Reflecting on Discernment….

The heat has returned with a vengeance today. At nine this morning, it is already as hot as yesterday afternoon. I can’t imagine doing much of anything outside, let alone working. So I was drawn to this photo of an iron forger taken by my cousin Diane. Jerry creates wrought iron that is both beautiful and incredibly strong. He is slowly twisting a piece of iron, keeping a respectful distance from fire hot enough to soften metal. Even though he stands off to one side to avoid the blast of heat from the forge, the glow of the fire still illuminates him. At first, you may think he is only using one hand, but if you look more closely, his whole body is alert and involved in his work. So I am reminded of my favorite hymn, ‘Humbly I Adore Thee’. During the many moves we made while Mark and I served in the military, our first task was always to find a new church home. Over the years, the ‘right’ church was always playing that hymn the Sunday we visited. The lyrics remind us that our conception of the Most Holy is only a glimpse of the glory to be revealed when we meet our Maker face to face. In our mortal life, our vision and hearing is limited, our understanding of the infinite God only finite. Like the iron forger, we stand off to one side, illuminated by the fire of the Holy Spirit, but not consumed by its flames. As mere mortals, we are unable to discern or understand what is best for us, especially when we are in the middle of stressful circumstances or relationships. Yet even a glimpse of the immortal can make all the difference in the world. Take time today to allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to light the path that has been prepared for you, trusting that the Most High knows and sees all. Photo by Diane Brooks Myers

Reflecting on Creation….

We are enjoying a bit of a break from the heat, with a nice breeze today. What we really need is rain. We have had a very dry summer in Virginia. So I was drawn to this photo of a dew drenched bee, taken by my friend David in the wee hours of the morning. David and his wife Carole spent all night taking photos, resulting in many truly amazing pictures. Yet the early morning photos caught my eye. Take a good look at this bee, at the intricate detail of his body and wings. The bee almost appears furry, with delicate wings that seem at odds with his sturdy body. Each part is uniquely formed to serve its function, as this tiny bee and the rest of his hive travel from flower to flower collecting nectar. While we continue to sleep, the world around us is vibrantly alive. We rest in the assurance that all shall be well with the world when we rise, that the earth continues to rotate on its axis, that the atmosphere we take in breathe by breathe is still in place, secured by gravity and a hundred other intricate and interwoven mechanisms of nature. All these things, both large and small, work together for our good. Our all powerful God, whether called Yahweh, or Allah, or whatever name you chose, offers us life, one breathe at a time. This sovereign God not only creates the largest of things, but also deigned to create this bee, one of the smallest of things. If our all powerful God can take the time to wantonly lavish such detail on a creature as small as a bee, what more can God do for each of us? Take time today to consider the sovereignty of God, and let go of what burdens your heart. Make room for the author of creation to craft a solution to what seems impossible, trusting that whatever you ask is but a little thing for the same Lord that conquered sin and death on the cross. Photo by David Buckwalter

Reflecting on Hospitality….

We seem to have a bit of a break from the heat, so I am motivated to get things done today. Sometimes the smallest irritations can become obstacles, an ache here, a pain there. So I was drawn to this photo of a woman in the Amazon, taken by my friend Sarah. These toes belong to the woman that prepared lunch for Sarah and her group at they traveled along the river. The woman made everything from scratch on a low platform. She worked in a crouched position that reminded me of one of the yoga poses I strive to attain. Yet it was this photo that caught my eye. Look at her feet. No two toes seem to face the same direction. Her feet may ache, but those aches and pains don’t prevent her from making meals. She continues to offer herself to others, making delicious and nutritious food for travelers that come her way. What she offers is as much about hospitality as about food. The Bible is full of restrictions for other parts of our bodies, warning us against speaking out when we should be silent, or curbing our various physical appetites. Not so for our feet. Our feet are meant to be free. Perhaps her bare feet are a reflection of her heart. She doesn’t dress up, or wait for the perfect moment or occasion. She is simply present to those she meets. Take time today to consider what hospitality means to you. Open your home and your heart to others, for a cup of tea, or time to share. Simply be present to those you meet, and free your heart, and your feet. Photo by Sarah Gulick

Reflecting on Compromise….

Sometimes it feels like things just pile up, one or top of the other. We think we are handling it all very well, until the smallest annoyance sets us off. We lose our temper with the wrong person, or allow that annoyance to spoil an otherwise lovely evening. Summer heat adds to it all, shortening tempers and trying our patience. Even the smallest tasks seem difficult. So I was drawn to this photo of a rock tower, taken by my friend Joseph. There was a rock beach on Block Island where Joseph and JoAnn spent their honeymoon last month. This rock tower was waiting for them when they arrived, patiently built by someone who came before them. Joseph was inspired to make a tower of his own. You can see one small tower in the background of this photo. In the Old Testament, piles of rocks were often constructed to commemorate a certain event, or agreement. We hear how Laban sought out Jacob, who left with Laban’s daughters and sheep, after working for Laban for many years and becoming his son-in-law. They iron out an agreement, to divide their property, and build a rock tower to remind themselves of both the conflict and its resolution. The rock tower Joseph found is much more like those Old Testament rock towers. Instead of building up resentment, rock upon rock, these towers represent the building of trust, the forging of compromises, and the cementing of relationships. So when conflict seems to abound, remember you are in good company. Build up your relationships, rather than allowing the busy-ness of life to tear them down. Take time today to address your grievances as they occur, rather than allowing these concerns to spill over into the peaceful parts of your life. Calmly explain the effect another’s behavior has upon you, trusting they may not understand what they did was hurtful. Talk about how to move on from here, rather than dwelling in the past or blaming one another. With God as our firm foundation, we all can start building our own towers, one rock at a time. Photo by Joseph Syzdek

Reflecting on Presence….

The sticky summer heat is back with a vengeance. The pleasant break in the weather lasted long enough for us to enjoy last weekend, but now it is everything we expect for July in Virginia. So I was drawn to this photo of my dear friend Marge’s silly goats. A few times a day, Marge opens the gate and the goats roam around the pool. On this day, the goats decided lounging around the pool was more like it. When we visit Marge, we often sit in the living room and watch the goats through a wall of windows. The goats are very amusing, often jumping around and playing games with one another. Yet when it is hot like today, even the goats settle down and relax by the pool. When my daughter Tori was a toddler, we would often go to the pool after I picked her up from daycare. We seldom stayed more than an hour, but that hour made all the difference in the world. If my husband Mark wasn’t traveling, he would pick up fried chicken and meet us there. We would have a simple picnic, lounging by the pool like the goats. When Mark and I both worked full time, our leave was often consumed by childcare responsibilities. We seldom took much vacation, so these few hours by the pool became a sort of vacation. We took time to enjoy each other and relax, rather than rush onto the next item on our never ending list of things to do. So perhaps these goats are not so silly after all. To be present to the joy and beauty that surrounds you is to dip you toe into the vastness of eternity. Take time today to relax and enjoy the company of loved ones and the simple pleasures surrounding you. Don’t wait until you can get away to take a vacation. Enjoy what life has to offer, here and now. Photo by Marge Rumbaugh

Reflecting on Community….

It’s summer and folks are heading out of town. Some of us are visiting family, or going on long journeys. Others simply head out for a day trip or long weekend. There are so many awesome photos that it has been difficult to choose just one to reflect upon. So what caught my eye today was the number of photos of old bridges. My cousin Diane took this photo of a masonry bridge while driving along the back roads in Bucks County, PA. These arches remind me of the ruins at Fountains Abbey, a World Heritage site in England. Originally built in 1132, the abbey is amazingly well preserved. While living in England, we attended a service in the cellarium celebrating 2000 years of Christianity. The monks built a beautiful and incredibly strong cellarium, entirely made of arches, simply to store food. An arch is strong because it distributes the weight above it. Masons have been building arches since ancient times. It has been said that if you understand how to build an arch, you can build anything. So is it any wonder we are drawn to these old bridges with arches? It seems to me that Christian community is a lot like an arch. Each member, each brick, takes on a little of the load. The burdens that can be shared by many together far exceed the burdens that can be carried by each one alone. Brick upon brick, burden upon burden, can be piled on top, without compromising the community. Yet the community, like the arch, must maintain a delicate balance. If the arch is pulled in too close, or stretched out too far, it fails. A healthy community also must learn to find that delicate balancing point. We need to be connected, but not too close. Sometimes the person with the most insight is part of your community, but not your immediate circle.  The distance allows a more balanced perspective, a different view of the situation from those closest to us. Take time today to reach out to those in your Christian community. Offer to be there for someone else, to just listen. Be respectful of one another, accepting that now may not be the time to open up. And remember that like the arch, we must remain connected to be strong, not too close, but also not too far away. Photo by Diane Brooks Myers
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountains_Abbey

Reflecting on Commitment….

Today is our 22nd wedding anniversary. So I looked through old photos, of other times and other places. This photo was taken by my dear friend Pam Nelson, in Hermosa Beach, CA, not long after we started dating in 1986. It was a very late night, and Pam asked us to stop before heading up to Mark’s apartment to take this photo. Since then, we have lived Michigan, Colorado, England and Virginia. Our daughter Tori came into our lives 16 years ago. Both my parents have passed away, my father in our own home. A lot has changed over the past 25 years, yet the important things remain the same. Marriage is a covenant relationship, first and foremost a promise to God that you will remain committed to one another. It means sticking together, no matter what. I have heard folks say getting married is a leap of faith, but perhaps it would be better to say staying married is a journey of many leaps of faith. You may not be moving across the country or overseas, yet life throws you for a loop. Jobs change, families change, children grow up. Each time you are sure you have things figured out, it all changes. So I am blessed beyond measure to have my dear husband Mark faithfully at my side these past 25 years. He told me this morning that he was thankful that I was a patient woman, patient enough to stay married to him all this time. I would say the same thing about him. Take time today to consider what commitment means to you. Let that special someone know what they mean to you, and pray for the Holy Spirit to bless and protect your relationship, today and always. Photo by Pam Nelson

Reflecting on Faith….

There are times when we are not sure where we are headed. We simply put one foot in front of the other, continuing along one step at a time. Yet in this simple forward motion we demonstrate a faith in the future, we cling to hope that more and better things await us. Life would be simple if that path was a straight line. More often, it is a seemingly endless path of twists and turns. So I was drawn to this photo of a tangled tree, taken by my friend David in Connecticut. This tree is a monument of faith, constantly striving toward the sun, the source of life. In engineering, there is a mathematical representation of such growth, called a Poisson random walk. It is a contradiction in terms, really. We usually describe events as either random or not, yet this mathematical construct combines both ideas. In a Poisson random walk, each step is a random choice, yet there is no backtracking. What seems to be a series of random steps always leads to the same destination. Yet each time, a different path leads to the same place. As a young engineering student, I felt that faith was a lot like that path, and this tree. Each step leads us toward our God and Creator, the source of all life and light. Because the path is not straight, each step is a tiny leap of faith, trusting that you are going in the right direction, even when your ultimate goal is not in sight. Even if we do take a wrong step, God transforms those diversions into greater glory. Take time today to consider where you are, and what your next step will be. Trust that while you may not be able to see the whole journey, our Lord and Savior sees all. And know that our God, who is, and was, and will be forever more, is always drawing us toward Him. Photo by David Buckwalter

Reflecting on Parenting….

Today is filled with yet another round of packing. Tori is headed off to Music and Drama Camp at Shrinemont, the Episcopal retreat center here in Virginia. Tori has attended this same camp, with many of the same kids, each summer since middle school. While camp is a reunion of sorts for Tori, it is just another part of letting go for me. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. In all other relationships, our goal is to grow closer to one another. In parenting, our goal is to slowly let go, to provide a safe place for our child to grow into an independent and responsible adult. So I was drawn to this photo of my friend Lindsey surf fishing at the beach. Lindsey is the mother of two high spirited little boys. Lindsey also teaches fitness classes at a local gym. She is a strong lady, physically, mentally and spiritually. That’s what it takes to be a good parent. We must stick to our principles and beliefs to be able to slowly let go, to cast out our doubts and worries and trust in our children. If we have taken the time to not only show our love but also create a sound framework of discipline, our children learn to love and discipline themselves. It’s a lot like surf fishing. Just because you are on your feet doesn’t mean you’re planted in one spot. You move up and down the beach, keeping an eye out for activity and relying on trial and error until you find the right time and place to reel in your catch. As parents, we mostly watch and wait, only reeling in our children when necessary, correcting them with love and gentleness. Take time today to consider what parenting means to you. Give thanks for those who have guided you through periods of growth in your own life, either as a child or as someone in the midst of a difficult transition. And in all things, give thanks to God, our Abba Father and Creator. Photo by Britanny Boger

Reflecting on Simple Pleasures….

We stopped at the grocery store this morning after running errands. All we really needed was bread, but we went home with two bags of groceries. Sometimes you just don’t know what you need until you see it. So when I saw these beautiful blueberries from Hammonton, NJ, I knew we needed them. I grew up in Southern New Jersey, where my mother’s family grew blueberries and cranberries. In that area, the soil is very sandy, and packed full of nutrients. Blueberries love this soil, and grow in abundance there. I remember going to our cousin’s farm to pick berries, then packing them up in the back of the station wagon. My Mom and Aunt Audrey, along with my sisters and cousins and I, would all pile into our old station wagon. On one trip, I ended up in the back with the berries. I must have fallen asleep. I woke up as we drove home, looking up at the sunlight filtering through the trees and smelling the berries all around me. Part of me wanted to sit up and eat the berries, but part of me didn’t want to move. There was something magical about that moment, and I wanted it to last. The car was quiet and the radio was playing very low. No one was talking. I suppose I wasn’t the only one that had fallen asleep. It seems all the simple pleasures of my childhood are wrapped up in that one memory. I was surrounded by those I loved and the beauty of living in that particular corner of the world, all together and at peace. Take time today to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, to resist the temptation to make life more complicated than it already is. Enjoy the sights and sounds and smells of your surroundings, and the company of those you love. God blesses us with such bounty, and God is pleased when this bounty pleases us. Photo of blueberries at Emery’s Farm in New Egypt, NJ by my cousin and fellow childhood blueberry picker, Diane Brooks Myers

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