change to get enough money for fuel, pack a lunch and head to the boat launch. In the middle of the Delaware River, there was Burlington Island. The island had a wide beach and an area sheltered from the current where we could safely swim. I recall fishing from that boat and the few times I was permitted to join my Uncle Bill to hunt ducks. Those early mornings always felt so mysterious. The river was almost always covered in thick fog. Yet I loved being on the water with him. A calm came over my uncle that I seldom saw, a calm that left me with a feeling that all was well with the world.

Looking beyond what is right in front of us requires strong grounding in the present moment. Perhaps our current penchant for grasping the easy reward stems from a deep insecurity in our present situation. Why not indulge that temptation, take what is right in front of you, lash out in anger? What is the point of looking beyond the here and now? After all, the future is fuzzy at best, catastrophic at worst. If we doubt our present, what we can see and touch and hear and smell, how can we begin to conceive of an unknown future?

Safely taking the long view requires two elements, applied liberally and often. The first is hope and the second is security. We must believe there are better days to come, days worth the current sacrifice to realize. We must also feel safe enough to risk the present for the future. At least for me, both are difficult if not impossible without faith. That is a tough word to define, let alone practice. Yet without practice, our faith withers and dies.

Faith for me means spending time with God listening more than talking. Prayers for others take the form of lifting them into the light rather than offering specific requests. I end with a prayer for those we love from the Book of Common Prayer Online

Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy
never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come,
knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we
can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

That life to come is not just the afterlife – it is the future we trust and believe in. Make time to open your hearts and minds to new beginnings. Let go of what was and start to look forward, beyond today and tomorrow. Ask yourself what changes are better than what was. Begin to form a new future, a future based on the past but not limited by that past. Trust yourself to be a small part of the Almighty’s whole, expecting God to do immeasurably more than all we can begin to imagine or know to ask for.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Photo entitled ‘The Long View’ by Jeffrey Roswell McCord©2020, used with his permission, All Rights Reserved. Check out his novels on Amazon at Jeffrey Roswell McCord

Reflecting on Normal….

Pretty in Pink by sis97y
The sky has been amazing during our enforced time at home. The full moon this month is called the Pink Moon or the Egg Moon, the moon that presides over the first breath of spring. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by a new friend sis92y. This photo reminds me of why we first moved to Fauquier county, over 25 years ago. My husband and I started a family here, and I fondly recall walking my newborn daughter in the stroller in our lovely neighborhood. It seems like a distant memory of a time and place that may never be again, a more simple and innocent time. I wonder where this pandemic will lead – what will the new normal be?

Unlike my introverted friends, I am finding staying at home more and more difficult. I have worked from home for a number of years, so you would think this current situation isn’t much different. Yet an extrovert who works from home also adds plenty of social interaction into their routine. I practice yoga at a local studio most weekdays. On Wednesdays there is the prayer shawl meeting, then Thursday mornings there is chapel with breakfast and discussion. You get the idea – if I have to work alone, I can surely find a way to make time for social interaction. In my mind I fully understand the need for social distancing. In my heart it feels like I am wearing shoes at least two sizes too small.

I think things out by interacting with others. Talking brings matters into focus, helps sift the wheat from the chaff. Alone I find myself down rabbit holes like Alice in Wonderland, playing chess with life and getting too far ahead of myself. What will childhood be like for my grandchildren, as yet unborn? Will their restrictions cost more than the risks they seek to avoid? Will freedoms I took for granted become unimaginable to them? Of course the short answer is none of us know what lies ahead or even when to expect this current lockdown to subside. If that short-term result eludes us, what good is there in pondering a distant future that may never be realized?

Then I go back to this mysterious moon, this not so simple reflection of the sun, changing shape and size month to month, season to season. This moon reflects the ever constant sun, changing aspect even as the sun abides. If the moon changes without effort, why am I making this so difficult? Rather than focusing on what is, or was, or will be, I must go back to the basis of what works – being intentional about social interaction. I need to use technology to do what I cannot do in person right now.

Make time today to embrace technology to bridge the gap. Read bedtime stories to the little ones over video chat. Host a virtual dinner party. Celebrate birthdays or an anniversary with a dance party online. Let those you love know what they mean to you, speaking from the depths of your heart.

Allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and mind, rather than the latest news. Pray for one another, knowing when we pray, we are only a heartbeat away. Pray for more than just protection; pray for blessings that break through the darkness and uncertainty. Pray for the divine to permeate the days and nights ahead. Most of all, pray for the new normal, a normal where each of us may see Christ in everyone that we encounter, rather than just those we hold dear.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Photo entitled ‘Pretty in Pink’ by sis92y©2020, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more of her work, go to https://www.deviantart.com/sis92y/gallery

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